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...the hell was that?

Harry swam back into awareness, finally focussing on something. The ceiling. The very familiar ceiling of... the hospital wing.

Damn, not again, was his first thought.

How did it happen this time? was his second.

Quidditch? No, he wasn't wearing Quidditch gear, and didn't hurt anywhere other than his head. Not the scar itself but the general area around his... actually, all over his head. Pounding pain behind his eyes, in the back, near his neck...

He heard a faint moan, realized he hadn't made it, looked for its source.

Malfoy. Groaning and looking like he'd just come to, in the bed to the right of him. Promptly surrounded by a press of adults - Madam Pomfrey, Dumbledore, Lucius Malfoy - what?

"Harry!" Pomfrey glanced over at Harry as a familiar voice spoke from the left side of his bed. Harry turned quickly.

"Professor Lupin?"

Lupin smiled. "How do you feel?"

"Like I need a chocolate," Harry said, disoriented, and Lupin smiled. "What happened?"

Lupin reached into his pocket, taking out a square of chocolate and placing it on the bed next to Harry as Madam Pomfrey bustled over to him.

"How are you feeling, Potter?"

"Fine, I think - my head hurts a bit," Harry began, and she nodded briskly.

"That's to be expected, you were knocked out cold. Here, sit up," she motioned, and put a small bottle of potion on the table next to his bed. "Eat up that chocolate and drink what's in the bottle. What do you remember?"

Harry sat up slowly, still confused. There seemed to be a great many people around - not just Dumbledore, Pomfrey, Lucius Malfoy and Lupin, but McGonagall and Snape as well - and he couldn't focus on any one voice. What was going on?

"Not much - I, I was leaving a classroom, I think..."

"What curse?" Malfoy's voice rose from other be and he sat up. Harry frowned as a rustle of unease went through the adults around him, none of them seeming to want to answer. "What curse?" Malfoy demanded again.

"Boys," Dumbledore said slowly, "I'm afraid you've been... well, bonded."

Silence.

"What?" Malfoy said weakly.

"A bonding spell was on a door you both went through, set to go off in the presence of high emotion. When you walked through it, you were arguing about something, and..."

"No. God, no," Malfoy looked at the adults, his eyes growing wider as each face mirrored the sombre look on Dumbledore's. "That - that's not possible." He stared at his father, who pressed his lips together and nodded. Silence. "That's... that's fucking - that's insane! No!"

"Draco-" his father began, and Harry felt a flicker of fear as Malfoy interrupted him and scrambled off the bed.

"No! You can't be serious!!"

"Mr. Malfoy, I'm sorry, but we're absolutely sure," Dumbledore said.

"Fuck! NO!!"

"Wait, what are you talking about?" Harry broke in. "What bonding spell?"

Malfoy gaped at Harry. "A bonding spell, you fucking wanker."

Harry glanced from Malfoy to the adults, utterly lost and also more than a little bewildered that no one was saying a word about Malfoy's foul language. He would have expected his father at least to reprimand him, but Lucius Malfoy was looking shaken, almost ill, nothing like the cold collected authority figure he had always been.

"But what - what does that mean?"

"You don't even know - oh, wonderful," Malfoy slammed his fist into his night table and turned away in disgust.

"Potter, bonding is wizard marriage-" Pomfrey began, and Malfoy interrupted her.

"It's a fucking marriage curse, Potter," Malfoy spat. "The curse was on the door, we got caught in it, we're married. What part of that is too difficult for your little Gryffindor brain to grasp?"

"But how can - marriage isn't a curse, how can-"

"Potter. Let me explain," Professor McGonagall said firmly. "In the wizarding world, a marriage is not a marriage until a bonding spell has been cast, binding the two spouses together. Normally this is done voluntarily, much the same way that Muggles make vows-" Lucius made an indignant sound in his throat but didn't interrupt her, "-but unlike Muggle vows, a bonding spell imposes certain behaviour on the spouses. And unlike Muggle vows, a bonding spell can be cast as a curse, without the consent of the two parties. It is of course absolutely illegal to cast such a curse, but it is still binding on the parties."

Harry frowned at her, utterly baffled. A curse that forced people to be married against their will? It sounded like a bad joke. He quickly glanced around the hospital wing, hoping to spot the Weasley twins cackling at the success of their latest hallucination gag.

No such luck. "But that's ridiculous. Love potions, I understand, but how you be forced to be married?"

"The spell compels you to act as spouses. For the first months of the marriage, you need to live together, be near one another almost constantly, do everything a married couple does, or suffer consequences."

"Everything - no, wait-"

"No, that does not always mean consummating the relationship sexually," Pomfrey cut in matter-of-factly. "People can be bonded without being married - it happens with twins sometimes, or very close friends who've decided to enjoy the benefits of a bond without the sexual aspect. But the majority of bonds are also sexual in nature, unless there is a good reason for them not to be."

