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Mental

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The trip back up to Gryffindor Tower was the longest of Harry's life. Yes, he still had Draco by his side, following Harry without complaint or argument, but something still didn't feel right. The silence that they used to be able to share now felt strained and uncomfortable, knowing that there would be no possibility of quiet words over the link to break it.

He felt like he were missing a limb. He hadn't realised just how much a part of him Draco had become; it wasn't just his mind that now felt too empty but every part of him. Even his bloody toes missed Draco.

It surprised him just how potent the physical affects were, alongside the mental ones. It was almost like a layer of clothing that he'd been wearing day in and day out had been stolen away from him, leaving him cold and unprotected. God, he and Draco really had been wrapped up in the link together, more than he'd truly realised.

It was ridiculous really, how Harry was loathe to let go of Draco's hand even to let him through the portrait hole as they reached it. It was like he now needed the physical connection with him to make up for the loss of the mental one. Draco didn't seem to mind; the moment they were through the portrait hole he reached out for Harry's hand again, threading their fingers together and then holding on with his other hand for good measure as well.

He wouldn't look at Harry though; he kept his eyes averted and down towards the floor as they crossed the common room and traversed the staircase up to the dormitory. He seemed so closed off; Harry was used to Draco schooling his features into indifference but before he could always tell what was going on underneath, and now he could only guess. Harry was tempted to shake him or shout at him to make him meet his eyes, to make Draco show something on the surface, but he held himself back. The whole atmosphere was brittle and strained and he somehow knew that aggression would only make it worse.

After shutting the door to the dormitory, he shook his hands out of Draco's grip in order to pull his jumper off. Uncaring, he threw it onto the floor and then moved over to sit on the edge of his bed, reaching out expectantly with both hands. Draco's eyes flickered up, and then he slowly moved forwards to cross the space between them and slip his hands into Harry's.

"Stay," Harry said, his voice hoarse, and Draco nodded. Harry moved his legs apart and pulled him forwards so Draco was standing between his knees. Harry slid his hands onto Draco's hips and leant forwards, pressing his cheek to Draco's stomach, shutting his eyes and feeling exhausted. After a moment, long fingers came up to thread through Harry's hair, gently pulling and tugging.

The silence felt less oppressive the closer they were together. When they were touching like this Harry didn't feel like he had to talk so the weight of the missing link seemed to lessen.

Draco trailed his fingers gently down the back of Harry's neck and then back up over his ear before threading back through his hair. Harry swallowed thickly and his fingers tightened on Draco's hips, wanting him to stay in the comforting position a little longer but not wanting to seem weak by asking out loud.

Draco didn't utter a word of complaint; he just stood still and carried on carding his fingers through Harry's hair, occasionally touching his neck and face with gentle fingers. He carried on for what felt like hours, until Harry felt strong enough to move his face away from Draco's body, wordlessly pulling Draco into his bed so they could hold each other.

"Don't go," he said as Draco settled down next to him, watching Harry with careful eyes.

Draco snorted tiredly, but when he spoke his words were subdued. "You're not coming across as very heroic."

Harry laughed quietly and rolled over, pushing Draco back so he was half draped over him. Draco made a noise of protest in his throat but then relaxed under Harry's weight, wriggling to get comfortable before settling down with his arms looped loosely around Harry's body, his hands resting in the small of his back.

"I keep wanting to talk to you-" Harry broke off, shaking his head. "It's frustrating."

Draco nodded. "I -" he began, and broke off, clearing his throat. "I keep thinking I don't have to say anything. Because you normally know how I'm feeling. But you can't anymore."

"I'm not completely hopeless," Harry said. "I can tell by looking at you."

"Sometimes I lie," Draco said, his voice low. His countenance was distressed, his eyes flickering back and forth with his conflicting thoughts. "You always knew-"

Harry squeezed him to stop him talking. "It'll be alright. Stop worrying."

"You're worrying, too," Draco argued. "Don't you start lying as well."

Harry laughed shortly and shifted around, settling as Draco ran a hand up and down his back. He curled his fingers around the neck of Draco's jumper, pulling it down slightly so he could see skin. He could see the gentle flutter of Draco's pulse on the side of his neck, and he ran his fingertips over it, feeling a rush of something fierce and protective run through him as he did.

