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Vulnera Sanentur

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1. Harry

 

 

Dear Mr Potter,

 

Harry read the letter for the third time, wrapping his head around it and nodding to himself.

 

I am writing to you from the Ministry Detention Centre where my family and I are awaiting trial. I will not insult your intelligence by giving you extraneous details that I know you will not need; suffice it to say the newspapers have been both brutal and inaccurate in their portrayal of events and we are left facing anything up to execution or life incarceration in Azkaban. A lack of evidence that we gave specific aid to – Lord Voldemort during the war is apparently no longer sufficient, and in light of the evidence presented of our home being used as his headquarters we have been requested to come up with evidence of actively fighting against him at the final trial a week on Wednesday.

 

To this end I have been prevailed upon to write to anyone who might give such testimony in our favour. I will not beg for myself but humbly ask that you appear at the hearing on Wednesday next in our defence. For my son's sake, I will beg if necessary. You're our only hope, Mr Potter,

 

Sincerely,

 

Narcissa Malfoy.

 

 

“Hermione!”

 

Harry half runs, half walks up three flights of stairs, until he finds Hermione in the library, cursing at the books.

 

“What's the matter?”

 

“These – these bloody books won't open for me! They hiss at me you realise – actually hiss at me!”

 

“That – does sound like your idea of a nightmare, yeah. Hermione take a look at this for me, will you?”

 

He hands her the letter and she gets up off the library floor, kicking a book which spits and scuttles away from her under a shelf. She reads it over with a little frown between the eyebrows and he casts an eye around the library – it has only taken Hermione three days of Harry duty to simply trash the place she and the Weasleys are taking it in turns not to let him be alone even though he cannot help but feel a lot of the time as thought that is exactly what he would like best. Still, he's glad she's here now, for advice, and it is a picture to imagine the look on old Walburga's face downstairs if she could see what Hermione had done to her precious library.

 

“You don't look very surprised,” she says finally, tapping the corner of the letter on her teeth and looking at him closely. He sits down in one of the fat green armchairs.

 

“I think I was expecting it, yeah,” he nods - “I mean – you've seen the papers.”

 

“And you want me to help you decide if you're going to – help I mean?”

 

“No, I already know that -”

 

“You're going to then?”

 

“Of course.”

 

“Can I ask why? I mean what does she mean by assuming you even have evidence in their favour?”

 

“When -” he sighs, he has avoided talking about the battle these past five weeks since he's been hiding out at Number 12, ignoring the press - “When I died – I mean when everyone thought I'd died - Voldemort sent someone to go and check – only it was Narcissa who checked. She knew I was alive and she told him I was dead. If it wasn't for her I would have died.”

 

“You never told us.”

 

“It never came up. Until now.”

 

“Why did she do it?”

 

“She asked me if Draco was still alive; she did it when I said yes – I think by that stage she just wanted to save him.”

 

“Huh.” Hermione sits back down on the floor, rocks back on her heels - “She's actually human.”

 

“We're all just human, Hermione. If we only learnt one thing this whole time I think perhaps that's it.”

 

“But then – Draco? And Lucius?”

 

“Draco saved my life at the manor. He knew who I was, I could see it in his eyes, he wasn't even in doubt, but he lied for me. If I don't save him I'll never know why.”

 

The answer sounds just a little over – practised to him as well, and Hermione definitely ends up looking at him strangely.

 

“That's all?”

 

“You remember he threw me his wand in the final battle? He broke away from the others just to help me – besides isn' it enough?” he silently begs her not to probe further because he knows there is something else, he just could not quite say what it was.

 

Lucius?”

 

“From what I've heard, the Ministry are treating them as a unit, and I can't let two people who've risked that much for me die just because they're connected to a complete cunt, can I?”

 

“So – what are you asking my advice on?”

 

“The thing is – I have been following the case, she's right. Public opinion is so gross against the Malfoys right now – largely thanks to our old friend Ms Skeeter – if they do get let off I'm afraid the waiting public might just become a lynch mob -”

 

“So -?”

 

“So when I get them off, I want the Order to be there to apparate all three of them back here before that can happen. What do you think?

 

Hermione lets out a long whistling wheeeew of breath.

 

“You think it's that bad?”

 

“Yeah. I do. I think it's that bad -” he pauses just on the verge of telling her that the thought of Draco at the mercy of an angry mob makes him feel thoroughly sick but stops himself. He's been looking at their pictures in the papers for weeks now, Lucius half broken and confused – well perhaps he deserves it – Narcissa, inscrutable and proud and Draco -

 

Draco just looks like he's trying to avoid the paparazzi at every turn, eyes averted or dazzled, meeting nobody in the eye, half frantic, on the verge of tears all the time. Harry hates the way it makes him feel, hates that he finds himself wanting to see the old sneer back, that flash of wicked mischief in the eye that used to itch so (good) irritatingly under his skin. He couldn't save him before, he realises now he had a whole year in which he could have tried – but he'll be damned if he does not try now.

 

“Not all of them are going to like it, Harry.”

 

“I know. But you'll ask them?”

 

“I'd say ask them yourself, but you explained that so badly even to me - not to mention you still don't want to be seen leaving here, do you? And in summary yes – I will.”

 

“Thank you Hermione. You're a true friend.”

 

“I know. But – Harry?”

 

“Uh?”

 

“Ginny's gonna be mad. Can you please do something for me and have a good long think about the two of you while I'm gone?”

 

“Think – about – Ginny?”

 

“-and it's exactly that frown Harry that means I'm asking you to. I'll be back later.”

 

Hermione apparates out and Harry flops onto his back in the sofa and thinks – about Ginny, Hermione said. What about Ginny? Why would she be mad he wanted to save somebody who saved him? Does she hate him? Does she especially hate the Malfoys? Did Draco do something he doesn't know about? Surely he always picked on Harry the most? And then Ron and Hermione. Maybe Hermione meant think about her fondly – well he does, like all the Weasleys – ah maybe that's it – he ought to be able to summon up something more for his girlfriend. Nope, it's gone again. There's only one face that swims into his mind when he tries to conjure her up, and it's pale and pointed and it's always been there, every time he started to think too much about anything. He darts away from thoughts of that face like he's a shoal of fish, all shivery and breaking up, coming back to this one thing like it's a nesting ground. Bad thought. He feels himself going red. He gets up, unable to account for the feelings of restless itchiness, and wanders the house. There's too much past here. Too many things that belonged to Sirius, Lupin, Tonks, like an In Memorium list. He lingers in the drawing room running his fingers over the gold strands of tapestry – Sirius and upwards to somebody he was told might be his own ancestor, feeling the ancient fabric, the threads without really seeing them. An hour later he hears voices in the kitchen and he looks to where his fingers have been lingering for some time, tracing them over golden threads as though through strands of golden hair, all this time lingering on one name – Draco Lucius Malfoy.

 

-x-

 

Far from all of the Order have come. On his request Hermione had made it clear that this plan was one that might mean keeping the Malfoys some number of weeks at Grimmauld place, for which he suspects he needs at least a good few of them to stay. Luna is there of course, Molly and Arthur, Bill and Fleur, Hermione, Ron, Ginny and last of all George, trailing after his family like a shadow.

 

“So uh -” he looks round at them all - “Hermione told you the plan right? Does uh – anyone have any questions.”

 

“Yeah,” says Ron - “I don't get it mate – arent't we supposed to be rounding up Death Eaters, not rescuing them?”

 

“They're not Death Eaters,” he says immediately, feeling his cheeks grow hot - “Hermione I thought you covered -”

 

“I'm still not an owl, Harry – I said there'd be questions.”

 

“Death eaters kill people,” Luna announces to the room as though nobody knew this - “They never killed anyone.”

 

“Is that really reason to save them though?”

 

“They saved me,” Harry wonders how many times he is going to have to say this - “Everyone who is here to help me say yes now, otherwise you're free to go. Honestly. I understand.”

 

The truth is he's not sure if he does – or he does, but he knows in his heart he would resent them anyway.

 

“I'm in,” says Luna. Harry nods at her gratefully.

 

“Us too,” says Bill, Fleur nodding. Molly and Arthur speak next, Hermione and then Ron -

 

“Yeah alright mate.”

 

“Us too,” George nods - “Right Fred?” he looks to his side. Everyone tries to look elsewhere. George nods to himself, remembering for the thousandth time, and his face looks as though it hits him again for the thousandth time -

 

“Yeah,” he says - “Right.”

 

“I'll come with you to the trial, Harry,” Ginny says “But I'm not going to stay and I want to talk to you.”

 

“Right,” Harry nods. “Good. Next Wednesday then. Thanks everyone.”

 

“I saw Draco rescue a spider from a leaky tap once,” Luna informs them vaguely, and slowly everyone leaves, leaving Harry awkwardly alone with Ginny, Ron and Hermione tactfully excusing themselves and hurrying into the next room.

 

“Wow,” Harry nods dully, knowing what's coming and struggling to take it seriously - “I feel like Mary Poppins on dismissal day at the Banks house.”

 

Ginny doesn't laugh. He sighs.

 

“Look, I know I'm dumped, Gin,” he groans. “Can we just not? I don't even know why?”

 

“Why are you doing this?”

 

“I told you all – they saved me – there's no-one else who can help them and Mrs -”

 

“Why are you doing this?”

 

“Enough people have died!”

 

“Why are you doing this?”

 

“Jesus, Gin, you're like a broken record! I just told you!”

 

“This is your problem Harry, you don't even know. You're right, you are dumped – I was going to anyway, but I was hoping to be able to be a bit nicer about it. You're not invested in me, you never were! You're more invested in -”

 

“Yeah?”

 

“ - in someone you hate.”

 

“I don't know what you're talking about. Jesus. Why don't girls ever make sense?”

 

“See the thing is, Harry, when you work it all out you'll get the answer to that question too, then maybe we can be friends again.”

 

“You don't hate me?”

 

“No I don't hate you, you plonker. But I am mad, and I need you to work it out – I just can't be the one to tell you what half of us already know. It's not fair. I'm sorry Harry”.

 

When she goes he feels lighter. It feels like a relief.

 

-x-

 

 

“Harry James Potter?”

 

“Present.”

 

“You're not in class, Mr Potter.”

 

The court ripples with people chuckling. Harry only notices that Draco is not one of them. There was a time when he would rather have died than not front the Laugh at Potter Brigade whole heartedly. He just looks down at his fingers on the table, still and tense, every line of him tight and as though he has been paused, just waiting, not even caring what happens to him. He has been watching them since they got into the court room. Narcissa gave him a mildest fraction of a nod when she saw him looking, Draco made eye contact like a butterfly in flight, eyes skittering away in the instant like a frightened foal. The others are stationed near the exits, ready to move in; Harry just wishes he could let the Malfoys know, the nerves coming off Lucius are enough to knock a man out and no wonder. The crowd on the way in was as ugly as he predicted, shouting for their deaths, for immediate lynching, shouts of Kill the Death Eaters! Poison the Purebloods! And other new catchy slogans, Rita Skeeter forcing her camera into their faces until Draco had looked seconds away from panic. Harry had wanted to leap in front of them and fight them all off.

