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Though My Mind Could Think (I still was a mad man)

Chapter Text

Harry locked himself in the communal bathroom he shared with the other third year Gryffindors. Finally alone, he turned on the shower and let the sobs he’d been holding back for hours wreck through him. For a few short, blissful hours he’d thought he’d get to go live with Sirius. The escape from the Dursleys had been right there, and then it had been ripped out from under him. Ron and Hermione wouldn't understand, how could they? They both had families who loved them, Harry only had his friends. That was enough though, it had to be. He just needed a minute to stop pretending to be excited they’d managed to save Sirius from Azkaban, and mourn the fact he had to spend another summer with people who didn’t want him.

Harry woke up in a sweat, Cedric’s name on his lips. He reached for his wand on instinct, meaning to cast a Lumos to strive off the pressing darkness of the room. Just in time, he remembered he was back at Privet Drive. Flashes from his dream played in his head, the images clear in the darkness. Kill the spare, Cedric falling over, Wormtail's severed hand, lifeless eyes, pain, the shadows of his parents. His nightmares hadn’t been as bad at Hogwarts, then again, at school Ron would usually wake him up before they got the chance. The presence of other people helped too, he supposed. Neville had started waking up early so he could visit the Greenhouse before breakfast, so when Harry woke up before dawn feeling terrified someone was around to talk to. Dean and Ron usually stayed up late, so Harry had someone when he couldn't fall asleep. Here he was alone though.

Weeks later Harry was sweating in the blistering heat. Petunia had decided their garden needed weeding, despite most of the plants being dead from the heat. Harry suspected she just wanted him out of the house. Harry hated being in the garden though, because he couldn’t keep himself from constantly looking for Hedwig, hoping she’d finally return with an indication his friends still cared. He’d tried writing to Ron and Hermione asking for information about the madman who’d tried to kill him, but he hadn’t gotten any answers. He’d thought maybe they didn’t know, but asking about their summer didn’t tell him much more. Their latest letters had indicated they were together, but they obviously hadn’t really wanted Harry there. They hadn’t invited him, or even told him where he could find them. Maybe he was finally too damaged for them to bother with. Maybe they’d realised how dangerous hanging around him could be. Either way, he was alone.

When the Dementors came Harry didn’t notice at first. The coldness, heaviness of his thoughts and flashes of his worst memories happened too often without them.

Harry ran from Dumbledore's office without knowing where he was headed. He just knew he couldn’t be anywhere near that old man anymore. He couldn’t be near anyone. His mind was racing with thoughts to the point where he no longer knew what he was thinking, and all he felt was hatred and anger. Frustrated, he lifted his hands to push hair out of his eyes, and was surprised when he felt a wetness touch his face. Looking down he discovered his hands were littered with small cuts, and droplets of blood were oozing from them. It took him a moment before realising his trashing of Dumbledore's office had to have been more aggressive and destructive than he’d realised at the time. He’d just wanted to break things, ruin them. To make everything around him match how he felt on the inside. He’d wanted to stop hurting the way he did. He wanted Sirius to stop being dead.

Harry scoffed, remembering what Dumbledore had told him: “Suffering like this proves you are still a man. This pain is part of being human.” If that was true then Harry stood by his decision. He didn’t want to be human anymore; he didn’t even want to be alive, nor had he wanted to for some time.

Sirius was dead, just like his mum and dad. And just like with his parents, Harry knew it was all his fault. Tears stinging, Harry turned to the wall next to him and punched it. A feeling of raw despair welled up in him, so strong he didn’t even notice the pain of his knuckles or the blood dripping on the floor. He didn’t know what to do. He was so tired and everything felt impossible. He wanted to scream and shout and wreck the whole bloody school, he wanted to lie down and sleep for ages, he wanted to jump off the Astronomy Tower. He wanted to run away, wand blazing and blast Voldemort off the face of the planet. His head felt like it was about to explode so he latched on to the thought of Voldemort.

He had to kill Voldemort before he could die, that was the deal. Only one can live while the other survives.. Harry made himself a promise then. He’d hang on until Voldemort was dead, then he’d follow him to the grave. For all Harry knew he’d be killed before he even got that far, but he promised himself he’d try. He’d keep pretending for his friends, he’d keep fighting.

Harry watched Dumbledore fall from the tower, and the rage he felt burned through the numbness he usually surrounded himself with. Snape had betrayed them. Betrayed Dumbledore and betrayed the school. Harry thought he’d even betrayed Malfoy. It was obvious the boy wasn’t a killer, obvious from the way he’d cried when Harry found him in that bathroom. Obvious from the way he’d shaken and lowered his wand. If Snape had really cared, he wouldn’t have helped Malfoy murder Dumbledore, he’d have helped him change sides. None of that really mattered as Harry chased after Snape though, yelling and screaming at the man to fight back. Part of him hoped he would, part of him hoped this was the fight in which he died.

Harry was worried for his friends. The pain of the Stinging Jinx on his face grounded him, and he was able to think clearer than he had in days. He still couldn’t think of a way out though. When they asked Malfoy to identify him, Harry knew it was over. It didn’t matter that his face was swollen. His hair and his eyes were clearly visible, not to mention the fact he was in-between Ron and Hermione. Malfoy though, looked him dead in the eyes, recognition clear on his face. “I can’t be sure,” he said, and suddenly Harry had a chance to save his friends. For a second he was disappointed, he wanted to scream at Malfoy, Here I fucking am, kill me already. His mask had been slipping, he’d been getting worse and worse at keeping his friends from seeing the darkness he kept subdued only with the promise that it was temporary. He couldn’t call out for a fight with Voldemort now though, it was too soon. It was too risky. Just hold on, keep going. Just for a little while longer. .

Chapter Text

“I have to go back, don’t I?” Harry asked, looking around at the too clean, too white Kings Cross. He’d finally gotten to die. He’d walked into the woods and let Voldemort kill him, and the worst part was it had been hard. He’d been waiting and wanting to die for years, and when it was finally his time he wasn’t ready. He hadn’t wanted to leave his friends, and he didn’t want to leave the world with Voldemort still in it. Being here though, feeling as if peace was just around the corner, the idea of going back was a horrifying one. He knew though, that if there was a chance he could save his friends, save anyone, and he didn’t take it there wouldn’t be any peace.

If dying had been hard, coming back was impossible. All the aches and pains in his body returning at once was one thing, but the heaviness of his thoughts had been so much easier to bear in the other place. In the end it was worth it though. Watching Voldemort thud to the ground as nothing more than an empty corpse and seeing his friends safe had to be worth it. It was worth it. Harry found himself in the Great Hall hours later. Hermione was sitting next to Ron, stroking his back as he comforted Ginny. The whole Weasley family surrounded Fred’s body, and a few feet away Andromeda had just arrived to cry over her daughter’s body. The Hall was filled with bodies, and friends and families crying over them. Only Harry kept to himself, half hidden in a corner. Well, Harry and the Malfoy family he realised, spotting them in the corner opposite, looking unsure if they should be there or not. Harry felt out of place, and strangely alone. He was surrounded by people who had fought for him, people who had fought to live. Yet here he was, feeling alone and wanting to die. He’d heard how his friends reacted when they thought he was dead, but he’d also heard how they were able to move on and keep fighting. He could sneak off now, and no one would notice. He’d just be another casualty of the war that way.

A sigh of relief washed through Harry as he considered this. Harry could stop feeling, could stop being in pain. He wouldn’t have to wake up every morning wishing he hadn’t, or be afraid to fall asleep because the idea of another day was too exhausting. He wouldn’t have to go back to the Dursleys, wouldn’t have to face another summer where no one cared. No one else would have to die for him. He would be free, and the world would be safe.

As if in a trance, feeling calm for what felt like the first time in ages, Harry stood and made his way outside. He ignored the destruction all around him, climbing over large pieces of the castle as if they’d always been there. He’d go back to the station, and this time he’d board the train. He’d finally meet his parents. He could apologise to Sirius, Remus, Fred and all the others. If there even was anything beyond the train. Maybe there was just nothing, maybe that would be better. He reached the Great Lake with a strange twist of time, not even remembering half the walk. Slowly undressing, Harry considered his plan further, before he put his jacket back on. That way, one would suspect he was killing himself because he was depressed, they’d probably think some stray Death Eater had got to him. Even if they didn’t, it wouldn’t matter. Harry wouldn’t be there to deal with it.

Harry grabbed his wand and waded into the cold water. He considered casting a warming charm on himself to fend off the coldness of the water, but he figured there wasn’t a point. If nothing else, he wouldn’t die numb. He waded until the water got too high, and then swam out a few strokes until his feet couldn’t reach the bottom anymore. Pointing his wand at himself Harry cast a charm that tied his feet to a rock at the bottom of the lake. As the ropes pulled him down to the darker, colder water he let go of his wand. He knew from experience that if he let himself think, if he gave himself the chance to change his mind, then he would. Just as his head was dragged beneath the water Harry heard someone calling his name, he turned and could have sworn he saw Malfoy standing at the edge of the water. Before he could ponder what it meant though, he was pulled under.

Harry wondered at how fast he started hurting. The water was colder the further down he got, and it almost felt as if it was slicing his skin. For a while that kept him from recognising the pain of his burning lungs, but once he’d noticed the desperation for air it was impossible to forget. He tried opening his eyes, but black spots covered his vision. Mum, Dad, Sirius, Cedric, Remus, Fred, Hedwig, Dumbledore, Tonks. His vision kept getting darker, and even though he knew the sun was still out he couldn’t see it anymore. His lungs were screaming for air, and Harry wanted to take a breath to make it end faster, but he couldn’t bring himself to open his mouth to the water. His body started to convulse, and something in him finally shifted and he took a breath. Water filled his lungs and pain flared. He tried to cough but that just pulled more water into his lungs. His vision was all black now, and he didn’t even know if his eyes were open anymore. Fully panicking, Harry thought of his parents, and of Sirius, and then finally blacked out. The last thing he noticed was a feeling of something warm on his arm.

Harry woke up in a soft bed, surrounded by white lights that made his eyes hurt even though they were still closed. For a confused moment, he wondered why he wasn’t in their tent. Then the memories of darkening vision and gasping in water hit him – was he dead then? Except he couldn’t be, because remembering drowning led his thoughts to the reasons he’d been in the Great Lake in the first place, and he all of a sudden felt as if he was drowning all over again. Death couldn’t possibly be just as painful as life, it just couldn’t. Kings Cross hadn’t been. Hospital wing then, he decided with a disappointed sigh. He’d never meant to end up here, to survive. He still missed his parents and Sirius, he still hated himself. He still felt as if there was a dark cloud trying to squeeze him into nothingness. Yet – somehow, in the proverbial light of day Harry suddenly realised how stupid he’d been to think it would work. Luck had saved his life one too many times already.

Eventually, Harry opened his eyes, and found himself staring at a white ceiling. Looking around the room Harry slowly realised he was in St. Mungo's. He must have been in pretty bad shape when they found him then, he figured – if the hospital wing wouldn’t be enough. Or maybe it had just been too filled up or damaged after the final battle. Harry’s brain was suddenly warring with itself, apparently unable to decide if he was furious with whoever saved him, scared that people would realise it was a suicide attempt, or despairing over the fact that he’d have to keep on living now. Because after this, there was no way Harry could kill himself without everyone realising it was on purpose – and Harry refused to do that to his friends. Not now when his brain wasn’t completely shut down from war, and he could think more rationally. And if he was honest, he refused to do it to himself. He’d thought he needed courage to walk into that forest to die, and again when he went into the Great Lake. It had been hard, no doubt about that, and scary. He realised though, that what he was most afraid of was deciding not to die. Harry figured if he’d had the courage to die, twice, then he could muster up some courage to live. He was a Gryffindor after all, so courage shouldn't be hard to find. Harry sat up slowly, waiting for the dizziness the movement caused to die down. He figured that the sooner he dealt with the world, the sooner he could go back to sleep.

"Hello,” Harry called out, and immediately began coughing. His voice was hoarse and rasping, and the coughing made his chest burn. “Anybody there?" he tried again, voice only a little clearer.

A nurse came running through the door, freezing in her tracks and staring at Harry. Harry stared back as tears welled up in her eyes.

“Thank you, Mr. Potter. Thank you for saving us all!” she said, moving forward with her arms outstretched as if meaning to touch him.

Harry sighed, irritation flaring in him for no reason other than the fact that he really wished he wasn’t actually awake, and he was in no mood to deal with people treating him like some sort of hero. "Don’t,” he snapped as she got closer, and immediately felt bad. He wasn’t worth the dirt on her shoes, and he still couldn’t control his anger and be nice.

The nurse didn’t seem fazed though, simply continuing to stare at him, tears running down her cheeks.

"How long have I been out?" he asked, not really sure why he cared. He hoped that by getting the nurse talking, he could snap her out of whatever hero-worship thing she’d gotten stuck in. The nurse was visibly trying to gather herself, and Harry decided to give her the benefit of the doubt. “Where are my friends?” he asked.

Suddenly a healer came barging in, taking out her wand on her way to Harry's bed. She started running all sorts of checks on Harry’s vital signs. Talking between spells about how Harry was perfectly healthy, but the lack of oxygen put him in a coma, since his brain had needed time to heal. Harry wanted to snort at the idea that his brain was healed, but he kept his mouth shut. Maybe saying as little as possible was the best way to get out of the hospital and somewhere he could be alone to think.

“Some things just have to heal by themselves you know? It’s been almost a month, but your brain has fully healed itself,” she smiled, and Harry looked away. He couldn’t imagine his brain healing, but he supposed she was talking about the physical parts of it, more than the emotional.

“My dear boy,” the healer said when she finally stopped casting her spells, “do you remember what happened?” Harry ignored the overly concerned look from the older woman and simply nodded. He really didn’t feel like explaining it. He wanted to go back to sleep, preferably back in the coma.

“Oh, how wonderful, the Aurors will be by shortly to talk to you. I do hope you’re feeling up to it,” the woman said with a grin. She probably thought it was good bedside manner to smile so much, but it was grating on Harry’s nerves.

"What do you mean Aurors? Why do I have to talk to them?" Harry asked. What did Aurors have to do with his suicide attempt? Was that somehow illegal, or did they need to talk to him about Voldemort?

"They just have some questions about what happened to you," the healer said. Harry felt annoyed again at her persistent optimistic mood, and he scowled. Why would no one ever answer his questions? He wasn’t a kid anymore.

"We have notified your friends that you're awake, and I'm sure they will be here any second now," the healer said reassuringly, as though she suspected a lack of concerned friends was the reason for Harry's foul mood. “Someone’s been here almost every day, you know? It’s just bad luck you woke up when no one was here.”

Harry forcibly removed the scowl from his face. He needed to convince his friends that he hadn’t tried to kill himself, he had only gone for a swim and been attacked by some random Death Eater, or been imperiused, or something. Just as he prepared himself to fake his usual smile and enthusiasm he heard Hermione's voice from the hallway.

"Harry, HARRY. Let me through, let me see him! I don't want to hear about all of that stuff. I just want to see Harry!" Harry found himself smiling a genuine smile, it was so typical of Hermione to yell like that when she was stressed. Harry patiently listened to some feeble attempts by the nurses to keep her out, and then she came barging through the doors.

"Harry!" Hermione called out in glee and threw herself at him.

"Hermione, careful, he only just woke up."

Harry looked up to see Ron standing in the doorway. He sent him a genuine smile also before being ambushed by Hermione again. He realised that despite his disappointment at his failed suicide, he was glad to see his friends.

"Harry, how are you?" Hermione asked as she eventually let go of him and sat at the side of his bed.

"I'm great," Harry grinned, faking it now, "I'm alive and Voldemort is dead." Harry had a lot of practice with faking and doing it now wasn't really as big of a problem as he had first thought.

Looking closely at his friends for the first time since they entered the room Harry realised that they both looked worn, but already much healthier than when he’d seen them last. Hermione though, looked like she always did when she was holding something back.

“Ok, so I realise I’ve been out of it for a while, but I do know you. What’s wrong?” he asked Hermione, exchanging a glance with Ron.

"Oh Harry, we need your help! They think Malfoy tried to kill you. They think that he tried to drown you, but when I went looking for you I could have sworn I saw him pulling you out of the lake. And I mean, he didn’t turn us in back at the Manor, and I just don’t think he deserves the Kiss. He didn’t try to kill you, did he? What really happened?”

"What!? They think Malfoy tried to kill me? Why?" Harry said, brain working furiously to wrap itself around the idea. Hermione smiled like she always did when she got something right.

"He said he saw you walking into the lake, and then saw something pulling you under. He dragged you out and called for help, and I was already looking for you so I heard him and then I got you here. When I went back to Hogwarts the Aurors had finally shown up and started arresting whatever Death Eaters we’d captured. They thought he’d tried to kill you and just cowered out at the last second. He’s in Azkaban, and they’re having him kissed in a few days!" At this point Hermione had to stop to take a breath, something Ron was quick to take advantage of.

"Hermione, love, you're overwhelming him. He just woke up."

"Love?" Harry said with a small smile and watched as Ron’s ears turned red.

"Yeah, well we're kinda, sort of, you know - together," Ron mumbled, taking a sudden interest in his shoes.

Harry grinned at him, genuinely happy their kiss during the battle hadn’t been just a one-time thing. "Congrats mate! And you too Hermione. That’s really great."

Ron shot Harry a relieved and thankful smile before he turned to Hermione with a love-struck look. Harry could almost see the tiny hearts floating around their heads. Turning away he pushed the call button the healer had shown him earlier. He really was happy for Ron and Hermione, but he didn’t need them to start writing sonnets in his presence.

Seconds later a nurse came rushing into the room. Harry immediately addressed her. "I need my wand, some clothes, and I want to talk to the Aurors." He needed to fix this mess before Malfoy fucking died. How could people even think Malfoy of all people would try to kill him, and then just change his mind halfway through? Malfoy was a dick sure, but not a bloody murderer. He shouldn’t suffer for Harry's idiotic attempt at suicide, even though it was his fault it failed.

The nurse looked hesitant. "The healer said I was fine, so surely I can have my clothes!" Harry told her, and the nurse nodded before leaving the room.

At Hermione’s accusing stare, Harry exclaimed; "I need to fix this! Malfoy saved my life, and they imprisoned him? What's wrong with people?" Harry wasn't particularly pleased with being saved, but it was still a nice thing to do.

"I know Harry, I know. I and all the Weasleys actually tried to defend him, but the rest of the world is convinced. The only reason he’s still alive is because they needed you to confirm that he did try to kill you."

Harry was angry, something was seriously wrong with people. "Well then they will be disappointed!" he said grimly.

Ron and Hermione stayed for a few hours, telling Harry about what else he had missed over the past few weeks. Kingsley had taken over as Minister, and he was working hard to get the Ministry in order. There were still a lot of toxic people in high positions though, and they were so eager to prove they were on the right side they were apparently willing to execute a seventeen-year-old boy without proof. The funerals were all over, and the work to restore Hogwarts was already well underway. Ron and Neville were both staying at the castle to help out, and Hermione was leaving for Australia to find her parents, now that Harry was awake.

Before leaving Hermione gave Harry an icy look, “I’m really glad you’re ok Harry, but don’t think for a second I’ve let all this ‘sacrificing yourself’ business go. We’ll be having a long conversation about it, walking into that forest was not ok. I’ll also expect a very good explanation for what on earth you were doing in that lake.

“Yeah, trust me,” Ron snorted, “she’s been practising the speech on me for over three bloody weeks now.”

After his friends left Harry slept for a few hours - despite his belief that it would be impossible after sleeping for weeks; and then he was woken up by a nurse telling him the Aurors were there. She gave him some robes and told him he could get dressed and go to the room next door where the Aurors were waiting in an office.

Harry stood up, and the world immediately started spinning. Right, getting up that fast after lying down for so long was apparently a bad idea. He waited for his vision to settle, and then tried to stand again, this time a lot slower. When he was finally on his feet he put his robes on, and slowly walked to the office where the Aurors were waiting. A grand total of four Aurors Harry had never seen before were there, all with grim looks on their faces.

"Hi Harry, I'm Auror Thompson. These are Aurors Skillet, Rolstein and Twixter. Now, we don't need you to tell us all about this traumatic experience you’ve endured as we believe we have most of the details in order." Thompson paused to take a deep breath. "But we do need you to confirm who did this to you."

Harry looked Thompson in the eye, as he seemed to be the one in charge. "I did this to myself," he said before he’d even thought of a story. “I felt off, after Voldemort killed me and I came back. Like I couldn’t feel my body. I figured if I went for a swim in the cold water I could kick-start it again, but it had the opposite effect. I got out there, and suddenly my arms and legs didn’t work at all and I was just sinking.”

Upon hearing his words four pairs of shocked eyes turned to stare at him. Maybe they hadn’t known Voldemort had killed him. Maybe they were just surprised they’d been wrong.

"I understand that Draco Malfoy was blamed for this, that was wrong. In fact, Malfoy’s the reason I'm still alive. You will release him, and offer a public apology, telling the world what really happened. Is that understood?" Harry felt weird using authority like that, but he knew he could. He was the bloody boy who lived after all. The Aurors all stood up immediately.

"But he’s a Death Eater,” Thompson insisted.

“He was forced to work for Voldemort before he was of age, he struggled the whole year with what he’d been tasked to do and was ultimately unable to do it. Not because he wasn’t capable, but because he wasn’t a murderer. He’s saved my life twice during this past year.” Harry suddenly remembered the words he’d heard Dumbledore speak, “At this point, Draco Malfoy is no more a Death Eater than I am.”

Thompson apparently didn’t have a response to that. “Now, he’s been arrested and prosecuted without proof. You’ll release him and give a public apology. Am I clear?”

Back in his room Harry lay down on his bed, finally alone and free of a mission all his self-hatred, pain and guilt flooded back in. He needed to find a way to not feel this. He couldn’t deal with it. The urge to scream and tear at his hair was growing, and he considered throwing something against the wall just to release some of the pressure. He desperately looked around the room and his gaze fell on a pair of scissors on the nightstand next to him. Harry remembered the pain he had suffered his entire life. How he had welcomed Dudley hitting him, because then he could focus on the pain, and not the hurtful words his cousin had shouted at him. Harry grabbed the scissors and drew the sleeve of his robe back. He had seen someone do this once in a Muggle movie Dudley had watched. He needed to see if it worked, because he really needed something, anything that would work.

Harry pressed the scissors to his arm and pulled. A stinging, but dull pain replaced the scissors and Harry felt like he could breathe again. The pain wasn’t bad, but it was enough to let Harry focus on that, to allow him to let go of the painful thoughts. A few small drops of blood appeared on his arm, but it really wasn’t a deep cut, more like a scrape. Harry smiled, this really worked. His mind felt calm again. Still smiling he put some paper on the cut and fell asleep.

Chapter Text

When Harry woke up it was dark, and he didn’t know what woke him. That was, until a hand stroked his hair down, as if trying to fix his unruly curls. He opened his eyes and the hand quickly disappeared. Looking through the room his green eyes soon meet startled grey ones.

“Malfoy,” he spluttered, shifting away as far as the bed allowed.

"Potter, I just wanted to say thank you, for getting me out of that horrible place. I really thought I'd spend the rest of my life there. A life that until today would have been rather short." Malfoy looked genuine, his grey eyes shining. Harry couldn’t really stop looking into them, how did he look so happy, so alright? He had just spent almost a month in the worst place in the world.

Malfoy shifted uncomfortably, and Harry realised he was still staring into Malfoy's eyes. He immediately stopped and looked at his hands, picking at a hangnail. Hermione always told him it was a terrible habit, but at least it kept his hands busy.

"Er, yeah, you don't have to thank me, you saved my life. I should be thanking you!" he said, still not looking up.

"Except you won't thank me, will you? Because you didn't want to be saved, you wanted to die." Harry chanced a glance at Malfoy, who looked sad despite his soft smile.

Harry was shocked, how had Malfoy known that? Ron and Hermione hadn’t guessed, and they’d slept in a tent with him for the past year. Malfoy didn’t even like him. Had he seen Harry cast the spell that dragged him under?

"What, no, I didn't want to die. I wanted to go for a swim, Harry protested, somewhat feebly. For whatever reason, he found it a lot harder to lie to someone who claimed to know the truth.

"I saw you, you know. You weren’t dragged down or whatever the story is. You looked, I don’t know, peaceful, but in a way that terrified me. You were trying to kill yourself. I know what it’s like." Harry stared at Malfoy, he wanted to say something, to convince the other boy he was wrong, but he couldn’t seem to focus on a thought long enough to speak it. Somehow Harry knew it was the truth. Had Malfoy wanted to die too? Still too confused to speak Harry opened his mouth, only to close it again a second later.

"Don't worry Harry, I won't tell anyone, as long as you promise not to do it again. I don't really fancy another stay at Azkaban." Malfoy smiled that sad smile again.

"You called me Harry," was suddenly all Harry could say, because Malfoy was just too confusing to properly deal with. If nothing else, Malfoy using his given name was something to focus on, and it let him steer the conversation away from all of the things he didn’t want to talk about.

"Well that is your name, isn’t it?" Malfoy said, grey eyes glinting with amusement.

"Yeah, but you always call me Potter," Harry tried to say it as a question as much as a statement.

"I think saving your life gives me the right to use your first name, don't you?"

"Yeah, I guess so. Does that mean I should call you Draco then, since I saved yours first?"

All of a sudden Malfoy’s face fell. “Fuck, let’s never talk about that cursed fire again.”

Harry figured it wasn’t worth saying that he never actually said anything about fire, not when Malfoy actually looked terrified. “Only if we can agree never to talk about drowning too.”

Malfoy smiled, a genuine smile this time, not one with a sad glow in his eyes. Harry tried very hard not to notice how different it made him look. He had never seen a genuine smile on Malfoy’s face.

"So what will you do now?" Harry asked, eager to change the topic. Well, eager to focus on things other than death and how Malfoy looked, but he preferred to think of it as changing the topic.

"I thought I’d go back to Hogwarts and get my NEWTs. I’m not really sure what else I would do. I don’t think anyone else from my year will be returning, from Slytherin I mean. Most of them will just take the NEWTs at the Ministry in a week’s time. I suppose I could too, but people aren’t exactly falling over themselves to hire someone with a Dark Mark.”

A part of Harry’s brain was suddenly dancing in victory. Malfoy really did have the Mark then, Harry had been right, even though everyone had insisted he was just obsessed. If he was honest he had been a bit obsessed, but somehow proving to his friends that Malfoy had taken the Mark had been the only thing he’d been able to really care about during his sixth year. Of course, at the end of the year Harry had realised that it didn’t matter much if Malfoy was marked or not. He was obviously working for Voldemort, but he was also quite obviously hating it.

“Right, I think Hermione mentioned taking those,” Harry said. Ron had laughed at the idea of doing any more school ever. Harry still wasn’t really sure what he wanted to do. On one hand the idea of homework and essays made him want to throw himself out the window, on the other hand most things made him want to jump off something high these days and Hogwarts was the only home he’d ever really known.

“What are you doing then?” Malfoy asked. “Joining the Aurors?”

The idea made Harry cringe, and the more he thought about it the harder he found it to breathe. He couldn’t go back to that, watching the people he loved get hurt, following evil wizards through dark forests, watching victims cry over their murdered family. He couldn’t believe he’d ever wanted to do that.

“No,” he gasped, immediately feeling a weight lift off his shoulders. “No, I’m going back to Hogwarts too.”

"At least I won’t be the only one a year too old then, I guess I’ll see you September first?” Malfoy phrased it as a question, but somehow it was clear to Harry that he wasn’t really looking for an answer. Malfoy stood up to leave, and Harry realised light had started shining through the window when it reflected off the blond hair framing the other boy’s face.

"You've really changed, haven't you?" he asked, thinking of the sour faced boy he used to know. Malfoy, or maybe Draco now, just smiled secretly. "Yeah, I guess I did. I don’t think I realised until it was too late though.”

Harry wasn’t sure how to argue that. In a lot of ways Malfoy was right. It had been too little too late, but Harry wasn’t sure he’d have done any different if his parents had been alive and supporting Voldemort. Malfoy was already leaving though, and Harry figured he’d leave answering to another day. If they ever got into a conversation about the war at least, and he mostly hoped they never would.

Harry shifted in bed again, trying to get comfortable. As he did he felt his arm sting and remembered the cut he made the day before. He knew he shouldn’t enjoy the feeling, and he felt immensely guilty that something in him did. What the hell was wrong with him? Tried, and failed to commit suicide and then cut his arm with scissors the same day he woke up from his coma. Why did he have to be so weak? It wasn’t even a real cut, it hardly bled when he did it. If he failed at living and failed at dying what was left for him to do? Frustration and despair prickled up in him, like someone had poked a hole in the wall Harry had built to keep his emotions at bay. He felt guilty and horrible for cutting himself, and the only thing he could think of to make himself feel better was to cut again. So, he did, picking up the scissors he drew back his shirt, looking at the pathetic scratch from the previous day before angrily dragging the scissors across his skin just below it. It wasn’t perfect, or deep. But it was better than the one he’d made the day before, and it worked. The pain and blood was control, and it mended the holes in his wall so he could function again.

A few hours later Harry heard another commotion in the hallway before Molly came bursting in, throwing herself at Harry in a manner similar to how Hermione had done the day before.

“Oh Harry. Oh my sweet boy. I’ve been so worried, we’ve all been so worried. Oh and you’re so thin, have you been eating since you woke up?” She stepped away and produced a giant package from her purse, subtly drying her eyes of the few tears that had escaped.

“Here you go my sweet Harry, it’s your favourite!” Harry smiled in thanks, trying to remember what his favourite even was anymore. Food stopped tasting of much a while ago. He was saved from saying anything however, because seconds later what looked like the rest of the Weasley family came through the doors.

George entered first, looking like only half himself without Fred there. Ginny, Ron and Charlie followed close behind though and Harry was thankful that at least he wasn’t alone.

“Finally decided to join us did you? Really, how mum still complains about us sleeping too late is beyond me,” George said.

“Yeah, you sleep for three weeks and get a pie, we sleep for three hours and get an earful,” Ginny continued.

“Oh, honestly!’ Molly admonished, but Harry just smiled. He appreciated someone diffusing the tension.

They spent the rest of the afternoon in Harry's room, telling him more about what he had missed. George had opened the joke shop back up, to much success. Ginny and Ron were both working there, but Ginny was, according to Molly, going back to Hogwarts for her NEWTs. She’d accepted Ron going back as a lost battle apparently, but she seemed pleased Harry would be going back.

By the time they left, Harry was exhausted. He was also horrified to find himself feeling bad at his friends’ accomplishments. They had all moved on, they were doing things with their lives while he was still stuck. And he also felt disgusted when he realised he didn’t like that they were all able to move on so easily without him. It was what he had wanted, what he still wanted, but he didn’t expect it to hurt so much to see it. And he still couldn’t kill himself, because even though they’d moved on, it would still cause them pain. And he’d promised Malfoy, he’d be at Hogwarts. Something very strange must have happened, he thought, when Voldemort died. Suddenly the world stopped needing him, and the only one he really felt a commitment to was Malfoy.

A week later Harry was free to leave the hospital. The week had been filled with numerous Weasleys, several healers and the scissors crossing his skin several more times. He had also spent a lot of time thinking about how much Malfoy had changed, even finding himself dreaming about the other man. He considered whether thinking this much about Malfoy really made him the freak he had always suspected he was, but he forcibly pushed the thoughts from his head, sometimes with the assistance of scissors.

Harry's arm now had a nice row of cuts, and even though he knew he shouldn't be cutting himself, he couldn’t bring himself to stop. Taking whatever pain and anger he felt out on himself helped him not let his emotions affect others, and when he cut he didn’t really have to feel it himself either. Harry pulled his jumper down over his cuts and surveyed his new flat.

When he had been discharged from the hospital Harry hadn’t really known where to go. He had arranged with McGonagall that he would return to Hogwarts in September, but he still needed somewhere to stay until then. Ron and Hermione had offered him the sofa in their new flat, but he didn't want to impose on them, and if he was honest he really didn’t think he could pretend to be OK all the time. There was no way he was going back to the Dursleys or Grimmauld Place, because those places held nothing but horrible memories for him. Harry had stood outside St. Mungo’s with the school trunk that held all his belongings, and had suddenly realised that he had money. He had quite a lot of money. He could buy a place to live. Nothing big, just a small flat. Something that was his, somewhere he could be alone when he wanted to. He didn't want to live in central Wizarding London, he was still too famous among wizards, but he didn't want to live in a Muggle place either.

From there Harry had made his way to an estate agent’s shop in Diagon Alley and made his wishes clear. Not too central, not too distant, and he wanted to move in that day. They found him a place an hour later, furnished and all. It was perfect. Ten minutes walking distance from Diagon Alley, but it was kind of a back alley, so he wouldn't be disturbed. Harry figured he had probably paid way too much for the one bedroom flat, but he couldn’t bring himself to care as he surveyed his surroundings. There was a living room with a couch and a table, a bedroom with a bed, and kitchen with all the appliances and a bathroom with a tub and shower. Everything he really needed was already there, and maybe eventually he could make it a space to really feel at home. For now though, it was somewhere to stay before going back to Hogwarts. Not to mention a place to spend his holidays - completely Dursley-free.

Walking to the kitchen and opening each cupboard to look for something inside them he realised he needed to go shopping. If nothing else he was going to need some toilet paper and a few groceries. Harry had exchanged some Galleons into Muggle money when he was at the bank paying for his flat, so he headed to the small Muggle shop just a few minutes walk from his flat. Filling his trolley with food he realised he also needed some hygiene stuff, as he hadn’t washed his hair properly since he woke up and his stubble was starting to get really bad. Harry took his time choosing a good razor to shave with, and then some good blades. He stood there marvelling at the sharp edge, imagining the wonderful damage he could do with it. Then he shook himself and picked out the rest of the items on his mental shopping list.

Safely back in his flat he sat on his new couch and swore at the cloud of dust that rose up around him. He was halfway to getting a broom when he realised he was of age, and he could now freely use magic. Cleaning went quickly after that, even though he was pretty sure he had used all the wrong cleaning spells. He sat back down on the couch and took a razor blade out of the new pack. He played with it for a while, twining it in his fingers and watching how it reflected the light. Then he pulled up his sleeve and made a swift cut below the row of old ones. Pain shot through Harry's arm, and oh, it felt amazing. The sharp edge of the razor blade had done a much better job of slicing through his skin, and the cut was a lot deeper than any he had made with the scissors. Harry pressed a tissue to the cut and sighed with pleasure as all his pain and suffering slipped out along with the blood.

There was more blood now than there had been with the scissors. It still wasn’t a lot, but now it was enough to run down his arm in small streams when he removed the tissue paper. Harry watched it, fascinated, and realising he loved it. Revelling in the new sensation and relief of it, Harry marvelled at the brilliance of the razor blade. The scissors had dulled the pain, the razor blade took it away. Harry made another cut, slower this time. Wanting to feel his skin rip apart, to almost hear the sound of the razor blade on his flesh, to feel the hot blood running down his chilled arm. This time the pain was slower, but somehow deeper. When he lifted the razor blade his skin split apart. He had never cut that deep before, the scissors were just too dull. Harry smiled in sick glee, loving how he could control how he felt. He had never been able to control anything in his life, but this, this he could control.

Harry woke up the next day with a stinging in his arm. Through the haze of sleep he couldn’t remember where it came from, but when he did he felt ashamed again. He was cutting himself! For real this time, not just with scissors, but with an actual razor blade. To the point where his sheets were now bloodstained after the deepest cut had opened up again during the night. He was ruining his own body, making himself bleed. How pathetic was that? How utterly pathetic he was, to have to resort to cutting.

Feeling both stressed and ashamed Harry pressed his fingers to last night’s cuts, trying to focus his thoughts with the pain from it. No one could know, ever. If anyone ever found out they would hate him, wouldn't they? No one did this sort of thing, only seriously messed up people did this. But no matter how terrified Harry felt at the thought of someone knowing, all he wanted was for someone to find out. To comfort him. To love him despite it. To help him figure out what the hell was wrong with his head. He considered telling Malfoy, since the blond already knew about the suicide attempt. But no, he’d only realise how pathetic Harry was for wanting even more attention, for being such a freak.

“No one can know, ever!” Harry said aloud in his empty bedroom, as if making a deal with himself. Writing his shame and secrets in stone. Harry's head was still full of stressful thoughts about someone finding out though, and the only thing he knew could calm him was what started the stress in the first place. Cutting.

Chapter Text

“Honey, I’m home,” someone sang from the hallway, startling Harry who dropped his slice of bread to the floor and hurried to pull down his sleeves.

“George?” He called out questioningly, shooting a hurried glance around his kitchen to make sure he hadn’t left any razor blades lying about.

“And Ginny,” answered Ginny back. “We’ve come to help you decorate. What terribly dull walls you have Harry. This won’t do.”

“Won’t do at all!” Ron chimed in, making Harry wonder just how many Weasleys had infiltrated his flat. When he entered his living room he was relieved to see it was only the three of them, he did love them all, but it could be a bit much.

“They’re just walls,” Harry said confused.

“Exactly Harry, exactly. Harry Potter, the hero of the Wizarding World, the boy who lived, the boy who slept, the sponsor of Weasleys Wizard Wheezes,“ at this point George had to stop for breath so Ginny stepped in.

“The best friend of our brother, the slayer of Voldemort, the once rumoured heir of Slytherin and record rule breaker of Hogwarts CANNOT have, as you so bluntly put it ‘just walls’.”

Harry was relieved to see George still had someone to finish his sentences. Part of him wanted to kick them all out, but the look Ron sent him was clearly begging Harry to just go with it. This was more for George than it was for him.

George and Ginny stepped aside to show buckets of what appeared to be ‘Colourful Chameleon Colouring – walls in whatever shade you want.’ “It’s our new wall paint,” George exclaimed excitedly upon noticing Harry’s obvious confusion. “It turns a new shade every day! You’ll never be bored with it.”

Harry couldn’t keep the grin off his face, this was definitely something the twins would think of, or George now he thought, and suddenly had to fight to keep the grin on his face. “Well alright, what’s life without a little colour I guess. Where have you hidden the paintbrushes then?” he asked, eying Ron, who at this point seemed to be the most sensible among them.

“Commoner!” George scoffed. “We would never produce paint needing something as dull as paintbrushes. It’s obviously meant to be thrown on the walls. That way it won’t look boring at all, and look, you already have a nice white base!”

“Well you’ll have to help me throw some umbrella charms over the furniture then, no doubt you think it looks hideously boring as it is, but I don’t fancy paint is comfortable to sit on.”

Thirty minutes later all of Harry's doors, furniture, cupboards and wardrobes had been covered with protective charms of increasing imagination. He was pretty sure he heard George cover something with what he knew to be a ‘condom charm’, but he figured as long as the paint stayed on the walls and off his things it would all be fine. Somehow a day of doing something as random as flinging paint on his walls seemed wonderfully refreshing.

“So how do we do this, just dip our hands in and fling it on the walls?” he asked, standing back and surveying the walls.

“Now you’re getting it Harry, that’s exactly what we’re going to do!” Ginny said, popping open the paint with her wand. Harry dipped his hand in and marvelled as the paint that was orange when he dipped his hand in, turned turquoise before he pulled his hand back and flung droplets of paint across the wall. By the time it hit it was bright pink.

“Brilliant Harry, that’s exactly how it’s done!” George said, “and don’t worry, the colour will change slower once the paint is dry. It is chameleon after all, not disco.”

“Disco paint wouldn’t be a terrible idea though, would it?” Ron asked, looking thoughtful.

“Why not make the glitter glow in the dark, that way it would really work as disco lights,” Harry suggested, not really sure if he was joking or not. Clearly, they’d all gone insane.

“Now we’re talking,” said George. “Maybe we should bring you on as a consultant for the shop. You really should have some say in your investment you know.”

Somewhat flattered, Harry smiled as he flung more paint around him, “I trust you completely with the shop and my ‘investment’ if that’s what you want to call it. It really was a gift though.”

“Nope,” George said, doing a fancy swirl with his hand and making the paint splatter in an interesting pattern on the wall. “No gifts accepted. Your money is an investment, and we take that very seriously indeed.”

Harry had a few doubts about how serious George could be about anything, but he just nodded solemnly, ignoring the bit of paint he could feel Ginny throw in his hair.

When they finished, Harry's walls were covered with slowly changing splatters of coloured paint. He was pretty sure every single person he knew would hate it, except for the three people currently helping him paint, but he really loved it. It was random, it was happy, and it perfectly reflected how he wished his mind could look. And maybe, if he was lucky, the colourful walls would help him feel a little better.

Harry declined the offer to go back to the Burrow for dinner that evening. Spending the day with friends had been surprisingly nice, but he could feel his mood falling by the time they’d finished removing all the protective charms around his flat. It was almost like his brain wanted to punish him for feeling all right for a few hours.

The two brothers accepted his refusal with a shrug and left with a shared a look that made Harry suspect they knew something he didn’t. Ginny stayed behind though, her blinding smile dropping as soon as her brothers had left. She sat on Harry’s sofa with a sigh.

“I’m sorry,” she said, making Harry feel even more confused. “I stayed back to talk with you, but I just really need a minute of quiet.”

Harry looked at Ginny, and the way she was slumped over on the sofa. She looked exhausted, and even though part of him wanted to shake her and demand to know what she wanted to talk to him about, he figured he could give her a minute.

“Yeah, no problem,” he said. He felt awkward just standing next to her, but he didn’t feel like he’d be able to keep his mouth shut if he sat down. “I’ll make us some tea,” he decided, not waiting for a response before escaping to the kitchen.

What did she want to talk to him about? She couldn’t have figured out he’d tried to kill himself, right? She thought it was an accident too? Or had his sleeves slipped at some point while they painted? Fuck, what if she’d seen his cuts? Harry was so caught up in his thoughts he didn’t notice the kettle he was filling in the sink was full until it overflowed. The cold water brought him back to the present, and he emptied some of the water back out before placing the kettle on the stove. Then he remembered that he and Ginny had agreed to talk when the war was over, that they’d never properly broken up. Did he still want to be with Ginny though? Harry wasn’t sure he wanted much of anything at the moment. He knew he loved Ginny, but he wasn’t sure he knew how to be in love. The kettle whistled long before Harry was done trying to figure out what he’d say to Ginny, she’d have heard the kettle though, so Harry poured the water into cups. Stalling for time he added milk to Ginny’s cup, and some lemon juice to his own. Having no further reason to stay in the kitchen, he reluctantly grabbed the steaming cups and went to face his not-quite-ex-girlfriend.

She was sitting in the same place he’d left her, still looking tired. She looked up when he entered though, and the strength Harry remembered falling for in his sixth year at Hogwarts was clear in her eyes.
“Sorry for just deflating on your sofa,” she said, offering him a small smile. “I love George, but I just, I miss Fred and trying to grieve him and fill his shoes at the same time is exhausting.”

“Don’t apologise.” Harry handed her the tea with the milk and sat down next to her, letting his own cup warm him. “You’ve every right to be tired, and everyone needs a minute to themselves sometimes.”

“I’m not trying to replace Fred,” Ginny said, sounding almost like she was reassuring herself more than anything. “I just couldn’t stand when George would start a sentence and then just shut down when nobody was there to finish it.”

“Fuck, I’m sorry,” Harry said. He’d been so caught up in his own miserable brain he’d completely forgotten to consider how the Weasleys might be feeling after Fred died. His best friend and his not quite ex had just lost their fucking brother, and here he was moaning over his own situation and cutting up his arm to deal with it. He was disgusting.

“It’s not your fault,” Ginny insisted, “besides, that’s not what I wanted to talk to you about.”

“Yeah.” Harry cursed the fact that he couldn’t think of anything else to say. His brain though, was flashing with images of Fred, the way his arm had bled the previous night, kissing Ginny, the way Ron’s smile would suddenly seem forced for a few minutes, how light reflected off Malfoy’s hair, Molly sobbing over Fred’s body, the bloodstains on his sheets. He tried instead to imagine a future with Ginny, but trying to imagine any future just left him feeling like he couldn’t breathe.

“We said we’d talk, when the war was over.” Ginny wasn’t meeting his eyes, instead staring intently into her tea.

“I know,” Harry said, feeling like nothing was over.

“It’s – I’m sorry Harry, but it’s just not the same anymore. I don’t think I can -,” Ginny trailed off, clutching her cup so hard Harry was worried she’d break it.

“Me too,” Harry hurried to say. He didn’t want her to have to bear the weight of their relationship failing, the weight of breaking it off. “It’s like the war ended, but I’m – I feel like I’m still fighting it. Or, I mean -,”

“It’s over, but it’s not over,” Ginny said, and though the words shouldn’t have made sense they did. Because even though Voldemort was dead, nothing was the same, nothing was right. Harry wasn’t sure he’d ever been. “I don’t think I can go back to being that person.”

“I’m not sure I ever was,” Harry said, thoughtlessly. “Sorry, I didn’t mean -,”

“No, it’s fine. The war, it made me – it was like I became this version of myself to get through it. One that was a lot braver, and more optimistic and capable. You’ve had the weight of this on you since my third year, at least. I imagine you’ll need some time to figure out who you are now, I know I do.”

“It was real, what I felt,” Harry said, realising as he said it that it was true. He’d loved her like a girlfriend. Now he loved her like a friend. He was glad that remained, that he hadn’t just shut down and lost his ability to care for those that had always been important.

“Yeah, for me too. It feels like a different lifetime though, like a different person.”

They sat in silence for a while, drinking the tea that had almost gone cold. Harry supposed either of them could have cast a charm to warm it up again, but he was too afraid of breaking the strangely comfortable silence that had fallen between them. Neither of them moved except for taking the occasional sip, so when Ginny moved to take his almost empty cup he startled.

“Sorry, I just figured I’d clean up. Guess I’m not the only one who scares easily these days,” Ginny said, offering a smile.

“No, I figure we’ve got ourselves another generation of wizards who jump at everything,” Harry smiled. They shouldn’t joke, but it felt good to talk about something serious in a light tone. And if they couldn’t joke about bad stuff, there wasn’t really much left.

“You’re going back to Hogwarts too, right? For your seventh year?”

“Pretty sure mum would kill- er, have a fit if I didn’t,” Ginny said, and they both ignored how she couldn’t joke about her mum killing her, not when Fred had been. Not when Molly actually had killed someone to protect her. “Besides, it’ll be good for me I think, to have a break from all the er, family stuff.”

“I – can we, you know,” Harry hesitated, “be friends, still?” He cringed when it came out about as awkward he felt.

“You’re an idiot,” Ginny grinned.

Harry should have known he couldn’t just be done with the war. He should have known he couldn’t hide in his flat and pretend none of it had ever happened. That didn’t make it easier to open his door to find Kingsley on the other side of it. The new Minister looked so wrong sitting on Harry’s sofa, with the newly painted walls turning bright red and gold - almost as if they were celebrating the former Gryffindor. Harry didn’t know what to do about the Minister for Magic visiting his flat, so he offered the man a cup of tea.

“I’m afraid I’m here on business Harry,” Kingsley said. “We’re starting the trials against suspected Death Eaters and Voldemort supporters.”

“Right,” Harry said, and then feeling bitterness rise in his throat like bile he added, “I suppose I should be grateful you’re giving people trials at all.”

“What happened with the Malfoy boy was, unfortunate.”

“You think?” Harry said. It was easier after all, to blame the Ministry for Malfoy’s imprisonment than it was to blame himself.

“We’ve dropped all charges against him, of course - as a way of apology for not holding a trial on the charges of attempting to murder you.”

“As a way to apologise for attempting to murder him, you mean?”

“You have to understand Harry, after the final battle, after you saved everyone - when you nearly died people were out for blood. They’d just lost their children, wives, husbands, parents and friends - when they almost lost their Saviour it was just too much.”

“So Voldemort was already dead and you needed someone to punish?” Harry asked. If it hadn’t been for the war he probably wouldn’t have cared much. He’d seen though, how corrupt the Ministry really was. He’d seen the people who’d claimed to be against Voldemort turn around and prosecute Muggle-borns when the Ministry was taken, probably the very same people who were now ready to prosecute Voldemort supporters. He’d seen them arrest innocent people like Stan Shunpike, in a desperate attempt to seem competent. He’d seen them hold a full trial against him, for protecting himself from Dementors one of their own employees had sent. Ending the war hadn’t fixed the faulty foundation their society was built on, and it definitely hadn’t fixed the Ministry.

“In essence, yes. We’re trying to do better though, and that’s why I’m here. Like I said, we’re starting the trials soon - and we need you to testify.” Kingsley handed Harry a list then, and giving it a quick glance Harry recognised the names of several of Voldemort’s inner circle.

“Are you still using Dementors in Azkaban? Are you still using the Dementors’ Kiss as a punishment?” Harry asked.

“Yes,” Kingsley said, clearly not seeing the problem with not only punishing people with confinement but also madness and death.

“Then I won’t do it,” Harry said. He was tired already, exhausted from the visit. He was relieved though, to find he still cared about something. That he hadn’t grown so numb or caught up in his own problems that he no longer cared about others.

“Legally, you’re not allowed to refuse - not when you’re a witness to a crime.” Kingsley looked unsure though, and Harry suspected he knew why.

“If you were willing to murder someone for being suspected of trying to kill your ‘Saviour’ I highly doubt you’re going to send me to prison for refusing to testify.” Harry glanced down at the list again, “I can’t help but notice there are no Ministry employees on this list. You know, like Umbridge, who thrived under Voldemort’s rule and happily chased down Muggle-borns.”

“Those people were just doing their jobs Harry, we can’t fault them for that.”

Harry took a deep breath to rein in his anger. He didn’t know how many people had died because of people just ‘doing their jobs’, how many families had been torn apart or how many children had been traumatised. He knew though, that if everyone at the Ministry had actually done their jobs the war could have been over before it even started.

“I think you should leave now,” he said. He wasn’t going to change the world by arguing with Kingsley - a man he’d previously respected. “I’m not going to testify at your trials so either arrest me or go away.”