Draco couldn't leave now. He just couldn't. Harry hadn't been fooled by Draco's bravado as they'd taken the potion in the slightest; he knew how scared and uncertain he was. It was strange in a way that at first he'd felt vulnerable because Draco had been privy to his thoughts and feelings, and then it had grown into a vulnerability because of the link and everything they shared over it, and now they felt vulnerable because the link had gone and they were alone.

They would get through this. It would be hard, but as long as they were both willing, they could manage it, right? If Ron and Hermione could make being together work after seven years of dancing around each other then Harry and Draco should make it seem like a walk in the park. They would just have to take it one day at a time.

"Feels like I'm missing an arm or a leg," Harry murmured, shutting his eyes and breathing out deeply, nuzzling his cheek against Draco's collarbone.

Draco was quiet for a long time, and when he spoke Harry barely heard the quiet words. "Feels like I'm missing a lot more than that."


 

Draco's body jolted and his eyes snapped open in the dark. He drew in a deep shuddering breath and reached out instinctively to find Harry through the link, only to remember that he couldn't. Of course he fucking couldn't; they'd had the link removed earlier that day and it still didn't feel right. He bit back his frustration and rolled over, reaching out for Harry physically instead. His fingertips quickly found warm skin and he shifted forwards, pressing his chest to Harry's back and slipping his arm around his waist. Harry slept on, oblivious to Draco's discomfort and restlessness.

He'd been awoken by yet another dream, and he was still feeling prickly and defensive in the aftermath. He'd dreamt that he had been standing in the gardens of the Manor with all of his friends around him, and in his hands were threads of wool, a single strand connecting him to each of the people standing around him. His father had been there and he'd been cutting the threads one by one, and as he did the people disappeared. Pansy, Theo, Greg, Vince, his Mother, Snape, all vanishing into nothingness until there was only one thread left, a long green thread that led straight to Harry's hands. He was standing still, smiling quietly at Draco with his hair a mess and his glasses lopsided on his face. Draco could only watch as his father walked up to the thread, his lip curled in disgust, before he touched his wand to the thread and it broke, Harry vanishing along with it.

Draco shivered, not liking the implications of the dream one bit. Even with the warm body pressed against his, he couldn't help but feel alone. It was stupid, really. He was eighteen and had survived a war and had managed to end up with Harry Potter, but he still felt like crying just because he didn't have a Legilimency link to bond him to his bloody boyfriend anymore.

The link had been instrumental in everything they'd been through. The slow progress they'd made had all been because of the link, and now it was gone. Draco wasn't an idiot; he knew full well he wasn't good at speaking out loud about his feelings or emotions. He got tangled up and confused, and got angry at the wrong things and lashed out at other people, often forgetting what it was he was upset about in the first place.

How would Harry ever know what it was that was truly bothering him if he couldn't feel what Draco did? Draco had tried to be truthful with others before; he honestly wanted things to be simple but it just wasn't in his nature. And the horrible paradox was that the more he got upset about how twisted everything had become the deeper he hid his true feelings, thus making it all so much worse.

Harry didn't stand a chance.

Draco pressed his mouth to the back of Harry's neck, breathing in the now familiar scent of his skin. God, how had he ever thought that all it was between them was stolen kisses? It was more, it was so much more and that was too much for Draco to handle without the link there to help.

He tightened his arm around Harry's middle and kissed the back of his neck again with trembling lips, the movement more deliberate this time. He wanted Harry to wake up, to roll over and hold Draco tight and tell him it would be okay. He knew that Harry would comfort him in a heartbeat if he told him about the dream or asked for help, but he couldn't bear to say it out loud. He knew he was weak, but he didn't want Harry to think so too.

He kissed him again, shifting his body against Harry's and finally felt Harry move in return. His legs shifted lethargically against Draco's and he sighed quietly. Draco pulled his arm back so his hand ran across Harry's waist and settled on his hip, his fingers digging in slightly.

"Can't sleep?" Harry mumbled, his voice thick with slumber. Draco replied by leaning up slightly and kissing the side of Harry's neck, eliciting a sleepy groan from Harry's lips. Almost unconsciously, his hand moved around Harry's hip, his long fingers trailing over his abdomen.

A yearning desperation was growing inside Draco's chest. He wanted Harry so badly, wanted him as close as he could get him. He needed it, needed it like he needed the link back, had to have Harry's heartbeat back alongside his own again.