 

“Mr Potter, it is Mrs Malfoy's claim that she lied to Lord Voldemort about your death, thereby saving your life; is this true?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Can you explain this to us?”

 

“Yes.” He manages it calmly, not looking at anyone.

 

“You also claim to have evidence exonerating Mr Draco Malfoy?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Maybe you could tell the court about that?”

 

“When my friends and I were taken prisoner by the snatchers and sent to Malfoy Manor, we were met by the late Bellatrix Lestrange – I was under a jinx at the time and she struggled to recognise me, but she suspected that Draco would know me and asked him to identify me -”

 

“For the purposes of handing you over to Voldemort?”

 

“To my death, yes. He didn't, even though it is my belief that he did recognise me. Even though he put himself and his family at risk of death by doing so. He saved me again -”

 

“Thank you Mr Potter that will do. You may be seated. Mr Malfoy, please rise.”

 

It takes Draco so long to react, Harry is afraid for a while that he will not. When he does, he looks around the room for someone, perhaps who will stop him having to be visible.

 

“Mr Malfoy can you corroborate what Mr Potter has told us?”

 

“I -” the whole courtroom can hear Draco's jerky breaths and something in Harry aches for him - “Yes – that – that's correct.”

 

Did you recognise Mr Potter at the time in question?”

 

- yes.”

 

“Louder please, all responses must be fully audible to be valid.”

 

“Yes.”

 

“And you did not identify him to Lord Voldemort at that time. Why not?”

 

Draco looks stricken; Harry is itching in his seat to leap up and shout at them to leave him alone -

 

“-didn't want to -” the rest is a mumble.

 

Please speak up, Mr Malfoy.”

 

“I didn't want anyone else to die, I hoped -”

 

He flashes a desperate look to Narcissa that Harry reads as can I say – is it safe now? She nods that tiniest of nods again and squeezes his hand - “ - hoped he would defeat Voldemort.”

 

Draco is shaking like a leaf when he sits back down, half reeling. The court adjourns. When they reassemble it is with the words Harry had desperately expected and needed -

 

“In light especially of Mr Harry Potter's testimony, the Family Malfoy is found Not Guilty and cleared of all charges.”

 

The court goes wild, the majority of the shouting made up of objection. An angry viewer just behind Draco leans forward and hisses -

 

“Good luck against the lynch mob!” so spitefully that Draco almost jumps out of his skin and so loudly that even Harry hears. He nods to the others by the door and runs down to join the Malfoys -

 

“It's not safe for you out there,” he says - “I've got people outside waiting to apparate you out if you'll come with me.”

 

“I don't think -” Lucius tries to summon up a glare but his heart is not in it and Narcissa cuts across him -

 

“Thank you Mr Potter, we will follow your lead. Draco stay next to me.”

 

Draco just nods, barely even nods; he looks as though he has just been pulled back from a cliff edge and had been picturing the fall so vividly it's still happening. When they step outside the court and see the crowd crashing up towards them like a storm-lashed sea, only Harry on the one side and Narcissa on the other hear Draco make a little strangled sound of terror in his throat. Terrified he might do something stupid like bolt, Harry grabs his hand too tightly for Draco to fight it and shouts -

 

“NOW!” the others swinging round from all sides to form a circle around the Malfoys and Harry, wands drawn. When they apparate out, Draco clings so tightly to Harry's hand Harry thinks it will feel like splinching if he ever lets go.

 

-x-

 

It's a shock, landing in the hallway at number 12 and hearing the sudden lack of shouting and mayhem. Draco lets go of Harry's hand like it's fire and retreats behind his mother. Harry looks around to make sure everyone is safe and whilst he is reassuring himself that they are, the familiar screeching starts up -

 

“MUDBLOODS! FILTH! BLOOD TRAITORS AND REPROBATES IN MY HOUSE! IN MY HOUSE NO LESS, OH WOE THE DAY! SCOUNDRELS! TRAITORS - Cissy! Narcissa, my dear girl, how are you, it's been too long! And is that young Master Draco? Let me see you, my dear boy!”

 

Harry chokes back laughter and shock – he has never seen Walburga beam before, and thinking about it – he rather wishes he never had.

 

“Draco,” Narcissa sighs wearily. “Meet your Great Aunt Walburga. Can't anything be done about her?” she adds in an aside to Harry - “Auntie always was rather strident, most undignified – you couldn't take her down?”

 

“Irremovable sticking charm,” Harry sighs - “Sirius tried a thousand times.”

 

“It's been so long,” Narcissa murmurs, taking a few steps down the hall, looking about her in wonder. For a moment she looks quite shockingly young, a small girl's light coming into her eyes.

 

“Where – are we?” Draco frowns, staying near her.

 

“This is – this was the Ancient House of Black,” Narcissa half smiles - “I grew up here – with your aunts Bella and Andy – then it was left to cousin Sirius and he – oh well -” she appears to shrug off something very heavy and more than one of the others notice her do it - “I suppose things like disinheritence don't matter like they used to. There's more to life than purity.”

 

She stops suddenly, her face momentarily betraying how hard she has shocked herself. Lucius makes a choked sound of horror and objection, but stifles it under his wife's glare.

 

“Mr Potter -” she turns back to Harry - “Do I take it that my cousin left this house to you when he died?”

 

“Uh – yeah -” Harry feels awkward suddenly, as it occurs to him for the first time that if the house had not gone to him it probably ought to have gone to her. “- Sorry,” he adds lamely.

 

“But, um – of course you're welcome here for as long as you need. I don't know if you've seen the papers but those crowds – they're not pretty and they've been camped out at the Manor all this time in wait. It might be best if you – stay for a bit?”

 

“I quite agree.” She nods before anyone else can object.

 

“Do you want – anything – drinks – um – or I can just show you to some rooms but I mean – you're free to – I mean it's your choice,” Harry babbles, wishing he could sink into the floor boards with every word.

 

“I think, under the circumstances, that would be best, yes, and Mr Potter?”

 

“Mrs – Malfoy?”

 

“You saved our lives today, Mr Potter. Twice, I suspect. Please do not feel a need to be apologetic for anything, my family and I are eternally indebted to you.”

 

“Um,” Harry says, usefully, blushing and awkward.

 

As everyone starts to fan off in their separate directions and he leads the family to a corridor of rooms on the second floor, he notices only that Draco is glaring at him from narrowed eyes with a cutting glance like fire on a knife, and that his lip is curled like a tongue of flame. It makes him feel curiously hopeful, nostalgic even, and something else he cannot name.

 

Work it out Harry, he hears Ginny's voice in his head, and wonders for the hundredth time what she was talking about.

 

__x__

 

Chapters will swing between different character povs. The next one is Narcissa. 

Chapter Text

 

 

2.

 

Narcissa

 

A knock on the bedroom door startles Narcissa awake, and for a moment she looks around the room blinking, her mind disoriented into feeling like a little girl again, waking up in this very room to knocking of a house elf with a breakfast tray.

 

But that was nearly thirty years ago and this knock was considerably stronger. Her brain goes through the looping spiral dance of readjustment as she sits up.

 

“A moment please,” she calls, getting out of bed and slipping a dressing gown on, one of her aunt's, heavy, black and thick with embroidery. She opens the door cautiously.

 

“Mrs Weasley?”

 

“Just to let you know about breakfast, dear – you all are welcome to join us.”

 

“I – thank you – I will be down. I suspect Lucius may not.”

 

“No, I didn't think so dearie.” She watches Molly attempt to suppress a smirk and fail. Oh dear. That means everyone heard. She supposes they could not have avoided it if they wanted to; she cringes inwardly at the idea of anyone hearing her raise her voice like that, not to mention the Useless cunt part of her screaming with which she had shocked even herself, before slamming the door to her room and leaving him out in the hallway. Well, it had been worth it to hear Draco laugh anyway, even if she had heard him crying later in the room next to hers as she tried to sleep.

 

“We just want you to know -” Molly says brightly - “That you and your son are welcome with us for as long as you like and we're ever so grateful you know – for what you both did for our Harry – it can't have been easy.”

 

“No,” she says, guarded. You killed my sister, she thinks and she tries to muster up some feeling about it, but there is very little to be had.

 

“Well!” Molly plunges on - “I'll give a knock next door, shall I?”

 

“Perhaps not,” Narcissa presses her lips together - “Draco's not good at being woken up – late night – maybe best to let him sleep.”

 

“Mm,” Molly needs - “The kids've been through so much, best to give them space, eh? My George, he -” her lip wobbles and she cannot finish.

 

“I'm very sorry for your loss, Mrs Weasley.” Narcissa nods, meaning it deeply, despite how full of rubbish the woman is.

 

“Thanks dearie. I'm sorry for -” she trails off.

 

“No,” Narcissa agrees, no judgement in her voice - “You're not. Don't mind it.”

 

“Do anything for 'em though wouldn't we? Our kids, you know how it is.”

 

“Yes. I'll see you downstairs, Mrs Weasley.”

 

-x-

 

Nobody is exactly rude to her at breakfast but she feels the iciness when she walks into the room and stiffens herself in return, pulling herself up straighter than ever, jerking her head up higher, aware that this will only alienate her further but knowing no other retort. The Potter boy at least makes an effort to smile at her and she is appalled by how grateful it makes her feel.

 

“No Draco?” is actually the first thing he says, which warms her to him all the more.

 

“Sleeping.” She sits down next to the boy and, trying not to make it look too awkward, pours herself some tea - “He's not good at – gatherings at the moment – especially round the dinner table -” she wonders if Potter knows why - “If someone could be so kind as to leave some food -” she trails off to the room in general - “- please -” she adds, feeling degraded by the word - “- he's not been eating properly since -”

 

“Year six,” Harry nods. She looks at him in renewed surprise, wondering that he noticed.

 

“Yes.”

 

Breakfast is a quiet affair after that, everyone focussing on eating and getting out as quickly as possible. After a loudly shrieked -

 

“NO! NO DAD, I'M NOT O- FUCKING KAY! WHY DOES EVERYONE KEEP ASKING ME THAT AS THOUGH I POSSIBLY MIGHT BE?”

 

- from George in the next room, everyone finishes up all the faster and mutters excuses before hurrying off in different directions.

 

Narcissa finds herself at a loss in what was once her own house. She wanders back upstairs, thinks about knocking on Luicius' door, realises she does not want to apologise and is not going to speak to him until he speaks to her – a battle they always have after a row and one she always wins. She walks on, thinks about knocking on Draco's door but hears him moaning in his sleep and simply goes in. He is moaning, thrashing and crying in the sheets like he's in the middle of a battle. She swoops down to the bed like an owl to a branch, takes his head in her lap and rocks, holding onto him as gently as she can without ever wishing to let go. This is it, the one thing that can make her cry, that twists her heart like a handkerchief until she feels like she could burst – when her boy wakes up, jerking and shivering and looks up at her with wild eyes and whispers -

 

I'm burning”.

