He who binds to himself a joy
Does the winged life destroy
But he who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in eternity's sun rise.
—“Eternity”by William Blake
After a while, exhausted and drained, Harry found himself sitting on a bench beside Luna.
“I’d want some peace and quiet, if it were me,” she said.
“I’d love some,” he replied.
“I’ll distract them all,” she said. “Use your Cloak.”
And before he could say a word she cried, “Oooh, look, a Blibbering Humdinger!” and pointed out of the window. Everyone who heard looked around, and Harry slid the Cloak up over himself, and got to his feet…
Happiness would come, Harry thought, but at the moment it was mufﬂed by exhaustion, and the pain of losing Fred and Lupin and Tonks pierced him like a physical wound every few steps. Most of all he felt the most stupendous relief, and a longing to sleep.
—Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling
Harry trudged towards Gryffindor Tower, his Invisibility Cloak draped over his head, his blistered and swollen feet making each step more painful than the last. The Tower, at least, seemed otherwise deserted, and along the way he had noticed subtle signs that the castle was already beginning to heal itself. It had been all of an hour, but beneath his feet a stairway, its marble cracked and crumbling, began to put itself back together, the pieces of cold polished stone merging before his eyes until it was no longer possible to tell there had ever been a crack at all. Likewise, the glass from a shattered window melted back together on the ground, the slivers gravitating towards each other until they became a single translucent whole. He passed a portrait of a young maiden in rich blue robes; she was methodically stitching her own canvas back together where it had been torn.
Small changes, certainly. He knew the full repair would take months, if not years. But still, unlike the witches and wizards sitting in shock or weeping openly over those who would never heal, the castle was already on the mend. Harry wondered whether he’d ever recover half so well as the stones beneath his feet.
It was only when Harry arrived at the Common Room—the Fat Lady nowhere to be found and the entrance unguarded—that he realized he didn’t live there anymore. He had no bed in the boy’s dormitory or any other sort of place to call his own. Even after everything else, the realization was disconcerting. He still thought of Hogwarts as home, but it wasn’t mutual. Everything had changed in the last year; Hogwarts had no place for him now.
From beneath his cloak, he could hear Ron’s voice in the distance, followed shortly thereafter by a response from Hermione. He’d become so attuned to their voices he could discern every hidden emotion colouring their words now. Listening, he could tell they felt much the same as he did in that moment, except for the touch of careful hope that lifted the ends of their words. He suspected they were holding hands, and that was all the difference. To Harry, such a feeling was still far too far away, something for other people to experience—the thought of a hand in his felt nothing but suffocating.
He looked around the Common Room, his eyes glassy. He was so, so tired.
His friends were closer now. Ron wanted food and a bed. Hermione longed for a proper shower first, then a bed—Ginny’s, she suggested. Ginny would understand if they borrowed her room and bed for a nap, Hermione guessed. Ron agreed and they were probably right. Harry sort of wished he’d thought of it himself, but he wouldn’t have felt quite right in Ginny’s bed. It presumed more than he could give her, and that wasn’t fair.
Harry moved to the far side of the Common Room and held his breath as they entered. They held each other upright as they passed through en route to the girl’s dorm, their tired eyes only for each other and not Harry beneath his Cloak in the corner.
He was glad to go unnoticed. He wanted to hide, needed to hide, even from them.
Once they passed, their footsteps fading away as they navigated the stairs to Ginny's dorm room, Harry slipped off to the boy’s dorm to use the loo and wash some of the dried blood and dirt away. He was practically swaying at the sink as he struggled to remain upright. While he desperately needed to bathe, it would have to wait until after he’d slept. But where could he go?
Emerging back into the Common Room, he contemplated finding Neville’s bed, but he didn’t relish the commotion that would surely follow when the other boys entered the dorm and found him there.
Outside the window, the sun continued to rise over the far off hills, smouldering ruins dotting the scarred landscape. He needed a place to be alone, time to put himself back together.
There was only one place Harry could think of that might hold everything he needed. He wasn’t sure if it was still functioning—he was fairly certain the Room of Hidden Things was permanently destroyed—but if the Room of Requirement was working, it would be just what he needed.
Lucius Malfoy stood.
“We’re going home.”
Her eyes bloodshot, Narcissa got to her feet beside him. She was trembling.
Draco winced, not entirely certain that he found this to be the best plan. “Father, I—“
His father grabbed his arm then, obviously intending to drag him along, determined to leave Hogwarts for the Manor. Draco’s opinions had never mattered to him either way.
But Draco’s stomach twisted and he was finally finished with ignoring the warnings in his gut. Perhaps he had learned his lesson at last; maybe he was finally done blindly following his father’s instruction. What had it gotten him besides an incredibly awkward hug with a newly defeated, creepy-as-fuck madman?
He didn’t want to go back to the Manor. Couldn’t. So he decided not to.
Draco dug in his heels and came to a stop. “No.”
He’d never stood up to his parents before, but he was too exhausted now, too scared, too broken, and maybe even too wise to care what his father thought. He needed to not go to the Manor. And he needed space from his father—his father who had pressured him to make decisions for which he’d never forgive himself and from which he might never recover.
The look in his mother’s eyes was harder to disregard, but Draco shook his head. “No, I need to… First…I have to…” He gestured towards the Slytherin wings of the castle, a vague excuse at best, but his very soul felt exhausted. His head was pounding, and his eyes watered, signalling his imminent nervous breakdown.
“Not now, Draco. We’ll send for your things. We shouldn’t stay here.” His mother’s voice was sharper than he expected, the stress finally slipping in through the cracks of her polished exterior.
But he couldn’t go with them. Not now. Not after everything. He needed to sleep, then he’d decide where to go.
Draco mustered every remaining ounce of energy in his possession, unable to think beyond his most basic needs. “No. I’ll join you…shortly. When I’m able. I must see to a few things first.”
He shrugged off his father’s grip and his mother’s gaze and stumbled out of sight, into the corridor to the Slytherin dormitory. As he set foot on the stairway, though, the injured castle creaked and groaned, shifting until the stairs led him towards an entirely different destination.
The staircase deposited him on the seventh floor instead.
Nausea swept over him and sweat prickled at his brow as he entered the familiar corridor. For a moment he thought he could still feel the heat of the magical fire on his skin. If the castle wanted him to enter the burning Room of Hidden Things to die with his friend, he wasn’t sure he could. But even as he told himself he wasn’t going to find out, he’d already walked back and forth three times, the procedure worn deep into his bones.
Instead of the smoking, fiery entrance, a different door appeared. The old wood was cool to the touch and he could hear no tell-tale roar of Fiendfyre behind it.
Slowly, he opened the heavy door and peeked inside.
The room inside was large, empty except for a bed in the far corner, a four-poster with plump pillows and what looked like deliciously soft linens. He may not have deserved it, but it was far too inviting for Draco to turn away. It seemed that the Room knew how badly he needed to hide for a while, how desperately he needed a place to exist without fear of hungry werewolves or vengeful curses or the foul breath of pure evil on his neck.
He shut the door to the Room behind him and made his way over to the bed, shedding his shoes and all but his underclothes, slipped beneath the covers then curled into a ball, pulling the blankets over his head. Too tired think or worry or remember, Draco fell asleep instantly.
Harry reached the seventh floor and found the stone hallway empty. Pleading with the castle to find enough magic within itself to allow him entrance, he walked back and forth three times in the required location.
When the door appeared, he let out a choked sound of relief and turned the handle.
The room was large and mostly empty except for two gigantic beds in opposite corners of the room. In between were one large window and a door, slightly ajar, leading to what looked like a bathroom. Before he could investigate, he was startled the sound of a soft snuffle coming from one of the beds. Blinking, he looked closer and found that beneath the mounds of pillows and fluffy blankets, the bed was evidently occupied, the lump in the centre moving as it breathed.
Harry’s heart dropped. He’d wanted to hide from everyone, but here in one of the beds was very definitely a someone. But while hiding from the people wanting to shake his hand and offer congratulations was high on his list of desperate needs, he guessed the Room knew that even more, he needed rest. Harry had to admit that the unoccupied bed looked more comfortable than anything he’d ever slept on before. Plus, the cosy bed had heavy curtains, so Harry could draw them around himself and lock them in place. At least he’d have some of the privacy that he desired.
In the end, it wasn’t a hard decision. He couldn’t think of anywhere better to go and even if he could have, his mind begged for rest, threatened to shut down while he was still standing there.
Giving in, he stumbled over to the bed, barely managing to toe off his trainers before he collapsed atop the soft bedding. Unable to even find the energy to move enough to climb under the blankets, his last thought was to beg the room to shut the curtains. He fell asleep to the gentle swish of the heavy velvet as they closed tightly around him.
He remembered nothing else.
His body now trained to wake instantly in the presence of unfamiliar noises; Harry’s eyes blinked open when he first registered the sound of another person in the room. Without moving save to lift his head slightly from the pillow, he listened.
He let out a deep breath when he was confident he had correctly identified the sounds. The person was eating. Didn’t sound dangerous at all.
Harry’s stomach felt empty too, but his eyes weren’t ready to be open and he wasn’t yet ready to emerge from the bed or deal with another person, so he rolled over and cast a wordless spell to keep his curtains locked in place around him, just in case. Reaching for the blanket at his feet, he pulled it up to his chin and snuggled into the soft pillow.
Not yet, he told himself, closing his eyes once more and drifting back to sleep.
Drinking this time.
The other person was definitely drinking.
Harry woke to the sound of someone slurping at a hot beverage beyond his curtained hiding place.
There was no going back to sleep this time; the sound was a harsh reminder of how parched he was, and how desperately he needed to use the loo.
He managed to sit up. It was light in the room but it was muted. He had no idea what time it was or how long he’d slept. A fresh set of clothes now rested at the foot of the huge bed. Merlin, he badly needed a bath, too—a steaming, hot bath, warm enough to turn his skin bright red. Yes, using the bathroom and cleaning up was a definite priority. As was water in general; he was so thirsty. He cleared his throat, coughing roughly as he did so.
The noises beyond his curtain came to an abrupt halt.
“Hullo?” the voice called to him, tentatively.
The voice sounded familiar, posh, perhaps, and it tickled the edge of his memory, though he couldn’t quite place it.
Being careful not to jostle the curtains, Harry pulled one back the slightest bit to peek out without being seen himself. He first spotted a table full of food—fruit his body craved, as well as jugs of water and pumpkin juice, steaming teapots, a heaping pile of baked goods and some other foods kept warm under spelled lids.
Wondering for only a moment how the food had appeared in the room—a Hogwarts elf, perhaps, since food couldn’t be conjured—Harry peeled back the curtains even further to see far end of the table, where he presumed the other occupant of the room was sitting and eating.
He may not have been able to place the voice, but he instantly recognized the shock of white blonde hair.
Promptly dropping the curtains, he fell back to the bed. For fuck’s sake. Why?!? Why did he have to be here too? Fuck. Would nothing go smoothly for him? Dear Godric, anyone but Malfoy!
Harry pinched his eyes shut. He couldn’t do this. Wouldn’t. He refused deal with that…that…that Death Eater, most likely. Not now. Not after…Even a crowded Gryffindor Tower was preferable. Bloody Room was obviously more broken than he thought. Before he could storm out of the room, though, he had to get to the lavatory.
Malfoy had apparently resumed his drinking—Harry could hear the git slurping away at some tea and periodically crunching on something or another, annoying as ever—so Harry grabbed the change of clothes and emerged on the far side of the bed, deciding to pad barefoot to the bathroom, unable to imagine putting his aching feet back into his worn trainers.
Bracing himself, he steeled his shoulders and walked around the bed, allowing Malfoy to see him for the first time.
Malfoy dropped his teacup, sloshing liquid all over himself. When he recovered, his face reddened. “What the fuck? What are you doing here, Potter? Bloody Room is fucking insane!”
Harry glared at him as he marched to the bath, grabbing a banana and an orange from the table along the way, but he refused to say a word, even if he was in silent agreement with Malfoy’s assessment of the Room. Locking himself inside the bathroom, he dropped the fruit and clean clothing in a heap on the countertop. Once he’d used the toilet, he found himself imagining how good it would feel to be clean again, and he decided that leaving the Room entirely could wait a while. The luxury of a hot shower and a soak in the bath seemed irresistible.
He turned on the water for the shower. As he peeled off his clothes, he shoved pieces of the banana into his mouth as he waited for the water to heat. There was a little cup on the side so he filled it with water from the sink and gulped it down as well before realizing he hadn’t checked for soap.
Peering into the bathtub, he found everything he could ever need. Of course. At least the Room was functioning on some level.
The steam emerging from the top of the shower indicated the water was nice and hot, so he climbed in, groaning aloud as the water poured over his head and back, rinsing away months of dirt. Despite the sting of the water on his various cuts and wounds, the water felt unbelievably good. It took him a few minutes to even reach for the soap, but eventually he shampooed his hair—twice, just because he could—and scrubbed at his face and behind his ears and soaped up every inch of his body. Finally, when he was confident the first layer of grime was off his skin and down the drain, he adjusted the water and plugged up the drain so the bath began to fill at his feet.
Slinking down into the water, he added some bubbles to the tub as it filled up around him. He meticulously scrubbed his skin again, removing the filth from under his nails, massaging his painful feet and washing his hair a third time before finally relaxing into the water and shutting off his mind. Just because he was awake didn’t mean he was ready to start thinking.
He Summoned the orange from the counter and peeled it over the edge of the bath with his wrinkled fingers. When the first burst of juice hit his tongue, he moaned at the simple pleasure. He quickly put another segment into his mouth; it was cool and delicious and the liquid felt like heaven in his throat. Soon he was shoving piece after piece of the sweet citrus into his mouth, inhaling the fruit. It was gone far too soon.
As he licked every trace of the juice from his fingers afterwards, he wished he’d brought a second one, but it was probably time to get out of the bath anyway. Hoisting himself up with a grunt—his muscles still aching—he stepped from the tub and grabbed one of the soft towels waiting beside the bath.
Once he was dry, he Vanished some of the steam and got dressed into the clean, comfortable clothes the Room had provided. They fit him perfectly.
Merlin, it had been months since he’d put on clothing that was truly clean. They’d used Scouring charms in the woods, but the spell was only so effective after repeated use. The socks were nice and thick, too, helping to cushion his steps.
He dragged the towel through his hair once more and then combed it back with his fingers. Cleaning his glasses was the next step. Finally, he poked around for a toothbrush and found a new one in the cabinet beside the sink. He brushed his teeth then, the minty paste cutting through the fuzz in his mouth.
After he finished, he found himself looking around the bathroom and sighed. Now that he was clean, he wasn’t sure what to do next.
Using the towel to clean off a portion of the foggy mirror, Harry gazed at his reflection.
A deep gash ran below one purple, bruised eye. His lip was split and an angry brush burn covered his chin. Another laceration ran along his forehead and down to his ear. He hadn’t shaved, either, so he still looked incredibly scruffy. But despite it all, he still lookedhuman.
He certainly didn’t feel human.
Didn’t feel much of anything but pain, actually.
Thoughts of the price they’d all paid threatened at the corners of his mind and for a moment everyone he had lost was gazing back at him in the mirror. Just as they’d gathered around him at the edge of the forest, they were still with him, still watching him. But there were more of them now, too, and their faces weren’t all kind. They looked distant, unreachable.
Looking away quickly, he hung up his towel and gathered up his dirty clothing. It was time to leave. He’d simply ignore Malfoy, return to his bed, locate his shoes and—
His stomach rumbled again and he was still incredibly thirsty, the fruit obviously insufficient after the events of the last days…weeks…months. His whole body felt hollow. He drank another cup of water from the faucet when he remembered the pitchers of cool pumpkin juice he’d spotted earlier. He wondered if the house elves were back at work in the Hogwarts kitchens. They must have been, if the spread in the Room was anything to go by. But then, he couldn’t be sure what the food situation was outside of the Room, while the table inside it definitely held everything he needed, and plenty of it. Now that he’d started thinking about eating, he couldn’t stop. He was completely ravenous.
He swallowed. It might be worth it to deal with Draco long enough to eat. Cautiously, he opened the bathroom door and peered out. His nose was instantly assaulted with the aroma of the rich foods available to him.
His belly grumbled more loudly and Harry licked his lips.
Fuck Malfoy. He was hungry.
Harry dropped the pile of clothes on the floor where he stood and practically ran to the table, immediately shoving huge chunks of fresh bread into his mouth while he found a plate and began to pile it with huge portions of every dish he uncovered.
Roast beef, dripping with thick gravy, over heaps of steaming potatoes and piles of carrots and buttery peas. Huge chunks of roast chicken, moist and perfect—not that he paused to taste any of it—and stuffing and…and…strawberries. Actual strawberries. He grabbed some of those as well as he gulped down whatever was within reach, barely breathing in between mouthfuls and washing it all down with gulps of the delicious pumpkin juice, which he drank straight from the jug, never caring for a moment that Malfoy might have wanted some.
His potato-laden fork halfway to his mouth, Harry paused to look up while his other hand absently dragged some bread through a rich sauce pooled on his plate.
He found Malfoy watching him, his mouth agape, though he quickly schooled his expression when Harry narrowed his eyes.
Harry glared back for a moment but couldn’t be bothered to say anything, not with the heap of creamy mashed potatoes threatening to topple from his fork if it didn’t soon make it into his mouth. Harry turned away and went back to his food. How had he missed the meat pie?
Two more platefuls, the last filled entirely with afters—rich chocolate cake and rhubarb crumble and four chewy biscuits and another handful of huge ripe strawberries—and Harry’s shrunken stomach was protesting painfully. After swallowing the last of his second mug of strong tea, Harry finally pushed away his plate and sat back his chair, full to bursting. He could barely move; his tired limbs weren’t interested, even if his gut had permitted it.
Pre-emptively narrowing his eyes, he looked over to find Malfoy, but Draco was lying on top of his bed, a thick pillow draped over his face, ignoring him entirely.
