"Spoon, Harry." Hermione looks at him expectantly.
Harry can hear the word loud and clear in his head. "Fork."
He turns his eyes away so he won't have to endure the disappointed look on her face.
"Well, maybe we should finish for today." She sounds weary.
"No." Harry hates when she gives up on him so easily. But maybe repeating the same sentence five times without any tangible results isn't giving up easily.
Hermione looks over her notes for a moment. "Okay." Sitting up straighter, she says in her teaching voice, "May I have the spoon, please."
Draco hates St.Mungo's. He has been there for far too long--eight months, two weeks, three days--and he is convinced he'd manage just fine on his own. But the healers beg to differ on that point. Draco suspects that they refuse to release him either due to secret Ministry orders, or because they are sadistic bastards who like to try out this new spell or that new potion on his right leg and arm. Never with any success, mind you.
The pity in people's eyes is the worst, however. Threw his life away for a madman, and look at what happened to him is only one of the many whispered bits of conversation he has picked up when he managed to come close enough to people before they suddenly stopped talking.
But perhaps he finally has a way to escape the dreaded white walls and long corridors. Granger checked up on him this morning, annoyingly cheerful as ever, and casually mentioned that the werewolf had an extra room available and wouldn't a change of scenery be nice?
At first Draco wanted to flat out refuse, but then the memory of an article he had read in Witch Weekly the previous week surfaced in his mind. Yet another rumor in a long line of speculation about Potter and his preference for a "secluded life" placed him in the house of none other than their Third Year DADA professor.
Secluded life, my arse, Draco thinks. Something is up with Potter, and Draco can't deny that he is curious to find out exactly what has happened to him. Besides, anything is better than this.
The window seat that overlooks the garden is Harry's favourite place in the entire house. It's not much of a sight right now, just a few straggly bushes and bare trees, a scattering of leaves that have survived the winter in secluded corners. And yet there is always something to see, even if it is only the changing colour of the sky. Tonight it is tinged in inky blues that give way to a dusting of lavender just above the horizon.
Harry pets Hedwig, who has come to sit with him. She has always been a good listener, and Harry appreciates that more than ever.
The floorboards in the hall creak just before Remus enters the room. "Evening," he says warmly.
Harry nods his greeting in return.
"There is something we need to talk about," Remus announces as he sits down across from Harry. "Regarding Draco Malfoy."
Remus' voice is calm and even when he explains that Malfoy would come to stay with them for a while.
Harry has trouble concentrating on what Remus says afterwards; all he can think of is how he has no defense left against Malfoy's sharp tongue.
The flow of Remus' words ebbs for a few moments, then picks up again. "Harry, you've worked with him during the war and I thought that you were at least civil to each other."
Harry turns away from Remus' probing gaze.
"I worry about you, all alone here every day while I'm at Hogwarts...It'll be good if there is someone else around."
Harry snorts at the ridiculous implication that Malfoy would make decent company. He wants to tell Remus how absurd this idea is, but it would only come out in jarbled words, so he remains silent. Drawing his knees up against his chest, Harry turns towards the fading light.
"Let's see how things are going after a week, shall we? Maybe it won't be as bad as you think." Remus stands up and his hand rests on Harry's shoulder for a moment before he turns to walk out of the room.
The werewolf's house is what one might call cozy if one was inclined to be polite. At least it was clean--the fine layer of dust that clings to Draco's fingertip as he casually draws it across a book shelf was within the realm of the acceptable considering there are no house-elves around.
Potter is perched on the edge of a tattered armchair, decidedly not looking at Draco. Aside from a mumbled "Hello" when Draco first arrived, he hasn't said anything. Still the same stuck-up prick he's always been, then. Not that Draco really thought that much had changed from the days when Potter would only talk to him when he needed information about this spell or that strategy for the next attack.
Lupin has gone off to fetch tea, leaving Draco standing in the middle of the living room. His leg has begun to ache, but Draco hasn't been invited to sit down yet. By the time a tea tray with mismatched cups floats into the room, Draco's knuckles have gone white from clutching his cane, and he knows his left arm will be as useless as his right for the next few minutes.
Potter maintains his stoic attitude as the werewolf goes over the living arrangements, or the "rules of the house," as he calls them with casual dismissal that is supposed to imply humour, except that Draco thinks he isn't joking at all.
Lupin encourages Draco to join him and Potter for breakfast and dinner, especially the three days a week when Granger will be there as well. Apparently, she helps out with this and that at Hogwarts on those days. Sticking her nose in other people's business, Draco decides, but wisely keeps that thought to himself. Aside from mealtime obligations, Draco is free to do as he pleases, even has access to the Floo, which, after the strict supervision in hospital, is exciting in principle but taxing in reality.