 

His eyes are bright and huge, but it's the whisper in his voice that kills her, the lack of strength in him, how he sounds more surprised and confused than scared or horrified like he might – ugh – deserve it, whatever it was. She cradles him when he starts to cry messily, but quietly, shaking so fiercely she fears for him; he's so thin these days. She wishes he did not cry so silently, that he never had to learn how, but at least he's crying now, after the past few weeks perhaps it's something.

 

“I want -” he says, muffled in knee - “I love -” she can feel him swallow hard, choking it back down whatever it is and she has an inkling, she really does, but she is surprised ot hear him even say this much; she was sure he didn't know it yet. And he does not give her more and that's alright, she just lets him cry and does not dream of telling him not to or claiming that anything is alright.

 

Later when he breaks away, turning over from her, sinking back into bed, she gets up, saying -

 

“There's food in the kitchen when you come down”.

 

She makes it very clear that she is saying when and not allowing the option of an if. Draco ignores her and pretends to be asleep. She sighs and goes out quietly.

 

-x-

 

In the corridor she closes her eyes tight shut for a second and gathers her thoughts and everything else together with one long intake of breath. At least she knows her priority now, not that it comes as any huge surprise, but yesterday she was less sure. If she needed to look after Lucius, if she needed to get a grip on the family, if she should hurry them out of this place and away from these people. Now she realises that everything she has to do requires them to stay and thankfully they have leave to do exactly that.

 

Most of all, once again, she has to help Draco. Little else matters. And with sudden clarity she realises who best to talk to to help her help him. She does not like it, but she grits her teeth and sets out through the house to find her.

 

-x-

 

“Miss Granger?”

 

“Yes?” Hermione answers without turning round; when she does turn and see who it is her face snaps closed - “Mrs Malfoy,” she says coldly, closing her book and standing up from the sofa defensively, Narcissa realises, not deferentially. The girl opens her mouth for a brief moment, on the verge of saying can I help you? But she does not say it; Narcissa realises she does not want to help her. Well, she supposes, why would she.

 

“May I speak with you?” It feels awkward and she knows it just comes out snooty. Still, she knew this would not be easy. What is, these days.

 

“I suppose I can't stop you.” Hermione puts her book down, and perches on a stool instead of settling back into the sofa. Narcissa waits for a gesture from the girl before taking a seat, noticing, when she eventually gets the gesture, that the girl does not take her left hand off her right arm.

 

“I am so sorry about what my sister did to you, Miss Granger,” she says, still stiffly, but perhaps Hermione catches the note of sincerity in the apology because something flickers in her eyes and she looks down before looking back up.

 

“I didn't notice you trying to stop her at the time.”

 

“Trying to stop Bella from doing anything only ever made her do it harder and with a thousand times more intent. You should probably be grateful I did not.”

 

“Forgive me if I'm not. Grateful I mean. Look, Mrs Malfoy I won't lie – we helped you because Harry asked us to, but I can't say I like or want anything to do with any of you – frankly I cannot think of a single thing we could have to talk about or anything we might have in common.”

 

“What about the people we love?”

 

Very different people.”

 

“And if those people care about each other?”

 

“Alright. Go on.”

 

“The truth is, Miss Granger, I need your help. Can you tell me what made Mr Potter testify for us and then rescue us from the courtroom like he did? I consider myself an excellent judge of character – some ancient prejudices aside – but I simply cannot fathom his actions.”

 

“That's because you don't know him. If you did you'd know that Harry would never let anyone be tried unfairly or let them go without all factors being considered. Is it true then – that you saved his life?”

 

“It's true.”

 

“Why?”

 

“For Draco,” she almost half shrugs - “Of course. For the chance to get back to the castle and find him and because I knew that if Draco was alive, it would be because Mr Potter had made it so. Am I correct?”

 

“Yes. He saved him. In the room of requirement. There was a fire – he made us go back.”

 

“Did he now. Why?”

 

“Like I said, you don't know Harry – he wouldn't let anyone die – not even – well he just wouldn't.”

 

“No,” Narcissa murmurs, sighing - “No, neither would Draco.”

 

“I'm not sure that's exactly enough reason to start thinking they have so much in common.”

 

“Do you think not? Alright -” Narcissa nods internally and pulls her resolutions together tightly - “I'm going to tell you something, Miss Granger, and I'd respect your opinion on the matter. You see the truth is that ever since first year, your friend Mr Potter has been just about the only thing my son has talked about. He pretends otherwise of course, but that gives me all the more reason to suspect -”

 

“Suspect – oh my god! Are you trying to tell me Draco fancies Harry?”

 

“Not exactly my dear – I suspect that whatever it is will always be a lot more complicated than that. Also I suspect it goes a lot deeper. My son feels things very keenly, you know -”

 

“No I can't say that I do.”

 

“That – as you said to me about Mr Potter – is because you don't know him. I have suspected for a long time now that your friend is the only thing – the only person who might make Draco happy and I wondered if you could tell me anything of how Mr Potter feels about him?”

 

“You're asking me if I think Harry is – what? In love with Draco?” Hermione stands up and sits down again - “Draco -” she murmurs half to herself - “In love with Harry -”

 

“That – is not exactly what I said.”

 

“No, it makes sense! I mean it really does make sense! I'm sorry Mrs Malfoy I don't think I can tell you what you want to hear.”

 

“Miss Granger, I don't expect you to tell me that Mr Potter thinks about Draco the same way Draco thinks about him, I merely wondered – you see my son is what I might – if I were being quite honest – call obsessed with Mr Potter. Can you tell me in all honesty that it has always been completely one sided?”

 

Hermione stares wide eyed at nothing for a long moment, thinking about the duels, the Quidditch matches, the constant following of Draco, comments about Draco, repeated assurances as to how much Harry hated Draco, all those times he looked like he was going to say something he bit back on - years and years of it, stacking up to one conclusion.

 

“No.” She sighs - “I don't think I can. The truth is -” she realises it as soon as she starts to say it - “The truth is I've never seen Harry more – more alive than when he's fighting with Draco; they do seem -” she groans - “They seem rather to always orbit and then collide, don't they? And when they do then – then it's like a supernova, like they're both made out of stars – oh god -” she stares at Narcissa as though for help - “He does love Draco! I should have listened to Ginny!”

 

“Ginny?”

 

“Ginny Weasley – she was going out with Harry, but she dumped him – just a few days ago actually – because of the trial, she said he was always – well never mind what she said but she simply screamed at him – that he didn't really love her, that he thought more about someone he hated than he thought about her, and he said he supposed he did and – well it wasn't pretty, that's why she didn't join us.”

 

Narcissa steeples her fingers under her chin, thinking. It is more than she hoped for and she does not imagine that Hermione is the kind of girl to exaggerate or fabricate, in fact, to her extreme surprise she finds herself quite liking the girl; she is steady and practical and in truth a lot like she was herself growing up.

 

“Do you think he knows?”

 

“What? Harry? No. Not even slightly. Boys are useless and I mean – they've done nothing but fight for seven years – though it occurs to me now that might have been their way of flirting – oh dear.”

 

“Hmmm. I wonder if you could help me then. Help me talk to the boys, either of them, whenever you get a chance. Try and help them to realise what we already know.”

 

Hermione looks thoughtful for a moment.

 

“You grew up here, didn't you?”

 

“What? Yes. Of course.”

 

“Because I've been doing some research on the history of the place, and really some of the things I've been finding out are fascinating but you see a lot of the books in the library, the family history ones – well they just won't open for me -”

 

“No they wouldn't – you have to be -” she stops tactfully.

 

Toujours pur, I know -” she barely suppresses a shudder - “I'll tell you what I think of that later – just for now – well – do you think you could help me with it?”

 

“You mean will I help you with your project if you help me with mine? Yes, very well.”

 

She reaches out an elegant hand, shocking herself as she feels it move. Hermione looks just as shocked in the moment that she takes and shakes Narcissa's hand. She smiles awkwardly; it feels so strange.

 

“I never thought I'd shake hands with a -” she stops herself - “With someone like -”

 

“Someone like me?” Hermione raises an eyebrow - “You can say the word if you feel you must.”

 

“No,” she shakes her head, eyes darting to Hermione's arm and back. “Nobody deserves a permanent mark that does not define them,” she says - “Trust me. I know – and some words do not need to ever be said. I will be telling my son the same thing. His father does not rule this family anymore.”

 

“You know what?” Hermione calls out as Narcissa reaches the door - “You're not that bad!”

 

Narcissa gives a half second snort of a laughter that is the least ladylike sound Hermione has ever heard her make, and it makes her give a similar laugh.

 

“Thank you Miss Granger, I'll take that as a compliment.”

 

__x_

 

 

Chapter Text

 

3. Draco

 

In spite of his mother not giving him the option just to stay in his room, Draco keeps finding trays of food brought up to him when he inevitably does do exactly that. It's not that he's a coward, he tells himself, it's just that he cannot face them – any of them. Alright, it's that he's a coward. There seems to be too little fight left in him to even deny it to himself. Sometimes he picks at what she leaves him; a lot of the time he ignores it and goes back to sleep.

 

All he seems to want to do just now is sleep. Every time he wakes up there is immediately too much to get used to – so much his head spins and he feels exhausted before ever getting out of bed. He has to remind himself where he is, what he is doing here, how he came to be here and then everything – everything that has happened over the past two years just swamps him. He has to remember that he is allowed to even think again, that he does not need to hide any thoughts, that he does not have to lie to himself to prevent the Dark Lord overhearing some truth that will see him dead.

 

Potter. Bloody sodding Potter – that's the thought that would have seen him dead the most quickly. It's also the reason he's alive, the reason he's here and half way safe. At least people keep saying he is safe – but it feels like a lie. Maybe it's just that it's too hard to believe, he has forgotten how to imagine it even. The only thought that sounds like it's really his own is hating Potter, resenting him for being, for having helped him, for being there for some reason – every time he cautiously opens his door with the thought of going out; like the bastard's walking this corridor just waiting for him to do so. In fact Piss off Potter is about the most he has said to anyone in the four days he has been here, half babbled nightmares to his mother not counting.

 

Honestly, hating on Potter is the most comforting emotion he seems to be able to conjure up right now. He just wants to be left alone, utterly alone, alone enough to imagine that nobody is even trying to get into his head any more. He got so good at shutting himself off even he is unsure who he is any more, what he stands for. The whole last part of the war – the battle – all he seemed to do was run on instinct, instinct leading him to the room of requirement, to swing himself up onto the back of Potter's broomstick when it was offered, to instantly run away from the fire when he could and hide in a broom cupboard until the world outside seemed quieter, taunted by the memory of an awkward third year fumble in that same broom closet that seemed just then to be a million years ago.