He’d told himself that he was going to leave as soon as he’d finished eating, but seeing Malfoy just reminded him about the comfortable bed in the other corner of the room, with its warm blankets and cool pillow, the mattress soft enough to feel almost cloud-like beneath him.
He gazed longingly at the four-poster. The food was settling in his stomach and Harry’s eyelids felt heavy as lethargy crept back into his bones. More likely it had never left. It occurred to him then that all he wanted in that moment was to crawl back into that bed and take a short nap, and if he spelled shut the curtains once again, he could almost pretend Malfoy wasn’t in the room.
He glanced out the window. It was grey. Raining, most likely. He couldn’t tell what time it was, exactly, but judging by the sky it seemed to be midafternoon.
Blinking lazily as his blood sugar rollercoastered in response to the food, Harry couldn’t see any reason he had to move just then. In fact, why shouldn’t he sleep, if that’s what he wanted? Draco didn’t seem about to cause any trouble, either; Malfoy hadn’t moved on the far bed and was likely sleeping himself.
Rubbing his stomach, Harry yawned and dragged himself to his feet, using the loo again then shuffling back over to the bed instead of the door that would lead him back out into the rest of the castle. When it came down to it, if he was sleeping, he didn’t need to think. Didn’t have to remember. Didn’t have to hurt.
Before he could reconsider, he spelled shut the curtains and burrowed under mounds of blankets.
He didn’t open his eyes again for another nine hours.
At the swishing sound of the heavy curtains, Draco lifted the pillow from his eyes and craned his neck to look over at the far bed. So Potter had shut himself in again.
Well, whatever. He didn’t know why Potter didn’t just leave, walk out the door to get petted and praised by the adoring hordes that surely awaited outside in the corridor. He’d just have to wait Potter out; the arse would surely go soon and then Draco could have the room to himself.
He grimaced as his gaze turned to the tables of food. Draco didn’t know how the food had come to be in the room, but Potter had made such a mess of the leftovers that Draco wasn’t going to be touching them. Potter had eaten like an animal. Half looked like one, too. It went beyond the abhorrent etiquette he’d come to expect from the Gryffindor—he’d eaten enough meals in the Great Hall to note that Potter had never been one to care about a few crumbs or elbows on the table. And he always used the wrong cutlery; he had spotted Potter lifting his knife to his mouth as a fork more than once, and that was when he bothered with a fork at all.
But he’d never seen Potter like this before. Harry had just grunted and bent low over his food, his body angled as though he suspected Draco might attempt to take it away at any moment, shoving food into his mouth at a rate that made Draco’s stomach turn defensively. There were leftover scraps from his meal all over the table now, too, and the remains of Potter’s attack on the feast were completely sickening. Draco didn’t even want to imagine the mess Potter had left in the bathroom—dirty clothes still lay in a heap by the door—and he’d been perfectly filthy before he’d gone in.
Draco refused to clean up. Wasn’t his job. Fucking Room could do it. Should do it. If it hadn’t let Potter enter in the first place, the disgusting mess wouldn’t exist. Draco may have been half starving himself when he got there, but he had maintained what dignity he had left as he’d supped. Not everything his parents had taught him had been completely wrong, and he’d cling to what he could.
Fuck. His parents. Draco rolled over in this bed until he was on his stomach. He pulled a blanket up over his head and wished for…bloody hell. He didn’t even know what to wish for anymore.
Well, except for Potter to be gone. That was always a safe wish.
Draco stared out at the predawn sky, wishing for tea.
The food had disappeared at some point in the night, though, likely when he had been tossing and turning in the darkness.
There hadn’t always been tea back when—back before.
No, there hadn’t always been, but usually there had, and Draco missed the small comfort.
He pressed his fingers and forehead to the glass and watched as the last of the stars faded and the grey morning fog draped itself over the rolling hills outside of the castle. The light inside the room remained just as subdued, the sun’s first attempts to pierce the cloud-heavy horizon ineffective.
The crack of someone Apparating into the room startled Draco and he jumped at the harsh sound.
As he turned, he found a pair of large eyes gazing back at him. “Young Master Draco.” The Malfoy house elf attempted to bow even though she carried at least sixteen different platters and dishes stacked high in his arms.
Draco thought for a moment, trying to remember this elf’s name. It was his mother’s, he knew. “Parsley?”
“Yes, Master Draco. It is Parsley, bringing food as his mother is requesting.”
“My mother sent you?”
“It is her request that Parsley makes sure Draco has food.”
He frowned as Parsley’s tower of dishes swayed. “You can put those down.”
“Thank you, Master Draco, sir,” the little elf said gratefully, placing the dishes on the table.
Draco surveyed the spread as Parsley set everything out. There was so much food, more than he could possibly need, but no tea bags. He wouldn’t complain, though. Complaining hadn’t done any good in years.
The elf finished and looked at him. “Parsley is going now.”
Draco frowned, still somewhat off guard after her startling appearance. “I…all right.”
The elf Apparated away with a soft pop and left him alone, staring at all of the food. He wished he’d told Parsley to thank his mother.
He went to help himself to a plate when another crack sounded and Parsley appeared next to the table, her arms even fuller this time. Parsley started to add the additional dishes to the table.
“You know this is more than I could ever eat, right?”
“Parsley knows this but Parsley isn’t sure how much Mister Potter eats, so Parsley brings extras,” the elf said, pouring Draco a cup of the tea she’d brought with her on the second trip.
“Potter? Why are you bringing food for him?”
Parsley gave him an injured look, holding the steaming cup prisoner. “Parsley is telling your mother that another other boy is here with her Draco, the one they was looking for, and she is insisting that Parsley bring him food, too. Parsley is happy to do it. Parsley likes bringing—”
“My mother said what?” Draco gaped. “She knows where I am? And she knows Potter is here too?”
“No, Master Draco!” The house elf began twisting her ear into a knot. “She knows about Mister Potter, but that is all. She only asks Parsley whether Draco is safe and tells Parsley to bring them food and tea. She asks no other questions and wants no other answers so Parsley brings food to Master Draco and Mister Harry.”
“Okay, okay.” Draco cringed as the elf finished tying its ears together. “You didn’t have to do that.” He gestured at the uncomfortable looking knot.
“Parsley is upsetting Master Draco.” She banged her head against the corner of the table, which, while unfortunate, at least served to undo the knot so her ears popped free.
“No, no, that’s fine. Stop.” Draco sighed.
Parsley did, before turning back to the tea. She added a lump of sugar, just as he liked best.
“Can you…uh, thank my mother for the food? She is safe?”
When the house elf nodded, he continued, “Fine, then. Tell her I’ll be home…soon, I guess.”
The elf handed him his cup of tea, careful not to spill a single drop, and bowed low before Apparating away.
Draco took the tea over to the window and stared out at the misty first light. He had no idea why his mother insisted on feeding Potter—if there was no food for him, he’d leave sooner, Draco guessed—but at least she was safe, and he was safe, and he was grateful for her provisions.
Harry was in a fog—a humid cloud of nothingness, where everything was grey and blurry and unsubstantial, and nothing mattered at all, though somehow, at the same time, every ounce of everything in the world hung solely on his shoulders.
It was not a feeling Harry Potter was unaccustomed to. What was new was that it was baseless. This new pressure, heavy and undefined and unyielding, weighed him down. Made it hard to get out of bed. Made it harder to brush his teeth or remove the smudges from his glasses. But without a goal, without a destination to struggle towards, he didn’t know how to leave the fog behind him.
Nothing mattered now, least of all what Harry did with his days.
Malfoy didn’t matter.
Changing his clothes didn’t matter.
Food—even food didn’t matter. It certainly didn’t taste like anything worth getting out of bed for.
So he didn’t.
He just slept. He slept and slept and slept and slept.
And when he couldn’t sleep any longer, he shook himself free from his blankets just long enough to draw himself a bath. Then he lay back in the hot water and tried to ignore the burn in his reddened eyes until it was time to go to sleep once again.
That afternoon Draco found a single blue potion speckled with silver waiting on a little table that had appeared by the door. The liquid was thick and smelled of boiled cabbage—very distinctive, but he still couldn’t place it. He poured it down the drain in the bathroom sink, unwilling to take his chances with an unknown substance. When he emerged, there was a second vial waiting for him, labelled with his name, just like the first.
He didn’t want to take it, but it wouldn’t disappear no matter how much he wished for it. Swallowing unknown potions was never a good idea and he wasn’t entirely sure yet the castle wished him no harm, but he couldn’t stop thinking about it.
He held it up to the light, examining the speckles, swirling it around, studying the contents, trying to discern the ingredients. Uncorking it, he eventually daubed a small drop on the top of his hand, fully expecting his skin to boil or blacken.
An hour later, it still looked as healthy as ever, so he took a few little droplets on his tongue. And then he waited to die.
Another hour passed and he was still upright.
Snape would have docked him 50 points for sure, but the potion seemed harmless enough, and it had his name on it…
Fuck it, he decided, giving in and swallowing it down once he was sure Potter was still sleeping. If he started frothing at the mouth or some such nasty business, he didn’t want Potter awake to witness it. Soon after he’d licked the last of it from his lips, he began feeling drowsy. This in and of itself was amazing, because Draco hadn’t slept since the first night he’d entered the room. He’d been too restless, nervous to close his eyes, just as he had been as the war had progressed. But the blue potion addled his brain and left him longing for his pillow. He watched the little table for an antidote as long as he could, but when one refused to come, he gave in and allowed sleep to overtake him, certain as anything that he’d never wake up.
To his surprise, he did open his eyes again, and when he did, he found the deep bruises that had covered his body were less purple and his cuts were starting to mend—even the cursed ones.
That evening a green potion appeared alongside yet another vial of the blue one. The green one, watery and nearly transparent, tasted pleasant, somewhat like honeydew, but it ended up being incredibly painful as it worked its way through his system and left Draco grinding his teeth in agony. His bones felt like they were being stretched until they might very well snap. When the anguishing pain became too much for him, he took the blue potion again, hoping it would put him to sleep again as the green one worked.
It did, and when Draco awoke, he decided the pain had been worth it; his left knee felt back to normal again, even though it hadn’t been the same in months, ever since a Death Eater had bashed him with a cane in punishment. Draco had become accustomed to a certain level of constant pain in the joint, and the unanticipated relief from it was mind-boggling.
Some of the potions were familiar; a third vial with his name on it appeared one morning when a pounding headache cropped up and threatened to oust his brain through his ears. Draco recognized the headache potion instantly and gulped it down gratefully.
Most of the time Pepper Up potion was available for both of them as well. Draco took some, sometimes, when he wasn’t choosing to wallow in the darkness pressing down on his shoulders. But when a brand new little jar appeared one day and the salve inside eased the near-constant agony of his Fiendfyre burns, Draco nearly wept, even if the snot-like substance had an odour that reminded him of Blaise’s old shoes.
He didn’t weep, of course. He refused to give in to the tears of relief that threatened. The last time he’d cried, he’d been discovered by Potter in his moment of weakness. He had paid for those tears dearly and refused to ever give in again.
There were medicinal potions for Potter too, but Draco ignored the little jars and vials with Harry’s name on them. Potter eventually found them, though, and Draco watched out of the corner of his eye when Harry finally gave in and swallowed the first unidentifiable purple liquid. Potter didn’t die from his either, and as the first days progressed, Harry was limping less, and many of his wounds were almost entirely healed.
Curiously, Potter didn’t use all of his medicine. He always left behind a pile of bandages with a nearly translucent ointment that accompanied them. Draco wasn’t sure what they were for, but Harry always stared at the pile for a while before inevitably leaving it on the table with the empty potion bottles. The one time Potter actually picked up one of the wrappings, he disappeared with it into the bathroom, but Draco happened to see it later, unused, in the rubbish bin.
Draco finally understood when he entered the main room one afternoon after bathing.
Shirtless and struggling, Harry was unable to place the bandage where it was clearly needed—over the deep cut running from his shoulder to the middle of his back, clearly infected and extremely painful-looking. Draco watched Potter twist and angle himself in various ways, but could soon tell that Harry would be unable to apply the wrappings himself.
He didn’t want to help Potter. He thought about doing it anyway, but as he took a step towards him, Harry just glared, so he sat on the corner of his bed to watch instead.
Flicking his wand at the medicinal bandage and looking fiercely determined, Potter Levitated it to approximately shoulder height before turning around and proceeding to attempt to back into the bandage that hung suspended in the air.
Potter wasn’t even close to successful. Draco would have laughed, but the wound looked so painful that he couldn’t help but cringe instead. Harry had barely managed to cover the top inch of the gash with the corner of the bandage, while the rest of it stuck to the back of his neck, completely useless. Potter tried to act like it was intentional, putting his shirt back on immediately afterwards and Vanishing the extra rubbish before retreating to his bed without a word.
Draco rolled his eyes and lay back on his own bed. He’d already spent several hours standing and looking outside at the Hogwarts grounds—it was raining yet again—and besides watching out the window and taking potions and applying his burn salves, Draco spent most of his time lying on his back, staring at the ceiling above his bed. The first morning, he’d been vaguely disappointed by the lack of cracks, imperfections in the plaster, or visible brush strokes in the paint, simply because there was nothing for him on which to focus. He’d gone to the loo, though, and when he’d come back, the Room had thoughtfully provided a few of each for his eyes to trace. He had them memorized now, except when the Room switched them up for him every few days and he had to relearn them. It was something to do, so Draco wasn’t complaining.
By and large, he ignored Potter, and Potter ignored him. Draco had no idea why Harry stayed, but despite his glares, Potter never took the hint to leave.
Potter slept, mostly. The git may have shut the curtains every time he lay down, but they weren’t enough to block the soft snores that floated past the heavy curtains. Apparently, he’d never mastered a simple Silencing spell, or maybe he just didn’t care that the snoring grated on Draco’s nerves.
Sometimes Potter ate, of course, or used the loo. He couldn’t tell whether Potter was bathing adequately, but he certainly hadn’t shaved. And regardless of why he’d gotten up in the first place, Harry always went back to bed again almost immediately after. Even Pansy had never slept so much.
Harry was a mess; he knew that for certain.
He missed…He missed Remus. And Tonks. And…and Fred. And he’d never stopped missing Sirius.
And it hurt. So badly, it hurt. Pierced him, cut through his chest until he expected his blood and soul to pour out through the wound.
Gone. Gone. Gone.
Like waves on the shore, the tide coming in, threatening to pull him under with every lap of the sand.
Gone, the darkness whispered. Gone.
Harry closed his eyes and let the fog take him, let the darkness drag him back under.
Draco sat up in his bed, scared shitless in the dark room.
Potter was screaming.
Potter was…in his bed…screaming. A nightmare. Potter was having a nightmare. Draco gulped air and pushed his hair from his sweaty brow.
The sound had cut right to Draco’s gut. He’d never heard Potter scream before and in his sleep-deprived state, he had to work to remind himself that it wasn’t the cries of a Muggle writhing in pain on the floor of their dungeons or some Half-blood yelling in agony as Death Eaters cackled maniacally nearby.
Draco rubbed his eyes. This was why he never slept.
After the first time, Potter’s nightmares happened periodically, always without warning, and Draco was shaken every time.
Potter screamed loudly, throwing himself into it with complete abandon, much as he did everything. Draco imagined the Dark Lord would have taken a lot of pleasure in the sound, but it only made Draco cover his ears with a pillow as quickly as he could manage it. Sometimes he heard Potter yell out names—former professors and others he didn’t recognize. Once he swore it was even the name of one of the Malfoy house elves, which made no sense, even if the elf had deserted them long before the war. And then it was Tonks, which made Draco want to vomit.
After the first agonizing minute or two passed, the yells would fade, transforming into heavy panting, sobbing, frustrated cries, or some combination thereof. And then it would go quiet until Potter emerged from his bed and stumbled blindly to the bathroom.
When Potter left the bathroom, face wet and eyes wetter, Draco made sure to huff loudly and look away.
“Is she safe?” Draco asked each morning when Parsley appeared.
When the little elf affirmed as much, Draco nodded and poured himself tea.
He asked nothing further as the elf set out dozens of platters of food; he didn’t want to know.
Harry couldn’t shake himself free of the fog. He knew he was probably depressed—that’s sort of exactly how he felt; depressed. Reduced. Weakened. And smushed down by the invisible weight of everything. But knowing didn’t help much. Snapping out of it didn’t seem like anything he could quite manage. Not when existing in the heavy, dense clouds was so much easier.
Maybe he’d go through the rest of his life like this.
Maybe he wouldn’t, of course. But probably he would. The numbness had started settling in, a cloudy blanket that wrapped snugly around him, and it wasn’t so bad really. He probably deserved it, a half-life just like the ghosts of those he’d lost, a spectre just like those who’d died for him.
There was no reason for him now…His job was done. Voldemort was gone. Now what? It was pretty pointless to pretend anyone needed him anymore.
Harry sort of wished someone cared enough to find him in the Room, even if they didn’t need him, and even if he didn’t want to be found. But no one had even tried. Then again, practically everyone who cared for him was dead or dealing with their own losses. But still, no one was even looking.
And somehow, the thought that someone could care about him enough—Hermione, maybe—well, it was more than he could stand. Tears pricked at his eyes, always so close to the surface these days.
He’d died, for fuck’s sake. He’d come back to finish the job, of course, but now the job was done.
Harry rolled over and curled into a tiny ball. It was silly to think no one was looking. Hermione would, eventually. Even if he was just a puzzle for her to solve, she’d look. He knew that in his gut, even if the fog told him otherwise.
Somehow it was this knowledge, that someone did care, that caused the tears to spill over.
He whispered a shaky Silencing Spell, and let the sobs wrack his body.
Though he tried his best not to think at all, Draco thought of many things as he stared at the ceiling.
