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Temptation on the Warfront

Chapter Text

Harry Potter sits with his knees drawn up in the window seat, his fingers unfeelingly folding a small creased square of parchment — the same parchment which cost Albus Dumbledore his life. Harry feels the fake locket like it's a dead weight against his chest, but he refuses to take it off, because it's the only object which reminds him to focus, and it helps his head stay clear even when the memories it brings try to wrench him apart.

Two stories below him, through the fog and dappled rain drops on the window panes, he can see the cloaked figures of the enemy. Death Eaters —watching, waiting. They stand still in the quiet damp court of Grimmauld Place, and their threatening and unwavering presence makes Harry's stomach twist.

Harry sighs, stretches his neck from side to side, and shoves Regulus's note back into his pocket, where it will hopefully stay for the next few hours, immune to the itch in Harry's fingers, and hidden from his need to obsessively reread it and understand.

The sudden tinkling of a piano from the next room interrupts his thoughts, followed by a low bout of laughter from Ron. He hears Hermione say something, and her voice is laced with both sarcasm and humour. Briefly, Harry wonders when the two of them will stop dancing around eachother in their uncertainty and snog already.

But then the thought is shattered by a loud banging and screeching downstairs, and Harry doesn't have time to question things, because he has his wand in his hand and he is ready.

The dark and dusty hallways of Number Twelve mock him as he runs, trying not to trip, until he collides into Hermione, her eyes wide and frightened as she rushes from the drawing room, Ron right behind her. Harry doesn't stop to see if Ron is gripping her hand, not only because their closeness does strange and lonely things to his insides, but because there is no time, and the portrait of Sirius' mother is screaming — shouting filthy insults and curses, and Harry thinks his ears might bleed.

His head is pounding hard, his heart harder, and Harry can barely hear the sound below of other voices yelling and arguing over the hurried thuds of his own footsteps.

The stairs creak and shudder beneath their weight, and once they reach the bottom step Harry throws out an arm to halt the other two. He can feel Ron breathing on his neck, and Hermione's hand as she pulls his jumper, waiting to be told what to do, but despite everything — all their cautious planning, they never once discussed what they would do if the Death Eaters got inside.

Harry reminds himself to breathe, especially when the voices pause and there is a loud whooshing noise, recognisable as the drawing of curtains, and immediately the portrait stops wailing. His head spins, his mind reeling at what to do, and his fingers tighten around his wand. His right arm is warmed by the tingling of magic — the familiarity that comes with defence, with the willingness to fight. He inclines his head, just a little, in hopes that Ron and Hermione will catch the wordless command he tries to convey. They see, Harry knows, because he hears Hermione inhale sharply, and he can almost feel the way she shakes.

He moves. Fast. Something in his back cracks, and he rounds the corner, his wand pointed — ready — and his jaw clenched.

He freezes, his arm falters, and for a second he is almost overwhelmed with relief to see Remus Lupin's tired and dishevelled face looking back at him, but then Harry's eyes land on the person who the man has pinned against the wall, and Harry's knuckles turn white with the urge to hex and curse and kill.

"Harry —" Lupin sounds urgent, but Harry doesn't let him continue.


"Harry— listen—"

"WHY THE FUCK IS MALFOY —" Something bitter clogs Harry's throat and he almost chokes. His eyes sting and if he says another word he will fall apart. But that doesn't matter, because he points his wand at Draco Malfoy and is about to speak an unforgivable — but then something sudden and painful hits Harry in the sternum.

Remus has stunned him, and Harry can't move, can't swallow, and for a moment his vision blurs and his ears ring, but then someone — Ron, probably — grabs his shoulders and steadies him, helps him stand, because without the support he would be falling.

Anger, confusion, betrayal — the emotions war against eachother. Hermione moves next to him, and thank god her wand is still raised, because Harry doesn't think he could handle it if his friends weren't with him on this.

His eyes are stuck and focused ahead of him, on the way Remus heaves his chest, runs a trembling hand through his hair, and tucks his wand away. Harry can't believe what he's seeing, and if he could move he knows he would be vibrating with rage, gnashing his teeth together and demanding to be told what the fuck is happening. Because Remus should not be putting his wand away when the enemy is standing right next to him.

From the corner of his vision Harry sees the tall, darkly clad figure of Malfoy, with a contrasting cap of near-white hair. His hands are behind him, bound no doubt, and Harry knows the blond is looking — glaring, at him, can feel it in the way it makes his face burn, the way his whole body burns, and he wishes he could glare back, push every ounce of hatred into the force of his gaze.

"Remus — what's going on? Why is he here?" Hermione's hiss is low but deadly, and Harry wants to hug her. He can feel Remus's stunner slipping, can start to identify a buzzing in his body that demands he move, and as soon as it wears off he will dive straight for Malfoy — wrap his hands around his throat and squeeze.

Remus looks ragged, and the scars on his face are bolder than usual, stark against the worn and sickly hue of his skin. If Harry weren't so livid, he would contemplate whether the full moon is close, he would ask him how Tonks is, ask him if the Weasleys — and everyone else, are okay.

Ron, however, gets there first, before Remus can answer Hermione. "My mum and dad — Ginny — everyone, are they okay?"

Remus flicks his eyes above Harry's head, where his taller friend still holds him up, and gives Ron a tight nod. Then Remus's lips thin, and his expression as he looks at Harry is sympathetic. "Harry, I — I'm sorry, but I need you to listen to me. I promise I'll explain as much as I can, but it's very important that you listen, and refrain from raising your voice — and your wand. There are wards hiding this place, but that does not mean the Death Eaters outside can't hear us," He pauses, angling his body towards Malfoy, "and nothing, is worth compromising this."

Harry wants to tell him there already is a Death Eater inside, but unwillingly his breathing has slowed, and he hates to admit the fact that he has calmed down. He wants to frown when he realises Malfoy hasn't said anything, hasn't even made the slightest sound, which leads Harry to think that the Slytherin must be under a silencing charm. Harry feels the snort waiting to escape his throat, but just like his ability to move, his humour has been taken from him.

"You need to understand, Malfoy is not the boy you knew last year — things have changed, and —"

"Bullshit!" Ron, who marginally relaxed after hearing his family was okay, stiffens and seethes.

Harry vaguely sees Hermione rest a hand on Ron's arm, and figures he needs one too, because what Remus is telling them is a load of crap, and it can't be true —

"He's being hunted — there's a price on his head —"

"Good, let's hand the bloody tosser over!" Ron moves forward, shoving his sleeves up to his elbows as if he's about to do just that, and leaves Harry swaying on his feet. Harry's shoes scuff on the beaten wooden floorboards, and his shoulder hits the wall with a thud. He is still mostly immobile, but he's becoming aware of the weight of his body, and the edges around his vision are sharpening.

"Ron, wait." Hermione grabs Ron's elbow, draws him back, her voice hesitant, "Remus, what do you mean — what's happened? And — and how'd you find us?"

The man's face turns soft, just for a moment, as he stares at the three of them, "I can't tell you exactly. But I had a feeling you'd be here. I can't stay — I have to leave, very soon, in fact —"

Harry's arms twitch, his spine straightens, and Ron is exasperated as he spits, "You can't just leave us with that — with that fuck —"

Remus cuts his hand through the air, his face stern, "Ron, enough. You need to trust me — trust The Order. Malfoy's been through trials and tests —"

"That's not enough!" Hermione's voice is shrill, but she remembers to keep it down, and Harry mentally applauds her. He manages to roll his shoulders, feels the rush of warm blood begin to flow through his veins.

"It needs to be enough! There is a war going on, and right now we need every fighter we can get —" There is movement to Remus's right, the shuffling of a black cloak, and Malfoy, who has been completely still for the whole time, fidgets, as if he finds the idea of being called a 'fighter' utterly repulsive. And that is enough for Harry, enough for him to regain control over his body and make his legs move, to launch himself and his hatred straight at Malfoy —

Harry collides into him, and Malfoy is all angles and hard lines and he is freezing, but the cold does not bother Harry as his hands fist around material, grapple against collarbones. He digs his fingers into Malfoy's shoulders, aiming for his neck, but he is too groggy, too wobbly after being stunned, and they both sag against the wall. There is a lot of noise — shouts and growls — and Harry is startled to find the growls coming from him, as though he's an animal — starved for bloodshed and revenge.

There are hands on his back, trying to pull him away, but Harry only shrugs them off, his desire to throttle his enemy stronger than anything he's ever felt before. And dully, Harry thinks that this is what the others want too, because they are not trying hard enough to stop him, they don't stun him. Maybe Malfoy needs it too, maybe that's why he's not fighting back, why his head falls back against the wall and why his long pale throat is suddenly bared to Harry's intense rage. It does not cross Harry's mind that maybe Malfoy is incapable of fighting him.

The punch he lands is sloppy, sliding against the corner of Malfoy's jaw, and when Harry looks up there are two red-rimmed and ice-filled eyes boring into his soul — and Harry has never felt so violated and dirty — so absolutely enraged, in his whole life, and the strength of it sends him to his knees, dragging Malfoy down with him.

They fall and struggle, and Malfoy is useless because his hands are tied, but his face is deathly white, almost grey, and his mouth is set in a livid line of pure loathing. Harry is going to crush Malfoy with his weight while he destroys every inch of his nastiness, while he punches his own hate into Malfoy's face, and digs his knees into Malfoy's ribs and hope that it hurts — but then someone is finally pulling him away, and strong freckled arms — Ron's — curl around Harry's chest, restraining him as he growls and writhes.

"Harry — stop this!" Remus yells, but his wand is not drawn, and Harry's earlier suspicions are confirmed. He wonders why Ron bothered stopping him.

Harry's chest is heaving, constricted by Ron, whose grip soon slackens and drops, and Harry has to physically battle with the urge to continue what he started. Malfoy is still lying on the floor, his cloak smattered with white dust and crumbling wood, and a harsh bruise is blooming on his jaw. His eyes are closed, like he's defeated or dead, and for a second Harry is ecstatic, because he thinks he's killed Draco Malfoy. But it's short lived, because then the blond thrashes his head to the side, the tendons in his neck straining as he swallows and opens his mouth around unheard words.

"I have to go. I'll be back in two hours unless —" Remus falters, but they all know what he was going to say. Unless I'm dead. He looks at each of them in turn, his expression a weary plea, landing on Hermione for an extra second, as if begging her to be the glue that will keep holding them together. Her lips purse and she nods. Remus seems to hesitate, but then he pulls something out of his coat pocket, a hawthorne wand, and places it in Hermione's hand. Harry isn't offended that Remus entrusts Hermione with Malfoy's wand instead of him — in fact, he's glad, because there would be no greater temptation than hexing Malfoy with his own wand.

Remus lays his hand on Harry's shoulder, squeezes, and then leaves. The door hardly makes a sound behind him, and all they hear after it closes is the faint snap of apparition.

Harry can't focus, his glasses are hazy, and he thinks he might keel over. He needs air — he needs to think, to scream — he also needs to kick Malfoy, but at the same time get as far away from him as he possibly can.

"Stay with him." Harry says, and it sounds like an order, foreign to his own ears. It makes him sick, but he still shoves past Ron and rounds the corner. He knows his two friends share a look behind his back, and he knows they are all scared and confused, because Draco Malfoy has just been forced into the only place that gives them a semblance of safety, and now it feels all wrong — tainted.

But right now, Harry doesn't care. He needs to be alone.

Draco Malfoy squeezes his eyes closed, presses his skull back into the uneven floorboards, and listens as the Mudblood whispers furiously to the Weasel. He wishes he were deaf, or unconscious, but right now all he can do is pretend, because he just got assaulted by fucking Potter, and his dignity, along with his energy, is nonexistent; and the last thing he wants to do is lie there while Scarhead's bloody friends debate over what to do with him.

If he could, Draco would yell at them, tell them to piss off and stop staring at him — because even though he refuses to open his eyes, he can feel their glares of incredulous suspicion digging holes into his forehead. But he can't. The bloody Wolf made sure of that, gagging him magically as soon as they entered the house, as soon as Draco knocked over an insanely hideous umbrella stand and swore, expressing how pointless all this was. Then the portrait started screaming like a banshee, and everything got ten times shittier. Potter sped around the corner with all the finesse of a confounded troll, his lackeys in tow, and the expression of enraged shock he wore after spotting Draco was priceless. And then the werewolf had even stunned Potter; not silenced, stunned, and in that moment Draco had thought that maybe all this was worth it, if only to witness the way Potter stiffened like a plank and fell back into Weasley.

"—can't just leave him there!"

"He's out cold, 'Mione—"

The Mudblood huffs, "Honestly, Ron! You're impossible."

Draco hates to agree with either of them, let alone both, but while the Weasel is the definition of impossible, he would rather die than let the Mudblood touch him.

"We can't bring him in, he'll see stuff — what we're up to — plans, that sort of thing. Harry wouldn't —"

"Weren't you listening when Remus said he's harmless?"

"Harmless? Harmless my arse—"

Draco never wants to hear Weasley mention his arse again.

"For heaven's sake — he doesn't even have a wand!"

"So? You saw how he attacked Harry —"

"Please, Ronald. Anyone with eyes could see that Harry was — well — a little unstable."

"Unstable? What the hell's that s'posed to mean? You reckon that git didn't deserve everything he got?"

"No — yes — but Malfoy didn't even retaliate and —"

"What the fuck did he expect? A welcome party?"


There is a shattering from above them, and Draco expects it'll be Potter breaking things, with the anger management of a two year old. By the sound of Granger's groan, she agrees, and after a long sigh, Draco hears her footsteps retreat.

Beneath the many layers of pain, nonchalance, and humiliation, Draco is mildly pleased. Two down and one to go. But then any sliver of satisfaction disappears as a fist abruptly clenches around the neck of his robes, and when Draco cracks his eyes open, the very unpleasant and too-close face of Ronald Weasley is a few inches from his own. His eyes are an intensely creepy shade of blue, and Draco wants to spit at him, but all he can do is try not to bite his tongue as Weasley shakes him and mutters darkly, "You better fucking watch it, Malfoy." Then he releases Draco, who falls back to the floor with a thud, arms useless and crushed beneath him, and leaves.

Draco's head throbs, his mouth is dry and bitter, and in the stagnant air of the dim entryway, unwanted thoughts begin to flit through his mind — like why he's here, what he's doing, and what will happen to him. He's thankful when a loud and apparently heated argument ensues above him, but regrets his relief a minute later when a thundering series of footfalls plunders downstairs. They're determined, heavy, and Draco just knows they belong to Potter. Fuck. His face hurts enough as it is — his entire body aches, and he has a feeling that if Potter wants to fight, Draco won't have the will-power to just sit there and take it for a second time, and rebelling will ruin every carefully constructed decision he has made in his defection.

Draco struggles into a sitting position just as Potter strides towards him — his fists balled and his face wild. Glasses crooked, nostrils flared, and his black hair atrociously mussed — Potter is everything Draco has tried to forget about Hogwarts, about the memories that haunt him, and right now the Boy-Who-Won't-Fucking-Die looks murderous.

Draco doesn't think cowering is something that can apply to a Malfoy, but he makes it to the wall before he changes his mind, because he wishes the plaster would swallow him whole, wishes his hands weren't tied together so that he'd be able to do something. But it's too late — Potter is there, in front of him, and the fire in his unnaturally green eyes is the last thing Draco sees before something hard is slammed into his skull and he is consumed by blackness.

"Harry, mate —"

"Don't act like you didn't want to do that just as much as I did," Harry throws over his shoulder, feeling strangely light and free, as if every bit of his stress has been channeled into the punch he aimed at Malfoy's cheekbone.

Harry kneels with his legs on either side of Malfoy's outstretched ankles, eyeing the now unconscious blond, almost expecting him to jump awake and attack. Harry feels better now though, still distantly angry and confused, but better, despite the way his knuckles are bleeding — cut from a shard of the vase Harry launched into the wall upstairs. He stretches his fingers, curls them inwards, and is about to have a muggle moment and wipe the blood on his jeans, but then Hermione is there, pulling him up and healing his hand.

"Thanks," he murmurs. She smiles tentatively in return, and then looks down at Malfoy. Harry sees something in her eyes, something like pity, and is about to blow up in a rage, because Malfoy doesn't deserve sympathy, but then he catches the revulsion that's also there, and he breathes a sigh of relief.

"What are we going to do?" Hermione asks quietly, and Harry looks from her, to Ron. He feels a lot of things within that moment. He's thankful, because Hermione is using her brain in a time Harry wishes he didn't have one — she's thinking ahead like she always does. Mostly, he's overcome by a bitter wash of self-loathing, because the word 'we' is like a stab to his gut. He has dragged his best friends into this, and even though they wouldn't take no for an answer, Harry will always feel like it's his fault — that whatever happens to them, will be his fault. And it's a burden he knew he'd have to carry since the golden afternoon atop the Astronomy tower, when Ron and Hermione had told him they would be coming with him to find Voldemort's Horcruxes.

Harry pushes the feelings away, and instead focuses on Malfoy. Malfoy has always had a way of occupying Harry's thoughts, being an outlet for his anger and hate, and Harry is mildly grateful, because it's easier to hate Malfoy than it is to hate himself. He rubs a hand over his face, narrows his eyes, and when he looks back down Malfoy is still very much knocked out. If Harry hadn't been so furious, he might feel an inkling of guilt.

He sighs. "I dunno."

"Let's tie him up," there's mirth in Ron's voice, like he's excited, and it makes Harry think of two boys beneath an invisibility cloak, chasing Filch's cat.

The corners of his mouth beg him to smile, but then Hermione interrupts, "He already is tied up."

"Yeah," Ron shrugs, "I meant — to a chair — or something. You know? Blind fold him?"

Hermione snorts, and not for the first time, Harry wishes Ron's humour wasn't so contagious. "I doubt Remus will appreciate —"

"We don't owe Remus anything," Harry interjects resentfully. Hermione wants to argue, Harry can tell. "'Sides, we don't want Malfoy seeing the plans or anything."

Hermione gives them both a disapproving look, but there's a twitch to her lips which tells Harry she won't stop them.

Harry turns to Ron, "I'm with Ron. We'll take him to the drawing room?"

Ron's face breaks into the widest grin Harry has seen in days. "Drawing room."

Harry finds his own expression trying to mirror his friend's, and for once he lets it. They approach Malfoy as if he's something dead Hermione's cat brought in, and after baiting eachother and turning something otherwise unpleasant into a competition, they each grab an arm, and haul Malfoy upright.

Hermione watches with her arms crossed, but after being exposed to a lot of swearing and loud exclamations of Malfoy being heavier than he looks, she bursts out laughing, suggesting they make things easier by levitating him.

Ron groans, Harry feels like an idiot, but somehow he doesn't mind.

They levitate Malfoy, his head lulls back like a dead weight, pale hair falling out of place, and no one minds when they accidentally bump him into furniture.

They have much more fun than they should.

There's a low murmuring of voices, soft crackles, and a faint orange hue which brushes against his eyelids. Draco groans at the aching in his skull — and reels when he realises that he made a sound — the silencing spell has evidently worn off. Then, abruptly and sickeningly, like another one of Potter's punches, he remembers where he is, what just happened, and who the voices must belong to. His eyes snap open — only to encounter more blackness. There's little gaps above his cheekbones, though, so whatever shoddy blindfold Potter and his gang have subjected him to proves somewhat ineffective. That same orange light licks his cheeks — it must be a fire — the smell of burning wood confirms it.

Upon hearing his groan, one of the voices immediately hushes the other two — Potter, by the sound of it. "Co-operate, Malfoy, and we won't silence you again. And if you're lucky enough we'll even untie you."

Draco panics for a second, then scoffs. He would laugh, but thinks it'd leave him too open, too vulnerable. He tugs at his wrists and tries to move his ankles, just for good measure, incase Potter is bluffing. Unfortunately, he isn't. To hide his discomfort, Draco aims for sarcasm. "Merlin's balls, Potter, you've tied me to a chair. What's next, a bed?"

He hears Potter growl, and someone to his left makes an indignant yet amused snort — Weasel probably.

Potter must have been working on his stealth, because Draco doesn't hear him coming until it's too late and there's a wand digging into his throat.

"Shut up Malfoy, and tell us what you're doing here, unless you want your tongue hexed in half." Draco isn't afraid of Potter's chilling words, in fact the whole intimidating act is quite laughable.

"I would shut up, Potter, if you hadn't just asked me a question and threatened me with violence — not that you haven't already been violent this evening—" Draco chokes over a snarl as Potter kicks his shin. "My point exactly. What am I doing here? Why not ask your favourite Ginger Growth and the Mudblood? I'm sure they'll know all about how you cowardly bound me to a chair and stole my vision. And they say Gryffindors are brave." He ends his reply with a derisive sneer, but is suddenly surprised when the material is ripped away from his eyes, exposing him to a glare of emerald green from behind wire rimmed glasses. Draco has never known how much he hates green until now, and he twists his face into a scowl, ignoring the way it twinges in pain. "Ahh, Potter — always one to rise to the bait."

Potter ignores him, which only irritates Draco more, and takes a step back, his jaw square and heavily set as he nods over his shoulder. Without a word, the Mudblood steps forward, a vial of clear liquid in her hand, and Draco tries to recoil in his restraints, the hardness of the chair most likely gouging out chunks of his back. "What the fuck do you think you're —"

The last word turns into an incomprehensible slur as Potter roughly grabs Draco's chin and shoves his head back. "Don't spill any," Potter warns Granger, and Draco struggles even harder because that can only mean that it's either a valuable substance, like veritiserum, or it's toxic, like acid, and will burn holes into the floor — not to mention, Draco's face. Draco sincerely hopes it's the former.

He resigns himself to his fate, because Potter's hand is oversized, unrelenting and smells like blood and soot whenever it gets too close to his nose.

The Mudblood stands next to Potter and leans forward, but retreats when she sees that Draco is anything but compliant.

"Open!" Potter orders firmly, and Draco stubbornly narrows his eyes, flaring his nostrils in defiance.

It's Draco's own fault he's too obstinate to keep quiet, because as soon as he opens his mouth to retort, "I'm not a bloody door, Potter," his offender jams his fingers into Draco's mouth, prying his jaw open.

"Now — quick 'Mione!"

Granger darts forward, shoves the glass between his lips, and Draco feels the potion unwillingly slide down his throat. He tries to spit it back up, but all he manages to do is to bite down on Potter's fingers.

"OW! Fuck!" Potter yelps, shaking his hand.

Draco doesn't have time to feel satisfied, because as soon as the peppery, recognisable taste of the truth serum sticks to the roof of his mouth, he hurriedly begins to occlude his mind. This way, he has a chance of being spared the humiliation of spilling his secrets against his will. But abruptly, a frightening and unwanted thought enters his mind. Wouldn't it be better to tell them what they want to know, to make things easier? Perhaps the pretence of the potion is a good thing after all — maybe Draco can use it to his advantage.

He looks from Granger's anxious expression, to Weasley's displeased frown, and finally to Potter, who is nursing his injured fingers and sending Draco withering glares. "Why are you here, Malfoy?" He asks with a certain finality, as though completely unaware that Draco might lie to him.

Draco's face spreads into a sly smirk, and for the first time in months, he feels like a Slytherin again.

Chapter Text

Harry watches doubtfully as Malfoy's face goes from disgusted to impassive, and as their eyes settle on eachother there is a very brief, unnerving moment where Harry feels like he is the one tied up, as if Malfoy has stripped away all the layers of his attempt as an interrogator and left him bare.

Harry knows that not many Witches and Wizards are capable of resisting Veritiserum — just like with the Imperius Curse, but he also knows that an Occlumency skill powerful enough is all it takes to counter the potion. He has no idea if Malfoy is trained in that area, but he wouldn't put it past him, so Harry doesn't take his eyes away from Malfoy's face.

He can't help but take in all the details, the way Malfoy's cheeks are sallow, his chin too prominent, the angles of his face jutting sharply with traces of malnourishment. All of him is very familiar, very Malfoy, but at the same time he's all wrong — different, unnatural — as if this is a mere shell of the real Malfoy, an empty husk of a human, and the pest of a boy Harry knew in school is out of reach. Harry has to remind himself that this is Malfoy, and he shouldn't care whatsoever how much food the boy who tried to kill Dumbledore has eaten recently. Harry puts it down to the fact that he knows only too well what it's like to be starved, as years at the Dursley's made him well acquainted with the feeling, and nothing more. Because his fists still itch with the urge to punch his enemy, and his wand still feels too heavy in his pocket.

While Harry has been staring at Malfoy, waiting for the traces of a crumbling inhibition, he knows Malfoy has been staring back, and strangely enough he wonders what the other boy is thinking — if the things he finds in Harry's face are as foreign as what Harry sees in Malfoy's.

Somewhere, in what seems like the distance, Ron coughs, and it brings Harry back to what he's supposed to be doing. He has time to catch the way Malfoy's eyebrows lift before Harry clears his throat and says, "Right. I'll ask again. Why are you here, Malfoy?"

There's something dark in the way Malfoy's grey eyes flicker, but Harry can't identify it. Malfoy tilts his chin back, just a little, but the gesture carries the memory of a snobby boy with the pretence of an unpleasant smell hovering beneath his nose. It's the same look Malfoy used to level at Hermione when he called her a Mudblood, the same one he'd wear when insulting Ron's family — and it makes Harry snap. He raises his wand before he's aware of what he's doing, and then he's right in front of where Malfoy sits — their knees almost touching. "Answer me."

"He's resisting it," Hermione whispers.

"Not if the bastard knows what's good for him." Harry narrows his eyes, carefully observing clench to Malfoy's jaw and the crease between his brows. Malfoy is never one to back down from a challenge, and Harry will make the whole thing a challenge if that's what it takes. "Come on, Malfoy, too tired of taking orders? Is that why you left daddy?"

Malfoy lunges forward, but is jarred by the ropes that bind him. His face is on fire, though, his teeth bared, and Harry feels his mouth go dry. But this is better than the thin and hollow person who is a ghost of what Malfoy once was. "Speak for yourself! What's it like now that you're free from being Dumbledore's lapdog? You pathetic fuck!"

And he spits at Harry's feet.

Harry would have done more than wordlessly cast a jolt of ice-like fire through Malfoy's veins, but the way the blond winced over their late headmaster's name gave him pause. In that instant Harry caught a glimpse of regret, and it shocked him to the core.

Harry doesn't know he has frozen until he is pushed to the side by Ron, charging past him with an outraged snarl caught in his throat. "Ron—" But Ron's wand has already expelled a spark of burning magic, and the hex hits Malfoy right in the neck. Harry hears Malfoy cough and splutter as he snags Ron around the elbow and tugs him back. "Don't."

Ron huffs, his face a distorted shade of puce, "but he —"

"Forget it."

"S'that all you've got, Weaselbee? Your mother'd be disappointed," Malfoy taunts, his voice an odd gurgle. Harry sees a faint trace of blood dribbling out of Malfoy's twisted lips before he violently wipes his face against his shoulder, smudging the redness over his chin. Ron stiffens beside Harry, and makes to step forward again, but after a quick decision Harry raises his arm and casts a quick shield charm between Malfoy's chair and where they stand.

Ron swivels around, fuming, and Harry hastily says, "Enough. You're not helping. Go with Hermione — I'll be down soon." He looks at his friends, almost pleadingly, ignoring the way Ron exhales resentfully. Hermione, who has been observing nervously for the past few minutes, grimaces and sends Harry a warning look. Harry gives her a tired smile, conveying something along the lines of 'don't worry, I know Malfoy's a prat, but I've got this,' and she nods doubtfully back as she pulls on Ron's hand.

After the door closes behind them, Harry questions his actions, mentally berating himself, because he has a feeling that from here things can only go two ways. Either he and Malfoy will talk out their differences and shake hands in a truce, or he will end up getting so frustrated and hot headed that he will release Malfoy just so he can kill him. And when his eyes grudgingly land on the Slytherin in question, who manages to slump back in his restraints and still appear incredibly bored while sporting a bruised and bloodied lip, Harry regrettably admits the latter outcome is more likely.

"What's the matter, Potter? Sick of fighting three against one? My, what a heroic Gryffindor you —"

"Will you just shut up for five fucking seconds!? Dammit Malfoy! Can't you see that I'm trying to make things easier for both of us?"

Malfoy scoffs and eyes Harry like he's something growing under the sink. "Right. Easy. Hence the chair, the shackles and the torture techniques. Not to mention the Veritiserum —"

Harry rolls his eyes, having forgotten what a drama queen Malfoy can be. "Which, by the way, seems to have no effect on you. Didn't know you were an Occlumens, Malfoy."

Malfoy snaps his mouth shut over whatever retort he had ready and glares. "Funny, the things enemies share over tea and civilised discourse. Is that jealousy I detect, Potter?"

Harry scowls as he remembers his failed Occlumency lessons. "Yeah, right. Did you want tea? I can have Kreacher put poison in it for you."

"Didn't your parents ever teach you, you untie your enemy first, then you offer them refreshments. It's called manners Potter, you fucking plebeian."

Harry ignores the barb about his parents, and the rush of anger it brings, he even manages to push down the irrational jealousy he feels because yes, he is bitter about Malfoy's apparent adeptness for Occlumency. Instead, he focuses on the well known fact that the best way to tick off your enemy is to be nice to them.

"Alright." Harry dissolves his shield charm, flicks his wand, and the ropes around Malfoy's wrists and ankles disintegrate. "Tea now?"

There's a crease across the bridge of Malfoy's nose and a petulant downturn to his lips as he eyes Harry cynically, and Harry tries not to let himself feel guilty when he sees Malfoy rub the raw and chaffed skin around his wrists.

"Bullshit. No doubt you'll lace it with more veritiserum."

Harry snorts, and he can't help but inadvertently confess, "Sure, if pepper and water's your thing."

Malfoy stares at him, and it takes one, two, three seconds before Harry sees the piece of information sink in, and then Malfoy goes from astounded to furious in a matter of moments. "You cheating bastard—"

"Oh, come off it you melodramatic ponce. Do you really think I carry around Veritiserum in my pocket? And if I did, you reckon I'd waste a whole flask of it on you? Talk about conceited." Harry puts on a controlled front, but inside he wants to laugh. It's strange and uncomfortable, the fact that laughing could ever be an option when Malfoy's around.

"You filthy shit—"

Harry can't help it, Malfoy's expression is too much. He breaks, and the first bout of his amusement makes his throat hurt. "You should have seen your face! If I didn't already think you had something to hide — you pretty much confirmed it!"

Harry gets a hold of himself, runs a hand through his hair in embarrassment, and when he looks back at Malfoy, who seems too thwarted to stand, he finds he's the occupant of a stare which is ten times as incredulous as Malfoy's worst. Harry coughs, trying to get rid of that dry, tacky feeling in his mouth, that tongue biting awkwardness, and finally says, "Right. Now that's out of the way, you ready to, ah, what was it you said? Have 'civilised discourse?'"

Malfoy keeps looking, his slate-coloured eyes calculating, as if he isn't quite sure about what he's seeing, until finally he jerks his head back, like he's surveying what Harry has to offer and weighing his options. "Whatever."

Harry is somewhat startled, because maybe this will go better than he expected, and after giving himself a shake he drags forward a tattered old arm chair, sets it a safe distance from Malfoy, and sits on the edge, folding his arms. He doesn't let go of his wand.

"So, er…" Harry wishes it'd be normal for him to take out Regulus's note and unfold its creases, like he always does when he's stressed. "Tea?" He tries weakly. Malfoy groans, and it's an odd, trembling sound, the kind one makes when watching a corny television show, when the discomfort becomes too much to bear. Harry isn't sure how it makes him feel.

"For fuck's sake — just get on with it, Potter."

Harry takes a breath.

Draco scowls as he watches the way Potter's fist clenches around his wand, as if he isn't aware of what he's doing — like it's a habit. Draco sees the similarities between them in that moment, because he remembers days trapped in the Manor, stranger's screams chasing him down dark corridors, and a snake-like face with livid red eyes. Those were the days when clutching his wand became second nature, he didn't even let go of it when he slept, and now he feels its loss like a gaping wound. Draco knows he will have to earn it back, it's what the Wolf told him, and in the back of his mind he is already formulating plans about how to steal it back from Granger, hex her, and run. It's probably impossible — escaping — the Wolf told him that too, but Draco still likes to think about it.

Draco gnashes his teeth together, glaring up at Potter, ready to shout at him until he speaks, but the way Potter is looking at him gives him pause. Draco's insults die in his throat, and for a short, frightening moment, Draco can't look away from the intense green that stares back at him. He wants to rub at the welts on his wrists, wants to do something that isn't being caught helpless in the headlights of Potter's wide, extreme gaze. He resists, balls his fists, because he is already too weak, too exposed, and showing Potter that his pitiful excuses for fetters caused him harm is something Draco does not want to do.

He is spared though — Potter's voice — too soft, too calm — breaks into the stillness of the room, harmonises with the crackle in the hearth. "What happened, Malfoy?"

And Draco wants to scream. He doesn't want Potter's sympathy, he doesn't want Potter to be nice to him — he wants that spitting and fuming Potter, the one who hits and yells; because that is easier for Draco to cope with. It's what he's used to.

Draco thinks he's going to verbally abuse the boy across from him, the boy who is disturbingly trying to engage in 'civilised discourse' with him — and Draco wants to tell Potter that he will have to kill him before anything of the sort happens. Draco almost misses the harsh point of the enemy's weapon jabbing into his jugular, and the way Potter looks when he's riled up — flustered, furious and frenzied. And Draco doesn't know what's scarier, the realisation that he gets kicks out of Potter's anger, or the fact that he yearns for its reappearance. He supposes that neither is as perturbing as the memory of Potter laughing in his presence.

And that's when something drastic shifts inside Draco, fragments into tiny pieces and settles in the crevices of his mind — maybe even his heart. Draco has never been aware of his heart — he knows it's there, knows what it does, but he has always disconnected himself from the idea of possessing one. Because a heart is what kind people have, and Draco is not kind. But the vision which seems etched into the backs of his eyelids, the recollection of Potter outright laughing at him, makes him wish more than ever that he had a heart. And he doesn't even know why.

Something unpleasant coils in his stomach, and when Draco looks up, locks his gaze onto the way Potter expectantly watches him — waits for him, his lips a thin line, Draco becomes horrified — because he realises he is going to tell Potter — willingly — without coercion or the undignified reverse psychology of fake veritiserum.

If he were the Draco Malfoy from two years ago, he would relish in a hybrid of the untruth, distorting facts and gleefully admiring the way he'd throw them in Potter's face. If he were two years younger, free and ignorant from the burden of his future, he would probably say, 'I'm a hostage — your fucking side got me, okay? You won,' and be done with it.

But instead — instead he feels something harsh knot itself in his throat, and he almost chokes as he admits, "I didn't know — I didn't know they were going to bring me here —"

"Who? The Order —"

"Your fucking lot," Malfoy hisses, annoyed at the interruption, "and don't for a second think, Potter, that they hold out with their questioning. Because they bloody well didn't!"

Potter looks at him curiously, and Draco hopes his remark hit deep, because he is sick of stupid Gryffindors thinking his side is the only violent one. Draco feels the memory of the Order questioning him like the barely healed cuts in the skin of his back, like the aches through his bones. He feels it like a dark and torch-lit cell, a cell which made the Manor's dungeons look friendly. He feels it like potions being shoved down his throat, like the muscles in his neck screaming in pain until the truth is practically ripped out of him.

Draco calls himself back to present, desperately hoping the shiver he felt was only internal, but when his eyes meet Potter's he has a feeling that it was external too.

"Tell me what happened — all of it — and I don't care if you think I can't handle it. I've seen a lot worse than you'd expect, Malfoy."

Draco sneers, because he doubts Potter has any idea at all about what he expects. But he figures he shan't spare the horses, especially since the thought of scarring Potter's opinion of his precious 'Order' is a very welcoming prospect.

"Alright," he drawls.

"Start at the beginning, mind you. Oh — and if you're lying I will find out."

Draco ignores him, as he doesn't think Potter is capable of finding anything out seeing as he is apparently house bound of his own accord. Besides, Draco has no intention of lying, not when the truth can be much more satisfying. "Well… It was afternoon — cloudy, with a chance of rain I'd wager. A Sunday — or maybe a Saturday—"


"I was talking with Snape, in the library," Draco pauses, hoping to excite an exclamation of having a library in one's own home out of Potter — because boasting has always been one of Draco's hobbies — but unfortunately the prat only narrows his eyes at the mention of the old Potion's Master. "In the library." Still nothing. "The Dark Lord was out." Ah, there it is, the sporadic flicker of emotion which Draco has been searching for, dancing across Potter's face.

"Where was he?" Potter asks without a beat.

Draco scowls, irritated that Potter shows more interest in someone's whereabouts than the Malfoy library. Then again, he shouldn't be surprised. "How the fuck should I know?" One thing that Draco does know, however, is that Potter already seems to be aware the Dark Lord uses the Manor as a base.

Potter shrugs, and Draco is mildly disturbed to see that the other boy has edged closer in his seat. "And? What? The Order infiltrated the Manor?"

Draco snorts at the word 'infiltrated.' "They were rash, clumsy, and destroyed the majority of — of Mother's china." His exhale is not steady, and his heart stutters in fear that Potter knows what he isn't saying.

Thankfully, he does not comment. Not yet. "Then what happened?"

"What the hell do you think?" Draco tries to force every ounce of normalcy a person being interrogated can manage into his voice, and then lies, "They kidnapped me."

"I don't believe you," Potter says it slowly, simply, and it aggravates Draco to no end.

He glares. "Why not?"

"Because if they kidnapped you, they wouldn't leave you here — with us."

Draco wants to slap himself for missing something so obvious. "Why not? You three are enough to drive anyone fucking mental."

"Right. So if they didn't kidnap you — you must have come willingly."

Draco clenches his teeth, bothered that he has always underestimated Potter's intelligence — not that he will ever admit this to anybody. "And?"

"I'm asking the questions. You tell me." Potter stares at him until Draco fidgets, until Draco speaks for the mere sake of having something to do.

"Snape's a traitor — he fled and he took me with him."

"Snape killed Dumbledore —"

"BECAUSE I COULDN'T!" Draco doesn't know where the outburst comes from, but he thinks perhaps the knot in his throat has finally uncoiled, and it leaves him breathless.

Potter has retreated further back into his chair, and Draco is glad until he sees the way Potter hides his wand, as if embarrassed to have nearly cursed someone supposedly harmless. Draco doesn't consider himself harmless though, because the absence of his own wand is enough for him to momentarily fantasise about stealing Potter's.

It's only because Draco doesn't want Potter dwelling on his dramatic outbreak, and nothing more, that Draco continues. "Snape killed Dumbledore because I — I couldn't. Say whatever the fuck you want, Potter, but he's always been on your side — I've always known — and that's why I —"

"Why you what?" Draco is a little shocked to hear the excitement in Potter's voice. It's suppressed, almost solemn, but there — and it makes Draco tell the truth he would have otherwise withheld.

"Why I went to him and — and told him I wanted out." The last part comes in a rush, and Draco's eyes widen when he realises he actually said it. The look of keen concentration on Potter's face is enough for Draco to continue. "He — he said he'd floo someone in the Order — arrange a break in — make it seem organised — like a mission. He said they'd take me with them—" Draco cuts off, and abruptly he is filled with anger, "— he didn't say they'd call me a liar — that they'd lock me in the darkness for fucking days — that they'd practically KILL ME!" I thought your side is meant to be the good side, Draco wants to say, but he can't — because his voice is already too raw, too uneven.

Draco expects indifference on Potter's face, but instead there is something like — something like remorse? Draco's hackles rise, his defence is up, and he immediately wants to say something scathing and hurtful, if only to bring back that baiting, energetic familiarity — but Potter gets there first.

"Dumbledore offered you safety before, Malfoy. Why didn't you take it?"

And all at once Draco is thrown back to the moment atop an Astronomy Tower, where his arm was shaking uncontrollably, his palm sweaty around his wand, and tears were caught in the coldness on his cheeks. An old man had fallen because of him — died because of him — and until now Draco has managed to bury any trace of regret.

The knowledge of his guilt hits him in the chest like a knife, and Draco reels — panics — because he has an answer ready on his tongue, and he has no idea how it got there. "Because I… Because I had no idea things would get so — so fucked up." Because I didn't know I'd be forced to kill people — to torture people in my own home. I didn't know I'd have to see the bodies of my classmates strewn across the floor. And I didn't know I'd be the reason their blood dripped from the ceiling.

And Potter, as if reading his thoughts, says quietly, "That's what war is."

Draco doesn't think he has ever heard something so true, something that resonates with him as much as the words his enemy just uttered, and it makes him quake.

"If you're on our side — when it comes down to it, you're going to have to kill people — people you used to call friends."

Draco pales at Potter's words, feels his insides shudder, and the way Potter looks at him makes him feel dissected — vulnerable — and he hates it.

"I asked them to hide me! I didn't know that meant stuffing me into this dilapidated shithole with the Boy Wonder and his fucking cronies! This has nothing to do with sides Potter! Fucking nothing!" Draco's chest heaves with his onslaught of rage, and briefly he wonders when his anger will wear out — because he is tired — so tired, and right now he wants to go to sleep and never wake up.

Potter stares for a bit more and then nods — just once — as if confirming something to himself. Then he stands, and without another word he walks to the door and leaves.

And Draco almost feels annoyed.

Harry feels numb as he treads down the stairs, so much so that he almost forgets the cursed step and has to right himself on the banister. Splinters dig into his palm, yet for some reason he hardly feels them.

When he enters the kitchen, he knows he interrupts a hushed conversation between Ron and Hermione. They both stand from the table, empty mugs in front of them, and as Ron averts his eyes Hermione rushes forward.

"How'd it go?" To anyone else, it would sound like Hermione is asking about something mundane, but Harry knows his best friend, and it is the same voice she used in fourth year when Harry was supposed to be researching for his Tri-Wizard Tournament clues and came up with nothing. Maybe if he thinks of Malfoy as a piece of research, something to be explored and figured out, things will be easier — because he still doesn't know if this is permanent, if they really are stuck with the bastard.

He sighs, slumps down in a chair, and rests his head in his hands.

"That bad, huh?" Ron asks, and Harry knows he should apologise, because his friend is still sore from when Harry told him to leave the room.

"He's not lying," Harry murmurs as Hermione makes him tea, "He really did defect, it's just…"

"Malfoy." Ron says the name like it's a foreign food that he finds particularly unappetising, and Harry chuckles wearily.

"Yeah, s'just Malfoy," he agrees.

"Did he buy the Veritiserum idea? Did 'Mione's reverse muggle psych-stuff work?" Ron sounds eager, and Harry, remembering, lets out a laugh.

"Yeah, he did —" But then Harry falters, the truths Malfoy revealed to him afterwards straining in his mind.

Hermione is tactful, and understands that he is too exhausted to talk — Malfoy has drained him. She hands him a hot mug of tea and says, "Remus should be here soon."

Harry sips the warm liquid and smiles, and surprisingly, he realises it's genuine.

Chapter Text

Harry squirms under Remus's concerned gaze, because right now it reminds him too much of the way Sirius used to look at him, and Harry needs to keep a clear head, there's too many questions he needs answered — too many puzzles that need solving, and he can't concentrate, can't sit still, while he knows somebody is unnecessarily worrying about him.

The man sits down across from Harry as Hermione places a steaming mug in front of him. "Malfoy?" Remus asks, looking between the two of them.

"He's upstairs." Harry replies too quickly, and if it makes anyone suspicious they don't say anything. He doesn't want to know what his friends will think when they find out he left Malfoy upstairs, untied, in an unlocked room. In fact, Harry is more than surprised that the snarky bastard hasn't been downstairs to bait them for the last half an hour — he's even a little anxious to find out what the Slytherin might be doing right now — but as soon as he tried to slip from the kitchen to check on him Remus arrived.

Remus nods, the dark crescents beneath his eyes a contrast to the luminous orb which he will never stop running from. "I suppose I ought to explain some things — no doubt you're all a tad confused —"

"A tad?" Ron interrupts, "that's gotta be the understatement of the century." He sounds whiney, offended, and if it had been an uneventful day his friend's attitude would have grated on Harry's nerves. Instead, Harry looks over at the way Ron slouches against the dusty bench tops, his arms crossed and his skin pale, and Harry feels a little bad for not sharing the information he got from Malfoy earlier with his friends.

"I haven't told the Order you're here. Only Alastor knows, but then again, what doesn't he know? He and I were in charge of Malfoy —"

Something inside Harry snaps upon hearing this. "Really? Then you'd know all about his questioning — 'bout how he looks like he hasn't eaten in weeks?" Harry doesn't know his voice sounds so accusing until after he is met with incredulous looks from both Ron and Hermione. He doesn't stop to apologise for interrupting, for stopping Remus from telling them what they all want to know. He managed to keep the sick feeling in his stomach at bay while talking to Malfoy, because he didn't want his enemy to know that he cared. He doesn't care, though, not really — not about Malfoy. He cares because; "I thought our side was meant to be about saving people! Not killing them!"

Remus looks taken aback, but then there's a little flicker of knowing in his eyes, and he says calmly, "No one has died, Harry. If Malfoy has said something to you —"

"Yeah. You're right. He said some things. Not much, but I still got the gist of it —"

"Then you should know that we did what we had to. This is a war, Harry! And war is about learning who you can and cannot trust!" Remus's hand falls too heavily on the table, and Hermione jumps.

"Exactly! So if you trusted him enough to stick him in here with me then why didn't you just do it in the first place?"

"Would that have been the right thing to do!? The safe thing? Would James approve of me placing a Death Eater next to his son and calling him an ally?"

"No, but — "

"Draco Malfoy was living in the same house as You-Know-Who for months! And you think he isn't dangerous? Harry, wake up!"

Harry's jaw clenches, and beneath the table his hand crawls onto his wand. He'll feel guilty about it later, but right now he's too frustrated. Ron distracts him, just in time. "Mate — what'd Malfoy say to you? Why're you defending him, he's a fucking —"

"They tortured him!" Harry's deadly tone is followed by silence. Only Hermione gasps, because her heart is too gentle to fathom the idea of torture, even when it is inflicted on the enemy. Somewhere amidst his anger Harry rushed to his feet — his chair shoved back behind him — and his breathing is too harsh, too choking.

Ron looks bewildered, "So what? It's Malfoy, he deserved —"

"Ron." Remus shakes his head at Ron, who looks embarrassed, but not guilty, about what he has almost said.

"Don't any of you understand!?" Harry gestures wildly, rubs at his scar, "I saw things! Weeks ago I saw Voldemort — with Malfoy — forcing him to do things — to torture someone — Rowle — and Malfoy's face — he was scared — pained — he didn't want to do it!"

Hermione whispers, "Oh, Harry — why didn't you tell us you'd seen —"

"BECAUSE! Because you'd act like this!" Hermione looks hurt, but Harry continues, "That's why. I can't help it — I can't control —"

"Dumbledore wanted you to —"

"DUMBLEDORE'S DEAD!" And Harry kicks his chair. It splinters against the wall and there's a little trickle of satisfaction in his chest. "Alright!? It doesn't matter anymore, 'Mione. Nothing matters!"

Remus comes forward, "Harry —"

Harry retreats, scowling. He feels betrayed. "What are you going to do the next person who defects, Remus? Going to torture them too?"

"It's what needed to be done! Don't you see, Harry? He wouldn't have said anything, otherwise!" Remus is close to yelling, and it makes Harry angrier. He thinks about how Malfoy told him things — without violence — without Veritiserum, and he doesn't know he will regret his next words until after he says them.

"You're a liar. Know what's worse than lying, though? Keeping the man who killed Dumbledore in the Order. You make me sick."

"Harry, you don't understand —"

"There's nothing to understand! You should leave."

"Harry, listen to what you're saying —"

"Leave. Now."

"I am trying to help you!" Remus shouts, and a vein in his neck pulses.

"Well you're NOT helping—"

"If you'd only tell me what it is you're doing — what you're looking for—"

"And what? Accept help from a liar? No thanks — we're good."

There's a stagnant silence in the kitchen. Remus is trying to hide his outrage, but his face is red, and it shows off the barely healed scars, the wounds he probably suffered within the last two hours. Harry's breathing is the only noise — he can hear it echoing in his skull, louder than the pounding of blood in his ears. He can feel Ron and Hermione's looks of astonishment digging into his back, but he doesn't care.

Then Remus swivels on his feet, a suppressed snarl escaping his throat, pulls open the kitchen door with a bang — and Malfoy stumbles forward, righting himself before falling. His face is composed, but his eyes are wide and his bruised lips are parted slightly. Remus doesn't acknowledge him at all, and before he has time to shove past, Malfoy is already flattening himself against the wall.

"Remus — wait!" Hermione sobs, "Don't leave —"

Theres a crash — probably the umbrella stand falling— and then the slamming of the front door. Remus is gone.

When Harry takes his eyes away from the spot where his father's friend disappeared and looks at his own, Hermione is wiping her tears away. "Harry — how could you?"

Harry's nostrils flare, and he stares at the grimy stone tiles. "Easy."

"He could have helped us!"

"Don't look at me like that!" Harry snaps.

Ron steps forward, growling, and Harry is almost surprised to see how angry he looks. "Don't you start on her—"

Hermione coughs, puts a hand on Ron's shoulder and shakes her head. Her eyes are directed over Harry's shoulder, and when he turns he sees Malfoy standing in the doorway, one eyebrow raised. "Sorry to intrude on the Gryffindor pity parade. Don't mind me — I was just hoping someone would give in and blow this miserable house up in their angst."

"Fuck off, Malfoy!" Ron spits.

Malfoy smirks. "I'd love to — but you know — stuck here and all."

The three of them watch as he saunters over to Remus's vacated spot and helps himself to the lukewarm mug of untouched tea. His nose scrunches up after the first sip, and as if sensing something offensive on his tongue, Hermione rushes out of the room so as to avoid being insulted for her tea-making skills. Ron glares at Malfoy, and after one withering moment he turns and directs the same look at Harry — and Harry nearly apologises — but it's too late, because then Ron follows after Hermione.

Harry feels deserted, but he probably deserves it. He won't let how much of a bastard he feels like sink in until much later, because right now he's too busy sighing and trying to ignore the expectant look Malfoy gives him.

Harry says "What?" at the same time Malfoy says "Potter," and then there is an awkward silence filled with unvoiced tension. The gap between them — the expanse of the kitchen — feels like the vast void of their differences, tormenting them, intertwining them both into this near unbearable, confusing thing called war.

Harry doesn't think he has the energy to argue, so he waits for Malfoy to continue. He's not disappointed, because then Malfoy says snidely, "I don't need your fucking sympathy."

Harry frowns, and looks over to where Malfoy is glowering at him from the table, acting as if he isn't in the house of the enemy, as if he's here by choice, and Harry is about to give in and sarcastically retort when something clicks in his mind.

"This isn't about sympathy, Malfoy — it's about standing up for the weak. You made your choices — you can live with them—" Harry hasn't finished talking before he hears a sudden whooshing sound, and sees Malfoy launch something towards him, his expression livid. Harry manages to duck right before the mug smashes into the cabinet behind his head, but his neck and shoulders still get bathed in tea.

"FUCK YOU, Potter!"

Harry has his wand out before he's aware he's moved his arm, the length of it aimed at Malfoy for a split second before he slams his target back into the wall, Malfoy's head cracking into the hard stone.

The kitchen door flies open and Ron rushes in, Hermione close behind him — sheltered by his broad chest. "What's going on!?"

Harry doesn't get time to answer, because then there is a low creak as the formally abused cabinet door edges open, and a house elf gingerly steps out, large ugly feet narrowly avoiding stepping on the shattered ceramic.

And then every other thought drops from Harry's mind as he feels Regulus's note in his pocket as if it weighs a hundred tons. Excitement floods into him and makes him utter, "Kreacher!"

Draco's skull aches. His vision is swimming. Merlin, he despises Potter and his childish reflexes, not that throwing a cup at him hadn't been childish, but — fuck. Draco thinks he might even have a broken vertebrae or two, but before he gets time to count the pains in his back Potter yells something, and Draco forces his eyes to stay open and watch as a filthy and hideous house elf bows down to the boy wonder.

"Master," it croaks, and Draco compares the sound to a bullfrog.

"I'm going to ask you something, Kreacher, and I order you to answer truthfully. Oh — and before we start, there is not to be any calling anybody 'mudblood,' or 'blood-traitor.' Got it?" Potter sounds breathless, and it pisses Draco off to no end, how he can be thrown to the side and so quickly ignored all for the sake of some creature. The elf grumbles, yet voices its compliance.

Potter pulls something from around his neck and rushes on, "Right — good. Kreacher, did you ever find something like this locket —"

"Harry!" Granger warns loudly, and Draco sees her cast a wary glance in his direction.

Potter looks up, startled, but then his face visibly pales as he eyes Draco, and after a grim nod in the Weasel's direction, the two of them walk with purpose towards him, grab his arms, and haul him out of the kitchen.

"Get your fucking hands off me!" Draco snarls, but when he spins around he finds he is growling at a firmly closed door, and by the deafening silence which greets him he presumes the bloody tossers have already cast silencing spells on it. Draco huffs, curls his fingers, and kicks the door — because dare he admit it, he is actually more than a little curious to find out what Potter is so eager about.

Defeated, with his vision still bleary from Potter's attack, Draco slumps down against the wall. He stays there — not because he wants to, but because he doesn't think he has the strength to move. As his head falls back and his eyelids close, Draco remembers — and before he can quieten his mind, settle his thoughts, his memories assault him.

Dark corridors, his feet are bare and cold, and in the air he can smell something sharp and coppery — like blood. Draco's stomach twists, but he moves on, his hand tight and sweaty around his wand.

The door to the dining room is ajar, and from it a sliver of orange light spills. Draco can hear voices, low, almost like hisses, and the hairs on the back of his neck rise.

He pushes open the door, its creak barely distinguishable, but Lucius Malfoy still turns from where he stands by the mantelpiece. His profile is thrown into an angled shadow across the polished floorboards. The fire is bright and crackling, but his father is alone in the room.

"What is it, Draco?" Lucius asks, his lips hardly moving. His hands are in his pockets, but somehow Draco knows they are trembling.

He struggles to find his voice — it is still thick from restless sleep, but eventually Draco whispers, "I heard — I heard something… a scream."

Lucius turns a little more, and Draco can't tell if it is just the light from the fire, or if his father's eyes are actually rimmed with red. The man's brow lifts in inquiry, and for a second it's like Draco is looking in a mirror, but then his father reminds him in a strained voice, "Frenrir is on duty in the dungeons this evening."

Draco swallows, and his heart beats faster — he can almost feel it move beneath his bed shirt. He shakes his head a fraction, jerkily, and it makes his neck twinge. "No — it was a woman. It sounded like —" Draco pauses, he can barely breathe, and he hates the way his father watches him so intensely. "It sounded like Mother."

Something in the line of Lucius's jaw pulses, and Draco's eyes flick down to the way his lips thin, up to the way his eyes waver, just for a second. "Your mother is upstairs. Asleep. Go back to bed, Draco," he says, and his voice is commanding and certain.

Draco doesn't know if he believes what he hears, but sometimes the lie is easier — safer, so he only nods, and then leaves the room.

Scattered fragments of memory, unwanted, hated — Draco slams his head against the wall, and it doesn't help at all. He squeezes his eyes closed, bites his tongue until he can taste blood.

Nothing helps.

The dining table seems so impossibly long — black and endless, and Draco uses every ounce of his strength to stop himself from looking at the head, where The Dark Lord sits — laughing, plotting, whispering to his snake. Draco feels ill, lightheaded. He tries to concentrate on the empty seat next to him, the seat where his Mother should be. But somehow, that's worse, and the candlesticks in front of him all blend into one as his vision blurs.


If Draco listens very carefully, sits very still, he can almost hear the faint humming of a voice from inside the kitchen — Potter's voice. Draco tries to focus on it, hone his hearing onto the way the deepness of it dips and rises — because if he does that then the harassment of his thoughts seems to fade.


"Where is she? What have you done to her!? WHERE IS SHE!? WHAT HAVE YOU DONE!? WHAT HAVE —" Draco's voice breaks into a sob, and Lucius pushes him off, throws him away from where he was indignantly clinging to his father's robes.

"Stop this! Stand up at once, Draco!" Lucius seethes, and Draco's nails break as they dig into the hard wooden floor, "If the Dark Lord sees your weakness—"

"I don't care — I don't give a fuck what he sees! Where's mother!? What have you —"

A pointed boot collides with Draco's jaw, and his teeth grind painfully over his tongue. Lucius steps back after kicking his son, and, straightening his cloak, he retreats. The shadows consume him, and Draco heaves, overwhelmed with a hate for his father that he has never been able to name until now.

Draco doesn't stand up — he doesn't care that if The Dark Lord sees him snivelling on the ground he will be killed — all he can think about is his Mother — gone, maybe dead, and there isn't a thing he can do about it.

Snape finds him on the floor — minutes, maybe hours later, and with a perfected facade of strength the Potion's Professor pulls him up, dusts him off, and Draco sees something in those black eyes, like a buried and controlled desperation — and in that moment the look they share confirms everything Draco has always suspected about the man's loyalties.

Potter sounds like he's yelling, and Draco thinks that maybe their silencing charm has worn off, unless the boy just gets brainlessly loud when he's too excited. It's a very strange notion, Potter's excitement, and Draco finds himself clinging to it, almost relishing it, for a very short second before he realises what he's doing, and then disgust surrounds him like a blanket.

Days trickle into weeks, and Draco's urge to make a decision weighs heavily in his mind. He clenches his teeth when he points his wand at Terry Boot in the cellar of his own home, and he looks away when bright splatters of scarlet fall across his shoes.

He thrashes around in his sleep, writhes and moans, and when he wakes he is always drenched with sweat.

He holds his breath when the Hogwart's muggle studies Professor is slaughtered right in front of him. And only when the room is cleared and he is the last one left, fingers curling around the edges of his chair, does he chance a look at her face, frozen in an expression of pure horror.

He barely escapes the room before he vomits.

Her pleading voice haunts him for days.

Some nights Draco sits at the end of his bed, hands shaking as he covers his ears, fingers quivering as he tears at his hair. His mind is dangerous, and he knows he must either risk escaping, or kill himself.

When his reflection gazes at him from the bathroom mirror, distorted and pale and hollow, he tries to decide whether using the knife he holds in his hands is an act of courage — or weakness.

But then he thinks about his Mother, and the knife clatters to the floor.

He approaches Snape with his request when the week dies out, and for the rest of Draco's life he will always wonder whether it was a tear he saw tracing down the Professor's sallow cheek.

Draco jumps awake — curses because he wasn't even aware he has been sleeping, and then scowls up at the towering figure of Potter, who is probably the one who kicked him awake.

"You can come in now. Kreacher's making stew."

Draco blinks up at him, suppresses a groan at the stiffness in his back, and then curls his lip, "Is that how this works, Potter? Throw me out, invite me back in again — like I'm some sort of grovelling dog!?" He stands, nearly sways on his feet, but steadies himself with a hand on the wall. Potter looks confused, so to make sure his point is conveyed, Draco bites out, "Get fucked."

Draco trudges off, trying to remain upright on his lead-like legs, and climbs the stairs until he reaches the top most landing. He mutters about irritating, stupid Gryffindors who think Draco will lower his standards enough to eat a meal at the same table as them, and despite the grumbling in his stomach, he shuts himself in a musty, feather littered room and collapses against the door.

Harry was surprised when he practically walked into Malfoy's outstretched legs upon exiting the kitchen. He'd been so ecstatic with the information they got from Kreacher, who now totters around the kitchen almost merrily, the fake locket swinging from his skinny neck as he prepares their meal, that he'd nearly forgotten all about Malfoy. Well, that's a lie, Malfoy has always been quite hard to forget, for whatever reason, but Harry expected to have to scour the house to find the blond bastard's sulking arse. Instead, he was right there, outside the door — eyes closed, sleeping, and Harry would think it a peaceful sleep if it weren't for the way Malfoy's fists clenched in his lap.

Harry jostled him with the toe of his shoe, nudging his leg, but when that didn't work he bent down and shook him by the shoulder.

Now, Harry stands mutely in the empty hallway, perplexed by Malfoy's parting words. Surely Malfoy doesn't think he has any right to listen in on their plans? Let alone get offended by it. Harry shrugs, figuring Malfoy can suit himself and go and chew on a rotten table leg or something, but then he freezes, remembering the thinness of Malfoy's wrists, the cheekbones which stick out far too prominently, the skinniness of the boy who used to be fit enough to rival Harry in his Quidditch skills.

"Harry?" Hermione calls from behind him. He can hear the sound of plates being set down on the table, and he turns just in time to see his friend wearily stepping from the kitchen. She looks at him inquisitively, but he only shakes his head.

"No luck."

He follows her inside, takes a seat opposite her, just as Ron grins and says, "The first proper meal we've had in days, and you wanted me to sit here and suffer Malfoy's sodding expression? Come on, the git's always looked like he's got a stick up his arse, even in the Great Hall, 'member? No food's good enough for him."

There's a scuffling noise, Ron yelps, and Harry thinks Hermione has probably kicked his shin beneath the table. Harry can feel the side glance she aims at him, and pretends to be occupied by an indent in the table.

Ron frowns, clears his throat, and says, "So, Umbridge, hey? Lousy toad. Got any ideas about getting into the Ministry?"

Hermione sighs and crosses her arms over her chest, just as Kreacher spoons healthy amounts of steaming stew onto their plates. "Thankyou, Kreacher," The elf looks troubled at being addressed by Hermione, but moves on to Harry with a slight bow, "It's going to take a lot of planning, and a lot of hard work — because we're definitely not rushing into this."

Harry and Ron share a look, and for a moment it's as if they're back in Hogwarts, listening to Hermione ramble on about exam preparations. But this is different. This is war. And they both remain silent as she continues.

"I think one of us should stay here throughout the day and keep an eye on — on Malfoy. Then another should keep watch in front of the Ministry entrance, see how things are done, and what we can get away with. Then whoever's left should go and do what they can — get food, try catch traces of gossip, like what You-Know-Who's up to, what the Order's doing — maybe even grab a copy of the Prophet."

"Sounds great," Ron mumbles over a mouthful of food, "but 'ow we meant to just walk 'round London wi'out bein' recognised?"

Hermione sighs and slaps his arm with her unused spoon, wordlessly telling him not to talk with his mouth full. Then she sits up a little straighter, and there's something devious in the way she smiles. "Well… I did manage to stash away quite a bit of Polyjuice potion when we moved Harry from Privet Drive."

Harry feels his face break into a smile as he appraises her. "Brilliant, Hermione!"

She beams at him, and they find themselves laughing and reminiscing on old times as they eat their stew, a beacon of hope finally shining brightly on their horizons.

It is only after they finish eating and Harry clears the dishes away when his eyes glance up to the ceiling, and once again he is reminded of Malfoy's situation. He looks down, something nagging in his gut, but then his eyes fall onto the pot of leftovers on the counter, and before Harry can talk himself out of it he is already grabbing a clean bowl.

Harry finds the only door that is locked from the inside, and knows that must be where Malfoy is hiding. He hesitates before he knocks, and when he gives in there is no reply. He is not surprised, so he simply leaves the bowl by the door, charming it so it'll stay warm. Then he joins Ron and Hermione in the drawing room.

They decide to sleep in shifts. Harry tries to convince himself this is because there are still Death Eater's waiting outside, and not because he is expecting an attack from Malfoy.

Harry takes first watch, taking his place in the window seat. The chilling air from the closeness of the glass keeps him awake, and after several minutes of staring out into the fog he jumps when he sees Hermione standing in front of him.

She hands him Malfoy's wand. "You should look after this. I think Remus made a mistake giving it to me." Hermione shuffles her feet, acting awkward, and Harry gives her a questioning look until she continues, "And I — well I find it a little, personal, is all — and I thought — oh, Harry just take it." She folds his fingers over the wood and returns to the couch, and when Harry is sure she is asleep he twirls the wand in his fingers, gazing at it in wonder — because Hermione is right, somehow, it's almost… intimate — holding another's wand and feeling the faint, vibrating tingles of magic which travel through Harry's skin upon contact. Then he remembers that this is Malfoy's wand, and he stows it hastily in his pocket.

But when his head starts to lull against the cool glass and the silence becomes too loud, Harry finds himself taking it out again, holding it, tracing over the notches in the handle, and appreciating the warmth which floods into his fingertips.

And he decides that not questioning his actions is definitely the safest option.

Chapter Text

"There's no way  Hermione  is staying back to watch Malfoy!"

Hermione throws her hands up exasperatedly, "Honestly, Ron — I can take care of myself!"

"Would you rather have her risking her neck right in front of the Ministry!? A place where muggleborns are being rounded up like cattle!" Harry hates arguing with his friends, and is thankful when Ron glowers at his feet, no doubt seeing Harry's point.

"Both of you are impossible! I know you're only looking out for me, but honestly — I'll be fine. I wouldn't have told Harry I was coming with him last year if I didn't know what I was getting myself into." Hermione looks between Harry and Ron, her eyes almost pleading, but her reasoning has done the total opposite of convincing Harry, because he is once again reminded of what he dragged his best friends into.

Ron shakes his head, "I'll go to the Ministry. Hermione can go and search for food — only if she wants too — she could just stay here with you Harry—"


Ron gives Hermione a sulky look, and Harry rubs a hand over the bridge of his nose. "Listen. Ron — 'Mione — I appreciate the thought, but honestly —"

"No, Harry, you listen. What do you think will happen if they catch you?"

"I'll be under polyjuice! I'll even bring the invisibility cloak —"

"It's still dangerous, mate," Ron intervenes.

"I am not going to sit around here and do nothing while you two go out there and — and —" Harry can't continue, because he doesn't even give himself the chance to fathom the idea of anything happening to the two people standing right in front of him — the two people who he has been through everything with for six years. The two people he loves more than anything.

Hermione sighs, frustrated, but understanding. "Harry — you won't be doing nothing, you'll be —"

"Babysitting a bastard. Right. Thanks for the reminder," Harry mutters bitterly. He scratches the back of his head, his gaze falling on the way Ron eyes Hermione with an anxious fondness like he'll do anything to stop her from going out alone, as if he'll throw himself in front of the enemy's wand just to protect her. The thought makes something twinge in Harry's chest, almost like envy, because as much as he adores his best friends, he wishes he had someone to look at the way Ron looks at Hermione — someone to save — someone who would give him more purpose in life than being a tool in a war. It's a subdued fantasy, one which Harry pushes down whenever it tries to surface — usually in the darkest hours of the night, when the condensation on the window pane and Ron's quiet snores are the only thing to keep him company.

He shakes his head, focuses, and grasps onto an idea which, even though he hates, he knows it will be the only way he can get Ron and Hermione to agree. "We take turns — like a roster. Today I'll go to the Ministry, Hermione will—" Hermione narrows her eyes at him, and it's one of her stares which tell him he's in trouble if he doesn't get his head screwed on straight right away and do the right thing, "— er — Hermione will go into London, do what she can, and Ron — well, sorry mate, but… You take the Ministry duty tomorrow, alright?"

Ron frowns and opens his mouth as if he's about to argue, but Hermione gets there first, "Or I can."

"Look, we'll sort that out tomorrow, for now let's just get a move on." Hermione nods enthusiastically and rushes upstairs to grab her charmed bag while Harry aims a guilty look at Ron. Hoping to make it up to him, Harry whispers quickly, "You have the Ministry watch tomorrow. Don't tell 'Mione."

Ron perks up, the corner of his lips lift and he thumps Harry on the back.

Somewhat relieved, Harry treads inconspicuously into the kitchen, mentally reassuring himself he's being completely rational. Worrying over their Slytherin Shut-in's eating habits, intending to take an unappetising bowl of porridge upstairs only to have it rejected like the cold, untouched stew Harry removed this morning — surely this is something any sane person would do, right?

One hundred and ninety-three, one hundred and ninety-four — there's a clumsy knock on the door, and from where he sits, Draco feels the reverberations of it travel down his spine. He growls, because this is the third time since last night, and the second since this morning (he presumes it's morning, but what with the lack of windows in the attic room, it's hard to tell) that his count of the cracks in the wallpaper has been disrupted.

Draco first heard the hesitant knocking last night, but refused to come out until he heard the sound of retreating footsteps, and after doing so he walked right into a fucking scorching hot bowl — the contents of which spilled all over his already battered shoes, and the china split and punctured holes in the soles. Draco cursed, slid back into his recluse, and hoped he'd left a mighty fine mess for Potter to clean up in the morning.

The second time was only hours ago, when Draco heard the floorboards right outside the door creak in protest — no doubt under the weight of Potter failing to keep his footsteps inaudible — if indeed, it was Potter who left the disturbing and unwanted peace offering of stew just beyond the threshold, and who came back to take it away at the crack of dawn.

Draco was plagued with an unsurprisingly sleepless night, filled with painful rumbles of hunger from his stomach and constant self reminders that he wouldn't have eaten anything Potter left out for him anyway — not unless he wanted to be poisoned and die a slow and excruciating death — besides, giving in is admitting defeat, admitting Potter won, and Draco would rather die of starvation before letting that happen.

Draco was mildly satisfied when he heard Potter creep up to the door earlier and mumble a few choice curse words at the mess he encountered, and Draco enjoyed a snicker before remembering he needed to start counting the cracks in the wallpaper all over again.

Now, Draco realises it's an utterly pointless activity, but it whiles away the hours, and after a third and hopefully final intervention Draco is ready to explode, because there is no way he is going back to the beginning. His frustration and hunger is an uncomfortable, heady combination, and for several seconds Draco gets great pleasure out of daydreaming about throwing open the door and kicking the bowl of whatever new concoction Potter has left him at the back of his unsuspecting black-haired head.

There's another knock, just as ungraceful as before, and Draco stills as he hears Potter's muffled whisper. "Malfoy?"

Draco grits his teeth and doesn't answer.

"Fine," Potter hisses through the wood, "Starve to death, you ungrateful bastard. Just know I won't be pulling your rotten carcass out when you expire!"

Draco smirks to himself, digs his fingers into his sides to ease his hunger pains, and mulls over the idea that he will at least die for a good cause — pissing Potter off— a cause which will hopefully induce Potter to follow him to an early grave.

The door bangs once, and Draco pulses forwards, knowing Potter leaves after taking his anger out on the structure, because Draco can no longer feel the discomforting presence of another person just beyond his awareness.

Draco is glad — even if his stomach thinks otherwise — that Potter is gone and has taken his food with him — but half an hour later when Draco is ready to implode with the need to use the bathroom, he gives in, tugs the door open and narrowly misses bathing his toes in steaming porridge.

And all he can do is stand there, gaping, his stomach roiling at the sight of the spilled food over his feet. He knows he wouldn't have eaten it even if he hadn't tipped it over — and he knows it isn't regret he feels over its wastage. But all he can do is stare, his brain sorting through endless possible reasons why Potter would still leave food for him after confessing his vehement indifference to Draco's probable starvation.

Draco comes up with nothing — he can't identify, can't fathom Potter's motives, and for some strange, intolerable reason, Draco is left speechless by his rival's actions.

Harry stops, balancing his weight from foot to foot, the invisibility cloak trailing over his arm. Hermione has already left, and now it is just him and Ron, and annoyingly enough Harry has found himself hesitating, procrastinating, until finally he turns around and says, "Don't do anything stupid."

Ron gives him a funny look and Harry sighs, because as much as he would rather be the one out there — in danger — he doesn't understand why he should feel responsible for what might happen to Malfoy. Also, he has a bad feeling brewing in his gut — about leaving Ron, hot-headed when provoked, alone with Malfoy. And the frightening thing is Harry doesn't know who he is more worried for — his friend or his enemy.

Harry musters up what positivity he has left. "See you later, mate," he slaps his hand over Ron's shoulder and then departs.

Draco takes advantage of the shower in the bathroom he found at the end of the hall. The house is quiet, and even though Draco knows that Potter and his mindless lackey's wouldn't leave him unattended, for his own sanity he pretends he is alone, that he is stepping into a luxurious spa in the Manor, and not the grimy slime that coats the tiles on the floor and makes Draco want to retch.

Still, he is pleasantly surprised that the bloody shit-hole of a place has running hot water, and the feel of it rushing over his body makes him groan. He can feel the caked dirt in the pores of his skin evaporate, can feel the unclean memory of weeks of unwashed limbs leave his body. There is no soap, no shampoo, and despite the hundreds of uncouth, snide remarks he thinks of in reference to Potter's lacking hospitality skills, Draco finds he doesn't care. Right now, the water is enough, and he thinks he might even leave the dark feathered room this afternoon in favour of pestering Potter for some hair care products.

Draco doesn't mind that his vanity is peaking through the cracks of his reforming humanity, his hair is something he didn't have the comfort of caring for in the months of living hell which the Manor brought him, so now he will cling to the small pleasures life can still offer him — like the knowledge of having smooth, shiny soft hair. Then again, Potter is probably the last person to own decent shampoo, what with being the unfortunate owner of a head of hair which looks as if it is the latest victim of a particularly electrifying bolt of lightning.

Draco snorts, before chastising himself, because he shouldn't be dwelling on any part of Potter's appearance even if it is an atrociously laughable thing like his hair.

He steps out of the shower — curses loudly — because fuck — he has forgotten about the existences of towels. The set of clothes he has worn since the day Madeye Moody lead a stream of Aurors into his house taunts him from where they lie strewn before him.

Draco sets his jaw, bites down on his tongue, and wonders if the night he threatened an unarmed man atop an Astronomy Tower was the turning point from which his life began to get truly and royally fucked.

The dank hallway is deserted — Draco doesn't know why he expected it to be otherwise — when he emerges from the bathroom, his tattered and rank sweater slung over his arm. If only he had his wand, he could perform some quick cleaning and repairing spells. Maybe if he bullies Granger enough she'll hand it over.

He's about to keep walking — he has plans of spending the day locked away, practicing wandless magic by levitating the long grey feathers upstairs (which seem awfully familiar — from where, Draco can't place) — but when he squares his shoulders and turns around, he drops his clothes in shock and lets out an undignified grunt which makes him scowl.

"What the hell do you think you're doing, Malfoy!?" Weasley fumes at him from the other end of the hall, his fist nearly white around the grip on his wand. He looks like an aggravated bull, nostrils flaring, his eyes wide, and Draco throws him one of the dirtiest looks he has at his disposal.

"What does it look like, Weaselbee? I'm standing in a hallway, trying to contemplate the obnoxious gargoyle blocking my way. So if you don't mind —"

"Yes, I fucking mind! Who are you to strut around here like you own the place? You filthy piece of Death Eater shit!" Weasley spits, appearing to be close to an aneurysm, and if Draco wasn't so pissed off, he might have laughed.

Before Draco can get out more than a derisive scoff, Weasley is charging towards him, and Draco can only retreat one, two steps before his bare back hits the wall. Weasley's hand flies up, falls back down upon realising there's no material to grab onto, but then jabs his wand into the indent between Draco's collarbones. Draco throws his head back, not because he is scared, but because he wants to get as far away from Weasley's heated, angry exhales as possible.

"Don't you think for one fucking second — that you belong! That you're free to just go about as you please. Because you're not! YOU'RE NOT!" Flecks of Weasley's spit land on his cheeks, and Draco's face twists in disgust.

"I'll go wherever I please," He hisses, "So get your filthy hands off of me you miserable fuck—"

Draco's teeth clack together, his skull cracks into the wall, and Weasley brings back his fist for another punch. This one collides with Draco's nose, and there is an unpleasant, sickening crunching noise that tells him its probably broken.

Blood, thick and tangy, drips down his chin, and when Draco growls he can feel it sliding over his lips. Draco raises a hand, tentatively wiping at his chin and watching as his fingers come away slicked with red.

Draco's livid eyes dart to the way Weasley takes a step back, his chest heaving, and because he knows his body is too weak to fight he uses the weapon of his poisonous words. "Upset, Weasel? Is it because you're all alone? Have Granger and Potter gone off someplace to shag?"

Draco knows he is asking for it, knows that he has nothing to say that can possibly make things any different — maybe that is why Draco speaks at all, because he knows Weasley has already snapped, and that he isn't going to leave Draco alone until his bones are broken and he can't stand. Maybe none of that matters, though, because the look of intense rage that possesses Weasley's face makes retaliating worth it, and Draco smirks when he sees that his words have hit something sensitive.

His breath leaves him in a painful rush when Weasley's fist lands into his gut, and Draco chokes over an inhale that won't come. Blood trickles into his mouth and he coughs and splutters, his hands coming up to hover over where it feels like he has been hit by a canon. Weasley doesn't let him regain composure, because the same pain washes over him, repeatedly, as Draco is assaulted by shouted insults and inept, continuous punches.

Weasley's yelling something, screaming, but Draco can't hear what, his head pounds and stings, and Weasley won't stop — won't stop attacking him — until Draco's vision goes fuzzy and he thinks he might pass out.

Harry chews on his lip, watching from around a corner of a building as Ministry workers stream into the underground bathroom. He knows from what Arthur Weasley told him, that this is the main employee entrance apart from the Floo Network, and Harry is unsurprised to see that so far there has been no sign of Umbridge.

He checks his watch, like he's been doing every ten minutes for the past two hours. There's something like a knot of anxiety in his gut, and Harry can't shake away the feeling that he has made a mistake leaving Ron behind with Malfoy.

Harry's thoughts snap to attention, however, when there is a sudden crack in the air right behind him, and when he swivels around he almost loses his grip on the invisibility cloak.

Harry balks — Kreacher has appeared, his face scrunched, yet unfazed by his apparent apparition. Harry doesn't give himself time to question how the elf knew where he was, because he slips the cloak from his face at the same time Kreacher croaks, "Master!"

"Kreacher — what's going on — why're you here?" Harry sounds breathless, and that feeling in his stomach has increased tenfold.

Kreacher wrings his hands, tugging on the grotty garb around his small body. "Master must come — Kreacher is warning Master Potter because the blood traitor is about to murder Kreacher's Mistress' nephew!"

"What—" Harry freezes. His blood runs cold, and then he moves. Disapparting back to the step outside of Number 12, Harry almost trips, cursing silently and desperately hoping the watching Death Eater's didn't catch a glimpse of his trainer.

He races inside, bolting through the entryway. He can hear Ron shouting something incoherent, thumps and bangs and scuffling, and without a second thought Harry rushes upstairs.

His heart thuds erratically in his chest as he comes to a stop upon seeing Ron practically bent over a half dressed Malfoy. Blood, bright and scarlet, is covering Malfoy's chest, and Harry can't tell who it has come from, yet he has a pretty good guess, because it coats Ron's knuckles as he throws punch after punch.

"Ron — hell — Ron! Stop it!" Harry's voice is tight and urgent, and he covers the distance between them in a single lunge. Acting quickly, knowing his friend is most likely inconsolable and unwilling to listen to reason, Harry shoves Ron aside.

Harry breathes heavily as he crouches in front of Malfoy, who is barely concious, his eyelids fluttering and his head lolling to the side. His hair hangs in clumps around his face, darker from the near-whiteness Harry is used to, moistened from drops of water which still cling to the side of Malfoy's neck.

Ron kneels on his hands and knees, taking deep and uneven gulps of air, as if he'll vomit, and for some reason Harry finds he doesn't care, because he is nearly overwhelmed with outrage and disappointment at what his friend has done. "Ron… what — what the hell — why…" Harry swallows, and when he lifts his hands towards Malfoy, to do something he doesn't know, he notices he's trembling slightly, and he retracts them with a shudder.

Harry looks over at Ron, who is slowly getting to his feet, his knuckles bruised and battered, covered in Malfoy's blood. And Harry feels sick — because even though this situation is very familiar, as though it happened only yesterday (it did — only instead Harry was the one in Ron's shoes) something inside of Harry squirms and falters, because no one is meant to bleed this much — and he can't handle the way the redness of it is smudges into Malfoy's skin, nearly hiding several raised, barely-healed scars across his chest.

But most of all, it is the fact that this is Malfoy bleeding, that unnerves Harry so much, because it brings him back to last year, to a day in a grey-lit bathroom where Harry had caused the scars he now can't look away from. He shakes and he swallows again, but all he can taste is bile. Harry draws his wand, trying to keep his arm steady, and mutters a few cleaning spells, because he can't handle looking at so much blood anymore — can't handle the guilt that tells him it's his fault.

"Why do you care?" Ron's voice startles him, and Harry twitches. "He deserved it."

"Ron —"

"Don't! Don't you start! You — yesterday you did the same thing! And now you're acting like I'm the one to blame!? What the fuck, Harry?"

"I know! I know that and I shouldn't have —"

"Shouldn't have what?" Ron asks sourly.

"I just — I dunno…"

"This is Malfoy!" Ron says it as though Harry has forgotten, and Harry doesn't understand, because he doesn't think it's possible to ever forget someone like Malfoy.

Harry clenches his jaw, all the things he wants to say failing to fall onto his tongue but tumbling around in his head. It's because this is Malfoy that it's wrong. It's because he's always such a snarky, infuriating sod who glares and scowls and snipes that it matters. It's because he has been fighting in the same war we have, but just on a different side, that it is important. It's because he won't admit that he has abandoned that side, even though I know he has, that we need to treat him better, why we need to make sure he eats. It's because he's been tortured and mistreated, by our own comrades, that we need to make sure he sees why the cause we're fighting for is the right one. But most of all it's because sometimes when I look at him, I catch traces of myself, traces which exist in the same light, but on an entirely different spectrum.

But Harry's words don't find him, and all he can breathe is a frustrated, "I know!"

Ron grumbles something Harry doesn't hear, and then ambles past where Harry still lingers in front of Malfoy, out of the corridor, and then the only thing Harry can hear is the faint heaviness of his friend's footfalls, and Malfoy's quiet, troubled exhales. Harry turns his attention fully on the boy in front of him, on the way Malfoy could be sleeping if it weren't for the mess beneath his nose. Before he knows what he's doing, Harry's healing the bruises, the split lip — the one still from yesterday — all the marring on Malfoy's face. He hesitates when he gets to Malfoy's nose, because, assuming it is broken, Harry is no Healer and has next to know experience with fixing major bodily damage. Maybe he can ask Hermione to help when she gets back, but by then Malfoy will be awake, and there is no guarantee that Hermione will want to waste her time helping the boy who has taunted her for six years.

Harry sighs, knits his brows together, and then flicks his wand, hoping for the best. There's a soft click, the sound of readjusting cartilage, and Harry thinks he has done alright.

He stands, his knees protesting from the change of position, and heads into the bathroom he presumes Malfoy probably vacated before Ron attacked him. It isn't the bathroom he, Ron and Hermione usually use, and it's entirely free of towels, which explains Malfoy's damp hair and the way there'd still been water droplets stuck to his body. Harry grimaces to himself, wondering why that thought makes him feel unnerved, and then remembers the fact that he came in here to find a washcloth for the traces of blood his magic couldn't remove.

Harry walks back to the bathroom door, intending to try the one downstairs where he knows towels are kept, but when he gets into the hall it's empty.

Malfoy is gone.

The Mudblood must be back, that's the only thing that can explain the high pitched, female shrieking from downstairs. Someone's yelling in return, Weasley, by the sounds of it, and Draco is glad, hoping the fucking ginger prat not only gets what he deserves, but for there to be some sort of rift built inbetween him and Granger.

Potter can't be heard — something which Draco tries not to dwell on — but the reason behind that abruptly becomes apparent when the door handle to Draco's self designated prison starts to rattle.

"Malfoy? Open the door!" Potter is impatient, but his voice is low. Draco doesn't reply. Instead he squeezes his eyes tightly closed, willing sleep to return. He'd surprisingly managed several hours after groggily escaping Potter's frighteningly unappreciated healing attempts in the corridor.

"Come on! Stop being such a coward and come out!"

Draco nearly growls, accepting the fact that any form of rest will be impossible while Potter continues to bang on the door. He wants to tell the boy to piss off, to leave him alone, but doing so will be like acknowledging how Potter tried to help him. And Draco doesn't even want to think about how he actually felt a little better after Potter had done whatever he'd done to the places where Weasley assaulted him. His gut and his midsection still aches, and he is paranoid that Potter performed a shoddy job on his nose — that it'll drop off at any moment, but apart from that his head feels lighter, as if a painful weight has been removed without Draco knowing.

And that's why Draco doesn't open the door, because he does not want to owe Harry Potter anything, and the possibility that he might already, nearly drives him insane.

"Bloody — shit —!" Harry jumps as he spells the light on, bumping his hip into the corner of something sharp — but the palpitations in his heart are from the way Draco Malfoy sits with his head bowed at the end of the kitchen table. He's pale, like a ghost, and Harry swears the edges of his body are blurred. Maybe he is a ghost — after finally starving to death — and that is why he's here in the kitchen, because the Malfoy Harry is acquainted with would surely spend far longer sulking in solitude.

Malfoy looks up slowly, as if his head is too heavy for his neck. "Sleep walking, Potter?"

Harry wipes the sweat from his forehead, shrugging casually, because admitting he was sleep walking in front of Malfoy is a lot less embarrassing than recalling his nightmare to his enemy's tired and white face. Besides, he is still trying to pretend he isn't affected by Malfoy's sudden presence, still trying to keep down the question which feels like lead in his throat; 'are you okay?'

"I don't usually swear in my sleep," Harry says, searching the cupboards. He avoids Kreacher's haunt, his nose scrunching involuntarily from the smell. He ends up finding a cloudy, chipped, glass, and his arms act on autopilot as he fills it with water, thinking he'll probably just go back to bed — go back to staring at the ceiling and willing sleep to come — willing away the tingles along his skin as the lifeless room of his deceased Godfather haunts him. Harry regrets not staying in the drawing room tonight with Ron and Hermione, but figured he'd give them privacy to make up after their heated argument from which Harry only narrowly escaped.

His night's plans are ruined, however, when Harry finds himself pulling out the chair two spaces away from Malfoy and sitting down. Malfoy leans back, surveying Harry like he's an untamed kneazle. Harry ignores his stare, clears his throat, and before he can stop himself he asks, "Couldn't sleep. You?"

Harry feels a little nervous, because the line across Malfoy's nose has deepened, and Harry figures he's about to be verbally abused for being nosy, but then Malfoy huffs, and the dejected action sends tufts of his fringe dancing across his forehead. Harry is unsettled when he finds himself watching those near-white strands, and hastily begins to study the grain of the table. Thankfully, Malfoy doesn't comment if he notices Harry's staring, and his voice is low when he says. "Sleeping is for the weak, Potter."

Harry snorts, eyeing Malfoy skeptically, trying to guess if he's joking or not. He has probably spent too long looking puzzled, however, because Malfoy says, "don't hurt yourself."

Harry only becomes more suspicious, because Malfoy is the last person who would care about Harry hurting himself. But then Malfoy gives a frustrated sigh, "I haven't slept properly for months. What d'you expect when you have a raving, murdering lunatic living in your house?"

Harry's breath catches. He stares. Malfoy doesn't look at him, as if he isn't aware of what he just said — as if he hasn't just indirectly confessed to Harry what he thinks about the dictator everyone had supposed he worshiped.

"Right," Harry replies thickly. He goes back to steadfastly observing an indent in the table, refusing to glance up because he can feel Malfoy's grey eyes boring into him.

"Before — why didn't you just let Weasley finish me off?"

The question comes out of the blue, and Harry's hand tightens around his glass. Something hard wedges itself in his throat, and irritation makes his fingers twitch.

"What? Is that really what you think, Malfoy? That I'd just stand to the side while someone gets killed? You reckon that's fun? Sorry to disappoint you, but I'm not one for watching my best mate throttle someone to death right in front of me — even if that someone is a fucking slimy git like you."

Malfoy growls, "Pulling the hero act then, Potter? When are you going to get it through your stupid fucking head that I don't want your sympathy — your pity — none of it! Next time — next time let him finish it!"

Harry glares, noting the way Malfoy is practically panting, his teeth bared. "There won't be a next time! I won't let —"

"Potter the fucking saviour! Always inserting his nose where it doesn't belong! In the future — leave me the fuck alone! I don't — need — your — HELP!"

Harry flinches at the shout, but doesn't waver as he replies, "If that were the case you wouldn't be here!"

"I didn't come here for your help! I didn't want anybody's help! I only wanted —" Malfoy cuts off hoarsely.

Harry scowls, but his voice is softer when he asks, "What? What did you want, Malfoy?"

Malfoy takes an uneven breath, clenches his teeth, and his eyes are like burning ice as he spits, "Nothing! Fucking nothing!"

"Liar," Harry states simply.

"Piss off."

"Tell me the truth."

"Shut up —"

"Stop lying, Malfoy. Why're —"

"—fucking Gryff—"

"—you here? What's —"

"—as if I'd fucking tell —"

"—in it for you?"

"—you bloody nosy shit—"

"—why did you defect?"

"I fucking hate you."

Harry pauses, trying to identify the sudden, strong feeling in his chest — almost like… hurt? The air is stagnant in its silence until Harry manages, "The feeling's mutual." Then he gets up, rinses his glass, biting down on the unsavoury taste in his mouth.

He can't bear to stay another moment in the same room as Malfoy, and his hand is on the door knob when Malfoy hesitantly says "Potter —" but Harry doesn't stay to listen, he only flinches when the door slams shut behind him.

He goes back to Sirius's room.

He doesn't sleep at all.

Chapter Text

Draco Malfoy hates Harry Potter, and he is more than certain that Harry Potter hates him too. They told eachother after the argument in the kitchen, that their hate is mutual — that's how it's always been, and for that to suddenly change would be to throw every solid fact Draco's spent his life holding onto, into oblivion.

Maybe oblivion is something Draco's scared of, a foreboding cloud hidden in the untouched crevices of his mind, but fear is an emotion he's always liked to pretend is nonexistent. So instead he holds onto the notion that Potter must hate him, that Potter needs to be able to hate him as much as Draco hates Potter — because that's normal, that's what everyone expects.

Yes, Harry Potter hates Draco Malfoy, so why, then, does he insist on leaving warm meals outside of Draco's door, even when they both know that Draco won't eat them? Why does Potter care about the welfare of someone he knows despises his very existence? Why, the following morning, next to a suspiciously charred plate of pancakes, does Draco find a creased paper bag, filled with clothes? New clothes. Clothes that, when Draco takes them out and critically inspects them, appear to be his size, give or take a few inches? They're ridiculous, bizarre muggle clothes that Draco's never worn before, has never contemplated wearing before — but they are still clothes — and the gesture makes something inside of Draco's chest twinge unexpectedly.

His own clothes are caked with dust and dirt, his shirt is torn and stinks of sweat, and despite the fact that, more than anything, Draco wants to incinerate the bag of garments Potter's left him, he knows that doing so would only make him out to be a foolish, masochistic martyr. And being a martyr is what Potter does best, so Draco will do what it takes to avoid having the title associated with himself. He tells himself this as he shrugs out of the old, bloodied material, discards it into the corner of the room, and pulls on a black knit sweater, too long in the sleeves but pretty decent around the middle. Draco tosses up between completely ignoring the deed which Potter probably thought of as kindness (because there is no way in hell Draco is going to thank him) and openly acknowledging the way the sweater doesn't fit him properly, and ridiculing Potter for it.

But then he freezes, his mind reeling, because he is suddenly creeped out by the fact that Potter had to have had some sort of idea about Draco's measurements beforehand. He scowls at his arms, but the material is warm and soft, so Draco chews down on his lip and shoves the uncomfortable thought away.

What Draco next pulls out of the bag makes him think he will go with the second option of tormenting Potter about his misinformed choices after all, because the pair of pants he holds in his hands are a pair of those fuggly, uncomfortable looking, grey muggle denims. Draco doesn't know what they're called, nor does he want to, he just knows that Potter always wears them, and that is a good enough reason for Draco to decide he loathes them. He mourns the loss of his trousers as he disdainfully tugs on the denims, but a small, distant thought reminds him that at least Potter hadn't bought him underwear. God, that will be the day when Draco Malfoy concludes that existing has become too painful.

Draco's gotten to the point where he hardly feels his hunger anymore. The last meal he ate was probably whatever disgusting gruel the Auror's had threatened him with, and that was nearly four days ago. So when he steps out of the attic room, and sees the breakfast Potter's left him is a muffin, Draco's gaze goes from irritated to longing. He tries to block out the memory from three years ago, before the Manor had been taken from them, back to when Home was still a Home. His mother used to make muffins sometimes, because she knew they were her son's favourite, and she wouldn't trust the house elves with it.

Draco swallows, and suddenly he doesn't feel hungry any more. He heads downstairs, seeking out Potter, because an argument is what he needs right now, a distraction, and he won't stop until he gets one.

He shoulders open the door to what he remembers to be the drawing room, the room where, two days ago, he'd failed to lie to Harry Potter.

He's got his first insult prepared on his tongue, and his fists are clenched and ready to fight, but as he barges into the room, Potter isn't there. Instead, Granger sits on the couch by the fire, her knees drawn up and her nose buried in a book. She jumps when he comes in, and the heavy tome thuds to the floor, pulling a stuttered curse word from her lips which Draco feels somewhat honoured to have heard. She looks up at him, her eyes wide but her brows furrowed, and Draco doesn't miss the way her hand hovers above her hip, where her wand must be.

He glares, his plans ruined, as it hasn't dawned on him yet that maybe the Mudblood will be equally fun to taunt as her scar-headed friend.

Before Draco can say anything, though, Granger says harshly, "Harry isn't here."

"Really, Granger? There I was thinking he was that awful brown stain on the carpet. I'm not fucking blind."

The Mudblood huffs, but obviously she decides ignoring Draco is her best option, because she doesn't reply, and simply picks up the book she dropped. Draco detests it when people pretend he isn't there. He crosses his arms and swaggers forward, figuring he'll make the best of Granger's non-compliance.

"What are you reading? '101 ways to tame a dysfunctional, trollish Weasel?'" No response. "Or is it, 'ten remedies for the seemingly incurable Saint Potter?'" Her finger twitches over the page. Draco smirks. His smugness immediately turns into annoyance a few seconds later, when she still doesn't rise to his challenge — not like Potter does, not like Potter always does. He suppresses a growl and tries a different tactic, "what made you think I was looking for Potter?"

Surprisingly, Granger slams her book closed and looks up, straight into Draco's eyes. He frowns, unnerved, as she says, "Well, I doubt you came down here to talk to me. Besides, I heard you two talking in the kitchen last night." She still manages to sound haughty, like she's talking down to him, and it makes Draco grit his teeth.

"What the fuck's that supposed to mean?"

Granger shrugs, but then her gaze tracks down his body and she grimaces. "Harry's worried about you. And you do look a few days away from death."

"So? What is it with you fucking Gryffindors —"

"It doesn't make you any less of a person, you know, accepting help. If anything it takes strength. And in your case —"

"Shut up! What the fuck do you know!?

Her voice turns shrill, "I know that Harry is troubled! And I know that you're part of his — part of our problem!"

"I didn't fucking ask for this, Granger! In case you hadn't noticed, I'm just as troubled by all this shit as your precious Potter —"

"Then for god's sake, eat something!"

"I — what?"

"If you don't eat something, Malfoy, you're going to die! And for whatever reason Harry feels like it's his fault!"

"Why the fuck does he care!? Why does he need to be such a bloody nosy shit about everything?! Why can't he just let me die!?" Draco's voice has become slightly raw, and Granger is staring at him strangely.

"Because! Because he's Harry Potter! And the sooner that sinks in, the better. Haven't you realised, Malfoy, that after six whole years of tormenting Harry, he still cares whether you live or die!"

Draco doesn't say anything, his jaw feels like it's been glued together, and his heart feels like it's caught in his throat. Draco is engulfed by anger, confusion, and all he knows is that he doesn't give a fuck about Potter, about what he thinks or does — he knows this almost as much as he knows he doesn't want to give a fuck, but does.

Yet why is it that the fact Potter cares about what happens to Draco because of who he is — Harry Potter, with a hero complex big enough to rival his death wish, makes Draco angrier than if Potter worried over him as a stranger, as a boy who hadn't watched Draco grow into the person he is today?

"Why are you telling me this?" Draco hisses, clinging onto the last shreds of his apathy.

Granger narrows her eyes, and for a moment Draco is reminded of when his mother used to glare at the children who picked on him, at the children she didn't know he bullied in return. "Because you should stop being so difficult! Because I can guarantee you that Harry is more stubborn than you are, and he won't stop leaving you food! And quite frankly, it's selfish of you to waste food like that. Just think about all the children out there who —"

"Oh, don't bore me with your self-righteous bullshit, Granger. Do you think I give a fuck? Do you think I care about children I don't even know, or about Potter's fucking arrogance?"

"I think if you tried — yes, you could!"

"What the hell are you saying?" Draco snarls, his teeth bared, his nails biting into his palms.

"I'm saying, everybody has a choice, Malfoy! And it's never too late! Never too late to —"

"To what!?" He shouts, "Come over to 'the light side!?' Join you and your filthy fucking friends?"

"No —"

"Prance around with a bloody flock of Gryffindors and pretend that everything's okay!?"

"To do what's right!"

Granger's voice rings through Draco's ears, and he sways on his feet. Draco exhales shakily, frowns so hard his head hurts, but the Mudblood isn't going to say anything else. She looks proud, as though she's preached her fill, her hands folded stiffly in her lap, and Draco has never felt so speechless in the face of an argument before, so restless with his anger, so helpless — because if he had his wand, he'd be destroying something right now.