 

The only thing he had stopped to question the whole time was The Dark Lord's request for him to rejoin them. He hadn't wanted that, he really hadn't wanted that. He had just wanted to stay on the side he was stood on, mostly hidden behind the other kids, kids he knew, who were familiar and comforting in their familiarity, kids who were fighting to take the Dark Lord down, and how he wanted them to succeed by that point! He could feel all of their eyes on him when he stepped over, judging him, ashamed of him, not expecting any betterof him because why would they. He had tried to say no, tried in his heart to make a stand, to be like – and this shames him to tears three times a day – to be more like Neville had been – but then he had heard his mother's voice, he had remembered the danger to her and his father in ever defying – Voldemort – it feels like a little win in his head every time he allows himself to think the name – and he couldn't do it to her. Besides, Potter was dead and he was a coward; what more was there?

 

Potter was dead. He had died. He had died and they had failed – he still cannot forget being aware of that. Feeling the absence of that twat in the world like a great big sucking hole.

 

Instinct again had sent him running the instant he had found out otherwise, running to throw Potter his wand because nobody else would know he was unarmed, nobody else could even react quickly enough, and then there was no choice but to leave, his mother screaming at them, dragging them away. He had been almost certain of death every minute from then on – from Voldemort before he knew he had been defeated, and then from the Ministry when they had come calling.

 

Four days not coming out of bed feels like nowhere near enough to catch up to it all. He has his head under the covers when a knock comes on his door. He ignores it, hoping whatever it is will go away. He is still under the covers, like a rabbit in hiding, when he hears the door open and his father's voice saying his name. He does not move, does not reply.

 

“Draco,” Lucius says again, and he feels his weight on the side of the bed, hears the wood shift - “I know you're not asleep. Come out of there.”

 

He groans out a sigh and pushes back the covers, glaring at his father. Just at that moment he discovers that he hates him – he would probably have hated anyone who disturbed him at that point. But this is his father; his father who got them all into this mess in the first place, who has not come out of his room either since they got here.

 

What?” he snaps. He sees his father's face go through a series of moves as he wonders whether or not to come back with a typical don't you take that tone with me retort. But he doesn't. Draco would almost have preferred it if he had, at least that would have been something normal.

 

“Your mother's worried about you,” he says eventually. Draco notices that he does not look at him, that he looks down at his hands in his lap, that he still hasn't shaved and his hair is tangled. He hates his father looking like this. He wonders what he looks like – if it's the reason his father won't look at him.

 

“Fine. She can tell me herself.”

 

“She has. I know she has.”

 

“Good. Leave me alone.”

 

“Draco -” his father sounds pained; he feels a rush of satisfaction to hear it. So let him be pained - “You've been in here for four days. You have to come out eventually.”

 

“So do you,” he says stubbornly, sitting up, pushing himself back against the headboard and glaring. This time he does get a -

 

“Don't speak to me like that.”

 

“What?” Draco sneers, he feels his lip twitch and he likes it - “like you're still the head of this family? We'd be nowhere without mother. We'd be dead or in Azkaban, like you still want to be.” He stops, shocked with himself for actually saying it.

 

“I – don't know what you mean.”

 

“You – left us -” the betrayal of it wells up inside him, it has been there, dripping bit by bit into him ever since he came home from his fifth year to find his father gone and Voldemort in his place - “You – you – left us to him – to his -” he cannot say mercy, after all Voldemort had none - “You were gone and you didn't want to come back, did you? Even to be there for us. He made me take your place – he made me -” he swallows, unable to voice all the things Voldemort made him do, all the things that were done to him while his father was not there to protect him.

 

“Draco, I'm -”

 

Lucius does finally turn to look at him and Draco finds he cannot stand it, not that look on his father's face, the guilt and shame and yes, he is genuinely sorry and it is the last thing Draco can stand to hear.

 

“No!” he practically jumps out of bed - “No I don't want to hear it!”

 

He practically throws himself across the room and yanks open the door, slamming it behind him and standing in the corridor, breathing heavily, leaving Lucius still sat on the edge of the bed. He is still standing there, fists clenched, nostrils flaring, lip curling with a thousand unvoicable furies and bloody bastard fucking sodding Potter rounds the corner, stops when he sees him and raises an eyebrow in prelude to a question.

 

“Oh fuck off,” Draco spits, turns back to his door, remembers that his father is still in there and he cannot face him again and dithers long enough for Potter to talk to him, for fuck's sake.

 

“Draco -” Harry takes a step towards him - “wait – are you – we need to -”

 

“We need to nothing, Potter -” he snaps, feeling his stupid chin wobble, his eyes brim up - “And it's Malfoy.” He stomps off down the corridor at a walk so fast it is almost a run, looking around him for a room that nobody else is in but suddenly it seems as though there are people everywhere and every small sitting or drawing room he tries to dive into has at least two people who turn to stare at him and he has to run away from those terrible looks on their faces that imply they are going to try and speak to him, express their shitty delight at his appearance out of his room or ask him how he bloody bastard is. He wants to scream. He has just ducked rapidly out of the third room when somebody grabs him by the wrist and hauls him into the room opposite. It's a small storage room full of cardboard boxes and stacked chairs, a fan of gilt framed paintings balanced against the back wall. He can hardly move for junk and when Potter places himself between Draco and the only door he almost panics, heart pounding in his chest like a butterfly in combat boots. His instincts scream fight or flight but he has pretty much established he's not much in a fight and he can't get past Potter without touching him, which he suddenly feels incredibly loathe to do.

 

“Get out of my way.”

 

“No.”

 

“Get out of my way, Potter -” the butterfly is hammering at him, he is ready to hyperventilate from the feeling that he might cry, and please gods no not in front of him - “-please,” he whispers, which is enough to make his face crumple. He clenches back angrily on the tears.

 

“Look -” Potter holds his hands out as though taming a fretful pony - “Calm down, alright -”

 

“Don't you dare -”

 

“I just want to help -”

 

“Oh -” he hears his next breath hiss out in a burst of slightly hysterical laughter - “I bet you do. Saint Potter - Our Lord and bloody saviour just wants to help everyone -”

 

No -” He looks angry now, for some reason this makes something hiss in Draco's chest like cold water pouring into an overheated pan - “Fuck everyone, Malfoy. I – I want to help you – I -”

 

“Yeah I think you've done enough,” Draco snips bitterly, and this time he does start to barge past, because that door that will get away from this arsehole looks very like salvation right now (only it doesn't, does it? He hears a little voice in his chest, familiar to him from his sixth year, a voice that is scrabbling to be let out staying stop me stop me, you're the only one who can -) and Potter does. He resists Draco's attempts to just barge on past, and Draco finds himself essentially running into him like running into a wall. He realises for the first time how close they are in this stupid pointless room, how he can feel the heat coming off of Potter, the tension in his body, his bloody breath against Draco's bloody face and it occurs to him for the first time that he probably doesn't smell too good after the days in his room and that he's still in his pyjamas and yet somehow, for some reason, these aren't even the main causes behind how red he can feel his cheeks going and if something does not snap right now he feels in very real danger of just exploding and he wants to, wants to just fall apart so hard everyone gets hit by the broken pieces, especially stupid, nauseating, bastard fucking Potter. He's breathing so hard it makes his chest heave, and puts up his hands to shove Potter away from him, but instead they clutch onto his shirt and just stay there like this idiot's his life raft and he's so very sick of drowning and he suspcts that at first Potter's hands are on him to do the same thing – push him away – but he doesn't, just pushes Draco into a pile of stacked furniture and presses his mouth down on his like he's been drowning too, like Draco's lips are his only source of air.

 

It feels to Draco as though he has to be struggling, the push of his body against Potter's is so vicious, so intent, every fibre of him so hard it can only mean violence. But he isn't struggling, he's just never kissed anyone so hard in his life, it feels like a battle. He remembers this – though it's been what, two years at least? He remembers it always feeling like a fight, always leaving him more satisfied than any other sensation he could imagine, or experience. He's so hungry – he had had no idea how desperate he was for this and he suspects the feeling's mutual but it is the first thing that has felt good in a long time and he kisses Potter like something feral might attack it's prey, like it's life saving, nourishing, necessary to exist. His hands are everywhere and it feels like they're pushing but they're not they're pulling closer like they could please, please inhabit the exact same space and there is a hand on the back of his neck, pinching at his skin and pulling at his hair and it makes his head spin and he's so hard, grinding it against the boy he hates in rage and urgency and need and it still feels like he could cry at any moment.

 

He hears himself whimper when Potter's hand slides up under his shirt, warm against his skin, a hand that moves on him so savagely he can imagine it digging through his skin, reaching between his ribs and yanking out his heart and he opens his mouth and is on the verge of whispering please yes please – he's so close before he realises he can't, that this feels too good, that he does not deserve it and he cannot possibly express so much so fast, and he tears himself away viciously though it fucking hurts to do it, hurt making him snarl, lip curling, making damn sure to glare at Potter as he drags a hand across his mouth to dry it, like he does not even want the taste of him on his lips but he's lying with every gesture and Harry knows it.

 

“Draco -”

 

“Fuck off, Potter -” he manages to take a step back, inch towards the door - “I told you it's Malfoy -”

 

“Draco, please -”

 

“Leave it!” he shouts so loudly he frightens himself, can feel himself shaking under his skin - “Just – bloody well leave me alone!”

 

He tears the door open and leaves, slamming it behind him.

 

__x__

 

I actually have the next chapter written so it should be up real soon :-)

 

Chapter Text

 

4

 

Harry

 

Great, Harry, thinks bitterly, really, fucking fantastic, well done Harry.

 

He stays standing there for some time, in the storage room, staring stupidly at the door as though it might actually reopen and Draco could come back in. It takes far longer for it to occur to him than it should that this is absoloutely not going to happen. He groans, shoves his hands in his hair, pulling until it hurts his head but still cannot stop it from spinning, realises he is swaying slightly and slides down onto the small square of free floor space with his back against the stack of old gold framed portraits.

 

He really had wanted to help – hadn't he? He had been sure of it. He had been hoping to see Draco since they had got here; so that he could talk to him and see if he could help. Congratulations Harry! yells a slightly manic voice in his head that reminds him a little bit of Peeves – that was some A Plus help you offered there! With your face and your hands. And your stupid dick. Can't you chill for five seconds? He's still hard, he realises, with something very like despair. He feels like he would quite like to actually punch himself in the dick right now if it would just help him get a grip. Why does he have to get like this? Why can't he just talk to Draco – to Malfoy then, damn him – normally – why does it always have to be a fight between them? He supposes it has something to do with their not being friends, having never been friends and he finds himself very very confused about whether he regrets this. He does not even know what he does want them to be. Friends yes, maybe that's it, but that doesn't explain this fucking reaction – the one where they apparently can't stand too close without tearing each other apart with their eyes and then he just has to touch – has to get closer with everything he is.

