Draco hasn’t seen Hermione Granger in over a year and he’s never seen her looking like this. Not even in the aftermath of the final battle: too thin after her months on the run and covered in dirt and Merlin knows what else.
Now she just seems tired and far too old for her years. Her hair is limp and unwashed, knotted up in a half-hearted bun. Her Auror uniform is wrinkled. There are deep shadows under her eyes like bruises.
It doesn’t even make any sense that she’s here at all, really. They last parted company on poor terms. He’s had enough disagreements with her over the years to know she’s not here to get him to treat her. And she’s on her own, so she’s not here to arrest him.
“Granger,” he says — as much of a welcome as he can really manage, waving a hand at one of the opulent leather chairs on the other side of his desk. He closes the patient file in front of him, spelling it neatly to the top of a nearby stack.
She ignores the invitation and stays standing, her hands gripping the back of the chair. Her nails are bitten down to the quick; knuckles white where she clenches her fists.
“I need your help.”
People regularly make the journey to his clinic in Vienna to say the same thing, but Draco’s known Hermione Granger since she was eleven years old. She’d rather eat glass than come to him like this.
The last time he saw her they argued.
The first time he’d seen her they’d argued, for that matter.
After his training was complete, Draco was told he had to appear at the British Wizarding Embassy in Paris to submit his documentation. No university would confer degrees on a British student without confirmation that they were of “fit and proper character” — code for we need to make sure you’re not currently a Death Eater on the run. Granger had been the Junior Auror accompanying Robards.
She’d been a picture of efficiency, stamping forms and reading out the required declarations in her officious tone. Robards had looked right through him, as if he had much bigger game to hunt.
Draco had tried to make conversation after Robards stalked from the room like a man possessed, leaving Granger to pack away the paperwork.
“Thank you,” he’d said, reaching for words of apology he wasn’t sure how to pull together.
“I don’t like you,” she’d retorted with a sniff. “But you don’t deserve to be in prison.”
“Would have been good if the Boy Wonder felt the same.” The words were out before he’d been able to stop them. It was impossible to avoid falling back into the ugly rhythm of snapping at each other as children. He’d been very carefully and actively not thinking about Harry Potter for years, but seeing her had made all the old emotions surface at once.
Granger had drawn herself up to her full height, craning her neck to look up at him yet somehow still making him feel like she was sneering down her nose.
“He spoke for your mother. I think that’s more than any of your family could really expect.”
Her words had rung in his ears all the way back to Vienna.
It was true, of course. The Hero of the War choosing to vouch for Narcissa Malfoy had caused an enormous rift in the Ministry’s attempts to reckon with the Death Eaters’ atrocities. And while Potter was nowhere to be found when Draco’s hearing was held, he knew that it had had an impact. No one really knew what to do with a boy whose father had been sentenced to life in Azkaban and whose mother had been freed by the Saviour of the Wizarding World. Dismissing Draco’s charges on the grounds of his age had probably seemed like an easy way out.
And so Draco had thrown himself into his study and his work and tried to put it all behind him.
It was two years before he’d seen Granger again.
“I read your paper,” she said, turning up in his cramped office at the university unannounced.
“You’ll need to be more specific,” he sneered, pointing at a nearby stack of journals. “I’m very prolific.”
She rolled her eyes, shifted a stack of books off a chair without asking and sat down, pulling out a casefile. “On the use of somnium potenta. I think someone is using it to convince victims to empty their own bank accounts.”
And that was that.
Ten years now, and maybe six or seven consults in that time. Always arriving on her own — he has the sense she doesn’t necessarily tell her colleagues who the expert she’s visiting is. Draco doesn’t care. He doesn’t need the adulation of the Aurors. He has a thriving practice and an internationally-renowned reputation as one of the finest Mind Healers in the wizarding world. But he enjoys the puzzles she brings him. Hermione Granger is extremely talented and completely wasted in law enforcement. Not that he’d ever tell her that. They still agree on more or less nothing.
There’s always a moment, just as she’s leaving, when he thinks about asking. If she married Weasley. If she has children. If ….
But he never does.
The last time he saw her they argued again about his work. She was always prepared to hear him out when the subject remained academic. When it veered into the realm of the practical — into the very real way dreams were affected by and could affect trauma — she always shut him down.
“Divination is a load of absolute bollocks,” she snapped at him. “I can’t believe you, of all people, would defend it.”
“I’m not talking about Trelawney’s stupid sodding tea leaves,” he sighed. “Oneirology is an entirely different thing, and I’ve had real success with….”
“Dreams are just dreams, Malfoy. They’re made up of things you saw during the day, the movie you watched before sleep, a phone call you got last week. Nothing but real events decorated with the brain’s embroidery. They have no utility.”
“That’s where you’re wrong. When it comes to trauma patients, I…”
“No!” She stood up abruptly, grabbing at her file and stuffing it into her satchel. “I’m not interested. We’ve all had more than enough trouble with things that shouldn’t be there poking around in our heads to last a lifetime.”
She Apparated away before he had a chance to explain.
But now she’s here again, looking like the world is ending.
“What is it?”
He knows, of course. He’s been dreaming about it for weeks. Hadn’t known what it meant or why, but the words that come out of her mouth are no surprise. It’s why he knows he’ll say yes even before she asks.
Draco’s on edge from the moment he leaves the Portkey Station in London.
He checks into a nondescript Muggle hotel and leaves his bags. He can’t decide if he’s going to be more conspicuous in his usual Muggle attire, but the idea of robes is more than he can bear even in service of keeping a low profile. So he doesn’t bother changing before walking the few blocks to the department store frontage that disguises St Mungo’s.
He’s almost expecting a movie-style needle scratch when he opens the door, where everyone in the lobby freezes as they see him and a whispering hush descends. But the hospital is like hospitals everywhere: crowded and noisy, and with absolutely no one paying him any attention at all.
He lets out his breath.
At the reception desk, he asks for Granger and is handed a badge that says Visiting Consultant and directions to the third floor.
She meets him in the corridor and for a split-second looks so grateful to see him. For one horrifying beat he thinks she might be about to hug him, but then she seems to think better of it. Her expression closes in again. At the end of the hall he can see two more Aurors standing guard outside a door.
“Let’s go in here,” she suggests, ushering him into an adjacent office. It’s such a mess he almost physically recoils, so used to the pathological order of his own research space. Two overstuffed bookshelves border a charmed window that seems to be showing a depressing scene of a wind-swept moor. Rolls of parchment teeter on top of the shelves and lean in haphard stacks. Every inch of the desk is covered in paper and books and research journals. Muggle sticky notes poke out at angles all over the place, which Draco appreciates. Wizards have never invented anything as useful as a sticky note.
A whiteboard on one wall is absolutely covered with Granger’s cramped script. Lists of potions. Lists of spells. Lists of symptoms. Lists of names.
Granger seems to be looking around the room as if she’s seeing it for the first time.
“I should have … I mean I knew that …”
She’s clearly exhausted and flustered. It’s not a good look on her and it makes Draco uncomfortable.
He steps over a pile of books and rounds the desk, dropping into the only chair.
She frowns at him.
“I’m here to see a patient. You’re investigating a case. Present the file.”
Irritation flares briefly across her face — enough to shake off whatever confused malaise she was in — and she squares her shoulders.
“Harry James Potter, 28. Struck by a curse of unknown origin during a raid in Minsk. Suspect was a Neo-Death Eater killed by law enforcement when he refused to disarm. The patient was brought to St Mungo’s by emergency Portkey and has been unconscious for seventy-two days.”
He knows this, of course. They’d gone over it in Vienna. But he can see it’s helping Granger to start at the beginning. He pulls a blank piece of parchment towards him and takes a pen from his pocket, beginning to scratch out some notes. She paces in front of the whiteboard.
“The original treatment plan followed standard protocols — you have the records.” He does, he’s almost committed them to memory. “The patient remained unresponsive.”
“Diagnostic spells continued to show extremely elevated levels of brain activity. Neurological specialists determined that his mind was working overtime, even as they were unable to raise him.” Granger looks at a long list of treatment options on her whiteboard, each crossed out. “By day forty, Healers had exhausted conventional approaches.”
“Typically coma patients are made comfortable and left to regain consciousness in their own time,” Draco points out carefully.
“Typically, yes. But when has anything about Harry been typical.” Hermione sighs, rubbing at her eye with the heel of her hand, any pretense of objectivity draining away. “The Healer-in-Charge has consulted with experts at all the major wizarding hospitals. They all agree. Whatever’s happening inside of Harry’s head right now is killing him.”