When there is a lull in the decidedly one-sided conversation, Potter gulps down the rest of his tea and makes a hasty exit, muttering something under his breath.
The werewolf looks after him for a moment or two, then turns to Draco with a troubled expression on his face. "There are a few things you should know. About Harry."
Draco can't fall asleep that night. He tries to reason that it's because the small room is too drafty and cold or that the old books on the shelves lining the walls make him sneeze, but deep down he knows it's the earlier conversation with Lupin that is keeping him awake.
The mystery surrounding Potter's secluded life has been solved, and it's nothing even close to what Draco expected. He tries to imagine what it would be like to have the ability to speak but not to express one's thoughts properly. It's a difficult concept to grasp. Draco has no difficulty imagining people's reactions, however. All the pitiful looks and sympathetic friendliness. The persistence of trying to help when no help is needed.
As if Draco didn't know a dozen different summoning and Transfiguration spells, or was quite capable of using his left hand.
He turns over on his other side to alleviate the cramp that threatens to creep up his leg and decides that he may have very well misjudged Potter earlier.
Life with Malfoy is suprisingly non-eventful. When Remus asks Harry after the first week if he has any objections to Draco staying for longer, he can't think of any.
It is impressive how much you can learn about someone by simply sharing a few rooms. They don't spend time together, not really, but Harry still knows that Malfoy prefers raspberry jam over strawberry, that he hums along to the Wireless when he thinks no one is around, and that his leg is bothering him more than usual when the temperatures drop below freezing. Harry adds an extra log to the fire on those days.
On more than one occasion, Harry has noticed Malfoy lingering in the hall when Hermione has come round for lessons. Speech therapy, she calls it, but Harry prefers to think of it as learning rather than an effort of fixing him. At first Malfoy's presence bothers him; Harry finds his curiosity--or whatever else is making him halt in front of the half-open door--invasive, but he comes to realise that while he can hide away his tattered speech, Malfoy doesn't have any leeway when it comes to this arm and leg. Fair is fair, Harry decides.
Except when Hermione decides to extend lesson to meals and institutes a "no pointing" rule, thus forcing Harry to ask for anything he can't reach.
"Hall...always...Ron and...and...you...table...kippers", Harry tries for the third time.
The frown on Hermione's face deepens. "Do you mean the Great Hall at Hogwarts? And...we are at the Gryffindor table?"
It isn't what Harry meant to say, but it's close enough, so he nods.
"And you want...?"
"I think Potter would like pumpkin juice," Malfoy suddenly cuts in, looking up from the evening edition of the Prophet.
Remus' fork clinks against his plate when he sets it down too hastily. No one speaks, and Harry stares at Malfoy in disbelief.
Hermione finds her voice first. "Is that....is that right, Harry?"
Malfoy pours a glass of juice and sets it down near Harry's hand, then resumes his perusal of the newspaper.
Hermione doesn't say anything for the rest of the meal, and Remus bridges the awkward silence by telling a few stories about his Fourth Years.
Harry can't help but glance across the table at Malfoy every now and then, still trying to grasp that someone actually understood what he was trying to say. Until now, Harry thought that if he only tried harder and worked more on his speech, people would eventually understand him, but now it occurs to him that maybe those around him need to learn how to listen differently.
The teapot zooms towards Harry with such speed that he barely manages to duck in time. Knocked off his balance, he tries to steady himself by grasping the first thing in reach, which happens to be the coat stand. But its flimsy structure can't support his weight, and while he manages to remain on his feet, the wooden arms of the coat stand crash into the mirror with a spectular bang.
"Hippogriff!" Harry curses as the rain of shards barely misses his legs.
"Potter?" Malfoy's voice comes from the living room. "Everything okay?"
Harry ignores the question. He casts Reparo at the mirror before fixing the coat stand. Out of the corner of his eye, he sees Malfoy coming down the hall, leaning heavily on his cane.
"What happened? Had another run-in with the furniture?"
Harry wants to say that it's not his bloody fault he constantly has to evade various objects flying through the house. He opens his mouth to speak, then closes it.
"What?" Malfoy asks impatiently.
Harry gestures to the things he has just repaired. "Bird..." He stops and shakes his head. Tries again. "Always...always magic...and...books..." He makes the motion of something flying through the air.
"Oh." Malfoy looks uncomfortable.
It must be a lot easier for Malfoy to Accio whatever he needs rather than getting up to fetch it. In order to show that he understands, Harry asks, "Light?"
Harry points at Malfoy's right leg and makes the wand movement for the summoning spell. "Light?"
"It's...it's more convenient." Malfoy's eyes dart off to the side. "Once I'm all settled in with a good book I don't like to move if I don't have to."