 

“Oh shut up,” he says out loud to his dick, which twitches at the very thought of getting closer to Draco. He has never met anyone he could control himself with less and there has never been anyone he needs to control himself around more. What a fucking mess. He groans, wrists resting floppily across his knees, banging the back of his head softly against the picture frame behind him.

 

He's an idiot. Bang. A complete and utter idiot. Bang. And here he is now, stuck in a stupid cupboard because it's better than going out and facing the world. Bang. A fucking cupboard. Like he hasn't had enough of those in his life.

 

He did just want to help. God knows he hadn't dragged Dra – Malfoy in here with the express intent of a sodding make out session – had he? No, he hadn't, he tells himself this extremely firmly. He had meant it that he wanted to help. He knew Draco was hurt, that he'd been hurting for a long time and he had managed to fail to help him time and time again. Usually when he asked people how he could help them he got some kind of practical answer; why did Malfoy have to be so bloody difficult? The answer: because he's Malfoy comes to him almost before he has finished asking himself the question.

 

He shouldn't have kissed him. He should have just pressed it until the bastard talked or even cried – he had looked like he might – would that have been a good thing? Would he even know what to do? Why was Malfoy so mad about him having helped them already anyway? Why did he care so much? God he was getting obsessed with a spiral of questioning, it was like sixth year all over again, only with more helplessness and stuck in a cupboard with a stupid bastard erection and sense of regret.

 

He needs to get up and leave this cupoard, but to go where? Firstly all the people in the room opposite will look at him and he can't talk to them about this. And he can't follow Malfoy because he's been told in no uncertain terms to fuck off and leave him alone and honestly hasn't he disrespected this enough already not to mention actively violated his personal space?

 

Oh god, violated – violating Malfoy. His mouth goes dry and he feels half a fever coming on.

 

“Seriously. Shut up,” he repeats, and is just on the verge of contemplating a quick wank and at least getting half a level of irritation out of his system when there's a knock on the door.

 

“Um -” he says out loud, then curses himself inwardly for saying anything rather than just shutting up and pretending to be a bag of potatoes or something. Then he forgets to add to the um with anything useful, forcing the voice outside to say -

 

“Harry? Can I come in?”

 

“I – guess?” He wants to say no, wonders why he didn't just say no, wants to say he's not here, but either way it's too late and there's Hermione closing the door quietly behind her.

 

“Harry?”She says looking down at him, frowning, arms folded across her chest - “Why are you sat on the storage room floor?”

 

“I – um – long story.”

 

“Why aren't you coming out?”

 

“I just -” he rubs a hand across his eyes - “Needed to be alone to think.”

 

“In a cupboard?” Hermione sits down on the floor opposite him, watching him with an overly penetrating look.

 

“I find them – comforting.”

 

“On the floor?”

 

“- no chairs.”

 

Hermione looks at the pile of three stacked chairs pointedly but does not say anything.

 

“I'm – having a moment?” he attempts.

 

“So you came into a cupboard?”

 

“To be alone.”

 

“With Draco Malfoy?”

 

“Oh – ah – shit.”

 

“Who we all saw storm out, so I'm guessing your moment didn't go well and now you're still here – on the floor – doing what exactly?”

 

“I was – ugh – I was trying to help.”

 

“Malfoy?”

 

“Obviously.”

 

“By getting in a row with him?”

 

“It – didn't go down well, yeah.”

 

“Harry – did you never think of – of – of trying to make friends before you -” she pauses meaningfully - “Have a row as you put it, in a storage cupboard?”

 

“I think I missed the Making friends boat what, seven years ago?”

 

“And now you're regretting it?”

 

“Yes? No? I don't know? God, I don't know Hermione, okay? I just – I wanted to help them and I thought – well I thought the trial – what I said – and then bringing them here – that that would help but Malfoy's – well he's -”

 

“Hurting Harry, and not in a way that you can just fix like a spell. You might want to try something a little like tact next time.”

 

“What makes you think I was tactless?” he flares up a little, knowing that he was absoloutely beyond tactless. Again Hermione just looks at him until he looks down into his lap, thanking whatever gods there are that his dick has at least shut up given Hermione's presence.

 

“Besides -” he sighs - “I don't even know there'll be a next time. He hardly even comes out of his room and after that -” he stops, not wanting Hermione to know what that was. Hell he's not sure he knows what it was.

 

“They're not going anywhere fast Harry -” Hermione reassures him “There's time. Nobody can stay in their room forever. But it might help if you're not waiting literally outside the door when he does come out.”

 

“I didn't – well, yes, alright maybe I did do that. I just – I don't seem to be able to think straight when it comes to Malfoy. I don't know why.” He is not sure why it has taken him so long to admit this out loud to anyone, let alone to actually think it.

 

“Do you not?” Hermione looks at him curiously as though she knows. It's infuriating.

 

“No!” he almost yells, becase there's a part of him that does know, isn't there, a part of him he presses down so hard it is almost contained in his feet.

 

“I don't want to sound bossy -” Hermione says, and Harry raises an eyebrow at her because she doesn't care a bit about sounding bossy and they both know it - “But I do suggest you work it out before you – um – talk again. Also more actual talking might be advisable.”

 

“Hermione, do not even -”

 

“Alright, alright -” she holds out her hands placatingly, standing up and brushing her palms against her jeans before she reaches a hand to Harry to help pull him up - “Just – work it out okay? And – no hurry - just come out of the closet in your own time, yes?”

 

She throws him a look over her shoulder that makes him wonder if she was speaking literally about this actual current closet or if there was a metaphorical closet hidden somewhere in her implication. He groans, rolls his head back with a crack and walks out into the hall. In the room across he sees Hermione talking quietly to George who looks up as Harry passes with what is becoming the familiar only – half – there look, nodding and murmuring -

 

“Alright Harry?”

 

Harry nods distantly and heads on up to the room that has become his. Except he doesn't. He takes a detour to the second floor and walks along the corridor just long enough to hear the sound of soft muffled crying from behind Draco's door. Then he goes back to his room, sighing heavily, wondering why it feels like his chest has been cried straight into.

 

__x__

 

Poor Potter :-P Not. George gets a chapter next. Poor Weasley. Poor me. Poor everyone. *Deep sigh*. What is this a healing house of circle jerk?

 

Author's note to self: In future do not let Draco write end of chapter notes? :-P

 

 

Chapter Text

 

George.

 

“Yeah but – why me though?” he frowns at Hermione, unsure why she thinks he needs to hear about anyone elses problems just yet. He's not sure he can carry his own, let alone even hear about anyone else. But that's selfish, he supposes, he's never been good or even able to be selfish. So he listens as she explains in hushed tones that there's something going on between Draco and Harry that they don't even seem to realise is going on yet.

 

“What? You don't mean something -” he searches for a better word than the one that springs to mind – it's too difficult. There is nobody there to finish his sentences for him anymore, without which he finds himself barely able to talk coherantly half of the time. At least half. Half is a word that looms like a dementor across his brain all the time these days.

 

“Something gay?” he finishes, for want of that better word.

 

“I mean – that is absolutely the least likely way I would have put it -” Hermione sighs heavily. “But. Yes. If you must.”

 

“Since -wow- Potter and Malfoy, I mean – since when?”

 

“Hmm,” Hermione nods, thoughtfully, leaning back in her armchair - “Yes, I've been wondering about that.”

 

George makes a go on gesture with a half arsed right hand. He's perched on the left of the sofa. There's room for another person on the right of him; nobody would have dreamed of filling that space.

 

“Because it only recently occurred to me -” Hermione says, clearly thinking out loud - “And I do have a habit of being a lot quicker on the uptake than Harry – no offence to him. I mean, okay, they were clearly up to something in that closet just now – but I'm starting to think there might have been quite a few closets over quite a few years, only even if there were -”

 

She breaks off, brain catching up to her own words - “Well it's different now, isn't it? It's serious. Harry cares. I don't think he really did that before. Like maybe it was just a crush, I don't know, and now -” she flaps a hand with a sigh. “Well everything got serious, didn't it? Even -”

 

“Everything,” George echoes dully. “Even me. Yeah.” He stares off into the mid space for a while, absently. It's easier like this, he finds, to absent himself. He wonders where he goes when his brain goes out like this. He wonders if Fred's there. Something tickles the back of his mind, he remembers – that was it – he was having a conversation – with Hermione Granger. Something about Harry and Draco Malfoy, yeah, that was it. Was she waiting on him for an answr? He wracks his brain, trying to remember what they had been saying. Had she even asked a question? Shit.

 

“Sorry -” he shakes his head, tries to be present - “What was that?”

 

“I didn't say anything,” Hermione sags a little. “Harry,” she reminds him, remembering that she needs to - “And Draco. We have to talk to them.”

 

“Talk to them.” He means it to be a question but the inflection does not quite come out - “You want me to talk to Harry? And what -?”

 

“No,” Hermione – he realises slowly – looks like she's just only now working it out herself. “I'll talk to Harry. So, I suspect, will – someone else-” she looks a little shifty; George half raises an eyebrow but it feels too heavy to really lift - “I want you to talk to Draco.”

 

“Draco. Right. And again I say, why me?”

 

“I just think he's really broken -” Hermione stops talking just in time, although it's already a bit late - “And – and -”

 

“And so am I?” he finishes without malice, only sadness.

 

“I didn't mean -”

 

“Forget it – it's fine-” he waves a hand at her; it's not fine of course, nothing is fine, but he has come to learn only too well that he has to repeat this stupid little lie of a word a hundred times a day just to keep other people half way happy, and he does want to help others be happy with as much as he can muster up a want for anything, which is why he says - “Okay, I'll do it.”

 

-x-

 

Y'allright there, Georgie?

 

Alright Fred, you?

 

Eh, still super dead man, how's life?

 

Not bad Freddie, eating for two now aren't I? One of these days I'm gonna get fat.

 

What's this about Harry and Malfoy, eh? Never saw that coming -

 

Nor me, and thanks for the mental image mate -

 

Point though – how you gonna talk to the little shit if he never comes out of his room? Magic?

 

I'm observing, aren't I? Early stages yet. This one's called operation Malfoy -

 

Not Operation Potter?

 

I've been assigned the bad guy part, maybe mix it up – operation MalPot?

 

Sounds shit mate – Drarry – go with that?

 

Man, do you ever shut up?

 

Shut up when I'm dead bro.

 

Hey Fred?

 

George?

 

You are dead.

 

 

Fred?

 

Fred?

 

Fred?

 

You there?

 

George frowns, coming back to the present, remembering and adjusting to the fact that the voice in his head is just his now – only it sounds like someone else. Only someone else sounded just like him. The adjustment is jarring, practically impossible every time. So he thinks about where he is – lurking in the second floor living room, low-key taking note of what the Malfoys are up to. Which is maybe a little shiftier than what Hermione asked him to do, a little more extra, but hell he needs the distraction.