He moved back and pulled Harry with him, his hands tugging at Harry's limbs until Harry obliged and rolled over. Draco dragged Harry on top of him, hooking his legs around Harry's so that he couldn't move away, pressing them chest to chest so he could feel Harry's heartbeat thudding softly against his sternum.

Something must have shown on his face that Harry understood because Harry just nodded fractionally, moving his hands to push Draco's hair away from his face, resting his weight on his elbows either side of Draco's shoulders.

"I can't-" Draco broke off, feeling tears stinging his eyes. He wanted to tell Harry everything he was feeling, all his fears and insecurities but he just couldn't bring himself to do it.

"I know," Harry whispered and then he leant down to press his mouth to Draco's. Draco's heart skipped in his chest and he pulled his arms up from his sides to wrap around Harry's neck.

They kissed clumsily and desperately, holding onto each other tightly, and Draco couldn't help but notice that it felt so different. He couldn't sense Harry's arousal alongside his own which made it all feel not exactly emptier, but somewhat more controlled, without their arousal feeding one others and whipping everything into a frenzy. Now he wasn't blinded by lust and emotions, Draco could sense other things that he'd missed before – the subtle feel and every slight movement of Harry's fingertips against his skin, the gentle whisper of Harry's breath across his face, the small noises that Harry made as they kissed. It was as if his other senses had been freed to take account of the moment more instead of being swept along in sensation, but that still didn't entirely make up for the loss of the link.

Arousal was building inside Draco's body, the kisses familiar and filling him with anticipation. At least Draco didn't need the link to tell him that Harry wanted him too; Harry's mouth, hands and body communicated his desire perfectly. God, he definitely didn't need the link to tell him; he gasped into his mouth as Harry shifted his hips and he felt Harry's erection nudging against the inside of his thigh and then higher as Draco moved in response.

Yes, he thought desperately, wishing that Harry could hear him. Do it, please.

Harry's breath hitched as if he'd heard Draco's plea, when in reality it was probably down to the way Draco rolled his hips underneath Harry's. Draco felt heat flood his face; the desire to have Harry take him was overwhelming and almost embarrassing to feel. He'd spent so long telling himself that to want to be in this position was weak and shameful, and the one time he'd actually done it he'd been cut up between humiliation and the brilliance of how it had felt.

He wanted it so badly he could almost taste it. He turned his head to the side as Harry pressed hot-open mouthed kisses along the side of his neck, hitching one of his legs up around Harry's waist in a silent request for more.

God, two little words and Harry would, Draco knew he'd do it. All he had to do was admit it and ask out loud, and then Harry would do it and they'd be bonded together in a way that didn't rely on the stupid link-

He opened his mouth, willing himself to just say it, to just ask Harry to fuck him and take him so they'd be as close together as humanly possible-

He shut his mouth and closed his eyes, a tear forced from beneath his closed eyelids and running down his face into his hair. He turned his head again, seeking out Harry's mouth with his once more, internally cursing his own cowardice and praying that Harry would just do it anyway without Draco having to ask.

Harry kissed him hard and then shifted lower, kissing the hollow between Draco's collarbones. Draco let his head fall back onto the pillows and let his legs relax, unsure as to whether he felt relieved or disappointed. He swallowed thickly as Harry kissed lower and lower, suddenly thankful that Harry couldn't feel his turbulent emotions. However, if Harry could feel them he'd have understood what Draco needed-

He pushed the thoughts away and concentrated on the feelings of Harry's mouth and hands on him. It felt strange, and he was acutely aware of the slight tremble of Harry's fingers and the way his breath caught in his throat every now and again. It seemed he wasn't the only one feeling scared and uncertain after all.

Harry's hands settled at the top of his thighs and he drew in a sharp breath as Harry's mouth closed around the head of his prick. The spike of arousal he anticipated feeling from Harry never came, but he felt the way Harry's fingers tightened on his skin and the moan he gave regardless.

God, it felt amazing. So simple but so achingly perfect, the way Harry sucked at him, his hands gently massaging the very tops of his thighs. His thumbs were curled around Draco's legs far enough so that they settled in the crease of his groin, and the flare of need ran through him again, wishing that Harry was inside of him, needing it in a way that he didn't want to understand.

His heart was pounding and his skin was tingling. He wasn't going to last; he was wound so tightly that his whole body was soon hovering on the edge. Harry seemed to sense it; he gripped Draco's thigh tighter with one hand and moved the other up to wrap around the base of Draco's prick, his tongue swirling around the head before sucking harshly.