"Such as hating each other?"

"That's not normally a problem," she said bluntly. Harry gaped at her.

"Mordred, close your mouth, Potter, you look even stupider than usual," Malfoy snapped.

Harry ignored him. "But why would anybody consent to that?"

"There are benefits, of course. Heightened magical powers, that sort of thing. As well as everything else that applies to non-bonded marriage, like companionship, friendship, emotional balance."

"But how can any of that happen if you don't even want this in the first place??"

"The bonding spell helps bring about those benefits by imposing behaviour likely to foster them. Most marriages start from at least the willingness to enter into the marriage, but it's not impossible to make a marriage work out of a forced bonding."

"How??"

"Because you have no choice about the matter, so you make it work," Snape said curtly. "Muggles think it imperative to start with flowers and romance and sickly sweetness to create commitment. Wizards know better."

"How would you know?" Harry snapped before he could stop himself or say it in a semi-respectful tone. But Snape didn't seem to notice.

"Though it is absolutely no business of yours, I was married, Potter. For seven years, happily, to a woman I hardly knew when we bonded."

Malfoy glared at him. "That's completely different!"

"Many wizard marriages start out with nothing else, Draco," Lucius Malfoy said quietly and Malfoy glared at him too. "You know your mother and I barely knew one another before our bonding. You knew something like this would happen some day, you had agreed to marry whomever we chose for you-"

"I agreed because it was supposed to be an alliance that would benefit the family, and, and I knew you wouldn't force me to marry somebody I despised and-"

Lucius grimaced and shook his head. "I know. But you don't have a choice. Calm yourself down-"

"Don't fucking well tell me to calm myself down!!" Malfoy shouted, and Lucius frowned at him, standing up.

"He's upset, Lucius, he needs time to-" Snape started to say but Lucius cut him off, facing his son sternly.

"Draco! You are upset, I can understand that, but that is no excuse for-" Lucius tried to put a quelling hand on Malfoy's shoulder but gasped and pulled back as Malfoy flinched and cried out in pain. "I'm - I'm sorry, I forgot-" he put his hand out, not touching Malfoy, who stared at him in dismay. "Sit down. Please."

Malfoy dropped into a chair, jaw set and hands still clenched.

"I'm sorry," Lucius said softly, and his words and manner chilled Harry thoroughly. He'd never seen Lucius Malfoy treat his son with anything other than cold reserve, and yet here he was, the very picture of a concerned father, looking like he wanted to comfort his son but was unable to figure out how. Oh god. "Draco, I'm sorry," Lucius repeated.

Malfoy put his elbows on his knees and leaned forward, his head in his hands. Harry looked from one adult to another, his dread growing at their resigned, mournful expressions.

"Wait - don't wizards ever get unbonded?" Harry asked desperately. "Divorced?"

"Both parties must agree to dissolve the bond-" Snape began.

"I think we can safely say we'd both agree-"

"-and only the caster can break the spell. It isn't normally a problem because the casters are the pair in question, but in the case of an involuntary bond..."

"You mean whoever did this to us has to break it? We can't break it ourselves?"

"It's fascinating just how long it takes to get such simple concepts through your thick head, Potter," Malfoy spat, not raising his head from his hands.

"You can rest assured that we will do everything possible to find the person or persons responsible," Snape said, "but the odds of doing so are remarkably slim, unless someone were to step forward and confess. This is a highly illegal spell, Mr. Potter. Nobody will admit to having cast it. And whoever did so will almost certainly cover their tracks."

"But... but I'm not even gay!"

Malfoy rolled his eyes as his father made another tsk of distaste. "Honestly, Muggles," Malfoy sneered.

"We understand that in the Muggle world there is some confusion about sexual relationships between people of the same sex," Pomfrey began, "but in the wizarding world-"

"I've never heard of a single married gay couple in the wizarding world!"

"You have not been part of our world for long," McGonagall said, "and you have been at school where most of the people around you are not married. It's rare but not unheard of. It's true that many people feel that it isn't terribly responsible of wizards to marry somebody of the same sex, as our birthrates are not as high as they should be, but we don't have the kind of blind prejudice that the Muggle world has."

"'I'm not even gay'" mimicked Malfoy nastily. "Honestly, how completely Gryffindor to focus on the least relevant problem."

"So what's the most relevant problem? The fact that if I have to live with you, I may very well kill you?" Harry shot back.

"That is not a laughing matter, Potter," McGonagall said firmly. "Part of why involuntary bonding spells are so very illegal is that they can result in the spouses murdering one another. It is an extremely stressful situation to be subjected to. You will both need to be closely monitored to make sure that the... animosity between you does not get out of hand and result in serious injury to either of you."

"That doesn't seem like such a bad solution right now," Harry muttered, and Malfoy rolled his eyes.