But he is wandless, burdened, trapped — and all he can do is turn on his feet and stalk out of the room.

When Harry walks into the kitchen that afternoon, tired and sore from constantly standing up all day, Hermione greets him with a smile that tells him she's pleased with herself.

"What?" He asks quickly, expecting she's made a discovery about the horcruxes.

"Oh, nothing," she replies, shrugging and turning her back towards him as she puts the kettle on. Asking Kreacher to make tea is something Hermione refuses to do, and Harry doesn't know if it's because Kreacher will simply laugh scornfully at her, or if it has something to do with her lately-forgotten S.P.E.W ordeal.

"Hermione?" Harry prompts, somewhat suspiciously.

"Ron not back yet?"

"No, he's—"

She swivels around, her eyes bright. "I think I've made a little breakthrough with Malfoy."

"You — What?"

"He came down to the drawing room earlier — looking for you, obviously — oh and you'll be glad to know he's wearing those clothes you left him — don't look at me like that, Harry, I'm not stupid, I know it was you — Ron won't be pleased, you know—"


"Oh — sorry — right — well we talked about a few things I suppose. At first he was just trying to get a rise out of me, and I honestly think he was quite disappointed that it was me and not you —"

"Talk? What'd you say to him?" Harry's brow raises suspiciously, because yesterday he left one of his best friends with Malfoy and they almost killed him, and today the other one is telling him they just talked?

"Not much," Hermione shrugs again and goes back to making the tea.

Harry frowns. "'Mione —"

"Well, we didn't really talk. It was more of an argument, really."

Harry releases a breath, not knowing if it is due to understanding, or something more like envy? It doesn't make sense, but Harry puts down the only possible cause of his jealousy to the fact that Hermione might have gotten Malfoy to talk before Harry had. The fact that they argued instead comes as a relief Harry chooses to ignore. "About what?"

"Oh, this and that, the usual." Hermione is trying to brush him off, and Harry can only detect it because he's spent so many years being privy to his friend's habits. As if she can feel him staring, she looks over her shoulder and grimaces until his gaze of disapproval turns into one of frustration. No doubt aiming for nonchalance, she simply says, "I told him you were worried about him," but her voice is strained, guilty.

"You — what!? Worried? Me? About him?" Harry all but yells. He has feared this may be the case, that what he does feel is in fact worry. But to hear someone else clarify his feelings is disconcerting.

"Harry — calm down. Look, I thought by doing so it might actually get him to eat something—"

"Seriously? You really don't know Malfoy at all then, do you? 'Cause now he has good reason to starve himself, in fact —"

"What would you have me do then, Harry!? What will the Order say if they find out we've starved Draco Malfoy!?"

"To be quite honest, I really don't think they'd care."

"Exactly — but you care!"

"I — what!? No — no I don't —"

"Oh, Harry, you're far too kind for your own good."

"I can't believe you — I can't get why — never mind — why are we talking about this!?" Harry throws his hands up, desperate to escape the room, desperate to not think about the way his skin feels hot and prickly.

Hermione's voice stops him just as he reaches the door, "Tomorrow I'm going to the Ministry. You can do what ever you want and stay here. But trust me when I say something's going to give. Things can't stay this way forever, Harry."

Something in her words give him pause, and he spins to face her. "What d'you mean?"

Hermione sighs, her arms cross over her chest, and as she studies him her expression turns into one of concern. "We won't be able to stay here forever, Harry," She takes a weary inhale, "and when the time comes for us to leave, you need to decide what'll happen to Malfoy."

Harry feels as if he's been doused in cold water, because even though he knows Hermione speaks the blatant truth, he's never stopped to consider where Malfoy fits in with everything. He swallows, before saying angrily, "Remus will be back — he'll take him."

Hermione's honey-coloured eyes simmer as she looks at him sadly. "I don't think Remus is coming back, Harry, you —"

"We'll think of something," Harry grits out. He's about to leave the kitchen, needing to be alone to think, when something Hermione said flits to the forefront of his mind. "Before — you said — why'd you say Malfoy was looking for me?"

Harry hates the way Hermione can probably see past his attempted neutrality, and after a hesitant look of confusion she says, "Because he was."

Harry rolls his eyes, "I doubt —"

"It's funny — Malfoy asked something very similar."

Harry doesn't stay to figure out what she means, his head is too full for cryptic things or for Malfoy's unwarranted behaviour— Malfoy who is like the biggest fucking cryptic puzzle that ever was.

He takes the stairs two at a time and stops to glare lengthily at the attic door, willing for his heated gaze to be enough to reduce the hidden occupant within to a pile of ashes.

Then he shuts himself in Sirius's room and spends hours fuming over the pathetic articles in 'the Daily Prophet,' which he'd nicked from a rubbish bin that morning in Diagon Alley.

His head throbs, and after balling up the newspaper and setting it alight he grudgingly admits that, rather than the revolting heap of deceit and lies he just read, perhaps thinking about Malfoy is a lot easier.

Draco must have lost his mind — that must be it, right? He's lost his fucking mind — because no sane person sits with their ear pressed to the door, waiting, listening for the moment when their most hated enemy comes up to bring them food. Right?

He's given up on his feeble attempts at wandlessly levitating feathers, and instead he goes from crouching at the door to lying on his back in the middle of the room, pretending the cracks in the ceiling are fractures in Granger's skull. The Mudblood deserves it, deserves a broken head for what she said to him, for her filthy, unwanted words which have snuck their way into Draco's mind and won't leave him the fuck alone. But for some reason, that's not enough, she isn't a good enough outlet for his hate, so he starts to imagine the fissures forming in Potter's head, and oh yes, that is much more satisfying.

There's a bang on the door, the rattling of the handle, and Draco bolts upright, his neck spasming with the way he turns his head so quickly.

Finally, Potter is here. Finally Draco can cure his boredom, can vent his rage onto someone who's earned it.

"Malfoy, if you don't open the door —"

"You're a fucking wizard, aren't you Potter!? If you want to see me so badly, blow the bloody thing up!" Draco smirks to himself, because he's been dying for this moment nearly all day, dying to torment Potter. He stands up, ready to walk to the door and open it to see Potter's hilariously enraged and stunned face.

But before he even manages to reach his arm out, Draco is blasted backwards into a heap of debris and singed wooden chips, and it takes him several moments of coughing the dust out of his lungs to realise that Potter's taken his advice, and has blown the door up.

Draco forces himself to stand, raising his head, his perfected scowl in place as he glares at Potter huffing in the doorway. Potter has his wand in one hand, barely lowered from his attack, and something round and green in the other — but before Draco can get a better look Potter is charging at him, his face full of a frightening determination, and Draco trips over a piece of door, falls to the floor, and only just has time to shove his knee into Potter's legs before the other boy falls with him.

"What the fuck are you doing —"

Draco's eyes widen, he tries to crawl backwards, but it's useless — he is stuck between what used to be a door and the scary, unknown intent etched across Potter's features. Then Potter lowers himself, thuds to his knees, and shoves whatever he was holding into Draco's chest.

Draco looks down in astonishment, looks down at a shining and mouth watering green apple, but then his eyes dart back up to Potter, who looks positively livid as he frowns and seethes, "Eat the fucking apple, Malfoy."

Draco feels like he can't move, but his fingers curl unwillingly around the piece of fruit, and his teeth gnash against eachother as he tries to come up with some pointless, witty retort. But he can't, because this whole situation is just so bloody bizarre that he can barely function, and before Draco gets the chance to resort to a derogatory insult, Potter is already standing and storming towards the empty door frame.

Draco does the first thing he can think of, the only thing that seems appropriate after his loss of words — he pulls back his arm, secures his hold on the apple, and with surprisingly accurate aim, launches it straight into the back of Potter's head.

Draco breathlessly watches with contained amusement as Potter freezes, as his shoulders stiffen into a rigid line. Then he turns, oh so slowly, and Draco doesn't know whether to laugh or retreat, but when his eyes land on Potter's reddened, enraged face, the first snort of humour escapes him.

Potter looks as though he's about to jump on him, about to bash Draco's face into the wall, but as soon as Draco laughs, as soon as that foreign sound erupts from his windpipe, Potter's eyes widen, and he visibly falters.

And Draco just laughs. It's strange and uncontrolled and it hurts his throat, and he thinks that he probably hasn't laughed like this for years — but Potter's expression, the way the apple practically crunched and splattered upon impact, is somehow more entertaining than any argument with Potter could have possibly been.

Draco's laughter starts to wither away when he remembers the events of the other day, when Potter was the one laughing, and Draco was the one discomfortingly bemused, but now their roles have reversed, and for some reason Draco doesn't think he will ever be able to get the vision of Potter's apple juice soaked hair out of his head.

Draco tries to catch his breath, because the feeling of laughter makes the pains of hunger increase in his stomach, and as soon as he manages to succeed in rubbing the water out of his eyes and finally looks up, Potter's gone.

Draco is alone with the half battered piece of fruit, and before he gives himself time to question what he's about to do, he picks it up and takes a bite.

And it's the best goddamn apple he's ever had.

"Fix my door, Potter."

"You're door? Didn't know any part of this house belonged to you, Malfoy."

A growl.

"Are you just going to stand there?"

"Yes. Until you get off your lazy arse and go fix it."

"Sorry. Don't feel like it. Now go some place else to sulk."

"I do not sulk!"


"You're a fucking prat, did you know that, Potter?"



"Piss off, Malfoy."

"I will as soon as I have a private room to piss off to."

"Right. Like there aren't already dozens of spare rooms in this house. I guess I shouldn't be so surprised that Malfoy's prefer the doom and gloom of an attic to brood in."

"I do not brood!"

"You're brooding right now! You look like a steam engine that's about to derail!"

"And you look like a fucking ugly sod that's just realised it's a shit!"

A snort.

"Don't you dare laugh—"

"You're funny, Malfoy."

A snarl. "What the fuck is that, anyway?"

"What's what?"

"That — that scribbly piece of parchment."

"Nothing —"

"Oh, now I'm curious. Let me see."

"Get fucked, Malfoy, as if I'd show you—"

"I'll hit you—"

"I'll hex you —"

"Bloody Potter and his bloody parchment!"

"If you leave me alone I'll mend your door."

A scowl. A silence too long to be anything other than consideration.


"Good. Malfoy, wait —"

"What now?"

"Dinner's in ten."

A pause.

"And? Why the fuck should I care?"

"And, I'll see you down there."

"Don't hold your breath."

"Wasn't planning on it. No dinner, no door."

"Fucking Potter!"

A smile.

Harry laughs at the inappropriate joke Ron's just told him, about broomsticks and dark, hidden places, while Hermione rolls her eyes and pretends she isn't amused. None of them expect the door to bang open, none of them besides Harry, whose hope was only a small, half kindled sort of thing, so when Malfoy saunters into the kitchen, Ron and Hermione both freeze.

No one says anything, unexpected shock is thick in the air, and from where Harry leans against the bench, he musters up the courage he is known for, and says nonchalantly, "Finally come out, have you?"

Malfoy's glare immediately lands on him, and with a twist to his upper lip he replies, "No, Potter. I'm just a projection of your dim, pitiful imagination."

Ron's hands have tightened around the stack of plates he's holding, and Harry briefly has time to note they'll need a fourth, before he realises his friend is two seconds away from ruining everything and rushes out, "Malfoy's joining us for dinner."

Hermione recovers quite quickly, and brushes a hand over the front of her cardigan, sending a warning look in Ron's direction. Then she clears her throat and addresses the room, "Well, it's about time."

Malfoy throws her a particularly unpleasant look, as if the entire thing is her fault, and Harry has a strange, almost comical feeling that it probably is.

Ron still looks a little green, and Harry nudges him with his elbow as he stretches past him to add a fourth plate to the stack. "Yeah, 'bout time," Harry agrees, rubbing his hands together for something to do, "We thought you'd died up there."

Hermione's lips twitch in response, but no one laughs, and Harry begins to question whether this has been a good idea or not, but then Kreacher sets down a gloriously golden roast chicken, surrounded by copious amounts of boiled potatoes. Harry's mouth waters, but he doesn't get his hopes up, because although Kreacher's cooking has improved vastly within the last few days, it's still a hit and miss, and some things which look delicious tend to be foul, like this morning's muffin, while others appear burnt and appetising, like the pancakes, but turn out quite tasty.

As Kreacher places down a huge bowl of peas and a saucer of gravy next to the platter, Harry's eyes flick to Malfoy, and something inside him feels quite smug to see the blond practically leering at the meal before him. Harry wonders if Malfoy ended up eating the apple he'd thrown at Harry's head, but the stinging lump it left in its absence is enough to dissuade Harry's thoughts. He didn't trust pointing his wand somewhere he couldn't see, nor did he want to ask Hermione for her help, because that would involve an embarrassing explanation, so Harry's done his best to just ignore it. Almost as much as he's tried to ignore the memory of Malfoy laughing — of that carefree, full-faced grin which Harry's decided suits Malfoy more than any other expression he's seen on him.

Harry shakes his head, forbidding that thought to enter his mind ever again, and then tries to school his expression when he notices Hermione watching him. He takes a seat opposite his friends, and after dully thanking Kreacher he begins to load his plate. But he can't help being aware, like he's attuned to every one of Malfoy's movements, of what the other boy's doing. Eventually, as if fighting the urge to storm out of the room, Malfoy contemptuously collapses into the chair at the end of the table, as though wanting to be as far away from them as possible, and leans forward to help himself to large portions of everything in front of him.

The first five minutes pass in silence, apart from the soft sounds of chewing, and Harry doesn't miss the way Ron hardly touches his food, as if he's about to be sick at any moment.

The stillness is broken when Malfoy scratches his knife sharply across the surface of his plate, and then says rather provokingly, "Pass the salt, Weasley."

Harry's fork halts on the way to his mouth, and when he looks over at Ron, who hasn't stopped glowering at the table, his friend's fists have tightened around his cutlery, and there's a bulging muscle along his jaw.

Ron is sitting the closest to Malfoy, but he doesn't respond, acts as though he hasn't heard anything, and robotically lifts a piece of chicken up to his mouth. Hermione elbows the salt shaker closer to Ron, and Harry hears the tell-tale sound of her kicking him beneath the table.

Harry swallows whatever he's been chewing nervously for the past minute, and is about to throw the salt at Malfoy himself, if only to stop anything from escalating, when Malfoy's derisive sneer cuts across the table, "What? Is your brain as small as this pea, Weasel? Pass the fucking salt!"

And Ron stands so quickly that the table is shoved forward and several glasses topple over and smash. His face contorts into a mask of rage, red and incensed, and Harry is going to stand too, to take out his wand and stop whatever is about to start, but then his friend throws him a look so sour Harry is taken aback, because it's almost like Ron is more mad at him, than he is at Malfoy.

Before Harry has time to say anything, Ron is already trudging out of the room, his arms shaking at his sides, and Harry can only stare as Hermione sighs disapprovingly and slides the salt down towards Malfoy. He doesn't thank her, and shortly after Hermione vanishes the scraps on her plate and goes off to follow Ron, casting a very sullen look at Malfoy as she passes.

It's only him and Harry left, and after several moments of watching Malfoy pompously shove his face like a king, Harry slams his cutlery down. "You're a right bastard, you know that?"

Malfoy scoffs after a mouthful, and gently places his knife and fork parallel to eachother, as though finishing one's meal is a practiced art form. "As far as I'm concerned, Potter, I did nothing wrong. If Weasley'd only passed the salt —"

"Maybe if you hadn't insulted him!"

"Desperate times call for desperate measures, surely you of all people know that, Potter."

"If you'd asked nicely, then he would've —"

"I'm positive no amount of niceties could ever persuade Weasley into being a civil —"

"Well how the hell are you s'posed to know when you don't even bloody well try!?"

Malfoy's expression turns dark, and his grey eyes narrow. "Try? Is that what everything's always about with you fucking Gryffindors? Trying?"

Harry doesn't understand what he means, but he suspects it has something to do with what Hermione argued with Malfoy over earlier. "Yes. Trying. Not that you'd know much about that, would you Malfoy? Always giving up before starting — like a bloody coward!" Harry swallows his yell as he is suddenly bombarded with hundreds of tiny green balls — Malfoy has gotten to his feet and upturned the bowl of peas over Harry's head. "What the fuck is it with you and throwing things at me!?"

Malfoy bares his teeth, growling, and spits, "I expect to see a new door upstairs within five fucking minutes, Potter. Got it?"

Harry laughs bitterly as he vanishes the spilt peas, brushing off his jacket where some might have gotten caught, and then picks up the bowl. "Deal's off, Malfoy. I'll give you your door, after you learn some manners. Now unless you're going to help me clean up, you can piss the fuck off."

Malfoy glares daggers into Harry from the doorway, his frown so deep it makes Harry mourn the memory of his smile.

And as Harry goes about cleaning, he wonders what possessed him while he decided to make deals with Draco Malfoy, and when he started to think putting that smile back in place might be a good thing.

Chapter Text

"Are we going to talk about this?" Ron asks sulkily from where he slumps on the floor with his back pressed against the couch.

Harry casts him a puzzled glance over his shoulder, "Talk about what?" He would rather not talk about anything right now, because he's been looking for the Marauder's Map since he'd finished cleaning up after dinner, and he doesn't dare ask the others if they've seen it — because Hermione's exasperated expression is already perfectly clear in the forefront of his mind, and he'd rather not mention it at all. Besides, he has a rather good guess about where it might be, and it makes his stomach sink into a pit of woe.

"Talk about the fact that Draco fucking Malfoy ate dinner with us, and nobody seemed to care? Are you both mental?"

Hermione sighs, rearranging her blankets over the couch. "I'll take first watch, Harry."

"What — no, it's fine — I will, I just need to find… something," He searches through his rucksack for what must be the twentieth time, and even though the act is mostly for show, he's still disappointed when his hands return empty.

Ron grumbles at being ignored, and his irritation causes several sparks to issue from the end of his wand.

"Ronald! What on earth are you doing? You nearly set the blanket on fire!" Hermione chastises, scowling and rubbing where the material became singed, before giving Harry a worried glare, "You haven't lost… it, have you?"

Harry frowns, "It?" Realisation hits him and he supposes Hermione must mean Malfoy's wand, "Oh — no." How could he lose something he scrutinises so often? Something that has become a regular part of his sleepless nights? "No. Er — it's nothing. Forget it. Anyway, I'll just — er — g'night—"

"Harry, you do know there's no reason for you to have to leave the room every night?"

Harry shuffles on his feet, thankful Hermione didn't pry, but now feeling quite awkward under an incredulous stare from Ron which seems to say, 'yes, you have every reason to leave the room every night.'

"It's fine, really, 'sides, Sirius's—"

"Sirius's room can't be good for you, Harry. It's so —" She breaks off and looks bashfully down at her hands. Ron, who Harry assumes is close to breaking point, begins to beat his pillow into submission before throwing his head down onto it as though he's attempting to murder whatever plucked bird has already died to create it. Harry grimaces, not only because he feels like he owes his friend an explanation, but because he suspects Hermione had been going to say the word 'lonely.' And the weirdest part about it all is that Harry countered the statement in his head with, 'I'm not lonely at night, not since you gave me Malfoy's wand,' and that sentence just sounds so bizarre and abnormal that Harry feels sort of sick. "Are you okay, Harry? You look a bit pale."

"What — I'm fine. It's fine, really, I can think better up there, is all."

Hermione doesn't look convinced, she only purses her lips and says, "Alright then. Goodnight, Harry. Don't forget to wake me up in four hours."

Harry nods halfheartedly, hoping that after he leaves Hermione will succeed in getting Ron out of his sour mood.

He makes his way slowly up the stairs, Hagrid's moleskin pouch under his shirt hugging Malfoy's wand to his chest like a guilt-ridden secret.

Draco hears the top stair creak, and hastily shoves Potter's stupid wad of insulting parchment behind his back. The next second Potter himself appears in the still barren doorway, and Draco musters all his remaining energy into glowering at the boy who looks just as tired as Draco feels.

"Come to do some handiwork, Potter?" Draco asks, gesturing to the nonexistent door.

"Where is it, Malfoy?" Potter's voice is somewhat faded, filled with that no-nonsense sort of tone Draco expects to be more of Granger's forte.

"Where's what? Weasley's brains? Didn't you see the way they spilt all over the floor?" Draco wishes he hadn't chosen the furthest corner to sit in, it makes him feel small.

Potter simply rolls his eyes, and Draco grits his teeth, because that's not good enough, he's meant to be able to count on Potter to match him in everything. "Where's my Ma— parchment? What have you done with it?"

Draco lifts a brow, hoping the room isn't too dark for Potter to see it. "'Maparchment?' Is that a new brand? Sounds pretty peasant."

"I know you have it, so just hand it over," Potter steps into the room, his voice cross — but not enough, not scathing enough.

"No. Not until you give me my door," Draco tries, smirking when a muscle in the corner of Potter's jaw jumps.

"Didn't you hear me, earlier? Manners don't entail stealing things, Malfoy. Didn't your mother ever —"

Draco's on his feet in an instant, in front of Potter the next, and he spits and growls, "Don't you fucking dare talk about mother—"

Just as quickly, Potter has his wand out, pointed directly at Draco's chest, stopping him from inching closer in his fury.

Draco takes a breath, another because the first one's not enough, and he doesn't move his gaze from the way Potter eyes him like a snake about to strike. Green eyes lock onto grey for far too long, and then they flick over Draco's shoulder, landing on the parchment Draco left behind, unhidden.

In the next second Potter is moving around him, darting his hand into the corner and grabbing his sodding piece of whatever-is-so-important. Draco turns with him, watches Potter watch him, and it's almost like a dance, a metaphysical duel in the middle of a shadowy attic, and neither one of them stop frowning until Potter reaches the door.

He pauses, his shoulders squared, and for a moment Draco's anger is about to be replaced with smug satisfaction, because he thinks Potter is about to finally give in and fix the fucking door. But Draco's wrong, and as he's left alone in the dusky room, he snarls to himself as he realises that Harry Potter will probably never stop surprising him.

Harry sits in the window seat in Sirius's room, the frame of his glasses digging into his nose as he angles his face against the glass. The coldness helps to keep him awake, the coldness helps him forget about the fire he'd seen in Malfoy's eyes, the burning contempt which Harry thought was suppressed, maybe even gone for good, gone from the worn out shell of a Malfoy who had been dumped into their safe haven.

But the fire's still there, kindling back to life, and Harry knows he shouldn't be glad, knows he should want to be the reason that fire extinguishes. But instead, the knowledge of its presence, the effect of its intensity, buried beneath those silver irises, is exhilarating, and Harry is nearly distracted from what brought it upon in the first place. Malfoy's mother.

Harry thought he is supposed to be the only one sore about his family, and it makes him feel queazy — unsettled to think of Malfoy as having parents, of Malfoy having people who care about him, probably even love him. Love. Did Malfoy love his parents? Did Malfoy love his mother, as much as Harry loves his own, even though he'd only gotten to spend a year of his life with her? Harry swallows thickly, because he doesn't know what's more disturbing, to think of Malfoy as being capable of love — to think somewhere out there, Malfoy has people who love him; or to know that Harry has never considered any of this before, dehumanising his enemy, stripping him of the qualities Harry is only now beginning to see Malfoy might possess?

Harry takes off his glasses and rubs the palms of his hands into his eyes. Maybe he is tired after all, maybe he should go down and wake Hermione, but something about the gesture seems a little selfish, so he stays put, knowing she will be upset with him in the morning.

Harry twirls the hawthorne wand in his fingers, trying and failing to distance himself from the thought of its owner, and as the sun rises sluggishly beyond the window panes, Harry thinks about choices, and what it means to be loved. He wonders if Malfoy had made different choices, would Harry have been able to see him as someone different, as someone who is deserving of a mother who loves him?

Dumbledore would have looked into Malfoy's face and seen the possibility for redemption, the lies of a young man who had been lead astray, and when the sky finally blooms into hues of morning pinks and yellows, Harry knows without a doubt, that his late Headmaster would have given Malfoy as many chances as it takes.

"What the fuck is that?"

"Wizard's chess." Potter brushes the dust off the ancient looking box, forcing Draco to swat the air and cough.

"I know. I'm not an imbecile."

Potter snorts, and replies pointedly, "Well then, why ask?"

Draco scrutinises the chess board with a vulgar expression, surprised that Potter didn't use his reply to his advantage. "Well why the hell is it there?"

"Because," Potter says simply, "We're going to play chess."

Draco's eyes widen before he hastily narrows them into a glare and secures his arms tightly across his chest, as if he'd rather do anything than put his hands on Potter's filthy chess pieces. "Play chess?"

Potter sighs dramatically, arranging the pieces across the board in a predictably slow, muggle fashion. "It's what two people do with these little pieces, see?" He picks up a knight between his thumb and forefinger, dangling it patronisingly in Draco's line of sight.

"What the fuck makes you think I'd want to play chess?" Draco asks savagely, grudgingly thinking that this is the first semi-decent idea Potter has had in years. Even though he may not look like it, Draco is itching for the challenge, for the opportunity to flog Potter in something as trivial as a game.

"'Cause you've been moping around the place all morning, and I'm sick of you hanging around me like a bad smell — it's bloody annoying."

Draco gnashes his teeth together, because even though he wishes it wasn't, what Potter's saying is mostly true. Minus the bad smell and the moping. He's been following Potter since he heard the first tell-tale sign of consciousness emit from below — Potter boiling the kettle. Draco sped down the stairs, demanded his door, and upon being ignored by the black baggy-eyed Potter, had instead insisted on having a cup of whatever Potter was making — only because Draco was bored, and would be able to see if Potter put laxatives or anything in his drink. But what came next was probably worse, because Potter shoved a mug full of milky, sugary crap across the table, and pronounced it to be 'instant coffee.' Draco gagged, spitting the contents of his mouth back into his cup, and had thus begun a never-ending tirade about muggle coffee tasting like shit — and after Potter showed him the packet — looking like shit too, and about how it was an insult to mankind, and needed to be obliterated. Potter had only shaken his head and turned away to pour himself a second mug, causing Draco to question Potter's sanity, and after several minutes of glaring and having his existence disregarded, Draco decided against throwing his mug at Potter's head, if only to avoid having another crick added to his neck by Potter's violent reflexes.

So for the next two hours, Draco had gleefully taken up the occupation of Potter's shadow, hands in his pockets or folded over his arms, while he threw insults over Potter's shoulders. Draco was hoping Potter would do something interesting like take out that sodding parchment again, or at least retaliate to Draco's name-calling, but all he did was go about his business with an unnaturally stony expression, slamming the bathroom door closed in Draco's face and spending half an hour having a shower. Draco had teased him mercilessly for it, jeering at the way Potter's hair still couldn't lie flat after such a lengthy grooming session, and drolly implying Potter must have been taking his frustration out with his fist. Potter had stared at him for that comment, blushed profusely, and then stormed down the hall. After that, Potter had taken his wand out and cast what Draco could only assume was a wordless silencing charm around himself, which also acted as a shield, because when Draco screamed every swear word in the dictionary and threw bits of his toast at Potter's face, crumbs and insults alike seemed to just bounce off of him, and there was still no reaction.

The Mudblood and the Pauper burst into the kitchen at Draco's verbal fit, and after witnessing the events which followed, Granger gave him a look of equal suspicion and amusement while Weasley's face exploded into a ghastly picture of livid astonishment, and only after Potter told them things were fine — which they were most definitely not, because Draco still didn't have his door back — did his bloody friends depart to wherever it was they were going.

After the front door banged shut, Potter rose in his chair, fled from the kitchen, and Draco, jumping to his feet and thinking Potter planned on escaping his purposefully infuriating advances, followed. When he got upstairs, however, Potter had ensconced himself in one of the lumpy armchairs by the unlit fire, looking far too comfortable for Draco's liking. Then Draco's eyes landed on the box sitting on the coffee table in front of Potter, and after sauntering forwards and settling into the chaise opposite his rival, Draco had then proceeded to have the obvious explained to him.

Now, remembering what Potter just said, and noticing the other boy looking at him funnily through his obnoxiously round glasses, Draco snaps, "That doesn't answer my question."

"Well, it was a stupid question," Potter replies, moving his first white pawn forwards.

"How come you get white?" Draco leans forward on his knees, indignant.

"You didn't help me set up."

"So? Fucking cheater."

Draco is getting sick of Potter's eye rolling. "S'not cheating, Malfoy. Don't be a sook."

"I'm not — you're such a bastard, giving yourself the advantage!"

"Advantage? Afraid you'll lose?"

"What — no — I just don't understand why you have to be white!"

"Because I chose it!"

Draco's eyes flash up to meet Potter's. Burning, always burning, just like the thing in his gut which tells Draco Potter's words have more meaning than he lets on. The growl is low in Draco's throat, and upon hearing it Potter averts his eyes, a slight smattering of pink along his cheekbones conveying the slip of his tongue.

"Light versus dark. Fitting, isn't it, Potter?" Draco drawls nastily, moving one of his pawns to mimic the stance of his opponent's.

Maybe it is fitting, and that's why Potter wins the first game.

Or maybe it's nothing but irony, because Draco annihilates him the next seven times.

Weasley returns in the early afternoon, and he glares at Draco and says, "shove it, Malfoy," before shutting himself in the kitchen with Potter for nearly an hour. Draco knows there are warding charms on the door, but it doesn't stop him from yelling obscenities at it.

He returns to the drawing room, curving himself into the window seat and trying not to think about how Potter accused him of sulking. He growls, concentrating really hard, trying to declutter his thoughts and attempt to wandlessly tear holes into the already shredded velvet curtains.

Draco's still trying it, after getting no further than causing the material to ripple slightly, when Weasley walks into the room, Potter trailing at his heels, his big mouth moving around the middle of a sentence, "— pretty sure I've still got some Puking Pastilles in my trouser pockets from the Wedding, and after 'Mione gets back —" Weasley stops short, his voice dying, as his eyes land on Draco.

Draco tilts the corner of his mouth into a grin, feeling particularly joyous and ready to start a fight, but then, as if forced by magnetism, his eyes catch Potter's arched brow and his warning look. And Draco has absolutely no fucking clue why his smirk falters, why he suddenly decides it's a good idea not to get on Weasley's nerves, but before he can begin to hazard a guess, Potter says, "Ron — round of chess?"

Draco watches moodily as Weasel's tense shoulders seem to deflate, and after casting a hateful look in Draco's direction, he consents, "yeah, alright." Draco disdainfully eyes the back of Weasley's head, wondering what's changed to make the Ginger Twat tolerate being in the same room as him, and whether Potter has intrusively said something, inserting his unappreciated nose into the affairs of Draco's wellbeing.

Potter falls into the chair he'd occupied earlier, Weasley takes Draco's seat, and Draco blanches, asking himself when the fuck he'd started to think of anything in this place as belonging to him — apart from his door — and why the hell something ugly begins to twist inside his torso, something which makes him want to kick Weasley's face in — because Potter is Draco's rival, Potter is Draco's to beat in chess, Potter is his to study, to laugh at, and to watch the scrunched, focused expression which will steal over Potter's face whenever he takes far too bloody long to make his moves. Not Weasley's. And disconcertingly enough, Draco finds himself saying blandly, "I'll verse the winner," before he even bothers to think of the consequences, because Potter is horrible at chess, and this means that Draco will most likely end up playing a game with Weasley, something which Draco never imagined he'd do, not even in his most terrifying nightmares.

Potter and Weasley are both goggling at him, but the Boy Wonder rights himself first, says "okay," and then makes a show of turning the board around, so the ivory pieces are closest to his friend, "Ron, your move."

Draco is just about ready to break something, maybe the chess board over Potter's apparently indestructible skull — seeing as the apple seemed to have next to no effect — because he knows Potter is giving Weasley the white side to prove whatever Gryffindor bullshit he'd sprouted about choices earlier.

Predictably, Potter loses, and Draco, pleased to note Potter only gets riled up about losing when it's at his own hands, is more than ready to wipe the disgusting, triumphant grin from Weasley's face as he strolls superiorly towards them. He comes to a halt however, when he realises he will have to sit in Potter's lumpy armchair, while Scarhead himself meanders around the coffee table to slide onto the couch next to Weasley. Potter claps a hand on Weasley's shoulder, gives an encouraging smile which is far wider than necessary and sets Draco's teeth on edge, and says, "Come on, Ron. You can do it, mate!"

Draco fumes, glares down at his black pieces, back up to the malicious glint in Weasley's eyes, and then takes his turn.

He knows Potter is watching him, and for some reason it makes Draco twice as eager to win, but it also causes the back of his neck to prickle, and his palms to sweat, and Draco is about to snap, to bark at Potter to stop fucking staring at him, because he's probably only doing it to make sure Draco loses, when there's the sound of racing footsteps up the stairs, and then Granger practically falls into the room, out of breath, clutching a copy of the Daily Prophet to her chest.

"Harry — Malfoy's mo—" she stops, her eyes going impossibly wide as she sees Draco sit back to watch her, full of reproach and curiosity. Something's wrong in the way her eyes dart from him to Potter, something like remorse and anxiety, and Draco's brows lift behind his too-long hair.

"Yes?" He prods caustically.

Granger takes a rattling breath, shoving the newspaper behind her back, and before the possibilities behind her action sinks in, Draco feels his blood run cold.

Potter swivels in his seat while Weasley stands and goes towards his mudblood girlfriend, "'Mione? What's the matter?" Draco can hear it in Weasley's voice — the fear, and he knows that if he speaks it'll be there too. "Is it You-Know-Who? Did —"

"No," she shakes her head, steps forward, hesitates, looks almost pleadingly at Potter, as if he's supposed to know what to do. And for some reason, Draco's looks at Potter too, his mouth dry and his heart squeezing painfully in his chest. There's no clarity in Potter's confused gaze, and frighteningly enough, Draco realises that he doesn't have a clue what's going on either.

Draco forces his eyes back to Granger, because she's the only one who can tell him what he needs to hear, tell him what he has a feeling he would rather do anything but listen to.

"Is it… Is it her?" Draco whispers, and from the corner of his vision he sees Potter's lips part over a question. Draco can't hear it, can't hear anything apart from the spinning in his head, the whooshing of his own blood, and the constant mantra of please no, no no no no. Granger's face contorts with pity, and something in her eyes shimmer, and it makes Draco mad, so fucking mad — but he can't even shout, his voice only wavers and croaks, "Is it her?"

She nods, and Draco stands shakily. He feels distant from his own body, as if he's watching from afar as he stumbles towards her. She's lying, she must be lying. It isn't true. They said — they promised —

A hand coils around his elbow, and he hears a voice — almost urgent, saying, Malfoy, Malfoy what's happened? What's going on? Hermione?

"Is it my mother?" That can't be his voice. Because Draco has never before sounded so broken and unsure — so raw and in pieces.

Granger's lips tremble. "Y-yes."

And then everything is falling falling falling. Falling apart.

Harry's hand drops from Draco's arm as the other boy staggers from the room, as if he's just been wounded, wounded so badly that everything around him falls into the unreal.

"Hermione—" Harry begins, but Hermione is smart, and she tells him what he wants to know before he even asks.

"Draco's mother's been killed." Something in Harry's mind shifts a little into place, "They — Auror's found her — here," Hermione shoves the paper into Harry's hand, wanting to part with it as soon as possible, as though it burns her skin. She blinks rapidly as she looks away, "It's — It's terrible."

Harry doesn't doubt it is, and he swallows the unpalatable taste away in his mouth, wishing for a glass of water. His hands feel slightly numb as he unfolds the Prophet, glances at the first page, and has to steady himself against the back of the couch as he scans the article.

'Narcissa Malfoy (nee Black), pure-blood witch and wife of the renowned 'Lucius Malfoy,' dedicated Ministry employee… evidence of torture… suspected suicide… found dead in Knockturn Alley…body dosed with lethal amounts of healing potions… terrible tragedy to the Malfoy name… husband, Lucius, refuses to comment… still dealing with the loss of his son, Draco Malfoy… Hogwarts student with astounding grades… missing since late July… supposedly kidnapped by You-know-who…'

Harry balls the paper into his fists, throws it into the grate, and ignites the fire with his wand. He paces back and forth, running a hand through his hair, chewing the inside of his mouth, mind churning over the absolute lies he's just read.

Hermione moves towards him, "Harry —"

That same something which shifted a little before makes a further adjustment in his head, and Harry spins around, "That's why he's here!"

"What — who?"

"Malfoy. That's why he defected — to protect his mum —"

"He must have made a deal with the Order…" Hermione murmurs, catching on immediately.

"D'you think?" Ron asks, still standing awkwardly by the forgotten chessboard. Harry throws him a disappointed look when he hears the exasperation in his friend's voice, like he's startled to think of Malfoy as someone capable of doing something selfless. Although, Harry supposes he would have thought the same thing a week ago.

"Why else would he go against everything he's grown up with? Against his dad —"

"The git's hardly changed, Harry. He probably just did it to save himself," Ron says grouchily, as though it should be obvious.

But Harry jerks his head in agitation, the memory of Malfoy's shout ringing through his ears; 'Don't you fucking dare talk about mother—'

And the realisation hits him like a bludger, like the ground after a hard fall, and for a second he can barely breathe — because Malfoy, the person Harry has always thought of as a coward, defied his blood line, ran away from the cause he'd been living for, thrown himself willingly into the enemies' hands, and had endured god knows what for the sake of someone else, for someone he loves. And Harry feels something warm and sad and hopeful twist around in his stomach, something he never would have thought he'd feel in relation to Draco Malfoy. But it makes sense now, the truth behind Malfoy's snarky insults and defensive actions, the reason why he's here, and it forces Harry to think that maybe Malfoy has always deserved a second chance, and Harry has just been too blindly prejudiced to see it.

But none of that matters now, does it? Malfoy's reason for running, and Harry supposes, his reason for living too, is gone, and it makes Harry's heart ache — ache for Malfoy's loss, and for his pain.

Harry urges his limbs forward, urges his sense of reason to stay in control, and when his friends give him worried looks he manages to make his voice work, "I — I just need to…" But Harry doesn't know what he needs, doesn't know what he should do, and it makes him restless, "I need —" His legs move, and before he knows it he's in the hallway, because he has this little trickle of awareness that he knows what Malfoy might need after all.

Harry knows that Malfoy wouldn't have gone up to the attic, because there still isn't a door, and in that moment Harry feels mildly guilty over his stubbornness. He doesn't need to look far, there's a bolted bathroom door at the end of the corridor, and Harry takes several steps towards it until he silently withdraws his wand and spells it open.

Of course it creaks, and it alerts Malfoy to Harry's presence. Malfoy's on the floor, propped against the side of the bathtub, his knees up and his shoulders bent, curled like a child, and when his normally composed and icy stare lands on Harry, his eyes are red, widened with something that isn't surprise, and he's crying. God, he's crying. And it takes Harry back to the time when he'd used an unknown spell in a different bathroom, when there'd been blood, so much blood, and now, as Harry watches the way Malfoy's mouth opens in dismay, caught between grief and anger, he vows to himself that he will never be the reason Malfoy bleeds again.

It's strange, this sadness, this fury that is directed to what's happened to the distressed boy in front of him, it's strange that it should mean so much to Harry, that it should make him feel almost… protective?

Harry lowers himself to his knees, hesitantly, carefully, but Malfoy doesn't tell him to go away — maybe he can't, maybe the tears are wedged so tightly in his throat that it's impossible. But Harry knows that even if Malfoy did, he wouldn't leave.

They sit there, a metre apart, waiting for something, waiting for the turning point, and when Malfoy looks away first, turns his head to the side and heaves, Harry crawls towards him, tentatively, slowly, as though taming something wild. Maybe Malfoy is wild, maybe this whole thing is just a figment of some warped Slytherin ploy and Harry is about to be attacked, but right now, Harry doesn't care — he only falters, because he is about to comfort Draco Malfoy, and he doesn't have a clue as to how to do it.

He thinks Malfoy is about to say something scathing, but instead a sob rips him apart, echoes into the empty air, and Harry has never known another person's pain that has effected him as much as it does now.

Another sob wracks through Malfoy's chest, and Harry briefly wonders when he got so close as to be able to feel it.

"I — I didn't — couldn't — I couldn't save her!"

Malfoy's voice splinters out of him in uneven chunks, chipped apart and lost. And Harry knows, knows that Malfoy is angry with himself, with the fact that he is unable to hide his pain, and Harry doesn't stop to think that maybe he is the last person Malfoy would want to witness it.

Something tightens in his chest, and as Harry edges closer, his hand is undeniably gentle as it lands on Malfoy's back.

Malfoy is warm to the touch, and Harry knows this probably shouldn't be so surprising — but it is.

Because Malfoy is human — and Harry thinks this is something he has forgotten since the very first time a blond, pointy-faced eleven year old was scorned at for his offer of friendship.

Draco Malfoy is human. He breathes and he thinks and he feels — and right now he must feel shattered. And detachedly, Harry realises, this is what it must feel like to lose a parent — because he was too young to understand the loss of his own, and Sirius had always been more like an uncle than a father— and in another startlingly fragmented moment, Harry realises that Narcissa Malfoy was human too.

"I'm sorry." Harry's voice is thick, and he knows he will never forget the day where he apologised to Draco Malfoy. Yet, it isn't just about consoling over a loss, it's more, so much more, and Harry thinks that maybe he's also apologising for his rejection, for the fact that if only he'd gotten there first, gotten to Draco before Lucius did, before Malfoy's own decisions lead him into a castle full of Death Eaters, if only Harry'd taken that hand, the hand of the eleven-year-old Malfoy, then things might have been different.

Malfoy stiffens in front of him, and his inhale is rough and raw. Then, just as suddenly, he relaxes, but his voice is still too broken, too vulnerable to belong to the Malfoy Harry has known for six years. "Don't be." It cracks at the end, and it makes Harry swallow away something hard and awful in his throat. He doesn't know what to do with his hands, and realises they've been hovering against Malfoy's shoulders for too long now.

Harry tries to remember the hug Molly Weasley gave him after Sirius died — an embrace, full of strokes and squeezes and soothing words — and although Harry knows that none of these things will be acceptable with Malfoy, that the other boy will probably punch him in the jaw if Harry were to stroke him on the back, he is a Gryffindor — and taking chances is what bravery's all about.

So Harry Potter encloses Draco Malfoy in his arms, and a very reluctant, dormant part of his mind reawakens, and begins to wonder; why does this feel so right?

Chapter Text

Tears contour the edge of his face like burning hot tracks, and Draco can't stop shivering, can't shake away the thought that Harry Potter has his arms around him, is  hugging  him. It's mental — it's wrong — and Draco doesn't think he will have a single scrap of pride left, not after  this .

Draco goes rigid. He doesn't know this feeling, doesn't know this strange, intoxicating combination of warmth and comfort. It's foreign, and it makes him feel trapped, like there's no where to go other than forwards, and that in itself is frightening, because whenever there has been a way out, Draco has always taken it. He struggles, tries to push Potter away, but Potter, like the stubborn bastard he is, won't let go, and somehow it just makes Draco want to cry harder.

So he does, and he sobs as his hands come up to shove at the other boy's chest, but Potter's arms are now locked around him, and Draco's squirming only brings their cheeks closer together. Potter's face is rough with stubble, and it grazes Draco's skin.

Potter's hair is soft, though, Draco can feel it at the corner of his eye, smudging his tears, making him tremble with the urge to simultaneously brush it away and pull it closer, grip onto something that will ground him to reality, to the suffocating air of the bathroom.

What is this feeling? Why does it feel as though something hot and angry and dangerous is about to break out of Draco's chest?

Why isn't he trying harder? Pushing Potter away, screaming at him, doing something — anything, to get the Boy-Who-Lived away from him?

Why doesn't he fight?

Instead he succumbs, lets his grief encase him like a cocoon. And he doesn't care that Potter sees him break down, sees the aristocratic traits of his Malfoy name decompose. He only gives in, clings onto his enemy's shirt, curling his fingers into the fabric like iron vices, until he is closer, closer, too close, and Potter's body is hard and unyielding, his shoulder bony beneath Draco's chin.

And then Draco realises — this is an embrace. And the only other person who has ever done this to him is now dead.

Draco's heart clenches and he takes a guttural breath, but all he gets is a mouthful of rain and sweat and something spicy, and it's so good that it's distracting — so Draco inhales, again and again and again, until all he knows is that smell, the smell which he suspects belongs to Potter. The smell which should make him nauseous but instead makes him think that he'll be okay, that if he concentrates hard enough on it he'll be able to breathe without feeling like there's a knife in his chest.

But that knife is still there, and as his rational side begins to resurface from being smothered by Potter's scent, it shouts at him, tells him that he needs to move, tells him his anger needs to burst forth, because if it doesn't, he just might break.

And then Draco thinks of The Order's promise, the reason why he's here — here in Potter's arms — and every ounce of his pain and fury swirls into a torrent of lies lies lies.

He flinches back, and when Potter grabs his shoulders to still him, everything explodes.

Draco forces what strength he has left into thrusting his weight against Potter's torso, and there's a series of muffled grunts and deep, ragged exhales before Potter is thrown onto his back, his hair splayed over the tiles, with Draco's knees on either side of his hips. Draco's hands circle around Potter's neck, and Draco has no idea what he's doing, he only knows why; and that's because someone needs to pay, someone needs to deal with the wounds of a broken promise.

But his growl dies in his throat, because Potter's eyes are shining, penetrating, and they are not the eyes of a man who is an inch away from his death. They dig into Draco's soul, and they are green, so green, that it nearly hurts to look at them. His hands slacken, but Potter doesn't move, he only stares, resigned, knowing, and Draco gives a disgruntled sob of desperation, because Potter should be scared. But he isn't.

"You can't kill me, Malfoy." Potter says it softly, full of certainty, and it makes Draco look away, look down at his trembling hands, because it is so true that it causes something like failure to wriggle in his stomach. "You're not like them."

Draco's eyes widen, hidden beneath his hanging strands of hair, and his fingers clutch at Potter's shirt. He thinks about months at the Manor, months of fighting to stay unseen, to stay alive, months of screams and blood.

"Stop it — shut up," he hisses, and Draco doesn't know if he is saying it to Potter, or to his own thoughts.

"You're not."

Draco is like them. He hurt and he tortured and he killed. "You don't know shit, Potter!"

"I know that when you were asked to kill an unarmed man, you lowered your wand."

Draco shakes. He licks his lips, and they taste like salt and despair. "You're wrong —"

"I was there. I saw it."

"No… No — you're a fucking liar," Draco seethes, his voice like venom, and he leans down, his face nearly level with Potter's.

"I was underneath an invisibility cloak. I saw you falter, and I saw Snape finish it."

Draco freezes, but Potter's eyes hold nothing but an unwavering, earnest truth, and he doesn't know what to do, doesn't know what to say.

"Why are you so determined to be bad?" Potter whispers hoarsely.

Draco doesn't have an answer. He grits his teeth, his eyes wild, "Why are you so determined to be good?"

"Because," Potter jerks beneath him, and it makes Draco foggily aware of their positions, "Because I know it's the right thing to do. And deep down, you know that too."

And Draco just loses it, "What the fuck do you know!? You know nothing about me, Potter, fucking nothing!" His hands fly back to Potter's shoulders, and he shakes them with bruising force.

"I know you're here for your mother," Potter chokes out, "And now she's — g-gone."

Draco growls, but he lets go, and he just punches punches punches, beats Potter's chest, and Potter doesn't fight back, not even when his glasses are broken and his face is framed with red scrapes. He only watches mutely, trying to steady his breathing, as Draco begins to cry again, without restraint, his lips parted over ruptured howls of sorrow, his knuckles purple and his head bowed.

And when he finally quietens down, something tells him Potter has done this on purpose, offered himself as an outlet, and when Draco slumps to the side and Potter shakily crawls to his knees and says, "It gets better," Draco doesn't think he will ever know someone as stupidly self sacrificing as Harry Potter, and even though it drives him insane, it makes something warm and inviting throb a little in his chest.

Just a little.

Harry sucks in a breath.

"Sorry," Hermione murmurs from behind her wand, "if you'd just keep still." She continues healing the cuts around his jaw, because they both remember the last time Harry tried healing magic on his own face, he'd mucked it up and ended up growing orange facial hair for days.

"Thanks," Harry mutters, thinking of the unpleasant memory.

Hermione smiles for a short second, but then her face turns serious. "I won't be doing this again if you decide to go and get in a fight with Malfoy."

Harry sighs, "It wasn't a fight. It was — I dunno. He needed it."

Hermione's brow crinkles, "Needed to punch you in the face?"

"Sort of," Harry grimaces, "I know when — after Sirius died, I went mental in Dumbledore's office, breaking things. I just needed something to take it out on, you know? And I reckon Malfoy needed the same."

"So you offered your face?"

Harry opens his mouth to speak but snaps it shut, his face burning, because he'd gone into that bathroom prepared to offer his sympathy, but scarily enough, upon seeing Malfoy's distraught and tormented features, Harry had decided that he would do whatever he could, if only to see that snarky smirk back on Malfoy's face. Thankfully, he is saved from answering when Hermione steps back and stows her wand at her hip.

"All finished… Um — how is he, by the way?"

Harry looks at her, somewhat startled, while his hands come up to feel his newly smooth face, noting Hermione has given him a shave while she was at it. "Er…" Broken. Devastated. Shattered. "He's coping. What'd you expect from someone like Malfoy?"

Hermione's face falls. "Everyone's human, Harry. Don't forget that."

Harry rubs fatigue out of the lines of his face, exhaling. If only Hermione knew just how much he'd come to realise about Draco Malfoy's humanity, she wouldn't be throwing him this reminder — she'd think Harry was positively unhinged.

Harry gives a solemn nod of dejection, then brightens, because he's just thought of something brilliant. "Thanks again, 'Mione, but er — there's something else I need your help with…"

Draco stares into the empty air, his knees nearly numb with cold from the hard press of the tiles, and his stomach churning with the need to vomit.

The sickness doesn't come, and Draco thinks that maybe it has something to do with Potter's parting words, but he refuses to dwell too hard on it, refuses to put a name to that infuriating feeling in his chest. He will never owe Harry Potter anything. That's the way it's always been, the way it always will be, and the sooner Draco gets out of this hellhole, the quicker that fact will solidify in his mind. Because he's too close, dangerously close, to feeling something like gratitude.

His mother is dead. And that's all that matters.

It's not his fault. It's The Order's fault.

His mother is dead. And Draco couldn't save her.

It's not his fault. It's not it's not it's not.

He growls, sends his already battered fist into the vanity. His knuckles crack and throb, but that's okay, it doesn't hurt, nothing hurts as much as the giant, gaping hole in his chest. And for some deranged reason, Draco almost wishes Potter were back in here, telling him it'll get better, coming near enough so Draco'll be able to smell that smell and forget everything he's ever known, everything except Potter and his goddamn scent. Fuck. Why does it have to be this way? If only Draco had been free, free from a war, free from sides and responsibilities, then his mother would have been safe.

But it isn't his fault. He won't let it be his fault.

It isn't Draco's fault. So he buries everything, every emotion, he bottles it away and hides it somewhere he'll never find it. He's good at this, good at not caring. He replaces sadness and remorse with anger, calms his fury with a facade of apathy, and then he's okay.

When Draco finally stands, stilling every tremble in his body with the force of his indifference, and gazes into the mirror, he sees his own chiselled remains, eroded with grief. His eyes are bloodshot, their greyness nearly unrecognisable amongst the blackness, and he has to try for several minutes to set the hard line of his lips, because they still look too wrong, too sad.

Draco doesn't know how long he's been in there, in fact he has contemplated staying in the bathroom all night, but rationalised that his attic room will be somewhat warmer, and when he edges open the door the hallway seems a lot darker.

It's so dark, in fact, that Draco almost misses Potter hovering in front of him, as though he's been standing there debating whether or not to come in. Draco's heart jumps with the fright of seeing a barely illuminated figure — and that's all, it has nothing to do with what happened, with what was said and done, and everything to do with the way Potter is a bloody creeper. Draco scowls, but doesn't say anything, thankful for the darkness and for the way it hides his unexplainable, mortifyingly red cheeks.

"I — er — I thought maybe…" Potter trails off.

Draco glares at him, wishing his tongue would work, wishing it didn't feel like if he speaks he'll collapse.

"Here," Potter shoves something into Draco's hands. It's a warm plate, and Draco can smell something delicious, like steak and kidney pie, something that nearly makes him forget what the boy in front of him smells like. Nearly.

Draco's frown deepens, and, hoping that Potter sees it, he grudgingly snatches the plate and stalks off, leaving Potter looking after him. Draco can feel the heat of his gaze somewhere between his shoulder blades, and it makes him want to throw the meal on the floor. But he won't, because he's starving, and there's no use showing Potter his stubbornness, no use trying to maintain a face which they both know is a front. Not when Potter has already seen so much more, so much of what Draco has never shown to anybody before — his vulnerability.

And Draco doesn't know what's worse, the fact that it was his enemy who'd seen it, or the fact that when he reaches the attic room Draco comes face to face with a newly built door, and it makes that … warm thing… twinge in his chest once more.

It's before the sun has risen next morning when Harry emerges from the bathroom and is intercepted by a very furious looking Draco Malfoy.

"Don't think, that this changes anything, Potter — because it doesn't!" The blond snarls, and Harry can only blink and rub a hand through his still-wet hair, because he doesn't know whether Malfoy means what happened the day before, here in this very bathroom, or if he's talking about the transfigured bed Harry and Hermione had set up in the attic room yesterday afternoon.

"Alright," Harry says slowly, "got it." He tries to move around Malfoy, his pyjamas bundled up in his hands, but before he can so much as take a step he is slammed back into the door.

"No matter how many pathetic mattresses you conjure — how ever many fucking tears you see me shed, I'll always hate you! That'll never change," Malfoy spits, his words barbed with something that makes Harry's chest sting a little, but maybe that's just from the way Malfoy's arm digs into his sternum, holding him in place.

Harry takes an uncertain breath, not knowing what to say, not knowing if he can say anything at all, because Malfoy's face is close enough for Harry to make out the flecks of blue in his steel-coloured eyes, and it's unsettling.

Malfoy lets out an impatient noise when Harry doesn't reply, and makes a rough, shoving movement which crushes Harry further into the hard wood, and Harry is thankful, because for a never-ending second he had been taken hostage by the undeniable aesthetics of Draco Malfoy's eyes.

"Okay…" Harry all but whispers, watching the way Malfoy's nostrils flare, the way his lips thin over a jutted, angry jaw, and it doesn't once dawn on him that maybe he should be taking out his wand and defending himself, instead he only stares, and ends up being both incredibly grateful and aggrieved when Malfoy finally lets go of him and strides away.

Harry returns to Sirius's room with his heart in his throat, thankful for the way the nervousness over what he's about to do tunes out the memory of Malfoy's eyes. He laces his trainers with shaking fingers and grabs his cloak, and after peeping into the Drawing room and seeing the way his two best friends sleep with their fingers intertwined, he heads down to the kitchen to grab some food to take with him. Incase something happens and he can't come back.

He stuffs a few apples into his rucksack, and is about to leave when Ron's groggy voice stops him. "'Arry? What you doin'?"

Harry swivels around, guilty, and lies, "Nothing, just — just hungry." He takes an exaggerated bite out of an apple, but it's too late, and Ron's eyes widen with understanding as he takes in the sight of Harry's rucksack.

"Going somewhere?"

"Look, Ron, I just need some fresh air. You stay here with Hermione today —"

"No — no, you can't do this, mate, it's dangerous."

"It's just as dangerous as if it were you or Hermione!"

"No, it's not — I thought you agreed to be the one to stay here and let us —"

"This is important —"

"Does this have anything to do with Malfoy's mum?" Ron asks dubiously.

"I — what — no," Harry stumbles over his words, then sighs, because Ron has stuck by his side for six years, and he isn't going to back down now, "Fine. Yes. I was going to use the pastilles, get in quickly and quietly, have a look round and suss out the layout, find out what I can, and then — then go after Umbridge."

Ron shakes his head in disbelief, hurt plain on his face. "You never learn, do you, Harry?"

Harry smiles weakly, "You sound like Hermione."

"Can you imagine how she'd feel if she woke up and found out what you'd done? We're in this together, mate."

Harry pulls at his damp hair, "You don't understand, Ron — I have to do this alone! Because if something — if anything happens to you or Hermione I'll —" He breaks off.

"We're with you 'till the end, mate. We know the risks," Ron says quietly.

"You're mental," Harry replies, dumping his bag by his feet and leaning heavily against the bench. Ron takes a seat on the table, his legs pulled up on a chair as he picks lint from his pyjama pants.

He gives Harry a questioning look, "Dumbledore wanted you to tell us, remember? He knew we wouldn't let you go alone."

Something in Harry's stomach jumps and then plummets at the headmaster's name, "I know."

"'Mione's going really batty with the planning, she reckons we should wait another couple of weeks."

"We can't," Harry's voice is automatic, "we don't have that much time." He doesn't need to say what they both already know; we don't have the time to wait for more people to die. They've killed one of their own, what does that tell us?

"When, then?" Ron prods, his tone eager.

Harry takes a deep breath, "Friday. This Friday. They're always worn out by the end of the week. Just incase, you know?"

Ron nods, and slowly his face spreads into a firm smile of determination. "Right. Friday. I'll break it to Hermione… She's not gonna be happy."

"Yeah," Harry murmurs, "s'pretty hard to be happy these days." His thoughts drift to Malfoy, who is most definitely not happy, who will be alone in three days time, and Harry doesn't know what to do, what to tell him, what will happen if they don't return. And for some reason, it makes him scared.

Outside of the kitchen, frozen in the darkness of the hallway, Draco Malfoy stands with his breath caught somewhere between his throat and his lungs.

He hears someone coming, heavy blundering footfalls — Weasley, and with all the silence Draco can force into his own steps, he backs away and climbs stair after stair, willing the thumping torrent of emotions in his chest to calm the fuck down.

Confusion. Curiosity. Fear. What the hell did Potter want with Umbridge? Where were the fuckwit Trio galavanting off to? What would happen to him after they left, would they just leave him here to rot? Draco supposes he doesn't really care if that were the case, because he has nowhere else to go, nothing left for him, but dying is difficult, and Draco would rather not die if at all possible.

The most important question, however, is what does any of this have to do with his mother, and why does Potter care?

Harry told Ron if anything happens to him he can have his Firebolt. Ron tried not to look too ecstatic and grudgingly consented for Harry to take his turn in going into town, seeing as Ron wouldn't let him go anywhere near the Ministry yet. Harry had told a mild fib, saying that he only wanted the fresh air and the chance to scab today's edition of the Prophet, not that he had plans to peruse muggle department stores and pick up some more necessities for their housebound Slytherin.

Now, Harry's face, which is disguised as a middle-aged bearded man, is flaming hot as he tries to casually walk up and down the male underwear aisle. He supposes this could be a lot worse — if Malfoy were a female, Harry would be in an even more mortifying situation. But the simple truth of it is, Harry has absolutely no idea what kind of underwear Malfoy wears. In fact, the mere thought of 'underwear' and 'Malfoy' in the same sentence makes something in his stomach burn, makes him want to run the hell away.

He's drawing attention to himself, he knows, because that's the second time the bleached-haired grandmother has cast him a look of suspicion. Harry wants to tell her she probably has it easy, no doubt shopping for her elderly, couldn't-care-less-about-clothes husband. If Harry were to pick out the nude-coloured, saggy bloomers she is dumping in her trolley, for Malfoy, then he is more than certain that he would be bludgeoned to death.

Harry rubs his palms together, glad when the old woman wheels her trolley out of the aisle, giving him one last wary look over her shoulder.

This shouldn't be so damn awkward, Harry is after all, a male, and for all other people know he could be shopping for himself. Maybe he should just get Malfoy the same kind he wears, but he suspects if Malfoy were to ever discover that fact the bludgeoning would still be headed Harry's way. Then again, no matter which type Harry ends up choosing, Malfoy is just as likely to have a haemorrhage.

For fuck's sake, why do British men have to have so many bloody underwear options?

His eyes flick from plain navy y-fronts, to bright red, basketball patterned boxers, and he sighs.

Harry is insane, somewhere along the line in his years of magical schooling, he must have lost the plot, lost his mind, because when all hope seems lost, Harry thinks, 'what the hell,' and randomly picks several pairs of colourful, gaudily patterned boxers, and even if a painful bludgeoning is awaiting him in the near future, Harry somehow manages to see the humour in all of this.

Buying clothes for Malfoy would be a lot easier if Malfoy were actually here, but shopping with Malfoy is something Harry not only thinks is highly impossible given the blond's situation, but just as likely to be conceded to as tap dancing with Voldemort.

Harry doesn't think about money when he pays for jumpers, t-shirts and socks — he has more money than he'll ever need, and if he's honest with himself, he has a lot more fun than he should, especially when he finds a shirt which has 'Feed Me and tell Me I'm Pretty,' printed across the front of it. Harry snorts, rights himself when he thinks he probably shouldn't be laughing to himself in public, especially when he's wearing the skin of someone shady.

He buys the shirt as well and heads into the bathroom, shutting himself in a stall and shrinking all the items he bought to fit in his rucksack.

After taking another swig of polyjuice potion and resisting the urge to gag, Harry apparates home with a grin.

When he walks through the door of Number 12, Hermione is waiting for him with her hands on her hips. "Harry Potter. You have some explaining to do."

"Er—" Harry looks over her shoulder, "Where's Ron?"

"He's in the kitchen. I can't believe how irresponsible you are! What was so important that you —"

Harry, who has been trying to sneak past her, whirls around, "You said it yourself, Hermione! 'We can't stay here forever!' Remember? But Malfoy'll have to, won't he?" Harry is surprised at the tone of his voice, and Hermione is too, her eyes wide as she stares at him, shocked. "Sorry," Harry mutters, apologising for his outburst, and Hermione's face softens.

"We've been going over plans all day," Hermione says quietly, and even though she sounds assured, Harry can detect the anxiety behind her words. "Tomorrow Ron and I will follow Mafalda, Cattermole and Runcorn, just to make sure we know their schedules."

"Right," Harry says sullenly, because no matter what he says to make them change their minds, his friends won't be convinced. He knows that Friday will be different. Friday will be the day where Harry will be back in the shoes of a leader, the one who makes sure the other's stay behind his back, the one who does what he can to play his part in this war.

Harry makes it halfway down the hall before Hermione says, "Malfoy hasn't come out all day…" Harry turns, and when Hermione looks at him as though he's the solution to this problem, he just shrugs. Harry doesn't know what he can do, doesn't know why Hermione tells him this, because when Malfoy's being a bastard there isn't a thing anybody can do to stop him. Yet for some reason they both know this won't stop Harry from trying.

Harry sits with his back against the attic room door, swapping an apple from hand to hand, watching the way moonlight reflects off its surface. He hasn't knocked, hasn't even alerted Malfoy to his presence, but he enjoys the silence, and the way it feels like he isn't alone.

"Malfoy," Harry says quietly, almost a whisper.

Malfoy's voice greets him quickly from inside the attic, almost as if he's been waiting for this, "Potter."

And Harry is surprised, because it's a lot louder than he expected, as though right now Malfoy is the mirrored image of Harry's position, only on the other side. Harry's breath catches as the weight of the metaphor hits him in the chest, because that's exactly who they are, he and Malfoy, two sides of the same coin, and while Harry might have hated it once, he now finds it comforting.

"Are you hungry?" Harry asks.

Malfoy seems to hesitate, "No."

Harry leans his head back against the wood, and with the action comes a curious thought, needing to be answered. "How come you've never asked for your wand?"

There is no reply for quite a long time, and Harry thinks that maybe Malfoy has fallen asleep, and wonders whether it'll be too intimate for him to fall asleep too, right here, almost back to back.

But then, "why do you care, Potter?"

Harry frowns into the blackness, resting the apple on his knee. He knows Malfoy is probably asking about more than just a wand, but it's late and he's tired, so Harry only replies with, "Why do you care if I care?"

Harry hears a muffled growl, "I don't."

Harry smiles, and with a yawn he stands and places the apple on the floorboards. "Goodnight, Malfoy."

Malfoy doesn't say anything back, but as Harry walks away and rounds the corner, he hears the creak of an opening door, and he knows the apple won't be there in the morning.

Chapter Text

Draco turns in his sleep, his cheek damp against the pillow.

It's dark, too dark, but his legs keep moving, keep moving upwards, and eventually he can see light, and stars. There's hundreds of them, bright and sparkling, and Draco wishes could just stop and watch them, forget about what he has to do, and what will happen if he fails.

There's a hiss at his back, a deep voice, and then he is shoved forwards, ordered to keep moving. His aunt cackles beside him. Draco moves, and finally he reaches the last step, and the moment where his life will either end, or start anew.

Somehow, he doesn't know which he'd prefer.

Bent with frailty and pain, Dumbledore stands before him, and his face is too kind, too trusting, for somebody who is about to be murdered.

Draco tries to lift his wand, but his arm feels like lead, heavy and sluggish, moving as though in a dream.

There are voices, everyone is speaking in his ear, Death Eaters, his Headmaster, but all Draco can hear is Potter. And he swivels around, his legs numb, searching desperately for that voice, for Potter's voice. But Potter isn't there, Draco can't see him anywhere, can't find him in the small and circular space of the Astronomy Tower. 

"You're not like them."

"I am! I'm exactly like them!" Draco tries to scream this, but his throat muscles won't work, and his lips are sealed over a sob.

"You're not like them," Potter says again. Draco turns, looking into every shadow, every crevice, but Potter is nowhere.

He can feel wands in his back, digging into his spine, Death Eaters telling him to do it now. But Draco can't. He needs to find Potter first.

"You're not like them!" Draco hears it in his own mind, and it's then when he realises that Potter is nowhere and everywhere all at once, and the shock of it knocks him onto his hands and knees with dizzying force.

Draco's palms never meet the hard surface of the floor, he just falls and falls and falls, and everything he tries to grab slips out of his grasp, everything except Potter's calm words, because Draco doesn't think he'll ever be able to let those go.

Draco jerks awake, his body aching from a fall that wasn't even real, and his hair is plastered to his forehead. He takes greedy gulps of air, sagging with relief when they reach his lungs, when his foggy brain makes the connection that this is real, and the place he just escaped from was nothing but a distorted figment of a memory, tainted with Potter's unwanted presence.

Draco fists the soft sheets, dragging his hands through them, before throwing them off, their weight claustrophobic and tight. Draco slides to the edge of the four poster bed, the one he knows Potter put there, the one he tries not to think about in it's pre-transfiguration state. Knowing Potter, it could have been a dirty old shoe or something.

Draco cards a slightly trembling hand through his sweat-soaked hair, and then gets to his feet, wishing he had some dreamless sleep potion. But he doesn't, so all he can do is take a walk through moonlit corridors, just like he'd do in the Manor before it'd been taken over, and hope that his dreams don't follow him.

The wooden floor is cool beneath his feet, and for something to do, Draco opens door after door. He doesn't worry about being quiet, because even if he cared about waking Granger and Weasley up, he knows they sleep two floors below, and Potter is probably just as sleepless as Draco is himself.

Draco steps into a high ceilinged room, the shape of a groaning chandelier hanging above him in the shadows. There's a sliver of light trickling in through a gap in the curtains, and without hesitating Draco walks over and throws them open.

The room is swathed in light, framed in sheet covered items of furniture, pushed back to the walls, the only visible one a grand piano, bearing the glowing illumination from the window, as though in a spot light. And immediately Draco is thrown back to a time when his mother taught him how to play, sitting next to him on the stool and guiding his fingers across they keys, producing wonderful melodies which would leave Draco's boy-like features gaping in awe.

Draco turns away, because the thought makes his chest ache, and suddenly it's too much, too painful. But when his eyes fall on the other side of the room, on the far wall, that pain intensifies into something heavy and unyielding, dragging him closer until all he can see is the vast expanse of the Black family tree.

Faces mock him, telling him he'll never be who he's meant to be, never a Black, only a Malfoy. There's names Draco doesn't recognise, charred, blackened ovals of wallpaper, marring people who Draco assumes to be just like himself. Failures, or a disgrace. He swallows, and his eyes land on his mother, on 'Narcissa Malfoy,' and with a bitter growl, tears well onto his cheekbones.

Draco scowls, but he can't look away. Can't escape the sudden torrent of his own pleas.

"Please find her! I'll do anything — I swear I'm not lying, I swear —"

The two men, aurors, cloaked with stern faces, exchange a glance. And Draco panics, because they can't say no — they just can't — and —

"I'm telling the truth — I'm telling the fucking truth dammit why won't you fucking LISTEN TO ME!?"

Arms around his chest, so tight he can barely breathe, and a stunner hits him in the stomach, knocks him forwards, and then all he can see is black.

Draco reaches a hand out, retracts it when he realises this is just a painting, and his mother is dead. He blinks, and tears splash down to his chin. He steps back, nearly trips on his own feet as he turns, and then there's the piano, waiting for him, begging for him to walk over and recreate the tunes which he knows will only bring pain. But Draco can't resist, and as he sits down on the stool, lifts the lid and feels dust coat his fingers, he only thinks of his mother, and what he's lost.

Harry drifts at the edges of sleep, his brow creased, and his scar prickling. Somewhere, he can hear music, and it wakes him up slowly, teasingly, until his eyelids crack open and he sits up, confused. It's a piano, and it's too confident of a song to be Hermione, who Harry knows is meant to be on watch right now.

His wand is already in his hand as he gets up, and as he creeps out of Sirius's room, his heart thudding strangely in his chest, Harry catches sight of the open attic door, and it confirms his suspicions. Of course it must be Malfoy, who else could it be? (Unless Ron has some sordid musical secret he hasn't told Harry about.) But Harry never imagined, never stopped to think that Malfoy might have talents, or things he likes to do in his free time when he isn't being an annoying bastard.

The thought reminds him of Malfoy in his arms, shaking and crying, and suddenly Harry thinks that he should just go back to bed and pretend to be asleep, because what he is getting himself into might be terrifying. But Harry can't stop himself, and he travels towards the sound, like a moth to the light, to the door which stands open, enticing him.

And there's Malfoy, his fingers long and elegant, dancing across the keys, fast, slow, nimble, but seemingly strong. Harry swallows, willing to turn around and leave right this instant, but then Malfoy moves with the force of the melody, tilts his head back into the seeping moonlight, and Harry's eyes widen. He can't move, he's the deer frozen in front of something deadly, someone who's doing something deadly to Harry's chest.

His hand is sweaty around his wand, but not from fear, not even from confusion — but from a strange panic, because as soon as the thought pops into Harry's head he can't take it back, can't deny its truth.

Because Draco Malfoy is beautiful.

But he's in pain, Harry can see from where he watches — sees Malfoy's shoulders trembling, sees him hunch forward over the keys, as though he's about to collapse, but he only heaves, relaxes, and keeps playing. It's like his soul depends on it, like it's his own method of healing, and Harry can't look away, he doesn't even know if he wants to look away.

And that's when Harry is swamped with irrational fear of his own thoughts, scared by the knowledge that he finds Malfoy beautiful. His foot skids against the floor and his back hits the door frame, and abruptly the music cuts off, the last notes ringing into the silence, and as Harry's eyes flit upwards, he is almost worried about what he will find on Malfoy's face.

Malfoy is carved out of grey stone, and as he stares at Harry his eyes seem just as frightened as Harry feels. Harry takes a slow breath, and then, because he is Harry Potter, and if there is anything he has learnt from growing up with a price on his head, it is to always take a chance when it is offered, he steps closer, further into the room. Maybe it's just his Gryffindor traits rearing their heads, but Harry builds himself assurance with each step, until he is certain he is making the right decision.

"Don't stop, just 'cause I'm here," Harry murmurs, and Malfoy looks as though he's been slapped. In fact, maybe he'd rather it if Harry did slap him. Harry stops just behind the piano stool, and as he looks down he can see the moonlight playing with the strands of Malfoy's hair, turning them to fine, white strands, and Harry has to curl his fingers to suppress the undeniable urge to touch. "I didn't know you played the piano," Harry says quickly, incase he needs to disguise the twitch in his hands.

Malfoy seems to hesitate before he replies, and his voice is suspicious, "I'm not a philistine, Potter…" Malfoy eyes Harry like he's some sort of sleep-walking nightmare, like he's still debating whether to bolt while he still can.

But then Malfoy's eyes narrow, and he moves as though he's about to get to his feet, about to run away, and before Harry knows what he's doing, he blurts, "teach me."

It sounds like an order, not a request, and maybe that's why Malfoy freezes, not because his pause has anything to do with consideration. Harry, desperately searching for something to say, grappling for a reason which will stop Malfoy from fleeing, knows that Malfoy must think he's an idiot. Harry admits, in this moment, he probably is an idiot. He's never particularly wanted to learn to play an instrument, he was never musically inclined, and he supposes he never really got the chance, growing up with the Dursleys. So why, all of a sudden, does he want Malfoy to teach him? Not only is Malfoy just as likely to consent to music lessons as Voldemort is to drop dead from food poisoning, Malfoy is the kind of person who won't do anything unless he gets something in return.

The silence is too loud, too thick, and Harry feels so awkward, so helpless, that his cheeks start to flush. Hopefully, the monochrome light hides this, but Malfoy's face is unchanged from its mask of hostile confusion. Malfoy's eyes are unfathomable, calculating, and Harry just sighs as he digs his hands into the pockets of the jeans he never changed out of yesterday. His left hand meets the corner of the Marauder's Map, and remembering Malfoy's eager curiosity in discovering its secrets, Harry pulls it out, figuring it'll have to do. "I'll, er, let you borrow this."

Malfoy's pale brows lift, and his nose crinkles in distaste. "That useless wad of parchment? I don't think so. All it does is —"

"Insult you? Yeah, it does that when you're not using it the right way." Harry unfolds the map, and even though Malfoy hasn't said anything about sealing the deal, Harry finds he wants to show him, regardless of pointless piano lessons. Besides, Harry would bet the contents of his Gringott's vault on the fact that two days aren't enough time for him to come anywhere close to being adept at an instrument. For some startling reason, Harry wants to spend time with his enemy, because somewhere inside that snarky, venomous prat of a Slytherin, there is a boy waiting to be saved, to be shown the light.

So Harry smiles tightly and clears his throat, wondering what Sirius would say if he could see what his godson was doing, and then taps his wand on the map. "'I solemnly swear that I'm up to no good.'"

He watches Malfoy frown, watches the way his lips part when the ink starts to trace over the parchment. "Is that —" Malfoy cuts off, and Harry can tell the blond is embarrassed by both the eagerness and the disbelief in his own voice.

This time, Harry's smile is amused, because Malfoy's reaction reminds him of his own, all those years ago, when Fred and George Weasley had stood on either side of him. "Hogwarts? Yeah." Harry hands Malfoy the map, and the other boy's expression turns into one of unrestrained wonder and glee as his eyes try to take in everything at once.

Harry carefully takes a seat on the stool next to Malfoy, making sure there's still ample space between them, and watches the emotions flicker across his face. From here, the light strengthens the angle of Malfoy's cheekbones, casts interesting shadows over his lips, and Harry has to quickly pretend he isn't entranced when Malfoy suddenly looks up in amazement, "How did you — where did you get this?"

Harry's throat constricts at the way Malfoy sounds breathless with excitement, so he drops his gaze, and it falls to the pacing dot of Severus Snape, moving from end to end of the Headmaster's study. "Ron's brothers gave it to me in third year." A nostalgic smile tugs Harry's lips, but it's tinged with bitterness as his eyes follow the Potion Master's movements.

Surprisingly, Malfoy snorts, and as his greedy eyes lock onto Harry's, they're filled with a detached sense of praise. "Well, this explains a lot."

"It does?"

Malfoy rolls his eyes, "precious Potter — had more than luck on his side all along."

"Oh," Harry nods in thought, realising he doesn't find the need to defend himself this time, "right. Don't forget the invisibility cloak. That helped too."

Malfoy looks at him skeptically, and unwillingly Harry thinks of Malfoy's chest against his, warm and trembling, right before he'd spilled one of his not-so-carefully guarded secrets. "You weren't lying about that?"

"No," Harry answers instantly, slightly wounded that Malfoy would think that. Then again, this is Malfoy, who is always quick to assume the worst.

They stare at eachother, long enough for Harry to begin to feel a little nervous. "So…" he looks meaningfully at the piano. "Do we have a deal?"

Malfoy purses his lips, and his thin fingers fold the map and stow it away in his own pocket, which makes Harry think about how long Malfoy's been wearing the same pair of jeans for, and about the shrunken paper bag, filled with more clothes, stashed away in Harry's rucksack.

"Let me see your invisibility cloak," Malfoy says pompously.

"No, I just filled my end of the bargain, now it's your turn."

"Fine. New payment for every lesson. Take it or leave it."

"Alright," Harry agrees, wondering if they should shake on it or something. The idea of having Malfoy's slender hand in his own suddenly makes Harry's heart rate spike. Malfoy doesn't look like he has any intention of touching Harry's hand, however, and in fact, shaking hands over a deal is probably just a muggle thing anyway. Harry doesn't know whether he's disappointed or relieved.

"Well," Malfoy prompts, evidently frustrated, "What'd you want to learn?"

Harry shrugs, "Dunno. Something easy."

"Okay… well we'll start with this…You should be able to wrap your limited mind around something so simple…" Malfoy falls into the position of a teacher with ease, apart from the insult, which Harry hardly even notices, and Harry doesn't dare blink for fear of missing the way Malfoy's fingers dance across the keys. It's a well known song, Harry doesn't think there'd be a muggleborn or muggle alive who doesn't know it, so he's more than a little shocked to find out that Malfoy, pureblood supremacist, knows it.

"You know Twinkle Twinkle Little Star?" Harry asks, stunned. He has to forcibly snap his mouth shut.

Malfoy gives him a side-long look of annoyance. "Why wouldn't I?"

"Well — to start with — it's a muggle song."

This time, Malfoy turns his whole body towards Harry, and it brings their thighs closer together on the stool. "Are you sure the scar is the only thing The Dark Lord did to your head, Potter?"

Harry glares, "What?" Then, distracted, "Why do you still call him that?" Malfoy flinches as Harry scoffs, "'The Dark Lord.'"

Malfoy sighs, and asks sardonically, as though not expecting an answer, "Why wouldn't I call him that?"

"Because, It's creepy, and full of shit.And most of all, it reminds Harry of Snape, and somehow, he doesn't want Malfoy to be tainted by that, not anymore.

"Anyway," Malfoy begins meaningfully, rubbing a hand over his tired face, "Mozart was a Wizard, Potter, you insolent baboon. Did you seriously believe somebody that talented could be a muggle?"

Harry isn't fooled, and he still isn't quite done with 'The Dark Lord' topic. "Right, is that what they told you? It's time to face the music, Malfoy. Literally." Harry's lips tug into a half-smile when he hears Malfoy choke over a snort of laughter at his lame joke.

"You'd be surprised by how many famous composers and artists are Wizards and Witches, Potter."

"And you'd be surprised by how many Muggles are actually good at something, Malfoy." Childishly, Harry wants the last say, "So, am I getting this lesson, or not?"

"It's the middle of the night," Malfoy retorts, but his voice isn't as whiney as he'd probably aimed for.

"That wasn't stopping you," Harry points out, stretching his fingers and placing them on random keys. They're too short, too tanned and calloused, next to the image of what Malfoy's had been, and Harry feels vaguely jealous. Jealous about someone's hands, who would have thought? Harry rolls his eyes before realising Malfoy still hasn't said anything, and with a grim twist in his stomach, he remembers the state he'd been in before Harry came in. With a sigh, and a bewildering urge to once again witness Malfoy's eyes light with enthusiasm, Harry resorts to bribery, "I'll let you see my invisibility cloak sometime."

Malfoy grins. It's sort of sad, sort of broken, but it's a smile nonetheless, and it shatters the remnants of pain which lingered across his face, opening him up to Harry's insistent stem of hope, and brushing that strange something which coils around Harry's heart and makes him smile too.

Hermione's tying the laces of her boots, but every few seconds she lifts her head and gives Harry this infuriating, knowing look.

"Alright, what?" Harry asks, wishing he could just eat his toast in peace, and that he didn't already have a suspicion about what she's thinking.

"I didn't know you played the piano, Harry." Her voice is teasing, light, and there's a sly smile on her lips.

"I — er — I don't?" Harry tries weakly. He focuses on pulling his crust apart, hoping his cheeks aren't as red as they feel. He sighs, "sorry if it woke you up."

"Oh, no," Hermione stands up and finishes her mug of coffee, "I was up late reading, anyway — on watch." She continues to stare at him persistently, before she says softly, "Dumbledore would be proud of you, Harry. For giving Malfoy a second chance."

Harry glares at his plate, because even though he knows this is true, he doesn't know if he's even doing it for Dumbledore anymore.

"Right," he mutters, chewing fiercely, despite his sudden lack of hunger. His mind is too distracted — it's still back upstairs, several hours behind, stuck on Malfoy's irritated laughter at Harry's constant mistakes, at the way he always managed to press the wrong keys. Up there, in the moonlight, with the jumbled notes of Twinkle Tinkle Little Star floating around them, they'd been able to live in the moment, and that is something Harry never gets enough chances to do, something he won't be able to forget. And Harry doesn't know if this is because of Malfoy, or the moment itself.

Harry's brought back to the kitchen as Hermione's hand brushes his shoulder as she steps away from hugging his neck, and Ron comes in to clap him on the back. They say their goodbyes, and as Harry watches his two friends walk away and into oncoming danger, he knows it will be a very long day. A day filled with anxious waiting. He wonders if this is what it'll be like for Malfoy, when all three of them leave in forty eight hours.

He still hasn't told Malfoy, and it's something he should probably do soon — today. But he can't, because if he does it'll seem final, like they aren't coming back at all. And Harry's worried, because he knows Malfoy will be either glad, or scared, and he doesn't know which one's worse.

"What the hell are you doing?" Draco is hungry, and he came downstairs so he could eat, not so he'd be greeted by this — this startlingly bizarre amalgamation of Potter trying to cook, and Malfoy's own onslaught of memories revolving around a more than tolerable music lesson.

Potter looks at him, and Draco can't tell whether Potter's surprised by his presence or not.

There's bowls and strange utensils Draco's never seen before all over the kitchen table, a half spilt bag of flour, and a smashed egg by Potter's shoe.

"Baking." Potter says as he cracks a fresh egg messily over a small bowl. He pauses, lets out an irritating and thoughtful humming sound, which makes Draco grind his teeth, and then adds a second and third egg.

"Why?" Draco asks sourly, disdain curling his upper lip as he watches Potter spend too long deciding which ingredient to add next.

"'Cause," Potter wipes his hair out of his eyes and leaves behind a smudge of flour, "It's quite therapeutic."

Draco thinks that's probably the stupidest thing he's heard all month, but he's too distracted by that bloody trace of white on Potter's forehead to comment.

Potter spoons some butter into the eggs, Draco raises an eyebrow, "I didn't know you were the domestic type, Potter. Weasley must be pleased."

Potter just rolls his eyes and whisks the eggs, and Draco finds his eyes glued to the deft movements of Potter's wrists. When Potter catches him staring, Draco scowls, his face heating up, and he says the first thing he can think of, "You have a house elf. Why go to the unnecessary trouble?"

Potter shrugs, dusts his hands over his jeans, and pours a liberal amount of flour onto the table, "I like doing it this way."

Draco still doesn't understand, but then Potter is rolling up his sleeves and, to Draco's utter horror, shoving his hands into the mixture. "There's this curious little utensil called a spoon, Potter. It's what you use when you don't want to seem like a fucking neanderthal."

Potter laughs. It's not that short kind of laugh which Draco is used to hearing, it's full and deep and nice.

Something in his chest flutters a little, and Draco's eyes widen at the foreign feeling. Thinking he better get the hell out of here and away from Potter's bloody melodic laugh, Draco makes to leave, but is stopped when Potter throws a block of chocolate at his chest. Draco's Quidditch reflexes force him to catch it, and he lifts a sardonic brow.

"You can chop that up," Potter tells him.

"Can I?" Draco asks sarcastically.

"You can do the dough, if you'd prefer," Potter gestures down at the mixture he's busy abusing.

"I'd rather kiss a gnome's ass," Draco says scathingly.

Potter laughs again. Fuck. "Okay, well when I next see a gnome, I'll let you know."

That statement shouldn't make Draco think so much, but despairingly enough, when he unwraps the chocolate and sets it on the wooden board Potter hands him, Draco finds himself mulling over Potter's words, and the implications that say he will be in Potter's thoughts in the time to come, even when those thoughts revolve around a dirt ridden garden gnome — and that realisation does dangerously unfamiliar things to that fluttering thing in Draco's chest.

What's going to happen when Potter leaves? Draco knows he will — he doesn't understand why Potter hasn't brought it up yet, he obviously doesn't know Draco knows. Maybe it's for the best that certain things are left unsaid. But after this — after whatever this is — has ended, will Potter really keep Draco in his thoughts? And why does Draco even care — no, he doesn't care, he can't care, because he has to hate Potter, that's all Draco has left right now, and he needs to cling to it.

Draco vents his confused emotions on the unsuspecting chocolate block, and the knife feels good and heavy in his hands. In fact, he's so vigorous that Potter looks up from the filth he's elbow deep in and quirks an eyebrow.

Draco doesn't even know what he's doing, or why he's doing it, maybe it has something to do with that print of flour on Potter's forehead, the flour which almost hides his scar, acts as a veil covering everything Draco has grown up believing about his enemy. And for a moment, it's almost as if they are just two blokes cooking in a kitchen, and while that should seem strange in itself, Draco feels content.

His tongue must be loose, that must be why he says, "What are we making?" We, not you, and it grounds Draco to his feelings, makes him aware that he's okay with this, this little set-up he and Potter have going on, of not killing eachother and almost civil conversations. Like last night — this morning, Draco mentally corrects himself — when there hadn't even been one argument, and Draco liked it. Right now, Draco is able to forget that this set-up won't last long, that it will fall apart any day now, and while that should make him ecstatic, instead it leaves him jumpy and restless, as if he's waiting for a visit he has been expecting for too long.

"Choc-chip cookies," Potter says, and there's a smile in his voice.

Draco scrunches his nose, "Chocolate 'chips?' Merlin, muggles really are incorrigible. Potatoes and chocolate, that's got to be the foulest thing I've —"

Potter is laughing again, grinning, full of teeth and sounds that shouldn't be so comforting but are — and then he gestures to the sliced chocolate in front of Draco, "They're the chips, you idiot. Not literal potato chips."

Draco's eyes widen, and he shouldn't feel so caught out, so embarrassed, but he does, and embarrassment has always made him lose sight of his inhibition. Maybe that's why he flings some chocolate at Potter, and starts something which he will probably regret later on.

Potter stops what he's doing — there's a silence that goes on for one, two seconds, and it's broken by a creaking along the walls, and Potter throwing flour at Draco's shoulder. He moves fast, too fast for Draco to dodge the assault, but that's okay, because Draco just picks up an egg and launches it at the other boy. It cracks in Potter's hair, runs down his neck, and as Draco watches the trail of the yolk, he smiles, grins, laughs.

It escalates quickly, like all things that are too fun or too forbidden, and then they are just two boys ducking around a kitchen, a battle zone of flour, eggs and chocolate, using furniture to their advantage — and it's like everything in their world has been distilled into this moment. There isn't a war going on outside, people they love aren't dying, it is just Potter putting cookie dough all over Draco's face, his fingers warm and soft, and Draco trying to wrestle Potter away from him.

Somewhere within the brawl, Draco's sleeves have been pushed up, and he doesn't notice it until Potter's eyes fall onto his bare arm, and then just like that the moment is shattered by the severe force of reality. Draco's chest heaves, but his excitement is gone — gone and replaced with dread and shame. He takes a step back, but it doesn't take him far enough, because he'd been too close to Potter to begin with.

Potter doesn't look away from the Dark Mark, stark and black against Draco's skin, and the thing which has been fluttering inside Draco's rib cage, fluttering so erratically before, now withers and dies.

Draco moves quickly, lets his feet carry him backwards, and then Potter's eyes catch his, and they are a smouldering emerald which burn into Draco's being, make him regret who he is and what he's done — they make him yearn for something he now knows more than ever that he'll never be able to have. Acceptance.

Draco can't bare to look any longer, because if he does then Potter's disappointment will shine through that glorious green gaze, maybe even tear Draco apart, so instead he does what he's best at — he runs, and he doesn't even stop when Potter calls after him. "Draco — wait!"

But Draco doesn't wait, he doesn't pause to wonder why he has become Draco, instead of Malfoy, he only runs and runs and runs, and by the time he is safely behind a closed door, his heart is beating so fast it hurts.

Chapter Text

Harry stands frozen in the empty kitchen, egg yolk dripping from his hair and cookie dough caught beneath his finger nails.

He feels like his lungs are wedged in his throat, cutting off his ability to breathe — or maybe that's just because of the pounding in his chest, the rapid swirl of excitement and something more — something Harry hasn't experienced since Ginny took his hand and told him she'd loved him for six years straight.

Ginny isn't here, she's in the world Harry left behind, the world he doesn't know if he'll ever be able to return to, and even though he worries for her because she's Ron's sister, he no longer watches her dot on the Marauder's Map like it's his reason for hoping. Harry loved Ginny once, she made him excited, happy, but that was before Harry's shoulders had been crushed by the weight of his unchangeable destiny.

Minutes ago, here in the kitchen, it'd been Malfoy's smiling face which brought back all those emotions with a rush of heady elation, it'd been Malfoy who made Harry forget about everything besides the grin on his face, the ache in his cheeks. It'd been Malfoy who distracted Harry from the stress of worrying about Ron and Hermione.

But now, Malfoy's gone, and Harry can still see the flash of his hair as he disappeared through the door, can still feel his sudden absence like a fresh wound to the chest.

And Harry is numb, estranged from everything around him, because he can't figure out why this matters so much. Why should he be haunted by the look of unguarded fear in Malfoy's grey eyes? By the look of shame which tore the smile from his face, brought them back to being just Malfoy and Potter?

The Dark Mark is etched into the back of Harry's eyelids, like the orange light of the sun after stepping into a dim room — but it's not disgust or hate Harry feels, it's only pity, and a desperate desire to trace his fingers along the black lines, to tell Malfoy, 'it's alright, you can try better next time.'

But it's too late. Malfoy's gone. And Harry doesn't know if he'll ever get another chance to make things right. Knowing Malfoy, he won't come out until the morning, and then Harry will only have one day, one terribly short day, to make Malfoy see that a person's life is not defined by a mark on their skin — to tell him that there is a second chance somewhere inside him, just waiting for him to take it.

Harry sighs, and it's loud enough that it echoes around the kitchen. Refusing to believe that Malfoy's departure has made him feel lonely, Harry grits his teeth and waves his wand a few times, vanishing the evidence of their food fight, and the atrocious mess on his body.

After spelling the unused and rusting oven clean several times, Harry puts the cookies in, wondering if there are any possibilities left of him convincing Malfoy to try one.

Draco can smell it. The sweet fragrance of baking and chocolate, drifting upstairs and through the walls. And more than anything, he wants to go down and taste one, sink his teeth into the thing which he knows from this day on will remind him of Potter.

But he doesn't move. His fists clench on the floor beside him, and he glares at the giant bed in the centre of the room, at the hideous patchwork green quilt which lies messily over the top of it. It's awful, and reminds Draco of something his great, great grandmother might own, but it's still green. And even though Potter must have been having a laugh when he transfigured it, the fact remains that he still took Draco's preferences into account, no matter how vaguely.

Potter obviously thought about what might make Draco more comfortable. He, like many other people, don't know that while there was a time where Draco preferred green over any other colour, he now hates it. Just like he hates Potter, and Draco doesn't let himself admit that if that were really true, then he wouldn't care about what Potter thinks.

That's why he can't go back to the kitchen, where bloody Potter with his bloody green eyes will be waiting, full of disappointment. Draco is used to being a failure, used to letting people down, but he's never cared, not until now. Not until Potter smiled and laughed with him, like he was actually having fun, like he was enjoying whatever moment they'd shared, as if Draco wasn't the person who'd made his life hell throughout school.

Not until Potter caught sight of the mark Draco now tries to scratch out of his arm. His skin is bloodied, but the mark's still there, plaguing him with a past he can't escape, and with a frustrated growl which sounds more like a sob, Draco realises that it'll always be there.

And nothing can change that.

Harry is too worried to eat. He skips lunch. He thinks about going up to leave a plate of cookies outside Malfoy's door, but decides against it.

He walks the length of the drawing room and back again, rolling his wand in his palms, trying to think of something to take his mind away from the anxiety, but all he can see is Malfoy's fear, and it just makes everything worse.

It's nearly three o'clock, and Ron and Hermione aren't back yet. They said they'd try and be back before then, and while Harry knows Ron has always been one to arrive a minute and no less after any scheduled timing, Hermione is with him. And she should be organised, level-headed. They'd be here by now, unless something went terribly wrong, and Harry can't dislodge the razor-sharp lump of dread in his throat. Can't shake off the dooming figure of worry which latches onto his shoulders.

The grandfather clock keeps ticking, keeps in time with Harry's footsteps. There's a creaking overhead, but Harry doesn't stop, can't stop. He focuses on breathing deeply, watching as the hand of his watch, the one Mr and Mrs Weasley gave him for his birthday, edges closer and closer to the fourth hour.

Harry collapses into an armchair, lighting the fire for something to do, hoping the flames will hold his attention for a while. But as they kindle brightly all he can see is the illusion that Sirius is there to talk to him, to tell him it'll be okay, that Hermione is the brightest witch of her age, and Ron is braver than people give him credit for.

Harry runs a hand through his hair, pulls it back again to tug the strands into further disarray. He rubs his eyes, wishing he hadn't given Malfoy the Map, so he could take it out and study it, think about his fellow classmates, his friends, and what they're up to right now. Whether they're fighting, whether they're running from one of the lurking threats in the castle — Death Eaters.

The thought makes Harry shiver, and he stands up to walk to the window. Peering through the curtains, he expects to see the waiting figures — the two Death Eaters who have been watching the building since the first morning they arrived here after Bill and Fleur's wedding — but they're not there.

And Harry feels a tremor go down his spine — because if they're not here, then that must mean they're elsewhere, somewhere they're needed, somewhere important. His thoughts immediately fly to Ron and Hermione, and Harry's whole body goes cold.

What if they'd been captured? But they couldn't have — Hermione had told him she'd send him word through the fake galleon, just like they'd done in the DA, if that were the case.

But it's four o'clock, and they're still not back, and Harry is just about to go insane. He needs to do something — anything.

And as much as Hermione will hate him if he tries to go and find them, it'll be worth it — their lives will be worth it.

Harry's decision is made, he grabs his bag from where he stowed it behind the chair, and rushes out of the room.

He is almost at the front door when a voice stops him.

"What are you doing?"

It's soft, calm, and it's like nothing Harry has ever heard in Malfoy's voice before.

Harry turns slowly, torn between what he knows he will see, and where he has to be right now.

Malfoy is standing on the second last step, his foot hesitating to make the last one, and his face is carefully blank, emotionless except for his eyes — eyes which stare through narrowed suspicion. His face is mostly clean now, except for a streak of flour beneath his jawline, and as much as Harry tries not to stare, his gaze is drawn to it like a magnet.

Harry knows there is nothing he can say that won't give anything away. "I — I…" He falters, because unsurprisingly, it's difficult to speak.

Malfoy takes the last two steps, and then it's just a single metre of hallway separating them. And when Harry gets a clearer look at Malfoy's face, the foundations of it change, slip into a momentary lapse of confusion, and that's when Harry realises his own features are probably creased with panic.

"What is it?" Malfoy whispers, and it's like he is about to hear that his mother has died, all over again.

Harry shakes his head, wondering if there's something else in this world which can gain such a reaction from Malfoy. And maybe because Harry's sick of pretending the inevitable won't happen, or because he knows talking about things helps, he replies hoarsely, "Ron and Hermione — they… they haven't come back."

Something in Malfoy's expression settles firmly back into the familiar, and he nods as though he knew this were the case. But then his eyes trail over Harry's body, down to his hands which clutch his wand and his rucksack, and Malfoy's adams' apple bobs prominently as he swallows. "Are you going after them?"

Harry frowns, he doesn't understand the question. It should be obvious — that he'd never leave his friends when they need him — and he doesn't see why Malfoy cares. Maybe he doesn't care, maybe Malfoy's just trying to comprehend the intricacies of a friendship he'll never be able to wrap his mind around. But it has to be more than that, because that little shade of fear is back, hiding within those silver irises, and it makes Harry sway on his feet.

Harry parts his lips to murmur an affirmative, but before he can, Malfoy rushes out, "They'll be back," and his tone is a facade of casualness, which Harry can see right through, he just doesn't know what it is that waits on the other side.

Harry's brows scrunch in annoyance, irritated with Malfoy's stupid question and his stupid response. "You don't know that."

"Rash decisions will get you killed, Potter." There it is, that familiar bite behind Malfoy's words. Harry isn't sure if he's missed it.

"What are you saying?" Harry snaps. He can't waste time, because his friends could be dying right now — no, he can't think about it, he just needs to move.

"You can't always be the hero. They'll come back, and they'll be fine. If they're your friends, you'd trust them more." Malfoy sounds so sure of himself, and Harry releases a shaky breath, not knowing whether to take comfort or offence from his enemy's words.