The room is very quiet. It’s odd to even think about it — that the Boy who Lived could be brought low by a dream.
“Local oneirologists have been no help. They all recommended you.”
Packer, Draco thinks. Peterson, probably. Passable at what they do, but far from expert.
“Let’s be clear about what you’re expecting here, Granger. This presents no small risk to me. If I go poking around in there and the war hero dies anyway, you know exactly who will be blamed.”
Granger flinches at that, but she’s not a stupid woman. She draws a folded parchment from her robes and passes it to him.
Even Draco is a little shaken by what it says. Full immunity from prosecution for any offences related in any way to the treatment of Harry Potter. He could literally walk into the room and strike him dead and they couldn’t do anything at all.
“Are you serious?”
“You need to be free to try...whatever you need to,” she says. “Merlin knows, we already have.”
Draco spent five years training as a Mind Healer, three years researching everything there is to know about the relationship between trauma and the brain, and the last two years earning more money than his father amassed in a lifetime of toadying. He never thought for a second it would bring him here.
“Let’s go see Potter, then.”
The Aurors pay them no attention, standing to the side as Granger approaches the door. She must have briefed them about his arrival.
The room is bare and functional, with diagnostic monitoring charms beeping quietly in one corner and a meagre bunch of peonies stuffed in a chipped vase on the side table. It all looks bland and institutional. The only thing out of place is the reclining lounger sitting where Draco imagines a bony plastic visitor’s chair would ordinarily be. He wonders absently how many nights Granger has spent in this soulless room. It’s almost fascinating in its ordinariness. He’d imagined that it would be bustling with Healers. Filled to overflowing with tributes and get well cards and balloons and well-wishers.
He thought he’d prepared himself to see Potter, but he realises now that was impossible.
Somehow he looks both older and younger than Draco imagined. Older in the sense that there’s a man lying in the bed, not the scrawny boy he remembers. Square-jawed. Stubble where it’s obviously been a day or so since someone shaved him. Even gaunt and unwell, he’s become undeniably handsome. But somehow he also seems too young, too frail, carrying the weight of too many expectations.
Too young, in any event, to be lying in a bed unable to wake, muscles trembling as his mind fights whatever demons it’s conjured to torture him.
Draco lifts the chart from the end of the bed, wanting something to do with his hands. The recent diagnostics are unchanged. Potter’s neurological symptoms continue to range well outside acceptable norms, while his physical state continues to decline.
“How do we begin?” Granger asks, and Draco starts. He’d almost forgotten she was behind him.
“Not here,” he says firmly, slotting the chart back onto the bed. “Where does he live?”
“Live, Granger. Where is his home?”
She looks confused, and stubborn, crossing her arms over her unkempt robes. “I don’t see that that is…”
“Oh, for Salazar’s sake. What do you think I’m going to do, burgle him? You want him to recover. This grim little cell you have him in isn’t going to help with that. And I’m certainly not going to do my work sitting in that pox-ridden armchair. Patients need to be in comfortable, familiar surroundings. Ideally their own home.”
Granger’s mouth thins into a tight little line.
“Unless you’re about to tell me he’s a dreadful workaholic who sleeps in the Auror barracks, in which case we’ll be doing it at your house.”
An expression flickers over her face that’s hard to define. He wonders how Weasley feels about her bringing Draco here.
“No, he has a house. Grimmauld Place.”
Well, that makes a certain kind of sense. The old family properties were presumably spoils of war. Maybe all the heroes were handed new houses. He has an absurd moment picturing Neville Longbottom as lord of his childhood home, which is funny for only an instant before he starts to think about what the Manor was like in those final days. A shudder runs down his spine.
“Fine. When can we move him?”
Granger seems to reach some sort of decision, giving a small nod.
“I’ll arrange to have him taken home this evening. Luna is the Healer looking after his day-to-day care. You can join us there tomorrow. Number twelve.”
He gives Potter a final glance as he shakes her hand and leaves the room. Potter’s haunted expression doesn’t change.
Grimmauld Place has altered a great deal since Draco’s last visit to his dreadful great aunt’s home. As the Fidelius allows the townhouse to stretch into view it feels familiar, but when Granger opens the door any similarities come to an abrupt end. The long dark hallway he remembers from childhood is now light and airy. The hideous portraits and stuffed elf heads gone in favour of smiling photos and framed children’s art. He’s taken aback for a minute, wondering if Potter has kids of his own, before remembering the details of the patient file. Single. No next of kin. Granger’s maybe. Or, the werewolf’s child his mother told him about.
“Do you want coffee or something?” Granger asks, clearly awkward with the idea of him being here. “Water?”
He shakes his head and she takes him up the stairs to the master bedroom.
It feels oddly invasive, crossing the threshold. Even as he’s done so in the homes of dozens of his patients before now. This is somehow very different.
Potter’s room is spacious and tastefully decorated. Clean lines, Scandanavian furniture, soft grey linens. Tall windows let in the early morning sun. Not remotely what he would have pictured if asked. Gryffindor wall hangings and quidditch posters, probably. Potter himself looks for all the world like he’s sleeping, albeit in the grip of a terrible fever. It settles something in Draco to see him in his own bed.
Lovegood has one of his hands in hers.
“Good morning, Draco,” she says, beaming at him as if welcoming an old friend.
“How is he?” he asks, lacking anything more appropriate to say. The last time he saw her was a mess of stuttered apologies in a corridor outside the Wizengamot, and the overwhelming guilt about the way she was treated in his home threatens to rise up again like bile.
“No different from yesterday,” she confirms, resting Potter’s hand gently back on the sheet. “The change in location hasn’t made anything worse.”
A small mercy.
He puts his bag on a set of drawers, lifting out his supplies. He begins to move methodically around the room, lighting candles, and casting small bunches of sage and juniper to smoking. He can see that Granger is dying to ask questions, but he’s not inclined to explain his methods to someone who barely accepts that they work.
He fastens the charmed silver anchor around his wrist, and slips off his shoes.
“You’re both welcome to stay if you wish,” he explains, “but there’s no need. This anchor is spelled to draw me out of the dream if any of my vitals exceed set ranges, or after an appointed time. There will be no need for you to intervene.”
“I’d like to stay,” Lovegood says, dropping to sit on the floor in front of the fireplace, her legs crossed. “I’ve never seen an oneironaught travel before.”
Granger looks torn but eventually crosses the room to sit on the window seat.
Draco puts them both out of his mind, lying down on the large mattress beside Potter. He keeps careful space between them, tries to ignore the clean scent of the pillow beneath his head, closes his eyes and begins his incantations.
The first time Draco ever walked a dream it was more or less by accident. Despite his years of study, he’d never considered himself a likely candidate. He’d only gone into Mind Healing as a way of working on the damaged places inside himself, and never for a second thought he’d be strong enough to hold his own in someone else’s mind.
But one night his then-boyfriend Luca — an advocat with a crooked smile and an encyclopedic knowledge of wine — lay tossing and turning next to him in his sleep, and before Draco fully understood what was happening, he found himself standing next to him as Luca trembled in the face of a particularly cartoonish oversized rat in a dream version of his bathroom.
Half-convinced it had been a fluke, or merely a dream of his own, Draco had thrown himself into practical experimentation. His thesis marked him out as a groundbreaking new voice in oneirology, and his application of the discipline to trauma patients won him acclaim the world over.
So his techniques are more refined now. He has centring rituals and focussing spells. He no longer lumbers into someone’s mind like an unwelcome intruder, but slips in stealthily and without disruption. He’s able to take stock of what his patient is seeing and experiencing before deciding how to proceed. And yet even with all his years of experience, it’s still a shock to see Potter — as young as he was when Draco first met him — sitting under a tree.
“If you were an Animagus, what animal would you be?” Child Potter asks him, eyes bright and curious.
Draco looks down at himself, his small hands and short robes, and realises he’s about the same age.
“My godfather is a giant dog, and my dad is a stag. But I think it would be cool to be able to fly.”
Draco looks around. They’re in a field with houses nearby. A small rural village. He racks his brains. This isn’t where Potter grew up — he knows that much from the endless tell-alls in the press.
“I like to fly,” Draco says absently, taking in the details as he sits in the grass. Potter is still wearing glasses, but not the cheap, cracked plastic Muggle frames of his childhood. There is no scar on his forehead.