Spine arching and hands fisting in Harry's hair, Draco came. He spilled himself down Harry's throat with a cry, letting Harry nuzzle and lick at him until he were too over-sensitive to stand any more attention.

"God, you-" Harry said, his voice raw and scratchy as he climbed back up the bed. "Amazing."

Draco felt hot tears threaten at the compliment, feeling vulnerable and loved, the feeling conflicting with the ever-present loneliness caused by the removal of the link. He could feel the warmth of Harry's body in contrast to the cold air as Harry lifted one of his knees, ready to move from atop Draco and settle back down at his side. Draco shook his head and reached to grab hold of Harry's hips, keeping him in place, straddled over Draco's body.

"What?" Harry asked, sounding uncertain.

Draco replied by reaching down to curl his fingers around Harry's prick. Harry gasped and then shifted, his hips jerking back and forth as he pushed himself into Draco's hand.

"I won't-" Harry managed to say, his chest heaving with his breath. "I won't last."

Draco didn't pause, he just wanked Harry harder, gritting his teeth as his wrist protested the awkward angle. Thank fuck for being ambidextrous, he thought wildly as he switched hands seamlessly, able to grip harder with his left hand and making Harry keen. God he wanted Harry to come, he wanted him to fall apart and come all over him, and never think of anything but Draco-

He shifted down the bed and reached down with his free hand, rolling Harry's balls in his palm. It was all it took; Harry gave a strangled shout and then Draco felt warm wetness spatter over his stomach and chest.

"Fuck," Harry gasped, his arms shaking violently. Draco moved his arms out of the way as Harry collapsed down ontop of him, not caring a bit about the mess as he wrapped his arms around Harry's neck and pressed kisses all over his face.

"God, you and those hands," Harry said, his voice uneven, returning Draco's kisses when they landed close enough to his mouth.

Draco didn't reply. He just kissed Harry over and over, not wanting to stop, wanting to carry on and do it all again for the brief respite from grief that it gave him. When he and Harry were like this, wrapped up together, touching and kissing, they felt close enough so that the missing link didn't matter.

Draco's kisses slowed and then stopped. Harry buried his face in Draco's shoulder, breathing unevenly, and he missed the way Draco's jaw clenched and he blinked hard, fighting more tears.

It wasn't enough.

Sex wasn't going to be enough to get them through the conversations they could no longer have. They couldn't resort to touching each other every time they got too scared to say anything aloud. It had barely been two minutes but Draco was already feeling alone and unwanted again, empty and scared even though Harry were still there next to him.

Digging under the pillow for his wand, he pulled it out and muttered a cleaning charm over them both. Harry made a noise of approval and nuzzled at Draco's shoulder, already halfway to sleep. It was just how it had been for the past week, waking each other up for midnight groping sessions, but it wasn't the same.

Anger was the main thing Draco could feel; anger at himself for not being able to vocalise his neither his fears nor his desires. It should have been so easy, just to whisper a few simple words, so why couldn't he do it?

He was hopeless. He couldn't even suggest that to Harry, so how was he meant to talk about the big things that they'd not quite managed to reach yet? How was he supposed to do right by Harry when he couldn't tell what he was feeling? As bad as Draco was at being stubborn, Harry also had a reputation for being obstinate so how would they be able to navigate one another without the link?

Draco was afraid. Deep down in his heart he knew all his worries were trifles compared to the one thing that really made his heart falter.

What if Harry changed his mind about liking Draco?

With the link he was assured of Harry's feelings for him, sensing his arousal and affection and delight at being with Draco. Even when they bickered he had still been able to feel a thread of something strong yet unnamed connecting them both. But now, he didn't know. He was left to the demons of insecurity and dependence on the word of another. After having years of people lie to him and feed him whispers that led him astray, he didn't know if he could trust Harry to always be there with him.

The thought of Harry leaving him without any warning made him feel ill. Without the link he wouldn't be able to sense problems before they arrived, he would be unprepared and humiliated.

"Sleep," Harry murmured, breaking Draco's thoughts. "We'll talk in the morning."

Draco nodded jerkily and obediently shut his eyes. He breathed in and out deeply and held Harry tightly to him, wishing that everything were simple, and wishing that he were brave enough to make everything right.