"It's not about being a hero, Malfoy," Harry says lowly.

Malfoy scoffs, and Harry swears he has imagined it, but Malfoy seems to have moved closer. "Bullshit, it isn't. You can't stand the fact that they're out there, while you're stuck here — with me. You hate it." Malfoy takes a visible step forward this time, and his voice is bitter, as though he's trying to convince himself as much as he is Harry.

"You know what? You're right. But it has nothing to do with being heroic — it's because they are people I care about! And I can't stand the idea of them getting hurt!"

"You're deluding yourself, Potter," Malfoy sneers, "you just can't go without the glory of saving them."

"You're fucking wrong!"

"THEN WHY CAN'T YOU STAY!?" Malfoy's shout comes out of nowhere, and it leaves them both breathless.

Harry's eyes widen as he takes everything in — the way Malfoy's face is tight with anger, the way his stormy eyes give him away, barely containing their frightened plea. But Harry still sees it, and he wonders when he became anywhere near observant enough to decipher the meanings behind the lines of Draco Malfoy's composure.

Harry doesn't know what to say, and he watches warily as Malfoy scowls like he's just realised what he's said, watches the pink flush which steals across his alabaster cheeks.

And then suddenly it makes sense, and Harry realises that Malfoy must know something, must know that in two days, he'll be leaving regardless. His heart thuds with dull pangs — Malfoy wants me to stay?

"I — I need to be out there — fighting," Harry chokes out.

Malfoy's chest heaves, but he doesn't say anything, he only glares.

Harry looks at the hard eyes, the faint, curving eyelashes which frame them delicately, and unwillingly, he thinks about right and wrong, and before he can stop himself he's saying, "You could come with us."

It's ridiculous, Harry knows it is, because none of their plans have taken into account the possibility of a fourth person. Malfoy could give them away, could run for help as soon as they step out of the wards around Grimmauld Place — everything could be ruined, destroyed. But fleetingly, Harry thinks they could figure something out, that none of the problems would matter if only Malfoy were to say yes. But his suggestion is wasted, because as soon as the idea is out of Harry's mouth, Malfoy turns livid.

"Are you fucking stupid?" Malfoy seethes, his lips pulled back over pearl-white teeth.

Harry's hope rapidly disintegrates into a disappointment so strong it hurts. Of course Draco Malfoy would never accept such an offer, and Malfoy's right, Harry really is deluded if he thinks Malfoy would give up his label of a coward to come and fight with them. Now, as he sees the rage splinter across Malfoy's face, Harry knows it was a stupid suggestion, that he'd never be able to trust Malfoy enough to tell him about the Horcruxes, about the mission Dumbledore had left him. And he'd wanted so much to believe that he could.

"Maybe I am stupid," Harry retorts hostilely.

Malfoy's glare deepens, "I'd rather die than join you and your fucking friends, Potter."

Harry recoils as though slapped, and perhaps his pained reaction is obvious, because Malfoy's eyes flicker with something foreign.

Harry doesn't get time to respond, or to acknowledge the constricting thing in his chest, because at that moment the galleon in his back pocket burns, and without a second's pause Harry grabs the coin and reads, 'Trouble. Plan starts now. Hurry.'

Harry's stomach convulses. His palms start to sweat, and as he looks up Malfoy's eyes are filled with torment.

But there's no time to lose, no time to try and convince a boy who'd rather run from life to make the right choice, so all Harry feels is a harsh swell of regret for what could have been as he says quietly, "Goodbye, Malfoy."

Then he leaves.

And Harry doesn't think he'll ever be able to get the image of Malfoy's lingering look of loss out of his head.

Draco stares at the empty space Potter left behind him, and suddenly, with him gone, Draco feels claustrophobic, as if the air will close in on him at any moment.

Potter's gone — maybe for good — and Draco doesn't know what to do — he's stuck here, without his wand — alone — and panic starts to set in.

And Draco is a fool — a fool for hoping, for thinking, even for a second, that Potter would actually stay, just because he'd asked.

Draco's breathing begins to come in short, sporadic bursts which burn his throat on the way out. His fingers curl into painful fists, and before he can decide what to do, he is retreating back up stairs. He can't leave — he's caged, and even if he could leave, he doesn't know where he'd go.

Maybe he'll shut himself in the attic room and pretend he doesn't exist, but when his feet arrive on the top landing he turns into the piano room, the room with the Black Family Tree, and then every ounce of rage and self-loathing falls into one spontaneous outburst of violence, and Draco's finger nails tear at the wallpaper, shred the faces of a family he's never known, a family he now wishes he wasn't a part of.

He yells and he growls, and by the time the wall is bare apart from scraps of coloured cloth, Draco's hands are red and raw, and his cheeks are wet.

Draco falls to his knees, thuds against the floorboards, and it's as though every scrap of his energy has fled and left him as a vacant shell.

"You could come with us."

No. No, Draco couldn't. He hadn't even let himself consider it. Even when something had sparked so brightly inside of him, relished the idea of freedom and the chance to do something right, he'd squashed his own hope like a bug, and now Draco doesn't think he'll ever be able to feel hopeful again.

And then there's that second-long memory of Potter's face, the way the corner of his eyes had tightened, like he'd suffered from Draco's words, and while that should make Draco feel glad, happy that he'd driven Potter away for good, instead it leaves him aching.

Now, sitting in the dust-covered room of junk, Draco asks himself why? Why couldn't he have gone with Potter? Because now that he's alone, that single lost chance of redemption seems like the mistake of his lifetime. Is that really what it would have been, though? Redemption? Draco tries to imagine himself running, running alongside Potter, and no doubt Weasley and Granger too, and the picture is so wrong it makes him feel queazy. He wonders if Potter would have come to trust him, would have given Draco his wand back. But even more than that, Draco wonders whether he would have been able to trust himself. As soon as he'd have the familiarity of his own magic back in his hands, would he have spun around with a snarl, attacked his enemy, and put the wrongs back into the rights, fixed the error his father had made two years ago? Draco likes to think he would have, that that's how it would have turned out, but as his mind blurs the idea of him fighting, takes Weasley and Granger out of the picture, and shows only him and Potter, he isn't so sure. Maybe it's because of all the food Potter has left him, the apples, or the clothes, or maybe it's more than that — maybe it's the free smile Draco sees when he closes his eyes — the smile Potter wore when he smudged cookie dough into Draco's hair — that makes all the difference. Draco doesn't care, doesn't give a shit about this war anymore, couldn't care less about who lives and who dies, but somewhere within the last six days, Potter has come to be some sort of pillar, someone Draco can rely on to meet him in an argument, to challenge his thoughts, and what he's grown up knowing. Somehow, Potter has become the only truth left in Draco's life, the only thing he can guarantee to be real, to be bloody Saint Potter who saves the day, again and again.

And that's why Draco wanted Potter to stay, because he'd been all Draco had left. They'd fight, they'd play the piano in the moonlight, and they'd insult eachother, and things would be normal.

But if Draco'd left, gone with Potter to fight in a war where he didn't belong, everything would change — Draco would be forced to choose — and that would mean throwing every unwavering fact, every certainty Draco has about who Potter is, into oblivion. And Draco doesn't think he's ready — doesn't think he'll ever be ready for that.

That's why he couldn't have gone. Why he risked seeing that fleeting look of hurt flash across Potter's features.

But none of that matters now. Potter might be dead by morning. And Draco won't ever have to see those green eyes again, won't ever have to question his own feelings or that fluttering thing in his chest. He tries to convince himself that this is what he wants, for Potter to die, but the thought just doubles the sickness in his stomach, and he clenches his teeth over a gag.

Draco lowers his head, stares at the scarlet mess of his fingernails, and immediately it reminds him of chains biting into his wrists, chains which he'd clawed at uselessly for days, and a dank brick room with one harsh light swinging and screeching above him.

They'll come and they'll release him, give him gruel on a rusting metal tray, and Draco will just glare at it with unseeing eyes until they force him to eat it.

And then the questioning will begin. It is always the same.

They'll say Draco is lying, that he is only here as a Death Eater spy, to bring back information. They say it'll be better if they just kill him now.

"Please find her! I'll do anything — I swear I'm not lying, I swear —"

The two men, aurors, cloaked with stern faces, exchange a glance. And Draco panics, because they can't say no — they just can't — and —

"I'm telling the truth — I'm telling the fucking truth dammit why won't you fucking LISTEN TO ME!?"

Arms around his chest, so tight he can barely breathe, and then a stunner hits him in the stomach, knocks him forwards, and then all he can see is black.

When he wakes, he's on a chair, his wrists bound again, and this time there's only one person sitting across from him. It's a different room, lighter, and it puts Draco on edge.

It's Remus Lupin, and Draco only bites his tongue when all the recognition does is make him want to lash out.

"Mr Malfoy…"

The name brings images of long white hair and a tortured expression, a thin mouth and a black cane which conceals a weapon. Draco will never be his father, and right now he realises he doesn't want to be.

"DON'T CALL ME THAT!" His voice is hoarse, and the outburst makes the Werewolf fold his hands atop the table.

"Draco… tell me the truth." False kindness, Draco knows this man doesn't give a shit about him, and he struggles in his chair.

"I have told the truth," Draco croaks out, but it's not strong enough.

The Wolf just nods, and Draco tastes blood in his mouth from the force of his teeth on his tongue.

"If that were true, you wouldn't have come to us in the form of Severus Snape."

Draco's eyes widen, and suddenly he's urgent, "He's one of you!" He hisses, "How can you not fucking know that you stupid fucking —" A shake of the head, and Draco jerks forward, uncaring if he snaps his own wrists trying to escape. The cuffs won't budge, and Draco feels helpless, bitter. Angry tears start to blur his vision. "They have her — they've done something to mother — I — I don't want to be there anymore! Snape said you'd help me!"

Lupin looks tired, sad even, like he knows something Draco doesn't, and it makes him mad, so fucking mad that he can't find anymore words.

"And we will. After you help us, after you cooperate and tell us the truth, as Veritiserum seems to have no effect on you."

And Draco just wants to scream, scream until he can't think anymore, because he's never felt so frustrated in his whole life. "That's what you're meant for, right? SAVING PEOPLE!? SO FIND HER! FIND HER FOR FUCK'S SAKE — help her… help her!" Draco's voice fades into helplessness, and now he's crying.

"Draco, if our positions were reversed — you must understand — this is a war! Sometimes, trust isn't enough." Draco doesn't understand, his chest hurts, his arms hurt, everything hurts, "When the time comes, we will do what we can — to help your mother."

Draco heaves, takes a deep breath, and wills himself to calm down, because he wants so much to believe what he hears. "P-promise," he says, and even though he's so weak, his voice still sounds deadly.

The Wolf seems unfazed, but the nod he gives is a tight one.

The Aurors return, and Draco is taken away.

In the following days, Remus Lupin brings him his food, and sometimes a chocolate bar. Draco never eats it.

It happens when Draco is sleeping, hunched in the corner, his neck aching. There's a piercing, high pitched squealing, like an alarm, and overhead Draco hears screams and shouts and booming voices. Then the spells start firing, loud bangs and the heavy smell of fear and sulphur.

Draco's awareness is foggy, but he still knows, still has a wrenching feeling in his gut that tells him what's happening. Whatever base or headquarters this is, it's being attacked, and while Draco thinks the lying Aurors deserve what they get, he's scared. So scared.

No one comes for a long time, for hours, and Draco thinks they'll probably leave him here for dead, unless the Death Eaters come and find him first. Somehow, he doesn't know which is worse.

The door blasts open, and the chamber fills with thick smoke and debris, and before Draco has time to cough, someone's running towards him and crouching at his side. It's the Werewolf, and his face is gaunt with horror. He's murmuring something — spells — but Draco can't hear properly, his ears are still ringing from the explosion, but he feels the binds on his wrists fall away, and a strange, warm wash of energy falls over him like a cloak.

Then he's up, and they're running, Lupin's wand digging into Draco's lower back while his voice yells urgent orders over the top of the noise.

Draco's shaky on his feet, but he still moves, through corridors with chunks of wall missing, and large atriums filled with hundreds of chairs — upturned and broken.

A jet of green light shoots over his shoulder, and with a muffled curse Draco hears Lupin turn and aim a defensive spell at their attacker. They keep running, even when Draco hears a woman screaming, shrill and pained over all the deafening bangs of destruction.

There's a bright expanse of light at the end of the room — an entire wall blown out of the structure — and Draco knows that's where they're headed. He doesn't slow down.

And then the fresh, drizzling air is all around them, spattering raindrops hitting Draco's skin — and it feels so good — he just wants to stand there and absorb it — but then the Wolf is tugging his arm, and they're running again. Past tall grey buildings and huge, empty lots, not a person in sight, some kind of industrial zone, but Draco doesn't get time to think about it, because then Lupin grabs the collar of Draco's ripped travelling cloak, and they disapparate.

The tug at his navel, unpleasant and forceful, brings Draco onto the doorstep of a grimy, white stone house. Lupin is at his back, his breathing hot and ragged, sending chills of disgust down Draco's spine — but then he's pushed forwards, through a doorway that's now being locked and bolted behind him.

It's a dark and cobwebbed entryway, and Draco's nerves prickle. "Where are we?" He seethes. There's no answer, the Werewolf's too busy casting complicated spells on the door, his voice fast and serious, and it's too late when Draco realises what they are — warding spells, keeping him in.

"What the fuck are you doing!?" He sounds scared, and he hates it, and his whole body stiffens as he's abruptly thrown against the wall. Plaster cracks behind his back, and it sends an entirely new ache down his spine, reminding him of how tired he is.

"Keeping you safe! For whatever reason, god help me! You'll stay here — don't try and escape — it'll do nothing but burn you," Lupin whispers lethally.

"What!? What the fuck do —"

"Be quiet! It's for the best, Malfoy! Have some trust — do what they say— and you'll see both your mother and your wand again soon." Lupin's eyes are so wide, so stern, and for a moment Draco is taken back to the classroom, as though the man in front of him is still his Professor.

Draco glares, "Let me go, you filthy, lying fuck!"

"Keep your voice down and listen to me!" Lupin's nostrils flare, but before anything else can be said, there's a rush of footsteps, and a figure rounding the corner, and it takes several too-long seconds for Potter's relieved eyes to land on Draco, and to fill with a rage so strong it makes Draco tremble.

It's been almost a week since then, the most turbulent week of Draco's life. And who would have thought that Potter's infuriatingly green eyes would be something Draco would miss, as he sits on his knees in a dark and empty house?

It must be almost night time, because his skin looks eerily pale in the dim light, and as Draco slowly gets to his feet, he quells the sudden realisation that somewhere inside of him, he is still under the impression that Potter might return.

But then out of the silence, a noise sounds from downstairs, a loud cracking thump, and despite everything, despite his better judgment and his reasoning, Draco's hope bursts back into life, like a Phoenix from the ashes, and never before has he held a hope so strong, so strong that it makes his heart jump in his chest.

Chapter Text

Harry hits the forest floor hard, damp leaves clogging his throat and his wand digging painfully into the crease of his elbow. He coughs and splutters, tries to sit up, but he's had the air knocked out of him, and moving is difficult.

Images from the last hour are dancing behind his eyelids — Umbridge's outraged expression before being stunned — the screams of muggleborns and halfbloods as they were chased by an endless number of dementors — hundreds of fliers with his own face plastered on the front, blocking his vision — Hermione's hand reaching for his and Ron's as they vaulted into the Floo Network.

Now, Hermione's calling his name, and Harry barely has time to register their success before he latches onto a whimpering sound, like someone's dying, and Harry's panic increases drastically. He reaches a hand out to find his glasses, shoves them onto his face, and then struggles onto his knees.

Sharp twigs cut through the now too-loose trousers, but Harry doesn't care, he only crawls to where Hermione kneels over Ron, her hands covered in red — in blood. "Mione— what — Ron —"

"Harry — my bag — quick!"

What's left of the afternoon light seeps in through the trees, making the shadows darker than they should be. Harry finds it, Hermione's small beaded bag, and with shaking hands he opens it, following her croaking instructions and accioing a small bottle of dittany.

"What — what happened to Ron— where are we!?" Harry's breathless, and he can't focus properly, can't look away from the gaping flesh wound on his best mate's shoulder. Ron thrashes his head from side to side, and Hermione whines, pleads for him to hold still.

"Ron's been splinched."

Harry winces, and when she doesn't reply to his other question his panic morphs into something bigger, spreading out to encompass the person they left behind, "Why're we here? Hermione!?"

Hermione throws an anxious glance over her shoulder at him, like she doesn't have a moment to spare, and rushes out, "Yaxley grabbed hold of me as we disapparated and I couldn't shake him off — and then we landed on the doorstep and I — I couldn't — we couldn't stay there!"

Harry's eyes widen, and it takes him one, two gasping inhales to realise what this means. "But Malfoy —"

"Forget him, Harry — we can't go back!"

"But —"

"Harry, don't you see? This was going to happen on Friday anyway — and even if the plan had gone smoothly we mightn't have been able to go back! It was becoming too dangerous — the Death Eaters knew someone was inside — they just didn't know how to get in!" Hermione turns back to Ron, brushes her trembling hands over his face. "Ron — it's okay —"

Harry doesn't listen, he tunes everything out, and his ears start to ring. They lead Yaxley right onto the doorstep, which means he's now a Secret Keeper, and could bring any number of Death Eaters back with him. Back to Malfoy. Wandless, defenceless, stupid Malfoy.

Harry doesn't see Hermione begin to circle around them, putting up warding spells, he only stands numbly, the Horcrux around his neck weighing him down. Harry's hand is shaking as he tears the tie from around his neck and then tucks the locket under his shirt, alongside Hagrid's pouch.

He grabs his rucksack from where it lies strewn at his feet, and then shrugs it on his shoulder after pulling out his invisibility cloak.

"Harry — Harry, what are you doing?" Hermione's looking at him now, stress in every inch of her body.

"I'm going back." His voice is thick with resolution, and he throws a worried glance at the now unconscious Ron.

"You can't —"

"If I'm not back by morning, you have to leave."

"Harry —"

"Promise me, Hermione. It's not safe to stay in one place for too long."

"Leave the locket," Hermione's voice wavers, but her tone is strong, and Harry knows what she's thinking, that if he gets caught with a horcrux, then everything will be ruined. His hesitation only lasts for a few seconds before he unhooks it from his neck and hands it to her.

Tears well in Hermione's eyes, and looking up at him, she asks quietly, "Is losing us really worth this? Worth Malfoy?"

Harry gives her a hard look, guilt settling into his stomach. "I'm not losing you — I —"

"You don't have to save everybody, Harry — Malfoy's not your problem anymore!"

It's hard to see his best friend like this, thinking he's choosing a stranger over her, but it's not like that — not really — it's something Harry has to do. Malfoy's broken shout echoes through his head, 'THEN WHY CAN'T YOU STAY!?' And Harry knows without a doubt, that even though Malfoy said he'd rather die than join them, there was something hidden beneath the haunting remnants of his expression, something which said, 'take me with you,' and even if Malfoy couldn't see that yet, Harry would make him see it.

"I'm not going to leave him!" Harry says firmly, and they both know that it's too late to convince him otherwise. Maybe it's a Gryffindor thing, or maybe Harry's just too stubborn to change his mind once he's made a decision. Either way, Harry knows Hermione will forgive him — Ron will too, after a few days — and he won't hug her goodbye because if he does then it'll be like he isn't coming back at all. "See you soon."

Hermione wipes her tears with the back of her hand and watches as Harry turns around and walks out of the wards.

Draco listens, and he doesn't dare move for fear of giving himself away.

It's not Potter downstairs, it's someone else, someone who hasn't made a sound apart from a thud, and then the creaking of the door — and Draco's back becomes icy, cold with sweat, as it hits him harder, that this is not Harry Potter.

It must be a Death Eater, a Death Eater who will know Draco's face as soon as they see him, and then everything will be over. Over for good. And Draco really must have gone insane — because he wishes he could have had a second chance, an attempt at accepting Potter's offer — and it's an insanity he welcomes.

Because anything is better than being left behind. Being the discarded failure who is found in enemy territory. Being the unarmed teenager who gets murdered by his father's friend. Or maybe his father. What if it's Lucius? What will Draco do then? He tries to swallow, but finds he can't, and he wonders if they know — if they suspect that Draco's disappearance was a hoax, and not a kidnapping. Will they be lenient? Or will the Dark Lord kill Draco himself?

"Why do you still call him that? 'The Dark Lord?'"

Potter's voice seems a million miles away, from another millennia. But really it is just a memory from last night, in this very room, and Draco wishes he could go back to that moment — because now he has an answer — an answer he never would have thought possible, let alone wish he could share with Harry Potter.

If Draco could return to all those hours ago, he would tell Potter, 'Because I'm terrified.'

And maybe Potter would just laugh, and Draco would have a better reason to hate him, but somehow he doesn't think that's what would have happened.

Draco doesn't get time to think about things like truth and acceptance, because from below there is a loud grumbling shriek — and he guesses the intruder has set foot on the cursed step — just like Draco did himself the first time he ventured downstairs, all those days ago.

It should give him time, the searing pain the curse sends up the victim's legs is enough to render anyone immobile for a few minutes, and Draco wracks his mind, trying to come up with some idea — any idea — which will get him out of this alive and undetected.

Jumping out a window is useless — the shattering glass will just attract attention to his location, and the Wolf's wards are no doubt still intact, so Draco would probably just pass out from pain if he tried to do that anyway.

His forehead is sweating now, so are his palms, and his heart skips a beat when he realises there is no way out. He could hide, hide like the coward he is, in hopes of them leaving some dark corner of this room unturned. Maybe if they think no one's here, they won't bring in reinforcements, maybe if Draco stays quiet enough, they'll go away.

Draco's thoughts flit to Potter's house elf, but quickly dismisses the idea, as he has no way of summoning the creature, let alone convincing it to apparate him out of here — that's if Lupin's protective charms aren't already strong enough to prohibit that.

Draco's whole body drains of motivation, and his blood runs cold, as he reestablishes the fact that he has only two options, to hide and get caught, or to face the lone Death Eater and hope for the best.

He has never been an optimistic person, in fact Draco has always taken glee from any situation where the glass can be looked at as half empty, so long as that situation does not involve himself. But now it does. And this is possibly the last decision Draco will ever get to make, and after one very short second, he thinks he must be a complete and utter idiot, because he decides to do what Potter would do — the right thing — even if it gets him killed.

So Draco gets to his feet. His legs feel like lead, and his knees ache from his painful and slumped position from the last few hours. Draco takes a step, another one, his shoe scuffs the floor, and he knows this is it, that it's time to do or die.

Like a chain reaction, footsteps, heavy and urgent this time, immediately restart from downstairs, and Draco has about five seconds to make it to the threshold before the Death Eater makes it into the hallway.

Vaguely, in some unused and uncared for part of Draco's mind, he finally accepts his detachment from the idea of the Dark Side, from them, from the people he's grown his whole life fighting for. And in these last few minutes of his life, several things click into place.

First of which, Draco would rather be killed than be taken back to the Manor, taken back to his father.

Secondly, he acknowledges all the regret, lets it consume him, that he should have felt years ago, but didn't. Regret for his actions, and for the choices he might never have been able make if it weren't for his wrongs.

And lastly, Draco wishes more than anything, after doing everything he could to avenge the only person he's ever loved, that he could have fought beside Harry Potter. That he could have proven himself to the one person who's willing to give him a chance. And Draco doesn't know who's the bigger idiot, him or Potter.

Draco moves into the hallway, his back rigid and his fists curled and shaking, and at that precise moment, a man rounds the corner — Yaxley. His wand is raised and directed straight at Draco's chest, but Draco isn't scared, only relieved, because this isn't Lucius, this is just a man who Draco knows by name and face, a man who sat at the Malfoy dining table and didn't cringe at the sight of Charity Burbage's blood spraying over the dinner plates.

Recognition lights in Yaxley's eyes, and for a moment his wand falters. Just as quickly, it's back in the air, and his face is lined with an enthusiastic curiosity and a wide grin. "Draco Malfoy?" It's too loud to be a whisper, like he can't control himself, "What a pleasant surprise."

Draco doesn't say anything, and despite his glare his heart is pounding rapidly. His eyes take in the man's immaculate suit, the hair that's barely been pulled from it's tie, and Draco can't help but wonder how he got here, and what happened to Potter. He doesn't spare a thought for Granger and Weasley, Draco couldn't care less about them, but for some reason it matters whether Potter lives or dies.

Yaxley is coming closer, slowly, like a lion hunting its prey, "We had suspicions that the Auror's might be using this place as a… base… but never did we think that Potter — that the prize — was so close." He spits Potter's name like it's poison on his tongue, and Draco twitches. Has Yaxley figured it out yet? That Draco was never kidnapped to start with, that leaving was his own decision? Wouldn't he already be dead if that were the case? How much time does he have left?

"But surely, Draco…" Yaxley hesitates, and his head tilts to the side, his eyes narrowed in contemplation, as if he knows every one of Draco's unsaid thoughts. The man is no Legilimens, as far as Draco knows, but he still begins to Occlude right away, taking an unknowing step back in retreat. Yaxley's eyes catch on to Draco's movement, a hawk watching the mouse, "you must be glad to see me… After so many weeks, your father has practically given up hope."

Draco's nostrils flare, and he bites his tongue to stop himself from yelling, from rising to the bait.

"Can you not speak?" Yaxley frowns, and roves Draco's appearance, "have they taken your voice too?" There's humour behind his words, and Draco supposes Yaxley must be referring to his missing wand.

The suspicion in Yaxley's stance heightens by the second, and Draco notices his arm edge marginally lower, towards his Mark. And Draco's breath catches, because he'd rather not wait for his father and the Dark — and Voldemort — to arrive. He'd rather get this over with.

If Narcissa Malfoy had still been alive, Draco would have confessed, would have lied away his freedom for his life, but she's dead, and the only person who managed to somewhat alleviate the ache of his mother's death, is gone.

So Draco takes another step back, and this time realisation is clear in Yaxley's features, but instead of casting the one spell which will end it all, in a flash of unseeable movement he has his wand pressed to his Dark Mark, and Draco almost trips in his haste to put distance between them.

Yaxley's expression is livid with a maniacal understanding, like he's excited, as he opens his mouth and chuckles condescendingly, his teeth pointed and smiling. "Well well — isn't this an interesting turn of events. We knew you were a coward, Draco, but never did we—" there's a deafening bang, the flash of a badly aimed spell, and then an explosion of wood and plaster chunks rain down on Yaxley's shoulder as Harry Potter throws himself around the corner.

Dust is thick in the air, and Draco barely has time to see — to comprehend — before Potter's husky and jarred voice is yelling, "GET DOWN DRACO!"

But Draco already is down, knocked to his feet by the force of his astonishment, and all he can do is watch as Yaxley struggles to right himself and lets out an enraged cry, desperately trying to get his wand back onto his Dark Mark, to finish what he hadn't properly started.

Potter shouts out a curse which narrowly misses Yaxley's torso, but he ducks out of the way and fires off a hex which catches Potter in the shoulder. Potter staggers back into the wall, his teeth clenched in discomfort, and before Draco can see anything more, his sight is blurred by the searing hot pain in his left forearm. He doesn't need to look to know that it's red and raised, burning with a call for its master, and Draco feels bile clog his throat, because this really must be the end now, for him and for Potter, and part of him wants to rage and jeer, to scream, 'Potter I thought you were better than this!'

It happens so quickly, or maybe it's only the bright jets of light and the deteriorating, crumbling walls which inhibit Draco's vision, but one moment Potter is backed into the wall, bearing the full brunt of his pain, and the next he is right in front of Draco, Yaxley's stupefied body lying a few feet away.

Strong arms pull Draco to his feet, but he's too unstable, too shocked to move properly, and then Potter's grabbing his hand, tugging him toward the stairs with all his might. And then Draco understands — Harry Potter has returned, and Draco doesn't know whether it's for him, or because of that stupid bloody hero complex, but right now all he can do is try and run where Potter pulls him, and put every other thought out of his mind.

They practically tumble down the stairs, Potter pushing him violently over the cursed step until Draco narrowly avoids tripping onto the floor. His teeth gnash together, but right now he's too thankful to be mad, and then the bottom corridor spreads out before them — a frame of light issuing in from the broken door.

And they don't stop running, Potter ahead of Draco, his breathing ragged and uneven, but by the time they make it out onto the front doorstep, they both stop breathing all together. Because dozens of Death Eaters, black robes billowing in the wind, are pooling into Grimmauld Place, nearly invisible in the night apart from their white, bone masked faces.

Draco thinks he catches a trace of long blonde hair beneath a hood, but he can't be sure, because the Death Eater's are sweeping towards them, and Draco knows there is no time to apparate, no time to do it properly without one of them splinching their limbs off.

Potter knows this too, because then he's launching himself over the stair railing, and without a sliver of doubt, Draco follows him. Curses hit the place where they'd just been standing, ricocheting off the cement, and before Draco gets enough momentum in his feet for them to carry him away, he sees hints of green light, and a shiver runs through him, a shiver because after everything, his own father will not hesitate to kill.

Heat brushes their ankles as they barrel down the road, spells which have been so close to hitting them, but they keep running, even when the footsteps sound so close behind them that Draco has to stop himself from checking over his shoulder, from wasting time.

Potter is a few paces ahead of him, and if Draco had eaten better, had kept his body healthy, he knows he would be right there, next to him, and the cool night hair would be tousling their hair in unison, white against black. But Draco is weak, and he lags behind, and Potter, who is too much of a saviour for his own good, keeps angling his head to the side, every few seconds — to make sure Draco is still there. And that's what keeps Draco going, keeps his legs from bowing out beneath him.

A main road is opening up before them, there are bright lights from building windows and loud honking noises as they get closer, deeper into the muggle world — and that must be Potter's idea — to get close enough to blend in — it might be the only thing they have left, but it's brilliant. Draco's breathing is so loud he can't hear what Potter shouts at him, but he sees — because up ahead of them, three of the Death Eaters have apparated onto the pavement, and if it weren't for the oversized, muggle vehicle which turns into the street at that precise moment, providing a sufficient distraction, Potter wouldn't have been alive to pull Draco into a tight, narrow side alley.

There's a blearing horn, loud shouts, and then a blinding jet of green is chasing them down the alley. They don't stop moving, don't stop running, but Potter's hand is behind him, searching in his bag, and then he pulls out something soft and shimmery — an invisibility cloak — before he stops for a split second and casts a rudimentary shield charm behind them. The curses evaporate inches away from their faces, and then Potter's throwing the cloak over their heads. They keep running, and Draco is so out of breath that his throat feels raw and scratchy. Potter is panting too, Draco can feel it on his neck, not only because of their sudden closeness, but because for some god unknown reason, Potter has pulled Draco in front of him, and continues to hastily cast shield charms behind their retreating backs.

They must have worked, because the Death Eater's voices have faded, are too far behind, and then suddenly Draco and Potter break out onto a long street filled with muggles — and thank fuck — because they might actually make it.

The muggles can't see them, Draco knows, but they give angry, confused glares when two invisible people bustle past them and have no qualms whatsoever about bumping into them. If Draco weren't so fatigued, he might've questioned why Potter didn't offer them a belated and mumbled apology in passing.

"In there!" Potter's voice is a desperate whisper, cracking into Draco's ear, and Draco shudders from something that isn't fear before Potter's hand circles securely around his upper arm and wrenches him to the side.

They enter some sort of food shop. The lights are harsh and white, making Draco cringe from the sudden brightness, and all around them are muggles with trolleys, observing huge stacks of boxes and crates of fruit. If the adrenaline hadn't been pulsing so hard in Draco's veins, he would have been hungry, but then Potter's guiding him swiftly down an aisle teeming with more of those colourful boxes, displaying falsely joyous faces spooning gross muggle crap into their mouths. Draco's eyes widen as Potter's hand shoots out from beneath the cloak to grab some small boxes and shove them into his bag.

"What—" Draco struggles to speak, his lungs hurt too much, "are — you — doing?"

Potter doesn't answer for a while, just continues taking things from the shelves.

"Potter?" Draco takes too long to follow him, causing a gap to form between them and the cloak to slip up to their ankles, exposing their feet. Potter's hand pulls on Draco's jumper until they're arm to arm again, and he looks up with a pleading glare.

"Be quiet. And stay close," Potter hisses. Their breath mingles, still trying to even out, and Draco has to blink a few times to remember that he needs to reply, because Potter's smell is suddenly overpowering. When Draco doesn't say anything, Potter continues in a murmur, "I'm getting food — I dunno if Hermione managed to pack some. Then we're getting out of here."

Right. The Mudblood. Weasley too. Draco almost forgot, Potter's reason for leaving in the first place, and it makes him strangely less eager to cooperate. His nostrils flare and his teeth snap together, but he decides not to retort because then Potter leans forward to snag some other grossly unappealing package, and his hair tickles Draco's nose.

And Draco sneezes. A man who's been browsing a display of cans jumps in fright, and looks around with a startled expression, but after seeing nothing, turns with a shrug, and despite everything, Draco sniggers. Scaring unsuspecting muggles is fun — being this close to Potter has its perks after all. Draco tries not to think about that as the boy himself gives Draco an incredulous stare.

Potter grabs Draco's arm again, and it makes Draco aware of the fact that it's not his hand, but his arm now, now that they're not running for their lives. He doesn't know whether to be relived or annoyed. Potter's face distorts with concentration, and then they disapparate with a crack. Briefly, before the disjointed feeling takes hold of him, Draco imagines what the muggle man's reaction to that must be with a smirk.

Harry looks wildly around the forest, realising he's probably missed the right spot by a couple of miles. He lets out a frustrated growl, and resists the urge to sink to his knees on the mushy earth. Instead he turns to see Malfoy standing behind him, bewildered, looking like a ghost in the darkness.

Harry expects him to say something offensive, or insult his apparition skills, but then their gazes meet, and Harry wonders if his face is a mirror image of Malfoy's; tired, smudged with dirt, and worried. Malfoy, surprisingly, doesn't say anything. He clamps his lips shut, like it's taking him great effort, like he's waiting for Harry to speak first.

Harry reaches down to pick up the fallen invisibility cloak — and then freezes, Malfoy's words ringing through his skull, 'I'd rather die than join you and your fucking friends, Potter,' and he takes a step back with the force of his mistake. Malfoy doesn't want to be here — his hesitation is obvious, and the scowl on his brows is enough to confirm everything. But just as suddenly as Harry realises this, the three words, 'I'd rather die,' nag at his mind, and then he's furious.

"Is that what you were doing?" Harry spits angrily, "getting yourself killed?" The harsh composure of Malfoy's expression shifts a little, and his eyes widen as though he's confused. Harry clenches his jaw, and continues in a seethe, "That's what you wanted, right!? Rather than join us — rather than do something right —"

"What the fuck did you expect me to do, Potter!?" Malfoy's voice cuts through the night air, and the urgency in it gives Harry pause, "Join them? They'd kill me anyway."

Harry exhales shakily, his breath misting in front of him, and he can't believe the dejection in Malfoy's tone, the emptiness — it's all wrong — and Harry hates it. But more than that, he hates that it is because of him that Malfoy'd been there left alone, defenceless.

Harry's hand comes up, his fingers numb from the cold, and there's a strange nervousness twisting in his gut about what he is going to do. He unties the strings on the moleskin pouch, carefully draws out Malfoy's wand, and weighs it in his palm, because this might be the last time he ever holds it again, and it leaves his throat feeling dry.

Malfoy is watching him with unguarded suspicion, but there's an eager lightness to his eyes, excitement. Harry swallows, too loudly, because then Malfoy's gaze snaps up to meet his own, and he glares. "A little late, don't you think?"

Harry takes a quiet breath, and something unpleasant churns in his stomach, because after a few seconds, realisation taints Malfoy's features, and he must know just as well as Harry does why he's giving it back now, and not earlier — why that couldn't have been possible.

Maybe Malfoy doesn't even know what he would've done, if Harry'd thrown him his wand before they'd started running, but Harry fears the most likely outcome, that Malfoy might have fallen back, magic fresh in his hands, and done the job the Death Eaters hadn't. Everything would've gone well for him after that, he'd be accepted back with open arms, and maybe Malfoy wouldn't even care about his mother, about what he'd lost.

But then Harry thinks about the bathroom, Malfoy's broken cries, and he doubts his own rationalisation, feels guilty about his assumptions, and when he looks up Malfoy is positively glowering at him. He's trying to contain his anger, but Harry can still see it, radiating out of his pores, and suddenly he doesn't know whether giving Malfoy a weapon is such a good idea.

Malfoy has other weapons, though — his eyes, and his fists — and he only takes several steps before he's in Harry's face, his eyes livid, and his fists balled in Harry's shirt. "You're an idiot, Potter — do you really think — do you honestly believe —"

But the closeness is too much, the height difference, hardly there, is too much, and Harry feels his reluctance equally torn in two directions, to pull away, and to give Malfoy his wand back. He decides quickly, shoves Malfoy's chest until there's a small gap between them — and Malfoy's eyes are alight, a slate-coloured storm — and Harry knows he'll miss this, the look of such strong emotion, even anger, in Malfoy's eyes, and he wants more than ever for Malfoy to choose already. Because Harry doesn't know whether to shout or smile, and it's driving him crazy.

"Prove me wrong, then." Harry holds the Hawthorne wand out, dark and smooth, for its rightful owner to take. Malfoy stares, and a masochistic side of Harry wants to laugh as he thinks that there's nothing Malfoy would rather do more than prove him wrong. Harry locks his face into a stern facade, hoping nothing gives him away, hoping Malfoy doesn't see that Harry doesn't want him to take it — doesn't want Malfoy to leave.

Maybe it's only seconds, but it feels like hours, before Malfoy's long fingers close around the handle of his wand, and the look of wonder in his eyes, the look of contentment, is worth every amount of fear and sweat it took Harry to escape all those Death Eaters.

But now everything depends on this moment, on Malfoy's decision, and Harry waits, waits so patiently it makes him feel ready to explode.

Malfoy's eyes flick up to Harry's, and they're so calm, blank yet calculating, and Harry pushes away his instinct which rears its head and tells him to defend, because Malfoy might attack.

Harry needs to say something, anything, so he clears his throat, and his voice is so husky it's foreign. "Well? Are you… leaving?"

And maybe, after everything that's happened, it just comes down to Malfoy's pride, and his inability to let Harry be right, because then he lowers his wand to his side, and there's the tiniest of smirks tugging at the corner of Malfoy's lips, just begging to be let free, and Harry watches like his life depends on it.

The moonlight breaks over Malfoy's features as he lets that smirk form, and Harry releases a breath which leaves his lungs empty.

"No. I'm going to prove you wrong, Potter."

Chapter Text

"No. I'm going to prove you wrong, Potter."

Draco feels the words leave his lips like a gasp of fresh air, like tasting something sweet for the first time — and his tongue almost burns with the taste of this sweet freedom.

Potter looks like he's struggling to control his expression, and it makes Draco wary. Is Potter disappointed — did he want Draco to leave?

But after a split second, Potter grins, and his teeth are a bright white in the darkness. "Finally come 'round, have you? Took you long enough." Draco's shoulders stiffen, but before he can argue, Potter continues, "come on, then."

The Boy Saviour takes off at a brisk pace, but Draco feels mildly reluctant to follow him, wondering if this changes anything, if he'll be let in on the Gryffindor trio's secretive plans. He wonders if that's what he even wants.

Unwillingly, his curiosity is spiked, and now that they're not in immediate danger, running for their lives, and treading through soggy leaves instead, Draco has a million questions. He bites his tongue, however, knowing he'd rather keep quiet than be shunned.

Maybe it's to fill the silence, or to stop Draco from asking those very questions, but Potter says casually, "If you see a big, hollow tree, let me know."

Draco scoffs, "Right. 'Cause we're not in a forest or anything, where there's an abundance of every species of tree." Even though Potter walks one step ahead of Draco, somehow Draco can tell Potter's rolling his eyes. And because Draco's curious, not because he has some weird compulsion to keep talking to Potter, he asks, "What's the tree for?"

Potter takes a few seconds to reply, "For growing, mostly. Or shade. Small animals use it for shelter," He chuckles to himself, and then in a more serious tone continues, "…It's where I left them."

Even though Potter can't see him, Draco nods, and probably because he wants to get rid of that solemn note in Potter's voice, he adds wittily, "And if you're a muggle, they're also good for chopping down, burning, and pulverising into pulp."

Harry snorts, "Deforestation isn't only a muggle problem, Malfoy. And in case you've forgotten, oh pureblooded one, there's this thing called parchment."

Draco's lips twitch to the side.

And just like that, they fall back into their normal selves, as if nothing's changed. As if Draco hadn't begged for his worst enemy to stay with him. As if Potter hadn't come back to rescue someone who might be better off dead. As if Draco hadn't just made the biggest decision of his life.

Thankfully, Potter doesn't bring any of this up, and the quiet they share as they move through the trees is almost companionable.

The only bad thing about the silence is the way it lets Draco's thoughts drift to things he'd rather ignore. Like the look on Potter's face as he'd thrown himself at Yaxley and saved Draco's life. Like the warmth Draco felt when it'd been just the two of them, standing close together underneath Potter's cloak. Like the feeling of Potter's hand around his — hot and strong and safe —

Draco frowns to himself when he realises he's been staring at Potter's hands. A twig snaps loudly beneath his shoe, breaking off his thoughts, and at the same moment Potter whirls around with pursed lips and says, not at all softly, "can you be any louder?"

"Who's going to hear us, the squirrels?" Draco feels annoyed at being told off, and his irritation makes him aware of his other discomforts, aches he's been distracted from by thoughts of Potter. "Can't we stop for a while, my legs fucking hurt and —"

"No. I told Hermione to leave if I wasn't back by dawn. If you want to lie down in the moss, be my guest. I'll come find you in the morning." There's no malice in Potter's voice, only a resigned exhaustion, and Draco never imagined, not until now, that Potter would do that — would risk the chance of finding his friends again, for him — and it leaves him rooted to the spot for several rapid heartbeats.

Even though his throat feels dry and parched, Draco can't stop himself from blurting, "thanks — for being a bloody idiot — and for coming back."

Potter turns before Draco's finished, and his face is painted with surprise. Potter blinks, his eyelashes long and dark in the night's shadows, and then he shrugs with what Draco thinks is forced indifference. "I… I was going to come back anyway."

Draco scowls, suddenly mortified by his outburst all those hours ago in the entryway, and he tries to muster as much dignity as he can as he says with mild resentment, "I'm not your charity case, Potter." Even to his own ears, Draco sounds sour, petulant, because for some reason he hates the idea of Potter only returning due to pity.

Out of the stillness, Potter sniggers, capturing Draco's attention. Potter's thick brows are quirked and his eyes are filled with humour as they meaningfully appraise the state of Draco's sweater — an item which reminds Draco, that there was a moment where he was Potter's charity case.

Draco growls, tugging on the material he hasn't taken off in days, and swears to himself that as soon as he gets the chance he'll change clothes — even if he has to steal them first.

Suddenly, Draco's dragged to a subsequent thought, stemming from his newfound, sort-of-freedom, and it leads to a question which is too important to go unasked, "How did we get out — I mean — the wards?"

Potter stares at him funnily, as though hesitant to reply truthfully, "Oh, er — Remus set them so they'd allow you through, as long as I — er — was with you." Potter looks away, seemingly abashed, and Draco lifts a brow, unsure of how to take this information, and still trying to decide whether Potter's lying or not. Had the Wolf thought it likely, then, that such a situation would arise? Draco and Potter, the unlikely pair, running off together. Draco can see why that'd seem impossible.

Draco thinks about Lupin's livid exit from the kitchen, but chooses not to say anything after Potter's expression turns oddly regretful upon mentioning the man's name.

They make an unvoiced agreement to keep walking again. Potter starts, Draco follows, and after a few long minutes Potter rubs his palms together, blowing on them before casting a warming charm, and then, as if not thinking twice and forgetting about the newly returned wand, he turns and does the same for Draco. Embarrassment immediately makes Potter flustered, and he increases his pace in reaction.

Draco is too stunned by the strange, uncalled for gesture to catch up, and he's also busy being stirred up by that fluttering thing in his stomach which he thought he'd buried.

Draco doesn't thank Potter, he can't find his voice, so he doesn't tell Potter he's perfectly capable of performing his own charms, doesn't mention the fact that his Hawthorne wand feels slightly uncomfortable in his palm — too heavy and cold. Maybe it's because he hasn't used it in so long, or because Potter's tampered with it, but either way, he won't bring it up until the morning. Right now Draco's too tired, and too concerned about that damn fucking fluttering.

 They must have been walking for hours now, and Harry still hasn't seen the big hollow tree, or any faint trace of their shimmering wards, and while he supposes this is a good sign, that Hermione's protective enchantments work, he's tired, sore, and absolutely sick of hearing Malfoy mutter expletives under his breath every few minutes.

The warmth Harry had felt upon hearing Malfoy's decision had diminished within the last hour, after being forced to listen to Malfoy ranting on about Harry's friend's choice of camping location, and her inability to do proper magic, and now Harry's just about to whirl around and either tell Malfoy to shut up, or cast a silencing spell on his own ears, when a noise somewhere in front of them makes him freeze.

Malfoy walks into Harry's back and grumbles, but pauses when he catches sight of Harry's face.

"Did you hear something?" Harry asks in a whisper.

Malfoy sniffs, probably not wanting to admit that he hadn't heard anything at all, too busy being deafened by his own complaints.

Harry narrows his eyes, trying to see into the darkness, through the thick clusters of trees, and with an uneasy feeling in the pit of his stomach he jerks his head to signal Malfoy to keep following him.

They only manage to move several paces before a figure rushes out of the trees and slams into Harry's chest. Harry is almost knocked backwards, his face full of bushy hair, a familiar scent of shampoo and the sound of muffled gasps —

"Oh, Harry!" Hermione takes a step away from him, still gripping the loosely-hanging clothes across his chest.

"Mione?" Harry releases a sigh of relief, and readjusts his crooked glasses, before seeing Malfoy to the side, in the midst of lowering his wand. Malfoy doesn't get enough time to recover from his attacking stance, and Harry's eyes widen, unsure if he's touched or concerned about Malfoy being so quick to jump to his defence.

"I've been so worried —" Hermione falters, her eyes landing on Malfoy. She seems to deliberate for a few moments, her brows knitting together, before she looks back at Harry and says, "I'm glad you're both safe."

Harry watches Malfoy's reaction — his lips twist down at the corners and his frown deepens, but thankfully, he doesn't say anything mean. Hermione's practically pulsing with the need to get Harry somewhere private, Harry can tell, no doubt to pester him about his rash actions, and lecture him on what he's done and what it'll mean for their mission. Harry sighs, thinking he won't let himself out of Malfoy's sight, not only because he's afraid the Slytherin might make a run for it, but because Hermione's rant can wait for another day.

"How's Ron?" Harry asks quickly, hoping to distract her as she leads them in the direction she came from. He can feel Malfoy's presence lingering hotly behind his back, can feel the difference in the other boy's aura now that they're not alone, now that they're with someone Malfoy most likely doesn't trust. He knows his friends don't trust Malfoy either, and he can't help but think he's shot himself in the foot here. Right now, the only peace of mind Harry has is the small chance that Malfoy might trust him — at least a little.

"He's been a little fevered, but he's managed to eat something," Hermione tells him, and Harry blinks in amazement.

"You brought food?" He's quite surprised, but his brain can't shake away the thought of Ron lying alone in a small, warded patch of grass somewhere.

Hermione moans a little, no doubt at her own unorganised thinking, and before Harry can tell her they were lucky to escape from the Ministry with their lives, let alone a whole kitchen, she says, "No — but I found some forest mushrooms and after doing a little magic to see if they were poisonous, I made Ron eat them."

Behind them, Malfoy snorts, and Harry resists the urge to throw him a glower. Hermione's shoulders tense, and she gives Harry this small side-glance which says, 'I-can't-believe-what-you've-done.'

Harry swallows and tries for humour, because he knows he'll get back on Hermione's good side once she finds out about all the food he'd guiltily stolen from the supermarket — then again, knowing Hermione and her morals, maybe not. "Something tells me Ron won't be feeling better on an all-mushroom diet."

Hermione huffs, "Well, he'll just have to try, won't he? At least he's got a warm bed."

Harry nods as they step into a small clearing, a dingy tent in the middle of it, knowing it's best to agree with Hermione when she's unhappy with him, but then tilts his head in puzzlement, as it can't be possible that a bed would fit in such a small tent, "bed?"

Hermione ignores him and comes to a stop, and a little to the left Harry recognises the big, hollow tree, and casts a pointed 'I-told-you-so' look behind him, in Malfoy's direction. Malfoy's face has taken up a bored expression, which Harry suspects is hiding nervousness, and his fingers are twitching, tapping his wand against his thigh.

"You can go in, Harry. I just need to change the protective enchantments a little so they'll allow Malfoy in," Hermione says Malfoy's name with reproach, making sure to give Harry a disapproving glare before she turns to the unwilling blond. Malfoy's eyes fly to Harry's, probably pleading for Harry not to leave him alone with Hermione, and because Harry's still spiteful about all of Malfoy's irritating mumbles, he smiles with condescending encouragement and then crouches through the tent flap —

— and stands upright immediately, gazing in astonishment at his surroundings. It's the tent from the Quidditch World cup, magically enlarged and filled with mismatched furniture, and it rushes at Harry with a sentimental longing for better days.

"Brilliant, Hermione," Harry murmurs, catching sight of Hermione's beaded bag on the table and wondering what else she has stuffed away in there.

"Arry?" Ron groggily raises himself up on one shaking elbow from where he lies on one of two bottom bunks. His legs are too long and gangly for the mattress, and hang over the end. Harry grins, before taking note of the green tint to his friend's skin and grimacing. He makes his way around the furniture to kneel in front of Ron.

That's when Harry realises Ron looks far too happy to see him, meaning Hermione hasn't told him the truth about where Harry went.

"Did you get it?" Ron asks dazedly, his blue eyes searching Harry's face with a worn out enthusiasm.

"Er — get what?"

"The food," Ron prompts, then cringes after jostling his shoulder, "'Mione said you went to get some — please tell me you did, mate. No offence but 'Mione's cooking is terrible." His mouth becomes an arch of displeasure, as if remembering the unpalatable taste which comes from suspicious mushrooms.

"Oh," Well thank Merlin, Harry actually did get food. He swings his rucksack from his shoulder and empties the food boxes on the floor, but before Ron can wipe the eagerness from his smile, Draco Malfoy barges into the tent with a sneer, as though he's just suffered through some terrible ordeal and has come to boast about it.

Ron's hand hovers lamely over a box of protein bars as his face turns an even darker shade of green, and it takes him several moments of angry stuttering to perfect his tone into outrage, "Malfoy? What the ruddy fucking hell is he doing here!?" Harry carefully gets to his feet, unsure if he should be tightening his grip on his wand, ready to stop something from starting. Ron exasperatedly looks at Harry for answers, and then, too late, understanding kindles in his eyes, and he jerks backwards on the bunk, furious. "No — no, no you didn't! Tell me you did not risk everything for him!"

Malfoy snickers in the background, like he's enjoying this immensely, while Harry just stands there, grimacing, watching as Ron's temper rises to rival his sickness. "Ron — I—"

"Shut up, Harry!" Harry's mouth falls closed, and Ron turns his glare on Hermione, who just pushed past Malfoy to stride up to her friends. "You lied — you said —"

Hermione leans over to put a hand to Ron's forehead, but he swats her away, "Oh, Ron, stop it! For god's sake — this is why I didn't tell you — you're only making your fever worse! Now lie back down or —"

Ron angles past her, the greenness in his cheeks turning red with rage, to focus back on Harry, "You risked everything to go back for him! Are you fucking mental!? For what!? For him to turn around and rat us out as soon as fucking possible!?" Ron's voice is getting higher with every word, his face framed with sweat, and his good arm clenched in front of his chest. Then he moves his hand to shuffle for something under the blankets, and in the next second he has his wand out, directed over Harry's shoulder at Malfoy.

Harry's eyes widen, and his body fills with that same sense of urgency he'd felt when he'd seen Yaxley about to attack Malfoy, only now it's different, somehow worse, because this is Ron — a good person — not a Death Eater. And even though Harry hears the faint rush of movement, of Malfoy raising his wand too, he still takes a step to the side, blocking off Ron's aim.

"Both of you stop it!" Hermione exclaims, trying to push Ron back down on the bunk — but neither of them listen to her. Harry's face hardens, his teeth clench, and Ron's jaw drops, his expression slackening into something worse than anger — betrayal.

Guilt thickens in Harry's stomach, but he doesn't move, doesn't stand down until Hermione gives him a beseeching frown and hurriedly dismisses him, "You take first watch, Harry." Harry knows she has the only chance of calming Ron down, and figuring Malfoy will go where he goes, Harry exits the tent, his fists curled in frustration.

He kind of wants to be alone, to think things through and convince himself he's not an idiot, and that he's done the right thing, but as he slumps down against a tree trunk, his knees raised, he can hear Malfoy's footsteps slowly crunch across the leaves towards him.

Harry closes his eyes, leans his head back on the bark. "Bet you didn't know what you were signing up for," He says with a humourless huff.

To Harry's amazement, Malfoy actually lowers himself to the ground next to him, but only after scuffing his shoe across the ground, clearing away any stray twigs. He mimics Harry's position, legs up, arms across his knees, and Harry feels vaguely unnerved by the familiarity of it.

He eyes Malfoy's pale hands in the moonlight, and shoving down the memory of those elegant fingers skimming gracefully over piano keys, Harry focuses on the dishevelled sweater, and suddenly remembers the bag of clothes he has stashed in his rucksack. His nerves fray with anxiety at the idea of actually giving them to Malfoy, now that it's an event of the near future, and not some far off joke.

Harry shivers, and wonders if Malfoy's hands are as cold as his. It's a weird thing to think about, but it still has him casting a fresh warming charm, wishing he had one of Hermione's special flames in a jar. He makes sure he doesn't cast one for Malfoy this time, but Malfoy's attention is on his own wand, rolling it between his fingertips, and when Harry chances a glance at his face, Malfoy's features are schooled in concentration.

It's almost otherworldly, the way they can sit here side by side, each lost in the intricacies of their own minds, uncaring for the silence between them. But now Harry feels the need to speak, to frown and ask, "Aren't you cold?"

Malfoy turns his head a fraction, just enough to show one grey eye, brimming with calm annoyance. "Does it matter?"

Harry sighs, supposing he should have just kept quiet. Malfoy's obviously resorted into some sort of mood, which shouldn't be so surprising, but is, because Harry kind of hoped for something more to have been established within their unexpected half-truce.

Harry doesn't think Malfoy will say anything else, and wonders why Malfoy followed him in the first place, but then Malfoy's voice carries with the night's breeze as he asks, "Why does everything always matter to you?"

Harry stares at a clump of grass, nearly hidden beneath dead leaves. The question is unsettling, and he doesn't know what to say, what kind of answer Malfoy's looking for. "I dunno," he shrugs, and the oversized trench coat he'd worn as Runcorn scratches against the tree, "It just does."

Malfoy lets out a long exhale, "Weasley's absolutely ecstatic to see me."

"He gets like that when he's hungry," Harry says neutrally, surprised yet thankful for the abrupt change of topic. Malfoy doesn't reply, even though Harry gets the feeling he has something snide waiting on his tongue, and simply rubs the skin on his knuckles. Wordlessly, Harry gives in and extends his warming charm to encompass Malfoy, and then hastily refocuses his attention on that clump of grass.

"I'm not an invalid, Potter."

"Right. So why not do it yourself, then?"

Malfoy gazes at him more fully now, and Harry can see the shadows beneath his eyes. "Maybe I'm just not cold."

"Alright. Just made of stone, apparently."

"Oh, shut up and mind your own business."

"You are my business, Malfoy."

Malfoy looks thoroughly nettled, "Bullshit I am. I'm here of my own accord — and to answer your first question, no, I didn't know what I was signing up for. Because someone didn't fucking tell me — and still won't."

Harry stares, but he isn't surprised by the bitterness which has crept into Malfoy's voice. He thinks about the fact that he's sitting here, with Draco Malfoy, in the middle of a forest, and neither one of them know what tomorrow will bring. Harry only knows he has a job to do, finding horcruxes, and somehow, he's brought Malfoy into the centre of it. Endangered another person's life. And he doesn't know what to do — doesn't know what Dumbledore would have done — when faced with the decision to tell Malfoy the truth. The less people who know, the better, Harry had even snubbed Lupin, albeit for different reasons, and he isn't sure whether he'll ever be able to tell Malfoy. And frighteningly enough, it has less to do with trust than it has with the risks Malfoy will face from knowing. The mind is an open book to any Witch or Wizard talented enough, and before Harry reminds himself that Malfoy is an Occlumens, he tells himself that this is Malfoy, and Occlumens or no, if a stranger were to ever find out about their hunt for pieces of Voldemort's soul — everything would be over.

"I can't tell you — not yet." Harry's voice cracks, his breath hot in the cold air, and he is just as shocked by the word 'yet' as Malfoy is. He swallows, hoping Malfoy will just forget about it, that he won't hold him to it, but contrary to Malfoy's belief, Harry isn't stupid, and he knows hiding something this big from Malfoy while being on the run with him is going to be nearly impossible.

Because the cold is getting too much, and not because he doesn't want his tongue to be loosened by Malfoy's close proximity, Harry stands. "I'm going to go change — if you hear anything, well — you know." He gestures into the woods, but Malfoy only grunts, something about his posture reeking of sulkiness.

Harry can't help but grimace a little as he goes to brave the tent, hoping Ron's asleep, to retrieve his rucksack, and the bag stuffed with clothes for Malfoy.

A part of him wishes Malfoy'd never shown up in Grimmauld place, never inconvenienced their plans, but another part — the more dominant part, can't wait for the look on his face, can't wait for the heated argument which will no doubt ensue after Malfoy opens the paper bag, or the maddened spark of emotion which will flare in Malfoy's eyes.

Harry's grimace turns into a smirk as he unzips the tent.

 Draco stares after Potter's retreating back, at the oversized clothes which hang limply on his form, and belatedly, realises he is cold. With Potter there, next to him, Draco hadn't noticed it earlier, but now it shrouds around him like a blanket of ice, and he shivers.

Before Draco can think too much about Potter's warmth, Granger steps out of the tent, and after standing with her arms crossed and casting him wary glances for nearly a minute, she makes her way over towards him.

Draco's fist clenches around his wand, not because he's bothered by the idea of her attacking him, but because he has a sneaking suspicion Granger's come to take it from him — not that he'll let her.

She stops a few feet away from him, and Draco tries to control his sneer when he sees that her head's barely distinguishable from the thick Gryffindor scarf she wears like a crown. Granger purses her lips, and then her eyes flit over towards the tent, like she's worried Potter's going to come and tell her off or something. Draco grits his teeth, unsure if he's pleased or annoyed by the idea of Potter doing that. Draco doesn't need anyone's protection, not anymore.

Irritated that Granger's taking her bloody time, hesitating and frowning, Draco snaps unpleasantly, "Can I help you?" Not that he wants to help Granger with anything, ever. He's not here to help anyone, he's only here because he has nowhere to go, and for whatever reason, he feels like he has something to prove to Potter.

Granger sighs, her voice soft but infuriatingly stern, "Harry's risked a lot for you, Malfoy."

Draco lets out a huff, glaring out into the forest. As if he doesn't fucking know that already. "That's his bloody problem." The last thing he wants is to be guilt tripped by a Mudblood.

"Exactly. So don't make this any worse for him."

Draco turns his resentful gaze on her, raising an eyebrow. He's confused, and his sarcasm has escaped him along with his energy. "I advise you go talk to Weasley, Granger. He's the one who threw the tantrum — not me. I'm not that much of a bastard to press Potter when he's already an absolute wreck." Okay, well that's mostly a lie, but deceit is part of Draco's nature, and he's missed it.

And Granger actually smiles — it's faint, disappears as quickly as it comes, and above all, it's disconcerting. It's like she can sense the lie more than Draco can. "You're not stupid, Malfoy, you must have your own theories about what we're doing here — and whether you like it or not, you're a part of it now, and Harry won't be able to live with himself if —" She breaks off, her eyes searching, questioning, and before continuing she swallows, as though rearranging her words, "Harry wanted you here. That's got to mean something. But Malfoy — you need to know that Harry's always been the kind of person who's all, or nothing — and right now, nothing is more important than —"

"What the fuck are you on about?"

Granger glares at him disapprovingly, and the flush on her cheeks is either from the weather, Draco's language, or whatever shit she's been sprouting. It's probably not because of the language — Potter and Weasley don't have the cleanest vocabulary around, and Draco swore at her the other day and she seemed unfazed. At least she established the fact that Draco isn't stupid. But Draco doesn't need this, doesn't need his already crowded mind to be filled with more endless mysteries — and more than anything he wants her to finish her cryptic half-sentences, wants her to tell him what Potter won't be able to live with himself over, and why she thinks Potter wants him here.

But it's too late, Granger's mouth is clamped shut, she's overly sensitive, perhaps too offended by his single expletive after all. Draco files this information away for later use, looking forward to ticking her off in the near future. His eyes narrow when he realises that this is probably what she was talking about — about making things worse. And even though annoying Granger has only one benefit, annoying Granger, Draco supposes being mean to Potter's friends will be 'making things worse for him,' and now he finds himself strangely less inclined to the idea.

At that moment, Potter stalks out of the tent, his head bowed toward his feet, holding some kind of paper bag half behind his back. Draco's eyes immediately light with both skepticism and curiosity, but he hastily rearranges his features into boredom as soon as Potter catches him watching.

Granger gives Draco one last reproachful look before walking over to brush Potter's arm, her fingers hovering as she murmurs into his ear. Something boils just below Draco's skin, seeing their carefree closeness, but then Granger's hand reaches under her scarf and Draco becomes intrigued as she passes Potter some kind of necklace. Potter clasps it around his own neck, and that's when Draco sees what he's wearing — a Weasley jumper — with the hood of a muggle sweater poking out at the collar. Potter looks ridiculous in his knitwear and his stupid denims — denims which Draco's been wearing himself for the past few days, and has grudgingly come to admit that they are, indeed, quite tolerable. They suit Potter — maybe because they're uncouth and tasteless, just like Potter is, or maybe because they're just what Draco's used to seeing on him, and it reminds him of how things used to be — bitter and angry and normal. Not this new, comfortably dangerous truce which seems to grow between them by the day.

Draco shakes himself, realising Potter's heading over towards him, Granger nowhere in sight. Potter sets the bag down at Draco's feet, and then falls into a cross-legged sitting position, leaning back on his palms and throwing a strained look of awkwardness skywards. The moon glints of his glasses, and Draco's eyes fall to the paper bag, uncertain if he wants to know what's inside it or not.

Potter clears his throat, and apparently finding nothing interesting in the treetops, takes to picking apart a blade of grass.

"Spit it out, Potter."

Potter looks sheepishly at the bag, then back at his hands, "Well… I — er — y'know — hell. This was a lot easier when I just left it for you to find out for yourself."

And with that, Potter rushes to his feet, and due to the lack of proper light, Draco can't be sure whether it's a blush he sees on Potter's cheeks before he practically flees into the tent.

 Draco just sits there, perplexed, his heart stuttering strangely in his chest until he finally firms his jaw and reaches for the bag.

Harry stands just inside the tent's entrance, his face flaming and his mouth stretched into an anxious grin. Hermione gives him an assessing glance from where she sits on the couch, while Ron snores from the direction of the bunks.

Harry ignores them both, his nerves quivering, because any second now —


Malfoy's shout is loud and furious, and if Harry weren't about to burst from laughter he would've been worried about security.

But Harry's thoughts are centred around baby blue boxers printed with unicorns, and because he's either stupidly brave, or just uncaring for the possible bludgeoning, Harry ducks his head through the flap, just in time to see Malfoy storming towards him — his eyes a blazing, gun-metal grey.

Malfoy grabs him by the jumper, pulls him out of the tent, and then they are nose to nose — Malfoy's breath fogging Harry's glasses — and Harry forgets the burden of the horcrux around his neck, forgets what he's meant to be running from, what he was laughing about only a second ago — because right now, all he knows is Malfoy.

Malfoy, warm and real and right in front of him. And they're too close — that must be the only reason why Harry's chest suddenly fills with something undeniably hot and urgent and hungry

Chapter Text

Heat, fury, the image of colourful, degrading boxers and pointless, insulting insignias stamped across muggle shirts — everything swirls into an endless knot of  Potter Potter Potter.

And Draco has nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, because somehow the centre of his life has become Potter — or maybe that's just because right now, Potter is all Draco can see, his eyes, moss green in the darkness, wide and staring, locked onto Draco as though he's all Potter can see too.

And while Draco has every intention of strangling the Boy Who Lived and incinerating the bag of clothing, in the next second everything changes. Potter's face softens, his breath becomes tantalising, and Draco can barely breathe — can't focus on anything other than the dizzying wave of Potter's scent, and somewhere within it Draco can smell faint traces of cookie dough. Draco swallows away the dryness in his throat, but it won't work, he's parched for something he's never known, something Potter seems to be thirsting for too.

Potter lets out this shaky puff of air, tickling the hair hanging into Draco's glare, and licks his lips — and this is all wrong — Draco's meant to be enraged, not mesmerised — and when he looks back into Potter's eyes, they are gazing at Draco with something threateningly similar to want.

This isn't right, Draco must be imagining it, Potter can't want to be this close to him, can't want what Draco swears he sees — this is impossible — everything's impossible — even more so because in reaction, Draco realises he wants Potter too. He wants to close the gap between them, cross the distance to the lips which look as dry as Draco's feel — and Draco doesn't know what's wrong with him, what's happening to him. Potter must be fucking with his brain. Because this — this overwhelming response to Potter's warmth, to the feeling of his solid chest beneath Draco's fisted hands — this just isn't normal.

This is Harry Potter, and it's bloody insane.

"You're bloody insane," Draco whispers, his voice hoarse and scratchy, and he doesn't know if he's telling Potter, or himself. He forces his fingers to uncurl from Potter's jumper, forces his feet to jump backwards as though burned. But even as the space between them grows, the only burning Draco can feel is on his face, from the tingling Potter's breath has left behind.

Draco heaves, stiffens his arms by his side, but the tremors don't stop, his heart feels like it's alive — like it's trying to break out of his ribcage — thrumming with energy and excitement and fear.

And when Draco sees that Potter's face has erased any hint of emotion, deadpanned into an indifferent mask, that fear increases, becomes a palpable flame in his body.

Potter opens his mouth, probably to tell Draco that he's insane too, but then Granger's concerned voice slips from within the tent — "Harry?"

Potter's face falls in disappointment, just for a moment, as though he's just realised something important, and as he pulls his intense stare away from Draco, his eyes are full of unvoiced words.

Potter sends him one last searching look, before disappearing back into the tent.

Harry comes face to face with Hermione's startled expression, and he has to shove a hand through his hair to calm his overactive nerves, make sure he doesn't look as flustered as he feels.

"Are you okay?" She asks, narrowing her eyes at the tent exit, "I heard him shouting, and I thought you were going to — you know — fight. But then everything just went quiet." Hermione talks softly, and Harry understands why when he hears Ron groan in his sleep. She's looking at Harry as though she expects an answer, and it had better be a good one, but Harry's thoughts are too jumbled, his heart is beating too erratically in his chest for him to form a coherent response.

"I… Er… It's nothing — he was just — being Malfoy…" It's a lame, evasive response, and by the arch of her brows, Hermione seems to agree.

But his friend is tactful, and maybe she can tell Harry feels too dishevelled for a conversation right now, because with a sigh she drops the stress from her shoulders. "Alright, well, I'm going to try and get some sleep. Wake me at three, okay?"

Harry only nods.

Hermione hesitates, "Are you sure you don't want me to stay up? You look a little pale, Harry."

Harry doesn't know why that would be, he feels as though his whole face is about to explode from the heat. "I'm fine, honestly," he manages.

Maybe he's convinced her, but then again, this is Hermione Granger, so probably not. Still, she smiles tiredly and says, "Goodnight, Harry. Oh — um — you can tell Malfoy he's welcome to come inside and sleep," She bites her lip, like it pains her to say it, "I — I suppose it's a good thing there are two bunks."

Harry blinks dumbly as Hermione turns away from him, and realisation registers as he watches her climb up onto the bed above Ron's. It shouldn't surprise him, really, that he'd be the one to share the second bunk, on the other side of the tent room, with Malfoy. It shouldn't make Harry's blood become ten degrees warmer either, but weird things happen, and by now, Harry should be pretty much used to it, being who he is. But he's not — not when Malfoy's involved. Not when Malfoy grabbed him by the collar as though he was about to throttle Harry but then didn't so much as hurt him, only stared and stared and stared, like he was just as affected by the sudden proximity as Harry was.

Harry stands unmoving for a few seconds, trying to make his mouth wet enough to swallow, and then steels himself for what he's about to do — which shouldn't be so hard, really, not for someone who's slain a basilisk and fought off countless dementors — but once again, when Malfoy's involved, everything Harry has or hasn't done doesn't matter, and instead everything becomes new and strange and terrifying.

Harry turns on his feet, but before he can so much as take a step, Malfoy slouches into the tent, as though he's been waiting for the right moment to make his entrance. He stops beside Harry, a good couple of inches between them as they stand facing opposite directions, and his body radiates tension. He doesn't look at Harry as he grits out, "I'm taking bottom. I don't want you hexing me in my sleep."

"Er — fine with me." It's not fine, not at all, because Harry still feels jittery from the look of his own desire, mirrored back at him in the moonlit depths of Malfoy's eyes, and something about Malfoy's choice of words just now makes his cheeks burn anew. Harry wants to say something else, something foolish, if only to get Malfoy to look at him, to bring back the emotion Malfoy had been about to unleash onto Harry through his anger.

But the bloody dryness in his throat is back, so Harry simply grabs the blanket Hermione left on the couch, and walks out into the cold.

As he sits out on the hard ground for the next few hours, constantly casting shoddy warming charms on his hands and feet which wear off in a matter of minutes, Harry puzzles over different possibilities in his mind.

He doesn't even like Malfoy — he's a selfish, obnoxious, smart-mouthed git, who's probably caused more trouble than he's worth. Maybe it's the Horcrux around his neck, heavy and pulsing with evil, dark magic, that's been drawn to Malfoy's presence, drawn to the warmth of his body, and the force of his fury. Maybe it can sense a Slytherin nearby. But Malfoy isn't evil, Harry knows this now, and as the loneliness and the freezing air seep into his skin, Harry rationalises that he just likes being around Malfoy. It's crazy, mental, and utterly unfathomable, but the memory of Malfoy making music through his fingertips, of Malfoy's unguarded enjoyment as he'd launched an egg at Harry's head, tells him it's true.

Harry likes being around Draco Malfoy, but that has nothing to do with liking the bastard. Nothing at all…

Draco lies awake for what seems like hours, his hands folded over his chest, glaring up at the slats of the top bunk. Weasley's snoring like a fucking congested troll, and Draco is this close to turning him into one, when there's a soft rustling of fabric, and the next thing he hears is Potter whispering, "'Mione? Hermione?" The mudblood groans and yawns, and Draco's lips twist, "It's three — but I don't mind pulling the whole night, I'm not tired." Bloody liar, the crescents beneath Potter's eyes were just as prominent as Draco's. The fucking martyr. Draco almost forgets his resolve not to think about Potter, but it's too late, because thinking about the dark rings under Potter's eyes leads him into thinking about Potter's eyes, and Potter in general.

Draco muffles a growl into the musty pillow as Granger says sleepily, "No — no, Harry, I'm awake."

A few minutes later, Draco feels the bunk shake and creak as Potter climbs up the ladder in the darkness. Half hoping the tosser will fall and snap his leg, but worried by the fact that it might result in the bed breaking and Draco being crushed, Draco grudgingly realises that Potter being crippled won't help the dangerously confusing and unsettling path of his thoughts.

Harry Potter is everything that Draco isn't, except a male, and that is something Draco has never even thought about being attracted to. But this has nothing to do with attraction — Draco won't let it — Potter is a bespectacled atrocity, with hair constantly messy and bordering on primitive. He's unfashionable, reckless, heroic, annoyingly addictive to be around, fit — Draco gnashes his teeth together. These are terrible, undesirable traits — except maybe the fit part — and Draco feels utterly helpless to the traitorous voice in his head, which says that none of these things matter, that while everything about Potter is unpleasant, everything about him is good too.

Draco huffs, despising himself, and maybe he makes too much noise because then Potter's soft voice rings through the silence, as though for Draco's ears only, "Goodnight, Malfoy."

Draco rolls over, and he has to bite his tongue to stop himself from replying.

Whatever happened between him and Malfoy on the first night in the forest seems to go forgotten, although when the hours are darkest Harry always finds himself thinking about it, wondering if Malfoy thinks about it too.

The fate of the bag of clothes Harry left by the tree also remains unknown, and Harry has decided not to bring it up, because doing so will draw attention to the incident which followed it — the incident full of hot glares and mingled breath and thick tension.

They fall into a pattern — and although Harry is restless with their cold trail of clues — he begins to take comfort in the fragments which make up their routine.

The days always begin the same way.

Harry will climb down the bunk ladder, try to ignore the way the orange glow of dawn filters in through the tent, playing across Malfoy's sleeping features. He'll yawn, stretch, eat half a protein bar and leave the other half on Malfoy's quilt. He'll join Hermione outside of the tent, torn between staying outdoors, squinting from the bright morning light, and casting furtive glances behind him, worried Ron is feigning sleep and will smother Malfoy as soon as Harry leaves.

Hermione will hand Harry a hot mug of tea, effectively making his decision for him. Then they'll talk softly amongst themselves, sharing ides about possible Horcrux locations, and how to destroy the one they have. And, like clockwork, Harry will catch Malfoy trying to eavesdrop — his presence too familiar as he stands beyond the tent flap — and after the third day of telling him off and futilely trying to stop him, Harry lets him listen. They're just careful to make sure they don't mention what it is they're looking for by name.

After coming to the same conclusions over and over again, and going through their very short list of possibilities, Harry will walk back inside for more tea, but he always ends up walking too close to Malfoy, who is trying to blend in with the tarpaulin. Harry will pretend Malfoy isn't there, and that he doesn't care if he's eavesdropping, but their clothes will brush, and Harry will get a mouthful of freshness and sleep and that uniqueness he has come to associate with Malfoy, and he'll shiver and try to put it out of his mind for the rest of the day.

By this time, Ron's always awake, and Hermione will poke her head in through the tent flap and scold him if she sees him eating more than his fair share of the food rations. Most of the time Harry will hint at the idea of making a run into the nearest town and getting more food, but he is always met with a quelling look from Hermione, an incredulous 'I'm-still-not-talking-to-you-but-no' glare from Ron, and strangely enough, a barely concealed grimace of frustration from Malfoy.

The rest of the day is a variation, ranging from foraging for tasteless mushrooms, trying to convince Ron to speak to him, and bickering with Malfoy — or trying to bicker with Malfoy. Malfoy's been strangely aloof, and Harry can probably guess why — for the same reason Harry's trying to act normal, trying to pretend nothing happened. Malfoy just handles his emotions in more of a difficult, prattish way. When Malfoy isn't purposefully ignoring Harry, refusing to do the menial tasks like picking fungi or fetching water from the river, he's sitting by a tree, engorgio-ing rocks and levitating them off the ground. Harry will steer clear of the blond when he's stewing by himself, as Malfoy's usually in a bad mood when he does that, and an irritated Malfoy is unpleasant for everybody, not just Harry's sanity.

Harry knows Malfoy is sulking, that he's unhappy about being excluded, not that he'll admit it, and while Ron appears to be getting better by the day, he's still being uncharacteristically moody, so most of the time it's just Harry and Hermione, discussing things by themselves in the fringes of the trees.

When Hermione has her nose buried in the book which Dumbledore left her, Harry wanders off on his own, attempting to skip stones in the river. He's pretty crap at it, and sometimes his skin prickles as though someone's watching him, and when he turns around he'll catch a fleeting glimpse of blond — and then nothing but trees trees trees. He convinces himself that there was never anyone there to begin with.

In the afternoon, they'll pack up, disapparate to a new location of Hermione's choosing, usually a forest, with water nearby, and then set up camp again. Malfoy stopped kicking a fuss after the first time he had to grab Harry's arm for the journey, but as soon as their feet land on new ground, Malfoy will always snatch his hand away as though the idea of touching Harry revolts him. And Harry will have to pretend that this doesn't bother him, and that it doesn't leave behind a rather painful feeling in his chest.

Malfoy during the day makes Harry want to kick his face in, but Malfoy during the night is someone different, someone Harry quickly finds he can't get enough of.

Each day, Harry finds himself yearning for the sun to set, for the long hours which await him on his watch. Because nights are when Malfoy seems to forget about the fact that he should be brooding, or skulking about in sullen silence — nights are theirs to share.

At night, Harry doesn't feel his tiredness, or his dejection, it's like he's a different person. And it's like Malfoy is too. Light conversation and banter flows effortlessly between them as they sit side by side, their shoulders nearly touching, and as the hours grow colder, Harry relishes the warmth which will emanate from Malfoy's body, and as he shuffles on the icy ground, trying to keep his feet from going numb, Harry'll inconspicuously slide closer to Malfoy. And if Malfoy notices, he never says anything.

The nights are only stolen from them when their words stray into dark territory, into things like Malfoy's parents or Harry's upbringing, things like beliefs and ideals, or if Harry hints at Malfoy's daytime behaviour, but mostly it's when Hermione comes to relieve Harry from watch, her arms crossed and her eyes flickering suspiciously between the two of them.

Harry will grudgingly stand, and it's after a hug from Hermione and a muffled goodnight to Malfoy when Harry climbs slowly onto his top bunk. He lies awake, not because he's afraid of the nightmares, but because he knows it won't be red eyes and a snake-like face he'll see as he dreams, but Malfoy. Always Malfoy.

One night, as Malfoy follows Harry into the tent, he jerks his head over his shoulder, back towards where Hermione sits alone, with her conjured blue flame. "How come Weasley never takes her place?" His tone is accusing, and it takes a moment for Harry to frown and scratch his head to comprehend what Malfoy's saying.


"It's fucking freezing and all Weaselbee does is mope around in that sling. It's pathetic." Harry can't tell if Malfoy's actually concerned for Hermione's wellbeing, or just looking for a chance to pick at Ron. Either way, Harry is still shocked into silence.

Harry has thought about this himself, why Ron doesn't sit on watch with Hermione, and he's narrowed it down to two possible reasons — Ron is upset with Hermione for forgiving Harry so quickly about Malfoy, or he's unwilling to leave the tent while Malfoy's in it, for whatever paranoid reason. Everything important is either kept in Hermione's beaded-bag, which she keeps with her at all times, or in Harry's moleskin pouch, which never leaves his neck, so Ron has nothing to worry about. Which makes Harry more inclined to think it's the former reason, and that worries him, because any rift between Ron and Hermione will make it that much harder for everyone to cooperate.

Harry sighs and shrugs, switching the torch lamp off in the middle of the table. Malfoy gives him a look, like he always does when he sees Harry doing something without magic, the muggle way — which makes Harry enjoy doing it on purpose, just to annoy him, instead of out of habit. Harry especially enjoys doing it during the day, if only to try and persuade Malfoy's distant gaze to settle on him.

Harry gets used to the fact that Malfoy often features in his dreams — it's not why he feels hesitant to go to sleep — it's because he knows that when the morning comes around, Malfoy will be back to being untouchable, a stranger. And even though Harry guesses it has something to do with Ron and Hermione being around, he detests it.

They sleep, they wake, and the day repeats.

A week passes in this way before Harry is close to breaking point. Ron's stubborn silence and grouchiness, Harry's confused feelings about Malfoy pretending he doesn't exist during the day, and their lack of leads on Horcruxes, all come to a point after Harry once again fails to open the Golden Snitch Dumbledore left him, and launches it into a tentpole with unrelenting fury. If Harry'd been hopeful that it'd open, he's disappointed. It clatters against the metal, but falls to the floor without so much as a thud.

Malfoy looks up from Hermione's copy of 'Tales of Beedle the Bard,' which he'd stolen and pretended he hadn't seen when Hermione'd been searching for it earlier. Ron sits up, edgy and startled, from his bunk, where he'd been fiddling with the dial on his Wizarding Wireless.

Harry heaves in a breath, trying to calm down, unsure where his sudden bout of rage has come from. Hermione peeks into the tent, her large eyes worried, and Harry clenches his teeth, because she doesn't deserve to be snapped at. But what she says makes him stop his agitated pacing.

"Harry… I've been thinking, about the… the necklace," Harry doesn't miss the way she spares an anxious look in Malfoy's direction. Her face pulls into a frown when she sees Malfoy holding her book, but instead of calling him out on it she just turns back to Harry, "I think you should take it off and let me wear it for a while…" She looks desperate for Harry to accept her suggestion, and thinking it won't make a difference Harry pulls it from his neck and —

Immediately feels free and light and relieved. It's like a weight he hasn't even known was there has been taken off his chest. Everything seems brighter, and an insistent knot of tension between his brows which has been bothering him for days is now gone. Harry's overcome with an almost ethereal desire to run through the forest, but before he does anything with his newly recovered energy, he wants to get a few things out into the open.

"Ron," Harry turns to Ron, who just scowls and averts his gaze, "I'm sorry about — about everything. But this is just the way things are. So please, get over it, because I miss arguing with you about Quidditch." It's true, Quidditch had been the only thing they'd ever disagreed over, and it's not like Harry is going to go all sappy over his best mate and tell him, plain and honest, that Harry misses him. Ron blinks a few times, shocked, and then guiltily looks at his feet.

Harry moves onto Malfoy, who quickly returns to Hermione's book with a troubled expression, "Malfoy —" Harry falters, caught off-guard, because he doesn't know what to say, and both his friends are watching him carefully, but most of all because Malfoy's chewing his bottom lip, and Harry can't look away from it.

Malfoy's glaring at the same page he's probably been trying to read for five minutes, and the gesture reminds Harry of his previous irritation and gives him the motivation he needs to continue, "Stop being an annoying bastard. Be nice to them, and they'll be nice to you," this probably isn't true, judging from Ron's sour grimace, "And stop ignoring me during the day." Harry didn't plan on actually saying the last part aloud, but it escapes him anyway, and Malfoy looks up at him with wide grey eyes and a clenched jaw.

Harry swallows, trying to act like he hasn't just blurted something private, "Hermione…" He walks over to the flap, "Here." She gingerly takes the locket from his hand and then secures it around her neck with caution, steadfastly avoiding Malfoy's watchful interest. And if Harry didn't feel so elated by his freedom from the Horcrux, he would have chucked an internal tantrum about Malfoy only looking at him now that something interesting is involved.

Harry clears his throat, desperate for something productive to do, and then determinedly faces Ron, "Wanna go get some mushrooms?" Harry's voice sounds too enthusiastic for such an activity, and Ron's eyes go longingly from his Wizarding Wireless and back to Harry.

Ron sighs, but stands up anyway. He makes a show of grabbing his wand from his pillow, and then gives a pointed look of loathing in Malfoy's direction. Harry guesses his friend's only leaving the tent because Hermione's staying behind, and Harry kind of wishes he could stay too, if only to witness Hermione trying to get her book back.

"See you later," Harry says to no one in particular as he and Ron walk out of the tent, but he swears he can feel Malfoy's penetrating gaze digging into his back.

Draco glares at the tent flap, watching with a hateful burning in his stomach, a burning which intensifies as he thinks about Potter and Weasley alone in the forest. He's mad, completely and utterly crazy — but the look in Potter's eyes, the sudden joy from reconnecting with his Ginger sidekick, is sickening. Draco hates it, hates the way he feels like he should be the only one to have fun with Potter — but he's made that pretty impossible, and it's for the best.

Draco can't help that he gives in during night time, when Potter's alone on watch. He can't fight the irrefutable pull he feels, dragging him towards Potter's warmth. When the sky is a shadowy swirl of stars and blackness, Draco is able to think his world is surreal, that nothing he does or says to Potter will matter, because when dawn comes, the sun will erase everything anyway. In the darkness, Draco is able to hide. There's no war, no second chance, and no Weasley or Granger. Just him and Potter.

"You know… you can go with them."

Granger stands in front of him, her arms crossed like always, and her wand tapping against her side. Draco knows this is probably about her book, but right now he feels like pissing somebody off, so she'll just have to do.

"What?" He snaps, "I didn't know I needed permission to engage my limbs in locomotion, Granger."

Granger lets out this annoying, airy sigh, and Draco tightens his hold on the book. It's a stupid load of bullshit and a waste of parchment, but Draco never grew up with fairytales, and he finds himself strangely reluctant to give it up just yet.

"You're welcome to go with Harry and Ron if you want to," Granger says, sounding like she's talking to a hearing impaired six year old. Draco sneers, both surprised and relieved that she's not here for the book.

"Why the fuck," Draco puts careful emphasis on the word, but unfortunately Granger doesn't react, "do you think I'd want to do that?"

Granger shrugs and eyes him meaningfully, and suddenly Draco doesn't want her to tell him.

"No reason," Granger moves as though she's about to walk away, but then turns back, her voice careful, "Also… When you've finished with that one," she gestures to the book he's practically bending in two in his hands, "I've got a lot more books in my bag… if you'd like to borrow them."

Draco wishes he had something offensive to say, some savage retort, but he's lost for words, and it aggravates him to no end. Deciding he'd rather be anywhere other than near a mudblood who's trying to be nice to him, Draco tosses the book on the floor and rushes out of the tent.

"I swear," Ron grumbles as he follows Harry into the forest, "If I have to eat one more bloody mushroom, I'll go spare."

Harry laughs, and he slows his pace so his friend can catch up. He notices Ron's now sling-less arm swinging by his side and asks, "All better now?"

Ron shrugs, and while any hint of sickness has left his face, his cheeks are somewhat sunken from his new diet, "I guess."

Harry nods, and soon enough they are back to being Harry and Ron, chatting and laughing, the same boys who grew up together in a castle of magic, and Harry hasn't felt so good for a week, not since his lips had come within an inch of Malfoy's —

Something shuffles in the grass a little way ahead of them, and they both freeze. They're on the run, fleeing from the same war they're fighting for — fear is natural, something which follows them around daily — so when a large black hare bounds out of the bushes, both Harry and Ron almost crumble with relief.

The idea of something other than mushrooms for dinner lights in Ron's sky-coloured eyes, and yearning for the chase, and the sense of a challenge, they both raise their wands at the same time. But the rabbit's too fast, and all they can see is its round tail as it darts over the uneven ground.

Their spells keep missing, and soon enough they lose sight of the animal, but that doesn't matter, because somehow it becomes a game instead of a hunting mission, and both boy's faces are upturned in competitive grins.

Ron starts it, firing a stunner which almost grazes the back of Harry's ankles. Harry swivels, startled, and Ron's face turns apologetic with his mistake. But Harry only shakes his head, feigning indifference as he walks a few steps away before swishing his arm and sending a hex at the dirt in front of Ron's feet. Over his shoulder, Harry sees Ron's smirk of understanding, and then they're running, darting through trees and using the trunks to their defence, battling in a half-hearted duel of play.

Harry's back is turned for too long, because he loses his concentration, and a spell snaps off the bark of the branch next to his cheek. Harry gasps, the magic of it burning against the skin of his face, singing his hair, and then the fun drains out of him — the weight of reality crushes his windpipe as he sees the darkness in Ron's eyes, the realisation of what's just happened.

This isn't a game, maybe it never was, maybe after all these years, Ron is still trying to prove something to Harry. Harry tries to regain control over his breathing, but he can't look away from Ron's face, and against his will, Harry's fingers curl tighter around his wand. Maybe it's just pent up aggression, peeking through the front of a friendly duel, or maybe it's more than that. Harry doesn't get time to think on it, because suddenly there's a sizzling crack, and Ron grunts as a stinging hex grazes his leg.

Harry whirls around, because he's more than certain the attack hasn't come from his own wand, and then his eyes land on the blinding white hair, the deathly vividness of a furious expression — Draco Malfoy, standing in the midst of two trees, his Hawthorne wand pointed straight at Ron.

Chapter Text

Harry's veins flood with fear and shame and disappointment — because maybe Ron was right, maybe  this  is Malfoy, about to attack them, maybe he's already taken care of Hermione, and has come to finish them off. Harry can't breathe, can't feel anything other than  betrayal  — but no — something isn't right — if that were Malfoy's plan, he wouldn't look so  enraged .

Several things happen at once. Ron sees Malfoy, his face contorts into a livid scream, and Malfoy defends at the same time Ron fires his first curse. And then there are spells flying everywhere, burning leaves and sending up dirt. And frighteningly enough, Harry doesn't know who to protect, and who to attack, he just stands there uselessly, his wand moving between them, until finally he has to act, has to do something before the forest gets set ablaze.

"PROTEGO!" The magic bursts out of his arm with his gravelly shout, and both Ron and Malfoy are almost thrown back with the force of the invisible barrier that erupts between them.

Harry heaves, desperate for the air he can't seem to find, as his friend turns his red-hot anger on him, staring in exasperated rage. "What the fuck are you doing!?" Ron spits, "He was attacking us! And you — you just —" Ron's shoulders are shivering from his frenzied fury, his arms trembling.

Harry cuts him off with a look, his whole face aching from the way he grits his teeth, as he tries to convey the fact that Ron almost attacked him too, right before a game turned into something dangerous. And as though eager to jump to Malfoy's defence, Harry wants to say that Malfoy, apart from his stinging hex, has done nothing wrong, but more than anything Harry wants to know why Malfoy's here, and why he's done what he's done. Because he won't let himself believe that Malfoy betrayed —

Harry's eyes widen a fraction, and he turns to Malfoy with parted lips, a question on his tongue begging to be asked, a question Harry somehow knows the answer to.

Malfoy did it for him, for Harry, did it because the look in Ron's eyes spoke of danger to both of them. How long had Malfoy been following them, keeping watch on something which started as a game of friendly rivalry, but ended as a toxic competition? Harry knows Ron wouldn't have acted, even though he might've finally found a way to prove himself, prove himself as someone more than the boy who falls into the shadow of Harry Potter's footsteps. Harry has always hated the way Ron feels about his fame, but their friendship has always been too strong to let anything intervene. Is that what is happening now — a harsh, unrelenting intervention within their friendship? Harry swallows, refusing to think about it, refusing to let himself see it even if he wants to. But could Malfoy see it, unbiased, from the sidelines? Is that the only reason why he'd… protected Harry?

Malfoy's trying to catch his breath, his hair's mussed and his sleeves are pushed back, and Harry thinks Ron sees the Dark Mark at the same time Harry does, because his eyes glaze over with bleakness and he seethes, "Is this how it is, then? You're choosing him — a Death Eater — over me!?"

Harry tries to take a step closer, but his own shield charm stands in the way. "Ron — what —"

"Don't pretend like you don't fucking know what I'm talking about! I see you two at night — whispering —you're a traitor, Harry, and you're fucking insane!"

Harry feels Ron's words like a stab in the chest, and his insides turn to lead. Ron stalks back the way they came, his body rigid and his pace fast.

Dismantling his shield charm, Harry doesn't hesitate to follow, but is stopped when Malfoy blocks his way, his features calm but laced with recognisable fear. His pale brows are pulled tautly together, his mouth twitching as he tries to speak — and then he reaches out, touches Harry's arm, and Harry just burns. He jerks back, shocked by the effect of Malfoy's hand on his body, and Harry's so confused, so torn between his thoughts, that he vents it with frustration, "Don't!"

Every ounce of calmness trickles out of Malfoy's face, and for just a second there's nothing there but that fear, and then his eyes turn glacial, and Harry moves past him, so quickly he nearly trips — because he needs to get away, needs to find Ron before he does something drastic — like touch Malfoy again.

You're choosing him — a Death Eater — over me!?

Draco stands in numb disbelief, Weasley's words ringing through his skull and daring him to selfishly hope — but no, Potter's face just now, as he jerked away from Draco's touch, is enough to confirm everything.

All along, Draco has been nothing more than a lost cause Potter couldn't help but take on, and Draco feels bitterness, vile and strong, rise to choke him.

He should leave, he should disapparate now and go somewhere far away, somewhere he won't be tempted to return — to return to Potter's side as nothing but a useless pity case.

But he can't.

Draco's legs are already leading him in the direction Potter went, back towards the tent, and he knows he doesn't have a chance of stopping himself, of turning away. It's too late for that. And somewhere within the hard clump of fear and anger in Draco's stomach, he begs for what Granger said to be true — that Potter is all or nothing, and right now, every inch of Draco's being pleads for Potter to be all in, to be too far into the same mess Draco is in, to ever come out.

Draco remembers the look on Weasley's face, the way he'd almost seemed possessed, about to attack his best mate, and the jealousy Draco had felt overtake him while watching them run together, rapidly turned into anger — and concern. And the next thing Draco knew he'd raised his wand, fired a spell, because there was no way he was letting anybody harm Harry Potter. Even if Potter left Draco for dead, even if he fled the forest with his two best friends and forgot all about the existence of Draco Malfoy — Draco would still care. It's undeniable, terrifying, and most of all, impossible that Potter feels the same way.

Draco bursts into the clearing just as the first few drops of rain fall down to hit his face. He shrugs into the tent, his heart in his throat — and is met with the sight of Potter writhing on the floor, a hand clamped to his forehead. Granger kneels by his head, her eyes calm yet worried, while Weasley stands to the side, looking defused, his face contorted with guilt — as though what's happening to Potter is his fault. And Draco can't move, can't think — Potter, moaning and arching, like he's in pain — makes Draco feel pain too, and then suddenly Draco just sees red, blinded by hatred as he points his wand at Weasley and shouts, "What the fuck have you done to him!?"

Granger looks up, scared by the deadly venom she hears in Draco's voice, and Weasley takes a step back in anguish, his voice feeble as he replies, "I — nothing — he —"

"Ron hasn't done anything," Granger snaps, getting to her feet, "Harry's having a vision — he's seeing into You-Know-Who's mind." She casts her eyes back down on Potter, who thrashes his head from side to side, his eyes squeezed closed.

Draco's body turns cold, his throat tightening, making it nearly impossible to whisper, "What?"

Granger gives him a heated glare, like she can't be bothered to explain further, and that's when Draco sees that the look she gives Potter is one of disapproval. "He didn't mention that his scar's been hurting recently."

Draco's brows shoot up, and his arm slowly drops to his side, and when he speaks the worry in his voice is barely concealed by his exasperation, "Well, why is it happening?"

"I'm not sure — we think it happens when Vol—"

"Don't!" Weasley spits angrily.

"Fine. When You-Know-Who feels angry —" Granger breaks off when Weasley throws her an astonished glare, clearly implying she shouldn't be telling their enemy this.

Draco couldn't care less, he still feels like clipping Weasley in the jaw, and more than anything he wants Potter to get up and stop looking like he's dying — because it's doing uncomfortable, distressing things to Draco's heart, and he can't stand it any longer.

And as though listening to Draco's thoughts, Potter's body goes still, and his chest rises and falls slowly for a few seconds before his eyes crack open.

"What'd you see?" Weasley asks, desperate, and fury laces up Draco's spine, because the fucking orange prat is more concerned about something other than Potter's wellbeing.

Potter sits up, wiping sweat from his forehead, and for just a moment his eyes land on Draco, and fill with surprise, and then something else, something like relief, before Granger says hastily, "Harry, why haven't you been practicing Occlumency? Dumbledore said —"

"I don't care what Dumbledore said," Potter grinds out, and Draco's more than a little miffed to hear the tone in his voice when directed at the Headmaster Potter had practically worshipped. Maybe it has something to do with Rita Skeeter's articles, which Draco has caught snippets of over the Mudblood's shoulder. "Snape never taught me properly, remember? He didn't even try."

Draco frowns, glad that he's been distracted from his annoyingly anxious thoughts about Potter, but confused because he hasn't quite caught on to the conversation, and it's pissing him off. Had Snape tried to teach Potter Occlumency?

"What'd you see?" Weasley comes forward, more urgent this time, and Potter gives him a hard look before replying.

"Same as last time, the thief who stole something from Gregorovitch," Potter doesn't give Draco a wary glance, like Weasley and Granger do. It's like he doesn't care what Draco hears anymore, and Draco feels something warm and pleased stir in his stomach.

Weasley lets out a sigh of relief, and Draco wonders what happened before he walked in on the disturbing scene, obviously forgiveness seems a bit lacking, if Potter's unfriendly tone is anything to go by. Maybe Potter fell to the floor as soon as he stepped into the tent, effectively ending whatever fight Weasley was waiting to spring on him. Draco can't help but feel relieved, even as he stands there looking like he doesn't belong.

Potter rubs his hands through his hair, over the scar which Draco hardly ever sees anymore. Maybe it has less to do with the state of Potter's hair and more to do with the fact that Draco just doesn't notice it, doesn't let the existence of it cloud his thoughts about Potter. Draco only has a split second to look away and pretend he wasn't just staring at Potter's forehead, when the boy himself looks at Draco again. Potter's eyes don't move from Draco's face until Draco gives in and returns Potter's stare, and from the tightness around his jaw, Potter looks just as full of questions as Draco does.