"Just how stupid are you, Potter? Because you're really reaching new heights here-"

"Mr. Malfoy," McGonagall cut in. "Kindly shut up." She turned to Harry. "While the bond is new, you are highly attuned to one another's emotions and well-being. If one spouse dies or is seriously injured, the shock is usually enough to kill the other. Especially if the other spouse is the cause of that death or serious injury."

Harry sat back limply.

There was a long silence, finally broken by McGonagall.

"Boys, I think this will take some time for you to accept. I believe it would be best if Madam Pomfrey explains some of what you can expect to go through, while we discuss how best to get you through it in one piece."

"You mean you're going to discuss without us-" "You're going to decide-" both boys spoke over each other in their indignation, and Lucius Malfoy broke in.

"Draco, you're hardly in a position to make any decisions right now. You don't even fully understand what a bonding spell entails," he pointed out.

"That doesn't mean you get to decide everything for me!" Malfoy said hotly, and his father's eyebrows climbed up in surprise. So did Harry's. As far as he'd ever seen, Malfoy's father did decide everything for his son, right down to which classes he took and which people he socialized with. Malfoy had to be in severe distress to even think of rebelling against that.

"Gentlemen, nobody will be making any decisions for you," McGonagall said reasonably. "We will simply discuss possibilities until you can join us with better information about your situation and take part in the discussion." Lucius Malfoy stared at her in surprise as well, and a distant part of Harry's brain reflected that it was actually rather gratifying to see him so off-balance. If Harry hadn't been utterly off-balance himself, he would have found Lucius Malfoy's expression downright hilarious.

"It's all right, Harry," Lupin said gently. "Go, listen to Poppy."

ooooooo

Harry climbed into his hospital bed a few hours later, still in a state of numb semi-shock.

Following an extremely disturbing information session with Pomfrey, they'd returned to the adults and worked out the practical aspects of how to live in constant close proximity. Harry was glad Dumbledore had thought to call Remus Lupin in, as the closest thing to a parental figure Harry had at the moment. He'd relied heavily on Lupin' steadiness and good humour through the process of working through their school schedules and living arrangements, the highly distressful discussion about Quidditch, and the growing realization that this was really, really not a joke.

Hermione and Ron, when he'd finally seen them a few hours later, had not been as comforting, through no fault of their own. Their relieved expressions upon seeing him safe and well had changed into horror as they learned of the curse; Ron more so than Hermione, because he'd been raised knowing what a bonding spell was. He'd known enough, for example, to knock Hermione's hand aside when she reached out to give Harry a hug; the curse was supposed to make anybody's touch but a spouse's quite painful for the first few months. But otherwise, they hadn't known what to say to Harry, and their worried and hostile glances at Malfoy, who sullenly ignored them, made Harry all too aware that this was one of his worst nightmares come to life. He hated Malfoy as much as Ron and Hermione did. But unlike them, he couldn't just walk out of the room and avoid him.

Malfoy hadn't asked to have any of his friends visit him in the Infirmary.

Luckily, Harry hadn't had to face stares at the Great Hall, as their dinners were brought to the hospital and they ate as far apart as they could. In fact, so far Harry really didn't see why they couldn't go back to their dorms, as they didn't seem to need to be that physically close. Pomfrey had assured them, however, that actually being in different rooms would be very painful.

And so now here they were. Getting ready for bed, in the hospital. So far they had at least agreed on one thing: they both wanted to carry on as before as much as possible. No taking a few days off to come to terms with this or get to know each other better or any of the other suggestions the adults had made. The Heads of the houses would be explaining the situation to their students tonight after dinner, to answer questions and deal with any misinformation, and they would be going back to classes tomorrow and moving into their own rooms after school.

Harry glanced at Malfoy, who was already in the next bed and staring up at the ceiling expressionlessly. By tacit agreement, they hadn't said much to one other, except for small snipes as they listened to Madam Pomfrey.

Harry lay down in his own bed, staring at the ceiling himself, thinking of Pomfrey's information. Roughly five or six months of forced contact. Having to be in the same room, within roughly six to twelve feet of each other, to the point that being too far apart would cause them extreme discomfort and eventual collapse if they ignored the urge to come back to each other. Needing to touch every few minutes. Slowly growing sexually aware of one another, then needing sexual contact, within a few weeks of the spell being cast. Being attuned to one another's moods, so that physical or emotional pain or discomfort for one would result in pain and discomfort for the other.

Brilliant. Just brilliant. One of Malfoy's chief pleasures in life seemed to consist of making Harry feel pain and discomfort. Harry would've been quite pleased at the thought of that backfiring on Malfoy if he hadn't been self-aware enough to know that causing Malfoy to feel bad also held a great deal of appeal for him.

And he didn't even want to think about the whole "contact" thing.