While this makes sense to Harry, he also thinks that the more exercise Malfoy gets, the easier it would be for him to walk around. Or at least that's the argument Hermione always uses to get Harry to talk more.
He has no idea to communicate all of that.
"What is it?"
The genuine curiosity in Malfoy's voice encourages Harry to try and explain his thoughts. He knows he has to concentrate on exactly what he wants to say, needs to hear all the words in his head.
Or maybe just one word. He takes a deep breath and says, "Walk."
Harry can't suppress the joy he feels over the fact that for once, the word in his head and the sounds coming from his mouth match perfectly. With a wide smile, he repeats, "Walk."
Draco doesn't know why he even agreed to this, but every day at 5 o'clock, weather permitting, he sets out for a walk with Potter.
It's a simple deal--Draco walks and Potter talks.
On a good day, they make it all the way down the road and further along the dirt path to the bench that sits at the edge of the fields. Sometimes, Draco even manages to walk without the blasted cane once the bench is in sight. He steadfastly ignores the fact that Potter has to catch his elbow a few times to keep him from stumbling before they reach their goal.
On a bad day, they don't even get to the end of the road because his leg bothers him too much. It's even worse when Potter refuses to speak. More often than not, this happens on days when Hermione pushes Potter so much that he storms out of the room before their lesson is over. During those silent walks, Draco wonders if Potter realises how much he says without saying anything at all. If Potter knows that his troubled thoughts show in the lines on his face, in the way his hands can't stop fidgeting with the seams of his coat, or in how close he sits to Draco on the bench.
It's the full moon again and Harry spends the night sitting by the window, just like he always does when Remus is out there by himself. He reaches for the chocolate biscuits he's been nibbling on to stay awake, but his hand only finds an empty plate.
On the way to the kitchen, he sees an odd shadow further down the hall. Harry peers into the darkness, and the shadows slowly transform into a body lying on the stone floor.
Harry crosses the distance in three steps and kneels at his side. Malfoy's shivering all over; spasms wrack his leg and probably also the arm that he has cradled close to his chest. His eyes are firmly closed, but move behind the lids. When Harry reaches out to touch Malfoy's shoulder, a whimper escapes the colourless lips.
"Draco? What...what?" Harry wants to ask how Malfoy got here, how long he's been lying there, what he wants Harry to do now.
There's no answer, only Malfoy trying to curl in further on himself.
Harry decides he needs to get Malfoy off the icy floor and somewhere more comfortable so he slips his arms under Malfoy's shoulder and in the bend of his knees and picks him up. There are a few moans of pain or protest, then Malfoy's head rests limply against his chest.
Throughts tumble together in Harry's mind as he makes his way to Malfoy's room. Please don't let him have passed out, I'm rubbish at those healing spells, he thinks, and He's always after those sweets, how can he weigh so little?
Harry carefully lowers Malfoy to the bed, saying sorry a dozen times in his head for the pain he must be causing.
Malfoy's eyes flutter open briefly and he mumbles, "Potion."
Harry looks around and discovers a few vials on the bookshelf nearby. He learned a lot about pain relieving potions during the war and easily selects the strongest one.
The tension flows out of Malfoy's body almost immediately after he swallows the potion. Harry finds he can breathe easier again. He can't help but rest his hand on Malfoy's arm, very lightly and only a hint of his fingers, really, but Harry thinks that Malfoy should know someone is there.
Someone who cares.
It takes a minute for Malfoy to open his eyes. "Thank you," he says quietly, his voice much stronger than before.
Harry nods, well aware that his words would run away from him if he tried to speak.
"I thought I could make it to the kitchen without...that I could make it on my own. I suppose I was wrong."
Malfoy's words are harsh and clipped, so full of bitterness and resentment that something twists inside of Harry. He knows all too well what this feels like. Without thinking, he runs his fingers down Malfoy's arm, his thumb moving in circles along the inside of it.
He hears an exhalation that is almost a sigh. It is a noise of content, not of pain, so Harry continues, his hands flowing over Malfoy's body, his arm, his side, his leg. Pushing away all thoughts of what it might mean to touch Malfoy in such a way, Harry focuses on using just enough pressure to knead the remaining pain away, his eyes darting up to Malfoy's face every once in a while, pleased to note that there's a hint of colour on his cheeks again.
It doesn't take long for Malfoy to slip into sleep. Harry thinks he should leave, but he stays nevertheless, one hand still on Malfoy's side.
Draco wakes up in the middle of the night. His body feels like lead, and there are twinges in his right arm and leg that should be painful, but aren't. More like muscles working out a few kinks rather than the all-consuming cramps he has become accustomed to.