“Have you been on a broom?” Potter asks, shocked. “My mum won’t let me. She says I have to learn properly at Hogwarts this year.”
“My father gave me a training broom when I turned eight,” Draco says, trying not to let it sound as gloating as he would have at that age. Truth was he’d fallen off more than he’d managed to stay on, and his father had stalked away muttering about him being too coddled by his mother and his general lack of athletic prowess.
“Wow,” Potter whistles, impressed. It squeezes something tight inside Draco’s chest. What he would have given for a reaction like that when they were first years. This was the version of Potter that Lucius Malfoy would have wanted him to be friends with when he was ten years old. Or maybe not: this version wouldn’t have been special.
Draco realises he was expecting to drop into the midst of a nightmare. To find Potter battling an Acromantula or running from Inferi. He’s confused to find him just sitting under a tree, relaxed and happy. Something about this doesn’t add up.
Draco’s role, now that he’s here, is to gently and carefully help the patient to understand that where they are isn’t real. Usually it involves helping them dismantle whatever fears are haunting them in their sleep. Potter is, as always, an entirely different problem.
In theory, the techniques should be the same. Potter knows, on some level, this isn’t his life.
“You’ve been on a broom too, Pot...Harry,” he tries. “You know how to fly.”
The child shakes his head. “No, I want to though. I want to be a seeker like my dad.”
“You played seeker for Gryffindor,” Draco goes on. “Picked in your first year even though it was against the rules,” he can’t resist adding.
Potter shakes his head again mulishly, crossing his arms.
“No! My dad’s going to help me practise, once I’ve had flying lessons at Hogwarts.”
Draco picks at a handful of grass, thinking about how hard to push. He knows that he needs to be oblique in his approach. Shouting at a child about his dead parents isn’t going to achieve anything.
“You know that’s not how it happened, though, don’t you Harry? We learned to fly together. We flew against each other in Quidditch at school.”
Potter stares at him, as if he’s starting to recognise him but doesn’t want to.
“I don’t know you,” he sneers. “You’re just a stupid ferret.” But as soon as he spits out the insult he frowns a little.
“That’s right, Harry,” Draco nods. “You know exactly who I am.”
It happens before he can really process it. Potter’s face turns thunderous and he produces a wand he absolutely didn’t have a second ago.
“You don’t belong here,” he growls, in a voice far too old for his young body, and with a wave of his wand casts Draco straight out of the dream.
Draco wakes abruptly, head pounding and his throat dry. He sits up, coughing, and finds Lovegood at the head of the bed with a glass of water, which he accepts gratefully.
“Is that normal?” she asks curiously. “Only I thought it would be much more peaceful.”
Granger is staring at him from the window, eyes wide.
“No, he kicked me out.”
“What?” Granger’s on her feet in an instant as if she can do something, rounding the bed to grasp Potter’s hand. “What happened?”
Draco ignores her, reaching for his notebook and writing quickly, recording everything he saw and experienced. It’s very hard to know what will be relevant, so he’s learned to take down everything, from the season to the time of day to the quality of the light.
“Malfoy,” she pleads finally, exasperated.
He looks up from his notes, and takes in her worried expression.
“Fine,” he sighs, closing the book. “He appeared to be ten years old and believed he would be starting Hogwarts shortly. He believed his parents and godfather to be alive and well. He had no scar on his forehead. He knew he was a wizard.”
Granger sucks in a breath.
“Well, that’s quite a nice dream then, isn’t it?” Lovegood muses cheerily, running a standard set of diagnostics charms. “I’m glad he’s thinking nice thoughts in there.”
Granger’s expression tightens.
“I don’t understand,” she says. “Even if I believe you were in his head, if he’s in a safe delusion what’s going on? And what do you mean he kicked you out?” Her wand hand twitches as if she wants to resume whatever fight Potter might have started in the dream realm. Draco refrains from rolling his eyes.
“You have to understand I ordinarily work with patients who have no trouble waking up, but who are experiencing grief and trauma and discomfort while asleep. When I travel into their dreams, I try to help them understand that what they’re experiencing there either isn’t real, or is in their past and can’t hurt them any more. My role isn’t to convince them to leave. My role certainly isn’t to convince you that what I’m doing is real. You brought me here, remember.”
Granger remains tense and hunched but says nothing. Lovegood finishes her charms, and sits back on the floor with her file to update her notes.
Potter lies beside him, breathing shallow, as if he’s exerting himself. Draco has to quash the urge to place a hand on his arm to try and soothe him.
“Based on his symptoms, I’d assumed that Potter thought he was trapped in some way,” Draco continues, rolling his shoulders to ease out a cramp. “That I would find him believing himself to be imprisoned, for example. Or pinned down somewhere. And that I would need to convince him that he was actually unrestrained and could wake up.”
He watches as Granger puts the pieces together, rubbing at the back of her neck with a tired sigh. “But he’s not trapped, is he. He’s somewhere he wants to stay.”
“The principles remain the same. I have to get him to understand that he’s in a dream. But instead of wanting that to be true…”
“He’s actively resisting you,” she concludes.
“That makes sense,” Lovegood says, looking at her file and tapping a quill against her cheek. “Harry’s fighting very hard to stay where he is. It’s putting enormous strain on his magical core, and that in turn is putting strain on his body.”
“What do we do?” Granger asks, and it’s the first time she’s addressed him with anything other than thinly concealed disdain. She’s afraid, he realises.
Draco turns the silver bracelet absently on his wrist.
“We try again.”
It’s a brilliant autumn day at Hogwarts, and the air is crisp and clear. The sort of day Draco always liked best, right at the start of the school year when everything felt full of potential and nothing had gone wrong yet.
Students are streaming out of the castle towards the Quidditch pitch, waving Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw banners and flags.
Potter looks to be fifteen or sixteen, maybe. It’s hard to tell because he’s not as thin as he was in school. He’s in Gryffindor robes, but has a bright blue Ravenclaw scarf looped around his neck. The glasses are the same ones he’d worn in the field. There’s still no scar.
Draco falls in step beside him as they walk down the hill.
“They’re going to win, you know,” Potter says, waving the scarf in Draco’s face. “And then they’ll overtake you in the rankings. No final for you this year!”
It’s hard to get a read on him. His voice is smug, teasing — but not exactly mean.
“We’ll see,” Draco says noncommittally.
They climb the wooden stairs to the Gryffindor stands and Draco takes a seat beside Potter, who doesn’t seem fazed even though Draco’s clearly in Slytherin robes. Weasley is on his other side, but doesn’t pay Draco any attention. It’s not unusual for other people in dreams to be almost like movie extras without lines, making the scene more realistic to the dreamer but not fully realised. Draco’s grateful, in this case. It’s one less complication to deal with.
They watch the teams warm up.
“She’s so good,” Potter says, clapping and whistling enthusiastically as the Ravenclaw seeker flies past.
Draco struggles to remember who she is.
“She’s amazing,” Potter says happily.
Draco watches her fly drills for a moment. “She’s alright,” he shrugs. “Her form is a bit utilitarian.”
“You’re just jealous,” Potter snorts. “My girlfriend’s been flying rings around you all season.”
They trade good-natured insults about the respective teams as the game gets underway, and Draco tries to think of the best approach to take. He turns slightly, so he can watch Potter more closely. He’s about to mock Potter’s wide-eyed hungry stare and suggest that he waits until he and Chang are somewhere more private for that sort of behaviour, when he realises Chang is hovering high off to the right and that’s not who Potter is looking at at all.
Pulling out of a particularly athletic dive right in front of their stand is none other than Cedric Diggory.
“Impressive,” Draco says, watching the way Diggory’s arms flex to arrest the manoeuvre. “I’d have let him practise his broomwork with me any day.”
Potter’s neck snaps around to stare at him, as if he’s only now seeing Draco for the first time. There’s a flush high on his cheeks.
“What?” Draco retorts with a shrug, watching Potter’s reactions carefully. “He was very attractive. And talented. He probably could have played professionally after school. It was a terrible tragedy.”
Potter rubs at his arms as if he’s cold all of a sudden, even though the day is reasonably mild.
“I don’t know what you’re on about.” Potter looks back up at the sky, ignoring Draco but very deliberately seeking out Chang and cheering outlandishly even though she isn’t doing anything in particular at the moment.
A memory tickles at the back of Draco’s brain.
“Weren’t Diggory and Chang together at one point?”
Potter frowns, working his lower lip between his teeth.