“Very well,” Kingsley said, standing and brushing off his trousers in the same motion.

Harry looked at the list again, instead of the retreating man. One name stood out, suddenly clearer to him than any other name on the page. Malfoy, Narcissa was written in neat letters, right below her husband’s name. Draco? and he’s dead rang in Harry’s ears like a constantly repeating echo.

“Wait,” he said, stopping the Minister just as he was about to leave his flat. “I’ll testify for Narcissa Malfoy.”

“For her? Surely you mean against her?” Kingsley said, staring at Harry with a furrowed brow.

“No, I mean I’ll testify for her - for her defence.”

Most days, getting out of bed was a struggle. Getting out of bed knowing he’d have to leave his flat and attend a trial at the Ministry seemed impossible. He wasn’t sure what to expect, not having left his flat for anything other than the Tesco down the street since he left St. Mungo’s. People had always stared at him, at his scar. Sometimes in awe, and sometimes with pity or disgust. According to Kingsley though, he was now their Saviour. And from what he’d understood from Ron and Hermione they both had trouble with people crowding them whenever they visited Wizarding London, wanting to ask questions or shake their hands. Ron had taken to hiding in the back of George’s shop a lot, because people apparently had a need to tell him about the people they’d lost - about the people who’d fought alongside the ‘golden trio’.

Apparating straight to the Ministry had been a terrible idea, Harry realised as soon as his feet hit the ground. He’d aimed for the tenth level, where the trial was being held. He’d arrived however, in the middle of the atrium. Thinking about it he realised the Ministry would probably have spells in place to make sure people couldn’t just Apparate in all over, and he cursed himself as he stood in the crowded room. The disgusting statue Harry had seen when he’d last been there was gone, thankfully, but the room seemed too big without something to replace it. He didn’t have time to linger on the thought though, before he heard his name. First in whispers, then in a shout.

“Harry Potter! Thank you!” a witch shouted from almost halfway across the room, and Harry stood frozen as what felt like every face in the room turned to look at him. The atrium went from a buzz of talking voices to complete silence in an instant, and then broke into shouts of his name. People were pressing in around him, grabbing for his hands, his hair, his face. Apparently everyone wanted to touch him, everyone wanted to thank him. He noticed several people had burst into tears at the sight of him, and he wasn’t sure if he’d somehow triggered their war trauma or if they were just overwhelmed at the sight of him.

“Everyone back off,” someone shouted, and they must have used a Sonorous spell, because the voice rang clearly through the screaming voices surrounding Harry. The loud voice seemed to startle people back to their senses, and the realisation that they were nearly trampling their ‘Saviour’ to death seemed to dawn on the people closest to him.

“Merlin, we’re squashing him - back off everyone,” a witch who’d just been holding his hair in a tight grip said. She spread her arms out and started backing off, forcing the people behind her to take a few steps back.

“I said, BACK OFF,” the voice shouted again, and this time - without the spell Harry recognised it as Malfoy’s. He looked to the direction it came from, and saw blond hair in the crowd, getting steadily closer to him.

“Malfoy,” he said when the other man was standing right in front of him, looking tousled and out of breath.

“Protego,” Malfoy said, moving his wand in a circle around them. The invisible shield pushed people farther away from them, and Harry felt like he could properly breathe again.

“That’s Draco Malfoy!” someone said, sounding awed, “he saved Harry Potter’s life he did!”

“Tried to kill him is what I heard,” someone else said.

“The Aurors said they were wrong though, didn’t they? Did he try to kill you Harry?”

“Harry, my daughter goes to Hogwarts. She fought in the battle with you!”

“HARRY, my husband was killed by Death Eater scum.”

“Harry, marry me!”

The shouts blended in with each other until Harry could no longer make out what a single person was saying, half panicked he cast a Muffliato around Malfoy and himself, eternally thankful for the Protego that were still keeping people at bay.

“Merlin! What’s wrong with people?” Malfoy asked as soon as the shouts disappeared behind Harry’s spell.

Harry decided to look at Malfoy instead of the crowd. “I’ve no idea.”

“What are you even doing here?” Malfoy asked, staring at a man banging his hands against his Protego in disgust.

“I’m here to speak for your mother,” Harry said, wondering if Kingsley had told anyone he’d be coming, or if he’d hoped Harry would somehow forget.

“You’re - really?” Malfoy asked, looking away from the crowd and straight at Harry. The sudden spark of hope in his eyes made it painfully clear to Harry how much dread he’d seen in them only a moment before.

“Yes, but we should go now - before someone figures out how to break through your charm.”

The trial was in the same room Harry’s own trial had been during his fifth year, and of course they’d be breaking out their darkest and most terrifying courtroom for the ‘Death Eater Trials’. The chains that had hung limply from the chair at Harry’s trial, were now wrapped tightly around Narcissa Malfoy. She looked terrible; her blond hair hanging limply around her shoulders and her eyes looked haunted. Harry knew that look, it was the look Sirius had had when he’d escaped Azkaban. Her eyes were suddenly striking in their similarity to Sirius’ eyes, and Harry found himself wondering if her’s would twinkle the way her cousin’s had in the rare moments Harry had seen him laugh. Harry was left feeling a rush of emotions he didn’t have the time or energy to sort through, so he latched onto his anger. Anger he knew, anger he could understand.

“They’ve kept her in Azkaban?” he asked, turning furious eyes to Malfoy. “Before she’s been convicted of anything?”

Malfoy just nodded. The glint of hope in his eyes had disappeared, and he could only look at his mother in short glances. Each glance seemed to drain more colour off his already pale face, and Harry wanted to scream at the injustice of the world.

“Sometimes I hate the world so much I regret fucking saving it in the first place,” Harry muttered. He didn’t expect a response from Malfoy, and he didn’t get one. The other man looked like he was close to passing out. Harry grabbed him above his elbow and dragged him to the empty seats behind the defence counsel, they were the only ones there.

“Have you been told I’d be here?” Harry asked the counsel, not bothering with introductions. His face had, according to Ginny, been on the front of every newspaper and magazine since the final battle.

The counsel, a young witch with turquoise stripes in her hair, shook her head. “No, they didn’t. That would have been too close to a fair trial, wouldn’t it? If I’d had time to prepare some questions to ask you?”

Harry was glad to see he wasn’t the only one who was pissed, but he and the counsel both chose to spend their short time having a hurried and whispered conversation about what Harry wanted to speak of in defence of Narcissa, so the witch would know what questions to ask.

In the end, their talk hadn’t been necessary. The judge read the charges against her; harbouring known Death Eaters, failing to report crimes, supporting Voldemort, complicit to murder, torture and kidnapping. He then called Harry to the stand and asked if he believed Narcissa Malfoy was guilty of her crimes.

“I believe Narcissa Malfoy is a mother who did everything she could to protect her son in an impossible situation, and in the end she saved my life,” Harry said. He sent the defence counsel a sideways glance, wondering if it was standard procedure for the judge to ask questions like this, she shrugged looking just as confused as Harry felt.

“All in favour of dropping all charges against Narcissa Malfoy,” the judge said, making Harry, the counsel and both Malfoys look up in shock. It was the first time Harry had seen Narcissa move since he entered the courtroom, and it further highlighted how tired she must be. Even moving in shock she seemed sluggish, like her body was incapable of fast movements.

The judge didn’t have to take a count of raised hands, the majority was overwhelming. “All charges dropped, the case is closed” the judge announced and the chains fell off Narcissa and to the floor with a clatter. Malfoy ran to her immediately, wrapping his arms around her to hold her up now that the chains no longer did. Harry turned away from them in an attempt to offer some privacy, and turned to the defence counsel instead.

“It appears the corrupt need to please the great Saviour is bigger than the corrupt need to win public opinion by punishing as many as possible as harshly as possible,” she grinned. Harry wanted to roll his eyes at her, but the horrible realisation that she was right kept him from it. He’d just decided the outcome of a trial, and they’d let him. They hadn’t even bothered to pretend they were holding a trial. Harry’s need for the safety of his flat became suddenly overwhelming, he couldn’t be here - not when people were ready to not only mob him, but let him decide the outcome of another person's life.

“Harry,” Malfoy called. “Come on, I’ve got a Portkey - you can Apparate from the Manor.” Malfoy held out an old coin like a lifeline, and Harry took it without hesitation.

They arrived outside the Manor itself, and Harry was relieved he didn’t have to go inside. The look Malfoy sent the house showed clearly that Harry wasn’t the only one who didn’t want to be anywhere near it. Malfoy still had his hand around his mother, and she was leaning into him heavily.

“Thank you,” Malfoy said, and Harry wanted to puke at the sincerity in his words.

“Don’t -,” Harry said, the sentence only being finished in his head. Don’t thank me for trying to fix something that’s broken. Don’t thank me for saying what I think is true. Don’t thank me for deciding your mother's fate. “Just, prove I was right - yeah?”

“Mr. Potter, I swear it. You’ve given me my life and my son, I’ll spend my life cherishing that,” Narcissa whispered, eyes piercing Harry with the truth of her words even as she sagged further against her son.

“Right, well, er, bye Malfoy. See you around,” Harry said, and promptly Disapparated.

Chapter Text

When Harry woke on his eighteenth birthday he sighed, used his wand to clean the bloodstains on his sheets and then checked on last night’s cuts. He didn’t know how he felt about being eighteen. He honestly never thought he’d make it this far. Even before he had wanted to kill himself, he’d assumed Voldemort would kill him before he got this old. He supposed he should feel happy, or relieved. But all he could feel was just a confusing mess of nothingness.

He got out of bed and studied the walls that had decided to turn a dark grey for the day, splotches of black and dark green scattered throughout it. It felt somehow fitting, and Harry decided to match his clothes to it, pulling on black jeans, a dark green shirt and a grey tie. He didn’t know if his outfit was in any way matching, but he had never given a fuck before, and he wasn’t about to start now.

Molly had decided to throw him a birthday party. Harry had tried talking her out of it, but when he realised how important it was to her he’d given up. He supposed they all needed something to celebrate. Harry didn’t even know who was on the guest list, but he hoped it was just the closest. Taking a look in the mirror he decided something needed to be done about his unruly hair. He picked up a comb and ran it under the tap, then he tried to make his hair lie somewhat flat. Ten minutes later he gave up and threw the comb so hard at the wall it crashed to the floor in three separate pieces. Fucking shit hair and fucking shit comb. He looked at himself in the mirror and his unruly hair, the circles under his dull eyes, the spots on his skin and the slight unshaved stubble and he wanted to throw up. He looked so incredibly ugly he didn’t even know if he qualified as a human being anymore. He remembered how growing up his lightning bolt scar was the only thing about his appearance that he actually liked, now it was the thing he hated the most. He stared at himself until he couldn’t take it anymore. He forcibly resisted punching the mirror and walked out of the bathroom.

Back in his bedroom he glanced at his nightstand, knowing the top drawer contained his razor blade. Maybe he should cut before leaving for the Burrow? Just to have something to get him through the day. He didn’t have much time, and he knew he shouldn’t do it but something in him dragged him towards the nightstand. Giving in he opened the drawer, pulled out his razor blade and made two quick cuts on his arm. He applied a small bandage so he wouldn’t bleed through his shirt before pulling his sleeve down again. He suddenly felt calmer, and more ready to face the day. A thought in the back of his mind tried to question when cutting had become something of a quick fix habit, like swallowing a mild painkilling potion for a headache, but he pushed it back.

He decided to Floo over to the Burrow; he still hated the sensation, but it was faster and he was already running late. He was relieved when he arrived, almost falling, into the empty living room. The sound of people talking outside flowed in through an open window, and in an effort to avoid everyone for a little longer Harry headed to the kitchen where he could hear Molly humming to herself.

“Hi! Mrs. Weasley,” he said, smiling a little. “Thanks for the party! Do you need any help in the kitchen?” He really did hope she needed some help, giving him an excuse to stay in the quiet kitchen a bit longer.

“Do call me Molly, Harry. I’ve got it all handled in here, you just get out there and enjoy the party.”

The minute he stepped outside he was surrounded by people. He noticed Neville, Luna, Dean, Seamus, Hagrid, Fleur, Charlie and Bill. They weren’t the only ones there though. The tent from Bill and Fleur's wedding was back up, and people Harry only vaguely recognised, as well as complete strangers were walking around outside it. Hermione, Ron and Ginny were nowhere to be seen. Who were all these people? Had Molly invited the entirety of the Wizarding World? Harry looked at the tent, and he couldn’t move. If all these people were outside, how many would he find if he went inside it? And, oh God, was that a camera? And another? There were reporters?

Suddenly the air became heavy and the world started spinning around him. Harry tried to take a breath, but felt as if something was blocking his airway. He heard a wheezing sound and looked around before realising it was coming from his own throat. What was happening to him? He heard a loud thudding in his ears, and distantly realised it was his own heartbeat. Suddenly warm hands were on his shoulders and he was guided inside to a chair and sat down.

“Harry, Harry, look at me. I know this is really scary but you’re going to be ok. Try to look up at me Harry. Just focus on me.” Harry’s mind latched on to the calm voice and he looked up to see Dean’s face inches from his own. “Good Harry, well done. Now I know this is going to sound weird, but just hold your breath for a few seconds. Don’t try to breathe.” Harry desperately breathed in and out, trying to get air to his panicked lungs. “Trust me Harry, just hold your breath for a couple of seconds.”

Harry realised he did trust Dean, and he forced his body to stop its desperate heaving for air. “That’s great Harry! Now just breathe with me, in through the nose out through the mouth. You’ll be ok.” When Harry again tried to draw a slow breath through his nose he could finally feel the air hit his lungs. He focussed on Dean’s breath and tried to match his own to it. Slowly but surely the beating in his chest calmed down, and he finally felt like he could breathe properly again. The blurring in his eyes disappeared too, and as moisture fell down his cheeks he realised he was crying. He hurriedly dried his face off with his hands before looking at Dean again.

“Shit, I’m sorry. I don’t know what just happened there,” he said feeling extremely ashamed at his breakdown. He looked around the kitchen and was happy to see he and Dean were the only ones there. “Where did Molly go?”

“It’s ok Harry, I’m pretty sure you just had a panic attack. I told Mrs. Weasley I’d handle it, she’s outside.” Harry felt like he was going to start hyperventilating again. A panic attack? And fuck, what if Molly told the guests in her worry?

Harry stood abruptly, he needed to find Molly to ensure her he was fine. “Shit, I’m sorry Dean! I need to find Molly. I don’t want her telling anyone.” Upon seeing Dean’s worried face he smiled at the other boy. “I’m fine, really, thanks! Don’t know what came over me.” He exited the room before Dean could say anything else and was relieved to find Molly on the other side of the door.

“Oh, hi Molly. Sorry if I scared you. I’m fine now, really.” Searching his head for an excuse he said, “I just got really dizzy there for a second, it’s happened a couple of times since I woke up from the coma. I think I was just standing for too long.”

“Oh, Harry I was so worried, I tried talking to you, but you didn’t even hear me. I’m so sorry, I should have realised you wouldn’t be feeling well enough for a party! I’ll just send everyone home, let me take you to bed, you could borrow Ron’s old one he won’t mind.” She grabbed his shoulders and started guiding him to the stairs.

“I really am fine Molly, I think I’ll just take a couple of minutes to sit down upstairs, then I’ll come re-join the party. You really don’t have to send anyone home. It was just a bit more people than I expected, and if you wouldn’t mind sending the reporters off?” Embarrassed, he looked down at his shoes. “You didn’t, ehm- tell anyone else did you? Only, it’s kind of embarrassing.”

“Reporters? Oh dear they must have snuck back in after Arthur showed them off earlier, I’m so sorry honey. And only Dean and I know about your, well, reaction,” she said. “If you’re absolutely sure you’re fine I’ll just tell everyone you’ll be out in a bit.”

“Thanks Molly, that would be brilliant!” Harry said.

“I’ll just walk you up first, you still look a little peaky if I’m honest.”

“It’s fine Mrs. Weasley,” Dean said, coming out of the kitchen. “I’ll take him.”

Harry cursed silently as he started walking up the stairs with Dean on his heels. He really just needed a few minutes alone, and he had a feeling Dean was going to want to talk, something he really didn’t want to do.

“Really Dean, thanks for the help. But I’m fine now, I can make it up the stairs alone,” Harry said.

“I know you can, I just want to talk to you. Besides I don’t feel like being flogged alive by Mrs. Weasley for coming back too soon,” Dean said.

Sighing, Harry set off towards Ron’s old room instead of to the bathroom in search of something sharp. He needed a few minutes alone. He wasn’t panicking anymore, but he really needed something to ground himself. Making it to Ron’s old room he was relieved to see the trademark orange posters still covering the walls.

Harry slumped to the bed. “Ok, we’re here. Talk,” he said, feeling annoyed at Dean’s persistence and at his own mess of a brain.

“You never asked how I knew it was a panic attack,” Dean said, surprising Harry. “I know because I get them.”

“What?” Harry said. “When, why?” He couldn’t imagine the high-spirited boy he basically grew up with suffering regular bouts of what he had just experienced.

“Well if I’m honest they started around the time you came back from the Triwizard Tournament holding the dead body of my long-time crush, saying you-know-who was back. But I’d been stressing a lot before that too, so I don’t really know what triggered it. The war didn’t exactly help.”

Harry was taken aback. Dean’s long-time crush? On Cedric? “But Cedric’s a boy,” he said, before he could self-censor.

“Yeah, I’m bisexual. Seamus has been really patient and helpful with the whole anxiety thing,” Dean said.

“You’re a poof?” Harry asked, needing to clarify. Bisexual was when someone liked both blokes and girls, right? And Dean was sitting here talking about it like it was normal. Like it was OK?

“Well sort of, I’m bisexual. I like both. And poof really isn’t a word you should be throwing around, it’s offensive,” Dean said, looking slightly annoyed now.

“Shit, I’m sorry! I don’t mind, I think, I just-,” Harry trailed off, trying to make sense of the mess in his head. “Well it’s a bit wrong isn’t it? Two boys I mean. Like, unnatural,” Harry trailed off, the look on Dean's face was one of pure fury now.

“You know what, fuck off. I don’t want to talk to you if you’re just going to be a homophobic prick about it. Fucking hell!” Dean’s voice steadily rose in agitation, and he left the room in a rush slamming the door so hard the hinges rattled.

Harry stayed behind feeling shocked. What had he done wrong? He really didn’t mind that Dean liked boys, or Seamus for that matter. But he had to know it wasn’t right. Didn’t he? And how had Harry never noticed? They’d both seemed so normal in school. Lost in thought Harry didn’t notice someone on the stairs before the door slammed open again.

“You fucking arse! What the hell did you say to Dean? He’s down there feeling like total shit, because of some fucking stupid homophobic comment out of your bleedin’ mouth,” Seamus yelled, his accent becoming more pronounced in his anger.

“I’m sorry! I just - I don’t get it” Harry said, feeling confused at all the anger he was causing. “You have to know it’s not natural. Humans need to reproduce; two people of the same gender can’t do that. It’s just - well it’s not right is it?” he tried to explain.

As he finished the sentence he realised it was not received well by Seamus. Two seconds later Harry watched as he pulled his arm back and threw a punch. Pain exploded over Harry’s face, and although he couldn’t understand what he’d done wrong he figured he deserved it, so he didn’t punch back.

“I can’t believe I spent six years sharing a dormitory with such a fucking dick! Why don’t you just put yourself in another coma so the doctors can fix your personality.” Harry was horrified to realise he was about to start crying again, and he rubbed his eyes, trying to make it look like he was checking on his nose. When he looked back at Seamus the other boy was already leaving.

Harry stayed in Ron’s room for about half an hour, trying to muster up the courage to go downstairs and face the rest of the guests. However, before he could make it outside he almost walked straight into Ron and Hermione.

“What the fuck mate?” Ron asked upon seeing Harry.

Before he could answer however, Hermione said, “What happened to your face?!”.

“Seamus is what happened,” said Ron, “Harry said something that managed to piss off both Dean and Seamus.” Turning from Hermione and back to Harry he asked, “What the hell did you say? Seamus was ranting about ignorant arseholes before he left.”

“I just -” Harry hesitated. “I don’t even know what I said. I was just saying how I don’t mind them being poofs for each other, but that they had to know it was not really natural, you know? They just freaked out.”

“Shit Harry, if your nose didn’t already look broken I’d have half a mind to punch you myself. What the hell are you on about?” Ron said, and Harry noticed Hermione placing a calming, or maybe restricting hand on his shoulder.

“Harry, I think you’re seriously misunderstanding something here. At least I sincerely hope you are,” Hermione said.

“What so they’re not po -,” Harry broke off, remembering Dean's reaction to the word. “Err, gay? But Dean said they’re dating?”

Hermione just looked at him with more disappointment and pity than Harry had ever seen on her face before. “They are dating Harry. I’m trying to understand why you think there’s something wrong with that.”

“There isn’t?” Harry asked. Something uncomfortable inside him started pushing on his carefully erected mental walls. Was he wrong? But then what about kids, how would they be born at all? And kids needed a mum, didn’t they? He had so many questions, he didn’t even know where to start.

“Of course there bloody isn’t, you tosser,” Ron said angrily, and Harry realised there was no room for his questions here.

“I think I need to go, I have to think. I’m sorry, tell everyone thanks for coming and goodbye.” Harry hurried towards the fireplace, ignoring Hermione calling his name.

Safely back at his flat Harry sat on his couch, absently noticing the walls had turned pink and purple. He trusted Ron and Hermione, so if they said there wasn’t anything wrong with being like that, then maybe he was wrong. Thinking back Harry could only remember the Dursleys talking about ‘the poofs’, he didn’t think it had ever come up in conversations with anybody else. Maybe, he thought, the Dursleys disapproval should be indication enough that poof was indeed an offensive word, and that being gay wasn’t wrong. But how would such a relationship even work?

Harry tried to imagine it, Dean and Seamus holding hands and kissing, going on dates. Watching a Quidditch match together and eagerly kissing when their team won. Dean introducing Seamus to football and the boys playing shirtless in the heat, falling into heaps and leisurely kissing when they got too tired to keep playing. Without his approval Harry’s thoughts ran away from him, and he was suddenly imagining Dean painting with Seamus as a nude model. Both boys laughing and smiling, he imagined how Seamus would touch himself and how Dean would get more and more distracted from the painting. Eventually giving up and straddling Seamus, dominating his mouth in a deep kiss.

With a start Harry realised he was hard. He stared at the bulge in his pants like it was a foreign object. “Fuck,” he muttered, “fuck, fuck, fuck.” He desperately tried pushing the thoughts from his mind, but the mental image of Dean straddling Seamus, both boys desperately grinding against each other was burned in his brain. He reached slowly for the bulge in his jeans and tried to think of a girl, any girl. He imagined boobs, full lips, soft curves and long hair. As soon as his hand reached its destination though, the girl was replaced by the image of Dean and Seamus, and Harry immediately pulled his hand back.

‘What the hell is wrong with me?’ he thought, ‘I can’t do this, fuck’. Harry got up and almost ran to the shower, setting the water as cold as it would go before jumping in without even bothering to take off his clothes. The water was so cold it hurt his exposed skin and gave him a headache, but it effectively killed his erection. Harry’s tears mixed with the cold water as intense fear struck him for the second time that day. He was a freak. He was a freak and he couldn’t even deny it anymore. Flashes of memories from dreams and thoughts he had tried his best to forget rushed to his mind and he felt like he was going to throw up.

He scrambled out of the shower, ripped off his wet clothing and, blurry eyed, made his way to his bedroom. ‘Freak, freak, freak, freak,’ screamed a voice in his head, and he had to get the thoughts out. Grabbing for his blade he set it to his thigh for the first time. He cut fast, anger and panic driving his hand. Every time the word freak entered his head he cut again, until his mind was pleasantly blurred and he couldn’t think much of anything. Exhausted, he fell asleep.

Chapter Text

You are the hole in my head
You are the space in my bed
You are the silence in between
What I thought and what I said
Florence and the Machine (No Light, No Light)

Relief washed over him when he woke up having dreamt of nothing. Relief soon turned to pain however when he tried to move and realised some of his cuts had stuck to the sheets in his sleep. He slowly released himself, reopening the cuts that had started healing while in contact with his bed. His thigh didn’t look good at all, the cuts weren’t too deep, but he had made a lot of them. When he moved a burning sensation flared in his thigh, but somehow the pain made him smile. He could think more clearly this way, and in a sick way the pain made him feel proud.

Harry thought back to the previous night, and realised he still had a lot of questions. Questions he needed answered. But who could he talk to? His friends were probably still really mad at him, they wouldn’t want to see his face for a good while and he refused to force his presence on them. As he considered his options Harry’s mind drifted to Malfoy. He had really seemed changed when he visited Harry in hospital, maybe he could help Harry challenge some old prejudices, if that’s even what they were? At the very least maybe he could answer some of Harry’s questions. Hopefully he’d understand the struggle of realising something that’s been a truth your entire life might actually be really wrong.

Deciding to contact Malfoy, before he could talk himself out of it, Harry penned a note:

‘Hello Draco.
I hope it’s ok that I’m writing to you. If you don’t mind, I’d really like to talk to you. I think I might need your help sorting some stuff out. I don’t really know how to phrase it in a letter, but would you be willing to meet with me?

He was not at all pleased with the sound of the letter, but he just needed some answers, so he sealed the letter and headed to rent an owl at the post office. Remembering the crowd at the Ministry he cast several glamours on his face, growing his hair longer as he cursed the fact a glamour wouldn’t hide his stupid scar.

The next day Harry woke up from a nightmare with a gasp. He looked to the window to see if Malfoy had responded to his owl, but was disappointed to see the ledge outside empty of owls. Malfoy probably hated him too. And why wouldn’t he? Harry sent him to prison for weeks. Not on purpose of course, but that hardly mattered. He hadn’t meant to hurt and infuriate his friends the week before either, but somehow, he had managed it. He hadn’t spoken to any of them since his birthday, simply choosing to isolate himself in his flat.

He wished Hedwig were here, because then he wouldn’t feel so utterly alone. His owl was gone though. Just like Sirius, like his parents. The ones he loved it seemed, would always sacrifice their lives for him. The ones who remained were rightfully sick of him, sick of risking their lives or just always having to give more than they had to give. He should just stay in his flat, and let people move on with their lives.

Hours later Harry was shocked by a knock on his door. Who would come see him here, they all hated him now anyway. Or, they were at the very least pissed off. The knock came again and Harry hurried to put his blade away. He had been cutting again, and whoever was at the door definitely didn’t need to see that. The knock sounded again, louder this time. Harry quickly pulled on his jeans, thankful for their dark colour as the cuts were still bleeding a little. He was about to call out to ask who it was when a voice accompanied the next round of knocking.

“Harry, are you in there?” Malfoy yelled. Stunned Harry simply opened the door and stared at the blond. “Finally,” he said, and strode into Harry’s flat.

“You have some truly horrid walls Harry, did you know?” Malfoy said, observing the light blue splatter. Harry noticed he was still using his first name. “Are you going to pick your jaw off the floor and close the door anytime soon, or were you hoping something would fly through it and into your mouth?”

Harry forcibly shook himself. “You’re here,” he said, feeling stupid. He hadn’t expected Malfoy to just show up, if he was honest he hadn’t even expected an answer to his owl either, they didn’t exactly have a history of being friendly.

“Yes, Harry I am here, I didn’t have much of a choice, did I? How did you expect me to answer your owl when you live in a Muggle flat, owls won’t fly near places with so many Muggles if you haven’t put up charms to hide them. Which you obviously haven’t, seeing as my owl came back with my letter still attached to its leg,” Malfoy said, sounding exasperated.

“Oh,” said Harry, “I didn’t know that. That’s kind of why I wrote. It appears there are a lot of things I don’t know.” Harry hesitated, not wanting to insult Malfoy after the man came all this way. “I didn’t know who to write to, and I came to think that, err, well, you used to be kinda prejudiced before, but you’re not now. At least I don’t think you are, right? And I think I finally understand how you could think people you never knew were bad or wrong. Because I think I do it too.”

“Harry,” Malfoy shot in when Harry paused for breath. “You’re babbling. Let’s sit down and you can explain what you’re talking about.”

After installing Harry on the sofa Malfoy proceeded to make himself at home in the kitchen, making them both some tea. Harry sat nervously, staring at his hands. What was he even going to say? Sending that letter was just stupid in the first place.

“So, you think you’re prejudiced?” asked Malfoy as he sat down and handed Harry a steaming cup of tea.

Gathering his so-called Gryffindor courage, though Harry didn’t know how much of that he had left, he looked up at Malfoy. “Yes. I said some things, things that made some people hurt and offended, and all my friends mad. And I think maybe I’m wrong about it, but it just didn’t make sense to me. And I can’t ask my friends, because they all hate me now, and they would be even more mad.” Malfoy sent him a sceptical look at this, but Harry soldiered on. “They just, I don’t know. They don’t understand how hard it is to realise something that has been true your whole life might be wrong, you know? I didn’t either. So I was mad at you for your beliefs, instead of trying to explain a different way of understanding it. And I’m sorry for that, because now I’m asking you to do what I couldn’t do.”

Harry stopped speaking, preparing for the question he knew Malfoy would ask. But when it came, it was in a calm, almost gentle tone. Not smug or angry as Harry half anticipated.

“What did you say?”

“I might have called Dean and Seamus poofs,” Harry replied, looking at his hands again. “And then said that I didn’t mind them being gay, but that they had to know it was wrong.” He wanted to continue, to defend himself, to explain why it had to be wrong, but he didn’t. He just sat and waited for Malfoy to say something. To Harry the silence seemed to last forever.

“It isn’t wrong. But if you’re anything like I was, hearing that won’t be enough. You’re questioning, and that’s really good. But I’m guessing you need someone to answer the questions you do have. And I will, I just want to ask one thing in return,” Malfoy said.

“Thank you!” said Harry. “What do you want? I’ll do it! Anything, I just need answers.” He didn’t even realise he just promised a Slytherin to do anything he wanted, he was so relieved Malfoy understood.

“You said yourself I used to be pretty prejudiced. And I’ve been working on that, I really have. But there are probably things that I just haven’t thought to question, or things I am still questioning but I don’t know any answers to. Especially about Muggle-borns and Muggles. I just want you to be aware of that, and help me out with it when I’m the one with the questions,” Malfoy said, looking, if Harry’s eyes didn’t deceive him, almost shy.

“Yeah, of course! Like I said, I wish I’d done that sooner anyway.”

“Ok, good. So, questions. First off, poof really isn’t an ok word to use. It’s kind of the equivalent of mudblood.” Harry felt horrified at this, had he really called his friend something so ugly? “Same goes for a lot of words. Some gay people like to use queer, but you really shouldn’t use it for anyone who hasn’t said it’s ok. Other than gay, homosexual, bisexual, lesbian and whatever words people use to describe themselves. But don’t go around saying dyke, fag or any other offensive words for it,” Malfoy said, with a small smile now.

“Ok, so Dean called himself bisexual, so I should use that? And gay for Seamus because that’s what he said?” Harry clarified, and Malfoy nodded.

“But what about kids? If being gay isn’t wrong, and everybody was gay there wouldn’t be any kids,” Harry asked.

“By that logic, shouldn’t being in a relationship with someone sterile also be wrong? Or just being sterile? Or not wanting kids? And besides, there are ways for gay people to have children, you can...” Harry interrupted Malfoy before he could finish speaking.

“Men can get pregnant?” he asked, shocked.

“Your mind really goes to the strangest places Harry. No, men can’t get pregnant. Though I think some Healers tried it once, didn’t work out too well. Two men would usually get a surrogate to carry the baby for them, and two witches usually get a sperm donor. Or they adopt, there are lots of kids with no parents to take care of them, you know.”

Harry suddenly felt sad for a second, yeah there were definitely kids with no parents. He didn’t think the feeling showed on his face, but apparently he was wrong.

“Shit, Harry, I’m sorry. I didn’t think. Of course you know. You were adopted though, weren’t you?” Malfoy said.

“The Dursleys never adopted me, they never really wanted me there in the first place to be honest. I think that’s where I have this whole ‘gay is wrong’ idea from, but they hated magic as well, that’s why I figured they might be wrong on this too.”

“They, wait what?” Malfoy asked. “They didn’t want you? And they hated magic? Why did you have to live there?” Before Harry could answer Malfoy answered his own question. “Fuck, it was blood magic wasn’t it? Dumbledore figured you being safe from You-know.. erh Voldemort, was more important than having an actual family.”

“Well it worked I guess, I’m alive so,” Harry trailed off, not knowing if the bitterness in his tone came from what Dumbledore did to keep him alive or the fact that he was alive at all. In an attempt to steer the conversation away from his childhood he asked, “So even if everyone decided to be gay, there would still be children then? That’s good.”

Malfoy looked at him with an amused glint in his eyes. “Harry, people don’t choose to be gay, they just are. Kinda like you were born a wizard, you didn’t choose to be one, and you didn’t know the whole time that you were one, but now you could never go back to being a Muggle, because you know that’s not what you are. And besides, everyone isn’t gay. I think it’s like ten percent of the population or something.”

Harry drew in a sudden breath. If being gay wasn’t a choice, then how could he be sure he wasn’t himself? What if it was like the magic thing, and he had been gay this whole time without knowing. But how would he even know? Images flashed in his mind from when he imagined Dean and Seamus kissing. Vague images from dreams he’d had over the past few days of himself in similar positions with another man. But he’d been disgusted at those, hadn’t he? Or was that just because of his upbringing?

Clenching his fists Harry could feel panic rising in his chest again, and suddenly he was struggling for breath. He supposed he had always known on some level that he liked boys, he had always found himself looking just a little bit too long, or dreaming of people with a chest that was just too flat. But he always figured he could just choose to be straight. He always thought it was a choice. That everyone had thoughts like that, but only a few ´freaks´ actually chose to act on them.

“Harry! Harry what’s wrong? You’re hyperventilating. Harry!” Malfoy said, reaching out to place a hand on Harry’s shoulder. Harry jumped away so fast he fell to the floor.

“No! Don’t touch me! How do you know?” Harry asked, desperate to be reassured.

“Harry what’s going on? How do you know what?” Malfoy asked, looking worried and confused.

“How do you know if you’re gay? How can you tell?” Harry asked again, not sure if he was ready for the answer.

“Well I suppose you know if you feel like you want to kiss, touch, or just be with someone of the same gender. If you find yourself thinking about that when you’re masturbating, or when you’re dreaming. It’s just something that ‘is’, and when you notice it it’s pretty hard to un-notice it again,” Malfoy answered, and reached out for Harry again.

Harry jumped back again, for some reason not ready to be touched by anyone. Malfoy shouldn’t have to touch him, he was a freak. He was a gay freak. He knew exactly what Draco was describing, he had experienced it. But it shouldn’t matter, because he could choose to be straight. He could find a girlfriend and be with her. He could! He liked girls, but fuck Dean said he did too, and he was still gay. Even if being gay wasn’t wrong it was wrong for him to be.

Lost in thought Harry didn’t notice Malfoy had left the couch to sit beside him on the floor, leaving enough distance that he wasn’t touching him, before he spoke.

“Harry, there isn’t anything wrong with liking men. And there isn’t anything wrong if you do either. It’s ok, it’s just, well a preference. Like preferring chocolate ice cream to vanilla. So know that what I’m about to ask is not an insult,” Malfoy paused, dragging a breath. “Harry, are you gay?”

Harry’s world exploded. Hearing the words, even formulated as a question was like writing it in stone. Draco was right, once you knew it you couldn't go back. You could pretend, but it was too late, because now he knew. Breathing hard through a throat that felt too tight Harry desperately tried to calm down enough to say something.

“I like girls. I – there was Ginny, and Cho. I liked them. But, I -, fuck. I think maybe boys too?” Harry whispered through the lump in his throat, and suddenly everything quieted down. It still didn’t feel ok, but it felt right. It felt like letting go of a breath he had held in for too long.

“Bisexual then?” Malfoy asked.

“I guess? Fuck! Or I mean, maybe I’m not? What are the odds, right? One in ten?” Harry didn’t know who he was trying to convince. Maybe it didn’t matter though, maybe he could just ignore the part of him that wanted that. He still liked girls, he could choose a girl. He could choose nobody. Or nobody could choose him, because he couldn’t really imagine why anyone would.

“You don’t have to decide, or know, now,” Malfoy said. “It took me a couple of years to figure it all out.”

Harry stared at Malfoy in shock. “Wait, you’re gay too?”

“Yeah, didn’t you know? I dated Blaise in fifth year, I thought everyone knew.”

“Blaise is gay?” Harry exclaimed. “Is everyone gay? Last month I didn’t know a single gay person, and now everyone and their brother is gay. And no, I didn’t know you were gay, dick that I am I probably would have made a shitstorm about it back then.”

Malfoy laughed, actually laughed, and Harry felt his mood lighten. “Everyone isn’t gay Harry, Blaise isn’t either, I think we were both just exploring, being young, you know?”

“So you were just... Oh Merlin,” Harry said, as he realised what Malfoy was saying. “You were like fuck buddies or something?”

“How exactly did this go from me teaching you how being gay isn’t wrong to us sitting on the floor, you questioning your own sexuality, and me explaining my sexual history?” Malfoy asked in an amused tone.

“I have absolutely no idea,” Harry laughed. “Things around me never really go as planned.”

“Yes, I’m starting to notice,” Malfoy said. “Are you, ehm, ok? With your new revelation?”

“I don’t know,” Harry answered. “I – no. Fuck, I always thought I could just choose to ignore it. I guess I still can, if I like girls too?”

“I don’t really think suppressing half of your sexuality is good for you but change takes time. You need to learn a new way of thinking about things, and that’s not easy. Take the time you need, just – keep working at it,” Malfoy said. “I really should be going though. My mother worries if I’m home late. She’s been nervous since father was sent to Azkaban.”

“Oh, of course,” Harry said. “I didn’t mean to keep you this long. Thank you for coming, and everything else. And I’m still sorry about getting you sent to that place.”

“Glad I could be of help,” Malfoy said. “I’m really glad we’re getting along now, Hogwarts will be a lot more fun with a friend there. And don’t feel bad, first of all it wasn’t your fault and second I think I needed it in some weird way. For whatever reason replaying all my worst memories over and over made me see very clearly all the mistakes I’d made. I’m just glad I have the chance to try and make things right.”

Harry walked Malfoy to the door and they said their goodbyes. Then he sat down to write letters to Dean, Seamus, Ron and Hermione. He needed to apologise, but he didn’t think he’d be able to do it in person. He was always getting his words mixed up, and an apology would probably come out sounding like an insult. He considered telling them he was that way himself, but felt like that would just sound like an excuse for his behaviour and he didn’t want that. There was also the nagging feeling, stronger now that Malfoy wasn’t here, that something about him liking men was wrong. That it was wrong for him.

Angrily punching the table he was sitting at to push the thoughts out of his head Harry focussed his attention back on the letters. He’d write them, go to bed without thinking a single thought and then send the letters from the owlery at Diagon tomorrow. At least, that was the plan.

The part of the plan where he wasn’t supposed to think didn’t go like he’d hoped. Thoughts of Malfoy and Blaise ‘just exploring’ kept entering his mind when he was on the verge between asleep and awake. Turning on his side Harry put his hands underneath his pillow, refusing to acknowledge the bulge in his pyjamas.

Harry put on his glamour before leaving to send the owls off to his friends the next day. On his way back home, Harry decided to look around Diagon, and he was pleased to discover there wasn’t just the one main road. His curiosity brought him down a side street with hairdressers, make-up stores and tattoo parlours thrown in between the regular shops. Intrigued Harry stood outside one of the tattoo parlours studying the intricate designs displayed in the windows.

Maybe he should get a tattoo? It wasn’t like he didn’t add permanent markings to his body on a daily basis already, and a tattoo would be something he could show off. But what would he even get? Something to commemorate his parents and Sirius? Something Quidditch related? Did people even get tattoos on a whim like this, just deciding and going into the shop?

Harry figured why not, and entered the store to talk to one of the artists. When he left a few hours later he was sporting a watercolour lily, with the words Mischief Managed written through the stem of the flower on his right forearm. Like with his walls the colours of the tattoo could change, but only when he wanted them to. The pain hadn’t been bad, just different. Harry marvelled at the tattoo, thinking about how some scars could be beautiful, on display for the world, while others were ugly and disgusting and had to be hidden at any cost.

The tattoo artist told him that the shop a few doors down sold a magical concealer so good it could hide his tattoo if he ever needed it. Making his way towards that very shop to purchase the concealer, Harry hoped it would work on his ugly scars, as those were the ones that needed covering up.

“Oh my, you’re Harry Potter aren’t you?” the middle-aged witch in the store said the second Harry entered her shop. Harry’s hand shot to his forehead, where his glamoured hair had slipped to the side – revealing his scar perfectly.

“I was looking for some concealer the tattoo artist down the street recommended. He said you’d know which one.” Harry said, brushing his hair back in place.

“Yes of course I do, it should be able to cover up that lightning bolt scar of yours as well when you need some anonymity. I can imagine being ‘the Saviour’ all the time gets tiring.”

“Yeah it does. So this thing really works on curse scars? I was told nothing would,” Harry asked the older woman.


“It does!” she said proudly, “It’s my own formula, I’m rather proud of it if I’m honest. People buy this for everything from pimples to tattoos to curse scars, I haven’t had a complaint yet.”

“That’s wonderful! I’ll definitely buy it then, I don’t think I’ll ever want to hide my new tattoo, but being anonymous does sound amazing,” Harry said, smiling.

Safely back in his flat Harry threw the bag with his concealer on the couch, he ignored the colours of the wall changing to pink, purple and blue to match his tattoo, and headed for his bedroom.

He pulled out his razor blade and dragged it lightly across the tattoo, it felt somehow tempting to cut there, but he knew he couldn’t ruin his tattoo. Sliding his blade lower to rest at the wrist, he considered again, he could cut there, and cover it up with clothes or the concealer cream. Cutting his thighs was easier, no-one needed to see those, but it wasn’t really as satisfying as cutting his arms had been.

Harry sat on his bed, blade to his wrist for a long time, feeling calm and increasingly stressed at the same time. He needed to cut, he wanted to cut his wrist, yet he knew he shouldn’t. A sharp pain was what finally dragged him from his thoughts; looking down he realised he had accidentally pushed the blade down harder and made a small cut.

Now that there was already a small cut on his wrist the decision became a lot easier, and he dragged the blade across his wrist intentionally. There was pain, and there was blood and the stress and bad feelings started seeping out in tandem with the blood. He cut again, and there was more pain, more blood, and less thoughts. Three cuts later and his wrist was aching and his head was calm. It felt wonderful.

Harry remembered to put up the charms Malfoy had told him about to allow owls to deliver letters to his flat. It didn’t take long for Pig to arrive with letters from Ron and Hermione.

That’s all right mate. I know those Muggles must have put some silly ideas in your head. Glad you’re working it out though. Do you realise you STILL haven’t been to see mine and Hermione’s new flat? So, when’s a good time for you to do the ‘new home appreciation tour’?

‘Hello Harry.
I do accept your apology of course, but I’m not the one you should be apologising to. Of course, knowing you, I’m sure you sent letters to Dean and Seamus as well. I’m sure they will forgive you, and hopefully you’ll be able to forgive yourself as well. Ron’s been going on about seeing you again, and I do agree. We both miss you terribly. Hopefully we’ll be able to see each other soon.’
Love, Hermione.

Glad to see his friends weren’t mad at him Harry wanted to reply by inviting them over. Somehow though, the thought of doing anything but sitting in his flat seemed like too much, he was just so tired. He wrote back, thanking them for being good friends, and explaining that he was really busy with school preparations and studying. He knew they would be disappointed, but he couldn’t see them now, he couldn’t let them all the way in anymore. They’d gone to war for him, and they’d lost so much. He didn’t want to drag them into the war he was fighting with himself. Even if he had wanted to, he didn’t know how. He didn’t have the words to explain what was happening, what had been happening for years.

Chapter Text

‘Cause sometimes to stay alive you’ve got to kill your mind.
Twenty One Pilots (Migraine)

The rest of August passed in a blur, time seemed both impossibly slow and fast all at once. Like a day lasted for an entire month on it’s own, but the days blended together making a week feel like a single day. All of a sudden it was the day before he was leaving for Hogwarts and he realised he hadn’t seen any of his friends since his birthday. He’d replied to every owl with a refusal, because he was struggling to find the energy to reply at all, never mind actually meeting anyone. He was sick of feeling alone, but somehow the idea of meeting anyone made him feel even more so. He never felt much like eating, but the feeling of hunger always made him feel claustrophobic, like he was back in his cupboard under the stairs, so he called out for Muggle takeaway every night.

The glare of the extended tempus charm, telling him it was August 31st 11.34 am hurt his eyes, and Harry suddenly realised he’d kept the curtains drawn and the lights turned off for weeks. Shit, but he was a mess. He couldn’t stand catching a glimpse of himself though. His reflection in the windows, or kitchen cabinets or worst of all the mirror made him feel disgusted with himself. Malfoy had been right, ignoring half your sexuality was pretty much impossible when you first became aware of it, so Harry had tried the tactic of ignoring himself instead. If he just was then he couldn’t want. And if he couldn’t want then he couldn’t be bisexual or fucked in the head. So Harry had existed. He’d eaten when he was hungry, drank when he was thirsty, slept when he was tired and cut when his head started thinking. Now though, it was August 31st and he had to be at Kings Cross Station bright and early the next morning, preferably with his school books and robes that fit him. Both of which meant he’d have to go back to Diagon Alley.

He forced his body out of bed and into the shower, how long had it been since he showered last? He couldn’t remember and figured that was probably a bad sign. He didn’t bother drying his hair before putting on his glamour, this time though he made his hair shorter. If the concealer really was as good as the shop-lady had insisted, he wouldn’t have to worry about his scar showing. He squeezed a drop out on his finger and smeared it over his scar, then looked in amazement as it disappeared into his skin.

He made quick work of buying what he needed at the shops, grabbing a book named Queer and Magic last second before paying for his school books. Maybe it could teach him how not to be a dick in the future, without insulting someone every time he made a mistake. And maybe, a voice whispered inside his head, it could help him figure out his own sexuality.

Harry had feared a trip out would make him spiral back down into a dark mood, but somehow going out and accomplishing something had made him feel better. Maybe starting Hogwarts again would be a good thing? If nothing else he’d have something to fill his days, even though the thought of doing something every day felt crushing. Harry remembered counting down the days until he could go back to Hogwarts. Now he was dreading it. Dreading having to be around people that treat him like some kind of hero. Harry’s no hero.

When his wand vibrated to wake him up the next morning Harry dressed, and put the last of his belongings into his school trunk. His razor blades were safely hidden inside a pair of socks, even though the idea of hiding the one thing that got him through life inside something like a used pair of socks felt wrong. Maybe he’d buy a nice box or something for them in Hogsmeade. Then again, as much as they were saving him they were ruining him too – so maybe they deserved the socks. Harry shook his head like he could ward off his thoughts like they were bees, then grabbed his trunk and Apparated straight to Platform 9 3/4.

He hadn’t bothered with a glamour this time, figuring the kids at school would tire of him soon enough. He wasn’t about to risk their parents though, so he jumped into the first empty compartment he could find, and drew the curtains shut. Harry remembered the first time he’d been here, how confused and scared he had been sitting alone in a compartment, but also how hopeful. He’d been hoping for a better life, and he supposed his life had gotten better, he just hasn’t gotten better along with it. Harry suddenly realised how good his life actually was; he was a wizard, he has his own flat, he had friends, Voldemort was dead. Realising he had a good life only made Harry feel more depressed though, he should be happy, but he wasn’t. He was such a spoiled little brat, he didn’t have anything to complain about. There was literally no reason for him to hate life, but he did. Maybe Snape had been right all along, and he was just spoiled and useless. He could feel his skin itching for his blades, and his brain screamed for release. He should have put them somewhere he’d have easier access to them, but being back at school he’d have to learn to control his urges at some point. It was hard, but for reasons Harry wasn’t quite sure of it was important for him to finish school.

The door to his compartment slammed open and Harry jumped at the sound, nervously pulling at his long-sleeved shirt. It had been Dudley’s, and the sleeves easily covered half his hand, but Harry thought there was nothing rational about his behaviour these days, so there was no point in trying.

Ginny smiled from the door, dragging her luggage behind her. “There you are. I’ve been searching half the train for you.”

“Yeah, sorry,” Harry smiled sheepishly, or at least attempted to, “I wanted to -,”

“Hide from the masses?” Ginny finished for him, “yeah, I figured.” She fought with her luggage for another few seconds before apparently giving up and letting her trunk fall to the floor with a thump. She slung herself down in a seat and used the trunk as a footrest. She looked lighter, Harry thought, than when he’d last seen her. Like the weight of carrying Fred’s legacy had lightened, with time or with the distance going to Hogwarts provided Harry wasn’t sure.

“Harry,” someone said in the doorway and it made Harry jump. Before he could register his own movement, he was pointing his wand towards the source of the noise and looking straight at Malfoy. Malfoy held his hands up in mock surrender but didn’t comment further when Harry lowered it immediately. He probably wasn’t the only one feeling a bit jumpy.

“Oh, hi Malfoy,” Harry said, feeling suddenly awkward at the friendly tone he and Malfoy had adopted when Ginny was sitting there with eyes like saucers. “You wanna come in?”

Malfoy’s trunk floated behind him, and Harry marvelled at how he managed to handle the thing with grace. Who floated their trunk to the luggage rack with grace anyway?

“Miss Weasley,” Malfoy said as soon as his luggage was in place. He looked torn for a second between the seat facing Harry, or the one next to Harry but facing Ginny. In the end he sat next to Harry, and Harry figured that was the safer choice all things considered. Ginny was still looking between them in confusion, as if her brothers were pulling a prank on her.

“So, erh, Malfoy saved my life,” Harry began, feeling woefully inadequate, “and I mean, we figured we’d both had enough fighting. So we just, decided to stop – I guess.”