Potter gets to his feet, sways a little, and rights himself on the corner of the table, and Draco has to clench his fists to stop them from flying out to help. Draco suppresses a growl at his unexplainable reaction, just as Potter asks with a tone that won't take no for an answer, "Can I talk to you?"

Draco gives Potter an icy look, which he hopes conveys his meaning of, 'you're-already-talking-you-simpleton,' and Potter huffs before saying firmly, "Outside."

Draco nods his head a fraction, and levels a nasty glare at Weasley's turned back before following Potter out of the tent. Almost as soon as the flap falls closed behind Draco, furious whispers start up between Weasley and Granger, and hearing it too, Potter increases his stride until they're a little way into the trees. The rain's picked up by now, and as Potter stops and spins to face him, Draco can't help but watch the way the drops drip down his chin.

Draco raises his wand to cast an umbrella charm above them, but Potter beats him to it, his green eyes impossibly bright against the gloomy backdrop of the forest. Draco could have managed, in fact he's finally gotten his Hawthorne wand up to the level of magic he'd used to be able to perform with it, and the stolen chance of showing off in front of Potter has Draco biting his tongue.

Potter keeps staring at him, as though waiting for Draco to speak first, and Draco has to try incredibly hard to not look away, because being under Potter's scrutiny is making him fidget. Finally, he gives in with a snarl, "What?"

For a short moment, Potter seems taken aback, but his voice is agitated when he asks, "Why did you do that?"

Of course Draco knows what Potter means, and his cheeks prickle with heat even as he tries to play innocent, "Do what?"

"Before — when you pretty much attacked my best mate!?"

Draco flinches, not only from the accusation, but the rage he feels upon hearing Potter call someone who almost hurt him 'his best mate.' That's all, it has nothing to do with fucking jealousy. Draco gnashes his teeth together, "Oh? You mean right after he attacked you?"

"He —" Potter snaps his mouth shut, and Draco scoffs, because Potter knows just as well as he does what Weasley had come so close to doing. "It was an accident. Nothing more. He's just —"

"Making excuses, Potter? If you can't control him, keep him on a fucking leash."

Potter's eyes flash, "You know nothing about him, Malfoy."

"I know what I saw!" Draco's voice rises as he lashes an arm out into the forest, "And I saw him try to — he was going to —" Draco growls, pushes his hair from his face. There's nothing he can say that won't make him seem like an overreacting fool.

"So you did do it for me, then?" Potter says it thoughtfully, and because Draco is so eager to defend his pride, he deludes himself into hearing ridicule.

"I — what? No. Are you that much of a fucking egotist? You think everything I do is for you? You think I'm here for you?" Draco hisses, and somewhere within his aggression he has moved closer to Potter, using his slight height advantage to try and loom over The Chosen One.

Potter is unaffected as he shouts, "No! But you wouldn't be here in the first place if it wasn't for me — if I hadn't given you the chance!" His last syllable rings out into the woods, and his words confirm something Draco has been hoping isn't true — that all Potter's actions are justified by pity and nothing else.

Draco breathes heavily, anger and hurt rushing through his veins, and he takes too long to say something, because then Potter turns away from him and heads for the tent — and no! No no no — Potter can't go — not yet — there has to be something more — this has to be about something more than chances and pity and hero complexes.

So Draco doesn't hesitate to grab him, to latch onto Potter's arm. But in his haste, Draco underestimates his strength, and before he can think about what he's doing, he shoves Potter's back into a tree trunk and uses his weight to stop Potter from escaping.

The position is reminiscent of all those days ago, in the hallway outside of the bathroom. Potter's hair had been wet then, too, only it'd been from a shower and not the rain, and Draco hadn't had to fight with the urge to tangle his fingers through it.

But fuck — Potter is warm, pliant from shock, and his face is wet, and now Draco finds himself battling with a stronger urge, an urge to ignore the realisation that Harry Potter is most definitely attractive.

Harry can't move, he doesn't know if he even wants to move — all he knows is that a second ago, Draco Malfoy seemed furious about something, but now as his eyes bore into Harry's, that fury evaporates into something akin to sadness.

"It can't—" Malfoy begins, his voice low and rough, and his breath warm against Harry's cheek, "It can't be just that…"

Harry doesn't know what Malfoy's talking about, can't think about anything other than how strong Malfoy feels as he pins Harry to the tree. Harry can't feel the bark digging into his back or the wet splatters of rain on his face — now that they've moved from beneath his umbrella charm — all he can feel is Malfoy, and it's making him delirious.

"What…" Harry's voice falters, because speaking brings his lips too close to Malfoy's, and he doesn't know if this should make him want to talk more, or weld his mouth shut.

Harry has always thought of Malfoy to be the kind of person who gives nothing away, who prefers to live life closed off from the world around him, but he's been wrong, so wrong. Because Malfoy's eyes are everything — they're the window to the room containing every buried emotion Malfoy's ever felt, and right now, as Harry looks into them, he's willing to surrender, to drown in the storminess of Malfoy's eyes and never emerge.

The heaviness of the rain increases, but neither of them think to cast the right charms, neither of them can focus on anything but the eyes of the other. But soon Harry becomes aware of the way the water darkens Malfoy's hair, drags it down the planes of his cheekbones and curls it beneath his chin. There's a brief moment where Harry swears Malfoy's gaze drops down to his lips, but Malfoy's eyes move too fast for Harry to be sure, and in the next second Malfoy's stare is so penetrating that it couldn't possibly have moved.

And Harry needs to break the silence, needs to say something which will distract him from the blood boiling beneath his skin wherever Malfoy presses against him. "What… are you… talking about?" His voice is so soft, barely distinguishable over the rain, but Malfoy still hears him, and releases a pent up sigh of frustration which makes Harry dizzy.

"You… I'm talking about you." Malfoy lowers his head even more, and now their foreheads are almost touching, the drenched strands of their hair coming together, light against dark.

Harry blinks, swallows, swallows again because his throat is still too dry. "Me? What about me?"

"Your pity… I don't want it." Malfoy says this like it's the first layer of many meanings, and Harry can't make sense of it. If his head were clearer, he might've realised that while pity is something Malfoy doesn't want, there has to be other things that he does want.

"I know," Harry rasps, even though right now it's almost impossible for him to know anything at all.

Every word is like fire between them, hot and lingering across lips and cheeks until the coldness around them is something nonexistent, unnameable from the warmth which encompasses them like a blanket.

And Harry should be doing something, should be pushing Malfoy away — because surely this is all levels of wrong, but the only wrong thing about it, Harry thinks, would be if Malfoy were to move away himself. Because as Malfoy shifts his arm to rest on the tree beside Harry's head, caging him in, it brings their lower bodies together, and Harry has an almost uncontrollable desire to grab Malfoy's hips and hold him there and —

Harry panics.

The warmth, the way Malfoy feels so good against him, the heat pooling in his abdomen — Harry is being turned on by Draco Malfoy, and all at once his rational thoughts crash down on him like a wave, and with a shove which shouldn't be so hard to accomplish, Harry pushes Malfoy away.

Malfoy stumbles back, almost tripping on a fallen branch, and when he swings his head up to look at Harry, the wet hair flinging out of his eyes, Harry sees the same coherency reflected back at him.

Harry can't stay, he needs to sit down somewhere warm and dry and quiet, somewhere Malfoy isn't. Because being anywhere near Malfoy right now won't help the problem of his confusing and frightening arousal. Harry makes his legs move in the direction of the tent, but only gets several steps before Malfoy calls out huskily, "Wait — Potter," And of course Harry turns, even though he knows Malfoy's gotten a hold of his emotions again, that he's sternly composed and distant.

Harry really shouldn't be standing here, waiting for Malfoy to say whatever it is he's struggling to say, scowl firmly back in place. Because the sight of Malfoy, clothes clinging to his lean frame, and his hair rain soaked and hanging, reminds Harry of something he has tried to forget — Draco Malfoy is beautiful.

"What?" Harry chokes out, trying to make his voice sound normal.

One beat. Two. "I can teach you Occlumency," Malfoy blurts out, the lines around his mouth hardening. Had Malfoy's lips always been that pink? Harry shakes himself, narrowing his eyes. Malfoy, who has always lived by the term 'an eye for an eye,' is offering to teach Harry something so difficult? It doesn't add up.

"For what?" Harry asks suspiciously. He still hasn't asked Malfoy for the Map back, only because he knows Malfoy hasn't lost it, and not because he hasn't had the heart to take it from him, especially when he sees Malfoy pursue it with fascination when he thinks Harry isn't looking.

Malfoy's frown deepens, and his eyes spark with hesitation, "What?"

Harry, getting sick of hearing the word 'what' but also glad for the divergence from his traitorous arousal, says with mild frustration, "Your conditions. What are they?"

Malfoy swaps his weight from foot to foot, his lips thinning into a harsh line, and it takes a second for Harry to realise that maybe Malfoy doesn't have any conditions after all. The thought touches Harry somewhere behind the ribs, but also makes him uncomfortable, for fear that he's offended the Slytherin.

But Malfoy, either to hide his feelings, or to jump at the chance, says offhandedly, "You could — you could show me how to cast a Patronus?" Harry sees right through his nonchalant tone, through to the vulnerability which slowly begins to creep out from Malfoy's lowered eyes. And Harry is hit with the force of his sadness, sadness because Draco Malfoy can't cast a Patronus charm, and the fact that it isn't surprising at all is heart wrenching.

In Harry's chest, his heart stutters, picks up again — too quickly. Harry takes a breath, trying to ignore thoughts about what kind of joyless memories Malfoy must carry around with him day after day, and replies, "Alright. Deal."

Harry remembers their first deal, and like last time, his eyes fall down to Malfoy's hands — delicate, pale, and no doubt, cold. Harry wants to shake hands with Malfoy, if only to share the little warmth which didn't leave him after stepping away from the blond. "Um, shake on it?"

Harry could have slapped himself, and by the looks of it, so could Malfoy. His fair eyebrows are scrunched in confusion, and Harry decides elaborating won't make a difference to the situation, so he says, "Er — it's a Muggle thing. After they make deals, they er — shake hands."

Malfoy's puzzlement erodes into disgust, and he says judgmentally, "that's fucking weird."

Harry just shrugs, trying to pretend he isn't disappointed. He wipes his hands over his jeans, because they feel too empty without the possibility of holding Malfoy's, and figuring it's time to escape the rain, Harry starts to walk away again.

But Malfoy follows him, too quickly to be considered casual, and rushes out, "Shake on it?"

Harry blinks as a raindrop hits him in the eye, and although his hand itches with the need to touch Malfoy's, he still squints with apprehension. "I thought you just said it was weird?"

"It is," Malfoy clarifies, raising his hand slowly. Harry wonders if purebloods even shake hands upon greeting, but that doesn't matter, because suddenly he's brought back to the day six years ago, when Malfoy had held out his, just like now.

And Harry doesn't waste a second before he grabs it. It isn't like last week, when Harry had taken Malfoy's hand to pull him along, when they ran from the Death Eaters. Then, it'd been all haste — sweaty and scared and urgent.

But now it's relaxed, and Harry notes that Malfoy has very soft hands. Malfoy's nails are immaculate, and Harry thinks about how long he must spend using filing spells to maintain them. Harry's own are chewed as far down as they'll go, and his palms are calloused from years of housework at the Dursley's.

Their entwined hands are a juxtaposition in the rain, and Harry can't look away. He shakes once, twice, another time, because he can't bear to let go just yet. Maybe Malfoy's just as caught up in the feeling as Harry is, because when Harry spares a glance at Malfoy's face, there's a crease across the bridge of his nose, and his lips are slightly parted. Harry takes a shuddery breath, remembering why he'd been so desperate to leave a few minutes ago.

"Deal, then," Harry says roughly. Malfoy just nods, and when Harry finally withdraws his hand it aches with the loss of Malfoy's. "So, when do we start?" Malfoy shrugs, crosses his arms, and for a second Harry is worried that he might regret it, so he hastily adds, "How 'bout tonight? On watch maybe?"

"Whatever, Potter," and then Malfoy stalks past him. Harry watches his back until he disappears into the tent, and with a huff he follows, accepting the fact that wherever he goes, Malfoy will always be there to take up all the space in Harry's head.

Spelling himself dry, Draco ignores Granger when she politely asks him if he'd like tea. He pauses before throwing himself onto his bunk, his glare glued onto the way Weasley watches him. The prat's sitting with his fucking Wizarding Wireless — the contraption Draco feels like 'incendio-ing' and burying its ashes in the deepest part of the forest. The crackles and beeps it emits always give Draco a headache, and as if Weasley knows this, he always turns the volume up to full when Draco's around.

Draco growls, and for some reason he looks at Granger, almost hoping she'll tell her ginger pet to keep quiet. But Granger just gives Draco this bloody annoying, innocent expression, raising her nose haughtily, and goes back to memorising whatever oversized tome she has on her lap. Draco regrets accepting the tea, if only to make her more willing to tame the Weasel.

Draco lowers himself onto the bunk, folds his hands behind his head, and takes to watching the tent's entrance, where Potter should be appearing any second. He rolls over with a grumble when he realises what he's doing.

So what if Harry fucking Potter is attractive? That doesn't mean Draco has to watch him like some drooling, obsessed first year. Draco already feels like an idiot for giving in and accepting whatever muggle crap Potter suggested about shaking hands.

But no matter how much he tries, Draco can't get away from the harrowing fact that Harry Potter has worked his way into Draco's system, and the effects are irreversible. And now Draco has gotten himself into something dangerous, he's gotten himself access to Potter's mind in their future 'lessons' — and while this is exhilarating, it's also frightening, because Draco might see things he doesn't want to see, things like painful truths and Potter's reasons for giving Draco this chance.

Draco heaves a sigh into his pillow just as the telling sound of canvas sliding against canvas announces Potter's entrance, and Draco wonders what took him so bloody long — but then a gasp, Granger's gasp, has Draco launching himself upwards, dreading whatever could elicit such a response from the Mudblood — and fleeting images of Potter being attacked by Death Eaters or mauled by a bear rush through Draco's head.

But Granger isn't even looking at Potter, Draco sees as his eyes land on her for a fraction of a second before raking over Potter, who looks intact, dry and still as infuriatingly good as Draco decided he looked less than half an hour ago.

"Oh my god…" Granger mutters, and reluctantly, Draco glances away from Potter to give her a frustrated glare. Apparently, no one else exists, because Granger just repeats her previous utterance for her muggle deity and gets to her feet, book still in hand.

"Um — Hermione?" Potter asks, his voice worried, as he steps forward. Draco isn't sure if he's annoyed or glad by Potter's refusal to look in his direction.

"Oh, Harry!" Granger looks pale and flustered at the same time, her eyes so wide Draco thinks they'll pop out of her skull.

"What? What's wrong?"

"The Sword of Gryffindor!" Granger says, nearly breathless, "It's Goblin made."

Draco leans on his elbows, trying to act like he isn't curious, watching as Potter blinks cluelessly and says with a baffled frown, "er — right?"

"No," Granger says slowly, a smile tearing its way across her mouth, and Draco wonders if she's actually forgotten about his presence, to be able to gush out what is most likely important information, and not worry if Draco hears. "You don't understand. Dirt and rust have no effect on the blade. It only takes in that which makes it stronger," She lugs the book over to Potter, slams it onto the table, and points enthusiastically to what seems like a particular dense paragraph.

Potter stares at the page, no doubt trying to make sense of it, but just ends up looking up with his frown still in place, "Okay?"

Granger throws her arms up with both excitement and exasperation, "Harry — you've already destroyed one Horcrux, right?" Draco sits up stiffly, his mind reeling. "Tom Riddle's diary in the Chamber of Secrets —"

"With a Basilisk fang," Potter reminds her pointedly, glancing down at the book again. "If you tell me you've got one of those in that bloody beaded bag of yours…"

"Don't you see!? In the Chamber of Secrets you stabbed the Basilisk with the Sword of Gryffindor — it's blade is impregnated with Basilisk venom."

Potter stares unseeingly for a few moments, before his eyes dawn with understanding, "'It only takes in that which makes it stronger.'"

"Exactly, which is why —"

"It can destroy Horcruxes." Potter's voice is faded, his eyes squeezed closed as if this is something he should have known all along.

Draco sits frozen, balanced precariously at the edge of the mattress, his gaze unmoving from Potter as he's taken back to a day seven years ago, when he'd come across a dark and frightening piece of magic, reading in the Malfoy Library. His boy-like mind had been intrigued, so naturally he'd gone to his father to seek more answers, but Lucius had turned white, livid, and in a trembling command of iciness, had bid his son to go straight to his room. When Draco snuck back into the Library later that night, the book he'd found, along with many others, had disappeared.

Draco is snapped back to the present in time to see Granger nod, "And that's why Dumbledore left it to you in his Will."

Potter is vibrant with enthusiasm, "You are brilliant, Hermione — truly! There's only one problem —"

The lights flick out in the tent, and for a second there's nothing but the heavy pattering of rain against canvas.

"Yeah, one problem," Weasley's voice is loaded with a sarcasm which would give Draco a run for his money, and when the lamps relight, Draco sees Weasley's fingers clench around a small silver box. "The fact you've just shared all this with a Death Eater."

"Ron," Granger's tone is a warning, and Draco thinks of the furious whispers he'd overheard earlier as Weasley gives her a look full of quelling anger, before rounding on Potter.

"We thought you knew what you were doing! But apparently not, because if you did then you wouldn't have brought him into this!"

The excitement visibly drains out of Potter as he faces his friend, "I've told you everything from the start — and Malfoy has nothing to do with this!"

"Bullshit he doesn't! If he wasn't here we would have done something by now!"

"Well incase you haven't noticed, we've found one Horcrux already—"

"Yeah and we're about as near to getting rid of it as we are to finding the rest of them — nowhere fucking near in other words! And it's all Malfoy's fucking fault!"

"Ron, please stop it!" Granger intervenes, "you're just making things worse —"

"Don't you start! You said so yourself you were disappointed, that you didn't think Harry should be trusting Malfoy. That you thought he was fucking mental for giving Malfoy back his wand!"

Granger turns to Potter, her face pleading, "Harry — I didn't say it like that — I didn't mean —"

"Have you forgotten what he's done, Harry!?" Weasley interrupts, his outrage unrelenting, "About Dumbledore!? Or how my own brother has scars across his face because of that bastard!"

Potter pales, and Draco feels something sink in his gut. "No! But—"

"You don't know why I listen to that radio every night, do you? To find out who's died today — who's been killed by people like him! To make sure I don't hear Ginny's name, or Fred or George or Mum—"

"What — you think I'm not listening too!? You think I don't know how this feels!?"

"No — you don't know how this feels! Because you don't care what happens to anyone else unless it's Draco fucking Malfoy!"

And then Potter launches himself at Weasley.

There's a scuffle, the sound of fists colliding with flesh, until they are pushed apart by Granger, yelling for them to stop, tears streaming down her face.

Tendons pull taught in Potter's neck, his body vibrating with suppressed emotion. "Fine, then go! GO!"

Draco becomes aware that he's on his feet, his hand so tight around his wand that his nails are slicing into his palm. He doesn't take his eyes away from Weasley, fearing that he'll spin around and attack at any moment — and Draco isn't even bothered by the fact that it's Potter he's concerned for, and not himself.

Weasley shoves things into his bag, heaves it over his shoulder, and turns to Granger, "And you? Are you coming, or are you staying?"

Granger gasps around a sob, "Ron — we said — we said we'd help Harry — that we'd trust him—"

"Fine. I get it. You choose him."

Draco watches Potter's face become stone, thinking surely it must hurt a lot more than he's letting on, but nothing gives Potter away except the slight shivering of his shoulders — the crumbling of his facade. Weasley says nothing more, only walks out into the rain, and as Granger rushes after him, begging for him to stay, Draco can't help but feel like this — this wreckage of friendship, is his fault.

Chapter Text

Harry stares at the tarpaulin — numb.

He can hear the rain pounding against the tent, can faintly hear Hermione's voice calling, crying, looking for someone who's already left.

He can't hear the sound of his own thoughts, and that's a good thing, because he doesn't want to.

Slowly, or maybe so quickly it's only been a minute since Ron left, Harry realises he's cold.

Harry turns, thinking he'll try and sleep, or grab a blanket and charm it to stay dry on his watch, wanting to do anything other than nothing — because doing nothing will make him feel the acid from Ron's words, eating away at his insides.

But as he moves, he sees the only other person standing in the tent with him, which is odd because Harry could have sworn he was alone, but seeing him, seeing that torn expression of hesitation and pity in those guarded grey eyes, brings everything crashing down in a wave of Malfoy Malfoy Malfoy.

Had Ron been right, is Draco Malfoy all Harry cares about? Harry wants to say no, that Malfoy is just a small piece in a very large, fragmented puzzle, but a part of him fears that he will be lying, that while the most important thing right now is a war, somehow Malfoy has become important too.

Harry takes a breath, gaze tracing over the way Malfoy wearily watches him, his jaw a hard frame of angles, and the tightness around his eyes so strained Harry wants to smooth away the creases.


Harry jerks in surprise, and he isn't sure if it was him who spoke, or Malfoy.

"Well, what?"

"Aren't you going to send me away?" Malfoy's question is so low Harry almost misses it, and he frowns in return.

"No." He wants to add, 'why would I do that?' But he can't, his voice is too thick right now, and he has a feeling he knows what Malfoy will say, anyway.

There's a flicker of something sporadic, maybe relief, across Malfoy's face, and it takes him several seconds too long to mask it before Harry sees.

At that moment, Hermione bursts back into the tent, hair stuck to her face and dripping streams of water over her jacket. Her bottom lip is chewed raw with worry and her eyes are red, and she barely holds in her sadness as she stutters out, "he's g-gone. Disapparated."

She stands there, drenched, as though trying to make sense of her situation. But Hermione Granger is lost, her logic has escaped her, and the boy Harry knows she is in love with has deserted her. He wants to hug her, tell her that it's okay, that Ron will come back, but he can't. Because if he does that then he is acknowledging the burning hot hole filled with guilt and betrayal which brews in the pit of his stomach. If he does that then Hermione might fall to pieces, and there will be nothing stopping Harry from following her.

Hermione goes into the kitchenette, her actions sharp and shaky as she mechanically makes a pot of tea, tears sparkling on her cheeks. It hurts Harry to watch her, so without a word he steps up behind her, gently moves her aside, and makes the tea for her.

He knows Malfoy is watching him, but he can't find it in himself to care.

It is later that night, when Harry is curled on his bunk, wondering whether this is what he deserves for dragging his friends into this, when Malfoy's quiet voice travels up from below.

"It's not your fault."

Harry's eyes fly open in the darkness, even though he can't see anything, not because he is surprised by what Malfoy has said, but because of what he hasn't. Lingering in the blackness between their mattresses, the rest of Malfoy's sentence hangs like a stagnant, unspoken breath; it's mine.

It's not your fault, it's mine.

And Harry just squeezes his eyes tightly closed, trying to decide whether that's true or not. Yet, when exhaustion finally claims him, the last thought he knows is that even if it is true, somehow, he doesn't care.

When Draco wakes up, he is shocked to find that he has risen before Potter, who's hand drapes over the side of the bunk, and nearly hits him in the face as he gets out of bed.

His surprise evaporates, however, when he sees a note on the table. It's in plain sight, so evidently Draco is allowed to read it, not that it would have stopped him if he wasn't. Next to it, there is a small, fake looking galleon, and Draco recognises it as the thing which Potter took out of his pocket all those days ago, right before he'd left.

The writing is neat, belonging to Granger he presumes, and his guess is confirmed once he realises it is written on some bizarrely textured, lined muggle paper. He scowls, glances over at the still-sleeping form of Potter, and then reads:

I've gone to find Ron and bring him back. When the time comes, I'll be in touch. Stay safe and good luck. Love, H.

Draco places the note back where he found it, a strange heaviness in his chest at the thought of Potter waking to find that now both of his friends have left him.

There's a steaming mug of tea under a stasis charm on the table, and Harry, now that he's read the note, knows it must have been left there by Malfoy. Because Hermione's gone, and all Harry can do is stand there in a pair of hole-ridden socks and stare at a bloody hot beverage.

His chest feels like it's about to cave in at any moment, and he thinks that whoever comes in to find the ruins of Harry Potter's torso, Malfoy, no doubt, will see that half of his heart has been torn away. It's strange, Harry thinks, how people always go on about soul mates sharing the same heart, but maybe they've been right all along. Because he, Ron and Hermione have always been soul mates, in that weird, round-about way that only the closest of friends are, and it has taken losing them for Harry to realise it.

He raises his hand to move the fake galleon from the table to the pocket of his jeans, but his fingers slip, and the coin drops to the floor. Harry bends to pick it up, and something splashes his hand. Maybe the tent has a leak, he muses as he stands and places it carefully in his pocket. But then he feels the same wetness on his cheek, and when his fingers come up to swipe it away, he sees that he's shaking.

Harry clenches his jaw at the same moment Malfoy comes into the tent, bringing a sharp chill and the smell of fresh rain with him.

"Hey," Malfoy says as soon as he notices Harry standing there. His face is full of wary uncertainty, and it takes Harry a few seconds to liken the expression Malfoy gives him to something one would give a person who is about to have a mental break down.

Harry swallows, and now the mug of tea makes sense.

"Hey," Harry's answer is much too late, and his voice cracks at the end. He hopes Malfoy will brush it off as the effects of sleep, but he knows the blond is more skeptical than that.

It is the strangest, politest greeting they have ever shared, and Malfoy hovers by the entrance of the tent like he's hesitant to come any closer.

If Harry weren't still feeling paralysed over the absence of his two best friends, he would have said something more, perhaps even tell Malfoy to stop acting like he's a Blast-Ended Skrewt. But right now, all Harry finds himself capable of doing is going back to bed.

Draco watches Potter settle on the bunk, something stuttering uncomfortably in his chest, and it makes him miss the fluttering thing.

Draco thinks he should probably just turn away and leave Potter to mope, but for some reason, he can't, and before he can stop himself his feet are taking him towards their bunk.

And slowly, oh so slowly, as though the rungs on the bunk ladder will scald his palms, Draco climbs up to where Potter lies facing the wall. The vulnerability of his position touches Draco somewhere suspiciously near the heart, and he swallows.

Maybe, after everything, Potter finally feels like he's alone in this, and Draco has never before considered that The Boy Who Lived needs to be around other people more than anything else — that he needs things like validation and affirmation. Draco has always believed that Potter had everything, that he was content with fame and nothing more, but within the last two weeks Draco has learned how wrong he was.

Potter puts on the face of a hero, he wears it because it's the mask which suits him best, the facade people are counting on him for. But beneath that, Potter is withering from the weight of his fame, because he is just a boy — no different from Draco — a boy who's two best friends have walked out on him in the midst of a war. And Draco just aches for him.

Maybe that's why Draco's inhibition flees to an untouched corner of his mind, a chamber he won't seek to look in. Not now, not when the shivering lines of Harry Potter's shoulders are just begging to be held.

The memory of Potter comforting him is the only confirmation Draco needs. But as Draco edges forward, angles his weight on the bunk alongside Potter, he knows he's doing this because he wants to, and not because of some unpaid debt of condolence.

Draco reaches his hand out to tentatively brush Potter's bicep, and immediately Potter goes still. The touch isn't enough, it's not what they both need, so Draco bends closer until his chin rests on Potter's shoulder, and he gets a mouthful of soft, unruly hair.

Draco's knees come to lean against the back of Potter's thighs, but Potter's still too tense, as though the trembling will begin again at any moment — so Draco does something incredibly insane, but right.

He pushes his entire body against the length of Potter's, and wraps his arm around Potter's torso, pulling him roughly back into his chest, into some sort of warm, urgent half-embrace.

And then Potter just melts, relaxes into Draco's arms as though it's something he's been wanting to do for years. Draco's left arm is still awkwardly contorted above his head, but he hardly feels it, all he feels is Potter, and as he lowers his head even more, all he smells is Potter too.

And it's wonderful.

Delicious, masculine and like fresh forest wood — Draco can't get enough of it. He squeezes Potter, relishing in the heat of his body, as if by doing so this moment will never end. Draco wouldn't mind being stuck in the limbo of time if it meant he'd never have to relinquish Harry Potter from his arms. It's warm, comfortable, and peaceful, and even though this moment will end, Draco knows it'll be burnt into the forefront of his mind forever.

But then something unexpected flares to life in his abdomen — hot, needy desire. Draco freezes, the realisation that he is becoming horny from hugging The Chosen One dragging his inhibition back from that forgotten place, and leaving him feeling like a complete fool.

There's no way Potter wouldn't have felt it against his lower back — the pulse of a rapidly forming hard-on, which does not die away no matter how much Draco wishes it would. Fuck. This can't be happening — can't be possible — but it is. And as panic begins to seep into Draco's being, he realises something he's probably been trying to bury for days — that his attraction for Harry Potter runs deeper than a few shared meals and late night conversations. And no amount of hate will ever be enough to hide the truth again.

Draco's heart is racing, pounding so fast it hurts, and he knows Potter must be able to feel it as well as the erection Draco hasn't been able to diminish — so why hasn't he jerked away in disgust?

It must be coming, it's unavoidable, and the thought of it sends a pain so strong through Draco's chest that he gasps and flinches away.

The oncoming rejection sends him nearly falling over the railing, before he steadies himself and scrambles down the bunk ladder, needing to get out — needing to get away, as far away as possible.

He hears Potter sit up, hears his voice, muffled and croaky, call his name. But Draco doesn't stop, not even when he hears the bunk creak under Potter's descending weight.

The denim around his crotch is tight and uncomfortable as Draco bursts out of the tent, and the light of day is so harsh that he is left dazed for several seconds.

But he has to move, has to run, because there's the sound of the tent flap moving, and Potter yelling desperately for him to wait, and any moment Draco will be laughed at, will fall to his knees with the brunt of rejection —

A hand coils around his wrist, strong and sweaty, despite the way it holds on as Draco tries uselessly to pull free. Potter doesn't let go even as he spins Draco to face him, and Draco sees the determination, the tell-tale signs that maybe Potter feels just as flustered as Draco does.

But suddenly, nothing else matters besides this, because Potter's other hand lands on Draco's shoulder in a searing hot vice, urging him closer until Potter's intentions become as clear as the bright blue sky which spreads out above them.

And Draco can only widen his eyes as Potter leans forward.

Harry's mouth crashes against Malfoy's, and it's clumsy and wet and practically a shout out to the world about Harry Potter's inexperience — but Malfoy lets out this low, sort of keening noise and then every care Harry could or could not give just drops away into nothingness.

Malfoy's lips are as warm as the rest of him, and while they are unmoving and hesitant to begin with, sometime within the last few weeks, Harry has vowed to himself to crack every code the stern exterior of Draco Malfoy has to offer, and right now Harry needs to explore and taste and devour.

So he conveys this to Malfoy by entwining his hand into pale hair which is so startlingly soft and digging his fingers into Malfoy's scalp — and just like that whatever control Malfoy has been clinging onto snaps.

And then it is rough, unrelenting, and exhilarating, like everything always is between them, and briefly Harry wonders if everything in their lives has been leading up to this moment, if fate has played out the way it has just for them to end up here. Every taunting comment and snide remark, every glare and every curse, has brought them where they are now. And if that's the case, Harry is thankful.

Because Malfoy's lips, dragging over his own and prying them apart, is better than anything Harry can remember, and fuck, he's ruined — from this day on nothing else will ever be as good as snogging Draco Malfoy.

Lips against lips — harsh and intoxicating pressure.

Tongue against tongue — Malfoy tastes like apples and protein bars, and it's delicious.

Teeth against teeth — eager and vigorous and impatient.

Kissing Malfoy is maddening, and Harry knows he is addicted to it.

The hand in Malfoy's hair slips to his jaw, glides over pale skin dotted with stubble, and reaches back to grip Malfoy's neck, to bring him closer, closer, closer — because nothing is enough — Harry needs to feel Malfoy, all of him, so he grabs his hips, presses their bodies together, knows that Malfoy will be able to feel the arousal Harry doesn't care about hiding anymore.

Malfoy's lips break away over a gasp which quickly turns into a moan, and Harry just wants to swallow that sound, because he's never heard anything so dizzying and erotic.

But then everything just falls apart.

Malfoy, as though brought back to his awareness by the sound he's just made, wrenches away, stumbles backwards, and Harry can only stretch a hand out and pretend that he's about to grab Malfoy and pull him back in, and then everything will be okay again.

Malfoy's eyes are a mixture of lust and rage, their colour darkened by the pink in his cheeks, and his lips are red and swollen — lips which Harry just craves to have back on his own.

But then Malfoy's swiping the back of his hand over his mouth and spitting, "Dammit, Potter — I'm — I'm not gay!" His voice is gravelly with anger, and it reaches Harry's ears through a haze of shock and hurt.

Harry's panting, his throat suddenly dry, and he stares at Malfoy as he tries to come up with something which won't make him out to be an idiot, "Yeah? Well — neither am I."

Harry fails, because he does feel like an idiot, and even though he thinks what he said is true, it doesn't seem to stop him from wanting to launch himself at Malfoy and continue what they started. Malfoy just looks at him strangely, his heated gaze both assessing and suspicious, and Harry's brains must be addled, because then he blurts, "It doesn't matter."

Malfoy's eyes seem to blaze for a second, and the mouth which Harry kissed only a moment ago now appears unreachable. "What doesn't?" He hisses.

"That we're not gay — it doesn't matter." Harry doesn't know what he's saying, and apparently neither does Malfoy.

"What the fuck are you talking about? Of course it bloody well matters!"

"It doesn't," Harry insists, desperate for Malfoy to agree.

But Malfoy just looks like Harry threw a bludger at his head, "Shut up," Malfoy seethes, "You must be out of your fucking mind — or — or your grief's gotten to you, or something."

"I'm — what? I'm not grieving. This isn't about —"

"You've been abandoned, Potter. Of course you're upset." Malfoy's tone turns patronising, and Harry's feels indignant rage spike down his spine.

"I haven't been abandoned! Ron and Hermione are coming back." He says it strongly, with as much conviction as he can, as though daring Malfoy to argue.

"Really? When? Because Weasley looked like he'd rather dunk his head in a bucket of acid than stay here."

Harry glowers at him, his fists balled, and he wonders where the last few heavenly minutes have disappeared to, and how he can go about getting them to return. "Can we go back to the gay talk, please?"

Malfoy's eyes flash and his lip curls, "No! What the fuck is wrong with you, Potter!?"

"Nothing's wrong with me — I'm just sick of you trying to avoid the problem!"

"Oh, it's a problem, is it?" Malfoy sounds dangerous, and Harry is confused because Malfoy is the one acting like it's a problem, so why should he be so affronted?

"Only because you made it one!"

"Alright. Now it's a solved problem. Done. Dusted. Now we never have to talk about it again." Malfoy begins to stalk past Harry, heading for the tent, but Harry blocks his way. "Move, Potter."

"No. If you're staying with me then you're going to have to talk about it," Harry tells him, enjoying being this close to Malfoy again.

Malfoy's eyes narrow and his nostrils flare, "Is that so? Going to make me, are you?"

"Yes," Harry says it easily, because it's true, he will make Malfoy talk about it whether it's the last thing he does, but as soon as the word leaves his mouth the frown seems to drop from Malfoy's face and his cheeks turn pink again and god — Harry just wants to kiss him.

But he won't, even though his lips are so dry and his whole body is just begging for him to reach out and ensnare Malfoy in his arms and never let him go — Harry resists. Malfoy's staring at him oddly, and it's a mixture of that weary hesitance from this morning and the lust which deflated only a few minutes ago.

"What?" Harry asks.

"Why aren't you upset?" Malfoy is all expectancy and stern grey eyes, and Harry clamps his lips down over his automatic denial. Because he is upset, and the only thing which is stopping Harry from losing the threadbare grip on his sanity is the person standing in front of him — and maybe that's because the same person has coerced Harry into insanity long ago.

"Because," Harry replies, urging his voice out from the hard knot which it has become, "Because you stayed."

And just like that Malfoy lets his composure slip, and Harry is granted with several seconds of unguarded emotion — shock, warmth and then fear — before Malfoy gets a hold of his stony apathy, and succeeds in shrugging past Harry and out of sight.

The searing heat in Draco's chest is almost as bad as the one in his groin. He screws his eyes tightly shut and tries to push all thoughts of Potter and gayness out of his mind, but the three words 'because you stayed' are relentless with their insistence, and Draco knows trying not to think about Potter always results in dead ends full of messy hair and emerald eyes — so he gives up, and lets it consume him.

And Draco just knows he is a dead man, that the disease which is Harry Potter will be the one he dies from, and the most fucked up part of it is that Draco doesn't give a damn. All he can do is pretend nothing's happened, as though Potter's mere presence doesn't make his palms sweat with the need to run them through Potter's hair. All he can do is pretend he isn't glad now that he has Potter to himself, that his two best friends have left — left him to Draco. All he can do is pretend it doesn't make him selfish or deranged or gay.

But in a sense, Draco doesn't know what he is, or who he has become, or who he even wants to be. The only constant in his life is Harry bloody Potter.

Draco releases a pent up breath of vexation and decides to make the rest of the day as normal as possible.

But normalcy, he soon realises, is something which fled from him years ago.

Draco has always been the kind of person who prefers to bury unpleasant experiences, and while his encounter with Potter's lips was the complete antithesis of unpleasant, he will still do what he can to avoid bringing it up in conversation. Potter, however, is the total opposite. Potter is the type of git who has a one tracked mind when it comes to discussing something he wants resolved, and as the day wears on, Draco begins to understand what Granger warned him about — about Potter being either all in, or not at all. Because throughout the afternoon Potter seems to have made it his life goal to bring up the one thing Draco doesn't know if he would rather forget all about, or remember forever.

Draco almost wishes Potter would just get on with it and say whatever he is practically bursting at the seams with the need to say, but he doesn't. Potter just goes about it in this infuriating, subtle way, laced with blatantly obvious hints and references, such as after a dinner of burnt baked beans by the fire, he makes a pointless observation about the two beetles scuttling away from the sparks, suggesting they might both be male. Draco grinds his teeth, huffs, and almost spills the leftovers of his unappetising meal onto the ground in his urge to get away.

But as Draco throws himself onto his bunk and delves into Granger's book of wizarding fairytales, he can't decide which it is he's running from — the truth of what might be hidden beneath the surface of his sexuality, or the nearly uncontrollable desire to push Potter against the hard twigs and snog him senseless.

Draco groans, realising they're probably the same thing, and forces himself to become engrossed in the tale he finds most fascinating — the one about the three brothers.

He fails, and by the third page he puts the book down, formulating some half arsed excuse which will enable him to sit next to Potter again, and heads back outside.

Harry is both unsurprised and pleased as Malfoy's footsteps crunch in the first of the season's snowfall as he comes to sit beside Harry. Harry feared he scared Malfoy off by his beetle talk.

Harry shuffles over a fraction instead of enlarging his heat and drying charms, because there isn't a single part of him which will protest against Malfoy's warmth right now, and he knows the other boy will be a perfect distraction from the locket he holds in his palm, and the pain which threatens his thoughts whenever he thinks about Ron or Hermione. It's the locket which he traded his friends for, and he doesn't bother hiding it from Malfoy, because he isn't going to lose anybody else, especially not Malfoy and this strange, new budding companionship. Harry knows Malfoy's staring at it, and without a word he angles his hand so the moonlight glints off the glistening green stone embedded into its front.

"Is that…." Malfoy doesn't finish, but Harry knows what he is going to say. It's impossible to be near something so tainted by dark magic and not feel it's aura like an unsettling presence.

Harry nods, swallows, and looks at Malfoy's shadowy profile through the corners of his eyes. "You know about Horcruxes?"

Malfoy blinks, and the crease which Harry has come to associate with deep thought and confusion makes an appearance across the bridge of his nose. "Vaguely. I… I read about them once — a long time ago." Malfoy's voice drifts with the accompaniment of a far off memory, and the pale column of his throat dips with the movement of his adam's apple as he swallows, and Harry feels warmth beginning to seep through his stomach just as Malfoy continues, "Is it — is it really part of — him?"

"Yeah," Harry says, and he looks away from Malfoy as though he's been doused in cold water, "a piece of his soul."

"It's what you're looking for, then — more of them?" Malfoy shifts closer, and when Harry turns back to him his face is sketched by the contrast of light and dark, of wonder and disbelief. Harry nods again, but before he can say anything, Malfoy's jagged tone of curiosity cuts through the air, "How many are there?"

Harry looks at the locket, trying to distance himself from the evil it tries to make him feel, and thinks about what Dumbledore would have wanted him to do right now — if that even matters. He supposes it's too late, that Malfoy is with him in this now, with him while his two best friends aren't, and whether big or small, that's got to mean something. So Harry clings to what it might mean, and while there should be a part of him which worries about what Malfoy could do with this information, it is as though it exists in the dormant times of yesterday, a time which Harry doesn't even know if he wants to return to.

So he says, "Six. I destroyed one in our second year," He purposefully leaves out the bit about Malfoy's father, "Dumbledore got one last year. And… this is the third."

There is an uncomfortable, heavy silence brought upon by the mentioning of their late Headmaster's name, and briefly Harry wonders if Malfoy is thinking about the haunted face of a wizened man before he'd fallen to his death.

But maybe, piece by piece, Malfoy is recovering from the torment of his past actions, because he speaks a lot quicker than Harry anticipated. "Second year? Honestly?" Malfoy sounds impressed, and Harry can't help but feel a little bit smug.

But then Harry's modesty gets in the way, and he tugs on his hair, "Yeah, but I er — I didn't know what it was."

Malfoy snorts, "Figures. So you're really going to do this — find all of these — these things?" Harry doesn't miss Malfoy's aversion to calling them what they are, and perhaps it is similar to the way he refuses to call Voldemort by name. Still, the part of Harry which has been desperate to save Draco Malfoy rears its head at the obvious distaste in his tone. There's fear buried there too, and Harry thinks that's a good thing, because you'd have to be mad not to be scared of something like this.

"Yes," Harry tucks the Horcrux back into his jumper, and notes the way Malfoy eyes his action with reproach, as though this will make him less inclined to sit so close to Harry in the future. Harry hopes this isn't true. "Ron and Hermione, too." He says it just to be sure, to let Malfoy know that no matter what, he has no doubts that his friends will return. And lingering after his last syllable, there is an unspoken addition of, 'and you as well.' Malfoy detects it, because he makes a strangled noise and purposefully glares into the forest.

Harry sighs, thinking the Horcruxes might have changed things, made Malfoy not want to be here anymore. The idea creeps its way into Harry's mind and stays there, nagging and stinging him. Maybe his discomfort shows on his face, and Malfoy just wants to distract him, because suddenly the Blond is listing off the key skills for Occlumency, none of which he says Harry possesses, and what Harry will need to do to get the hang of it before he dies of old age. And Harry smiles, because he knows, undoubtedly, that this is Malfoy's way of saying, 'hey, I'm in,' even if it is decorated with jabs at Harry's intelligence and his magical capabilities, and sounds as if Malfoy would rather be anywhere else.

Harry is nearly overwhelmed by a wave of affection for the boy next to him, affection which loosens his tongue and makes him blurt, "There's nothing wrong with it, you know."

Malfoy breaks off mid sentence, "Wrong with what?" And despite his snappish response, his glare tells Harry he knows exactly what is being talked about.

"With being gay," Harry tells him, his face awfully blasé compared to the way his heart thuds erratically. Harry doesn't know why he is so concerned about Malfoy understanding this, but for some reason it is just important.

"What? You think I don't fucking know that?" Even in the blackened air of night, Harry can still see the pink tinges which climb onto Malfoy's cheekbones, and it makes his wavering resolution a little bit firmer.

"Well, that's good. I — er — wasn't sure," Harry leans forward and grabs a handful of snow, which immediately melts after coming into contact with the warming charm on his skin. But he can't help himself, so he continues, "Why is it a problem, then?"

"It's… I —" Malfoy growls and stands abruptly, muttering to himself about 'bloody persistent bastards' and 'fucking nosy scarheads,' and Harry grins into the darkness.

But just before Malfoy reaches the tent, he swivels around, his fingers twitching at his sides and a frustrated mask plastered across his features. "My friend — Zabini — he — he liked both. It was never a problem." And then he storms off, tent flap swinging violently behind him, leaving Harry to blink in the aftermath and wonder why Malfoy has always called his friends by their surnames. He thinks about what being a friend entails, and whether it should mean wanting to snog the hell out of them. But mostly he wonders if he and Malfoy are friends yet, and if there will ever come a time when they will stop calling each other by their last names.

And with a flush, Harry imagines what it might feel like to have Malfoy's given name purposefully slip off his tongue. Familiar, wrong — but intimate.


It is the next day, and Draco freezes in the middle of splashing icy river water on his face, but when he looks over his shoulder, Potter is still standing there, lips sealed shut as if he hasn't spoken at all. Draco narrows his eyes, wondering if the thumping in his chest is making him delusional.

"Come on," Potter says with an enthusiasm which makes Draco skeptical, "we don't have all day."

Draco's frown deepens — because they do have all day — and he is disgruntled by the fact that entering Potter's mind seems like it will be more strenuous on Draco than Potter himself.

"Fine," Draco grits out, "Are you ready?"

"Yes," Potter replies, relaxing his shoulders.

Draco sighs, steps forwards, and casts.

And is assaulted by images which shouldn't possibly be so vivid, so enticing.

Potter standing on a rocky cliffside with Albus Dumbledore, the dark and roiling ocean sending waves against their ankles.

A young boy, black-haired and calm, and wait — it isn't Potter — it's someone else who makes Draco want to yell and recoil, someone who, even so many years younger, causes a pit of dread to open up in Draco's stomach. Voldemort's child-like form tells Potter's memory he can speak to snakes, and then the scene dissolves, and it is Potter and Dumbledore in a candle-lit office, the word 'Horcruxes' hanging between them like a curse.

Weasley and Granger's faces, laughing and smiling, are briefly shoved into Draco's mind with sickening force, before being replaced by Potter himself, pacing and screaming — crying. Throwing object after object into the walls, relishing in the cracks and splinters, and then a face, lined with years of humour and shrouded in stubble, a face which Draco knows from months of Azkaban wanted posters. Sirius Black. And Draco feels Potter's loss like a punch to the gut.

A grey stoned corridor — Hogwarts — and Draco watches as Potter moves slowly, his back to the walls, as he follows a fast-walking memory of Draco's sixteen year-old self. Feelings, suspicion and fear and worry, flood into Draco's mind, and he knows they are not his own, but recollections of Potter's, and it makes him want to pull away with sudden urgency, because he knows what's coming, what happens next. The bathroom door looms before them, and Draco doesn't want to see this again, doesn't want to be on the receiving end of Potter's guilt-ridden thoughts about the scars Draco wears across his chest.

But surprisingly, Potter skims past the scene full of water and blood and misfired curses, and lands on a different, more recent one. A moonlit room and the melody of a piano, and Draco watches himself through Potter's eyes, shocked by the sense of admiration and longing he feels. The image rapidly crumbles away and Draco is brought bodily into the feeling of kissing himself, of Potter's desire. And the experience is so strange, so uncomfortable, that Draco is nearly overwhelmed by the memories of Potter's feelings. His own hair is soft through Potter's fingers, and he is scared by the way his memory self reacts to Potter's kiss — greedily, hungrily, like it is a replacement for air —

Draco breaks their connection with a gasp turned growl, and almost trips in his haste to put distance between them. "Fuck — are you even trying to block me out?"

But when he looks up, Potter's grinning, "I told you I was bad at it."

Draco rolls his eyes and glares, "Is this a game to you, Potter? It's no wonder Snape got fucking sick of you."

Potter's amusement disappears, and the angle of his jaw hardens. "Let's go again."

Draco flashes Potter what he hopes is a dark and irritated look, but his face feels too hot from the misinterpreted meaning behind Potter's words for him to be too hopeful. "Fine… Legilimens."

Potter's shaking fists, a white tomb standing on the hillside, and the need to be alone. The sunny day morphs into one of clouds and greyness, spread out above a street packed with houses which all look the same. Potter's lying in the garden bed, arms crossed beneath his head, and when he sits up in a rush and is grabbed by an oversized, puce-coloured man from the window, Draco immediately is greeted by the beginnings of a hazy black wall, blocking him from whatever Potter suddenly doesn't want him to see. Draco digs deeper, trying to get past the barricade, but Potter is demonstrating annoying adeptness for a skill he swore he was terrible at. The wall starts to trickle away, Potter mustn't be able to hold it any longer, and Draco presses on —

And is drawn back into the memory of kissing Potter, of tongues gliding against eachother and lips welding into one —

"Fucking hell! You can't just — you can't just do that when the bloody Dark Lord is trying to get into your head!"

"Oh, don't you start on that!" Potter shouts, and Draco is startled to see him suddenly enraged, as though someone else is standing in Draco's shoes, being yelled at by The Boy Who Lived.

"What the hell's your problem?" Draco asks lowly.

"Nothing —" Potter throws his hands up, cards one through his hair, and scuffs his foot across the snowy ground. Frustratedly, he turns back to Draco, understanding clear in his eyes, and as if he's just made some big discovery, Potter says, "you."

"Me? It's my fault, is it? That the great Harry Potter can't learn Occlumency?" Draco's voice is sarcastic, but Potter is used to it, and he just shakes his head.

"No, it's you. I can't concentrate — can't focus — because of you."

Draco's heart speeds up, hammering against his ribs with the need to get out and be near Potter's. He chokes with his oncoming desire, eyes narrowing, too heavy beneath their lids, and watches as Potter's resolution shines with startling clarity — watches as Potter steps closer, green eyes brimming with determination as they fall on Draco's lips…

Chapter Text

Malfoy jumps backwards, his face red and his eyes wide, and Harry abruptly stops in what he now realises has been a pursuit to have Malfoy's lips back on his own.

Malfoy is petrified, and after seeing the way his face begins to pale, Harry's heart slows back to its normal pace, and reluctantly he thinks, for Malfoy's sake, he will try to concentrate better. If this unexplainable, skin-tingling attraction really makes Malfoy that uncomfortable, Harry will try to ignore it.

"So, um… Shall we try again?"

Malfoy stares at him for a few seconds, and then seems to get a hold of himself, because he shrugs with a frown that isn't entirely there, and then walks away, back into the forest, his passing sentence trailing over his shoulder, "Later, maybe."

Harry watches him disappear into the dense trees, and thinks he should probably head back too, back into the warmth of their tent. But the river, half frozen with its glittering water, is too beautiful to ignore, and Harry finds himself clearing a patch of snow off the ground and sitting down.

As he stares at the river, he wonders about what Hermione is doing right now, whether she's found Ron or not, and if she's convinced him to come back. He goes over words in his head, trying to figure out which ones he'd use if he were to see Ron right now, but he comes up short, because he thinks fists would be the dominating factor of what would be involved.

There is an unnerving, smothered anxiety in Harry's stomach which whispers to him the possibility of Hermione choosing to stay with Ron instead, of the both of them choosing to live their lives as normally as possible while a war rages on around them. He wonders if they'd go into hiding, if he'd ever see them again — if he'd even be alive to see them again. A lump wedges its way into Harry's throat, and he blinks rapidly into the cold air.

To distract himself from his morose thoughts, he chooses to worry about what he and Malfoy will do now, where they will go, and how Harry will go about showing Malfoy how to cast the Patronus Charm. A part of him is under the impression that Malfoy was just having a laugh when the suggestion slipped from his lips, but then Harry remembers the sincere vulnerability buried beneath Malfoy's indifference, and he knows that Malfoy will be just as willing, if not more so, to learn the spell than Harry is willing to teach it.

Draco sits by the fire, poking it occasionally with a long stick, because it's fun to see the sparks it sends up, and because Potter's not there to accuse him of doing anything like a muggle. Potter is inside the tent, swearing every now and then and making irritating, muffled noises.

Draco is just about to yell at him to shut up when Potter emerges, something large, black and woollen in his hands. Draco quirks an eyebrow, thinking Potter's gone and skinned a bear or something, but then Potter shoves whatever it is into Draco's lap and says, "You should put this on."

"Should I?" Draco asks sardonically, inspecting what he realises is a garment — a long, thick coat of sorts. "Why should I?"

"'Cause," Potter replies, and Draco notices that he is wearing one too, only it's a light grey which brightens the colour of his eyes, "It's bloody cold, and we're going somewhere."

Draco glowers at the coat in his hands, and the back up at Potter, "Oh, really? Care to elaborate?"

"Not really, no."

"Why the hell not?"

"Because —"

"Going to trundle off to London in search of the Weasel and the Mudblood, are we?" Draco can't help himself, but suddenly he all he feels is bitterness and jealousy.

"No — and don't call them that —"

"I'll call them what I please."

"Will you just shut up, Malfoy! For fuck's sake — I haven't told you where we're going because you'll probably get all snooty about it and say, 'no, I'm not going anywhere with you, Potter, let alone some place related to Gryffindor, blah blah blah, I'm a snobby ponce.'"

Draco's eyes narrow for a moment at the clue, but then his lips unwillingly crack into a smirk at Potter's pathetic imitation of him, and he realises the resentment which has risen at the idea of finding Potter's friends is now gone. Instead, something else takes its place, something like enthusiasm and delight, because Potter is inadvertently including Draco in the scheme of whatever foolish quest he has in mind.

"Fine," Draco says, attempting to make his voice sound disapproving, but failing, "I'll put the hideous thing on." He stands, smooths his hands over the coarse fabric, and decides not to ask what Potter has transfigured to create it — if his constant expletives were anything to go by, Draco doesn't even want to know.

But Draco is still stewing over the fact that Potter has implied his inability to concentrate is because of him, and Draco has taken that to mean something dangerously flattering to his ego — so, taking out his wand, he decides to do a little physical bragging. Draco has always been good at transfiguration, his grades were second only to the Mudblood's — much to both his and his father's displeasure — and he is without a doubt that his abilities are a lot superior to Potter's.

He casts several quick spells on the coat, and nods to himself in approval when he is met with the result of finer, softer fabric, lined with fur at the collar and hems. It closely resembles his original travelling cloak, his favourite one which was left behind at Potter's shit hole of a hideout. Draco slides it onto his arms, pulls up the collar, pushes his hands into the pockets — and looks up to find Potter watching him, his expression full of admiration and envy, and something else which makes Draco's skin burn a little.

"Want me to do yours?" Draco asks without thinking, eyeing the one Potter wears with what he hopes is disgust, but Potter's dazed look is contagious, and Draco's distaste probably ends up coming across as enjoyment.

"Er —" Potter blinks, shivers despite his coat, and croaks out, "No — it's alright." It is most definitely not alright, it is atrocious, but then again so is Potter's fashion sense in general, so Draco refrains from commenting.

"So… Going to tell me what sort of Gryffindor location we're visiting?"

Potter turns his back on Draco and starts muttering spells which disassemble the tent. "So… Going to help me with this?"

Draco frowns. "Depends. Are you going to tell me if I do?"

"Depends. Are you going to sulk if I don't?"

Draco sighs and grudgingly lifts his wand, but only because there is a pleasant hint of humour in Potter's tone, and it makes him want to help.

About ten minutes later they have succeeded in shrinking the tent and fitting it into Potter's bag, but only after a good deal of bickering in which Potter admits it'd — obviously — been Granger who was the expert at the extension charm, and Draco has to resort to insulting Potter until he gives in and lets Draco cast the spell on the bag, because he's too afraid of Potter incinerating it or turning it into a doxy.

Now, standing in the empty clearing beneath the rapidly darkening sky, Potter holds his invisibility cloak in his hands and confesses, "Godric's Hollow."

Draco, who has been covertly glancing at the cloak, jerks his head up to see Potter coming towards him. "What?"

"Godric's Hollow — it's where we're going," Potter says, impatient.

"This is about that bloody sword isn't it?" Draco asks as Potter attempts to throw the cloak over his head.

"No — maybe — fine, mostly. But I also… have other reasons for going there."

Draco stares at him, and it takes several quiet seconds for Draco's gaze to flit up to the scar which sits under Potter's fringe, trying to be discreet but failing — always failing. These past few weeks, Draco has somehow forgotten the fact that Harry Potter is someone the world counts on, and therefore it is general knowledge amongst the Wizarding world that the family of their Saviour lived in Godric's Hollow.

Draco doesn't reply, he just nods, accepting the startling fact that he is willing to go with Potter anywhere. Potter steps up to his side and covers them both with the cloak, and although Draco has been expecting it, nothing prepares him for the warmth which spreads from the place where Potter circles his hand around Draco's arm.

One heartbeat, two, and then they are disapparating.

They land at the end of a narrow alley, thatched roof shops and cottages lining them on either side, and ahead of them Harry can see the town square which he has spent many hours staring at in his History of Magic Textbook.

It hits him that this is real, that he is finally here, after sixteen long years, back to the place where he lived before everything that could have been was taken from him. Pictures dance through his mind, teasing him, showing him a family he could have grown up with, and happy memories which could have replaced the hated ones he made at the Dursley's. All the birthday parties, the family christmases — everything — gone.

But it is the arm under his hand that reminds Harry he has something he never would have thought possible — he has Draco Malfoy, beside him, and they are not trying to kill eachother. That in itself is surreal, and it is something in this life that he doesn't think he will ever come to regret.

The snow is thicker in this part of England, and it crunches under his boots as he takes a step forward — but Malfoy halts him, grabs hold of the back of his coat, and whispers, "Are you sure about this, Potter? Shouldn't we be disguised, polyjuice — or something?"

"No," Harry says softly, "This is where I was born. I'm not returning here as anybody else." And then he tugs the invisibility cloak off and stuffs it in his pocket. The look Malfoy gives him is stuck inbetween incredulity and amazement, but Harry just keeps walking, and soon after, he hears Malfoy follow.

They come out into the village square, dotted with cosy shops, a post office and a pub, all centred around what looks like a war memorial. There's the faint sound of rowdy laughter and music, which becomes louder as they hear a door swing open and then shut again, and the flowing melody of a christmas carol which seeps out of brightly lit stained glass windows set into the sides of a small, steepled church.

Beside the church, half hidden beneath snow covered trees and a low picket fence, lies a graveyard, and Harry's throat thickens, knowing that's where they'll be, where the proof of his parent's lives sit etched into cold grey stone.

"Potter, I think it's Christmas Eve," Malfoy's voice drifts over his shoulder, and it takes Harry a few moments to realise it's true. He has lost track of the days, and now it comes as a shock to him that so much time has passed since his birthday — since his final days at The Burrow.

"You're probably right," Harry tells him, but then he keeps moving, needing to be there — in the graveyard — needing to find them.

"Wait — look!" The eagerness in Malfoy's tone makes Harry turn around, and he doesn't know whether he is glad or not, because what he sees is a statue of two adults and a baby, standing where the war memorial has apparently been charmed to repel the eyes of muggles. Harry knows who they are, even though there isn't a scar on the happy baby's forehead, and a shuddering breath escapes him.

He stares at the smiling, frozen faces of his parents, and it takes all the air he has left to say, "C'mon."

The graveyard seems even colder than the rest of the village, and Harry is almost overcome by the sense of life and death he feels coalescing amidst the notes of christmas hymns. He goes from headstone to headstone, desperation driving away the cold. Malfoy is still standing by the gate, but right now, even the warm distraction the other boy brings is not enough to divert Harry's attention. He just keeps checking each name, each year until —

James Potter, born 27 March 1960, died 31 October 1981

Lily Potter, born 30 January 1960, died 31 October 1981

Harry's eyes begin to sting.

Draco swipes snow off the top of a headstone, uncovering something he thought has just been the trick of the soft yellow light emitting from the church. It's the symbol he's seen inked into the top of the page in the fairytale book. He thought Granger herself drew it there, that it was some kind of muggle thing, but now he begins to think otherwise.

"Potter, look at this…"

But Potter isn't there, and for a frightening second all Draco can feel is the thumping of his heart, worry filling every inch of his lungs — but then he sees the outline of Potter's figure, unmoving at the far side of the graveyard, his back to Draco, and Draco's whole body sags with relief.

He makes his way over to where Potter stands with his head lowered towards a gravestone, and it isn't until Draco stops at Potter's side that he sees who's names are carved into the front.

Draco's eyes go from the stone to Potter, where they stay, locked onto the snowflakes which cling to the black strands of his hair, and the sadness which maps the features of Potter's face and turns it into a serene mask.

Draco is suddenly breathless, and he can't decide which feeling is more dominant right now, more important — empathy for Potter's pain, or acceptance that even in grief, Potter's face is one of the most perfect things Draco has seen.

And Draco doesn't know what to do — doesn't know what he can possibly say to make Potter feel better. This is part of why Potter came here, and Draco is left speechless by the fact that Potter brought Draco with him, was prepared for Draco to witness this — this awkward stance of brokenness as Potter stares at the place where his parents are buried.

Maybe it's because of the cold, or the need to offer Potter the only thing he can — the warmth of his presence — Draco moves his hand until the back of it rests against Potter's, edging his fingers closer until they slide between Potter's.

Potter doesn't draw his hand away, and to Draco, that's the only thing that matters. And as they stand there, side by side, fingers nearly entwined, Draco thinks that this is a far more intimate gesture than any they have shared before.

Slowly, Draco raises his wand, and without a word he conjures a wreath of white roses, their petals simple and delicate, contrasting with the dark marble of the stone, and rests it against the grave. Draco doesn't know if he does it for Potter, or for the two resting people who he's never met, but either way he feels it is the right thing to do, and by the sound of Potter's quiet gasp, he thinks so too.

Potter looks at him, the colours from the church's windows kaleidoscopic in his eyes, enchanting Draco where he stands, and with his voice caught in his throat, Draco fully grasps Potter's hand, and squeezes.

They stay like that for a while, or maybe it is for only a few seconds, their palms pressed together and flakes of snow drifting onto their wool-covered shoulders, catching in their hair, and Draco just wants to reach out and wipe the white specks from the strands falling across Potter's forehead. He is about to, and for some reason he knows Potter won't mind, but then over the other boy's shoulder Draco sees a hunched and still figure, facing them from beyond the graveyard.

Draco inhales sharply, "Potter — there's someone—," but he doesn't need to say any more, because as if he recognises the sudden uneasiness in Draco's eyes, Potter darts a look behind him, and then his mouth thins into a grim line.

The warmth against Draco's hand immediately disappears as Potter takes a step away from him, his expression set in a mechanical mask of misplaced enthusiasm. "I think I know who that is," Potter says softly, and Draco just looks at him with incredulity, because for Potter to be so calm, to be perfectly okay with being watched by a shrouded, dark silhouette is positively unnerving. Maybe it comes with being famous, having acquaintances of all kinds, and Draco just hopes that whoever their observer is will be more than willing to let the Saviour go unnoticed.

But Potter moves towards it, and after several paces he turns and looks at Draco, as though wondering why he isn't following. And Draco can only stand there, his fists clenching and unclenching, wishing he could just grab Potter and apparate them somewhere else — some place where Draco doesn't feel the possibility of imminent danger hanging around him like an ominous cloud. Somewhere he won't have to feel the dread in his gut, anxious for Harry Potter's safety.

And it is for one reason only — that Draco might need to protect Potter from harm — that he hurries to Potter's side, and follows him as they walk carefully out of the land of the dead, and towards whatever is waiting for them.

It's a small figure, hunched like an old woman, and as they get closer it beckons, turns, and hobbles down the icy street.

Their breath mists in front of them, and Draco casts Potter a wary side-long glance, apprehension making his shoulders rigid. Potter just soldiers on, however, and Draco realises that even if he wants to, he doesn't have any chance whatsoever of convincing the Boy Who Lived to change his mind.

"Potter — are you unhinged?" Draco seethes in a whisper, "What the fuck are you doing? It could be waiting to — to kill us."

Potter snorts softly, "I don't think so. I'm pretty sure that's Bathilda Bagshot, and I reckon she might have the sword."

"Why not bloody well ask her then?"

"Scared, Malfoy?"

It hits him out of nowhere, the image of two boys with wands raised and the glimpse of a challenge glittering in their eyes, and Draco comes to a stop on the snow-littered cobblestones, thinking he has imagined the trace of humour, of nostalgia which couldn't possibly have been in Potter's voice. But then Potter stops, two steps ahead, and he turns back to Draco, a smile on his lips just begging to form. But something stops it, maybe the realisation that this is much bigger than boyhood rivalry — this is a war — or maybe it is nothing more than the hesitance Draco knows is obvious in his eyes, because he thinks that in a situation like this, you'd have to be a fool not to be scared.

Up ahead of them, the possibly-Bagshot-figure pauses, and totters around until Draco can tell it is watching them — waiting for them.

Draco swallows, moves his gaze back to Potter, who is looking at him with a patience Draco never would have thought would shine out of the emerald green glow of Harry Potter's eyes towards Draco Malfoy.

And then, like waking from a long sleep, Draco is confronted by the fact that he does not deserve any of this. Potter's patience, the glances he throws over his shoulder to make sure Draco is still following him, the kindness he showed in making sure Draco ate, in buying bags of unwanted clothes for him — everything. But nothing so much as Potter siding with Draco over his best friend, as Potter looking past his previous actions which they both know were wrong — as Potter believing Draco has enough good in him to try, and try again. And suddenly it makes him angry, so angry, because he doesn't know whether this just proves Potter to be the pitying saint Draco has always thought him to be, or someone who feels Draco is worth keeping by his side. Either way, Draco knows he doesn't deserve it, and never before has he realised how much he wants to — how much he wants to earn Potter's trust, his respect, and his attention.

Now is probably the worst time to think about any of this, and Potter is still watching him, frowning with something like concern caught between his brows. "Malfoy? Are you okay?"

Draco brushes away the feelings he has been taught cause nothing but harm, and scowls, because if Potter can be brave about this, Draco can too. "I'm fine. Why? Scared, Potter?" He says Potter's name with a drawl, and for one beautiful second Potter's grin steals the breath from Draco's lungs and Draco feels as if he can do anything at all, as long as Potter keeps smiling like that.

The moment ends too quickly, and Potter says, "come on, then," and a nod of his head indicates the old woman at the end of the lane, waiting by the low gate of one of several cottages.

Draco pours every amount of confidence into the gait of his footsteps, overtaking Potter, and it is only when he is several metres from the figure when he sees that Potter is not behind him, but standing a few houses back, staring at its gate.

Draco almost balks, directs a nervous glower over his shoulder at the onlooker, and then hastens back to Potter. "Come on — I thought you said —" he breaks off, eyes falling on a signpost covered by the carved scrawls of visitors, of people who travelled across countries to come and pay their respects to what is obviously the remains of the Potter's house. Now that they are within the confines of its glamour, right up against the fence, Draco can see that it is blackened, rooftop missing with chunks of bricks crumbled and gaping. Draco's mouth goes dry, and he can so clearly imagine the scene of horror which would have occurred here, right in front of him, all those years ago.

He wants to take Potter's hand again, to say comforting words which are as foreign to him as another language, but he knows now is not the time, so he gently tugs on Potter's sleeve. "We can look afterwards. All you like." It's a selfless, un-Malfoy thing to say, and it's what seems to shock Potter out of his silence.


And then they follow the old woman into what can only be her house, and Draco is unsurprised to find that Potter is leading the way again.

Harry feels Malfoy's presence behind him like the fire in the Gryffindor common room, warm and comforting, and strangely like home. Harry steps forward to help the old woman light a candle, and when the flame flickers to life he sees that it is Bathilda Bagshot, looking old beyond her years, with eyes so milky Harry wonders how she can possibly see out of them.

She doesn't stop staring at Harry, and by the sound of Malfoy's irritated whine, he is just as irked as Harry is. There is a stale and rotten smell permeating the air, and Harry, trying not to be rude, suppresses the urge to scrunch his nose and gets right to the point.

"Ms Bagshot, we were wondering if you had any idea —" Harry cuts off, because when the old woman turns, the light shines on the mantel, coated thickly with dust and photo frames, the middle of which contains a portrait which looks out at Harry with familiar mirth behind a tangle of golden hair. "Who is this man? Ms Bagshot?" Even to his own ears, his voice is urgent, desperate for information which seems to be hovering just beyond his reach.

Bathilda Bagshot doesn't say anything, but jerks her head towards the ceiling, and then back at Harry, and after repeating the gesture several more times Harry understands that she must mean for them to follow her upstairs. As if on cue, the old woman hobbles over towards the staircase, and without a thought Harry hurries after her.

Before she even reaches the stairs, though, she turns and eyes Malfoy with milky reproach, and then tilts her head in Harry's direction, to the ceiling and back again.

"I think — er — she only means for me to come up." Harry turns to look at Malfoy, his pale face contoured with orange shadows from the candlelight, and his eyes flit over every inch of Harry's face before his frown deepens.

"Potter —"

"I'll only be a moment."

Malfoy's jaw clenches, and he huffs with deliberation, then acceptance. As Harry moves to follow Bathilda, he catches sight of the harsh grip Malfoy has around his wand, and he wonders wether he should be mimicking the hold on his own.

He tightens his fingers a little, and casts a quick lumos as he treads after Bathilda and onto a small landing. Cobwebs hang like curtains from the beams above them, and Harry has to swat some away to make sure he doesn't get spiders in his hair. His thoughts go to Ron, knowing if anything, his friend would have been grateful not to set foot in a spider-infested house.

Bathilda leads him into a room up the last flight of stairs, and it is even darker and mustier than the rest of the house. Harry holds his breath as much as he can, wondering what an old woman could possibly keep in her home which would emit such a smell.

"Here… over here…" Harry almost jumps at the sound of her voice, low and cracked, almost like a whisper. She points to a dresser, cluttered with so many items Harry can't see what she means. But his heart thuds in his chest, because he must be right — Dumbledore must have given her the sword.

Harry rushes to the dresser, moving objects aside, desperately searching for the glinting metal, the hilt encrusted with blood-red rubies, but there's nothing, and gradually his excitement dwindles into uncertainty — into fear — until he spins around and is just in time to see Bathilda's skin peeling back from her face, her body collapsing in on itself. There is the disgusting sound of bones crunching and breaking, and Harry can barely watch as her head is ripped from her body, and out of her neck emerges gleaming yellow eyes, long fangs, and the head of a giant snake.

Harry feels bile rise in his throat, his stomach roiling with the urge to vomit, but all he can do is give a sickened shout, hoping beyond anything that Malfoy will hear him and get out before it's too late.

The snake lunges at him, and in a split second Harry knows he has no time to put up a shield charm, so he grabs a wooden chair, holds it up in front of him and yells as it breaks apart and splinters with the force of the snake's strike.

Harry falls back, the wall behind him so thin and weak that he crashes through it and lands painfully on his back in a duck-egg blue room filled with baby toys and an erratically swinging white light.

The snake coils its thick body, preparing for another attack, and Harry fires spell after spell, the first curses that come to his mind. They either miss, or have no effect on the beast, because then it is darting towards him, its mouth wide and its fangs dripping, and Harry ducks, throws himself back into the room with Bathilda's decayed carcass — and collides straight into Malfoy.

Malfoy here — and not anywhere else. Malfoy, who instead of saving himself has come up for Harry. And while such behaviour is the code Harry lives by, to be coming from Malfoy is something extraordinary and special.

Harry turns, presses Malfoy back towards the door, watches as the snake slithers menacingly towards them — and then Malfoy shoves Harry to the floor, and screams out a confringo that hits the snake between the eyes, just before it has the chance to come at them like a lightning bolt, and with a bang it blasts into the bed frame.

It isn't much, but it gives them time, and without pausing for breath Malfoy drops to his knees and grabs Harry by the arms — and all Harry feels is the tugging at his navel, and then they are gone.

They land clumsily on a grassy slope, somewhere free of snow, but Harry doesn't get time to think about where Malfoy has taken them, because his brain is still fuzzy from adrenaline, and Malfoy is lying half on top of him, their legs tangled together, and it makes Harry's already thumping heart go into overdrive.

Malfoy, who has just saved Harry's life. Malfoy, who is warm and solid and attractive and free from whatever danger Harry has put him in. And without any other thought than that they are alive, that they are safe, Harry rolls them over until he is straddling Malfoy's hips.

Malfoy stares up at him, eyes wide and cheeks pink, and Harry just throws caution to the wind, forgets everything that doesn't exist within the gap between their chests, and leans down to kiss him.

Chapter Text

Potter is kissing him, his cold, sweaty hands holding Draco's face — his body pressing Draco's into the hard ground, and while the air around them is chilled and dark, everything they share in the next few minutes is warm and bright, and Draco just wants to drown in it.

Draco shouldn't be letting Potter do this — he has a very important reason not to, but right now, with Potter's fingertips sliding against his jaw and scratching through the hair at the nape of his neck, he just can't remember it. So he gives in, grabs the rough, ugly coat Potter insisted on wearing, and drags him closer until their chests rest against eachother. And Draco thinks he'd be alright if he were to die right then and there, limbs entwined with Potter's, but then their bodies shift, and something sharp and uncomfortable digs into Draco's lower back.

Whatever it is — a stone, no doubt — acts as the reminder Draco should never forget, no matter how close Potter edges into his personal space; that Draco does not deserve this, and whether or not it has anything to do with Potter being a male is irrelevant.

A forceful shove is all it takes to throw Potter's compliant body off him, and then they are on their knees, the gap between them vast and unsettling as they stare at eachother in the light of the moon.

"I'm not —" Draco puffs out, coldness filling his lungs, but before he can finish Potter gets there first.

"I might be."

Draco blinks, taking in Potter's flushed cheeks, his crooked glasses, and the lips he wishes he could just kiss without thinking, without the weight of being Draco Malfoy ever-present in his mind.

"But you — you're not — you can't be — what about you and the She-Weaslette?" It's probably something Draco should have asked a long time ago, before this bizarre urge to snog the hell out of Potter took a hold of his life. But now all he can do is wait for Potter to give him the answer he hasn't known he's been waiting for.

Long red hair and warm brown eyes flash through Harry's mind, but the affection they bring is platonic and laced with sadness.

"Me and Ginny didn't — er… work out." The last part of his sentence is softer, and when Harry looks up he hopes Malfoy hasn't mistaken his tone for regret.

Malfoy's face is full of doubt, but what he says after a long silence takes Harry aback, "We didn't get the sword."

The word 'we' dangles in front of Harry like something sweet, a sprig of blossoms grazing his cheek, and all he can do is shrug and agree. "No, we didn't."

"It was for nothing. You almost died for nothing." Malfoy sounds bitter, but Harry barely hears it, his thought pattern slowed down once Malfoy said 'you,' not 'we,' but 'you.' As though he is more concerned about Harry's safety than his own — and that does such dangerous things to Harry's mind that he dare not hope at all.

Harry tries to make his voice work, but it's clogged in his throat, and all he can think about is how desperately he wants to kiss Malfoy again. He swallows and manages to say, "We're safe — alive. That's what matters."

Malfoy looks at him for a long time, and Harry thinks he isn't going to say anything more until he hears a hoarse whisper, "And you don't care?"

Harry scrunches his brows, unsure if Malfoy's still talking about the sword, "care about what?"

"About what this means — about what the world will think when they find out their fucking Saviour prefers blokes."

Harry snorts, and he realises too late that there is no humour in Malfoy's voice. "I don't care, I s'pose. They can think what they want — I'm used to them sprouting crap about me, anyway."

Malfoy doesn't say anything, he only frowns at the freezing ground. Harry takes a breath and continues, "'sides, it's not like I 'prefer blokes,' it's just —" Just you. That doesn't even make sense — because Malfoy is a bloke. Harry clenches his teeth, thinking he must be crazy. Malfoy must think so too, because he's looking slightly murderous as he glares at Harry from several metres away.

Harry grasps for anything which will make Malfoy let go of what's holding him back, and as though it is the last thing he can possibly say, he murmurs, "nobody has to know…"

Malfoy's gaze locks onto Harry's, the colour of the sky before a summer storm, chilling yet heated, with the promise of lightning, and Harry shivers. Harry's breathing quickens as Malfoy darts his tongue out to swipe at dry lips, and in the next moment something palpable seems to shatter in the air between them.

Malfoy lunges towards him, pushes Harry back onto the cold ground, and as soon as their chests collide and their lips meet, Harry's arms clutch at the other boy as though he will disintegrate if he lets go — because right now, this — Malfoy — is everything — and Harry doesn't think he will be able to function if either of them were to pull away this time.

Malfoy doesn't seem like he has any intentions of the sort, thank Merlin, because his hands are just as eager as they wind through Harry's hair, tugging on the strands and making Harry's mouth open over a groan which Malfoy immediately shares.

Their tongues slide against eachother, and everything is just so hot and wet and consuming that Harry thinks he might have gone insane. And he doesn't even mind. His fingers curl into Malfoy's cloak, causing Harry to realise that he doesn't want it to be there — that he needs to be closer to Malfoy without any clothes to separate them.

Harry yanks at the thick fabric, hoping Malfoy understands his meaning, but Malfoy only tightens his hold in Harry's hair and moans — and fuck — Harry has never felt so aroused in his life.

But then Malfoy shoves his hips into Harry's, letting Harry know that he is feeling exactly the same way, and Harry just wants to melt, because suddenly his desire increases drastically and he doesn't know what he can do to stop himself from coming apart.

They are a tumble of hands and tongues and moans, and even though Harry never wants to stop, never wants Malfoy to move off of him, his arse is slowly freezing, and the last thing he wants is to get frost bite while on the run.

Harry pants from the cold, but also from the way Malfoy presses open-mouthed kisses to the side of his mouth, his jaw, the expanse of skin right below his ear, and somewhere within Harry's foggy brain, he has room to wonder why for someone who swears they are not gay, Malfoy is so terribly talented at mauling another bloke's neck. Then again, Harry knows he is more than willing to repay the favour, and doesn't bother questioning what that says about him. Instead he takes the chance to stutter out around a gasp, "M-Malfoy — tent — bloody — f-freezing."

Malfoy grunts as if he couldn't care less, and simply pulls Harry's hair and coaxes his head back, allowing him access to lick a line across Harry's Adam's apple.

"Fuck," Harry breathes, and he isn't sure if it's because of how incredibly good that feels, or from the way he is gradually losing feeling in his back. Malfoy seems to think it's the former, because he does it again and again, until Harry is writhing on the ground, forced to grab Malfoy by the shoulders and push him sideways, until he slides off Harry's hips and onto the ground.

Malfoy must have taken Harry's body heat for granted, because now after landing on the icy dirt himself, his eyes widen and drain from lust, and Harry gives him a rare mixture of smile and grimace.

"See? Inconsiderate bastard," Harry is just as surprised as Malfoy is by the jest and affection in his tone, and it takes several seconds for Malfoy to push himself up into a shaky standing position, and for Harry to do the same.

As Harry rummages through his bag, sparing a moment to be pleased that Malfoy's extension charm has held, he bites his lip to stop himself from grinning like an idiot, because he has a feeling that from now on Malfoy will be more willing to engage in a particularly vigorous round of snogging.

Harry is so caught up in his own anticipated musings that he almost misses Malfoy's voice over the sound of the tent being set up as he says gruffly, "That was his snake."

Harry blinks, pauses over the protective incantations which are like habits on his tongue, and the smile he has been trying to contain drifts away into oblivion — because while he has been ecstatic to feel alive, alive with Malfoy's equally alive body against his, he has forgotten the evil they have only narrowly escaped. Maybe Malfoy's companionship is dangerous in more ways than one, he thinks.

Harry clears his throat, because he knows his voice will still be tainted by arousal, and he doesn't want to sound like a pining harpy to someone who has evidently gotten themselves under control.

"Yeah — it was."

Malfoy shoots him a look which tells Harry he isn't fooling anybody, and jerks his wrist with a spell that finishes binding the tent ropes to the ground. Harry's blood gets a few degrees warmer as he stares at the pale and slim length of Malfoy's wrist, and wonders if that's the way he moves his hand when he —

"Potter. Are you even listening?"

"Er — what?" The clearing of Harry's throat proves useless, because his words are scratchy and rough, and he can't get the image of Malfoy wanking out of his head. He'd be perfectly happy for it to never leave, but right now Malfoy is glaring at him with impatience, looking entirely too desirable for his own good, and Harry thinks his heart might collapse at any second.

"It was waiting for you."

Harry doesn't say anything, because Malfoy is obviously right, and it makes him sick to think about what would have happened if Malfoy hadn't come upstairs at the right moment.

He sighs, tiredness suddenly creeping into his body and extinguishing most of his lust, and without a word he shrugs into the tent.

Draco follows Potter inside, flicks his wand to ignite the lamp on the table before Potter can stumble over and fiddle with it like a muggle, and then stands and watches as Potter dumps his coat onto the floor.

Draco scowls at him until he picks it up and places it over the back of a chair, and then they just look at eachother. Potter, in his wire-rimmed glasses, hair sticking up in every direction, and Draco, with his lips downturned, wondering why the hell Potter doesn't seem worried, only weary. Maybe it comes with being a reckless Gryffindor, someone who has enough near-fatal experiences to be used to them, and Draco thinks about whether the day he ran with Potter from a horde of Death Eaters was the day he signed his death wish.

He clenches his teeth, because he knows that it probably happened long before that, when his mother had been threatened and his father stood there with an expression carved from stone. Draco remembers the burning, the pain, the feeling like his arm was being torn off, like his body was being ripped apart. That day had ended with a new purpose and an irreversible promise of evil etched into his forearm, and two years later, Draco hadn't even been able to save his mother.

"What now?" Draco asks, because this is all he has, this is all he can do to prove the mark does not make the man.

Potter has been acting oddly since they stopped snogging, a memory which makes Draco's skin prickle and his pants tighten, and now Potter twitches as though Draco has drawn him out of a stupor.

"I dunno," and then Potter climbs onto his bunk, takes off his glasses and folds them onto the mattress beside him, and Draco has to force himself to walk away, to sit outside on watch, because he knows if he doesn't keep himself distracted, there won't be a thing stopping him from turning back and joining Potter.

Whichever part of the country Malfoy apparated them to last night has now caught up with the rest of Britain, and snow begins to coat the ground like a delicate dusting of icing sugar. Harry sits with his back against a tree trunk, gloomily looking into a mug of tea, which no matter how many times he stirs, he can't get as good as the brews Hermione made him.

Harry jumps a little as a book thuds to the ground in front of his feet, and when he looks up it is to see Malfoy towering over him with a scowl. "I took it last night, from…" Malfoy falters, sterns his expression into one of hardness, and then glares at the bark above Harry's head.

Harry knows what Malfoy means, he doesn't need to hear him say it for the smell of rotten flesh and the sound of cracking bones to come back and assault him. And it is only now, in the clear light of the following day, when the deadly weapon of hindsight plagues him, telling Harry if only he hadn't left Malfoy downstairs, hadn't gone to where the snake could hiss parseltongue at him without Malfoy noticing, then things would have been different.

Harry shakes himself, frowns when he sees the smiling face of Albus Dumbledore gazing up at him from a book cover. Harry feels something solid and uncomfortable twitch a little in his gut, and he quirks an eyebrow at Malfoy.

"It's sort of interesting — I… I thought you might want to read it." Malfoy still isn't meeting his eyes, and Harry wonders if it has more to do with what they shared last night and less to do with the issue of Harry feeling betrayed by his old headmaster.

It's a gesture Malfoy must have thought through, however, and it touches Harry in the midsection, uncoiling that knot and making him feel slightly warm.

"Thanks," Harry murmurs.

Malfoy's eyes flit towards Harry's, stay there for several moments — intense, icy, and so unbelievably beautiful that Harry has to swallow and look away.

"There's something else…" Malfoy seems to hesitate, and while there is a line across his nose which defines his irritation, the hint of a pout on his lips speaks of uncertainty. He stretches his arm down to Harry, who notices he is holding a smaller, thinner book, an old one which he recognises as Hermione's. It's opened on a page titled 'the three brothers,' and Harry skims the first few lines before glancing back up at Malfoy, confused.

Malfoy sighs, as though expecting nothing less, and then with a thin, pale finger he points to the top of the page, where a small triangular symbol sits inconspicuously above the title. "I saw the same symbol on a grave last night. And I don't know if the Mu— if Granger noticed this or not, but it looks as if somebody's inked it on."

"You saw it on a grave?" Harry asks, intrigued, and pleased by Malfoy's correction of Hermione's name.

Malfoy jerks his shoulders in a shrug, but the indecision in his face shifts into something eager, and Harry has a small, daunting feeling that Malfoy might have been debating whether or not this was even important enough to mention.

Maybe Malfoy, like Ron, is pining for the chance of productivity, of not sitting around all day and feeling useless, and now, as though he's obtained Harry's permission to be curious, he latches onto their possible trail. "'Ignotus Peverell,' sound familiar to you?"

Harry shakes his head, "You're the pureblood, you tell me."

Malfoy stares at him strangely, and then withdraws his arm, tucking the book into his pocket. As he turns to walk away, Harry sits with a painful thumping in his chest, because until now he has always thought blood was something Malfoy would never stop raising his nose at. Harry's comment was offhand, unnecessary, and he hopes beyond reason that Malfoy doesn't think Harry is holding anything about who Malfoy is, and who he has been, against him.

Harry reels for something to say, and just before Malfoy disappears into the tent, he rushes out, "Happy Christmas, Malfoy."

Malfoy stops, looks over his shoulder, and Harry releases a pent up breath when he sees the smile hidden beneath the smirk, peeking out at the corners of Malfoy's lips. There are unsaid words in Malfoy's eyes, and Harry thinks that if it were any number of weeks ago, he wouldn't have been able to detect them. But now they are clear, shimmering in the calm greyness, and they say, 'you're an idiot, Potter, but that's okay,' and despite himself, Harry grins.

"Happy Christmas, Potter," Malfoy finally says, and then he leaves Harry alone, his back against a bumpy tree trunk, wondering what he can do to make the most out of a Christmas filled with nothing but him and Malfoy.

Despite the cold weather, Draco wipes a sleeve across the sweat on his forehead, scowling in concentration as he stares at the tip of his wand, as if he glares hard enough, he might be able to will the pale blue light to burst from the end.

There's a spark, feeble yet bright, but the one that follows flickers out, and marks another failure out of countless attempts. Draco growls, ready to do something immature like stomp his foot and throw his wand to the ground, and it is only Potter watching him encouragingly from a few metres away which stops him.

"It isn't happy enough," Potter says, stepping closer to him, boots crunching in the snow.

"What?" Draco snaps, teeth clenched.

"Your memory — it needs to be happier — something really good."

Draco knows Potter must be trying hard to keep the pity out of his voice, but Draco can still feel it tingling his senses like an afterthought, and it makes him even angrier.

Draco snarls and kicks a clump of snow, relishing the way it flies apart in the air like tiny white clouds. He feels somewhat satisfied, but not calmer, and he turns to Potter with a glower.

"Tell me then, Potter, what should I be thinking about?" His voice is a sneer, and he tries not to notice how it makes Potter flinch, "Because nothing seems to be working, and we've been at it for hours — fucking hours!"

Potter lowers his eyes to the ground, and Draco catches sight of how dark his lashes look, thick and feathering over the crescents beneath his eyes, proof of the sleepless nights his bloody friends and the thing around his neck have caused him.

"What memory have you been using?" Potter says it softly, and Draco wouldn't have known he spoke at all if he weren't staring at Potter's lips.

Draco wants to tell him it's none of his business, but that would be a lie, because somehow their lives have become woven into one, and if Draco wants this as much as he thinks he does — wants to learn a charm which may one day save his life — then he is going to have to cooperate.

Draco feels like kicking snow again as he grumbles, "Several years back, before — before all this shit happened, and mother, she —" Draco breaks off, hesitant to continue for fear of his voice cracking, but Potter is smiling at him, and it gives him what he needs to go on. "It was Christmas eve, and she — she always put the angel on top of the tree, but it was the first year I was tall enough to, so she let me and I — I… it doesn't matter."

Draco expects for Potter to argue, to urge him to keep talking, but instead the black-haired boy just nods, and comes towards Draco until he is close enough to touch. Draco blinks, knowing it is the first time he has thought about his mother without needing to break something, and wonders whether Potter knows that too.

Potter takes Draco's hand, his fingers cold and his grip firm, squeezing in an unspoken threat that he will not let Draco escape. Draco doesn't know if he wants to escape, but he does know that the memory which makes his heart race and his blood sing, tucked away into a shadowy corner of his mind, is very close to breaking free, and he isn't sure whether he is more frightened of Potter finding out, or of what it might mean to know that kissing his rival is the happiest experience Draco has memory of.

Draco swallows hard as Potter says, "Try again."

Harry Potter is a sentimental sap, and Draco doesn't know what he thinks he'll achieve by shoving his hand into Draco's, but he has a feeling he is about to find out.

Draco sighs, trying to focus his thoughts from the distracting way Potter's thumb moves over his knuckles. He takes a breath, trying to think about his mother, about the wide smile she'd worn as her son had taken the angel from her, reached towards the top of the christmas tree — but then he is reaching for something else, for the person in front of him, and the tightly sealed lid bursts open, and in his mind he is twined on the ground with Potter, their hips together and their mouths moving against eachother, and before Draco can stop himself he whispers, "expecto patronum."

And this time, the light that floods from his wand is strong, vibrant and almost dizzying, but the strongest sensation Draco feels right now is the familiar warmth emanating from Potter's palm, and within the next second he is grinning, and Potter is laughing.

"You did it!" Potter sounds more excited than Draco feels, but despite the smugness which takes root in his stomach, Draco knows he is only halfway there — his patronus wasn't corporeal, only a mere beam of brightness.

Disappointment clogs his throat, and it is Potter's hand that pulls him out of his own torment.

"Hey, you did better than I did my first try."

Draco doesn't know if the compliment is a fabricated one, if Potter is only saying it to make him feel better, but nonetheless, he smirks and replies, "Of course I did."

Potter rolls his eyes, impossibly green amongst all the white scenery, and his smile is a crooked one full of teeth and the undeniable truth that he is proud. "It's probably enough for one day, we can try again tomorrow."

And Draco feels something in his chest soften at the idea of a 'tomorrow' — a tomorrow with Potter, and his enthusiasm heightens as he vows to himself that tomorrow he will get it right, that tomorrow Potter will be in even greater awe of his capabilities. Because now he knows that all he needs to do is give in and imagine Potter's hands are in his hair, Draco's tongue against his neck.

He feels his cheeks flush, and thankfully Potter has already dropped Draco's hand and headed back to the tent, because otherwise Draco would have grabbed him, and maybe he wouldn't have let go.

Harry has been trying to think about Horcruxes all afternoon, but unsurprisingly, thoughts of Draco Malfoy distract him, intoxicate his mind until all he can see when he closes his eyes is platinum hair and the fleeting grin Malfoy flashed him after almost conjuring a patronus.

Harry finds himself wondering about Malfoy before all this, back at Hogwarts, whether behind the scenes of calling Harry a loser he had been going off to snog somebody in deserted corridors. Jealousy, thick and ugly, boils in Harry's stomach, and for the next few hours whenever he sees Malfoy he has to bite his tongue to stop himself from asking if Malfoy has ever been in a relationship.

It is a difficult, strenuous task, especially because Malfoy seems to know Harry is clammed up with something he desperately wants to blurt out, and he gives Harry these odd, brooding glances which make Harry want to jump on him.

However, his jealousy soon subsides due to the sting of the vile words he has been reading, written by the quill of a woman Harry hates. He has slammed 'the Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore' shut several times, livid, only to pick it up again within the next ten minutes.

After a dinner consisting of a stale loaf of bread Potter found at the bottom of his bag, Draco is just about ready to scream.

He douses the fire with a muttered aguamenti and then stuffs his wand back into his pocket, because whatever he is about to coax out of Potter, he would rather use his fists to do it with. Draco refuses to believe this has anything to do with wanting to have skin to skin contact with Potter, even if it is knuckles against cheekbones.

He barges into the tent, and his intentions hone onto Potter, the unsuspecting target, who sits at the kitchenette table, his back facing Draco.

And while Draco has been determined to possibly wring the information from the other boy's neck, he momentarily forgets his reasoning, because Potter, head bowed and no doubt reading that shoddy book, is the picture of vulnerability right now. Draco can see the bumps of his spine before they disappear beneath his jumper, and he knows their diet has been just as hard on Potter as himself. He stares at the tousled strands of hair which hang too long around Potter's neck, and Draco — whatever Potter has been keeping from him be damned — suddenly aches with the urge to touch him.

Draco moves forward, his footsteps lithe and unheard, and as soon as he is close enough he reaches out, trails a finger from the nape of Potter's neck to his collar. The skin there is warm and smooth, but then Draco recoils his hand, because Potter spins around on the bench, his eyes wide and his wand raised, and it takes him several gasps of air for his reflexes to give way to recognition and relief.

Draco has time to lift an eyebrow in response before Potter's eyes darken, and then he lashes a hand out, grabs Draco's arm and tugs him down until he's on his knees, their faces level with eachother as Potter shuffles to the edge of the bench, slides his hand to the back of Draco's neck, and kisses him.

And it's wonderful — like stepping into spring after months of winter, like the sun against his back on a cool morning — and Merlin, it's only been a day, but Draco realises his whole body has been craving this so forcefully he doesn't realise it hurts until Potter's lips soothe away the pain.

But then Potter, bloody Potter, pulls away, breathless, and his hands are firm on either side of Draco's face as he rushes out, "Have you ever done this before?"

It takes effort for Draco to open his eyes, to study the question in Potter's eyes, and even more effort to form a coherent response when all he wants to do is delve his tongue into Potter's mouth. Draco supposes Potter means snogging, in which case, yes, he has done this before, and he wants to give Potter some smart response like, 'yes, you fool, I've done this with you, three times now.' But his words can't catch up to his brain, and within the next moment Draco realises Potter probably means kissing another bloke, and his answer to that would be the same as the first.

Right now, Draco doesn't really care about any of this, and each second that goes by which doesn't include Potters mouth against his is a second wasted. "What do you mean?" Draco chokes out, his skin reddening beneath the searching gaze of Potter's bright, unwavering eyes.

In reply, Potter just kisses him again, this time deeper, causing a moan to wrench from Draco's throat. "This," Potter enunciates, and Draco can only jerk his head in something caught between a yes and a no.

Because yes, he has snogged people before, nameless people who he wouldn't even be able to pick from a crowd, but never a boy, never Harry Potter. And never before has he ever felt this good, this hot and breathless, from a mere kiss.

"Does it matter?" Draco manages to huff, and Potter is silent for a few moments before he seems to conclude that no, it doesn't matter, because then he moves ungracefully to the floor, shoves a knee between Draco's, and pushes his chest until he's on his back.

And for a few glorious minutes there is nothing but the sound of lips sucking skin, of breathy sighs and moans, before Potter pushes Draco's shirt up, skates a hand over his abdomen, and Draco can only hiss between his teeth and wish for Potter to touch him lower.

But Potter does the opposite, he draws back — again — to sit on his haunches, and he wears such an unguarded look of shock on his face that Draco begins to panic. Maybe Potter's realised that this is a mistake, that he's as straight as Draco believes himself to be, or maybe it is nothing more than the fact that Draco doesn't deserve this, and Potter's begun to agree.

But then a crack forms in Potter's surprise, and it breaks over his lips into a grin that is both amused and astonished. "You absolute bastard."

Draco exhales, confusion mingling with his fear, and it takes him three seconds more to register that Potter is staring at his hips, humour and irritation fighting to stay prominent in his gaze. Draco raises himself on his elbows, tries to ignore his not so inconspicuous erection, wishing Potter's jumper wasn't so long as to hide his own, and then he sees the bright blue strip, the edges of unicorns peeking out on the waistband of his boxers, and Draco just knows he is doomed.

"Fuck," Draco curses, blood rushing to his cheeks and distracting him from his arousal, and he can't remember the last time he was this humiliated.

Potter chokes over a laugh, "You're actually wearing them — I can't believe it!"

"Well you better fucking start to," Draco grumbles, sliding his legs from between Potter's knees, suddenly wanting to get as far away from the other boy as possible.

Potter isn't fazed, and asks with a smirk that is more curious than sly, "what'd you do with the rest of the stuff?"

Draco sighs, frowns, and supposes he might as well just get it over with and have Potter laugh at him. Besides, a part of him is desperate to see Potter laugh, loud and free, something Draco knows he hasn't done in a long time.

So he picks up his wand from where it has fallen from his pocket, and flicks it over his appearance, removing the charms and glamour.

Harry stares, his mouth open, as what he is used to seeing Malfoy wear day after day changes into a familiar jacket from what seems like ages ago. 'Feed me and tell me I'm pretty,' is emblazoned across the front, and Harry's snort goes from a scoff to a full blown bout of laughter.

He's always known Draco Malfoy is proud, and he knew when he bought the ridiculous clothing for the Slytherin that the chances of him actually wearing it were very slim. But now, seeing this — Malfoy, who glowers at him with what can only be called a pout, his stern face a juxtaposition to his comical jacket, and knowing that he's been wearing it, the boxers too, all along, makes Harry lose it.

He laughs until his cheeks hurt, and by the end of it there is a knowing trace of humour around the corners of Malfoy's mouth, as though while Harry has been wiping the tears from his eyes, Malfoy has been giving into the laughter which would send his pride falling into an abyss.