 

It's been three days of lurking already, and he's honestly starting to wonder what the point is; he watches Draco's door like a hawk, he's seen how many times Harry just happens to wander past, not even noticing him, just – you know chilling on the second floor. Well to be honest, that doesn't feel too weird; the top floor of the Burrow was always his and Fred's, not to mention they were bloody good beaters, if they did say so themselves – he's good with being up high. Flying off into the sunset in year five – he thinks – that had been their best moment, they'll never beat it. He frowns. It's really true. They never will. Fuck sake, he's barely twenty, too young surely to be mooching around thinking Glory Days thoughts.

 

He hopes Draco's alive in there.

 

He is just having this thought when the door actually opens and a pale, pointed face pokes out. He's paler than usual, George thinks; in fact, he doesn't look well at all. Lack of sunshine, food, interaction, hope – he supposes all of that will definitely do it, yeah. But he's dressed, that's a first. He watches him from the corner of the room in which he can't be seen – as he goes into his mother's room, stays there for maybe twenty minutes, comes out and wanders – like a ghost, it seems so aimless and yet questing at the same time – into the sitting room, doesn't notice George in the corner arm chair and sits down on the edge of the sofa looking around him as though seeing everything for the first time. Shit, if he doesn't say something soon he'll start to look like a stalker.

 

“Alright Malfoy.”

 

Draco nearly jumps out of his skin, half stands before he sees him, takes a deep breath and sits back down again.

 

“Oh, it'syou,” he nods, he could not have implied only harder if he had actually said it - “Posting guards now, are they?”

 

“I'm not exactly standing at your door mate.”

 

“That – sounds weird, Weasley, don't do it.”

 

“What? Mate? Yeah, suppose it does. You know you say Weasley exactly the same no matter which of us you're talking to? Are we just like some homogenised ginger mass to you?”

 

“That's about right, yeah. So who posted you? Potter?”

 

“Hermione, actually.”

 

“Don't trust me, do you? Any of you.”

 

“Should we?”

 

Draco looks down at his hands, masking a face that just for a second George can see is stamped with hurt, swiftly followed by a resignation that is almost worse.

 

Actually -” he only realises the truth of it as he says it - “We're just kinda worried about you”. He is surprised to find this out, but he is, and he supposes if he is then they all are. After all, he agreed to this, if Hermione is helping she is doing it second hand. And yeah, damaged as they all are, none of them had bloody Voldemort in their house, none of them were used like Draco was, except perhaps for Harry, and he has friends to talk it through with. Nobody, now that he thinks about it, has come out of this as badly as Draco. Huh. Except perhaps for him. Self pity, Georgie? Doesn't suit you? Shut up Fred, not now.

 

Yeah -” Draco sneers – weirdly it's actually an improvement - “Everyone's so worried. Like what am I supposed to be? Happy?”

 

“Yeah,” George nods, surprised - “You know what – I get that.”

 

“How could – oh.” Draco blinks at him. George almost wants to laugh, Malfoy's expression so clearly gives away that it has occurred to him for the first time that he's not the only one who came out of the war damaged - “Shit. Sorry.”

George waves the apology away.

 

“It's noth -” he starts, but he's so sick of saying it that he stops. For a long awkward moment they just sit there, at diagonals over a couple of metres of room, miles apart and close together in awkward brokenness.

 

“I keep thinking -” Draco says, not looking at George - “I keep thinking it has to get better. Everyone keeps saying it -” George nods, face scrunching up, yeah, they do don't they? - “But – I feel like they're saying it because they don't know what else to say. I don't think they really know. The adults. They just want us to be better so they can feel better about it. I'm sick of them.”

 

“To be honest -” George has thought about it too; he is surprised to find out how much Malfoy's thoughts could align to his own - “they don't even want us to be better. I don't think. They're happy enough if we just seem it. I think.”

 

“Huh. That's - ” Draco almost says something else, but turns it into - “How's that going for you?”

 

“Um – yes and no? No as in – I still feel like shit. I get mad at having to fake it, knowing that if I say half of what's on my mind, if I look sad, if I cry too much it'll make my mum cry – yeah that sucks. Sometimes -” he confesses, in a quiet voice few have ever heard - “Sometimes I hate her for it. Like nobody else should get to miss him except me, because they don't know, do they? But then - then I know that's unfair, and you can't compare pain just because it's different – like Harry, he lost his parents and then just like – everybody else. And sometimes I think, shut the fuck up George, what do you know about loss? But you can't do that, can you?It's not a set of bloody weights and balances -” he shrugs - “I dunno. Doesn't work like that. And you, you're a mess – no offence – you didn't even lose anyone -”

 

“But I did -” it coems out in a whisper, as though Draco would like to stop himself but cannot. George just raises an eyebrow, gently -

 

“Oh?”

 

“Myself -” Draco's eyes – oh dear gods, George thinks, if Harry loves him, and he suspects that Hermione might be right on that – then all of a sudden he can see why. “I don't know where I went,” he adds, so quietly George has to lean forward to hear him - “Fifth year I was there, and when I came home -” he waves a hand, “Father was in Azkaban, and I – I don't know when I went away or where I went. I thought it was going to be okay, that it might be good – being chosen for something finally – I really thought I could be that person – wanted to be – I think? Or I thought I did. And then – when I failed, the things He said, the way he treated us – I – I think about who I was in first year – second – third – and I can't see him in me any more – I miss that twat so much -” there is a break in Draco's voice that makes George want to hug him. He looks so small perched on the sofa, so lost, it's amazing how much like that first year boy he actually does look.

 

“I miss me so much,” he finishes, chest shuddering with the breath he has to take.

 

George finds he knows how the kid feels so hard he stands up, approaches the sofa, nearly sits down, realises Draco is sat on the right and he can't sit down on the left so he bites his lip and jerks his head -

 

“Move up so's I can sit down?”

 

Draco frowns and gestures to the other side of the sofa.

 

“Fred's side,” George shrugs apologetically.

 

“Oh.” Draco moves along. George sits down. He glances sideways, unnerved to have someone sat next to him, even if he was the one to make that move, and looks away again.

 

“I miss me too,” he nods, looking at his hands. He keeps on nodding longer than he should.

 

“What you said -” Draco nods - “About doing it for the adults – seeming happy. It's like – I want to? For mother – but then I keep thinking – wasn't it the adults who fucked us up in the first place? I don't mean mother – or your mother – but the ones in charge, Dumbledore – Voldemort – they just – they used us – like – like we were pawns in a game of wizard chess and it didn't matter who got smashed to bits as long as the right side won in the end.”

 

There seems to be more of a thought half formed at the end, and for a minute George thinks he is going to go on, but he doesn't. They all do this now then, trail off from their ideas, half-baked and lost, ghosts in their own skin.

 

“You know what you should do?” he says at last.

 

“Oh, I know, I know, stop feeling sorry for myself and -”

 

“Nah, fuck that. I think we've all earned a good bit of self pity, don't you? Nah, what you should do is get a bath mate, smells like it's been a while.”

 

“Why you -” Draco's eyes narrow in a flash of something half remembered, and for a split second George grins, just a kingfisher flash of a smile; ah, he thinks – there he is - “- that's um – that's probably fair,” he shrugs - “Show me where it is?” He looks embarassed, very small and very young, not only not knowing the way around the house he has been in for the past few days but a house that is, in many ways, more his than the rest of theirs.

 

“Sure.” He shrugs with one shoulder, he supposes he always did; him and Fred only ever having one whole shrug between the two of them.

 

“You know though -” George remembers, standing up - “You should talk to Harry. He's better at making people feel better than I am.”

 

“Not with me,” Draco mutters with so much bitterness that George raises an eyebrow and realises for the first time that Hermione was right - “Wait -” Draco glares at him suddenly, slantingly, out of narrowed eyes - “Did Granger put you up to this?”

 

“Up to what?”

 

Talk to Potter – I mean what? What are you trying to achieve?”

 

Damn Georgie, cover blown! Fred makes a plane crashing noise in George's head – be cool! Be cool! Save the wreckage!

 

“Yeah! Yeah, alright she did! She asked me to talk to you -” Niiiice -

 

“- but I did it because I wanted to. Because – well – you need help, alright. We all need help, don't we? You and Harry most of all, because if something can be fixed it should be – you're both here aren't you? That's more than anyone can say for me and Fred.”

 

“We're not – I mean – oh for fuck's sake -” Draco exhales heavily, looks up at the ceiling as if for patience, but also to stop his eyes from leaking, George knows the look - “Sometimes -” Draco whispers very fast and sudden - “Sometimes I think there is only one person who can help me, if anyone can – and you're right, of course you're bloody right. And we get so close to something and it all goes wrong – even if we end up bloody well snogging or something stupid we still just break before we can even think about being fixed – it's like - ” he dares to look back at George, surprise in his eyes at finding himself holding on to the older boy's arm. His eyes look silver with wetness, glittering in the dull light of the corridor, glancing around him rapidly as though afraid anyone else is listening -

 

“It's like I'm reaching out a hand to him over and over again and he never takes it, not even in my dreams. I can't believe I just told you all of that – I hardly even know you – I mean that is we're not – I don't even have -”

 

“Sometimes I speak to Fred in my head – I mean basically – all the time -” George hears himself say, interrupting to put Draco out of his misery, something deep in him knowing that the best way to alleviate Draco's current embarrassment is to tell him something in return.

 

“I haven't told anyone about that,” he adds - “Mother would probably just cry and I've had just about everyone's tears so many times I'll drown if I get any more. Don't tell anyone?” He starts swearing a great long internal stream of bad words – did he just confide in Draco Malfoy? Trust Draco Malfoy? The world is truly fucked.

 

“-thank you,” Draco says stiffly, awkwardly, but with a curious quiver around the lips that suggests he means it deeply - “I won't. I hope -” he raises his head a little, pulling his chin up as though with a great effort - “I hope you – I hope it works out for you – you know.”

 

“Yeah,” George feels his lips do that almost – smile again, like they have forgotten how but are trying all the same - “You too.”

 

__x__

 

Chapter Text

 

6.

 

Hermione

 

Priority List – Hermione writes at the top of the page, bent over a desk in the library. It feels like she lives here these days, always drawn back to the room in spite of the books animosity towards her. She stares back at the page and nibbles on the end of her pen. Being here – taking time to think about being here – what they're all doing in this house together at this time – it seems strange. She's not even sure any of the others have thought about it – have managed to look at the overall situation from outside enough to wonder at what was going on here, but she's trying, she really is.