“What so you’re on a first name basis now?” Ginny asked. Harry was relieved to realise she sounded more confused than angry.

“Uhm, well Malf-Draco is. I keep forgetting,” Harry admitted. “Sorry,” he said, turning to Malfoy, “force of habit.”

“Probably helps that I’ve been thinking of you as Harry in my head for over a year now,” Malfoy, or Draco, smiled.

“You call him Harry,” Ginny said, facing Draco now, “you think of him as Harry?”

Harry got the feeling there was more to the question than he could comprehend, Ginny and Malfoy were staring at each other in a silent conversation he had no hopes of understanding. It was Malfoy who finally broke the silence.

“Yes, I do.”

“Right, ok then. I guess that’s – all right,” Ginny said.

The following awkward silence that spread in their compartment was thankfully broken by Luna entering their compartment and promptly tripping over Ginny’s trunk. She landed half on top of Ginny, who reached out to steady the other girl.

“Merlin Luna, be careful,” Ginny laughed, helping Luna sit properly next to her.

“Hi Ginny,” Luna smiled, before turning to look at Harry and Draco. “Hello Harry, Draco.”

“Lovegood,” Draco replied with a smile.

They settled as the train started moving, Ginny and Luna falling into easy conversation and Draco reading a book. Harry considered getting out his copy of Queer and Magic, but figured it was too risky a read to pull out in front of other people. What if Ginny or Luna started asking him why he had it? He opted to stare out the window, and wondered who else from their year would be back for their NEWTs, so far all he knew was Ron and Hermione weren’t returning.

"Do you remember our first train ride to Hogwarts?” Malfoy asked, apparently bored with his book. “You were in here with Weasley and I tried to make you become my friend. I suppose I didn't have the best social skills back then."

Harry laughed at the memory, suddenly realising he couldn’t remember the last time he’d laughed at anything. Realising it had been at least a month, Harry didn’t know how to feel. Laughing again felt wonderful though, like he had found a part of himself he lost without noticing.

"If that was how you made friends, then I suppose you're right. I was so nervous on that ride, I didn't know anything about Hogwarts or magic at all. I remember thinking they should have a house for people that felt a little queasy," Harry said.

"It still amazes me how little you seem to know about the world you live in. Not that I blame you of course. I know little to nothing about the Muggle world,” Draco said.

“I don’t know too much about that world either, if I’m honest,” Harry said. “Guess that’s what happens when you try to live a bit in both.”

“I think that’s one of the things we get to blame on Voldemort,” Draco decided. “I like to blame him for as much as possible these days.”

“Sounds like a good plan,” Harry grinned. “By the way, do you know if anyone else from our year is returning for their NEWTs?”

“Dean and Seamus are, at least,” Ginny offered, and Harry jumped again, having forgotten the girls were there at all, “and Romilda, I think. Parvati was going to, but I think it was too hard for her to come back without Lavender.”

“I think it’s only Terry and Lisa from my house,” said Luna. Harry tried to find faces to match their names but found he couldn’t remember them at all.

“It’s just me from Slytherin, I think,” Draco said, the sadness in his voice clear.

“Why?” Luna asked.

“Well, Crabbe is dead, Goyle is in Azkaban, and Blaise and Nott took their NEWTs over the summer. I’m not too sure why the girls aren’t returning, but I know Greengrass took her NEWTs this summer, and Pansy is too mortified to return.”

“Mortified?” Harry asked, looking at Ginny in confusion when she just nodded in understanding.

“I mean, she shouted to the entirety of Hogwarts that they should hand you over to Voldemort,” Ginny explained, “and she probably could have got away with it, but then her father was convicted for being a Death Eater and the Prophet ran a story on what she’d said.”

“That’s -,” Harry said without knowing what it was. Horrible, heartbreaking, disgusting? “Ma-Draco, may I borrow your owl? And who has something to write on?”

Half an hour later Draco’s owl flew off with two letters, one to the Prophet and one to Parkinson. No way was Harry letting another person waste their life because of him.

“Don’t thank me,” he said when Draco opened his mouth a few seconds later. He was sick of being thanked.

“I wasn’t going to,” Draco lied, “I was going to ask if you wanted to be room-mates, at Hogwarts I mean.”

“Room-mates? We’re in different houses.”

“Did you even read your letter?” Malfoy asked, without pausing for a response. “Since there are so few people returning for their ‘eighth year’ or whatever, we’re getting our own common room with two-person dorms. We get to choose who we room with.”

Harry looked out the window, watching the scenery fly by. It felt strange not to be going back to the Gryffindor common room, but he supposed it made sense. The seventh-year dorms would be occupied by the seventh years, and with so few people returning some would have to stay in a dorm all by themselves. Did he want to share a room with Draco though? If Ron had been coming back it’d be a no-brainer, but he wasn’t. Harry liked Draco though, at least now that he wasn’t being a dick.

“Yeah, sure,” he said, smiling at the nervous way Draco was twisting his hands, “we can share.”

“I’m just glad they’re not resorting us and making us room with the seventh years,” Draco said shuddering, Harry suspected for drama, “it was on the table as an option I heard.”

"Thank fuck for that,” Harry agreed, “I don't even know where the hat would put me, I'm not really brave, smart, loyal or cunning. They haven't made a house for people that are queasy yet have they?"

"Harry, you were one of the bravest, smartest, most honest, loyal and cunning people I know. Do you remember when you scared the shit out of me with that cloak of yours in third year? That was pretty cunning if you ask me." Draco said, scrunching his nose at the memory. “And don’t tell me there is anything you wouldn’t do for your friends, because I know you’ll be lying. And not smart? Did you or did you not master the Patronus at thirteen? Did you not win the Triwizard Tournament at fourteen? And speaking of the tournament, was it not brave to run into those challenges the way you did? You have good qualities from all the houses Harry, it would just be a question of which would fit you the best.”

Listening to Draco as he was literally praising Harry’s character did something to his eyes. Something that made them feel like they were about to cry. Harry didn’t really believe Draco, but even if nothing he said was true Draco still took the effort to make Harry feel better. Suddenly it wasn’t his eyes that felt weird, it was his cheeks. Horrified Harry realised he was blushing, and he immediately wished for the ground to open and swallow him whole.

Then, like a miracle, Draco blushed too. His pale cheeks filled with blood as a subtle brush spread across his face. Harry hadn’t imagined Draco even had the ability to blush, but now that he did he looked so damn cute. No, Harry shouldn't be thinking that. Draco is a boy, and his friend, Harry couldn’t think of Draco as cute.

What the hell was wrong with him? He’d realised being gay was a thing people were, and a month later he was on the train with his ex-nemesis thinking he was cute? Was it just because Harry realised he probably wasn’t completely straight? Was his brain punishing him? Was it because he knew Draco was gay? It didn’t even matter because Draco would never want him that way, and Harry didn’t want him to. Did he?

Harry needed to stop thinking. He could feel his skin itching for the blade. His thoughts always took over when he hadn’t cut in a while. Realising he’d been lost in his thoughts, he looked at Draco again only to discover that he’d stopped blushing. Strangely disappointed Harry shook his head and tried to dispel the thought.

"You get lost in your thoughts a lot, don't you?" Draco asked.

"Yeah, well I have a big head. Lots of places to get lost." Harry joked, making himself smile.

"You don't have to fake a smile for me Harry, it’s ok to not be happy all the time." Draco said.

Shocked Harry opened his mouth to say that actually he wasn’t faking, but something about the defiant look on Draco’s face made him shut it again. He glanced over at Ginny and Luna, but they were caught up in a loud discussion about what sounded to be the media’s coverage of Quidditch.

"In the hospital, you said you knew how it felt. What did you mean by that?" Harry asked.

Draco looked a little uncomfortable and resigned, but not surprised. He probably knew Harry would ask one day, but maybe, Harry thought, he had hoped he wouldn’t.

"This is probably going to be a long story, because I want to explain it right, and we do have a very long train ride ahead of us” Draco said, and Harry just nodded. Draco looked over at the girls, and cast a muttered Muffliato.

“As you know, I come from an old wizarding family and was raised by a father that thought being pure-blood was the only thing worth anything. That means we have a lot of money. It also means that there were a lot of expectations on me. My entire life my father decided who I should be, what I should do. Who I should be friends with and who I should love. I never got to decide anything for myself, I didn't have any control. If I tried to disobey my father he would call me a disgrace and threaten to disown me. Well, he usually called me a disgrace anyway. I was never good enough for him, and so I was never good enough for myself.” Draco took a deep breath before continuing.

“The summer before fifth year was the worst. He wanted me to join Voldemort, but I realised I didn’t want that. He was never physical, but he didn’t speak to me that whole summer. He just, I don’t know. He had this look that just managed to make me feel so fucked up. When I came back to Hogwarts I wanted to die.”

Harry dragged in a quick breath, he’d never suspected.

“Then, of course, Voldemort made me join him anyway when my father was thrown in prison. I had been depressed for a while I guess, but never that bad. I wanted to kill myself, but I didn't want to give father that satisfaction. So I stuck around, and good thing too I suppose. Otherwise we'd both be dead.”
"I, just, wow. I had no idea Draco, I'm so sorry. I guess we both know what it was like to be locked up and told we’re not good enough then." Draco smiled sadly at Harry and Harry figured his assumption that Draco had heard rumours of his own upbringing was right.

"Yeah, we do, except I had time to get over it. It sounds weird, but being forced to follow Voldemort, knowing I hated it the whole time made me feel like I wanted to fight, and like my father had been wrong all along. It made me realise I was worth something, because all the people who’d told me I wasn’t were wrong on everything else,” Draco said. “And Merlin’s tits, now I sound like a Hufflepuff.”

This made Harry laugh again, and he wondered how Draco could make him laugh, even after discussing something so serious.

"It’s getting dark outside, we must be arriving at Hogwarts soon,” Harry said, feeling abruptly nervous about being back at the place where he’d lost so much. Where everyone had lost so much, because he hadn’t been better. Suddenly a feeling of guilt so strong it threatened to choke him crashed over Harry. He just laughed like he didn’t have a care in the world. Harry knew he didn’t deserve to laugh, not when people were grieving or dead because of him. What the hell was wrong with him?

"I need to use the loo." he said, rushing out of the compartment.

He needed to cut, he didn’t have his blades but he’d find a way. He had to. Getting to the toilet, he immediately locked the door and looked for something sharp. He was never good at transfiguration so he didn’t know how to transfigure a blade, he did, however, know how to fix a broken mirror. Stopping to look at himself he felt ashamed. He looked crazy; eyes desperate and hands shaking. Thousands of thoughts running through his head, too many for him to make sense of.

He cast a silencing charm so no one would hear the glass break. Then he shot a jinx at the mirror to break it. He winced at the crash it made when it fell out of its frame and hit the floor, and he thanked Merlin he’d had the clarity of mind to use a silencing charm. Harry searched the floor for a piece of glass big and sharp enough to suit his need. He pulled up his sleeve to reveal his tattoo and now scarred wrist, without hesitation he dragged the glass across it. He should be cutting his thigh, because a cut there would be easier to hide, but he couldn’t wait – he couldn’t think.

On feeling the pain and seeing the blood slowly rising from the cut his head immediately quieted. He could think again, like the wind had stilled and the dust settled. He dragged the glass across his wrist a couple more times, savouring the feeling. Then he grabbed some toilet paper and sat down with his back against the door.

Harry pressed the paper to his fresh cuts and waited for the bleeding to stop. He should really get back to his compartment to reassure Draco that it wasn't his fault that he had freaked out. Leaving the paper on his left hand he used his right to shoot a quick cleaning charm and a Reparo at the broken mirror.

A few minutes later Harry felt confident the bleeding had stopped enough for him to leave without fear of bleeding through his clothing. He glanced around to look for any evidence of what he’d done, and shot cleaning charms at the drops of blood he’d gotten on his hands.

When he re-entered the compartment Draco shot him a suspicious look, but didn’t ask, and Harry was grateful beyond words. Ginny and Luna were looking quietly out the window now and Harry didn’t want them to hear anything. The rest of the train ride passed in silence, all of them caught up in their thoughts and memories of Hogwarts.

Chapter Text

Draco's POV

Harry didn’t look right after he returned from the loo, or wherever the hell he’d been. Then again, Harry hadn’t looked right in ages. Draco couldn’t pinpoint exactly when he’d noticed that something was off, it was more like a slow realisation spanning the length of their sixth year. The fact that Harry was constantly following him had made it easier for Draco to realise that something wasn’t right with his long-time nemesis. Draco supposed he’d been too caught up in his own struggles, and the impossible mission the Dark – Voldemort – had left him with to notice much of anything at first, but having his chest sliced open had forced him to sit up and pay attention. He hadn’t told Harry, but he’s pretty sure Harry saved his life that night. It was a weird way to have one’s life saved, Draco had to admit, but he’d been crying in the bathroom because he knew he couldn’t kill Dumbledore, and he’d thought killing Dumbledore or killing himself were his only options. Then Harry, or Potter at that time, had walked in and sliced his chest open and Draco suddenly remembered there was a third option. He could fight. He could close his eyes to all the misery and realistic outcomes of the war and just fight despite it all, like Harry always had.

Of course, he couldn’t fight in the same way Harry did, running and screaming, but he could deliberately fail at killing Dumbledore. He could use Madam Rosmerta to leak information he learned from his family. He could let Harry follow him, hoping he’d figure out what he was doing and stop him. And all right so maybe Draco hadn’t fought, but he’d damn well carried on. And in the midst of all his carrying on he’d noticed Harry. He’d always noticed Potter, but now he was suddenly noticing Harry. He noticed the way he went from inhaling his food like he was afraid it’d disappear to picking at it like he was hoping it would. He noticed how he only ever smiled when he knew someone was looking, how he stopped being interested in Quidditch, how he stopped caring about anything but what Draco was up to. Draco had gotten drunk on the attention at first, Perfect Potter had nothing better to do than follow him around. After a while though he realised the similarities. He realised the reason Harry kept fighting was because the fight was all he had, just like Draco was carrying on because that was all he had. But Draco was carrying on to get through it, to get to the other side. After months of watching Harry though, Draco was terrified he was fighting to be done, that he was burning the candle on both ends just so it would burn out faster.

He didn’t comment on how wild Harry’s eyes had been before he left their compartment, or how dead they seemed when he returned. He half considered acting like an aristocratic arsehole around him again, just to get a reaction stronger than a surprised laugh. Harry had laughed earlier, but the surprise in his face at doing so had almost taken the joy out of the whole thing for Draco. He couldn’t help but wonder how long it had been.

The train arrived at Hogsmeade with it’s usual lurch, and Harry and Draco still hadn’t spoken another word. Companionable silence was still a world away from the espionage and assault of their last trip though, and this time Harry had called him Draco instead of Death Eater. It was strange, making his way to the school with Harry, Weasley and Lovegood. Not just because it was his last-first day, even though he’d thought he’d already had that, and not just because of who he was with. People loved to stare at him these days. At first it had been with disgust, then the Prophet had done several articles on how he was the ‘Saviour of the Saviour’ and how Harry had spoken on behalf of his mother, and suddenly all the looks were of awe. Some of the older students still studied him with suspicion, but he supposed that was only to be expected after how he’d acted for his entire academic career. It didn’t compare though, to how they stared at Harry. Draco was half afraid they’d lie down in the dirt and beg him to walk on them, so as not to sully his shoes. It was ridiculous.

McGonagall had completely ruined the Great Hall, to Draco’s great pleasure. Gone were the huge tables, and in their place stood six smaller tables. It was a stroke of genius really, no table was big enough for an entire house to sit at, and there weren’t enough tables that the students could just assign a couple of tables to their house. They’d be forced to mix, at every meal.

“I suppose the school is finally getting serious about the whole ‘inter-house unity’ thing,” Ginny shrugged.

“And only two wars too late,” Draco snorted.

“Don’t be a dick Malfoy,” Harry said, but Draco could see the deadness had receded from his eyes to reveal the glint of humour behind the words.

“I’m genuinely not even trying.” He wasn’t trying to be a dick, as Harry so crudely put it, he was just done pretending the adults of the Wizarding World had any competence in anything.

They sat down at the closest table, and pretended they didn’t notice when several students who’d already sat down rushed to sit at the same table as their Saviour. They’d only gotten halfway through the main course when Thomas and Finnigan came over to where they were sitting and said something to Harry. He followed them out of the Hall with a murmured ‘be right back’ and a look of terror in his eyes. If Draco had to guess they’d have some grand Gryffindor group hug to get pass their fight over the summer, and that would be that. Harry though, always seemed to jump straight to the worst possible option. Or maybe not so straight, and there was a thought. Draco certainly hadn’t agonised over it since he’d learned Harry might not be as straight as previously assumed, but he had thought about it. He’d thought about it a lot, and then he’d wanked over it. He’d just add that to the list of things he wouldn’t tell Harry.

“So, you call him Harry now, do you?” Weasley asked, and Draco wanted to groan. He didn’t, of course, Malfoys don’t groan. Not that he took much pride in being a Malfoy anymore, with his father in prison and his mother too afraid to leave the house she hated. Draco had realised Weasley knew the significance of him using Harry’s first name, but he’d hoped she wouldn’t comment.

“I do,” he said. If she wanted to pry he wouldn’t make it easy for her.

“Pretty significant thing isn’t it, when a pure-blood decides to call someone by their first name.”

“I didn’t know you observed pure-blood traditions Weasley,” he said, and only after saying it he realised it could be taken as a dig at her being a ‘blood traitor’.

“I don’t Draco,” she said, emphasising his name, “but I’m pretty sure you do.”

Draco just frowned at her, secretly relieved she hadn’t been offended.

“See, I might not follow your traditions, but even I know there are only three reasons you use someone’s first name. One, you’re family. Two, you’re really close friends, and three you’re using it as a symbol you’d like to be family.” Weasley grinned as she said the last words, obviously intending they were the reason Draco had switched to using Harry.

“Well that’s just overly simplified. You’re right we use it for family and friends, but the last one isn’t so simple. It’s a show of respect, and an interest in becoming close enough to use first names. It’s a way of asking to remove the distance, and a way to show you already have.”

“Close enough to be room-mates?” Weasley said, and Draco wanted to wipe the knowing smirk off her face.

Harry saved him from continuing the conversation by returning from the hallway. He looked relieved enough that Draco felt secure his assumption of a great Gryffindor group hug had been correct.

“Ugh, I cannot possibly eat another bite” Draco said, throwing his spoon down on his plate almost an hour later.

“Well, you were on your fourth serving of that chocolate mousse, so I’m not really surprised,” Harry said, giving Draco a grin so sincere he wondered at his own sanity. How did Harry switch from the wild desperate look he’d had on the train, to looking like his soul had left his body, to this, all in the span of a few hours?

Draco was relieved to find their new common-room was above ground. He doubted he’d miss the constant feeling of being trapped under water that had always plagued him in the Slytherin ‘lair’. The room wasn’t too big, and Draco suspected they’d just converted some old teachers or servants quarters. Still, it was nice enough. A huge fireplace covered the main part of one wall, and windows another. Sofas, pillows and comfortable-looking chairs were placed all over, all of them varying in colour in a way that should probably hurt his eyes.

A quick survey of the room told Draco they’d been pretty much right when they’d tried to figure out who would return for a final year on the train. Harry, Thomas, Finnigan and Vane from Gryffindor. Boot and Turpin from Ravenclaw, though Lovegood had missed Cornfoot. In her defence, Cornfoot was easy to miss. Jones and Bones from Hufflepuff, and to Draco’s great despair they were joined by Smith. Of all the pleasant Hufflepuffs in the world of course they’d be stuck with a homophobic bastard.

“Right, so there are eleven of us, and seven rooms,” Thomas announced, descending the stairs Draco assumed led to their rooms.

“Brilliant, that means –,” Smith started, but was interrupted. By the look on his face, he wasn’t too happy.

“No, there are six rooms,” Harry said, and Draco marvelled at how he could shoot authority into his voice like that.

“Mate, I was just up there – it’s seven rooms,” said Thomas.

“Yes, six for us and one for Parkinson,” Harry said, making Draco stare at him in shock. “I’ve asked her to return, and if she does we can’t very well make her room with you, can we?” Draco hardly noticed the finger Thomas gave Harry at the comment. He’d known Harry had written to the Prophet to make sure they knew he didn’t blame Pansy for what she’d said, but he had no idea he’d asked her to come back to Hogwarts.
“You’ve asked Parkinson to return?” Smith asked, disgust clear on his face. “After she told everyone to hand you over to you-know-who? And now you want to give her one of the two private rooms we’ll have?”

“I’m surprised you heard,” Harry said, stepping closer to Smith and looking very much like he was ready to slay another Dark Lord, “I’d thought you were too busy pushing past the first years in your desperate attempts to escape by then.” The others in the room laughed, and Draco was relieved to realise he wasn’t the only one who disliked the so-called-Hufflepuff. Pushing past first years to save himself sounded exactly like the thing he’d do though.

“I think it’s safe to say you can have the last room all to yourself Smith,” Finnigan said, “but don’t think it’s because we’re doing you any favours – it’s just that nobody here wants to share with a homophobic coward like you.”

Draco hadn’t been the only one getting shit from Smith over being gay then, he shouldn’t be surprised, really. It took a special kind of stupid to spew hate at Harry’s close friends, but Smith probably possessed every kind of stupid imaginable. He did however, seem to have the sense to go find his room without further comment, so maybe there was some hope.

“Well, I’m sharing with Seamus,” Thomas grinned, and winked at Harry. They must really have made up then, and Draco was happy for them, despite the stab of jealousy he felt at the blush that spread across Harry’s face.

“I’m sharing with Harry,” he said – like an idiot. They probably could have just gone last, and pretended they were rooming just because the Weasel hadn’t returned. Weasley. Because Weasley hadn’t returned. And because Draco was the only one from Slytherin, he’d planned to play it off like that for Harry’s sake. He hadn’t accounted for Harry blushing at a suggestive wink from his friend, and Draco’s sudden need to show them that – what? That Harry was his now? His room-mate? His friend? That he was Harry’s new ‘good cause’ now that the war was over?

Harry didn’t look angry though, he just looked at Draco with a soft smile and an affirming nod. Nobody, it seemed, had the guts to speak out about it after how Harry had defended Pansy.

The remaining six people paired off easily enough, relying on gender and old houses to do the work for them. Draco and Harry chose the room across the hall from Thomas and Finnigan, who’d wisely taken the room furthest from Smith.

The room was relatively large for only the two of them; a bed, dresser, desk and wardrobe were placed along both sides of the room. In the middle of the room there was a comfortable-looking sofa facing the window.

“Oh, thank fuck,” Harry said upon opening a door Draco hadn’t noticed yet, “we’ve got our own bathroom.”

“Did you really ask Pansy to come back?” Draco asked, trying not to feel too hopeful yet.

“Yeah, ‘course I did. I didn’t fight a war against oppression of Muggle-borns just for us all to turn around and execute or demonise pure-bloods. Parkinson can’t help that her father supported Voldemort any more than Hermione can help her parents being Muggle, and as far as I know she never did anything worse than assist with your bullying. And I mean, bullying is obviously wrong, but being a bully at fifteen and scared of dying at seventeen doesn’t really warrant being cast out of society.”

Draco shouldn’t be surprised. He was, after all, dealing with a man who’d already accepted Draco and his mother. Not only accepted but helped – only because Draco had asked for a second chance. He wasn’t used to people who were willing to do things like this for strangers though, and in that regard he didn’t think Harry would ever stop surprising him. Harry was rummaging through his trunk, and finally pulled out a book.

“Besides, we all make mistakes, right? I made a huge one calling Dean and Seamus what I did, but now I get the chance to learn and do better,” Harry said. He held the book up for Draco to see, ‘Queer and Magic’, Harry really did want to learn then. Draco hoped the book would help Harry figure out his own sexuality as well. “It wouldn’t be fair if I was the only one who got that chance. Do you think she’ll come?”

“Yes,” Draco said, without hesitation. Pansy would come back, if she knew she had Harry ‘the Saviour’ Potter backing her up.

“Brilliant,” Harry said. He put the book on his bed and bent over his trunk again, searching for something else. Draco couldn’t help admiring the way his jeans stretched over his backside and wonder how it would feel to walk over and press up against him.

Harry pulled out his pyjamas, and walked into their bathroom.

It was indeed brilliant that Pansy was returning, because Draco was well and truly fucked. Whatever idiotic bravery had possessed him to ask Harry to be room-mates was running out fast, and he had no idea how he’d cope with sharing a bedroom with the man he’d fallen desperately in love with. Pansy couldn’t get here fast enough.

Chapter Text

“Sometimes quiet is violent
I find it hard to hide it
My pride is no longer inside
It's on my sleeve
My skin will scream reminding me of
Who I killed
Twenty One Pilots (Car Radio)

Harry woke with a start, Fred’s name on his lips. Being back at Hogwarts reminded him so easily of all the people he’d failed, and apparently refusing to think about it when he was awake only made him see it in his dreams. He turned to look at Draco, who was still asleep – judging by his closed eyes and slow breathing. He looked peaceful in his sleep, in a way Harry had never imagined the boy he’d known in their previous years could. Harry wished he could feel that peaceful, but the dark parts of his brain were relentless in keeping him agitated.

He stood quietly, grabbing a change of clothes, his toiletries and the socks where he’d hidden his blades, then he made for the bathroom. The bathroom was the same size as the one he shared with four other boys in Gryffindor. There were two sinks, two shower cubicles and two toilet cubicles. He placed his things on the counter next to the sink and studied his face in the mirror. He looked horrible, and he wondered how it was possible to look significantly worse every single time he found himself staring at a mirror. Harry looked away and decided on a shower. He undressed, deliberately avoiding the mirror. He didn’t want to see himself, or the sunken, dead eyes looking back at him.

It was strangely amazing, he thought, how he could go from almost happy one minute, to feeling so down and depressed that he didn’t know what to do with himself the next. He placed his clothes next to the sink and studied the cuts he’d made on the train yesterday. They were all covered by dark, red scabs, and Harry sighed in relief. It wouldn’t be too long before he could use his concealer on them. He figured he should stop cutting his arms though, it would be so easy for his sleeve to ride up – showing his shame to the whole school. Part of Harry desperately wanted someone to see them, and to just – make everything better. The desire to keep it hidden from everyone was stronger though, he couldn’t bear the thought of anyone realising how pathetic and weak he was. They’d probably think he did it for attention, now that Voldemort was dead, or that he was sick in the head and needed to be locked up. Harry didn’t want either. The biggest issue with telling anyone though, was that if someone knew he was cutting himself he wouldn't be able to do it anymore. Not cutting wasn’t an option.

He looked at the scars on his thigh, those would be easier to hide. He no longer had to change in the locker room because the eighth years weren’t allowed to play Quidditch anymore. Harry wasn’t sure if he’d want to play if they were allowed, a realisation that should probably scare him more than it did. That meant though, that he only had to change or undress in his and Draco’s room, and he could always cast a locking spell at the bathroom door. He unwrapped his blades from the socks and held one to his thigh, then dragged it slowly across it to properly mark his decision to only cut his thighs from now on. He made two more cuts, wincing at the pain, before packing his blade away again.

In the shower he watched in sick fascination as the water turned pink as it ran down his leg and relished the added sting of showering with fresh cuts. The thoughts of how wrong this all was, and how disgusting Harry was for doing it, for needing it, stayed at bay until he finished the shower. They hit him hard though, when he stepped out, and realised he’d have to wait for his cuts to stop bleeding before dressing, if he didn’t want blood on his school trousers. He was trying his best, and he didn’t think he’d ever try to kill himself again. But he wanted to, he wanted to so much that he couldn’t breathe. What would Sirius and his parents say if they saw him like this? They were probably relieved they were dead, that way they wouldn’t have to deal with the mess Harry had become. Harry tried to let the sadness he felt at their loss, and the disgust he felt at himself out. He closed his eyes and tried to cry, tried to let his emotions out like a normal person. Not a single tear came though, it was like there was some sort of blockage denying him this relief. Maybe he didn’t deserve it. Harry pressed his eyes shut as hard as he could before opening his eyes and giving up. His thigh had stopped bleeding at least, so he dressed for the day – pausing to pocket a blade wrapped in toilet paper before leaving the bathroom, he never knew when he’d need it.

“Morning” Draco said when Harry entered their room and Harry jumped. He’d thought Draco would still be sleeping, and had been too caught up in his head to notice he’d got up.

“Fuck, you scared the shit out of me” Harry said.

“Oh Merlin, you should have seen your face!” Draco laughed.

“You’re in a good mood,” Harry said, trying not to sound jealous. Or like he didn’t want Draco to be in a good mood.

“Yes, well, if I know Pansy, and I’m pretty sure I do, she’ll be here this evening,” Draco said. And of course he’d be happy about that, but Harry couldn’t help the way Draco’s words made his stomach turn. Draco would have Pansy back, and then what reason would he have for hanging around Harry? He’d probably move into her room as soon as she got there, and as much as Harry craved being alone he’d thought it might be nice to have someone there to distract him from his thoughts. He’d thought it might be nice to have Draco.

“Harry? What just happened?” Draco asked, pausing in packing his satchel to stare at Harry.

“Nothing, I’m just tired – never sleep too well the first night in a new place. You really think Parkinson will get here so soon?”

“She’s not one to miss the first day of classes,” Draco said, “seeing as that’s tomorrow she’ll be here before curfew today.”

“That’s good,” Harry said, trying hard to sound like he meant it. He hadn’t realised how much he’d assumed he’d have Draco as a friend now that they were back, and being here without Ron and Hermione suddenly seemed desperately lonely now that Draco would leave him for Parkinson.

“It is,” Draco agreed, “I’m assuming you won’t be doing ancient runes, and it’s a desperately dreadful class to sit in alone. Be warned though, Pansy will probably want to thank you. Especially for getting her a single room. I know you don’t like to be thanked, but it’s easier to just let her.”

“I thought you’d be moving in with her when she got back,” Harry said before he could stop himself. He hated how hurt he sounded.

“Merlin no,” Malfoy said, “don’t get me wrong, I love Pansy, but I don’t want to share a room with her. We’d kill each other.”

“Oh,” Harry said, feeling some of his stomach picking itself up from the floor.

“Speaking of killing, are you taking Defence and Potions this year? I was thinking we should be partners, in both, because then I can help you with Potions and you can assist me with Defence.” Harry felt relief rush in at Draco’s words. He wasn’t just a backup plan for Pansy, Draco still wanted to hang out with him. For now, at least.

“Yeah, sure,” he said, and managed a genuine smile.

“I’m taking a quick shower before breakfast, do you want to wait or will you handle the lower years shitting themselves and begging to lick your golden arse on your own?”

“Fuck, I hope they don’t do that” Harry said, smiling. “I don’t think I could stand anyone shitting their pants, or wanting to lick my arse, thank you very much.”

“Hm, funny. I always rather enjoyed having my arse licked. Literally and figuratively speaking.” Draco said, smirking.

Harry blushed furiously at the mental image of Draco literally having his arse licked. He figured the thought should put him off his breakfast, but instead it made blood rush to his face and his cock.

“Uhm” he said, looking anywhere but at Draco and feeling extremely awkward. “We should get to breakfast right? Yeah, I’m uh, I’ll go wash.”

“Didn’t you just shower?” Draco asked, smirk widening.

“No, or, I mean, yes I did. I meant, you should shower.”

Draco, apparently, took pity on him and walked into the bathroom without further comment. Harry collapsed on his bed, hiding his burning face in his hands. What the fuck had that been? Was Draco just trying to make him uncomfortable? If so, he’d succeeded. Of course, Draco had also managed to make Harry turned on, something Harry wasted no time in deciding to ignore.

The day passed, just like his days at the flat had passed. Lying in bed that night he wondered what he had expected. Had he really thought being back at Hogwarts would be much different to being home? Sure, he had people around him a lot, and he had Draco, a friend to talk to. He was out and about, instead of stuck inside on his couch. But he didn’t feel any different. Things he knew should probably have affected him just - didn’t. Pansy had arrived in the evening, like Draco had predicted. He’d gone off to talk with her, and Harry had taken the opportunity to go to bed. That was different, at least. He was so exhausted after spending an entire day around people, even though being around them made him more energised than he’d been in months. Draco had the same effect, only stronger. Harry actually felt alive around the other man, but the feeling took everything out of him. Maybe it had been a bad idea to come back, to deal with people and classes and having to pay attention. Harry still couldn’t see another option though, if he was going to be alive he’d have to try.

Sighing, he turned over. Thoughts of Draco, Hermione, Ron, his parents, Sirius, Remus, his self-harm, his apathy, his suicide attempt, his confusing sexuality, Dean, Seamus and school pushed and pulled at him, dragging him from one worry to the next before he’d processed the last. Harry smashed his head repeatedly against his pillow, he was so fucking tired, but he couldn’t sleep with a million thoughts buzzing in his head. “Stop. Thinking. Stop. Thinking,” he said to himself on each impact with the pillow. He turned over again in frustration. How was it possible to be this tired and yet be unable to sleep?

He desperately needed something to focus on, something to keep his brain occupied, so he started doing something he hadn’t done since he was living in the cupboard under the stairs; he told himself a story. In his mind he told himself the story of how his life would have turned out if Voldemort never existed. A story where he lived with his parents, and the Halloween when he was one year old was celebrated with costumes and kids knocking on their door. Not with Voldemort murdering his family. He made the story slow, mapping out full conversations between his parents and visits from their friends. He was imagining his second Christmas with his parents when he finally fell asleep.

When Harry woke up, Draco was already awake and humming quietly to himself. He was reading their Potions book, and Harry grimaced at the reminder that he’d have to deal with classes.

He sighed and forced himself out of bed. Fuck, but he was so tired he didn’t know what to do with himself. The bathroom seemed a good place to start though. He avoided the mirror as he washed his face, deciding to skip a shower. He’d had one yesterday, and really, he couldn’t be bothered. He cast a whispered locking charm at the bathroom door, before pulling off his pyjama-bottoms. The cuts on his thigh from the previous day had scabbed over, and he decided to add a couple more before pulling his school trousers on. It was more a preventive measure than anything else, he wasn’t overloading with thoughts at the moment, but if they came later he could press down on his thigh for some relief.

“Harry? You done soon?” Draco asked from behind the door, trying the handle and finding it locked. “I haven’t been to the bathroom yet, and I could really use the toilet.”

Harry startled and almost dropped his blade on the floor. He quickly placed it back inside his sock and hid that in his toiletry bag.

“Just a minute,” he said, and pulled on his school trousers and jumper. A quick look in the mirror assured him he looked at least somewhat presentable, so he opened the door.

“Sorry, I think I locked the door mostly on autopilot,” Harry lied.

“No problem” Draco said, heading for the toilets, locking himself in the cubicle.

Harry opened his toiletry bag searching for his toothbrush, the first thing he saw though was his concealer. He considered putting some on his wrist and wondered if the cuts had healed enough for it to work. He didn’t fancy having to worry about his sleeve riding up during the day. Making a quick decision Harry pulled out the concealer and applied it just as he heard Draco flush the toilet. He stared at his wrist, willing the concealer to take effect before Draco came out of his cubicle.

When the door opened Harry held his wrist to his stomach and turned around to face the blond.

“What do you look so guilty for?” Draco asked, walking to the sinks to wash his hands.

“Uhm, nothing, I was just looking for my toothbrush,” Harry said.

“No, you weren’t, what are you hiding?” Draco asked, stepping towards him.

“I’m not hiding anything,” Harry said. He pressed his hand tighter to his stomach, fucking hell, why didn’t he just pull his sleeve down?

“Then why are you holding your hand like that?”

“No reason,” Harry insisted. Draco just scowled at him and grabbed Harry’s wrist without warning, turning it around to face himself. Harry winced, and looked hurriedly at his wrist. The concealer had finally started working, and his wrist looked as smooth as ever.

“You have a tattoo,” Draco said, and of course that’s what Draco would be focussing on, opposed to the apparently clear skin Harry was staring at in horror. He’d been so worried about Draco seeing his cuts and scars that he’d forgotten all about the tattoo.

“Yeah, I got it about a month ago,” he said, “I just wanted something, I don’t know, different. New.”

“I’m guessing the lily was for your mother?” Draco said, and Harry nodded. “Did you know lilies symbolise rebirth? I think it fits perfectly for something new. They’re supposed to heal heartache too, if you believe the Chinese.”

Harry looked at Draco in amazement. He hadn’t really thought about how someone would react to his tattoo but getting information about it that gave it an even deeper meaning than he had thought of himself, was not what he would have expected.

“Thank you, I didn’t know that. Now I love it even more!” he said, smiling at Draco.

“You should wear short sleeves more often, show it off,” Draco said. Harry just smiled back at him, silently thinking that he felt very naked in short sleeves, despite the concealer hiding the scars. He could still feel them, and he was worried the concealer would suddenly wear off.

Draco finally let go of Harry’s wrist, but the heat there lingered, and Harry lightly brushed his fingers over the spot where Draco had rubbed his thumb. Feeling awkward again Harry turned to the sink to find his toothbrush, deciding to actually get ready for breakfast.

Harry had decided to keep going with the subjects he’d started taking to become an Auror, not because he wanted to be an Auror, but because he didn’t want to be much of anything. It was easier then, to just follow the plan he’d laid out years before. If nothing else, he could do a lot with Defence, Potions, Charms, Transfiguration and Herbology – it kept his options open.

His first class was Defence Against the Dark Arts, and he almost smiled at his schedule. Harry wondered who their teacher would be, hoping it wouldn’t be completely useless. He didn’t remember seeing anyone at the head table in the Great Hall, but he knew some of the teachers didn’t arrive until late the previous night. After double Defence he had a free period and lunch, before double Charms. According to his schedule he’d have double lessons in Defence and Charms Mondays and Thursdays, double Potions and Transfiguration Tuesdays and Fridays and two double Herbology-lessons each Wednesday. Harry figured it wasn’t the worst setup. It gave him free periods both before lunch and dinner every day.

“What classes are you doing then Potter?” Parkinson asked over her scone, and Harry figured she wanted to look friendly.

“Same as Draco, but without the Arithmancy or Ancient Runes, what about you?” he asked, smiling at her. She’d returned, and like Draco had warned him, thanked him for his help. Harry didn’t know if that made them friends or not, but he figured he should make an effort at least.

“I’m doing the same as Draco except Potions and Defence, I honestly can’t stand those subjects.”

“I thought you were good at Potions?” Harry said.

“I guess I’m all right, but it was mostly Draco’s help that got me through my OWLs.” She smiled at Draco in a way that proved to Harry that they weren’t just friends, they were the kind of friends he, Ron and Hermione were. Or, at least, had been. The kind of friends that were more like family.

“Do you suppose we’ll have classes with the seventh years?” Draco asked them both, stirring what Harry thought was ridiculous amounts of sugar into his coffee.

“I mean, we must be, right? Otherwise it’ll just be me, you and that tosser Smith in Ancient Runes, and if that’s the case I’m going back home,” Parkinson insisted.

Harry and Draco made it to the Defence classroom before the teacher did, and Harry was happy to find Ginny standing in line for the class too. It seemed they did have classes with the seventh years then, and it was a good thing because apparently Harry wasn’t the only one who was tired of fighting; he, Draco and Lisa were the only eighth years there.

“Harry, there you are,” Ginny said. She grinned at him and walked over from the other seventh years she’d been chatting with. “I missed you at breakfast.”

“Yeah, it’ll take some time getting used to the new tables,” Harry smiled, “do you know who the teach -,” his question about the teacher was interrupted as the doors to the classroom swung open.

“Come on, let’s go inside. I want good seats.” Draco said, dragging Harry by the arm to a pair of seats close to the front of the classroom.

After everyone found themselves a seat the door leading to the office in the back of the classroom opened, and out came Bill Weasley. Harry stared. Bill was working here? Wasn’t he some big-shot Curse Breaker? Knowing he should feel happy Harry grinned at the professor. And he was happy, sort of. But there was also a nagging feeling of there being another person around for Harry to disappoint, another person that could potentially find out about Harry’s issues. Another person that would probably be sad, or maybe even blame himself if Harry died. Harry and Bill hadn’t hung out much alone, but he always spoke to, and treated Harry the same way he did Ron, like a little brother.

"Good morning class," Bill said, then continued without waiting for the class to respond. “I’ve taken over as your Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher this year, I guess they’re hoping giving the position to a Curse Breaker will stop the position being cursed.” He grinned and got a few laughs from the class. “I guess we’ll see if I’m still here next year, or if I’m leaving Hogwarts with you lot next summer.”

Bill smiled warmly at Harry, and Harry smiled back. Harry realised he hadn’t properly spoken with Bill since he was at his cottage during the war. He supposed that’s what happens when you escape your own birthday party. Bill turned to grin at Ginny, and Harry let the smile fall from his face. This would be hard, but at least Bill wouldn’t treat him like some sort of Defence mastermind and make him show the class how he finished off Voldemort.

"Today we will be doing some repetition from earlier years, so I can see where you’re at – and what you need to learn. You’ve all gone through a war before finishing your NEWTs, so my guess is your defensive magic will be strongest in direct combat, but weaker with things like creatures and curses. Do any of you have suggestions for things you never fully mastered or things you have forgotten?" Bill said.

A Hufflepuff girl hesitantly raised her hand, "well, I'd love to try fighting a Boggart again. I never really got the hang of it the first time."

"Wonderful idea,” Bill said, “I’ll have to find a Boggart to do that though, so it’ll have to wait. Anyone else?"

“I’d like to know how to fight off Dementors,” a seventh-year boy who’s name Harry couldn’t remember said, “I – the Ministry sent them after me last year for being Muggle-born, but I was never able to fight them off.” The ball apparently had started rolling, because suddenly half the class had their hands raised.

“Right, here’s what we’ll do,” Bill said, “pair up and try out the spells you’re not sure about, or discuss the things you want to learn more. Then hand in a list at the end of the lesson and I’ll go over them all.”

The class looked pleased with that and started chatting amongst themselves about what spells they wanted to practice. Harry could already see that Bill would be one of their more popular Defence teachers, not that it was a tough competition for the spot after Umbridge and actual Death Eaters. Harry and Draco decided to cast spells starting from their first year and up, to give themselves some practice and to see what they had never learned or forgotten. Harry excelled at them all. That is, until they tried casting the Patronus Charm.
Harry had always been good at the Patronus Charm, casting it with little difficulty since he had learned it from Lupin in his third year. When he raised his wand now though, Harry couldn’t even make a dim light appear from the tip of his wand. He tried finding a happy memory, but although he knew he had memories of times in which he was happy, he couldn’t summon the feeling anymore. It was like a layer of darkness covered all the memories he had previously considered good, now making them blurry and factual. He could remember winning the House Cup, he could remember that he felt happy, but he couldn’t actually feel the happiness when he pulled the memory to the front of his mind.

When Harry realised this he put his wand down and stopped trying, knowing there was no point. There wasn’t anything wrong with his spellcasting, there was something wrong with him.

"Having trouble with your Patronus, Harry?" Bill asked, approaching Harry from behind.

Harry nodded. He didn’t want to draw attention to it, but thankfully everyone else seemed too occupied with their own spellcasting to notice. Bill and Draco were both giving him strange looks though.

"Would you come see me during your lunch break Harry?” Bill asked.

Harry was about to nod again, but realised that he really didn’t want to explain why he couldn’t produce a Patronus anymore, he didn’t want to talk about it at all. Especially not when Bill looked at him with concern all over his face.

“I, uh, I was thinking about going back to the dormitories to get some sleep actually. I’m not feeling well today, that’s probably why I couldn’t get the Patronus to work. I think I have a cold or something,” Harry said, avoiding looking at both Draco and Bill as he lied.

“If you’re sick maybe you should go to Madam Pomfrey?” Draco suggested, but Harry was shaking his head before he’d finished the sentence.

“It’s nothing serious, really. A little sleep and some food and I’ll be fine tomorrow. And if I’m not I promise I’ll go to the hospital wing,” Harry said, trying for a reassuring smile.

Bill appeared to accept the answer, and moved on to the next student who appeared to be struggling. Harry sagged in his chair, feeling relieved and guilty at the same time. He glanced over at Draco, only to find the other man giving him a suspicious look.

“Please don’t start,” Harry said, “I really am tired, and I just - I can’t deal with the conversation he probably wanted to have with me right now.”

“I know you’re tired, you sure as fuck look tired. I’m just worried why. You slept like twelve hours last night, so you shouldn’t be,” Draco said.

Harry forced himself to laugh.

“I probably slept too much then, I get shit tired if I sleep too much,” he said, forcing a yawn. “Fuck, I can’t concentrate at all. I’m so glad I’m done with History of Magic, or I’d have fallen asleep halfway to my seat.”

“Who didn’t fall asleep in that class, well except Granger of course,” Draco said. Relief washed over Harry at the accepted change of subject.

“You always looked pretty aware, taking notes and everything.”

Draco laughed, making his eyes light up.

“I mostly spent those lessons doing my homework for other classes actually. If I was especially tired I’d place a modified silencing charm on my head so I wouldn’t hear the professor. He had a voice that could put the most caffeinated, well rested person to sleep.”

The first day of classes passed. Just like the day before had, and just like the days after. There were moments, of course, that broke Harry out of the monotony of his days. Most of them he spent with Draco. There was the story he told himself when he needed to sleep, continuing each night where he fell asleep the night before. There was his cutting, and the temporary relief it gave him. There was dodging into empty classrooms and making up excuses to avoid Bill. There was guilt. There was the growing urge to be close to Draco, and the effort to suppress it.

Mostly though, Harry just existed, and the weeks just passed.

Chapter Text

Would you leave me if I told you what I've done? And would you leave me if I told you what I've become?
- Florence and the Machine (No Light, No Light)

There is a child crying, it’s muffled, but the sound still pierces Harry’s ears. He’s so tired his bones ache, but he can’t ignore the crying – he has to get up. When he’s standing he sees he’s in the Dursleys’ house. The television is on, and he can see Vernon turn the sound up. Harry’s ears ache, where is the baby? Who’s crying? There is a baby next to Petunia on the sofa, but he’s fast asleep. The crying only gets louder and louder, and Harry can’t stand still anymore. He rushes into the kitchen, searching desperately under the table and in the cabinets. Where is the baby? It’s crying like it’s dying, and Harry’s heart aches. Why doesn’t anyone care? He rushes through the hallway towards the stairs, but stops in his tracks as he passes his old cupboard. The crying is louder now, shaking the house with it. Harry opens the door and there he is, or was, maybe. He looks to be about a year old, and the scar on his forehead looks red and angry. He just looks terrified, screaming and screaming in the dark for his mum or dad to pick him up. His parents are gone though, and Harry wonders how long it took him to learn no one would pick him up no matter how hard he cried.

Harry woke up with a gasp, reaching blindly in the dark for his glasses. Fucking hell, but he hated his nightmares. He supposed he’d brought this one on himself though, by imagining how different his life would have been without Voldemort every night before falling asleep. At some point his subconscious had to fight back. He cast a whispered Tempus, trying not to wake Draco, and it showed him it was 4 am. He’d need at least an hour to fall back asleep, so he figured there really wasn’t a point in trying. He got out of bed as quietly as possible. He went out to see if there was still a fire in their not-quite-new-anymore common room. He couldn’t stand the dark pressing in from all sides, but he didn’t want to wake Draco by turning the lights on in their room. Draco was taking too many classes, and he was already overworked three weeks into the term. He needed his sleep. Harry grabbed his ‘queer’ book before leaving, figuring he should start reading it before it disappeared beneath the mess on his desk.

The fire was still burning strong in the common room and Harry sighed in relief. At least something good came from the weather getting steadily colder. He sat down in the chair closest to the fire, trying to let some of the warmth seep into the deepest parts of him. He couldn’t seem to get warm these days. He opened the book and found the first few pages to be a glossary of queer terms. He read over the different listings, pausing as he read the definition for bisexual; attracted to two or more genders. He ignored the bit about ‘more genders’, as he didn’t really know about any more than boy and girl yet. He supposed if there were more than two sexualities it made sense there would be more than two genders also. Attraction to both men and women though, fit him too well. He couldn’t deny his attraction to Draco anymore, even though he couldn’t stomach the idea of sex on his really bad days, he couldn’t help the fact that he always wanted to be around Draco. He was almost like fire, so warm and alive that Harry felt more alive just being around him. Harry let himself get lost in the book, reading all about how queer magical people had had to fight for the basic rights straight people had, about how the Muggles still hadn’t gotten equality. He read about sexuality and pretended he didn’t recognise any of it. He read about gender, and history and spells that could be used to make sex between two men or two women easier.

“I guess you were serious about learning then,” Dean said, causing Harry to jump. He had to fight not to hide the book he was reading – Dean had already seen it, and besides, even if Harry had issues with his own sexuality Dean would take it personally if Harry showed that.

“Erh, yeah,” Harry said, “it’s, er, it’s quite a lot to take in.”

“I know right?” Dean said, “I mean, I’m queer as fuck – but even I have trouble figuring it all out.”

“Really?” Harry asked, desperately hoping he wasn’t the only one who’s brain twisted in confusing circles over the whole thing.

“Fuck yeah, I mean, I grew up Muggle right? Kids at my old school used to call me a poof because I liked art – and I figured that was fine, since it wasn’t true, you know? Only then I couldn’t stop thinking about Seamus and I was scared to death it might be.”

“You were scared too?” Harry asked, realising too late his words would reveal what he was questioning to his friend.

“Terrified,” Dean said, “I didn’t want to be what those kids said I was. But I mean, I’m not. Well I am bi, but I’m Dean who’s in love with Seamus. I’m not any less me because of who I love, if anything I’m more myself.”

“I always thought I could just, you know, choose? That it was like that for everyone, and that some people just chose to be gay.” Harry spoke the words to the fire, that way he could pretend Dean wasn’t really hearing it.

“I thought that too, it’s easy to think when you’re bi I guess. Like, if I’m attracted to both I could just choose to love girls.”