 

When Harry woke up the next morning, he felt disorientated and alone. He immediately tried to push the feelings away, determined to make a more positive start to the day; if he remained upbeat and strong then hopefully he could show Draco that everything would be alright. Still fogged by sleep, his initial reaction was to feel through the link to check if Draco were still asleep or not – but then he remembered that he couldn't. He swore softly and then rolled over, reaching out to try and find Draco with his hands.

His hand slid across warm bed sheets and his brow furrowed as he reached further and further, his fingertips finding nothing. Feeling a horrible sense of foreboding in the pit of his stomach, he opened his eyes and then he sat up wildly, realising that he was alone.

The bed was empty, and there was no sign of Draco in the room at all.

"Draco?"

His shout reverberated through the air and when the only reply he received was more silence, he swore again and climbed out of the bed, scrambling for his clothes. He darted over to check the bathroom, almost tripping over as he simultaneously tried to do up his trousers. That room was just as empty as the rest of the dormitory, and Harry gritted his teeth as he saw Draco's transfigured toothbrush still sitting next to his in a pot near the sink.

"Where the fuck are you?"

Frustration rolled through him as he tried once again to reach out to Draco through the link, the attempt reduced to nothing more than thoughts in his own brain. Fuck! He couldn't even sense Draco, to know how he was feeling to try and guess why he'd run off before Harry had woken.

Apprehension grew in the pit of his stomach as he shoved his feet in his shoes and then legged it out of the dormitory. Draco was probably in the Slytherin dormitory moping around feeling sorry for himself, that was all. Harry's jaw clenched; this wasn't easy on either of them, so why did Draco get to be the one to have the mental breakdown? They could get through this, if the prat just stopped being so pessimistic-

Harry clambered through the portrait hole in such haste he tumbled out the other side and nearly careered into a figure that was standing in the corridor not three feet away from the Fat Lady, apparently about to enter the Tower. He straightened up, feeling flustered.

"Shit! I mean- sorry Professor! I was just…"

The words died on his tongue as he took in McGonagall's grave expression. She was looking at him with a mixture of apologetic regret and sadness, and Harry's shoulders tensed.

"What? What's happened?"

"I'm sorry, Harry," she said, and then paused for a moment before sighing and continuing to speak. "Draco has gone home."

Harry stared at her, unable to process the words he'd just heard, unable to even think. His ears were ringing and a dead weight seemed to be settling over his chest, a weight that was edged in disbelief and growing panic. It was like a punch to the gut, a disaster that he should have seen coming and done more to avoid.

"What?" he finally managed to say. Behind him, he could hear several of the portraits whispering behind him, but he ignored them. "He's gone – back to the Manor?"

McGonagall nodded. "I tried to dissuade him, or at least discuss this with you first. He wasn't in a mood to be reasoned with, and was adamant that he had to return home. He was very distressed, so I had no choice but to let him go."

Harry stared at her, hoping for a contradiction, praying that this was all some stupid joke or elaborate trick that Draco had decided to pull. When none came, he stepped back, shaking his head and feeling torn between laughing, crying and punching the nearest wall.

Draco had left. He had actually gotten up and left, knowing full well that Harry would be alone, and he'd not explained or even said goodbye. "How did he even get home?" he asked, the question as much a muttered wondering rather than an address to the Headmistress.

"The floo in my office," McGonagall replied quietly.

Swallowing thickly, Harry nodded, feeling dazed and lost. Draco was gone, and now he was completely alone. Not just alone mentally, but physically as well. The castle suddenly seemed huge and empty, knowing that there were no-one he could turn to.

His sense of loss quickly morphed into anger. Draco was a coward, a complete fucking coward who was only thinking of himself, as usual. God, Harry felt like such an idiot – he genuinely thought that Draco had been learning to think about them as a pair, together, but apparently not. He'd gotten scared and had run away to mummy instead of bloody talking to Harry about it. For fucks sake, he'd not even given it a full day and he'd run away-

"Harry?"

He jerked his head up, realising he'd been silent for far too long. He looked into McGonagall's sombre face and nodded, clenching his jaw tightly as he made up his mind.

He wasn't going to go running around after Draco this time. If Draco was expecting him to follow he had another thing coming; Harry wasn't going to chase anyone who abandoned him without a word, and he certainly wasn't going to be stepping foot inside Malfoy fucking Manor.

Yes, he knew Draco still had a streak of cowardice within him, but this was too far.