 

Harry. Top priority. She writes – Struggling with everything, still not convinced it's all over. Blames himself for everyone who died. Says he's getting over that but he isn't. No idea as to long term plans. Won't talk about feelings. Possibly isn't over having died. Not sure how to bring that one up. Focussed on short term goals only, but doesn't even know why. Short term goals – keeping an eye on The Malfoys Draco. Obsessed with Draco. Probably in love. Doesn't know he's the former, let alone the latter. Can't talk to him without snogging his face off. Snogging face off not helping. Low key stalking Draco again. Needs to sort this out before any kind of healing can be achieved.

 

It's all about healing, she thinks, at the core. All of them together in this house, hurting and tearing their feelings around the walls, each of them a breath of wind in a hurricane. And here she is in the centre of that storm trying to make sense of it by writing it all down. Trying to work out a logical plan of helping.

 

Ron,

 

she writes, and stares at the page for a second. It occurs to her only just now that she is going to do this. Take down notes on everyone no matter if they're in urgent need of help or not, there is not a one of them who does not need something; who could possibly have come out of a war undamaged. How could there be? She determines not to try and make this list have any kind of order of priority any more because to compare what each is dealing with is impossible.

 

Quiet. Except with me. Actually seems to have found himself a bit, come out of the fight a bit stronger. Worked his identity out when he broke that first horcrux. Still has nightmares, fire and flood.

 

She taps her pen on the paper and goes back to her entry under Harry -

 

Nightmares? She writes – Doesn't talk about them any more. Did say he did not have the Voldemort ones any more. Makes sense. But as with Ron – fire? Supposedly one of the top five causes of trauma response. Not to mention dying. No-one to ask, sleeping alone.

 

Thinking about it, she wonders if any of them don't have nightmares. It would hardly make sense not to which brings her to -

 

Draco. Definitely a top priority, even though we're not doing that. Arguably dealing the worst of any of us here. Won't talk to anyone except his mum. Terrible attempt at conversation with Harry. NEEDS to talk to Harry, but -

 

She groans. She's almost certain fixing Harry and Draco are essentially one issue. But what can she do? She can't throw them in a room together and hope they'll just sort it out because she's fairly scertain that they won't and she's afraid, volatile as both boys are, that anything that came out of their encounter might just make things worse. It feels as though they are simultaneously avoiding each other and keeping strict tabs on each other.

 

Stick with original plan. She writes – get others talking to them where possible as with Draco and George yesterday. Success? Maybe.

 

Which brings her to -

 

George.

 

She finds herself underlining his name. Staring at it for a long time and then not knowing what to write. There has to be hope for help to be given and she honestly does not know what to do with this.

 

Molly, she writes instead – Grieving for Fred. Making things harder for George. Trying to be kind but is so overtly emotional it's not helping anyone. Needs someone to tell her to talk to her sons, listen to them, not talk at them. Contact Ginny???

 

She puts large question marks by that one. While she's fairly sure Ginny's presence would be helpful to Molly, she's not sure how it would affect Harry or if Ginny could keep from damaging the careful work she's been putting into the Harry/ Draco problem. It's strange enough to her and she knows it weirds Ron out, so how would Ginny feel? Either way, probably not helpful she decides.

 

Arthur – she writes next to Molly – very quiet indeed. Keeps asking everyone if they're alright, probably because he's not, but this is winding a lot of people up, especially George.

 

Narcissa. Actually probably the most appropriate parent in the house right now. Impossible to read as to personal feelings. Worried about Draco, but trying not to get in his face. Encouraging him to talk/ eat/ come out of room/ act like a human being, but trying not to push too much. Holding that whole family together but I suspect mad at Lucius. Not sharing a room at present. Trying to get on with the rest of us but finding it awkward, similarly attempting to be less of a prejudiced bigot. Not everybody giving her a chance. Molly is trying but they just clash rather badly. Pro Draco/ Harry and on the same page here with me more than anyone. Helping with my research – I suspect she has feelings about being back here.

 

Asked me about Andromeda the other day – may be hinting at a desire for reconciliation? Must speak to someone (Harry??) about this.

 

Lucius. Coping badly with the new order of things as well he should. Doesn't come out of room much except to eat/ bath and scurries away from us like a spider. Isn't being outwardly rude but won't talk to any of us either. Is probably not attempting to be less of a prejudiced bigot. Struggling badly but honestly I'm having trouble caring in this instance.

 

She finds herself thinking about Lucius as compared to Draco. They both shuffle around the place looking like shells of their former selves, except on the one hand she cannot help but feel a little vindicated, and on the other she finds herself shockingly sympathetic. She wonders if that's how it's hitting Harry – seeing Draco so changed, so unmade from what he was, and while she cannot say she misses the bully who gave her that much grief, she finds herself almost rathering he was still that kid. Also, she suspects Draco actually is trying not to be a dick quite so much, whereas if Lucius is being less offensive it is not necessarily by choice.

 

Bill and Fleur, she writes finally but then segues – I'm not sure what we're expecting here throwing Weasleys together with Malfoys in a co-habitation scenario. So many people will blame those on what they may perceive as the other side for their losses. Does Bill blame Draco for his own injuries? Draco did let the werewolf into Hogwarts that night. Bill doesn't really talk about it. He doesn't seem like he holds grudges and he and Fleur seem eager to move on soon. Think they're still just hanging around to provide moral support. Wondering how/ if I can take advantage of this.

 

And that's everyone, she thinks – turns out my priorities right now are fixing just essentially everyone in this house. Nobody is fine and all are damaged. As an afterthought she scribbles down -

 

Ginny and Luna – apparated out as soon as they got here. Luna might be a useful person to get talking to Harry and/ or Draco? Has a tendancy to say just the right thing or the rude thing or at any rate, the thing people need to hear. Must contact.

 

Hermione puts her head on the desk, thinking; this is how she ends up falling asleep here so often she thinks, but does nto really mind. It occurs to her, listening, that the library is actually silent today. The books have stopped snapping and clattering in anger at her very presence. She tentatively lifts the cover of one, curious; it hisses a little but does not bite, which is such an imprvement she raises her eyebrows. It's Narcissa's influence, she suspects, clearly. She has proved such an unexpected ally. It occurs to Hermione that she had come close herself to being too prejudiced against her to allow this; needing to find someone alive to blame for the horrible mudblood scar, Narcissa had seemed her closest option. But then when she apologised so sincerely and in fact she confided to Hermione just yesterday that she had never seen eye to eye with her sister, had in fact found Bellatrix loud and frankly distasteful­ only even keeping in contact because she was the only sister she had left, and family ties have to mean something I think? After the last few days working on the books with her, Hermione had, at that point finally got up the courage to mention Andromeda, and yes, Narcissa had said, maybe I was wrong about that and – she watched the woman's lips twitch in what seemed to be a savage interior battle before she asked cautiously if Hermione might be able to ask Andromeda to visit with the child some time?

 

Tell her – tell her Cissy says she's sorry, and she still has the star charm? She'll understand. Those words mind.

 

Hermione doesn't understand, but she supposes she doesn't need to, purebloods and their riddles; yes, but they're still sisters after all, it seemed, and reconciliation can only be a good thing?

 

And then there was this morning. Hermione bites her lip and turns back to the Draco section of her notebook -

 

Draco came down to breakfast this morning, dressed and everything. He looked like he wanted to go invisible but he sat down anyway. Nobody knew what to say to him and he didn't say anything to anybody except finally to ask for the tea. Had a few sips of tea before noticing Harry staring at him from across the table. There was a lot of staring, nostrils flaring, I think I noticed chest heaving. It was impossibly awkward. Whatever it is between them seems too big for their bodies to hold. I don't know. I just -

 

Anyway eventually, Molly offered him the toast, and he reached out at first then stared at the toast like it was the enemy, dropped his hand, said “I'm sorry – I can't -” and ran off. I said “Harry, don't you dare -” but he was off after him a second later. We all just looked at each other and shrugged. George gave half a smile, half a shrug, said “Young love,” and he and Ron actually laughed which, while good to hear I suppose made me glare at Ron so hard he's still not speaking to me. Don't know where Harry and Draco went. Awaiting further upheaval.

 

Hermione closes the book, mutters a charm to make the writing invisible – should anyone find it in the desk she keeps locked in the library very few people go into – and puts it away. She sits still for a long time, practising stillness like she suspects Narcissa might, wondering if it will help her brain to be quiet. Someone has to be the still point in the storm, she says to herself fiercely – And it has to be me because I'm the only one who's fine.

 

I am, I'm fine.

 

__x__

 

Unsure how much I get on with Hermione as a character - hence most of this section was about other people, though I do have a semi plot brewing for her later on. Next chapter I'll be back on familiar ground with Draco again though :-)

 

Chapter Text

TW: Draco has self harm issues and is sort of eating disordered. If anyone needs to skip this chapter let me know and I can provide a summary so yous can just go to the next chapter when it's up and still know what's going on :-)

 

7.

 

Draco

 

It seems almost unjust to him, as he heads downstairs, that nobody will ever know the effort this takes, how brave this feels. Because it's not an act of heroism; it's not even useful to anyone, it's just – just breakfast. It's impossible. He stops on the stairs, clutching the bannister, almost ready to fall from weakness in the knees, almost turns and runs back to his room. But he promised, he promised his mother he would try. He's failed at everything, disappointed everyone, time and time again – he can do this. He can do breakfast. He clenches his fist, gathers all of his mental strength. When he approaches the door to the kitchen and hears voices he almost fails again, he manages to peer in without them seeing him, counts the people – Potter – Weasley – Weasley – Weasley – Granger – not everyone, thank all the stars, but five people still seems like far far too many, and one of them is Potter, which makes it double the nightmare. Driving each other mad with scalding eye contact used to be such a favourite pasttime – now it's just one of the reasons he finds it hard to even look at him. He tenses his face, punches himself in the arm, not gently, swears at himself and walks into the room.

 

It's exactly as he feared; everyone stares at him. He forces himself to sit down even though it makes him feel positively sick, and for a moment he just breathes. He had hardly realised this – how scared of the dinner table he was – any table apparently, any group of people like this. He stares down at his hands, white knuckled and clutching the table edge – for a long while without looking up. Then he looks up, and obviously it's Potter, he's sat down right opposite him and though everyone else is doing their best not to watch him, this idiot isn't, is he? He's staring at Draco like he's an affront to their breakfast table, like he would quite like to hex him right off it. It is all he can do not to tremble. Instead he focuses on turning that chin wobble into a twitch of the lips, and it feels like a wash of relief when he feels it, and the sneer allows him to glare back at Potter across the table, sodding saviour with his fucking hero complex, Draco hates him, hates him intensely. It feels as though the world narrows to a spirally point at which nobody exists but the two of them, trying to kill each other with their eyes.