“Only I seem to remember them going to the Yule Ball together.”
“They were … before we … before he ….” Potter’s struggling with the words, his eyebrows drawn together in concentration. There’s a tic in his jaw, and his hand is flexing and clenching into a fist in his lap. He’s still not looking at Draco.
“Before the Triwizard Tournament,” Draco prompts gently. “Before…”
Potter has his wand out in an instant.
“You don’t belong here!”
And Draco’s gone.
“That’s enough for today,” Lovegood says, as she helps Draco sit up, the cough worse than the last time. He opens his mouth to disagree but she cuts him off. “Harry’s vitals are spiking all over the place.”
Draco looks down at Potter beside him and is almost startled to see his adult form. He looks pale and clammy and Draco has to suppress a ridiculous urge to push his hair back off his forehead where it’s stuck with sweat.
He snatches up his notebook and begins to write. Granger has the good grace to wait until he’s finished this time.
“Let’s eat,” Lovegood suggests. “I brought a radish and nettle soup Rolf made last night that’s delicious.”
Draco can’t quite keep the look of disgust off his face as she drifts out of the room, and he’s surprised to hear a snort from Granger.
The smile is almost imperceptible, but it’s there.
“I brought bread and ham. If a sandwich isn’t beneath you.”
He nods, swinging his legs over the side of the bed and getting to his feet carefully. He feels a little lightheaded and food makes sense.
They eat around a huge table in Potter’s kitchen. The old stone floor is worn smooth by generations of occupants but the fixtures and fittings are new and gleaming.
“How long has he been living here?”
Granger looks up from her lunch, studying him with a curious expression.
“Since after the war. This place was his godfather’s, though it was in a terrible state. Harry had an enormous amount of work done to make it livable.”
Sirius Black, Draco thinks, trying to trace his own disjointed family tree in his mind.
“Was the dream the same, this time?” Luna asks.
“No.” Draco swallows. His throat still feels scratchy and dry. “He was sixteen maybe. But no scar. No indication the Dark Lord existed. He was dating Cho Chang.”
Granger frowns, concentrating. “Well, they went on one date. It wasn’t very successful.”
Draco stifles a laugh, thinking about the way Potter had been distracted by Diggory.
“Cedric Diggory was still alive.”
Granger’s shoulders slump. “He was very affected by Cedric’s death.”
Lovegood slurps her soup noisily. “That was terribly sad. I can understand him wanting that to be different.”
“Tell me more about his life now,” Draco asks, dragging his notes toward him. “I need to find anchor points. Things I can use to pull him from these childhood fantasies back to the present day.”
Granger swallows and puts her sandwich down. “Well, he’s an Auror. We’ve been partners for the last three years. Prior to that we both had to be partnered with more senior Aurors, and he worked with Dawlish.”
“Does he enjoy it?”
“It’s important, rewarding work,” she insists. “We’ve brought dozens of Dark wizards to justice.”
“That wasn’t what I asked,” Draco replies drily.
She seems stumped by the question.
“I think he feels it’s something he has to do,” Lovegood says, scraping her spoon noisily across the bottom of her bowl. “I see him an awful lot when he’s injured. Harry has a strong sense of duty.”
“He gets injured an awful lot?” Draco asks, horrified.
“I’m going to check on him,” she says, and deposits her bowl in the sink as she leaves.
“It’s a dangerous job,” Granger tugs at her sleeve. She sounds defensive. “And Harry always puts himself between danger and anyone else.”
So he’s still a reckless fool, Draco thinks but doesn’t say.
“Outside of work, then. What does he do in spare time?” Draco waves a hand around at the modern kitchen. “Home renovation?”
Hermione glances toward the wide hobs and gleaming copper pans hanging from a rack above.
“No, he paid someone to do this. The place was a disaster, and he … didn’t have the time.”
“No. He was on the intramural league when we were trainees, but…” she trails off.
“Let me guess, he no longer has time?” Draco doesn’t hide his sarcasm.
Granger bristles. “You don’t know him.”
“Doesn’t seem like there’s much to know,” he scoffs. “He chases criminals, fills out paperwork, and squeezes in the occasional date with the youngest Weasley?”
She looks uncomfortable. “They broke up.”
Draco pushes back his empty plate and stares at her. “Give me something to work with here, Granger. I need a reason for him to come back. The life you’re describing sounds bloody miserable.”
“It’s not like that,” she insists. “He comes to the Burrow for Sunday lunch. Or I mean, he did, when he and Ginny were still together. He thinks it’s a bit awkward for now.”
Draco rolls his eyes. He has a headache building in his temples that’s starting to throb.
“This was a mistake,” she snaps suddenly, shoving back her chair with a scrape. “You can show yourself out.”
“I’m not leaving without my bag,” he calls after her as she clatters up the stairs. He lets her have a second to clear her head, wraps up the cheese and ham and returns it to the refrigerator and stacks their plates by the sink. There’s no sign of a house-elf, and it seems churlish to leave a mess.
“Draco!” Lovegood calls from somewhere above him. He takes the stairs two at a time. Granger is crouched beside the bed holding Potter’s hand and her eyes are welling.
“What is it?”
Lovegood looks up from her chart, a small frown marring her usual peaceful expression.
“Harry’s getting worse. We need you to try again.”
Hogwarts is decorated for Christmas, bowers of holly hang in the archways, and snow is thick on the windowsills outside.
Draco looks down. He’s wearing a suit, but this version of himself is younger than he really is. Maybe five years or so.
Potter’s standing at the foot of one of the staircases in teacher’s robes, laughing and chatting with some students. His scar is back, along with those ridiculous unflattering frames. His hair is an outrageous riot around his head. Clearly this version of Harry fought a war and won, but he looks happy.
He eyes Draco curiously as he approaches.
The students scuttle away, chattering like insects.
“Malfoy.” Potter gives him a very small smile, just the corners of his mouth. As if he’s pleased to see Draco but doesn’t want to let on. It does something ugly to Draco’s insides when he realises it’s the first time Potter’s ever smiled at him that way. That it’s not something he’ll ever get to see in real life.
Draco pinches the skin on the inside of his wrist to force himself to focus.
“I heard McGonagall was trying to convince you to take the position,” Potter continues.
Draco’s mind races, trying to think how to play this out. Perhaps Potter thinks he’s putting his unfortunately first-hand knowledge of the Dark Arts to good use. Potter sets off down a corridor toward the staffroom and so Draco walks with him.
“I’m not really one for spending time around children, Potter. But I thought it was worth considering the opportunity.”
“You’ll need to redecorate. I can’t see you coping with all of Trelawney’s fringe.”
Draco stumbles to a halt. Divination?
Potter doesn’t seem to have noticed his surprise.
“Although maybe it will help with you getting them to interpret one another’s dreams. That room certainly always put me to sleep.”
It doesn’t make any sense. Draco feels his heart racing. There’s no reason for Potter to know what he does for a living. Granger’s never given any indication that she’s told him. He shakes his head to clear it.
“You’d have been good at this, Potter. Teaching, I mean. The way you were able to in fifth year.” Draco only knows bits and pieces about the famed army of Dumbledore, but he saw the way they fought. He knows how talented Potter is.
Potter frowns at Draco’s use of the past tense, pausing in his stride.
“It isn’t too late, you know,” Draco continues gently. “McGonagall would chew off a limb to have you teach at Hogwarts, I’m sure. If you’re not enjoying being an Auror.”
The frown becomes a scowl.
“Aurors do vital work,” Potter insists, tugging at his necktie as if it’s too tight. His expression clouds, as if he’s struggling to reconcile two inconsistent ideas. “I’m just trying to get my class ready for O.W.L.s, Malfoy.”
“You’ve chased enough Dark wizards for several lifetimes, Harry. It would be okay to stop.”
“It’s not selfish to want to do something you love.”
Harry looks confused and unhappy. Draco feels suddenly uncomfortable. He’s just supposed to be getting Harry to realise this isn’t his actual life, not acting as a sodding guidance counsellor.
“Hermione will understand.”
“What the fuck would you know, Malfoy. You don’t belong here.”
He sees the wand coming this time, but it doesn’t make the transition any less awful.
Draco coughs until he retches bile into a bowl Lovegood conjures from somewhere and holds under his chin. His head is pounding and his neck aches. It isn’t a good sign.
“This isn’t working, Granger.” His voice is hoarse. “He hates me. He’s always hated me. His subconscious is always going to doubt what I’m telling him.”