Sometimes his classmates circled through his mind. There were a few Slytherins he hoped had survived. Pansy. Blaise. Goyle, But thinking of Goyle only reminded him of...of Cra—
Draco swallowed hard against the lump that rose in his throat, rolling over and pinching his eyes shut against traitorous tears, pulling the blanket over his head.
Other times Draco wondered where his parents were or what they were doing. Just because he had decided not to go home with them didn’t mean he didn’t care. They’d been everything to him; his family had been the centre of his world. It didn’t cease to be, just because Draco had decided to go into hiding. And he was hiding. He had no pretence to the contrary. He was certain that members of both sides of the war were out for Malfoy blood, and even if they weren’t, he’d face near-universal disapproval for both his name and his own actions. He had no desire to face any of that dirty business, so he didn’t, remaining holed up in the Room instead.
Another thing Draco thought of—or rather, tried not to think of—was how he’d gotten to this point. How his actions had brought him here. How he’d tried to do as he was told and everything had somehow ended up so pear-shaped. He didn’t like thinking of these things, or of the possibility that somewhere along the way he should have done something differently or made a different choice or tried harder. So he clamped down on his thoughts and went back to studying the ceiling. His favourite spot was where one of the long, spidery cracks intersected another shorter one at a bit of an angle, forming a distinct “y”.
Why indeed, he thought, as Potter snored softy in the background.
Draco was sipping his tea when it finally happened.
“Will you shut the fuck up?” Harry flung open the curtains around his bed. “You slurp your tea like a bloody Erumpent!”
Startled—loud noises of any kind still made him jumpy—Draco’s hand shook slightly as he set down his cup. Gathering himself together, he said, “I do not slurp my tea, you imbecile.”
Potter barked out a laugh. “You do! So loud I can’t sleep!”
“You can’t sleep because you’ve slept straight through the last five and a half days.”
“I have not,” Potter huffed, standing up from the bed.
Draco raised an eyebrow.
“Oh, shut the fuck up,” Harry countered. Poorly.
“So you’ve said. All right,” Draco replied evenly, “I’ll stop. And you can stop your incessant snoring.”
Draco sighed. “You must have another bed somewhere. And if you don’t, I’m sure the legions would give you one made of solid gold and unicorn kisses. Seriously. Why don’t you just leave already, Potter? What are you still doing here? Half the wizarding world is probably outside the door waiting to hoist you on their shoulders. Or are you afraid of being trampled in the stampede as the mobs try to tear off scraps of your robes?”
“Fuck the wizarding world.”
“Merlin, Potter. Your language. I never expected it from a Gryffindor.”
Harry growled. “You know what? I forgot how much I fucking hate you, you bastard.”
“Yes; well.” Draco picked up his teacup and slurped dramatically. “Get in the queue.”
Harry stomped over to the bathroom. “Look. We’re not talking. You’re not here as far as I’m concerned. Finish your fucking tea and go home to mummy and daddy. You’re the one who should leave.”
“I’m not leaving, Potter.”
“Why the hell not?”
Draco laughed wildly. “Where do you think I can go?”
“Fuck,” Potter spit, slamming the bathroom door shut and turning the lock, the click loud against the dead quiet of the room.
Draco slurped his tea again, just for the noise.
He needn’t have worried about the lack of noise though, as Potter took their spat as an open invitation to fight about anything and everything from that point on—except what they’d been fighting about all along, anyway. The Dark Lord, the Headmasters, Hogwarts in general (odd, considering their location)—all seemed to be entirely off limits. Everything else though…Well, Draco began to wish that Potter would go back to his endless sleeping; the snoring was more than tolerable in comparison to the annoying voice that grated on Draco’s every nerve each time Harry opened his mouth.
Then again, Draco didn’t completely mind the fighting. Gave as good as he got, at the least. Potter wasn’t hexing him, either. It was refreshing not to have to dodge punishing curses as he reminded Harry of his various faults and—
Draco grinned slyly as he swallowed the last strawberry and licked his lips. Those were Potter’s favourites, as it turned out, and Draco liked them well enough, so sometimes he ate all of them before Potter woke up in the morning and left the stems out prominently, just to annoy him.
“Why do you have to be such a bastard?”
“Piss off, Potter. You’re ruining my breakfast. Can’t you see I’m busy eating?”
Potter still slept almost all the time, but Draco didn’t sleep at all, especially now that he wasn’t taking the healing potion anymore. He didn’t need it now that his bruises were gone, and the Room wasn’t supplying any sleep potions for him. The dark circles under his eyes worsened by the day, but he couldn’t seem to force himself to close his eyes. Whenever he did, he saw images he’d rather have forgotten entirely.
Potter’s nightmares were good for something, at least. Every scream of terror reminded Draco of the dangers of sleep.
Curses, death, torture, agony, and burning, always burning. Burning homes, burning Muggles, burning traitors and their half-blood babies. Burning Vincent. His own robes on fire. He saw them all when he closed his eyes, so he stopped doing so, even if it meant a sort of deliriousness settled in his brain and left him on the verge of hysteria.
But if the Room hadn’t found a way to grant Potter a reprieve from the horrors in his mind, Draco would hardly be spared either.
So he didn’t sleep. He simply stared, mind as blank as he could manage. When it wasn’t the ceiling, he stared at his hand, his mark, the bedpost, or out the window.
There was a lot of time in a day when one didn’t sleep and refused to think.
A lot of time.
Perhaps it was because he hadn’t seen them die, so Harry’s mind was intent to imagine every gruesome possibility for his lost friends.
He doubted they’d fallen to something as instantaneous as Avada—it really was painless and quicker than falling asleep, and he knew it.
Still, he’d even seen their bodies…after, so he knew his imaginings were entirely irrational, but that didn’t stop him from picturing all manner of horrors.
Slashing. Burning. Cutting. Explosions.
One night he’d dreamt Tonks was hit by the Disintegration curse. The next, Fred was Petrified and then smashed to smithereens by a giant troll. Remus fell from a string of Death Eater Reductors until he disappeared altogether. Greyback got them sometimes, other times it was Nagini or Voldemort himself. In every case there was far too much blood.
Most often, it was Sectumsempra.
The nightmares stole his rest, slicing through his nights, and leaving him breathless and screaming and wondering when his own war would actually come to an end.
They each had a chair now, Harry and Draco. The castle had evidently decided they needed them, because Draco rolled over in his bed one evening only to find a luxurious black leather chaise sitting near the centre of the room. Beside it was a frumpy old armchair, dark blue with a rough cream print and a throw pillow that didn’t match at all.
It was clear whose was whose, so Draco got up and lugged his chaise to the empty corner in his half of the room, just beyond the foot of his bed. He angled it to face out the window, even if their only window was some distance away. It was the closest he could get without leaving his new furniture in the neutral zone, the middle space between the invisible lines Draco had drawn in his head separating their sides. Only the bathroom door, the food table with benches, their window, and the little potion shelf could be in the shared section. As it was, he spent as little time as possible in the middle of the room. He refused to cross into Harry’s side and he assumed Potter had no interest in his either.
Reclining on his new chaise, Draco looked up at the ceiling. It had an excellent view of some chipped paint. Which was good, because he needed something to focus on until Potter started full out screaming again, finally emerging from his bed after which he would stumble to the loo, sweaty and red-faced. He sort of thought the Room should have provided Potter with a paper bag to breathe into, but it wasn’t exactly up to him.
“Is she safe?” he asked, his heart in his throat.
The little elf nodded.
Draco stirred a lump of sugar into his tea.
The moon was full and high in the sky. Through Draco’s glassy eyes, its rays of light formed a brilliant cross that reached nearly all the way down to the fields in the distance.
Horror had always been close at hand during the war, but at night in particular, Draco had always felt it stirring, always dancing just out of sight until evil called forth terror and pain with the flick of a wrist. Nothing safe, no one spared. Not at night. In the black of night, life was over quicker than it began.
He liked the darkness better now, he mused as he looked out into the moonlit night from his spot high in some nonexistent place within the castle. Safe.
Checking to make sure Potter wasn’t watching, Draco brushed the water from his eyes. They watered a lot these days.
Potter wasn’t even looking his way, thankfully. Once again, Harry was lying on his bed, chewing on his cuticles. It was more than he’d seen Harry do in several hours.
Draco wasn’t sure why Harry ignored the window almost entirely. Granted, Potter was obviously a late riser, so the sunrises belonged to Draco, and he could hardly blame Harry for closing his eyes to the sunsets. They were too much for Draco, too. But he liked watching the stars, if he liked anything at all these days. Like the cracks in the ceiling, if he stared at the little lights long enough, they seemed to move through the skies. Personally, he thought the view was the most interesting part of the room.
But Potter rarely looked out the window at all.
In fact, Potter rarely looked anything besides lost these days.
He looked…vacant, mostly. At least when he wasn’t glaring at Draco.
Draco couldn’t help but notice; they shared a room after all.
Then again, he didn’t want to know what he looked like.
Draco exited the bathroom to find Potter tugging the chaise towards the other side of the room. Harry’s old armchair sat in its place.
“What are you doing?” Draco demanded, eying the lumpy chair disdainfully.
“It’s not fair that you get the nice one.”
Draco rolled his eyes. “You don’t want the nice one. You want yours.”
Harry shrugged. “Doesn’t matter. You shouldn’t automatically get it. I don’t always want the hand me downs, you know.”
“For Salazar’s sake. You don’t even want the chaise!”
Harry shoved the leather seat the final few feet and sat in it. He looked distinctly uncomfortable. “Needs a pillow,” he muttered.
Draco picked up the throw pillow from the armchair and chucked it at Harry’s head. “You know what? Why don’t you just take both?” He Levitated the ugly chair over to Harry’s side of the room and set it in the middle of the now crowded space. “I’m sure you deserve every fucking chair and I don’t deserve any.”
“You think you know—”
“Just shut the fuck up, Potter. The Room gave you exactly what you wanted, but you’d rather be an imbecile.”
“You shut up, Malfoy.”
Draco stomped back into the bathroom and slammed the door.
“You prick!” Harry was incensed. Where the fuck were his—
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Give them back!”
“Give what back?”
“My glasses, you arsehole!”
“I don’t have your glasses.”
“Then where are they?”
“I don’t know, Potter. Maybe you left them in the bathroom.”
“I didn’t leave them in the…Hey! What the fuck are they doing on the ceiling? Malfoy, you bastard!”
“Why do you automatically assume it was me?”
“Who else would it be?” he growled and pointed his wand at the ceiling. “Finite Incantatum!”
The glasses dropped instantly to the floor and the frames bent on impact. “Thanks a lot,” he sniped, putting them on his nose anyway.
Draco’s smirk was so blatant Potter wouldn’t have needed glasses to see it.
Nothing cut through Harry’s fog like Draco Malfoy.
The prat’s arrogance rubbed him the wrong way—always had—and why was he there anyway? Why couldn’t he leave Harry alone for once? Why couldn’t he stay the bloody hell out of trouble so Harry didn’t have to monitor his every insidious move? Why did he have to make fun of Harry? Have to bait him constantly with stupid pranks and irritating little games? Why did he always feel the need to glare at Harry for existing, as though Harry was the one who caused all the problems?
Malfoy drove him mad.
Malfoy’s very existence was a punch to Harry’s gut; his presence scraped against Harry’s brain and chewed up his patience until he wanted to stomp or spit or punch the lights out of the pretentious prick.
He looked over at Malfoy who sat there liked he owned the entire Room. Malfoy sneered back at him.
Narrowing his eyes, Harry imagined how good it would feel to feel his fist against Malfoy’s pointy face.
He couldn’t have said how he knew, exactly, but Draco knew something had happened to his father. He could tell by the way the house elf trembled when she brought by their food that morning, and by the way she had looked at him with large, sad eyes.
Draco suspected his father had been arrested, or worse. The same thing would happen to him, if he left the room.
At least he knew his mother was all right.
“Is she safe?” he had whispered to Parsley, half wanting to know and half sure he couldn’t bear to wait for the elf’s response. The elf had nodded once as she yanked her lumpy sock up to her knee.
Water gathered in the corner of her eye just before she Apparated away.
The encounter shook Draco. He abandoned his family to hide and he knew his father was in trouble but he still couldn’t bring himself to leave. He’d be of no help anyway, only an additional liability. And he was safe here; no one used him as target practice in the Room. No one demanded he master Dark Arts at wandpoint. No werewolves drooled inches from his neck during the full moon.
He curled up in a little ball on his bed, pinching his eyes tightly shut.
When his bladder began to protest loudly enough, Draco finally got up and headed for the loo. He turned the doorknob but, strangely, it wouldn’t open. He frowned and tried again, with no luck. Definitely locked.
He glanced over at Potter in confusion, but just as Draco remembered, Harry was fixing himself coffee, not using the loo.
After ineffectively jiggling the handle once again, he cursed and kicked the door. “What the fuck?”
“I’ll be out in a minute,” Harry said.
Whirling around, Draco narrowed his eyes. “You are out.”
“Yes, but I’m still using it.”
“What the hell, Potter? Unlock the bloody door.” Fuck, he had to pee and he had no patience to put up with Potter’s shit, especially not today
Draco cast various unlocking charms.
“It won’t work,” Potter smirked. “Not until I’m done in there.”
“You’re not in there!”
The bastard just shrugged. “I’m waiting for my bath to cool.”
“Use a cooling charm, you pillock.” Bloody hell, he had to go. Now. Potter had better march over and unlock that door right—
“I prefer the Muggle way. I don’t presume you have a problem with that.”
Draco was seething. He had to pee and Potter was being a right arse. “Potter, Open. The. Door.”
“Nope.” Harry obnoxiously slurped his coffee.
“You’ve been out here for at least an hour. The water is cold already. What in Salazar’s name are you waiting for?”
“Oh, I’m not ready. Maybe after I finish my coffee. I’ll just use a warming spell.”
“I swear to Merlin, if you don’t open this door right now I’m going to piss all over your damn pillow.” His bladder was filled to bursting and he was so angry he was shaking.
“Can’t. Curtains are locked. Same spell.”
Draco cast a stinging hex at Harry’s feet, breaking their unspoken rule to avoid physical blows, but Harry had gone too far.
Quick as lightning, Draco’s own ankles were burning from Harry’s return hex. Draco did not like burns. “You fucker!” he cursed as he cast another hex at Potter, in response.
Potter laughed cruelly as he deflected it easily. “You think you can outduel me?”
Draco growled and launched himself at Potter, tackling him. They fell to the floor in a mess of fists and grunting and curses and kicking. Draco punched Harry in the gut, in the nose—felt the crunch of bone against bone—hit Potter anywhere he could reach as Harry clawed back in response, his nose bloodied and his lip cut, until he managed to roll out from under Draco, pushing him down to the ground and trapping him. Draco spat at him, which made Potter hit harder, but when Potter’s arm presented itself near his mouth, Draco bit. Yowling, Harry sat back and Draco squirmed free once more, forcing Potter onto his back.
“You complete bastard.”
“Open the door,” Draco snarled.
“I said, ‘Open the door!’ ”
Draco dropped the tip of his wand to Potter’s throat. He had to piss and his father was probably fucking dead and if Potter didn’t open the door that second, he was going to pay. Draco would stomp on his bloody glasses and Vanish Potter’s food and shove him out the door into the Hogwarts corridor himself, if he had to.
“Open. The. Door!” he roared.
“Fuck you, Draco Malfoy. Fuck you and everything you are,” Harry yelled back. “Fuck you for everything, for everyone you took from me. Fuck you! FUCK YOU!”
The blasting curse Harry shot at Draco was mild, but it didn’t matter. Nor did the fact that it missed Draco’s shoulder. Draco was already on edge and Harry’s spell had been one of the Dark Lord’s favourites. Draco had been hit with it before and his body reacted to it with instant terror.
He peed all over Harry Potter.
He wanted to die.
When Harry realized, he scrambled to get free, his lip curled in absolute disgust. “You just peed on me! What the fuck is wrong with you?”
Draco felt his horror and shame and humiliation twist into rage. He cast one final hex at Harry, holding his head as high as he could as he climbed off Potter. The scalping hex melted all of the hair from Potter’s head before Harry managed to get to his feet. The bastard looked like a complete idiot with his bald head and stupid scraggly unshaved whiskers.
“Fuck you, Harry Potter. Good thing your bath is ready.”
Harry left the bathroom door wide open—and decidedly unlocked—when he vacated the space. He’d finally shaved; both his face and head were completely bare now.
Sneering, Draco stood with arms crossed as he watched Harry retreat to his bed. Only then did he make his way to the bathroom himself. Scourgify was no real substitute for a hot shower, though no amount of scrubbing would be enough to wash the experience from his brain.
Just another horrifying moment in the life of Draco Malfoy: The time when he peed on the Saviour. Brilliant.
He turned on the water as hot as it could go.
“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have…”
Draco had been opening the door to leave the bathroom and had almost made it halfway out when Potter started talking, saying words that Draco had to have misheard. Or possibly it was a trap. Either way, Draco wasn’t taking any chances.
He locked himself back in the bathroom, and, sitting on the edge of the bath, he put his head in his hands.
When his back was sore and his bum ached from the uncomfortable seat, Draco stood and wandered around the small space. He soon found himself gazing in the large mirror above the sink—not because he liked to look at himself, but because it was a challenge to find himself at all in the haggard face, tired reddened eyes, and defeated slouch of his shoulders.
He splashed his face with cool water and attempted to straighten his posture. Only marginally successful, he soon gave up and, closing the lid, found himself sitting on the toilet, counting the tiles on the floor.
He didn’t leave the small room until he heard Potter’s snores in the background.
Parsley Apparated into the room, the stack of dishes in her arms leaning dangerously to the side until she got her balance. As soon as she laid out the various foods, she poured tea, for which Draco was grateful. Adding one lump of sugar and stirring thrice, he took the cup over to the window to watch outside.
A fast moving predawn summer thunderstorm was rolling through and the surrounding landscape blinked in and out of existence as the clouds rumbled menacingly.