 

Strangely enough hating Potter gives him enough strength to work his hands into taking tea with a muttered thanks, and stirring in milk and sugar cubes until his hand steadies enough to lift the cup. He never takes his eyes off Potter, even over the rim of the teacup; glaring at him as he glares back, clearly too polite to tell him to fuck off in front of everyone else, but it's painfully obvious he wishes him a million miles away and preferably dead. Well, that's fine, the feeling's mutual. He sips his tea. It's too hot but that's alright, it's the first thing he's swallowed in public for a long time. One moment at a time. He takes toast (Nagini! Dinner!) drops it again as though it burns him. The thought of eating (being eaten) rises in him for the millionth time like bile and he is terrified for a moment he might actually be sick (one disclocated reptilian jaw and he could have fit right down that throat himself, he saw it work dinner down, heard the bones crunch) – he has only been able to eat since by clearing his mind of everything, alone and in hiding as though if anybody saw the roles of food and himself would be reversed. He has not been able to stop thinking about it, even able to tell anyone, though he suspects his mother knows. She was there. He wishes he could be as elegant and self contained as her, wishes he could make his face a mask like she can, make his whole self a mask, feeling and betraying nothing.

 

“I'm sorry -” he stands up quickly, voice thick - “I can't -”

 

He does not exactly run but it feels like running away and though it shames him it also feels – not quite good but a relief – because at least he can run away from this.

 

“Malfoy!”

 

He has not made it into the next corridor before it comes. He stops, he doesn't have to stop, why does he even stop? He should have just kept on going – but no. Stops. Breathes. Holds his face tight in one hand like it might fall off, like pressing that mask right on, digs his fingertips into his hair line and whips around.

 

“Leave me alone, Potter.”

 

“No!”

 

It makes no sense, Potter didn't want him there, probably doesn't want him in his house at all, connot stop looking at him with that murderous look in half black eyes - so why follow him? His nostrils flare and he steps forward, right into Draco's personal space, his fists clench.

 

“I'm warning you -” he feels himself fast becoming enraged by the proximity, flaring up at the very existence of Potter, half afraid of his presence but not stepping back to increase the distance between them. In fact he steps forward until they're almost nose to nose, both sets of fists clenched, breathing each other's breath.

 

“Oh you'll what? Annoy me? You don't have a wand, remember?”

 

Oh -” he sneers, lip twitching jerkily - “- and I wonder why that would be -”

 

“Look Malfoy, if you wanna fight me fight me – if you want to -”

 

Draco punches him. He doesn't really mean to and is faintly shocked at it happening – more shocked apparently than Harry is, who just staggers back clutching his nose and prising off his glasses which are now covered in spiderweb cracks across both lenses, Draco's fist getting him direct centre of the nose. He stares at his fist on pulling it back, as though surprised to have felt it do that, bewildered as to why it hurt him. He never threw a punch before. It's like a lightning bolt hitting him, flooding him with shock and guilt and a fizzing kind of delight. Also – he shakes his hand, wincing -

 

“That hurt!” he exclaims; it comes out accusing. Harry squints at him -

 

“Oh it hurt you? I think you broke my nose, you wanker!”

 

“You want to punch back, punch back Potter – if you want to -”

 

Potter grabs the back of his neck in his free hand and kisses him; it's angry, messy and brief – just to make a point Draco supposes – he could have done the same thing just as easily as punching him and it would likely have felt just as good.

 

“Alright, Potter – just to prove a point. Occulus repare,” he adds as an after thought.

 

“How did you -?” Potter stares at his glasses before putting them back on.

 

“It's been a while,” Draco shrugs - “It was learn some wandless magic or nothing.”

 

“Here -” Harry thrusts the wand into his hand - “Just take it.”

 

“You're just -” Draco stares at his wand as though unable to believe it - “You'd just give me it back?”

 

“I wanted to for a long time -” he shrugs - “I was hoping to do it more – more – I don't know – better?”

 

More better? Wow, Potter.”

 

“Shut up. But you kept being a dick, didn't you? I wanted – I don't know what I wanted -” he sighs, walks into the living room, slumps in the corner of the antique green sofa. It occurs to Draco how easily he could just fuck off now, head back to his room like he had thought he wanted to in the first place but here he is, pulled after Potter as though on a string, as though he cannot fall out of orbit or he'll just plummet through space. The cord that binds them never has been able to stretch far enough for comfort. He takes the other side of the sofa, pulling his legs up and holding himself tight around the knees.

 

“Do you ever?” He cannot look at him, not if they really are going to have an actual conversation.

 

“What – know what I want? I keep thinking so and then – but you make it hard -”

 

“Me? Why me? Did it ever occur to you, Potter, that not everything is my fault?”

 

“I never said – did it ever occur to you?”

 

“Shut up,” he mutters. He hates it when Potter looks at him like that – like he has never been afraid to make eye contact in his life, like he can see through every attempt at at projecting or deflecting he ever makes – like he gets him. It feels as though the sofa is simultaneous incredibly long, with Potter far too far away from him for comfort, and far too small, throwing them too closely together.

 

“But it is all about you, Malfoy – I'm surprised that doesn't please you.”

 

What is all about me?”

 

“You think I brought you all here because I'm such a big fan of your family? No. No way – alright, your mother is – I owe her and she's decent – I think – but I saved you all because of you. You twat,” he adds, just to keep it light enough for Draco not to run away. It works. When Draco rolls his eyes and sighs -

 

“And we're back to how you keep saving me -” it is not nearly as caustic as it would normally have been - “You really do have a saviour complex the size of the moon don't you? Well congratulations, it's done, you don't owe us anything, and if you could for five seconds let us forget what we owe your great and gloriousness -” he can feel himself getting angry again as he goes on – angry, frustrated, ashamed – and is actually glad to be interrupted.

 

“Oh will you stop? It's over. We're not on opposite sides anymore. I'm not sure we even were -”

 

“Oh please. Death Eater, remember? The worst?” the words are soaked in bitterness; he half thrusts out his left arm as a reminder, reaches a hand to push back the sleeve but stops suddenly, clenches his fists tight and prays Potter won't notice.

 

“What is it?” he frowns, bloody observant fucking bastard.

 

“Nothing.” He holds his left arm protectively against his chest, right hand pressing down on the back of his left wrist, hugging it to himself - “Let it go.”

 

“Show me.” Why does he have to sound so demanding? So authoritative? Under other circumstance it would have been quite painfully arousing.

 

“No!”

 

“Does it hurt? Maybe we can find a way of -”

 

“It doesn't matter. You can't. I've tried – there's nothing I can -”

 

He can feel terror behind his own eyes, straining through his head as he stares fixedly at Harry's face, wondering if he can do this. He decides the only way he can ever decide anything – spontaneously in a rush of hope that it's the best move – he pushes back the sleeve and shows Harry his arm. Harry does a manful job of not reacting too harshly, but Draco still sees him swallow hard from the effort of it.

 

“The hell did you do?” he says quietly, but not – Draco realises, watching his face – accusingly, just sad; sad for him. It occurs to him that the warm spark in those eyes, the spark that has been following him so much of the time, might be compassion. Is that what it looks like? he wonders, hardly knowing. He looks down at his arm to get away from it, picks at a scab, so many tiny little pinprick scars and scabs from stratching far too hard for far too long, repeated too often.

 

“In the bath – I wondered if any amount of washing could get it off – then I couldn't stop – still can't – like – if I scratch off enough skin would it come off then? It can't go all the way down to the bone – can it?”

 

He finds himself looking beseechingly across the sofa as though Harry actually could have an answer to this, but all he can say is a very soft -

 

Oh -” a breath of pity that he cannot swallow down - “ The worst? Oh, Draco -”

 

“Oh fuck off-” He's talking more to himself than to Potter, trying to snark away the prickling feeling behind the eyes – how did he manage to hold back tears so sucessfully every time he had to over the last two years, but now he's just a sodding waterfall? Like Potter might be safe to cry in front of, where the Dark Lord wasn't? He has to remind himself otherwise quite fiercely - “Fuck off, Potter, this isn't a pity party”.

 

Harry looks down briefly; when he looks up again there's a curious merriment in his eyes. Oh no. It was that – that stubborn resilient brightness in him - that got Draco so obsessed in the first place, all the way back in first year – so he does still have something in common with that kid. If only the something wasn't currently smiling at him with glittering green eyes that look at him as though they care.

 

“Wow. Try saying that several times quickly.”

 

His brain catches up to what he said before, and his lip twitches into something that almost resembles a grin and his shoulders jerk with a huff of amusement. Potter catches on to half a smile like a fish to a hook and reaches out his hand to Draco's right. Draco has to practically sit on his hand to push it out of reach because his instinct shrieks at him just to take his hand but he won't. He remembers a viciously made vow to himself from years ago – that whatever else happened – they could kiss, they could fuck, they could kill each other but he would never, not if the world was ending, take Harry Potter's hand if he offered it in friendship. Never.

 

It's as though Potter reads that vow in his eyes now because he drops his hand and sort of nods.

 

“Just -” he heaves a sigh - “Let me help? What do you want? Anything.”

 

“Anything?”

 

“Anything I can reach to.”

 

“I want -” it's not quite true, but it's the truest thing he can admit to - “I want to not be here. This whole – whole circle jerk of comfort? A house of fucked up people trying to talk each other better? It's not for me. It might be good for Weasleys – good for mother, I don't know. But I just – I just -” his chin wobbles and he feels suddenly very small, painfully young, like a boy who would like his mother here right now please and thank you very much - “I just want to go home.”

 

“You can't -” Potter actually sounds sorry for it. “It's mad there. The press – they're camped out in the grounds – after the war – after you all weren't there – all the wards came down and just now there's so many people there we couldn't get them up again – we tried – after the Ministry took you. People are mad. It's not fair but they are. I don't think it would be -”

 

“Safe? I haven't been safe in two years, Potter, who has?”

 

“- good. I don't think it would be good for you to face that.”

 

“You don't get to decide that. I want to see at least. I want to visit – there's nobody inside, I take it?”

 

Harry shakes his head -

 

“The wards on the house are still good, nobody can apparate in except family.”

 

“So who actually checked this?”

 

“Do you know your aunt Andromeda?”

 

“In theory. But no, we've never met.”

 

“She's sort of with the Order – well, not with us, but linked enough. Turns out she was family enough to get in.”

 

“She did that? For us? Why?”

 

“No she did it for us – for me I suppose – because we asked. She actually wasn't against us helping you, you know. In fact I think your mum and Hermione – well anyway, that's their business. Yes, technically you can get inside, but you'd be surrounded.”

 

“Then I want to go. Just to see.” Draco sighs - “ - and to get some proper fucking clothes. Wearing other peoples' clothes is like bathing with your socks on. It's gross.”

 

Harry rolls his eyes -

 

“Do let me tell you about my childhood some time.”

 

“No thanks, Potter you're alright,” Draco sneers, feeling suddenly curiously better than he has done. “I'll come back,” he adds - “I just want – want some things here that are mine, if I have to be a part of this love, hugs and bloody healing fest.”

 

Fine,” Harry nods, shifting up the sofa towards him so that they are sat startlingly close together - “But I'm coming with you.”

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