"You're pretty, Malfoy, but I'm sorry to say we're kinda low on food." Harry wipes a hand over his face, straightens his glasses, and then realises what he's said, and the impact it seems to have had on Malfoy's cheeks. Harry searches for something to say, but he won't take it back, because while it is something you'd tell a girl, something which pales in comparison to what Malfoy really is, it's still true, and Harry has learnt not to tell lies.

Malfoy clears his throat, and for a moment his eyes shoot away from Harry's, but then they return, as though he's made up his mind that the awkward compliment doesn't matter. Beneath a scowl and blond lashes there is a roiling depth of grey, and Harry gets hopelessly lost, until he is burning, burning burning —

His hand flies to his back pocket, pulls out the searing metal coin, and his heart both skyrockets and plummets when he sees the words blazing on the front;

Piccadilly Circus, one hour. H&R.

Chapter Text

The evening is bright, filled with the glow of street lamps and giant, glaring signs hanging off of buildings. Muggles teem past where they stand, waiting by the Statue of 'Eros,' as Potter called it, and every now and then a straggler bumps elbows with the elderly man whose skin disguises Draco Malfoy. Draco clenches his teeth, only to find the old man is missing most of them, and sighs into the cold air.

Beside him, Harry Potter is a middle aged man, and the lines around his eyes do not boast of age as much as worry. Potter hasn't said anything since arriving, but Draco watches his eyes, blue and unfamiliar and all-wrong, constantly scanning the face of every person who passes them by.

Every few minutes Draco gets the urge to reach out and touch Potter's hand, to let him know that it's alright — a grandfather comforting his son. But then his anger will come crashing down, anger at what they are doing, ready to welcome back two people who walked out on The Chosen One. Anger at what is most definitely not jealousy boiling in his stomach.

Draco stares at the cement beneath their feet, and suddenly it hits him that he is waiting for Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley, and despite his selfishness and his jealousy, for Potter's sake if nothing else, he hopes that they are okay.

 There was a time, several years ago, when the day had been hot and sweat had beaded on the back of Harry's neck. To his left, Ron was scrawling in the margins of his homework, and on his right, Hermione was filling him in on the gaps of what Professor Burbage supposedly hadn't said in Hermione's muggle studies lecture. Harry didn't know why she thought he cared, but he listened anyway, because her hushed whispers were easier to keep up with than whatever Professor Binns was droning on about the Goblin Rebellion.

Hermione was appalled, because the most famous muggle sculpture in England wasn't the-thing-Binns-thought-it-was-which-had-a-name-too-long-for-Harry-to-remember, it was apparently the Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain in Piccadilly Circus. Harry nodded, yawning, as Hermione insisted she knew this because every year her family would do their Christmas Shopping there, and at six o'clock they'd meet back at the Statue of Eros, with gift-laden bags on their arms.

Harry never knew that three years later he would end up needing to know this, would understand exactly where his friend wanted to meet. Three years ago, he never would have thought he'd be about to kiss Draco Malfoy either, but Harry has learnt not to question the way his life turns out.

Now, he waits with his heart in his throat, half expecting to catch a flash of orange hair or wide brown eyes. He looks into the face of each muggle for too long, searching for a trace of his best friends. Some turn back to glance at him suspiciously, and with each departing back, Harry's resignation increases with his disappointment.

Malfoy is silent beside him, and Harry delves his hands into his pockets, otherwise the temptation to grab onto Malfoy's is too strong. Because even though the person next to him looks like a stranger, Harry's only comfort is that they are Draco Malfoy.

And as the hours grow upon eachother and the sky darkens, with still no sign of Ron or Hermione, Harry wonders when things began to seem so backwards.

Harry disapparates them when the streets have cleared and their bodies are beginning to turn back to how they should be.

Behind him, Harry hears Malfoy setting up the tent, spells soft murmurs on his lips, but all Harry can do is stare into the glistening creek, willing his tears to stay away.

Draco tries to tell himself that he's glad, because that's the kind of person he is, but he can't distract himself from Potter's haunted looks, the gaunt tiredness beneath his eyes, and more than anything he is pissed off, because Potter is too much of a bloody Gryffindor to be angry himself, so the task is left to Draco.

But lying beneath his anger, there is a desperation to make Potter feel better, to make him laugh again, and shockingly enough, a part of Draco is even willing to shed his clothes and strut around in the unicorn boxers if that's what it'll take.

He wishes he had a time turner, so he could return to all those hours ago, to the glorious afternoon where Potter's hand had been so close to touching Draco where he didn't even know he wanted to be touched by another bloke before.

That moment seems far off, dangling somewhere just out of reach, and morbidly, Draco wonders if he'll ever get to kiss Harry Potter again, and why the hell it should matter if he doesn't. But then he looks over to where Potter sits in the armchair, his eyes unseeing, and a cold mug of tea in front of him, and Draco thinks he would be able to put all his selfishness behind him, the snogging too, if only to see Potter's crooked grin once more.

Maybe that's why he gets to his feet, moves slowly over to stand in front of Potter, and holds his hand out. "Give it to me," Draco says softly.

Potter blinks, snapping out of a trance, and his brows crease together as he searches Draco's face. "What?"

"The thing — around your neck… I'll wear it." Draco wishes he didn't say it as soon as the words leave his mouth, because there isn't a chance Potter will let Draco, his enemy, look after something so important. And while that is obvious, Draco is surprised by how much it hurts, and how much he wants for Potter to trust him.

They stare into eachother's eyes, grey against green, and Draco wonders when such a combination became so perfect.

 Harry Potter looks into the eyes of Draco Malfoy, and while he should see his enemy of six years, a boy who lead their headmaster to his death, instead he sees a boy with no choices, a boy who grew up on the wrong side of a war. But now, now he has choices, and he has chosen to stay with Harry, has chosen to relieve him of a burden which is not Draco's to bear.

Harry tries to think about Ron and Hermione's reactions, what they'd say if they saw Malfoy wearing the horcrux, and maybe it is nothing but spite, or the rejection of being left behind, but Harry finds himself wanting to do it, if only to let them know that he was right, that he has always been right, when it comes to Draco Malfoy.

He swallows, hesitates, but then he sees the apprehension on Malfoy's face, the look of someone who is about to be shot down, and before Harry can talk himself out of it he lifts his hands to the back of his neck, unclasps the locket, and gingerly sets it down into Malfoy's waiting palm.

Harry lets their fingers brush, just for a second, watching as Malfoy tries to school his expression into indifference, and Harry wonders if Malfoy is just as surprised by his decision as Harry is.

"You should sleep," Malfoy's voice is thick, his eyes narrowed, pain and anger swirling within his irises as he looks at the horcrux in his hand. Harry almost wants to snatch it from him, to ease the conflict which must be burning inside of Malfoy, the knowledge of the evil he holds in his hand.

But then Malfoy's lips thin into a hard line, his jaw firm and resolute, and in a quick movement he secures the locket around his own neck and tucks it beneath the jacket that Harry knows, if he looks hard enough, will say 'feed me and tell me I'm pretty.'

Malfoy starts towards the tent flap, pauses when Harry calls his name and says, "Thankyou." It's one word, almost inaudible, but the meaning behind it is heavy, and hangs suffocatingly between them.

Malfoy doesn't reply, but the line of his shoulders softens slightly, and then he leaves Harry feeling peacefully tired, sleep already creeping up on him, and he barely makes it onto his bunk before he collapses.

Draco sags against the tree trunk, his elbow digging painfully into the bark as he rests his head on his forearm, and despite the cold weather, he is sweating.

He has managed to keep his composure before walking outside, because he will not let himself be the reason the circles under Potter's eyes get darker, but now he lets the weight of the silver chain choke him. Draco gasps into the air, needing it to fill his lungs, but knowing it won't, because his whole body is full of something else, something freezing and dreadful, and it brings every painful memory to the forefront of Draco's mind with the speed of a freight train.

Draco doubles over, wretches as his hands and knees hit tree roots and compacted snow, and in a moment of insanity he presses his cheek to the ground, thinking maybe the cold will clear away the hurt, the images of distraught faces slashed with blood and hopelessness, and the reopened wound of his mother's death.

But it doesn't, the snow only soaks him to the bone, drenches his clothing, and makes him shiver, makes him ache.

He relives everything, every wrong he's ever failed to make a right. He sees himself carrying the bottle of poisoned mead, the cursed necklace, and he cringes and shakes as he lets a stream of Death Eaters into a castle he'll never again be able to call home.

Draco listens to all the screams of the people he's been forced to torture, cowers from the image of the Manor dungeons, and with a heave he rolls onto his front and vomits. His body trembles, and he realises he's crying, the tears so hot against his face that they feel like fire.

And Draco thinks, if these are the stitches to the seams of his broken psyche, then maybe giving up will be easier, maybe Harry Potter isn't worth everything after all. But the idea sends a pain so strong through Draco's chest that he is sick again, bile bitter in his mouth.

He thinks about Potter, day after day, carrying this darkness around his neck, and Draco doesn't understand how he manages it, if this is what it feels like. But it can't be that simple, Harry Potter is the world's idea of goodness, and the evil, the thing that lives inside the locket Draco wants to tear from his body, mustn't have anything to feed off when it hangs against the collarbones of the Boy Who Lived.

Maybe Draco is just a terrible person, and while he has had this thought before, it has never bothered him this much. It makes him feel weak, worthless, and shattered. If he were strong, maybe he would leave, take the horcrux with him, rid the world of two evils, and leave Potter to the life he deserves. But Draco Malfoy isn't like Harry Potter, he isn't strong, and maybe he's always known, maybe that's why he's sought to cover his demons with the facade of confidence, with a smirk which is strong on the outside, but so fragile internally that it makes Draco crumble.

Draco is weak, and that's why he shakily gets to his feet, wipes his sleeve over his mouth, and returns to where he knows he'll heal, where things will undoubtedly get better. He stumbles into the dark tent, sheds his coat and toes off his boots, and with quiet movements he climbs onto Potter's bunk. It takes all the strength he has left, and his whole body shivers with fatigue by the time he curls into Potter's back.

Harry wakes up because there is someone sniffing next to his ear and something freezing against his back. He turns, the bunk creaks, and after fumbling his glasses onto his nose his foggy brain is greeted by the pale outline of a face.

"Malfoy?" Harry whispers stupidly, because of course it is Malfoy, who else could it be? But then his surprise drops into concern, his hand coming into contact with something sopping wet — Malfoy's jacket — and the only conclusion Harry can come to is that Malfoy might have had a close call with the river. But then he remembers the horcrux, and his panic drives him to place a hand at Malfoy's throat. The locket is still there, the metal as icy as Draco's skin. Harry's confusion doubles as he hisses, "What happened? You're — you're — fuck, Malfoy!"

Malfoy trembles, and Harry runs his hand over Malfoy's cheek, over his forehead, fearing that he's hyperventilating or getting pneumonia or some rare disease that Harry won't know a thing about. Harry swipes damp hair from Malfoy's face, and his fingers smooth away something hot just as his other hand reaches for his wand. The lumos he mutters is hasty and muddled, but a dull light still flares into life, and it is then when Harry realises that Draco Malfoy is crying.

His tears are silent, and each one is like a knife in Harry's chest. Malfoy's arms are crossed over his torso, his knuckles prominent atop fisted hands, as though he's trying desperately to hold all of the pain in.

"Draco…" Harry's voice breaks, and his eyes rake over what he can see of the other boy's body. He is hunched in on himself, shivering, his clothes sticking to every inch of his body, and when Harry's anxious gaze lands back on Malfoy's neck, the realisation is like a punch to the gut.

Harry remembers when Ron wore the horcrux, how it'd prey off the emotions he tried to suppress — frustration, anger, and jealousy. But for Malfoy, it would latch onto the grief Harry knows he tries to ignore day after day, the wounds which aren't fully healed, and it would spread pain through his veins until it's the only thing Malfoy has left.

Harry's heart clenches, throbs as if it is falling apart, and when he moves his hand to remove the locket from Malfoy's neck, his fingers are shaking. It comes undone with a click, and as Harry pulls it away, never before has he hated something so much, hated it for causing Malfoy to suffer.

Malfoy doesn't open his eyes as Harry takes off his clothing, because no amount of magic will be enough to rid the presence of Malfoy's torment. His hand pauses at the zip on Malfoy's jeans, but he's already made his decision, already vowed that he will do whatever it takes to stop whatever pain Malfoy is dealing with. He doesn't care if Malfoy becomes coherent and punches him in the face, all Harry knows is that Malfoy needs to be comforted, needs to be warm, and Harry has the uncontrollable desire to hold him.

Malfoy's left in his boxers, and while the unicorns induced laughter and smiles all those hours ago, Harry hardly notices them now. He casts several warming and drying charms over Malfoy's body, and on the clothes he has discarded onto the floor, then he lies down, and pulls Draco Malfoy into his arms.

Harry listens as Malfoy's breathing gradually slows, his hair tickling Harry's forearm. His other arm rubs the length of Malfoy's side, up and down and up again. The blanket isn't big enough to cover them both, so Harry goes without, uncaring that his back is cold, because his chest is so incredibly warm with Malfoy's head cradled against his shoulder.

Right now, it is just the two of them, and Harry forgets the fact that his friends didn't turn up that afternoon, forgets the corrupt locket on the floor, and every stressful thought that exists inbetween. He strokes Malfoy's hair, tangles his fingers gently through the fine strands, wondering how anything can possibly be so soft. Draco Malfoy is full of surprises it has come to seem, and Harry doesn't think he'll ever be able to get enough of them.

Harry admires the curve of Malfoy's cheekbone, so sharp in the daylight, but soft within the dim glow of magic. He stares at the feathery eyelashes casting shadows across his nose, a nose which Harry used to dream about breaking, but now wants to run his finger from the bridge to the tip.

Harry's body begins to relax, peaceful and calm so close to Malfoy's, and if he tilts his head down his lips fall against Malfoy's forehead. He rests them there, not wanting to move them away, and in the days to come, Harry will swear to himself that he isn't a schmaltz who goes around kissing people he has feelings for on the forehead. Now, in the darkness, he finds himself admitting it's okay to entertain mushy thoughts, and when Malfoy groans in his sleep, he knows that it's okay to acknowledge he has feelings for Draco Malfoy.

Malfoy's hand which rests against Harry's sternum twitches and then tightens in his shirt, and with a small smile of utter contentment, Harry extinguishes his wand light, wraps his arms securely around Malfoy's body, and then the lion closes its eyes, knowing that even in sleep, it will never stop protecting its snake.

Draco's eyelids crack open, heavy with sleep, and when he is met with nothing but darkness and what sounds like heavy breathing, it takes him several seconds to remember where he is, and to realise that it's Potter doing the heavy breathing — breath which brushes Draco's hair across his face, making him want to sneeze.

Draco becomes aware of the warmth in his body, heat in every one of his limbs, and that he is practically naked in bed with Harry Potter. He doesn't even bother checking for the thing around his neck, because he knows from his body temperature and his comfort that it can't still be there, and besides, he is too distracted by Potter's hands splayed across his bare skin to think about much else.

One of Draco's legs is caught between Potter's, and his arms are trapped between their chests, Potter's heartbeat steady against his palm, and sending a wave of heady dizziness through Draco's skull.

Potter grunts in his sleep, and Draco sucks in a gasp when Potter's hand skates across his lower back, applying pressure until Draco is lying half over Potter's body, which does nothing whatsoever to calm the blood rushing towards Draco's groin.

The smell of Potter is everywhere, and thinking he should probably move away, but knowing he will do the opposite, Draco stretches up to bury his nose in the place where Potter's hair meets his neck, and inhales.

His cock is half hard now, nestled into Potter's thigh, and Draco can't decide whether he wants to wake Potter up and snog the hell out of him, or hide in embarrassment for the next decade. His hand seems to decide for him, however, because unwillingly it moves to sneak under Potter's shirt, trail through the hair which circles around his belly button and dips lower. Draco feels his fingers meet the waistband of Potter's pants, and immediately he flinches back, teeth clenched, his erection so hard it hurts.

He is dangerously stuck between the need to thrust against Potter's leg, and the urge to run the hell away, and the worst thing is, Draco doesn't know which he wants more.

 This time, someone's panting, hot breath moistening the side of Harry's neck and making him groggily open his eyes. His poor sight is worse in the darkness, but his sense of touch is heightened, and right now he can feel a warm weight over his lower stomach — Malfoy's leg — and the grip of a hand digging into his shoulder. There's something more though, something Harry can't possibly believe is happening — but the proof is there, hard and jutting with deliberate motion into the side of his thigh.

Draco Malfoy is turned on. Draco Malfoy has been humping Harry in his sleep. And never before has Harry gotten such a stiff and throbbing hard-on in a matter of seconds.

He doesn't say anything, he only moves with sudden force, flipping them over, and crushing the air out of an unsuspecting Malfoy who Harry straddles without a thought. Their erections are aligned against eachother, and the knowledge that there is nothing but a thin layer of cotton covering Malfoy's makes Harry tremble.

If Malfoy is surprised by Harry suddenly being awake, he doesn't show it, he only claws his fingers into Harry's biceps in the darkness, and holds on as Harry grinds his hips down into Malfoy's. Harry groans, a strangled sound which Malfoy echoes.

Harry bends to kiss him, their tongues twirling together in a maddening dance that Harry wants never to end. Their faces are rough with stubble, and the friction between their skin makes Harry delirious as he rakes his hands over Malfoy's bare chest, over the collarbones which are too prominent, and the nipples which are hard and peaked. Malfoy practically mewls and breaks the kiss to throw his head back, giving Harry the opportunity to lick the tendons in his neck, to graze his teeth over Malfoy's earlobe.

Suddenly it isn't enough, even though Harry is about to be driven mad by lust, he wants more. So without hesitating he pulls back, raises himself onto his knees and pulls down his pants and boxers in one go. It is a bold movement, and the flush in his cheeks tells him he is grateful for the darkness. He doesn't stop, and with an even bolder gesture he glides his fingers down Malfoy's chest, past his stomach, and over the boxer's elastic until he bravely palms Malfoy's erection.

Malfoy hisses in a breath, "P—Potter…"

Harry has a difficult time breathing himself, because beneath his hand there is something as hard and hot as burning steel, and he squeezes, tugs his hand up over the smooth material, and now Malfoy is panting, writhing with need.

There is nothing in the world that could possibly stop them from sharing this moment, and maybe Malfoy knows this too, maybe that's why he shoves Harry's hand away with a groan that tells Harry he'd rather do anything else, and then pulls his own boxers down in a fluid movement which is far from the clumsy time Harry has had.

Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy are naked in bed together, and Harry has never been so excited in his life. He lowers himself beside Malfoy, guiding his hand through the night to cup Malfoy's jaw. Harry feels his pulse there — erratic and flighty — and it gives him the encouragement he needs to shift closer and closer, until the first glorious moment of contact has them both groaning.

Their foreheads fall together and their breath mingles, and Harry kisses Malfoy chastely as he snakes a hand down to wrap around their erections.

Malfoy's fingernails slice into his back as the pad of Harry's thumb slides over the head of Malfoy's cock, slick with arousal, and Harry takes a greedy gulp of the musky air between them. His mouth goes dry, and then he is thrusting, jerking them both off in what is a mix of desperation and passion, guttural moans and keening sobs.

Malfoy's head drops to Harry's shoulder, and hazily, Harry is aware that Malfoy's muttering something incomprehensible, tongue darting out to catch the sweat at the base of Harry's neck.

Pleasure builds low in Harry's abdomen, and he doesn't know how long he'll last, because this is so much better than any fantasy he has ever created, and he wishes it would go on forever. He swirls his thumb over Malfoy's tip again, relishing in the other boy's response and the way his teeth close over Harry's shoulder.

"Oh, god, Draco —" Harry loses himself in the Slytherin's answering cry of release, and together they spill themselves over eachother's stomachs. Harry's shoulder is tender where Malfoy has bitten him, and the thought gives him such a wave of spent affection that he nuzzles Malfoy's cheek.

They lie there for several long minutes, breathing eachother in, until Harry murmurs a few quick cleaning spells and pulls the blanket up, moving close enough to Malfoy for it to cover them both.

Somehow, he can't remember when things have ever been this perfect.

 Draco can't sleep, because if he does he might wake up and realise that everything's been a dream. Potter snores softly behind him, his arm thrown over Draco's waist in a gesture so possessive it makes Draco hard again.

He has been through everything in his head several times over, from the excuse that he is just horny after months of abstinence, to the idea that Potter is the only fit person around to work off some mutual frustration with. But what they have is more than that, and Draco doesn't think he can deny it any longer, and while this frightens him to no end, there's an exhilarated hum in his heart which can't wait for what tomorrow will bring.

He thinks about the horcrux, wherever Potter has thrown it, and wonders if it will make things different between them, and what it will be like if Draco has to wear it again. But he'll be ready for it next time, and if it threatens to consume him once more, then Draco knows he won't be able to stop himself from imagining Potter's hand on his cock — the unimaginable bliss which is too good to be true.

And then, lying there with another bloke's naked body pressed against his own, Draco is confronted by the fact that he is gay for Harry fucking Potter, and there isn't a part of him which wishes otherwise.

Somehow, Harry isn't surprised to wake up alone, yet it still sends a dull pang through his chest, and a sudden panic at whether or not what happened was even real. His nakedness proves otherwise, thank fuck, and with a rising flush Harry hastily spells his clothes in reaching distance and slips them on.

He can't find the horcrux, however, and while this should make him worry, instead it gives him a strange sense of sadness and pride, because despite his pain, Malfoy must have wanted to give it another go, and Harry can't tell for who's sake he's doing it.

Thinking about Malfoy reminds Harry of how the other boy's cock felt against his own, warm and velvety and wet, and immediately Harry's blood rushes south and his heart speeds up and he has to bite down on his tongue to stop himself from verbally expressing his desire.

Hell, Malfoy isn't even in the tent, and Harry decides that's something he needs to fix at once, because he is almost dying to get a glimpse of Malfoy's near-white hair and his kiss-swollen lips.

Pulse racing, Harry steps out into the morning light and spots Malfoy standing beneath the trees, wand in hand. When he sees Harry, his body tenses and his eyes dart to the side, and Harry has a feeling that Malfoy is going to make this a lot harder than it has to be.

Harry walks up to him, trying for confidence, but ends up sounding breathless and jittery as he says, "Hi."

Malfoy glowers at him.

Harry freezes, apprehension turning him cold. On closer inspection, Malfoy's eyes are red rimmed and tired, boasting of a restless sleep. Harry swallows, reeling uncomfortably at the idea that maybe last night wasn't as good for Malfoy as it was for him. Suddenly, he feels like throwing himself off the nearest cliff — because what if he'd mistaken Malfoy's behaviour as sexual and then practically forced himself on him?

"I'm sorry," Harry rushes out, his brow taught and his gut aching.

Malfoy, who has been glaring at an uninteresting tree trunk, casts a sideways glance at Harry, his eyes sparking with something close to astonishment. Grey eyes blink and then harden, and for a moment there is nothing but the hiss of air through Malfoy's teeth before he turns himself on Harry and seethes, "Don't you dare apologise."

Harry frowns, puzzled, and then his eyes catch on the silver glinting off the side of Malfoy's neck. "Maybe I should —"

"I'm fine," Malfoy snaps.

"If there's a problem, then tell me. I don't have time to deal with your mood swings, Malfoy." Harry really doesn't want an argument, but he thinks even if he and Malfoy were on the best of terms, arguments would come as easy as breathing.

"Time," Malfoy spits, pointing his wand at the tree and splintering it up the middle, "Is something we have plenty of."

Harry stares at the sharp, frayed looking bark, feeling a little queazy, and asks, "Is that the problem? Time?"

"No." Malfoy spins around again with a snarl, but peeking through his anger there is a faint trace of discomposure. "No, that's not — fuck —" And then Malfoy's expression breaks into one of desperation, a plea in both his eyes and his voice, "What have you done to me?"

Harry can't speak, unsure what to say, unsure what Malfoy even means.

Malfoy makes a whimpering sound and then destroys another tree, and Harry watches mutely, a lump in his throat.

"Malfoy, I — I don't…"

"Don't you fucking get it, Potter!?" Malfoy's shoulders are shaking, his eyes narrowed and shimmery, which together with the redness makes him look a little insane. Harry isn't scared, only confused, yearning to reach out and wipe the stress from Malfoy's features. A pause, a sigh of defeat, and then, "I'm gay."

Chapter Text

Draco inhales shakily, afraid of what he might see in Potter's eyes. But when he finally looks up, the weight of a confession gone from his shoulders, Potter's emerald orbs gaze at him with only wonder. The rejection, the disgust, doesn't come, and Draco doesn't even know if he has been expecting it.

Part of his mind has been going over Potter's words, 'I might be,' again and again, and it is only from clinging to them that Draco has gained the courage to shout out to the woods that he is gay. There is no 'might' or 'maybe' in Draco's case, because he knows there can't possibly exist another feeling to rival the sensation of Potter's naked body curled around his own.

Maybe it is Harry Potter's fault after all, for making Draco realise this about himself, or maybe it has stemmed from what has been a growing obsession of seven years. Either way, somehow, Draco has gotten himself here, in a world where Harry Potter is the most important thing, and Draco can't tell whether his whole life has been a disguise building up to this moment, or if along the way he has become so delusional that it doesn't even make sense anymore.

But no matter what, Draco knows he does not want to go back, and when his eyes take in the amazement on Potter's face, he thinks maybe Potter doesn't want him to go back either.

Draco nods into the cold air, for no reason other than to establish the truth he has just spoken, to make it seem more real. It helps a little, makes his nerves calm down, makes him feel a little guilty for ruining part of the forest, and more than anything it makes him tremble with the urge to laugh. He feels free, disbelieving, but free, and when Potter clears his throat and stammers out, "Er— that's great, Malfoy," Draco can't help but agree.

Harry scrunches his eyes closed, trying to block Malfoy out, but failing. Something about Malfoy's magic is unrelenting this morning, and as he pushes into Harry's head Harry has to dig his heels into the snow to stop himself from staggering backwards.

He thinks the only thing preventing him from keeling over is the jubilance which continues to glow through his veins since this morning.

Draco Malfoy is gay, and I'll get to snog him some more!

"Come on, Potter. You can do better than this." Malfoy's face is light with a bizarre enthusiasm, the rings beneath his eyes dark in contrast, and Harry doesn't know whether to take it as a jibe or a compliment.

Harry's concentration has been lacking, not only due to Malfoy's revelation earlier about the night before, but because of the almost frightening hyperactivity of Malfoy's movements, of the forceful way his arm strikes when he uses legilimency on Harry's mind. Harry would bet his Gringott's vault on it having something to do with the horcrux, but by the way Malfoy snaps and glares at him whenever he offers to take it back, he is wary about asking again.

Harry sighs, rubs the bridge of his nose, and attempts to relax his thoughts by focusing on one thing. A pale face, shining with energy, and a smudge of flour next to grey eyes. He feels Malfoy's presence, probing further into the memory of their food fight, but this time Harry knows he can do better, not because Malfoy said so, but because Malfoy reminded him.

He builds up his walls, shoves Malfoy out, but he doesn't have enough self-control, and the torrent of his defence doesn't stop until he finds himself in an unfamiliar place. It's lonely, dark and cold, and in the distance he can see a little boy with platinum hair, tugging on the trouser leg of his father.

Draco Malfoy's mind is a place full of sorrow and resentful lamentations, and it leaves Harry breathless as rapid images flood behind his eyes.

Malfoy, shackled to the floor, hollow and starved, an untouched chocolate bar by his feet. Voldemort laughing, Death Eaters laughing too, and Malfoy averting his eyes from the corpse levitating above his head. Malfoy being forced to torture prisoners, masked men jeering at him when he turns and vomits against the wall. Snape, tall and sallow, black eyes assessing as Malfoy pleads to him, "Please, I'll do anything — I swear — I know you're one of them — please help me — I won't tell anyone — please." The image fades, crumbles, and suddenly there is nothing but Harry Harry Harry.

Harry falls to the ground, winded, as Malfoy stares at him with reproachful embarrassment. Harry is still a little overwhelmed at seeing his own eyes staring back at him so many times through Malfoy's memories, but the flattery and warmth the knowledge gives him is doused as he remembers the greasy hair and the searching expression —

"You told him," Harry says, panting a little.

What little awe was simmering behind Malfoy's tired eyes flickers out as he blinks in confused irritation. "What?"

"You told Snape — he knows you betrayed them," The information gives Harry a frightened pain in his stomach, and his fingers curl around melting snow. Even though Harry remembers Malfoy telling him something similar all those weeks ago, back at Grimmauld Place, it is only now that he believes him, and it makes Harry aware of the fragile trust which has gradually been constructed between them.

Malfoy tilts his head a little, "So?"

"So what if he tells them? What if they know you weren't taken on an Auror Raid?"

Malfoy's eyelids droop a little as he scowls, and Harry picks himself up off the ground, not liking the height difference.

"Are you fucking stupid, Potter? They saw me escaping with you from that shithole, what the bloody hell do you reckon they'll think? That I was just taking the scenic route to my own death?"

"No — but if something happened — if this doesn't end well, you could've still gotten out alive, Malfoy, you could've cried Imperius. But I s'pose that doesn't matter, now, because fucking Snape knows the truth."

Malfoy is giving him the strangest glare — it makes Harry hot and cold at the same time. "Snape is spying on the Dark Lord." His voice is factual, definite, and anger spikes in Harry at the referral to Voldemort. He thought Malfoy was past that. His eyes narrow as they flit to the horcrux around Malfoy's neck, and all of a sudden he is desperate for Malfoy to take it off. "He's on the Order's side, Potter, for fuck's sake."

"That's not true, Snape's loyal to Vol—"

"Loyal!?" And all of a sudden Malfoy is enraged, his eyes wild, "You want to talk about fucking loyalty, Potter? Walking away from your supposed best friend in a fucking war — that's loyal, is it!?"

Something icy settles in Harry's chest and his mind struggles to take in the frenzy of Malfoy's shattered composure, each one of his words piercing a sensitive spot in Harry's heart which aches and bleeds.

"How about asking to meet and then not even having the dignity to show the fuck up?! Is that what you noble Gryffindors call loyalty?" Malfoy's voice is a scathing hiss, and Harry swallows as he tries to find his own. "You don't know shit about loyalty, Potter, and you don't know shit about Snape!"

Harry clenches his jaw, darts forward, and in a single wrenching movement he tears the locket from around Malfoy's neck.

Malfoy takes a ragged gasp, hand flying up to cover the rawness the metal has left behind, and if Harry weren't so stung he would feel guilty. Instead he only takes several deep breaths to stop himself from yelling something equally as hurtful as the words Malfoy has thrown at him, and then clasps the Horcrux around his own neck.

When he looks up, Malfoy's eyes are wide — the storm has left them, and he stares at Harry with something bitterly like regret.

Harry doesn't give him the chance to say anything, he only trudges off, pain heavy in his lungs.

Draco watches Potter's retreating back, shame coiling around his insides. His outburst, justified, he thinks, but unkind, has hurt Potter, and that's something that makes Draco so unbearably uncomfortable he wants to break something.

He has never been the sort to apologise, and he doesn't know if he is about to start now, all Draco is sure of is that he never wants to see Potter look at him like that again. Wounded green eyes, afflicted with disappointment, and an expression so downturned it makes Draco's heart twinge just to think about it.

He growls to himself, wondering when the fuck he became so soft. Maybe he only feels this way because he would much rather make Potter moan with pleasure than grimace with torment, or maybe because his stubbornness has eroded over the weeks and now it's clear to Draco that he's in the wrong.

Draco blames the bloody Horcrux for his tingling skin and for his increased attacking magic but his weakened defence — the reason Potter was able to wander into the open, vulnerable door of Draco's mind in the first place.

And now look where it has left him.

Draco sighs, stowing his wand away, and tries to think about what he can do to make things right.

The afternoon steadily creeps into the night, and still Harry hasn't had so much as a grunt out of Malfoy. Maybe it's better this way, maybe the distance is easier than being near Malfoy and knowing an apology is the last thing on his mind.

But Harry doesn't even know if he wants an apology, doesn't know if he deserves it. Because as much as he hates what Malfoy said, a part of him is scared of how true it rings.

Harry sits cross-legged outside the tent, clenching his teeth to fight the chill and to stop himself from imagining what Malfoy might be doing inside — brooding, no doubt.

He's tapping his wand against his shoe, trying to come up with a rhythm to keep his mind off things, when he sees it — bright and shining from inbetween the trees.

Harry's heart stops, speeds up, as he slowly gets to his feet, his vision honing onto the patronus in the forest. It doesn't move, as though it's waiting for him to come closer, only to dart away like a frightened creature. Harry's thoughts are on his father, and as he steps over snow-covered sticks and pieces of bark, he reminds himself that he's made this mistake once before, that his yearning for his parents convinces him he sees them everywhere, and always leaves him disappointed.

He follows the stag-like projection deeper into the woods, steadfastly ignoring the voice which tells him this is a bad idea, a voice which used to sound a lot like Hermione's, but now sounds more like Malfoy's.

It turns its head, waiting for him to catch up, and as Harry reaches it he sees that it is a doe, silver and beautiful, not a stag. It moves soundlessly through the thick trees, until it becomes fainter and fainter, before finally disappearing in a small clearing.

"Wait —" but it's too late, it's gone, and Harry looks wildly around, fearing this may be a trap, but he is alone apart from an iced over pond. His breath puffs out visibly in front of him as he edges forwards, eyes narrowing at the frosted surface when he catches sight of a strange gleam.

Thinking he has probably just tricked himself into seeing something, but still wanting to be sure, Harry leans closer until he can make out the distinct shape of a blade, red glinting out of a crossed hilt.

Harry's mouth gapes open, and his brows scrunch together as he realises that the Sword of Gryffindor is sitting at the bottom of a frozen pond. He throws suspicious looks over his shoulder, stares into the darkness of the trees surrounding him, but there's no one there.

Harry swallows nervously as he sends a reducto at the frozen water, and flinches a little as cracks splinter across the ice. He tries to summon the sword towards him, but it proves useless and continues to lie unmoving on the waterbed, mocking him.

Harry's body seems to know what he'll have to do before his brain catches up, and beneath his clothes he feels his skin pebbling with goosebumps. He shivers, gritting his teeth, and starts to shed layer after layer of clothing until he's left standing in his boxers, contemplating how quickly he'll freeze to death if he jumps in.

Lastly, Harry places his wand and glasses atop his pile of clothes. He doesn't even entertain the thought of leaving the horcrux behind, and after a huge gulp of air, together he and it dive into the icy water.

Draco moves back, admiring his surprisingly adept carving work. After hours of toil and muttered curse words, he has succeeded in shaving and etching into a chunk of one of the trees he ruined with spell-work. Now, it resembles what Draco hoped it would, a miniature Quidditch Pitch, with little bludgers and a snitch, somewhere, flying around the goalposts. Although some of the stands look pretty dodgy, Draco thinks it will do. He's no professional, and for someone who's as much of a philistine as Potter, Draco thinks he will be impressed.

He's only bothered to make two players, himself and Potter, and every now and then his smaller, wooden self aims a bludger at Potter's head. Draco sniggers, casting several last charms just in case, and then places it noticeably on the kitchenette table, where Potter will be sure not to miss it when he walks in.

Draco feels rather smug, thinking it'll be as good of an apology as any, and in a moment of sheer Slytherin cunning, he decides to levitate all the wood scraps over onto the bunk where Weasley used to sleep. The ginger oaf will probably never even find Draco's peace offering, but it's the thought that counts, and Draco smirks to himself with satisfaction as he paces back and forth, deliberating over going outside to get Potter, or waiting until he comes inside himself.

He takes a step forward, a step back, and then determinedly marches out of the tent. Draco's voice dies in his throat, however, when he sees that Potter isn't there. He isn't anywhere, and after calling out several times Draco begins to panic. It's like that moment on Christmas Eve, in the graveyard, only so much worse, because now Draco can't see Potter anywhere, and it feels as though someone has come along and torn out a piece of his soul, and strung it up somewhere just out of reach.

"Potter!?" Draco's voice breaks, his body flooding with fear, because he can't find Harry Potter, and never before has he felt so lost.

Harry swims with his arm outstretched, thinking each stroke will be the last one, but the pool seems to be never ending, and as Harry starts to run out of breath he thinks maybe it is a hoax after all. But then his fingers touch cool, hard metal, and he extends them to wrap around the hilt just as a sharp tugging pulls him backwards.

He's choking, he can't breathe, and maybe after everything, Harry Potter will meet his end from drowning in the middle of the forest. He struggles, his arms and legs flailing as his hands fly to his neck, where the chain of the locket bites into his flesh, as though it senses the thing which has the power to destroy it, and is trying to get as far away as possible.

The water is crushing down on him, filling his lungs and freezing him from the inside out, and Harry thinks that each gulp will be his last, only to be met with the next one.

But then all of a sudden he's going up up up, someone lifting him out of the water, and behind Harry's tightly shut eyelids, he imagines Draco Malfoy, coming to save him once more.

Harry's hands and knees hit the icy ground as he coughs and splutters, water bubbling out of his mouth. He scrabbles for his glasses, shoves them onto his nose, and with a painful exhale of relief, looks up into the face of Ron Weasley.

"Ron?" Harry's voice is a chafing gasp, and the water beaded on his eyelashes makes it hard to make out Ron's expression. In one hand he holds the Sword of Gryffindor, and in the other, Salazar's locket, swinging as though pleased about almost strangling Harry.

Someone falls to their knees beside Harry, and immediately he feels something soft and warm cover his back — a cloak. "Oh — Harry — what were you thinking?"

Hermione Granger's hand pushes wet hair from Harry's face, before she waves her wand a fraction and Harry is blanketed by a drying charm.

He has gone through this moment so many times in his head, that now it doesn't feel real, and all the things he thought he would say have escaped him. Mechanically, Harry gets to his feet, tugs on his clothing, and without a word hands Hermione back her cloak.

Her honey-coloured eyes look at him sadly in the darkness, full of a warmth just waiting to appear should Harry choose to accept it. Harry clears his throat, looks at Ron, freckles a stark contrast to his paleness, his mouth uneven with guilt. Something's changed in the foundation of his best mate's face, as though instead of weeks, it's been years since Harry last saw him. He seems older, wiser, and the part of Harry which isn't sore from their leaving him becomes curious.

"The doe? That was you?" Harry asks, noticing the way Hermione's shoulders slump in reassurance, no doubt thinking Harry is willing to forgive them after all. Harry thinks he forgave them as soon as they left, but he isn't about to let them know that.

"We… we thought that was you, Harry?" Hermione's tentative, and she moves a little closer as Harry shakes his head.

"My patronus is a stag, not a doe."

Ron frowns, and Harry sees him give Hermione a look which is warmer than any Harry has seen before in his sky blue eyes. Briefly, he wonders what happened after they left, and more importantly, he wonders what they'd do if they knew what he and Malfoy shared in their absence.

There's a silence, thick and heavy, as Harry glances off into the trees, wondering where the conjurer of his guide is now.

"I'm sorry, mate," Ron says softly, "I felt bad as soon as I left — I really did. I was gonna come back, only I — well I ran into some Snatchers. S'where 'Mione found me, actually, bloody brilliant, she is." There's that look again, but Hermione returns it this time. It makes Harry's stomach feel slightly sick, like it used to after he ate too many sweets hidden beneath his floorboards at the Dursley's.

"Snatchers?" Harry asks, interested, despite his agreement with himself to act offended.

"They go after muggleborns and take them to the Ministry," Hermione says with quiet disgust.

Harry nods, unsurprised there'd be such a thing these days. "How'd you find him, then?"

Hermione turns nervous, swapping her weight from foot to foot. She looks reproachfully at Ron, who nods his head in encouragement. "Please, don't be mad, Harry, but I — I had a feeling something awful might happen, that Malfoy might try and do something to — to Ron. So I put a tracking spell on him, just in case he was ever —"

"Incase Malfoy botched him off, you mean?" Harry tastes bitterness in his mouth as he scowls at her, then at Ron, "how's it feel, then, to know that never happened — that it wouldn't have happened. After all, in case you've forgotten, you two were the ones who left me, not Malfoy, you."

Hermione chews her lip, averts her eyes, and Harry can't bring himself to feel guilty for being the reason tears glisten there. Ron frowns at Harry, "we're back now, that's what matters, right?"

"Yeah, I guess. Meanwhile I almost got bloody well eaten by a giant snake —"

Hermione sucks in a breath as Ron asks, "Was it You-know-Who's?"

"Yes, and oh, did I mention, it was Malfoy who was there to get me out alive." Neither of them say anything, but when Harry turns to Hermione there's a strange spark of knowing behind her eyes. "Then we spent hours waiting around in the cold, only for no one to turn up," he adds sourly, uncomfortable beneath her gaze.

The word Loyalty spins around in Harry's head as Hermione says pleadingly, "Harry, we were going to come — we were — but the Aurors were tipped off about a Death Eater attack, and it was too dangerous to —"

"Aurors? What Aurors?"

"We've been staying at one of the Order's safe zones, like a camp kinda thing. Bill was there, Remus too." Ron looks at Harry meaningfully, but Harry only clenches his fists, the feeling of being left out of something important weighing down in his chest.

"Really? Pity you had to come back then, isn't it?"

"Actually, we —" Hermione pauses, glances at Ron, who jerks his head for her to go on, "We wanted to bring you back with us, Harry."

"No," Harry says in reflex, not needing a single second to make up his mind.

"Told you he'd take it well," Ron mutters.

"It's the safest place we could possibly be, Harry. There's food, and familiar faces, and —"

"And what about the horcruxes?" Harry asks, his voice dark.

Hermione swallows, "Remus said we'd be able to come and go as we please. He said they wouldn't ask us questions." They share a look, and Harry knows that she's thinking about the scene in the kitchen, all that time ago.

Harry takes a shaky breath, before asking the thing which matters most, "And Malfoy?"

Is he welcome? Will they lock him up like last time, interrogate him until he bleeds?

Harry's teeth bite into his tongue as neither of his friends answer.

"It's a great place, mate," Ron says after a while.

Harry doesn't doubt it, but a place without Malfoy is no place at all.

Draco Malfoy stands with his back to a tree trunk, the cold bark stabbing into his spine as he scowls into the night.

He takes long, deep breaths, trying to decide what he should do. And as much as he wants to hear what Potter says next, he forces himself to leave, to stride silently away until he eventually makes it into the tent.

He doesn't move for a few moments, his fingers curling at his sides while the stillness of the air settles in all around him. The Golden Trio have been reunited, and Draco doesn't think he will ever be able to have a place among them.

His eyes land on the wood carving he made for Potter, and suddenly he is overcome by a heavy weight in his stomach, and a biting taste in his mouth. Draco firms his jaw, walks towards it, and raises his wand.

"No," Harry says again, with more conviction. "I'm not going."

"Harry — I'm sure there'll be some place else where Malfoy will be able to go. Can't you see this is much bigger than whatever it is you think you owe him?"

"You don't understand —"

"'Mione, drop it. We knew he'd be like this."

Harry rounds on Ron, furious, "Why'd you come back, then!?"

"Because," Ron, Harry realises, isn't yelling back, and while this is both bizarre and unfamiliar, it also makes Harry feel immature. "We thought you'd see reason, we —"

"We missed you, Harry," Hermione intervenes, and Harry's anger deflates, melts away as he sighs and rakes a hand through his knotted hair.

"We need to get the Horcruxes," Harry says with tired resignation, "that's our main priority. Later — we'll talk about it later."

His friends look about as convinced as Harry feels by his own statement, and Ron, rather than Hermione, bites the corner of his lip as though restraining his need to argue.

Harry looks between them, the two people who have stuck by him through everything, the two people who left, returned, and will now disrupt the fragile bond he and Malfoy have built. And while Harry is apprehensive about what is to come, his love for Ron and Hermione begins to shine through.

"I, er, I'm glad you're both safe." It's barely out of Harry's mouth before Hermione's arms are wound tightly around his neck, and Ron's hand is on his shoulder, squeezing, while Hermione sobs into Harry's jumper.

They make their way back to the camp, Harry's thoughts distracted momentarily from Malfoy as Ron tells him about the deluminator, how Dumbledore's gift proved useful in finding Harry when it was too dangerous for them to get another message to him.

Harry doesn't tell them too much about Godric's Hollow, because it reminds him of Malfoy creating a wreath of white roses for James and Lily Potter, it reminds him of Malfoy's hand, warm and soft in his own. But most of all it reminds Harry that he shouldn't be thinking about Malfoy at all, because he's a secret Harry will no longer be able to indulge in, not anymore, and he thinks knowing that shouldn't hurt so much, but it does.

With a concerned expression, Hermione says they're now out of fake galleons, and if they get separated again, things might get tricky. Harry shakes his head, grinds his teeth, because he won't let that happen, not again.

As soon as the tent is in sight, Ron falters off into silence, and Harry doesn't bother stopping to listen as Hermione whispers something into Ron's ear. He catches a 'please' and 'make things worse' and thinks he gets the gist of it.

The first thing Harry sees as he ducks into the tent is Malfoy standing at the table. His arm drops to his side as he swivels and stares at Harry, his eyes a strange grey mixture of guilt and irritation. Harry gets a brief glimpse of something resembling a bunch of sticks, before his eyes dart suspiciously back to Malfoy.

"What's that?" Harry asks, forgetting his decision about not speaking to the blond until he apologised, not to mention, the more important thing Harry should be telling him, that two of Malfoy's most hated Gryffindors are about to rejoin them.

"Nothing," Malfoy says too quickly to be considered casual, and with a hurried side-step he blocks Harry's view of the table. Then Malfoy's eyes flash over Harry's shoulder, towards the tent entrance, as though he expects somebody to walk through any second.

Harry's eyes narrow, "What're you doing?"

"Nothing, Potter, and to answer your next question, nothing."

Before Harry can respond, Ron and Hermione step inside and hover a little behind him. Harry can't see their faces, but he can see Malfoy's, his glare neutral but assessing, and he thinks that if he were to stick out his tongue, he'd be able to taste the tension in the air.

Harry opens his mouth to say something, he doesn't know what, but Malfoy gets there first.

"Granger… Weasley." It's just two words, their last names, but somehow it contains six years of animosity, barely concealed beneath a badly polished veneer of politeness.

Draco glares at Potter's friends, trying to convince himself the hatred he feels has more to do with blood than it does with jealousy.

Granger looks at him with a curiosity she would no doubt reserve for an ancient book on wizarding fungi, while Weasley stares somewhere above Draco's forehead, as though if he tries hard enough he'll be able to pretend that Draco isn't there. If the Weasel has enough brains to change tactic from his previous red faced rage and splutters, Draco knows he can play a new card too, and with a raised brow and an amused smirk, he crosses his arms over his chest, purposefully holding his wand in plain sight.

Potter is the only one giving Draco the kind of glower he expected, although he thinks it's still a remanent from the argument they had earlier, an argument who's apology sits disfigured behind Draco's back.

"Harry," Granger says, placing a hand on Potter's arm which Draco eyes with distaste, "Ron and I will take first watch. You should get some rest." She pulls on Weasley's coat, guides him outside, and Draco has a second to frown in disbelief when he sees what can only be the sword of Gryffindor, hanging by Weasley's side, before Granger pauses and says over her shoulder, "It's good to see you, Draco."

It's forced, false, and makes Draco wish he had something heavy to throw at her head, but before he can tell her so she and her ginger pet have already disappeared, and Draco has only a second to put his arms out to defend himself as Potter comes barrelling towards him, desperate to see what Draco's hiding from him.

Draco growls as they scuffle, hands pushing Potter's chest back as Potter tries to use his weight to shove Draco to the side. "Piss — off — Potter," Draco manages through his teeth as he sends Potter stumbling back.

Potter huffs, his eyes a livid green, "I thought you weren't talking to me, Malfoy?"

"I'm not," Draco snarls, glaring at Potter's tousled hair, just begging for Draco to touch it.

"Well, then, what's the matter? Have anything more to say about loyalty?"

The word catches Draco off guard, and then Potter makes a darting motion towards the table. Draco snags his arm, jerks him backwards, and suddenly they are nose to nose. Potter's fury radiates off him in hot waves — thrilling and arousing — ensnaring Draco in its warmth until he can't take it anymore, and then with sudden, brutal force, Draco kisses him.

It's rougher than anything they have shared before, and Draco pours every amount of his burning jealousy into the kiss, his teeth and tongue scraping across Potter's lips until a burst of coppery blood lands on his tastebuds.

Something hard and cold collides into Draco's jaw, and his head snaps back before he realises with bruising clarity that Harry Potter has punched him.

Draco blinks away his numb surprise, notices the bright redness over Potter's bottom lip, the tiny cut where he has bitten too hard, and finally Potter's bewildered expression, the hint behind his eyes that tells Draco he deserved it.

Breathless, Draco raises a hand to his throbbing jaw, too confused to say anything other than, "Fuck you, Potter."

Potter's nostrils flare a little as he wipes the blood from his chin, and then with an equal amount of defiance and hesitance, Potter says, "Yeah? Maybe you should try it sometime."

He turns away, follows his pathetic friends outside and leaves Draco to simmer with red cheeks and a stomachful of envy. He sends another blast of magic at the already ruined Quidditch Pitch, and then scrubs angrily at his face.

Pushing his too-long hair from his eyes and trying to steady his heartbeat, Draco attempts to ignore the desperate hope pounding in his chest, begging for Potter to be serious.

Chapter Text

"What happened to your lip, mate?" Ron asks, his eyes landing on Harry from across the crackling glow of the camp fire. The tattered locket lies beside him, the piece of Voldemort it contained now destroyed, and amongst the three of them the atmosphere has lightened.

"Er — just Malfoy being a bastard."

Ron nods as though this is a piece of factual information worthy of an encyclopaedia, and then gazes into the fire, the flames making his hair appear twice as vibrant.

Hermione, however, doesn't stop staring at Harry, until he squirms and purposefully admires a piece of dirt beneath his fingernail. He gives up, hisses at her, "What?"

Hermione blinks, shakes her head a little, her bushy curls bobbing on her shoulders as she replies, "nothing… You look quite well, Harry, considering…" She trails off, clears her throat, waiting for him to fill in the gaps. Harry doesn't know what to say to her, doesn't know what he can tell her that won't give away his newfound lust for Malfoy.

Hermione Granger is an observant person, to the point where it sometimes makes Harry uncomfortable, and all he can do is try and act as normal as possible and hope that he passes for someone who most definitely isn't gay, and who is glad his two best friends have returned.

Hermione's wrong, though, Harry doesn't feel well at all. He feels testy and restless, wondering what the hell happened with Malfoy an hour ago, and why, despite its near violence, it left him so hot and bothered, aching for more.

He gets to his feet, figuring he'll try and sleep it off, and eager to get away from Hermione's continual curious glances, he says, "Wake me up when you want," and disappears into the tent.

The lights are off, and Harry fills with disappointment after fumbling around for a while and realising Malfoy has moved whatever it was he was hiding on the table.

He sighs to himself, chucks his coat and jumper in a random direction which he knows will annoy Malfoy in the morning, Hermione too, and then swaps his jeans for sweatpants. Then he just stands there in the darkness, thinking this is probably why Malfoy chose the bottom bunk, so Harry could break his leg on the way up to the top without a light.

He decides to cast lumos, which he wouldn't normally do for fear of waking the dragon, but right now he isn't particularly concerned about ticking off Malfoy. The softness of Harry's wand light illuminates the bunk, and Harry's eyes immediately fly to a sleeping Malfoy, hair strewn all about the pillow, one arm bent up above his head.

Harry's mouth goes dry and his heart begins to speed up, because seeing this is a painful reminder of what can't be possible anymore, what ended just as Malfoy was willing to give in. It's a shitty, inconvenient truth, to know that there isn't the slightest chance of Ron and Hermione finding out without Harry having to scrape pieces of Malfoy off the tent in the aftermath.

Harry knows this undoubtedly, but it still makes him want to scream in frustration, still makes him unable to move from where he stands, fighting every inch of his body which begs for him to have one last touch, one last taste.

He loses the battle, and with a glance over his shoulder at the tent entrance, Harry extinguishes his wand and slips into bed with Malfoy.

Draco jerks awake as a warm body moulds around his own. A familiar calloused thumb swipes under the hem of his shirt, and Draco lets out a startled gasp, "Potter?"

Potter doesn't reply — and Draco knows it is Potter, because it sure as fuck isn't Weasley — he only clamps his lips over the junction between Draco's neck and shoulder, sucks and licks at the flesh until Draco has to snap his teeth shut over a groan. "What the fuck are you doing?"

Potter snorts softly, buries his nose in Draco's hair and inhales, grazes his teeth over the corner of Draco's jaw. "You," Potter replies, and Draco bites down on his lip as Potter's fingers delve into his pants and wrap around his stiffening cock.

Potter's hand pumps once, twice, and again until Draco is hard and leaking, the friction so warm and delicious it makes him whimper. Potter's own arousal is pressing into Draco's arse, and in a gesture so desperate and wanton, Draco pushes back until Potter has to smother a moan against Draco's shoulder. He does it again, relishes in the way Potter thrusts forwards and tightens his hold on Draco's cock.

Draco isn't as talented at controlling his own noises of approval, and as he lets out a guttural sound after Potter moves his hand lower to cup Draco's balls, Potter has to rasp at him to shut up.

Draco wishes he could, but then Potter begins to jerk him off without restraint, shoving his own cock against Draco's ass in time with his movements. Draco thinks he is going to cry out, and maybe Potter thinks so too, because suddenly his other arm snakes beneath Draco's head and curves around to cover Draco's mouth.

Draco knows the exact moment Potter loses himself, because he squeezes Draco so tightly the pleasure borders on pain, and his body sags into Draco's back. A second later Draco follows him, panting muffled against Potter's forearm as he comes helplessly in Potter's hand.

Draco tries to make his voice work, to ask Potter if he's deranged, doing such a thing with his friends right outside — not that Draco can bring himself to care right now — but as soon as he opens his mouth Potter is sliding out of the bed, leaving Draco to catch his breath, and to clean himself up with a frown.

"What's it like?" Harry asks, his step somewhat cheerful, even though his heart has been clenching all morning, distressed that last night was most likely his final opportunity for physical contact with Malfoy, and he didn't even snog him. His stomach is warm, though, from one of Hermione's perfect cups of tea, and it helps keep his mind on track as he and Ron walk further into the woods, looking for any kind of food they can find. "The Auror camp?"

"Huge," Ron says enthusiastically. Harry doesn't want Ron to think he's changed his mind, but he's dying to know about it. "S'not so much a camp — more like a base. They move 'round a lot though, safety reasons — y'know. Used to be in an abandoned muggle industrial zone, I heard, but then the Death Eaters got in."

Harry nods, boots kicking up bramble as he walks.

"Now they're set up in a load of underground railroads that muggles haven't finished building yet. They've got loads of spells on them, so whenever the muggles come down to finish work, they'll turn round and leave, thinkin' there'll be a landslide or somethin'. S'pretty cool, although there's not much to see from the outside. Me and 'Mione spent most of our time helping with plans and stuff, anyway —"

"Plans? What plans?" Harry slows his step to match Ron's.

"Entry and exit plans for Death Eater safe houses — we were trying to clear them all out. Moody figured Harry Potter's best friends would know a thing or two…" There's undertones of sullenness in Ron's voice, and the hatred of being important because of who you know, instead of who you are, hangs like an ugly taunt between them.

Harry searches for something to say, and suddenly remembers what Remus said, so long ago, about Moody being in charge of Malfoy. "Moody was there?" He asks, but he hardly hears Ron's response, because he realises wherever his friends have been was where Malfoy was held captive, tortured for information, by the people who Harry is supposed to call allies.

Harry now knows why Malfoy isn't able to go back there, why he wouldn't be accepted, and for that reason Harry knows why he won't go there himself, even if that means lying to his two best friends.

By the time he tunes back into what Ron's saying, he hears, "— Bill said Fleur's doing well. He's got her safe somewhere by the sea, out of the country." Ron talks about his parents, says they're doing okay too, from what Bill told him, and when Harry smiles they both know it's genuine.

"That's great," He says sincerely, and when Ron looks at him, his blue gaze is full of meaning, and through something unspoken he tells Harry that he is sorry.

Draco jumps, almost drops the book into his lap that he's read time and time again, as Granger thumps a particularly daunting stack of hardbacks onto the table in front of him.

To Draco's horror, she then proceeds to take the seat opposite him, picks off the book at the top of the pile, and then opens it to the front page. Without looking up, she says, "When you've finished with that book, I'd like to check something important. And, well — If it's reading material you're after, I've plenty here." She makes a vague gesture to the tower of books, threatening to topple over at any moment.

Draco scans the titles on the spines with what he hopes looks like lack of interest, but when he moves his gaze back to Granger, she's watching him carefully. Draco frowns at her until she darts her eyes back to her book, and then after a second's deliberation he flips to the first page of 'the Three Brothers.'

"Something to do with this, by chance?" He slides it across the table to her, the little triangular symbol peering up at them, and hastily withdraws his hand as her own comes up to grab at it eagerly.

"Yes — how'd you—" She breaks off, staring at him, no doubt realising she's just expressed excitement in the face of a Malfoy

Draco nearly resists the urge to roll his eyes, and huffs a dramatic sigh. "Evidently, Potter's brain is so full of trivialities that he's forgotten to tell you. We saw that symbol on a gravestone in his home town."

Granger narrows her eyes at him, and Draco thinks it's because of his half-hearted jab at Potter, but then she says, somewhat quietly, "I haven't had much of a chance to talk with Harry." Draco doesn't know if she's talking to herself, or to him, not that he cares, so he simply lifts a brow in nonchalance, thinking that when he was extremely busy not staring at Potter, he did notice that Scarhead seemed to be intent on ignoring Granger, for whatever reason. Earlier, Potter took the offered tea from her and gulped it down before hastily scurrying after Weasley into the woods — much to Draco's incensed irritation. What's even more insufferable is that since waking up, Potter has tried his best to avoid Draco too, and would begin talking loudly to Weasley whenever Draco so much as looked in his direction. Again, all this Draco has learnt from not staring at Potter, not at all, not one tiny bit.

Draco is somewhat thankful when Granger pulls him out of his musings by humming thoughtfully and saying, "On a grave, you said?"

Draco nods, crossing his arms on the table, "Peverell. Know it?"

Granger shakes her head, frowning down at the page. "It's so bizarre, I haven't been able to find this symbol in any of my ancient rune books, not even a History of —"

"Oh the horror, something The Gryffindor Know-it-all doesn't know." Draco says sarcastically, wondering when Granger will leave him alone. She tilts her head, eyeing him sceptically. "What?" Draco snaps.

"You've changed, Malfoy." She says it wonderingly, and suddenly Draco has the desire to vomit.

"Your point?"

"That is my point. It's a good thing, in case you didn't know."

"Oh, piss off, Granger."

Her lips clamp shut, but instead of pursing in disapproval, they twitch a little at the corners. Draco moves to get up, thinking if she won't leave, he will, but then Granger sighs in defeat and rises, pockets her book of fairytales which Draco stares after morosely, and then freezes in the midst of walking away.

Her eyes are locked onto the side of Draco's neck, and it takes one second, two, for his eyes to darken, and for a growl to slip from his throat at the same time his hand flies up to cover what he knows must be a hickey. It's too late, Granger's eyes are wide with understanding, and before Draco can curse and shout, she's gone.

Harry sends Ron back to the camp with pockets crammed full of walnuts, while he stays back amongst the small thicket of trees, collecting what nuts he can still find littered amongst the dirt. The snowfall must have helped preserve them, Harry thinks as he examines some suspicious looking black spots dotted across the shell of one.

He tosses it into the bushes, reaches for the next one, and is abruptly hauled to his feet by someone urgent, warm and smelling strongly of Draco Malfoy.

Harry sees a flash of platinum hair before he is shoved against the nearest tree, breath knocked out of him upon impact. Before he can even speak, Malfoy's lips are on his throat, biting and sucking and laving with his tongue, and Harry can only make a desperate croaking sound and listen as Malfoy whispers into his ear, "You're a dick, Potter. Did you know?"

Harry tries to nod, but doesn't have much room within the non-existent space between their bodies. "Believe — you — told me — once before." Malfoy's eyes blaze, gunmetal grey, as he takes in Harry's dishevelled state. Their lips hover millimetres apart, but Harry daren't close the gap, because within whatever game they have started of give and take, Malfoy has the next move.

The hand on Harry's chest dips lower until it palms suggestively at his crotch, and god, Harry knows he is practically hard from Malfoy's closeness alone, but this — Malfoy's hand on his erection, makes him suck in a breath and hope to whatever deity is listening that Ron does not choose this moment to return.

But then Malfoy withdraws, drops to his knees, and then with deft, yet shaky movements he unzips Harry's jeans, pulls Harry's cock out of his boxers, and Harry just stands there, willing his legs not to give out as Malfoy does something gloriously unimaginable.

Draco didn't mean to be where he is now, he really didn't — he only meant to jump on Potter, to scare him when he least expected it, and to then leave a mark as obvious as the one Potter left on him — the one Granger noticed. He succeeded, enjoying the purple bruises blossoming below Potter's ear, but he couldn't stop himself, had to see if Potter was as hard and wanting as he deserved to be for leaving Draco hanging, and fuck, he was.

Now, Draco is on his knees on the cold ground, staring disbelievingly at the length of Harry Potter's hard cock, and while part of him is scared shitless, the other part of him is going mad with the need to taste.

He doesn't know how to do this — doesn't know what to do with his hands or his mouth, but he lets his instinct, along with Potter's lust-laden groans and gasps, guide him.

The first swipe of his tongue has Potter tentatively touching Draco's temple, wordlessly begging for more.

Draco, encouraged, traces the underside with his fingers, lets them curl at the base as his lips mould around the head of Potter's cock —

"Fuck — Draco — I—" Potter loses coherency, tangles his hands through Draco's hair and pulls, drags him closer. Draco gags, chokes, and his mouth slips away with a hot gasp. "Shit — sorry…"

Draco has decided he hates to hear the word 'sorry' on Potter's lips, and vows to himself that after he finishes this — because he will finish it— he will never let Potter say it to him again. With a growl he slams his hands on Potter's hips, leaves one to hold him in place against the tree, while the other goes back to Potter's cock, pulling the taut, soft skin at the same time his mouth moves down to try again.

Draco uses his tongue, slow licks with confident jerks of his hand, to make Potter come apart. Potter's fingers linger gently on Draco's cheeks, stroking his jaw, pushing the hair away from Draco's face as he gets bolder, sucks Potter into his mouth and aches with his own desire while Potter trembles and pants.

Draco is desperate enough to rub himself against Potter's leg, to alleviate some of the throbbing need between his thighs, and as Potter swears and mumbles something senseless Draco moans around Potter's cock, taking in the musky smell, the delicious taste of masculinity and sweat that is entirely Potter.

Somewhere in the back of his mind, Draco knows there is a part of him that should be appalled, but he can't find it, he can only wonder at how marvellous it is to know he's making Potter feel this good, how wonderful it is when Potter calls him Draco — Draco and not Malfoy — as though, in the height of his pleasure, he is unable to make the connection between Draco and the Death Eater, between Malfoy and the Mark.

Potter is tugging at his hair again, and judging by the pulsing against his tongue, Draco guesses he is close. Draco doesn't know if he is ready to swallow, even though the idea makes him dizzy and hot, he is still new to this, as is Potter, and hell, Draco doesn't even know if Potter wants him to swallow.

But then Potter goes boneless against his support and breathes out brokenly, "Malfoy — s-stop, I'm — I—" And it is because of the Malfoy, and the craving to be Draco instead, that he doesn't stop, that he hollows his cheeks, sucks and swallows until Potter sends every last drop of his release down Draco's throat. It's strange and salty and somehow perfect. And when Draco finally looks up, it is into eyes so dark the green is barely distinguishable from the black, and something within Draco just burns.

He pulls slowly back, Potter's spent cock slipping from his lips, but Draco can't look away from Potter's eyes, can't escape the scorching realisation that he would do this again and again, if only to make Potter his. And right now, with the way Potter stares back at him, as though he's unable to look away as well, it is as if Potter wouldn't mind making Draco his either.

And Draco is frightened, because he has never felt the need to possess another person before, to hold them and to cherish them, to be the reason they breathe, never felt that his existence relies solely on someone else being alive. Harry Potter means everything to the world, and somehow he has come to mean the same to Draco, too. And it sickens him. Because Draco is small, insignificant to the scheme of a world fighting a war, a world where who lives and who dies is dependant on Potter, a world without room for Draco Malfoy.

But within this moment, this unwavering connection between steel and moss, Draco has allowed himself to believe that he has a chance, that somewhere beyond the battlefront of a war, there might come a time where heated gropings and forbidden kisses are welcome. Until now, Draco hasn't thought that this is something he wanted. Until now, Draco hasn't thought about an after, about what will happen between him and Potter, no matter which side wins. Until now, Draco hasn't thought that it mattered. But it does. And it sends searing stabs into every inch of his body until he gets to his feet, a sob splintering out from his chest.

The last thing Draco sees before running as far as his legs will carry him is Potter's still-flushed face, and a look of wide-eyed confusion which shatters Draco's restraint, and causes tears to gather on his cheeks.

Harry breaks through the trees and into the wards of their camp, bending over to catch his breath with his hands on his thighs.

Ron pauses from shelling walnuts by the unlit fire and looks at Harry in surprise, "Where've you been?"

Images of Malfoy, wet lips stretched around Harry's cock, his lashes fluttering against his pale skin, have Harry struggling to look as indifferent as possible, and he hopes his burning cheeks will be passed off as exertion from running back to the tent, rather than proof of deviant sexual activities.

He straightens, realising it's taken him too long to answer, and sees Ron frown as he looks between Harry and the walnut he's having some trouble with. Hermione turns from where she sits opposite Ron, and after one glance at Harry she gets to her feet, intent spread across her features.

Harry balks, takes a step back, and regrets it when Hermione's eyes narrow in response. "Er — have either of you seen Malfoy?" He cringes internally when he hears the unevenness of his voice.

"I was talking to him not long ago," Hermione says slowly as she dusts walnut shell shards from her jeans.

"How long ago?" Harry asks quickly, and thinking he's probably wasting time, he moves towards the tent, ignoring the 'why does it matter' look Ron gives him. Much to his chagrin, Hermione follows him, and as soon as the flap swings shut behind her she casts several wordless spells on the entrance, one of which Harry just knows is a silencing charm.

With a sweeping glance and an anxious thudding in his chest, Harry sees that Malfoy isn't in the tent at all, and briefly he contemplates dodging around Hermione and making a run for it, but when he swivels around she has her arms crossed, emitting an aura worthy of Mrs Weasley's most furious howler, and Harry resigns himself to his fate.

"Harry, what's going on?" Despite her stance, her voice is more worried than angry, and Harry is grateful. He wonders if there is even a point to trying to deceive her, because he doesn't think he'll get far at all.

Harry sighs, rubbing his slightly sweaty palms on his jumper, and suddenly remembering the vigorous attention Malfoy payed to his neck, he clears his throat and shuffles on his feet a little in an attempt to angle the left side of his body away from her. Part of Harry is either too idealistic, or just masochistic, because when he opens his mouth it is to say something innocent, and Hermione, probably foreseeing this, cuts in front of him.

"Harry James Potter, if you don't tell me this instant, I swear I'll—"

"Alright! Fine — I'll talk."

Harry doesn't talk, he waits, and Hermione waits too, looking at him expectantly until finally her body drains of impatience, and her arms drop to her side. "I'm worried about you, Harry."

"Well, don't be. I'm —"

"Malfoy's changed."

Harry pauses, the word 'fine' evaporating on his lips. "Er — has he? I haven't noticed." It's a lie, because if Harry has noticed anything in the past few weeks it has been this, but he doesn't think saying so will be of any help to his situation right now.

Hermione shakes her head a little, rolls her eyes, and when she looks back at him there is the sign of familiar affection which she reserves only for him and Ron. "He doesn't swear at me anymore, and he hasn't called me any rotten names, either."

Harry swallows as something suspiciously warm and proud laces through his torso, although he can't say he is as sure when it comes to Ron, because he swears he heard Malfoy let slip the word 'Weasel' before breakfast.

"That's, er, great — I suppose." Harry scratches at his hair, distinctly awkward, and doesn't say anything as Hermione releases a breath of exasperation and then uncovers something Harry hasn't noticed sitting on the table.

Hermione stands back, motions for Harry to look at it, and asks, "Is this yours?"

Harry can't speak, can't say anything, because suddenly there is something hot and uncomfortable wedged in his throat, and if he opens his mouth he fears he'll break apart.

On the table, there's a Quidditch pitch, carved from what looks like hours of work, and a familiar tree which Harry watched Malfoy tear to pieces. His whole body feels warm, as warm as it does when he is pressed right up against Malfoy, their lips dancing over eachother, and now it is obvious what Malfoy was desperate for Harry not to see last night. Harry just can't understand why. Why wouldn't Malfoy want Harry to know about something which is evidently the apology he was too scared to give?

"I — no — where…?" Hermione's watching him, and Harry can't bring himself to care that his voice sounds both hoarse and amazed.

"I found it in pieces, actually, just outside. It took several repairing charms to make it look like how it was supposed to…" Hermione trails off, and Harry heaves in a breath as he notices a small wooden Malfoy figure lodge a bludger into the second player, a player which Harry knows is himself.

Malfoy's gotten the detail down to the bristles on Harry's firebolt, the stitching on the flags, but the tiny lightning bolt, the scar that makes Harry Potter who the world wants him to be, instead of just Harry, is absent. And Harry isn't sure if that's how Malfoy meant it to be, or if he'd just forgotten, but either way, never has a small gesture touched Harry in such a symbolic way.

Maybe he's always thought that to Draco Malfoy, he will be nothing more than a famous boy to hate, Potter, who only ever wants to save the day, but this — Malfoy's apology — proves that even if it were for just a second, Malfoy saw him as Harry. And now Harry understands how important it is for Malfoy to know that Harry sees him as Draco, too, a boy who grins when he casts a patronus correctly, a boy whose smile is worth more than the stars.

Harry gingerly reaches out, traces his finger over the small goalposts, and it takes Hermione to make a small movement in his peripheral vision for Harry to remember he's not alone.

He spins to face her, but whatever he has ready dies on his tongue, because her eyes are sad and wise and full of everything he isn't telling her, and Harry just knows that Hermione Granger has found him out.

He waits for her to tell him that he's insane, that it's got to stop, that Malfoy will corrupt him, but she doesn't, and Harry can't tell if it makes him feel better or worse.

"Oh, Harry…" Her lip quivers, and while there is doubt in her eyes, there is also the unvoiced promise that she will support him in whatever is to come. "I just hope you know what you're doing."

Harry doesn't know what he's doing, not one bit, and if ever there was a moment where he did know, when it comes to Draco Malfoy, he isn't sure that he would have changed anything, even if he knew that what he was getting himself into would end in something dangerous. It's scary, but liberating, knowing that someone he's hated for the most part of his life has always had such control over him.

"You can't tell Ron," he hears himself say, and Hermione makes a noise which speaks of disagreement.

"Harry — Ron would never —"

"No," Harry turns back to the wooden Quidditch pitch, stares at the place where a scar should be, but isn't, "It's because of who he is, not that he's a guy — Ron would never forgive me." Harry clenches his teeth, listens to the heavy silence. "It's too soon," he says softly, because he knows that if Ron were to find out his best friend has a thing for their long-time enemy, things would go to ruin, and they'd never find the Horcruxes in time. If the bloke in question were not Draco Malfoy, then things would most likely be different, because Hermione's right, Ron wouldn't discriminate against Harry's preferences, not unless it was Malfoy.

With effort, Harry forces his gaze away from the wood carving, "Thank you, for fixing it."

Hermione smiles at him tentatively, but despite her hand squeezing encouragingly around his arm, her voice is serious when she whispers, "Just — please be careful. Okay, Harry?"

Harry nods, but he can't help but wonder if she's warning him about Malfoy's loyalties — the possibility of a betrayal, or the future of Harry's heart. If he thinks about it hard enough, he realises that they are one and the same.

She gives him one last squeeze, and then takes down her silencing charms. Harry tenses, remembering the look of anguish across Malfoy's face, the tortured stare in his eyes, before he'd fled from the forest without a word, and suddenly Harry is just as urgent to find him as he was before Hermione interrupted.

He steps in front of her, ambles out of the tent, and is met with the jaw-dropping sight of Draco Malfoy, hunched and concentrated, shelling walnuts beside a very strained looking Ron Weasley.

He hears Hermione make a startled noise behind him, but he doesn't stop walking towards them, caught between the need to kick Malfoy in the head for making him worry, and the even stronger urge to pull him to his feet and snog him senseless.

Both of them look up at Harry's arrival, Ron relieved, and Malfoy decidedly neutral for someone who just had Harry's cock halfway down his throat only a short while ago. Malfoy's eyes glaze over for a second as they land on Harry, but then his expression drops into blankness as he looks away and drawls, "Potter. Come to join us? Whoever does the least nuts has to make dinner for a week." Harry just stares, thinking Malfoy's wording has a lot to be desired, as together with the memory of half an hour ago, they leave him blushing. "Weasley's losing," Malfoy affirms, as though it should be obvious. Ron grunts and aims a glare at Malfoy from the corner of his eyes.

Hermione scoffs over a laugh, and Harry thinks she's a lot better at acting normal than he is. "I like that rule." Harry would too, if he were the one who had to prepare whatever measly forest food the others brought back day after day. But right now, he's desperate to get Malfoy alone, and couldn't care less about bloody nuts — unless, of course, they were Malfoy's.

"Ron," Hermione begins, "can you help me with something?" Harry will be forever thankful for his friend's astounding tact, and as Ron grumbles something about falling behind in the walnut competition, Harry begins to feel a tiny sprig of hope.

"Don't steal from my pile, Malfoy," Ron warns as he stalks after Hermione. With a look back at Harry, he says quietly, "watch him, will you?"

Harry forces a smile, which turns out as more of a grimace, and nods as his two friends disappear into the tent. Harry spares a moment to wonder what excuse Hermione is giving Ron, before he drops onto the log next to Malfoy, their thighs brushing together within the closeness. Harry tries not to feel wounded when Malfoy flinches away, disguising the movement by grabbing another walnut.

Unsure of what to say, Harry copies him, and picks up his own nut. He pulls out his wand, searching for the right spell, when Malfoy's joyless tone says, "There's no spell you can use which doesn't ruin what's inside… At least, that's what Weasley said. Who knows, he might've been taking the piss." Malfoy throws his latest shelled nut onto his pile, which Harry notices is a good deal bigger than Ron's, and then picks up another, something distinctly sulky about his frown.

Harry puts his wand by his feet, and starts prising at the bumpy shell with his blunt fingernails. Malfoy finishes three by the time Harry succeeds with his first, and after hesitating between which pile to add it to, Harry shrugs and drops it into Malfoy's.

Malfoy freezes, the inhale he takes is unsteady, and when he eventually decides it's time to lean forward for a new walnut, his hand is trembling. Harry swallows thickly, the knowledge that Malfoy is just as affected as he is enabling him to reach out and grab Malfoy's wrist, to grasp his hand until Malfoy gives in and meets Harry's eyes.

They're icy calm, yet so uncertain that it tugs at Harry's heartstrings. He doesn't know what he should say, because there are too many things and not enough time, so Harry goes with the only thing that he can trust to be consistent within its inconsistency.


Draco wishes he could fade away, but there is nowhere to hide within the depth of Potter's eyes, so he is left raw and exposed.

And then Potter says his name, and Draco thinks that if he were to only ever hear one thing again for the rest of his life, it would be that, whispered from Potter's lips with the subtlety of a secret.

Potter's hand is warm around his, and all of a sudden Draco wants to put a name to this thing between them, wants to know if Potter's feelings are just as strong and conflicted as his own, but most of all he needs to know if Potter wants Draco to call him Harry, as much as he wants Potter to call him Draco.

Heat rushes to his cheeks, and Draco might have been about to ask when Potter says, "I'm not going anywhere… in case you were wondering."

The Draco of several weeks ago would have tugged his hand away and sneered, would have declared no, he wasn't wondering, would have lied.

But the Draco of today finds himself looking into the honesty caught in every line of Potter's body, and believes him.

They are ripped apart too soon, Potter dropping Draco's hand, when Weasley barges out of the tent, loudly exclaiming, "—s'not broken, 'Mione, and if I don't get back to the nuts then the bloody ferret's gonna win!"

Draco snorts as Potter adds a second nut to his pile, thinking he's already won anyway. Luckily Weasley doesn't catch the traitorous movement, or the way Potter's thigh sits too closely next to Draco's.

Neither of them move away.

Weasley loses the walnut shelling competition with bad grace. He gets a slap on the back and a 'better luck next time, mate' from Potter, and a not-so sympathetic look from Granger. And Draco thinks he wouldn't mind if there is a next time, Weasley's annoying whinging and all, that he would shell all the nuts in the world, if only to witness the lop-sided grin Potter passes in his direction.

It is warm, brief, and meant only for Draco. He burns it to memory.

"Why the fuck are there wood chips in my bed?"

Ron, who slept out by the fire the previous night with Hermione, sounds pretty arsed off. Harry pretends to be asleep, a knowing smirk of amusement playing across his lips in the darkness.

Several hours later, when he still can't sleep, can't think about anything other than the boy below him, he breathes out his new favourite word.

And Draco answers back, softer than a whisper. "Harry…"

His chest tightens pleasantly, and with a smile, Harry falls asleep.

Chapter Text

The snow begins to melt and the air gets warmer, and their days are filled with the kind of conversations they used to have, the ones that took place in front of warm fires and mismatched armchairs — only now they are different, because when Draco Malfoy sits down to listen too, no one tells him he shouldn't be there. At first, Ron makes uncomfortable huffing noises which make Harry want to hit him, but later that night Harry will catch enough hushed words between his two best friends to guess that Hermione is pleading for Ron's forgiveness on Malfoy's behalf, and that blackmail might be involved. The next time Draco sits stiffly by the fire, a little way behind them, pretending he isn't listening but giving himself away by the twitching of his lips when there is talk of improvised Divination homework, Ron acts as though he doesn't mind at all, as though Draco isn't even there.

The next morning, Harry walks up behind Hermione while she's attempting to catch fish by the river. She jumps in fright, her hair looking a little wild as she places a hand over her chest. The fish she may or may not have been close to catching is long gone, but Harry thinks it's worth it for the look on her face.

"Sorry," he grins. He's not sorry at all. He feels quite awkward, but if Hermione had the gall to pressure him into spilling the beans about his own private life, Harry thinks he should do her the honour of repaying the favour. "What'd you say to Ron?" He asks, trying to keep his voice light.

Hermione turns back to the river, but the curve of her cheek is flushed red, and Harry can't help but snort. She sends him an unhappy look which is both indignant and embarrassed, but her voice doesn't waver as she says, "I told him I wouldn't snog him unless he was nice to Draco."

Harry nods, it's as he was expecting, but his amusement isn't enough. "By 'be nice to Draco,' did you mean, 'pretend he's invisible?'"

Hermione chews her lip, shoving a wayward strand of hair behind her ear and frowning at the ground. She resembles a mother who has too many children and can't keep tabs on them all, and although Harry has been trying to keep a serious face, now he cracks, gives her a laugh which has her eyes going from stern to warm.

Later that afternoon, when Ron brings out a small chess set with an expression as though he's been sucking a lemon, and sets it up in front of Draco, Harry shares a look of surprise and knowing with Hermione, who sits knitting something monstrous in the armchair. She glances at him smugly, and then back to her work, a small smile playing on her lips.

It's a muggle chess set, and Harry presumes Ron got it from the Auror base, but Draco doesn't comment, in fact, his breathtakingly beautiful face is free from a sneer, and Harry knows that even if he may not say it, Draco is trying too. Harry hasn't had to bribe him with kisses, because those they share always follow sly touches and the brushing of fingers, when Ron and Hermione are away from camp. Sometimes they precede a hurried, fumbling, hot mess of hands and tongues and thrusts, until both of them are sticky and panting, pink-faced and avoiding eachother's gazes like guilty school boys. Harry looks away because he is scared that Draco will see something more than an outlet for lust reflected in his eyes, and because in Draco's eyes, Harry is scared of that being all there is.

Harry thinks a lot about the gift Draco made him, but he doesn't say anything. Maybe he's waiting for the right moment, or for the evidence of a reason within Draco's guarded eyes, so until then, Harry keeps it hidden in the depths of Hagrid's moleskin pouch, locked away in his heart.

 Draco takes Weasley's rook with his knight. It's a pain to have to move the pieces by hand, and Draco is beginning to wonder why muggles bother living at all, when their whole lives seem to be made up of painstakingly slow movements and primitive choices.

Weasley grumbles and mutters something that sounds like 'cheating bastard' under his breath, and Draco is just about to roll his eyes and come up with a retort when he catches Harry watching him from the bottom bunk.

It reminds him of that first chess game, the one interrupted by painful truths and the realisation that his life would never be the same again. Draco clenches his teeth, wills his cheeks not to burn beneath Harry's gaze, and narrows his eyes at Weasley's next move.

"Not bad, Weasley." Perhaps Draco isn't aware that he's spoken at all until he looks up to see three stunned expressions staring at him. Weasley's is most disconcerting of all, pale and twisted, as if he doesn't know whether to shout or pass out. All of a sudden, he shakes himself, and the glare he would normally reserve for the top of Draco's head meets his eyes this time.

As Draco lowers his eyes back to the board, he is met with the perfect chance to obliterate Weasley's queen, but as he raises his hand something stops him. Prolonging the game is the last thing on Draco's mind, but for some bizarre and unsettling reason, Draco thinks it would be better if just this once, he lets Weasley win. Because if Draco were to end the game so soon after his unintended compliment, he'd come off as patronising, and on the scale between his and Weasley's mutual dislike, perhaps Draco owes him compensation for the nut shelling contest.

So instead he goes for the bishop. It isn't so much of a blundering move to be obvious, but Weasley still whistles lowly, and Draco suspects he'd been planning something with it. The queen still stands, however, the centre warrior in the gruelling battle of chess, and when Draco feels a certain intensity digging into him, he looks up to realise that his move of dignity has not gone unnoticed by Harry's green stare.

His teeth clench as he hurriedly averts his eyes, suddenly wanting to get as far as way as possible from the Boy-Who-Makes-His-Heart-Falter.

"Hurry up," Draco snaps.

Weasley's train of thought — if there ever was one to begin with — derails, and he glowers at Draco moodily. "You're one to talk. You take bloody ages with your moves."

Draco huffs, but the fact this is the longest sentence Weasley has said to him since returning does not slip his attention. "Yes, well, you didn't have pressing matters to attend to," Draco mutters. Pressing matters, such as escaping Harry's presence before he can pressure you into feeling like a saint, Draco finishes in his head, wishing Weasley would just check mate him already.

Weasley snorts, "Pressing matters? Like what? Going to go slick your hair back with tree sap, Malfoy?" His voice is more mocking than hostile, but it still makes Draco uncomfortable.

Harry laughs, short yet deep, and Draco scowls, thinking he wouldn't mind being jeered at by Weasley as long as that was the reward, and if he didn't feel such a strong wave of jealousy at not being the one to cause it.

Draco growls, unnerved not only because he is low on derisive retorts, but because suddenly Harry has decided to move from his far-off spectating position to the bench beside Draco. Their knees bump together beneath the table, and Draco is so distracted that he nearly misses Weasley's attempt to herd his last knight into a corner.

Draco spares a side-long glance at Harry, who looks enthralled by their game, and entirely too amused for his own good, his glasses low on his nose and a smile tugging at his lips.

Draco smothers a sigh as he deliberates his next move, and is just about to make a particularly good one when he feels something warm apply pressure on his thigh. Draco's eyes widen and he stutters out a breath as Harry's hand slides along the inner seam of his jeans, higher and higher by the second.

"Hurry up," Weasley mimics, in a very unflattering impression of Draco, but Draco hardly notices, he's too busy trying not to give away his sudden state of nervous arousal. He fails, simply taking a pawn and being subjected to Weasley's scoff, and then the game continues, everyone supposedly unaware that right now Harry is feeling Draco up beneath the table.

Draco loses the game, and as soon as Granger and Weasley leave the camp to find something edible, Draco launches himself at Harry, and in a flurry of clinking belt buckles and wet kisses, they finish what was started.

 "How are you liking it?"

Granger sits across from where Draco sprawls on his bunk, perched on the edge of Weasley's mattress, hands in her lap. It's far enough, but still too close that it somehow gets beneath Draco's skin.

It takes him a second to realise she's asking about the book he's holding. "It's alright," Draco says slowly, unsure whether to look at the page or at Granger. She lifts her brow a little, a wordless enquiry that seems to say, 'is that it?'

"It's a bit soppy," Draco continues, hoping that's enough to send Granger away from him.

Apparently, it isn't, because Granger scoffs, sounding quite exasperated, and for a moment Draco wonders whether he has wounded her taste in literature. "It is not."

"Oh, please," Draco begins, shuffling up on his elbows to gesture with his hands, "You can't honestly believe that any man in his right mind would go so far as to do all that for a woman who supposedly hates him."

"People have done less for love, Draco." Granger says primly, and Draco believes that yes, he has offended her. He wonders if he should care or not.

Draco snorts, rolling his eyes, "Well clearly, that's not love. It's obsession."

"It's just a book, you know," Granger retorts, although there's something bright behind her eyes that has Draco fearing just a little for his safety.

"Indeed. A book where every character has a shit load of problems they just need to get the hell over. The eldest sister's alright I suppose, but naive to the point where I want to throw the book into a sinkhole. The protagonist is incredibly stupid, judging someone for their wealth and manners, honestly —" Draco cuts off, narrows his eyes at Granger's pointed look, and suddenly a few things make a lot of sense. He growls. "Choose this one for any particular reason, Granger?"

She widens her eyes innocently, but Draco can detect a faint pinkness to her cheeks as she replies, "It's nothing more than a light and comical romance, Draco. Why did you choose it? There were plenty of other books in the pile."

Draco grits his teeth, because somehow she has caught him out, and he hates it. "The title seemed interesting, is all." He doesn't know why he finds the need to explain himself to her, when all Draco wants is for her to bugger off so he can finish the book. He clears his throat, but somehow his mouth opens and he is speaking before he has time to close it. "Is she going to accept his proposal?"

There's silence, and then a laugh, and dammit all, because Draco has ended up making a fool of himself, and the last thing he wants Granger to think is that he's eager to find out what happens in a romance novel — a muggle romance novel. Because he isn't. Not one bit.

"I could tell you, but then what would be the point of reading it?"

Granger stands, and Draco just scowls at the page until he realises she hasn't moved, that she's hovering awkwardly between the bunks. "It's nice — having someone to talk to about books, I mean. Harry and Ron don't read much."

Draco only has a second to conclude that the 'much' is an overstatement, before the impact of what she's just said hits him like an out-of-control bludger, and he looks up, his eyes just as startled as Granger's seem to be. Perhaps she hasn't meant to say it, but it is still there, hanging between them like something an awful lot like a truce, and Draco is left to decide whether or not he wants to take hold of it.

And maybe it is for Harry's sake, maybe everything he does is for Harry's sake, but Draco grips it by the end, tentatively, with a wariness that makes him flinch, and says, "Good luck getting them to read this rot." His tone lacks everything which has been normal between them, it lacks pride, and it lacks prejudice, and Granger smiles, and for a very brief moment it is as if she can see right through him.

Then she is gone, and Draco is left to shake his head and contemplate what the fuck just happened, and wonder why instead of feeling disconcerted about it, he is intrigued.


Draco twitches, thinking he's imagined that word coming from Weasley's mouth. The two of them are stuck putting up the tent, while Harry and Granger are further off, casting the wards.

The weather is warm enough for Draco to have discarded his jumper, but he doesn't push the sleeves up of the shirt he wears, he doesn't think he ever will.

He turns to Weasley, who is steadfastly not looking at him, but testing the strength of the ropes. Draco fights the urge to be snide, but still ends up coming across as a little irritated as he asks, "Did you say something?"

Weasley's face contorts, as though the very idea of this conversation causes him physical pain, and Draco rolls his eyes, wishing no one would mind if he were to send an inconspicuous stinging jinx at Weasley's head.

But just as Draco is about to move around to the other side of the tent, Weasley straightens, and his eyes have a critical seriousness to them as they meet Draco's. For a startling second, Draco is frightened that Weasley might be willing to put the past behind them, and while Draco might have taken a step in that direction with Granger, and most definitely Harry, he doesn't think he's ready to do that with Weasley, not yet.

"I said 'thanks.' For saving Harry — when I couldn't." The words leave Weasley like a breath he's been holding in for too long, and Draco can only stare, uncertain what he should be feeling while flashes of fangs and blood and a musty room race through his mind.

With a sharp inhale, Draco recovers, scowls, and his voice is harsh as he says, "I didn't do it for you."

Weasley's eyes narrow a fraction, and there isn't an ounce of surprise in his shoulders as he shrugs them and angles back towards the tarpaulin.

There's a silence which is heavy with Draco's anger and Weasley's unvoiced curiosity, and Draco bristles and glares when Weasley finds something else to say.

"Who'd you do it for, then?"

The venom is ready on Draco's tongue, itching to attack and tell Weasley to fuck off, that Draco didn't do it for anyone other than himself, because he is selfish, so selfish, and no one needs to know that Harry Potter's life has become a drug to Draco's existence. So he holds it back, but the accidental glance Draco sends to where Harry stands talking to Granger is enough of an invitation for Weasley to follow his gaze.

There is an unguarded second in which Draco is able to take in the unruly ink-black hair, the wand that taps in an unheard rhythm against Harry's thigh, before Weasley is in Draco's personal space, his eyes dark slits as he hisses, "I dunno what you think you're playing at, Malfoy. But Harry would never be friends with the likes of you."

Draco steps away in disgust, his teeth bared in a snarl, before he realises Weasley's misunderstood, and suddenly he wants to laugh. Draco doesn't think friends want to tear eachother's clothes off, doesn't think they want to taste eachother's skin in the cover of darkness. He doesn't think a friend would want to do any of the things he wants to do to Harry, and to know that the gears of Weasley's brain have been turning in entirely the wrong direction, rips a snort from Draco's throat, and then he is laughing.

Weasley jerks back, horrified, and then seethes, "What — you think this is funny?"

"No," Draco retorts, levelling his voice and leaning forward, "I think you're funny."

Weasley's nostrils flare, and colour seeps into his face until Draco thinks he's about to get socked in the jaw, but then —

"Hey," Harry stands a metre away, his greeting full of suspicion and warning, and Draco spares him a glance before glaring back at Weasley. Weasley seems to deflate in the midst of his friend, and with one last filthy look at Draco he skulks off towards Granger.

Draco doesn't know where to look, because he knows if he looks at Harry, the stinging truth of Weasley's words might escape from where Draco is trying to hide them.

A slight touch to his hand startles him — Harry's fingers, warm and gentle where they slide over Draco's knuckles. "He's wrong, you know."

Draco lets out a choking noise. Of course bloody Potter would be able to see through the walls Draco has tried to build again and again, the same walls that are torn down by fervent green eyes in a kind face.

His cheeks burn, because he hasn't realised how affected he was until Harry came along and opened him up, offered him the comfort of a familiar calloused palm. Harry brushes a finger along the inside of Draco's wrist, squeezes until Draco gives in, looks at him, takes in Harry's steady gaze and thin lips, and Draco just knows there is an apology there, withheld for his sake.

And despite his growl, and the way Draco tugs his hand away, he still wants to kiss him.

Maybe Harry feels the same, because his brows draw together, and his eyelids droop a little, focusing on the lips which Draco dampens with a swipe of his tongue. The air is hot and thick between them as Harry whispers roughly, "meet me later — after dinner, beyond those trees."

Draco nods mutely, his throat clogged by an onslaught of fiery anticipation, and with one last longing glance at his lips, Harry turns and walks away.

 Ron gazes morbidly into his portion of the meal he cooked — thanks to his misfortune with the walnuts — of stewed berries and mushrooms, which Harry thinks is really nothing more than boiled water and berries, but refrains from mentioning for the sake of Ron's dignity, and his insistence on calling it a 'stew.'

Draco seems even less inclined to comment, but that's probably because he's too busy staring at Harry when he thinks no one's looking. Harry's always looking, though, always aware, and Malfoy's gaze makes his skin tingle and his body heat up, and he just knows the blond is thinking about what will happen beyond the trees later on just as much as Harry is.

Hermione's voice snaps Harry away from a pair of piercing grey eyes as she says hesitantly, "I've been thinking…"

"What's new?" Draco's remark is flippant, and follows the clinking of his fork against his bowl. Ron snorts, chokes over a mouthful of shrivelled berry and then begins to cough and splutter. Draco lifts his eyes, surprised, as though he didn't mean to say it aloud.

Harry doesn't know whether to be entertained or worried, so he looks at Hermione, expecting to see a disapproving purse to her lips, but encounters nothing but a tired sort of amusement. Ron pounds a fist against his chest and, seemingly recovered, throws a sulky glare at Hermione, which Harry takes to mean that he won't be getting snogged any time soon. Harry feels a strong wave of affection for Hermione, but thinking Ron will probably glare at him too if he were to hug her, he simply reigns in his smile and prompts, "You were thinking?"

"Yes, well," Hermione clears her throat, sounding a little flustered, and briefly Harry wonders if she is embarrassed by finding something Draco said to be funny. "I was thinking we should go and see Xenophilius Lovegood."

Harry raises a brow, bewildered, as he sets his half eaten stew on the ground. "What — why?"

"Well, because Ronald told me something interesting the other day, that he'd seen Mr. Lovegood wearing that symbol around his neck at Bill and Fleur's wedding. Since then I've been thinking whether going to see him is a good idea or not."

Harry picks up on her use of Ron's full name, which she only ever does when he's peeved her off, but pushes that thought away as he replies, "But what about the Horcruxes? We should be —"

"We haven't got any further with those, Harry, and it might be a good idea to go and get some new leads."

"The last time I thought that was a good idea, I almost got my head bitten off by a bloody snake!"

"Harry — Godric's Hollow was different, of course You-Know-Who would've expected you to go there."

"So? What 'bout this? It could be another trap — what if —"

"I reckon 'Mione's right," Ron interjects with a mumble, stabbing rather fiercely at a mushroom. Harry sighs with frustration, knowing his friend's only trying to get back on Hermione's good side, which is admittedly hard to do these days. In fact, Harry's quite surprised he's managed to stay on it, himself.

"But what if it's nothing!? Nothing but a waste of time?"

"But what if it isn't?" Hermione counters, her tone pleading. "I think Dumbledore left the symbol in that book for a reason, Harry."

Harry's jaw clenches at the name, and he shoves a hand through his hair. "We're meant to get the Horcruxes. That's what —"

"What do you think, Draco?"

Silence falls over them, and apart from the crackling of the fire no one speaks. Draco, who has been staring unseeingly at the ground for the duration of the argument, now looks like he's been slapped. His eyes are wide for a moment, before narrowing, and Harry can practically feel Hermione tense beside him as though she regrets asking.

Ron, who looks like he's had a heavier dealing than a slap, and more like a lengthy pummelling, gapes, his stony shock morphing into indignation with every passing second.

Harry watches, his heart in his throat as Draco struggles over a response, his mouth opening and closing a few times before he schools his features and says, "It could be promising." And despite the fact that Harry feels genuinely thankful for Hermione's effort to include Draco, he still has to resist the urge to rip his hair out. Especially when Hermione, after blinking away her astonishment, turns to Harry with a smug look of resolution.

"Alright. Fine," He grits out, prodding his bowl with the end of his shoe.

"What 'bout what I think?" Ron pipes up moodily. Harry is mildly sympathetic towards his friend, because he too feels slightly betrayed, not only by Hermione, but Draco too.

Hermione gives Ron a quelling glare. "I'm sorry, Ronald, but I was only after the opinions of those capable of acting like an adult."

"An adult? S'not like he was acting like an adult!" Ron waves a pointed finger at Draco, whose face hardens into a glare.

Harry can't believe what he's hearing — Hermione sticking up for Draco?

"Your comment just proves how, in your case, that's apparently impossible!" Hermione says shrilly, and as though sensing the oncoming round of bickering, Draco abruptly stands and leaves. Harry looks after him, wondering whether either of his friends will notice if he follows, and deciding that he doesn't really care if they do, he gets to his feet and creeps away.

Draco is in the tent, pacing, looking distinctly uncomfortable. He hasn't seen Harry come in, so for a moment Harry just watches him, back and forth, a slender hand rubbing at his neck, the very picture of frustration, and something else that is harder to define.

Harry is struck by the stark contrast this picture presents — Draco Malfoy, who is austere and refined and made up of sharp edges that cut you if you get too close, caught in a world of disarray— in a tent that is small and dirty and full of hopes and what ifs. And It makes Harry's heart ache a little, because for a second he thinks that maybe none of this is real at all.

He lets out a breath, and at the sound, Draco's head snaps towards him like a flighty rabbit. There is no surprise or irritation in his eyes, only sorrow and confusion, and before Harry can even open his mouth, Draco asks, "Why is she doing that?" His hand gestures vaguely to the tent entrance, and his voice cracks at the end.