So. Tomorrow was Wednesday. Double Potions, first thing in the morning, the same mixed-house class as always. Then, instead of Muggle Studies, he'd attend Transfiguration with the Slytherins and Ravenclaws, then lunch, then back to his own Gryffindor Charms class, with Malfoy now tagging along. Then off to Malfoy's Arithmancy class. Thankfully, Hermione was taking that class too, so she could keep him company and help him catch up. Then for last period he'd be sitting in Malfoy's Ancient Runes class but working on Astronomy, as they'd been unable to compromise on those two and had decided to see if they could just attend their current classes every other day. They were fairly easy classes anyway.

God, how had the world changed so dramatically in one short moment.

Harry sighed. He wanted to be back in his dorm room listening to Ron and Neville and Dean and Seamus' bedtime routines. He wondered what his roommates were doing right now. Were they discussing him? Upset that, just like that, Harry was out of their dorm room and off the Quidditch team? Talking about what it would be like to have to have bloody Draco Malfoy around every time they wanted to see Harry? Wondering what he was doing? Missing him?

He certainly missed them. Missed his home. Missed everything.

Harry turned over, his back to Malfoy, and tried to make himself go to sleep.

ooooooo

Day 2, Wednesday

Draco opened his eyes, momentarily disoriented. Where - oh.

Oh, god. He closed his eyes tightly, willing himself back to sleep, desperately hoping he could somehow make whatever he'd been dreaming about real, and this morning's reality a nightmare only.

He opened his eyes again. No. No such luck.

He looked over at the next bed. Potter was still asleep, his face peaceful and relaxed, and Draco was seized with an almost overwhelming urge to hit him. Hard. For daring to look so untroubled when here they were, in the hospital, facing the first day of the rest of their lives bloody well shackled together.

Draco turned his back to Potter, hoping he could convince himself that he was just in the hospital due to a Quidditch injury. Pushed that thought away, because that made him think about Quidditch and that was too painful to deal with first thing in the morning. Unfortunately, just about everything else that came to mind was also too painful to deal with first thing in the morning.

And it was odd, he thought, how his mind couldn't seem to decide between frantically skittering away from the memory of Pomfrey's information session last night, and rehashing it in excruciating detail. Especially the part about eventually needing to touch one another - and Draco's mouth twisted in disgust, as he felt absolutely no desire to touch Potter right now in any way other than violently. But apparently they'd feel compelled to touch, casually at first, then for comfort, and then, eventually, in a sexual manner. Draco grimaced at that thought too. Not a good image, that one. Not that touching another boy that way was all that disgusting a concept, but Harry Potter of all people. God, how revolting. Only marginally better than touching a Mudblood.

Draco sighed and closed his eyes again. It could have been worse, he tried to tell himself. He could have walked past that bloody door arguing with Hermione Granger.

Actually, no. There wasn't any way of making this any better. Granger would've been awful and a horrible embarrassment to the pure-blooded Malfoy family, but in the end she was just a Mudblood. As long as Draco didn't have children with her (and he would have made sure he didn't) she would've been tolerable. She wasn't the enemy of their family's Lord.

Draco couldn't imagine how their family would survive this blow. The Dark Lord surely wouldn't feel he could trust Lucius' loyalty to remain unshakeable. Maybe, in a few years, when the spell had worn down a little and the bond was less raw, it would be possible for Draco to survive with few ill effects once Voldemort vanquished Potter. But... the confrontation was supposed to happen soon. And Voldemort would surely not totally trust a man who knew that his only son might die if Potter was killed or injured.

So much for Father's position as Voldemort's right-hand man.

God, this was so utterly horrible.

"All right then, gentlemen, time to wake up," Madam Pomfrey bustled into the room and Potter woke up. Draco watched his face go through the same disorientation, followed by sinking realization of where he was and what that meant. Potter glanced over at him and they shared a blank look of distaste. Draco looked away.

"Now, I'll just have a look at you both-" Pomfrey took out her wand and waved it over Draco and he flinched a little, alarmed. "Just a quick once-over, Mr. Malfoy... you seem fine..." she turned to Potter and repeated the movement, "As do you... how did you sleep?"

"Er, fine," mumbled Potter. She looked at Draco and he nodded.

"Separately?"

"Yes!" they both snapped in identical tones of embarrassment and irritation.

Pomfrey fixed them both with a level gaze, "I have to ask. I'm monitoring the state of your bond. In the next few months I will be asking plenty of questions that you will find intrusive and possibly embarrassing, and you had better get used to it." She clapped her hands and a couple of house elves appeared with breakfast trays, two others with small piles of clothing and books. "Here are your books and clothing, showers are in there," she pointed, "and you've got forty-five minutes until class. Any questions?"

Draco and Potter stared at her.