“Where was he?” she demands. They’ve drawn back his covers, and Draco can see the sweat soaking through Potter’s pajama jacket. A permanent tremor seems to have settled in his right arm.
“Hogwarts,” he sighs, rubbing at his neck. “Maybe five or so years after the war? He looked like he was in his twenties. He was teaching there.”
“Harry was always a very good teacher,” Lovegood says, scratching more notes in her chart. Draco chances another look at him. Potter’s skin seems even more pale, tending toward a sickly sort of grey.
“How does he know what I do?”
Granger’s staring out the window, a lost expression on her face. She turns back to Draco.
“In the dream,” he goes on. “He knew what I did. He thought I was there to take up the Divination position. He talked about oneiromancy. How does he know what I do?”
Incredibly, Granger rolls her eyes.
“What?” he asks, staggered by her reaction.
“Oh for Merlin’s sake, we don’t have time for this. Of course he knows what you do, Malfoy. Harry Potter has known about every bloody thing you’ve ever done since the age of eleven.”
There’s a ringing in Draco’s ears that doesn’t have anything to do with his headache.
“Who do you think insisted I first consult you all those years ago?! It certainly wasn’t my idea.”
Draco feels his mouth fall open.
“And the fact that the Ministry just signed off on your degree conferral without so much as a hoop for you to jump through? You thought that just happened?”
“You’re being ridiculous, Granger! He didn’t even attend my trial, let alone speak for me!”
“Because I made him promise not to!!” she snaps.
Silence. Lovegood looks at them both and then quietly leaves the room.
Draco feels like the bed is shifting underneath him, and he can’t tell if it’s the after-effects of the dream or the incomprehensible words coming out of Granger’s mouth.
“I made him stay away from your trial,” she cries, her voice thick with emotion. “Because you didn’t deserve it! You didn’t earn it! He was all ready to stand up for you for not identifying him that night at the Manor. But that was nothing. Nothing. You were a coward and a collaborator, and you didn’t deserve his help. You didn’t deserve him.”
There are tears flowing freely down her cheeks now, and she has folded up on herself, tugging her knees tight to her chest.
“He doesn’t hate you, Malfoy. He’s not kicking you out because he hates you. That’s the only thing I do know.” She wipes her eyes with her sleeve, her face red and embarrassed as if she wishes she’d said nothing.
Draco is speechless. His mind is thundering, trying to make any sense of what she’s saying and completely unable to.
“Besides,” Granger adds, with a sort of hiccoughing sob. “There is no one else. We tried already.”
“I need to go,” Draco says, uncomfortable beyond the telling. “He’s too weak to attempt it again tonight.”
Granger nods, looking almost relieved. “Ron will need help with the kids. I’ve been gone such a lot, I should take them dinner.”
Draco gathers his things, concentrating on packing them neatly in his bag and resolutely not thinking about the unconscious man beside him.
He takes Dreamless Sleep when he gets back to his hotel room, and refuses to feel bad about it.
Draco wakes feeling worse. He looks ghastly, skin colourless even by his own standards, and there’s an ache in his lower back that twinges as he gets out of the shower. He must be coming down with something. He thinks it will be best to refer Granger to Bernard, a French oneironaught who’s almost as good as he is. That way he can leave this whole mess behind him and go home. He sends a message to that effect, wards his room, and goes back to sleep.
Some time later there’s a pounding on his door that he ignores. The Do Not Disturb sign is hanging out, so the Muggle housecleaner will presumably get the message eventually.
The pounding continues.
“Don’t make me blast this in, ferret,” he hears from the other side, and his heart sinks as drags himself from the bed and crosses the room to open it.
Weasley has grown as tall as Draco, but twice as broad. His outrageous ginger hair is spilling all over his face, and he has an actual human baby propped on one hip. The sight would be comical, but he’s wearing an expression so threatening that Draco takes two abrupt steps back.
“What do you want?” he manages. It seems unlikely that Weasley’s going to pull a wand while carrying a child, but one never really knows.
“Hermione said you stopped replying to owls.”
A glance at the clock on the wall shows it’s mid-afternoon. Draco can’t believe he slept that long, he’s clearly not well.
“I’m not well.”
“Harry’s a fuck of a lot worse, so excuse me for not caring too much about your sniffles.”
“I sent Granger a referral.”
“We’re not starting over with some second-rate frog,” Weasley snorts, hitching the child on his hip. “I can’t stand you, but I can stand the thought of losing Harry even less, so get your shit together and let’s go.”
The baby reaches a sticky-looking hand towards him, and Draco takes another quick step back.
“Look, I’ve never understood the pair of you. Not when you were pulling each other’s pigtails as kids, or stalking each other round the castle in sixth year. But Hermione says you’re the only one who can get him to wake up. So that’s that. You’re not bailing out on him now. Not after everything.”
The back of Draco’s neck is hot. He can smell the sulphur of the Fiendfyre. He can feel a sharp pain across his chest, where the Sectumsempra scar lies. When he swallows, his throat feels like razors.
“Give me ten minutes to get dressed.”
Weasley insists they Side-Along, clutching Draco far too hard at the wrist as if he might simply disappear.
Of all people, Molly Weasley opens the door at Grimmauld Place.
“Hello Draco,” she says, retrieving the baby from Weasley. “We’re all very grateful for your help.” The look she gives her son is pointed. He scowls at her.
Draco decides he’s suffered enough awkwardness for now and leaves them both at the foot of the stairs without saying anything.
Granger and Lovegood have their patient propped up on a raft of pillows and are buttoning him into a clean pyjama jacket. Potter looks terrible — twitching and sallow.
“Hello Draco,” Lovegood says with a warm smile, as if he’s right on time, and hasn’t just been dragged here more or less against his will.
Granger says nothing, fixing him with a steely expression, as if to say I will continue to play dirty if you make me.
Draco feels a bit helpless. He’s not sure what they expect him to do. Work some sort of miracle, clearly — when the reality is he’s probably just going to keep diving into Harry Potter’s head until he slips away from them. And then what?
He busies himself with his preparations, finding the ritual at least calming.
When he lies down beside Potter, he doesn’t bother with the careful space. His arm lies alongside Potter’s own, and he can feel the heat of his fever even through two layers of clothing.
Heat that carries him right into the hot summer day of the dream.
He’s on a clifftop, with the wide expanse of blue ocean at his back and in front of him a whitewashed cottage, its walls embedded with shells.
The sea air feels amazing, and Draco takes several deep breaths, even as he knows it isn’t real. A gull arcs overhead as he walks up the path to the door of the cottage and knocks. He takes a stumbling step backwards when one of his father’s former house-elves answers the door.
“Master Draco,” the elf says, bowing low. His pillowcase is bright blue and he has a wide smile on his face. “Harry Potter is being in the kitchen.”
Draco walks through an entryway, past a coat rack stuffed with jackets of all shapes and sizes and a bucket of shoes topped with sparkly child-sized flip flops. There are family photos on the walls, but the faces are blurry. It’s impossible to make out the details.
The cottage’s kitchen is bright and airy with big high windows. Potter is at the sink peeling potatoes by hand.
“I thought I’d make chips for when Teddy gets here. Homemade are nicer than the frozen kind.”
Potter looks the age he does in real life, but healthy and — Draco’s forced to admit — unfairly good-looking. Compared to the sunken, ill version Draco’s been lying next to the last two days, this Potter looks like he spends time outdoors and gets a solid eight hours of sleep every night. And lets someone else pick out his clothes.
Draco tries to work out whether Potter thinks he lives here. He knows his aunt is raising the boy.
“I’m glad you could make it,” he says, pouring a glass of wine and handing it to Draco. “You spend far too many weekends staying in at school. It’s not good for you, all that reading.”
His tone is gently teasing. Draco doesn’t know what to do with it.
“Some of us like to be diligent about our work,” he sniffs, taking a swallow. It produces a delighted peal of laughter from Potter that Draco wishes he could make happen again and again.
“This place is nice. Whose is it?”
There’s a beat, just a flicker of something that crosses Potter’s face.
“It’s the Order’s. I mean we all use it. It’s just a safe place to come.”
There’s something off about that, but Draco’s not sure what it is. He feels ill-equipped. He looks around again. This isn’t a safehouse.
“Maybe during the war,” he suggests. “But someone lives here now, don’t they? A family?” The clothes, the framed photos. Potter has decorated this scene in his mind as a family home. Perhaps he’s imagining his own family.