"I think," he finally said heavily, rubbing his face, "I need to use your floo, Headmistress."


 

Grimmauld place was cold and quiet and still didn't feel quite like home despite having been thoroughly cleaned and refurbished months previously. Even though the new decoration and furniture had made the house undeniably more welcoming, to Harry it now felt as oppressive as it had ever done. He stood in the living room, his bags by his feet, now unsure as to what to do. He could hear the soft ticking of the clock on the wall and the wind outside making tree branches tap gently against the window.

He looked around dispiritedly, seeing nothing that even stirred a flicker of feeling or emotion within him. He felt blank and empty, like everything inside him had been vanished.

He hadn't even decorated the place for Christmas. He'd planned to do it when the holidays started and had completely forgotten about it in the wake of the link and staying at Hogwarts for the holidays. Oh well, he thought dispiritedly. At least he wouldn't have to spend the time taking all the decorations down again in a week's time.

Stepping back, he slumped onto the sofa, now feeling forlorn and miserable and wishing he could go back to feeling vanished. He pushed at his bag with his foot, hating that it was there, hating the fact he was alone in his house without anybody there.

His righteous anger and fury at Draco's stunt had faded disconcertingly quickly as he left Hogwarts. It had been easy to simply be angry and plan to go home just like Draco had done, to make the point that he wasn't going to mope around alone without him, but now he'd gotten back and had quickly realised he didn't know what to do next.

He was purposefully trying not – and failing - to think about Draco; doing so made misery and resentment flare up in his chest, heavy and brittle. He'd been furious the whole time he'd been packing his bags, hating the sight of his bed in Gryffindor Tower that Draco had shared with him, hating the sight of Draco's toothbrush sat next to his like it fucking meant something.

God, was Draco ever going to make anything of his life? Was he ever going to grow the fuck up and commit to something, to get over his pathetic nerves and indecision? Harry still felt like such an idiot; whilst Draco had been much more positive he'd been blind to Draco's faults, forgetting what he could really be like. To think that he could achieve happiness for once in his bloody life, and then relying on Draco fucking Malfoy for that?

Harry was used to being disappointed by Draco, but he never expected it to hurt quite so much.

It was almost too much; the combined news of losing Draco and also the ever-present sensation of the missing link made Harry feel small and insignificant in a way he hadn't since he were ten and locked in the cupboard under the stairs. He blinked hard, staring down at his feet but not really seeing them, feeling too exhausted and lost to contemplate crying.

He stood up, grabbing his bags. He wanted to keep busy, keep moving so he didn't end up sitting around brooding over what had happened. He wasn't going to cry. Crying was reserved for moments when terrible things had happened, not for when you'd been abandoned by a cowardly Slytherin twat.

No matter how much Harry was starting to think he had been arse over tit in love with the cowardly Slytherin twat.

He should have seen this coming, he thought as he clambered up the staircase to his room at the top of the house. But he'd honestly believed that everything would be okay, especially after Draco had woken him last night with gentle kisses and a teasing hand.

God, it stung even more to be left after a moment like that. The sex had been different, more open and raw in a way that the link never allowed them to experience before. Harry had missed sharing the sensations between them but at the same time he'd been in awe of the heightened senses he could feel. The gentle press of Draco's fingers on his shoulder, the warmth where Draco pressed a kiss to his skin. Whilst he'd been laid on top of Draco he'd wanted so badly to ask Draco if they could go further. He almost thought Draco had wanted it too, with the way he wrapped his leg around Harry's waist and moved underneath him, but without the link he couldn't be sure so he'd said nothing.

And now…maybe they never would. The thought of getting so far with Draco – physically and emotionally – but not sharing that experience with him made Harry feel hollow and empty. It seemed a silly and trivial way of looking at things, but Harry had been contemplating and even looking forwards to sleeping with Draco, and he couldn't help but feel disappointed that they hadn't.

He pushed open the door to his bedroom, breathing in and out deeply. At least this room felt welcoming, and he seemed to relax a fraction as he stepped inside. It had taken a long time for him to give the go-ahead to redecorate Sirius's old room, unwilling at first to let go of the connection that the room still provided with his godfather. It had been Ginny who had assured him that redecorating the room wouldn't be a bad thing, and she had been right. It didn't do to dwell on the past and constantly think of what might have been. So, he'd agreed and the room had been redecorated in cream, with one deep red wall behind the head of the bed, and a matching red carpet and curtains that served as a tribute to his and Sirius's Gryffindor heritage.