"Right then. Hurry up, gentlemen," she bustled off.

ooooooo

Snape didn't glance at them as they entered his Potions class and had a battle of wills as to where they would sit. They had been mostly speaking only in monosyllables until this point, save for an occasional, "Hurry up," or "Get out of my way."

"Come on," Draco hissed impatiently, not liking the fact that their classmates were trying to look like they weren't staring at them.

"No," Potter muttered back. "I want to sit here."

Draco didn't bother to consider it. There was no way he was going to sit next to the Mudblood and the Weasel. "Don't be ridiculous."

"You go sit wherever you want," Potter hissed, setting his books down with a thump next to Granger. "I'm sitting here." Draco narrowed his eyes, not wanting to give in, then looked at his regular desk, mentally measuring the distance.

Maybe twelve, fifteen feet or so. Fine, then. He stalked over to it and sat down next to Goyle, ignoring Goyle's startled expression and returning his fellow Slytherins' hesitant greetings with a curt nod.

Halfway through the class, he was almost ready to admit this had been a bad idea. What had started as faint unease had turned into annoyance, then an itching feeling like he needed to go sit next to Potter. The feeling was growing stronger and he was becoming unable to concentrate on the lesson. Snape was saying something about how you had to dry some plant... what was it... to prevent some potion from doing... something...

Brilliant, Draco thought. Very precise. He made himself focus on Snape despite the growing irritation. It felt like he was being surrounded by buzzing bees. He shook his head, trying to get rid of the feeling. No, that didn't work. He rubbed his eyes, letting out a small breath of annoyance.

"Malfoy? You all right?" Goyle said quietly.

"Yeah," he muttered, forcing himself into stillness.

Get up. Get up, walk to the back of the class, tell Granger to move, and sit. You'll feel better.

He ignored the little voice, blew out his breath again and focussed on Snape.

"The hollyhock must be used within three days of harvesting, who can tell me why?" Snape glanced over at Draco, his eyes narrowing briefly. He flicked his gaze over to the back of the room, then back to Draco. Draco tensed, hoping Snape wouldn't pick on him because he really had no idea - "Potter?" Snape said. Draco gave a small start. There was a short silence, followed by an audible small thump. Draco forced himself not to turn around.

"Um - I'm sorry, Professor, what was the question?" Potter's voice sounded rather unsteady.

Snape did that smirking-without-moving-a-facial-muscle thing he was so good at, as the Slytherins in the room chuckled. "I asked, Mr. Potter, why the hollyhock must be used within three days of harvesting."

Silence. "I don't know, sir."

"Then why don't we see if you can deduce it. This is a question even Longbottom should be able to answer. Tell me, what is the purpose of hollyhock in this potion? And no, Miss Granger, do not whisper the answer to him."

Another silence. "I don't know."

Snape's non-smirk grew and Draco felt himself inexplicably blushing as the snickers from his fellow Slytherins got louder. "What is the purpose of the potion, then, Mr. Potter?"

"I don't know," Potter replied sullenly.

"What is the name of the potion?"

"I. Don't. Know," Potter said clearly, anger simmering through his tone. Draco felt his own pulse speeding up, anger growing in him as well at Snape's questioning. Damn it, Snape knew exactly what was wrong, why couldn't he pick on somebody else-

No, Snape was right. Potter wasn't paying attention and Snape knew exactly why that was and he was doing the right thing. Making Potter look like a fool in front of the class so that Potter wouldn't repeat the same mistake twice - he'd sit where Draco wanted to sit next time. This was good. He should be feeling grateful to Snape.

Except that, thanks to the damnable bond, Draco was feeling Potter's anger instead of gratitude.

"What is the name of this class?" Snape asked.

"Potions!" Potter snapped.

"Finally, a question you can answer. Very good, one point to Gryffindor for that answer. Ten points from Gryffindor for your complete inability to answer anything else." There was a rustle of dismay from the Gryffindors, and a wave of snickers from the Slytherins. "I would suggest you find a way to concentrate, Potter. I will be calling on you again."

Draco closed his eyes tightly, trying to push away Potter's anger and resentment and his own rapidly growing need to change seats and put them both out of their misery.

No. No. No no no no.

Snape was talking again, about who knew what, and there was another voice closer to him that he couldn't even identify and the bees were buzzing louder and

"Ow, FUCK!" he burst out, white hot pain blazing from his arm, pulling away from the source of the pain and opening his eyes to Goyle gaping at him and the rest of the class staring in surprise. He moved back, rubbing his arm and trying to steady himself.

"Is there a problem?" Snape's voice cut through the buzzing.

"I didn't mean to - I'm sorry, Professor, I forgot-" Goyle said stupidly, "I, he didn't look very good and he didn't answer when I asked him if he was all right and I just tapped his arm, sir-"

Snape made an annoyed sound. "Goyle, move to that empty desk. Potter, take Goyle's place. The reason that hollyhock must be used within three days of harvesting-" and Draco lost the rest of the sentence as Goyle picked up his things and moved to the next desk over with an apologetic look at Draco. Potter thumped his books onto the desk, sitting down without looking at him.