“What changed?” Harry asked, wondering if it would happen to him soon.

“Well, Seamus was there, and I don’t know. I don’t think anyone can really choose who they love, it’s just when you’re straight you sometimes fall for girls you don’t want to – and when you’re bi you sometimes fall for genders you don’t want to. Or something. Anyway, Seamus just existed, and I couldn’t help but fall in love with him. And thank fuck for that, really. If he’d been a girl I still would have loved him, but I’d probably have repressed my sexuality for years – and then had a mental breakdown at like 40.”

Harry considered that, it sounded a lot like what Draco had said. That it couldn’t be healthy to ignore half your sexuality.

“How did you know you loved him?” Harry asked, and it wasn’t because he thought he was in love with Draco – or any other man. He wasn’t, but he was terrified he could be, one day.

Dean smiled at the memory. “For me it was a slow thing, I think almost from the day we met, I always wanted to sit closer, or hold hands, or hug for a little too long. Then I wanted to just, reach out and kiss him, or sit snuggled up in his arms reading a book. I don’t think I fully realised until like, fifth year, it was hard to ignore when I was, well, hard all the time.”

Harry laughed at that, feeling lighter than he had in days.

“Are you then?” Dean asked, and Harry knew what was coming, “bisexual, I mean?”

Harry looked at the fire again, maybe just – saying it, would be a step in the right direction. Maybe if he could just stop wondering if he was, it wouldn’t take up so much space in his brain.

“Yeah, I guess I am,” he said. “I’m bi, I like both. Hell, maybe I like more than both, there are more, apparently.” Harry wanted to laugh and cry all at the same time. It felt good, to just, be something – something that had a name, something that fit. Something he wasn’t alone in being. It also felt terrifying, because what if he was wrong. What if he was really gay, but didn’t realise it yet? What if he was straight, and just – confused?

“Don’t tell anyone, please?” Harry pleaded, “I mean, I know I’m supposed to be proud and everything. The book had a lot on pride – but I’m not quite there yet.”

“Mate, we don’t have pride because we’re proud. Very few of us are proud; I think, mostly we’re scared or ashamed.” Dean sighed, rubbing at his tired eyes and ending up looking even more tired. “Pride is important because that’s what we want to have. There is no shame in not feeling it. Being queer can be hard as fuck, and it’s ok to feel that.”

Relief washed over Harry, heating him more effectively than the fire had. “Thank you, still, you won’t –.”

“Tell anyone? Nah, I won’t out you. You get to do that to whoever you want whenever you want.”

They sat in comfortable silence for a while, both trying to work off the tired that their bodies refused to let them sleep away. Maybe the fire would burn it away, Harry thought, or maybe they’d just be tired for the rest of their lives. Maybe that was the price one paid for surviving a war. Harry didn’t pay much attention when Dean got up and walked to his room, Harry should probably go get dressed too. The sun wasn’t up yet, but living in Scotland in October that wasn’t really an indication of anything, it had been dark during breakfast for days already. Dean returned, dressed in his school robes just as Harry got up to get dressed.

“Right, so I’m going to give you this, because, well – it helped me figure some stuff out. Keep it or toss it, I don’t really care. It’s yours though,” Dean said, looking more awkward than Harry was used to seeing him. He handed Harry a magazine, at first he thought it was Muggle but the title moved as soon as he accepted it from Dean. The cover was a picture of a man, slowly undressing.

Harry stared at the magazine in shock. “Dean, is this porn?

“I mean, yeah,” Dean said, scratching at his hair, “anyway, I’m off to breakfast.”

He walked off before Harry could stop him or give the magazine back. He hurried back to his and Draco’s room and hid it underneath his pillow. He wasn’t sure if he wanted to look or not, but he knew ten minutes before breakfast was not the time to do so.

He had breakfast with Ginny, as he’d started doing when Parkinson returned. He didn’t want to take up too much of Draco’s time, and things with Ginny were easy. Easier than he’d thought they would be after their sort of breakup.

“Are you even going to read that?” Ginny said, breaking all of Harry’s hopes that things would be easy. The letter he’d just stuffed in his pocket wasn’t the first, and Draco wouldn’t stop asking Harry about them, another reason why he’d started letting breakfast be Draco’s Parkinson time.

“Sure, later though,” Harry lied as Pig flew off. The truth was he’d stopped reading the letters Ron and Hermione sent after he realised he had no idea how to answer them. He didn’t want to lie to them, but he couldn’t tell them the truth about how he was either. It was easier to just, have some distance.

“Ron wrote me, you know? He’s worried.” Ginny pierced Harry with a stare so full of anger and concern Harry worried for a second that she knew.

“Worried about what?” Harry asked.

“About you, you sod, about how you’re doing. He’s worried you’re mad he didn’t come back here with you. He thinks you never really forgave him for leaving you and Hermione during the war. He’s driving himself up the wall wondering why you won’t answer his letters.”

Despair lodged itself in Harry’s chest and he was powerless to stop it. The world was choking him, but he wasn’t the one being hurt. Apparently, he hurt the ones he loved no matter what he did. Being with them would hurt them, because they’d see how little of him was left, and they’d feel bound to try to help. Distancing himself from them apparently hurt them too, though. His only option would be to act like he had before, to be the Harry that wasn’t surviving on three hours of sleep a night and relying on cutting himself to get through the day. He didn’t think he could do that though, he didn’t have it in him anymore.

“Fuck,” he said, burying his head in his hands. The feeling of despair he was choking on was soon followed by itchiness all over his skin. He needed to cut, maybe then he could breathe again. Maybe then he could think.

“I know you’re not all right,” Ginny said. “I know you don’t blame Ron for what he did during the war, but something is wrong.”

“It’s fine,” Harry insisted. He didn’t believe it, he knew Ginny wouldn’t believe it. It was all he had to offer though. It’s what he always told himself when things grew too hard to handle. It’s fine, it’s fine, it’s fine. On repeat over and over again.

“When you’re not talking to Ron and Hermione something is severely fucked up, actually.” Ginny placed a hand on his shoulder as she spoke, and Harry tried hard not to flinch. She shouldn’t touch him, she should stay away. Actually, Harry was the one who should stay away. Ginny didn’t know what a fucked-up freak he was. She didn’t know he wasn’t worth her time. A normal person wouldn’t flinch at being touched though, and a normal person would read his fucking letters.

“I just need some space,” he said, though he wasn’t quite sure if he was giving it as an excuse for why he wasn’t reading his letters or in an attempt to make her remove her hand.

“Yeah, well, Ron and Hermione need you. You’re being unfair,” Ginny said. She removed her hand as she spoke, and Harry wanted to run away at the anger in her voice. She was right of course, if nothing else he should at least owl his friends to tell them he needed space.

“Yeah, well, life’s unfair I guess,” Harry muttered, hating himself before the words had even left his mouth. Why was he always so angry?

Ginny laughed, and Harry finally looked up from his hands with the shock of it. “Don’t you think I know that? I was possessed by Voldemort my first year here. My brother died. I know life sucks, that’s why we should all try to make it suck less.”

“Yeah, well that’s what I’m trying to do,” Harry said. “I can’t – I’m not -, they shouldn’t have to deal with me right now.”

“So you think what? They’re better off without you?” Ginny asked, clearly not believing it to be true. Harry just frowned at her. Of course they were better off without him, that much should be obvious for anyone. He’d dragged them into a bloody war, if nothing else.

“Merlin, that’s it, isn’t it? You’re – oh shit Harry I’m so sorry.”

“Nothing to be sorry about, it’s just the truth, ok? So just – get off my arse about writing them back. I can’t right now.”

“Harry, that’s not – it’s not a normal way to think. Of course they aren’t better off without you! I mean, are you sure you’re not depressed or something?” Ginny said, effectively making Harry feel like he was about to pass out.

“I’m fine!” Harry almost screamed and looked around the Hall in horror. He had to get out of there.

“Harry, please,” Ginny said and the pity in her eyes almost killed him.

“I don’t know what you think you know, but you’re wrong.” Harry stood abruptly. “I have to go.”

Harry barely kept himself from running as he headed to nearest bathroom. He couldn’t breathe, and he was desperate for release. For some semblance of function to return to him. He threw himself in a stall, and almost cried out in relief when his fingers closed around the blade he’d hidden in his satchel. He didn’t bother with removing his trousers, and instead placed the cold metal on his un-tattooed forearm. He cut, and when the pain didn’t even register he cut again and again and again, dragging the blade across his arm in quick motions. Blood dripped down, staining his clothes and the floor of the bathroom stall. It didn’t matter. Nothing mattered except the fact that he could finally breathe again. He cut until that didn’t matter anymore either. When his arm was throbbing painfully, and his mind was a soft blur of thoughts he couldn’t make out he wrapped his arm in toilet paper, slumped against the toilet and fell asleep.

Harry woke up half an hour later, when someone flushed in the stall next to him. He knew he should feel ashamed, or worried. He should at least feel something, his mind was still blissfully blank though. The throbbing in his arm helped keep him numb, and being numb was the only way he was getting through this. He’d just, he’d have to distance himself from Ginny as well. It was fine. Everything was fine.

Harry decided not to go to classes. He needed to sleep. He needed to not be around people. He collapsed in his bed, and frowned at the noise his pillow made. Reaching under it he found the magazine Dean had given him earlier. It felt like it had been weeks ago, but it had only been a few hours. Time really wasn’t on his side these days. He still felt blissfully numb, and he figured he might as well try to figure at least something out so he opened the magazine to the first page.

Harry realised he had never seen gay porn before, and that he’d only ever really glanced at ‘regular’ porn. He’d never really been one to wank much either. Only in the shower to make his morning wood go away, he’d never really seen the point. Looking at it now though, really looking, he realised that he was actually interested in what he was seeing. The bulge in his pants just confirmed it. He couldn’t stop looking at the perfect six-packs or nice arses of the men in the magazine. He turned the page and saw a blond man, skinny but muscled. The man had his hand wrapped around his cock, and it was a gorgeous thing to look at.

Harry shifted on the bed, wondering if he should take off his trousers and actually have a go at it. He knew he shouldn’t want this, and he knew that it was ok, and he knew a lot of things, all of them conflicting inside his head. In the moment though, he couldn’t bring himself to care. He pulled the curtains around his bed, in case Draco came to check on him, and shoved his pants and trousers to his knees. When he finally wrapped his hand around his hard cock like the man in the picture he couldn’t hold back a groan. Merlin that felt amazing. He started moving his hand slowly and had to bite his lip from shouting out.

Wanking when he was really horny was something entirely different to just quickly getting off to release tension, Harry realised. He allowed his mind to wander while he continued to move his hand slowly up and down imagining the man in the picture getting on his knees and putting his mouth around Harry’s cock. His cock throbbed as he moved his hand faster and faster, imagining a blond head bobbing up and down, swallowing him whole.

"Aaah, Draco," Harry moaned as he came all over his hand and stomach. Pleasure pulsed through him in the single most amazing thing Harry had ever felt.

When Harry regained some control over his body he cleaned up the mess he’d made and hid the magazine under his pillow again. Harry felt happy, sort of. He didn’t feel the need to cut anymore at least. He knew this was no replacement, because he needed his cutting. But maybe this could help sometimes, maybe there were other ways to feel ok as well. Exhausted he fell asleep before the reality of his conversation with Ginny, and calling out Draco’s name as he climaxed, could get to him.

Harry woke to the moon casting a soft light through the window. He must have slept through the day, and half the night. He looked over at the bed next to his own, and saw Draco sleeping peacefully. The other boy hadn’t drawn his curtains last night, and Harry admired how the soft light danced over his blond hair. Then he remembered. Remembered wanking over a man, over Draco. Coming all over himself while he imagined Draco sucking him off. Ginny accusing him of being depressed. Dean knowing Harry was bisexual. Harry definitely being bisexual if the way he felt about Draco was any indication. Except he didn’t know how he felt about Draco because he didn’t know how he felt about anything. He probably needed Hermione’s help to figure it out, but he couldn’t write her. Even if he’d been wrong to distance himself it was too late now, he’d already done it.

“Fuck,” Harry said under his breath, not wanting to wake Draco. There were too many thoughts in his head, and none of them were safe. “Fuck, fuck, fuck,” he whispered, wanting to punch himself in the face. He tried desperately to calm his brain, forcing himself to tell the story of how his life could have been, and pressing his fresh cuts hard when his brain swayed off topic. He was still in bed, eyes forced shut, when Draco’s alarm went off in the morning. He didn’t move when Draco got ready for the day, and when Draco tried to wake him up to go to breakfast Harry stayed still. He couldn’t move, because then he might think, and he couldn’t think because if he did he’d throw himself off the Astronomy Tower.

Chapter Text

You can’t wake up, this is not a dream
Halsey (Gasoline)

Harry groaned as his alarm woke him. He was tired. Too tired, he decided, turning off his alarm figuring he’d go back to sleep. He’d only just closed his eyes when someone shook him.

“Harry, you have to get up. You’ll be late for class,” Draco said, sounding annoyed.

“Leave me alone,” Harry insisted. He wasn’t ready to wake up and face the day. His arm still ached from the week before, and he didn’t want to risk running into Ginny. “I’ll just sleep through breakfast, it’s fine.”

Harry heard a muttered “Lumos Maxima,” and winced at the bright light that flooded the room.

“You already slept through breakfast. You have to get up now or you’ll be late for class,” Draco said.

“Just go ahead, I’ll be there soon,” Harry muttered, covering his head with his pillow.

“That’s what you said yesterday, and the day before. You’ve hardly left this fucking bed in a week!”

Suddenly annoyed Harry turned over in bed to face the blurry image of the other boy. Their first class of the day was Defence Against the Dark Arts, and Harry didn’t have the energy to dodge Bill’s attempts to talk with him in private. He’d thought his professor would have given up after being avoided for almost three months, but of course Harry had no such luck.

“I’ll miss the first class then. It’s no big deal Draco, I really just need some more sleep. I’m tired,” Harry said, turning over in bed again.

“You’re always tired Harry, you’ve been tired every fucking day since we got here. If it’s such a fucking pain being at school, then maybe you shouldn’t have come back here,” Draco said, anger radiating off him.

“Maybe I shouldn’t have,” Harry said, defeated. The anger he’d felt seconds ago leaking through the holes in his brain as soon as it had risen, leaving him empty.

“Whatever,” Draco said, grabbing his satchel and leaving their room.

Harry turned over in bed again, knowing there was no hope of going back to sleep. He felt way too guilty. If there were some sort of cup in the brain meant to hold emotions, Harry thought, his was full of holes. Only emotions like guilt, anxiety or self-hatred stayed longer than a few minutes, because they were too big, clumpy and sticky to fall out of the holes. Of course, that meant Harry always felt like shit, or numb, or both.

He knew he should get to class. Knew he was being a burden on Draco, knew it would be simple. All he had to do was get out of bed, put on his robes and walk to class. But even considering it felt heavy, like the idea was draining all his energy to move. Harry looked out the window. The lake had frozen over sometime in the past week, and a light dusting of snow covered the grounds. Harry used to love snow.

He covered his eyes with his hands, pressing down. He had to go to class, and he had to go now. His body refused to move though. Like he was frozen over too, but hadn’t noticed it until the snow had covered his entire body in a thick blanket, freezing him to his core and weighing him down. At least that’s how it felt, Harry thought, as he tried to make himself do something. He knew he could move his body, and he did, using his hand to scratch at the healing cuts on his arm. Finding the energy to do something as simple as getting out of bed and emptying his bladder seemed impossible though.

“This can’t be happening,” Harry said to the empty room. I can’t kill myself, he thought, I’ve already decided that. I can’t hurt everyone around me just so I can have some relief. And yes, I know they might be better off without me here, but if they learn I killed myself they’ll blame themselves. I’m not worth that. So I need to live, but I need to function well enough that they don’t have to worry about me. I just, I need to get through this last year of Hogwarts. Then I can move away, just distance myself from everyone for a while so they won’t feel responsible when I die. Or push everyone away enough that they won’t care too much, whichever comes first. But I can’t be too obvious about it, and that’s why I have to “GET OUT OF BED”. Harry said the last words out loud, slapping himself in the face, and forcing his feet out on the floor.

He dragged his body to the bathroom, deciding to skip a shower. He needed to piss before class though, and he had to get dressed. Two things, he told himself, piss, get dressed, and go. When he accomplished his tasks he decided to reward himself by cutting, three quick lines on his thigh. Draco drank coffee to get through the day, Harry cut. At some point, Harry would probably be able to see the difference between the two, but now the cutting was just routine. Just something to get him through the day. The only difference he could see, was that he could never tell anyone about it.

He arrived outside the defence class twenty minutes late and considered blowing it off and going back to his bed. He knew he couldn’t though, and he knew that if he went back to bed now he wouldn’t get back up again. Grinding his teeth, he pushed his thumb into the fresh cuts on his thigh and entered the room. Draco was sitting close to the back of the room, an empty seat beside him. Harry immediately felt guilty that Draco had saved him a seat, just in case Harry decided to finally show up.

“Harry, good of you to finally join us,” Bill said from the front of the classroom, “unfortunately you’re twenty minutes late, so I’ll see you in detention. Ten am tomorrow, my office.”

Harry almost groaned out loud. He’d managed to avoid Bill for months, but now he’d given the man the perfect opportunity to see him.

“Yes, professor,” he said, walking over to sit next to Draco. He’d deal with one problem at a time.

“Sorry,” Draco whispered as soon as Bill restarted the lecture he was holding on modified shield charms. “I shouldn’t have gotten mad. I’m just, well, if you must know I’m worried about you. And I’m not good at being worried, so I just get mad instead.”

“It’s fine,” Harry said, trying for a smile. “I was being a grumpy, tired idiot. It’s very understandable for you to get mad.”

“You’ve been using ‘tired’ as an excuse for months now Harry, and you don’t have to. I know you struggle, I saved you from your suic-,”

“Shh,” Harry interrupted frantically. “Don’t talk about that here. And besides, I’m fine. No need to worry.”

Something about Draco’s eyes made Harry think the other boy would very much like to burn every dictionary in the world containing the word ‘fine’.

Harry quickly realised he wasn’t able to focus on the class. His thoughts, instead, focussed on his upcoming detention. What would he even tell his professor? He’d started avoiding Bill because he didn’t want another person around to worry about him, another person to find out his secrets. However, after avoiding the man for so long Harry worried that Bill would be angry with him.

Draco wrote something on a piece of paper and slid it in front of Harry.

Are you all right? You look worried.

Harry considered before writing back.

Not really, worried about detention.
Why, do you think he’ll be mad?
I don’t know. It’s just weird with him. The Weasleys are like my family, but I’ve been avoiding them all lately. What if he hates me? What if they all do?
He wouldn’t. They wouldn’t. I’m sure they’d love you no matter what.
Even if I’m mentally fucked up?

Harry found it easier to talk when he wasn’t talking. He could ask Draco questions without having to look at the other boy, or actually say the question out loud. He hadn’t actually admitted to Draco that he struggled mentally since school started, but somehow writing it made it easier. Realising this, Harry added another line before passing the note back.

Even if I’m bi?
Yeah, even if you are. I know I don’t think any less of you for your psychological problems. And I have to admit I rather like that you’re bisexual.
Yeah; but you’re different. You just understand things. Which I never thought I’d write to you by the way. How do you do it though, just know things without me telling you?.
I’m not different Harry, lots of people would understand mental struggles, you just have to give them the chance. You could give me a chance too, I know you don’t like talking about it, but it might help. I’ll listen you know? And I know a lot because I spend a lot of time watching you; I rather like watching you.
I know I don’t talk about it much, it’s just. I don’t know. Scary I guess. And it’s my shit to deal with, you shouldn’t have to be burdened by it.
Harry, we’re friends now. I CARE about you. You wouldn’t burden me if you told me about what you struggle with. I’d feel grateful that you trusted me enough to tell me. And I’d be really happy if I could be some small help.
Thank you Draco, really. I’ll think about it, ok? I think that’s the best I can do right now. I’m not sure I know the words to explain it yet. I trust you though, really!
You don’t have to rush Harry, but I’m here. I’m here whenever you need me to be.

Harry smiled gratefully at Draco after reading the last line. He saw Draco write something else on the paper, but the other boy tucked it into his bag instead of passing it back to Harry, so he assumed it’s a note for later.

That evening Draco sat down next to Harry on his bed, demanding help with his Muggle Studies homework.

“It just doesn’t make any sense does it, why do they have boxes of all shapes and sizes that talk to them?” Draco said, looking frustrated as he got comfortable next to Harry

Harry put away his own homework to look at what Draco was trying to show him.

“Look at this one, he’s even talking TO the box. Why do they do that Harry?” Draco asked, scooting closer so he could place the book on their now aligned thighs.

Harry looked at the picture of a Muggle man talking on a mobile phone and smiled to himself.

“He’s not talking to the box; he’s talking through it. What he said was sent through the air to someone else, so they could hear him and talk back. It’s called a telephone,” he said.

“Are you serious? Where is this other person then? Why do they need the box-phone-thing to talk?” Draco asked, scrunching his nose.

Harry thought the other boy looked way too cute when he didn’t understand something. Then he thought he shouldn’t think that, and immediately focussed back on the book.

“The other person could be anywhere really. Next door, another town, another country. It’s a lot like a Floo call, only you can’t see the person’s face. And you can carry the phone with you, so you could call from anywhere.”

“Harry, that’s amazing. A truly amazing invention. The Muggles don’t have magic, but they can send voices through the air from one box to another? Are you sure they don’t have magic and just didn’t tell anyone? HARRY!!” Draco placed his hand on Harry’s thigh in his excitement at the invention of phones. “You HAVE to try this with me! We should box call each other! You live in a Muggle part of London, we could buy these boxes there!”

Harry laughed, studying with interest how Draco’s eyes light up when he was excited about something. How it made his whole face change. He decided to cherish the laugh and his own good mood. It was easier somehow, around Draco. Maybe because he never really treated Harry like the hero everyone else seemed to expect, so Harry didn’t have to work so hard to be someone he wasn’t. Maybe because he knew some of the shit Harry was too afraid to talk about.

“Yeah, we could do that. We could try it over the Christmas hols if you want? I don’t really have any plans,” Harry said, half delighted and half regretting that he wouldn’t spend all of Christmas isolated in his flat.

“Awesome! Won’t you be with Weasley and Granger though? I thought you always spend your Christmases with their family?” Draco asked.

“I don’t really know, I had that fight with them before we came back to Hogwarts and it has just been weird since the war ended,” Harry said, wanting to mentally pull away, but finding it hard when Draco was so close physically. His fight, or whatever, with Ginny was still fresh in his mind. Draco had probably noticed he’s been avoiding her, and Harry figured this might be his Slytherin way of asking about it.

“You still haven’t spoken with them?” Draco asked.

“Sort of, they wrote me before Hogwarts after I apologised, and they’ve written me a few times since. I just, I don’t know what to say to them. There’s no Voldemort, so I don’t have to be ready to fight all the time. And I think maybe that’s given my mental stuff time to fuck me up a bit more,” Harry said. He didn’t mention that he was also creating some distance on purpose, because he was scared that they’d find out his secrets. His fucked up mental health and his sexuality. And pretending had become so exhausting he could no longer do it.

“You do realise that it’s completely natural for you to struggle with some things after what you’ve been through right? It’s not a weakness, it’s just, being human,” Draco said.

His words reminded Harry of what Dumbledore told him after Sirius died, how his pain was what made him human.

“Well, maybe I don’t want to be human, if it’s pain that makes me one,” he muttered, giving Draco the same answer he’d given Dumbledore.

“Pain isn’t the only thing that makes you human Harry, it’s just one aspect. What makes you human is love; it’s compassion and caring. It’s pain too, but it’s so much more. It’s laughing at me when I get excited, or when I don’t understand something. It’s fighting, feeling anger rushing through your body. It’s thoughts and emotions. It’s magic. You are human Harry, and you do want to be one. Even though you might not always feel like it.”

“Oh,” said Harry, trying and failing to come up with a more eloquent reply.

Draco reached over the book to take Harry’s hand, intertwining their fingers. He used his thumb to stroke Harry’s wrist, and Harry was glad it was the right one, the one he hadn’t cut in a while. Draco’s hand was warm, and the stroking sent tingles all the way up Harry’s arm.

“Feel that?” Draco asked. “The heat, the motion, the feelings. You’re human Harry, and you’re alive. And so am I. I’ve learned to love being alive, and one day you will too.”

“I never said I don’t love being alive,” Harry protested, all the while knowing he wasn’t making a very good argument. He was distracted by Draco’s closeness though, and the thumb slowly rubbing at his hand. Fuck it had been so long since he’d been touched by anyone, let alone someone he’d realised he was attracted to.

“You didn’t say it in words, but I can see it Harry. I see the exhaustion in your eyes. I see you struggle to pay attention in class, or even follow a conversation when more than two people are involved. I see how you try to distance yourself from people who care. I can see how forced your movements have become, as if you’re moving in slow motion. I know you’ve lost interest in a lot of stuff, you haven’t even flown once since we got back to school. I see it, and I see you, and you’re not alone.”

It was too much. Harry tried so hard to hide it, he used all of his effort to appear normal to everyone, but Draco still noticed. And he cared, he fucking cared and Harry didn’t know how to deal with that. In some ways it made a warm bubble of – well something good, fill his chest. In other ways it clouded his mind with anxiety. Draco knew too much, and he cared too much. And when people cared they started expecting things. They expected to be trusted, to be allowed to help. Harry didn’t want help. He didn’t deserve it.

“It sounds like you spend a lot of time watching me,” he said jokingly, trying to lighten the mood. To change the subject or make Draco uncomfortable. it didn’t really matter as long as the tension in the air lifted.

“Yeah, well, it’s like I wrote isn’t it. I rather enjoy watching you,” Draco said, a blush creeping up in his cheeks. Something made Harry lift the hand that wasn’t entwined with Draco’s to touch the other boy’s cheek, trying to see if it felt as warm as it looked. It did, and Harry quickly dropped his hand. What was Draco doing?

“Well, why don’t you try spending more time looking at my arse instead of my mental health,” Harry said; he’d meant it to be an insult, but it didn’t come out quite right.

“Oh, trust me,” Draco said, “I spend lots of time staring at your arse too, no worries.”

Suddenly Harry was the one blushing. He didn’t want Draco to see, so he hid his face in the other man’s neck. He hadn’t really thought Draco would be staring at his arse, why would he? And why would he say he was? Was he trying to help Harry figure out his sexuality? Was this a thing guys did if they weren’t straight?

Seeming to sense Harry’s discomfort Draco brought the subject back to his Muggle Studies homework. His assignment was to write a paper on how ‘phone boxes’ could be useful in wizard society. Harry fell asleep halfway through Draco’s explanation of the assignment though, his head still resting on Draco’s shoulder.

Morning arrived a lot faster than Harry had hoped. He woke up feeling, not great, but not like he wished he’d never have to do so either. Talking and writing with Draco had helped a lot more than Harry thought it would. Just getting some of the thoughts and worries out really had helped, just like Draco had said. As he lay in bed Harry realised part of him wanted to tell Draco all about his mental shit, even the cutting. Another part of him though, would sooner be eaten by the giant squid than as much as hint at it.

When his alarm rang a few minutes after Harry woke up, he found it easier to get out of bed than it had been in weeks. Even with the detention looming over his head. Despite the fact Harry felt almost happy, he didn’t skip the part of his morning routine that involved locking himself in one of the stalls in the bathroom to cut, and for the first time since he’d started back at Hogwarts he found himself feeling afraid of what he was doing. He thought the cutting was just a way to get through the day. To not feel so shitty he wanted to die. But here he was, feeling ok and still cutting. He considered stopping for the day and realised he didn’t want to, that he couldn’t. He probably didn’t even really need to cut now, because he didn’t feel like crap. The problem was that he wanted to. Harry didn’t understand the feeling, so he did the only thing he really knew how to do, he cut until he forgot about feeling guilty about cutting.

Half an hour later Harry arrived at Bill’s office, he stood outside for as long as he possibly could without being late and earning himself another detention. He didn’t want to be there, but when his tempus charm ticked over to ten he gritted his teeth and knocked.

"Come in," Bill called.

Harry opened the door and entered Bill's study. It looked much like it had in Harry's third year, when Lupin was teaching. Harry was relieved to see the creepy cats from when Umbridge held the office were gone. Snape had just kept his office in the dungeons, as far as Harry knew.

"Harry, I'm glad you came to see me,” Bill said with a smile.

Harry only just resisted rolling his eyes. He hadn’t come to see Bill. He’d been given detention.

"I don’t enjoy having to give you a detention just to get a conversation with you Harry, but at this point I don’t feel like I have a choice. Ron’s been writing me, and Ginny came to see me a few days ago. They’re both worried sick about you, are you ok? You look kinda out of it, and I noticed that you had trouble with your Patronus in class your first week back," Bill said.

This was the problem with real family, Harry thought, they cared. They actually noticed when something was wrong, and then they tried to find out what. What should Harry tell him, that all his good memories were ruined? That it was like he had someone whispering insecurities in his ear and making him find proof in every memory he has that people actually hate him or he didn’t deserve them? Harry couldn’t tell Bill that. He wasn’t even touching on his relationships with Ron and Ginny, Bill had no right to know.

"I don't know why I couldn't get it to work, maybe something happened when I died during the last battle," Harry said, hoping Bill would accept the explanation.

Bill simply nodded, walking over to a chest Harry hadn’t noticed before.

"Would you like to practise it? I spent last lesson looking for a Boggart for the third years to practise on, but you could use it to practise the Patronus Charm now," Bill said, gesturing to the chest. “I remember Ron telling me your Boggart is a Dementor.”

Harry didn’t want to, he knew he wouldn’t be able to do it. His memories were too ruined, his mental health too far gone. He knew it would seem suspicious if he didn’t want help practising though.

"Sure, that would be great," Harry said, drawing his wand.

"Ready?" Bill asked.

Harry nodded and watched as Bill opened the chest. But the form that came out wasn’t a Dementor. At first Harry didn’t really see what it was, but he quickly realised the Boggart was taking a human shape. Seconds later, an exact replica of Harry stood in front of him. For a few seconds both Harry and Bill looked in confusion between each other and the Boggart-Harry. Then Boggart-Harry started rolling up his sleeves, and Harry panicked. He knew what would be underneath the jumper Boggart-him was wearing. He desperately tried to think of something, anything to make his Boggart funny. But there wasn’t anything amusing about the way angry cuts were being slowly revealed. Some of which were still bleeding a little, just like Harry knew his own were beneath his jumper-sleeves.

His Boggart had changed, it was Harry showing people how pathetic he really was. And Bill was there to see it.

Harry stared at the Boggart version of himself as it finished rolling up the sleeves of the jumper they were both wearing. As if to make it clear how the wounds got there the Boggart-Harry reached a hand into his pocket and pulled out a razor blade. As it did so Harry noticed there were bloodstains on the thighs of the Boggart’s jeans now too, as if to show that there were cuts there as well. When the Boggart swiftly dragged the razor blade across it’s wrist Bill stepped in front of Harry, casting a spell to force the Boggart back into its case.

Harry couldn’t move. More than anything he wanted to run away before Bill could even turn back around, but his feet wouldn’t listen. Neither would his lungs, apparently, because Harry couldn’t seem to make them function right.

"Harry, would you show me your arms please?" Bill said calmly.

"There’s nothing to see," Harry said. Forcing his lungs and throat to work enough to speak. He ignored the thundering sound of his own heartbeat in his ears, and locked eyes with Bill. He has to convince the man he’s fine.

"Nothing to see that I haven't already seen on the Boggart, or nothing to see?" Bill asked.

Harry didn’t know what to say, Bill was talking like he already knew the answer. Harry wished he’d put on the concealer. Or that he hadn’t cut his arm in a while, so he could just show off his tattoo. It had been so cold lately though, that Harry had figured no one would react if he wore long sleeves all the time. Cursing himself for his stupidity, Harry desperately searched his mind for an answer to give the man.

"I'm going to take your silence to mean the first option,” Bill said. “Don't worry Harry, I'm not going to yell, or demand that you stop. I’m not mad, or disappointed.”

“You’re not?” Harry asked before he could stop himself.

“No. You’re not the first person I’ve known who did this. It took me a while to understand it, Fred and George had to explain it to me actually. I think I get it now though. I’m not mad, of course I’m not.”

“Fred and George?” Harry asked, scared to hope that anyone would understand.

“Yeah. Charlie had a hard time for a while. I think he felt, you know, pressured to stop ‘faffing about with dragons’ and settle down. Except he never wanted to settle down. He didn’t want to be with anyone, romantically or sexually. I think he thought he was broken.”

Harry remembered reading the words asexual and aromantic in his book, was that what Bill meant? “But that’s, there isn’t anything wrong with that,” Harry said.

“No there isn’t, and he realises that now. I don’t think he did at the time though, and I think there were a lot of other factors as well. He’s never done too well in the British weather, what with the constant lack of sunlight. When he finally just moved to Romania he started doing a lot better, I think he needed the space from us all to figure out what he needed for himself.”

“But he cut himself?” Harry asked, needing to clarify. Needing to not be alone in this thing he couldn’t stop doing.

“Yes, he did self-harm. My initial reaction was getting angry. I was so worried and I didn’t understand. Then Charlie got mad too, because he couldn’t stop, and he didn’t take well to me trying to force him. Fred and George had to talk some sense into me,” Bill said, looking almost sad at the memory.

“They understood that to Charlie, self-harming was about surviving. That he didn’t mean to start it, and he certainly didn’t mean to get so addicted to it, but he did. They wanted to help him stop of course, but they told me that we couldn’t just take away the only means Charlie had to survive and expect him to cope without it.”

“Did he ever stop?” Harry asked, not sure what he wanted the answer to be.

“He did,” Bill said. “But it didn’t happen overnight. It was a gradual thing, like he needed it less and less, until he could go without it for a year without relapsing. Then two years, and so on.”

Bill pulled out a chair and Harry gratefully sat down. It wasn’t even lunchtime and he was already exhausted.

“I didn’t think anyone would understand,” he said, staring at his shoes as Bill got a chair for himself. “Least of all Fred and George, if I’m honest.”

“I think to be that dedicated to spreading joy, you need to understand a thing or two about pain.” Bill sat down heavily in his chair, and Harry was almost relieved to realise he wasn’t the only one feeling emptied.

“I guess I just always thought -, I mean, your family has been like a family to me. You took me in when I didn’t have anywhere or anyone to go to and I’ve been so scared none of you would want anything to do with me when you realise how fucked up I’ve become.”

“They will Harry, I know they will. They won’t judge you for struggling, or for self-harming. They’ll be worried, of course, but only because they love you. And know that I genuinely like you Harry, not for being the boy who lived, and not because you’re friends with my brother. I care about you, and from what Ron and Ginny have told me, they do too. And my parents consider you their son. They ask about you the same way they’ve been asking me about Ginny,” Bill said.

“Even if I’m just a depressed mess?” Harry asked, and then before he could back out he whispered, “even if I like boys?”

“Yes,” Bill said, sounding so sure Harry actually believed him. “And you’re not just a depressed mess. You’re a person who struggles with depression, there is so much more to you than your issues.”

His words made something shift in Harry. He hadn’t realised how sure he’d been that his adoptive family would dislike him for being bi. How strongly he’d convinced himself that they wouldn’t understand his depression, and definitely not the cutting. But here Bill was telling him something different.

“Harry, I want you to know that you are not alone, and I hope you will try to recover. Have you considered getting professional help? Poppy has a Floo direct to St. Mungo’s, and they have several good mind healers. They could help you.”

“No,” Harry almost shouted before he could even consider the idea. He couldn’t. He didn’t even know why, but the thought of taking up someone’s time to shower them in his issues made anxiety and guilt knock him to the floor.

“Alright, I don't want to force you into getting help you don't want. The only thing I ask is that you’re careful. If I find out you have been cutting too deep I'll have to get you some help. I'm here for you Harry, you can talk to me whenever you want, and if you ever want professional help I’ll gladly find someone for you. Like I said Harry, I consider us family," Bill said.

"Thank you, I don't really know what to say," Harry said. His heart was still thundering in his ears, and everything felt surreal, like nothing he was experiencing was really happening.

Bill smiled a little. "It’s ok Harry, I understand that words get hard sometimes. Now, I have to ask. How do you feel about using healing charms on your cuts?"

Harry shook his head. He didn’t want to do that, he needed the cuts. He needed the pain to last, not just heal instantly. He felt like he should probably reassure Bill though.

"I know healing charms, and I promise to use them if things ever, uhm, go too far. I don't intend to kill myself," Harry said. And it was technically true, he didn’t intend to kill himself, he just wanted to.

"If I teach you a disinfection charm, could you promise me to use it? Infections can get really bad.”

“Yeah, ok. I’ll do that,” Harry said, he didn’t see the harm in disinfecting and he’d do what he could to help Bill feel better about this.

Bill showed Harry two different disinfection charms, then went to his cabinet to collect some bandages.

“I always keep some on hand. If you need help or medical supplies, you can always come here if you don’t feel comfortable going to the hospital wing.”

“Thank you,” Harry said, stuffing the bandages into his bag. He had no intention of pulling up his sleeves and showing his cuts to the man, even though he’d already seen the cuts on the Boggart.

“Does Malfoy know? Or Ron and Hermione?” Bill asked.

Harry shook his head.

“I think you should tell them. Ron might overreact a bit at first if I know him right, but they would all understand eventually. It looks like you and Malfoy are getting closer, so maybe telling him could be a first step?”

“Yeah, maybe,” Harry said, without the intention to do anything of the sort. One person knowing was one too many.

"Harry, I’ll give you some time to prepare to see a mind healer, however, I won't wait forever. You need help, but I know you won't benefit from being forced to get it right now. If I don't see you improving, or approaching someone for help, I’ll have to do something though. I hope you don't feel like this is me betraying you. I'm doing this because I care." Bill said.

Harry did feel betrayed, and angry. Bill had just told him that he wouldn't force him into anything, and here he was saying something different. Harry was scared to argue though. If he protested too much that might make Bill tell someone right away.

"I'll try," he said, “I’m going to go now. It’s almost lunchtime and I skipped breakfast.”

“All right Harry. I’ll talk to you another time then, please take care,” Bill said, dragging Harry into a hug before letting him leave.

Harry left the office and went in search of an empty classroom to gather his thoughts before lunch. How was he supposed to feel after that detention? Harry supposed he should feel relieved that someone knew and wanted to help, and maybe he was. Maybe he was mad that Bill found out. Maybe he was scared of what the professor would do now that he knew. Maybe he felt guilty for making him worry. All Harry knew was that there was a whirlwind of emotions blowing through his body, and he was unable to tell them apart. He wasn’t able to calm them down either, so he reached for his bag to pull out the only thing he knew would help.

Chapter Text

‘Now you have me on the run
The damage is already done
Come on, is this what you want
Cause you're driving me away
And my love is no good
Against the fortress that it made of you
Florence and the Machine, Queen of Peace

Draco’s PoV

“Draco, darling, please,” Pansy said, gripping Draco’s hand. If he’d been looking at it he had no doubt he’d see her perfectly manicured nails digging into his skin, but as it was he only felt it. His eyes were glued to Harry, again. He was fighting with the Weasley girl, probably about the letters he steadily refused to open. He’d stopped having breakfast with Draco after being asked about them one time too many, and Draco suspected he wouldn’t take too kindly to Weasley asking about them either.

“Draco, this isn’t-,” Pansy started, but was cut off by Harry’s scream proclaiming to the entirety of the Great Hall that he was fine, before promptly storming off. Draco nearly stood to follow him, but Pansy squeezed his hand harder. He’d have permanent scarring if this went on.

“Stay. You know he won’t appreciate anyone following him when he gets like that.”

“He’s just, Merlin Pans, he’s so fucking miserable,” Draco sighed, just barely resisting the urge to let his head drop into his breakfast. “He’ll stop talking to her now, you know? Just like he stopped reading the letters from Weasley and Granger.”

“So he’s isolating himself then? To what end?” Pansy asked, and thank fuck for her. She’d listened to Draco rant and worry about Harry ever since arriving at Hogwarts and she was still making an effort. Draco offered her a fond smile by way of appreciation.

“I don’t think he’s even consciously doing it at this point. I think he’s just, avoiding everything that’s hard to deal with. Probably because he doesn’t know how to deal. I don’t think he realises he’s doing it most of the time.”

“Like how he’s had exactly one conversation with me, after being the one telling me to come back?” Pansy asked.

“I think calling it a conversation is generous, it was more like you talked and he tried to escape,” Draco said. “He’s constantly doing it. In class he just stares blankly at the professors, and it almost looks like he’s paying attention, except after he doesn’t even remember what class we just finished.”

Harry didn’t show up for classes for the rest of the day, and Draco was itching with the need to go find him and make sure he was all right. Pansy helped him stay calm though, and he knew he couldn’t push Harry, lest he’d be turned away like his other friends. They were friends now, he thought.

When Draco returned to their room after classes had finally, blissfully ended, he found Harry fast asleep. He told himself not to worry as he went to dinner. He told himself it was fine when he returned with a plate for Harry who was still sleeping. He told himself it was fine the next morning when he woke to an untouched plate and Harry claiming he had a cold and couldn’t go to classes. When a week passed like that though, he couldn’t keep lying to himself. He couldn’t pretend it was fine.

“Pansy, he hasn’t left his bloody bed in a week! I can’t cover for him in classes anymore, I don’t know what to do!”

“You could always tell the remaining two of the ‘Golden Trio’,” Pansy offered, and Draco supposed it was a testament to the gravity of the situation that she was actually serious. “Or Ginevra. I suppose one of the professors could work too.”

“I can’t break his trust like that Pans, I just – he’ll never forgive me,” Draco sighed.

“I think,” Pansy said softly, “that maybe it’s time to consider whether you’re keeping his secret because it’s for his own good, or because you’re scared you’ll lose him if you don’t.”

Draco’s breath caught, and he was glad he didn’t have any food in his mouth, or he’d have choked right there at the breakfast table. Merlin, he wasn’t doing that, was he? Keeping Harry’s secret to his detriment, because he was afraid he’d lose him if he betrayed the trust placed in him?

“Pansy, that’s -,” he started, “I – fuck I really hope that’s not why I’m doing it. I just thought that if the one person he’d actually confided in a little bit broke that trust that he’d be too afraid to confide in me or anyone else again.”

“That’s a good point, but Draco, darling, it’s not your burden to carry,” Pansy said, buttering her toast. They’d never been good at the really emotional conversations, at least not if they involved eye-contact. “Just because you’re the only one who knows, doesn’t make it your responsibility to help him.”

“I know,” Draco sighed. They both knew he’d take the responsibility either way though, “I don’t know what hurts more. Being in love with someone who hates me, or someone who hates themselves.”

“I don’t know what it says about your taste in men that you’ve managed to fall for the one man who’s subjected you to both,” Pansy said, pouring Draco a cup of what he suspected was pity-pumpkin-juice.

When Draco returned after breakfast to find Harry still in bed he couldn’t take it anymore. He’d tried being kind, and patient. He’d tried leaving food that was barely eaten. He’d tried not pushing. He was done.

“Harry, you have to get up!”

It helped, apparently, to push. Harry eventually showed up to class, and even shared some of his thoughts with Draco. Draco hadn’t been able to keep himself from writing a stupid love confession to the bottom of their paper, but thankfully had the presence of mind to hide it before Harry saw. Harry was fragile, even though Draco knew he’d hate being called as much. Just having left his bed for the first time in a week, and only recently realising he was bisexual wasn’t the best time to get a love confession from a guy.

Something seemed to have changed in Harry after Draco pushed him to leave his bed. If nothing else, he was making an effort. Sure, half of it was the effort to avoid everyone except Draco, and of all people Thomas. The rest though, was leaving his bed, showing up for classes, and actually eating at meals. And Draco actually had the feeling he was helping. Harry seemed happier after noticing Draco had entered a room, like something stirred to life in him. Draco knew it was sick, and selfish, but part of him relished in being the only person Harry confided in. The only person that could make him laugh. Another part wanted to kick Harry for not telling anyone else, for leaving Draco with the responsibility of being the only one who knew.

“We should go to the Halloween party Dean’s having in the common room tomorrow!” Harry said, sitting down on Draco’s bed at such speed he bounced a few times before stilling.

“Really?” Draco asked, he’d thought a party was the last thing Harry would want to attend, but he seemed happy. Excited at the thought. Merlin’s tits was his depression finally lifting?

“Yeah, I think it’ll be fun. We’ll get drunk and dance and, well, I’m not really sure what else people do at parties, but I’m sure it’ll be great.” Harry grinned, and Draco wasn’t sure how to deal with the pure happiness radiating off him.

“I mean, yeah, sure. I’ll ask Pansy to come along too,” Draco said, testing out how Harry would react to the reality of other people being present at the party.

“Yes, brilliant. I really need to get to know her better!” Harry said, still grinning. “Oh, is that your Muggle Studies homework? Need some help? Or are you still on the caslette-tales?” Harry laughed.

Draco had learned quickly that pretending to be absolutely terrible at Muggle Studies was a quick way to lift Harry’s mood. He found the entire subject utterly confusing of course, but not to the point where he couldn’t remember the word for cassette-tape or television. One didn’t learn French, Latin and ancient runes by being unable to remember simple words. Harry had laughed though, the first time he’d mispronounced something, so he kept at it.

“No, I’m supposed to write about this thing that’s like, a mechanical sheep. A lawn-mowler they call it. It eats the grass right off your lawn!”

Harry scooted closer on the bed, his thigh pressing against Draco’s in a way that did not make him cover his crotch with his book to hide something.

“A lawn mower? God’s I used to hate those, you know? My aunt Petunia always made me do her gardening for her, everything had to be just perfect. At least if I wanted to eat,” Harry said, speaking rapidly and still grinning at Draco. Draco didn’t even have time to process the fact that Harry wasn’t allowed to eat if he didn’t do the gardening right before he continued speaking. “I was so happy to see Molly’s garden, it’s a complete mess. I love it. They even have these little garden gnomes. The Muggles have garden gnomes too, but they’re just these weird little porcelain figures with pointy hats and fishing rods or some shit. If I ever buy one of those please punch me in the face to give me my senses back. Aunt Petunia had one, but Dudley kept knocking it over when he chased me around the garden and eventually it was just beyond repair. Not a great loss, if you ask me. Of course she placed a plant there instead, and I had to remember to water it. Once I forgot it for a few days and it died, my uncle was so mad he locked me in the cupboard for days without food. I guess he figured if I didn’t feed the plant he wouldn’t feed me.”

Draco stared at Harry, unable to keep his mouth all the way closed. He was talking fast, and saying more than he did in an average week. Draco didn’t have time to process the terrible confessions he was hearing, and just processing that they were terrible in the first place because Harry was smiling as he spoke.

“I’m speaking a lot, aren’t I? It’s like I have this rush of words inside my head and it feels really important to say it all. I don’t think any of it really is important though. Maybe it’s just my brain compensating for being so quiet all term? I feel really good actually, like my mental health is just, ok again. Maybe it’s just all the happiness I haven’t been feeling rushing back in,” Harry said, pausing for breath and grinning at Draco.

“Yeah, maybe,” Draco said. His mind was still reeling from the fact that Harry’s relatives had been abusive and not a single adult had done anything about it. Harry seemed good though, like he’d said, happy. Like it was all rushing back after being gone for so long.

“We should go to Hogsmeade,” Harry said, “Oh, or we could apparate to Diagon. I’d like another tattoo, I think.”

“Though that all sounds terribly amusing, I rather think we should stay here and catch up on our homework,” Draco said, and watching Harry’s face fall quickly added, “especially if we’re to get ridiculously drunk tomorrow.”

“Yeah, all right,” Harry agreed. He Summoned his Transfigurations homework to his place on Draco’s bed, seeming uninterested in moving. “I’m dangerously behind in Transfigurations anyways, so it’s probably a good idea.”

The party was a terrible idea, Draco realised. He’d decided to get ready with Pansy, partly to update her on Harry’s sudden recovery and to get her opinion on whether that was a good thing or not, and partly because Harry was helping Dean get the common room ready for the party. Absolutely nothing could have prepared him for the sight that greeted him when he and Pansy walked out of her room though, and found Harry dancing, dressed in obscenely tight jeans and an old leather jacket. It only got worse when he turned around and Draco realised he wasn’t wearing a shirt, just a leather jacket hanging open and showing off everything from his belly button to his nipples.

He’d stood there for a good few seconds, focussing on keeping his mouth shut when Harry noticed them.

“Draco,” he slurred, and it was immediately obvious he was drunk off his arse already. “I’m so glad you came! Dance with me!”

“Nice to see you too Potter,” Pansy said, saving Draco from answering. She really could be a saint when she wanted to. Of course, at the moment she was dressed as the devil. Her dark hair flowed nicely around the horns she’d transfigured, and her shirt really was sinfully low. If Draco wasn’t gay he’d probably be ogling her tits all night.

“Pansy! You’re the devil, and a bloody hot one too!” Harry said, grinning at her. “And Draco’s a hot angel. I’m not really sure angels are allowed to be sexy.”

Draco gaped, but Harry didn’t seem to notice. Pulling himself together Draco searched for a response, the truth seemed simplest. “Well, Pans decided to make our outfit her Muggle Studies homework this week. What are you supposed to be?” he asked, trying not to be obvious in looking Harry up and down. Fucking Merlin, but he looked hot like this.

“Billy Idol,” Harry grinned, swaying slightly. Draco wasn’t sure if it was to the music, or from drink, but decided to give him the benefit of the doubt and go with the music.

“Who’s that?” Pansy asked, because Draco was too busy staring.

“I don’t really know,” Harry admitted, “some singer Dean likes. He said I’d look hot like this.”

“He was right,” Pansy said, and Draco agreed wholeheartedly. And fuck, he’d have to tell Harry. Not that he looked edible dressed like a random Muggle singer, but that Draco was in love with him. He had to say something, because not doing so was going to make him lose his mind.