Draco jerked when lightning crashed nearby but at least he didn’t spill much of his scalding tea. He licked away the droplet that had splashed on the top of his hand.
Casually, without turning to look at Parsley, he asked, “Is she safe?”
“She is, Master Draco.”
Parsley left moments later, the crack of her Apparation lost in a crash of thunder.
Draco jumped again when Potter cleared his throat.
“Your house elf?”
“That’s how the food has gotten here.”
How the hell else would they have gotten the food? The Room wasn’t able to produce it; everyone knew that. It was a challenge, but he bit back the snide remark. He was too tired to fight with Potter anymore, so instead, all he said was, “Yes.”
Sipping at his tea, he added, “I didn’t know you were awake.”
“Storm woke me.”
“Ahh.” Draco turned back to the window.
“Thanks. For the food.”
“Don’t thank me. Thank my mother. She’s the one who sent Parsley to feed the both of us. Merlin knows why.”
“Your mother. During the war. She…saved me.”
Draco paused, his cup halfway to his lips. “People do strange things during war.”
“Like how I saved you?”
“Thank her for me,” Harry said simply. Sincerely.
Draco nodded and tried to ignore Potter; maybe the git would go away at last. Except it had been a bloody week and a half now—nearer to two, actually—and ignoring him was doing no good. Harry was still very much present in the Room.
The ominous clouds finally opened and rain burst forth, pouring buckets upon buckets, sideways more than downwards, drenching the castle grounds. The lightning increased in intensity as well, the heart of the storm nearly upon them.
“Look, I shouldn’t have—”
Draco cut him off. “Fuck, Potter. Don’t. Salazar. Only you would apologize when I’m the one who—“
“If I hadn’t—”
“Shut up, Potter!”
“You wouldn’t have, if I hadn’t!”
“And you wouldn’t have, if I hadn’t.”
They could have gone on a very long time in this vein, Draco suspected. Perhaps all the way back to first year.
Harry was studying him, and it made Draco uncomfortable, so he turned back to the window to watch the storm. Harry approached slowly until he stood beside Draco at the window, looking outside as well.
Draco huffed and ignored Harry.
“You’re not leaving, are you?”
“I am not,” Draco replied. “You aren’t either.”
“No,” Harry confirmed. “Not yet.”
Draco watched as the wind whipped Willow, its branches blowing this way and that. It was lighter outside now, the sun having risen behind the thick storm clouds. The rain was quickly turning sections of the grounds into small lakes, and several tree branches had been torn from their trunks. What looked like a standard issue school Quidditch broom tumbled through the grass, obviously left outside at the mercy of the elements.
“Even if my mother stopped feeding you?”
Potter snorted. “ ’Fraid not.”
Taking a sip of tea, Draco caught sight of their reflections in the window. Harry looked foreign without his trademark messy hair, his scar larger than life on his forehead. They both looked more than a little rough around the edges—like hell, if he was honest.
Draco sighed. “I don’t think it’s a good idea—”
“To continue fighting like this? No. Probably not.”
Turning away, Harry moved over to the food that Parsley had brought. Sorting through a bowl of fruit, he located an orange and tapped his wand to it so the peel fell away. He shoved three entire sections of the citrus into his mouth at once. Draco raised an eyebrow and turned back to the window.
“All right.” Draco wondered if Potter knew how ridiculous he was.
“It’s just that. I think we should. Or, rather, shouldn’t…”
“Spit it out, Potty.”
“Don’t be an arse.”
“Oh, fuck off,” Draco said, but without his typical venom.
Shoving more orange in his mouth, another too big mouthful, Harry began chewing the fruit, which Draco could hear clearly despite the rain pelting the window pane. Disgusting.
Harry swallowed. “I think we should—”
“So you’ve said.”
The height of the storm had passed, would start winding down soon, it seemed. It was still rough going, and Draco was glad to be inside, but the rain, though still steady, had settled somewhat, and the lightning had moved further away, flickering in the distance now.
“Fine,” Potter sighed. “Truce?”
Thunder rolled, but softly enough that Draco heard Harry’s offer plenty clearly. He breathed out slowly. They’d survived the war—barely, it seemed, but they had—and it’d be a shame if they managed to kill each other now. Though if Potter tried anything stupid, Draco swore he would—
Maybe the truce was a good idea.
Draco pinched his nose. “Fine, Potter. Truce.”
Despite the drizzle of rain and occasional flicker far to the west, a small break in the clouds opened up and allowed a ray of light to poke through.
Now that they weren’t fighting, Draco wasn’t plotting ways to torment Potter leaving him with even more free hours.
Draco was bored.
It was a stunning, really. Not a month ago Draco would have begged for boredom. But they’d been in the Room for a while and it had given them nothing in terms of entertainment. The pattern of cracks in the ceiling hadn’t changed in days and he could fold only so many origami swans and dragons and hippogriffs from the napkins Parsley had brought them.
He tapped his wand on the next napkin in the stack. The serviette burst into flames and then a delicately folded origami phoenix rose from the smouldering pile, swooping gracefully around the perimeter of the room before flying through the window as if there were no glass there at all.
Potter tossed and turned in his bed, grunting in his sleep. It wasn’t the screams of Potter’s continued nightmares, but a frustrated sound instead, and when Harry finally got out of bed, Draco knew the cause immediately. His sleep shirt was so large on his skinny frame that the neckline showed part of Potter’s shoulder, the angry wound he still bore visible.
Hunched over and favouring the injured shoulder, Harry poured himself a glass of water and moved to the little potion table, sorting through the various vials with his name on them, likely looking for a pain potion. After finding the one he wanted, he drank it quickly and followed it with a few sips of water. As he drank, he picked up one of the medicinal bandages that still waited for him, but merely put it down again and headed back to his bed.
Potter’s injury was only going to get worse if it went unhealed. That’s what cursed injuries did. Harry had to know that.
Draco resigned himself to helping Potter. It went beyond the agreed upon truce, but Harry clearly couldn't take care of it on his own and the git’s moaning had begun to irritate Draco anyway. What choice did he have?
Grumbling, he grabbed the ointment and wrappings and went to the far edge of what he considered the neutral zone. It was as close as he’d ever gotten to Harry’s bed. He cleared his throat.
“Potter? Get up and come here.”
“Uh, no thanks, Malfoy.” The voice came from behind Harry’s curtained bed.
Draco sighed. “Get your sorry arse over here and let me put the bandage on your shoulder.”
Harry’s bald head emerged from between the heavy curtains, his eyes narrowed beneath bushy brows. He looked completely ridiculous. “Why?” he asked suspiciously.
“For fuck’s sake. Because if you don’t, your arm will fall off.” Draco didn’t know that to be true, technically, but it seemed possible enough.
Potter pushed back the curtains, grimacing and rolling his shoulder. “It will not.”
“Save it. Just get over here and let me do it so we can all be done with it? I don’t have the time to stand here and I’m not keen on begging to do you favours.”
“Have somewhere to go, do you?”
“You know what? Never mind.” Draco stomped away and tossed the supplies back onto the table. “Last time I try to help—”
“Wait, wait!” Harry climbed off the bed and darted over to Draco, picking up the bandage and handing it to Draco once more. “I…thanks.”
“Whatever. Take off your shirt and turn around.”
Potter gingerly peeled off his shirt, his face pinching in pain as the material rubbed against the injury. He reminded Draco of a baby songbird he’d found once in the Manor gardens when he was young. Its wing had been broken and it tried to peck at him but he held on to it anyway, eventually bringing it inside to ask one of the house elves to care for it. His father had taken the creature and broken its neck; damaged toys were inappropriate for Malfoy children.
Tossing his shirt on the corner of the table, Harry spun around. When Draco saw the full extent of the injury, he nearly gagged. It had gotten far worse since he’d chanced to see it a few days ago.
“You know this is cursed?” he asked as he spread the ointment on the bandages, trying not to look at Potter’s back.
“I was afraid of that,” Harry admitted. “I don’t know who cast the spell, but it was probably some Death Eater.”
Draco closed his eyes and steadied himself for a moment. “Yes. Probably.”
Potter laughed dryly. “And here I am, letting you near it. I must be mental.”
“Must be.” Draco carefully stretched the medicated wrapping along the long length of the infected gash. He placed a larger bandage over top of everything else, hoping it would keep the dressing in place, and cast a quick sticking spell as well, just to make sure. Potter sucked in air as he did so, but otherwise held still as Draco worked. He ignored the goose bumps that broke out over Harry’s back, though he couldn’t help but note the warmth of Potter’s skin under his fingers, probably due to the infection.
“Done.” Draco stepped back. “I don’t know how often that needs to be changed. I guess when new bandages show up; that’s as good a sign as any.”
“Okay. That’s…good.” Potter pulled his shirt back over his head, wincing slightly. “Er…”
Draco rolled his eyes and returned to his side of the room. He wondered how long until Harry’s hair grew back.
Draco ran the tip of his wand from his forehead down over his nose, over his lips, curved it under his chin and down until it hit the collar of his shirt before retracing the path back up until he reached his hairline. Then he began all over again.
There was no reason for doing it, exactly. But then, there wasn’t much else to do either except worry about his father, and he was trying not to do that.
The tip of his wand was near the bridge of his nose when Potter started screaming from another nightmare. Draco almost poked himself in the eye as a result.
“Salazar, Potter, will you shut the hell up?” he yelled back.
Potter abruptly stopped crying out. “Malfoy?” he said in a small voice.
“No. Helga Hufflepuff,” Draco replied, secretly pleased that Potter has snapped out of it so quickly. It usually took a lot longer for the godforsaken screaming to cease.
The room was silent for a few moments until Harry’s mattress springs signalled he was getting out of bed. Sure enough, Potter padded to the loo.
Scratching his bald head, he turned to Draco as he reached the bathroom door. “Er, thanks.”
The next morning, when Draco emerged from the bathroom after his daily ablutions, he found the leather chaise and the lumpy old armchair switched back. He tried not to be pleased; he really did. But as he reclined on his chaise, and began passing the time once more by running the his wand from his forehead down to his chin and back, every time the tip passed over his lips, it bumped over something very much resembling a slight smile.
It was never easy to expose his back to Draco Malfoy, but Harry did it.
After all, if he didn’t, his arm would fall off.
Still. Trusting Malfoy. Imagine.
He shook his head.
“Stop moving or I’ll never get this on straight, you tosser.”
Harry held still as Malfoy changed his bandage. His arm was already feeling better and he thought it must look better too; Malfoy hadn’t made any gagging sounds this time.
When Draco finished, Harry put his shirt back on and went to put the spare ointment with the rest of the medicines. It was a bloody miracle they hadn’t killed each other already. Even more miraculous, they were well on their way to being physically healed, and the decreasing number of medicines that appeared each day was evidence enough.
The two new little vials stood out all the more for it.
One for each of them. Purple potion, smelled of—he uncorked it—yes, just as he thought. Lavender. Valerian.
“What is that? Is that…Flobberworm mucus I smell?”
Harry turned and showed the vial to Draco.
“Dreamless sleep,” they said, nearly in unison.
“Gimme!” Draco nearly fell over himself getting to the little vial. He’d never seen Draco so discombobulated, but then, Harry hadn’t seen Malfoy sleep in…well, he couldn’t remember seeing him do so since he first entered the Room. That couldn’t be right, but he understood Malfoy’s desperation.
Harry grinned. “One for each.” He handed the other sleeping draught to Draco.
Walking over to their window, Harry drew shut the curtains over the midday sun. “You mind?” he asked, pausing.
“Merlin, no,” Malfoy replied, uncorking his vial and swallowing down his allotment. Harry followed suit, and the taste must have been as disgusting as always, but to Harry it was the flavour of uninterrupted, unbothered, perfect, deep sleep, and he licked every last drop from the vial.
Crawling into bed, he was asleep before he even drew shut his curtains.
Harry still spent a lot of time staring at the walls, but instead of seeing absolutely nothing, sometimes he noticed a few things worth seeing. The little spider in the corner, for example; its small cobweb hung by a few little strands of silk. (Harry’s own grip seemed nearly as tenuous.)
Other times when he was staring at the wall, he thought about things. Not about the war, if he could help it. Tried not to remember anything like that. But…things.
Like Hermione and Ron. Sometimes he wondered where they were or if they’d worked out where he was.
Sometimes he visited the mirror in the bathroom, squinting his eyes until the glass blurred and his ghosts appeared. Sometimes he hoped they might have answers to his questions, but usually they merely gazed back at him, leaving him to work out his musings for himself.
Sometimes he even thought of Malfoy. Wondered why the Room had let him in. Wondered how long he was staying. Wondered why Draco was still Draco but sometimes wasn’t—like when he was acting like a decent human being.
And sometimes he couldn’t help but wonder what had happened to Draco that made him so…nervous. So skittish. So jumpy all the time. He guessed it had to have been bad, if he’d…well…been unable to control his…
Harry sighed, and ran a hand over his head.
He didn’t think of Ginny. He wasn’t ready for that.
The Dreamless Sleep vials appeared only rarely, a gift that came seemingly at random, but usually when Draco became his most tetchy, when those dark bruises under his eyes reached their darkest. This was generally around the same time that Harry began to think he’d lose his mind if he couldn’t sleep without nightmares for once.
Eventually, though, the purple potion stopped showing up altogether.
Harry would wake up screaming.
Draco would never even allow himself to doze in the first place.
It was…not ideal.
Almost every night, Harry would wake up at least once. Lately, Draco had begun to tear himself away from the evil dancing through his mind by yelling at him, loudly enough to startle him back to the present. Back to the Room. Back to safety. Back to real life.
As his panting subsided, it had somehow become routine to hear Draco Summon a tall glass from the table and cast an Aguamenti to fill it before Levitating it over to Harry’s bedside.
Harry would sip the cool water gratefully until his mind stopped racing and his heart slowed to a normal pace. A small comfort, at least.
As Harry sat in his armchair, full from his dinner, his nightmares felt far away at that moment. He’d been picking apart the stitching in his throw pillow for the last few minutes and felt little desire to do anything more complicated. He paused to scratch his head; he still wasn’t used to the odd feeling of having a smooth scalp instead of his usual thick, messy hair. He guessed he should have cared a bit more, but caring took an awful lot of work lately.
He glanced at Malfoy, who was lying with his head at the foot of the bed, looking down over the edge with a very serious look on his face. Examining the floorboards once again, Harry supposed, or maybe he’d forgotten where he was entirely. That happened to Harry sometimes, too.
“You really do need to sleep at some point,” Harry pointed out.
“I do not.”
“You do, actually. You’ll go mad if you don’t.”
Harry shrugged. “You just should.”
“Well, until there’s a way for me to sleep with my eyes open, no thanks.”
“Pretty sure that’s not possible.”
“Purebloods are capable of many things.”
“Mmmhmm. I think the crazy has already started to set in.”
“Look,” Harry said. “I know—“
“You don’t know!” Draco interrupted.
“Well, I kind of do, though.” Harry put down his pillow and went over to the bench closest to Draco’s bed. He picked up an apple from the bowl of fruit on the table and took a bite as he sat down. “I know how it all sort of comes rushing back. I know how you end up reliving stuff that you never wanted to live once, much less again and again and again. I get it.”
Malfoy turned and buried his face in the comforter.
“Look. Would it help if I distracted you?” Harry asked as he examined his apple. It didn’t have many spots on it, which was good, because Harry didn’t really like spots. It was nice and crunchy, too.
“It would help keep me awake,” Draco said.
“Malfoy.” Harry took another bite, licking up the juice that threatened to drip from the fruit.
“What do you intend, Potter? To tell me stories and sing me lullabies like my mum?”
“I am not singing to you.”
“Thank fuck for that.”
Harry thought for a moment, twisting the stem loose from the apple as he did so. “I could tell you a story though. That wouldn’t be terrible. Then you could just focus on the story.” He knew it was an odd suggestion, but Draco had been helping him with his bandage, and if Harry could help back, things would be more even.
“Piss off, Potter. Besides, I know all the stories. I had a mum, remember?”
“Watch it, Malfoy.”
Malfoy banged his head against the mattress.
“You don’t know the Muggle ones,” Harry said after deciding Malfoy wasn’t intentionally being an arse, but just his usual obnoxious self
“Muggle stories? Merlin help me. I don’t think so, Potter.”
“They’re not all bad. I mean, they don’t have magic like ours, but there are some pretty good ones.” He shrugged at Malfoy.
Draco looked at him. “Stories are for girls.”
Harry chewed another bite of apple. “You just said your mum told you—”
“Fine. Girls and little boys who listen to humour their mothers,” Malfoy said.
“Shut up and get in bed, Malfoy. My stories are adequately manly and you’re going to listen.”
“I won’t.” Draco glared at him. “I’m not an infant.”
“You will. Head on your pillow. Now.” Harry nibbled at the last of his apple. He kind of wanted another one. He picked at a bit of fruit that had got caught in his teeth.
Picking up his wand, he flicked it at the apple core, Vanishing it. Another careless flick Vanished Malfoy’s outer garments, causing Draco to yelp and grab for the blankets. Harry grinned. “See? Halfway there. Now lie down. The Room will give you more clothes when you wake up.”
“I hate you, Potter,” Draco said, though he did climb beneath the blankets.
“Yes, I know.”
Hmm. Maybe not another apple. Maybe an orange, instead. Oh, or a pear. Definitely a pear.
“Well, go on then.” Draco said pointedly.
Oh. Right then. Harry had to tell a story. He was at a loss as to where to begin, though; mostly likely because he didn’t actually have a story in mind. Fuck a doxie, this could be bad. He rooted through the fruit bowl for a good looking pear as he thought. He needed a tale with lots of intrigue, twists and turns, and…the answer came to him in a flash of brilliance.
“Okay, well. Let’s see. Long ago in a faraway place—well, actually, it starts pretty much right here in London. Pretty recently, too. Well, maybe a few years back—”
He glanced at Malfoy who had his eyebrow raised.