How utterly disgusting. Potter was sitting next to him and almost immediately the world felt relatively normal again - no buzzing, no itch, no small voice telling him anything. Feeling infinitely better, picking up the thread of Snape's lecture easily and filling in the parts he'd missed almost without effort. Of course, any fool could figure out that if hollyhock was being used for its curative properties, those faded after three days.

He dipped his quill and wrote down Snape's words, glancing over his notes so far and stopping in surprise. His penmanship was awful, almost illegible. There were words missing, mix-ups... he was going to have to borrow somebody's notes to get anything resembling decent information from the last half-hour or so of this class. He glanced over to Potter's paper and chuckled at the absolute mess evident there.

"Shut up," Potter muttered under his breath. Draco smirked and bent his head back to his own notes, immensely cheered up despite the animosity rolling off Potter like a cloud.

ooooooo

They entered the Great Hall together, having successfully passed the rest of the morning without speaking to one another but now stopping short as they realized they had no idea where to sit. It hadn't been a problem during Transfigurations, which was right after Potions, because since Potter had switched into Draco's class, he'd had to sit wherever Draco wanted. And where Draco wanted to sit was with his friends, who snickered at Potter and welcomed Draco back amongst them as though nothing had happened and studiously avoided any mention of the curse. Draco had amused himself for part of the class by imagining what the various parents of his friends must have said to them yesterday. It seemed, for the time being at least, that the overall tactic was one of cautious watchfulness. The Malfoy family had suffered a severe setback, but it was not unthinkable that they would recover and most of their peers had learned through bitter experience not to try to exploit their moments of weakness; the Malfoys always exacted revenge.

That didn't help in this current situation, though. The Great Hall was filling with students and here they were, between the Slytherin and Gryffindor tables.

Potter started towards the Gryffindor table and Draco grabbed his sleeve. "Where are you going?"

"My table. I had to sit with your friends the entire morning. It's your turn."

"I'm not sitting at your table."

"Why not?"

"Don't be stupid."

"Malfoy," Potter yanked his arm away, "We have to compromise, remember? Give and take? Does this sound at all familiar?"

"I compromised by dropping History of Magic and switching into your bloody Charms class and picking up Herbology."

"I dropped Muggle Studies and-"

"I'm not sitting at the Gryffindor table!!"

"Well, where do you suggest we eat? Because I'm not sitting at the Slytherin table!!"

"No Slytherin would want you there anyway!!"

"Then come up with another alternative!!" They glared at one another, not caring that quite a few people were watching their argument. Finally Draco moved to the nearest table, reached past two startled Ravenclaws, grabbed two sandwiches and an apple, and motioned to Potter to do the same. Potter did so, following Draco out of the Great Hall and into the nearest courtyard, and plunking himself down on a bench as far away from Draco as he could.

ooooooo

This... Draco really didn't need this. At the end of an entire day spent with Potter, trying as much as possible to ignore him and not think about how completely screwed up this situation was, after an entire day spent trying, as much as possible, to remain in denial about it all, this was... really too much.

Charms class had been bad enough, as he'd had to sit entirely too close to the Mudblood and Weaselby and been surrounded by bloody Gryffindors and Hufflepuffs and not a single Slytherin face in sight, but after that they'd had only classes that he'd already been taking before this damn curse.

But now at the end of the day he needed to unwind and maybe go study in the library or spend time with his house mates, playing the interminable Slytherin political games that he was so good at, and enjoyed so much. He needed the comfort of his common room and his dorm room. Having been an only child, he'd always hated having to share a room with three other boys at school, but right now he would've given anything to see Goyle and Crabbe's stupid faces and hear Zabini's affected drawl.

Instead, he'd had to walk past his housemates with Potter in tow, go into his room, and pack away his things so that the house elves could take them to their new quarters. Then he'd had to follow Potter into Gryffindor tower so Potter could do the same.

And now, here they were. In rooms normally reserved for married professors. One small bedroom, looking rather crowded with two student beds in it. A sitting room, large enough for a few sofas and chairs and two desks. A washroom with a bath - no common washroom to share with other students. A small storage area.

If it had been his own, he would've been quite pleased. Unfortunately, he had a roommate.

He had the most incredible desire to either kill Potter or burst into tears. And he couldn't do either one. He took refuge in automatic motion, putting his things away. Didn't bother to do anything with the knickknacks he'd taken from his dormitory - that would be admitting that this was his home now, and he certainly didn't want to do that. Best to simply put away his clothing and books, as Potter was doing, while ignoring Potter as he had the whole day, then pick up the Herbology notes he'd received from Professor Sprout and start catching up. He sat down to study and sensed Potter looking at him.