He couldn’t do it now though, when Harry was drunkenly pulling him to the dance floor they’d created in the common room by pushing all the furniture to the edges of the room. Not when Harry danced like he was sex on legs, grounding his arse into Draco like he wanted Draco’s prick in it. Not when Draco was fighting the urge to pull him closer and grind right back or run away and hide in their bathroom.
The next morning Draco found himself sitting alone at breakfast. He’d decided he needed to avoid Pansy for at least a couple of days, or he’d have to suffer her opinion on how he and Harry had danced the night before. As it turned out, avoiding her wasn’t a problem, because when he entered the Great Hall Pansy was sitting with Ginevra, deep in conversation. It wasn’t the first time, but it was the first time they both looked absolutely gleeful about the whole thing. Draco sighed, imagining the dirt Pansy must be dishing out. Was she telling Ginevra how Draco was desperately in love with her adoptive brother? Or how Harry had ground up against him the previous night, to the point where Draco had woken not once, but twice during the night with the need for a wank?

Pansy, of course, wouldn’t know for sure about the wanking. One thing she definitely wasn’t though, was an idiot, and Draco was positive she’d reasoned her way from the obscene dancing and Draco’s late arrival to breakfast to copious amounts of wanking in the night. If Harry only had a small percentage of Pansy’s observational skills he’d realise what he was doing to Draco, but the other man seemed to notice very little of what was happening around him. Surely it could be blamed on first the war and then the crippling depression, but it didn’t do much for Draco and his preference to hand out hints instead of blaring signs of explicit intentions. Harry probably wouldn’t notice a hint if it was dancing naked in front of him, Draco grumbled as he poured his tea. At least he didn’t notice a hint when it danced next to him with a hard-on for hours.

Draco’s resolve to just tell the bloody git what he was feeling strengthened as he finished his tea. It was a Hogsmeade weekend. He’d ask Harry out on a date, that had to be obvious enough.

Chapter Text

I'll bear all this echoing
Oh, what is it worth
All that's left is hurt
Florence + The Machine (Queen of Peace)

Harry was mostly able to avoid Bill after his detention. He knew Bill wouldn’t wait forever, but putting off the problem for as long as possible was the only solution he’d been able to come up with. Besides, he was feeling good. He’d been feeling good for a week, so maybe he didn’t need Bill. Maybe he just needed time.

The problem he couldn’t avoid though, was Draco’s suddenly weird behaviour. Harry had the feeling the other man was trying to tell him something, but then changed his mind at the last minute. The suspense was driving Harry insane, what if Draco knew about his cutting but was too scared to say anything? Or what if he’d noticed that Harry got hard dancing the night before?

Harry was sitting with Draco on the couch in their room, pondering the problem. They were supposed to be doing homework, but Draco kept looking up from his book and over at Harry, opening his mouth only to close it again and go back to reading. Harry couldn’t focus.

“What are you doing?” he snapped, when Draco did it for the fifth time in as many minutes.

“You really need to have your prescription checked Harry. I’m sitting right next to you studying; when was the last time someone took a look at your eyes?” Draco said, smirking.

“I’ve never had them checked, I found these glasses in the Dursleys’ attic and I kept them because they helped me see better,” Harry said, “but that’s not what I meant, I’m asking why you keep looking up at me like that. Like you’re going to say something.”

“You’ve never had your eyes checked?” Draco asked with a shocked expression. “Those glasses are probably all wrong for you then! Come on, let’s go.”

“What?” Harry said, wondering how the conversation turned to his glasses.

“We’re going to Hogsmeade,” Draco said. “There’s no way I’m letting you walk around another day with glasses that don’t fit you right.”

“Draco, I can see perfectly fine. I don’t need my eyes checked,” Harry said.

“Well, I don’t believe you. Those glasses are Muggle, so they probably don’t adjust based on where you’re looking. And they weren’t even prescribed for you!” Draco said, getting his coat out of his trunk. “Get dressed, we’re going.”

Harry didn’t see the point in arguing. When Draco decided he wanted something, he usually got his way in the end. If nothing else, Harry figured he should pick his battles.

“Fine, but only if we get butterbeer. It’s bloody cold outside,” he said.

“Sure, whatever. Oh this’ll be perfect; we can get you some new frames as well. The ones you have look like they’ve been through Hell and back,” Draco said. “Of course, knowing you, they probably have.”

The second they step outside Harry shivered, and realised he was right, it was bloody cold. He wrapped his scarf more tightly around his neck and chin, then put his cold hands in his pockets.

“I should probably get some gloves as well; my hands are freezing,” he said. In fact he should probably get new everything, seeing as most of what he owned was too small or inherited from Dudley and therefore way too big still.

“You don’t have gloves? Why didn’t you say so, you could have borrowed some from me you know,” Draco said, then he stopped to take his wand out and touched it to one of his own mittens. It instantly grew to twice its original size. “Here, place your hand in with mine. At least this way one of your hands won’t freeze off.”

Harry suddenly felt awkward, but he put his frozen fingers into the mitten with Draco’s, intertwining their fingers so they’d both fit.

“Thanks,” said Harry, feeling his cheeks heat with a blush. Holding Draco’s hand felt nice, and not just because of the heat. Harry decided not to think about it too much, and instead looked around him for something else to focus on, studying the falling snow. Already, the Christmas holidays were just a month and a half away. Remembering his promise to try out a phone call with Draco over the break, Harry felt his cheeks warm despite the cold outside.

“Where are you staying for the Christmas holidays?” Harry asked, figuring it was as good a topic as any.

“I was thinking I’ll probably stay at Hogwarts, and maybe go visit Pansy for a few days,” Draco answered, and Harry thought he could see traces of sadness behind the smile Draco put on.

“Why not at the Manor with your mum?” Harry asked, giving Draco’s hand a gentle squeeze before consciously having decided to do so.

“She sold that to pay off the reparations the Ministry sentenced my father to pay,” Draco said. “She’s staying in France these days, and I’m not – I think I just need some time to figure out who I am without my parents at this point.”

“You could come stay with me. I don’t really have any plans for Christmas,” Harry said, and immediately regretted it. Why would Draco want to come to Harry’s place when he finally had the chance to take a break from him?

“I don’t want to impose on you, Hogwarts is perfectly fine. I know you’ve stayed there for Christmas a few times yourself,” Draco said.

Harry squeezed the hand he was holding inside the shared mitten, trying to channel some sort of reassurance.

“Only because I didn’t have anywhere else to go,” he muttered, more to himself than to Draco, “besides, you wouldn’t be imposing; you’d be keeping me company. I’ve gotten used to your constant presence now, what would I do without your snarky comments in the morning?” Harry said, stroking his thumb against the back of Draco’s hand.

“Hmm,” Draco said, “it would make trying out the telebox easier. And I suppose you’ll be terribly lonely without me.”

“Telephone,” Harry corrected, grinning at the blond.

“Yes, yes, telepole,” Draco said, waving his free hand. “All right, I suppose I could come stay with you.”

“Only if you want to,” Harry said. He didn’t want Draco to come if it was just so Harry wouldn’t be lonely. He suspected Draco was joking, but his head wouldn’t let it go without some sort of reassurance.

“Merlin, you’re really going to make me say it, aren’t you?” Draco said with a long-suffering sigh. “Yes, Harry, I really would much prefer to stay with you than alone in the bloody castle, all right? Now let’s never speak of this again, so that I might save the ounce of dignity I still have.”

Harry grinned, and was pleased to receive a grin in return. He didn’t really know when his plan went from ‘being alone revelling in just being depressed’ to ‘being alone except for one phone call to Draco’ to ‘celebrating the holidays with Draco’. He didn’t know when he started wanting the last option more than the first either, but he supposed it didn’t really matter much. Both he and Draco would have a better Christmas this way, and that’s what mattered, really.

When they made it to the store named Sight for Sore Eyes Harry removed his hand from Draco’s mitten. He suddenly felt unbalanced, and he wasn’t entirely sure it was just because one of his hands was freezing when the other one was toasty warm.

“Well, hello, aren’t you a sight for sore eyes?” said a voice from the back of the store. When Harry squinted a bit he could see a handsome looking salesman behind the register.

The salesman walked around the counter and leaned in to half-whisper in Draco’s ear. “I’m so terribly sorry for that awful greeting, my boss requires it. However-,” he said, running his eyes up and down Draco’s form “you definitely aren’t hard on the eyes.”

Harry felt immediately enraged. The salesman has no business being that close to Draco. Without thinking he stepped in between the two men, frowning.

“When you’re done ogling my friend, would you mind terribly doing your job and find glasses to suit my eyesight? Or should I perhaps take my business elsewhere?” Harry said, casually-on-purpose running his hand through his hair to reveal his scar.

He’d never deliberately used his fame status on someone before, but something about this salesman rubbed him the wrong way entirely. The scar had its intended effect though, turning the full attention of the salesman on him.

“Yes of course Mr. Potter. If you’ll allow me to run a few spells on your eyes I’ll know your prescription in a jiffy,” the salesman said, taking out his wand and casting the spells when Harry nodded.

“Ah, yes. I understand the need for new glasses. The ones you have now aren’t even close to your prescription. Would you like new ones entirely, or should I just charm the ones you have already?” the salesman asked.

Harry looked at Draco now, because he really didn’t know if he should get new glasses or not. Draco probably knew way more about style than he did, besides, he’d been the one to drag Harry here so he could decide.

“You should get some new ones I think,” said Draco, stepping around Harry to look at the rows and rows of frames in the store. “The ones you have are all right, but they look pretty beaten up.”

“Oh, Mr. Potter would look wonderful in these, don’t you agree?” the salesman asked Draco, gesturing to a pair of square looking frames.

“I don’t think we should step too far from the round shape. I rather like the way he looks with those,” Draco said, picking up a pair of frames. “I think these would be perfect. If you could adjust them, we’ll be ready to go.”

“The pantos frames? Excellent choice!” the salesman said, running off to the back, presumably to fit the glasses to Harry’s needs.

Harry considered being mad when not consulted about the glasses he was going to wear, but something in him told him to trust Draco. It wasn’t like he knew what he was doing any way.

“What’s wrong?” Draco asked, placing a hand on Harry’s shoulder.

“Nothing,” Harry said automatically.

“Right, you just have a habit of acting like that around salesmen, do you?”

“No, I just, I didn’t like the way he was looking at you,” Harry said.

“I see. Is it because we’re both male? I thought you were past that,” Draco said, looking hurt.

“No, that’s not it. It was just, it wasn’t. I don’t know, ok? It just made me feel weird,” Harry said, feeling agitated. Why had he reacted like that?

“So you’re just making sure I never get laid?” Draco said, smiling. Harry was relieved for only a second that the hurt seemed to be gone, before the meaning of the words sank in.

“You wanted to-,” Harry blanched, “with him?!”

“Not particularly, no,” Draco said, and Harry released a breath of relief. “It’s always nice to be flirted with though. Does wonders for my self-esteem, you know? Of course, so does your overprotective and jealous behaviour, so I’m sure I’ll survive without the flirting this once.”

Had Harry really been jealous? He’d just been angry hadn’t he? But then again, he couldn’t explain why he’d been angry. He tried imagining the salesman and Draco out on a date, kissing and holding hands and the anger flared up inside him again. So maybe he was jealous. But what did that mean? He wasn’t in love with Draco, they were just friends. Harry knew he was attracted to the other boy, but really, who wouldn’t be?

“Here are your glasses Mr. Potter. Would you like to try them on?” the salesman said, interrupting Harry’s thoughts.

“Yes, thank you,” Harry said, taking the glasses. They were still round, like Draco said. But they were a bit straighter at the top, Harry supposed they were more stylish that way. He put them on, and he could see. It wasn’t like he hadn’t been able to before, but suddenly he could see so much more, when he looked at Draco he could see the other man’s eyelashes. And the faded, almost invisible freckles he had. He could see each individual snowflake falling outside the window. He ignored the salesman going on about how he had added water and cold protection so they wouldn’t get wet or fogged up, and focussed all his attention on all the details he could suddenly make out.

“I can see,” Harry said, grinning at Draco.

“Yes, that would rather be the point of glasses,” Draco said, smirking.

“I know that,” said Harry. “But I can really see, like I can see your eyelashes. And you have freckles! And does snow really look like that?” he asked, pointing at the window.

“I most certainly do not have freckles,” Draco protested, “And like what? Individual flakes instead of a blur? Yeah, it does.”

“Ah, but you do have freckles” Harry said, grinning. “I can see them now. They’re really faint, but they’re definitely there. They’re really cute too.”

“What is this obsession with calling me cute? I am not cute. I am handsome,” Draco insisted, eyes glinting with humour. And it was so much easier to make it out now, all the micro expressions Draco made when he talked. The ones that showed what he was saying way more than his words did.

“Well that too,” Harry agreed, wishing he could say with certainty that he definitely wasn’t blushing.

“Come on,” Draco said, apparently opting to ignore the comment. “Pay the man, so we can go have that butterbeer you promised me.”

Harry paid the salesman, glad to see that he was not all that handsome now that Harry could see him properly.

“So how do I look?” Harry asked Draco when they were walking towards The Three Broomsticks

“Like you always do I suppose, except with better glasses,” Draco said, avoiding Harry’s eyes. Intrigued, Harry felt the need to dig deeper.

“And how do I normally look then?”

“Well, if you must know, you look freshly shagged. And not even in a bad way, you absolute wanker,” Draco said, still avoiding Harry’s eyes.

Harry was stunned. Draco said he looked, what? Good? The comment pleased Harry more than it should. He froze at the idea, and stopped in his tracks. If he thought Draco was handsome, and he wanted Draco to think he looked good, and he was jealous when someone flirted with him, then that had to mean...

“Fuck,” he muttered, realisation hitting him hard.

“What?” Draco asked.

“Nothing,” said Harry, starting to walk again. He fucking liked Draco Malfoy. As in liked. His first thought was that he couldn’t do that. He couldn’t have feelings for the other man because nothing would ever come of it. Draco would never want to be with him, and even if he did... Even if he did, Draco deserved better. Harry knew that. He knew that with his depression, and his self-harm, and just being himself, he’d never be good enough for Draco. He couldn’t be a good boyfriend to anyone. And Draco deserved the best.

Knowing that, Harry shoved the thoughts and sudden feelings down as far as they’d go, figuring he’d find some way to deal with them later.

As it turned out, Harry wasn’t able to shove his thoughts of Draco out of his head. It seemed that now that he knew he knew, nothing he did could get the thoughts and feelings out of his head. He hadn’t been able to fall asleep until the early morning hours for weeks after realising, and he still couldn’t let the thoughts go. Of course, he couldn’t blame it all on Draco. Mostly it was feeling anxious over the upcoming end of term exams, and then feeling so exhausted he wasn’t able to study, only to feel more anxious. It was a terrible, endless cycle and if nothing else focussing on his feelings for Draco broke him out of it for a few moments.

How was it even possible to fall for someone when he was too depressed to think straight? Harry turned over in bed and hit his pillow in frustration. He felt like crap all the time, he hasn’t spoken to his best friends in months, he cut himself daily, he was avoiding the people who wanted to be his family, and what his brilliant brain decided to do was go on and fall in love. Of course, he’d only realised after that blissful week of feeling genuinely happy. The crash had been hard though, and he wasn’t sure it was worth being happy for a week if it left him feeling like this for twice as long after.

Somehow falling for Draco hadn’t been a conscious choice, his body just seemed to act on its own accord. When he sat next to Draco he found himself sliding closer or reaching for his hand, and it felt so natural. Harry wondered how long he was inching closer and closer to Draco without even noticing. Then he groaned into his pillow because he didn’t have time to think or wonder. He had to sleep.

If he was going to be able to focus, he needed sleep. Sleep, apparently, didn’t want to come to him though. He looked over at his bedside table and instantly felt guilty. Inside were several letters from Ron and Hermione. They hadn’t stopped writing him all term, even though he hadn’t given them any real responses. He still hadn’t even managed to open the letters from the past couple of months.

He knew he could write them, should write, tell them all about his depression. He could tell them about Draco, and his worries that Bill would tell someone soon if Harry didn’t. He even realised that they would probably understand, or at least make an effort to. But Harry just couldn’t bring himself to do it. He didn’t even know why anymore. His reasons for not writing his friends had changed so much in his own head. He knew he didn’t want to hurt or worry them, and that had been his excuse for keeping his distance. But he also knew that shutting them out was doing exactly that.

Harry thought about dying, how it would be so easy, but also so hard. It was tempting, it had been since the graveyard when Voldemort came back if he was honest with himself. But it also scared him. He was scared of failing again, he was scared of succeeding. Scared of what he’d miss, and who would miss him. Scared of how it would affect everyone. Hell, he was even scared that it would hurt. But how was he supposed to do anything, to live or die, when both options scared the shit out of him. He knew he’d have to choose eventually. Knew he couldn’t just keep living in limbo, pushing everyone away and refusing to even try recovery.

Harry realised it wasn’t that simple either though. As hard as the choice was, it wasn’t even a one-time thing. If he chooses to really live, to recover, that was a choice he’d have to make every single day until the suicidal urges disappeared. He would have to choose recovery despite his depression telling him to stay depressed. And Harry was too tired, too exhausted just staying alive that there was no energy left to fight.

Harry realised there was no way he’d be able to sleep when his mind was jumping from thought to thought, creating chaos, so he reached for the bedside table, opening one of the drawers there and taking out his blades and some toilet paper. He pulled down his pyjama bottoms, exposing his scarred thighs. And there it was, the reason there was no point thinking about his feelings for Draco. Harry was disgusting, and growing more disgusting by the day. Despite that, his scars had become the only part of himself that he liked. It was the only part that made sense, at least.

He made a cut, but it was pathetic. So he made another, and another. The third one was better, but he didn’t feel like stopping just yet so he made three more. The sixth one was the best of the lot, and he considered stopping. Six just seemed wrong though, and he wanted more cuts like the last one, so he made another. Seven cuts didn’t seem quite right either, so he decided he’d go for nine. The eighth cut was perfect, it was straight and deep enough that it was gaping slightly. Harry placed the blade to his skin, holding a piece of paper over the previous cuts so blood didn’t go everywhere. He prepared to make the final cut, took a breath and then another. In the end he needed four breaths before he was able to move the blade, internally screaming at himself for being weak.

When he finally made the cut though, his hand wavered at the last second and he completely failed. The cut was jagged and shallow. Harry didn’t know if he wanted to throw the blade away or stab himself with it. He’d decided on nine, but then he failed. And ten just felt wrong. Besides, another cut wasn’t going to fix how he fucked up in the first place. In the end, he didn't throw the blade away, or use it to stab himself. Instead he gripped it tightly and curled into a ball on his bed. He didn’t feel any better, and for the first time cutting hadn’t helped. He was trapped.

Chapter Text

You say things with your mouth
Cobwebs and flies come out
I hear a second voice behind your tongue somehow
Luckily I can read your mind
Flies and cobwebs unwind
They will not take you down
They will not cast you out
Twenty One Pilots (Lovely)

“Harry, Harry! Come on!” Draco’s voice broke through the mist surrounding Harry, and the impatient tone made him suspect he’d been trying to get Harry’s attention for a while.

“What?” he asked, looking at the other man.

“The lesson’s over,” Draco said, gesturing to the empty classroom around them.

“Oh,” said Harry, “I didn’t notice.”

“I know. Did you even register what lesson we were having?” Draco asked, a look of concern on his face.

“Uhm, yeah. But I don’t really know how it went. I just zoned out I guess. Sorry,” Harry said, trying to seem indifferent. He wasn’t though. This was the last Transfiguration lesson before their term exam, and he’d really needed to pay attention.

“I thought you said you were behind in Transfiguration,” Draco said, looking mildly annoyed now.

“I am! I don’t know what you want from me here Draco. I lost focus, how does that even affect you?” Harry asked. As he said the words he noticed the anger behind them, but he couldn’t bring himself to care.

“It doesn’t! It affects you, and for some masochistic reason I bloody care about you!” Draco said in a furious whisper. He glanced at the door as if afraid someone would come bursting in to witness his near-public display of emotion.

“Well, don’t!” Harry yelled, pulling his hair in a frustrated attempt to make everything stop happening.

“Don’t what?” Draco asked, looking both angry and confused.

“Don’t care about me! I don’t want it and I don’t need it. My life is plenty shit without worrying about how my mental health affects you every goddamn minute. I don’t know what gave you the idea that your care is even welcome, what do you hope to achieve? Do you want to heal me?” Harry asked, mocking now. “You can’t heal me, I don’t want to be fucking healed.”

“But I do care, so you’re going to have to deal with that aren’t you? And what are you even talking about you don’t want to be healed? Do you want to keep on living like this then? Is that it?” Draco said.

“No,” said Harry, “that’s the whole damn point. I don’t want to keep living at all. I just want to be left alone so I can end things in peace. But then you came along and you just walk around as a constant reminder that I have something to live for. And I don’t want to be reminded, I’m so tired.” The words rushed out of Harry against his will, and he wasn’t entirely sure they were true. He’d spoken the truth that Draco gave him something to live for, and though he kept avoiding them Hermione, Ron and Ginny were reasons for him to live as well. The problem wasn’t that he wanted to die, the problem was that he was so tired of living that he wished he wanted to die. He hoped to wake up one day with the strength and motivation to end it all, because it was too exhausting to go on living.

“What, so you want to die?” Draco asked, looking more worried than angry now.

“No,” Harry said, not knowing if he should cry with relief or sadness when the word rang true in his ears. Anyway, he was too angry to do either.

“No, I don’t want to fucking die either. Happy? I don’t want to live and I don’t want to die. I have no idea what I want, all right? All I know is I’m so tired I feel like I could sleep for a thousand years and still wake up tired. And I’m so angry, all the time. I’m yelling at you right now and I know you don’t deserve it, and that I’ll feel like shit for it later. But I can’t fucking help myself.”

“I thought you were getting better? You seemed so happy a few weeks ago, you even went with me to Hogsmeade,” Draco said, trailing off.

Harry gave a toneless laugh at that. He had been happy, but apparently he’d been too happy because his brain and body seemed insistent on punishing him for his brief respite from everything. He was already forgetting how it had felt, being happy. Slowly, but surely, convincing himself it had been some sort of lie.

“I was, I guess. And now I’m not. Now I’m just back to feeling like shit, and as an added bonus I’m fucking furious about everything.”

“It’s ok to be angry though, you have lots of reasons to,” Draco said.

“No, I fucking don’t. I’m a terrible fucking person Draco. Do you know, I’m even mad at Dumbledore? At a man who died fighting the war I created! If I’d just listened to him, Sirius would be alive; and if I’d just been better, Cedric, Remus, Tonks, Fred and everyone else would be too. What right do I have to be mad? It’s all my fault, and yet I’m so fucking furious he sent me to the Dursleys to be starved and verbally abused for my entire childhood. I’m so angry he wouldn’t tell me things, because part of me still feels like I deserved to know. He put me and my friends in some really fucking dangerous situations, hell we fought Voldemort when we were eleven. I’m so mad at him, and sometimes I think I might hate him.” Harry said, now pacing the room, trying to calm his anger down. He didn’t know where all the words came from, but as he spoke them he realised they were all true.

“Ok Harry, so I’m going to voice an unpopular opinion here. I hate Dumbledore. Not for the same reasons I did when I was a kid, but because of the man he was. He was manipulative and irresponsible. He placed you in an abusive home and never let you leave. You didn’t deserve that Harry,” Draco said, trying to reach out for him, but Harry stepped away from the outreached hand. “And really, the war you created? What the fuck is that supposed to mean?”

“But I did deserve it, that’s the problem,” Harry said, ignoring the last part of Draco’s statement. He’d had that fight with Ron and Hermione too many times. He knew, rationally, that the war would have happened either way. It didn’t stop him feeling like a failure.

“I have no reason to be mad because I never deserved any better than what I got. And besides, it was all to save the whole Wizarding World. I think my safety was worth the sacrifice. I hate myself for being so angry, and that means I’m angry with myself too,” Harry said, sitting down on the floor, suddenly feeling deflated.

He could feel tears pushing to be released but held them back. He’d already yelled at Draco over nothing, he was not going to make the other man watch him cry too.

“So, what, you feel like you deserve this, is that it? You don’t want to live because it’s painful and you’re tired. And you don’t want to die because that would hurt people and be a final end to a temporary problem, and you don’t want to recover because you don’t deserve to be happy?” Draco asked, sitting down on the floor next to Harry. “And you’re pushing me away because you think you’ll always be like this, and you don’t want to hurt me? Or because I make you want to be better, and that scares the shit out of you?”

Harry stared at Draco in shock. How was it even possible, that him failing to pay attention in class could lead to him spilling his guts about problems he hadn’t even realised he had, and then Draco putting words to something he could never have understood himself?

“I, yeah, pretty much all that stuff. How? How do you even know that? I didn’t even know that before you just said it,” Harry said.

“I know you Harry, I know we’ve only been friends for half a year, but I’ve watched you since we were eleven. And like I said, I’ve been depressed too. I guess that gave me some insight,” Draco said, reaching out again and this time succeeding in placing his hand on Harry’s shoulder.

“Professor Weasley knows, doesn’t he?” Draco asked. Harry panicked for a second that Draco knew about his cuts too, but he figured the other boy was referring to his depression.

“Why?” he said, hoping Draco would elaborate.

“You’ve been avoiding him like he’s got Spattergroit ever since your detention. I just figured he knew about something you really don’t want to talk to him about,” Draco said.

“Yeah, he knows. He’s insisting on getting me professional help or something,” Harry said, looking at his hands.

“It might not be the worst idea you know? I’ll come with you if it helps.”

Harry didn’t know what to do. He knew he should, knew part of him even wanted to. He also knew he was scared. Scared that the therapist would tell him his problems were nothing and he needed to get himself together. Scared the therapist would take him too seriously and have him admitted. Scared to admit he has a problem and accept that he needs help. And he couldn’t find it in himself to feel like he deserved the help even if he did accept needing it.

“I don’t know,” he said, because he didn’t.

“Ok, so here’s what we’re going to do. I’m going to talk to Professor Weasley to have an appointment set up. Then I’m going to go with you to that appointment. We’ll both go, and if you hate it, you don’t have to go back. I think the fact that you said ‘I don’t know’ instead of an instant ‘no’ means it’s time. You’ll never feel ready to see a therapist, I think that’s something you just have to do,” Draco said, taking the hand Harry had been staring at.

“Ok,” Harry said, surprised that he was able to speak at all. Somehow Draco understood that Harry was unable to say yes, even though part of him wanted to. So he was taking matters into his own hands. If it were anyone else, Harry thought, he would have been furious. When it was Draco though, he just felt safe.

They stayed in the empty Transfiguration classroom through lunch, and Harry was grateful that Draco seemed to understand his need to be away from the rest of the school. Their next lesson was Defence, and Harry figured that was just proof of how the universe loved to fuck with him; when you avoid someone, you’re doomed to run into them when you least want to. If nothing else Bill couldn’t talk to him in class, but that wouldn’t stop Draco from talking to the professor as soon as class was over.

Harry hated the fact that two people who both know parts of his mental health issues would be speaking to each other. In fact, he was so caught up in worrying over what they might tell each other that he walked face first into someone when he and Draco were on their way to the dreaded class.

“Shit, I’m sorry,” he said, before looking straight up into the face of Bill. Harry just gaped, because really, what were the fucking odds.

“I have to go, I, erh, need the loo,” he said, running off towards the nearest bathroom and leaving Draco and Bill behind. Safely locked inside the bathroom stall he wanted to punch himself.

He’d just left Draco and Bill alone. Draco intended to ask Bill to get him a therapist. Bill would do that. Maybe Bill would even tell Draco about the self-harm? Or maybe Draco would tell Bill what Harry told him? No, he wouldn’t do that, Draco was excellent at keeping secrets. Draco wouldn’t say more than what Harry had basically given him permission to say, but Harry suddenly didn’t want that either. He didn’t want them to be worried, or to get him a therapist. He didn’t want to take up the time of a therapist who could be helping someone else.

“Fuck,” he muttered, placing his head in his hands and sitting down on the toilet. “Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck.” Harry wanted to tear his hair out in frustration. He wanted help so badly he couldn’t breathe, but he also didn’t want it at all. He didn’t understand how a person was supposed to deal with thoughts that were so different it felt like he was being torn in half.

He cast a quick tempus charm, and realised he still had ten minutes before he had to be in class. Plenty of time for a couple of cuts he decided, and took his blade from his backpack. He pulled down his jeans, drew the blade quickly across his thigh three times, placed a band aid on it so it wouldn’t bleed through his clothes and left the stall. He still didn’t feel all right with the whole situation, but he was able to put it out of his mind. He knew it wasn’t a permanent solution, but it would get him through the school day.

That evening Harry studied the scars on his arm and thighs, with his new glasses he was able to see them even better than before. He could see where they were red and raised, and he could see the white and faded ones he thought had disappeared completely. He felt a bit sick, studying his scars like this, admiring them. He knew he should hate the scars, but he couldn’t bring himself to do so. Sure, he hated the ones on his hand saying ‘I must not tell lies’, he hated the one on his forehead and the ones Dudley has given him over the years. But he didn’t hate the ones he’d put there himself. In fact, he thought, stroking one of the scars with his thumb, he thought he might love them.

He heard Draco enter their room, and was glad that he’d thought to pull his curtains shut. He might have a sick love for his scars, but he was also ashamed of them. He pulled his pyjamas in place before opening the curtains to face the other man.

“Hi Draco, sorry for just disappearing after dinner. I just needed, I don’t know, to be away from people I guess.” He said, really wanting to ask if Draco spoke to Bill about him.

“That’s fine Harry, I was just trying to get some studying done anyways. I think I might actually pass Muggle Studies thanks to you. I thought for sure I was going to fail when I decided to take it,” Draco said, smiling and putting his bag on the bed.

Harry laughed. “So I help you pass Muggle Studies and you help me pass life? Fair deal for you.”

“Speaking of, I spoke with Professor Weasley. He’ll talk to someone over at St. Mungo’s and they’ll owl you sometime before Christmas to set up your first appointment,” Draco said, and he said it so casually Harry almost felt like it was all right that he had to get a therapist. Like it was a normal thing that people actually did.

“Oh, ok. I, yeah, ok,” Harry said.

“Eloquent as ever,” Draco said, smirking. “By the way, I’ve been thinking. You should invite Ron and Hermione over during the holidays. I know you’ve been feeling bad about avoiding them.”

“I have, it’s just – I’m not sure I know how to talk to them anymore.”

“Well, we’ll figure something out. If everything goes to shit I’ll make a fabulous distraction by showing off my Dark Mark or going into details about gay sex or something equally scandalous.”

Harry snorted at the image of Draco trying to explain to Ron the workings of gay sex, and then blushed at the idea of Draco and sex.

“You’ll really be there with me to meet them?” he asked, figuring this was the safer part of the sentence to latch onto.

“Of course, Harry,” Draco said, and Harry hoped the warmth in his words was really there, and not just a result of his wishful thinking.

The last week of classes before Christmas took Harry by surprise. Time moved so strangely that even though he could rationally understand the week had been approaching, it came before he’d had time to process it was even December. Harry forced himself to get up and join Draco for breakfast the first day. His head was still a mess and his mood was trapped somewhere between despair and numb, but he figured that after a restless night it was safer to get up and leave with Draco than to stay alone. Alone he ran the risk of thinking himself into an even deeper hole, or finally falling asleep and missing the Transfiguration exam he had after lunch. Thankfully his other classes were cancelled for the week, leaving him with only the exams, each of which lasted for four hours.

“Tea?” Parkinson asked as soon as they sat down, offering the pot to Harry. He took it and poured a cup for himself and Draco, adding several spoons of sugar to Draco’s before handing it over. After considering a moment he added several spoons to his own tea as well.

“Since when do you take sugar in your tea?” Draco asked, accepting his own cup.
“Since I’m exhausted, and sugar is supposed to give you a kick,” Harry said. He stifled a yawn and dropped a slice of lemon into his tea before taking a sip. It really was too sweet for his taste, but he still drank heavily hoping to feel even slightly more alert.

He put his cup down with an irritated sigh when the pricking in his side became more insistent and turned to glare at Draco. Draco, of course, quickly retracted his hand as if he hadn’t been using it to poke at Harry’s ribs seconds prior.

“What?” he asked, resisting the urge to hiss the words out. He couldn’t fly into a rage every five minutes, after all.

Draco didn’t say anything, but nodded across the Hall, with a strangely serious look on his face. Harry followed his gaze and saw Ginny, sitting alone at the end of the table furthest from them. She looked like she was crying, or at least had been doing just that very recently.

Suddenly Harry couldn’t remember why he’d resolved to avoid her in the first place. She was obviously upset, and she probably needed someone to talk to. Harry stood up before he made a conscious decision to do so, but he figured while he was up he might as well go talk to her.

He refilled his cup of tea, and made another for Ginny, adding a dash of milk, before grabbing both and walking over to her. Ginny grabbed the cup as soon as he sat it down in front of her, no doubt finding comfort in twisting her fingers around the warm cup.

“Harry?” she said, and the surprise in her voice at seeing him almost broke his heart. He’d really been neglecting her, hurting her. He shook the thoughts off though, this wasn’t the time to be stuck in his own head.

“Yeah, it’s, erh, it’s been a while. I’m sorry. I don’t really have an explanation except I really couldn’t deal with being around people.” Harry remembered Draco then, and how much time he’d spent with the other man. “At least not people who knew me before.”

“You know, a month ago I wouldn’t have understood that at all,” Ginny said, more to her tea than to Harry. “But here I am today, feeling like shit and utterly incapable of being around my friends.”

“I’m sorry I disappeared for so long,” Harry said, “I’m here now, if it’s not too late?”

“We’re family Harry, there is no such thing as too late.”

Harry offered Ginny a rare genuine smile and reached out to place his hand on her wrist, hoping to comfort her and ground himself.

“So, do you want to talk about it?” he asked, half-afraid she’d react the way he would and run off in a rage.

“It’s stupid,” Ginny said, and Harry was glad she hadn’t attempted to pretend nothing was wrong.

“If it’s upsetting you it’s not stupid,” Harry argued, rearranging his face in a way he hoped showed care and sympathy.

“I just, well – I think I’ve fallen for someone,” Ginny told her tea, “and they’re never going to feel the same way about me.”

“Oh,” Harry said. He really, really hoped Ginny wasn’t talking about him, because he had no idea how to go about convincing her that she wasn’t, actually, in love with him.

“And I’m just so confused, because I’d never thought I’d fall for this person. I didn’t even think I could, you know?”

Harry couldn’t help the bark of laughter that escaped him at that, because he did know about falling in love with someone impossible, who’d never return his feelings, who was a man, and who’d been his sworn enemy. At Ginny’s crushed expression Harry hurried to remove the self-deprecating grin on his face.

“No, sorry, I’m not laughing at you,” he promised, “it’s just – I do know.” Suddenly, telling Ginny he fancied boys as well as girls seemed easy. It seemed as natural as breathing, really, because this was a chance to help her. To convince her that she wasn’t the only one falling for someone impossible. It was a chance to make the cautiously hopeful light in her eyes shine a little brighter. It was probably because of his whole ‘saving-people’ complex, but he figured there was no harm if it’d help both of them.

“Actually, I’ve fallen for someone I didn’t think I could fall for either. Mostly because he’s a he, but probably also mostly because he’s Draco.”

“What?” Ginny spluttered, coughing as her tea went down wrong. “Draco Malfoy? You’ve fallen for Draco ‘he’s-up-to-something’ Malfoy?”

“Oh Merlin, tell me it’s not him you’ve fallen for?” Harry said, only half joking. “And he really was up to something back then, so I was right.”

“Well, so were we when we said you were obsessed,” Ginny grinned. “Oh, I can’t wait ‘til you tell Ron and Hermione. It’ll be priceless.”

“You won’t say anything to them, will you?” Harry asked, suddenly nervous.

Ginny grinned, “Only if you don’t tell them I’m arse over tits for Pansy.”

“Pansy Parkinson?” Harry said, and this time it was his turn to choke on his tea. “How the hell did that happen?”

“Well, we started talking after you, well, fucked off. I was worried about you, so I went to talk to Draco and she was there,” Ginny smiled softly at the memory, and Harry had to agree with the arse over tits statement. “Then we just started to hang out I guess? She only really knows Draco here, and he’s been spending a lot of time with you – and no, you don’t get to feel guilty about that, you idiot. Anyways, we sort of became friends and it was great, only I couldn’t stop thinking about kissing her, and now everything is shit.”

“Well,” Harry started, trying for a thoughtful and reasonable tone, “are you sure she doesn’t feel the same way?”

“She’s a girl, so am I,” Ginny said, as if that closed the case.

“And you’re absolutely sure she’s straight?” Harry asked, “I mean, I’m not. You’re not. Dean and Seamus aren’t.”

Harry suddenly realised he wasn’t sure if Draco was officially out, but he figured he’d be forgiven for telling Ginny this either way, “her best friend is, as he puts it, ‘a raging homosexual’.”

Ginny laughed, and Harry was happy to see her feeling better. “I guess I’m not sure. And I feel like a twelve-year-old for asking this but, well, would you ask Draco for me? If she’s straight I mean.”

“He’d never tell me,” Harry said, smiling. “He’s a bit of a prat, but he’s also really loyal. He’d figure that’s her story to tell, especially since he can read me like an open book so he’d know I was asking for you.”

Ginny gave a theatrical sigh, and brushed her long hair out of her face. “Guess I’ll have to be a grown-up and find out for myself then.”

“Guess so,” Harry agreed with a grin.

“Oh, and I’m glad you’re back Harry. I’m not going to pretend I know what you’re going through, but I can see it’s something. I’m here if you need to talk, but I’m not going to push. Merlin knows we all need someone to just laugh with sometimes, right?”

Harry hated how sad she looked as she said it, but he was grateful beyond words. One day he’d tell her everything. Ron and Hermione too, but first he needed to find the words to explain it to himself. He opted for giving her a hug as a response, allowing himself to sink into it, enjoying the warmth of just being close to another human being.

Chapter Text

And I tried to hold these secrets inside me
My mind's like a deadly disease.

- Halsey (Control)

Harry wouldn’t pretend his exams went well. He’d fallen asleep in his Charms exam, and he thought he might have written about Animagi instead of animal to object transfigurations on his Transfigurations paper. His mood switched from caring so deeply he wanted to curl up in a ball and die because he was going to fail everything to finding it hard to see why school mattered, or why anything mattered. Jumping between apathy and anxiety was exhausting, but he preferred the apathy when it came to his exams. He didn’t intend to use his NEWTs for anything so rationally it wouldn’t make much of a difference if he was able to take them or not. He figured his anxiety was mostly about the fact that if he couldn’t pass his NEWTs his well built illusion that he was coping would shatter.

He’d chosen to feel anxious over the upcoming Christmas-break instead of his exams. One of them, after all, was already over. He couldn’t do anything about his probable failure in Transfigurations, but maybe his constant worrying over meeting Hermione and Ron again would make the whole ordeal go better. Or maybe he could at least force his mind into doing the thing it had done before Halloween, when everything had seemed fun and easy. Sure, he hadn’t slept much, and he’d felt like shit after – but what did any of that matter if he could just be Harry and make up with his friends.

Another worry was Draco. Draco who Harry had somehow managed to fall in love with, despite feeling like shit most of the time. Despite him being him and having no chance whatsoever with the gorgeous man. His worry wasn’t telling Draco, he’d never tell Draco and end up scaring him away. His worry was the fact that he’d invited Draco to stay, and Draco had agreed. Harry’s flat only had the one bedroom, with the one bed. They couldn’t share. Harry would probably end up having wet dreams all night, and when he woke up with a desperate need to cut he wouldn’t be able to. Harry needed his space to feed his less than fortunate habits, after all.

“What are you looking for?” Draco asked from where he was lounging on his bed after Harry had spent what was probably ten minutes staring into his drawer, lost in thought. Draco, of course, had finished packing before their exams had even started.

“Nothing really, just trying to remember if I’ve packed everything,” Harry said, closing the drawer and attempting to do the same to his thoughts.

“Well, have you remembered your four W’s?” Draco asked.

“The four whatnows?” asked Harry, frowning. He shouldn’t be surprised really, but he could never quite get used to how strange Draco could be sometimes. He put on such a good show outside their dorm.

“Wand, wardrobe, wallet and woiletries,” Draco explained, grinning.

“Toiletries doesn’t start with a W,” Harry said, laughing at the other man and deciding he might as well go along with it.

“Exactly!” Draco said excitedly, “That’s what makes you remember it.”

“I don’t know if that’s brilliant or ridiculous,” Harry laughed, and decided not to argue the point. “But yeah, I have my four W’s.”

“Then you’re all set! We’re going to have to go out shopping for food and things anyway, so if you’ve forgotten something you could just buy it,” Draco said, sitting up straight on the sofa.

“Eager to leave, are you?” Harry asked, noticing Draco’s foot tapping on the floor.

“I’ve never Apparated from school before, I’m just excited we’re not taking the Hogwarts Express.”

“Remind me to blame you when I get violently ill after an international Apparition,” Harry said. He was secretly glad they’d decided not to take the train too, but he wasn’t much looking forward to the long Apparition either.

His fears turned out to be well founded when they Apparated into his flat from Hogsmeade and he promptly vomited all over the floor.

“Shit, sorry,” he said, when he finally caught his breath again, “That was disgusting.”

“Are you alright? You didn’t do the Apparition wrong did you? Did you get Splinched?” Draco asked.

Before Harry could answer there were hands all over his body, probably searching for a missing body part or something. Harry dragged in a sharp breath, his skin seemed to tingle wherever Draco touched him. Fuck, he really needed to get his emotions under control.

“I’m fine. I just tend to get sick from magical travel. Happens sometimes with the Floo too, but Apparition is usually worse, especially long distance.”

Despite Harry’s reassurances Draco insisted on Harry laying down on the couch while he made tea for them both.

Harry didn’t really know if he was exasperated, annoyed or warmed by the show of concern. He decided not to think about it. Thinking was dangerous and overrated anyway, and he’d much rather just act.

By the time they started getting hungry he insisted on accompanying Draco to the supermarket, even though Draco offered to go on his own and let Harry rest. If Draco’s understanding of Muggle Studies was any indication he wouldn’t fare well on his own.

“I’m going,” Harry said, “but we’re walking. No more Apparition until we absolutely have to.”

Harry watched in fascination as Draco tried to figure out what toaster waffles were, and decided it was definitely worth it to have gone. Draco moved on from the waffles to the aisle for microwavable meals, and Harry almost hit the ground laughing.

“But the plastic has to melt when you heat it, right? And who would eat this in the first place? It looks utterly disgusting,” Draco said, holding up a box of microwaveable salmon by his fingertips, as if nauseated to be touching it.

“No, the plastic won’t melt. It really does taste pretty nasty though. Saves you the trouble of actually cooking, so I guess that’s why they’re popular. I ate a few of them over the summer. What I really should have is a house-elf,” Harry said, only half joking.

“But you have a house-elf, don’t you? You inherited the Black fortune. I’m positive they must have owned at least one house-elf,” Draco said, unintentionally confusing a random passing Muggle.

“Well, there is Kreacher,” Harry said, thinking of the grim-faced elf with some trepidation. He’d not thought much of Kreacher since the war ended, but figured he’d gone back to care for Grimmauld Place like he’d always done. “Hang on, you mean I can bring him to the flat? I figured he had to live at Grimmauld Place.”

“Well yeah, when you inherit a house, the elf comes with it. The elf has to live at one of your estates, and the flat counts. Though, I don’t know why you’d choose to live in a small flat when you must have several better options.”

“I only own the flat. And Grimmauld Place, I suppose,” Harry said, choosing not to mention that Draco also had chosen to stay at Harry’s flat. Though he supposed if Draco and Narcissa had to sell the Manor, he might not have had that many options.

“You really should take a trip to Gringotts and get an overview of your estates and such. Both the Potter and the Black family were rather wealthy. I think you might own more than you know about,” Draco said.

Harry noticed the sure signs of Draco entering his ‘lecture mode’, so he decided he’d continue the conversation safely back at his flat. Attempting to distract Draco, he picked up a bag of Maltesers.

“Ever had these? They’re brilliant.”

Back at his flat, Harry stood in the living room between Draco and purple splattered walls feeling utterly ridiculous for calling a house-elf to a small flat, not to mention speaking into thin air to do it.

“Uhm,” he said, hesitantly, “Kreacher, would you please -.” A loud pop cut him off, and suddenly the elf stood before him. Kreacher dropped into a reluctant bow, obviously sneering at Harry.

“Master was calling Kreacher.”

“Er, yeah... Hi,” Harry said, not feeling any less ridiculous just because the elf appeared when he’d called it. He supposed he should have checked on the elf sooner, but the thought hadn’t even crossed his mind.

“Is master having a task for Kreacher?” the house-elf asked, now glaring at Harry. “Is the master finally deciding Kreacher is being useful again?”

“Please don’t call me master,” Harry said, disturbed by the word. It reminded him of how the Death Eaters had referred to Voldemort.

“Yes sir,” said Kreacher, making Harry sigh.

Draco simply laughed. “If you want him to call you ‘Harry’ you’ll probably have to tell him that explicitly.”

“Oh, young master Draco was being here,” Kreacher said. If Harry didn’t know better he’d suspect the elf was excited, though maybe he’d really managed the emotion upon seeing a real-live Black descendant.”

“Ok, so uh, Kreacher. Please call me Harry. And I want you to follow all the orders Draco gives you. Please consider him your master as well as me.”

Harry didn’t think anything could have prepared him for the reaction this got from Kreacher, though Dobby’s reaction to being asked to sit probably should have. The elf broke down to a crying ball on the floor, wailing loudly and waving arms and legs erratically. Harry looked from the sobbing elf to Draco, wordlessly begging for help or an explanation. Draco looked just as stunned as Harry did though, but he was not looking at Kreacher. Somehow Draco seemed stunned by Harry.

“Shit, Kreacher, I’m sorry. Fuck, what did I do?” Harry asked. “Draco, why are you looking at me like that?”

Draco shook his head, as if trying to shake off his stunned expression. “You just told Kreacher to consider me a master. Do you know that officially makes me his master as well as you?”

“Well, yeah, that’s what I wanted,” Harry said, raising his voice to be heard over the crying house-elf.

“No, but you can’t take it back. The only way would be for me to give him clothing. That order made him mine as much as yours.” At Draco’s word Kreacher let out a howl.

“Kreacher is finally being serving a Black again. Kreacher is being very happy. Thanking mister Harry sir, thanking master Draco.”

Harry grinned. “That’s brilliant, isn’t it? Now you can call him too and have him help you out. He seems happy enough.”

“You really are an unusual wizard Harry,” Draco said, then promptly turned to give Kreacher a thorough explanation of everything that apparently needed doing around the flat. Harry stopped paying attention halfway through, opting to leave them at it.

He decided to take a shower, and when he returned to the bedroom he was relieved to see that Kreacher had somehow turned his double bed into two singles. He didn’t have too long to think about the beds though, because a wonderful smell of food drifted into the bedroom. Suddenly realising he hadn’t eaten since breakfast, which he’d lost after the Apparition, Harry felt his stomach rumble at the smell.

Dinner was a rather quiet affair after Harry tried asking Kreacher to sit with them to eat but ended up getting two pairs of judging eyes turned towards him.

“So, you should send that letter to Ron and Hermione, yeah?” Draco said, after they’d put down their utensils and Kreacher instantly appeared to remove their dishes.

“I don’t even know how to begin writing to them,” Harry admitted. “I don’t even know what they’ve written me, I still haven’t opened any of the letters.”

“How about: hey I’m home for Christmas and I’d love to see you both to talk if you’re willing,” Draco suggested.

“Hang on to that thought,” Harry said. He Summoned a piece of paper and a pen and wrote the letter as Draco dictated. It was easier with this to let Draco take charge. Anything that let him not think was easier. They spent the rest of the evening chatting and reading books. Or Draco read, and Harry tried hard not to watch him read.

Before bed they took turns using the bathroom, and then turned in. As he fell asleep Harry breathed a relieved sigh. This would work out, it was just like at Hogwarts, only with no classes.

“We should go shopping for Christmas presents tomorrow, don’t you think? When we post the letter,” Draco said, sleep evident in his voice.

“Yeah, I should get something for Hermione and the Weasleys at least. What best says ‘sorry for avoiding you for half a year’ and also ‘I’m fine, please don’t worry about me’?”

Draco huffed in amusement, face half buried in his pillow. “Chocolate for the Weasleys and a book for Granger should do the trick, though I don’t really believe you’re as fine as you claim to be.”

“Fuck, I can’t do this,” Harry said. He’d been pacing back and forth for the last hour, his walls a muddy green with deep red splotches. Ron and Hermione were due to arrive any minute, and Harry had cut two separate times that morning to deal with the stress. His head was exploding with worry at how it would all turn out. What if they’d agreed to come just to yell at him and tell him it was too late? What if they showed up ready to listen, and he actually had to say something.

Draco had long since given up on calming Harry down, opting instead to sit and read his book from the night before. Maybe he thought being calm would calm Harry too, but the idea seemed ridiculous. So ridiculous in fact that Harry laughed out loud. He was still laughing hysterically, gasping for breath, when he heard a knock on his door.

“Oh, fuck,” he said. “Fuck, fuck, fuck.” What did he do? Should he hide? Should he let them in? Should he Apparate to another country and never return?

“Open it,” Draco said, taking the weight of the choice off Harry. Harry smiled gratefully, though he suspected it turned out as a grimace.

Harry walked to open the door, and though he knew the distance was the same as it has always been, it seemed to last for miles. The door grew to double its size, and opening the massive thing seemed impossible. Yet, when he unlocked it and pulled at the handle it swung open easily.

Harry chose to stare at his friends’ feet instead of at their faces. Maybe that way he could postpone facing how they felt. One of Ron’s shoes were untied, laces laying on the side looking wet and worn. Harry should point it out, really. Only – that seemed wrong. Fuck, when had he gone from just breathing when he was with his friends to biting his lip bloody to keep from hyperventilating?