“Fine. Never mind. It starts with Bond. James Bond.”
Malfoy interrupted. “I refuse to accept a protagonist named after your father, Potty.”
Harry forgot all about his pear. “I—but. But that’s his name. You can’t change Bond’s name! That’d be worse than putting him in a Skoda!”
“Putting him in a what?” Malfoy asked, looking affronted. “Never mind. Doesn’t matter. Change the name.”
“Ugh. No.” Harry went back to rooting through the fruit bowl to find the right pear.
“Make it ‘Abraxas’.”
Harry looked up, horrified. “I will not.”
“Then I shall not sleep.”
Harry finally selected a nice fat, ripe pear and took a bite. Excellent choice. Not mealy at all. “You’re such a spoiled—“
“I’ll thank you not to criticize my mother’s childrearing technique. Now, were you going to tell me about this Bond or shall I go back to counting the tiles in the loo?”
“Fine. His name was Bond. Abraxa—I can’t do it. No. No, wait. I can. Anything to shut you up for a few hours. Godric, but you’re a pain in the arse. Anyway, his name was Bond. Abraxas Bond.”
Harry paused to take another bite of the pear, glancing at Malfoy as he did so.
The git was already fast asleep.
Harry shook his head and licked his lips. It was a really good pear.
Draco wasn’t bored. Bored to tears was three days ago. Now Draco was…well, he was nearly beside himself. Stir crazy.
Nothing to do, nothing to do, nothing to do…
He thought of asking Parsley to bring a newspaper, but then he decided he really didn’t want to know what was going on outside of the Room. Not even a little.
Before, when he’d felt this edgy, he’d have taken his broom out for a fly.
Or...taken his broom out for a fly.
But that was before the war. Salazar, how long had it been since he’d wanked? Ages. It was bordering on unhealthy for a man of his age. He hadn’t felt like doing that in a long time, though. War certainly took a toll on a man’s urges, as did the Dark Lord’s appreciable skill as a Legilimens. Nothing was safe; everything was fuel to a madman.
He’d been decent at Occlumency, but not good enough. The Dark Lord especially liked to poke through the recesses of Draco’s mind because he was a challenge, or at least more than the average Death Eater.
The Dark Lord always disapproved of what he found in Draco’s brain, even though he sometimes feigned surprised by what he saw. Draco would inevitably pay for disappointing the Dark Lord, and often the price was extremely high. He often wondered why the Dark Lord bothered to leave him alive at all. But he always did. Just barely.
Draco shuddered, no longer bored at all. He crawled under his blanket and put a pillow over his head, concentrating on keeping his breathing even.
“Did you eat the only blueberry muffin?”
Draco shrugged. He had a headache. Potter had been better lately, but they still fought sometimes. He’d learned it was generally best to ignore Harry when he got like this. Besides, Potter was usually somewhat cranky in the morning before he’d had his coffee.
“For Godric’s sake. Why do you always have to be such a bastard?”
Draco tried to remain calm, but Harry was getting to him. “I—“
“Just when I think you’re—“
“Will you just calm d—“
“No. Fuck, Malfoy. You’re such a bloody—“
“Potter!” Draco stood up and yelled. “Shut the hell up. I didn’t take your damn muffin! I had a croissant for breakfast. But I’ll be sure to tell Parsley how much you appreciate the wide range of baked goods she provides every day.”
Potter stared at him before promptly turning away, stomping into the bathroom and slamming the door.
When Harry emerged twenty minutes later he went straight to the table, transfigured a napkin into a slip of parchment and turned a butter knife into a quill. He wrote a few words and then folded the paper twice. From where he sat, Draco could see Parsley’s name written on the top.
Harry then turned to Draco. “Sorry,” he said, scowling. “The nightmares were bad last night. Not your fault.”
“Whatever,” Draco sniffed.
“Right.” Shaking his head, Harry fixed himself coffee then took it to his side of the room. He pointedly ignored Draco for the next few hours. Draco wasn’t sure if he minded or not.
“Is she safe?” Draco whispered.
Potter had woken early and for some reason Draco was hesitant to let him witness this little indulgence.
Parsley patted his arm. “Yes, Master Draco.”
Draco sipped his tea, refusing to meet Potter’s inquisitive stare.
Harry’s curiosity was about to get the better of him. The question rested on the tip of his tongue. He just couldn’t figure out how exactly to phrase it without setting Malfoy off. Theirs was a careful balance these days.
From his armchair, he studied Malfoy’s back as Draco looked out the window.
Malfoy’s neck was long.
His back was long and thin too, but his neck—well, Harry was sure his own wasn’t quite so long as all that. Malfoy’s shoulders, however, were too bony, which made Harry feel a tad better, though in truth he suspected they both had pretty strong shoulders to survive all that they had.
Perhaps it was the light, some shadow effect that made Harry notice Malfoy’s neck. Regardless, he sat up straighter, lengthening his own neck as much as possible. The posture felt awkward, but he hated being bested by Malfoy in any way.
The light coming in from the window made Malfoy’s hair even blonder than normal as well, which was also something of a trick, but Harry didn’t mind that as much. His own hair—that is, when he had hair, which he didn’t, at the moment, thanks to Malfoy—well, his own hair wasn’t supposed to be blond anyway, so Malfoy’s could be blonder and it wasn’t a problem.
He scratched his head, which itched as his hair was starting to grow back.
Stupid Malfoy with his stupid neck.
Harry pouted until he suddenly remembered that he’d wanted to ask Malfoy a question. “Hey, Malfoy? Does Parsley tell you what’s going on out there?”
Turing slightly so that Harry could see his profile, Malfoy said, “No. Not really.” Then he cleared his throat, and turned back away.
“But, I heard you ask…”
“I periodically inquire about my mother’s welfare, yes. Do you have a problem with that?” Draco turned partly towards him once more.
“No,” Harry said quickly to prevent further miscommunication as Draco had already begun to sound defensive. “I was just wondering.”
Malfoy nodded once and turned back to the window. Harry didn’t know what he was watching; every time he looked there was only ever a few little birds flying around.
“So...How is she?” Harry asked, trying to be nice.
“She’s…safe.” Draco said after a short pause.
“Well, that’s good.”
“Yes, Potter, it is good.” Malfoy turned around fully. “Now, did you want something, or…?”
Harry hesitated. He wasn’t sure what he was asking or why he was asking it. “I just wanted to know how she was. She saved my life, you know.” It was Harry’s turn to become defensive.
“So you’ve said.”
“Well. How about your father then. How is he?” Harry asked, trying to be polite, though in truth his opinion of Lucius Malfoy made the standard pleasantry difficult. It was so hard to be nice to Malfoy. He never knew what to say, and he always ended up saying the wrong thing, making Malfoy angry in the end.
Malfoy’s face went blank and it definitely wasn’t a trick of the light. It sent Harry backtracking. “Shit. Sorry, I shouldn’t have…”
“Why, did my father also save your life?” Draco stopped and bit his lip. “Salazar. I don’t know how my father is, Potter, but he is not safe. I suspect he’s been taken to Azkaban. Parsley said—said that—” Draco made a strange strangled sort of sound in his throat, before turning back to the window, pressing his forehead to the glass. “Why do you even care?”
“I’m not sure,” Harry replied honestly.
“Well, I suggest you stop troubling yourself with the well-being of my family.”
“Right. I’ll do my best.”
“See that you do.”
Closing his eyes, and letting his neck fall against a cushion, Harry realized that, as much as he thought Malfoy’s father very much belonged in Azkaban, he felt bad for Draco having to deal with the possibility. He was starting to think they’d both had to deal with enough over the years—not that Malfoy had managed to deal with anything well.
Hearing Draco’s sniff of disapproval, Harry opened his eyes to see Draco craned around looking at him. “Your shirt isn’t buttoned correctly, you know. You look like a complete arse.”
Harry sighed and began undoing his buttons. Draco couldn’t help but be Draco every step of the way, and there was nothing to be done for it.
“I should probably change my bandage anyway,” Harry said, getting to his feet. “Can you help?”
Malfoy silently crossed the room to the table with the healing potions and started preparing Harry’s bandages. “Why not?” he sighed, but Harry barely noticed; he had just realized that Malfoy’s neck looked just as long in other lighting as well.
“You don’t play Wizarding Chess, do you?” Malfoy looked at Harry somewhat hopefully.
Harry grimaced. “Er, not particularly well. We don’t have a game board anyway, do we?”
“No. I thought maybe we could Transfigure game pieces.”
“How about Exploding Snap? That’d be easier to recreate.”
“That’s a child’s game.”
“Okay…What do you suggest?”
“I don’t know. I’m bored.”
“I am too, a bit. I’m kind of surprised the room didn’t give us anything to do.” Harry longed for a Quidditch magazine or something equally inane. He was starting to think he was finally done sleeping constantly. Not that he still wasn’t sleeping at least half the day away, but he was conscious about fifty percent of the time, which was more than he had been awake in…weeks. Had it really been that long?
“I guess the Room thinks we don’t technically need entertainment.”
“I have an idea,” Harry said. “If you’re really bored you could make my hair grow back.”
“How would I do that?” Malfoy asked. “Not that I want to, of course.”
Harry gestured at the medicinal table. “Isn’t that what all those ingredients are for?”
Frowning, Draco looked at the collection of vials that had appeared the evening prior. “I don’t know. They had your name on them so I didn’t pay attention.”
“They had my name on them because I’m the one who needs the potion. I think those are the right ingredients, but I don’t remember the directions to make the right potion, though. I wish the room had just supplied the finished version.”
“It couldn’t,” Draco said. “The potion needs to be applied within minutes or it spoils and causes the person to sprout fur instead.” He rolled his eyes. “The Room probably wants me to fix it anyway, since I hexed you in the first place.”
Harry looked hopeful and asked, “Do you know how to make it?”
“Yes.” Of course he did. He may have been Crucioed until he’d forgotten his own name at times, but Draco never, ever forgot a potion.
“Could you do it? You said you were bored. And my head itches and I look dumb like this.”
Malfoy went over to the potion table and looked over the ingredients. “Yeah, these are right, measured correctly, too, I think. We just need a bowl because we don’t have a cauldron. You’ll have to supply the heat with your wand.”
Harry nodded. “Incendio will work.”
Hesitating, Draco said, “Yes. But, be careful with it. Pretty sure the Room will kick us out if we set fire to it again.” Draco’s attempt at a smile was more like a grimace before he returned to the potion ingredients. Shaking some, swirling others, and sniffing the one that held the Morning Glory dew.
Emptying the fruit from the fruit bowl onto the table, Harry handed Draco the large dish. Malfoy began emptying the various potions into the bowl, stirring occasionally in various directions as Harry applied the requisite heat. It seemed somewhat familiar as it changed from a dark blue to a lighter greenish shade, but he hadn’t exactly been a stellar Potions student.
Finally, Draco sprinkled in the lady bug spots and stirred the mixture four times. “Now it has to wait for 2 minutes,” Draco explained. “Then we need to add one of your hairs to it, and then it will be ready.”
Harry furrowed his brow. “If I had hair, Malfoy, I wouldn’t need the potion!”
Draco rolled his eyes. “Not from your head, you wanker. You’re not bald all over, are you?”
Harry gaped at him. “I’m not giving you a…”
Draco snorted. “From your arm will do. Or your eyebrow. Merlin knows you have plenty there.”
“I—oh. Right.” Harry plucked a single hair from his eyebrow and placed it in Malfoy’s palm.
“I’m only doing this so I don’t have to look at your stupid scalp any longer,” Draco explained. “And because I was bored.”
“Gee, thanks.” Harry scratched his arm as Draco dropped the hair into the pot and stirred the boiling goo counter clockwise twelve times. It turned brown as Malfoy stirred.
“Okay, no more heat now,” Draco instructed and Harry put his wand away. “Now we wait forty-five seconds and then you need to apply it.”
Harry’s eyes widened. “It’s practically boiling! It’ll melt my scalp. And even if it didn’t, I can’t apply it! I’ll miss spots or drip it over my neck or something. Just do it, will you?”
“I’m not touching your weird head, Potter. But rest assured nothing will melt. Don’t you remember anything from Third Year? The mashed lemongrass has a cooling effect when mixed with the apricot honey. It’ll seem warm, but not hot.”
Potter was somewhat mollified, but still too concerned to let it go so easily. “Please do it, Malfoy? I’ll tell you another story tonight.”
“Fifteen seconds. And no.”
“Ten seconds. I’ll do it if you leave the Room.”
Harry snorted. “I don’t think so.”
“Five seconds. I thought as much. Fine. But you’ll owe me one.”
Such vague conditions made him nervous, but Harry wasn’t in a position to argue. He didn’t want random bald spots all over his head. “Ugh. Okay. Just do it.”
Malfoy grinned, which was something Harry hadn’t seen in…well, maybe never. But he couldn’t think about that, because suddenly Malfoy pushed him to his knees, stood behind him, and began running a thick warm substance all over his head, massaging it in with his fingers.
“Ungh” Harry said, without realizing. He’d never felt anything like it, had no idea hands on his head would feel so…
Malfoy snorted. “Enjoying yourself?”
Harry’s eyes widened. “I…er…tingles is all.”
“Right,” Malfoy said. “I bet. You really owe me.”
As Draco’s thumbs rubbed small circles into his skull, Harry decided it was probably worth it.
“Whatcha lookin’ at?” Potter asked.
“Oh. You mean how some of ‘em look like hippogriffs and lorries and faces?”
“No. Just looking.” Draco preferred not to look for faces in the clouds these days.
“Not much else to do.”
“Exactly.” Draco went back to looking out the window—until he heard a clunk behind him. He whirled around to find Potter had Levitated his chair over so he could sit and look outside too.
“You don’t mind, do you?” Harry asked.
“Really, Potter? Must you? I really think—”
“Here, I’ll get yours, too.” Harry spoke the incantation and soon enough Draco’s chaise sat beside Harry’s chair, both facing out the window. “Now we can both look outside.” Harry fell down into his seat. “Move. You’re blocking the light.”
Draco felt inordinately affronted. “I’ll have you know, Potter, that I was here first and—“
“Oh, just sit down, will you? Look, there’s one that looks like a rubber ducky.”
“Pfft. I don’t see a—you mean the teapot?”
“Sure. If your teapots have beaks and wings.”
“That’s not a beak, you twit,” Draco said as he sat.
Harry hummed, then pointed to a cloud towards the right. “And that one?”
Thinking for a few moments, Draco cocked his head and squinted before he finally replied, “Looks like a pram, I think. Or a goat.”
“Hmm. I was thinking more like the Giant Squid.”
Draco couldn’t see it, so he shrugged. Then words just came out of his mouth, words that he wasn’t intending to say, but that he’d been wanting to ask. And once they were out, there was no taking them back. “Why are you here, Potter?”
“You don’t see the squid?” Harry asked, then sighed and looked at Draco. “I don’t know. I just couldn’t deal with all of it. I couldn’t go back to the Weasley’s because…well, I couldn’t. They had other things to deal with. And I didn’t have a room here in the castle anymore. I just wanted to sleep.”
“Well, you definitely managed a good deal of that. So why are you still here? It’s been, what? Nearly a month?”
Harry shrugged again. “Because I still don’t want to deal with everything outside of this room, mostly. I don’t know. Why? What about you?”
Draco ignored Harry’s gaze. “I didn’t want to go home with my parents. Everything is all fucked up there and everyone hates us now. Death Eaters. The Ministry. Everyone. They probably want us dead or in Azkaban, and I have no interest in either.”
“So you’re hiding."
“Look, Malfoy, do we really have to talk about this?”
“You started it with your little cloud game. I know my company is scintillating and my conversational skills beyond measure, but I’d be quite delighted if we just continued to ignore each other and leave the joint analysis well enough alone.”
Harry ignored him, pressing on. “You know, I think that’s why we both were able to get in here.”
Draco raised an eyebrow.
“When the Room is occupied, it doesn’t allow anyone else in. That’s how it works. The door doesn’t appear. So I shouldn’t have been able to get in. Except when everyone has a common reason to be inside. The D.A. practised in here together, and I think they practically lived in here at one point. They could all get in at the same time when they needed the same thing—a safe place to practice and everything.”
“So you think we needed the same thing, so the Room let us both in?”
“Do you have a better idea?” Potter asked.
“I never really thought about it,” Draco lied. “So, what? We both wanted to hide?”
Harry looked back out the window. “Probably. I mean, what else? I didn’t need anyth—“
“A place to sleep,” Draco interrupted.
“Oh, yeah. That too. And food. I was really hungry.”
"You may kindly thank my mother for that. But the medicine, too, I think. You needed it for your shoulder and I don’t think my burns would’ve healed on their own.”
“Yeah. I needed that; you’re right.” Potter said. “And some quiet, too, I guess.”
“A place to be safe.” Draco added, despite himself. “I guess the Room wasn’t broken after all.”
Harry smiled wryly. “Just seriously lacking in mental stability. Odds were better we’d have blown the place up.”
“Right.” Like last time, Draco thought, cringing as he recalled the horror of Fiendfyre lapping at his skin.
“Oh, don’t think about that right now,” Potter said. “It wasn’t your fault.”
“Whatever you say.”
“No, really,” Potter insisted.
“I mean it. You might have been a total prick in school but you didn’t ignite that fire.”
Draco huffed. “You’re still a prick.”
“That’s the best you can do?”
“I have to say, fighting with you is mildly entertaining.”
Potter snorted. “Glad to be of service. Hey, see those two clouds right next to each other? Looks like they’re snogging.”
“Fucking,” Draco clarified.
Harry angled his head. “But what’s that extra bit there? Oh. Oh. You mean that’s his… and then that’s his…”
The muscles felt strained from disuse, but Draco half smiled in spite of himself. “Yes, well, whatever they’re doing, they’re about to be eaten by the Giant Squid. It’s approaching fast.”
“Better than being devoured by a goat.”