“No, it’s …” Potter’s voice trails off. He reaches for a knife and a chopping board, and starts to slice a potato a little too aggressively. “I just thought it would be nice. It’s my weekend with Teddy and I just thought it would be nice to come here. You work too hard.”
That much is true, Draco thinks. Not that Potter would know.
“It is nice,” Draco says agreeably, taking another sip of wine. Too nice. The idea that there’s a universe in which Potter would invite him to a cottage by the sea for the weekend. Make dinner for his godson, and invite Draco to share it. And then what? How many bedrooms are there in this tiny little place?
Draco feels his face heat and glances around for a distraction. He looks at a photo on the wall that seems a little clearer than the others. In it, Potter stands with his arm around a witch with red hair. The face is still indistinct.
“Is this you and Ginny?”
The knife slams into the cutting board with force. Potter swears under his breath. “No.”
Draco looks back at the photo in surprise. It’s still a picture of Potter, waving, but his arm’s around the waist of an equally indistinct wizard.
What a mess, Draco thinks.
“There are steaks in the fridge,” Potter says, trying to regain his relaxed tone. “I thought we could barbecue them, the weather is so good.”
“Why is the house-elf here, Harry?”
“Dobby lives here.”
Draco knows how Potter and his friends escaped the Manor. He’s pretty sure he knows what happened next.
“Here in this house?”
The chopping increases in frequency. “No...up on the hill.”
“Will you show me, Harry?”
“Show me where he’s buried, Harry?”
When Potter spins around his eyes are damp and his face is flushed and he looks like Draco’s hurt him in ways he didn’t even think possible.
His voice is choked as he cries, “You don’t belong here!”
Draco coughs until his back aches, and Lovegood hands him a yellow lace handkerchief as he realises his nose is bleeding.
Weasley has the good grace at least to look concerned. “Is it always like this?” he asks Granger, who just gives a grim nod.
Draco writes his notes, trying to get his respiration back under control and sipping slowly from a glass of water.
“He was at a cottage by the ocean covered in shells.”
“Shell Cottage!” Weasley declares, as if he’s solved some sort of mystery.
“Inventive,” Draco retorts with a roll of his eyes, which earns him a scowl. “He seemed to be the right age, but I think he was still teaching at Hogwarts. We both were.”
“Why were you at the cottage?” Granger asks.
“It was a weekend. He seemed confused about who lives there.”
“Bill and Fleur and their kids do.”
Draco nods. That explains the decor. He needs more information though. He can’t possibly go into another one of these without knowing for sure.
“Granger, is he gay?”
Weasley bristles physically, but says nothing, fidgeting beside her until she places a hand on his knee and stills him.
“It isn’t for me to tell you, but I assume you’re asking because you need to know,” she says finally after a long pause. “Yes, he is.”
Draco sinks back against the pillows, taking another large swallow of water.
Granger looks deeply uncomfortable. “It’s not that he isn’t out, exactly. His friends all know. It’s just that … the Auror Department isn’t very progressive. And I think he feels like the wizarding public has a certain set of expectations for him …”
“They imagine him with a wife and kids, picket fence, you know,” Weasley agrees. He wrings his hands together in his lap.
Draco feels a rush of irritation at their reactions.
“Oh he’s imagining that sort of life all right — but not with a wife. Harry’s current idyll involves weekends at the beach with Teddy, and framed photos of him and another wizard on the wall. The life he feels he can’t have, presumably. Dobby the house-elf opened the door.”
Granger lets out a little sob at that and buries her face in her hands.
Weasley, on the other hand, just gets defensive.
“He can live any life he damn pleases.”
“Really? And have you told him that? Or do you just go home and enjoy your family.”
Weasley lunges forward, but Granger catches him on the arm and tugs him back. “Don’t, Ron. Merlin, he’s just telling us what’s going on in Harry’s head.”
“Stop, please,” Lovegood says quietly, and they all fall silent.
Draco feels more blood on his upper lip and dabs with the handkerchief as he feels for his wand under his pillow to heal it.
Lovegood has a hand on Potter’s forehead and she’s casting quietly. A light, glowing field extends from her wand and encases him entirely. It leaves his skin looking blue and even more unhealthy. Draco’s heart sinks.
“What …” Granger asks, unfamiliar with the spell.
“Vivo Sustinere.” Lovegood looks sad as she writes yet more notes on his chart. “Harry’s no longer strong enough to keep breathing on his own.”
“We have to take him back to the hospital.” Weasley gets to his feet and starts pacing. “We tried this, Hermione. But it hasn’t worked.”
It hasn’t worked, but Draco feels like he’s on the cusp of something. Now that Potter is dreaming at the right age, surely he can reach him.
“I can go again,” he says, ignoring Weasley and speaking directly to Granger. “Now that he’s on life support, it’s in some ways less risky. Lovegood’s spell will be sustaining him.”
“Draco, call me Luna,” she says, with a small frown. “And you’re not strong enough to go again right now either.”
It feels odd, the idea of using her given name, but no less strange than the forced intimacy of them all sitting around Harry Potter’s bed, he supposes.
“I’m just getting the flu or something, Luna. Give me some Pepper-Up, I’ll be fine.” His throat does feel thick, and his limbs are tired. The nosebleed is annoying: his sinuses must be inflamed.
“It’s not the flu, Draco.”
Luna lays the chart showing Potter’s diagnostics on the cover, and another sheet of parchment beside it showing his own.
The lines of Draco’s results are not nearly as spiky or severe as Potter’s, but they’re following unmistakably the same pattern.
“That’s ridiculous,” Draco scoffs, staring at both charts. “A dream isn’t contagious. Besides, I’m awake. I’ve had no trouble waking up.”
“You told us you only wake because he casts you out,” Granger interjects, annoyingly, from her perch by the window.
“Run the tests again, you have something wrong.”
“I’ve been running them consistently while you’re out, Draco. Whatever is causing Harry strain in the dream is doing the exact same thing to you.”
It’s preposterous. He needs a second opinion. Luna’s always been a bit daffy, she’s clearly made some sort of mistake. Some trace of Potter’s diagnostics is tainting the results of his own tests.
“I thought you said it was exertion because he didn’t want to leave the dream,” Granger muses, giving Draco a look like she’s found the missing piece of a puzzle. “Why would it be putting stress on you?”
Draco swallows past his sore throat. It’s ridiculous, is what it is. They’re Potter’s bloody dreams. They’re nothing to do with him. Luna’s incorrect.
“I’m fine. I can go again. Let’s do this.”
He starts to cast before either of them can witter on at him any further.
The club is absolutely packed with men dancing, most of them younger than him, many without their shirts on. Draco hardly knows where to look. The music is thumping, and he feels hot already, jostled on all sides.
Potter is leaning at the bar, beer in hand. When he catches sight of Draco pushing through the crowd toward him, his face absolutely lights up.
Potter’s wearing dark jeans that are substantially tighter than any he’d even look at in a store, and his t-shirt hugs his chest in a way that makes Draco feel like there definitely isn’t enough air conditioning in this bloody basement.
A wizarding club, then. Interesting. Draco’s been to ones in Paris and Berlin, of course. But London? Are there even any in London?
“Thanks,” he manages, accepting the drink Potter passes over. He makes space for Draco to join him at the bar, the warm line of his body pressed against Draco’s side. It’s doing absolutely nothing for Draco’s equilibrium.
“Quite the crowd,” he manages, taking a deep swig of his drink.
“I know!” Potter seems delighted. “It’s such a good turn-out. We’ll raise plenty of money.”
Draco looks around for any indication as to what the fundraiser is for. A banner over the bar reads, in all the colours of the rainbow: We are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided - Albus Dumbledore.
A short, sweaty looking man pushes toward them, clutching a wizarding camera. “Picture for the Prophet, Mr Potter?”
Draco steels himself for a confrontation, but Potter just slings an arm around Draco’s shoulder and smiles for the photo. It bursts something wide open in his chest, the idea that Harry Potter would be happy to be captured this way. Here.
Draco finds it hard to catch a breath.
“Do you want to dance?” Potter asks, shifting impossibly closer to Draco, seemingly oblivious to the full internal meltdown he’s just caused.
Draco shakes his head. He probably wouldn’t survive that. He can only imagine what it would do to his vitals in the real world, the feel of Harry Potter grinding up against him. He takes another swig of his drink.
“Or, we could get out of here,” Potter suggests, giving Draco a look that would reduce a better man to cinders.