"What?" he asked.

"That's it? You're just settling in to work?"

"I've missed the first month of Herbology," he said curtly. "I don't want to damage my grades. You should get started on Arithmancy; it's not an easy subject."

"It'll be dinner time in an hour."

Draco shrugged and flipped the page.

"Where will we be sitting for dinner?"

"Not at the Great Hall."

"We'll miss announcements."

"I don't care."

"I do."

"Good for you."

"Malfoy, I want to go to the Great Hall and be around other people. As much as I appreciate your silence I don't intend to stay locked up in here with you forever."

"Not your idea of a proper honeymoon, Potter? I'm so sorry, I'll be sure to ask my father to book us a cruise through the Mediterranean." He flipped another page. "After I've caught up on this stupid class."

"Malfoy. I'm going to the Great Hall for dinner. I'm going to sit with my friends."

"I'll tell the elves which bed to deposit you on when they bring you in after you pass out."

He could almost hear Potter counting to ten. "Why don't we sit at the Gryffindor table today, and the Slytherin tomorrow?"

"Because my house mates will throw up if they have to sit near you while they're eating."

"Then we can sit at the Gryffindor table again. Gryffindor constitutions are not as delicate."

"Piss off."

"I'd love to. Unfortunately there's this little problem of the curse." Draco ignored him. "Malfoy," Potter's voice was taking on an exasperated edge. Draco continued to ignore him. "Look at me when I'm talking to you." Draco yawned and flipped another page. This was new. Potter had done this to him a few times over the years - pretending indifference, refusing to be baited, driving Draco to distraction. Draco hadn't tried it before, but he could see why Potter did it. It was quite gratifying. He'd have to remember that.

"Malfoy!" Potter sounded really angry now, and Draco smiled to himself as he carefully kept his eyes on his Herbology notes. Potter slammed his fist on the desk in front of Draco, causing Draco to jump slightly and look up at him.

"Do you have a problem, Potter?" he drawled, taking in Potter's red face with glee.

"Stop being an ass and talk to me!"

"I will not sit at the Gryffindor table for dinner, you will not be allowed to sit at the Slytherin table, I would suggest we ask the house elves to bring us dinner here. I think we're done with this particular domestic dilemma."

Potter stared at Draco for a moment, then stalked off and threw himself down onto his bed.

ooooooo

"There's somebody at the door," their portrait, Sir Xander the German Vampire Hunter, announced a few hours later.

"Who?"

"Hermione Granger and Ronald Weasley."

"Tell them to come in-" "Tell them to bugger off-" they spoke simultaneously.

"This is my room too," Potter said very quietly, and Draco thought for a minute, weighing his options. He was most tempted to simply refuse, and see what happened. But Potter, damn him, was right - they couldn't just be alone all the time. And while Draco's next impulse was to tell Potter that if he wanted to be with his friends, he had to do it outside their rooms, unfortunately that would mean that Draco would have to leave too. And he had no intention of being seen in public with Potter's little friends.

And if he wanted to bring any of his friends here, he'd need Potter's permission to do so.

"All right, your friends can come in - but only if mine can too."

Potter looked at him strangely. "Of course," he said, as if it was obvious. Draco nodded curtly.

"Harry, where were you at dinner?" Granger said as she and Weasley burst in. Draco didn't bother to greet them, just buried himself into his notes.

"Here," Potter muttered.

"Oh, Harry-"

Draco impatiently picked up his wand and set a silence spell around his desk, blocking out the sound of Potter's despicable little cronies and plunging himself back into Herbology.

ooooooo

Day 3, Thursday

God, no, Harry thought the next day as he woke up.

This didn't seem to get any better, did it?

He glanced over to the other bed, where Malfoy was still sleeping. Looking rather more pleasant than when he was awake, without his normal smirk and sneer. Except that for the last two days, Malfoy hadn't been wearing either expression much. "Sullen" seemed to be his expression of choice instead.

Asleep was better.

Harry gazed at him, thinking. He'd spent the last two days dealing with the reality of day-to-day life, and had deliberately not let himself think of what it all meant. It still seemed inconceivable that they were expected to actually live together at all, let alone as a couple. Whenever his thoughts went down that path, he'd distracted himself by remembering Pomfrey saying that not all bonds were like marriages. Maybe theirs would be one of the lucky few that consisted of simply living together, distasteful as the idea seemed. Lifelong roommates. Not even that, actually - according to Pomfrey, this need to be physically close wouldn't last forever. Some day, all this might be but a far off, unhappy memory of the one year at Hogwarts that had been ruined by having to spend the bulk of his time with Malfoy, who now lived on the other side of the world.

Right.