Draco thought about it for a moment. “Tough call.”
Draco was just getting out of the bath when he heard Parsley arrive. He didn’t have a watch, but he knew it was slightly later than usual. Not a lot later, but to a house elf, being even a little late was a big deal. Draco hurried to finish his shaving spell and combed his hair, spelling himself dry and tying a towel around his waist before leaving the bathroom. He wanted to catch Parsley before she started punishing herself by bashing her head into a wall or smashing the table leg down onto her foot again.
But when he emerged and saw the table was empty and her arms nearly so, Draco froze. She darted over to him and handed him a rolled parchment with the Malfoy seal, unbroken, on the back.
“Your mother is telling Parsley to bring this to Master Draco,” the elf wailed, clearly fretting. “She is not saying as to breakfast. She is not telling Parsley as to dinner or supper either!”
Draco ignored the elf hysterics and held his breath as he broke the seal. His hands were trembling.
It was short and when he finished reading, he crumpled it into a little ball and tossed it onto the table. “I thought this was the Room of Requirement,” he said to no one in particular. “I need some alcohol. I need some fucking alcohol!” Draco had started to yell by then, causing Harry to stumble out of bed.
“What’s going on?”
Draco ignored him. He turned around in a slow circle, seeing nothing. Lost. Helpless. There was nothing he could do. His mother—
His legs were going to give out. He wavered, but just before he started to crumple, strong arms wrapped around his.
Harry held him upright.
“Parsley, go to 12 Grimmauld Place,” Potter instructed. “Get a bottle of whisky from Kreacher and bring it here. Then bring tea. And a few sandwiches, if you can. Don’t worry about anything else. Hurry.”
Draco realized only then that he was crying. He could barely breathe, the sobs wracking his body.
“Okay, c’mon now,” Harry said, carrying Draco over to his bed and, grimacing, pulled the wet towel free from his waist before dropping it to the floor and hoisting Draco up onto the soft mattress, covering him with a few blankets. Draco’s face was smashed into a pillow, his whole body shaking.
Draco heard Harry Summon a napkin and Transfigure it into a handkerchief before handing it to him.
“Oh, thank Merlin,” Potter said then, disappearing momentarily to return with a vial of purple potion that must have appeared. “Even better,” he murmured. “Accio Dreamless Sleep.”
Potter lifted Draco’s head and urged him to swallow not seconds later.
The respite was immediate. Draco gratefully embraced the darkness and was asleep in moments.
Harry watched Draco sleep through the rest of the day and well into evening. Another vial of Dreamless Sleep ensured he slept on through the night as well.
As such, Draco never knew that Harry read the note about Narcissa’s arrest on charges that would send her to Azkaban. And he never suspected that Harry kept himself busy throughout the afternoon writing up testimony on her behalf.
Harry never told him how he was careful to keep his sandwich crumbs far from the expensive parchment he had Parsley bring to him or how he sealed it afterwards with his own magical signature. And he certainly never explained that he wondered—after he sent his testimony off to the Ministry through Kreacher, praying it was enough—if perhaps there was use for him yet, even if it was only in righting smaller wrongs.
Sitting at the mostly empty table later that evening, Harry opened the bottle of whiskey and took a swig before capping it again. He looked over at Draco, who was still lost in slumber, his pale face and paler hair nearly lost against the white pillows, his cheeks no longer reddened and lashes no longer wet from that morning’s hysterical sobbing.
The soft, rhythmic sounds of Draco’s breathing seemed louder than usual in the otherwise empty room, but Harry didn’t mind.
Harry had seen.
He hadn’t meant to see, not when Draco was falling apart.
But he had.
The towel around Malfoy’s slender frame had been wet and he’d had to remove it before getting Draco into bed.
And now he couldn’t unsee it.
He wasn’t entirely sure why it mattered, other than Malfoy was Malfoy. He was just a bloke. Just like Ron and Seamus and Neville. Nothing he hadn’t seen before. Just another pale bum and a prick nestled in a bit of darker blond…
Nothing…nothing too impressive, really. Just…Malfoy.
And yet, he couldn’t stop thinking about it. Even though he knew it wasn’t right, even though he wasn’t supposed to have seen it at all.
But he had.
And now the image was ingrained in Harry’s brain.
Draco, he realized, was not just Draco; he was also a man.
Just like Harry.
Harry had never been more aware of his own body.
His neck was too short, of course. But his arms were too long and his knees too knobby. His belly button was too high and the odd smattering of hair on his chest wasn’t anything close to what it should have been. His ears stuck out—thankfully not quite as bad as Neville’s—but they should’ve been flatter. His lips were weird and his skin was altogether too tight.
He’d looked in the mirror earlier—luckily seeing no reflections but his own this time—but he’d seen how stupid he’d looked, how much of a mess he still was. He wouldn’t have been handsome anyway, but all of the scars and injuries from the war hadn’t done him any favours.
Harry chewed on his fingernail and tried to ignore the other parts of himself that had never before been so present.
He sighed deeply and fell back onto his bed.
Sometimes Harry wondered if he should miss Ginny.
He didn’t. But then, he was surprised to realize he didn’t really miss anyone anymore. How terrible was that? That couldn’t be right. He should feel differently. He should feel—something. He should at least miss Ron and Hermione, shouldn’t he? He’d gone numb, though. At first he’d been eager to turn off his heart, so he could forget the excruciating pain of his losses. But now…now there was mostly a whole lot of emptiness in its stead, as though his heart had dissolved into the fog.
He should’ve missed them, though.
And he should have missed Ginny. Images of her should have been occupying his brain, instead of the brief glimpse he’d gotten of…
There were a lot of shoulds in Harry’s life. Always had been.
He was getting tired of them.
Potter was acting strangely.
Not that Harry wasn’t still sleeping all the time—Draco could hear him snoring away at that very moment. But he seemed alternately lost and sullen and confused, with small bouts of grumpiness in between. Sometimes Potter just looked at him, though usually it seemed to Draco that Harry wasn’t actually seeing him at all. And often Harry seemed to fold in on himself, tucking into a little ball, his knees to his chin as he perched on his armchair or lay on his bed.
Granted, Draco had been on edge himself, ever since he’d heard about his mother, and panic attacks and bouts of tears were always close at hand. But Potter wasn’t forcing him to talk about his mother, which was more than fine with Draco, even if it was because Harry was wrapped up in his own world. He wasn’t sure he could have talked about his mother if he’d tried. Draco had managed to hold it together, mostly, when Potter was awake, but Potter didn’t seem inclined to discuss Draco’s initial hysterics either, for which he was also grateful. It was embarrassing how spectacularly he had fallen to pieces.
So instead of talking about anything, he simply worried. All the time. Nights were especially hard, when shadows clung to the air in their moonlit room. Certainly Draco had enough to worry about other than Potter, so he let Harry behave as peculiarly as he liked and didn’t give him any shit about it.
In truth, he was barely able to hang on to his prior animosity for Harry. Seeing Potter as fucked up as he was made it hard for Draco to hate him. It wasn’t that he liked Potter—not at all. But rather, Potter just was. A constant part of Draco’s existence, for better or worse. Though, with so many people eager to hate him, perhaps a mostly ambivalent, occasionally helpful Potter wasn’t so terrib—
Draco’s thoughts were interrupted by Harry, screaming once more in the darkness.
“Harr—Potter!” Draco yelled back, hoping to snap him back to reality. “Potter, wake up! You’re disturbing my beauty rest!”
Harry kept screaming, the cries sounding worse than normal—a good deal worse, actually. Draco tried again. “Potter! Fuck, Potter, will you wake up already?”
When Harry’s desperate cries continued, Draco decided to intervene.
Huffing, he got to his feet and marched over to Potter’s bedside. He supposed he intended to pull back one of the heavy curtains and yell directly in Harry’s ear, but when he got there and peeked inside the velvet curtain, he stopped short.
Potter was sweating, his face red, with tears streaming down cheeks from behind eyelids pinched tightly shut. Potter was crying out, pleading for an end to whatever terror his mind had conjured. His fists were clenched tightly in his blankets, and he looked as though he was in extreme pain, his back arching up from the bed as he shouted nonsense into the near darkness.
There was no way Draco could have yelled so violently at Potter now. Long buried compassion swelled in him and he reached for Harry’s arm, clasping it gently but firmly. “Shhh, Potter,” Draco tried first. “Shhh.” He squeezed his arm. “Shhh, Harry. Come back. It’s over. Come back.”
With a startled gasp, Harry’s eyes flew open, and he reached out, grasping Draco’s hand. He was panting wildly as his green eyes blinked back into focus, half a scream gurgling as it caught in his throat.
“Malfoy?” he choked out.
Draco said softly, “I’m here. It’s over.” He patted Harry’s shoulder and attempted to pull his hand free, but Potter held on tight.
“Nightmare.” Harry said, shaking. “It’s usually not…I thought…I saw…”
“Just a dream. You’re fine.” Draco’s hand was still clutched by Potter’s, but he supposed it wasn’t hurting anything to leave it there for a moment or two.
“Wasn’t me I was worried about.”
“Of course not.” Far be it from Potter to be anything but a saint, even in his own nightmares. Harry worried about himself about as often as Draco didn’t. He sat down on the corner of Potter’s bed with a sigh. “You do realize you’re holding my hand,” he said to Potter before Summoning a kerchief and an empty glass. “You’re going to need to take a drink and wipe your nose.”
Potter let go and sat up, taking the handkerchief and dutifully wiping his nose and drying his eyes. “I don’t want water,” he said, sniffling as Draco started to fill the glass, taking it from Draco’s hand and Banishing it to the table.
“Fine.” Draco started to get up but Potter grasped his wrist, stopping him. “Don’t go. Not yet.”
“I…all right.” Draco said, looking around, settling himself back on the corner of the bed.
Potter’s cheeks were still flushed, but no longer an ugly crimson; clumps of his sweat-soaked hair stuck to his forehead. Harry didn’t have his glasses on, so Draco could also see the dark, wet eyelashes framing Potter’s eyes—eyes that should have been red from crying, but weren’t. Even in the moonlight, when almost everything else existed in variations of grey and shades of spectres, Potter’s eyes were a vivid green.
He looked away then, back towards the window and the full moon that lit their Room.
“Do you know why your mother saved me?”
Draco turned sharply back at the non sequitur. “No.”
“Because she loved you.”
A lump rose in Draco’s throat and he swallowed. “My mother—”
“I wrote a letter, you know. Telling them what she did, in the end. Lied to Voldemort. Saved my life.”
“She…You did?” Draco breathed into the darkness.
Harry just looked at him for a long time.
It was the fault of the darkness, this whole conversation, and his own inability to turn away. The darkness was dangerous, bringing to the surface words and vulnerabilities he wished would never see the light of day. A time for secrets and dreams as much as ghosts and nightmares, the dark hid scars and lowered inhibitions until whatever was buried broke free at last.
“I don’t want her to go to Azkaban,” Draco confessed.
“I know. I don’t know if they’ll listen to me, but I had to try,” Harry said.
“Thank you,” Draco whispered, grabbing Harry’s hand. He wasn’t sure why, exactly, but Harry was human, and maybe that was all the reason necessary.
“It was the truth.” Harry looked down at Draco’s hand in his own before slipping it free. “Wait…you wouldn’t, if you knew.” He hesitated before continuing. “In my dream, I was…half Voldemort and I was killing anyone in my presence. Or, at least, I think I would have, but you were the only one in the room.” Harry paused again to take a shaky breath before letting it out slowly. “I used Sectumsempra. I couldn’t stop myself. The Voldemort part of me just kept slashing you. Wouldn’t stop.” Harry glanced up.
Draco cringed. “It was a nightmare,” he finally said, trying to forget about that particular experience as quickly as possible.
“I know. But I still did it.”
“Yes, well, you rescued me, pulled me out of the fire, and that wasn’t a dream. I suppose it balances out.”
“When I did it…back in sixth year, in the bathroom…it wasn’t Voldemort who made me, though. I mean, he was inside me, but it was me. I did that to you, sliced you open.”
“That was a long time ago,” Draco said, even though it really wasn’t. “Besides, I’m not sure I follow.” Of course it had been Harry who cast the spell—he knew the difference between a 15-year-old spectacled twit and the Dark Lord.
Potter didn’t explain. He looked across the small space between them and said, “I didn’t know what the spell would do, but that doesn’t mean I should’ve used it. So…I’m sorry.”
Looking away, Draco thought through Harry’s words. “I suppose…I’m not entirely faultless myself.” He glanced back at a Harry. “I’m sorry too...for—” He gestured helplessly. “You know. Everything.”
As one, they reached towards each other, resting their hands against each other atop the blanket, on the same page for perhaps the first time ever.
“Was it bad, during the war?”
“It…wasn’t good,” Draco said.
“For me either.”
“I imagine not.” Now that he’d been stuck in the Room with Potter, he knew implicitly that Harry understood the horrors he’d lived through without having to explain further, maybe not the specifics, but enough. Just as he understood Harry’s experience. They were walking remnants, the breathing aftermath.
They drifted into silence and Draco debated whether to get up when Harry spoke again.
“Do you think it’ll ever get better?”
Draco took a deep breath, realizing that the darkness exposed some truths far better than the light ever could. “I don’t know,” he said honestly. “Sometimes I don’t think it will ever be better ever again.”
“I think I’m broken,” Harry confessed.
“Don’t say that,” Draco said, because he wasn’t good at fixing things—he’d been taught broken possessions were tossed in the rubbish or Banished into the space between, which was probably why he was no good now at putting his own life back together, much less able to help Potter.
Picking at a frayed thread on his blanket, Potter bit his lip. “I am, though. I died, Draco. On purpose. Had to. Alone except for the company of people I’d already lost. Ghosts. I had to go to the Forest…to die.” Harry’s voice shook. “I was so tired; I almost wanted it all to end.” He closed his eyes for a moment before continuing. “I had to come back because it wasn’t over. My job wasn’t done. But now it is and I’m still so tired and I don’t know why I’m here.”
“I do,” Draco breathed, as the realization dawned on him. “We’re in the Room of Requirement. I think you’re here because I need you.”
Harry stared at him. “You don’t need me. You might have needed that letter for your mother, but there’s no guarantee that will work.”
“I don’t think that’s the only reason.”
“Why would you need me? You don’t even like me,” Harry said.
“I’m not sure it matters. Do you need me?”
Harry frowned. “I needed help with the bandage where I was cursed.”
“I don’t think that’s all, though.” Harry added softly.
“Someone to fight with,” Draco said, damning the darkness and its tongue-loosening magic.
“Cry with,” Harry added.
“To heal with.”
They sat in silence, lost in their thoughts, until Draco saw Harry cringe. “Someone to wake me when I have nightmares.”
Draco gave him a sad smile. “Someone to forgive—”
“And ask for forgiveness from,” Harry finished.
“Someone who understands.”
“Someone to remind me that I’m human.” Harry’s lips were parted, the moonlight on his face.
He wasn’t beautiful; he was just Harry.
Draco didn’t know why he did it, but he leaned in and gently kissed Harry’s lips.
Pulling back, he took in Harry’s face. The lost look was gone from his eyes, but Draco wasn’t able to interpret what he saw in its place.
“Why…?” Harry asked, tilting his head.
“I don’t know.” Draco bit his lip. It was the truth. He didn’t know. Certainly he hadn’t ever thought of kissing Potter before, but here they were, scarred flesh and blood, and Harry was making him feel emotions other than fear and grief for once, and he just wanted to get lost in them. He’d acted on instinct more than anything.
“Do it again,” Harry said softly.
Draco took a slow breath and leaned in once more, pressing his lips softly against Harry’s. Instead of pulling away after the kiss, he pressed his forehead to Potter’s and closed his eyes, feeling Harry’s exhale against his skin.
He didn’t know what they were doing, but Harry’s mouth was warm and there was a quietness to the simple act. It calmed him while making him yearn at the same time, and there was no room for anything else in his chest, a tremendous relief in and of itself.
Tilting his head up, Harry kissed Draco again. Guided by some mysterious force, Draco let go of Harry’s hand and reached for the back of his neck, running his palm over the warm skin until he carded his fingers through Harry’s dark hair.
“I’m not…” Draco said, and he wasn’t. He’d kissed Pansy a few times, hadn’t he? And it had been fine.
“Neither am I…” Potter said, and Draco knew that too; he’d seen him kiss the girl Weasley.
None of that mattered. No labels were necessary as they sat together on Harry’s bed, mouths joined, hands trying to find the right way to hold each other close, or, perhaps, keep everything else out.
He felt Harry’s tongue and opened his mouth to meet it.
The moment was surreal—messy and uncoordinated and they couldn’t get the angle right at first but he wasn’t sure it mattered. Nothing else existed except Harry’s mouth and his, and maybe the need to hold someone a little and be held a little more. Teeth and tongue and a few more tries and they figured it out. Figured out kissing. Figured out kissing each other.
Opening his eyes, Draco saw Harry looking back at him, eyes green and earnest and bright in the moonlight.
Desire ripped through him unexpectedly. He hadn’t felt anything close to such intense longing in a very long time.
Fine, then. If he needed Potter, so be it.
Climbing onto the bed, he knelt over Harry’s legs, leaning down to cup Potter’s face as Harry sat back against his headboard. He touched his lips lightly to Harry’s, brushed their mouths together, a ghost of a kiss.
“I don’t know what this is,” Draco admitted.
“Me either,” Harry said, “but please don’t stop. I want to forget for a while.”
Placing his mouth on Harry’s once more, Draco understood perfectly.
He traced his mouth over Harry’s jaw, trying to catch his breath while Harry clung to him like he was drowning. Draco understood that, too.
It was easy to lose himself in the kisses. He never imagined he’d ever want to sink into someone’s touch like this, much less Harry Potter’s, but there it was. Grief had done strange things to them, he supposed. After hearing Harry cry out in his sleep, it somehow seemed perfectly right to revel in the soft breathy sounds he made as Draco kissed him again and again.