“Harry,” Hermione said, “it’s – I.” Harry could hear the tears, even if he didn’t see them. It was evident in the shakiness of her voice that she was upset.

“Mate,” Ron said, “What the fuck happened to you?”

Harry figured Ron meant why hadn’t he answered. Why had he fucked off and stopped reading their letters.

“I – why don’t you come in?” Harry asked, saying exactly what Draco had fed him when he’d wondered earlier what the fuck he was supposed to say. Deciding to continue along the same line he said, “I’ll have Kreacher make you some tea.”

Before either of his friends could reply Harry backed off, and almost ran to the sofa, finding comfort in sitting close to Draco. He tried matching his breath to the other man, and found it worked to calm him.

“Granger, Weasley,” Draco said, and Harry figured Ron and Hermione must have followed him. “It’s good to see you.”

“Malfoy?” Ron spluttered, and Harry imagined his ears were bright red. He’d started staring at his hands though, since they felt like the only safe thing he could fix his eyes to.

“I’m sure Ginevra’s told you Harry and I have become friends,” Draco said. “That’s why I’m here. Harry was – afraid. I think he worries you both hate him after he’s avoided you for months.” Harry felt grateful, though he figured he should feel enraged that Draco was speaking for him. He couldn’t speak for himself though, not at the moment.

“Gods Harry, no,” Hermione said, “I’ve been feeling terrible for getting so angry at your birthday. You didn’t know any better and instead of helping, I just lectured you.”

“I haven’t –,” Harry started, before forcing himself to fucking look at his friends as he spoke to them. “I haven’t read any of your letters. I’m so sorry.”

He felt horrified to hear the shaking of his voice, and noticed a lump in his throat of unshed tears, begging to be let out. Hermione and Ron remained silent, and Harry was grateful. Now that he’d started talking he needed to finish before he lost his nerve.

“I, well, I realised at the party that I’m – well, I’m not straight. And I didn’t know how to tell you guys without it just sounding like some stupid excuse for the way I acted. And then, there were so many other things I just didn’t know how to even start telling you.”

“Harry, I don’t care what your sexuality is,” Ron said, “I just want to know you’re alright – and honestly, right now, you don’t look it.”

This was it then, Harry supposed. The time to break down the idea that he was somehow ‘the boy who lived without a scratch’ and tell his friends he was fucked up. Or lie, and insist he was fine, only to widen the divide between them.

“I’m not, really,” he admitted, refusing to let himself feel how it felt to say it.

“I’ll go for a walk,” Draco said. “You need some time to chat.” Harry shot him a grateful look for staying, and for knowing when it was time to go. In some ways Harry wished he could have him there for support, but he knew this was something he had to do on his own.

When the door shut behind Draco, Harry began explaining. He skipped the attempted suicide and the cutting, but he told them the rest. About the sleepless nights, about thinking he’d be better off dead. How much he’d struggled with accepting that he was bi. About breaking down and agreeing to see a therapist.

“Oh, Harry,” Hermione said. “Of course you have scars. I know we never talked about it much, but I mean, just growing up with the Dursleys must have been so difficult. And that’s not even starting on the war.”

Harry supposed he should feel something at her words, like a rush of sadness or terror at the thought of his life. He didn’t though, it was like he’d spent so much time pushing his emotions away they now seemed reluctant to surface. He felt anxious, sure, and like his thoughts were running a mile a minute. That was it though, a racing heart and racing thoughts and the absolute inability to feel anything else.

“It’s good you’re getting some help,” Ron said, “I figure you deserve to feel better. Or to find yourself again, I guess. I mean, I know we haven’t spoken in forever – but it kinda feels like you’re not really here still, you know?” Ron’s ears were red with talking about emotion and Harry stared at them in fascination. Ron obviously had emotions, if his body showed them so easily.

“I’m trying,” Harry said. He wasn’t sure if it was true, but he figured he would try when he went to see a therapist in January.

“Come to our New Years Eve party,” Hermione offered. Dean and Seamus will be there, and Ginny and George. You could bring Malfoy along too.”

Refusal was on the tip of Harry’s tongue, but then he remembered the last party he’d been at on Halloween, how wonderful he’d felt. “Yeah, sure. I’ll be there. Might bring Parkinson along too, if that’s cool.”

“I think Ginny’s bringing her already,” Ron said with a frown. “Why you’ve both decided to befriend Slytherins is beyond me, but to each his own – I guess.”

“It’s an acquired taste,” Harry grinned.

“You’re welcome to come to the Burrow for Christmas too, of course,” Ron said, “but I kinda figure that might be a bit -,”

“Much?” Harry said, relieved that Ron didn’t expect him to be there, “yeah.”

Chapter Text

I can't help this awful energy
God damn right, you should be scared of me
Who is in control?
Halsey (Control)

Harry felt reckless. He didn’t have a better word to describe it, except maybe self-destructive. He wanted to get drunk and dance all night, he wanted to find a bar and fuck strangers until he ached, he wanted to get high or jump off something tall. He thought maybe he might fly if he did. The feeling had been creeping up on him over the holidays, and he didn’t know how to shake it. Each day he cut a little deeper, spoke a little faster, thought a little less. He was alive with energy, desperate to go out and do something yet he couldn’t muster the energy to leave the sofa. He hadn’t been sleeping, and he was exhausted after night upon night of watching Draco sleep.

At least he’d be drunk later, at the New Year’s Eve party. Maybe it would scratch the itch he was feeling in his bones, maybe it would give him the strength to do what he really wanted. Not that he was entirely sure what that was.

“Fuck, I should bring something to the party,” Harry decided – unable to just do nothing. Unable to move.

“I’m sure they have everything,” Draco said. He looked worn, Harry thought. Probably exhausted from putting up with Harry. Harry didn’t blame him, he couldn’t even put up with himself – why would anyone else have the patience.

“I’m going out. I’ll bake a cake.” He stood as soon as he’d decided, figuring he’d spend his time until the party baking something. That was productive, right? That was healthy.

“Kreacher can get you what you need,” Draco said, but Harry ignored him. He needed to be in motion, sending Kreacher shopping wasn’t moving, it was standing still. And as soon as he’d actually left the sofa the thought of sitting down again seemed unbearable.

The shop was bigger and smaller than it used to be, Harry thought, racing up and down aisles to find the ingredients he needed for a cake. Only making one cake seemed boring. Besides, there would be lots of people. He should make lots of cakes.

He struggled to carry the gallon of cream he’d bought up the stairs to his flat when he returned, he’d left the flour downstairs – figuring he’d need two trips. Draco stared when he entered and threw the bags on the floor before rushing back down to fetch the rest.

“That’s, er, a lot of cream,” Draco said when Harry came back up.

Rationally, of course, Harry knew that. Knew he’d bought enough to bake ten cakes, and that he wouldn’t have enough time to finish them all. The five hours until he was supposed to be at the party seemed like they would go on forever though, and he’d figured he could manage.

“I’m making lots of cakes,” Harry explained, laying all his groceries out on the counter. For once he was relieved his aunt had made him make so much food. If nothing else, he knew how to bake cakes. “One chocolate, one dark chocolate, one vanilla with vanilla cream, one vanilla with raspberries and maybe one of those red ones.”

“Red velvet?” Draco asked. He didn’t look happy, and Harry struggled to understand how anyone could be upset over cakes.

Baking was a frenzy, but Harry welcomed it. If he made all five cakes at once his brain would be occupied. His arms were occupied melting butter, melting chocolate, beating eggs and sifting flour. He could do it all at once and it was brilliant. The two vanilla cakes hit the oven first, as Harry mixed chocolate into another batter. He was sure he had flour all over, but it didn’t matter. He was baking, baking, baking. He was measuring the right amount of all his ingredients, doing math in his head for grams to ounces and he was baking. He wasn’t thinking or being destructive or thinking. Just baking.

He forgot to wear oven mitts when he went to remove the vanilla cakes from the oven and cursed loudly as he burned his hands. The cakes had to come out though, so he grit his teeth to the pain and grabbed an oven mitt to remove them.

“Harry, what happened?” Draco said, half running into the kitchen.

“Burned myself,” Harry muttered, his concentration on putting the chocolate cakes in the oven.

Draco let him finish his task, then walked over and removed the oven mitts from Harry’s sore hands. They were both bright red and starting to blister, and it hurt, but Harry couldn’t bring himself to care.

“Harry, what the fuck,” Draco said, pulling his wand and healing the burns before Harry could respond. Cold rushed over his hands and Harry sighed in relief. Draco’s magic felt nice against his skin.

Harry looked around the kitchen, half done cake batters in bowls, his burnt vanilla cakes and butter lay melting on the counter, flour scattered on the floor and he could see his footprints in it. Fuck, he was a mess.

“I need a shower,” he said, tearing his hands from Draco’s grasp. “I’m covered in flour.”

“What about all this?” Draco asked, gesturing at the kitchen. Harry though was rapidly losing all interest in his fucking cakes.

“Vanish it,” he said as he walked off. He needed a shower. Maybe a shower and a wank, or maybe a shower and a cut or three.

He ended up making the shower fast, losing interest in the hot water as soon as he’d stood beneath it. What he really needed was to cut, just to take the edge off before the party. Keep him going until he was drunk. He sat on the floor with his blades and a wad of toilet paper, towel wrapped around his hips. He decided to cut his arm, because he couldn’t see why not. He cut in straight lines and watched in fascination as blood dripped down his wrist, gathering in the lines of his hand. Harry wondered if he had enough blood in him to paint the bathroom red, to cover it all in this sick obsession he had.

He didn’t hear the footsteps outside until Draco was knocking on the door.

“Harry, are you ok? You’ve been in there for ages.”

Fuck. Harry wiped the blood off with his damp towel and grabbed his jeans. “Yeah, yeah I’m fine. Perfect,” he said, pulling his jeans on with difficulty. He still wasn’t dry.

“You don’t sound fine,” Draco insisted, “can I come in?”

“I’m naked, Draco, for fucks sake. Give me a minute,” Harry said pulling his shirt over his head as fast as he could manage. He shot a look at the bloodstained towel and vanished it with a flick of his wand before opening the door.

“What?” he demanded, staring at Draco. “What’s so bloody urgent?”

Draco opened his mouth to respond, but when he caught sight of Harry’s forearm his mouth just stayed open in shock. Harry looked down and realised he’d forgotten to stop the bloody bleeding, and his light grey shirt now had neat lines of red, each of them slowly spreading out on the fabric. Fuck.

“Harry,” Draco said, but didn’t continue. Instead he took Harry’s hand and slowly rolled the sleeve up, staring in horror as the cuts were revealed. Harry winced as he realised the concealer he’d been carefully applying every day had washed off, and that Draco wasn’t just seeing his cuts but scars from the last six months.

Harry looked up from his arm and stared at Draco, whose eyes were still fixed to the bleeding cuts. He was crying, actual tears welling up in his eyes and gathering in his lashes, making them look darker than usual. It wasn’t until the first drop rolled down his cheek and landed on his shirt that he looked up at Harry’s face.

“I’m sorry,” said Harry, lacking the words to say anything else. Not knowing how to explain that he needed it, that Draco couldn’t make him stop. That nothing could.

“I know,” Draco said, and Harry figured he understood.

Suddenly it didn’t matter that Draco didn’t love him, couldn’t love him. It didn’t matter that Harry was too fucked up to think, or that his arm was dripping blood onto the floor. He didn’t think, because he just wanted.

“Help me feel something else?” he asked, taking a step impossibly closer to Draco before kissing him. Draco seemed to hesitate for a moment before kissing back, and Harry groaned into it. Fuck, it felt good to be this close, to let go of everything and just feel.

Draco pulled back and Harry tried to follow but was met with a hand to his chest. “Harry, are you – are you sure you want this?” Draco’s voice shook as he spoke and Harry smiled, realising Draco was as affected by the kiss as he had been.

“Yes, fuck yes. Absolutely sure,” Harry said, “please.”

Draco pulled his wand out and cast a healing charm on Harry for the second time that day. Harry wanted to protest, he didn’t want to lose the pain there. He wanted to feel everything, and only feel. He wanted to never think again. Blood wasn’t the sexiest thing though, and he figured Draco wouldn’t want this, him, if he was bleeding.

As soon as the cuts disappeared Draco’s mouth was back on him, and Harry moaned into the kiss, pressing his growing erection against Draco’s. Harry placed Draco’s hand in his own hair, silently begging Draco to grab on and pull, desperate to strengthen every sensation. When Draco did, Harry gasped in pleasure, pressing his hips harder against Draco’s.

“Harder,” he begged between kisses, “please, Draco – make me really feel you.”

Draco growled and pulled so hard Harry’s head snapped back, and Draco took the opportunity to kiss, lick and bite Harry’s exposed neck. Harry let out a string of expletives at the sensations, and realised that though Draco hadn’t shown it when he saw the cuts he was angry. He was probably furious with Harry, but didn’t know how to show it, not without breaking him apart at least. Harry was glad, this was how he wanted to be loved – harsh and angry and in the way that he deserved. The way that wasn’t love at all, but rather anger and unfulfilled lust.

Suddenly Draco pulled back and shook his head. “We’re not doing this,” he said, taking several steps back from Harry.

“Why not?” Harry asked, his cock was aching in his jeans and he couldn’t understand why he couldn’t have this. Draco had obviously been hard too.

“I’m not -, I won’t let you use me in some act of self destruction,” Draco said, still backing away.

“What, just because I like it when you’re rough?” Harry asked, suddenly feeling furious. His anger only flared when Draco laughed bitterly.

“No, fuck, I like it that way too. This way - I don’t know. But it’s obvious you’re just doing this because you’re -,” Draco paused, apparently searching for the right word.

“Crazy?” Harry said, “That’s it then? I’m too crazy for you? Fucking hell Draco I thought we’d established that? I thought that was clear when you walked in on me hacking away at my arm! Do I disgust you then? Do my scars?”

Draco just shook his head, tears back in his eyes and Harry could feel white hot rage burning through him.

“If I’m that disgusting you shouldn’t have bloody kissed me back! I thought, fuck, I thought you wanted this. I thought you might actually want me, but fuck if my arm grosses you out you’d throw up seeing me without my jeans.”

“Harry, that’s not -,” Draco started, but Harry wasn’t interested. Fuck Draco, fuck the cakes he could smell burning in the oven, fuck it all. Harry needed alcohol, large amounts of it. He Apparated to Ron and Hermione’s and grabbed a bottle of vodka before saying hello, chugging down as much as he could manage without vomiting.

He spent the evening in a sort of weird haze, not really hearing when people spoke to him or listening to himself when he responded. Ginny asked about the blood on his shirt at one point, and he hastened to clean it off – hoping no one else had seen. The last thing he remembered before blacking out was yelling at Parkinson, telling her she was a bitch for leading Ginny on and making her feel like shit.

When he woke up he thought he was still drunk, but what he’d screamed at Parkinson stood out clearly in his mind. He’d outed Ginny to everyone at the party, and told Parkinson how she felt. Fuck, she probably hated him. Harry had no idea how he’d got home, or where Draco was, but it didn’t really matter. He needed to apologise to Ginny, only, what was the point of doing that when he had to kill himself. It was all clear to him now. Draco didn’t want him, things were fucked with Ron and Hermione, and he’d just gone and fucked them up with Ginny too. It was a new year, supposed to bring new chances, but Harry felt worse than before. He had to kill himself, but first he should buy toilet paper because he was almost out and Draco shouldn’t have to come back to find Harry dead, only to go to the bathroom and not have toilet paper.

Except, could he really kill himself if he hadn’t apologised to Ginny first? A Tempus told him it was only 2 am, so he couldn’t have been home long, and it was no wonder he still felt drunk. Maybe Ginny would still be at the party? Should he go back there? Should he kill himself first? But, fuck, the toilet paper. He tore at his hair in frustration and decided to Apparate to Ron and Hermione’s. Maybe he’d get lucky and Splinch himself.

He wasn’t prepared to land in the living room and find Ron, Hermione, Ginny, Parkinson and Draco sitting on the huge sofa having a quiet conversation. He almost Apparated away again, only he realised he didn’t know where to go. He didn’t know what to do. He couldn’t move, couldn’t think.

“Harry,” Ron said, sounding way too calm, “sit down, will you?”

Harry did, sitting in the only empty chair because he couldn’t think and someone was telling him what to do, and listening was easier.

“I see the SoberUp potion is working,” Parkinson said, looking at Harry with a considering gaze.

“Harry, tell us what’s going on,” Ginny said.

“I don’t know,” Harry said. Because he didn’t.

“Well, how are you feeling?” Hermione asked.

“I don’t know.” I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know.

Harry’s friends all looked at him with concern, and the room shrunk. They were getting closer and closer, growing bigger in size until their concerned faces were towering over him. Needing answers, needing to know what the fuck was happening. But Harry didn’t know.

“Harry, please talk to us,” Draco said, and it broke Harry apart. Everything holding him together broke apart in seconds. The pieces he’d glued together with cutting, carefully constructed walls, and absolute refusal to face his feelings fell from each other in a spectacular mess – leaving his thoughts scattered. For the first time, in longer than he could remember, a gasp broke through his tightly pursed lips and then he was sobbing. He pulled ugly, heaving breaths as tears ran from his eyes, stinging his cheeks and staining his shirt. Everything was just pain, pain and exhaustion, and Harry didn’t even understand how he managed to keep himself seated he was so tired. He couldn’t breathe through the sobs and the pure agony he felt, and he figured it was a blessing he couldn’t see through his tears. Absently he noted his new glasses didn’t fog up even now, and he remembered the day he and Draco had spent in Hogsmeade. He needed every day to be that, desperately, but he’d never have a day like that again. He wasn’t entirely sure he’d have another day, period.

“I shouldn’t even be here,” Harry said, staring at his friends without recognising their faces. He’d known them for years and they were strangers. “I needed to buy toilet paper, and I needed to kill myself, but I needed to apologise, and I couldn’t -. I should go, I can’t be here. I have to do something, I need to go to the shop. Draco can’t find me and not have toilet paper. Only it’s fucking 2 am or something, and the shops are closed so I can’t buy the fucking paper. I don’t know what to do, please. I can’t move, I can’t think. I don’t know what to do.” Words ran from Harry’s mouth without his permission, and he forgot each sentence as soon as he spoke the next. He could only feel how hard it was to speak, how painful it was to hold his sobs back so he could talk, leaving them exploding in his chest.

“It’s ok, Harry. You don’t have to decide anything. It’s not all on you anymore,” Ron said, and Harry jumped at the hand on his shoulder. He hadn’t noticed Ron move. “You don’t have to think, or do anything. You’re not in this alone – not anymore. I’ll take it from here.”

Harry looked up at his friend, and felt a weight lift off him before his sobbing continued. He didn’t need to think. Not now.

“You just breathe now,” Ron said. The next thing Harry knew he was being pulled along in a Side-Along Apparition. He immediately recognised the smell of peppermint and lavender that always lingered in the halls of St. Mungo’s and wanted to run away. He couldn’t be there, could he? Except he didn’t have to think anymore, Ron’s hand was steady on his shoulder and Ron was thinking for him now.

He listened as Ron talked with a witch wearing green robes but didn’t hear a word. He followed when he was led to a small room, and sat in the chair when the woman there gestured to it. Ron sat beside him. It was obvious the woman was talking to Harry, but he couldn’t answer. He didn’t know what to say, he didn’t know how he felt or when he last ate or how long he’d been like this.

“Are you feeling suicidal?” she asked, and Harry looked at Ron. Part of him knew Ron couldn’t know how he felt, not fully, but Harry couldn’t work his mouth or brain around a reply.

“I think he is, yeah. I think he tried to kill himself after the Battle of Hogwarts, but I never – I didn’t realise it until today.”

“Did you?” the woman asked, looking at Harry with kind eyes. Harry nodded. It was the most he could manage.

“And I think,” Ron said, “that he’s been self-harming. I’m guessing for a while now.”

Harry stared at Ron in quiet shock. One thing was realising he’d attempted suicide back then, but how did Ron know about the cutting? Had Draco told him? Had Ginny realised when she saw the blood? He supposed it didn’t matter either way. He still hadn’t bought any toilet paper.

“Is that true?” asked the woman, and Harry supposed she was a therapist or a Mind Healer. He nodded again, choosing not to look at either her or Ron as he admitted to it.

“I’ll admit you here Harry, to our Mental Health ward. I think you need some time to rest and breathe, and let someone care for you. I think you need to sleep too. I’ll take you up to your room, and then I’ll fetch some Dreamless Sleep so you can get some, then we’ll talk again when you wake up.”

Harry felt truly afraid for the first time since arriving when the woman led him through the hall to the elevator and told Ron he had to stay behind, Harry wasn’t sure he could cope on his own, but the woman seemed kind – and she seemed inclined to keep thinking for him so when Ron nodded at her and Harry both, he followed her into the elevator.

His room in the Mental Health ward wasn’t big, but it had a bed, two chairs and a table. Harry supposed a coffin would be smaller. And the adjoining bathroom had toilet paper, so that was something. The woman who’d taken him up disappeared, and an older one came in carrying a glass of something.

“I thought you might be thirsty,” she said, handing Harry the glass. He must have looked at it too long because she continued. “It’s just apple juice.”

Harry took a sip, and the cold drink felt wonderful against his parched throat. He’d been thirsty, apparently. He swallowed the rest of the glass in two large gulps, and then stared at his feet. He wasn’t wearing any socks. He couldn’t remember taking them off, or if he’d even put any on after his shower earlier in the day. It felt like a lifetime ago, and he supposed it fit that it had been the previous year.

When the first woman appeared with a potion vial, Harry sat on the bed and drank it down without question. He was done thinking, done considering, done wondering. His last thought before he fell asleep was that he was in a mental hospital, and he wasn’t even wearing socks.

Chapter Text

I'll pray that one day you see
The only difference between life and dying
Is one is trying, that's all we're called to do
So try to love me and I'll try to save you
- Twenty One Pilots (Lovely)

Draco watched as Ron side-alonged Harry away, and felt horribly inadequate. He hadn’t known what to do, or what to say. He’d never expected Harry would break down like that at his question, but then again he supposed it had to happen at some point. Draco thought Harry had probably been holding his breath for months to keep everything in, and then it had all fallen apart in a few short hours. Of course he’d broken down. Draco felt like he was about to do the same thing.

He jumped when Pansy placed a hand on his knee, using the other one to hold Ginny’s hand. That was one good thing to come out of this whole mess, he supposed, Ginny and Pansy finally pulling their heads out of their arses and realising they loved each other. Of course, he remembered with a cringe, it hadn’t happened exactly how they’d wanted.

“It’s all right,” Pansy said, her voice soft. “He’s being taken care of now. You can breathe Draco. They’ll take care of him at St. Mungo’s, it’s not your responsibility anymore.”

Draco let out a shaky exhale. Pansy, of course, had claimed the entire time that it wasn’t his job or responsibility, but Draco hadn’t been able to shake the feeling. He’d spent the last week watching as Harry steadily fell apart, and he hadn’t been able to do anything. He hadn’t done anything.

“You think that’s where Weasley took him?” Draco asked, because it was easier than wondering if he should have done the same days ago.

“Pretty sure,” Ginny said, “Dad had to take George there back in September.” Draco looked up in shock, he hadn’t known. But, then again, Harry wouldn’t have known either, since he never read any of his letters. He supposed Ginny could have mentioned it, but looking at her the hurt looked fresh. Almost as fresh as Harry’s breakdown.

“They didn’t tell me ‘til I got home for Christmas,” Ginny said, looking guilty and betrayed both. Draco understood the feeling “Apparently, he didn’t do well after I left for Hogwarts. Dad broke down his door after a week of not hearing from him, and he was just sat in his bedroom - crying in front of the mirror.”

“I’m sorry,” Draco said.

“I keep thinking I never should have left for Hogwarts, that I should have done something. Anything,” Ginny admitted. “Figure you feel a lot of the same, right?”

“I’ve known he tried to kill himself since May,” Draco admitted. The words tore apart the neat package he’d placed his guilt in, letting it spill out and cover him in it. He was guilty. He hadn’t helped.

“Probably because you were the only one who bothered to look,” Pansy said, uncaring that Ginny and Granger were still there. “It wasn’t that hard to figure out.”

Draco began to protest, but was interrupted by Granger.

“She’s right. I should have realised. I should have asked when I suspected.” She looked terrible, Draco realised, tears still wet on her cheeks and her hair in disarray.

“Oh for Merlin’s sake,” Pansy said, “we can all sit here blaming ourselves, or we can realise that we can’t help someone who doesn’t ask for it. We can’t break down the walls they’ve built because doing that would be an incredible breach of trust, not to mention consent. It’s hard to accept, I know, but we can’t save anyone. That’s not on us.”

“What can I do then?” Draco asked, letting Pansy’s soothing words cleanse him of the grimiest layers of his guilt.

“Be his friend,” Pansy said, and though it should have been obvious, Draco wasn’t the only one who breathed a sigh of relief. “Listen if he chooses to talk, take him some clothes in the morning, buy him that toilet paper he was on about.”

“You cannot save people, you can only love them,” Granger said, sounding like she was reading it from a book. The words wrapped around Draco in a warm hug of comfort though. He couldn’t save Harry, but fuck did he love the man. He just had to wait for Harry to save himself.

“It’s Anais Nin,” Granger explained, “Muggle writer.”

When Weasley returned, brave face crumbling and seeking out comfort in his girlfriend, Draco went home. To Harry’s flat, he corrected himself. He went to Harry’s flat that felt way too empty without the other man there. He busied himself vanishing the burnt cakes and cream that had probably spoiled from sitting out, before deciding Kreacher could get the rest in the morning. He had to sleep, maybe then his bones would cease aching.

Draco felt strange, walking up to the reception desk at St. Mungo’s a couple of days later. He’d tried going the morning Harry was admitted, but had been turned away with a short “No visitors the first three days,” from the reception witch.

The days had passed though, and Draco had emptied out his satchel to pack some clothes for Harry. He’d felt like he needed to bring something, and had felt terrible when all he could think of were clothes. Harry didn’t read or have any other hobbies to lift his mood. Harry just, existed. It was painfully clear now.

Walking into Harry’s room, Draco immediately breathed a sigh of relief, he looked better already. Like he’d finally slept for more than an hour.

“Hey,” Harry said, eyes fixed on his hands.

“Hi,” said Draco. What did one say to their friend who’d been admitted to a mental ward? What did one say to their friend after fiercely making out and then fighting? “I brought you some clothes.”

Draco emptied his bag on the foot of Harry’s bed. The hospital bed that Harry was sleeping on for a while, he corrected himself. Harry wouldn’t be here long enough for it to become his bed. A note flew out of the bag too, landing on the floor. Harry bent to pick it up, and then stared at it for way too long.

“Draco, is this - what is this?”

“Shit,” said Draco, realising what the note Harry was holding said too late. It was the note they’d passed back and forth during lessons. The one where he’d written his love confession at the bottom, before shoving it into his bag before Harry had seen.

“Is it true?” Harry asked, eyes still locked on the note.

“Yes,” Draco said simply, no excuses or explanations. He didn’t have any. “Yes, it’s true.”

“Oh,” said Harry, pausing for a long time. Draco suspected he was looking at the note now just so he didn’t have to look at Draco. “I’m sorry Draco, I just -. I don’t have anything to give you. Not right now.”

“It’s all right Harry. I don’t expect you to return my feelings. I know you have a lot to deal with. That’s why I didn’t tell you,” Draco tried not to let his heart break. He’d known nothing could happen between them, Harry was too broken. Knowing in advance didn’t help though, didn’t keep it from hurting.

“I do return them,” Harry said, causing Draco to have a heart attack on the spot. “At least I do when I can feel anything besides everything all at once or nothing at all. But I’m not – I’d be a terrible boyfriend. I can’t even take care of myself right now, so I’d never be able to be there for you. And you’re too kind so you’d never be able to leave me, because if I had you now and lost you... I don’t think I could live through that.”

“Oh,” Draco said. He’d left all his eloquence outside the hospital, apparently.

“Yeah. I’m – I slept for two days after I got here. Then yesterday I sat down with Aahna, my er, therapist. I’m not going to go back to Hogwarts. I’ll finish my NEWT’s by owl if I feel up to it, but I just. I need a break. I need time.”

“I could stay with you,” Draco offered. He supposed he could finish his NEWT’s by owl too, though the idea seemed choking somehow. He didn’t want to drop out of his life, he realised. Remembering Pansy’s words, be his friend, Draco figured he shouldn’t have to. He couldn’t miss his life in order to make sure Harry had one.

“I think you should go back to Hogwarts,” Harry said, mirroring Draco’s thoughts. The rejection still managed to hurt.

“I need to learn to be ok, and if I want to have any hope of ever being the kind of boyfriend you deserve I need to do it without you.” Draco’s heart warmed at the words. Harry wanted them to work out. He wanted to heal, so they could have something together.

“Not that I expect you to wait. In fact, please don’t. Just – go live your life Draco, and I’ll try to learn how to live mine.”

Draco wanted to promise he’d wait in some grand romantic gesture. He wanted to make Harry promise to keep in touch, that they’d still be friends. He wanted to make him swear he wouldn’t shut Granger and Weasley out again. In the end it all seemed like too much. Too much to make a fragile man promise, and too much for him to hold Harry to. Instead he leant in to give Harry’s lips a soft brush of his own, a tender kiss that would have to last.

“Okay,” he said, “let’s do that.”

Leaving the hospital Draco felt like he already missed Harry more than he could bear, but also relieved beyond words. He loved Harry, but the best way to love him now was to let him heal. And the best way for Draco to be alright was to let himself do the same.

Chapter Text

Is it too late to come on home
Are all those bridges now old stone

Florence and the Machine, Long & Lost

January 7th 1999
So Ron decided to give me a journal when he visited me. I suppose he thought I needed to write some stuff down, so here I am, writing. I don’t know if it makes me feel more like a girl or like Voldemort, but I suppose it doesn’t matter much. I miss Draco. And I’m not going to do that thing where I introduce you to people in my life as if you are a person, you are a book. Besides, I know who Draco is and that’s all that matters really. I just saw him the day before yesterday, but I’ve gotten used to seeing him every day I suppose. Yesterday, Ron and his family came by; well, him, Ginny and their parents. It felt really good to see them again. I hadn’t thought it would. I thought they would be mad at me for being gone for so long, but they weren’t really. Ron and Hermione have been really nice too. They haven’t asked anymore about the depression or suicide attempt or anything. I think Ron’s been stopping Hermione though, because he gives her this look when she opens her mouth sometimes.

January 9th
I saw the therapist again today, I suppose she’s nice enough. She’s into Quidditch at least, had this tiny broomstick flying around her office. I know because I might have spent more time looking at it than I did looking at her. I talked though. Made a real effort to answer every question she had as honestly as possible. I even told her about the cutting. And the only reason I’m even writing that here is that Ron assured me no-one besides myself will be able to read this book, ever. Magic really is brilliant.

I think I’m a bit disappointed though. I don’t feel any different after therapy. I don’t even feel like I had time to say much at all. I don’t have time for this to take forever. I want to be better now. Or yesterday. Preferably several years ago. Oh well. I have another appointment after I get out of here, and she said something about a mood stabilising potions. Maybe that will help? I’m not really sure.

She reckons I’m probably bipolar, and that’s why I’ve been having those weird flashes of awful energy. Apparently on top of being depressed I get these ‘hypomanic’ episodes where I’m just running around feeling on top of the world. I guess that’s what happened around Halloween. She said sometimes you get these mixed episodes though, and that’s what I probably had last week. Like, running around on empty, all the energy in the world and at the same time feeling so depressed and shit I could die.

January 10th
I’m back at the flat now. I asked Kreacher to try and make the place feel more like home, and he’s really run off with it. He even found some pictures of me as a baby with my parents and with Sirius and Remus. I didn’t even know they existed, so I’ve no idea where he found them. They’re up on the walls now, along with one of me and Draco from when we visited Hogsmeade to get me new glasses, apparently we ended up in The Prophet. I guess I’ll ask Ron for some pictures of his family. Aahna suggested I have some things around me to remind me, well, that life is worth living or something. I’m in my bed writing this. My bed, a single bed, on the opposite side of the room from Draco’s bed. I wish I could say that doesn’t bother me. It feels good to be home though.

January 12th
I’m pretty sure I would die of boredom if Hermione hadn’t given me about three thousand books for Christmas. I’ve actually read a whole one just today. Draco likes reading. It’s kinda weird between us now. I mean, we’re still friends, we’ve written a couple of letters. But I don’t know. I feel like there is this distance. And I can’t explain it or give an example so maybe it’s all in my head. But it’s like we took one step forward by kissing, and then we took two steps back after. And I know I’m not ready for a relationship. I know I’m too mentally fucked for that. But it still hurts like hell.

Anyway, time for dinner. Kreacher promised me tart for dessert today.

January 13th
Ginny wrote me today, I guess she and Pansy are happy together. If nothing else my mental break had some good outcomes too, right? It’s a bit lonely here without Ginny and Dean. I guess I felt closer to them at Hogwarts than I realised. Draco is an entirely different story, and I’m not going there. Maybe I should ask Ron and Hermione over one of these days.

January 17th
New Year is a really stupid holiday when you think about it. Everyone all excited for another year, it’s not different from any other day of the year is it? It’s not like a new calendar will magically change things. Sure as fuck didn’t for me.

January 20th
I cut again today. And I’m hungover. And I want to die. I don’t want another day. I want to die, I want to die, I want to die. But I can’t die, can I? Sometimes I really fucking hate that there are people who insist on caring about me. And sometimes I really hate that I care that they care. Today is one of those sometimes I suppose. I wonder if the killing curse would work if I pointed my wand at myself and performed it. I wonder if I really hate myself enough, if I really want to die enough to make it work. To mean it.

I got properly sloshed last night, and I think I kinda had fun for a while there. In the space between being sober enough to be depressed and drunk enough to be sad.

February 3rd
So my therapist officially diagnosed me with bipolar disorder, type 2 – guess I’m a bona fide crazy-person now. Big surprise, right? I don’t know, it feels kinda good though. Like I have something to point at and say “that’s it, that’s why I can’t function like a normal human being.” My brain still won’t really let me believe it though. I mean, I probably don’t even have it right? It’s just that being this fucked up needs a name. I don’t know. She gave me these potions to take, but supposedly I won’t feel any effects for another three weeks. Did you know one of the most common side effects of mood stabilising potions are suicidal thoughts? How fucked up is that?

February 14th
So, Valentine's Day today. I really hate this day. I’ve been thinking about getting a new tattoo. Not really sure what I want yet though.

February 17th
I miss Draco. I feel like crap. Cut again today, made Hermione cry when I tried talking to her.

March 4th
HELP ME. I can’t function. My brain isn’t working. Help help help help help help. I cut myself, but it didn’t work. My brain is a mess. I’m literally sat here clutching my head, trying to write something to make sense of it, but it’s just a mess. Can someone please just fix me. Please. help. I fucking hate myself so fucking much I don’t know what to do. Fuck fuck fuck.

March 5th
Ok so yesterday was bad. I’m feeling a bit better now, at least well enough to think. And write. I saw my therapist today, and she’s increasing my dosage on the potions. Maybe I’ll feel more of an effect.

March 25th
Tattoo ideas:
Expecto Patronum? Maybe. I don’t know if it would be motivating or just a reminder of what I can’t do anymore.
Memento vivere – Remember to live? Or memento mori, remember that you will die. Maybe a bit too depressing that one.
A tree or something? I like trees, maybe the one my wand is made of. I don’t even really know how a holly tree looks though, it just makes me think of Christmas. So maybe not the best idea then.

March 27th
I’ve actually been feeling a lot better recently. Like, not perfect, but not like I want to die either. I think I’ve spent so much time wanting to be happy, trying to be happy, that it’s all fucked up in my brain. Maybe happy isn’t like a state of being, maybe it’s just an emotion you have sometimes. Maybe just being ok is the goal. And I’ve actually been feeling ok. I can pay attention to books, and I had fun with Ron yesterday. I manage to fall asleep at night, and even wake up again in the morning.

April 25th
Sorry I haven’t written in a while. Nothing’s happened really. Just more of the same. I think the potions are making me feel a bit numb. Like I should be feeling worse, but I can’t. It’s a very strange feeling. Sometimes I just want to quit taking the potions to see how I really feel. But maybe this is how I really feel, since I’m on the potions in the first place. Maybe I should stop overthinking it.

It’s been about a month since I cut last I think. I’m not really sure, because I struggle with placing my cutting in some timeline. It kinda feels like it’s something separate from my everyday life, like a parallel thing. I don’t know. Anyway, my scars are fading. I thought I would be happy about that. But it makes me feel all weird. I suppose they’ve been fading the whole time, but I used to add new ones before I noticed. Now though I can see them less and less, and it’s freaking me out. I hate them, but I love them too. They used to be all red and purple and swollen. Some of them still are, but a lot are just white now. Not even white, but almost skin coloured. Just a little bit lighter or darker. Maybe if they fade even more I can cover them up with a new tattoo, at least the ones on my arm. Maybe I should cut more to make sure they don’t fade. Then again, that’s probably not the best idea.

April 28th
I went flying today. Ron and George came over, and we went to the Burrow to go fly with Ginny and Dean. It is Easter so they’re home. I’d forgotten Easter was even a thing. I wonder where Draco’s gone for the break. Ron insists he and Dean won the game. Ginny insists we did. I’m pretty sure Ron’s right. It felt really good to be up in the air again though. I’d forgotten how it felt. Or maybe I was scared to fly in case it didn’t feel that brilliant anymore. I felt free though, like I’d left my problems on the ground. I did consider flying as high as possible and then ‘falling’ off the broom, but it only lasted for a couple of seconds.

May 2nd
No. I’m not doing this. I’m not writing today.

May 12th
I’m feeling like shit again and I don’t know what to do. I honestly thought I was better, but here I am: bleeding all over and wanting to die. I think it’s been like two months since I last cut, and somehow doing it now feels worse. But I never really made a conscious decision to stop. I just felt better. Now I’m wondering if I felt better at all, or if I was just fooling myself. Even though I feel super guilty for cutting it feels so good too. I didn’t realise how much I’d missed it. It’s like I’ve been holding my breath for ages, and I finally let it out.

May 25th
I’ve been cutting every day since I last wrote here I think. My therapist is calling it a relapse. Like, I was better, but then I got sick again. I don’t know. I can’t really remember how I felt when I thought I was better. It’s getting warmer and sunnier outside, and I don’t really give a shit. I think I used to like spring. Or was it fall? Because that meant a year away from the Dursleys? I can’t remember. Maybe I liked both. Maybe I hated both.

June 17th
I’m not doing my NEWT’s. Not even by owl, yet Ginny and Draco are sitting theirs right now. I’m in therapy. I’m doing the best I can. I take my potions every night, and I answer all the bloody questions the therapist has for me. I just don’t feel any better. I feel like I haven’t spoken to Draco in ages, he’s been so busy studying for his exams.

July 3rd
Draco’s spending the summer in France with his mother. I kinda thought he’d be staying with me again, but I guess not. I mean, I want him to see his mother. And I know I’m all depressing to be around. But it kinda makes me feel like he secretly hates me. I mean, it would be fair if he did. I just miss him. We still write, but I miss him so much.

I’m just so tired. I don’t think I’ve brushed my teeth in over a week. I’m just too exhausted to even remember to do it. Fuck, now I just feel gross.

July 21st
Draco is off in France and I’m alone in this flat with the weird walls. Well, Kreacher is here, and the walls do have nice pictures on them. And I suppose I’m not all alone either. Ron and Hermione are coming over tomorrow. And Molly is absolutely determined to throw me a birthday party again. Hopefully it will be a lot better than last year’s disaster.

I think I’m feeling a bit better again. I’m scared to get my hopes up though, because the last time I felt better it didn’t really last. Maybe I should try to enjoy it as much as possible though.

August 30th
I notice I’m not writing as much here when I feel good. And lately I’ve been feeling really good. I’m almost scared to write it down, because I don’t want to jinx it. I suppose a lot has happened. I’ve decided to do my NEWT’s by owl. I’m only taking three courses though. Defence, Transfigurations and Charms. I can always do more later if I need it. I don’t want to push it, I don’t ever want to feel as bad as I did ever again. Draco’s stayed in France. I guess he’s studying under this great Potions Master or something. I kinda hate him for staying away, but also I think I need the time.

Andromeda brought Teddy to my birthday party. He’s the cutest little kid I’ve ever seen. I feel kinda terrible for not having been there for him, but I’ve been to visit a couple of times now - and I figure he’s only one so I have loads of time to be part of his life.

October 4th
So it turns out that I’ll never be healthy. Ever. My therapist says bipolar is a lifelong thing, and from what I can tell it means I’ll be depressed on and off for as long as I live. I mean, she says it’s manageable, that it won’t always be this bad. But either way it’s a depression that just comes back and back and back. I didn’t think I had any hope left, but now I know that I did because it’s just been crushed.

I thought I’d take this year, and I’d get better. And some stupid hopeful part of me thought that come summer I would be healthy, and Draco would come back and move in and we’d be good. But that won’t ever happen because I won’t ever be healthy. I’ll always be like this. A depressed mess. I’m 19 years old and I already know my life will be shitty. How could anyone ever want to be with me? Some years I’ll love Christmas, and then other years I’ll be too depressed to even celebrate it. I can go days without leaving the bed. And there is no way to know when it will happen. How do you plan a holiday? Or a party? How about if I’m too messed up to remember an anniversary. And..

Fuck. And what about kids? I love kids, and I just always kinda assumed I’d have them. Hermione is pregnant now, I don’t think I wrote that. And I can’t help but look at her, and Ron, and the little belly, and know I’ll never have that. Because how the fuck am I supposed to take care of a kid when I can’t even take care of myself? I can’t do that. I won’t do that. I hate this so much. Why can’t my brain just work right?


October 17th
Is it possible to be depressed about being depressed? Because I think I am. I upped my dosage of the potions again, but I’m not really feeling the effects of it yet. Or maybe I am, maybe that’s why I’m all numb.

October 31st
Thers a small chance I’m drunk off my arse. Like maybe. It’s 18 years since my mum and dad died though. Can you blame me? I vistit, no vistited, fuck V I S I T E D their grave earler. Brought flowers and all. I don’t know what I’m writing here even. I think I’ll just cut a bit then go to bed.

December 12th
Wow, so my last entry here was a mess. I’ve been feeling better again lately. Wonder how long it will last this time. I’ll suffer depressive episodes forever. But Aahna says with therapy and medication I can make the episodes shorter and milder, and further apart. I don’t know if I want to believe her. If I want to let myself hope again. I suppose it’s easier to hope now that I’m not feeling like crap. I’ve already bought everyone’s Christmas presents. Just in case I fall back into the hole before Christmas and don’t feel up to buying any. Good news though! Draco is coming to stay with me for Christmas! I’ve missed him so much! I barely got to see him this summer, and then he’s been off to France ever since. I was kinda worried he didn’t want anything to do with me after last Christmas. And after I dropped out and stuff. But we’ve been keeping in touch by owl. We’re going to Ron and Hermione’s again, and if nothing else I’m feeling a lot more up to it this year.

December 25th
Happy Christmas! Can you believe I’ve had this journal for almost a year now? I’ve only filled about a third. I guess I’m just not the “write every day” kinda bloke. We decided to repeat last year’s Christmas arrangement, me and Draco are just staying here at our flat. Or my flat. The flat. Only yesterday we had lunch with Draco’s mum, and then he came with me for dinner at the Weasleys. They were really good about accepting him. And his mum was really nice to me, I was a bit worried she’d be hung up on the war and all – but turns out she was just happy it’s over.

I can’t stop thinking about last Christmas though. About the kiss. And just, I don’t know. The closeness. Because the kiss was great. So fucking great. But just, feeling that close to someone was amazing. I just felt so safe. I want that again, and I want it with Draco. And I don’t know. Maybe he can put up with my depressive episodes? I don’t even know if he still likes me though. He probably doesn’t. It’s been a year after all. And he hasn’t really said anything. I can live with him as my friend though. As long as I get to have him in some way. And I guess that’s maybe what I wanted last year? To be ok enough to survive without him. Too bad now I have to.

February 18th
Aaand I’m depressed again. I haven’t left my bed in three days. Hermione came over today and made me some food and cleaned up a bit. My room really did look like shit, but I wouldn’t let Kreacher in here. I just, I don’t know. I want to die. I literally cannot see any point in living at all. And it’s weird, because I’ve been reading what I wrote at Christmas. And I sound happy. And maybe I was, but right now I can’t seem to remember it. Fuck I’m so tired of feeling like this. And it’s not even just my irrational depressive thinking. I know this episode will pass. But I also know there will be another one, and another one, and another one. And I’m just so tired. I wish I’d just die in an accident or something. That way people wouldn’t have to be sad that I did it myself. I just, how do I explain to people I love that I want to die. That I want to leave them behind? That they aren’t enough for me to want to be here? But they are enough. It’s me that’s not enough. Fuck, I can’t even explain it to myself.

March 30th
So I’ve decided to stop taking the potions. Well, I mean, I already stopped. I’m sure they work for some people, but I just couldn’t shake the feeling that they just made everything blurry. I can’t really describe it, but it was like everything I felt was fake, and I couldn’t really be myself. I don’t know, I think I needed them when I started out because I was so messed up I couldn’t think a thought from start to finish, but I felt like they did more harm than good lately. I’m at a point now where it’s easier to deal with the symptoms of my illness than it is to deal with the side-effects of the potions. I talked to Aahna and she helped me make a plan for reducing the dose, and now I’ve been off them for over two weeks. The dizziness, headaches and nausea were pretty bad at first, but it’s getting better now. I’m kinda pissed nobody warned me before I started that quitting would be so crap, but whatever. I would have taken the potions anyway.

May 22nd
It’s almost the anniversary of the battle (and my near suicide) again. I’ve been working with Aahna so hopefully it turns out better than last year.

It’s weird; I spent so much time growing up being hated that I thought that was it. That was how I was supposed to feel, and then I just kept right on hating myself. Even when the people who hated me were out of my life. Being kind to myself, trying to -, to love myself. It feels impossible, and also like a revolution. I don’t know. I think I’m moving in the right direction at least.

April 5th
So I’ve found something that helps keep my mood more - not super depressed, I guess. A routine. I thought it was bullshit, but I go to Hermione and Ron on Saturdays, I go watch Teddy for a few hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays. On Wednesdays and Fridays I go see Aahna, on Mondays I read a little for my NEWT’s and the Sundays I’m up for it, I go to the Burrow. It’s not much, and it’s just a few hours of doing something every day, but I think it’s helping. I try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, but that’s a bit more difficult to manage. Especially when I get all this energy and I just can’t lay still, or I get so tired I sleep for fourteen hours and still feel exhausted. I’m working on it though.

Chapter Text

Everything's gonna be alright
Everything's gonna be okay
It's gonna be a good, good life
That's what my therapist say
Everything's gonna be alright
Everything's gonna be just fine
It's gonna be a good, good life
- Bebe Rexha (I’m a Mess)

“I’ve been coming here for well over a year now,” Harry said, shifting in his chair.

“Yes, you have,” Aahna said. His therapist sat like she always did, legs crossed, notebook in her lap.

“Then why aren’t I better? Why am I still like this?” Harry asked.

“You don’t feel like you’re getting better?”

“No, well I mean. I guess better. I can think now, most of the time. I don’t feel like I literally lose my mind every time I get depressed. I’m not sure that’s a good thing though,” Harry said, studying the small broom flying around the office.

“You don’t? What makes you say that?” Aahna asked.

“Well, I don’t know. I kinda miss it. And I know that’s wrong to say. I shouldn’t miss feeling so depressed that I couldn’t really think about anything but feeling depressed. But it was kinda like a break. Now I still get depressed, but I can’t relax. My brain is constantly fighting it. Like part of my brain is saying ‘I want to die’ then another says ‘no I don’t’. It’s exhausting.”

“Nothing is wrong to say here, Harry. And I don’t think it’s as uncommon as you think it is. You’ve been depressed on and off for years, right?” Aahna asked, shifting her long black hair away from her face. Harry wondered if that’s how his hair would look if it was waist length. Black and curly, slightly more tamed than his current short mess.

“Yeah. I can’t really tell you when the first time was, it kinda feels like I’ve had it for as long as I can remember. It used to be a lot different though, I don’t know. I can’t explain it.”

“See Harry, here’s my theory. You say that when you’re really depressed your brain shuts down. You feel like you can’t think. I think that’s a defence mechanism. You never really learned how to deal with difficult thoughts or emotions in a healthy way, so you try to push them away. And doing that constantly, takes a lot of effort. Then, when you’re too tired or it all catches up to you, you shut down. You don’t have to fight your emotions anymore, but you don’t really have to deal with them either. You just let them take over. Does it sound like I’m on to something?” said Aahna.

“Yeah,” Harry said, shifting in the increasingly uncomfortable chair. It always seems to grow more uncomfortable when they’re discussing a sensitive subject. “But if being super depressed is the only way I can relax, how will I ever beat it?”

Aahna doesn’t answer, and after a long silence Harry adds; “And what if I don’t want to beat it. I’m terrified of living without ever being able to relax, with every day being a battle. Just like I’m terrified to stop cutting permanently.”

“That’s the thing Harry. I think maybe you believe recovery is about fighting off your feelings. Especially the ones that make you feel depressed,” she said.

“Well, isn’t it? How am I supposed to stop feeling depressed if I don’t fight my thoughts and feelings? They’re the reason I get depressed in the first place,” Harry said, feeling irritated.

“Is it though? Or is fighting those thoughts and emotions what causes you to be depressed? I don’t want you to fight your emotions, Harry, or your thoughts. I want you to fight depression.” Harry felt like Aahna had just said something very important, but he couldn’t seem to work his mind around understanding it.

“Aren’t they the same thing?”