“You don’t mean that, Harry.” It feels disappointing to even say it, but Draco needs to focus. He does need to get both of them out of here. But not out of the club — out of this outrageous bloody fantasy that’s proving all too compelling for both of them.
“I do mean that. I’ve wanted that since you came to teach at Hogwarts,” Potter insists, right there at his ear, his breath warm against Draco’s neck. He shudders.
“I live in Vienna.” He says it as much to himself as he does to Potter. The time for subtlety has passed.
Potter blinks rapidly for a moment, his brow furrowing in confusion. But then he shakes it off, that outrageous little smirk returning. “You’re so good at what you do.”
“I am good,” Draco agrees, mind racing as he tries to get his bearings.
“Annabella came back a completely different person.”
Draco only knows one Annabella, a British witch he treated two years ago. She’d lost both her parents in the war, and had a recurring nightmare about Fenrir Greyback that had taken Draco two full weeks to dismantle.
“How do you know Annabella, Harry?”
Potter blinks again, looking Draco up and down as if he’s surprised to see him.
“She’s in my class,” he stutters. “And yours. I mean — her marks are so much better since you started teaching her.”
“That’s not what you meant.”
“She was my patient, Harry. At my clinic in Vienna. She told me a friend at work had referred her to me. Was that you?”
Potter starts to look worried, picking at the label on his beer bottle. “I read your monograph on the characteristics of nightmare subjects and post-traumatic stress, I thought …”
Draco holds his breath. There’s no way Potter read that.
The photographer pushes toward them again through the crowd. “One more, lads!” he calls with a grin, lifting his camera. Potter bats it down.
The little wizard is shocked by his change in demeanor. “Alright, alright. The other one was lovely, no harm done.”
“No!” Harry repeats, suddenly tense beside Draco. “No pictures.”
The photographer gives him a look like he’s someone to be avoided — unpredictable and angry — and moves off quickly into the rush.
“We have to stop him,” Potter says urgently, tugging on Draco’s sleeve.
“It’s okay if people know, Harry.” He says it as gently as he can, taking both of Potter’s upper arms in his own, and turning him to look him in the eye. Potter’s expression is wild, uncertain.
Potter shakes his head, his expression pleading.
“No. If they know, then you’re not here. You’re not really here.”
Draco watches helplessly as Potter tries to knit the dream world into his understanding of reality.
This time he sounds choked, almost sad, as he draws his wand and says, “You don’t belong here.”
Draco wakes to a stabbing pain in his abdomen, surrounded by chaos and noise.
There are three times as many people in the room as there were when he went under. He recognises Healer-in-Charge Danforth from a conference last year. The others are all wearing St Mungo’s robes. A truly piercing diagnostic alarm is going off beside him. Molly Weasley is at the door sobbing, and he wonders for a second where the children have gone. His head feels like someone is hitting it repeatedly with a brick, and he tugs his wrist free from the Healer who is holding it, ruining whatever utterly useless spell she was attempting.
“What in Salazar’s name is going on?”
The Healers ignore him, continuing to cast at the glowing blue bubble encasing Potter beside him. He looks the same, physically, but the screaming alarms indicate that all is not well.
Luna rounds the bed and sits beside him.
“You both got a lot worse on that attempt, Draco. The life support spell automatically tripped the alarm at St Mungo’s.”
Danforth is glaring at him over his spectacles.
“This was a completely reckless course of action, Malfoy. You’ve endangered Potter’s life, and you’ll face the consequences of that.”
Draco collapses back against the bed with a sigh. He’s so tired, and in a great deal of pain. None of this is making sense.
“We need to transfer him, he’s not becoming any more stable,” Danforth announces, issuing a series of orders to the Healers with him, who begin to scurry around, pulling back Potter’s covers and casting preparatory spells.
“Wait.” Granger’s voice cuts clearly through the chaos, with all the imposing power of an Auror giving a command.
Danforth splutters in indignation for a moment. “We can’t wait, Miss Granger. This is an emergency.”
“Auror Granger,” she corrects, her voice icy. “And I hold my partner’s medical power of attorney. So you will wait for my instructions.”
Danforth’s mouth falls open, but no sound comes out. The Healers scurrying around him stutter to a halt, seemingly lost.
Granger gets up from the window seat and comes and crouches beside Draco’s side of the bed. He feels like he should sit up, but everything hurts and he’s honestly not sure he’s strong enough.
“Where was he?” she asks, and her tone is soft and encouraging. As if it’s just the two of them in the room, and there isn’t a blaring horn of impending doom sounding behind them and a crowd of spectators.
“A wizarding gay club. It seemed like a fundraiser. A pride event, maybe.”
Granger nods, encouraging him to go on.
“He was relaxed; happy. Didn’t mind people taking photos of him. But then…”
The ear-splitting warnings sounding around them are making concentrating difficult. They’re taking up space in Draco’s head, alongside the pounding headache, making it worse.
“He knew who I was, Granger. At the end. He knew about my work. And it wasn’t like in the beginning. He wasn’t … angry about that inconsistency. He was … he was sad.”
Granger rocks back on her heels, giving Draco a long, considering look.
“Can you do this?” she asks. “Can you get him out?”
Draco thinks about Potter, seemingly following Draco’s work all along. He thinks about the delighted look he gave Draco as he walked into the club. Thinks about the wounded, broken version of Potter lying beside him at death’s door.
“I can do it.”
Granger gets to her feet.
“Thank you for your time, Healer Danforth. I’m signing Harry Potter out of your care, against medical advice.”
Weasley hustles his still-sobbing mother out of the room, suggesting she goes to get some food ready for them all.
Luna agrees to stay, off-duty, earning herself an incredulous disapproving look from Danforth as he and the other Healers leave.
“I’m not sure this is a very good idea, Draco,” she says, watching as he takes carefully measured doses of potions from his bag. He’s never had to rely on them before, but she’s right that he’s been weakened significantly by the dreams. He needs to do what he can to shore up his strength.
“He understood, in the last dream. He knew who I was and he knew the world he’d constructed wasn’t the one I belonged in. I promise, Luna. I wouldn’t do this again if I didn’t think it would work. Let me try one more time.”
She looks at Granger, who nods.
“Once more,” she says, with a sigh. “Then you either let me take him back to St Mungo’s or you’re on your own.”
Draco feels more relieved than anyone should, given the state he’s in. There’s a tiny rational voice somewhere in the back of his brain telling him to pack up now and go home. But all he can think about is the carefree way Potter — Harry — threw an arm around his shoulder and smiled for a photograph.
Draco Malfoy has never been brave, but now he has to try.
He lies back and listens to Luna adding layers to her life support spell and he closes his eyes.
He doesn’t recognise the restaurant, but it’s the sort of place he loves to eat at. Stiff white linen tablecloths and red wine in giant boat-sized glasses. The dessert in front of him is fussy and complicated, and when he takes a bite, delicious flavours explode on his tongue.
Harry is dressed up — a beautifully tailored jacket and no tie, his shirt open at the collar and his hair tamed. It makes Draco’s mouth dry. He glances down at himself and is not surprised to find he’s wearing a suit. But he’s absolutely dumbfounded to see he’s wearing a suit that he actually owns.
But unmistakable. A rich, dark blue three-piece he’d had made in Paris last winter.
There are only two explanations and neither of them make any sense: that Harry can somehow have seen him in this suit or that Draco himself is now contributing to the fabric of these dreams.
Harry raises his glass in a toast, smiling broadly at him.
“Happy anniversary,” he says, clinking his wine against Draco’s, who is suddenly finding it impossible to think, let alone speak.
Focus! Or neither of you are getting out of here.
“I’m not really one for speeches, as you know,” Harry goes on, ducking his head briefly, a blush rising high on his cheeks. “But I want you to know how happy the last few years have made me.”
“Harry…” Draco’s not sure he can take this. He needs to burst this bubble swiftly, before he doesn’t have the strength to try — physically or emotionally.
Harry tangles their fingers together on the table. “No, let me. I never thought, when we first met under that tree as children all those years ago…”
Draco shakes his head, giving Harry’s hand a small squeeze. “We met in Madam Malkin’s, being fitted for robes.”
He expects to see that familiar flicker of annoyance or confusion, but Harry just smiles more broadly.
“And when you came to teach at Hogwarts, you were so self-assured, and so bloody attractive I couldn’t stand it,” he breaks off in a chuckle. “It brought back all the best memories from school, watching Quidditch together.”