Harry thought over yesterday's events as he went to the washroom and changed - the horrible disorientation in Potions, Snape needling him, moving to sit next to Malfoy and all of a sudden feeling better. The embarrassment of it all - and the small feeling of vindication when he'd looked over and seen that Malfoy's notes for the class were not as bad as his, but were rubbish nonetheless. At least he hadn't been the only one affected.

He missed Hermione. And Ron. And the thought that they were getting up and doing their morning routine without him, that all of his friends were together in Gryffindor Tower while he was stuck out here with this git, was almost unbearable.

Hermione and Ron had come over last night and stayed for quite a while, but eventually they had to go back to their dorm. And he couldn't go with them. All he could do was get ready for bed and lie down, with Malfoy five feet away from him, staring at the ceiling and wondering how he could possibly survive more than a couple of days of this.

One thing he was going to do. He was going to somehow get Malfoy to agree to go to the Great Hall for meals. He was going to make sure they were around other people. Maybe today's class schedule would help - Malfoy would be attending Harry's classes most of the afternoon; maybe he'd get lonely for his Slytherin cronies. Harry could only hope.

Malfoy turned over, sighing deeply in his sleep, and Harry hated the thought of having to wake him. Wishing that he could leave Malfoy to sleep, and just go to breakfast and attend his classes. Unfortunately, if Malfoy didn't get up, they'd both be late.

"Malfoy."

Malfoy didn't stir.

"Malfoy," Harry repeated, a little louder. Malfoy didn't even twitch. Harry approached Malfoy's bed, prodded his shoulder. "Malfoy. Wake up." Malfoy woke with a start and stared up at Harry. Then he clenched his eyes shut.

"Oh, god, you again," he muttered, voice still groggy.

"Yeah, me again. Get up."

"No."

"No?"

"No. Go away."

Harry stepped back, nonplussed. What was he supposed to do now? He didn't relish the thought of starting the day with a fight and dragging a sullen, difficult Malfoy to breakfast and then to classes.

All right, then, he wouldn't. He lay down on his bed and took out a book.

Twenty-five minutes later, Malfoy spoke up blearily. "What time is it?"

"8:20."

"What??" Malfoy sat up. "We've got class in ten minutes!"

"I know."

"Why in hell didn't you wake me up??"

"I tried. You didn't want me to."

"And you just let me go back to sleep??" Malfoy was scrambling out of bed, grabbing his clothing and school robes.

"I'm not your alarm clock," Harry said mildly, getting up, fully dressed and ready to go. He'd miss breakfast, that much was obvious, but it was worth it to see Malfoy panicking at the thought of showing up late for McGonagall's class.

"Very-" Malfoy's voice was muffled as he ripped his t-shirt off, "funny, Potter. Hilarious, as a matter of fact," he quickly scrambled into clean trousers, "You should really consider going into business with the Weasley twins-" he put on a clean shirt and started doing up the buttons, realized he'd missed one and started over with a frustrated growl, "as you're obviously no earthly use as anything else." He tossed his books into his schoolbag, checking them and realizing one was missing.

"If you're looking for your Defence Against the Dark Arts text..." Harry said helpfully, and Malfoy looked up in relief, "... then I'm afraid I can't help you."

It was interesting, thought Harry, how this whole 'feeling the other's feelings' thing worked. He was feeling some of Malfoy's anger and discomfort right now, it was true, but it was far outweighed by his own vindictive pleasure. After the embarrassment of yesterday's Potions class, he was now getting some back at the thought of Malfoy arriving late and flustered to the class taught by Harry's own Head of house. Not that McGonagall ever played favourites the way Snape did, but it was still a nice image to hold on to.

Then Malfoy picked up a textbook and threw it at him, and Harry barely had time to duck before it sailed past his head and hit the wall with a sound smack. Harry stared at Malfoy in surprise. Malfoy just didn't get physical when he was angry - he was the king of snide put-downs and sarcastic mockery, but any kind of physical intimidation was left to his sidekicks Crabbe and Goyle, as if Malfoy just couldn't be bothered to lower himself down to such menial activities. But here he was, furious and picking up another book to hurl at Harry.

"Malfoy, get a grip! We don't have time for this!"

Malfoy hurled the book anyway but turned and put on his robes, looking for his tie.

"I do know where your tie is," Harry said pleasantly. Malfoy didn't bother acknowledging him. "I'll even bring it to you." He waited a beat. "If we sit with my friends during Defence Against the Dark Arts."

Malfoy looked like he wanted to hurl another book at him, but he nodded tightly and Harry smiled and picked up the Slytherin tie, which had fallen under Malfoy's desk.

"Come on," Malfoy muttered, and they took off for Transfigurations at a run, Malfoy hurriedly running his hand through his hair and struggling with his tie.

I must remember I'm living with a Slytherin, thought Harry. Don't bother appealing to fair play and decency; manipulation and self-interest are the only things they understand.