When Potter’s hands slid under his sleep shirt and up along his skin, Draco sucked in a harsh breath. He hadn’t been sure how far this would go, and while he tried to tell himself otherwise, he knew he wasn’t about to stop them. It felt too good. He’d forgotten what “good” felt like.
Harry felt good. What Harry was doing felt good. It didn’t matter that Harry was male; he was just Harry. More Harry than he’d ever imagined it possible to be. Draco had never realized exactly what that meant, before. That it included more than an inexplicable fondness for ill-fitting clothes and gingers, and an utter ineptitude when it came to potions.
When wide, green eyes looked up at him and he lifted his arms in the air, even if he had never done this before, Draco knew what to do, never pausing before he tugged Harry’s shirt up over his head. His let his hands fall to the skin of Harry’s shoulders and biceps, and then dragged his fingers down over Potter’s chest, before he noticed Potter tugging on the hem of his own shirt.
Swept up in Potter’s touch, he pulled his own shirt off, trusting in the darkness to hide the worst of his scars. He backed up as he did so, allowing Potter to get to his knees as well. Harry never paused at all, merely ran his palms up along the flat of Draco’s chest between them. Draco heard his shuddering breath.
Draco kissed him again, then; closed his eyes and kissed Potter with everything in him as they held each other in the darkness, shadows watching them as they touched.
At some point, Potter had fallen back and brought Draco down with him. Draco hovered over Potter at first, but then Harry was arching up against him, and Draco lost his will for separation, falling and allowing his weight to settle between Harry’s legs. The noticeable press of Harry’s erection against his thigh through the fabric of their pyjama bottoms sent his head spinning, sent a rush through him he’d never have predicted. Draco held on for dear life as waves of desire pulled them under in a sea of heated kisses and warm skin and soft groans.
Too long. It had been too long since touch had given pleasure. Too long since he’d had such respite from his own head. Too long since anyone had desired him or since he’d desired anyone himself.
Maybe he was using Potter, and maybe Potter was using him, but they could worry about that later. He reached between them and palmed Harry’s prick, eliciting a desperate moan. It wasn’t odd at all, touching another boy like that, and Draco had been through too much to find that fact upsetting.
They began rocking against each other, their maleness instinctively seeking friction.
He looked at Potter and realized that tears streaked both their faces.
Kissing away a salty tear, Draco lost himself in the body below his, rutting as they clung to each other. Draco dragged his teeth over the skin at the crook of Harry’s neck, before returning to nibble at his kiss-bitten lower lip. Harry held them close, wrapping their sweat slicked skin tightly together in his arms.
Straddling Harry’s leg, Draco panted as he pressed himself against Harry’s thigh, his cock aching in his pyjama bottoms as it rubbed against the soft cotton. Harry was grunting, his brow now damp with sweat as he arched up against Draco’s stomach.
The physical release was too quick in coming, but Draco’s body was too stressed and his heart was too on edge to deny it. When he couldn’t hold back any longer, he gasped aloud as he came in his pants, his world splintering into a million pieces as he half sobbed through his orgasm.
Draco fell to the side, his breath ragged. Harry wasted little time rolling on top of him and eagerly frotting against Draco’s thigh. His heart still pounding, Draco watched as Harry’s face soon twisted, his eyes screwing shut and his hips jerking as he came.
When Potter’s face relaxed and the tension left his body, he looked down at Draco, a tear in his eye. Without thinking, Draco reached up and wiped it away.
Somehow, lying with Potter felt right even as everything else in his life was a mess. The orgasm had left him feeling boneless and numb to the pain that usually wrapped around him. And somehow, losing himself in another person hadn’t meant he’d lost himself at all. Even if it was Harry Potter.
Draco sighed as Harry rolled off him. He hadn’t realized how desperately he had needed the release, the escape from his life, the chance to forget.
“Tomorrow,” Harry suggested, his eyes red, his voice rough. “Tomorrow we can figure this out.”
His eyes still leaking steadily, Draco agreed. “Tomorrow,” he echoed, wiping his eyes and grabbing his discarded shirt. He started to get up.
“Wait,” Harry said, grabbing his wand and casting a spell at each of their pyjama bottoms, cleaning the mess that had been growing steadily more uncomfortable. “Now you don’t have to go.”
Draco was unable to look at Harry but neither could he bring himself to leave the bed. He nodded and accepted a pillow from Harry, lying back down.
“Good,” Harry whispered, rolling onto his side and facing away to give Draco some space.
Draco tried not to sniffle in the darkness.
Harry woke up to the sound of a clatter behind his bed curtains.
The room was starting to lighten with the approach of dawn. His first thought was of Draco and what they had done in the night, but before he could worry about the aftermath, Harry heard Draco gasp.
As quickly as he could, he climbed out of bed and went over to Draco, whose back was towards him. A teacup lay on its side on the floor in a small puddle of dark liquid. It hadn’t broken, so Harry Levitated the cup back onto the nearby table and Vanished the spilled tea.
“Everything okay?” he asked.
When Draco turned around, his eyes were red but he looked astonished more than anything else. He held a piece of parchment out to Harry.
“Parsley left it,” Draco choked. “My mother…”
Harry scanned the paper, never noticing the smile as it crept onto his face as he took in the words. As he reached the end, he grinned at Draco. “She was released.”
Relief painted Malfoy’s features as he choked out a laugh. “All charges dropped.”
Fuck it, Harry thought, seeing the relief on Malfoy’s face. It was too much, he knew, but good news was too rare not to acknowledge properly. Tossing the parchment onto the table, he crossed to Draco in a few short strides. Before he could protest, Harry pulled him into an embrace.
“Thank you,” Draco gasped into Harry’s shoulder, half sobbing.
As Harry held him, the sun rose over the eastern horizon and the first light of the new day cradled them in its rays.
Harry sat down at their table, shoving plates to the side so he had space to work. He Transfigured a stack of napkins into parchment and picked up one of the quills Parsley had brought them.
Dear Remus, he wrote. I’m sorry.
“What are you doing?” Draco asked, trying to look over his shoulder.
“Nothing.” Harry didn’t feel like sharing; this was personal. Besides, he didn’t have any idea what to say to Draco after…After.
Draco raised an eyebrow.
“Just something I have to do, okay?” Harry said.
Sitting down beside him on the bench, Draco peered around the crook of his arm. When Draco saw the words, he stood up abruptly. “You’re not the only one who is sorry, Potter.”
Harry sighed. “I know. I didn’t think you weren’t.”
Draco looked at him. “Right. Obviously, I have gobs of things to apologize for. My mistake, thinking anyone could ever forget that.”
“Oh, shut your mouth, will you? Don’t take everything so personally.” He looked up at Draco. “Here,” he said, handing Draco a few sheets of paper. “Sit down and write a few yourself.”
Draco just looked at him, so Harry said, “Fine. Do what you want then.”
Huffing loudly, Draco sat down across from him and reached for a quill.
“What do I say?” he asked after a moment.
“Whatever you want.” Harry shrugged.
“How will we deliver them?” Draco asked. “This is stupid. They’re never going to get them.”
“Look, if you don’t want to do it, don’t do it.”
Draco huffed again and looked down at the blank page, but he picked up a quill and touched it to the parchment. When he saw Draco begin to write Crabbe’s name at the top, Harry quickly turned away. Draco’s messages were personal. Returning to his own letter, Harry looked back at his parchment and a dozen things he wanted to say suddenly popped into his head. So he started writing. And writing and writing and writing. Too lost in his own words, he ignored Draco’s own furious scribbling.
When Harry reached the end of the parchment, he started on a second page. When that sheet was halfway filled, he realized he’d finally reached the end of what he needed to say. So he rolled it up, and wrote Remus’s name carefully on the outside before sealing it with his magical signature. Draco looked like he’d begun another letter, and Harry found himself following suit, starting in on one to Tonks.
He wrote one to Mad Eye, another to Fred. One to Snape. One to Sirius. One to Dumbledore. His parents. Hedwig.
He thought to write one to George. And one to Teddy, because he had to grow up without parents, and one to Mrs Weasley because she had to go on without a son. One to Ron and another to Hermione. And probably one to Ginny, too. But he didn’t know what to say, didn’t know how to explain why he couldn’t face any of them just yet. He wasn’t ready to address the living.
So instead, he wrote one to Cedric and a final one to Dobby.
Harry’s hand was positively aching by the time he finished writing. They’d had to use a Doubling Charm twice to be sure they had enough parchment.
As he rolled up and sealed the last letter, he looked up to find Draco also appeared to be finished and was stretching his own hands. Unlike Harry’s, Draco’s weren’t covered in ink, though it seemed Draco had nearly as many scrolls as he did.
“I’m not sure how to send them,” Harry admitted.
“I had an idea.”
“They can’t be delivered, can they?” Harry asked.
“I think they can,” Draco said. “We just need owls who can go…on.”
Harry watched as Draco took a stack of parchment and tapped his wand to the top sheet, and then the next and the next after that. Within minutes, nearly two dozen origami owls were swooping around the room.
Draco called to one and it fluttered down to perch on his wrist. Draco tucked a letter into its clutch. “Can you deliver that to…Can you give this to…to Dumbledore for me?” he asked quietly and the bird cooed in response.
“How will it get out?” Harry asked suddenly, panic tightening his chest. “We can’t open the door. I’m not ready.”
“No need,” Draco replied. “Watch.”
The owl took off from Draco’s hand and Harry watched as it flew around the room and right out through the glass window as though it were wide open.
“Oh,” Harry breathed.
Draco nodded and called another owl to him. “To Professor Burbage,” he murmured to the owl before it took off for the window.
Harry gestured for an owl. “Hedwig,” he whispered to the little paper bird. Harry swore it winked at him before it flew off, hooting as it swooped around and out the window into the sun.
Draco watched Harry.
How could he not after…after they did the thing that they weren’t ever going to talk about if he had anything to say about it. Which he didn’t. Have anything to say about it.
In the light of day, the words refused to be said.
So he didn’t say them; he watched Potter instead. That way if Potter opened his mouth, Draco could glare at him, and they’d be back to normal.
Draco watched him come out of the bathroom with foggy glasses and his wet hair because he hadn’t spelled it dry. Watched him wander around the room without shoes, like an oversized garden gnome. Watched him for a while as Harry napped, until he decided that was creepy.
He had thought he had Harry Potter figured out, before the Room. Then Harry had come along and behaved altogether differently than Draco would ever have imagined. So Draco assembled an entirely new Potter in his mind, built on all the changes he’d witnessed since their arrival. It seemed this Harry of his was wrong too, though. The Potter he knew would have never have done what they did the night before…
Or maybe Potter wasn’t the one who had changed at all. Maybe it was he himself.
Draco went over to the window, attempting to concentrate on the hot, dry summer landscape, anything to distract him from Potter who puttered around behind him. He ended up watching Harry’s reflection in the glass instead.
The Veil, in the Department of Mysteries, it was pulling them in—he and Ginny.
They tried to run, holding each other’s hands as they scrambled away from the black hole, but it was of little use. The more Harry struggled against the gravity sucking them down, the more their feet slipped and the faster they were drawn backwards. Harry knew they’d have better luck if their hands were free, but he refused to let go, her fingers small and cool, clutched tightly to his.
She looked incredibly fierce, completely determined, but Harry knew it was no use. The Veil was getting stronger, little by little drawing them in. They cried for help as they grasped blindly for something to hold onto with their free hands, but no matter how loudly he screamed, no one came to rescue them.
Harry thought it would have hurt more, when the Veil finally swallowed them. It didn’t, though. They just popped through the other side. They were exactly the same—except no longer holding hands.
Ginny opened her mouth to speak, but her voice wasn’t right. “Potter! Potter!” she cried frantically. “Harry! Wake up. C’mon. Get up, you oaf!”
“Wait! I don’t—Wait!” Harry started to say as he was startled awake. “Wait.” He sat up abruptly. “Malfoy?”
“You were dreaming again.”
Harry was surprised again, the response coming from far more close than he anticipated. Instead of the other side of the Room, Draco was right there, standing by his bed in the darkness.
“I…oh.” Harry wiped the sweat from his forehead and tried to steady his breathing. “Sorry.” He looked around. “I need—”
“Here.” Malfoy handed him a glass of water.
“Er. Okay. Thanks.” Harry took the glass gratefully and drank a few sips, the cool liquid giving him something to concentrate on other than his heart pounding in his chest.
“You okay?” Malfoy asked. “That sounded pretty unpleasant.”
Taking a few seconds to finish his water, Harry thought about his dream. “Yeah,” he eventually said. “It was. But, you know? Maybe not as bad as I thought it would be.”
Cocking his head, Malfoy studied him for a moment before he took the glass from Harry. But instead of Levitating it back to the table as Harry expected, Malfoy turned to walk away.
“Wait,” Harry said before he could stop himself. “You don’t have to go.”
Draco turned around slowly. His hair was silver in the moonlight and Harry was jolted by the sudden memory of Malfoy’s pale flesh rising from the shadows as they’d…
Harry bit his lip. “Stay, Malfoy.”
“Don’t call me that,” Draco said, his voice tense.
“But you call me—”
“Just don’t. Not anymore.”
“Okay; fine. Draco.”
“Why do you want me to stay?” Draco asked.
“I just do.” Harry tried not to fidget as Draco stared down at him.
Smoother than liquid moonlight, Draco slipped to Harry’s side and leaned down until his lips were at Harry’s ear. “Why?” he asked again, his voice low. “We’re not going to do it again.”
“Because,” Harry confessed, turning his head. He looked into Draco’s grey eyes—grey like their world now—nothing black and white, not even in the darkness. He stared into Draco’s eyes as he tilted his head and moved closer, his lips already longing for Draco’s touch, his tongue craving the taste of his mouth once more. “And why shouldn’t we?”
Draco’s lips parted as he inhaled and neither the night air nor Harry could resist their pull. He pressed his mouth to Draco’s, moaning as he sought Draco’s tongue with his own.
“Wait.” Draco pulled back. “I’m not…”
“Me either,” he reminded Draco. “Make me feel good anyway.”
An anguished sound ripped from Draco’s throat, and Draco smashed his mouth to Harry’s, leaving him wondering when Draco’s kisses had become addictive. Maybe it was simply that he made Harry feel anything at all. In the charcoal hours of the night, Harry could think of no reason to deny them something that felt so fucking good.
Their touching was more frantic than the night before, now they knew where they were headed, how good it would feel as they got there. Draco yanked off Harry’s shirt and then his own before he climbed onto the bed, and soon they were rocking against each other. Harry on top, then Draco, then Harry again, limbs tangled as mouths took kiss after breathless kiss, winding each other up, seeking pleasure they had only found in each other’s bodies. When Harry thrust against Draco’s hip and it all became too much at last, he came with a soft gasp as Draco’s fingers trailed over his chest. Draco came shortly thereafter, his eyes pinched shut as he cried out.
“Better?” Draco asked.
“Yeah,” Harry said breathlessly, his blood still pumping fast from their exertions.
“Me too,” Draco said, rolling onto his back, his head on the pillow.
Harry quickly Vanished their mess and then followed suit, lying down beside Draco.
They lay there in the darkness for several minutes until Draco finally said, “It’s because I’m not only a Malfoy, you see? I mean I am one, obviously, and shall always be. But I’m more than that, too, I think. Or maybe I will one be day. I don’t know…I suppose…can you just stick to calling me ‘Draco’ instead?”
Harry was pretty certain he understood, despite Draco’s uncharacteristic inarticulateness. Maybe it was like his scar—that mark and all it represented was all most people saw when they looked at him. He liked knowing that Malfoy didn’t give a shit about his stupid lightning bolt, so he could understand Draco wanting to be something other than a Malfoy sometimes. “Sure,” he agreed. “I can do that.”
“Yeah. Okay. Thanks.” Draco sounded relieved. “So, d’you want me to go?”
“Not particularly,” he admitted.
Draco nodded, pulling a blanket up over himself.
Rolling onto his side, Harry grabbed his portion of the blanket as well. “Night.”
When Harry awoke the next morning, Draco was gone from his bed, already up for hours, it seemed. Harry watched him silently as Draco ate a croissant with a delicacy only a Malfoy could manage at that hour with a straight face.
Harry climbed out of bed and headed to the loo, eager for the coffee he knew Parsley had spelled to stay warm for him.
Draco never mentioned the night before, so neither did Harry. Once again, during the daylight hours, it was as though the night before had never been.
“Now that your mum’s okay, are you going to leave?” Harry asked, as he spelled his clothing to match the pattern on the armchair in which he sat. He wondered if it looked to Draco as though he was a floating head with his clothing camouflaged. Perhaps he’d have Malfoy call him Nearly Bodiless Harry.
Then again, maybe not; he’d glanced up to suggest it and found Draco gazing at him, the look in his eyes cold and distant.
“Trying to get rid of me?”
“No. Really not,” Harry said quickly, surprising himself in the process. It was the truth. He wasn’t trying to get rid of Draco anymore, though he wasn’t exactly sure when one that had changed. “I wasn’t,” he added when Draco looked at him doubtfully. “I was just curious. I just sort of thought that maybe—“
“Right, well, that solves the mystery of why you wrote that letter for my mother, doesn’t it?” Draco sniffed.
“Stop it, you twit. I did that because it was the right thing to do. I told them the truth; that’s all.”
“Because she saved you.”
“Yes!” Harry exclaimed. “Isn’t that reason enough?”
“Whatever,” Draco said. “By the way, you haven’t changed the colour of your clothes, just made them invisible.”
“I…oh. Must’ve got the spell wrong.”
“It’s pronounced co-loh-VA-ree-ah, not co-loh-va-REE-ah.”
Harry smiled despite himself. “You sound like Hermione.”
Draco raised his eyebrow. “Hmm. I wonder if she also would’ve pointed out that you forgot to spell your pants.”