The few possessions that he had amassed over his life were in this room. A few photo's had been framed and stood on his chest-of drawers, friendly faces waving and pulling faces at him. His old school books lined a shelf by the window, and the shelf below contained a few ornaments and nick-knacks that he'd collected and kept. A few two-inch high Quidditch player figurines waved lazily at him from the windowsill, leaning nonchalantly against the golden snitch that lay in the centre, glinting in the weak sunlight.

Yes, this small room was Harry's home. His space, the beginning of something that was his own.

He couldn't help but feel miserable that he hadn't got anyone to share it with.

He padded over to his bed, dropping his bags at the foot before slumping onto the bed, collapsing over sideways and pressing his cheek to the patchwork quilt that Molly Weasley had made him. He felt exhausted.

Shutting his eyes and swallowing thickly, he breathed in and out deeply and tried to get his stomach and heart to settle back into a normal position. In the past couple of weeks, he'd vaguely imagined what it would be like to invite Draco over, to have Draco here with him. It was still strange, and he didn't quite feel like he owned his own house, but he had liked his vague daydreams about making a bit of a home with someone by his side.

He hoped Draco was having fun in fucking Malfoy Manor.

Pushing himself into a sitting position, he took his glasses off and rubbed his face vigorously. Right. He needed a new plan. Step one – to go home – had gone ahead smoothly, but step two – forget about Draco – wasn't happening at all.

He needed a distraction, and someone to talk to.

Settling his glasses back on his nose, he stood up and walked back down the stairs into the living room. He walked purposefully over to the fireplace and knelt down beside it, staring at the worn bricks in front of him. He reached for a pinch of floo powder that sat in the pot on the hearth and then hesitated, sitting back on his heels and looking contemplatively into the fireplace. He had a moment of thinking that maybe it would be better to stay exactly where he was, alone, so his abandonment couldn't be made knowledge to others. It burned in the pit of his stomach, bordering on humiliation. He'd turned his life upside-down and for what? Apparently to be left alone, like nothing had ever happened.

He shook his head, knowing deep down that he didn't want to stay here alone. He needed the company of his friends. He took a deep breath, steeled himself, and then threw the pinch of powder into the fireplace.

Roaring green flames appeared, and he quietly said "the burrow." Moments later, Percy Weasley's face appeared in the flames.

"Harry!" he exclaimed, looking surprised and straightening his glasses. "I thought you were at Hogwarts!"

Harry forced a smile. "Change of plan," he said lightly. "Is Ron about?"

"Yes, of course, he's right here-"

Percy's face vanished from the flames and moments later Ron's appeared, looking worried and confused. "Why are you at home?" he asked without preamble.

"Malfoy left," Harry said abruptly. "We had the link removed, he freaked out, and he left."

Ron gaped for only a second and then collected himself. "He left? Just like that?"

Harry nodded, forcing himself to keep speaking as if he were relaying the Quidditch scores. "Yep. Didn't even say goodbye. I woke up this morning and he was gone."

Ron's indignation on Harry's behalf was welcome and soothed his own frayed nerves. "The fucking shit!" he exclaimed. "That's not on!"

"Well, dunno what I was expecting," Harry said tonelessly. "He's still Malfoy after all."

"Have you tried to contact him?" Ron asked.

Harry shook his head. "Why should I?" he asked bitterly. "I'm done chasing around after things. I've had enough of that."

Ron nodded, his expression understanding. "You want to come through, mate?" he asked, looking hesitant and hopeful at the same time. "We'd be glad to have you, and there's more food than even I can eat."

Harry nodded. His desire in that moment to be in the company of Ron and Hermione overrode any potential objections that he had had about going to the Burrow, and he couldn't bear the thought of being alone in his house.

"You sure?" he asked tiredly. "Your mum won't mind? What about Ginny?"

"They can shove it," Ron said, and Harry raised an eyebrow. Ron stared back, nonplussed. "I'm not giving up my best mate just because my sisters in a strop," he said and Harry's lips twitched in a smile. "It'll be fine," he repeated earnestly, looking sincere. "Just trust me. Come through, drink with me and forget all about that ferret."

Harry nodded and Ron's face disappeared. He sighed and moved, ready to step through the floo, thinking that whilst a drink was a welcome prospect, forgetting about Draco was something he wasn't going to be able to do.