Draco’s chest clenches.
“We don’t have good school memories, Harry. We hated each other. You fought and won a war I was on the wrong side of.”
Again, he’s expecting him to resist the truth. To disagree, or worse to pull his wand. He’s not expecting Harry to just smile at him, as if he’s his favourite person in the world.
“I know none of those things happened out there. But it doesn’t matter. They happened in here. You’re amazing, Draco. I’m so happy you found me.”
“This is all inside your head, Harry. None of this is real.”
Harry laughs at this. An honest, delighted sound.
“Dumbledore once said to me, Of course it’s happening inside your head, Harry. Why should that mean it’s not real?”
Draco’s got no context for this and hearing Dumbledore’s name is a shock, like feeling ice water poured down his spine.
“We need to go home, Harry. To your room at Grimmauld Place. Ron and Hermione and Luna. Molly and the children. They’re all there waiting for you.”
“No, we need to stay here,” Harry says firmly. “We’re together here.”
Draco huffs an exasperated laugh. “We’re in bed together out there. Besides, when you wake up you won’t want this. You don’t want me.”
Harry’s expression drops, finally. He looks sad and serious. “You don’t know anything about what I want.”
Draco’s ribcage feels too small for his lungs. A week ago he’d have said that was the truth. But he’s lived a whole lifetime in these tiny shared moments of the dreams.
“I’ve been here, Harry. I’ve seen what you want. They’re all things you can have. A different job. A life that’s true to who you are. You can have those things.”
Harry shakes his head, looking hopeless, his eyes damp.
“You don’t understand, Draco. You left Britain and didn’t look back. You carved a new path for yourself. Put yourself back together.”
Draco’s throat feels thick and his own eyes are starting to prick.
“I wanted to help, at the trials,” Harry says in a low voice. “And I … couldn’t.”
Draco thinks about Granger’s confession. She’d been right, of course. Draco hadn’t deserved Harry’s help back then.
“But I kept tabs,” Harry cuts off with a rueful laugh. “Christ, I’ve been keeping tabs on you since we were kids. It’s hard to break the habit of a lifetime. And you were just always moving forward. Studying and training and getting treatment and then helping others. And I’m just stuck. Doing the same thing I’ve always done. The only thing I know how to do: chasing Dark wizards.”
Harry rubs a hand over his face. Draco desperately wants to comfort him.
“Draco, I thought the world would open up after Voldemort. And instead it’s just gotten smaller and smaller. But you, you’re not shackled to the past. You found a way to live.”
Draco takes Harry’s hand in both of his.
“You have to too, Harry. You have to find a way to live. Out there you’re dying.”
Harry’s eyes are filling up with tears now, and Draco suspects his own are as well.
“I’ve died before. It’s not so bad.”
It’s awful to hear words of defeat come from this man.
“No. You don’t get to give up, Harry. Not when you’ve shown me what your life could be like. What our lives could be like.”
“It won’t be like that,” Harry says sadly, reaching into his jacket for his wand. Draco panics.
“It won’t be exactly like that,” he agrees quickly. “Our history is much more complicated. But we can make a start on our own version. Together.”
Draco feels the silver anchor around his wrist start to burn. His body must be starting to fail.
“Come with me, Harry,” he pleads, the tears falling openly now.
Around him, the dream is starting to collapse. The walls of the restaurant fall away, and the other tables and diners are turning to fog.
Harry is taking his wand out of his jacket.
“Please, Harry. We can do this. You’ve hunted enough Dark wizards for several lifetimes. It’s time to do something for yourself now. It’s okay to want things for yourself.”
Their table disappears and Draco stumbles as he finds themselves in a blank featureless space that looks oddly like a train station. He clings to Harry’s hand. Harry raises his wand.
“Don’t cut me loose, Harry. Come with me.”
His wrist burns. A sob escapes his throat.
Harry says, “You…”
Draco wakes to nothing but darkness and pain.
His wrist feels like it’s on fire. Nausea passes over in a wave and he rolls to the side of the bed to throw up, gasping and retching. It’s impossible to get a lung full of air, and it’s very noisy. He needs quiet. He needs ….
His neck is stiff and his jaw aches as if he’s been grinding it. He wants to open his eyes but they’re too heavy.
“Draco. Draco, can you hear me?”
He’s far too weak to Apparate directly away, though the thought is tempting.
“Draco, come on, sit up. I need you to drink some water and take some potions.”
It feels a bit pointless. If he opens his eyes he’s only going to have to tell her that he tried his best and failed, and then she’s going to curse him dead where he lies anyway.
“Draco, please. You can’t take his place, not when he’s come back to us.”
He forces his eyes open, blinking into the light of the room.
“Oh, thank Merlin,” Granger says, gently supporting his head as she holds a glass of water for him. It’s cold and feels soothing against his raging throat. She’s been crying and her eyes are red.
“I’m sorry,” he manages, his voice croaking.
She lets out a strangled sob, and more tears spill over. “Don’t be sorry, Draco, my god. You did it.”
Draco catches his breath and holds it, trying to struggle up into a sitting position. Beside him on the bed, curled toward him like a child and coughing weakly, is a conscious Harry Potter.
Lovegood’s glowing field has dissipated. “I’ve lifted the Vivo, Draco. He’s very weak but he’s breathing on his own and he’s no longer comatose.” She looks bright-eyed and happy.
Harry coughs again, as if to prove the point. His eyelids flutter a little, and he takes a shaky breath.
“Harry?” Draco asks, gently pushing the damp hair back off his forehead.
Harry lifts one thin arm and takes Draco’s hand, lacing their fingers together.
“I’m tired, Draco. Let me sleep.”
Relief floods through him like a tonic. He’s really here — alive and conscious. They both made it out.
Harry pulls their joined hands toward him, pressing a dry kiss to the back of Draco’s knuckles.
Draco lets his own tears spill over then.
“Twelve hours,” he whispers. “Or I’m coming in to get you.”
Harry walks toward him from the Great Hall, his robes swirling around him and his cane clacking gently on the stone floor.
“You look very distinguished, Professor Potter,” he says, glancing around to see if there are any students nearby who will wolf-whistle at them before leaning in for a kiss.
“You don’t think the cane makes me look like your father?” Harry asks, with a wink.
Draco pulls a disgusted face.
“That wasn’t a mental image I needed, thanks.”
“How did you get on today?” Harry asks with a laugh, steering them through the corridors at his more sedate pace.
“All signed up. The renovations will begin next week. I can start seeing patients there in the spring, just like we planned.” The cottage that will become his clinic offices is just on the outskirts of Hogsmeade. He can already see in his mind’s eye how inviting it will be, with its low ceilings and exposed wooden beams and the thick rose bushes blooming in the garden. “How are you feeling?”
Harry shoves him gently with his free hand.
“Don’t fuss, I’m fine.”
It’s been six months since his discharge, and there are still some days where his recovery seems slower than others. Luna visits them at the school regularly for his check-ups, and she assures Draco everything is going well. But he still worries.
They reach their rooms in the Staff Quarters and Harry unwards the door. Draco hangs his cloak and takes off his shoes. They’ve been living here since Draco closed up his practice in Vienna last month. It’s been a quiet existence. Harry tires easily and sleeps a lot. They keep to themselves, decline interviews with the press, and take Teddy flying every other weekend. They go to the Burrow for lunch on Sundays, and it's still awkward — the people closest to Harry wrestling with their gratitude toward Draco and their feelings about his past — but he knows it's important to Harry.
It makes Draco’s heart full to be making a home here together at Hogwarts. Like he’s getting a second chance to rewrite history, the way Harry had the chance to in the dreams. He says as much, as they sink into the sofa, enjoying a glass of wine in front of the fire.
“We can rewrite our story as many ways as you like,” Harry says with a contented sigh, tucking his feet under Draco’s leg. “As long as we do it together.”
Draco wraps a hand softly round his ankle, pleased he’s not as frail as he had been when he first left St Mungo’s.
It’s not long before Harry’s starting to drift off, his eyes falling closed. Usually Draco forces him up and into their room, but tonight he just lets him stretch out, pulling the soft knitted afghan Molly made them over him and tucking it around his shoulders.
Harry’s murmuring something as he settles, barely above a whisper. Draco leans in closer to hear him.
“You belong here.”
It’s more than he could have hoped for. Entirely more than he deserves.
Draco kisses him on the forehead and goes to bed. He knows Harry, this Harry — his Harry — will be awake in the morning.