Harry can't give him an answer, even though he has been searching for one for a while now, but Draco looks as though he needs one, regardless of it being right or wrong, so Harry replies, "She knows we can only do this if we get along — if we work together." As the words leave his mouth, Harry thinks he might have found the answer after all.

Draco looks unconvinced, and he scowls, a crease forming across the bridge of his nose. Harry takes a step forward, thinking he will smooth it away, but then Draco says something else, and it makes Harry's chest tighten.

"What have I ever done to — to deserve anything from her?" He is bitter, resentful, but only at himself, and not the muggleborn girl he would have once jeered at.

"I think that's what she's waiting for." Harry's voice is hoarse, but he holds Draco's gaze, doesn't let his emotions take over until Draco's eyes narrow, and within their greyness Harry can see every amount of self-loathing that has been buried beneath years of indifference.

Draco looks away, as though realising what Harry has seen, and his face is a charcoal drawing of shadows and regret.

"It's never too late, Draco… You've proved that by being here."

 Draco's hands curl at his sides, and to his horror, his palms are sweating. He takes another look at Granger, clearing away the remnants of a fucking awful meal, and then with a heaving sigh he forces himself to move towards her.

He doesn't know why he's doing this, why it suddenly seems so important, but somehow Potter is right, and if Draco has come this far already he might as well go further. Even if it costs him his pride. As he nears the dwindling fire, and Granger's turned back, he thinks about the book she leant him, and wonders if maybe this is something she has been expecting.

Maybe it isn't, because she jumps when he stops beside her, and Draco thinks it probably shouldn't bother him that her hand twitches towards her wand, but it does. He firms his jaw, and when she doesn't do anything but stare at him he picks up the last bowl and dumps the contents of it into the fire. With a wordless cleaning spell, he adds it to the stack, and then straightens.

Draco is no Gryffindor, and despite his sudden spurt of courage, it is too hard to meet her eyes, so when he finally speaks, it is to a forgotten berry which is blackened by its escapade towards the fire.

"I'm sorry." She seems to have stopped breathing, because all of a sudden the only noise is of the flames, and somewhere in the distance, an owl. "For all the shit I've ever said or done… I'm sorry, Granger." He looks at her then, her eyes wide yet unreadable, and after a few seconds, something begins to glisten in the corners.

Draco averts his gaze, suddenly extremely uncomfortable, but then Granger takes a shaky breath and says, "You said a lot of horrible things to me, Draco. Harry and Ron, too. But I — I don't think it ever affected them as much as it did me."

Draco doesn't know what to say. He stares at the charred berry, frowns at it and clenches his fists. Because he knows this, that what she's saying is true, that the things he said to her were the kind no boy should ever say to a girl. And even though he doesn't have a clue as to how to take them back, he tries anyway. "They wouldn't survive without you."

Maybe it's not enough, maybe nothing will ever be enough, but then Granger makes a noise, a noise which at first Draco thinks is a sob, but then realises is a giggle. Unnerved, but supposing it is better than nothing, Draco lifts his eyes and catches her just as she's wiping a hand across her face.

"Thankyou, Draco," she says softly, and Draco doesn't know whether she means it, or if it's just because of her 'acting like an adult' rule, but either way he finds himself thinking that apologies aren't all that bad after all, if the lightness in his shoulders is anything to go by.

And then all at once the apology he never gave to Harry resurfaces in a torrent of guilt, and Draco has to bite his tongue to suppress the urge to curse.

 Harry steps around the thatch of trees to see Draco practicing the patronus charm. Silver light flows from his wand, and Draco's expression is so concentrated that Harry dares not interrupt him. Besides, there is something extraordinarily beautiful about this picture, and Harry find himself wondering what memory Draco is using, and if there is a chance that maybe Harry features in it.

The ball of light begins to fizzle out, and Draco's frown deepens, so after a moment's thought Harry lifts his wand and casts. His silver stag walks gracefully towards Draco, turns a circle around him, and while Draco has lowered his own wand, his face is a painted view of amazement, and it makes Harry's chest swell.

Draco watches Harry's patronus with bright eyes and an awed smile, before catching sight of Harry standing beyond the trees, and then his face melts into something entirely different. But before Harry can say anything he finds himself with an armful of Draco Malfoy, warm and solid and distracting.

It isn't the kind of tangled mess they usually find themselves in, it is calm and soft and delicate, Draco's arms squeezing tightly around Harry's waist, and Harry's hands trailing over Draco's shoulder blades. Their cheeks rest against eachother, Draco's hair tickling Harry's nose, but Harry can't speak, because there is something hot and tight caught in his throat, something connected to the molten warmth in his stomach, a heat that can only arise from having Draco in his arms.

Draco moves back a little, just far enough so that they are nose to nose, their lips a hairsbreadth apart. They don't kiss, but somehow it is enough, somehow it is more. Because in that moment, something outside of lust entangles them together, and it is deep and whole and pure.

And beneath the surface of his comfort, Harry is aware that he might be falling in love with Draco Malfoy, and there isn't a thing he can do to stop it.

Chapter Text

Green grass, green hills, green is everywhere, and it is giving Draco a headache. It's there when Harry turns to look at him over his shoulder, in a stare that warms Draco from his ears to his toes.

"Hey, Draco." Harry says, and with a nod of his head he gestures towards a brown and wrinkly gnome, early in its rise from hibernation, trying futilely to burrow back beneath the hard earth. "Still want to kiss its arse?"

Draco holds in a breath, because for a second it is as though he's back in a grimy kitchen, covered in cookie dough, with Harry's laughter fresh in his ears.

Draco grins.

And the green is still there when he closes his eyes against the harsh daylight, imprinted into the back of his eyelids.

"I want Draco to be under the invisibility cloak," Harry says, and Hermione pauses in her task of arranging things in her beaded bag. She seems hesitant, and then throws Ron a wry look as he finishes cramming three quarters of a stale protein bar into his mouth.

"Wha'? Why? If anythin' you should be the one wearing it, 'Arry." Ron scrubs crumbs off his chin and ignores Hermione's glare.

"No," Harry replies, "Lovegood needs to see me — it's the only way he'll help."

Ron rolls his eyes, "C'mon, surely Luna's talked 'bout me and 'Mione before? He'll know us."

"I don't think he'll be so sure after he sees Draco." Harry hates the way his voice trembles at the end, hates that what he's saying is true. Hermione holds his gaze for a moment too long for it to be anything other than understanding, and with a sigh, she nods her agreement.

"It's for the best," She says. Ron is astonished and looks as though he's about to argue, but then Draco walks up to them, stops just at Harry's elbow, and everyone falls silent.

"Put this on," Harry tells him, slowing to walk beside him, and Draco looks down to see what he's being offered — Harry's invisibility cloak.

He frowns. "Why?"

"Just do it."

Harry doesn't meet his eyes, and for a moment Draco is spared from the green, but then he distinguishes the look of someone trying to be selfless, and it makes him grit his teeth.

"Shouldn't you be the one —"

"Not you too." Harry looks at him then, and Draco is surrounded by green green green, and he's too entranced to do anything other than huff with compliance.

"It was a pretty lousy book, Granger." There are words withheld in the distance between his outstretched hand and his tongue, but Granger still smiles slightly and takes her book back.

"I'm glad you enjoyed it."

Draco doesn't know what to say, if he should even say anything at all, but somehow it seems as though the conversation is not ready to end yet.

"They got married, then." It's awkward and not quite right, but behind her scrutinising gaze there is the flicker of enthusiasm which Draco is so used to seeking in Harry, and all of a sudden it is a lot easier.

"Yes — they did. Were you surprised?"

"For something as soppy as that? Of course not."

"Then why did you ask me about it — before?"

Draco lifts a brow. "Originally, I wasn't expecting it."

"Yes, well — things change." She's haughty, but her nose isn't as high as it would have been if he hadn't apologised to her the previous night.

Draco scowls at her, but it's different to how he used to, softer somehow, and grudgingly he thinks that yes, some things do change.

Ron looks longingly over the hills, where the Burrow would be, and for a moment Harry does too, caught up in the memory of warm dinners and Christmas cheer and the laughter of countless voices. It is almost as though he can still hear them, lingering through the meadows with the ghost of what once was, and it hurts to know what is so close, yet just out of reach.

"Draco?" Harry asks because he has a sudden desire to hear him speak, to know that he's still there. And because Harry can never tell whether Draco is out of reach too.


Something Harry can't see touches his fingers, and Harry gets a firmer grip around Draco's hand and squeezes.

Ahead of them, Ron and Hermione don't turn around, and Harry thinks that even if they did he still wouldn't let go.

"So you told him, then?"

Harry feels Ron's eyes settle on him with the pressure of a blunt object. "Told who what?"

Ron makes a noise, both uncomfortable and disappointed, and Harry clenches his fists before the guilt comes.

"Told Malfoy about the Horcruxes."

A pause. Harry ties the last knot on his shoelace, gets to his feet. "Yeah. I did."

"You seriously reckon he can help us?" Doubt is drawn into every line of Ron's face.


Ron looks at him closely, and for a moment Harry yearns for how things used to be — carefree and friendly, when they didn't have the burden of their enemy balancing inbetween them.

Ron sighs, yanks his bag higher over his shoulder, and turns away. Harry does the same, but hesitates before joining him, because he can't shake the feeling that they are about to be lead up the garden path — that something dangerous is waiting for them.

Harry waits for a bit longer, but the guilt doesn't come, and somehow he doesn't think it ever will.

A man who looks just as insane as his daughter lets them into his home, Harry falling back to allow Draco to pass unseen in front of him.

Weasley's shoulders are still tense from a minute ago, when he snorted at the 'keep off the dirigible plums' sign, and Draco snorted with him. Draco fights the urge to do something like trip him over, or throw something at his head, because no one would be able to blame someone who they can't see.

Lovegood is worn out; a hollow shell of the man Draco assumes he used to be, and he wonders how many other people behind the scenes of a war wear the same look each day. Granger mentions something about holidays, and asks after Luna. Draco remembers her eery-eyed stare and eccentric air from Hogwarts, and for some reason he frowns when her father responds that she's just out, and that she'll be back shortly.

Draco is glad that he doesn't have to partake in the drinking of a substance which is violently purple and smells putrid. Weasley scrunches his nose, refrains from spitting it out, and places his cup down on his saucer. Draco snickers under his breath, but Weasley doesn't hear him.

And then Harry asks about the symbol Lovegood has around his neck, the same one from Granger's book, the same one from the grave. Draco listens intently as the tale he has read time and time again is retold, a tale everyone but Harry seems to be familiar with.

Things begin to click into place, and somewhere within the abyss of his mind, Draco remembers a legend his father once told him.

Harry's patronus is beautiful, and it makes Draco's heart falter. Harry is beautiful too, and the disgust Draco used to feel at such a thought doesn't come. Instead there is only peace, and a longing to forever be within the circle of Harry's arms.

But then Harry steps away, just far enough to look into Draco's eyes, and there is something which he almost says, but doesn't, something he holds back. Draco can't tell what it is, and when Harry speaks he knows it is not what he meant to say.

"If you could go back… would you change anything?"

Draco frowns, and his pulse speeds up a little, because he doesn't know which is the right answer, and which is the wrong — which is the one Harry wants him to say. There were a lot of things Draco wanted to change, when he was trapped amidst vast black walls and blood curdling screams. He wanted to change them because he lived in the past, because he couldn't at all see the outlines of his future.

But now, he knows Harry had been waiting for him, and he thinks that he would do everything the same way all over again, if only it would mean Harry would be standing at the other end of a road worth travelling. Yet somehow, Draco has a feeling that this is the wrong answer.

He drops his arms, body rigid, and the space between them becomes too large, too empty. Draco glares at his feet, and his voice wavers when he asks, "What do you want me to say?"

Harry stares at him, all dark green eyes and jet-black hair, and Draco is hit with the thought that maybe nothing he says will be good enough, maybe, no matter how much he changes for the better, he will never be good enough.

"The truth," Harry says softly. His patronus has disappeared, but Draco can still see the remnants of its glow, and it reminds him that Harry is standing there — waiting there, just for him.

Draco's lips twist into a sad smile, and he tells himself his eyes aren't wet when he replies, "No — I wouldn't."

Harry doesn't flinch, doesn't turn away, and there is a steadiness in his gaze that is unnerving.

Draco swallows, but he doesn't elaborate, can't move his mouth to tell Harry that his past is the foundation on which his new life will be built, and without it he wouldn't be able to move forward. Can't tell him that if things had been different, then he wouldn't be here, wouldn't know the feeling of Harry Potter's lips against his own.

But maybe Harry knows this already, maybe Draco doesn't need to say anything after all, because then Harry grabs his wrist, pulls him close, and their kiss is hot and perfect and right.

"Well, we all know the right one to choose would be —"

"The wand," Says Weasley.

"The stone." Draco looks at Harry after he says it, and there is distance in his features.

Granger sighs, glancing at her friends, and Draco swears there is disappointment in her shoulders as she replies, "The cloak, obviously."

Lovegood is out of the room, refilling their tea, and the trio begin to talk of Harry's cloak, and what is and isn't likely.

Thankfully, no one asks Draco which Hallow he would choose, as he doesn't think he could give them a proper answer if they did. Because there is a stark difference between the answer of the past Draco, and the answer of the present.

Draco is right, Harry thinks, because this wouldn't be what it is if they were anyone other than Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy, anyone other than two boys who have been linked together because of their differences.

They are who they are because of the things they can't change, and Harry is glad that Draco wouldn't have them any other way, either, especially when they find themselves slumped together on the forest floor, hands tugging at clothing and tongues battling together in a dance they have been twirling around in for years.

And even though Harry knows that a taste of Draco Malfoy is all he needs to keep him going, the struggle for air weighs down on him, and with a gasp he breaks away, his hands still on Draco's shoulders, squeezing and caressing.

"Thank — thankyou for the — the Quidditch Pitch," Harry pants, his breath coming in short bursts. It takes a few moments for Draco's lust-blown eyes to widen, and then he moves to recoil, mortification evident in the twist of his mouth. Harry is too quick, though, and he twines a hand into the hair at the back of Draco's neck, holding him close. "And… I'm sorry."

Maybe he didn't mean to say it, but a part of Harry is glad — even though Draco scowls and lowers his eyes — a part of him needs to continue. "I'm sorry that I didn't take your hand when it mattered most— even though I wouldn't change it now, I'm still sorry."

"But there's still no way to be sure that this isn't just speculation — that it isn't just a load of old rubbish," Hermione reminds them, her voice low, as a series of clunking sounds issue from downstairs.

"But what about my dad's cloak? It's never failed us — it has to be real." Harry hears a scoff issue from his right, where Draco sits beneath the very cloak they speak of.

Hermione opens her mouth to no doubt give him some lengthy and overly logical explanation, but Ron cuts her off, his voice the most enthusiastic Harry has heard in weeks. "Harry's right, 'Mione — and you heard Lovegood, Peverell's the family name of the brothers, and — hang on… you don't reckon… the wand — you don't think that's what he's after do you?" The last part is barely a whisper, but Harry still hears it, and it makes his blood run cold.

Harry hears Draco inhale sharply beside him, and he has to resist the urge to grab his hand, because suddenly things make a lot of sense — the visions Harry has seen of Voldemort torturing Wandmakers, the thief that Harry now knows is Grindelwald, who stole something Voldemort is seeking.

He looks up to meet Hermione's worried gaze, and within her eyes Harry can see his own fear reflected back at him.

She shakes her head slowly, a blend of confusion and hope, a hope that there is nothing to back up this theory, a hope that something which can only be true is false. "Harry…"

But Harry jerks his chin, thins his lips, and his stare is pained as he says, "It all fits."

Hermione blinks, looks away, and Harry sees her swallow. He gets to his feet, knees protesting from sitting too long, and says numbly, "We have to go." There is somewhere they need to be, somewhere that isn't here, and all at once Harry is desperate to move — to fight.

Ron and Hermione stand without a word, and Harry is just about to turn and pull up Draco when something outside the window catches his eye — black figures streaking through the sky, their destination the tall rickety house in which they stand.

Harry's heart stills in his chest, then restarts at the same time Draco's hand snakes out from under the cloak, grabs his elbow, and pulls him back from the top of the stairwell just as Xenophilius appears, wild and desperate. "You can't leave — you — you can't!"

Ron and Hermione have their wands in hand, and no doubt Draco does too, but Harry can only stare wide eyed as the man who betrayed them keels over and yells hoarsely, "They took my Luna! They —"

A loud shattering sound ricochets up the metal stairs, shaking the whole structure of the house as curses begin to stream from below. "Wait!" Lovegood cries, "They're up here! Wait!"

There is a growl from downstairs, followed by several shouts, and then there are footsteps, heavy and dangerous and coming closer.

"Why should you have to be sorry? Why do you always have to feel responsible?" Draco's question is a gravelly whisper, and the fingers wound in Harry's shirt slacken and fall.

Harry sighs, but it's whimsical, as though daunted by the question as much as Draco is. "I dunno."

"It's bloody infuriating," Draco replies, unsure whether he wants to run away, or stay with his forehead pressed to Harry's until the sun rises.

"I s'pose it is," Harry laughs softly, and Draco just wants to drink it all in. "But before you get your wand in a knot — it isn't about pity."

Draco pauses, holds his breath, because he supposes it's true, that Harry's tolerance has stemmed more from acceptance than it has pity, and it's a realisation Draco wishes he could drown in.

"What's it about then?" Draco asks huskily as Harry's nose skates along his jaw, stopping to dig into the side of his neck, inhaling, and then there are teeth nipping at his skin, lips and tongue following with gentle sucks and licks, and Draco is so far gone that he dare not hope for the answer he wishes to be true.

"Lots of things," Harry says into the indent above Draco's collarbone, and then Draco is on his back, his surroundings non-existent apart from the boy crawling on top of him.

Draco watches as rubble surrounds them, ears ringing as Weasley shouts something Draco can't understand, his gangly body standing protectively in front of Granger as Lovegood is knocked to the side.

The protective sight sends something searingly like worry through Draco's body, and he forces himself to move and throw up a shield charm in front of Harry just as two Death Eaters reach the landing, their faces contorted into masks of demented excitement.

"I have him — I have Potter!" Lovegood wheezes, "So give me my daughter — give me my Luna —" Lovegood is blasted backwards a second time, crashing into an overstuffed bookshelf. Books and splinters rain down on them, and there is a split second heavy with the scent of dust and fear before everybody moves, and then there are bright jets of spells flying everywhere.

Harry stares at the boy lying on the forest floor below him, at the beautiful sight which makes his heart ache and his cock twitch. His skin burns with the need to feel Draco against him, and as Harry sucks fervently on the angles of Draco's jaw, he is haunted by the question; is this love?

He has never felt this way towards anyone before, never felt as though he will fall apart if he doesn't get to feel Draco's closeness, doesn't get to hear the snarking bite of his voice, the sound which Harry has undeniably become addicted to.

Harry's breath catches, and his body stills over Draco's, his hand coming up to stroke the fine strands of moonlit hair as he whispers, "Say something."

Draco makes this endearing little huffing noise, as if he can't decide whether to be amused or annoyed, and in response his finger nails scrape deliciously over Harry's lower back, where Draco has slowly been pushing up his shirt. Harry shivers, nudging Draco's chin with his nose until he gets an answer. "W-what?"

It isn't the drawl which has always made Harry's blood boil, and it isn't the slightly insecure mutter he has been accustomed to hearing from Draco's downturned lips lately, it is only a word of confusion, placed precariously atop a shackled torrent of want. And suddenly Harry is craving to unleash Draco's restraint, to unlock everything the blond has to offer.

"Anything… everything." Harry murmurs into Draco's skin, continuing his task of assaulting Draco's neck with his lips and teeth. Draco tilts his head to the side, moaning helplessly, and Harry feels something hot and possessive surge through him at the sound. He grinds his hips down into Draco's, their erections pressing together through layers of clothing, which Harry fuzzily thinks shouldn't be there.

"Fuck, Harry."

It isn't what Harry expected Draco to say, it is better, and it makes him let out a strangled groan before capturing Draco's lips in what seems like an endless kiss. The sound of Draco Malfoy losing control is music to Harry's ears, and he can't get enough of it.

Harry crawls back far enough to shove Draco's shirt up to his shoulders, because he needs to taste more of the gorgeous skin which he knows is waiting for him— but then the moonlight catches on Draco's chest, turning the otherwise barely-there scars into a pattern of painfully visible memories, and Harry's whole body goes cold.

Harry panics — the hexes he flings like second nature as he tries to edge closer to Ron and Hermione, closer to the chance of freedom.

But he can't see Draco, can't know whether he's safe, and it is making the pounding in his heart and the throbbing in his head nearly unbearable. Harry almost wishes he hadn't insisted on Draco wearing the cloak, but then he sees the look of manic excitement, the pleasure of the kill, dancing across the faces of their attackers, and Harry knows he made the right choice.

Hermione screams his name as Ron throws her behind an upturned armchair, viciously deflecting whatever curse a Death Eater just tried to aim at the girl he loves. Harry narrowly escapes a flare of green light thanks to his friend's warning, and fires out counter-curses as he swings his other arm out, hoping to feel Draco, to feel something that will let him know the blond is okay.

Harry sees the Dark haired Death Eater edge around the remains of the broken bookshelf, trying to get closer to where Ron and Hermione are cornered. Harry is left duelling the second of their attackers on his own, knowing that if he turns his head even a fraction, diverts his attention for a second to see if his friends are alright, then everything will be over —

But then his heel collides with something warm and solid, and Harry catches a hint of snow-coloured hair, and he is finished. Hot pain spreads up his arm from where a spell hits him, but Harry hardly feels it as he falls into a heap of destroyed furniture, because his eyes are focused on the unconscious body of Xenophilius Lovegood, and his heart is overwhelmed with selfish relief, knowing that Draco Malfoy is safe.

Draco's chest heaves, his senses thrumming with anticipation as Harry hovers over him, knowing he will let the other boy do whatever he wants to him as long as Draco is able to stay lost in the heavenly depth of Harry Potter's eyes.

But then the cool night air hits his torso, and Harry freezes, his shoulders going rigid as his gaze lingers unwaveringly across Draco's skin. And Draco just knows — knows that whatever started with the possibility of becoming something more has been doused, extinguished by Harry's guilt.

Draco swallows away something bitter, and his voice chafes his throat as he says, "Don't be a prat." His hands curl on the ground beside him, resisting the urge to wipe away whatever thoughts are gathering inside Harry's head.

Harry sinks to the side, his knees crunching into the dirt, and Draco aches with the loss of his warm body as he sits up, his spine stiff and his pants still too tight. He can see the muscles along Harry's jaw working over whatever words he withholds, the way his Adam's apple dips prominently, and the way his brows pull together. And Draco doesn't want Harry to speak, doesn't want to talk about the time of his life where things had gone so impossibly wrong that Draco just wanted to disappear.

But of course, Harry opens his mouth, and ruins what little solace the moment has left. "I — I didn't —"

"Don't," Draco's voice is sharp, and Harry's eyes dart up towards his.

"I didn't know what that spell did —"

"Shut up."

"I'm —"

"For fuck's sake, don't say it." Draco's lips thin, because he doesn't think he will be able to handle another apology, not tonight, not when he hasn't even formed the words of his own one. "Harry — I… I tried to 'crucio' you…" Draco doesn't know if he is trying to justify Harry's actions, trying to say that he deserved to wear these scars for the rest of his life, or trying to acknowledge they both have things to be ashamed of — to be sorry for.

Harry shakes his head, averts his eyes, and Draco has a lead-like feeling in his chest that he knows what Harry is about to say. "Don't you dare — it does matter, and you know it."

Harry sighs, and Draco stares at him until he looks up, until he can see the agreement hidden beneath wire-framed glasses, until he knows Harry understands that he is not the only one burdened by guilt.

Draco does not recognise the man who fights Harry, a new recruit, he assumes, but the one who stalks towards Weasley and Granger Draco knows is Dolohov. He remembers the dark eyes following him throughout the Manor, the whispered taunts in Draco's ear when he couldn't bring himself to end a prisoner's life. Dolohov is the man who drank his father's fire whiskey as though in his own home and laughed at the screams of Fenrir Greyback's victims — he is the man who Draco hates most, second to the Dark Lord.

And that is why Draco can't move, can hardly breathe as he stands flattened against the wall, hidden beneath Harry's cloak while the others fight for their lives. Because suddenly it as if he is back in the trance of his nightmares, treading through corridors and searching for his mother, glaring at the back of a man who might be her murderer, while countless voices whisper in his head; coward coward coward.

But then someone screams out a name that used to be the bane of Draco's existence, but is now the reason why he can stand at all, and Draco's mind clears in time to see Harry fall to the floor beside the prone body of Lovegood, and Draco just snaps.

He doesn't think, and he doesn't register when the cloak falls and gets caught around his arms — he only acts. Because how dare someone think they have the right to hurt what's his.

The spell rips from Draco's throat, from the depth of a painful memory, the burning magic of it travelling down the taut muscles of his arm, through the fire in his veins, and Draco catches a fleeting image of emerald eyes looking up at him before everything is surrounded by red, and the gashes Draco has slashed into the nameless Death Eater's chest gush and spatter blood.

The man splutters, his hands clawing at his own throat, before he collapses into a heap. Draco is shaking, vibrating with the force of his rage, because it isn't enough, the man needs to pay — to suffer for putting Harry in harm's way.

But then Dolohov spins around, his duel with Weasley and Granger forgotten at the sound of his comrade's distorted cry, and his sunken eyes widen as they land on Draco, on the boy who he probably thought was dead, before he is stunned by Weasley.

Draco looks up into a freckled face lined with respect, Weasley's expression of unvoiced thanks, but Draco didn't do it for him, didn't do it for anyone other than the boy who sits with his arm clutched to his body, a broken wand in his hand, the boy who looks at Draco with something startlingly close to fear.

And suddenly Draco's body drains from fury, drains from everything apart from a bone-deep weariness, and when he frowns and forces his eyes away from Harry, it is to look down and see that his own shirt is covered in blood. And then the realisation of what he's done hits him behind his ribs — that he's killed somebody, that he's no different from the people he ran from, but most frighteningly of all, that there is a chance Harry Potter might be disappointed in him — and it makes Draco tremble.

"We need to leave —" Weasley pants, a hand guiding Granger over the wreckage as he makes his way towards Harry.

"What about — what about Mr. Lovegood?" Granger asks breathlessly, and Draco doesn't miss the way she turns her head away from all the blood.

It is the look in Harry's eyes that stops Draco from helping him as he staggers to his feet, and all at once Draco is overcome by the possibility of losing Harry for a second time, albeit for a very different reason, and it makes him bite his cheek until copper explodes over his tongue.

Ron hisses, "What? That traitorous fucking bastard —"

"More of them are coming," Harry says, the pain in his voice causing Draco to want to hold him.

"Harry — your arm —"

"It's fine," Harry cuts Granger off, impatient and urgent, and then he's grabbing his friend's arm, and despite everything, despite the trust which may have been damaged between them, his hand does not hesitate when he reaches for Draco's.

"You said it wasn't about pity, remember?" Draco reminds him, and Harry knows he's right. A hand lands on Harry's clenched fist, loosening his grip on the grass and unravelling his fingers until their palms rest against eachother.

Harry nods, the roughness and the smoothness of their individual hands reassuring in their differences.

"It's never been about pity," he says softly.

And even if it is just for a moment, Harry knows Draco believes him.

They apparate a little way off from a river — Harry can hear it running if he listens beyond the pounding of his heart.

As soon as their feet hit the ground, Draco's hand slips out of Harry's, and Harry watches mutely as the blond disappears through the trees, no doubt heading for the river.

Harry sighs, stretching his arm out to alleviate the ache, and tries to tune out Ron and Hermione's hurried murmurs of asking eachother whether they are alright.

It is late afternoon, and the air is bleak as Harry numbly stares at the remains of his wand — snapped in half from his fall with the Death Eater — and then hastily shoves it into his moleskin pouch before the sense of loss can get a chance to smother him. He looks in the direction of the river, and knows that's where he should be, where he needs to go, because it is as though he can feel Draco's pain calling out to him.

Harry mutters a quick excuse to his friends and leaves them to set up camp as he moves quickly through the forest, towards the sound of trickling water.

He stops in his tracks, both speechless and breathless by the picture of a shirtless Draco Malfoy, crouched by the river bank, the sinewy muscles of his back working as he scrubs what Harry assumes to be his shirt in the water.

Harry swallows, taking careful steps closer until he is only a few feet away, until he can hear Draco's dry sobs, the desperation with which he tries to clean the blood out of his shirt. Harry doesn't ask why Draco doesn't just use magic instead, he doesn't say anything at all — maybe because he can't — not when presented with such an image of pain. He only touches a gentle hand to Draco's shoulder, flinches back as the blond launches himself to his feet, dripping shirt still in hand.

Draco's face is a haunted sketch of regret and fear, his skin so beautifully pale that Harry has to fight for his gaze to stay on the pair of grey eyes that are brimming with sorrowful confusion.

"I — I'm just like them," Draco croaks, the last word spat with a venomous hatred.

"No — no, you're not. Draco — you saved us—"

"I saved you. Not Weasley, not Granger — you. And you — you hate me." Draco's voice is so full of pain that it hurts to listen to, and Harry loathes it, loathes it because while what he speaks of as an undeniable fact might have once been true, it isn't anymore.

"No — that's not —"

"You hate what I did," Draco hisses, his eyes narrowed and full of tears.

"I hate what I did! I hate it because back there — you reminded me of me — of what'll always be the thing I regret most!" The shout leaves Harry's lungs like a breath of fresh air, and when his frustration clears it leaves only the truth behind, and the vividness of a blood-stained bathroom in both of their minds. "And it isn't about pity — you said that, remember?"

Draco's lips part, and his eyes shimmer with what Harry knows is the desire to once again believe what he's hearing.

"I… I don't hate you Draco — you've got to be mental to think I hate you, in fact I — I…"

I think I'm in love with you.

Harry chokes over the words which wedge themselves in his throat, because he knows if he were to say them aloud there wouldn't be a chance of Draco believing them, and it hurts. Harry can't tell him, but maybe — maybe he can show him.

Uncertainty dashes through Draco's glazed over expression, his steely eyes swirling with a storm that Harry never wants to end, as Harry's fingers close around his left forearm, and turn it so that the mark Draco will never stop running from is facing upwards.

Draco tries to tug his arm away, but Harry tightens his grip and looks at the hard black lines, at the snake whose fangs drip with a promise of darkness and decay, and while he should feel disgusted by the choices Draco has made, Harry only knows hope for the ones he hasn't — for the choices still to come — and that is why Harry runs his fingers over the slightly raised mark, and feels only Draco, instead of evil.

Draco sucks in a breath, and Harry steps tentatively closer, repeating the motion as he lowers his lips towards it, drags them over the darkened skin and relishes in the way Draco shudders and gasps.

Harry wants to say numerous things, but they all die on his tongue at the beauty that is Draco Malfoy, and after licking his way across the flesh that is only a few degrees colder than the rest of his skin, Harry raises his head to do the same to Draco's mouth.

Draco tastes like tears and blood, his lips rough beneath Harry's as they move in a tantalisingly slow confession of emotion. Harry's hand smudges away dust and wetness from Draco's face as he cups his cheek, holds him impossibly close, trying to tell him what he can't through words, when —


Draco wrenches away, his arm falling from Harry's grasp as the two of them break apart.

Ron Weasley stands a short way away, his expression unnaturally blank, and his body still with shock. His face is pale, stark against the contrast of his freckles, and his eyes gradually widen as he looks between Harry and Draco.

Dry leaves crunch in the silence as Hermione comes to a stop behind him, her features schooled into a careful mask of apprehension.

Harry can't bring himself to feel embarrassed, even though his whole body feels like it's been set alight, and when he meets his best mate's eyes he sees disbelief turn into anger.

"Harry?" His name slips dumbly from Ron's lips, as though by saying it again the real Harry, the one who wasn't busy snogging a half naked Draco Malfoy, will step out of the trees and say, 'surprise!'

The seconds tick by, and Harry doesn't say anything. Trying to steady his breath, he spares a glance towards Hermione, wishing that she were able to get him out of this bloody awkward situation. It's a mistake, because at the small gesture Ron seems to catch on, and betrayal flickers brightly behind his eyes as he rounds on Hermione. "You knew!?"

"Ron, I —"

"You knew and you didn't tell me!? Is there anything else I don't know?" Ron's tone, full of rage and bitterness, escalates with each syllable. He turns back to Harry, his face reddening, "Is this why you broke up with Ginny?"

Harry frowns as he finds his voice, "No —"

"How long?" Ron squeezes his eyes closed, and suddenly Harry is dreading a repetition of all those weeks ago, of his best friends walking out on him.

"What?" He asks hoarsely.

"How long have you been fucking the Death Eater!?"

Harry flinches as the words hit him in the chest, his temper soaring at the hateful name and the lie. "It isn't —" It isn't like that? But isn't it? Harry swallows, and beside him Draco stiffens, and suddenly Harry is twice as mad, to think that what Ron has said might have caused Draco torment. "It's none of your business," Harry says firmly, shaking with the urge to shout.

"None of my business?" Ron snorts over a humourless laugh, "Pretty sure it's my fucking business when my best mate decides to go and —"

"No, it's not! Because in case the whole fucking world's forgotten, I have a life!" Harry yells, his fists balling.

Ron brushes him off, "Are you insane, Harry!?" Suddenly his fury burns off into an exasperated smirk, and with wild eyes he turns to Draco, "What is it, Malfoy? What'd you give him? A Love potion?"

Harry feels the tension rolling off of Draco in powerful waves, which at any other time would have Harry dizzy with want, but now acts as fuel to his own indignation. He knows that the blond is close to breaking point, but Harry moves before Draco gets the chance, rushing forwards and sending his fist into Ron's jaw.

Ron stumbles back, Hermione's astonished and concerned face turning in Harry's direction as she tries to steady the redhead. Harry glowers at Ron, his teeth gnashing together as he grits out, "He saved my life. And he saved yours too."

Ron spits blood onto the ground, swiping a hand across his mouth before seething, "And? So bloody what! You want me to snog him, too?"

"No. Just show a little fucking gratitude." Harry hates this, hates the fact that they have to argue, hates the way Ron winces, and hates that there is a war going on. Harry looks over his shoulder, just far enough to see that Draco has put his shirt back on, and while it is now dry, there are dark stains on it which speak of blood and death.

Harry turns back to Ron, bears the full brunt of his friend's resigned disapproval, and begins to say something which has been weighing down on his mind recently. "After all this is over, after Voldemort —"

"Harry, NO!"

But it's too late. Ron's shout dies in his throat, and cracks of apparition and unfamiliar faces begin to surround them from all angles. Snatchers.

And then they are running, running, running, and Harry waits just long enough to see that Draco is in front of him, before he is running too.

Chapter Text

Draco's breath leaves him in sharp, painful bursts, his body pushed to the pinnacle of exertion as his feet pound over rocks and fallen branches.

It is similar to all those months ago, when Harry Potter returned to rescue a boy he supposedly hated.

"I don't hate you… In fact I — I…"

It is different to all those months ago, because Harry Potter is not beside him, is not anywhere that Draco can see, and it drives his already frantic heartbeat into overdrive.

A spell singes the grass where Draco's foot was a second ago, and the smell of sulphur burns Draco's windpipe as he keeps going, keeps running.

His eyes sting, his throat stings, and he can hardly see past the trees blurring on either side of him. Up ahead, he swears he catches a brief flash of orange — Weasley's hair — but then there is nothing but forest, and the occasional looming figure which Draco knows is gaining on him.

He's panting, searching, his muscles aching, and in his head there is a mantra of, Harry, please be okay. And it is only this thought, the hope that Harry will come out of this safely, that enables Draco to move one leg after the other.

Harry can't feel anything other than the burning in his lungs and the paranoia in his heart, as he runs through the never-ending forest, his fear lacing around his whole body and taking root in his ankles, preventing him from slowing down.

Hermione is ahead of him, and every few seconds she too turns to throw a counter-curse behind her. But the Snatchers are unrelenting, and Harry knows that this chase is eternal, that there will be no stopping them until he or his friends fall to their knees, fall to their defeat — fall to their death.

Part of Harry thinks that he will be okay with giving in, with getting captured, if only it would mean Draco could escape untouched.

But Harry can almost feel the hot breath of his pursuers raising the hairs on the back of his neck, and he knows his hope is a fickle, flickering flame. A flame that is doused as Hermione Granger comes to a dead stop about ten metres away, turns her sweat streaked and distraught face towards Harry, and points her wand at his face.

Harry grunts, staggers and trips, as he feels his skin distort with a stinging, stretching sensation. Hard twigs and bramble dig into the heel of his hands as he heaves in chafing breaths, trying to swallow as much air as he can before he no longer has the chance — but suddenly he is no longer on the forest floor, but in a black and desolated tower, and when he speaks it is through a cold and lethal hiss, a voice that can only belong to Lord Voldemort.

"Tell me where it is…"

The prisoner, shackled and limp, wears the grin of one close to his death, and his teeth are yellow and decayed as he opens his mouth to reply, "I knew you would come one day, Tom. But surely you must know, I no longer have what you seek."

Anger, desperation — he reels it in, "Tell me who possesses it, Grindelwald."

Grindelwald laughs, his face demented as he replies, "The Elder Wand lies with him… Buried in the earth. With Dumbledore."

The laughter fades, and Harry resurfaces, drenched in fear and sweat. Hermione is on her knees beside him, and it takes Harry too long to realise she must have taken his glasses, because his vision is fuzzy, and his scar is prickling. "The Hallows exist — he's gonna have it by the end of the night." The footfalls are surrounding them, and Harry rushes out in a whisper, "You-know-who's found the Elder Wand."

Harry catches a brief glimpse of Hermione's terrified expression, before they are both wrenched to their feet.

Hermione shrieks, and Harry's blood runs with rage and hatred as he sees the hideous and lurking form of Fenrir Greyback grab Hermione by the shoulders. Her hands fly to the scarred and dirt-covered arm which has a choke-hold around her neck, and despite the sinking dread Harry feels at seeing she no longer has her wand, he knows he needs to do something — anything —

But something digs into his back — a wand, and it is followed by a taunting voice, dripping with laziness. "I wouldn't move if I were you."

Harry can't reply, his voice is still too choked, too rough, and his helplessness increases when from the edges of his foggy vision he sees Ron being forcibly dragged into the clearing, a man on each side of him. Their hold immediately turns into one of violent restraint as Ron is met with the sight of Hermione, and his shouts and curses at them to leave her alone are abruptly cut off by a brutal crunching sound.

Hermione whimpers, struggles, and even from this distance Harry knows there are tears in her eyes.

"Who do we 'ave 'ere, then?" A Snatcher dressed in tattered navies and blacks saunters forward, his wand held nonchalantly at his side, and halts in front of Hermione, grubby fingers coming up to stroke her face as he says, "Name, sweetheart?"

Ron growls, but Hermione's voice does not waver as she replies, "Penelope Clearwater. Halfblood." The lie is smooth on her tongue, and Harry feels both relief and envy at her ability to stay calm.

Harry squeezes his eyes closed, his lids feeling heavy and swollen, silently pleading for things to work out. The wand at Harry's back twists, presses uncomfortably into his spine, and when he opens his eyes it is to see a smudged charcoal gaze boring into him with a sick sort of interest. "How 'bout you, ugly?"

"Dudley," Harry manages the first name that comes to his mind, "Vernon Dudley."

The Snatcher's eyes narrow in suspicion, and over his shoulder he barks an order at one of his comrades. "Check it."

There is a tense second while everybody waits, Ron panting with the urge to get to Hermione, and Harry so numb that he barely finds the will to scan through the trees, hoping for a sign of white-blond hair, a sign of anything that will tell him that Draco is okay.

"There ain't no Vernon Dudley on 'ere."

Harry tries to steady his breath, his body turning cold, as his captor's hold tightens around his arms. The Snatcher who Harry presumes is the leader turns his gaze back on Harry, stares at him, and then moves closer. "How come you don' wan' us to know who you are?"

Harry's heart thuds at the question, his mind racing, and then there are fingers on his forehead, shoving aside his fringe, and he knows the exact moment realisation seems to dawn in the Snatcher's eyes — because everything seems to come to a stop.

But then there is the sound of dragging feet, and the Snatcher's attention is reluctantly drawn away from Harry as someone else enters the clearing, and a deep, excited voice says, "Look who I've found — it's Draco Malfoy."

Harry jerks his head to the side and sees Draco, his arms bound behind his back, with the hand of a bulky man secured around his neck, shoving him forwards. Harry's blood turns to ice at the look of resignation on Draco's face, the look that Harry knows is a cover up for one that says 'there is no way out, I'm sorry.'

And then everything just falls apart.

Draco tried, oh how he tried, but it wasn't enough, and the second he heard Granger yell in the distance, he knew it was over. His foot caught on a tree root, and then he was going down down down. His wrists were tied with searing hot magic, and his attacker advanced on him, turning him over with a booted foot.

Draco looked up into the grubby face of a short-haired man missing most of his teeth. There was silence, and then the man spat on the ground, flecks hitting Draco in the cheeks, and laughed. Laughed.

"Look who we have here." He hauled Draco up by the neck of his shirt, and then they were eye to eye, and Draco had to fight the urge to growl and spit back. His knees ached from how he'd fallen, and in his chest there was something constricting with the need to get away, to not give up.

But Draco is not Harry Potter, so he let himself be dragged to his feet by the man who seemed to know him, who chuckled at the sight of Draco's fear. He let himself be pushed through the forest, towards the voices, and he let himself be shoved along with the man's hand clenched tightly around the back of his neck, gnarly finger nails biting into his skin.

And then Draco saw Harry — Harry being restrained around the shoulders with a wand at his back, and a Snatcher threateningly close to his body, and Draco's whole world started to crumble. He was overwhelmed with the frenzied desire to kill — to destroy anyone who dared come between him and his Harry.

"Look who I've found — it's Draco Malfoy."

But Draco can't do anything. Can't do anything but watch helplessly as his favourite green gaze snaps towards him, can't do anything but acknowledge that even in a crisis, Granger still has the brains to make Harry Potter unrecognisable. The thought sends a tiny spark of relief through Draco, but it quickly dissipates as the Snatcher steps away from Harry and turns his incredulous stare on Draco.

He stalks forwards, his face spread with morbidly amused amazement, but before he can stop in front of Draco, Harry snarls, "Don't touch him!"

There's a scuffle as Harry tries to shrug away the hand near his neck, but then his captor sends what must be a jolt of pain through his body, and it is only the Snatcher's hold that keeps him from falling.

Draco's pulse quickens, falters, and his teeth gnash down over his tongue as his eyes meet Harry's. Draco wants to shake his head, to tell Harry not to worry, that everything will be okay as long as Harry gets out of this without a scratch, but Harry's eyes are dulled and narrowed, and Draco doesn't think he'd listen.

The Snatcher, who paused at Harry's outburst, gives Draco one last glance over, murmuring something that sounds like 'it can't be,' before striding back to Harry and vigorously tugging his fringe back. Draco knows what he's looking for, and he prays to whatever will hear him that the Snatcher doesn't find it.

One second, two, and then, "change of plans, lads. We're not taking this lot to the Ministry…"

And Draco's heart drops into his stomach, because while he isn't sure what that means, he remembers the prisoners of the Manor used to be people who the Snatcher's brought in, people who, for whatever reason, were not needed at the Ministry.

Draco is grabbed roughly by the man behind him, and by the sound of it so is Harry and his friends, and then there is the deafening crack of apparition, and when Draco opens his eyes it is to see looming black gates and the foreboding walls of the place he was once able to call home.

It is no longer his home, and Draco doesn't think it ever will be again.

Home is the feeling of comfort and safety, the feeling of contentment which Draco has fleetingly experienced within the last few weeks.

Home is the boy with soot-coloured hair and vibrant green eyes.

"We've caught Potter!" The shout is raucous, almost a jeer, and it's deafening as it surrounds Harry from all sides and suffocates him.

He stumbles as he walks, his hands now tightly secured behind his back, the restraints cutting and burning into his skin.

The dark gates tower in front of Harry like a nightmare, and when the wards shimmer and allow them to pass through the screeching metal, Harry wonders if he is walking to his own death, and if he has lead three other people to their's too.

Harry can't see the others, they're all behind him, but he knows when they apparated onto the beginning of a seemingly never-ending hedged driveway, there'd been a second where he saw Ron's chin covered in blood — and he knows that none of them are safe.

The lead Snatcher's hand presses jarringly inbetween Harry's shoulder blades, shoving him onwards, and Harry's trainers scuff and drag across the uneven gravel, trying to prolong meeting the danger of whatever is waiting for them in what he now realises is Draco's house.

Because then the huge oak doors swing open, and Lucius Malfoy is striding down the drive towards them, his face a mask of livid incredulity, but his gait one of a man who has been broken for too long. "What is going on here?"

"We've brought Harry Potter," Says the Snatcher, and Harry cringes away from his putrid breath at the same time he is pushed forward by the hold on his jacket. Lucius's eyes lock onto Harry's face, confusion and hope battling to be most evident in his expression, as though he wants so desperately to believe what he's hearing to be true. And Harry just hopes Hermione's stinging hex will hold, just for a little bit longer.

Harry feels nothing but hate for the man who's staring at him so intently — hate and the desire to yell until his throat bleeds, 'He's your son! He's your son, so save him!'

But then somewhere behind him there is a drawl, recognisable as belonging to the Snatcher who grabbed Draco, and Harry just blazes with loathing. "And that's not all…"

There's the sound of crunching gravel, of Draco being pulled forwards, and Harry just knows he is about to be either saved or killed by his own father.

Harry watches numbly as Lucius's stonily calm gaze moves from him to where Draco must stand, and Harry is almost as surprised as he is scared to see the eyes which are so similar, yet so different to the ones he loves, become soft as their ice thaws.

Draco is dragged to the side until he's in clear view of his father, and while a part of him wants nothing more than to squeeze his eyes closed and wish for his father not to look at him, there is an even bigger part which screams, 'look at me. Look at what I've become without you!'

And Lucius is looking at him. Looking at his own son as though he's never seen him before, and when grey meets grey Draco can see distress and amazement. But most of all there is a thin sheen of something tainted with relief, undisguised within his father's hard stare. And Draco hates it.

Because all at once everything he's ever said or done has been linked back to the man in front of him, the man who made a tool out of his own son. Draco has to clench his jaw, has to promise himself that he won't look away, won't back down with weakness, but then Lucius murmurs, "my son…" and Draco is shaking, trembling with the force of his denial.

Something in Lucius's rigid composure snaps, and his teeth are bared as he seethes, "Unhand him at once."

"Can't do that," replies the Snatcher at Draco's back, the one whose fingers press so firmly around Draco's neck that it puts pressure on his windpipe. "We found 'im with Potter. Boy's a bloody traitor."

This does not affect Lucius's conviction, but there is anger, indignation, and disappointment in his eyes as they sweep over his son. "Let go of him," he says, his lips thin and white.

"The Dark Lord won't —"

"The Dark Lord isn't here," Lucius snaps, and Draco flinches. "And he won't be until we can be sure that that is Potter." Lucius makes a sharp gesture towards Harry, who Draco dares not look at, for fear of giving away the anxiety which threatens to consume him.

There is a short silence, and then incensed mutterings amongst the Snatchers, but before the ringleader can speak Lucius orders, "Bring them in." His tone lacks the sense of commandment it used to, and Draco doesn't know whether he's glad or not.

Greyback pushes Granger into Draco's view, and Draco catches sight of a gash on her arm where the werewolf's nails have dug in too deeply. He averts his eyes, feeling nauseous as bile rises in his throat, and meets a hasty look of desperation thrown over Harry's shoulder, before Harry is guided roughly into the Manor.

The Snatcher in charge of Draco moves to follow his cohorts, but Lucius's hand appears suddenly on his shoulder, halting them. "A word, if you will."

The Snatcher pauses and sneers as the three of them are left alone on the path, and it is the last expression he will ever wear, because in the next second he is keeling backwards, his face blank within the void of death, and in the place where he stood is Lucius's wand — the end still sparking with the remnants of the killing curse.

Draco feels stunned, and watches mutely as his father casts several quick concealment charms over the corpse with deft flicks of his wrist, and then he's grabbing Draco by the shirt and flinging him against the well-manicured hedge.

Sharp twigs poke into Draco's back as he thrashes his upper body, trying to jerk out of his father's grip, but his hands are still bound, so all he can do is hiss, "Get away from me!"

"Draco — listen to me — you were under the imperius curse. Do you hear me? Do you hear me!?" Lucius speaks in an urgent whisper.

Draco doesn't want to listen, doesn't want to have anything to do with the ruin of a man in front of him, and his glare strengthens as he spits, "No."

"It is the only way you can survive this —"

"What if I don't want to survive?" Draco heaves, his words bitter with hatred, and Lucius's eyes bore into him with the weight of a hundred unvoiced questions which Draco never wants to answer. Draco takes the silence as an opportunity to continue, and his own question is out of his mouth before he even has time to think. "Was it you? Did you kill her?"

Lucius stills, and something tangible seems to drain out of his body, something like one of the last dregs of his humanity. He doesn't reply, and Draco tastes resentment and despair and salt — because somewhere within the last second he has started to soundlessly cry.

The fact that there is no answer is as good as a confession, and while there may still be something missing, Draco's ribcage aches with the pounding of whatever is trapped inside.

"She wanted to keep you safe, Draco — she wanted you to stay alive," Lucius utters in a strained whisper, a plea starting to make its way into his voice.

Draco's nostrils flare — he doesn't want to listen, doesn't want to hear what he knows is true. And he doesn't want his mother to be spoken of by the vile man who ruined their lives. His eyes burn, and his wrists sting and throb behind him, and when he looks towards the Manor all he sees is Harry's death.

And then Draco is saying what he knows is the only way out, not for him, but for Harry, and that's all that matters. "I'll do what you say — I'll do anything — as long as you get them out of here."

Lucius recoils, his hand dropping away from Draco's collar, and his red-rimmed eyes are so scrutinising that Draco feels trapped. He doesn't care what his father thinks of his son willing to risk everything to keep his enemy alive, Draco only cares about one thing right now.

Maybe it was a foolish thing to say, maybe Draco's blown everything, because Lucius Malfoy has chosen Voldemort over his own family before, so why should this time be any different?

But maybe a dormant part of the wreckage of the Malfoy patriarch knows that this is his last chance. Maybe he's willing to do what's right for the son his wife supposedly died to protect. Because then the light of a decision finally begins to settle in the lines around the man's eyes, and Draco feels the restraints fall off his wrists, and there is a hope kindling to life in his chest, that maybe the Boy Who Lived will live once more.

"Are you sure it is him?" A high voice, pupils blown wide with vindictive pleasure, Bellatrix Lestrange holds all the eyes in the room, and Harry is mad with rage, with the need to avenge — because his Godfather's killer is right there, and Harry can't do anything but hold his breath and hope not to be recognised, hope that wherever Draco is, he's still alive.

"It is 'im, mam," Says one of the Snatchers, sounding impatient and undaunted by her presence. "'E was last seen a coupla months ago runnin' with your nephew — who we also caught —"

"Draco?" Harry hates the way his name drips from her lips, laced with both affection and malice. "Has the sweet little traitor come home?" Bellatrix laughs then, shrill, almost a cackle, and Harry's blood runs cold.

At that moment, as if on cue, the door creaks open, and Draco Malfoy slips inside, his father's white-knuckled hand clenching around his shoulder. Lucius's chin is raised, his eyes giving nothing away other than an old sense of self-importance, even though he looks like he has been ground out of stone and ash.

Draco has his hands by his sides, red marks around his wrists, and his eyes are focused on the floor. And Harry burns for Draco to look at him, to meet his eyes and let Harry know that he's okay. But of course he's not okay. There's a muscle in his jaw that twitches, and Harry just knows that he's clenching his teeth. There's a furrow between his brows, barely distinguishable, but Harry knows it's there, because there have been so many times where he has ached with the urge to touch it.

Draco does not look at Harry, and it kills him.

Bellatrix whirls on them, her wild hair trailing after her, but as soon as she turns her face pales, and whatever has been about to fly from her mouth withers into an almost petrified whisper. "Where did you get that?"

Her eyes are on one of the Snatchers, a tall and gruff man in an oversized coat, and with a winding pang to his stomach Harry sees that he holds the Sword of Gryffindor. "Found it in the tent," the man replies, "Reckon it's mine now." He gives her a toothy grin, and then the barrier of insanity which usually holds Bellatrix Lestrange together shatters, and the man is dead before he can even blink.

Bellatrix is screaming — people are falling, being slaughtered by her demented outrage. The Sword of Gryffindor is glinting amongst all the black — the black floorboards, and the pools of blood that are so dark they look black.

And then with a last swipe of her wand the blade is in her hand, pointed directly at her nephew's neck, as though it is his fault this bout of murder has come to pass. Her chest is heaving, her head tilted back, and Harry shakes, struggles futilely against his bonds as he sees nothing but white-hot fury.

But Lucius Malfoy pushes Draco behind him, angles his body towards his sister-in-law and says acidly, "My son has nothing to do with this! Draco has been acting under the Imperius Curse for months!" And while Harry has always despised the Death Eater, right now he is thankful.

Bellatrix throws her head to the side and lets out a laugh which breaks off into an astonished gasp of feigned disbelief. "Nothing? Nothing!?" She shrieks, "This sword was meant to be in my vault at Gringotts! He and his new friends are thieves!"

Harry can see the tendons in Draco's neck pull taught, the way he strains his body away from the sharp tip below his adam's apple, and the sweat that gathers at his temples. Draco doesn't say anything, doesn't move his frightened gaze from the floor, and there is a terrifying second where Harry thinks that this is the end, that Draco is about to be killed, but then from beside him he hears Hermione whimper.

"We — we found it. It's a — a fake."

Harry's fear wars with his relief, because Bellatrix is distracted, and her arm drops as she repeats hysterically, "Found it!?" She strides across the room towards them, her dark robes billowing, and stops in front of Hermione, grabbing her jaw and forcing Hermione to look at her. Her pointed nails stab into Hermione's chin, and Ron makes a snarling sound. "It seems like we need to have a little chat. Girl to girl! Put the boys in the cellar!"

And then Harry and Ron are being tugged away, leaving Hermione alone to be questioned by a deranged and psychopathic woman. Ron's shouting, but Harry can't hear what he says, because the pounding of his blood is too loud in his ears, and finally Draco's eyes are on him — wide and grey and scared. Because they are being separated, and when a Snatcher stalks towards him Lucius's voice rises to battle Ron's, but it is Bellatrix's that Harry listens to.

Shoving Draco's wand back into his hand, Bellatrix shouts, "Prove it, Draco! Prove that you are still one of us, and teach this mudblood a lesson! Or you can die with her!" And then she is laughing, laughing so loudly, and Draco is white, stricken, and Hermione is crying, her shoulders are trembling — and Harry is useless, being dragged away and down a dank stairwell, before being thrown into the stagnant darkness of the cellar.

The door clangs shut violently behind them, and Ron is panting, swearing, shaking the bars, and maybe he's crying too. But then Harry hears a soft, familiar voice from within the shadows, and he spins around.


Draco thinks about running. He thinks about the wind in his hair, against his skin. He thinks about what it'd be like to disappear, to turn his back on everything he's ever known, and never see Harry again.

But he has to get Harry out of here, even if that means hurting someone who, until now, Draco has never realised he doesn't want to hurt. Because as he looks at Hermione Granger, instead of seeing the bushy hair and the infuriating attitude, he sees a young woman who is intelligent and strong and fierce. And while there is a tilt to her nose which speaks of defiance, which tells Draco she will get through anything he is forced to do to her, there is still fear — a fear of Draco. And a silent plea for him to not do this.

But he has to. Because that is what it'll take for his father to keep his promise.

But he can't. Because Granger isn't the person he used to know, and Draco isn't the boy he used to be.

"Weak!" Bellatrix flings the word at him, taunting him, and there is only the flash of Granger's petrified eyes before Bellatrix points her wand, and then Granger is screaming.

She hunches in on the pain of the Cruciatus curse, but the filthy hands of Fenrir Greyback keep her from falling, and Draco feels sick to his stomach. His hands are shaking, because he knows the only way he can help her is to take the place of his Aunt's ruthlessness, to make it easier, calmer. And Draco can't decide whether what he is about to do is a weakness, or a strength.

Bellatrix stops, catching her breath as Granger's head lolls back onto Greyback's shoulders. And within the haunted silence of Granger's screams, Draco takes a step forward. It is perhaps the hardest step he has ever taken, but he does it. Because if he doesn't then Granger will die, and Draco will be next. Because if he doesn't he won't be able to save her, won't be able to save Harry.

"Hello, Harry. Hello, Ron."

In the dim light from upstairs, Harry sees that Luna has dirt all over her face, and her hair hangs in long clumps behind her. Despite all this, her eyes are still bright, and they hold a positivity that only someone like Luna can manage, and it makes Harry hope.

Ron doesn't pay attention, he doesn't care that a Gringott's Goblin and Mr. Olivander have also been held prisoner for many months, he only cares about the girl his heart bleeds for, and he doesn't stop banging his fists against the bars and yelling himself hoarse.

Harry feels a similar way, because he doesn't know what's happening above him, can't make anything out apart from the physical pain rushing through him at his best friend's screams, and the shrill lunacy of Bellatrix Lestrange's voice. His heart clenches, because Draco is alone, and Harry doesn't know whether he's fighting, or whether he is succumbing to the order to prove himself. And Harry is so, so scared, because he can't tell which is worse.

Draco's on his knees, and he's shivering, his whole body feels cold — inhuman — disgusting. And a metre away from him Hermione Granger lies motionless on the floor.

Bellatrix is cackling deliriously, jumping around as though in a frenzy, cheering him on, telling him to finish it, to put the girl in her place, and somewhere the faces of nameless Snatchers watch in silence, some amused, others sickened. His father is nowhere to be seen, and Draco thinks he wants to die, if only to stop the shaking of his hands, to stop the boiling torrent of self-loathing in his stomach that makes him want to vomit.

Bellatrix stoops over Draco's shoulder, her stale breath in his ear as she hisses, "She's nothing. Nothing, but a filthy mudblood. So do it, Draco, end her… Imperio."

Draco's wand clatters against the floorboards, his chest heaves, and he feels as though a thousand shards of ice are being drilled deep into his flesh.

And then suddenly he feels nothing.

He sees through a haze of someone else's vision, of someone else's life, and it is as if Draco no longer exists. But then he sees his own hand pick up his wand, and then he is crawling over towards Granger, unable to stop himself, his limbs moving as though being pulled by strings.

And Bellatrix is laughing, laughing so evilly, and while Draco might have been willing to give himself over to the foggy bliss of nothingness a second ago, now he tries to be strong. He tries so desperately, and the tremor in his hands is violent as he uselessly attempts to drop his wand.

But his fingers tighten around it, and he leans over the pale expanse of Granger's forearm, strewn out at an awkward angle, and then Draco stabs his wand into her skin, moving it in a pattern he has no control over, and while his face is blank on the outside, internally he is breaking.

Granger wakes with a jolt, thrashes her head to the side, and then she is writhing and shrieking in pain — pain Draco is unwillingly causing, and he can't stop himself, can't help her, because he is weak.

The curse prevents Draco from speaking, from letting out his own agony, and he tastes blood when he attempts to say something and his own teeth snap down on his tongue.

But then Granger meets his eyes, and there is panic and horror, but there is also betrayal, and that is what makes Draco push that little bit further, until blood drips from his mouth and he chokes out, "Her…mione… I… I'm… sorry."

But maybe it's too late, because then Draco feels himself being forced backwards, and when he looks down his hands are covered in scarlet, and Granger is branded with a mark ugly enough to rival the one Draco wears like a curse.

And it's all his fault.

A screech sounds from overhead, and Harry catches the words, "Bring the Goblin!" and his mind races, his palms sweaty as he turns to Griphook.

"You have to tell them the sword's a fake," Harry rushes out, but he doesn't know if the tortured goblin can even hear him. "— please — you have to —"

Harry doesn't finish, because then two Snatchers are shrugging into the cellar, grabbing the limp form of Griphook, and taking him upstairs.

There is no time to think, because as soon as the gate clangs closed there is a sudden cracking throughout the cellar, echoing within the stone walls, and when Harry whirls around Dobby the house elf stands with a hand to his forehead, as though he's just travelled a great distance and needs to rest.

"Dobby? What — what are you doing here?" Harry's voice is scratchy but urgent, and it gets Ron's attention.

"Harry Potter! Dobby is just minding his own business when another house elf pops in front of Dobby — and Dobby is shocked, because he is recognising this elf from when Dobby used to — used to work here, Harry Potter, Sir."

Harry takes in the elf's appearance, the way his knobbly knees seem to tremble at being back in his old master's house. Harry shakes away the thought, tells Dobby to continue.

"Dobby is told Mr. Malfoy is wanting Harry Potter and his friends to be rescued."

"Malfoy?" Draco. Harry's heart leaps. Draco must have found a way, must have found a discreet way to send one of the Manor's elves after Dobby — Dobby, who would be the only elf freely able to save them. "Are you saying you can apparate in and out of this place, Dobby?"

Dobby nods meekly, and then Ron steps forward, ignoring Dobby's excited greeting of 'Mr Weasley!' and says, "Take the others to the Auror Camp — just south of London — in the Underground."

Dobby leaves as an elf with the importance of a mission, disapparating with Luna and Mr Olivander before there is a squeaking voice telling them to move away from the door, and then Peter Pettigrew unlocks the cellar.

Harry and Ron are ready for him, and they move in unison, in a mixture of deft punches and chokeholds, before Ron has Pettigrew's wand, and the rodent-like man is nothing but a stunned lump on the floor.

They do not speak about what to do next, because an undying need to save the people they care about is stringing them together, and without a word they race up the stairs, and back into hell.

But Harry comes to a jarring halt, raw anguish flooding through him, because Draco Malfoy stands statuesque by the mantle, his expression neutral and uninterested, and his fingers are stained red with the blood of the girl lying at his feet.


Harry can't breathe.

Ron roars something beside him, and then he is charging forward, deflecting spells with Pettigrew's wand and starting a battle that is already raging within Harry's chest.

Draco watches as his aunt slashes a goblin across the cheek, as the goblin insists that the sword is a fake. But behind the glaze of apathy he is forced to wear, he knows he is a monster.

Because it has taken him almost seven years to realise that blood is blood. That blood is nothing.

That the blood of a girl he used to condemn is the same as any other blood, the same as his blood — hot and sticky and red. And it's all over his hands. It's on his concious.

Because he is a monster.

And then Harry is there, right in front of him.

Somewhere around them, there are spells flying, maybe even people dying. But for a moment it is just the two of them, Harry's eyes unwavering as they stare, and Draco just wants to scream, to cry and to shout, because no, no, no no no — Harry can't believe — can't think that Draco would want to do this.

But there is blood on his hands. Blood on his concious. And it's Hermione Granger's blood.

Because he is a monster.

And then his Aunt's curse takes a hold of him, and Draco has his arm out, ready to cast, ready to harm Harry. And it is just so wrong that he burns, that he aches, that he wants to die.

But instead green light streams from his wand. Harry ducks, and Draco is so, so glad, but then he fires again and again and again — until Harry shoves into his chest, and they are toppling over, falling into a mess of blood and hopelessness and betrayal.

Draco feels Harry rip his wand out of his grip, and Draco thrums with relief until his empty hands snake up to Harry's neck, to choke him, to kill him, and Harry's wide eyes are so green, so hurt — and god, Draco loves him. Draco loves him and he's about to kill him. And then Draco will kill himself.

But suddenly Harry is gone — he is safe — he has to be safe. Because he's with Weasley, Weasley who holds a limp Granger in his arms. There are two other, smaller figures with them — the goblin and someone else, but then they disappear and Draco can't see them, because suddenly he is crying, he's crying and sobbing, because he's free from his Aunt's Imperio, but his heart is gone.

Harry Potter is gone, and he's taken Draco's heart with him.

Chapter Text

"After all this is over, after Voldemort is dead — I'm going to date Draco Malfoy. So please — you might as well get used to it now."

Would they have really gotten used to it though? Would his two best friends have ever accepted somebody who they saw as lost, beyond hopeless for the cause they fight for — the cause they bleed for? The cause that will leave Hermione with a vile word scrawled into her skin forever, a scar no amount of magic will ever be able to heal.

Later on, when Harry has endless hours to himself, and nothing to think about other than the things he bottles away while the sun still shines, he will wonder whether time really heals. He has a scar, Hermione has a scar, and Draco Malfoy has a scar too. But if there is anything Harry has learnt from being who he is, it is that while all the world may see is that scar, the right people, the people worth fighting for, see nothing but skin. Nothing but chances.

He gave Draco that chance, and maybe Draco gave him one too, but when the nights are full of nothing but worries of what's to come, Harry will wonder if maybe instead of chances, it is about choices.

His thoughts will get too much for him, and he'll squeeze his eyes closed and hold onto the Hawthorne wand — the wand he stole right from Draco's hands — hands that were about to kill him — and he'll give himself over to the smell of cedar and apples, the memory of a boy who is so far away, so unreachable. Maybe Draco was always out of reach, maybe Harry had been deluding himself when he thought what they had mattered, maybe everything was just a farce.

But then Harry will look at the small wooden Quidditch Pitch sitting on his bed-side table, the gift he has tried to destroy, and the gift he has stopped himself from destroying, so many times. And all he sees will be the forehead without a scar, the boy without a past, just a future, the boy Draco Malfoy must have seen.

And Harry will realise that he hates him, that he hates Draco so much, but he loves him too. He loves him, and it tears Harry apart.

Everyone is gasping for breath — their hands grappling at eachother, their voices begging to know whether everyone is okay.

Harry barely hears them, barely focuses on anything other than the rushing in his head and the cold dread in his body.

Because he's not okay.

Because everything he thought he knew — every intricate detail that withstood time and hate and rivalry, every touch and every kiss that held him and Draco together, has now been pulled apart. And Harry is left on his hands and knees in a dark railway tunnel, trying desperately to put the pieces back together — but he can't, because the most crucial part is missing. Draco Malfoy is back there — back in the aftermath of chaos and death and blood. Blood he spilt.

Someone's calling his name — far-off and hazy, as though Harry's underwater. There's a warmth on his shoulder — a hand, and when Harry shakes his head and forces himself to surface from the sea of confusion and betrayal, he sees that it is not Ron or Hermione by his side, but Luna.

He knows he should ask her whether she's alright, and how everybody else is, but Harry finds he can't speak. Luna carries a lit torch in one hand, the flame lighting up her face. She is pale, starved, no doubt, but she still smiles.

"Come on, Harry. Let's go meet the others." She offers her hand, and Harry takes it, lets her help him to his feet, because Luna is kind and trusting and accepting. She doesn't expect him to say anything, doesn't expect him to be anybody other than Harry, and it is like she's telling him that this is enough, and that she's sorry for his loss. Because he has lost something, Harry realises, something incredibly important, and if he thinks about it too hard he knows he will lose what little strength he has left.

As Luna guides him through the tunnels, Harry becomes aware that they are alone, that his friends have already gone on ahead. It shouldn't hurt, but it does, and it is only Luna's comforting hold around his waist that keeps him steady.

While Harry's features have returned back to normal, he's still missing his glasses, and with each step his eyelids begin to droop with fatigue. Vaguely, he hears voices growing louder and louder, and he supposes these must belong to the 'others' Luna was talking about. His own name is mentioned several times, but then Harry stops paying attention, because suddenly he is surrounded by black, and he lets it come.

He welcomes it.

When Harry wakes, his first realisation is that he's comfortable and warm beneath several heavy blankets — in a bed.

His second realisation is that his wand is not in his hand, and after several moments of panic and grabbing at the sheets, he notices it on a bedside table. Next to it are his glasses. Without a pause Harry shoves them onto his face and grabs his wand, and the familiarity of it enables him to breathe easier.

His third realisation is that wherever he is, Draco Malfoy is not with him. Because Draco tried to kill him — tortured his best friend, and Harry couldn't do anything other than leave him behind.

His fourth realisation is that Harry still loves him, and it is wrong and frightening and sick.

Harry throws back the covers and swings his legs out of the bed, only to find they feel like lead, as though they are weighed down by months of running and hiding. Harry supposes they are, so he moves them slowly, stretching out his muscles before he attempts to stand.

He's in a nondescript room, full of beiges and artless water-colour prints. There's a small couch, a low table, and the bed that he sits in. It reminds Harry of a low-class hotel room, only there aren't any windows, and it makes him feel mildly claustrophobic.

Stiffly, Harry gets to his feet. He's still in the same clothes as yesterday, but someone has cast a cleaning charm on him, because he is no longer caked in dirt and sweat and the stench of fear. He lets out a breath, and is about to head towards one of the two doors in the room when he catches sight of what's at the foot of his bed.

His rucksack, and leaning against it — the Sword of Gryffindor.

And then Harry remembers the Elder Wand and Voldemort, and suddenly he can't get to the doors fast enough. He swings one open, discovers a tiny bathroom, shuts it with a bang, and barges out of the one next to it.

Harry finds himself in a narrow corridor, and someone who looks asleep and ruffled abruptly jumps up from a chair to greet him.

Remus Lupin looks exactly as he did several months ago, but now the lines in his face are full of something like hope, something that seems to radiate with the promise of a new life.

Before Harry can even ask — before he can let the guilt he should feel towards this man take a hold of him, he is enveloped in a crushing hug, and Remus is slapping him on the back and wearing a grin that is too broad for someone so weary.

"Harry." And despite everything, despite the echo Harry hears of James, James and not Harry, he knows this reunion is genuine, and that he is honestly glad to see the man in front of him. Remus pulls back, and even though there are questions evident in his expression, he does not voice them, doesn't do anything other than tell Harry how good it is to see him. He also tells Harry that he and Tonks have just had their first child, and he asks for Harry to be Godfather.

Harry feels his throat clam up, because he is young, because he is nothing more than a boy pretending to be a man, trying to stay alive in the midst of a war that is about much more than just good and evil. And because he remembers his own Godfather, Sirius laughing and grinning and dying, and Harry doesn't even know if he'll be a good Godfather, let alone if he will live through this so as to be one at all. But he swears to himself that he will try anyway. He owes his father's best friend that much, and he can only hope beyond all reason that there will never be a need for him to be put in the role that Sirius was.

Harry nods, and Remus beams.

For some reason, he holds his breath as Remus leaves him at a different door, yet one that looks exactly like the one Harry came out of not too long ago — a door that Ron and Hermione are behind. Harry insisted on seeing them, and even though it was evident Remus thought he should eat something first, he didn't argue.

Harry knocks tentatively, his knuckles rapping on the laminated wood, and after a brief pause he recognises Ron's low voice say, "come in."

Harry walks into a room that looks much the same as his own, only there are two beds, and two photo frames sitting on the bed-side table inbetween them. Harry spares a moment to wonder whether both beds are actually used, before he sees his best friends sitting on the couch. Hermione is asleep, her head on Ron's shoulder. There is a cut on her lip, a faint red line at the base of her neck, and her left forearm is bandaged. Harry swallows, his eyes landing on Ron, who is pale and bruised, but alive.

Ron's gaze is trained on Harry, and Harry feels something cold and heavy run through him when he sees Ron's fingers tighten around Hermione's shoulder. Harry clenches his teeth, tells himself he imagined it, but when he looks back to Ron's face he is met with hesitant distrust.

There's no where to sit, so Harry leans awkwardly against the table, facing his friends, and searching for something to say that will break through the ice of what Harry knows must be going on in Ron's head. They haven't had a chance to talk since Harry punched him, since Ron found out about him and Draco, and suddenly Harry feels like an idiot, because after everything that's happened, and as much as Harry would like to believe otherwise, Ron has been right about their enemy. The look Ron gives Harry boasts that he knows this too.

Harry clears his throat. "He has it. The Elder Wand."

Ron seems reluctant to acknowledge what Harry's said for the sake of saying, frowns as though he'd rather be talking about something else — something Harry wants to avoid. "'Mione told me," Ron says after a while.

"We need to figure out what to do next," Harry continues, "We need to talk to—"

"We need to rest," Ron grits out, and Harry almost recoils from his tone. Ron's eyes soften as they flit down towards Hermione, to the gentle rise and fall of her chest. "She needs to rest."

Harry gives a weak nod, but Ron doesn't see it. "How is she?" He asks quietly.

Ron's hand comes up to move away a lock of Hermione's hair, the touch so delicate it's barely there. "She'll be alright," He whispers, "she's strong."

"She is," Harry replies, his voice soft and offhand, and he shouldn't be so surprised when Ron glares at him, but he is.

"This is because of Malfoy," Ron seethes, and Harry winces at the name, "— because you couldn't —"

Harry cuts him off, urgent to cease the stabbing sensation in his heart. "I don't care. I don't care what he couldn't do — or what I couldn't do — alright? It's over. It's over. And we — we need to get past this, or…" Or we'll never beat this, because it'll never end, and Voldemort will win.

Harry isn't going to apologise, even if Ron thinks this is Harry's fault, even if it really is his fault. Because Harry refuses to acknowledge the dangerous aching in his chest that chokes him whenever he thinks about what could have been, what he and Draco could have been.

Harry's fists ball at his sides, and he exhales in a frustrated and painful surge. Ron doesn't stop frowning, but he doesn't argue, if only for the sake of the girl sleeping on his shoulder.

"Look, I'll — I'll talk to you later." He turns, heads for the door, but Ron's voice stops him.

"She's been really worried 'bout you, you know…"

Harry's eyes burn, but he doesn't look back, because he doesn't deserve Hermione's worry, doesn't deserve to be cared about by someone who wears the physical reminder of what has been Harry's mistake, Harry's misjudgement.

He leaves the room, and the door clicks shut softly behind him.

The Auror Camp is made up of abandoned train carriages; the compartments transfigured into cramped bedrooms, and winding railway tunnels that lead into numerous caverns. Magic makes the caverns look like clinically clean halls, some filled with booths and strange equipment that Harry doesn't recognise. One is decked out with numerous long plastic dining tables and chairs, at which people sit and eat from the kind of trays one finds in Muggle cafeterias.

Harry feels strange as he walks into the eating hall with Remus at his side, because he is met with the sound of countless voices, some whispering, others laughing, and such a sense of crowded comfort that if Harry were anybody else he wouldn't have guessed there was a war going on. The people closest to the door stop eating and stare at him, their spoons hanging dumbly in front of their mouths.

Harry wishes for a familiar face, for anyone who will see him as him and not some kind of saviour. He wishes that Ron and Hermione were next to him, that things were normal. Then Harry sees a shock of blond hair bobbing towards him, and his heart thuds erratically because it can't be — it —

It's Luna, and she looks clean and happy and well-rested. "Hello, Harry. It's good to see you're awake."

Harry frowns, relieved that he wasn't hallucinating, and Remus clamps a hand on his shoulder and tells him to meet beyond a door at the back of the hall after dinner, before disappearing. "Awake? How long was I asleep for?"

"Oh, just a couple of days," Luna shrugs, as though this information isn't out of the ordinary.

This doesn't make Harry feel any better at all, but as he follows her towards a serving window in the wall he asks, "How are you, Luna?"

"I'm spectacular, thankyou," Luna says as she picks up a metal tray and hands one to Harry, "I've just finished telling Dean all about the ten uses of Nargle saliva."

"What — Dean? As in Dean Thomas?"

"Oh, yes," Luna gives him a far-off smile, "He's a very good listener."

"He's here?"

Luna just nods, and then turns to the house elf on the other side of the window, who asks her in a high squeak whether or not she'd like beans. Harry doesn't know what to say, caught between his excitement at the prospect of seeing his old classmate and surprise at seeing the house elves, and then suddenly he remembers —


Luna makes a humming noise, and is distracted from complimenting one of the elves on its eye colour. "What was that, Harry?"

Harry just nods as each house elf asks him if he'd like beans or baked potatoes or mustard and then dollops a large portion on his tray. "Dobby — the elf who rescued us from M—"

He can't say the name, and when Luna looks at him there is sympathy in her eyes.

"He's doing well," Luna says dreamily, "He had to leave after putting you to bed though, Harry. He's a very important person, doing a very important job for someone in the Order."

Harry doesn't know what to think, he's just glad that Dobby's okay, but then suddenly there are more hands on his shoulders, and Harry spins around to see Dean Thomas, tall and broad, and the grin on his face is so contagious that Harry grins back.

The meal is the best Harry has had in a long time, and he feels light and full as he chats with Luna and Dean, and even though he knows it won't last, for a second it is though he's back at the Gryffindor table again, surrounded by people he cares about.

Harry meets Remus, Mad-eye Moody, and a man who is supposedly head of the Aurors, Robards, after dinner, and instead of looking at him as though he's a hero they look at him like he's a child, a child who needs as much help as he can get.

"Constant Vigilance, Potter," Moody growls at him, his eye whirling. Robards invites him to join Auror training, and Harry finds out from Remus that all the people staying here are a mix of the obvious — Aurors, Order members and their families, muggleborns and a few halfbloods, and people who like Harry have been running for too long, hiding for too long. Everyone has a job to do, Moody tells him. The main thing is to blend in, to not look obvious when roaming the streets and doing what small part one can to help win a war.

There are muggle protection teams, who go out and cast wards and defensive spells on any muggles close to the latest area tinged with Death Eater activity. The Death Eater safe house invaders are mostly Aurors, but the gleam in Robards's eye as he looks at Harry tells him he won't be adverse to letting Harry join them. Their main goal is to get in and to get out, disabling any curses and traps and bringing in any rogue Death Eaters.

There are teams of anti-Snatchers, people who dress as Snatchers, act like Snatchers, but aim to prevent the real Snatchers from taking people to the Ministry. The last group is full of the oldest and the youngest in the camp, and their job is to do food runs, and to help the few elves who escaped from Hogwarts in preparing meals. Harry is unsurprised to learn that Snape is now the headmaster, but his teeth still clench and his feet stand firmer on the ground.

There is silence as the three men look at Harry, their gazes penetrating in the dark rocky tavern which is home to towering piles of rubble and what looks like a fork lift the muggles must have left behind. They're waiting for his response, so he tells them it all sounds great, because it does, Ron and Hermione were right when they said it was the best place they could be right now, but there's something he has to do first. Harry expects Remus's disappointment again, but instead there is only pride in his smile. Robards nods grimly, tells Harry that someday, he'll make a great Auror. Moody doesn't say anything, but his eye continues to buzz and spin, and somehow Harry knows he understands.

Harry showers. It is his first shower in months, his first shower since leaving Grimmauld Place, and it is wonderful. It washes away every ache in his body, every pain except for the dull one in his heart, the one he tries to pretend isn't there.

The hot water feels glorious over his skin, plastering his too-long hair to his neck and his forehead, and as Harry lets the soap run over his shoulder blades, he gives in to his thoughts — images of Draco here. Draco safe. Draco who didn't try to kill him. Draco in this shower, his body bare and wet and pressed against Harry's, and god —

Harry groans. And he's hard. He's so hard and it hurts. But what he can never have hurts more, and Harry can only lean his head against the cool tiles and hope that the water is scalding enough that he forgets.

When Harry steps out of the tiny bathroom, clean and dressed in fresh clothes, the first thing he sees is Hermione Granger standing in the middle of his room. She turns, and her arms are drawn across her chest, as though holding everything in, and when she looks at him her mouth is bowed with sorrow and regret.

Harry has a second to notice that Ron is sitting on the couch before Hermione throws herself at him, her arms around his torso squeezing tightly, and the tears on her cheeks soaking Harry's neck. She murmurs, "I'm sorry, I'm so sorry," over and over again, and Harry can't do anything but hug her back, because he should be the one who is sorry. And he is sorry, Harry realises. He's sorry that this is how things turned out, that things could have been different.

But then Ron is there too, his wide arms around both of them, and nothing else seems to matter, because they are safe and alive and together, and this is what healing looks like. What forgiveness looks like.

They stand there for what could be ages, but is probably only minutes, red and brown and black, their heads together and their embraces keeping eachother whole, and while Harry feels like he may have lost one home, a home full of snark and insecurity and hot kisses, he knows that this home will never leave him.

Ron pulls back first, maybe because things have gotten too soppy or maybe because he's getting uneasy at the thought of another bloke hugging his girlfriend. Harry follows a second later, because they have things that need to be said, plans that need to be made, and while his smile is tired and only half there, Harry is ready to continue what needs to be finished.

The next morning they talk to Mr Olivander and Griphook, who are both weak yet recovering, being treated by one of the camp's healers.

And then they plan and plan and plan.

The fact that Griphook will only help them if he gets the sword is troubling, but then Hermione finds one of Bellatrix's hairs on her jumper and Harry thinks they will find a way of making things work after all.

Ron gets by pretending his best mate isn't in love with a Death Eater, and Harry gets by pretending there was never a person named Draco Malfoy to begin with.

Hermione acts stronger than ever, and when the time comes for her to take off her bandage she gets by pretending that she is proud.

They eat their meals in the dining hall with everyone else, and although Harry will never get used to the stares he knows there is nothing he can do about it, that they will follow him for the rest of his life. Sometimes they sit with Dean and Luna and people their own age, and will listen to stories about their days full of action and close calls. Dean is part of one of the anti-Snatcher groups, doing what he can to make sure that people like him aren't taken against their will. Luna spends her days alternating between helping the house elves and learning from the Healers.

Other times they sit with the Aurors, and Harry gets to know the crude and raucous humour of Robards after he fills up on a warm meal and a glass of elf wine. Moody maintains his aura of constant vigilance, and never touches a drink unless it is out of his own flask.

Remus Lupin doesn't stay at the camp often, because he is home with Tonks and his newborn child, Teddy, who Harry can't wait to meet. Harry has never been good with children, but there is something about the idea of his godson, the idea of a goodness that was made on the brink of a war that is special.

Bill Weasley joins them at dinner some nights, and lets them know that his family are well and safe. Ron glows, and Hermione glows because Ron glows. Harry is happy too, but there is something that twinges in his chest when he sees the smiles and the comforting touches that his best friends share. It isn't quite jealousy, and it isn't quite sadness either.

Harry doesn't know what it is, but as he looks down at his half-eaten meal of sausages and mash, he remembers that this is how things would have been when Draco Malfoy was held captive by the Order, held prisoner for defecting. Harry doesn't let himself question whether that defection was real or not. Instead he listens to all the laughter and the loud conversations and he wonders whether somewhere in the camp there are more prisoners, desperate to be free, desperate to do what's right, but unable to.

His chair scrapes back as he excuses himself, and even though Hermione calls after him he doesn't stop.

Harry can't sleep — these days, he can never sleep. He sits up in the dark and empty dining hall, his arms on his knees and his back against the wall. He likes it in here, because while it is normally packed with life, at night it is void and raw. When Hermione joins him, he doesn't say anything.

She pulls the blanket she's wrapped in tighter around her shoulders, inhaling shakily, and Harry wishes she wouldn't speak, because he is afraid of what's coming.

"It's okay… that you miss him."

Harry looks at the faint line of her profile in the dim hall, searching for a scrap of something he can use for an answer, because it isn't okay. It can't be. "I — I don't—"

"I know you miss him, Harry. And… And I think he misses you too."

Harry's jaw snaps shut, and he squeezes his eyes closed in hopes of stopping the image of Draco's pale face, the look of apathetic blankness he'd worn as Harry ripped his wand out of his hand. It's useless, the image still comes, so Harry keeps his eyes open.

"He tried to kill me — he…" But Harry knows that's not what's plaguing him. He swallows away the lump in his throat and glares at the eery shadow of the dining tables. Why do things have to be so hard? Why does he have to have feelings for the person who mutilated his best friend's arm?

They share the silence for several minutes, and Harry clings to the only excuse that is stopping him from going back for Draco. "Hermione — he — he tortured you," Harry says, his voice thick with remorse and disgust, and something else that makes his heart pang.

Hermione's eyes are wide and sad, and they dig deeply into Harry's soul and uncover everything he's trying to hide.

"You love him," She whispers. She's right. She's always right.

And Harry hates it. He hates it because it's true, and he wishes it wasn't. He hates it because he wishes he could hate Draco Malfoy, but he can't.

But most of all he hates himself, because this irreversible love that he feels for his old enemy is hurting his best friend, and he can't do anything about it.

Harry takes a breath, but it hurts, everything hurts, and unsurprisingly he feels hot tears begin to contour his cheekbones.

"I… I think it's always been him." Harry chokes out, and his whole body burns with the release of the truth. Because the sauntering, sneering boy with the blond hair and the grey eyes has always made Harry feel. And while those feelings used to be nothing but anger and hostility and hatred, now they are so much more.

Harry leans his head back against the wall, and when he looks down through the veil of his tears it is to see that Hermione is crying too.

"Oh, Harry —"

"I know you hate him, and you should hate him — hell, you should hate me for saying —"

"I don't hate him."

Hermione's voice is so soft, Harry thinks he's misheard her. But as he stares at her and notices her lower lip trembling, he knows he's heard correctly. "But he — Hermione, he —"

"I know," She breathes. "I know what he did. And nothing anybody says can ever make it right. But — when he was bent over me, when he —" Hermione hiccups, suppresses what Harry knows must be a sob, and skips over the part that left her with bloody letters carved into her arm. "—He whispered an a-apology… It doesn't change what happened, but — but it helps me remember that I hate what he did, and not — not who he is."

Harry stays silent, unsure of what to say, unsettled by the way Hermione chews her lip and averts her eyes, as though there is something she isn't saying.

He doesn't know why Hermione didn't tell him this sooner, but he supposes it hardly makes a difference — it doesn't change anything other than the part of him that thought Draco stopped fighting for the right side. He wonders if Draco was even fighting for them — with them, to begin with, or whether he was just going through the monitions of doing so, so as to stay alive.

"I used to see the way he looked at you, Harry." Hermione says after a while, and it is her way of telling him that maybe Draco loved him too.

Harry's tears have dried on his face, and he doesn't care if Hermione has seen them, he only wishes her words didn't make him ache to go back — to see if the looks Draco gave him were anything like the ones Harry offered him in return.

But it's too late. It's over.

"It doesn't matter now," Harry says. He's bitter, full of regret, and a yearning for someone he'll never have. "Maybe it never mattered."

Remus wishes them luck, Robards tells them to get back soon, otherwise all the worst Death Eaters will be taken. Harry tries not to feel too sick at that statement, and he tries not to feel even more nauseous when Hermione walks out of the carriage looking like Bellatrix Lestrange.

Harry swallows, feeling the soft fabric of his invisibility cloak slide through his fingers, trying not to think about the last person who wore it, before he throws it over himself and Griphook.

They disapparate into Knockturn Alley with a slight crack, and Harry pauses to catch his breath against a grimy stone wall before meeting the unfamiliar eyes of his friends. Griphook's arms fasten unpleasantly around Harry's neck, and in turn Harry grips the hilt of the Sword tighter.

Their plan will work, he tells himself.

It has to.

Chapter Text

Draco feels nothing but an excruciating pain. He can't tell where it's coming from, but his nails, now blunt and bloodied, are clawing at the floorboards. As though if he digs past the wood and the splinters he will find Harry Potter, the Boy-Who-Left-Him.

Draco doesn't find him, he only sobs with dry tears and listens numbly to his Aunt's furious screams. More Snatchers drop dead from her rage, and Draco thinks in that moment he wouldn't mind dying either, if only to escape the pain he now realises is pouring out of the place where his heart used to be.

But then someone is pulling Draco to his feet, someone tall with blond hair just like him — Lucius — and Draco is half dragged from the parlour with the help of his father.

The man has an arm secured around Draco's shoulders — but it isn't an embrace. Only his mother and Harry Potter have ever embraced Draco, and while one is dead the other may as well be — because he's gone.

It isn't an embrace. It is a way of keeping the rapidly crumbling shell of his son together, it is a way of guiding Draco through familiar halls and up familiar staircases, until they are in the East Wing, the part of the Manor where Draco's rooms are, along with his memories of fear and helplessness.

They don't stop moving until Draco's swimming vision settles on the bed which contains sleepless nights and terrifying dreams, and Draco thinks he's going to be sick, thinks that after everything he's done in the past hour, it will be the sight of his own bed that gets the best of him.

Lucius places a hand on Draco's forehead, as if he's checking for a fever that is already burning Draco up from the inside. The gesture is wrong and something his father has never done before, but Draco is too weak to shake him off.

Lucius's hand drops, and after casting several wards over the room, he leaves. And Draco doesn't know wether the spells are to stop other people from coming in, or to keep Draco from leaving.

Draco sleeps. He dreams of green eyes and tanned fingers across ivory keys. He dreams of a laugh that makes his heart speed up, and he dreams of a voice saying, "I'm not going anywhere… In case you were wondering."

Draco wakes soaked with sweat and choking over sharp gasps of breath that don't quite reach his lungs.

He's in his bed, a four poster with elaborate stained mahogany carvings, but he doesn't remember getting in. He doesn't remember changing his clothes either, but somehow he's in silk pyjama bottoms and a clean shirt.

And Draco panics.

He launches himself out of the bed, and his foot tangles in the sheets and sends him sprawling onto the hard floor. But he doesn't stop, doesn't take notice of the ache forming in his ankle, he only looks wildly around the room — at the wardrobe and dresser and the messy desk that is exactly how he left it all those months ago — searching desperately for the charmed paper bag, the reminder of everything he's become, and everything he's lost.

And then he sees it, sitting atop his folded pile of clothes on the chaise, the paper bag which Harry left at the door of the attic, in what seems like a different lifetime ago. Draco got the idea from Granger and her beaded bag, and since then he has been carrying it around in his back pocket, an undetectable extension charm hiding within the brown paper.

He grabs it, holds onto it like a lifeline, and when the urge gets too strong to resist he tilts it upside down and watches as everything falls to the floor. Colourful boxers, shirts and jumpers that have Harry's selflessness sewn into the hems, and amidst them all, the folded wad of parchment — the Marauder's Map.

And then Draco realises what he's doing, wrenches his hands away as though they've been burnt, because suddenly everything he thought meant something means nothing, and Draco is left sitting in a pile of clothes on the floor, alone and distraught and ruined.

Draco used to think that Harry Potter ruined his life. But Draco was wrong, because now he realises he's ruined his own life. Maybe Harry never had nothing to do with it. Maybe Harry was just there, and that's why Draco thought of him as the only thing grounding him to reality. The only thing worth living for, and the only thing worth dying for. Maybe it would have happened regardless, maybe Draco would have handed his heart over to anyone who was stupid and reckless and did things like saving Draco's life.

Or maybe it doesn't even matter. Because Draco already did the unthinkable — he's already fallen in love, and he knows that slowly, piece by piece, it will destroy him.

His hands shake, curl into fists that bang sporadically on the polished floor of his bedroom, and it takes him back to the time when he thought hope was lost, when he thought he was going to die, but then Harry Potter had come back for him.

And Draco knows — knows that just as night will give way to day, that this time, no one is coming for him.

Draco sleeps. He dreams of the look on Granger's face when he'd tortured her, and he wakes with her screams still in his ears.

He doesn't get out of bed, and he doesn't open his curtains. His father doesn't come to visit him, and Draco can't bring himself to care enough to be glad.

Within the interim of fitful bouts of sleep and staring at the canopy of his bed, Draco sometimes catches the savoury smell of food. The first time it happens, Draco leans far enough towards the edge of the bed to see a warm meal set out on a tray, and he supposes the house elves must have left it for him.

He doesn't eat it.

One day, Draco wakes to find the room full of light, and Blaise Zabini standing at the foot of his bed.

"You look like shit," Zabini says.

Draco scrambles into a sitting position and stares. Blaise Zabini, who is tall and prim, who Draco always thought was entirely neutral when it came to things like sides and wars, is staring at him as well.

"What the fuck are you doing here?" Draco asks, and it takes him a moment to understand that the rough, scratching noise is the sound of his own unused voice.

Zabini raises a dark brow, arched in the centre and pointed at the end, and for an insane, stupid second, Draco is jealous, because he realises that he probably does look like shit. And until now he hasn't found a reason to care.

"I could ask you the same question," Zabini trails a finger over the bed post, and then lifts his hand to inspect something — dust, probably — beneath his nail. Draco wonders why he feels so annoyed.

"This is my house," Draco retorts through his teeth, and he hates the way it sounds like a lie.

"Is it?" Zabini asks simply, and then he looks at Draco, his near-black eyes scrutinising.

Draco wants so much to say no, but he can't, so instead he settles for a glare that he hopes is more threatening than it feels. "What the hell's that supposed to mean?"

"Nothing." Zabini walks over to the wall length window, his back facing Draco as he looks out over the grounds. Draco tries to imagine what he must see, other than a freedom Draco will never have. Maybe Zabini wants that freedom too, but that's unlikely, because then he turns around and says, "I hear you were with Potter," and there is a sneer in his expression that Draco despises.

Draco clenches his teeth, and his hands fist in the sheets. He tells himself this is because he doesn't know what to say, doesn't know what is safe enough to say, and not because that name sends all sorts of things like anger and despair and betrayal rushing through his veins. "I can't remember much," Draco snaps, "I was under the —"

"Imperius Curse," Zabini finishes for him. "Yes, so they say."

Draco narrows his eyes, wondering who they are, but refusing to ask.

"You can ask, you know." Draco blanches, but before he can say anything, Zabini continues, "Why I'm here."

"I already did," Draco grits out, getting more incensed by the second.

"Yes, well. I didn't feel like answering then," Zabini shrugs, observes Draco's desk as one would a rabid dog. "You haven't changed much. Still so impeccably neat apart from your —"

"Shut up!" And before Draco knows it, he's on his feet, inches away from Zabini, boiling with rage. Because Draco has changed, he's changed more than anyone will ever give him credit for — but Harry still left him — still didn't think Draco was different from the boy who would hurt someone because of their blood.

Zabini is calm, a hair barely out of place, and he surveys Draco through a cool gaze, unfazed by an attack he knows won't come. "You haven't got a wand."

"Neither have you," Draco seethes, and it's true, he notices, Zabini doesn't have a wand, and it makes Draco frown. "Why haven't you?"

Zabini takes a step back, puts distance between them, between himself and the dishevelled wreck of a blond he used to call a classmate, maybe even a friend. Draco once thought of Zabini as a friend, if a friend is someone with whom you exchanged nods in the corridors and shared a dorm with, and made a mutual agreement not to interact unless it was absolutely necessary. Blaise Zabini had been aloof, preferring to stick to the quieter shadows of Hogwarts with his hands up girl's skirts and his tongue down boy's throats. That's the way it'd always been until Draco had walked into his dormitory to find Zabini in the middle of undressing Terry Boot. Draco had told them to go and fuck somewhere else, because he was irritable and stressed, and trying futilely to fulfil the task the Dark Lord had given him — a task Draco would ultimately fail.

After that, Zabini started hanging around Draco more often, sitting next to him in the common room and silently reading the prophet beside him at breakfast time. Draco never knew the other boy's reasons, but a part of him had taken comfort in his presence, a presence that didn't expect Draco to maintain his demeanour of Slytherin Prince, or murderer of Albus Dumbledore.

Then the Headmaster had fallen from the Astronomy Tower, and Draco's life had never been the same again.

The last time he'd seen Blaise Zabini was at Kings Cross Station, walking away from a war that his family wanted no part in.

And now here he is, standing in Malfoy Manor as though he has more of a right to be there than Draco does.

"That's none of your business," Zabini retorts, and it takes Draco a second to remember that he asked a question. The wrong one again, apparently. "Your father let me in to see you," Zabini says after a pause. "He wanted to know whether you were still alive."

Draco glowers and spits, "If he cared he'd come himself." He doesn't know why he makes it sound like a problem, he's unsure whether he even wants to see his father.

"You haven't been eating," Zabini says nonchalantly, as if he doesn't care either.

"So?" Draco shoves his hair out of his face, his hand sliding through what feels like grit and days of being unwashed. Suddenly, he is desperate to shower.

Zabini shrugs again. "People who have been under the Imperius Curse don't take this long to recover."

Draco hates the way he says it, as though he knows it is a lie but is going along with it anyway, just so he has something to hold over Draco should he need it.

Draco doesn't reply, he only bites his teeth down over his tongue, and all at once he is reminded of the taste of blood in his mouth, of the harsh, unrelenting tang that nearly drowned him when he tried to resist his Aunt's torture.

Nails digging into his palms, Draco looks up to see that Zabini has his hand on the door handle. There is no goodbye, and then Draco is left with a nagging frustration and hints of desertion, regretting his chance to plague Zabini for further answers.

On impulse, Draco throws himself at the large double doors, feels his shoulder ache in protest, but the thick wood doesn't give, and the handles scorch his flesh. His father's wards seem to work, and Draco feels so alone, so trapped, that he almost wishes Zabini would come back.

Draco stares at himself in his ensuite mirror. He does not recognise the gaunt face that looks back at him, the cheekbones that are too high, and the lips that were once kissed red, but now dull and dry. His hair is almost at his shoulders, blond and uneven and clumped, and for a second Draco swears he can still feel Harry's hands running through it, tangling and pulling and making Draco moan.

But Harry isn't here. Harry is probably somewhere safe and happy and surrounded by people who care too much, who see him as the reason they live and the reason they fight.

And then with a sickening lurch Draco braces himself against the sink, because he is just like those people. Only he isn't fighting, because Harry left him, and Draco doesn't think he even knows how to fight anymore.