With a start, Draco remembers what happened. Falling down. Pain that wound tighter and tighter until he couldn't move. Then Potter was there and--
Draco swallows hard at the memory of Potter's hands. The healers had touched him, too, of course, but never with such caution and kindness. Longing threatens to settle in his chest, and Draco rolls over on his side to chase it away.
When his nose makes contact with tousled black hair, Draco bites back the choking sound that threatens to slip out. Potter's still there, asleep, head at the edge of the mattress and glasses askew on his face.
There is no way to stop the longing now.
Draco reaches for the glasses and gently takes them away before his hand winds into Potter's hair. He sorts through the thick strands, marvelling at how they slide through his fingers, somehow soft and coarse at the same time.
Potter wakes slowly, clearly disoriented. Draco's hand stills, but he doesn't let it fall away. Green eyes send confusion in Draco's direction. When Potter tries to duck out of his grasp, Draco's fingers tighten at his nape.
"Please," he whispers. "Please don't go."
Draco moves back a bit, and lifts the edge of his blanket, a silent invitation.
Potter hesitates, but after a few moments of consideration, slips into bed next to Draco. There isn't a lot of space and their arms and legs necessarily bump into one another. Potter doesn't shy away, much to Draco's relief. Their legs tangle comfortably and when Draco rests one hand against Potter's chest, he can feel an arm come around his side, pulling him closer.
Warmth seeps into Draco's body, and for the first time since he has arrived in this house, he doesn't feel cold.
Harry doesn't know what this thing is he has with Malfoy--with Draco--but he knows that he finds himself on the small cot in the former library more nights than not, even after icy winds stop whistling through the house, replaced by the soft patter of spring rain.
One morning shortly after sunrise, Harry has just closed the door to Draco's room behind himself when he sees Remus cross the hall on the way to the kitchen.
Remus halts, and sends a warm smile in Harry's direction. "Morning."
Harry looks away, heat rising in his cheeks. He didn't want Remus to find out like this, but how can he explain something that he can't even explain to himself?
Foosteps are moving towards him and then Remus is right there, only an arm's length away. "Harry--"
"S-Sorry," Harry manages.
"What are you sorry for?" Remus asks gently.
Harry's eyes dart to the door behind him. A hand briefly closes around his shoulder. He looks up, finding Remus' steady gaze on him.
"There's no need to apologise. I've known for a while now, and thought it was best to keep that to myself until you wanted to tell me. Or at least I hoped that you would eventually talk to me about what has been happening between Draco and yourself." He paused. "You know that I don't mind, do you?"
Harry nods quickly. A smile steals across his face. "He...Draco..."
Harry opens his mouth to speak again, then decides against it. The few words that he can now command when he concentrates will never be enough to capture everything there is to say about Draco. About how Draco talks to him, and listens, and understands. How sparks run under Harry's skin every time Draco's fingers trail across his body.
Sadness lingers in Remus' eyes when he speaks. "I'm happy for you, Harry."
Even though he is glad that Remus understands, Harry feels a stab of guilt for having something that has been denied to the other man for years.
"Tea?" He suggests, unwilling to leave Remus to his loneliness.
"That sounds splendid. I think I even have time to make us a proper breakfast."
Harry can hear gratitude under the lighthearted tone, and he decides that he needs to talk to Remus more often, even if it is difficult.
The voices in the house grow increasingly faint as they move deeper into the garden. Harry leads Draco all the way to the back, to the thick bushes that grow behind the apple trees. Fallen blossoms dot the grass and there are new leaves growing everywhere, white and green in the evening light.
Harry finally stops under a canopy of ivy.
"Wha--" Draco begins, but Harry's finger against his lips quiets him.
Harry takes out his wand and holds it out to Draco, who accepts it, curious to find out where this might lead. His free hand searches for Harry's, their fingers lacing together without thought.
Harry points first at the wand, then at his forehead. "Look," he whispers.
Draco suddenly understands the nervous excitement that has been radiating off Harry, understands what he is supposed to do. What he has been offered. He shakes his head. This is too much, much more than he can accept.
Harry takes a step closer. "Look," he repeats more insistently.
It is difficult to make out Harry's face in the twilight, but Draco knows him well enough to read trust and determination there.
Draco slowly lifts the wand and says, "Legilimens."
Images stream into his mind, blurring together at first, then separating out more clearly. These aren't memories, Draco realises. Harry's showing him the tucked-away corner that he retreats to when no one is watching. It's as if Draco is seeing his own dreams through Harry's eyes.
He can barely find enough breath to mutter Finite Incatatem before his lips are on Harry's.
Draco pours everything into this kiss, all the hope and fear and need he has just witnessed and feels resonating within himself.
"Yes," Draco says when he pulls away to catch his breath. "Yes."
Harry smiles and kisses him again.