“I don’t think they are. You used to fight your emotions until you became depressed, then you’d relax in that depression and regroup. Now you know yourself enough to understand when you’re becoming depressed, so you fight that too.”

“So I need to stop fighting, is that what you’re saying?” Harry asked, feeling like that was an impossible task. For him stopping the fight had always been synonymous with suicide.

“Maybe fighting isn’t the right word. My goal here, Harry, is to help you deal with the emotions that build up to become a depression when you suppress them. You need to keep fighting the depression, but you need to stop fighting yourself,” Aahna said.

“So, I need to, what? Get in touch with my emotions?” Harry asked. “Sometimes I feel like all I do is feel them, I feel them until they’re choking me. Other times I feel like I don’t have a single one. I don’t really know what’s worse, but the last is easier to deal with.”

Harry went back to studying the small broom, avoiding Aahna’s eyes. Maybe that was what she was saying though; that when he actually felt something he didn’t know how to deal. So he wouldn’t, he pushed it away as hard as he could, with whatever means possible. That’s what cutting helped him do a lot of the time. He’d always thought that was dealing with an emotion, but maybe he was wrong?

“I have absolutely no idea how to go about dealing with an emotion,” he said, figuring honesty was the best policy. His experience was that lying in therapy was utterly pointless. He laughed a little at his own failure, and finally met Aahna’s eyes.

“Maybe, as a start, you could try letting them linger a bit longer in our sessions. During the last year you have told me about heartache, suicidal thoughts, how much you hate yourself and a lot of painful thoughts and feelings. Yet I have never seen you cry. You smile, laugh and joke or seem entirely neutral to what you’re discussing.”

“Crying is a weakness. I don’t... I feel like I can’t. And even if I could, it scares the shit out of me,” Harry said.

“Do you consider other people weak when they cry?” Aahna asked.

“No, of course not,” said Harry, offended she’d think so.

“Then why are the rules for you so much stricter, Harry? Why does it make you weak, but not others?”

“Fuck, I don’t know. I have no idea, it’s just like that. I know it makes no sense, that it’s all irrational. That’s why I try to push it out of my mind. Not think about it. I don’t want to have irrational thoughts. I just want to be normal,” Harry said, running his fingers through his hair in frustration.

“What are you feeling right now, Harry?” Aahna asked.

“Nothing, I don’t know.”

“From my perspective it looks like you might be frustrated or angry, am I correct in that?”

“I’m not angry with you,” Harry hurried to say, horrified he might have insulted his therapist. “I just... I guess I am frustrated. I’m frustrated that my brain isn’t working. That things that are just instinct or something to other people feel so impossible for me.”

“And how would you deal with that emotion if you were alone right now?” Aahna said.

“Well, anger isn’t that hard to deal with when it’s directed at myself. I can just cut. You know, like punish myself? I know it’s not healthy, but it works,” Harry said, absently scratching at his arm.

“Can you think of any other ways to deal with the emotion?”

“I guess I could distract myself. Like do something different or talk to someone. Just to get my mind off it. But apparently that isn’t dealing either, so I don’t know.”

“I think any alternative to harming yourself is always preferable, and sometimes distraction is a good thing,” Aahna said, jotting a few notes on the book in her hand.

“How do you propose I deal with it then?” Harry asked, scratching his arm a little harder.

“Talking is always good. Or writing. And I suppose if you’re angry you could try breaking things. I hear it’s very relieving, like throwing ice cubes on the floor. It’s all about finding ways that work for you.”

Harry didn’t think any of that would work for him, but he stayed silent. There was no point ending up in a discussion where they both had vastly different starting points. Aahna believed he could recover, he didn’t. Not anymore.

“I don’t even know why I’m still trying. I’m just so fucking tired, I have no idea what I’m doing. I feel like I’m just running in an endless circle around the very thing I’m running from.”

“Do you think you might try to kill yourself?” Aahna asked, like she’s asking what he wanted for lunch. Harry supposed it was a good thing she was always so calm about asking.

“No, I can’t. You know I can’t. I want to though, but it’s not -. It’s not a pressing need, I don’t constantly think about it,” Harry said, not meeting her eyes. There was a long silence, that Harry felt reluctant to break. He felt guilty for feeling suicidal, and somehow like a coward for not going through with it.

“Well, I’m afraid that’s all the time we have for today, Harry. Remember that I’m here every day if you need something.”

“Yeah, I know,” Harry said, standing from the chair he’d been wanting to escape for the last hour, only to realise he didn’t want to leave. He wanted to sit right back down and refuse to leave until he got better.

“I’ll see you next week then. Have a safe trip home.”

Harry left the office, closing the door behind him. He stopped to take a few deep breaths before putting his ‘game face’ back on and leaving. The air outside was surprisingly cold for April, and Harry figured at least he could feel that.

“Feel my feelings,” he muttered, halting his walk and just feeling the cold air. How it tugged at the small hairs in his nose, how it made the hair stand up on his arms. The tingling feeling in his hands as warm blood rushed into his cold fingers. He stood there for a while, just taking it all in. Then he Apparated home.

He didn’t really know if the exercise had done anything, but if nothing else, at least it made him appreciate the warmth of his flat more. He asked Kreacher for a cup of tea, and wrapped his chilled fingers around the warm cup. Trying to feel in detail how the warmth slowly seeped into him, until he was feeling comfortably warm. Mentally exhausted from his therapy session Harry lay down on his sofa and promptly fell asleep.

A knock on the door woke him a few hours later and the sharp pop of Kreacher appearing next to him startled Harry into a sitting position. He supposed he’d never get quite used to that sound.

“Mr. Weasley is here,” the elf said, making a grimace at the way he’d been told to refer to Ron.

“Oh, fuck, I forgot. Could you let him in, please? And do we have any tea and biscuits?” Harry asked, attempting to fix his hair so it didn’t look like he’d just woken up. It was pretty much a futile effort, but the action calmed him down a little. Kreacher disappeared with another pop, and seconds later Harry heard the door open.

“Hello mate,” Ron called from the hallway, presumably taking off his coat. “Ready to listen to the match?”

“Yeah,” Harry answered, stifling a yawn.

“You all right? You look kinda wrecked,” Ron said when he entered the room.

“I’m ok. Just a bit tired. I have to learn that therapy sessions knock me out for the rest of the day,” Harry said, feeling like he could almost talk casually about his therapy now.

“Pretty sure having your brain poked at would make anyone sleepy. How’s that er..,” Ron hesitated, “How’s that going anyway?”

“I don’t even know if I’m honest. She wants me to deal with my emotions instead of fighting them off. I suppose she has a point, but how do you even do that?” Harry meant the question to be rhetorical, but he found himself looking at Ron for an answer anyway.

“Uhm, you do realise you’re asking the guy with the ‘emotional range of a teaspoon’ yeah?” Ron asked, making his voice higher to mimic his girlfriend. He only laughed a little before answering though. “I don’t really know, to be honest. For me it isn’t always so much dealing with an emotion as just, acknowledging it’s there. Like when Hermione told me she was pregnant, I was terrified! But I kinda just let myself be terrified for a while, and then I tried to figure out what made me so terrified. And I mean, I’m still scared shitless, but I don’t think about it all the time. This is really hard to explain mate, I don’t know how you sit for over an hour a week just talking about your brain and stuff.”

“Ok so, like, dealing with an emotion means just feeling it?” Harry asked, wondering how the hell he was going to survive that.

“I think so, just... feeling it until it’s not so big and scary anymore,” Ron said, scratching his head.

“Thanks mate,” Harry said, then decided to save both Ron and himself from the awkward conversation he’d gotten them into. “Turn on the radio, yeah? I think the match starts soon.”

The Cannons didn’t win the match, much to Ron’s disappointment, but to nobody’s surprise. Harry spent the match trying to not immediately shut down or suppress thoughts or feelings that came flying into his brain. Some he could hold on to and consider for a few minutes before letting them go. Others were too big, too painful. He pushed those away immediately.

“Thanks for the game. Too bad we lost,” Ron said, standing from the couch.

“Yeah,” Harry said, “I thought we almost had this one.” He hadn’t thought so, of course, but he supposed a little white lie could only help at this point.

“I should be getting back home though. I don’t like leaving Hermione alone for too long in her state.” A look of panic shot over Ron’s face, “Don’t tell her I said that, she’d boil me alive.”

“Pregnancy hormones still racing then?” Harry laughed. When he’d visited Hermione a few days earlier she’d been huge, and absolutely furious. From what Harry could gather she was mad at Ron for insisting on carrying the groceries. And she was mad that she was mad, because they all knew she shouldn’t be carrying the heavy bags.

“Yeah,” Ron said, then smiled, “She’s carrying my child though. I think putting up with her hormones is the least I can do. I’m not the one having them in my body after all.”

“True that,” Harry said, standing to give Ron a hug goodbye. “Give her my love, will you?”

“Course mate. You’re still coming over tomorrow?”

“Yeah, I’ll bring some takeaway. Save you from cooking, or save us all from Hermione’s food.” Harry said, laughing.

Harry arrived at Ron and Hermione’s carrying what he suspected was enough food to feed them all for several days.

“Harry!” Hermione greeted him, pulling him into a hug that Harry thought should be impossible given the size of his friend’s belly. Even he wasn’t foolish enough to mention that to her face though.

“Hi ‘Mione. I brought Indian,” he said, holding out his bags. He had to make sure he didn’t get anything too spicy for his friend, because the last time he’d done that she’d burst into tears, muttering about how spicy food was bad for the baby. Apparently, she remembered too, because tears welled up in her eyes at the sight of the bags.

“Not to worry, I got you some mild butter chicken. The lady at the restaurant said it would be ok,” Harry hurried to add.

“You actually asked them what to get a pregnant woman, didn’t you?” Hermione asked, laughing.

“Well, yeah, I didn’t want to mess up again. And besides she was like seventy years old, and she said she’s got five kids so I guess she’d know, right?”

“Butter chicken is fine mate,” Ron said, looking up from the telly. “She’s just winding you up I think.”

“Oh Ron, don’t spoil my fun,” Hermione said, twinkle in her eyes.

“You have a weird sense of what’s fun ‘Mione,” said Harry, “let’s eat before it all gets cold and gross.”

After Harry left Hogwarts, Saturday dinner at Ron and Hermione’s place had become sort of a thing. Harry wasn’t really complaining. With that and his therapy he had something consistent to do each week. He knew having nothing at all he had to do was bad, because then he just stayed in bed all day not even noticing how the time passed. Some days he had to skip out though; during those times just getting out of bed was a struggle, never mind getting ready for and attending dinner. His friends seemed to understand though. If he called to cancel, they’d usually just show up at his flat with takeaway and no expectations for him to do anything besides being present. It helped more than Harry could ever explain to them. Of course, on his bad days, he mostly felt annoyed they’d bothered showing up at all.

“So Harry,” Hermione said, swallowing a piece of her pregnancy-safe butter chicken. “Summer isn’t too far off. Draco still coming to stay at your place?”

Harry groaned. This was the downside to Saturday dinners; Hermione always asked about Draco. And he never knew what to answer.

“I don’t know. I think so. I mean, we arranged it. And he hasn’t said he changed his plans. We haven’t really talked about it in a while though,” Harry said. He’d been trying not to think too much about it.

“Well, do you want him to?” Hermione asked.

“Yeah. I mean, I don’t know,” Harry said. Because he did want Draco to come, desperately. But he also didn’t, maybe. The idea of Draco coming just brought up thoughts and feelings he didn’t know how to deal with so he tried to push it off.

“Harry. Just, try not pushing it away, yeah? Every time you talk about him you get this look in your eyes, and then you close them and when they open again it’s like they’re empty. You’re pushing whatever you’re feeling away,” Ron said. Harry and Hermione both turned to stare at him. Ron had started Auror training, and Harry cursed it making his friend so damn observant. Though, he might have been the whole time, now that Harry thought about it.

“I know I’m pushing it away. I have to. Whenever I think about him - it just... hurts. And it’s confusing and it doesn’t make any sense. It’s like, I don’t know. I want him to come. I just, it doesn’t feel like enough. I feel like he’s so far away.”

“Then why do you keep pushing him away?” Ron asked, and Harry didn’t even remember telling his friend he was pushing Draco away. Damn Auror training or emotional radar or whatever it was his friend had.

“Because I don’t deserve him,” Harry said, but he allowed the feeling to linger, or maybe he just wasn’t able to push it away when Ron was piercing him with that gaze. “And... well, if I let myself want him. If I open myself up to that, and he doesn’t feel the same way... I’m not sure I could handle it. He said he had feelings for me once, did I tell you? But that was over a year ago. I’m sure it’s passed for him.”

“Oh Harry, what if it didn’t though?” Hermione asked.

“Then I don’t know how to deal with that either. See, if I let myself want him, and even have him, then that’s me admitting I have a worth isn’t it? It’s saying it’s ok for me to take up space in the world and I don’t want that. He makes me feel like I’m worth something, and that scares the shit out of me,” Harry said, flushing with embarrassment at his words. Therapy would do that apparently, just make you talk without thinking at times, even when it was inappropriate.

“Why does having worth scare you so much?” Hermione asked.

“Because I don’t feel like I deserve it. Or at least... I feel like I shouldn’t feel like I deserve it. It’s like the sick and healthy parts of my brain are fighting like hell, and neither side is winning or losing. It’s just leaving me exhausted. And that’s another thing. I’ll always be like this. I can’t subject him to that,” Harry said, fighting off the tears that had suddenly decided to make an appearance.

“Here’s the thing though, Harry. I think that should be his choice. You feel what you feel, and the way I see it you have two choices. Tell him, or don’t tell him. I think you owe it to yourself to tell him the truth. And I think he deserves the right to make the choice for himself,” Ron said. “It isn’t your job to save him. It’s not your job to save anyone except yourself. Make choices because they are right for you, and let others do the same. Trust others to do the same.”

“That’s a really good point Ron,” Hermione said. “You tried to push us away for a long time, Harry. But we choose to be your friends. Not because we feel like we have to, but because we want to. Because we like having you in our lives. You have your bad stuff, but we all do. Just look how Ron’s been putting up with my hormones lately. It’s not something we do despite your depression. It’s something we do because we love you. I’m glad you let us make that choice Harry, I’m sure Draco would be too.”

“I have to go,” Harry said, getting up. “I’m sorry. You’re both being brilliant. It’s just... a little much right now. And I need to think it through. All of it.”

“All right,” Hermione said, “promise you won’t hurt yourself.”

Harry grimaced, it wasn’t the first time Hermione had asked him. Ever since she found out about his cutting she’d been asking him not to do it.

“I don’t do it that much anymore, Hermione, but I won’t promise not to. I can’t. Sorry. I won’t lie to you, and I don’t know if I can resist it all the time yet. I’ll try though.”

“Trying is enough,” Ron assured, placing a calming hand on Hermione’s knee. “It’s all any of us can do, really.”

Chapter Text

Over the bend, entirely bonkers
You like me best when I'm off my rocker
Tell you a secret, I'm not alarmed
So what if I'm crazy? The best people are
- Melanie Martinez (Mad Hatter)

Harry spent too long worrying over and over-thinking the conversation he’d had with Ron and Hermione about his non-relationship with Draco. He loved the man, he knew that. Loved him even though they’d hardly seen each other for a year and a half, communicating mostly through letters. They wrote a lot, but Harry hadn’t said anything about any kind of love, not since they’d discussed it in the hospital. Draco hadn’t either, and though part of Harry wanted Draco’s feelings to have passed – just so he wouldn’t have to deal with something unknown, he desperately hoped they hadn’t.

He’d sent his last letter off with a feeling of disappointment in his stomach that he hadn’t been able to work up the courage to mention it. To ask if Draco would still be interested when he arrived to stay for the summer. He’d tried, but no matter what he wrote it had felt assuming – like he’d been expecting Draco to wait for him.

He’d just accepted the reply Draco had sent him from a very angry-looking Eagle Owl, and Harry figured he should get his own. Draco’s owl wouldn’t want to keep up with the long distance flights for much longer. Harry sat down on his sofa to read the letter, first attempting to deny how excited he was to read Draco’s words, and then remembering he wasn’t supposed to deny his feelings anymore.

Dear Harry, I hope you are doing well. (And yes, that is me asking how you’re holding up, stop avoiding the question). Your last letter was much appreciated, as it brought me laughter on an otherwise dreadfully boring day of studying. However, I am not, as you said, overly formal in letters, on the contrary, I am horribly informal in the parentheses (you arse). I look forward to my visit this summer, if the invitation still stands (I hope it does, I’ve bought enough French candy for a small town, both Muggle and Wizard).
Draco. (See, I’m perfectly capable of leaving off my last name thank you.)

Smiling, Harry placed the letter on the table, only to groan as he tried to think of a reply. He knew he’d never be able to say anything about his feelings in person. Not if he had to wait until summer, not if he had to be the one to bring it up. If he’s going to say anything it has to be in a letter, and it has to be this letter or he’ll lose his nerve.

Harry stood from the sofa and went to his bedroom, slamming the door behind him. He cursed under his breath as he sat on his bed and pulled out the box containing his blades and bandages from his bedside table. He doesn’t want to cut, but he can’t find the courage without it. He can’t think without it. If he can just give himself this, then maybe he’ll find the words to write Draco – maybe he’ll find the guts. Harry jumped as the blade he’d been twirling between his fingers dug into his hand and threw the offending metal at the wall across the room.

“Fuck,” he screamed, grabbing the whole box and throwing it after the blade. Anger rushed through his veins and he let himself feel it, getting up to kick at the box across his room. He didn’t want this thing with Draco, if it ever even became a thing, to be tainted by his self-harm. He didn’t want to remember back to the first time he managed to admit to not just loving Draco, but wanting to be loved back, and remember having to cut to be able to do it. He pulled out his journal instead, finding comfort in it for the millionth time. He never thought he’d be someone who enjoyed journaling, but he found it was easier to write than it was to think most days.

Harry wrote for what felt like hours, tucked up in bed with his journal resting on his knees. He wrote until his hand cramped and his brain finally felt clearer. He flipped through the pages he’d written, hoping to find some revelation – some answer to what the fuck he’s supposed to do. One paragraph in particular jumped out at him, and it felt like everything he’d been looking for. He wasn’t sure if it made much sense, but he decided it didn’t matter – it gave him what he needed.

Maybe I do deserve love, maybe I don’t. Maybe love isn’t something you can deserve, just something you cherish when someone decides to give it. All I know is Draco deserves honesty, and the truth is that I love him. I love him, and I can live without him if I have to. That has to be a sign it’s healthy right? I refuse to put my life in his hands, won’t put my recovery in them either. I will put my love there though, because that is already his, even if he doesn’t know it yet.

Harry breathed a sigh of relief and let himself drift off to sleep. He’d write Draco in the morning. He knew he had to now, for Draco and for himself.

“Shitting fuck,” Harry muttered, crumpling up his seventh letter and throwing it beside the others on the kitchen floor. He thought the decision on whether to write the letter or not was the hardest part, but he’d been wrong. Actually writing the letter was the hardest part. He needed some help, a recipe or guideline on how to say ‘hey, I still love you, and I hope you love me still. Let’s be together.’ without sounding like he was having another bloody episode or something.

“Kreacher!” he said, sitting up straight in his chair and grinning at his own brilliance.

“Yes,” the elf said, startling Harry with the lack of a pop as the elf appeared.

“How come you didn’t make that popping sound just now?” Harry asked, lifting a hand to scratch at his messy hair. He remembered how the popping sound made him jump every time for the first month, and felt amused that now it was the lack of it that made him startle.

“Kreacher was here in the kitchen when master did the calling for him. Preparing dinner for his mister Harry.”

“Right, I’m sorry. I didn’t even notice you.” Harry thought he must have been more stressed about the fucking letter than he’d realised if he’d missed a whole entire elf in the same room as him, but he figured it wasn’t worth worrying over how much he worried.

“Master is being distracted,” the elf said by explanation, reminding Harry why he called him in the first place.

“Yeah, I was wondering if there is a book on pureblood dating or courting or something in the Black libraries?” he asked, blushing. The idea had seemed brilliant until he spoke it aloud.

“No books no,” Kreacher said, “is mister Harry wanting to court Master Draco?”

“How did you kno-, actually don’t answer that,” Harry said, realising he didn’t want to know just how obvious he must have been when even his house-elf knew about his feelings. “Yes, I am wanting to, I mean, I do want to court Draco.”

“If Kreacher might be bold?” the elf asked, and then paused. Harry waited for Kreacher to continue but realised he wouldn’t without permission. Harry nodded quickly and made a mental note to ask Draco if he was treating his elf right. It didn’t feel right to Harry that someone living in his flat would need to ask permission to speak his mind.

“In Kreacher's living when a wizard is wanting to court someone he asks the someone to go on a date.”

Harry couldn’t help the laugh that escaped him at the advice. Not just because he got it from his house-elf but mostly because it was just so brilliantly simple. He wouldn’t have to go into details about his feelings, or explain that he doesn’t expect to jump from friends to boyfriends in an instant. He could just ask Draco on a date, like a normal person.

“Merlin I’m an idiot. Thank you Kreacher, you’re brilliant.” Harry was awarded a rare smile from the elf before he flipped his ears back and returned to his cooking.

Draco, I wish I could say I woke up this morning and everything was fine. That the ten hours of sleep I got left me well rested so I could appreciate the sunshine or something like that. The fact of the matter is that I don’t even know what the weather is outside, because even though I’m recovering I still live a lot of my life inside my head, trying to figure it all out. I know all this seems really out of the blue, but just stick with me for a second. See, one of the things I’ve been thinking about a lot is us, and, you know, us together (or something). I am recovering, and I am better, but I don’t think I’ll ever be done recovering. I’m bipolar, and I’ll keep being bipolar for the rest of my life, I’m just learning to deal with it better. I felt like you deserved to know that before deciding how to answer the question I’m about to ask.

Draco, will you go out on a date with me?

Just so you know, you don’t have to say yes. If you don’t want to, it won’t fuck up our friendship or my mental health or anything. I mean, I hope you’ll want to, but I, and we, will be ok if you don’t. I’m looking forward to both your visit and all the candy you promised.

See you soon, Harry.

P.S. You are still very formal in your letters, but I do appreciate the parentheses.

Harry set the letter aside to keep himself from obsessing over the words on the page, and let himself daydream. He imagined Draco replied with a yes, that he had feelings for Harry. That he wanted to be with him. He imagined how Draco would lay in bed next to Harry on his bad days and just be there. How they’d have brilliant sex on his good days. How they’d sit next to each other and read, feet intertwined on the sofa. After he sends the letter he won’t be able to indulge in fantasies anymore. It will be real, and he’ll probably be rejected.

Harry handed the letter to Kreacher to be sent off and grabbed himself a beer from the fridge. He chugged down half the bottle in one go and snorted as he imagined his therapist’s reaction to how he was ‘feeling his feelings’. He’d been feeling them all day though, and he figured he deserved a break. He finished the bottle before Kreacher served dinner, and Harry washed the meal down with three more beers. By the time he went to bed he’d finished off a six-pack and a couple glasses of Ogden’s.

Harry sincerely regretted the alcohol when Kreacher popped in beside him the next morning. The popping sound was unnecessarily loud, and Harry felt a bit like murdering the noisy elf until he saw the hangover potion held out for him. Then he felt like kissing him, at least until that idea brought about a strong wave of nausea.

“Thanks,” he managed, closing his mouth in an effort to control his nausea. Harry took the offered potion and swallowed the contents of the vial, trying to ignore the taste. He flopped back on his bed and waited for the potion to start working. His nausea faded first but before the potion had done anything for his headache Harry jerked into a seated position, remembering that he’d actually asked Draco out on a date.

“Mister Harry is going to be late for his appointment for therapy,” Kreacher informed him, and Harry was glad for the distraction. He quickly decided not to think about Draco right now, especially since it would probably come up during his session.

Harry jumped out of bed and made quick work of putting on some clothes and casting a freshening charm on himself. He didn’t bother making an effort to look good for therapy, but he didn’t need to smell like he’d forgotten how to use a shower.

“Hey, sorry I’m late.” Harry said as he entered Aahna’s office. He thought he was pretty much on time, but figured it was a better safe than sorry thing. Better to apologise one time too many, than insult someone.

“Hi Harry, you’re just on time actually. How have you been?” Aahna asked, smiling at Harry and gesturing to the chair he always sits in.

Harry suppressed a groan. She always asked how he’d been, and he never knew how to respond. He didn’t want to say fine – because then what was he doing in therapy? But he couldn’t always come in and say he was terrible either. That would make it sound like he had no use for therapy, and also like he did nothing but complain.

“Well, I sent Draco a letter last night. Asked him out on a date,” Harry said, deciding it was easier to talk about something concrete than it was to answer the question Aahna had asked.

“And how do you feel about that?” Aahna asked, making a quick note in her book.

“Right after I kinda freaked out and got pissed. And after that I haven’t had much time to think about it,” Harry said. He paused, and when Aahna didn’t jump in to speak Harry reminded himself, like he always had to, that therapy wouldn’t help if he wasn’t actually telling the truth about what he’s thinking and doing.

“I’m feeling a lot I guess. Like, nervous of course, and hopeful, and like I’m a piece of shit for even thinking he might want to go out with me.”

“You feel like hoping he might go on a date with you makes you a piece of shit?” Aahna said.

“Yeah,” Harry said, “Like I’m giving myself more worth than I have, you know?

“And how much worth do you feel like you have?” Aahna leaned forward after asking, like whatever Harry responded would be important to her. Harry wondered how much was actual interest, and how much was the fact that it was her job to listen.

“Well, rationally I like to think that everyone has worth just for being. Like, everyone is born worth something and you have to do really bad shit to make that disappear. But then, emotionally, I feel like that doesn’t apply to me. Like I’m not deserving of anything.” Harry looked around the office for the small broom Aahna usually had out but settled on watching the clock when he realised it wasn’t there.

“What makes you think you don’t deserve to be worth something?” Aahna asked, leaning to the side attempting to make eye contact with him. Harry glanced at her but kept his eyes mostly on the clock. Looking right at her felt like too much.

“I guess it’s just how I grew up. I was always told I was worthless and that I didn’t deserve anything. And then I got to Hogwarts and things were different, but still people told me I didn’t deserve what I had, because I only got it for being famous or something. And back then, I didn’t think anything of it because I agreed you know? But I mean, I was just a kid. I don’t know,” Harry said, trailing off. Maybe he had deserved better, he knew no kid should have to grow up like he had, feeling unloved and undeserving. He finally looked at Aahna again, and to his horror she was crying.

“Shit, I’m sorry. It’s fine, I’m fine,” he said, trying to make it right.

“Harry, that sounds like an incredibly difficult way to grow up and it makes me sad to hear it. But my emotions are my responsibility, I can handle hearing whatever you tell me,” Aahna said, voice somehow perfectly clear.

“I just, I don’t want to make you feel bad,” Harry tried to explain.

“Harry, I know you don’t like talking about how things were for you growing up. But I know enough to know it wasn’t good, and that makes me sad. Is that uncomfortable for you to hear?” Aahna asked.

“Well yeah, I just. I don’t like making people feel bad, but also it’s like... I’m not used to getting like sympathy or whatever. It just, it feels weird,” Harry said, finally tearing his gaze away from his therapist’s tears and focussing on his hands instead.

“It appears to me that you have trouble accepting anything from others that might prove they care about you, am I right?”

“Yeah, I guess. I just feel like maybe accepting it means I think I deserve it. And thinking I deserve things scares the shit out of me.” Harry scratched at his hand, feeling too exposed.

“What is the worst that can happen if you think you deserve something, or say it out loud even?” Aahna asked.

“I don’t know,” Harry said, raking his fingers through his hair. “People might be mad that I’m acting all entitled, or just laugh at me, or I might accept something, and then get dependent, only to have them take it away.”

“If most of your experiences with needing things, or asking for them, or feeling like you deserve something has been met with anger or ridicule it’s no wonder you feel the way you do Harry,” Aahna said. “But I do believe the best way to make that fear you’re feeling go away is to make some new experiences, and that includes asking for things. Or needing things. You don’t have to feel like you deserve it right away, because changing feelings takes time. But if you can manage to ask for something, or even refuse to give something if you don’t want to, I believe that would be a step in the right direction.”

“So I should ask for things more often?” Harry asked, voice shaking slightly.

“Yes, it doesn’t have to be something big. Maybe start by asking a friend for a favour, like help with buying something or making a decision. Just start small and make new experiences that show asking for something can be met in a good way.”

“I think I can do that,” Harry said, “maybe.”

Two days later Harry fire-called Hermione to ask for help with shopping. Mostly because it was what his therapist suggested, but also because he really did need some new clothes and he had no idea what he’d look good in. He didn’t really know what he expected to happen, but he was relieved when Hermione just smiled brightly and said she’d love to, and that she’s been wanting to buy some more baby clothes anyway.

“So, you sent Draco an owl asking him on a date?” Hermione asked, pulling out her wand to cast a lightening charm on her bags after looking around the Muggle street to make sure no one would notice. She didn’t seem too surprised, and Harry supposed she knew he would do something like that all along.

“Yeah, I didn’t have the guts to ask him in person. Now it’s just agony waiting for him to respond though.” Harry groaned, “It’s all too awkward.”

“I mean, it could have been worse. Remember when you tried to ask Cho to the ball?” Hermione said, laughing at the memory. Harry closed his eyes, trying to stop his mind from replaying the ‘wouldyouliketogototheballwithme?’ fiasco. He had to admit it was a bit funny though.

“Ron was worse,” he said, in his own defence. “Didn’t he try to ask you out by pointing out you were a girl? And then that debacle with Fleur.” Remembering Ron’s failure to ask people out made Harry feel a bit better about his own situation and he actually laughed out loud. “That was terrible.”

“Oh, don’t remind me,” Hermione said, grabbing Harry’s hand and pulling him into a nearby store by force.

By the time Harry made it back to his flat, he’d tried on more clothes in one evening than he’d done in his entire life. And he’d ended up actually buying quite a lot of them as well. Asking for help had gone surprisingly well. Hermione had seemed to enjoy helping him pick out clothes, and just helping in general. Harry figured he should ask for help more often, at least with the smaller things, it just seemed to work fine.

Harry started putting away his new clothes, relishing in throwing Dudley-hand-me-downs out of his wardrobe and onto the floor in order to make room for clothes that actually fit him. Clothes he’d bought, because he could deserve nice things. At least nice clothes. When the doorbell rang, he startled, wondering who would be at his door this late.

Kreacher made it to the door before Harry did, screaming in joy at the sight of his Master Draco. Harry froze in the middle of the living room, fighting the urge to run back to his bedroom and hide. He wasn’t ready for Draco to be there. He was ready to receive an owl in another few days. Ready to leave the letter unopened until he was mentally prepared for the rejection. Why would Draco come to his flat? Maybe he’d got the owl and been so offended that Harry even asked that he had to come straight away to punch him in the nose. Harry had half decided to go hide in his wardrobe with his new clothes when Draco entered the room.

“You’re early,” Harry said, mostly just for something to say as he didn’t even have the guts to look at the man standing in front of him.

“Yes,” Draco said, almost in a whisper.

“By two months,” Harry said, not sure what else he was supposed to say.

“Yes,” Draco said again, voice a bit louder this time.

“Why?” Harry asked, bewildered. It wasn’t like Draco to speak in one-word sentences. Harry rubbed at one of the old scars on his wrist, still avoiding looking at Draco.

“Yes,” said Draco once again, and Harry looked up feeling annoyed. He hadn’t asked a yes or no question. As soon as he caught sight of Draco though, his annoyance disappeared. Draco was smiling, that smile Harry hadn’t seen on him since they had kissed. Harry remembered he had asked a yes or no question. He’d asked if Draco wanted to go on a date, and Draco had said yes, it was all he’d said since he walked in.

“Yes?” Harry asked, a smile starting to form on his face.

“Yes,” Draco said, grinning and Harry couldn’t help but grin right back.

Chapter Text

“The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and bad things. The good things don’t always soften the bad things, but vice versa, the bad things don’t always spoil the good things and make them unimportant.”
-Dr. Who

“How are you not in France?” Harry asked, staring at Draco. He couldn’t believe Draco was there. That he’d agreed to a date.

“I got an international Portkey when I received your letter. I just had to see you, say yes in person. I have to go back the day after tomorrow though.”

“I – er,” Harry said, unsure how to continue the conversation now that Draco was standing right in front of him – he hadn’t prepared for this.

Draco grinned, and Harry finally noticed the bag he had slung over his shoulder when Draco sat it down. “I think we should wait, you know, until this summer,” he said, “I don’t want to have a brilliant date with you tomorrow only to go back to France for two months.”

Harry breathed a sigh of relief, “Yeah, that’s – it’s a good idea. I think I need to work my mind around the fact you’ve said yes.”

“I’m in no rush,” said Draco. “Let’s just take things at a comfortable pace.”

Harry smiled. He didn’t deserve Draco, but he thought nobody did – the man was too perfect. Harry wanted to try though. “So tell me about France, how are your studies going?”

They stayed up late talking; Draco telling Harry about his Potions studies and Harry talking a bit about his NEWTs. Then he told Draco about spending time with Teddy, and how much he loved it – how being with a kid and watching him grow up right helped heal something in Harry every time he saw the bright-eyed child. Draco spoke of his mother and how, despite how much he loved her, he was looking forward to leaving. When they finally fell asleep it was past midnight, and Harry was intensely relieved to see that he and Draco could just pick up their friendship where it had left off when they stopped seeing each other every day. It just felt natural and right.

Harry woke up early the next morning, gasping as he came out of a very pleasant dream. In it he’d kissed Draco after he’d said yes to the date. It had been like the kiss they’d shared that one time, only this time Harry hadn’t been feeling crazy, and Draco hadn’t pulled back. Harry had woken up before climaxing, and he was glad for it when he looked across the room and noticed Draco was still asleep. It would have been ridiculously awkward to wake Draco up with a shout of his name in ecstasy. It did leave Harry with a problem to take care of though, so he left the room on tiptoe in an effort to be as quiet as possible and headed for the shower.

Feeling sated and clean, Harry flopped down on his sofa and asked Kreacher to bring him a cup of tea. He sat staring at his wall with a stupid grin on his face, watching in fascination as the wall turned pastel yellow, orange and pink to suit his mood. Draco’s voice played on repeat in his mind, saying yes over and over again. He felt happy, and Harry was going to relish in it for as long as it lasted this time. Of course, a few negative thoughts made their way into his brain every few minutes, adding a sprinkling of grey and dark blue spots to his wall. He found he didn’t mind too much though, because despite the thoughts being there, he didn’t have to listen. They didn’t have to affect him. The wall was still pretty, and Harry was still happy.

He’d thought being bipolar, and especially depressed, had meant he couldn’t be happy anymore. But as he sat holding his warm cup of tea with Draco asleep in his room though, it occurred to Harry that maybe depressed and happy weren’t opposites – or at least not mutually exclusive. Sure, when he was in a full depressive episode, happiness wasn’t a word in his vocabulary, but lately he wasn’t in a deep depression most days. It was like his baseline mood had lifted to a more neutral state, where he could feel both depressed and happy in the same day. Sometimes even at the same time. He had bipolar disorder and he felt that every day, fought it every day, but he could still be happy. He could still be Harry. He could still function.

“My brain is complicated as fuck” he told his wall. It shifted in response to his words, turning into soft hues of blue, purple and pink. The softness of it felt comforting to Harry, and he decided he really did love the weird wall. He looked around the rest of the room and realised he didn’t particularly like anything else about it. He didn’t like his kitchen or bathroom much either, and his bedroom was so dark most of the time. Not to mention the fact he only had the one, and if he and Draco are going to start dating this summer, sharing a room would be awkward, at least if this morning had been any indication.

Harry closed his eyes and started to consider where Draco might like to live, but stopped himself before he could go too far down that line of thinking. Draco was important to him, and if he’d be staying with Harry for the summer while he figured out where to work and live Harry should take that into consideration, but if he was going to move though – it should be to somewhere Harry would love to live. The idea felt foreign – how was he supposed to know what he wanted in a home, when he had never really felt like he had one?

Somehow thinking in negatives was easier than positives, and Harry started making a mental list of what he didn’t want. Grimmauld Place was too dark and damp, and small spaces reminded him of the Dursleys’, so Harry figured he’d want something light and airy. Something open, where the sun could get in. Living in his flat was alright, but he missed a garden. A quiet place for him to try and grow something, or read books when the weather was nice. The kitchen was too small, and too cold. He wanted one where he could make meals for himself and his friends, one that felt like Molly’s kitchen – like the heart of the home. Maybe a bathtub would be nice too, he thought, a huge one where he could spend long evenings soaking in hot water with scented oils. And windowsills so wide he could sit on them, like he’d done so many sleepless nights at Hogwarts.

Draco had mentioned something about there being more houses in the Black heritage than just Grimmauld Place, and that there was probably something in his Potter inheritance too. Harry knew he could afford a new place, but something about a home that had housed a family he felt a connection to sounded nice. Harry had been in love with magic since he discovered it existed, he wanted a place that was clearly affected by it. Something like the Burrow, only his, a house that almost had a personality. A place that would learn to keep the doors of smaller rooms open when Harry was in them, or that would make people he didn’t like too much trip on the carpets.

“Kreacher?” Harry called, and for the first time stopped to consider that wherever he ended up living would need a place for his elf as well.

“Yes, Harry Potter sir,” the elf said, appearing with a pop.

“Uhm, I don’t really know if this is like, something you know anything about or anything. But, er, I think Draco mentioned something about how I probably own some property. He said there might be stuff both in the Potter and Black lines, would you know anything about that?” Harry asked, a little unsure if he was going way beyond what a house-elf’s responsibilities are with his request. Maybe he should have just waited for Draco to wake up?

“Yes, Mr. Harry Potter sir, Kreacher does know of all the Black properties. And he will visit the goblins sir, to get lists of the Potter and Black properties if Harry Potter wishes,” Kreacher said, pulling on his ears and smiling again. Harry figured he must have done something right then, by asking the elf.

“Would you? I don’t really know if it’s part of your, er, job, to do that.”

“It is, it is Kreacher's responsibility,” the elf said, nodding fiercely. He opened his mouth as if wanting to say something, then closed it, then opened it again and proceeded to put his hand in it and bite down hard.

“Kreacher, please don’t hurt yourself!” Harry said hurriedly. “Was there anything you wanted to say? I give you permanent permission to say or ask whatever you like, and that includes telling me when I’m being stupid.”

“Kreacher was hoping that maybe Mr. Harry Potter is wanting to live in a more suitable place? A wizarding home perhaps?” the elf said, twisting his ears in a way Harry really hoped wasn’t painful.

“Actually, I was thinking I wanted exactly that.” Harry smiled fondly at his elf. Kreacher burst into tears, but Harry hoped it was the happy kind of sobbing.

“Kreacher, from now on, if you’re unhappy with something, like where we’re living or your, er, job,” Harry said, hesitating over the word again, “I’d really like you to tell me. I don’t know much about house-elves or, well, the wizarding world outside of Hogwarts, so it would be great if you could tell me when I’m doing something weird.” Harry hoped making the request a favour to him would make it easier for the elf to actually speak up. He hated the thought that Kreacher had probably been as miserable as Harry had in the flat.

“Yes, Kreacher will help Harry Potter sir, thank you, you is too kind. And Kreacher will meet with goblins right now sir.”

“Thanks, Kreacher,” Harry said, “That’s a big help.” The elf disappeared with a pop that was louder than usual and Harry winced, hoping the sound hadn’t woken Draco. He’d looked like he needed some rest after staying up late.

A few minutes later Draco shuffled into the living room though, rubbing his eyes and looking too cute to be allowed. Draco had always looked adorable right after waking up, and Harry grinned at him.

“I swear Kreacher deliberately makes a louder pop when he thinks I’ve slept in too late,” Draco groaned, sitting down next to Harry.

“Yeah, he’s a great alternative to an alarm in the morning,” Harry laughed. “I’m the one who sent him off to Gringotts though, so you can blame me if you want.”

Draco pretended to consider it for a moment before letting his face break into a smile. “Nah, it’s almost noon and I don’t want to waste my one day here sleeping.”

“Come to the kitchen,” Harry offered, “I’ll make us some breakfast and you can keep me company.”

Harry hadn’t always enjoyed cooking, especially when it had been for the Dursleys, or when he’d forced himself to throw something together so he wouldn’t starve. Making food for Draco though was a different experience, and one Harry found he enjoyed. The slow and casual pace in which he made eggs and bacon was a stark contrast to the frenzy he’d been in the last time Draco had joined him in the kitchen, when he’d attempted to bake several cakes at once. Harry enjoyed the unrushed actions he took while frying up bacon and boiling eggs. He assigned Draco the job of toasting the bread and watched in amusement as he struggled with the toaster for ten full minutes before giving up and blasting the slices with a charm. They ended up black on the edges and soft in the middle but Harry didn’t mind, breakfast was perfect regardless.

“So why is Kreacher off at Gringotts?” Draco asked after finishing his first slice of toast, and begging Harry to make a new one properly with the toaster.

“I’ve decided to move,” Harry grinned, “because I realised this flat is ugly and I don’t have to live here.”

“Oh thank Merlin,” Draco said. Harry figured he shared Kreacher's sentiment about Harry finally moving to a ‘proper home’. “I mean, this place isn’t terrible – but it’s just, you seem miserable here most of the time. And nothing about it really says you live here, except the wall in the living room and the photos I’m guessing Kreacher put up.”

“Yeah, I never really tried to make it a home,” Harry admitted, “I think it was a mix of being too messed up to care and thinking I wouldn’t need a home for much longer.”

Draco looked sad at the words, but then he smiled. “But now you’re at a place where you think you’ll need one?”

“Yeah, I have every intention of living. And for that I need a home – at least, I want one.”

Harry felt like their conversation had moved into dangerous territory, not because it was actually dangerous, but because it scared him to talk about living. It scared him to admit he wanted it, because he still had days when he didn’t. He was saved from continuing though, when Kreacher popped in with two envelopes in his hands.

“Oh, are those the bank statements for your properties?” Draco asked, gesturing to the envelopes.

Kreacher nodded vigorously, and grinned when Draco smiled at him.

“Kreacher, you’re brilliant!” Harry said, “Thank you.”

Draco stood, taking the letters from Kreacher. “Thank you Kreacher, will you clean up in here while Harry and I go read these?”

Draco lead Harry to the sofa but didn’t open the letters. Instead he placed them on the table for Harry to take when he was ready. Harry wasn’t sure he’d ever be ready though. This was everything he had left from Sirius and his parents. It felt like too much.

“What if there isn’t anything in them?” Harry asked, “What if I open them and there isn’t anything left?”
“Well, you know Grimmauld Place and the lot in Godric’s Hollow will be there,” Draco said, “and if there isn’t anything else I’ll help you look for somewhere new. Somewhere that will feel like home.”

Bracing himself, and borrowing strength from Draco, Harry opened the first letter. He chose the one with the Black seal on it first, feeling like that was somehow safer. He ran a smaller risk of being disappointed with that one because he suspected the Black family might have had many houses, but very few homes.

Dear Mr. Harry J. Potter, heir to the Black estates; enclosed is a list detailing the estates passed to you from the departed Mr. Sirius Black, as per your request. Please contact us should there be any questions.
Best regards, Simon Bedinkle.

1st estate:
12 Grimmauld Place, London. Townhouse.
This house contains: 7 Bedrooms, 4 Bathrooms, Kitchen, Dining Room, Living Room and Attic. Built in 1884 by Muggles, renovated by wizards upon purchase.

2nd estate:
Black Manor, Wiltshire. Family manor.
This house contains: Master Suite with Main Bedroom, Second Bedroom/Dressing Room,
2 Bathrooms and additional Dressing Room, 7 Guest Bedrooms with 4 Bathrooms, 4 additional Bedrooms and 1 Bathroom, Children's Sitting Room, Linen and Trunk Room, Entrance and Staircase Hall, Billiard Room, Library, Drawing Room, Morning Room, Dining Room, Study, Kitchen/Breakfast Room, Cellars, Staff Sitting Room, Wand Room, Flower Room, Potions Room, Formal Gardens, Walled Garden, 3 Lakes, Laundry Cottage and Gardener's Cottage.

3rd estate:
Black holiday home, Calais, France.


Harry skimmed through the rest of the list, which detailed another house in France, and one in Italy. He figured he wanted to visit them all one day, and see if it was something he’d want to keep as a summer house, sell or tear down to build a small vacation home. He was looking for a home though, and he wanted a home in England. The Black Manor sounded more like a castle than a home, and Harry handed the letter over for Draco to inspect. He picked up the one with the Potter seal from the table and stared at it. His hands were shaking, making the envelope shake too. Maybe if he did it like a bandage, just ripped it off as fast as possible.

Harry stared at the letter until he felt a warm hand rest on his thigh, right above his knee. He took a deep breath, Draco was there. He wasn’t alone. He could do this.

Dear Mr. Harry J. Potter, heir to the Potter estates; enclosed is a list detailing the estates passed to you from the departed Mr. and Mrs. James and Lily Potter, as per your request. Please contact us should there be any questions.
Best regards, Simon Bedinkle

1st estate:
25 Godric’s Hollow, Cornwall. Plot.
This plot doesn’t have a house as it was demolished in 1981 after an attack that ruined the home.

2nd estate:
Potter Manor, Yorkshire. Family manor.
This house contains: Master Suite with Main Bedroom, 5 Bedrooms, 4 Bathrooms, Entrance and Staircase Hall, Library, Drawing Room, Morning Room, Dining Room, Study, Kitchen, Potions Room, Gardens, a lake, and three cottages.

3rd estate:
Harry’s Cottage, Wizmouth, Devon. Family home / vacation home.
This house contains: Master Bedroom with Bathroom, 2 Bedrooms, 2 Bathrooms, Kitchen, Living Room, Office, Dining Room, Porch and Gardens. This house was finished in 1980 and has never been in use.

Harry realised he was crying when the page blurred and he couldn’t read the words. His parents had built a cottage for him. Well, it had probably been meant for them to use as a family, but still. Harry’s Cottage. Maybe it could be a real home for Harry. A place to feel happy and loved and safe. And Molly would be happy too, Harry realised as he looked again at the location of the cottage. Wizmouth was just the next town over from Ottery St. Catchpole, so he wouldn’t be living too far away from the Burrow or Ron and Hermione’s new house.

“Draco, look,” Harry said, voice shaking. He handed the list to Draco, who read it over.

“Harry’s Cottage,” he said, grinning at Harry. “Looks like your parents wanted you to have a home.”

“It’s amazing, isn’t it?” Harry felt the need for some sort of reassurance, some confirmation that this was real.”

Draco squeezed the hand he had on Harry’s thigh. “It is indeed. I’m guessing that’s where you’ll want to live. Or at least the first place you want to look.”

“Well, yeah. If Grimmauld Place is anything to go by, I don’t want to step foot in any of the Black estates. Maybe we could burn the one in France to the ground and build something nice, without the severed house-elf heads.” Harry said, grimacing.

“Yes, from what my mother has told me, the Black mansion is not a place you would want to be living,” said Draco, mirroring Harry’s disgusted expression.

“Oh fuck, right!” Harry said. “Your mother grew up there, didn’t she? Well it’s hers if she wants it, or yours. It wasn’t really mine to inherit. I, er, well -,” Harry hesitated, “I was kinda hoping you’d want to keep living with me though. And I mean, I know we’re not there, like we haven’t even gone on one date yet, but I just -,” Harry trailed off, feeling like he’d put his foot in his mouth for the millionth time already.

“Breathe, Harry. I’d love to keep living with you. We’re not really at the whole ‘move in’ stage, I agree, but we could be room-mates.” Draco said, rubbing his thumb in small circles on Harry’s thigh. “Also, you can’t just give me or my mum the Black Manor, do you have any idea what it’s worth?”

“I’ve no idea to be honest. I know I’d be glad to be rid of it though. I feel like the Black properties aren’t mine to sell, but I don’t really want to own them either.” Harry said, accepting Draco’s slight change of topic.

“Well, I think my mother would like them actually. If only to burn it to the ground herself, or sell it off to Muggles.” Draco laughed when Harry gave him a puzzled look. “She hated her parents, and I think it’s only gotten worse after this whole war business. I guess she might totally renovate it as well, reclaim it or something.”

“Your mother is a strange person,” Harry said, without thinking. He breathed a sigh of relief when Draco didn’t look annoyed.

“That she is, indeed,” Draco said with a fond smile. “So, it’s the Potter Mansion or the Cottage then?”

“Yeah,” Harry grinned, “I think I’ll prefer the Cottage though. The Manor sounds huge.”

“I’ll come with you to see it if you want. And the mansion, if you want to see that too,” Draco said, leaning in closer to Harry.

“You’ll really come with me? That would be perfect! And, er, you wouldn’t mind? Living in the cottage even though I have a mansion. I know we haven’t seen the places yet, but -,” Harry trailed off. He was too distracted by Draco’s closeness, by the scent of ink and fruity shampoo that wafted off him, by the warmth of his hand on Harry’s thigh.

“Harry, I grew up in a manor. I think I’ve had my fill of long hallways and dozens of empty rooms. The manor never felt like home, I want a place that feels like home.”

Harry knew the cottage was home the instant they Apparated in front of it. The garden was overgrown, weeds poking out between every opening of the picket fence. Vines had taken over most of the house, twisting up the bricks and onto the roof. It was wonderful. The chimney made Harry think of cold nights in front of the fire, and the garden reminded him of Molly’s, though his was a lot wilder than hers had ever been. They fought their way through the grass, flowers, and weeds that had taken over the walkway to the door, casting Diffindo at regular intervals and looking carefully for plants that might harbour murderous intent. Harry wasn’t keen on death by Devil’s Snare before he’d got to see the inside of his house. Or before he’d got the chance to kiss Draco again.

The inside was covered in layers upon layers of dust, and the windows were so caked in it that they let in almost no light. Despite the grimy filth and darkness though, the place looked like home. Though the outside of the cottage was built out of brick the inside walls, floors and roof were made up of a warm-toned wood that Harry instantly fell in love with.