Harry is with Weasley and Granger, and they are probably planning and laughing and finding horcruxes, too busy to spare a thought for the boy who never thought he could live without Harry Potter.

And it's true, Draco realises, even when he was younger, he was dependant on Harry to be there, to shout at him and to argue, and when he grew up and tried to be someone he wasn't; a warrior just like Harry, Harry was still there, holding him up and being the pillar on which Draco could lean.

But Harry isn't here. And Draco wants so much to hate him, to blame him, but he can't. Because Draco was always expecting this, to be left behind. He knew it would happen, he knew the cause Harry was born to fight for would be the thing that would end up tearing them apart. Because of course Harry would never choose him. Draco, a Death Eater who is a coward, who can't even bear to look at the mark on his arm without it reminding him of Harry touching it, of Harry kissing it.

Draco closes his eyes, wills his imagination to take him back for a fleeting moment to the time where he thought he was important, that he was important to Harry. And he's there, for a delicious second he's there, wrapped in Harry's arms with Harry's hot breath against his neck. And then just as quickly he's crashing down, sliding against cold tiles in a cold bathroom, in a cold house where a madman lives. And Draco is a part of that madness, he has to be or he'll die.

Because Lucius was right. If Draco wants to survive he has to act. Acting used to be something Draco was good at, but then Harry Potter came along and tore Draco's acting skills to shreds. He opened Draco up and looked into his heart, and then he made a home there.

But Draco should want to die. Because Harry isn't here. Harry left him. And Draco should hate him. But he doesn't. All he can do is pretend to hate him, and slump beneath the boiling hot water of the shower on his hands and knees and act as though he isn't yearning for everything that Harry Potter is, was and ever will be.

Draco dresses. He dresses in the stiff suits everyone would expect the boy he used to be would wear, but beneath it he wears baby blue boxers with unicorns printed on them.

He keeps the charmed paper bag in his trouser's pocket, feels the weight of it like a secret as he paces the length of his room.

He eats the food the house elves leave him, and he organises the things on his desk. There was a time, before the burden of a mission had been forced onto his shoulders, when Draco would sit there and finish homework in the holidays, write letters to Pansy, and contemplate what he could do to make Harry Potter's life miserable next term.

Draco tidies it because Zabini was right, because desks have always been the only thing Draco doesn't like to keep neat and composed, and Draco doesn't want Zabini to be right.

When Draco turns at the sound of the door creaking open, he expects his visiter to once again be Blaise Zabini. Draco has tidied his desk, and has been waiting for Zabini to come in and see it for the past three days, but he has been left disappointed.

It isn't the tall and regal Slytherin standing on the threshold of Draco's room, however, it is Antonin Dolohov.

And suddenly Draco is met with the flashing eyes he saw that afternoon at Xenophilius Lovegood's, that shock of recognition Dolohov had aimed at Draco before he'd been stunned by Weasley.

There's a gleam in Dolohov's eyes now, dark and assessing, and a curve to his lips that tries to be played off as innocent amusement but ends up appearing sinister. Draco almost drops the oil lamp he's been moving as Dolohov takes a step closer, and Draco's surprise begins to ebb into loathing.

"What do you —"

"I know what you are, Draco Malfoy." And then the man's right in front of him, long fingers wrapped around Draco's bicep.

"Get the fuck off me!" Draco hisses, but Dolohov jerks him violently, and the lamp slips from Draco's hands and shatters on the floor. Draco's eyes narrow, and he tries to maintain a calm front, even though he is fuming, because he liked that lamp, and he hates this man.

"I know that you and Potter were responsible for putting Yaxley in Saint Mungo's. Such a botched memory charm will have him in for life." Dolohov's breath is hot and putrid and smells like alcohol and smoke, and Draco firms his jaw and tries to tilt his face away from it, but then the man's hand is at his throat, preventing him from moving. "I saw you kill Gibbon, Malfoy. I saw you slash him to pieces. For Potter." The name is spat with the vileness of a curse, and Draco is caught between apprehension and indifference. But the last part is the worst, the last part is what makes Draco shiver with repulsion and the urge to get away. "And I know you were never under any Imperius Curse… Aside from your Aunt's, which, unfortunately, I didn't have the pleasure of witnessing."

And Draco's facade fractures, forces him to push back and send a fist up into the unsuspecting thickly-set jaw of Dolohov. Dolohov's eyes widen for a split second before they darken with retribution, and his fist collides with a splintering slap across Draco's cheek, sending him to the floor.

Draco doesn't have time to get up before the man is bending over him, hauling him upwards with a seething whisper that reeks of death, "You're lucky they have a use for you."

Draco stares at him, at the dark stubble and the livid eyes, and then he spits the blood in his mouth at Dolohov's face. And Draco just knows he is about to endure something horrible, that such an action deserves fatal repercussions. Dolohov has his wand out, his face carved out of disgust and rage —

And then Lucius Malfoy is at the door, looking harried and furious, and almost at once Dolohov moves away from Draco as though he hadn't been about to kill him. Lucius strides into the room, his icy glare full of detest as it trains on his fellow Death Eater, and when he tugs Draco to his feet he still doesn't look at him.

"Leave," Lucius says, keeping a well-trained lid atop his wrath.

Dolohov smirks, and Draco feels like spitting on him again. "Best hurry, Lucius. Wouldn't want to miss the party… Especially not when the Dark Lord is waiting." Then Dolohov stalks out of the room, his cloak twirling at his ankles as he disappears through the open doors.

Draco looks at them longingly, entertaining the thought of running, of escaping, and then no doubt dying. Lucius is shaking Draco by the collar, and it takes Draco a second to realise he hasn't been listening to what his father is saying, and then sudden, cold fear washes over Draco, because the Dark Lord is waiting, and Draco can't taste anything but bile and dread.

"He's — he's here?" Draco croaks, forgetting the anger he should feel towards his father at being locked up and forgotten.

"We're going to go downstairs," Lucius says calmly, in a near whisper, ignoring Draco's sudden terror. "And you're going to make some vows. And then everything will go back to how it should be."

Draco shakes his head, numbly at first, and then in desperation, because nothing will ever be the same again, because his mother is dead and he is in love with Harry Potter, and he can't ever imagine himself feeling any different. But, "V-vows?" Is all he manages to say.

"Unbreakable vows," Lucius replies impatiently, his eyes flicking towards the door as though afraid of someone listening.

"What — why — you can't make me," Draco breathes, suddenly wishing his rooms were still sealed, that he'd be able to while away the days brooding and rotting, with nothing for company but his own morbid thoughts.

"Because," Lucius says through his teeth, his fingers digging into Draco's shoulders, "I fulfilled my end of the bargain. And now you must fulfil yours — you must make them believe you are one of us — or die." The last words are said as though they are not an option, and there is a fire blazing in the pale depth of Lucius's grey stare.

Draco feels like something is choking him, something like a hot ball of steel, and he fears that if he speaks too quickly he'll vomit. "I — I already am — one of you," he struggles out, and then he tears the sleeve of his suit upwards to display the black skull and the black snake, the mistake he thought Harry had forgiven, the mistake Draco will never stop regretting.

"In your case, it is not enough." And then Draco recognises it, the plea in the lines around his father's eyes, around his mouth, that begs for Draco to make it enough.

And Draco can't say anything, can't say anything because Harry left him, because Harry's not here and no one is going to save him. Draco has to save himself. So he nods. He lets his father escort him out of he room. He listens as the sunken man says he's sorry for letting Dolohov come when he should have himself. Draco can't tell if he's really sorry, because if he was then he would have come sooner, wouldn't have hidden Draco away without a word, even if it'd been for the sake of his safety.

Draco stares into his eyes, Voldemort's snake-like eyes, eyes that survey him with an almost feverish amusement, and wonders why he is still standing, why his legs haven't given out beneath him, and why he isn't curled in a ball on the floor, sobbing and wishing for everything to go away.

His hand is ensnared by the one with cold fingers and long pointed nails, the one Draco knows has taken countless lives. Magical cords entwine their wrists, forcing every word from Draco's mouth to be the truth.

"I swear to not speak of the Dark Lord's plans to anyone, anyone but fellow Death Eaters." Bellatrix Lestrange gives a shrill laugh as Draco repeats the words her Lord and Saviour hisses at him.

"I swear not to do or say anything that will sabotage the Dark Lord's plans." Draco says it, and he hates himself.

"I swear my allegiance and my life to fight for the side of the Dark Lord." It's not true, but it is, it has to be, and Draco thinks of green eyes and a crooked smile that is only for him, and while his body is here, his heart is elsewhere, his heart is with Harry, and he'll never stop fighting.

"I swear to follow the orders of my superiors, and not to act weakly or foolishly in the face of my duties." Draco says the last vow, and beside him Dolohov casts the completing spells. Voldemort glides soundlessly back, dropping Draco's hand, and Draco wonders whether he will ever be able to get rid of the lingering tingle of evil that laces up his palm.

"Well done, Draco." His voice is in Draco's ear, even though they are separated by high laughs and jeering congratulations.

Draco's dark mark burns, and he feels sick.

Because Harry left him. And now Draco has to save himself.

Draco sits on the floor of the shower. He's fully clothed, and for a wild second he thinks about cutting his arm off. He doesn't know what happens next, what he is meant to do or be other than the boy stuck in a swarth of lunatics, lunatics who Draco used to identify with. But now he knows. He knows that his heart beats for Harry Potter, and he knows that he's got to survive this. He needs to make sure Harry survives this. Even if Harry never wants anything to do with him ever again, Draco thinks he'll always love him.

Draco sits in puddles of water gathered on the tiles. He thinks about Severus Snape. He thinks he will do what he can to be like his old potion's Professor, if only to get another glimpse of emerald eyes and a scar that doesn't matter. Two weeks ago, Draco was angry. He was so angry. Because Harry left him.

And Draco is still angry, but he's angry at the people who made him this way, who made it so that Harry would be given a choice between Draco and a war. Or maybe there was never any choice to begin with — and that's also their fault. It's Voldemort's fault. And it's Lucius Malfoy's fault. Maybe it's Draco's fault too, but he thinks it shouldn't matter, because he's payed already. His penance came when Harry Potter left and took his heart away.

A sudden knock breaks Draco from his thoughts, but he doesn't stand up. He doesn't even flinch as the door opens, and Blaise Zabini moves into the bathroom like a shadow.

For a while, neither of them say anything, and there is only the faint drip drip drip of water against ceramic. But then Zabini lowers himself to the floor, rests his back against the closed door, and looks at Draco within the dimness of the night.

"We all make it eventually."

Zabini's voice is quiet, and Draco doesn't hear it as much as hears the echo of it. He doesn't know what it means, and he doesn't know what to say in return. But somehow he knows Zabini isn't expecting an answer, just how he never expected Draco to say anything when he used to join him in the common room, or in the Library.

There's a soft clattering noise, the sound of wood against stone, and when Draco catches movement in the darkness he looks down to see what looks like a wand being rolled towards him. It stops at his feet, and with frigid fingers Draco reaches to pick it up.

It is Narcissa Malfoy's wand, and the sight of it sends both hot and cold stabs into Draco's chest. He clenches his grasp around it, and he never wants to let it go. Because this wand, it was never evil, his mother was never evil.

Zabini sighs, and when Draco looks away from the thin black wood and the gilded handle he sees the other Slytherin is about to leave the room.

"Thanks," Draco breathes out. He knows Zabini catches it, even if he doesn't answer, and then the door clicks shut and Draco is alone with his new-found hope.

Because Draco won't die, he won't give in, he will save himself. For his mother. And for Harry Potter.

Chapter Text

Harry drags himself to the shore of the lake, gasping for breath as he scans his surroundings for his friends. Ron's helping Hermione onto the bank, their robes sodden and clinging, and Harry watches with a dull pang of that same something that is neither envy or sorrow as he sees Ron's hands cup Hermione's cheek, asking whether she's okay.

Overhead, the blind Dragon gives one last screech of freedom before it disappears over the hills. Harry looks away from the bright sky, wondering whether there is anywhere he can look that won't cause him some sort of pain, and gets to his feet.

He trudges over towards Ron and Hermione, wet socks and boots squelching unpleasantly. Ron's orange hair forms a drenched cap over his head, and his face is pale as he says, too faintly for sarcasm, "That went well."

Hermione huffs out a short laugh, and wipes her limp curls from her face.

Harry manages a nod and replies grimly, "At least we got the cup."

Ron sighs. "Bloody goblins." Hermione throws him a disapproving look which Ron pretends not to notice. "Is there no one we can trust?"

"Bill tried to warn us," Hermione says reproachfully.

Harry doesn't answer, because he is still sore over the issue of trusting people, one person in particular, and it worries him that if he were to think about it hard enough, he knows he would still throw his life into Draco Malfoy's hands if ever it were necessary.

"C'mon, let's go," Ron grabs Hermione's hand and Harry's arm, and together they side-along back to the Auror Headquarters.

Draco is practicing magic with his mother's wand when the screaming starts. His gaze snaps towards his bedroom door, which he knows will open to his touch now. Yet, for obvious reasons, he feels more inclined to stay put, to stay out of the warpath that the Definition of Insanity is no doubt wreaking downstairs.

But something changes Draco's mind. Maybe it is the sick feeling in his gut that accompanies memories of the last time chaotic rage happened — when Harry Potter escaped yet again — or maybe it is nothing more than a macabre curiosity.

He exits the room, casts silencing charms on his feet, and treads carefully down hallways and staircases. As he gets closer he hears shouts and sporadic voices punctuated by the cracking noises of dark magic. He catches the words, 'Potter' and 'Gringotts' and 'escaped,' and Draco's heart hammers in his chest. He thinks maybe he should have a silencing charm on his heart too, but then he smells blood and hears croaking pleas for mercy, and his stomach roils.

Draco edges closer to the open doorway of the drawing room, his back to the wall, until he is near enough to get a glimpse inside. Bodies are strewn all over the floor, slashed open and covered in a mess of scarlet, and Draco recognises the uniforms of Gringott's guards, and sees the smaller figures of goblins amongst them.

Voldemort is still yelling, and his followers are too scared to do or say anything. Draco thinks he sees a flash of the whiteness of his father's hair, but then his eyes land on something else — in the hand of the nearest dead goblin, the Sword of Gryffindor lies unnoticed.

And Draco daren't breathe, daren't move, but before he can convince himself to leave, to run and hide, he has his mother's wand pointed at the sword, and accios it into his hand. He spares a second to shove it into his charmed paper bag, his palms sweaty and shaking, before forcing his feet to take him calmly back to his room, as though he'd never left it.

Once there, he shuts his doors, leans against them to try and steady his racing pulse, and then transfigures the paper bag into something more common, something that someone won't bother to look twice at should they see it. He settles on a pocket watch, one that actually tells the time. If Draco had been any amount of months younger, he would have looked at it with smugness, because he's always been good at transfiguration, but now he only gazes at it with a suppressed fear, wondering how long it will be before he is found out.

And then there's a knock at his door, and Draco thinks that this is it, that he had all of three minutes to rejoice in his limited success at rebellion, that someone must have seen the sword floating out of the goblin's grip, but when Draco opens the doors with his heart in his throat he sees it is only Blaise Zabini, and his shoulders sag with relief.

That in itself should be worrisome, because there is only one person alive who Draco feels comfortable enough with to let his guard down, and he's not here. Draco clenches his teeth, and aims for a blank look of enquiry as he stands back to let the other Slytherin in.

"Did you hear?" Zabini asks carelessly as he steps into the room, his shoes so polished they're almost indistinguishable from the floorboards.

"Hear what?" Draco asks casually, folding his arms.

"Potter broke into Gringotts and stole something from Lestrange's vault." Zabini says it as though he's commenting on the weather, but as Draco meets his eyes there is something there that is just waiting for Draco to show himself.

Draco quirks a brow, trying to pretend like he isn't exultant with pride — trying to pretend like he isn't begging to know whether Harry got out unharmed. "Really?"

"Such is the rumour," Zabini says slowly. He looks for a moment at Draco's desk, and a slight twitch forms at the side of his usually expressionless lips. It's gone as quickly as it came, and when Zabini turns back to face him his eyes are void of anything Draco can discern. "You better be ready. They're going to want to start using you soon."

Draco frowns. "Use me?"

"To fight. They usually become more relentless after the Dark Lord is angry."

Draco doesn't need to ask who he will have to fight, because he already knows. Instead he tightens his hold on the wand in his hand and asks, "Why are you here, Zabini?"

Zabini studies him for a second and then shrugs. "Same reason as you, I suppose."

It's an evasive answer, and it doesn't mean shit, so Draco sneers, "What? No one want you either?"

Something very brief, but resembling irritation, flits through Zabini's eyes before he schools his features, and Draco thinks there might be a way to crack the exterior of his old classmate after all. He files this information away for later use, but before he can say anything Zabini whispers, "You may think this will be easy, Draco. But it won't be."

Draco glares, because he is sick of Zabini's riddles, and he resorts to hissing, "Fuck off, Zabini."

There's that tiny smirk again, and then the other Slytherin departs, his footsteps nearly soundless.

And Draco takes one deep breath, before he laughs.

Because Harry did it — he must have found another Horcrux in Bellatrix's vault — and Draco has the Sword of Gryffindor. All he needs now is a way of getting it to the boy he loves. He thinks about what Zabini said about fighting, and he knows wherever conflict will be, Harry Potter will be also, and Draco thinks that will be his best chance.

The only question is how?

The table at dinner that night is a mix of the young and the mature, but mainly it is full of good-cheer, and even though Harry feels tired and defeated, he laughs when he has to, and smiles when it is expected.

When they returned, Remus asked them whether they'd been successful, and at Harry's nod he'd grinned, even though he had no idea what had been achieved.

Now, Harry listens as Robards fills everyone who is in ear-shot in on the time he busted an illegal potion smuggling ring in his first week of being an Auror. Harry is only half listening, and every now and then he catches Ron's eye across the table and they share a look of doubtful humour.

Harry is partially distracted by thoughts of what must be happening on the other side of the spectrum, whether Voldemort knows what has been taken from him, and what his next move will be. Harry's newly developed Occlumency skills must be working, because he hasn't had any unwanted visions since the Snatchers found them.

As though hearing his thoughts, Moody asks gruffly, "How's the scar, Potter?" The man's fake eye is focused unnervingly on Harry, and his real one is narrowed with suspicion and interest.

Beside him, Harry knows Hermione is listening keenly, and he fiddles with the grip on his fork as he replies awkwardly, "It's — er — alright. Hasn't been hurting much lately."

Moody grunts and takes a gulp from his flask. "That a good thing or a bad?"

"I dunno — good, I s'pose. My — my Occlumency's gotten a little better —" Harry cuts off as Hermione's hand lands on his knee and she turns in her chair to face him.

"You didn't tell me, Harry." She sounds earnest, inquisitive, but Harry grits his teeth and looks down at his plate.

Of course he didn't tell her, because the person who taught him is responsible for the scar that shines in white lines over her forearm. No one says anything apart from Robards, whose booming voice continues with his heroic tale. Luna and Dean seem to be the only ones who find his story riveting, and suddenly Harry wonders why neither Moody or Remus have asked about Draco yet, seeing as they both knew he was with Harry, knew that they must have been together for months.

Harry swallows, the word 'together' taking root in his heart and sprouting into weeds of regret and longing. He raises his fork to his mouth, chews his food without tasting it, and reminds himself that he has always been the only one to take an unnatural interest in Draco Malfoy.

It hurts, and for a second Harry wishes he was back in the underground chambers of Gringotts, clinging to the back of a dragon, because it made him forget, and forgetting is a lot easier than pretending his whole body doesn't ache with a desire to be holding someone he should hate.

Draco doesn't eat the food in front of him. He pokes at it with his cutlery and stares at the smooth surface of the table. Across from him, Blaise Zabini sits with a similar expression, although he is used to this enough that he does eat.

Around them, Death Eaters talk, and Death Eaters argue. The head of the table is empty, and Draco is grateful. Sometimes Draco swears he catches Dolohov looking at him, but as soon as he turns his head the man is immersed in discussion with the Carrows beside him.

It makes the pocket watch feel even heavier, and suddenly Draco can't wait to get up and excuse himself.

But then they start talking about plans, about safe houses, and about finding where the Order is hiding and killing them all. And even though it makes Draco squirm, makes his hands tighten into fists beneath the table, he still listens.

Harry will be there. Harry will be in danger. And Draco is long past berating himself for still caring. He will do anything for Harry, even if Harry would rather do anything other than see Draco again.

Ron's staring into the window display of a jewellery shop, and Harry has to double back after he realises he's almost left him behind. It's their first food run, and while Harry is glad of the Auror's trust, the shopping bags are beginning to weigh down on the arms of the fifty-year old muggle he pretends to be. You can only shrink so much food before it turns iffy, and drink cans don't take too well to magic. Next time Robards tells them to bring back beer, Harry's just going to have to tell him to fuck off, or to do it himself, in the nicest way possible.

"When this is all over," Ron says, "I'm gonna ask her to marry me."

Harry represses a sigh and places the bags at his feet, before catching sight of the sparkling selection of rings and necklaces which Ron gazes at fancifully. Harry looks away when the jealous something singes the lining of his stomach, and turns his eyes on his friend, on the boy who will come out of a war as a man with the prospect of a family waiting for him, and for a brief moment, Harry wonders whether the same will come of him too.

Ron's face is full of hope and wistful longing, and while the pessimistic side of Harry has been getting so much attention lately, he still manages to delve into himself and surface with a shred of heartfelt joy for his best mate.

Harry smiles, looking back at the scarily priced silver bands. "That's great. I'm happy for you." Harry is happy, and it surprises him. Maybe it surprises Ron too, because his faraway stare moves to settle on Harry, and after a second he smiles too.

Inside the shop, a young man in a dress shirt and tie chooses a ring with several small diamonds on it, no doubt for his soon to be bride, and Harry's envy increases tenfold. Because he isn't going to marry Ginny like everyone expects him to, he isn't going to have a normal life, or a family with several children.

He's Harry Potter, and he will either come out of this war as a damaged man, or not at all, and strangely enough, he doesn't know which he'd rather.

He's Harry Potter, and it took him years of dancing around the sharp tongue of his enemy for him to realise he's gay, and thinking about Draco Malfoy makes his eyes sting and his throat clam up.

Because he's Harry Potter, and never will he be able to put a ring on the finger of the person he loves most.

Draco keeps practicing his magic. His mother's wand works well, but not as well as the wand that shared Harry's touch. Sometimes he even does push-ups, and even though it makes him feel like a muggle, he doesn't care, and no one will ever know.

He does it because he feels cooped up, and because he'd rather stay in his room than walk the halls and happen across a malicious smile on the face of a Death Eater.

He does it because he has to fight, and he needs to stay strong.

One night, Draco collapses, because his arms hurt and his chest hurts, but his heart hurts the most. And with his cheek on the floor he stares at the door, imagining Harry charging through it, imagining Harry coming to save him and taking Draco away.

It feels so good for just a second, his body warms up and his lips itch to form a smile, but then he feels cold. So cold.

Blaise Zabini finds him like this. He pulls Draco to his feet and manoeuvres him onto the edge of his bed. Zabini sits next to him, not saying anything, and Draco is about to tell him to piss off when suddenly his left arm feels like it's being torn to shreds.

He chokes over a groan, fingers clawing at his flesh as his mark writhes and burns, the lines darkening as it responds to the calling of its master. Draco's teeth bite into his lip, and Zabini's usually stoic expression has slipped into one of startled confusion as he asks, "What is it?"

And it doesn't make sense, because Draco thought Zabini was in the same situation as him — but the black haired Slytherin isn't doing anything to betray a searing and ripping sensation along his forearm.

Draco launches himself at Zabini, reaches for the sleeve of his left arm, and tugs it up to reveal nothing but blank, dark skin. And Draco sags back onto the pillows, right hand still uselessly covering his own mark, because suddenly he feels ensnared by injustice, by the weight of something that is so unfair it feels like someone's kicked him.

"I was never one of you," Zabini says softly, and Draco squeezes his eyes shut, trying to ward away the pain, but it doesn't work, nothing works. "You should go."

So Draco goes.

Zabini watches him from the bed, and as Draco stumbles out of the room the pain lessens. Antonin Dolohov intercepts him before he reaches the dining room, and his grin is wild as he grabs Draco's arm and pulls him into the room.

Voices are loud, everywhere, full of excitement and anticipation. And Draco doesn't know what's happening, but Dolohov's grip is still tight around him, and then they are disapparating.

Harry ducks as Remus pulls him to the ground. They're hidden beneath a low brick wall, dotted with rose bushes. Across the field, Robards and Bill Weasley can be seen by the barn-side.

They're at a farm in the middle of nowhere, and Harry is only here because he'd been with Remus at the time he got Robards's patronus. It's an abandoned farm, and the Healers use it to heal muggles who have gotten in the way of a world they know nothing about. It's too risky keeping them at headquarters, so they have a team of Healers stationed out here, along with a group of defenders.

"Stay down, Harry," Remus whispers hoarsely. Harry lowers himself back down, trainers crunching in the gravel, from trying to peek over the wall and see into the farmhouse. Luna waved at him from the top window, and something in Harry's gut clenches to know that she's here, in harm's way.

Remus has his eyes trained around the edge of the bricks, at the farm gates, where he says Death Eaters will be appearing at any moment. The most recent muggle the defenders brought in from Yorkshire had been a Death Eater in disguise. The glamour wore off after the Healers gave him a muggle IV, and then one of the Auror's managed to stun him before anyone could be hurt, yet not before the man had been able to reach for his mark.

They had two choices, to clear off, or to wait for the ambush. In the end, it'd been Robards's decision to stay, to make their own ambush in the face of another ambush. And now here they are, waiting.

Ron is somewhere around the other side of the house, invisible in the line of the trees with Mad-Eye Moody, and it is only because of both his and Harry's pleas that they managed to convince Hermione to stay back at the camp. She didn't kiss Ron goodbye, and she didn't hug Harry either, and Harry doesn't know whether it was because she was angry at them, or because if she did then it'd be final, it'd be like admitting there was a chance of them not returning.

Robards told them there's nothing to worry about, that most of the Death Eaters will lose interest as soon as they see their destination is nothing but an old hovel, and while Hermione appeared worried, both Harry and Ron were itching to do something. Because the knowledge of Hufflepuff's cup in the bottom of Hermione's beaded bag burdens them as both a failure and a success, and the two of them have always been ruled by adrenaline.

Harry thinks for Ron it has more to do with wanting to prove himself, because he knows Ron looks at Robards as though he's waiting to be told he'll make a good Auror too. Harry wishes he could give Ron all of the Auror ambition other people have loaded onto him, because while everyone may think Harry Potter wants nothing more than to fight for the good, Harry just wants to prevent people from dying.

His thoughts are cut short when Remus nudges his knee, and a moment later there are cracks of apparition, and the sound of boots across grass.

They stay crouched, for one second, two, just long enough for the Death Eaters to pass their position, to be able to corner them in. From behind the barn, Harry knows Robards and Bill will be getting ready to do the same.

Remus clicks his fingers, and then they move.

They vault over the wall at the same time a flash of green light crumbles the bricks. Harry throws up defensive spells and counter curses, his heart beating wildly as he sees that Robards was right. Several Death Eaters evaporate into blackness as they run from what seems like nothing, while others make a break for it towards the farmhouse.

And then Harry sees him.

Fighting next to a tall, rugged looking Death Eater who Harry recognises from Xenophilius Lovegood's house, is Draco Malfoy.

And Harry can't breathe. For a split second he forgets where he is, and who he is supposed to be duelling. His distraction gives the enemy the upper hand, and a large blond Death Eater laughs as his spell hits Harry in the leg.

Harry shouts out, flinging stunners out until one connects with his attacker's chest, and then the man plummets to the ground.

And when Harry turns his attention back to the two who were battling Remus, Draco Malfoy is looking at him.

The afternoon is almost golden, but the paddock where they fight is covered with brown, with upturned mud and people falling, and Draco doesn't know what to do — so he follows Dolohov, sticks to his back and pretends as though the spells he fires aren't meant to miss.

Draco recognises Remus Lupin duelling Dolohov, and for a demented second Draco can't decide who he wants to win. Because the werewolf is the one who locked him up, who tried to make peace of something that could never be peaceful, who dumped him on Harry Potter's doorstep and made him learn that he would never be good enough.

But then Draco hears a grunt of pain, a voice that is so familiar he would know it within a crowd, and there's Harry — Harry who has just defeated one of Draco's own, and Draco should feel elated, but he doesn't, he can't — he's not allowed to.

Draco's just standing there, susceptible to any wayward curse that flies his way, but he doesn't care, doesn't care that his black suit is splattered with mud and his hand is shaking around his wand, because then Harry looks at him, and it is as though he never left.

There's mud on his glasses and leaves in his hair, and he looks wild and stupid and Draco loves him, god Draco loves him so much — but he hates him too because he fucking left him behind. But Draco can't move, can't hurt Harry, and he knows he needs to, that he should, because surely he must be breaking several of his vows right now.

But Harry doesn't move either, doesn't attack Draco, and Draco just wants to scream at him, to tell him to attack first before Draco is forced to, and to ask him why he left Draco all alone, why he left Draco with these people who he loathes.

And all at once, with shocking clarity, Draco is hit with the realisation that he is fighting on the wrong side. That maybe his desires are bigger than just being something to Harry Potter, that maybe he would fight for them if he got the chance, that Draco would curse the intimidating figure of Dolohov because he hates what he stands for.

"FUCKING MOVE, MALFOY!" Dolohov yells over his shoulder, dodging a curse sent at him by the werewolf. It's an order, Draco feels it like freezing fire through his veins, gathering under the skin of his left forearm.

But it is move, move and not fight, so Draco makes to run for the farmhouse, where windows are shattering and fires are starting, but then Harry casts at him, and the hex barely misses Draco's shoulder.

And Draco almost trips, because suddenly every amount of betrayal and pain and love comes to a boil and Draco just wants to fall apart, because how can Harry do that to him? He forgets to remind himself that this is what he wants, because he is too busy thinking that after nights spent talking, sharing things no rivals should ever share, after almost dying together, after living together too, after everything — Harry does not hesitate to hurt him.

Because Draco is small in the scheme of the greater good, and he despises it. His teeth scrape together, and with a violent jerk of his wrist he sends a wordless petrificus totalus right into Harry's chest. And Harry falls. He falls to the ground and Draco runs.

He runs and runs and runs, until he is in the house that is burning, that is gradually collapsing, and he doesn't know what he's meant to do, what he's meant to find. He dodges spells from both sides, and thinks he catches sight of bright Weasley-coloured hair, but then there's just smoking wood and hospital stretchers, and Draco finds himself in an upstairs room, empty apart from a lone figure slumped against the wall.

It's a girl, with long tangles of blonde hair, and there's blood smeared across her face. It's Luna Lovegood, and seeing her there, dead, gives Draco a sick sort of satisfaction, because he knows she escaped with Harry, that Harry chose her over him, and he hates her for it. But he hates himself more, and then he sees her hand twitch and her head turn slightly, and before Draco can question himself he's dropping to his knees in front of her.


She murmurs something that Draco can't hear, and her eyes flicker open, blue and piercing, as though she isn't dying in the middle of a battle zone. She stares at Draco, and Draco stares back, and his teeth close over his tongue as he realises that he wants to say he's sorry. He doesn't know what he's sorry for, maybe for nothing, maybe for everything, but then Lovegood blinks at him and asks croakily, "Is B-Blaise o—okay?"

Draco frowns, bewildered, "What — he — he's fine. Why?"

She doesn't answer, she just shuts her eyes again and smiles, and suddenly Draco is desperate for someone — for anyone to come up and find her — come up and save her, and take her away from what everyone knows is a Death Eater. But what if someone else finds her first? Someone on the wrong side — someone on Draco's side.

"You — you should hide," Draco says quickly. Lovegood doesn't reply again, she doesn't even move. "Shit. Shit shit shit —" Draco casts the limited healing spells on her that he knows, ones that will at least keep her alive for a little bit longer, and when she groans and splutters out blood Draco doesn't think he should feel so relieved, but he feels it anyway.

He hastens to his feet, steps over broken beds and dead bodies, and when he gets to the window he does the only thing he can that he thinks will make a difference — he sends out red sparks from his wand, a universal wizarding sign that something is wrong, that help is needed. Draco knows the Death Eaters wouldn't bother with something like that, that they'd be perfectly content to leave their own to die.

And then he hurries out of the room before someone can find him and catch him — Draco stops dead on the stair landing. Catch him. It's insane, and he knows that if he lets himself be caught it wouldn't change anything, he wouldn't be able to fight for anybody, and if the Death Eaters ever saw him again they'd kill him.

But Draco still turns it over in his head, until the wooden beams of the house structure begin to creak and spark. Draco knows he has to leave, but his mind goes back to Lovegood, alone and barely alive, and he is just about to turn on his heel and retrieve her when suddenly Dolohov is right in front of him.

"Were going! There's more coming!"

And then he grabs Draco and they're gone.

Harry walks straight past Hermione, and bangs the door to his compartment closed. He sends his foot into the wall, slams his fist into it as well. It doesn't help, it never helps, but Harry still does it. And then he slides to the ground.

It was Ron who found him, Ron who helped him to his feet, and Harry doesn't know why he was expecting it to be Draco.

He's caked with mud and the scent of burning wood, but he doesn't care. He just twirls Draco's wand in his fingers, his head bowed and his eyes closed. He should have done something — but he couldn't. Because seeing Draco standing there, decked in black and looking collected but hollow, left Harry with the feeling that the only way to put his heart back together again was to hold onto the person in front of him. To hold on and never let go.

But then the other Death Eater had shouted at him to move, and Harry had to get there first, because Draco Malfoy was supposed to be his to manipulate, to touch until he was nothing but putty and moans — Draco was supposed to be with Harry in a tent in the middle of the woods.

But Draco obeyed, and Harry had to stop him.

There's a knock at the door, soft and gentle, and when Harry looks up he doesn't know how much time has passed.

Hermione comes in, shuts the door behind her, and upon seeing her Harry feels guilty for ignoring her before. She stands there, swaps her weight from foot to foot, and when Harry meets her eyes she looks away.

"Harry, I —" She bites her lip. Harry notices the way her gaze drifts to the wand in his hands, and as though remembering the person who owns it she clears her throat, forces herself to be strong. "Luna's awake… If you wanted to see her."

Harry nods, gritting his teeth against the pain in his neck from where he'd hit the ground. "Thanks."

Hermione waits, as though she still has something left to say, but then she lets out a breath and says simply, "I'll see you at dinner," and leaves.

Harry showers, scrubs his flesh raw until the events of today are nothing but a memory, and then walks out into the train corridor.

He stops at Robards's room-turned-office first, knocks with more energy than he thought he had left. Robards gruffly tells him to enter, and when Harry walks in he sees the man sitting behind his desk, an ice pack held to his head. He's bent over scrolls of parchments in front of him, and Harry has to make a coughing noise for him to look up.

"Oh, Potter. Good work today." Robards gives the ice pack a look as though it's what's distracting his attention, and then drops it on the desk. Harry frowns, uncertain how lying uselessly in the mud while everyone else fights for their lives can be called 'good work.'

"I want to join, Sir. I want to fight, and I want to take them down."

Robards, who seems a lot more sombre when he hasn't been drinking amidst a number of eager ears, and mellow after a tiring battle, nods solemnly. "Weasley came and said somethin' similar." Harry waits as Robards picks up his ice pack again. "An' I told him we need as many hands as we can get."

Harry isn't surprised, but he grins anyway. "Thanks, Sir."

"Might as well stop callin' me Sir, Potter, it's not like I get payed." Robards guffaws for a moment and then gets a hold of himself, frowning down at what Harry thinks looks like maps, and then back up at Harry with a stern glaze to his eyes. "When's all this going to end, Harry?"

It's a genuine question, and Harry sways on his feet to know that this man of authority, is asking him a question the whole world seems to think only Harry knows the answer to. He wishes he could tell him, could tell the world, but there are still two more Horcruxes to find, and Harry doesn't know what he can do other than to fight.

Instead of answering, Harry asks, "What are we going to do next?" And he thinks that even though he has finally managed to shun Voldemort away from his mind, he would open the connection again, if only to see the opposition's next move, and where to go from here.

"Safe houses," Robards grunts, "There's still several more. Meet here tomorrow morning if you're game."

There's no point saying he will be game, because everybody knows Harry Potter doesn't back down from a challenge. Draco Malfoy knew that as well, and now he is Harry's biggest challenge yet. He nods, thanks Robards, and leaves.

"Safe houses," says Rowle eagerly, his meaty hands thumping on the table. Beside him, Draco tries not to flinch. "We get in, wait for 'em. Let 'em catch us, but not before takin' one of 'em, usin' some polyjuice, an' there we have it. We're in their headquarters. Spy gets a message to us, an' then we have 'em. All of 'em — Dead."

The plan is met with enthusiasm, and from the dungeon comes the cries of someone being tortured, their pained wails sealing the fate of all the unsuspecting people Draco can't even warn. His thoughts swirl around Harry, Harry who Draco can't save, Harry, who by this time tomorrow night, might be dead.

And Draco knows he will do anything he can to take Harry away, to make sure he's safe. It is selfish, and Harry will hate him for it, but Draco knows he will hate himself more if he lets Harry get hurt.

He volunteers himself for the mission, and Dolohov gives him an appreciative leer which makes Draco want to wretch. Lucius Malfoy holds his head a little higher, as though he is finally proud to have such a son.

Draco lets them believe what they will, and when the night darkens he finds himself standing at his open window, looking down onto the grounds where he would once sneak to frolic in the flowerbeds with his mother's krups. He has scaled the towering tree beyond his window countless times before, and it is just as easy as it used to be, only now instead of being an innocent boy eager to explore the outdoors past bedtime, he is a young man who has orders to follow, and a will beyond any strength he could have imagined, to find a way around those orders.

His feet hit the garden path, and he is just about to cast a disillusionment charm on himself when someone calls his name, and his anxious gaze snaps up to see Blaise Zabini looking down at him from his bedroom window.

Zabini's eyes are wide in the darkness, "What the fuck are you doing?"

Draco swallows, contemplates what to say, because while he is half certain that Zabini will tattle to everyone about what he saw, there seems to be something lurking beneath the other Slytherin's expression that says, 'take me with you.'

"Taking a walk," Draco replies in an impatient whisper.

Zabini doesn't even let the lie process. "But tomorrow morning —"

"I know," seethes Draco, "I'll be back by then." He hesitates before slinking beneath the trees. "Are you going to tell them?"

Zabini is silent, and Draco is just about to rethink his whole plan when there is the reply of, "No."

Draco frowns, and forgetting that he should feel lucky to have an answer at all, he remembers something important and asks quickly but quietly, "Why did Lovegood ask after you?"

"You saw Luna?" Zabini sounds almost breathless, and just as Draco thinks he's finally going to find out something he's been missing, Zabini rushes out in a calm tone, "Why did you stun Potter instead of killing him?" He says it as though he doesn't intend for the conversation to continue, as though the answer can be found in what he's just said.

Draco just shakes his head, glaring, and spells himself invisible.

Harry finishes tying the laces of his boots, a half-eaten piece of toast held between his teeth, when Hermione sits down on the bench next to him. Her face is lined with a familiar worry that she has been wearing whenever she sees him lately, and Harry knows it's probably to do with her disagreeing about what he and Ron are about to do.

"Harry…" She begins, rubbing her hands over her jeans.

Harry straightens up, chews the last of his toast, and says, "We'll be careful, I promise. Honestly, Hermione."

Hermione turns her face away, lets out a shaky breath, and Harry wonders if her nerves are what's stopping her from coming with them — not that Ron would let her, anyway. "Did you talk to Luna?" She asks.

Harry nods, he did talk to Luna, who didn't seem very lucid, although Luna isn't normally a lucid person to begin with. Her eyes had been incredibly bright and earnest, however, when she told Harry that an angel, his angel, had been to see her, and had saved her life. Harry had to fight the urge to roll his eyes, and ended up telling her that he was glad she was okay. A lot of the other Healers hadn't been so lucky, and if someone hadn't sent out red sparks from the top story of the farmhouse, they wouldn't have been able to get Luna in time.

Robards has been enquiring around as to who sent up the sparks, but has been met with nothing more than shrugs and inquisitive denials.

"Did she — did she say anything?" Hermione's voice trembles a little at the end, and Harry looks at her with a frown.

"Are you okay?"

Hermione's toffee-coloured eyes seem to simmer and sadden, and she looks like she's about to cry as she says after a whimper, "Harry — Harry, I have to tell you something —"

At that moment Ron and Bill round the corner, and Ron gives a wide grin to his friends as his brother knocks on Robards's door. Several more Aurors and volunteers begin to gather for the safe house mission, and Hermione squeezes Harry's hand. She looks pained, desperate, but her lips are clamped shut, and Harry can't imagine what it is that's troubling her.

And then Robards emerges from his office with Remus and Moody, and in a thunderous voice he begins to go over the plan.

Harry gives Hermione a one-armed hug and tells her he'll see her later. The smile he aims for is reassuring, but Hermione's face is still caught up in distress as she stands, kisses Ron on the cheek, and then walks away.

There are about ten of them all up, everyone dressed in muggle clothes, and there are three different Death Eater safe houses left for them to clear. With each house, half the team will go round the back, and half will wait around the front. After each team leader has checked for curses and traps, everyone'll go in.

It seems easy, simple, and Harry and Ron share a nod as they get ready to apparate to the first location.

The first house is in a quiet part of Sussex, with green hedges and green lawns. At the end of the lane, Harry notices a little boy pushing around his tricycle. Suddenly, he feels sick, and he grips his wand tighter. The air is still apart from a small breeze, and the property is whitewashed with a surrounding patio. The Aurors have already thrown up glamours so as to avoid being seen by the neighbouring muggles, but Harry still finds himself glancing towards the sandy haired child, wondering what his parents would do if they ever found out how close he'd been to an evil they had no idea existed.

The team breaks in two, the half heading towards the back being lead by Moody, and Harry's half by Robards, silencing charms making their footsteps go unheard. Harry stays at the end of his group, furthest from the patio, not because the idea of going inside makes him jittery, but because he wants to keep an eye on Ron's back, and the unsuspecting muggle boy now riding around in the driveway.

The little boy is the last thing Harry sees before someone grabs his shoulder and jerks him back, and then his gut is twisting and lurching, regretting the fact that Robards must have been too slow in setting up the anti-apparition wards.

But a few seconds later, none of that seems to matter, because Harry is trying to catch his breath in an unfamiliar, dimly lit room, and there is the presence of another person standing behind him.

Harry whirls around, wand raised, and comes face to face with Draco Malfoy.

Chapter Text

Harry Potter is all wide green eyes and arm muscles as he trains his wand on Draco. And Draco just takes him all in — the crooked glasses, the tousled hair that is like spilt ink, and the lips that Draco can't stop staring at, can't stop imagining running his tongue over, drinking in everything that is Harry.

But then Harry's arm drops, and his voice is anguished as he says, more to himself than to Draco, "this was a set-up." He looks wildly around the hotel room, tugs helplessly at his hair, and suddenly his distress turns into anger and there is a fire in his eyes that Draco has missed so much. "This was a bloody set-up!"

And Draco doesn't know what to say, doesn't know if he can say anything at all, because his tongue feels heavy and his heart is too loud, and Harry is here — Harry is safe, right where he should be — with Draco.

"Dammit Malfoy, say something!"

But then Draco's whole world comes crashing down at his feet, threatening to pull him under the surface of his short lived relief and everything he has hoped to be. Because he is Malfoy, not Draco, and something bitter and painful begins to tighten in his chest.

"Harry," His voice is croaky, both a plea for something Draco can't identify and a reprimand for Harry being different to the person Draco thought he knew.

"ANSWER ME!" The tendons in Harry's neck pull taught as he shouts, and he's right in Draco's face, so close that Draco can feel the warmth coming off his body — heady and exhilarating. There's something different in the line of Harry's jaw — beneath the dark shadow of several days worth of stubble, it is as if Harry has become someone dangerous, and it makes Draco dizzy. "Where are the others? Are they back there!? Are they being ambushed?!"

Draco swallows, too focused on the crescents clinging to Harry's eyes, and the thick brows which are pulled together in their intensity. "What have you done!? WHAT THE FUCK HAVE YOU DONE!?" And then Harry's shoving Draco's shoulders, again and again, and Draco can't even bring himself to care, because Harry is touching him, and it's been so long and Draco just wants to grab him and never let go —

"Was it a lie? Has it all been a lie!?" Harry's furious whisper is hoarse and right next to Draco's ear, and while it sends shivers down his spine it also makes him snap.

Draco retaliates, lets go of all the anger he has bottled away until now, lets it pour out onto the person he loves, onto the person he hates. "You left me! You fucking LEFT ME!"

And for a second Harry seems stunned, stands unmoving where Draco's sudden outburst has pushed him, and Draco just keeps going, letting all the hurt and the betrayal flood through him until it leaves him trembling.

"You left me behind! You left me with them! You fucking le—"

"I did what I had to!"

"You never cared — you never fucking cared and you just — you just left!" Draco's voice cracks and splinters out of his throat, and he is horrified to find his eyes stinging with unshed tears.

"You know nothing — you —"

"I know what I saw!" Draco spits, quivering in the face of Harry's rage.

"Yeah?! Well so do I! I saw you Malfoy, I saw you —" Harry breaks off, livid and pained, and his chest heaves.

"What? What did you see?" Draco all but whispers, because he knows the answer, he knows what Harry saw, and he hates it more than Harry does.

"I hate you," Harry breathes, and then he's kissing him.

I hate you, I hate you because I can't stop loving you.

And Draco groans into Harry's mouth, as though he accepts it, as though he doesn't mind being hated as long as Harry will keep kissing him.

So he does. It is rough and scraping, teeth against lips, but it is wet and delicious and everything Harry has been yearning for, and it is only when his hands are tangled in the locks of Draco's fine hair that he breaks away, stumbles back as though he can't be anywhere near the boy in front of him. Because if that gap closes even an inch then Harry will be a dead man.

Draco's eyes are gunmetal and lust-blown, and Harry paces just to get away from that stare, to remind himself of who he is and what he should be doing. "Take me back," Harry's words are shards of gravel, but they are undeniably an order. When Draco doesn't reply, doesn't do anything but pant and look at Harry with his fucking pink lips parted as if he's dying of thirst, Harry's anger begins to rekindle. Because it is easier to control than this unfathomable attraction which is bone-deep in his body. "TAKE ME BACK!"

Draco flinches, and his shoulders smack into the wall. He shakes his head, snowy hair falling over his eyes. "I — I can't —"

Harry growls, closes his eyes, and tries to apparate. It doesn't work, and with clenched teeth he seethes, "Why are you doing this?"

Harry can see Draco swallow, can see the long pale column of his throat work, and he licks his lips. "I wanted — I needed to talk to you."

Harry's fists ball, "And what about them!? What about the people who could be dying right now, because OF YOU!" The dim hotel lamps rattle on the bed-side tables from Harry's unleashed temper, but he ignores it, because he can't see anything but the despairing blond before him.

"It was an empty house!"

Harry shakes his head, moves as though he's a beast in a cage, and each one of Draco's words are a taunt from his keeper.

"There was no one inside — I swear —"

"Bullshit!" Harry stops pacing, charges at Draco, pauses before their chests touch, and slams his hands down on the wall on either side of Draco's head. The plaster fissures as he yells, "You're a fucking liar, Malfoy!"

"I'm not lying!" Draco whines, his voice high and desperate, "It was empty — it was empty —"

"You're a liar! A LIAR!" Harry pounds the wall, his shouts scratching his throat and making it burn, and Draco is just there — thin and shaking and so fucking perfect it hurts to look at him. Because he's desperate for Harry to believe him, and Harry is desperate not to, because if he does then it means he was wrong, it means that he is a monster for leaving this distraught, broken Slytherin in a place full of other monsters. It means that he lied too.

"They don't need you!" Draco hisses, changing tactics, and it hits Harry somewhere deep beneath the ribs. "They'll never need you."

Harry's jaw aches, but somehow he needs to hear it. "That's a lie," He chokes out, but he's gone quiet, almost resigned, and his whole body is just begging to lean forward, to close the distance between himself and the person who should be his worst enemy.

"You're a lie," Draco says it through his teeth, and it's soft and bitter. "They think you're so special, they think you're the Chosen One, but you're just like them — you're just like me. You kill and you hate and you lie."

Harry squeezes his eyes shut, because it's true, it's everything he doesn't want to be, but everything he has to be. Because there's a war and he's the key, he's the key to the end — but Draco's wrong, Draco has to be wrong, because Harry has spent his whole life wishing he was someone different — someone normal — but he isn't. And he doesn't tell lies.

"You're a liar too, Potter." Draco's voice is so smooth, and it stirs the hairs at Harry's neck, makes his breath hitch and his heart pang, and he shudders, because he hates it, but he loves it more.

"S—stop talking," Harry whispers, because if he doesn't then Harry will fall apart, he will break. His hands slide down the wall, and his forehead rests against Draco's.

And then Draco's hands, which have been limp at his sides, lift the hem of Harry's shirt, skim through the hairs across his abdomen, and Harry's muscles tense and god — he will not lose. He will not give in. But Draco's lips are at his ear — he's so close and Harry can smell him, can taste the air that he breathes, and then, "You lied to me, Harry."

And Harry just melts.

He fists his hands in Draco's hair, crashes their lips together and slams his hips into Draco's, until there is no space between them at all, no space between Draco and the wall, and fuck, Harry is crazy for him, for this traitorous, manipulative arsehole. He's crazy for him and he would die for him. And it's insane — it's so fucked up, but Harry doesn't care.

Because Draco's hands are everywhere, stroking and touching and grabbing onto any part of Harry he can find, and when they separate for air, Draco peppers kisses over Harry's face, his jaw and his chin, and it takes Harry too long to realise the desperate, keening noises are coming from his own throat.

He lowers his head, nuzzling into Draco's neck and biting down — because Draco deserves this, deserves this for what he did, and for what he makes Harry feel. And Draco just mewls, arches into Harry's touch, the slide of his body delicious against Harry's crotch.

And this is wrong — it's so wrong but Harry can't stop, can't think about anything other than Draco Malfoy, alive and pale and writhing against him. Harry's hands shake as he rips off Draco's suit jacket, relishing the way the stitching of the shirt beneath pops and tears as Harry's fingers seek urgent contact with Draco's bare skin. Harry hates these clothes, hates the blackness of them, because he knows they are not like who Draco really is at all. Harry knows Draco likes to read fairytales, he knows Draco likes sugar in his tea, and he knows Draco spends hours carving wooden Quidditch Pitches instead of apologising.

His hands meet cool skin, the dark fabric of Draco's shirt hanging like curtains over his white chest, above littered scars that mar his flesh, scars that Harry put there. And Harry kisses them, kisses them as though he can take them away. He starts with the one at Draco's collarbone, using his tongue to trace them and his fingers to smooth them over, until he's on his knees with his lips pressed to the last one by Draco's hip. And Draco is letting out sharp gasps and low moans, and a constant stream of, "Harry, Harry, oh god Harry," as his stomach muscles ripple and flutter beneath Harry's touch.

Harry doesn't even think twice before he's unbuckling Draco's belt and undoing his trousers, but then he comes face to face with baby blue cotton, and his gut clenches and his heart stammers and shit — this is too much, it's too fucking much and Harry's going to lose himself.

He's on his feet, kissing Draco in the next second, because after everything, after everything he thought was over, Draco never gave up. Because when he got dressed that morning he thought of Harry — he thought of this stupid pair of underwear that is everything and nothing all at once. And he stunned Harry instead of killing him. And that has to matter. It has to.

Harry's hold turns tender, his fingers gentle as they sieve through Draco's hair, and Draco just opens up to him, his mouth warm and wet and accepting Harry's tongue as though it was made to be there. And then Draco pushes his hips up, ruts them against Harry's until they are both sweaty and panting and Harry thinks he's about to come in his pants. And then, guttural and husky, Draco says, "Harry… Fuck me, Harry."

That dangerous something Draco had glimpsed in Harry's expression earlier returns tenfold as the words leave Draco's mouth, and then Harry is biting and sucking Draco's neck, his hands winding down Draco's back until they land on Draco's arse, gripping and kneading and holding Draco against him as their erections rub together.

Draco throws his head back, nearly delirious with the need to have more, to have Harry inside of him. And while a part of Draco is scared shitless, because he's never done this before, the more dominant part of him is thrumming and eager, because it will be Harry, and Draco wants him so fucking much, wants to be one with him even if it is the only chance Draco will ever get, the only time that Harry will ever want him in return.

"Harry, please," He chokes out, fingers clenching into Harry's shoulders.

"Fuck, Draco, I —"

Harry's voice is deep and gravelly and everything Draco has missed, everything he wants never to lose.

"Yes, yes, Harry," Draco can barely speak, because it feels as though his heart is about to fall out of his chest, because he is Draco again, and Malfoy is far away, Malfoy is gone, and now it is just the two of them.

And then Harry grabs the collar of his open shirt, spins them and walks Draco backwards, his hands never leaving Draco's body, until they stumble and fall onto the bed, Harry sprawled atop of him. "I — Draco, I've never —"

Draco kisses him, hard and unrelenting, and grips the back of Harry's neck with a force that warns of dire circumstances if Harry were to move away. "God, shut up — shut up and just —"

And Harry does just. He rips Draco's boxers down — the boxers Harry bought for him — and curls his fingers around Draco's leaking cock, his hand alternating between glorious rough strokes and featherlight touches, until Draco is about to explode. Because it's not enough, he wants more, he wants Harry.

Draco tugs insistently at Harry's shirt, his lips between his teeth and his eyes half closed with arousal, and when Harry does nothing but fondle Draco's balls and move a finger lower, Draco lets out a gasp turned groan. Because no one has ever touched him there, and this is Harry — and it makes him feel entirely vulnerable and dirty but so good and fuck — he wants more.

Harry whispers a spell, his voice tainted with something primitive that makes Draco's blood boil and his cock throb, and suddenly Harry's finger is coated in something cold and wet and entering Draco's body. And it burns.

Draco shrinks into the mattress, as though trying to get away, but then Harry's lips are at his ear, his cheekbone, kissing and soothing, "I'm sorry…" And Harry is sorry, Draco realises, and maybe not just for this, but for everything, for leaving Draco behind, and it makes him cling to Harry's shoulder blades and keep him from drawing away.

Harry's breathing is deep and calms Draco's nerves, causes a wave of contentment to rush over him, and then Harry pushes a little further, the heat of his body warming the effects of the spell, and Draco hisses, unsure whether to run from the strange sensation or meet it head on.

"W-where did you learn that spell?" Draco asks foggily as a way to distract himself.

Harry trails his nose along Draco's hairline, inhaling what Draco can only imagine must be sweat and shampoo. "Wanking," Harry replies, and even though Draco feels an abrupt discomfort in the pit of his stomach at the idea of someone else teaching Harry a spell for that purpose, the mental image of Harry Potter jerking himself off is too much to handle.

Draco moans, from both pain and pleasure. Harry is gentle, his movements slow, despite how laboured his exhales are getting as Draco feels the hot, thick length of Harry's cock pushing against his thigh —

And then Draco feels a jolt of searing pleasure, a shock of something so delicious that he pushes back on Harry's finger for more. "Do — do that again," Draco says hoarsely. Harry does it again, and Draco's legs fall further open and his jaw slackens.

"Fuck, you're gorgeous," Harry rasps, and Draco wants to say he already knows that, but then Harry adds another finger and Draco feels so full, too full, and it aches and stretches but Harry keeps touching him right there and Draco's vision blurs and he needs.

"Harry — please —"

And finally, fucking finally, Harry pulls back and strips off his shirt, and Draco would protest, tell him to get back inside of him unless he wants to die, but then he is met with Harry's naked torso, lithe yet toned — and nobody can be that gorgeous, but Harry is, and it's so unfair, but Draco should know by now that Harry Potter will never stop surprising him.

Harry balances over Draco on one arm as he unzips his jeans and sheds them off along with his boxers, and Draco swallows, his mouth both dry and desperate at the sight of Harry's bobbing cock, of what will soon be inside of him. And then Harry grabs his wand again — Draco's wand — and before he can repeat the lubricating spell with a murmur Draco's on his knees in front of Harry, his own hand out, begging to be the one — the one who slicks up Harry's cock, to make Harry feel so good that he forgets who is he, and forgets who Draco is too.

Harry's emerald gaze is smouldering, piercing, and distrustful. Because Draco realises that Harry must think he wants his wand — his own wand — to cast the spell himself. And it hurts. It hurts so much that Draco grits his teeth and pretends to be the craving, horny boy from a minute ago, who Harry fucked with his fingers and said was gorgeous. But it's hard, it's so difficult, because he knows Harry will probably never trust him again, he knows that Harry already gave the hawthorn wand back to him once, and that he will not do so again.

Draco's hand drops, and he collapses back into the soft pillows, looking anywhere but at Harry, anywhere but at the calculating expression which is enough to let Draco know that they will never be able to be just Harry and Draco, that they will always be Malfoy and Potter, two sides of a war that might never end. And Draco just wants to forget, just for a moment, here in this muggle hotel room that he stole money out of his father's study for just so he could keep Harry safe.

He wants to forget that the only reason he managed to do this was because no one knows he is in love with Harry Potter, and was therefore unable to be stopped by his vows. He wants to forget that he can't seem to tell Harry about the Sword of Gryffindor hidden amongst his pile of clothing, that every time he tries to speak about it his vocal cords tighten up and his mark burns. He wants to forget that he's lying to Harry, that there was a house full of Death Eaters waiting for his friends, waiting to seep into the structures of their safe haven. He wants to forget that when the wards he put up finally wear off Harry will go back to a camp full of death and destruction. But most of all he wants to forget that everything between them will cease to exist as soon as Harry steps out of this room, that while Harry may see him as Draco right now, he will never be able to see him as someone who is worthy.

And it almost kills him.

Harry's heart convulses painfully in his chest, because Draco Malfoy is trying to pretend that he isn't crying, but he is, and Harry can see the tears glistening on his chiselled cheekbones, can see them creep down into the hollow by his ear, and it makes him ache.

Because Harry thought he was the only one who was hurting, and it doesn't make sense, has never made sense, to think of Draco as someone who hurts and cries and trembles, but he does. And for some reason Harry thought seeing the boy he loved covered in his best friend's blood would change that, would render whatever feelings Draco might have had as non-existent. Because there is no way this person loves Harry as much as Harry loves him, there is no way Draco is doing this for any other reason than to win something over Harry, to trick him into whatever demented scheme Voldemort has going.

But even though Harry knows this, it doesn't stop him from wanting to believe with every inch of energy he has left, that there really is something between them. Something unpredictable and delicate and special. Something that makes Harry push aside every doubt and every anxiety, and crawl over Draco's naked, shivering body.

Harry places his glasses down on the nightstand, and then prises Draco's arm away from his chest, the one that curves over his body as though he's trying to keep every insecurity from pouring out of him. It's his left arm, the one that should make Harry feel sick and angry, but instead only leaves him with an almost incomprehensible sadness, one that floods him with a desire to see Draco smile, to see his life filled with nothing but joy and safety. And that desire is so strong it nearly chokes him.

Draco tries to shrink away, and when Harry grabs him and forcefully cradles him against his chest, Draco's nails bite into his skin and he whispers lethally, "You hate me."

And Harry closes his eyes, squeezes Draco rightly. "Yes…" Because he does hate him. Harry hates that he is here, away from the people who are counting on him, but more than that he hates that he would not have it any other way.

"Then why the fuck are you here — why're you —" And Harry cuts him off, kisses him and shoves his tongue through Draco's clamped lips, and Draco makes a deep severed whimpering noise, before he gives in and accepts it. Because Harry knows that Draco meant here, naked and against him as opposed to here in an estranged hotel room, and Harry needs for him to understand, that somehow Draco has become as intertwined into Harry's life as his own soul has.

Harry pulls back and all he tastes is Draco and tears. His hand comes up to grip Draco's jaw, to stop him from looking away, as he says, "Because I need — God, I need you, Draco." And Harry doesn't care that Draco might not need Harry, but Draco brought him here, and that's got to mean something.

"P-prove it," Draco rasps.

And Harry proves it.

His hand trails down Draco's pale throat, over the lean prominence of his shoulders, over the scars and the memories, and settles on his half-hard cock. Harry works him until Draco's hips are arching off the bed, gasping as Harry's fingers greedily run up and down the underside of Draco's weeping erection.

And then Harry moves lower, pushes his fingers back inside of Draco, into the tight, wet heat that clenches around him to his knuckles and makes Harry let out a guttural groan that has Draco panting out his name. He slides his fingers in and out, and the thought that his own pulsing cock will soon take their place nearly drives him insane.

Draco reaches out, tries to hold onto Harry's shoulders and bring their lips together, but then Harry's rising to his knees, gently guiding Draco's legs further apart as he settles inbetween them, and fuck, Draco Malfoy, flushed and still sobbing, but from arousal instead of grief, is the most beautiful thing Harry could ever imagine.

And suddenly he hesitates, unsure whether what he is about to do will ruin this — tear apart whatever fragile reconnection they may or may not have started to build between them.

But then Draco's long pale legs circle around Harry's waist, drawing him closer until the tip of Harry's cock nudges Draco's entrance, and Draco pants, "Harry," and his voice is so wanton, so pleading, that with quick, deliberate movements Harry smears the rest of the lubricant from his fingers onto his cock, and positions himself where Draco wants him most.

And slowly, gently, he pushes inside, his elbows braced on either side of Draco's neck as Harry's eyes lock onto the most breath-taking shade of grey he has ever seen.

Draco fights the urge to close his eyes, to blink away fresh tears, because Harry Potter is staring at him as though he's the most important thing in the world, and Draco would rather die right now than look away.

Even though it hurts and stings, Draco Malfoy is sick of being a coward, sick of running from the things he wants most, and right now nothing could be more special than sharing this with Harry, even if it does nothing but bring Draco pain and a memory he will never forget.

Harry is all the way inside of him, Draco's legs gripping the back of his calves and his hands stilling over Harry's sweaty back, because he's so full, even more so than before, and it feels as though he will break apart if Harry were to move even a fraction. Harry's breathing is coming in short and uneven bursts, and Draco is confronted by the fact that he wouldn't mind breaking apart, becoming nothing, as long as he would be doing so in front of Harry Potter.

Draco swallows, urges Harry to move — and then that nerve shattering pleasure eliminates his discomfort and gushes through Draco's system, straight into his cock that is trapped between their bodies, causing him to cry out. Because it is just like how it'd felt when Harry had his fingers inside of him, only better, so much better, because now it's Harry's cock and it is Harry Harry Harry. Harry fighting to stay in control, his cheeks red and his lips red, gazing at Draco through a haze of lust as though he's the most amazing thing Harry's ever seen. And Draco loves him so fucking much —he'll never be able to tell him, but god, he loves him.

And then Harry lifts himself on his knees, hands clamping around Draco's hipbones and pulling him forwards with each thrust, each grinding motion that makes them both a panting mess of hands, limbs and delirium.

Nothing has ever felt like this before, so raw and intense and as though with every second that passes with Harry so deeply inside of him, his heartstrings are being both repaired and severed, until the only thing grounding his soul is Harry Potter.

Harry just keeps pounding into him, hitting that sweet, secret spot that makes Draco's head thrash from side to side on the pillow, makes his fingers claw and drag over Harry's chest, over his nipples. And then one of Harry's hands snakes from Draco's hip to his cock, fists him in tugging, urgent strokes, and Draco just knows he is gone. A thumb swipes over his tip at the same time Harry jerks inside of him, his balls snug against Draco's arse, and Draco just loses it —

"Fuck — Harry!" Draco comes with the force of his irreversible love for Harry Potter, and with the knowledge that never again will he be on the receiving end of the look Harry gives him.

It is fervent, fierce, and allows Draco to so easily delude himself into thinking that Harry might love him too.

Harry thought there could be nothing more perfect than Draco Malfoy naked and wanting, sprawled out in front of him, but he was wrong. Because watching Draco come undone is so flawless, so all-consuming, that Harry feels something like physical pain take root in his heart. He knows this feeling, knows it well — and he knows that it is love.

"Draco… Draco —"

The searing, silky heat of Draco clenching around him is enough to bring Harry over the edge, and with a throaty growl he spills himself inside of Draco — inside Draco's body, and Draco just moans and repeats Harry's name as though nothing could ever be as good as feeling Harry's release drip down his thighs.

Harry turns boneless, sags against Draco's torso, enjoys the warm stickiness that still covers Draco's stomach, and then presses his lips to Draco's in a chaste kiss. Because suddenly he is so tired, feeling as though he could sleep for years, sleep until someone wakes him up and tells him the war is over.

But he can't — because this can't be over — not yet, and as if proving so to the musky air around them, Harry slips out of Draco's sated body and lies facing him, and ensnares Draco within the shelter of his arms.

Draco lets him, his body still full of pleasurable aches, as though he was made purely to mould around Harry's figure, to be sheltered in the arms of the Chosen One, of the boy who he is meant to fight.

His fingers come up to trace Harry's face, to get lost within the tousled inkiness of his hair, and Harry's eyelids flutter closed, his dusky lashes fanning over the rings beneath his eyes.

Harry's breathing begins to slow, and the tenseness of his shoulders that Draco hasn't even realised was there until now, drains out of him as he falls asleep. Draco swallows, his throat suddenly dry, because Harry is so vulnerable in his sleep, so utterly trusting, and Draco could kill him right now, could end everything. But he would as soon as take his own life.

He moves the pad of his finger across Harry's forehead until it rests over the slightly raised skin of his scar, the scar that makes him who he is to the world, and the scar that makes him who he will never be to Draco Malfoy.

His dark mark begins to burn, dull at first and then with insistent clarity, and Draco knows it is time. But Harry is safe, and that's the only thing that enables Draco to keep holding himself together.

Draco slips quietly out of Harry's arms and gets to his feet. He dresses, his mouth a grim line, and he knows that his wards will still hold for another hour or two, and then Harry will leave, then Harry will know that the boy he fucked is nothing more than a liar and a traitor. A liar and a traitor who loves him.

He reaches for where he left his mother's wand on the nightstand, but hesitates, catching sight of his old wand next to it, his hawthorne wand. Draco gives a shuddering breath, because the temptation is strong, so strong, and in the end it is only the memory of Harry's unguarded look of wariness as he thought Draco meant to ask for his wand back, that stops him from taking it now.

Draco spares one last look at Harry, tangled in the sheets, his hair a black mess against the white, and Draco knows, knows without a doubt, that he will always need Harry more than Harry needs him.

"I love you," Draco whispers. But Harry is asleep, Harry won't hear him, and that is why Draco says it at all.

When Harry wakes, he thinks it is because he knows that Draco won't be there, that Draco will be gone. Draco is gone, and it leaves him cold and empty, but it is not what woke him.

It's a glowing otter patronus, hovering by the bedside and telling him in Hermione's voice that the Death Eaters have found them, found their camp, and that people are fighting and dying.

Harry is dressed within seconds, his wounded heart hammering violently in his chest, but when he tries to apparate Draco's wards keep him from leaving.

Harry wants to shout and curse, but he doesn't stop trying, doesn't stop until he's broken the wards and his body feels even emptier than before, empty from everything but fatigue.

When Harry appears staggering into the entrance tunnel, the first thing he hears are screams. He runs, and he runs and runs and runs, hawthorne wand gripped tightly in his fist, and he fires spells at cloaked figures, at Death Eaters bent over prone bodies, the hallways so filled with smoke that it makes it almost impossible to keep his eyes open.

There's high wails and shrieks, the sound of people calling to one another, and it makes Harry sick to know that not all of these people are fighters, that a majority of them will die before they even get the chance to escape.

Harry shouts out Hermione's name, Ron's too, shouts for any of his friends, anyone who could be getting hurt right now, because of him. He skids around a corner, nearly tripping on rubble and debris and upturned chairs, and comes face to face with the same Death Eater from Xenophilius Lovegood's.

Their duel is relentless, a wildness in the man's eyes that makes Harry throw his arm out more vigorously, cast spells he would normally deem too dark, too violent. The air is thick with the smell of burning and fear, and something else, something cold that Harry recognises all too well.


Harry deflects a curse, and in the fleeting second between casting it and trying to repeat it, the Death Eater leaves himself open, and Harry sends it back into his sternum with a crack and the smell of scorched flesh. The man howls, his hands grappling at his chest, and Harry stuns him at the same moment Ron and Hermione come racing around the corner.

Their faces spread with relief upon seeing Harry, but in the next second there are high, blood-curdling screams that Harry knows only come from the terror of losing one's soul to a Dementor. Harry spins on his heels, ignoring his friend's cries telling him to stop, because then he notices them — at the end of the hall, a huddle of people slumped and quivering in the face of the black, billowing creatures that are sucking their souls and devouring them.

Harry comes to a halt, bracing himself and trying to concentrate on his patronus, on happiness, but happiness seems so far away, so lost, because Draco lied, and Harry lied too, and everything is so fucking mental that Harry can't think straight.

Ron and Hermione are tugging on his sleeve, trying to jerk him back, yelling at him that they need to go, that there's no hope, but Harry can't, can't leave more people to die — but his patronus is feeble and weak, just like Harry feels, and maybe there is no hope after all in this thing called war —

But then Harry sees him — Draco Malfoy standing at the other entrance to the corridor, and Ron and Hermione are pulling Harry away, dragging him towards the nearest apparition point, but Harry still hears the muted ring of Draco's voice —

— and the last thing he sees before rounding the corner is a shining silver stag burst from the end of Draco Malfoy's wand.

Chapter Text


For a few seconds, there is nothing but the ebb and flow of the tide, the sound of the waves washing onto the shore, and the harsh rise and fall of Harry's chest.

Sand sieves through Harry's fingers, soft and grainy, and then he can hear the screams, loud and echoing all around him. Someone touches his shoulder, and Harry's on his feet, wand pointed at Hermione Granger's tear streaked face.

She recoils, takes a step back, and Harry shakes his head, drops his wand. Because they're gone, everyone else is gone and alone and nobody's screaming, not here, not anymore, and Harry is on a white-sandy beach with a small cottage nestled into the cliff face up ahead.

Hermione's still looking at him, her brows drawn and pleading, and over her shoulder Harry catches sight of Ron, his back towards them as he stares out over the vast ocean.

"Where are we?" Harry asks, because his survival instinct is still there, just smothered by everything he is trying to bury. Smothered by the memory of a vibrant stag, by the patronus which threatens to make him hope for something he dare not dream of.

"Shell Cottage," Hermione murmurs, making a vague gesture at the little house in the distance. "Bill and Fleur's place."

Harry nods, his jaw tight, because he knows Hermione wants to say something else, and he knows he won't like it.

"Harry —"

"What happened?" Harry throws out, his gaze flickering to Ron's lowered head, his wayward orange hair. There's no answer, so Harry walks towards him, his feet heavy along the sand, until Ron is forced to look at him. "The safe house. What happened?"

Ron is pale, his eyes haunted, and Harry knows his friend doesn't want to talk about it. But Harry is desperate for the truth, and weighed down by a guilt that is more prominent in Ron's expression than it is in his own.

"Harry," Hermione begins, a warning, but Harry jerks his head, cutting her off. And it's unfair, he knows it is, because he should have been there, he should have been there even though he knows it wouldn't have made a difference. But he was with Draco.

Majestic antlers, the regal legs and the charging beast, the stag that Harry is so used to seeing come from his own wand, but not Draco's — never Draco's —

"What happened?!" He doesn't mean to shout, but he does anyway, and his whole body is so tightly wound, like the strings of a violin — like an instrument that has been played so many times before that now it can only snap.

Ron looks taken aback, Hermione flinches, and for a moment it is like fifth year again, when Harry hadn't been able to control his outbursts of rage, even when directed at his two best friends. He gnashes his teeth together, hating himself, but then Ron says, "Everything was going fine—" he lets out a sharp breath, and Harry is waiting for the sting, for the words that will undoubtedly be, 'until you fucked it up.'

But those words don't come, and Ron just glares at the roiling waves by their feet. "We were 'bout to go inside, but I looked around and couldn't see you. So I asked Splint and he — well he said you'd gone round the back."

Ron's mouth clamps shut, and in the corners Harry recognises a self-loathing he is so unused to seeing on Ron's face. "We found out later he'd been confunded. Things went as planned, or so we thought. And then it all happened so fast — we had them all — M-Moody had their wands. And then we brought them back. Only you still weren't there, and no one I asked had seen you, so I apparated back and I —"

Ron's shoulders shake, and Harry feels suspense and dread build up in his stomach.

"I found Moody. The real one. D—dead. Chunks of his hair missing. And then I — I panicked — and… sh-shit —" Ron falters, and Harry turns away before Ron feels the need to.

Moody's dead.

Harry hears Ron heave into Hermione's shoulder, and he tries desperately to keep the torn and stretched pieces of himself from falling apart onto the beach, from drowning in the navy depths of the ocean.

"It's — it's not on you, mate," Ron says, his voice now clear and strong, because Ron Weasley has grown up with five brothers and he knows never to shed a tear, never to show a weakness.

And it angers Harry, festers in his stomach and winds its way up through his chest, into his windpipe. Because Harry is weak. And Ron has to be wrong. He has to be. "It's not on you, either," Harry grits out.

"It is," Ron replies gruffly, as though he's accepted it and that's the only way it can be.

"No — no, it's not," Harry says it more firmly than he means to, and he stares at the waves, at the foam gathering around his shoes, and he wishes he could walk forwards, could keep walking until the ocean swallows him whole and there is nothing left, nothing left besides a silver stag, burnt into the backs of his eyelids. "IT'S NOT!" Harry shouts, and overhead a gull screeches and flaps away. Because it's not possible, it means nothing, it means nothing because if it doesn't then Harry has lied. The stag means nothing, because Harry Potter loves someone he shouldn't, and it is so much easier thinking — believing that that person could never love him in return.

Ron's watching him carefully, his nostrils wide and his eyes sad, and he says, "Not everything's about you, Harry. I fuck up too — everyone —"

"No — don't — shut up —"

"No, Harry — listen to me!"

But Harry doesn't want to — he can't — because he fucked up worst of all, he left Draco behind.

"You — you don't understand," Harry tries, his eyes closing. Because it's true, no one knows the way Draco looked at him, the way he pleaded for Harry to believe his lies, and how he then let Harry fuck him like it was the only thing that mattered.

"I do understand!" Ron's voice carries over the rushing of the waves, over the sound of Hermione sniffing. "You think because you're Harry Potter that every death and every loss is your fault — that it's all for you! But you're wrong! You're wrong! Because this is about all of us — we're all in this —"

"And you like that, don't you!? DON'T YOU!?" Harry wishes he could stop, but he can't, and maybe it's because Ron's eyes are the same colour as the ocean, pulling him in, or maybe it's because Draco Malfoy's patronus is a stag. Hermione gasps, and Ron winces, but Harry keeps going. "You always wanted it to be about you too! You wanted it — the fame — recognition — to be me. But now you see — you have to see — it's nothing but shit and death and losing people! But it's what you wanted!"

Ron's face is deathly pale, but behind his hurt there is a fury that grows and grows and grows, until, "WHY DIDN'T YOU DO SOMETHING!? WHERE WERE YOU — WHERE WERE YOU WHEN MOODY — when Moody —" Ron chokes over a growl turned sob, angry tears clinging to his lashes as he ducks his head.

"Please — stop it…" Hermione whispers brokenly, but Harry doesn't look at her, because what he said is true, and what Ron said is also true. Because while his best mate might have finally gotten some of the glory that he spent years coveting in Harry, he sees it now for what it really is, but after everything is said and done he still expects Harry to come out of it all unchanged, and save them as the Chosen One.

Because while Ron says it isn't on Harry, subconsciously he means that it is.

And Harry's failed them. Because he wasn't there. Harry Potter wasn't there, and Harry will never be everything that people want him to be. Maybe he'll never be Harry again, the boy who kissed Draco Malfoy like his life depended on it, and the boy who war will turn into a man.

Harry's insides are like lead, traumatised by the truth, and as he turns to leave, to go somewhere — anywhere that isn't here, Hermione's voice stops him.

"Harry—" She takes a shuddering breath, and Harry waits, his eyes on the sand, "Harry, back at the M-manor — Draco Malfoy was under the Imperius Curse."

Harry's gaze focuses on a shell, dainty and pink with intricate patterns. His heart constricts, falters and thuds, and it hurts so much that he has to fight for his legs not to give out. His vision glistens and blurs, and the last thing he hears before walking away is Hermione's trembling voice saying, "I'm so sorry, Harry…"

Draco stares down into the face of Antonin Dolohov. There's blood and ash on his face, and Draco knows if the man weren't stunned he'd be scowling, swearing, ordering Draco to move. But Draco doesn't move, and for a moment he has the sick, crazy urge to stamp his foot down onto the main's nose, relish in the cracking cartilage, just like he'd done to Harry Potter on the Hogwarts Express more than a year ago.

But something stops him, and instead Draco glares down at him and spits, just like he'd wanted to do all those weeks ago. It's satisfying to watch his own spit as it slides down dark stubble and the angle of Dolohov's chin, and then with a smirk Draco steps over him and stalks away, his dress-shoes crunching over rubble and dirt. The tunnels are beginning to collapse, whatever spells the Order cast on them now wearing off due to damage, and Draco plans on leaving right away.

The air is quiet now, the Dementors are gone, and Draco's whole body is still thrumming with the exuberance of seeing Harry's silver stag run from the end of his wand. Draco isn't surprised about the form of his patronus — it left him breathless with the memory of the look of endearment he'd seen in Harry's eyes, and the knowledge that the feeling in his chest was real, and that everything that happened within the last half-year was real too.

And even though Draco is surrounded by death and ruin, for the first time in a long while he allows himself to hold onto the tiny spark of hope residing in his chest. Because he can cast a patronus, something he never thought he'd be able to do. And it's all thanks to Harry.

But there is also guilt — a guilt which threatens to bring him to his knees at any second, because this is what Harry will come back to within an hour, and Draco didn't warn him, couldn't warn him. But he will still be safe, even if he hates Draco more, even if he wishes him dead, Harry will still be unharmed, and Draco has to remind himself that this is all that matters.

He doesn't let himself think about how he won't be able to do this again, that the Death Eaters will find out what he's done, and that Harry Potter is something this war revolves around, and he will always be in danger.

Briefly, Draco's thoughts go to Weasley and Granger, and he experiences a horrible, twisting feeling in his gut to think about what happened to them. He thinks he saw them for a split second, from the other end of a Dementor-filled corridor, but when he looked harder they'd vanished, and now Draco just hopes that wherever they are, Harry will find them.

The Death Eaters have destroyed most of the camp's wards, so Draco relaxes his shoulders, and inhales steadily as he prepares to apparate. Before he disappears, he hears the distant cackling of his Aunt, and he feels sick to think of the fate of the person who is on the other end of her wand.

When Draco finally arrives back at the Manor, he has managed to pass unseen, knowing most of the others will still be back in the underground, but when he pushes the doors to his rooms open, Blaise Zabini is waiting for him by the window.

The Slytherin turns, his expression blank, and Draco wonders whether he's been watching him come up the drive. Draco ignores him, walks to his bed and bends to slide his trunk from underneath. After throwing it onto the mattress, he flings open his wardrobe, and begins pulling out cloaks and shirts.

"What are you doing?" Zabini asks, his tone curious, yet displaying an uncharacteristic amount of uneasiness.


"You can't."

"Watch me."

"But I just watched you get here." Zabini has come closer, but Draco turns away, grabs a journal and several quills from inside his desk and stuffs them into his trunk. He doesn't know what to say to the fact that Zabini has been watching him, and strangely enough he wonders whether his old classmate has been worried. "You're vows," Zabini continues when Draco doesn't reply, "they'll kill you."

"I don't care," Draco bites out, flicking his wand to neaten and fold the contents of his trunk.

"This is about Potter, isn't it?" Zabini's question catches him unaware, and Draco freezes. His hand shakes a little, but he steadies it, hoping to brush it off by gripping his wand tighter.

Draco thinks everything in his life has come to be about Harry Potter — maybe it always was about Harry, and it just took Draco seven years to accept it. Draco is about to tell Zabini some skewed variation of the truth, instead of telling him that he is leaving because no longer is he going to fight for the wrong side, even if it kills him. Because he will do anything and everything to be deserving of a pair of blazing love-tainted green eyes, gazing at him as though he is the reason the world works. Because Draco would rather die trying and know that Harry Potter sees him as someone worthy, than die as a Death Eater.

But Draco doesn't get to say anything, because in the next moment there are hurried, banging footfalls, heading up the hallway, and Draco's eyes widen as he hisses, "hide." Zabini gives him a raised brow of wariness, slides into the bathroom, and then disappears behind the open door.

Draco only has time to hastily shove his trunk back beneath his bed before Antonin Dolohov bursts through the doors, and Draco regrets not warding them, and not breaking the bastard's nose when he had the chance.

Because Dolohov is still blood and soot stained, and he looks mad, deranged, his teeth bared as his eyes land on Draco and he snarls, "You — you fucking little shit!"

And then Dolohov has him by the collar, shaking him and shouting and swearing, and there isn't enough room between them for Draco to raise his wand, to defend himself. Dolohov's fist connects with Draco's cheekbone, his nose, and Draco smells more than feels the thick coppery redness run down his chin.

Draco can barely breathe with the way it drips into his mouth and down his throat, and he gurgles and spits, splattering Dolohov with more blood and enraging him further. Pain lances up Draco's jaw, in his stomach as well, and then he's on the ground, his head only just missing cracking off the post of his bed.

Dolohov is on him in a second, jerking Draco upward and seething, "You're a sneaky little fuck, aren't you Malfoy, and I'll get you — I swear it, I will, and it'll be so fucking delicious that —" Draco tries to jab his wand up, but before he can so much as think of a spell, Dolohov grabs Narcissa Malfoy's wand and throws it across the room.

"I'll get you," He growls, low to Draco's ear, and Draco thrashes his legs up, trying to shove away the man practically sitting on him, but Dolohov only leans back and digs his knees so sharply into Draco's stomach that Draco has the air knocked out of him, getting trapped in his throat along with all of the blood. "I'll get you when there'll be so many curses flying around you won't know what hit you. And no one will ever know. Daddy won't know. They'll all think your precious Potter killed you!" Dolohov lets out an ecstatic laugh which sounds more like a grunt, and then leers down at Draco, his fingers tightening around Draco's neck. "But I'll know. I'll know that you were nothing but Potter's precious fuckboy, and that you died screaming at the end of my wand, begging for death — begging for me to kill you!"

Draco struggles, his hands coming up uselessly to push his attacker away, but Dolohov just grabs his wrists, pins them above his head. Pain dances up Draco's elbows due to the unnatural angle, and he grits his teeth, wishing he had the power to kill from his glare alone. "Fuck you," Draco hisses through the tightness around his neck, the hatred searing his tongue.

Something darkens in Dolohov's near-black eyes, and his gaze rakes over Draco's body until Draco is practically suffocating with indignant fury, regretting his choice of words. "Is this what Potter saw, hmm? Malfoy the whore, being fucked by the Chosen One. Is that what you were doing for all those months, Draco?." And then Dolohov's hand releases Draco's wrists, a binding spell taking its place, and with the other still on Draco's throat, holding him down, Draco feels the first one on his abdomen, at his belt buckle —

And he panics — writhing and bucking and trying to bring his knees up again, but the man weighs as much as a fucking troll and suddenly Draco is scared. Dolohov laughs, sadistic and entertained, and Draco knows the fear must show in his eyes, but he can't help it — he can't do anything — and Draco never thought that something like this would ever happen to him, could ever happen to him, but now it is, and it's not Harry, and fuck, Draco is so helpless, so frightened —

And then suddenly Dolohov is screaming, his face screwed up as he falls to the side and onto the hard floor. Draco sits up immediately, the bonds tearing off his wrists as he sees Blaise Zabini standing discomposed and defiant, Narcissa's wand in hand and levelled at Dolohov's face.

The scrunched up look of pain has now left the man's face, and Draco wishes it were still there, wishes it would eat him alive, because he's still smiling, looking at Zabini with amusement and suggestiveness as he sneers, "Zabini. Come to join us?"

"Get out." Zabini flicks the wand towards the door, and despite his calm voice there is hatred and anger just as strong as Draco's burning in the depth of his glare.

Dolohov chuckles, but his wand is not in his hand, and he knows just as well as Draco does that he has no way of drawing it before Zabini has time to react.

"OUT!" And there it is — the first, and possibly the last time Draco has ever seen his maybe-maybe-not-friend raise his voice, lose control, and while Draco is envious he is also proud.

The Death Eater grudgingly gives into his defeat, and with one last provocatively violent look at Draco, and the words, "I'll be seeing you 'round, Malfoy," he limps out of the room.

As soon as the doors slam shut Zabini locks and wards them, and then he stares down at Draco, who is still on the floor, feeling humiliated, ashamed and disgusted. And Draco is nervous too, he realises, because he is still the one without a wand, and he doesn't know whether he can trust the Slytherin who just saved him from something horrifying.

"When's all this going to end, Harry?"

Harry hears Robards's words as though they are carried on the breeze. The sky is slowly turning orange, giving Harry's world shadowy hues as he sits alone on the rocky cliff-top.

Hours have passed, and neither Ron or Hermione have come to find him. Harry's sorry, undeniably sorry, but he's sorry for so many things, and sometimes the need to apologise is just not enough.

And Harry doesn't know when things will become different enough for that to change, doesn't know when things will end. And he hates Robards for asking it of him, and he hates Moody for leading them into a death-trap, and he hates him for dying. But Harry hates himself the most.

Draco Malfoy was under the Imperius Curse.

And Harry didn't see it — how could he not see it? It should have been as clear as day, as clear as the smile Draco wore when he'd managed the beginnings of a patronus charm. But Harry had been blind, so blind — and what else didn't he see?

Harry picks up a rock and hurls it over the edge of the cliff. He doesn't hear it hit the water, but he hears the ring of its fall, the echo that tells him that he is a liar after all.

There's the sound of shoes against stone, of someone coming up behind him, and Harry just reaches for another piece of rock, intent on ignoring them, because everything still hurts too much.

But it isn't Ron, who Harry was both hoping for and dreading, and nor is it Hermione.

It is Remus Lupin, and his face is worn and weathered down more than the cliff-face on which Harry sits. The lines on his face are deep, embedded with the tiredness of a battle, and there is something hesitant in the way he looks at Harry before lowering himself down next to him.

"Moody's dead." Harry says it because he feels like he needs to. He says it so Remus won't have to.

Remus doesn't say anything, he only looks out at the rustic colour of the ocean, and Harry almost tells him not to, because he knows if you look too long it will take you under — it'll drown you — and it'll be too easy to pretend, to forget. But then Remus shakes his head, a small, faint movement that Harry barely catches. His gaze trains on Harry then, and when he doesn't look away Harry swallows and asks, "And everyone else?"

Because he has to know, even if there are more faceless names to add onto the weight of his concious, more people who are on him. Harry knows they are, and Ron knows it too, and Harry almost doesn't want to hear Remus's reply, because he can't bear for the older man to think that it's on Harry as well.

"Some of the others made it here. Luna and Dean, Bill." Harry nods, waits. "Robards escaped with decent numbers, they're going to set up somewhere in the north… We're having a small ceremony for Mad-Eye — and for the others — here, in a few days time."

Harry's throat clams up, and he launches the rock he's been holding onto for too long now into the dark, smothering abyss of the sea. This time he hears a splash, because there is a lull in the breeze, and because his thoughts are a lot quieter.

"You've done enough, Harry," Remus's voice is soft, and Harry frowns, because he knows Remus doesn't mean enough rock-throwing, knows he means he's done enough in this war. Harry disagrees, because he doesn't think anything will ever be enough. "You're parents would be proud."

And fuck — the tears sting, burn beneath his eyelids as though fighting the cold wind, and Harry wants to be strong, he wants to fight, because crying is something you do after a war, not during it. But he didn't grow up with five brothers, he doesn't know how to keep his face from falling when the grief becomes too much. And he misses Draco, god, he misses him.

Harry breathes the salty air in deeply, looks into the dimming sunset until his eyes are dry, and then in a voice he hopes is unwavering, he says, "Tonks's patronus changed because she was in love with you."

Now it is Remus's turn to pick up a small shard of stone, he weighs it in his palm for a moment, and then he too launches it over the cliff. In the gesture Harry sees everything Remus's shabby demeanour cannot make up for, he sees the guilt and the regret that shadows him, torments him for falling in love with someone he is scared he'll hurt. And never before has Harry felt so close to this man, so alike in something they can't help, can't change. Because he knows that even though Remus may feel like distancing himself from his family will make a difference, he is just as unable to as Harry is unable to stop loving Draco Malfoy.

For a moment, Remus stares into his palms, at the place where heavy paws will be in a matter of days, and then he clasps them together, peers at Harry through a veil of unkempt hair, and suddenly Harry is overcome with the urgent desire to blurt, "I think I'm into blokes." Or, maybe just one bloke in particular.

Below them, the waves smack into the rocks, eroding them with sea spray, and it takes Harry almost a minute to realise that he's said it out loud, and that Remus's stare has gone from shocked to amused.

Harry, mortified, feels his cheeks heat up, but strangely his insides seem a lot lighter, and he can't help but imagine that he's sitting here, confessing this to his own father. He wonders if his father would have been proud of that too, and what Sirius would have said if Harry had ever gotten the chance to tell him. But none of that seems to matter, because Remus snorts, claps Harry on the shoulder, and laughs.

And then Remus's arm is around Harry's neck, and Harry is pulled into a hug that is both exasperated and affectionate.

"Sirius once told me something similar," Remus says after he lets Harry go, and he's grinning, the tiredness in his eyes hidden by the nostalgia he must see instead.

"He — he did?" Harry asks, bewildered, feeling at first somewhat relieved, and then regretting even more the fact that Sirius is no longer alive for Harry to have this conversation with him.

Remus nods, his expression somewhat wolfish, and Harry smiles, despite his lamenting thoughts. But then Remus becomes serious, a far-off hint of understanding in his eyes, and Harry's stomach turns over to know that they are both probably thinking of the same thing, of an overcast day in Grimmauld Place, when Remus had brought Draco Malfoy onto Harry's doorstep and changed Harry's life forever.

"I'm sorry, Harry," Remus begins, and Harry's teeth clench, because he doesn't think he can handle another apology, not when the last one left him feeling hollow, and not when he still owes one himself. "Your friends told me what happened."

Harry knows that Remus means he is sorry for ever leaving them with a Death Eater, but Harry doesn't want him to be sorry, because Draco isn't a Death Eater, Harry knows this now, knows that even though he may wear the mark of one, his heart is whole — pure. And now it's probably too late, because Harry betrayed him, thought he was a murderer, left him, and Draco will never want to be with him ever again. Because Harry knows, more than anyone else, that there is a point one reaches after which turning back becomes impossible, and even though Draco's flushed, raw expression of passion and his glowing patronus begs for Harry to believe he hasn't reached that point yet, Harry can't help but feel like he already has, and he doesn't know whether he will ever be able to forgive himself.

Harry clears his throat, sending some pebbles flying with his shoe, and tries to focus on the thought of his friends, "How are they?"

"They're giving you space," Remus replies slowly. "They love you, Harry, and if there is anything I, in my years, have come to realise, it's that friendship is so, so important. And you'd be surprised to know the lengths true friends will go to support you, Harry." His hand is back on Harry's shoulder, squeezing, and then he stands, dusting off his trousers and pulling on the side of his cardigan. He gives Harry one last smile before he leaves the way he came.

Harry knows Remus is right. He thinks about his father, and about Sirius, and how they spent hours of painstakingly brutal concentration and spell-work to be able to become animagi and stick by Remus's side. Harry would rather die than lose Ron and Hermione, and suddenly he wants nothing more than to go and speak to them, to apologise.

But before Harry can stop himself, his thoughts stray back to Draco, to the proof of something which can only resemble love, and he finds his fingers reaching into his pocket, where his moleskin pouch has been since hastily throwing on his clothes all those hours earlier. He means to take out the tiny wooden Quidditch pitch, but instead his skin brushes something cold and smooth, and he withdraws the golden Snitch Dumbledore left him.

It glints almost the same colour as the sky, and Harry stares at it, glares at it, until in a moment of sheer insanity, he presses it to his lips.

Draco wonders whether he should thank him, but doing so would cost him what little pride he has left, and Zabini doesn't look as though he wants to be thanked.

It turns out Draco is too surprised to say anything at all, because then Zabini crosses the room and hands out the wand, handle first, for Draco to take it.

Draco blinks up at him, suspicion and confusion warring inside of him. He takes it quickly and then gets to his feet, before turning and muttering spells to get rid of the blood from his face, and to make sure his nose is satisfactorily realigned. For a few seconds Draco is reminded of the time when Weasley punched him in a corridor outside of a bathroom, when Harry found him. And while Draco despised Harry's help back then, he would do anything to have it again now.

Draco shakes himself, bends back down to bring out his trunk, and is stopped by Zabini saying, "I was never one of you." Draco huffs, ready to throw a scathing insult over his shoulder, because he's heard this before and has no desire to hear it again, when Zabini continues. "I started out on the other side of the bars."

Draco knits his brows, narrows his eyes, and straightens, the pain still prominent in his midriff. "What?"

Zabini doesn't look at him, but at the open window, at the darkening sky. "You asked what I was doing here."

"Yeah, two weeks ago." Draco resists the urge to scowl and cross his arms over his chest, and maybe even to snap at Zabini and tell him to spit out whatever the fuck he means already.

Zabini goes on as though he hasn't heard Draco, or just doesn't care. "They took me from the Hogwarts Express. They thought I'd help them. They took Luna too." Something sporadic and warm flickers behind his schooled expression. "I wanted no part in this — I wanted an education. But instead I got months in a cellar—"

"How are you alive, then?" Draco asks, somewhat bitterly.

Zabini's eyes flash, "By bargaining."

Draco opens his mouth to retort, because he can't think of anything Zabini would have to offer that the Death Eaters would be interested in, but then he remembers the fact that Zabini doesn't have a wand, remembers the words Dolohov had thrown at him, and something abhorrent and awful begins to settle in Draco's stomach. "And — and Lovegood?"

"They promised they wouldn't harm her."

Draco nods, taking in the seemingly untouchable demeanour of Blaise Zabini and wondering how he acts as though nothing can faze him, can affect him. Draco would like to think he was like that once, but he knows he has always been fuelled by something like fire, especially when it comes to Harry Potter.

Thinking of Harry brings several powerful emotions to the forefront of Draco's mind, and his eyes widen as several pieces begin to fit into place, and his disbelief drifts into amazement. "So you fell in love with her, then?" Draco wonders why he doesn't find the need to snort, because he knows the boy of his past would have definitely snorted, and Zabini looks as though he is waiting for Draco to snort too.

"You fell in love with Potter," Zabini tells him, his voice an accusation, telling Draco that he is no better, but also acting as a reminder, as if Draco could ever forget something that seems to be the only reason he breathes these days.

Draco doesn't reply, he only stares at his trunk, uncomfortably less inclined to continue packing, as though hesitant to leave Zabini behind.

"Tell him thanks, when you see him. For saving Luna."

Draco takes a shuddering breath, because Harry saved Luna, took her out of here, but he didn't take Draco. But ultimately, Harry did save Draco, over many months, and through many kisses and reassuring touches.

But Draco won't be able to tell Harry anything, because he has a sickening, heart-shattering feeling that the next time he sees Harry will be at the end.

He spins around, ready to tell Zabini this, but he is met with an unruffled gaze of understanding. "We'll be meeting Potter at Hogwarts soon. The Dark Lord is counting on it."

Draco's mouth snaps shut, and he thinks about choices and bravery and doing what's right, even if it is the longest, most difficult route Draco has ever taken. He thinks about the Sword in his back pocket, and all the things he hasn't done yet, hasn't said. Mostly, he thinks about Harry, about how, while Draco's body is on the wrong side, his heart is on the right one, and Draco can only hope and pray beyond anything he's ever known that if they ever come out of this alive, Harry might be there, waiting for him once more, waiting to see the truth.

"You can tell him yourself." Draco slides his trunk back under his bed, where it will sit and gather dust for a long time to come. Because he isn't going to give up, not yet. "Now tell me who the fuck took your wand?"

Chapter Text

When Harry finally makes it back down to the beach, the sun is almost entirely hidden by the now-calm ocean. In the distance he sees two female figures walking slowly side by side, their shadows dark and dragging across the sand. Harry recognises them as Hermione and Luna, and the sight gives him a strange, peaceful feeling in his chest that makes him reluctant to go inside.

Even though he is desperate to tell Ron and Hermione about the words he just saw appear on the golden Snitch, he will wait, because he owes them an apology first, and despite wanting to talk to them together, he supposes that can wait too.

He turns and walks up the steps of the porch and opens the quaint little wooden front door. The entryway is quiet and cozy, painted a french blue and decorated with dainty side-tables and family portraits. The whole place has Fleur written all over it, but the countless photo frames filled with smiling Weasleys are undeniably Bill.

Harry tentatively makes his way towards low voices, and after ducking around a winding staircase that reminds Harry longingly of the Burrow, he finds himself in the kitchen doorway.

Bill sits at a small round table, opposite Dean Thomas. They both have steaming mugs in front of them, and they look up at Harry's entrance. From the stove, Fleur turns to smile at him, her long silvery hair swimming behind her. Harry feels suddenly awkward, as though he just wants to run outside and bury his head in the sand, because he doesn't think he deserves to be here — safe, and being smiled at as though he didn't just get people killed, especially when he sees Dean's arm is in a sling.

"Hey, Harry," Dean says it tiredly, but his brown eyes are warm.

Harry tries to smile in return, but he probably ends up grimacing instead. "Hi — er — have you seen Ron?"

"He's upstairs," Bill tells him, his expression encouraging. "First room on the left."

"Thanks," Harry nods at him before back-tracking out of the doorway. Sometimes he wonders why all of the Weasleys don't hate him, seeing how he has put Ron in danger countless time over the past seven years. Harry fleetingly thinks of the Dursleys, and wonders if now he understands their incurable detest for him any better. Shaking his head, Harry decides that no, he will never understand the Dursleys.

He reaches the first landing and steels himself, knocking more harshly than he intended, and silently curses himself as the door opens to reveal Ron standing hesitantly inside, looking tall and positively downcast. "Hey," Harry rushes out, sounding too breathless. Ron looks at him as though he doesn't believe Harry's there at all, so Harry delves his hands deeper into his pockets and asks, "Going to let me in?"

Ron stands back to let Harry walk past him, and into a room that looks much the same as the hallway downstairs. He spins around, needing to get everything off his chest, but even as he opens his mouth, Ron gets there first, "I'm sorry, mate."

Harry frowns, "What — no, I —"

"You were right. About the things you said." Ron lowers his eyes to the floor.

"I still shouldn't have said them — and I — I still should have been there." Harry rakes a hand through his hair, lowering himself dejectedly onto the window seat, thinking his apology isn't going at all to plan.

"You were with Malfoy," Ron says it simply, factually, and while there is no disgust in his voice, there is something strangely close to acceptance, and it leaves Harry voiceless. He can't deny it, can't lie, and then Ron's eyes meet his, exhausted and defeated. "'Mione says you lo—" Ron chokes off with a strangled sound, the word 'love' getting caught in his throat like something unpleasant. Ron sighs, a sigh that travels through his whole body as he slumps down onto the edge of the bed.

Harry almost wishes Ron would say it, if only so Harry could have a reason to tell the world, to tell anyone who will listen, that he has fallen in love with his enemy. But Ron just stares at the floor, his head bowed and his hands together, and when he eventually speaks, it is to say, "we saw the stag, Harry," As though wrapping his mind around the fact that someone like Draco Malfoy might be capable of loving Harry is easier than believing his best friend is capable of loving a Death Eater.

Harry swallows away the bitterness on his tongue, turning to look out of the window at the darkening sky. Below, he can just make out Hermione and Luna returning to the cottage, when Ron says, "She said she didn't tell you because you'd go back for him."

Harry's eyelids flutter closed, his jaw clenching, unclenching when he releases a breath, because it's true, he would have gone back. And if he'd done that then they never would have gotten the cup.

Harry leans his head back against the window, wondering whether there will ever come a time when he is forced to choose between his friends and Draco Malfoy. The thought makes him feel sick, and through gritted teeth he asks, "Do you hate him?"

Ron looks up, his lips a thin line, and even though Harry is expecting the answer it still makes him bristle. "I don't think I'll ever stop hating him, Harry — but for you, for you I hope he survives this." He sounds as though he doesn't quite agree with himself, but when his blue gaze settles on Harry there is an honesty there that makes Harry forget how desperately he hopes Draco will survive this too.

"So… so you don't care that I — y'know…"

"What?" Ron snorts, and his mouth pulls up at one corner, "That you like blokes?" He pauses, shrugs, "Nah, not really. Although, I can't say I think you picked the right bloke." He tries for humour, but his half-hearted chuckle doesn't quite reach Harry. Ron clears his throat, "Malfoy'll always be a pointy git, but if Hermione forgives him, after what he's…well… then — then that's— that has to be good enough for me, doesn't it?"

"Thanks," Harry murmurs, unsure whether what he's just heard makes him want to jump up and down or go to sleep and never wake up, and after a few tense seconds he decides to take advantage of the silence, and says quickly, "and I'm sorry about before."

Ron glances up, scowls, and for a brief moment they are back in their potion's classroom, standing in front of an old cupboard and shoving eachother in a competition to claim the newer-looking textbook. Without that book, Harry would never have sliced scars into Draco Malfoy's skin, without that book, Harry's life may have been very different. Ron won back then, but Harry wins now, and suddenly they're both laughing, and it feels so good that Harry doesn't ever want to stop.

But he has to stop, because there's a war going on, and while laughing feels right, it also feels wrong. Harry stands and slaps Ron on the shoulder, and in the squeeze of his hand he hopes to convey all the things he can't say, all the sorrys and thankyous that his best mate deserves. The door opens then, softly with a click, and when Harry looks over his shoulder he sees Hermione hovering on the threshold, biting her lip and looking so anxious and broken that Harry wants to hug her.

It hurts knowing what she's done, but it hurts more that Harry should have realised but didn't. Harry thinks about Remus, Remus who lives his life clinging to the ghost of his friend's memories, Remus who is the last man standing. And Harry knows that some things are too important to give up on, even if they feel like acid in his stomach, burning and consuming him.

He knows that Hermione was right too, and that's why he does hug her, pulls her into his arms and squeezes. And she knows she's forgiven, but the way she squeezes back tells Harry she hadn't expected him to ever forgive her, and knowing that acts as a balm to smooth over the rough cracks in their trust.

"Oi," Ron interrupts after a while, his tone joking but serious as well, and Harry steps back with a smirk and a lifted brow, Ron's past words ringing through him, 'When this is all over, I'm gonna ask her to marry me.'

Harry grins, and then he tells them about the Golden Snitch.

Draco has cast as many concealment charms on himself as he could think of, but somehow he is still sweating to think that they are not enough. Even though the Manor is practically void of Death Eaters at the moment, Draco's whole body feels cold and jittery as though someone is going to be waiting for him around every corner.

The guest rooms are spread out on the lowest floor, and it makes Draco sick to remember how Zabini had been able to tell him with absolute certainty which one belonged to Antonin Dolohov. The name alone sends spears of revulsion into the pit of Draco's stomach, but the idea that his old classmate has been in there enough times to remember such information makes Draco's hatred increase enough for him to want to vomit.

Draco comes to a stop at the right door, the dark, towering wood of it making him shiver. He hasn't been down to this part of the Manor in years, and, hoping it will be the last time, he flicks his wand and casts a detection spell under his breath.

His heart comes to a shuddering halt when he finds out there is someone inside, someone who can only be Dolohov, and someone who, if his spell tells him correctly, is apparently asleep.

Draco stands frozen on the spot, wondering whether he should run the hell away and just tell Zabini he couldn't find it, but Draco pushes the idea away immediately, because while Slytherins aren't about sentimentality, they are about owing eachother. And right now Draco owes Blaise Zabini a favour, and more than that, Draco surprisingly finds that he wants to help him, that he wants to get Zabini out of here as much as Draco wants to get himself out of here.

Attempting to swallow down his fear, Draco puts a hurried muffling charm on the door, and releases an inaudible sigh of relief when he pushes it open without a creak.

He slides into the room, the door still soundless as it slips closed behind him. Instantly the smell of whiskey burns Draco's nostrils, fills his throat and makes him crave a drink of water. There are empty glass bottles strewn over the floor, some shattered, others intact, and then Draco's eyes land on the man who appears unconscious on the bed. Dolohov's mouth is half open, black soot still stuck to the side of his face, and his legs are hanging over the edge of the mattress, his torso diagonal as though his sleep came out of nowhere and slammed him onto his back.

Draco would think he's dead if it weren't for the slow movements of his chest, and suddenly Draco is overcome with a nearly uncontrollable desire to kill. It wouldn't take very long, all he'd have to do would be to whisper the right curse, or to drag the Sword of Gryffindor out of his back pocket and jam it into the bastard's ribcage. Draco would smirk to think of what the heroic Godric would think if he were to know the uses to which his prized weapon was put to, but he is still too busy fighting his sudden blood-lust, and his hands are shaking.

He can't do it, he knows he can't, but oh how he wants to. His vows would probably kill him first, and even if they didn't the Death Eaters would find out it was Draco, and then everything would be over.

Draco shakes himself, wanting to get this over with so he can get the hell out, and gives the sleeping man one last glare of loathing before looking urgently around the room. He doesn't dare accio Zabini's wand for fear of it making some sort of noise as it's forced out of its hiding spot, and by the lack of possessions around the room Draco presumes it can only be in either the wardrobe or the bedside table.

Thinking quickly, and deducing that Dolohov is the kind of man who goes days without changing robes, Draco decides to check the bedside table first, so on lead-like legs, Draco creeps forward.

His hands and his forehead are sweating by the time he silently lowers himself to his knees, and after casting the same charm as he did on the door on the drawers, he gently pulls the first one open. It's empty apart from a few galleons and a pocket knife, and with clenched teeth Draco moves onto the next one.

It's locked, and his heart both pangs excitedly but plummets into his stomach. It won't open to ordinary unlocking spells, and with a muttered expletive and a lack of options Draco reopens the first draw and takes out the pocket knife.

He digs the blade into the corners of the bottom draw, trying to prise it open. The wood rattles once, Draco's sweaty palm almost drops the blade, and Dolohov grunts in his sleep.

Draco's nerves are in overdrive, and his chest is pounding so vigorously it's painful, so he closes his eyes for a second, calms his mind, and thinks of Harry.

The knife gives that last little bit into the metal lock, and the draw slides open with a click.

Zabini's wand is the only thing in there, and Draco's hand darts out to snatch it up as soon as he sees it. He stows it into his pocket hastily and with bated breath puts a new locking spell on the draw, hoping that any damage he's done to the wood won't be noticed unless Dolohov goes looking for it.

There's another grunt, followed by a hiss. Straightening, Draco turns his petrified gaze on Dolohov, but his eyes are still shut, only screwed up with the discomfort of a fitful sleep.

Draco walks backwards to the door, unwilling to look away for fear of the man suddenly springing awake and finding him, and when his back comes into contact with the door handle Draco is filled with a smug sense of accomplishment.

Then he's gone, safe. Or, as safe as one can be when a horde of Death Eaters is due to arrive at any moment.

Draco hurries up the entrance hall staircases and down the main hall towards the East Wing. He pauses to take off all his concealment charms, but stops dead as the door to his father's study opens, and the washed-out pallor of Lucius Malfoy greets him with suspicious surprise.

"Draco. What are you doing here?"

Cold dread rushes through Draco's body, and in his pocket he feels Zabini's wand like a heavy sprig of guilt. But he shouldn't be guilty, no, he shouldn't be — and suddenly he isn't. He's livid. Because here is this man, privy to the going-ons of a madman, content to let his own son be harassed and threatened right under his nose, willing to let a teenaged boy be used up and then thrown away.

"Was it you?" Draco spits hoarsely, "Did you fuck him too? You sick fucking bastard!"

Lucius has gone, if possible, even paler, but his eyes are dark and astonished. And he knows what Draco's talking about. Draco knows he knows.

"You're fucking disgusting!"

Lucius gaze darts down the corridor, wary of being overheard, and then his glare settles on his son. "How dare you — I had no part in —"

"But you still let it fucking happen! And that's just as bad! It's just as fucking bad!"

And Draco remembers this look, remembers the fracturing facade of someone who has had enough, of someone who can take no more. He remembers it because it is the same look his father gave him when Draco had been distraught over the disappearance of his mother.

Draco is ready for the backhand that comes. His fist comes up, knocks away his father's arm, his teeth bared in a snarl and his hair in his eyes. And then Lucius's face dawns with comprehension, and he recoils. But Draco doesn't care, doesn't care if his father feels regret or shame or guilt, he doesn't give a fuck.

"You make me sick," Draco says, and then he turns, and he doesn't look back to see what he's left behind, doesn't stop to think about why his father might be here instead of there — in an underhanded battle of terror.

He only walks forward, and when he swings the door open to his rooms, Zabini is waiting for him.

Zabini has been pacing, and at Draco's entrance he hastily turns, his dark features schooled in such a way that expects disappointment.

But then Draco secures the doors behind him, and slides Zabini's wand from his pocket, and the other Slytherin's eyes light up with amazement.

Draco hands it to him, and Zabini does not hesitate to take it. There is no thankyou, and Draco is pleased, because he doesn't plan on thanking Zabini for earlier, and things are easier this way, easier if they just continue in a mutual, wordless understanding that in this hell called war, they have eachother's backs.

Zabini nods at him, and Draco nods back.

"It was either this or vows," Zabini says indifferently a moment later, and Draco scowls, wondering what he would have chosen, if given the choice. Vows in Zabini's case would have been different, would have been vile, and for an intense second Draco is glad that Zabini chose to lose his wand instead.

Draco doesn't need to tell Zabini to be careful, to make sure no one sees him with it, and neither of them say anything else before Zabini departs like a short-spoken whisper.

Draco is left to collapse onto his bed, and with an uneven sigh he lowers his head into his hands, missing Harry Potter with every inch of his body.

Moody's funeral is on an overcast day on the first of May. There is a slight wind, and the smell of the sea carries over to surround his farewell.

Harry thinks Moody would have liked it, would have liked the small numbers, and the fact that he would forever sleep in a place that is transient. The ocean is always changing, and it keeps constant vigilance by day and by night.

Harry releases his handful of soil, watching as the breeze tries to take it away.

Nobody cries, and Harry thinks Moody would have liked that too.

Hermione sheds a tear, but wipes it away before anybody notices. Harry notices, though, and he thinks her sadness has more to do with the idea of death than it has with the man who lies to rest below them.

Harry doesn't let himself grieve, not yet, because he knows if he starts he won't be able to stop, and he will lose sight of what's important, of what has to be done. He knows that it will be easier to mourn everyone together than individually, and he would rather death take out a chunk of his heart all at once, than chisel away at it piece by piece.

Luna says a few words, her dreamy voice nearly indistinguishable from the rustling of the leaves. If it were any other day, Harry would have smiled at the things she says, and he knows Ron would have snorted too, but today they're sending off a warrior, and Harry knows there will be more to come.

Remus has the most to say, and his handful of soil hits the upturned earth with a soft thud. The sound speaks of something final, and Harry's heart clenches. Beside him, he sees Ron take Hermione's hand, and he hasn't realised his own feels so empty until now.

Harry closes his eyes, lets the breeze brush his cheeks, but when he opens them he is no longer standing amidst his friends by the beach, beneath the copse of large trees. Instead he sees Hogwarts, the towers of it reaching into the sky just like they have reached into Harry's heart.

And he knows, knows that in the face of death he has let himself become vulnerable — opened himself up, and now he is witnessing Voldemort's thoughts again. But while it once would have made him nauseous and scared, now, as he sees flashes of uncertainty and images of his school, his home, he knows that's where he has to go.

Harry gasps, and he's back by Shell Cottage. Bill Weasley is saying something with nostalgia in his voice, and Ron and Hermione are both giving Harry side-glances of knowing. Harry swallows, tries to steady his breathing, and waits.

By the time the last word has been said, Harry's temples are sweating, and as everyone else disperses his two best friends hang back beside him.

"We have to get into Hogwarts."

They look at him without surprise, but Hermione shakes her head in worry. "But Harry — we can't. There's practically no way in. Not with Snape as Headmaster now."

"Yeah, not to mention they've got bloody Dementors surrounding the place," Ron puts in.

"Hogsmeade, then," Harry says without a beat, unfazed by both Snape and Dementors. "And we'll get in through one of the secret passages. There's a Horcrux there. I knew it — I always knew there'd —" He breaks off at Hermione's quelling look, and Harry doesn't bother saying that sometimes the most least-likely hiding places are the most obvious. Besides, Hermione looks too nervous to be told she's wrong.

"It'll be dangerous," Ron says lowly, but something in his voice tells Harry that's not what's stopping him, but it should be what stops Hermione.

Harry knows Hermione won't stay behind, no matter how much Ron begs, and what she says next is both predictable and entertaining. "We haven't even got a plan!"

"Hermione — since when have our plans ever gone right? We plan, we get there, and then everything turns to shit — besides, danger's never stopped us, right?" Harry and Ron share a look, Ron grins, and Hermione sighs.

"Should we tell the others?" Ron asks after a while. Harry thinks about the camp, about all the people they lost, and about Remus's new born son.

Finally, his gaze falls to Moody's headstone. "No. We get in — we get out. We try and make it back here by nightfall."

Ron nods, Hermione nods too, and Harry is grateful.

Draco gets most of his meals from the elves in the kitchen, so as to avoid unwanted attention. And it is on his way down early that evening when he is suddenly grabbed by the back of the neck and flung against the wall.

Pain winds its way up Draco's back as Dolohov sneers at him with sick amusement and says, "wrong way to the dungeons, Malfoy. Prisoners are this way."

And then he's tugging Draco back the way he came, bending his arm at an unnatural angle as he pulls violently on Draco's wrist, and Draco can't shake him off, so instead he draws his wand, casts a mild blasting hex that has Dolohov recoiling.

He doesn't let Draco go, though, and if anything his eyes become even wilder — black and unhinged, and Draco doesn't have time to think of another spell, because he's too terrified trying to figure out whether Dolohov knows about the missing wand, and too distracted by the churning in his gut that yells, 'please, please not this again.'

He's already tortured Hermione Granger, and he doesn't think he will be able to live through torturing anyone else.

Dolohov shoves him down the cellar steps before him, and Draco has to steady his hands on the wall to stop himself from tripping. Dolohov laughs, deep and sadistic and horrid, and Draco hates him.

There are flickering torches lining the stone walls, and there is a slumped, ashen figure shackled to the floor. He's got dark hair, black as ink, and for a second Draco's heart withers and shrinks into nothing — because no, it can't be —

And it isn't. It isn't Harry. Because then the young man looks up and Draco sees that his eyes are blue, not green, and Draco's relief makes him feel disgusted — selfish.

"He's a pathetic muggle… Know why he's hear?" Dolohov's breath is at Draco's ear, and Draco can smell it, stale and putrid, and more than anything, this is what makes him want to gag.

Draco swallows bile, his throat dry and scratchy — his lungs not giving him enough air. "W-why?"

"Because… He looks like Potter… don't you think?"

The muggle's cheeks are sunken, and his eyes are brimming with a plea as he looks up into Draco's face. And Draco does think so, he thinks it until it is enough to make him want to save him, save a stranger, and Draco Malfoy has never before cared about strangers, and whether they live or die.

But right now, looking at this prisoner, whose wrists are torn and bleeding, whose hair is nearly identical to Harry Potter's, Draco realises Dolohov's intent was not to have Draco torture the prisoner, but to have the prisoner torture him.

And then Dolohov points his wand, his grin taut and demented across his face, and screams, "crucio!"

The man caves in on himself, crumbles, and his lips part in a soundless howl as his eyes bulge to the point where Draco thinks they are about to burst.

"S-stop — stop it," Draco chokes.

Dolohov abruptly lowers his arm, laughing jeeringly as the muggle collapses as far as his chains will allow. Then he turns to Draco, and Draco knows what he's waiting for, what he's expecting — do it or watch him be killed. And Draco has to remind himself that this isn't Harry, it isn't the boy he gave his heart to, because if it were Harry, Draco thinks he would be on his knees already, begging to be the one to die instead.

Draco lifts his wand. He does it because this isn't Harry. He does it because the echo of Dolohov's threats are still lingering at the back of his mind. He does it because he likes to pretend he is brave, and not scared.

But he doesn't do it — because then Lucius Malfoy descends the stairs in a swirl of dark robes and harrowing features, and says, "Draco. We must go."

Draco's wand hand falls to his side, his pulse stuttering, while Dolohov glowers as though he has just missed out on the best fun he'll have in his life.

"Come," Lucius snaps, and Draco realises he hasn't moved yet. He takes a step, freezes, and his eyes travel from the unconscious muggle to Dolohov, knowing what will happen as soon as he leaves. "Draco."

And for a second, Draco regrets not killing the nameless man before him, because what Dolohov has in stall for him will be a trial where death will rapidly become welcome.

But Draco had his chance, and he lost it.

He follows his father out of the dungeons, his head pounding, trying desperately to forget the image of Dolohov's excited smirk.

"Where are we going?" Draco asks tersely.

"No questions." Lucius does not wait for his son to catch up, his strides long as he moves toward the Manor's entrance.

"Where are we going?" Draco asks again, firmer, his anger catching at the end and giving his voice something momentarily frightening.

Maybe Lucius hears it, maybe that's why he answers impatiently, "we're to be stationed within Hogsmeade."


They're out the front doors now, heading down the wide steps and onto the drive.

Lucius comes to a halt, and Draco stops several paces behind him, not wanting to get too close, not wanting to touch him. Draco frowns, his glare penetrating as he stares at the man who he is forced to call his father.

A muscle twitches in Lucius's jaw as he replies austerely, "We're expecting Potter."

Emotion takes over Draco's features, he knows it does, and he holds his breath because he knows if he releases it, it will waver. Zabini told him this would happen, that Harry would try and get into Hogwarts, but Draco didn't think it would be so soon, and it leaves him losing his grip on his own shoddily composed calm.

Lucius extends his arm, offering side-along, and Draco spares it a second's glance before he seethes and looks away.

"The Three Broomsticks," Lucius tells him stonily, and then he's gone.

Draco disapparates a second later, and appears by his father's side.

And what he sees has him lurching back into the pub's window.

The little village of Hogsmeade, once bustling with shoppers and covered in bright, cheerful shop displays, is now nothing but boarded up windows and barren streets. This is the place Draco used to eagerly await visiting, the place where he taunted Weasley and Granger and got snowballs thrown at him by what he now knows was an invisible Harry.

The memory makes him want to smile, but he can't, because seeing the village like this is akin to the feeling of having one of his vital organs taken out of his body only to have it clumsily stuffed back in again.

The very idea of a smile drops from Draco's mind and gets lost somewhere amidst the desolated town of Hogsmeade, because then he notices the dotted figures of Death Eaters all up the street, some hiding, others under dodgy disillusionment charms, others in plain clothes, trying to blend into a place where there is no one.

And they're waiting for Harry, Draco realises. Harry is going to come here and there won't be anything Draco can do to stop him from being attacked — from being captured.

Draco's heart rate picks up, and the knowledge that Harry has an invisibility cloak does little to make him relax. His eyes are quick and wary as they dart up and down the street, looking for a sign, for anything that will tell him that Harry Potter has stepped into a minefield of the enemy.

And then there's a crack, echoing from a side-alley up ahead, and immediately a shrill, deafening caterwauling charm goes off, and Draco has to fight the urge to cover his ears as everyone springs into action.

"We know you're here, Potter!" Someone calls, and then there are spells flying, and Draco doesn't even know he's moved until Lucius attempts to drag him back.

"Draco, wait —" But Draco shrugs him off, doesn't stay and listen to what his father may or may not say, and then he's racing towards the throng of the fight, the side street around which Death Eaters are crowding.

He doesn't have a plan, doesn't know what he's doing, all he knows is Harry. But then Draco stops, nearly crashes into somebody's back, because he sees that the alley is empty apart from an old man, who is arguing hysterically with one of the Death Eaters.

Harry isn't here, and Draco can breathe easily again.

Chapter Text

The Hogshead is dimly lit with cobwebs clinging to the even darker corners, and Harry feels twitchy to know what is waiting for them just outside. It'd been a close call, with the three of them backed up, beneath the invisibility cloak, at the dead end of an alley, and while Harry had been desperately hoping to see a flash of platinum hair amidst the throng of their pursuers, he was also glad to escape with his life.

Aberforth Dumbledore is a man caught between his desire to do what's right, and his cynical sense of defeat that tries to tear him asunder.

Harry listens to the truth about his late Headmaster with guilt in his gut and relief in his chest, and he is happy that Rita Skeeter's shit in the guise of a book was left behind at Malfoy Manor.

Hermione looks as though she might cry when she hears about the loss of Ariana Dumbledore, and how both brothers spent their lives thinking her death was their fault. Ron is sympathetic, Harry can tell, but his emotions come second to his appetite, and while he grunts in compassion every now and then, the majority of the tale Ron spends glancing longingly at the half-eaten plate of bread and cheese.

Harry burns with a million questions, but he holds them in, and when Aberforth tells him he should go into hiding, should leave the country and forget about the destruction he will be the cause of in his wake, Harry grits his teeth, and says again how urgently they need to get into the Castle.

Aberforth simply peers at Harry, his sky-like eyes baring an uncanny resemblance to his brother's, and for a short moment Harry is back in a cushioned armchair in front of his old headmaster's desk, with the weight of Albus Dumbledore's stare piercing him and wordlessly telling him that everything will be okay.

But Aberforth looks as though he's trying to convey the message of things being the opposite of okay, that what Harry wants to embark upon is nothing but a suicide mission. Harry supposes that might be what it is, but he clings internally to the reminder that the Sorting hat put him in Gryffindor, not Slytherin, and while he may be in love with a Slytherin, his blood is brimming with what he knows that Slytherin would call idiotic bravery. He knows he can do this, that he will do this, and no one can stop him.

Aberforth finally gives in and nods, and then a minute later the portrait of his sister swings open to reveal Neville Longbottom, and behind him, Dobby the house elf.

Neville looks positively haggard, but upon seeing his classmates, his face spreads into a grin that no one can take away from him.

Dobby steps excitedly up to Harry, who crouches down to be at his level. "Dobby — what you did back at the Malfoy's — I — Dobby, you saved us —"

"Oh, no, Sir," Dobby shakes his head bashfully, his long ears swinging, "Harry Potter is the one saving Dobby! Dobby came rushing as soon as Dobby heard —"

"Was it Draco?" Harry rushes out breathlessly, ignoring the heavy gazes of his friends. "Did Draco send you?"

Dobby's eyes widen, and for a moment he looks uncertain, "Dobby hasn't seen Mr. Draco for five years."

Harry frowns, baffled, when suddenly Aberforth, who has been talking to Neville in a way that speaks of a well-known acquaintance, says, "Dobby, have you done what we spoke of yet?"

Dobby squeaks, his reply enthusiastic as he gives a nod of the affirmative. Then, turning back to Harry, "Dobby must go, Harry Potter. Dobby will be seeing you very soon!"

And before Harry can even get out a 'but wait' Dobby disappears with a crack.

He gets to his feet, confusion and loss layering themselves over him like a blanket. Ron looks away as soon as Harry's eyes fall on him, and Hermione simply clears her throat and says, "thank you, Mr. Dumbledore."

They follow Neville into a narrow and winding passage, one that Harry never even knew existed. Ron seems to be voicing everything Harry can't say, and Harry is grateful, because even though he is outwardly beaming to know that Neville is alive and well, his mind keeps turning over the question of, 'if Draco didn't send Dobby, who did?'

Neville tells them all about the Room of Requirement, and how the passage had appeared once they'd run out of food. Aberforth had grudgingly provided for them at first, but after he got sick of new faces bursting into his pub at ungodly hours, he'd asked Dobby to bring food to them instead.

Harry's skin crawls as he hears about the Carrows, but he feels something fiery and hopeful flare up inside of him to know that Dumbledore's Army never gave up.

The tunnel begins to expand and fill with light until they come to a stop, and then Neville swings open another door and shouts loudly, "Hey, everyone! You'll never guess who's here!"

And then he steps aside and Harry is met with cheers and clapping and excited screams, and he is overwhelmed, because everyone spread out in the room full of hammocks and chairs below him is counting on him, grinning at him as though he's the only hope they'll ever need.

It's flattering, but unnerving, and as Harry climbs down the portrait hole ladder he is instantly swooped up into a barrage of hugs and slaps on the backs and, 'Harry, good to see you mate's.

Harry catches sight of Ron and Hermione, who are being given the same treatment as he is, and then through the crowd his gaze lands on Ginny Weasley. She's smiling at him, uncertain yet warm, and Harry has the urge to hug her, because he still loves her, just not in the way she wants, but he knows that would be unfair, so instead he just smiles back at her, and withstands the look of a love they both know he can't return.

Briefly, Harry wonders what Ginny would do if she found out that this has more to with Harry's preferences for a certain blond Slytherin, and less to do with the responsibilities of winning a war. But then the passage door swings open once more, and Luna and Dean are swamped with the greetings of their friends before Dean manages to yell over the din, "Harry! Remus and the others are on their way! He says Snape knows you were seen in Hogsmeade, and that whatever it is you need to do, do it quickly!"

Harry nods, not bothering to be annoyed at how Remus somehow managed to find out what they were up to. Harry prefers to think that he's not that predictable.

He raises his voice, using what authority he likes to think he doesn't have to be heard over the enthusiastic clamour. They hush and stare at him with awe, and Harry pushes away his discomfort and tells them that there's something he, Ron and Hermione have to do, and he shouldn't be so surprised that everyone immediately wants to help, but he is. Harry has spent too long thinking that everything this war is or ever will be is on his shoulders, and with an agitated pause he thinks of Ron's words, that this is about all of them, not just Harry. And Ron's right, he realises, and Harry will just have to grit his teeth and get over the fact that for some reason, everyone wants to help him, and there's nothing he can do about it. Because maybe saving lives is about more than the sacrifices Harry has spent too long trying to prevent.

So he lets them help, and listens with a pounding heart as Luna talks about Rowena Ravenclaw's lost diadem.

"What's taking so bloody long?" One of the Death Eaters hiss.

Draco slinks further back into the crowd, the gates of the Hogwart's grounds looming up before him. Dementors hover in the sky like black clouds, promising storms of despair for them all.

"Snape hasn't given the signal yet, so shut your fucking face," another grunts, shoving several Snatchers to the side as he edges his way to the front.

Draco lost sight of his father before they arrived, and he doesn't care where he is, or what he might be doing, he only cares about getting inside, and getting Harry.

A hand touches his elbow, and Draco jumps.

Blaise Zabini is standing behind him, the hood of his robes drawn over his face. He looks like a fucking vampire and Draco wants to punch him, because his nerves are already frayed enough as it is without the unnecessary fright. "What the hell are you doing here?" He whispers.

"I could ask you the same question," Zabini replies smoothly, and his lips quirk to the side, with what Draco presumes is the lingering memory of several weeks ago.

Draco almost calls him a bastard, but instead seethes, "You know why. Now don't be an idiot. You've got your wand back — you should fuck off before it's too late."

Zabini snorts, and Draco's eyes widen, because he's never thought he'd hear that noise coming from the stoical semblance of Blaise Zabini. Fleetingly, he remembers Zabini shouting at Dolohov to get out, and thinks maybe he shouldn't be so shocked after all. "I'm here for the same reason as you, Draco."

Draco narrows his eyes into a glare, unsure how he feels to have his first name slip from Zabini's lips. For a split-second he wonders if maybe Zabini has always been his friend after all, in a strange, unfriendly sort of way that only Slytherins can manage, and Draco has just never bothered to think about it. Or maybe their sort-of-friendship is something new, something that was born from the shitty leftovers of right and wrong. Either way, Zabini is here, and somehow it helps Draco to relax a little.

"What?" Draco asks quietly, "going to get your hands on Potter, too?" He says it in case anybody's listening in, and because maybe he still has a slim chance of disguising the fragile mask of his susceptible heart. But Zabini sees through him, and Draco knows he understands what he isn't saying, even though Zabini huffs out something suspiciously close to a laugh.

"Unlikely. Luna's waiting for me."

Draco rolls his eyes. He doesn't know what to think about the whole Zabini and Lovegood situation, it might even be a hoax for all he cares. But for some reason the idea that this boy, who has been defiled for the sake of war, might find feelings that are half as strong as the love Draco feels for Harry, makes Draco feel hopeful.

Draco wonders whether that makes him less selfish than he used to be, but he knows if he were to choose between anyone and Harry Potter, he wouldn't even let himself breathe before choosing Harry.

He supposes he is just as selfish after all.

Severus Snape lowers his wand, hesitation clear in his black eyes, and Harry won't know until later that this is because he's seen this before. Seen a woman place herself in front of Harry, willing to give up her life to save him.

But Harry does't know this yet. So instead all he feels is mind-blowing relief when Minerva McGonagall is victorious in their duel, and Snape flees like the coward Harry has always thought him to be.

The Great Hall erupts with cheers, and McGonagall turns to Harry with a lined look of concern, "Potter—" there seems to be a number of things she wants to say, but in the end she settles with, "it's good to see you."

Harry's heart clenches, the need to run and find one of the last two horcruxes warring with his desire to stay here and fight, to protect the people who are so willing to fight for what's right.

"It's good to see you too, Professor," Harry says.

And then he runs, squeezes through torrents of milling and panicking students to try and begin his search.

He makes it up the grand staircases before he almost collides with Ron and Hermione. Hermione's tone is eager and awestruck as she rushes to tell Harry about Ron's brilliant idea of going down to the Chamber of Secrets.

Harry nods, urgent, trying to ignore the fact that they might not be able to find eachother afterwards, because Harry doesn't have the Marauder's Map to help them, and Harry misses it almost as much as he misses the person he gave it to.

They seperate, and Harry is swallowed by the crowd.

Wards are going up, surrounding Hogwarts like a crackling dome of magic, and Draco is caught breathless by the beauty of it.

Death Eaters are shouting, pushing eachother, trying to break down the gates, but they can't get in, and Draco's heart thuds with anticipation, his stomach roiling with unease.

Beside him, Zabini seems captivated by the glistening wards forming in front of them, and Draco wonders what's going on inside his head.

Suddenly, a giant spreading of green and blackness gathers in the sky above them, and the snake and skull act as a signalling mark of newborn terror.

The matching imprint on Draco's skin tingles and itches, and then everyone is firing spells at the gates, yelling and swearing, and it takes Draco too long to raise his arm and do the same.

The sight of the tearing enchantments does odd things to Draco's insides, and his throat tightens up and his hand shakes. But he still casts, still helps take down the defences of his old home, because somewhere, his new home is waiting for him.

"You remind me of him…"

The words slide through the spaces between Harry's ribs, and settle around his heart like shards of ice. Because they are everything he has been fearing, yet everything he already knows, and he fights the urge to close his eyes from the pain they make him feel.

The ghost of Helena Ravenclaw eyes him with distrust, and Harry can do nothing but hold on desperately to the ways he is different from Tom Riddle, and ignore the ways he is similar. He thinks about choices and chances, and Draco Malfoy, and how Harry left him behind. He thinks about how he won't stop until he ends this, and about how that has to make him good, if even a little bit.

And then Helena tells him where the young man who reminds her of Harry hid her mother's diadem, and Harry's lips part over a shuddering sigh of relief just as a deafening crumbling sound from overhead makes him stagger.

He thinks maybe the castle is falling down, but then his attention turns to the window, and it is worse, so much worse, because what he sees is the collapsing charms of their defence, of everyone's united effort at stopping something that will come anyway.

Harry swallows, realises he's alone in the tower, and forces his legs to take him to the Room of Requirement as fast as they will carry him.

The gates burst open, and the Death Eaters swarm inside like a wave of hungry, charcoal coloured ants.

Draco grabs onto Zabini's arm and hurries after them, rushing forwards as his eyes hastily scan for a place where no one will see them.

There's a familiar thicket of trees just to the left, where couples used to sneak off to and snog, and Draco hauls Zabini after him as he heads towards them.

As soon as they are under the cover of the trees, Draco reaches into his back pocket, and from his hidden paper bag he pulls out the old wad of parchment Harry leant to him all those months ago. His chest aches with the memory of it, and he forces it away so he can tap his wand on the top of it and murmur the correct words.

"What the fuck is that?" Zabini asks as the map spreads with interwoven patterns of ink, the level of his voice failing to hide his urgency. "What are you doing?"

"Finding Harry," Draco says as he helplessly searches through what looks like thousands of black dots, the names all jumbling together and becoming illegible as students pack into the hallways.

If Zabini finds Draco's use of Harry's first name odd, he doesn't comment, he only says, "Will that thing tell me where Luna is?"

Draco doesn't reply, too busy looking for anyone who Harry might be with, for Weasley, or for Granger, but he can't find either of them, and his hands start to sweat and tremble because Harry has to be here somewhere, he has to be

— And Draco finds him, racing down a seventh floor corridor, and his legs almost give out with relief — but then he's gone. "Fuck, no — no no." Draco's breathing is erratic, and Zabini is saying something but Draco can't hear him, because Harry just disappeared and Draco has to find him. He knows it as much as he knows that he needs to keep breathing to keep on living.

But breathing is hard right now, because Harry —

Draco remembers with a smack of shocking clarity, the Room of Hidden things, where he spent a majority of his sixth year, where he carved out the failure of his future, and sealed his past as something he would hate looking back on.

And that's where Draco has to go now.

He shakes his head, pushing away the ringing in his ears and the blurring of his vision, and Zabini is tugging on his sleeve, looking an inch away from punching some form of coherence into him.

"We have to go," Draco says foggily, stuffing the map back into his pocket and turning, but Zabini stops him.

"What about Luna —" Screams and explosions cut him off, and they both flinch at the noises of destruction, and at the knowledge that, around them, a battle has begun.

"I need to go —"

"But —"

"Come with me — and then I'll help you find her, I swear I'll —" But Draco doesn't finish, because then there's the cracking of leaves and a tall, shadowy figure steps through the trees, and Antonin Dolohov leers at them with a gleam in his gaze.

"And what do we have here?"

"We know where Potter is," Zabini says without missing a beat, and Draco doesn't know what to think, whether this whole thing with Zabini has been a sham, or whether it's real, whether Draco's austere and unruffled classmate really is in love with a ditzy Ravenclaw, and only said what he did to buy them time.

Either way, Dolohov clearly looks enthralled by the statement. His wand is on Draco, and Draco tries to stave off his glare as he nods in agreement with what Zabini's said.

"By all means, take me to him, then." Dolohov grins, and he makes a flicking gesture with his wand towards the castle, and Draco understands the meaning; that he has no choice but to comply, no choice but to lead him straight to Harry Potter.

The metropolis of junk is never-ending, piles of it acting as pillars which threaten to topple over at any second. But still Harry runs. Deeper and deeper into the abyss until he's sure there is no way out.

The world is quiet here, nothing but the echo of centuries of students coming and going, of hiding things that needed to be hidden. Harry sees broomsticks, some splintered and broken, others intact, and so many pieces of discarded furniture that if he had the time he would wonder what the hell was so unorthodox about a saggy old couch that someone would want to hide it.

But he doesn't have time. Because outside, there is the sound of a war, and as soon as Harry steps out of this room it will devour him.

He keeps searching, and then just as suddenly as his next breath he finds it.

It's like magnetism, pulling him closer, enticing him through something wound tightly within his chest. It is the same feeling he'd gotten when he'd been submerged in golden goblets, before seeing Hufflepuff's cup sitting high upon a shelf.

Harry freezes, and even though his mind doesn't know where to go, his body does, and his arm reaches out towards a low side-table, covered in trinkets and strings of pearls and all sorts of things Harry can't name. His fingers lift the latch of an intricately carved wooden box, and there's the diadem — dainty and silver and inlayed with sapphires.

Harry swallows, his thumb stroking over the jewels, his brow creased as his pulse speeds up, because for a terrifying second he feels as though he does not want to destroy it. He flinches back, appalled, knowing that he wants to get rid of it with every inch of his power, and that it must be the piece of Voldemort's soul embedded in it playing twisted tricks on his mind.

He gnashes his teeth and reaches for it once more —


And Harry would recognise that voice anywhere. Because he's heard it a thousand times before, in his dreams and in his memories, and if he has his way he will hear it a thousand times more. But something's wrong, it's off, and through the resentment of it Harry can pick up on the fear.

Harry whirls around, and there he is, looking white-washed with a dread that has worsened since the last time Harry saw him. Since the night he'd gotten to be wrapped up in the arms of Draco Malfoy.

Draco's wand is pointed at Harry's chest, and Harry doesn't look into his grey eyes, because he's afraid of what he'll see there, more afraid of this than of the entire war. Because Draco Malfoy's patronus is a stag just like Harry's, but Harry still left him behind, and between their two opposing sides Harry can't tell which is the truth, and which is the lie.

Instead Harry looks at the dark-haired Death Eater he has seen several times before, who stands too close to Draco's back, looming over him with his bulk, and at the chiselled calm of Blaise Zabini's impassive features.

Zabini has his wand aimed on Harry as well, but he can't see the Death Eater's, and when he lowers his eyes he has a sickening feeling that it is digging into Draco's back. This shouldn't give him hope, but it does, and it is what enables Harry to meet Draco's stare.

"I believe you have something of mine, Potter," Draco says, and there's that crease across his nose, and the downturn of his lips, and Harry doesn't know if what he sees is stress, or the crumbling facade of someone who has been weary for too long. "I want it back."

Harry clenches the Hawthorne wand tighter, and watches as Draco winces at something the Death Eater hisses in his ear. Harry's blood boils, and his voice is stern as he says, "I've already made that mistake once. I won't be making it again."

He says it because of that living and breathing hope in his chest. He says it to give Draco a believable way out. But hurt flashes across Draco's face, a pain that seems to affect him more than whatever torment he is suffering by the blackmail at his back, and Harry hates himself. Because he doesn't mean it, he could never mean it, not anymore. And just like that he realises that this must be the truth, that the lie never existed in the first place. Realises that Draco is acting just as much as Harry is, and that the possibility of forgiveness might exist after all.

Because Harry Potter loves Draco Malfoy, and now he is beginning to accept the fact that maybe Draco loves him too.

"Do it now Draco. Do it or I'll kill him, and then I'll kill you…"

Dolohov's words tickle the hair at Draco's neck, and he shivers with revulsion, but what Harry says next hurts more than anything Dolohov could possibly do.

For a second Draco thinks he might fall apart, but when he takes in Harry's unwavering green eyes, the hard set of his jaw, and the way he doesn't stop looking at Draco in such a way that begs for him to understand, he is able to delude himself that it is real after all. That Harry's only playing along because he has to. That Harry loves him.

But then Granger and Weasley appear from around the corner, and stop behind Harry with their wands raised, and Dolohov shoves in front of Draco with a growl and a killing curse dripping acidly from his tongue.

And Weasley snaps, snarls, and fires back. Draco sees Harry push Granger behind him and grab something off a table before shoving it into his pocket, and then Draco is almost hit with one of Weasley's spells. Zabini reacts in Draco's defence without missing a beat, sending a jet of something which sears across Weasley's shoulder, and that's all it takes to get Granger to fight too.

Draco wants to scream at them to fucking stop it, because he doesn't want either of them to kill Zabini, and surprisingly, he doesn't want Zabini to kill either of them as well. But suddenly Zabini spins around, his arm twisting as he directs the course of his curse at Dolohov, and Draco detects the exact moment where the Death Eater realises he's been betrayed.

Dolohov lets out a livid roar, and with a slash of his wand he knocks Weasley and Zabini stumbling back into towers of furniture, and suddenly there's fire — fire everywhere, burning and building and getting hotter by the second as it spills from Dolohov's wand in the shape of chimeras and savage beasts.

And then everyone's running.

Draco can't see Harry, can't see if he's safe, and it nearly chokes him as much as the rapidly thickening smoke. He can hardly see amongst the sweltering fog, and with quick movements he launches himself over towards a giant spire of chairs and tables and begins to climb.

His skin feels like it's boiling, like it's about to peel back from his body, and his palms are sweaty as he attempts to grab onto the corners of furniture to hoist himself higher. He's almost at the top when something snags his ankle, weighing him down and causing him to slip.

Draco's heart falls into his stomach as the soaring flames lick higher and higher, but what's worse is the sight of Antonin Dolohov, clinging to the furniture just below Draco, his hand like a vice around Draco's leg.

Draco tries to kick at him, tries to do anything he can to get him to let go. He can't cast at him, because if he lifts even one of his hands he knows he will fall and be consumed by the fire.

Dolohov's face is red and intense, his teeth bared as he struggles to use Draco as a ledge, and he might be yelling something but Draco can't hear him, because the sound of burning wood and collapsing structures is too loud — the roaring of the fiery wasteland below them even louder.

And then something like panic flickers in the man's eyes, and it's so unfamiliar that Draco can't look away, not even when Dolohov's grip slips and he's falling down down down, down into the fire he created, and down into the promise of death.

Draco hauls himself up and onto the top-most flat table, gasping for the air that is barely there. Dolohov is gone — dead, and while Draco is elated he is also numb, because he might be about to follow him, and through the sweltering mix of fire and furniture, Draco sees Zabini on his own pyre, and thinks that Zabini might follow them as well.

But then Harry comes back for him.

And this is what redemption feels like, Draco thinks. Redemption feels like Harry's sweaty palm colliding with Draco's. Redemption feels like being swung up onto a broom behind the boy he loves. Redemption feels like being chosen, even after everything — after a lifetime full of shit and wrong choices. And maybe that's just because Harry Potter is insane and too much of a bloody hero for his own good, but right now he is Draco's hero, and Draco thinks that's enough — that it'll be enough for a lifetime.

His arms are tight around Harry's waist, the air hot and stifling as they speed through it, and Draco never wants to let go, because he knows where letting go has lead him to in the past, and he hates it.

Draco casts a desperate glance over his shoulder to see Zabini being pulled onto a broom behind Weasley, before he turns back to Harry, tightens his arms and rests his forehead between Harry's shoulder blades.

And then they're hurtling through the giant, arched doorway, and Harry doesn't have enough time to steady the broom before it crashes into a heap of rubble and throws them both off.

Draco lands on his back, winded, and tries to regain his breath. He hears Granger shriek Harry's name, and the metallic sound of something screeching, as though in pain, and then nothing but the distant sounds of a battle and the heaving of his chest.

Draco blinks away dust and smoke, and when he finally opens his eyes, Harry Potter's green gaze is staring back at him.

Harry doesn't think about the fact that he's just destroyed the second last horcrux with a basilisk fang, or that Ron Weasley and Blaise Zabini are staring eachother down with an awkward, mutual dislike.

Harry only crawls hurriedly over to Draco's side, his eyes closed and his face covered in black soot, but still beautiful. So beautiful. And Harry's hands flutter, because he wants to touch him, wants to make sure he's okay, but he isn't sure if he's allowed to do that, because even though he came back for Draco this time, he still left Draco behind.

But this is a war, and they've both done things, they both will have to do more things — and then Draco's eyes crack open, slate-grey and brimming with a relief that washes over Harry and makes his ribcage feel two sizes too small.

"Draco — how — how'd you find me?" Harry croaks out, feeling like an idiot, because of all the things he could have said he chose the one of the least importance.

"That — sodding — map," Draco replies between pants, his eyes drinking Harry in like a man dying of thirst.

And Harry doesn't know who moves first, but suddenly Draco's on his knees and they're kissing — soft and hard and gentle and needy all at once. And it's brilliant.

"Bloody hell," Ron says, and it draws Harry away, forces him to pull back from the delicious addiction of Draco Malfoy's lips and give his friend a warning glare. But Ron is too busy intently admiring a missing chunk of wall, all Slytherin-related things, including an amused looking Zabini, purposefully forgotten. Hermione looks decidedly embarrassed, but there's a small smile on her lips, and that's all Harry needs to turns his full attention back on Draco.

And Draco's looking at him as though he hung the moon, and fuck, Harry can't do this, can't go on unless he knows Draco is safe. "Draco, I — you need to go."

Draco's expression of affection slips into exasperation, and then settles into a perfectly sculpted look of indignation. "No."

"Please — it's not safe."

"Nowhere's fucking safe," Draco spits, his face twisted but still smudged with blackness and it's so endearing that Harry wants to hug him.

But now's not the time, because below them people fight and scream and die, and Harry has to finish this. "Draco, listen to me — you have to —"

"I'm not leaving you!" Draco says it through his teeth, his steely eyes determined and bright, and his cheeks flushed, but his words are as good as a confession. And Harry loves him, god, he loves him so much —

"I love you," it bursts out, as natural as breathing, and Harry never wants to take it back. Draco's eyes widen, and his fury flees from him as quickly as it came. Harry says it again because it's the truth, and because Draco needs to believe it. "I love you Draco, and I swear I'll come and I'll find you, after all this is over — I promise you —"

Draco definitely moves first this time, and his lips taste like smoke and sweat and something deliciously unyielding as they part beneath Harry's. Harry pours everything he has into the kiss, gives Draco everything he wants him to remember, and everything Harry wants to remember for himself.

Draco is first to pull back as well, his hands uncurling from Harry's shirt as he catches his breath and rasps, "see you soon… Harry."

And then he's standing, his lips tugging up at one side, and he looks so invigorated that in the next second he's wearing a full-blown grin that makes Harry feel warm in all of the right places. "See you soon, Draco."

They share one last look of longing, before Draco takes a step back and disappears around the corner, Zabini following him without a word.

Ron clears his throat. "That was one of the weirdest fucking things I've ever seen."

There's a noise which sounds suspiciously like Hermione giving Ron's arm a slap, and Harry's lips twitch into a smile —

"Let me find the boy, My Lord," Lucius Malfoy all but whispers, his face ashen and desperate.

"I've told you already, Lucius. Before the night is out the boy will come to me!" Voldemort's voice is low but lethal, and with a flex of his neck he urges his snake to slide closer to his ankles.

There is an anxiety in the air, smothered by a controlled fury, and Nagini has to be near him at all times, because if she isn't…

Voldemort steps right up to his servant, his nails piercing skin as he tilts Lucius's head to the side. "How can you live with yourself, Lucius? Your son, a failure. Your wife… dead."

Lucius trembles, and Voldemort's anxiety turns into a sick amusement as he laughs —

"It's the snake," Harry pants, squinting up into the concerned faces of Ron and Hermione as he struggles to his feet. Ron offers him a hand, but then retracts it as though remembering where Harry's hands have been within the last ten minutes. "The last one's the snake."

"What do we do?" Hermione asks softly.

"I dunno. But I know where he is." Harry recognises the dilapidated room he saw as the Shrieking Shack, and he needs to get there as soon as possible.

Hermione gives a small nod, and Ron steels himself as though remembering this is bigger than his dislike of Harry's boyfriend.

And the word 'boyfriend' makes Harry feel like he can do absolutely anything at all, no matter how insane it might be, such as winning this war.

Harry loves him. Harry Potter loves Draco Malfoy. And Draco can't stop smiling.

He doesn't care that he's two steps behind Zabini, struggling to keep up with his quick strides. And he doesn't care that Zabini snatched Harry's map from Draco so as to find Lovegood. Because Harry loves him, and Draco doesn't think he has ever felt this good, this elated.

In fact, he is so exhilarated that he doesn't stop to consider that their hello might have been the disguise to their goodbye, and that while Harry had confessed something Draco never thought could be true, Draco didn't say what he should have in return.

But Harry loves him, and to Draco, that's all that matters until he almost collides into Zabini's back and is met with the scene of Lovegood and the Weasley twins duelling the Carrows.

Zabini throws himself into the battle, shoving Lovegood aside and out of the path of a killing curse. There is a particular wildness to his eyes that Draco would find dangerous if he had the time to think about it.

"What the hell are they doing here!?" One of the Weasleys shout, and Draco ducks and casts a forceful shield charm when Alecto notices him and sends something nasty his way.

And Draco doesn't know what he's doing, because he promised Harry that he'd leave, as soon as he helped Zabini find Lovegood, he would leave. But here he is, fighting alongside two Weasleys, and it is something Draco can fairly say he never would have imagined himself doing.

Amycus falls at the hand of Blaise Zabini, and his death is enough to distract his sister, who screams and flings herself forward with demented rage. But five against one is no match for the Death Eater, and the Weasleys have her stunned and bound in a matter of seconds.

And then Zabini is snogging the hell out of Lovegood, and belatedly Draco wonders if this is how bloody awkward it'd been twenty minutes ago when no one in the world existed besides him and Harry, when all they knew was eachother's lips.

Draco doesn't know what to do with his hands, with his wand, because standing across from him are two people who look as though they are still deciding whether or not to stun him too, but their curious amusement at the sight of the snogging couple in the corridor seems to be enough to outweigh their suspicion of Draco, and Draco releases a breath of relief as he contemplates what to do next.

But after that, everything happens so quickly.

Draco can see him, over the shoulders of the twins, black-hooded and barrelling towards them — a Death Eater. His wand is aimed at the back of one of the Weasley's heads, and Draco knows the shape of the words the Death Eater's lips form as he casts, because he has dreamt of them, cried over them. Because there was a time when Draco thought he would have to say them himself, speak them to an old man on top of the Astronomy Tower.

And Draco moves without thinking.

He darts forward, shoulders a Weasley out of the way, and puts all of his strength into deflecting the curse with a stunner.

The curse would have seared straight into the place where Weasley's neck would have been, but Draco's spell meets it halfway and sends it reflecting back into the chest of their attacker.

The Death Eater thuds to the floor, his hood slipping, and behind him Draco hears, "bloody hell, George — Malfoy just saved my life! Can this day get any weirder?"

Vincent Crabbe lies dead amidst the rubble, the last traces of his ruthless intent to murder still etched across his face, and Draco looks down at him with both resentment and remorse.

Because this could have been him, he realises.

This could have been him, but he'd fallen in love with Harry Potter, and then everything changed.

And now Draco has saved one life, but taken another, and he can't decide whether this makes him feel better, or worse.

When Severus Snape dies Harry doesn't know how he is meant to feel. Because he has always hated this man, but somehow he is caught up in the injustice of his death, in the unfairness of war.

"You have your mother's eyes…"

And Harry knows he does, has heard it too many times to remember, but for some reason coming from this man it is different.

They have one hour to tend to their dead, and to mourn the losses which will only grow and grow. Harry almost wishes someone would give him up already, would hand him over to Voldemort. But he has seen the way everybody fights, and Ron was right, he reminds himself, it isn't just about him anymore.

As they make their way back up to the castle, the vial of Snape's memories clenched tightly in Harry's fist, Harry wonders whether there will be anyone who goes back for his body. It is a sad, bitter thought, and it turns Harry's stomach.

But then they are passing through the Great Hall, and Harry sees Remus and Tonks, amongst all the bodies — amongst all the dead. And for a second he wants to tell them to get up, to stop pretending. Because it can't be true — it can't be happening. Remus was meant to be the last one standing, the last living connection Harry had to his father. And now he's gone.

Harry sways, nearly drops to his knees, but his friends are there holding him up, supporting him.

Harry feels too tired, too numb to cry, but silent tears are clinging to his cheeks, and it takes him everything he has to clench his teeth and bottle away the grief, and to wait just a little bit longer.

Harry shakes away Ron's arm and Hermione's hand, and says he'll be back in a little bit. He needs air, he needs to think, and he needs to go some place where people aren't looking at him like he will save their loved ones. Because Harry can't even save his own loved ones, and it's tearing him apart.

He moves with robotic exhaustion up staircases and through ghostly quiet passage ways until he's standing in front of the familiar, crumbled griffin gargoyle.

Harry takes a breath to steady himself, enters the office he has visited many times before, and then heads for Dumbledore's Pensieve.

Draco is still shivering from the message Voldemort projected over the castle, the hissing ring of it haunting his ears. He tries to ignore the part of him that thinks handing himself over is exactly the kind of stupid bravery Harry is most known for amongst Slytherins, and instead focuses on the memory of Harry telling Draco he loves him.

He follows silently behind Zabini, who follows Lovegood like a lovesick Crup, who follows Fred and George Weasley into the Great Hall. And all at once Draco is drowning in the sense that he doesn't belong. It isn't just because of the stares people give him, some weary, others disproving but curious — it is because he feels as though he doesn't deserve to be here.

Here, with all these people mourning over their loved ones, over people who have died fighting in a battle that Draco has spent his whole life being on the wrong side of. He can't help but feel as though if only he'd done something more, or not been so much of a coward, then they'd stare less. But there was nothing he could have done, he realises, because if Harry Potter hadn't come and turned his life upside down by throwing a juicy green apple at his head, Draco would be lying dead in a pool of black robes beside Vincent Crabbe.

So Draco settles down on one of the benches, gnashing his teeth and ignoring the stares and the whispers and the hate, because he doesn't give a fuck about what people think, that he's here when he shouldn't be. Because he's here for Harry, for what he finally knows is right, and if that makes him undeserving then so be it.

He notices Weasley and Granger amongst a throng of Gryffindors, whose clothes are tattered, their sleeves being used as places to wipe their eyes. Harry is not with them, and it makes something cold and dreadful swirl in his stomach, but neither Weasley or Granger seem perturbed by Harry's lack of presence, so Draco sighs and attempts to shove down his anxiety.

He can't help from scanning the crowd, however, searching for a sign of wild ink-coloured hair, or a flash of round glasses doing nothing to cover the expression Draco used to think was one of martyrdom, but now knows is just Harry being Harry. Harry, feeling too many things and thinking everything is his fault.

There was a time when Draco would have smirked and agreed that everything was Potter's fault, but now he finds himself wishing he could do something to ease the burden Harry never chose to bear.

His eyes meet Granger's across the hall, and Draco blinks away his surprise, because she's giving him this unnerving, faint smile, which makes him scowl and look away.

Because he fucking tortured her. He listened to her scream. And she shouldn't be able to smile at him — shouldn't be able to even look at him. But somehow she does, and unwillingly Draco begins to form a strange sense of respect alongside his guilt, for the bushy-haired girl who holds nearly as many surprises as Harry does.

He knows what he did to her can never be undone, but if this ever ends, if they get out of this alive, Draco finds himself thinking of how he will apologise to her, how he will attempt to mend something which had only started to grow before it'd been felled to ruin.

Maybe returning that smile might be a good place to start, but when Draco looks back both she and Weasley are gone.

Harry collapses on the stairs on the way out of the office. He thought he could make it — could keep walking until he does what he needs to do. But he can't.

Because there are countless truths and facts that are stabbing into him from all angles, and he can barely breathe, can barely remember how to breathe. The truth is meant to hurt, Harry knows, but what people always fail to mention is that it hurts so much that it numbs.

His hands aren't shaking as he clasps them together atop his knees. Or maybe they are, and his vision is just too foggy for him to notice.

Sitting there, alone in the Headmistress's office, Harry thinks about how he's always wanted to be normal. How he wanted birthday parties and parents and normal experiences such as making friends and falling in love.

The Weasley's had given him the first, had welcomed him into the arms of their home without a second thought, and there have been so many parental figures throughout Harry's life that he would never have enough time to thank them all, even if he didn't have to die.

When he was younger he'd often thought, holed up in his cupboard beneath the stairs, that he'd done something bad, that that was why he was never able to make any friends, and why the Dursleys always hated him. But he was wrong, because he did make friends. Many friends, but only two stuck by him through everything, were able to heal with him, and mend all the pieces of eachother that became broken.

And then Harry had fallen in love. And even though it was with someone he never would have expected, he cannot help but feel, in what he knows are probably his last, fleeting moments alive, that it was the most right thing he's ever done.

The person he fell in love with is a sarcastic, selfish prat. Harry knows this, he's always known this. But then the Slytherin turned up in the dark and cobwebbed entryway of Grimmauld Place, and gradually Harry began to explore the nuances and the niches that all grew upon eachother to make up the intricacies of Draco Malfoy.

Because while Harry doesn't think Draco will ever stop being sarcastic, or a prat for that matter, he now knows he is thoughtful, beautiful beyond anything Harry can imagine, and brave. Brave in his own right. Just like Severus Snape had been.

So in a way, Harry has gotten everything he's always wanted, it's all just about to come to an end.

Harry takes a deep, rattling breath, and struggles to get it past whatever is clogging his throat.

He wonders what will happen to Draco after he's gone, how he will react, and whether he will go right on living like the rest of the world. Because this war is bigger than Harry, it's about all of them, and heroes come and they go, and while the world will cry over them, they will also forget.

Harry doesn't mind being forgotten. He thinks he wouldn't mind at all, would die happily if it meant he knew beyond all certainty that Draco Malfoy would always remember him, remember their time together, and what it meant.

He gets groggily to his feet, and makes his way down the stairs, one step at a time. He thinks he has managed to form some sort of detached calm around himself, but then he sees Ron and Hermione waiting for him, their heads bowed and their arms around eachother as though holding themselves together.

Hermione looks up as she notices him, and her face is encrusted with dirt, the tracks of her tears standing out stark against the browns and pinks on her skin. Ron follows her gaze, and with a gut-wrenching pain Harry realises he has been crying too.

Harry hasn't ever seen Ron cry before, and while he isn't doing it now, the evidence of it renders Harry speechless, frozen to the spot.

"Oh, Harry — we — we thought you'd gone to — to him," Hermione speaks in shattered fragments, and Harry wonders if her lungs hurt as much as his do.

"I'm going now," Harry says. And they are the three hardest words he has ever spoken. Fresh tears spill over Hermione's cheeks, and one by one they break Harry's heart. "I feel like I've known for a while now… And I think you have too… That part of him lives inside me."

Hermione sobs, and then her arms are around him.

Over her shoulder, he meets Ron's gaze, and between them they share everything they can't say in words. Harry tells Ron to take care of her, and Ron tells Harry that he will, that he'll marry her and give her a family, and that when the hours are dark and the birds stop singing, together they will remember their best friend, not the Boy-Who-Lived, but Harry. Just Harry.

"We'll go with you —" Hermione croaks, but Harry shakes his head, and he knows she can feel it.

"Kill the snake, and then it's just him… It's just him," Harry says into Hermione's hair, his voice rough, before he pulls back.

"W-what about Draco?" Hermione asks quietly. "He's still — s-still here."

Harry almost smiles sadly, because of course Draco didn't listen to him, and that's one of the reasons why Harry loves him. He shakes his head, because as he goes down there, down into the forest and to his death, he wants to remember Draco happy, Draco grinning and telling Harry he's an idiot, or rolling his eyes when Harry thought Mozart was a muggle. He doesn't want to remember Draco's pain, or the way he will look if Harry tells him he has to go, has to leave him once more.

Draco knows Harry loves him, and that's more than enough.

Harry takes one last look at the two people in front of him, the two people he loves as though they are a part of him, and he wants to thank them, for everything they've done, and for everything they will do after Harry leaves them.

But Harry can't speak, and they look at him and they know — they understand, and then they fall into eachother's arms as Harry turns and walks away.

He feels stiff and cold all over, but he balls his fists. Because he knows that nothing is scary, it's what leads up to it that is most frightening. And he supposes, that just like everything else, dying will be the same.

He stops in the entrance hall. He doesn't know why, and he wouldn't be able to explain it if someone were to ask him. He just feels as though he needs to look into the Great hall. So he does. And there's Draco, sitting on one of the benches, frowning and looking miffed as Luna says something to him. He looks pale and tired, but so gorgeous Harry's mouth goes dry, and he knows he has just made carrying on that much harder.

He wants to reach out, to run his fingers through Draco's soft hair and stroke the sharp angles of his face, because he knows those angles will soften, that they'll soften just for him, just for Harry.

But he can't. Because Draco Malfoy steals his breath away, and Harry has to keep going before he suffocates.

He steps out into the night, the aftermath of a death and destruction that will only continue lying all around him, and Harry walks through it.

And when the shadowy depths of the Forbidden Forest swallow him up, Harry remembers the Golden Snitch in his pocket, and realises that he is ready to die.

That this is the close.

"Hello, Draco. It's good to see you're okay," Lovegood stands in front of him, blocking Draco's view of the surrounding hall. He doesn't know what the hell Lovegood means, seeing as she was the one who was an inch away from death the last time they met. But he doesn't want to upset Zabini by being rude to his girlfriend, so Draco just grunts and shrugs a little.

And then he feels it. A heat building in his body and clenching within his chest, and he rushes to his feet, stares through the door to the entrance hall where he feels like someone is watching him.


But Harry isn't there. Draco spins around, searching every corner and every huddle of people who hold onto eachother and weep, for Harry, or for Granger or Weasley. But he can't see them, can't find them.

And he panics.

Because something isn't right.

He feels it lacing through his veins like ice and extinguishing that short-lived heat.

And then he's pushing past people, darting around tables, needing to get out. To see. Because Harry was there. Draco knows he was. He was watching Draco, staring at him with the full weight of his heavy gaze, a gaze Draco now knows holds the affection he's always hoped for. But Harry didn't come in — didn't find Draco like he'd promised — and why, why would Harry do that?

The worst part is that Draco thinks he already knows why. He just doesn't want to believe it.

Because Harry loves him. And Draco loves Harry, and Draco wants a life with him, wants a life full of promises and laughter and arguments. He wants everything they've always been, and everything they haven't had a chance to be.

But Draco's world comes crashing down, and maybe he's always known it would, maybe he's just been waiting for it to happen. And now it has, and Draco's not ready for it — doesn't think he'll ever be ready for it.

The entrance hall is empty, and Draco races through it and out onto the grounds.

Cold air slams into his face, along with the smell of burning and death and Harry leaving him again — leaving him because he loves him. Not saying goodbye because he loves him.

But Harry did say goodbye, Draco realises.

He'd said it in his kiss, and he'd said it in his promise.

Because Harry will find him, one day, in another life — a different world. A world where death has already come and gone and they are nothing but memories. When that time comes, they will be together. After Draco lives his life without Harry, alone with nothing but a longing for what could have been, then Harry will find him.

But not in this world. Not in the reality where Draco made all the wrong choices, and Harry gave himself up to save everyone. He'd saved Draco too once, but not now, now he kills him.

Because Harry isn't here. Granger is though — maybe Weasley too — Draco hears her voice calling him, but he can't hear it over his own guttural sounds of agony. Somewhere within the pain he's fallen to his knees, rubble sharp and digging into his skin.

Granger's hand is on Draco's shoulder, and she's crying — crying with him. His sobs burst out of his whole body, tear him apart at the seams, and his heart — god, his heart, it aches and aches and aches.

Granger might be hugging him, or she might be trying desperately to put back together the pieces of Draco which have been ripped apart. But Draco doesn't think he can ever be repaired, because this —

— this is what dying feels like.

Chapter Text


Vast, unfathomable blankness.

Dying is peaceful, Harry realises. It's like walking through clouds, through a colourless mist that seeps into his body and makes him feel free.

But he still has a certain level of awareness, can still identify his thoughts — he still misses Draco.

Is that normal? Do dead people miss living people, have his parents continued to miss him, after all this time? Will Harry have to spend the rest of forever yearning for the boy he left behind in a war?

The peace abruptly shatters, and Harry whirls around, trying to make something out from all this white.

And then he sees, huddled beneath a bench, something bleeding and broken and dying. Harry recoils with a gasp, because it isn't until seeing it that he realises just how alive he really is.


Harry spins around.

It's Dumbledore, looking wise and bright and just as white as everything else around them. "You brave, brave wonderful man." And Harry can believe it, not that he's brave, because he already knows that, but that somehow he's come out of this as a man. It's confusing and frightening, but liberating, and he finds himself returning the smile his old headmaster gives him.

They walk, and Kings Cross Station begins to take shape. It's empty but for the two of them, and Harry listens. He listens and he finally understands that this man who he has idolised for the better part of his life, is someone who makes mistakes, who carries burdens, who cries. And Harry forgives him. Forgives him for never telling Harry that he was connected to Voldemort by something other than fate. Forgives him for everything.

Harry remembers the time at the end of fifth year, when he'd been distraught, wreaking Dumbledore's office into a place of desolation and ruin — because no one understood, no one could possibly understand the agony he felt over losing Sirius Black, over not being able do do anything. But Dumbledore did — he understood. And it is only now that Harry realises this.

"I have to go back, haven't I?" Harry asks, because for some reason living seems just as hard as dying, and for a fleeting moment Harry wonders if he will be able to achieve that ethereal peace once more if he stays.

But then Dumbledore tells him he can board a train, and Harry knows that while it will take him 'on' it will also take him back to responsibilities, back to a war, and back to more death, more destruction.

"Voldemort has the Elder Wand," Harry says, and it is the first reason of many.

Dumbledore gazes at him serenely, his eyes deep with something that makes them similar. Because Dumbledore won the first war, and now Harry has to win the second.

"The snake's still alive."

Harry knows he should go back, knows he will go back, but it is only the thought of Draco Malfoy that has him hoping there is still a seat left on the train for him.

There's a twinkle in Dumbledore's eyes, and after he amends his statement, and says, "help will always be given at Hogwarts, to those who deserve it," he begins to walk away.

"Professor—" Harry calls, and Dumbledore pauses, "I — I'm in love with Draco Malfoy."

He doesn't know why he needs to say it, but he just does. Maybe it's because he's talking about the boy who raised and lowered his wand atop the Astronomy Tower, the boy who he's always hated, and he needs to make sure that it's okay.

But Dumbledore simply smiles, as though he's been expecting it all along, as though he's proud. And it sends something light and relieved into Harry's gut.

They part ways, and Harry returns to where he is meant to be.

"No… no… no."

Incoherence. His voice scratchy and tearing his throat to pieces as he chokes over his own sobs.

A hesitant pressure on his shoulder. Draco throws it off, staggers to his feet. Violent tremors wrack through his body, and his hands shake as he grabs at his hair, grabs at anything that will take him away from the truth. But nothing works, because Harry is gone — Harry is dead — Harry is dead and Draco is dead too. "NO!"

"— please, please — it had to be this way — H-Harry wouldn't want you to —"

Draco roars, and everything — everything just pours out — grief and rage and despair. Because it makes sense now, it had to be this way and Harry's best friends knew — they knew and they didn't stop him. They didn't stop him.

And Granger said his name, she said Harry's name and she — she can't do that — because she let him go — she let Harry leave him.

"You didn't stop him." The words splinter out of Draco and cut him, slice him apart. Granger flinches, and Draco can't see her tears because of his own. "You didn't fucking stop him — you didn't — you didn't stop him —"

Weasley steps forward, angles Granger behind him, and Draco can't breathe, can't do anything, because Harry's dead, and these two people are supposed to love him — they're supposed to love him — but they let him go.

Draco can't see their guilt, can't see their pain, all he knows is his own, because Harry's dead and he's killed Draco and nothing matters anymore.

He heaves forward, and Draco thinks he means to hit him — means to hit Weasley and make someone pay, but instead he falls forward and whimpers, and Weasley's hands come out to stop him, to shove him backwards.

And for a second they are just two people who have been forced together over their loss, two people gripping eachother with hate and grief and a need to let the other know that 'I loved him more.'

Draco snarls, pushes Weasley's shoulders, and lifts his arm to feel it collide with Weasley's jaw — and it isn't enough — nothing's enough — because Weasley doesn't fight back — he doesn't fight back.

Draco's teeth are bared and he tries again, but he's too weak, too devastated, and Weasley only stares at him through pained eyes as though he knows. And Draco hates him — he fucking hates him — because no one can possibly know what this feels like — what losing Harry feels like.

Because for months now Draco's felt as though it's been just him and Harry against the world. Because Harry was all he had, and now he's gone. Now Draco has nothing.

"Fight back!" Draco's shout is hoarse, and it hurts. Everything hurts so much. "Fight back — fight —"

Someone hauls Draco away and he stumbles. "Draco — Draco stop it." Zabini's voice is calm — and Draco hates it too, despises it — because how can anybody be calm when the light of the world has disappeared, when the sun has fallen from the sky?

Draco thrashes, tries to throw Zabini's arms from around his torso, but his grip is unrelenting. And then Draco remembers that nothing's enough — that anger isn't enough, and sadness isn't enough either.

Draco goes limp, and when Zabini releases him he slumps to the ground.

There are voices, as though people have gathered in the courtyard, gathered to see Draco Malfoy break apart, and Draco wants to scream at them, to scream and scream and scream. He wants to hate them, but instead he hates himself.

Because Harry Potter loved him. And Draco never got to tell him that he loved him too.

When Harry wakes, he doesn't open his eyes. The ground is cold beneath his back, and he feels leaves and twigs scratch his cheek.

But he daren't move.

There's a low humming — a murmuring of whispers, and then someone asks hoarsely, "Is he dead?"

Harry holds his breath as the sound of footfalls comes closer and closer, and he fears that the erratic thudding of his heart will give him away.

Someone leans over him, and Harry feels long hair graze his nose as two fingers are held to his pulse. There's the faintest intake of breath, the sound of someone realising that Harry Potter has lived once more, and then —

"Is my son alive? Draco — is he alive?" Lucius Malfoy's voice is barely audible, but Harry still hears him, and in response he gives the slightest of nods.

There's a pause.

"Dead," Lucius announces.

Cheers erupt, hisses of triumph, and Hagrid, chained and bound, begins to give loud, heaving sobs.

But Harry can't focus on anything, because suddenly he understands that Lucius Malfoy sent Dobby to rescue them from his own home. And he realises that maybe this man's love for his son might be enough to save them once more.

Draco doesn't know how long he spends on his knees. Time is irrelevant — everything is irrelevant. Everything apart from the fact that Harry Potter is gone.

Zabini tries to approach him, tries to get him to stand up, but Draco simply growls — a strangled noise that sounds more like a howl — like a savage beast that just wants to be left to die.

Draco doesn't want to move — he doesn't want to open his eyes. Because with them closed he can see everything.

He sees Harry throwing himself at him in a shadowy entranceway, Harry punching the life out of him. Harry glaring at him through green eyes that smoulder and blaze, demanding Draco tell him why he is there. Harry wiping the blood from Draco's face after his own best friend attacked him. Harry staring at Draco in the dim kitchen, his jaw squared after Draco tells him he hates him. Harry's dusky black hair dripping with apple juice. Harry's arms around him in the tiny bathroom, consoling and kind and cradling him. Harry letting himself be used for Draco's grief, Harry saying that Draco is different, that he isn't like them. Harry playing the piano appallingly, playing a stuttering, slaughtered version of a song that he somehow still makes perfect. Harry grinning with cookie dough on his cheeks, his eyes crinkled and so care-free, so happy. Harry returning Draco's wand — Harry trusting him. Harry casting discreet warming charms on Draco, because he cares too much, because he's Harry Potter and he cares when he shouldn't. Harry, awkward and fidgeting, handing Draco a paper bag full of gaudily-patterned underwear —

— and Draco, slowly, slowly falling in love with him.

Harry beside him in the darkness, just the two of them softly trading whispers and taunting remarks. Harry choosing Draco — Draco over his own friends. Harry in the rain, warm and wet and beautiful. Harry shaking his hand, because it's normal, because it's what muggles do, and Draco never wanting to let go. Harry's friends leaving him broken, Draco picking up the pieces and putting him together again. Harry kissing him for the first time, and telling him that it's okay, that it doesn't matter that they're not gay, and Draco just wanting him to shut up and kiss him again. Harry saying that he isn't upset, because Draco stayed with him, and Draco unknowingly vowing to himself that he will stay forever, if only to see Harry look at him like that once more. Harry teaching him how to cast a patronus, his eyes concentrated, and his body thrumming with magic.

And Draco falling in love with him some more.

Their limbs entwined on the ground after their escape, Harry snogging the life out of him. Harry smiling at him as though, because Draco is there, it is a happy Christmas after all. Harry undressing him and flinging the horcrux away from Draco's sodden body. Harry straddling him, kissing him, touching him.

Harry telling Draco he won't leave him, that he won't go anywhere, and Draco, falling falling falling, so deeply until there's no way out, until the love is all he knows.

Harry convincing Draco that it's never too late, Harry believing in him. Harry kissing Draco's dark mark, showing him, proving to him that he is no different, that there is hope.

Harry leaving Draco behind, Harry frozen in a battle zone, caked with mud, and staring at Draco as though he never thought he'd see him again. Harry shouting, pacing like a wild animal, and Draco doing nothing but basking in Harry's rage, in a frenzy that he wants to drown in.

Harry making love to him, Harry looking at him as though Draco is all that matters within this vast hell of a universe.

Harry coming back for him. Harry telling Draco he loves him.

Harry. Dying.

Draco. Alone, and in love.

Draco keeps his eyes squeezed closed, tears creeping out of the corners, and he will not open them for all the world, because while they are shut he can pretend to exist in the past, can pretend that Harry is still there — still beside him. Still in love with him.

Draco gasps brokenly, his lungs needing the air his heart doesn't — because all his heart needs is Harry Potter. His hands shake violently, and Draco curls them, scrapes his nails over the brickwork, imagining bright emerald eyes shining with humour, burning with anger, looking back at Draco with anything other than death.

Someone's saying his name, low and muffled, but the blood is still pounding too hard in his head, and Draco wouldn't respond even if he wanted to.

But then, louder, "Draco, get up!" And Draco's eyelids spring open and everything is ruined — gone. Blaise Zabini is bent in front of him, his gaze intense, and of course he is the only one stupid enough to come near Draco right now, the only one who thinks he is untouchable. It almost makes Draco want to lash out at him, to teach him a lesson, but he is too tired, too lost.

And then he hears them.

Footsteps, many of them, shuffling and coming closer, and when Draco staggers numbly to his feet, what he sees over Zabini's shoulder is enough to turn all of his grief into anger — into a hate strong enough to fuel him.

"Harry Potter… IS DEAD!"

Voldemort leads them, and his voice echoes throughout the courtyard, seeps into the hazy morning air and makes people gasp and shriek and cry.

But not Draco.

A girl screams, runs forward — Weasley's sister — but Voldemort stops her with a flick of his wrist, and she falls back.

"Stupid girl. Harry Potter is dead. From this day on, you put your faith in me." His followers laugh, jeer, and through the fog of his hate Draco can make out his father, pale and scared, his eyes unmoving from his son.

"Harry Potter is dead! And now is the time to declare yourself… Come forward and join us… Or die."

But Harry isn't dead, Draco realises. Harry didn't walk into a forest full of enemies and hand himself over. Harry isn't limp in Hagrid's arms.

Harry is alive — and he's in Draco's heart.

And Draco doesn't know he has taken a step forward until it's too late.

"Ah, Draco."

Draco doesn't shiver in disgust upon hearing his name slide from that tongue. He doesn't look away from Harry, sleeping in the arms of the giant, even though the real Harry is waiting for Draco somewhere else, and when Draco sees him he will tell him he loves him.

Because Harry isn't dead.

Draco won't let him be dead.

"You're wrong," Draco whispers, his eyes not leaving Harry's mussed hair, or the boneless way his body drapes over strong arms.

There's another voice calling him — Lucius — but Draco ignores him — ignores everything apart from Harry and the low hissing by his feet.

And Draco doesn't think. He doesn't care about living or dying, because what is the world without Harry Potter taking up all of its glory? So with a deft twist of his arm he reaches into his back pocket and withdraws the Sword of Gryffindor.

The pain that has been contained to his heart begins to spill outwards, lacing down his arms and legs and making him want to keel over — but he doesn't, because Harry is waiting for him, and at the same time as the snake uncoils its body to strike, Draco swings the blade down in a clean arc and slices off its head.

And then everything erupts inside of him — sharp, excruciating flames of agony. But Draco doesn't scream. Because he's already lost the most important person the world could ever give him, and nothing could ever be as painful. Someone else screams though, and it sounds like Harry — but it can't be.

The sword clatters to the ground, and then Draco collapses, his body crumpling against hard stone and rubble.

There's another scream, but Draco can't recognise it, because he has never heard such distraught emotion in that voice before, and it doesn't make sense.

His mouth tastes like blood, but Draco still manages to hoarsely choke, "S-see you s-soon… Harry," before he closes his eyes and waits.

Harry flings himself out of Hagrid's arms at the same time Lucius Malfoy cries out for his son — and then everyone's moving, everyone's shouting. Some Death Eaters disapparate, others fight. But Harry only knows the frightening thudding in his chest — knows the way Draco just destroyed the last horcrux, knows the way he fell.

And seeing that hurt more than dying — hurt more than anything else ever could.

But Harry can't go to him, can't do anything but beg for him to be alive, because Voldemort is after him, ruthless in his understanding that the Boy Who Lived lives once more. Harry has just enough time to see Lucius drop to his son's side before the throng of the battle surrounds them, and then Voldemort's snake-like eyes are the only thing Harry forces himself to focus on.

Because he needs to end this. And after it's all over — then he will never leave Draco Malfoy again.

Maybe Draco Malfoy died in the Room of Requirement. Maybe he fell to his death in a pit of fire, just like Dolohov, and everything following it has just been a dream. Because he feels them now — the flames, curling around his wrists and his ankles and burning up and down his whole body.

The pain is the worst in his left forearm, but Draco can't think about why, can't think about anything. Because it hurts too much and he's barely breathing — and suddenly there are hands on his forehead, cold and clammy, and they're taking away some of the fire.

They move down his cheeks, through sweat and dirt and tears, and for a moment Draco is able to think that they are Harry's — that he has made it, that Harry is here, waiting for Draco to wake up in a place where they are both dead, and the pain is only there because that's what Draco deserves, what he has earned for himself throughout a life full of mistakes and bitterness.

But they're not Harry's hands, because it's not Harry's voice Draco hears through the torturous veil of the fire — it's that same one from earlier, and it's whispering and pleading and sobbing. And it's enough for Draco to take a forced, rattling breath that tastes like iron and bile, and crack his eyelids open.

And Draco is almost disappointed. Because he's not dead yet — he's not with Harry yet. There's still a war raging on around him, and Draco looks up into the grief-stricken face of his father. His paleness is layered in grime and regret, and Draco wants to ask what happened, what's made his father fall apart like this, because it is strange and foreign and wrong, and it is only when Lucius Malfoy murmurs his son's name that Draco realises it is for him.

But Draco can't speak, he can't move, he only stares through glazed eyes, up into another pair that is the aftermath of a storm, a silver that all the fight has left, and now there is only defeat and remorse, and 'Draco — Draco I'm sorry — I'm so sorry — please, please — Draco…'

The pain is too much and Draco can't think clearly, can't do anything but let the burning heat consume him, and wonder when it will be over.

The Centaurs join the battle, galloping over the walls with raised spears, as well as an army of house elves, lead by Dobby, a free elf, who still wears the same sock Harry gave to him all those years ago.

And Harry Potter taunts Tom Riddle with the truth, tells him as they circle eachother in a duel that will only result in death, that Voldemort's greatest downfall was love after all. Because Snape's Patronus was a doe, just likes Draco's is a stag, and while Severus Snape was Dumbledore's man through and through, he was not the master of the Elder Wand.

Harry wonders what Draco would have done if he knew, knew that he was the true owner of the wand of power, and whether what they shared would have been enough to stop him from becoming the boy he used to be.

But then Harry remembers the way Draco Malfoy swung the Sword of Gryffindor and ended something he didn't even know needed finishing, and he realises that yes, yes it would have been enough.

But now — now he supposes it doesn't matter, because on the night Harry left Draco behind he'd forced the hawthorn wand from his cold, bloodied hands, and had sealed his own fate as the Elder Wand's new master.

The battle has thinned as people escape or recede into the sidelines to watch, but Harry doesn't let his eyes stray to where he knows Draco lies motionless across his father's lap, not until there is a deranged scream, and Bellatrix Lestrange launches herself at her brother-in-law and her nephew, intent on slaughtering those she deems as traitors.

Harry's heart stops, needing to do something, but Lucius is quicker, and the woman who murdered Sirius Black and countless others caves in on herself as she dies.

Tom Riddle has never known love, and Harry has seen what he will become, in a land where everything is white and hopeless, but he still shrieks at the loss of his most faithful servant, and Harry doesn't have time to react before Voldemort's attention diverts from Harry for just long enough to avenge her death.

Lucius Malfoy's last action is to throw his body in front of his son's as the jet of green hits him in the back, and with a roar Harry puts everything he has left into the disarming spell that meets Voldemort's killing curse.

And it is to the first rays of bright morning light that Tom Riddle knows he is finished, relinquishes his hold on a wand that soars through the air and lands in Harry's hand, and then perhaps the greatest evil this world has ever known is no more.

Harry doesn't register the cheers, or the people hugging and crying on each other's shoulders at the prospect of a life without fear, he only pushes through the crowd, his ears deaf to every congratulations and every smile, because none of these people know that Harry Potter is in love with Draco Malfoy, and that he needs to be by his side right this instant — and that he'll never leave him again.

And then Harry sees him — his upper body half leaning against the Castle's uneven wall, and his cornsilk hair darkened by black smog and red — red blood — and Harry's heart convulses. There's a small group of people around him — Luna, Ron and Hermione, and Blaise Zabini on his knees, looking just as battle-worn as the rest of them. Lucius Malfoy lies dead by Draco's feet, but Harry hardly sees him — because it can't be — Draco can't be gone — Harry needs him, needs him more than anything else in this whole world.

Harry doesn't acknowledge anything other than the searing panic racing through his body, and the deathly pale boy who lies broken before him.

Harry drops to the ground, crawls the last few paces, and grabs Draco's thin, rigid fingers. They're still warm, and Harry clings to them — clings to the possibility of what that might mean.

"Draco… Draco, look at me." Harry doesn't recognise his own voice, it's hoarse and off-key, and Draco isn't moving.

Harry moves his hand over Draco's chest, searching for a hint of the heartbeat that Harry lives for. He can't find it, and he starts to tremble, grips Draco's shirt and shakes him — because he can't do this — he can't leave Harry just as they could have begun.

"Draco — Draco —"

"Stop it, Potter." Zabini shoves Harry's hands away, and Harry wants to punch him, but then Hermione's on the ground beside him, her hands curled around Harry's bicep. And her touch makes Harry choke over a sob.

He stares at Draco's closed eyelids, at his delicate lashes that fan over the sharp edges of his cheekbones, at the softened line of his brows. And god, Harry wants so much to see his frown, to see his sneer, anything — anything that will tell him that Draco Malfoy is alive.

"W-what — what happened to him…?" Harry asks, uncaring of who replies, because he just needs answers.

"It's his vows," Zabini snaps, something in his voice almost accusing, as though this is Harry's fault. And with a lurch and a shaky inhale Harry realises that it is. "They made him take them so he wouldn't do anything — anything like this." Zabini's tone wavers, and if Harry weren't so distressed he would be surprised.

But suddenly everything makes sense — Draco's actions, the hotel room, and why he hadn't been able to tell Harry he'd had possession of the Sword of Gryffindor.

Harry reaches out to touch his jaw, moves his thumb over the trail of blood by Draco's lips — his smooth, pink lips that Harry may never get to kiss again. He cups Draco's cheek, brushes his eyebrow, and Harry clenches his teeth as his tears start to bleed down his face, his mind and his heart both begging; 'Draco, please — please wake up, don't do this to me. I'm sorry, I'm sorry for everything — and I'll never leave you again as long as you open your eyes and look at me — open your eyes and tell me I'm the biggest idiot that ever was. Please.'

Harry doesn't entertain the thought that he may have spoken aloud, because in the next second Draco's eyelids flutter and open, and then he looks at Harry with those smoky eyes and he smiles.

And Harry falls in love with him all over again.

"Draco —" Harry clasps his hand tighter, feels it squeeze back with the slightest pressure, and Harry has never before felt such a strong relief — such a burning hope.

"H-Harry…" Draco breathes, and it's croaky and rough — yet perfect. "T-there… you… are…"

Harry doesn't understand what Draco means, because of course he is here — where else would he be? But his throat is too tight and all he manages is to rasp jarringly, "Shh… It's okay — don't say anything — you're okay — you're okay now — it's over — it's all over…" Harry's still crying, tears dripping down onto Draco's face as Harry leans over him and strokes his matted hair away from his forehead.

Draco's eyes close again, but he's still smiling, and his lips barely move as he whispers, "…l-lo-ve y-you…"

And Harry can't breathe, because Draco Malfoy loves him, and he doesn't think he even needs to breathe. But then Draco lets out a short, broken gasp of pain, and his hand slackens as it slips from Harry's.

And then the air comes rushing back into Harry's lungs with the weight of his terror.

"No — no, Draco — no — wake up — Draco —"

"Harry — we need to get him to Saint Mungo's." Hermione, calm and sniffing and level-headed as always.

Zabini hasn't moved since he last spoke, but now he shifts closer, and Harry hisses, "Don't touch him." Because no one will hurt him ever again, Harry will die before he lets it happen.

Zabini stills but he doesn't recoil. "Didn't you hear Granger?" He asks lowly, his voice like ice.

Harry resists the urge to growl, "I'll take him."

"It's too dangerous for him to apparate, Harry. They're organising portkeys in the Entrance Hall, if we just —"

"I'm not leaving him."

At that moment, Ron appears behind Hermione, something cloth-covered in his hands, and without a word he leans down to place it on Draco's chest. Harry blinks through his tears to look up at his best mate, the morning sun shining through his hair and turning it copper, and when Ron meets his eyes Harry knows he understands the wordless thankyou for what it is.

Harry wraps his hand even tighter around Draco's, and slips back the tattered cloth to reveal an old teacup. He presses their joined hands to its rim, and then feels the tugging sensations of the portkey take a hold of his insides as he is pulled forward into nothingness —

— and lands in a packed atrium milling with injured witches and wizards, and healers desperately shuffling from person to person in a flourish of lime-green robes.

There are gasps and shouts at the sight of Harry Potter, the boy who saved them all, and even more shouts when the same people see the Death Eater he is clinging to. Harry bares his teeth at anyone who sends Draco looks of distrust, and brandishes the Elder Wand at curious people who get too close.

If the Healers have any objection to healing someone they think is an enemy, they don't say anything when the Chosen One yells and snarls at them to "hurry up and save him!"

They don't let Harry follow them as they levitate Draco onto a stretcher and hurry him off down one of the many corridors, and as much as Harry argues and tries to abuse his status as saviour to get himself through, they glare down at him with unrelenting authority, and Harry is left to collapse bonelessly into one of the vacant chairs in the waiting room, with nothing to do but hope beyond everything he's ever known that Draco Malfoy will be okay.

Harry doesn't realise he's been asleep until someone slumps down into the seat next to him. He startles awake, straightening and readjusting his grip on one of the two wands in his possession.

Hours have passed, and the waiting room has emptied out and become dimmer. Ron's sitting next to him, and through his sleep-heavy gaze Harry notices he's in a clean change of clothes, and wonders whether that means Ron has found time to return home to the Burrow yet. The thought stirs something warm yet simultaneously cold in Harry's chest. Because he doesn't know where it is he will return to, doesn't know what he has to call home other than a half-destroyed castle and a blond Slytherin who may or may not wake up.

"He'll be okay," Ron says, as if reading Harry's mind. Harry sinks a little lower in his chair, wishing he could hold onto Ron's words and know them to be true.

Harry doesn't say anything, his body full of aches and twinges which haven't been helped by dozing in a chair, and after a few moments Ron asks, "What happens now?"

And Harry is flawed by the question. Because hidden within it there is an undying, unvoiced promise that Ron is just waiting to hear Harry's response, and then he will follow him anywhere. Follow Harry even after everything — after a war that he didn't even need to take part in, and Harry has the sudden urge to grab Ron by the neck and hug him.

But something stops him, and maybe it is because Harry doesn't know what happens next, what he will do and how he will go on living, whether that be with or without Draco Malfoy, or maybe it is nothing more than his inability to move due to fatigue.

"Dunno," Harry replies after a pause, "What d'you reckon?"

Ron hums, stretches his legs out. "Well, 'Mione's just gone to bring us some tea. Then I s'pose I'll take a sip… probably burn my tongue. Might argue with her a bit 'bout making it too hot — she always does, you know — and then we'll hopefully make up with a snog or something."

Harry lets out a sigh, knowing Ron is trying to cheer him up, and he can tell it's working because he has to fight the desire to snort. "Sounds like a plan."

They fall into an easy companionship, full of quiet words swapped back and forth, and Harry is thankful for Ron just being there, next to him, giving him the support Harry didn't know he needed. Ron tells him about the leftover Death Eaters being taken into custody, and the Ministry working to reform and reestablish their hold on Azkaban. He also tells Harry that, when he's ready, his family's waiting to see him at the Burrow. Harry's eyes sting, wanting to cry, but they feel too dry, his body too dehydrated, and he is glad that, for now, the tears have left him.

Harry tells Ron about Snape, and about the Elder Wand, and Ron softly admits that Draco saved Fred's life.

Harry wonders if Hermione has had some terrible accident with the tea, for all the time it's taking her, but then again, he has a feeling it has more to do with tact than lack of skills, because in his opinion, Hermione is a brilliant tea maker, and she probably knows more than he does how much Ron's company means to him right now.

Ron doesn't comment on his dirt-encrusted clothing, or the way his foot taps in an inconsistent rhythm of stress, he doesn't pressure Harry to think about what's out there — what's waiting for him now that he is a hero.

Because Harry's had enough of fame and trouble for a lifetime, and even when he pulls out his old, broken holly wand from his moleskin pouch and mends it with the Elder Wand, Ron doesn't say anything, even though Harry detects a look of longing in his blue eyes which he tries to pretend he doesn't see.

"I'm going to put this back where it belongs," Harry says, the wand that should be Albus Dumbledore's sitting in his palm.

Hermione enters the room at that moment, two cups of tea in her hands, and a small smile on her lips which makes Harry think she's just heard what he said, and thinks it is the most noble idea that ever was.

He's too tired to roll his eyes, and he takes his tea with a murmured thanks. Ron burns his tongue, and Harry laughs. And while it feels all wrong and splintery in his throat, the war is over, and that makes the darkness ahead seem just a little bit lighter.

Ron and Hermione leave three hours later after Harry continuously tells them he's fine, and that they should go and rest. They leave unwillingly, grimaces on their faces, but they are holding hands, and Harry knows that while there is a part of them that worry for him, there is another part of them that is excited to be in love for the first time — to be in love and not be interrupted by a never-ending fear of what's to come.

Harry taps his foot for a few more minutes and stares at the blank walls of the room, then he gets up and chases down the first Healer he comes across. The woman is a mumbling mess of awe and red-cheeks, and with evident disappointment she informs Harry that Mr. Malfoy's internal damage was severe and he's still in intensive care, and that there is nothing Harry can do but continue to wait.

He watches her scurry back down the hallway, and after a brief moment he throws his invisibility cloak over his shoulders and follows her. The door she disappears behind is locked and heavily warded, and even though Harry knows he could probably take it down with a few waves of the Elder Wand, he is hesitant to take it out of Hagrid's pouch until he is able to return it to Dumbledore's tomb.

Harry leans against the wall, slides to the speckless, clinically white floor, and beneath the shroud of his cloak, falls into a deep, uncomfortable sleep.

In the morning, the Healers emerge from Draco's Ward and nearly trip over Harry's invisible outstretched legs. The cloak slips off him, Harry rushes to his feet with a muttered apology — although he can't help but feel they deserve it, for not letting him in sooner — and proceeds to be yelled at by a stout man Harry presumes is the Head Healer, who doesn't have any qualms whatsoever about lecturing the person who defeated Voldemort.

But then the man gets a hold of himself, and tells Harry he can go in now, and Harry feels like hugging him. He doesn't, thankfully, and without another word, he grabs his fallen cloak and barges into the room —

— and sees Draco, pale and peaceful, his skin looking beautiful against the light blue of the sheets, in a hospital gown Harry knows he would curl his lip at if he were awake. There's no more blood on his face, no gashes or pain, only a restfulness that makes Harry feel as though he could lie down and go right to sleep with him.

Harry walks slowly towards the bedside, taking Draco's limp hand in his. He knows if he were to flip his arm around, he would see the remnants of a mark that doesn't matter, but before Harry can so much as slide his fingers over the prominent angle of Draco's wrist, someone clears their throat behind him.

Harry turns and sees the young healer from last night, only now she isn't blushing so furiously — although she still can't quite meet Harry's eyes as she says, "We — we did everything we could. We think the only thing that saved him was because you — because you killed You-Know-Who and severed all of his bonds." She clears her throat, foot scuffing across the floor, "It's up to Mr. Malfoy now — whether he pulls through or not."

Harry hears what she doesn't say, the 'now all we can do is wait,' and he's glad she refrained, because he's sick of hearing it, and quite frankly, Harry has done enough waiting — he's done it for his whole life; waiting to either win or lose, waiting to live or die, and now — now he just wants Draco.

He nods mutely, and then, after sparing Harry one last admiring look, the Healer hastens out of the room.

Harry turns his attention back to Draco, and lowers himself slowly into one of the chairs by the bed-side, his hand not leaving the one he never wants to let go of.

Draco Malfoy is strong. He may not know it, and neither may everyone else, but Harry knows it. And he's counting on it.

By the third day, swarms of the Press have begun to haunt the entrance to Saint Mungo's, looking for a sign of Harry Potter, of the Boy-who-for-some-reason-has-holed-himself-up-with-a-Death-Eater. Harry can see them from the window, watching and waiting, and it reminds him of all those months ago, when he'd done the same but seen Death Eaters instead — the real kind. And now his life has done a complete turn, and he's alive, yet he has a feeling that facing more Death Eaters would be preferable to hordes of flashing cameras and scribbling quills any day.

Harry knows he will have to face them eventually, but until that time comes he is content to scowl down at them from several stories above, and spend his hours staring at the soothing rise and fall of Draco's chest.

Harry has gotten himself on the bad side of a majority of healers, what with all his impatient hovering and questions, not to mention the fact it's because of him they're having to find alternative ways into work, due to the amount of Journalists who clog up the main entrance. Harry doesn't mind that he's starting to annoy people, in fact, he sort of enjoys it, because their frowns are vastly different to all the other starry-eyed stares he has received for so long, and will no doubt continue to receive for the rest of his life.

Ron and Hermione are there nearly more than