The living room had a huge fireplace, obviously built for Floo travel. The mantle above it held several picture frames, and Harry reached out a tentative hand to grab one. He used the sleeve of his shirt to wipe the grimy layer of dust off the glass and was faced with a picture of Sirius holding Harry as a baby, grinning at the camera.

“Draco, this is -,” said Harry, speaking for the first time since arriving. “I think I’ve just found my home.”

“I think so too,” Draco grinned. “Imagine this place cleaned up, a warm fire in the fireplace, roses climbing the walls outside instead of weeds – it’s perfect.”

They spent hours exploring the cottage, casting cleaning charms as they went. It barely made a dent in the dust that had accumulated over the years, but it had given them a better feeling for the house. They returned, exhausted, after Draco had assured Harry that Kreacher would love nothing more than to be allowed to make the place habitable again.

The soft feeling in Harry’s chest fled in horror when they returned home to Kreacher screaming his lungs out. “Master Draco, sir Harry Potter sir! You is both looking terrible! Horrible! Covered in dirt! What is Kreacher doing to deserve this?”

“I’m sorry, Kreacher,” Harry said, heartbeat slowing when he realised there was no real danger.

“You may clean us up, if it helps,” Draco offered and a second later Harry felt as if a wet cloth slapped him in the face several times over. He sneezed at the dust becoming airborne once more, but then it was gone. He looked at Draco and couldn’t see any trace of the grey layer of dirt that had been covering him only seconds ago.

“Mister Harry Potter, sir’s orange friend came looking for him,” Kreacher said. “And there is a letter.” He looked utterly displeased, “A letter that is smoking.”

“A Howler?” Draco asked, but Harry was already running for the kitchen to find his letter. He opened the Howler, that was indeed smoking, without hesitation.


As soon as the Howler burst into flame, Draco burst out laughing. Harry though, burst into action.

“Draco, come on! We have to go. Hermione is having a baby. An actual baby, Draco!” Harry said, impatiently.

“Ok, ok, calm down, I’m coming,” Draco said, laughter still in his eyes.

“Hurry!” Harry said. He ran to his bedroom wardrobe and pulled out his ‘just-in-case’ bag, then ran to the kitchen to fill the already stuffed bag with the snacks he’d bought for this very occasion.

“Harry, what’s that bag?” Draco asked, following into the kitchen at a much more sedate pace than Harry allowed himself.

“It’s my just-in-case bag,” Harry said, trying to force a bottle of pop down the side pocket of the bag.

“And what exactly is a just-in-case bag?”

“It’s all the things people at the hospital might need when Hermione goes into labour. Just in case anyone forgot something. Like the diapers.”

“You have a bag of diapers?” Draco asked, and started laughing again.

“Of course I have a bag of diapers,” Harry said, smiling, finally calm enough to see the humour. “Ron and Hermione are having a baby.”

“Come on then,” Draco said, “off to hospital it is.”

Harry grinned as he grabbed Draco’s hand for the side-along. He wasn’t at all surprised to find the entirety of the Weasley clan sat in the waiting room of the hospital. He was, however, surprised to see Hermione there, face twisted in pain.

“Hermione! Why aren’t you in a hospital room?” Harry asked immediately, deciding to greet the family later.

“I’m still waiting to be admitted Harry. It’s no rush, really,” Hermione explained, and immediately groaned in pain again.

“You’re in pain, Hermione! I say there is a rush!” Harry said, feeling panicked all over again.

“I’ve only just gone into active labour Harry, it typically takes 4 or 5 hours before I have to start pushing. And then it might still take hours before the baby comes.”

Harry felt Draco place a calming hand on his shoulder, and he forced himself to breathe. He was there to help Ron and Hermione, not freak out.

“Ok, me and Draco will go get you a room. Where is Ron?” Harry asked, realising his friend wasn’t among the other redheads.

“He went to get Hermione a room, dear,” Molly said, smiling at her adopted children.

Harry pulled Draco with him through the crowd of people in the waiting room, and through to the entrance hall, which was even more crowded. Thankfully, Ron’s bright hair made him easy to spot, and Harry immediately navigated to where his friend was apparently arguing with a nurse.

“..-is in labour RIGHT NOW. There was water on the floor, she is in pain and she needs a room and a doctor right now!” Ron yelled when Harry and Draco reached him.

“You still don’t have a room?” Harry asked Ron, offering a supportive pat on the back in an attempt to soothe his frazzled friend.

“Harry! Thank Merlin you’re here,” Ron said, “and no, we haven’t got a room yet.” Ron shot an angry glare at the nurse, “Because this bloody idiot insists there is a ‘queuing system’.”

Harry looked at the nurse, and saw that the man at least had the sense to look a little scared. Harry was about to open his mouth to help Ron yell abuse at the man that stood between Hermione and a doctor, when Draco stepped in.

“Nurse,” Draco paused to look at the nametag on the man’s chest, “Abny, is it?”

The nurse opened his mouth to reply, but Draco didn’t let him. “Nurse Abny, do you know the people standing here next to me? One of them is Harry Potter, the man who sacrificed himself to save you and everyone else in this hospital. He also happens to be one of the wealthiest wizards in Britain,” Draco said, voice so cold it reminded Harry of the boy he knew when they were both fourteen. “Now, I’m sure you know that his friend Ronald here, and his pregnant girlfriend Hermione, were instrumental in helping with the defeat of the man whose name would make you piss your lime green pants. In addition, Ms. Granger holds an influential position in the Ministry for Magic and Mr. Weasley here is about to be an Auror. I, myself, have grown up learning how to make a person’s life particularly unpleasant,” Draco said, pausing for effect. “Now, Nurse Abny, trust me when I tell you that if Hermione Granger doesn’t find herself in a nice private room within the next ten minutes, I, Harry, Ronald and Hermione herself will pool all our collective resources into not only making sure this hospital faces a bad reputation and bankruptcy, but also ensuring your life will be a living hell.”

Nurse Abny appeared to lose all ability to speak for several seconds, his mouth opening and closing like a fish out of water.

“Well?” Draco demanded.

“Of course, yes, naturally. Come with me, I’ll take you to your room straight away,” the nurse stammered, following Ron as he led the way to his girlfriend. Draco moved to follow, but Harry held him back.

“That was brilliant!” Harry grinned.

“Really? I was worried you’d be mad about the whole ‘Harry Potter saviour of the world’ bit.” Draco said, biting his lip.

“In other circumstances I would be, when it comes to helping my friends? Not a bit. You were awesome, and honestly? Really fucking hot!” Harry said, whispering the last part to make sure only Draco heard and trying hard to keep the blush blooming on his face from reaching an embarrassing colour.

“I should boss people around more often then,” Draco said, grinning.

Hermione had been right about the labour taking hours. Thankfully, Draco’s intimidation had worked perfectly and she got not only a private room, but one with a private waiting room for the extended family. Harry’s ‘just-in-case’ bag was greatly appreciated as he produced yarn and knitting needles for Molly, an ‘electricity for dummies’ book for Arthur, diapers, a deadly boring book for Hermione to read between contractions, playing cards and food and drink for the whole family.

When Ron brought out a small bundle hours later, and invited them all to meet his daughter, Rose, there wasn’t a dry eye in the room. Molly dressed the baby in her fresh-off-the-needles hat, and Arthur decided the baby had his ears.

“Do you want to hold your god-daughter?” Ron asked, holding the bundle out to Harry after the grandparents had had their turn.

Sitting there - holding his god-daughter, thigh pressed against Draco’s, surrounded by the Weasley family - Harry finally knew he had experienced true happiness. Had experienced home, and love and family. And he knew that despite depression lurking around every corner, he would never ever leave. He was home, and he was safe.

Chapter Text

And when we first came here
We were cold and we were clear
With no colors on our skin
'Till you let the spectrum in
Say my name
And every color illuminates
We are shining
And we will never be afraid again
- Florence and the Machine (Spectrum)

In the weeks after Rose was born Harry spent a lot of time with Ron and Hermione. He’d been afraid that he’d lose them both when they became parents. That the new little baby would take up all the time and love they had to offer, and that there wouldn’t be any left for Harry. Of course, Harry being Harry, he hadn’t realised he was afraid until he breathed a sigh of relief when Ron Firecalled to make sure Harry was still coming for Saturday dinner the first weekend after they got home from hospital.

He didn’t just visit on Saturdays anymore, but dropped in every other day to make sure his friends had freshly cooked food, and held the baby while they showered or took a nap. Harry loved it. He loved Rose. The feeling of a tiny baby sleeping on his chest would always soothe his racing heart and thoughts, leaving him feeling calmer than he had in years. Hermione and Ron had realised this pretty fast, and Harry supposed that was why Hermione handed him the baby to hold before asking about Draco.

“So, Draco was with you when you came to hospital,” she said. Harry busied himself with stroking the soft black hair Rose had been born with, Hermione said it would fall out eventually, so Harry figured they should appreciate it before she went bald.

“And you were off doing something,” Ron added, “I tried to Firecall you like four times before I went to your place and left the Howler. You weren’t home.”

Harry grinned at the word home, at the memory of the cottage he knew Kreacher was off cleaning and getting ready for him.

“I think I was home, actually. I think I found one,” Harry grinned. He lifted his eyes from Rose’s sleeping face to look at his friends, to share the joy he felt.

“Really?” Ron asked.

“Yeah, my parents – they left a cottage for me. It’s beautiful,” Harry said, remembering the overgrown weeds and ivy and the dusty windows. “Well, I mean, it’s a bit run down after standing empty for so long. Kreacher is helping me fix it up a bit though.”

Hermione teared up, though she was still grinning. Harry had, thankfully, grown used to her frequent crying. He supposed carrying and giving birth to a baby had caused a bit of chaos in her emotions. “Oh, Harry! That’s so wonderful!”

“It really is mate,” Ron agreed, “having a place that feels like home is bloody important.”

“What about Draco?” Hermione asked.

“He’s moving into the guest bedroom when he comes back from France. It might be a bit weird though,” Harry grinned, “since he’s agreed to go on a date with me.”

Ron laughed. “Mate, I can’t see you and Malfoy doing anything that isn’t at least a little bit weird, it just wouldn’t suit either of you.”

“I suppose you’re right,” Harry said.

“So when are you moving into your new home?” Hermione asked, tone suddenly all business. “Do you have furniture, cutlery and everything else you need?”

“Kreacher says he’ll be done cleaning the place up tomorrow, so I thought I’d go take a look then. See what I can use that’s already there and what I need to buy.”

“Mum will be so happy,” Ron said. He had one of his sad smiles on, Harry thought, the one that made him wonder how his friend could feel both happy and sad at the same time. “Your hand on the clock might finally move.”

“What?” Harry asked. Ron wasn’t typically one to speak in riddles after all.

“Your hand on the clock has been stuck on ‘lost’ for years now,” Ron explained.

“The clock?” Harry asked, thinking Ron couldn’t possibly be talking about the family clock at the Weasleys.

“The family clock,” Ron said, rolling his eyes, “you’ve seen it in the Burrow.”

“Yeah, but that’s for family,” Harry said, still confused. Why would they add him to the clock? From what he knew even Hermione hadn’t been added to that clock yet.

“Merlin Harry, you are family. I’m pretty sure mum took one look at you back when we were, what, twelve? And decided this boy is my child now, I’m keeping him.”

Harry tried to hold back his tears, and then forced himself to remember that his feelings weren’t bad or dangerous, and he wasn’t weak for showing them.

“I can’t believe you never knew you were on it,” Hermione said, looking sad. “I wish Molly would have told you.”

“In her defence, she might have tried,” Harry said, “I wasn’t really, er, available for a couple of years.”

Ron got up to thump Harry on his shoulder, and Harry struggled to keep Rose from jolting. “We’re glad you’re back,” he grinned. “Let us know if you need any help getting settled in.”

Harry hadn’t needed much help as it turned out. Kreacher had done a wonderful job of not just cleaning up the house and surrounding garden, but also mending furniture and cracked windows. It had felt both new and familiar when Harry stepped back in, and after two weeks of living there it felt like home. Truly home. He invited people over to visit, something he’d never really wanted to do in his flat. He and Hermione had spent a lot of time laying outside in the shadow of his apple tree, and he and Ron had lounged on the comfortable sofa listening to the Wireless. Dean and Seamus had been over for dinner a couple of times, and even Neville dropped by to have a look at the strange plants Harry had found in his garden. When he offered to host Sunday brunch, Molly arrived, sobbing into the hug she gave him. She’d tried to speak, but in the end Arthur had to explain that Harry’s hand on their clock had finally moved from ‘lost’ to ‘home’.

Harry’s new home and, by extension, busy social schedule made June fly by in seconds and before he knew it, it was July and Draco was set to arrive soon. Not just for a visit, Harry thought, but for moving in and making it their home. And for a date. The date.

Harry had gone over the plan for what he and Draco would do with Hermione, Dean and Ron several times over. First, he’d take Draco to the Science Museum in London. Draco was always fascinated by Muggle things, and if nothing else, his reactions would make Harry laugh. Then Harry would take Draco out to eat. He booked a table two weeks in advance, at one of the fanciest Muggle restaurants he’d found. He considered a Wizard place, but even two years after the war the Prophet still found interest in what Harry did as soon as he left the privacy of his home. After dinner he’d take Draco to see a play, and then he’d take him home and hopefully get a chance to feel those perfect lips against his own again.

The night before Draco was set to arrive Harry laid awake, going over the plan in his head again and again in an effort to ground himself. He’d been feeling on edge lately, and he desperately tried not to let it get to him. He didn’t have time to stop functioning now.

When Harry’s wand vibrated to wake him up the next morning Harry didn’t notice until it had been half an hour and his wand had vibrated itself off the bedside table and onto the floor. He picked it up and placed it back on the table without opening his eyes, just barely resisting the urge to throw it across the room. He was tired, and not just the kind of tired he got when he’d slept too little. The sick kind of tired, the kind that wouldn’t get better with sleep. The one that happened when he’d been happy for too long. He had to get out of bed though, because he didn’t have time to be tired, or depressed, as was probably the case. Draco was arriving in a couple of hours, and he’d be expecting a date. He’d be expecting Harry to greet him with a grin, and maybe a kiss. If they were ever going to be together Harry couldn’t start it off by staying in bed all day. He needed a shower, and he had to go grocery shopping, and he had to choose something to wear out of the few options Hermione had helped him find. He’d planned to go into the garden and pick flowers to place on the table, so Draco would feel welcome when he arrived. He’d planned to have lunch ready before they left. He’d planned so much, and he couldn’t even get out of bed to take a piss.

Harry cursed himself when he checked the time, and realised he’d already wasted one of his three hours. Then again, it didn’t really matter because Draco had probably changed his mind. Who would want to be Harry’s room-mate? Who would want to go on a date with him? Except Draco had said he wanted it, so Harry owed it to him to get out of bed. Only, sometime during the night his bed had turned into the only safe place in the world, and the thought of leaving it felt dangerous. Impossible, like his duvet had grown so heavy he couldn’t lift it.

“I’ll count to ten,” Harry told himself, trying hard to sound determined. “And when I get to ten, I’ll get up.”

He started mentally counting the numbers, but before he made it as far as ten he was asleep again. He woke to a loud crash somewhere on the floor below him, and to Kreacher's shouted apology. It didn’t feel much like waking up though, more like fighting off fog with a fly swatter. Harry found himself questioning if he was even really awake.

Get up, he told himself. Get up, get up, get up. He liked Draco, fuck, he loved Draco and he had to get up and get ready for their date. Harry’s depression though, didn’t care that he loved Draco. It didn’t care that Harry had spent days making sure everything was ready, and weeks planning. His depression didn’t care much about anything, and so neither did Harry.

At least, he thought, if he didn’t care he didn’t have to worry about the fact that Draco couldn’t possibly like him, or that it wouldn’t last long if he actually did. He didn’t have to worry that Draco would hate their date, or that Harry would be a terrible boyfriend. He didn’t have to be anxious about looking ugly or sounding stupid. Harry didn’t have to worry about anything at all if he didn’t care, at least that’s how it should have worked. Harry wanted to scream in anger when he realised that it didn’t. Why couldn’t he be depressed in a way where he didn’t give a fuck, or in a way where he was able to do stuff despite his depression? Why did today have to be a day of being too depressed to move, and too anxious to not care?

Harry was relieved when, an hour later, his bladder was screaming too loud to be ignored and he managed to get up without it feeling like a choice. Getting out of bed is always the hardest part, and he still had time to shower before Draco was set to arrive. Harry thought making it into the shower shouldn’t feel like as much of a victory as it did, but after hours of being unable to leave the bed, actually getting in the shower felt like a big fuck-you to his depression.

“Congratu-fucking-lation” he said out loud, immediately feeling the need to patronise himself for feeling accomplishment over anything. Draco might be going out on a date with a walking corpse, but at least it would be a clean corpse, right? Feeling hysterical, Harry couldn’t stop himself from laughing. Realistically he’d known this could happen. Draco had known it too, because even though Harry was so much better, he wasn’t healed. He wished he could have had at least the one date before everything went to shit though, then at least they could have had just one perfect night.

Harry managed to finish his shower and pull on some clothes. He’d just laid down on the sofa when Draco arrived. Somehow, actually seeing Draco, windswept and dragging his trunk into the living room, made Harry feel even worse. Standing in front of him was the man he had been in love with for years, and he couldn’t even muster the energy or happiness for a genuine smile.

“Hey,” Draco said, turning to grin at Harry, “this place looks amazing!”

“Yeah,” Harry said, trying to return the smile. He thought he’d succeeded until he saw Draco’s face, full of worry and something else, disappointment? Sadness?

“You’re having a bad day?” Draco asked, and although it was a question Harry thought it was pretty much a rhetorical one.

“Sorry,” Harry said, and he was horrified to hear his voice break. His emotions used to be locked up so tight he couldn’t access them if he wanted to, but lately they seemed to always be right below the surface, ready to jump out and embarrass him.

“It’s ok,” Draco said, collapsing on the sofa next to Harry. “Mind if I turn on the Wireless?”

“Ok?” Harry asked, confused. He thought Draco would be mad or upset at finding Harry in one of his ‘moods’.

“Yeah, ok. I mean, I think we’ve both been looking forward to our date today,” Draco said, suddenly looking nervous, “or, at least I hope we’ve both been looking forward to it. But I’ll be looking forward to it just as much if we do it tomorrow or in a week or whenever you’re feeling up to it.”

“I’ve been looking forward to it as well,” Harry quickly reassured, “I made all these plans, and I don’t want to disappoint you. We can still go.” Harry wanted to take the offer back as soon as he’d given it. He knew he could probably go, physically, but it wouldn’t be a very enjoyable date for either of them.

“Harry, it’s ok. You already told me you aren’t cured, I know there will be bad days, and even though I hate that I can’t do anything to fix it at least I can accept it and be here for you. And I do, accept it, I mean. And I’m here for you. Just use your strength to get through today, and we’ll see what tomorrow brings, ok?”

Harry closed his eyes to keep the tears from falling freely. The feeling of just being accepted and supported despite being human trash who cancelled their first date should be beyond words. He knew it should make him feel happy and grateful. He knew it should make him show gratitude and affection. But depression didn’t care that Draco was being perfect and accepting, it didn’t care that he was one of the few people who didn’t make Harry feel worse when he was already down. All depression cared about was that Harry didn’t have to deal with his date, all depression cared about was that Harry could finally go back to bed.

“You’re perfect, thank you,” Harry said, managing a sad smile. “I think I just need to be alone for a while, I’m sorry. I’m sure Kreacher will fix you some food and show you your room.”

“Alright,” Draco smiled, “I’ll be fine. You go rest, and just find me if you want some company, yeah?”

Harry heard the Wireless being turned on as he closed his bedroom door, and sighed in relief, Draco would be ok and Harry could finally get back in bed. He knew it was too early to sleep, but hoped he’d be able to anyway, the level of tired he was feeling couldn’t possibly be normal.

His bladder woke him early the next morning, and Harry made his way to the bathroom as quietly as possible in an effort to not wake Draco. As soon as his bladder was empty, Harry’s stomach screamed in protest about not being fed for a day, and Harry headed for the kitchen. He hoped Kreacher was awake and wasn’t too surprised to find his elf already in the process of making breakfast. Kreacher always seemed to be awake when Harry needed him.

Harry had finished a cup of tea and a piece of toast when Draco entered the kitchen.

“Hey, morning. Sorry about yesterday,” Harry said, pouring a cup of coffee for his date-to-be.

“Good morning, how are you feeling today?” Draco asked, smiling through a yawn.

“Better. Not 100% you know, but definitely better. And definitely date ready,” Harry grinned. “That is, if you still want to? I wouldn’t blame you if not, but well, I want to.”

Harry appreciated that Draco had been so open about looking forward to their date yesterday, because it made it a whole lot easier for Harry to be open about wanting to go now.

“Oh, I definitely want to,” Draco said. “You’re not the only one with plans for date night.” Draco winked at him then, and Harry felt fairly sure all of the blood in his body had rushed to either his groin or his face in response.

“Fuck, I love you,” Harry said and immediately panicked. “Er, I mean, well, I mean it – but I’m sorry. It’s too soon to say that, I er -.”

“I love you too,” Draco interrupted. He sat on the chair next to Harry and placed a calming hand on Harry’s knee. “I don’t think it’s too soon. We’re doing everything in a weird order anyway.”

Harry stared into Draco’s eyes, and suddenly he didn’t want to wait until after their date. He didn’t want to wait another second to kiss those beautiful lips. He leaned in slow, wanting to give Draco time to pull away if he wanted to. When Draco realised what Harry was doing though, he leaned in to meet him halfway. Their lips touched softly. Draco sighed and opened his lips slightly, letting Harry pull them closer and deepen the kiss. Harry could have sworn he felt Draco in every cell of his body. It wasn’t the electricity he’d read about in books. It was more, deeper. It felt like slowly thawing in a warm bath after being outside in the cold. Like laying down in a clean bed when you’re really tired, or like the first signs of spring after a long winter. It felt like coming home.

Harry didn’t want to pull away, even for air, but eventually he had to. At some point his hands had ended up in Draco’s hair, and they sat like that for a while. Harry’s hands in Draco’s hair, Draco’s hands on Harry’s chin. Face to face, breathing hard. Draco leaned in a second time, and the kiss was just as amazing as the first. Actually, Harry thought, it was better. This time he was prepared for the intense sensations, and he could enjoy them fully. He could feel his fingers running through Draco’s hair, and the softness of it between his fingers. He felt Draco’s hand on his back, pulling him impossibly closer. Harry felt his erection strain at his jeans, and was embarrassed until he looked down and realised Draco was just as hard.

“Fuck,” Draco said, pulling out of the kiss with a gasp. “I want you, Harry. You have no idea how much I want you.” The words released something in Harry. Suddenly he wasn’t embarrassed at all, because this was Draco. His best friend Draco, who he had laughed and cried with for years now. Draco whom he loved, and who loved him back.

“Well, I think I have some idea,” Harry said, smirking. He placed his hand directly over Draco’s crotch and couldn’t help the sharp intake of breath at the feel of Draco’s cock, even through his jeans. Draco moaned, letting his face fall in the crook of Harry’s neck.

“Do you have any idea what you’re doing to me, Harry?” Draco mumbled without moving his head. Harry shivered at the sensation of lips moving against his neck.

“Well you aren’t the only one sporting a hard-on,” Harry said, guiding Draco’s hand to his crotch to emphasise his point, and immediately groaning in pleasure.

“We should probably, aah,” Draco moaned, pushing into Harry’s hand, “wait. We have a date.”

“Do you want to wait?” Harry asked, slightly out of breath.

“Fuck no,” Draco said, leaning in to kiss Harry again. Harry felt Draco’s hips move to grind up against his hand, and he pressed down harder on Draco’s cock.

“Yeah, me neither,” Harry said, breathless as their kiss broke.

“Then bed,” Draco demanded, “now.”

Harry stood up from the kitchen chair, adjusting his jeans slightly to make them more comfortable for his straining cock. He took Draco’s hand and dragged the man behind him up to his room. Once they got there he wasn’t entirely sure what to do, so he pulled Draco into another kiss. Draco grabbed Harry’s hips and pushed their groins together, and Harry couldn’t contain the moan that fell from his mouth at the feeling of Draco’s cock against his.

“What do you want?” Draco asked, rolling his hips against Harry again and again, completely ruining Harry’s ability to form a thought.

“Aah, I want, fuck, I want you to take charge. I want to be close. I, gah, I want to feel you.”

“Alright,” Draco said, and Harry could feel the man smirk from where his lips rested against Harry’s throat.

Harry made a sound of protest when Draco took a step back, removing the heat and wonderful friction Harry had been enjoying.

“Take off your shirt,” Draco said, already working on removing his own. Harry followed his example. The scars on his arm had healed almost to the point of being invisible, and he hadn’t felt the need to hide them in months. When Draco started on his trousers though, Harry felt suddenly afraid. His thighs were a mess, a mess Draco hadn’t seen yet.

He let Draco remove his own trousers, and when he moved to take off Harry’s jeans, Harry didn’t stop him. He felt his jeans fall to the floor, and heard Draco’s breath change the moment he noticed the scars.

“I’m sorry,” Harry said. He wasn’t sure what else to say, what else he could say.

“Don’t be.” Draco ran a soft finger over one of Harry’s more recent scars, one he knew without looking was still red and raised.

“I know they’re ugly,” Harry said, giving Draco an out, in case he wanted one.

“They’re not,” Draco said, still kneeling in front of Harry. He placed his face so close to Harry’s pants he could feel Draco’s hot breath on his cock. “Nothing about you could ever be ugly. Your scars are just there, that’s all.”

“Oh,” Harry said, unable to form a more comprehensive thought. Draco’s lips brushed against his erection when he spoke, and Harry had to fight hard not to grind his cock into Draco’s face.

“Do you still want to do this?” Draco asked, and Harry thought the question was the most ridiculous one he’d ever been asked, especially considering Draco’s lips were still brushing his very obvious erection with every word.

“Yes,” Harry gasped, “fuck, yes.”

“Then get on the bed,” Draco said, using Harry’s hips as leverage to pull himself into a standing position again.

Harry crawled on to his bed, marvelling at how he’d spent the previous day buried in it, feeling terrible – and now he was about to, well, feel anything but terrible.

Draco followed him, lying next to Harry and placing a hand on his hip. He leaned in to kiss Harry, and Harry moved his head to give Draco better access. He suddenly felt like he understood his friends’ fascination with snogging, how Ron and Hermione had said they could sometimes do it for hours. He felt magic tingling all over his body, and he wasn’t sure if it was his or Draco’s, or a mix of both. He never wanted to stop, the only thoughts in his head were, more and closer.

He tried to move closer to Draco but found it difficult with the other man lying next to him, so he tried pulling on Draco to make him understand what Harry needed. Draco understood something, or maybe he just needed too. It didn’t matter, because he moved and seconds later he was laying on top of Harry, grinding his hips in the most delicious way.

Harry gasped and pushed his hips up to meet Draco, grabbing the man’s hips and silently demanding, more, faster, harder. Draco obliged, and Harry knew then he couldn’t hold on for much longer. He was going to come, and they both still had their pants on. The same thought must have struck Draco because he stopped moving his hips. Harry whined at the loss of friction and opened his eyes to stare at the blond man above him. Draco placed his hands on the waistline of Harry’s pants, staring at Harry with wild eyes and not moving. He was asking for permission, Harry realised, and quickly nodded. He raised his hips to help Draco pull the pants over his arse and aching cock, and then he was naked.

Draco seemed to forget what he’d been doing, sitting back on Harry’s thighs and staring at the flushed cock he’d revealed. Harry shifted, feeling a bit awkward with the attention.

“Draco, please,” he said, not really sure what he was asking for. Please touch me? Please get undressed? Please start moving again? Please fuck me? It didn’t matter, Harry thought, as long as Draco stopped staring and did something, anything.

Draco seemed to shake himself, and he pulled off his own pants in a swift motion. Harry understood the staring now, because he couldn’t take his eyes off the cock that stood hard and erect between Draco’s legs. It was pretty much the same size as Harry’s, but while Harry’s was completely straight and nestled in hair, Draco’s was a little curved, and his pubes were trimmed short.

“What do you want?” Draco asked again, voice rough with arousal.

Harry tried to imagine it. Draco’s hands on him, in him. His mouth on Harry’s cock or nipples, his cock in Harry’s mouth, hand or arse. He wanted all of it.

“I want everything,” Harry said honestly, “I want you.”

Draco smirked and moved further down Harry’s body, pushing himself into the space between Harry’s knees. Harry spread his legs out as far as they would go, wondering what Draco was going to do. His whole body shook in anticipation, and just the softest brush of Draco’s hand along his thigh made him shiver in pleasure.

Draco grabbed the wand that had rolled to the side of the bed, and whispered a spell that made his hand glisten with lube. “Are you, did you want me to -,” Draco broke off. He took a deep breath, seeming to calm himself. “I want to finger you,” he said.

Harry gasped at the idea, and pulled his knees up off the bed so Draco would have better access to his arse. He’d tried it a couple of times alone, but he could never get the angle right to push more than the tip of his index finger inside himself. He wanted this.

“There is a spell,” Draco said, “to, er – clean you up in there.”

Harry flushed, he hadn’t thought of that. “Do it.”

“It can feel a bit strange,” Draco said, “we don’t have to take it that far today – we can just, er, do what we were doing.” Harry looked at Draco’s face as he spoke. The only indication he felt unsure was the way his teeth worried over his bottom lip, and Harry thought it was adorable.

“I’m done waiting. I want anything you want to give, please Draco.” Harry shifted again, using his hands to pull up his knees to expose himself further, he wanted to show Draco how much he wanted this.

The motion seemed to work, because Draco stopped biting his lip and smirked instead, pointing the wand to Harry and whispering another spell. A cold sensation rushed up Harry’s insides, and he winced at the unfamiliar sensation. It was over before he could have more of a reaction though, and he forgot it when he felt the brush of Draco’s finger over his rim moments later.

Harry braced himself for the feeling of a finger penetrating him, but Draco didn’t. Instead he ran his fingers up and down Harry’s cleft, alternating between brushing over his rim and slowly circling it. Harry let himself sink into the soft pleasure of it, allowing the small thrills of pleasure to soothe his remaining nerves until he relaxed into the mattress.

“Fuck, that feels good,” Harry sighed as he grabbed the pillow next to him and turned his face into it, feeling only slightly self-conscious at the admission when it could be hidden in the pillow. He wanted Draco to know he enjoyed this, wanted him to know it felt so right he couldn’t understand why they hadn’t been doing this since they started getting on. Draco seemed to take it as a cue Harry was ready to move further, and the finger that had been circling his rim in slow, firm motions stopped moving. Instead, Draco pressed the finger firmly against Harry’s hole, letting his finger slip slowly inside as the muscles there fluttered and relaxed to allow him entrance. “Fuck,” Harry breathed, pressing his face against the pillow to suppress a whimper.

He wasn’t sure if he enjoyed the sensation or not. It felt good, but also so strange and foreign Harry couldn’t choose between all the sensations running through him. Draco held his finger still inside him when he’d pushed it in to the second knuckle – Harry suspected to allow him to get used to the sensation.

“Draco, I – er, I think I need you to move,” Harry said, glad Draco couldn’t see his blush.

“Do you want me to stop?” Draco asked, finger twitching a little in Harry, and causing Harry to twitch too.

“No, no, don’t stop,” Harry hurried to reassure, “just – I don’t know, move your finger. Or add more. I – this in-between feeling is really weird.”

Draco didn’t speak, but knowing him, Harry suspected he’d nodded because a few seconds later the finger inside him started moving slowly in and out, and Draco’s other hand came to rest against Harry’s hard cock. He didn’t close his fist around it, or make any move to pull Harry off, but the soft feel of the back of Draco’s hand against it still made Harry shudder and push back against the finger in his arse. His movement brought Draco’s finger deeper, and created the lightest of friction between Harry’s cock and Draco’s hand. Draco moved faster then, pushing into Harry with firm, quick motions.

“Fuck, Draco – more,” Harry demanded. The sensations of strangeness had disappeared entirely, leaving him with only the deep and desperate want for more, deeper, faster that he couldn’t begin to understand. He had no way of knowing how more would feel, but he knew he was longing for it.

Draco huffed, sounding like he was caught between amusement and soft irritation. “Get rid of the pillow, I want to see your face.”

Harry pushed the pillow so violently it fell to the floor. He no longer cared about hiding the flush he was sure must be on his face now from arousal and previous embarrassment, he just wanted this to keep going.

“Merlin, you’re gorgeous like this,” Draco said, gaze flitting between Harry’s face and the finger moving rapidly in and out of his arse.

“I’ll be even more gorgeous if you’ll just – ah,” Harry paused to gasp at the feeling of Draco pushing his finger in hard, “fuck me with more fingers. Or your cock, I’m not picky.”

Draco laughed, and warmth spread through Harry at the softness of it. “I suspect you’re very much picky actually, but we’ll start with more fingers regardless,” Draco said. Harry was relieved, he sounded just as breathless as Harry felt. “I don’t want this to hurt,” Draco almost whispered, pulling his finger out of Harry entirely. Harry, who had planned on assuring Draco that he didn’t fucking mind if it hurt a little as long as his deep-seated itch for more was satisfied soon, instead let out a low whine at the loss of sensation.

He didn’t have time to make a verbal complaint though, before he realised Draco had only pulled his finger out to push it in next to another. It did burn a little, but Harry found he much preferred the burn to the strange sensation of too little he’d felt earlier. The pain as his arse stretched around two of Draco’s fingers only seemed to stoke the fire of his pleasure and arousal, and Harry experimentally pushed his arse up against Draco’s hand to drive the fingers in hard and fast.

“Fuck!” Harry gasped as pleasure shot through his body. He heard his words echoed and looked up to see Draco’s eyes captivated by the look of his fingers buried in Harry. Harry moved his hips again, mouth open and breathing hard as the tight ball of pleasure and unreleased tension in his lower abdomen grew with every thrust of his hips.

“Draco, help me out here,” Harry said when he realised he was the only one moving, with Draco only staring in rapt fascination at the way his fingers were being swallowed up again and again by Harry’s arse.

Draco, the git, laughed again. “You -,” he said, looking over Harry as if searching for what he was trying to say, “Fuck, Harry – I, this is so much better than I imagined. You’re so responsive, and so fucking hot. I can’t – I can’t even think.”

“Don’t think then, just act. Just fuck me, just -,” Harry paused to thrust hard into Draco’s fingers, “Please.”

The word seemed to trigger something in Draco, who growled and pushed his fingers into Harry in a rough thrust. Harry let his head fall back to draw in a shuddering breath as Draco kept up the thrusts at an unrelenting pace, sometimes bending his fingers a little and sometimes scissoring them to stretch Harry out. To get his arse ready for Draco’s cock. The thought alone made Harry moan softly, and he clutched desperately at the sheets in an effort to stay grounded somehow. Draco’s fingers thrust in at a slightly different angle then, and Harry didn’t even try to stop the guttural sound that tore itself from his throat as Draco’s fingers brushed against his prostate. “There it is,” Draco muttered, sounding so pleased with himself Harry wanted to take the piss, he really did. He would have too, if his mouth wasn’t busy drawing gasping breaths and letting out a steady stream of incomprehensible sounds of “oh, yes, fuck, Draco, fuck, God that’s -, aah.”

“I’m going to add a third finger now,” Draco warned. Harry, through tremendous effort, managed to lift his head and look at Draco again. He looked messier than Harry had ever seen him, chest flushed, nipples hard and a look of wild desire clear in his eyes.

“Fuck the third finger,” Harry said, trying to convey how incredibly fucking ready he felt through his eyes. How his body shook as pleasure shot through him, even when Draco had stopped moving his fingers. How the ball of pleasure in his abdomen had grown so large and tense Harry was sure a stiff wind could bring him off. He wanted this, wanted to come with Draco inside him their first time together. It felt somehow significant, that they’d be as close as possible. That there would be absolutely nothing keeping them apart, not even air. Harry was so fucking done letting things get between them, be it a stupid rivalry, a war, mental illness or the air itself. “I want you to fuck me, now.” Harry remembered how fiercely Draco had responded when he’d said ‘please’ earlier, and when Draco didn’t immediately comply Harry rushed to add it. “Please, Draco, fuck me. Please, I want you in me. Want to come with you inside me, please. Please. Please, Draco, I’m so close.”

Harry only broke off his begging when Draco pulled his fingers out entirely, and cast the lubrication spell again. Harry used his elbows to prop himself up and watched mesmerised as Draco spread the lube slowly over his swollen cock. It was an even deeper shade of pink now than it had been earlier and glistening with pre-come, and Harry grinned at the realisation that he’d done that. “You’ll be the death of me Harry, I swear,” Draco said, gasping as he fisted his own cock.

“Yeah, me too,” Harry said, not sure the sentence made any sense at all, but not caring much as Draco finally shuffled closer and pressed the blunt head of his cock against Harry’s arse. He used his hand to move it up and down a little, brushing over Harry’s hole several times and making Harry shiver with want.

“Are you sure?” Draco asked, and Harry wanted to curse his need to stop before every step to check on Harry. He wasn’t too mad though, because as frustrating as it was, it was also making Harry feel cherished, soppy as that was. It showed Draco truly cared, and not just about his own release.

“Yes, fuck,” Harry said, “please.”

Draco moved impossibly closer, using one hand to hold his cock against Harry’s opening and leaning down between Harry’s bent legs, leaning his weight on the hand that wasn’t positioning his cock. He pushed in slowly, and Harry couldn’t look away from how Draco’s eyelids fluttered closed at the sensation of the tight heat that was Harry’s arse. Harry relished in the burn of being stretched open, of how it seemed to radiate out through his body until he felt like he was on fire. The whole universe centred to the point where he and Draco joined, and Harry couldn’t do anything but feel. He let go of the sheets he’d been clutching, no longer needing them to stay grounded. No longer needing to be grounded at all, instead he gripped Draco’s hips, pulling him in closer.

They both cursed as Draco bottomed out. Draco moved so that his arms were underneath Harry’s knees and his hands were on the mattress, pinning Harry down almost bent in half. The instinctual part of Harry that knew what he needed more than his rational mind begged for more, for movement and friction and heat. Harry was too far gone to speak though, to beg for Draco to move already. He was all sensations and pleasure, and pure burning need and he couldn’t find words, or even his voice, in the midst of it all.

When Draco pulled back and thrust back in again, hitting Harry’s prostate hard, he lost all remnants of his rational mind and let out a hoarse scream. The position Draco had him pinned in made him unable to move anything but his arms, and the feeling of being so utterly at Draco’s mercy intensified his pleasure with every thrust of the other man’s hips. Harry’s fingers gripped bruisingly at Draco’s hips as he pumped into Harry, causing ripples of pleasure, so intense they were almost painful, to rush through him. Harry’s ankles were jumping steadily up and down with the force of Draco’s thrusts, and Harry absently thought the sight would be amusing if he wasn’t so lost in the intense pleasure and giddy happiness he felt.

“Close,” Draco gasped. He moved Harry’s legs to rest on his shoulders as he sat up straighter on his knees, moving a hand around Harry’s thigh to close a fist around Harry’s weeping cock. Harry’s vision went white at the double stimulation of Draco fucking into him so hard as he pumped Harry’s cock into his tight fist.

Harry wanted to say he was close too, but the sounds he heard leave his mouth could hardly be classified as words. He was so close to the edge he wasn’t sure how he hadn’t fallen off yet.

“So hot,” Draco muttered, “fucking beautiful. Love you.”

Harry’s entire body exploded in pleasure as his orgasm hit him hard. It pulsed through him in white-hot bliss, making his toes curl and his arse clench around Draco as his entire body spasmed. He felt wet, sticky come hit his belly as his cock spurted it’s release with every wave of Harry’s mind-numbing orgasm. Distantly he felt his arse become wetter as Draco came with a shout, fucking them both through their orgasms in jerky thrusts. He let go of Harry’s legs and without the support they fell hard to the mattress.

Harry gasped for air, pulling Draco down on top of him to demand a kiss. He wrapped his legs around Draco, keeping the man inside him as his cock softened and they kissed open mouthed and messily, gasping for breath even as their tongues moved together.

“Fuck,” Harry said when he’d caught his breath, and his rational mind seemed to wake from it’s lust-induced haze. “That was amazing, I never want to stop doing that. I never want to not be doing that.”

“Well, apart from eating and sleeping, we don’t have to,” Draco laughed. He moved to pull out of Harry, and they both winced a little at the sensation. Harry was glad though, when Draco didn’t move far away, but laid down with an arm and a leg still draped over him.

“I love you,” Harry said, entirely without realising he was going to. The words came out sounding happy, like the aftermath of a laugh and Harry was glad for it. Love should be something joyful, not filled with anxiety and insecurity.

“I love you too,” Draco said, voice clear even as his head was buried in the crook between Harry’s neck and shoulder.

“So, uh, are we like, boyfriends now?” Harry said, relieved to find he still felt no insecurity. In fact, he felt more secure here, naked with Draco draped over him and come slowly leaking from his arse, than he could ever remember feeling at any point in his life.

“Harry Potter, my boyfriend,” Draco said. “I like it.”

“Say it again,” Harry said, grinning.

Draco pulled softly at Harry’s head and lifted his own so their eyes met. “My boyfriend,” he said again, leaning in to give Harry a soft kiss. “Though we should probably go on that date.”

“Mmh,” Harry agreed, “nap first though.”

“Nap first,” Draco grinned. He Accio’d his wand from somewhere and cast cleaning charms over them both before pulling the covers over them and letting his head fall back down to Harry’s shoulder.

Chapter Text

'Cause we are
We are shining stars
We are invincible
We are who we are
On our darkest day
When we're miles away
So we'll come, we will find our way home
If you're lost and alone
Or you're sinking like a stone
Carry on
Fun (Carry On)

Harry grinned at Teddy as he came running out of the double-door entrance to his school. At seven, the grin he shot back at Harry was mostly toothless, and all the more charming for it.

“I didn’t know you were picking me up today!” Teddy said, but carried on without waiting for a response. “I found a frog today, at recess. It was really tiny, and Lola said we could only touch it with wet hands.”

“Did she?” Harry smiled fondly at his godson, the more he heard about this Lola girl, the more she reminded him of a young Hermione. He let Teddy prattle on as they walked to the alley they usually chose to Apparate from, oohing and aahing at the right places as Teddy told the story of his adventure with the frog. He’d decided, after cooking for half the day that he’d go pick Teddy up himself, figuring he could use a break from the heavy scent of rosemary and butter in his kitchen. He was mostly done anyway, now that the chicken was roasting in the oven. Draco called the dish rosemary roasted chicken, on a bed of puréed potatoes and asparagus, but Harry just thought of it as chicken and mash, with some greens on the side.

It didn’t much matter what they called it though, because Harry loved to cook it and Draco loved to eat it.

When he Apparated into their garden, hand clasped tightly around Teddy’s, it was to find Hermione conjuring and wrapping beautiful flowers and ribbons around what would be Harry and Draco’s wedding arch. The garden looked beautiful, thanks to Neville’s efforts, and Harry knew Pansy and Ginny were off to the hotel Narcissa and Andromeda had opened together, to borrow chairs for everyone. Harry couldn’t help but grin at the thought of the hotel. He and Draco had, in a stroke of pure genius, decided to gift the Black Manor to both remaining Black sisters. It did exactly what they’d hoped, and let the sisters put old disagreements aside. Neither Harry nor Draco had anticipated they’d turn the Manor into a Muggle Hotel and Resort though.

“Where is Rosie?” Teddy asked, letting go of Harry’s hand and running up to Hermione as he asked the question. “I want to play.”

“She’s inside with her dad,” Hermione said, laughing when Teddy took off in a run before she’d finished speaking. Harry grinned at her, and was about to offer his help with the arch when Molly and Arthur Apparated in, almost falling over under the weight of what looked like enough pudding to feed them all for the next few weeks.

“Oh, Molly, let me help you with that!” Harry said, taking a cake and a tray of biscuits from her. One hand free, Molly pulled her wand and moved it in a complicated gesture that caused all the trays and bowls to fly into the air and line up neatly beside her.

“Where do you want them dear?” Molly asked, looking around for somewhere to place her floating delicacies.

“Oh, erm, we haven’t really got the tables set up yet,” Harry admitted, scratching at his neck. He knew Molly had been a little disappointed when he and Draco had insisted they wanted the wedding in their own garden, and when they’d denied Molly’s offer to organise the whole thing. They’d both wanted something small though, intimate. Something pulled together by the combined efforts of everyone they loved.

Before Molly had a chance to answer George popped in, making her scream and nearly drop all her desserts to the ground. “George, I swear if you don’t stop Apparating right next to me every single time I’ll have your second ear!”

“Mum,” George said, looking too solemn to be taken seriously, “today is about holy matrimony, not holy sons.”

“George, come help me with the tables,” Arthur said, turning to hide the amused glint in his eyes from his wife. “They won’t build themselves, and your mum needs somewhere to set the food down.”

“I still wish you’d let me do more than dessert,” Molly said when Arthur and George were out of earshot. “Though I must admit you do roast chicken better than me.”

Harry glowed from the praise, knowing it was genuine and that Molly didn’t often admit to someone making a superior dish to hers.

“Have -,” Molly started, but once again broke off in a startled jump when Charlie Apparated next to her. “Oh for the love of – go help your father with the tables!” she demanded, scowling at her son. She walked off muttering about common decency and needing to find a place to put her desserts down before Bill, Ron or Percy decided to scare her into dropping them all in the grass.

The next people to show up though were Ginny and Pansy, quickly followed by Dean and Seamus. All four of them were carrying several shrunken chairs, and the sight of Ginny holding a miniature chair in her mouth as well as several of them balanced precariously in her hands were enough to make Harry release a bark of laughter. “Oh, shut up,” she laughed after letting the chairs fall from her hands and onto the grass.

“Potter,” Pansy said, sounding horrified. “Why in the name of Salazar himself are you not showered and dressed?”

Harry grinned sheepishly. “I wanted to see if anyone needed any help out here.”

“We’ve got this,” Pansy insisted. “Go inside, take a shower and let Ron help you look at least somewhat presentable.”

“How come you’re not helping Draco look presentable then?” Harry asked, pretending offence. They all knew Draco didn’t need any help looking absolutely gorgeous.

Pansy just shot him a look of exasperation, “Actually, now I think about it – take Ginny with you. Ron will be no help at all, he’d send you to your wedding in a Cannons t-shirt, I’m sure.”

“He would,” Ginny laughed. She gave her girlfriend a soft kiss on the lips before pulling Harry inside by the arm.

The ceremony was still an hour off, Harry thought mutinously. He supposed it was a touch odd that all his guests were present and dressed beautifully though, when he was still in worn jeans and a t-shirt.

“Do try to be a good example for Teddy,” Andromeda said when she saw Harry being pulled by the arm, reluctant to get dressed up. Harry realised his expression must have been much the same as the grimace Teddy was pulling at the shirt Andromeda held up for him.

“Nah, that’s what he’s got Draco for,” Harry laughed, allowing Ginny to pull him up the stairs to his bedroom. Ron was there already, casting a one-way silencing charm over Rose, who was taking a nap in her beautiful white dress.

“I think the excitement finally got to her.” Ron smiled warmly at his daughter, and Harry found his heart swell impossibly bigger. The day was so filled with love of every kind that he thought his chest might explode with it before he’d managed the walk down the aisle.

Harry made quick work of the shower, for fear of Ginny barging in with a Bat-Bogey Hex if he dragged it out. He let her pull at his hair, and add sweet-smelling sticky stuff to it, and he didn’t complain about the stiffness of his shirt. Whenever he caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror he saw that he, in fact, had a big dopey grin on his face during the whole process.

“You remind me of me on my wedding day,” Ron said, patting his chest pocket for probably the tenth time to check the rings were still safely there.

“What,” Harry laughed, “stupidly happy and in slight disbelief it’s possible to be this lucky?”

“Yep,” Ron grinned.

When Ron’s watch chimed that it was time to wake Rose and get the wedding started, Harry left his bedroom in a haze of bliss. He’d meet Draco in the living room, and they’d walk down the aisle together, after Rose and Teddy had gone to scatter flowers, and after Ron and Pansy had walked as their best man and woman.

The haziness Harry had been experiencing disappeared the moment he laid eyes on Draco, who was the only thing in the world in focus. He looked impossibly beautiful in his white robes, and Harry could almost taste the radiant happiness flowing from him.

“Draco,” Harry said, stepping forward to close the space between them. “You look like something out of a dream.”

Draco wrapped his hands around Harry’s waist, pulling them closer and leaning in for a kiss and a hug. “So do you,” he said into the crook of Harry’s neck. It hadn’t taken Harry long, after they got together, to realise Draco had a fascination for his neck. For licking and kissing it, but also for hiding in it – safe from the outside world.

“Everything looks really amazing,” Draco said, gesturing to the garden through the glass door.

“Yeah,” Harry agreed, never taking his eyes off his soon-to-be husband.

“Do you still want this?” Draco asked, and if it wasn’t for the fact that he always checked in with Harry before moving forward with something new, Harry might have worried Draco felt insecure.

“Yes.” Harry grinned. “I do.”

They walked hand in hand into the garden, beautifully prepared by all the loved ones that surrounded them. Harry let the pure glow of happiness and the warmth of all the love in the air fill his heart to overflowing.

When they stood at the altar and vowed to love each other in sickness and in health, they both knew the depth and true meaning of the promise. Bad days would come, Harry knew, but they would go too – and Draco would love him through them all. Love hadn’t healed him. It hadn’t made Harry love himself, but it did make him love being himself. Being the person that Draco loved, the person who could always make Teddy and Rose laugh, the person who made dinner on the weekends for his family. Love wouldn’t heal him, but the love he felt for Draco and all the people surrounding them, and the love they felt for him, would hold him while he healed himself.