Harry looked down. His grey underpants were visible against the cushion of the recliner while the rest of his clothed body parts were invisible. “Oh, bollocks.”
Harry looked up to see Draco smirking at him. He rolled his eyes and tried to make the rest of his clothes reappear. It wasn’t until much later that Harry realized Draco had never answered his question.
Stepping from the bathtub as the remainder of the water spun away down the drain, Draco picked up a fluffy dark green towel and wrapped himself in it. He could have used a drying spell, but they left him shivering more often than not; the rapid evaporation had a definite cooling effect. Mostly, though, he simply enjoyed the luxurious feel of the exceptionally soft material against his skin.
After drying himself thoroughly, he ran the towel through his hair and finished by knotting it around his waist. He next reached for the straight razor the Room had provided, readied the sink and requisite lather, and began to methodically remove the whiskers that had arisen since the day before. His hand was practised, though, so the delicate chore was finished quickly. He usually brushed his teeth next, but Draco had been feeling off-kilter all morning, so he reached for the comb instead, tugging it through his wet hair.
Next he used moisturising cream, which he applied to every inch of his body, adding a second layer to some places where he felt it warranted. As much as Draco liked to pretend he was completely confident, he desperately hated when people judged him, and now that Harry was seeing him partially undressed—even if it was only Harry and only in the dark—he wanted his skin to seem flawless. Smooth, soft, unmarred.
Draco sighed. Unmarred. Right. That broom had flown years ago.
He wondered what Harry saw when they were together, pooled in shadow and starlight, what Harry thought about when he looked at Draco with those green eyes of his. When Draco looked at Harry, he saw pale skin, made whiter in the moonlight, hair like midnight, and…something else. Something besides bony elbows and imperfect teeth. Something more like acceptance and safety. Something very much like the need Draco also felt deep in his marrow.
Did Harry see those same things in Draco as well?
Probably not. After all, it was just convenience that brought them together. Potter probably saw his horrid chin and the way his neck was too long, like an ostrich. And his scars—Potter was probably cataloguing them for later so he could poke fun.
Except Potter didn’t poke fun. Harry had never made fun of him, except, perhaps, when he might have deserved it—like when he’d been extolling the virtues of cashmere and hadn’t been paying attention and tipped his teacup, sloshing scalding tea in his lap. He would’ve very nearly boiled his bits if Harry hadn’t been so quick with a Protego.
Still, Draco knew his scars were there, even in the moonlight. He hated them. And he suspected he’d never be rid of them, daily dittany applications or not. Grabbing another towel, he swiped it over the giant mirror in the bathroom so he could see the marred skin himself.
The mirror refused to clear.
Frowning, Draco tried again. He pressed harder, rubbing the towel against the surface.
No luck; the glass remained as cloudy as ever, refusing to show Draco the skin he was so eager to critique.
“Harry!” he yelled through the door. “Did you do something to the mirror?”
Harry called back, “No. Why? What’s wrong with it? Who do you—?”
“It won’t let me see myself!” Draco whined.
When Harry’s belly laugh resounded through the door, Draco couldn’t help but laugh too as he gave up on the silent, steamy mirror and got dressed, though he made sure to wipe the smile from his face before he left the bathroom. His scowl wouldn’t have been nearly as effective if he hadn’t.
“Hey, Malf—Draco,” Harry called from his bed. “Do you know how to play noughts and crosses?”
Draco shook his head.
“It’s a Muggle game. I’ll teach you. It’s easy.”
“It’d have to be, if you like it—”
“Yeah, yeah. I’m an idiot and you’re spoilt,” Harry interrupted, scooting over to make room for Draco on his bed. “Now get over here and play with me.”
Draco snorted. “That’s something I never thought I’d hear you say in the daytime—” Oh, fuck.
Horrified at himself, Draco cringed. Maybe Harry hadn’t heard him. Maybe Harry hadn’t been paying attention. Maybe…
Biting his lip, he glanced at Harry.
Harry’s chin had dropped open and his eyes were huge behind his glasses, rather like the characters in those cartoons Theo used to read. He’d definitely heard. Shit.
And suddenly Draco had brought up the thing he hoped would never be brought up, so now they had to deal with it. Bloody hell.
As Potter was still gaping at him like a goldfish, Draco concluded it was up to him to fix things. There was only one reasonable solution. He reached for his wand and aimed it at Harry. “Oblivia—“
“Expelliarmus!” Harry yelled before Draco could finish and his wand went flying towards Harry’s outstretched hand.
“Hey!” Draco exclaimed.
“What the fuck were you thinking?”
“I was going to do myself next,” he said. Well, probably.
Harry groaned. “I can’t believe that was your solution.”
Draco shrugged. “I don’t see you coming up with a better one.”
“We could actually talk about it.”
“No, we cannot.” Draco refuted. “Now give me back my wand.”
Potter tossed it to him. “You try that again and I’ll hex your hair Hufflepuff yellow.”
“Then you’d better behave yourself,” Harry scolded. “Now get over here. I have a game to teach you.”
Draco narrowed his eyes, but got to his feet. “Fine. But only because I’m bored.”
Harry grinned and picked up his quill and drew some crossed lines on a piece of spare parchment, as Draco went over and got settled at the foot of the bed. “Whatever you need to tell yourself. Now, you be the noughts.”
Then Harry went on to explain the game and it was as though Draco had never said anything at all.
Draco wasn’t sleeping, as per his usual. He stood at the window looking out at the night, watching as clouds moved past the waxing gibbous moon, which sat high in the sky.
Harry had gone to bed not too long ago, but Draco wasn’t sure if he was actually asleep or not. He tried to stay quiet though, in case Potter was having trouble sleeping. It was the least he could do after beating him forty-three times in a row at his silly game.
When he heard rustling coming from Harry’s bed, he glanced over.
Harry had pushed back the curtain and was squinting in his direction. Potter was practically blind without his glasses, though, so Draco had become somewhat used to the unbecoming expression.
“Yes?” Draco finally asked.
“Are you…” Harry hesitated. “Tired?”
“Always. But I’m not going to sleep anytime soon.” Draco replied.
“What about a bath? Or I could spell some milk warm for you. Or you could count pygmy puffs.”
Draco chuckled. “I wish it were that easy.”
“Well, we should ask Parsley to bring some Valerian at least. Or lilac.”
“Lavender,” Draco corrected. “But it’s just the way it is. Don’t worry about it.”
“Oh, right. Well...” Harry hummed. “Are you…busy?”
“I haven’t been busy in months.” Because it had been that long, Draco realized. The hours had blended into days and on into weeks. He wasn’t sure exactly how long they’d been in the Room, but it had to have been more than a month now.
“Right.” Harry nodded. “So…then…”
Raising an eyebrow, he looked at Harry. “So…?”
“Well, Godric, do we really have to wait for me to wake up screaming?”
Draco blinked. “You mean. You mean you want to.”
He did, of course, though he was wondering if it was quite becoming to admit such a thing. Finally, he nodded slightly, once.
“I’m not…” Draco felt the need to clarify—to himself more than Harry—though the words were beginning to feel empty on his tongue.
“I know. Me either.”
Draco shifted his weight, unsure how to proceed, but Harry made it easy on him.
“Did you want to come here then?” Potter asked, and Draco wondered when exactly things with Harry Potter had become easy.
“Are you sure we should?”
“Fuck no. But I don’t really care.”
Draco nodded again and looked outside at the night. The moon had disappeared behind some clouds, leaving the room nearly pitch black, making it easier for Draco to slide silently into Potter’s bed and then into his arms. When Harry’s hands slipped beneath the waistband of his pyjamas to clutch at his arse as they rocked against each other in the darkness, Draco simply kissed him harder and pulled him closer.
Harry awoke with a harsh gasp, panting and sweaty from being chased through his dreams by a couple of ruthless Snatchers. He was startled again by the unexpected warmth of Draco beside him.
“Hey,” Draco reassured him. “It’s okay. It’s okay.” He Summoned a napkin for Harry, who accepted it gratefully and wiped his eyes.
When Harry had caught his breath, he whispered, “Did I wake you up?”
Draco looked at him. “No. I don’t sleep much, Harry. I was still up.”
“Oh. And you…stayed,” Harry said, somewhat surprised. How long had Draco been lying there awake beside him? He’d never been there when Harry had woken before.
“So it seems,” Draco replied. “It wasn’t terribly inconvenient.”
Harry looked at him. “Thanks. I wish you could sleep.”
Draco shrugged. “Me too.”
“What time is it?”
“Not sure, exactly. Probably around 3 a.m.”
“Should I tell you another story?” Harry smiled and elbowed Draco.
“I’ll be fine,” Draco told him.
“How about if I sing you a lullaby?” Harry joked weakly.
“Merlin, no. That won’t be necessary, I assure you.”
Harry wanted to help, but there wasn’t much he could do. Just because Draco was in his bed didn’t mean he’d sleep, just as it didn’t mean Harry’s nightmares would suddenly stop. Life wasn’t like the fairy tales—not for them.
At the same time, waking with another person had been something of a comfort to wake with another person beside him, and maybe that’s why Draco had stayed anyway, even though he still couldn’t sleep. Nor was there a need to apologize to each other for their individual terrors and idiosyncrasies. Harry imagined there were few people who could have spent the night by his side unbothered. Ron would get tetchy. Hermione would feel the need to analyse his dreams and reactions and their causes. Ginny would… well, he had no idea what Ginny would have done, actually. He wondered if he really knew her at all. And worse, shouldn’t he have been eager to learn her own dreams and habits? He wasn’t though. He should have cared about those things, but he didn’t. It seemed far too much work.
Meanwhile, there was someone breathing against his shoulder who just…was.
Convenient, yes. But also…exactly what he needed.
The fact that Draco drove him crazy sometimes didn’t seem to matter.
Their history had become unimportant in the scheme of their experiences.
That he was male bothered Harry even less. He’d never stopped to think much about his gender or anyone else’s. Cho, he remembered, had nice lips and pretty eyelashes. Ginny had nice skin and wouldn’t let him win when they played pickup Quidditch games. And Malfoy’s hair shone like the moonlight, and he touched Harry with surprising tenderness, even if it was just when he’d been changing Harry’s bandages.
Harry actually wished he were more confused, more torn by the situation. He thought maybe he should be angry at the Room for presuming to know best, even in this.
He wasn’t, though. He looked over at Draco’s profile. Some things just were.
“Is she all right?” Draco asked as he bit into a banana Parsley had brought.
Parsley nodded. “Oh yes, Master Draco. She is spending most of her days in the gardens; she is planting snapdragons. And she is asking us to wash the blackness from the Manor walls. It is hard work, but elf magic is strong. She is worrying about Master Lucius, but she is writing him many letters for Parsley to deliver.”
“I see,” Draco said, surprised by Parsley’s detailed description. She never said more than a handful of words most days.
Coming over to pat him on the forearm, Parsley looked up at him. “Master Draco was looking worried, but Parsley doesn’t want him to be. It is not the same, but it is not like before, and Parsley thinks she is not the only one being pleased by this.”
Parsley stepped back over to the table and poured a teacup full of Draco’s favourite tea but added two small sugar lumps. “A little extra sweetness for Master Draco today,” she said, handing it to him. “Now Parsley is going. Parsley and Cinnamon and Byron is going to let light into the library today. Hard work, hard work. Many dark books. But Parsley is eager to begin!”
Draco shook his head and sipped his tea as Parsley Apparated away. Not the same, but not like before.
Parsley wasn’t the only one pleased by that; not at all.
Harry went into the bathroom and shut the door behind him.
Setting his wand down by the sink, he looked into the large mirror and waited for them to come.
It wasn’t long before they appeared, his ghosts. They didn’t always show, only when he was looking for them. He wasn’t sure why he needed them; he just did. It wasn’t like he had anything to say, or anything to tell them that they didn’t know.
Because they knew everything, didn’t they? So maybe…maybe he just wanted their approval.
He looked from his mother, who smiled kindly, to his father, who looked more concerned.
He held Tonks’ sympathetic gaze and met Dobby’s eager one.
“Is this okay?” he asked. “What I’m…what we’re…”
Their lips didn’t move, but they answered him anyway.
And they were right.
Harry sat down on the side of the tub and scrubbed his hands across his face. He hoped that one day Hermione and Ron and the others would understand as well.
Draco gasped as their cocks pressed together through their pyjama pants, and he arched his hips up to meet Harry’s.
He wanted…he wanted. He wanted.
He wanted to touch Potter. More. He wanted to touch Potter there. Wanted Harry to touch him there right back. The knowledge hit him like a Bludger.
He didn’t know if he should try, though. They’d developed something of a pattern and he didn’t want to upset the balance or push too far. And…wanting that, that was more than he’d thought to want before—and it probably meant something he wasn’t eager to admit. But Harry was looking at him with this intensity that gave Draco the courage he needed. He reached for Harry’s hip, stilling him. “Can I?” he whispered, tugging at the waistband of Harry’s pyjamas, grateful for the darkness that hid the red that must’ve tinted his cheeks.
“Yes,” Harry breathed, falling to the bed beside Draco.
Draco pulled on Harry’s pyjamas, dragging them carefully down over his swollen cock.
“Can I?” Draco asked again, wanting to touch Harry but still nervous to admit what he wanted, even though there was no longer a Dark Lord picking through his head on a regular basis.
Harry nodded silently, his lips parted as he watched Draco reach out to touch him, moaning softly when he did.
Gently at first, Draco held Harry’s prick in his hand, soon wrapping his fingers around the hard length and stroking him lightly. He looked up to see whether he was doing it right and found Harry’s eyes pinched tightly shut, his face strained. Draco quickly withdrew his hand. “I…shit. Sorry. I didn’t mean to...”
“No,” Harry corrected him. “It just feels…I’ve never…no one has…not like that. It’s a bit much, is all.”
“Should I keep…?”
“If you want,” Harry said shyly.
Draco bit his lip and took Harry in his hand once more, stroking him gently. The angle was wrong at first, but he started to figure it out, and Harry was gasping and grunting in a way that made him certain it wasn’t entirely unpleasant.
“You can…more.” Harry said.
“Okay,” Draco said, and he did—a little tighter, a little faster, a little harder.
Harry was panting but wasted little time pulling Draco over top of him. Draco knelt between his legs, but before he could touch Harry again, Harry grasped his hand and pulled it up between them, lacing their fingers against his chest as he gazed up at Draco. Leaning down, Draco touched their mouths together, eager for the unique taste of Harry on his tongue. Lost in the heady press of their lips and the way Harry sucked at the curve of his jaw, he was caught off guard when Harry started tugging at the elastic at Draco’s waist. Draco wouldn’t have dreamed of stopping him, though, and his breath caught in his throat as Harry licked his palm and encircled Draco’s prick.
“You’ll tell me,” Harry said, “if it’s wrong?”
Draco thought he must be mad. Wrong? There was nothing wrong about this. Couldn’t be, not if it felt like this. He gasped as Harry stroked him roughly. “I think you’ve got nothing to worry about,” he finally choked out, his brain fried by the simple pressure of Harry’s fist around him. He looked down and the sight made his dick throb with need.
Harry dragged his thumb through the bit of moisture at Draco’s tip and the touch sent a jolt of pleasure through him. He groaned.
“I just want to…Is this okay?” Harry asked, shifting slightly, and before Draco knew it, Harry had his hand wrapped around both of them, together at once, their pricks sliding along each other as Harry stroked them.
“That’s…oh. That’s. Fuck,” Draco hissed. “I’m…” He couldn’t help himself, couldn’t hold back. The new sensations were too much and he lasted about four seconds before he came between them, making a mess of Harry’s hand and stomach, and both of their cocks. He reached for Harry’s neck, pulling him towards his mouth for a demanding kiss and then adding his hand to Harry’s as they stroked Harry a few more times until he came too.
This time it was Draco who reached for his wand and cast the cleaning spell; Harry seemed disinclined to move as he lay beside him.
They remained in the darkness, and while his brain spun in circles, Draco bit back any words he thought to speak, content instead to listen to Potter’s soft breathing, even if it didn’t seem as though Harry was actually sleeping.
“Do you ever think about…after? After we leave here, I mean?” Harry asked softly, breaking the silence.
Draco glanced over sharply, but Harry was looking away. Sighing, he replied, “I try not to.”
“Sometimes I wish I never had to leave. But I know I do, eventually.”
“I’m not sure where I’ll go,” Draco admitted. “I don’t think I can go home again.”
“I don’t really have a place,” Harry said. “I mean, Little Whinging isn’t really an option. My aunt and uncle sold their house a year ago and I wouldn’t live with them anyway. I guess there’s always Grimmauld Place, but I’m not sure I want it.”
“You mean the place where Aunt Walburga and Regulus lived?”
“It was headquarters for The Order for a while. Yeah. I don’t know. I could probably stay with Ron and Hermione for a while, but I’ve been in their way long enough. They should be alone together; they don’t need me hanging around. I’ve taken up enough of their…” Harry sighed. “Anyway, I don’t think I could bear to stay at the Weasley’s either. Maybe I should just disappear altogether.”
“Paris,” Draco said. “I thought of going there for a few years, until things get better, calmed down. I could use a change of scene, and I’d want to pick a place where Mother might visit.”
“Maybe Canada, for me. Or Australia. Though I don’t really want to go that far. France wouldn’t work; I don’t speak French,” Harry mused.
“I do,” Draco said. “You could learn.”
“Or maybe I should just stay here in Britain, deal with all of the things I’ve been putting off—whatever the Ministry wants. Get used to people staring at me and all the damn articles they’ll print in The Prophet. Merlin, if they find out I actually died, they’ll never leave me alone ever again. But it would mean I’d be here to help make things right. I don’t know; I could help with Teddy like I agreed to, and I should probably help George with his shop now that…now. And I could be an Auror like I always wanted.”
“Do you still want that?”
“Not really. It’s hard to tell, though; I don’t really want much of anything.”
Sighing, Draco agreed. “I know what you mean. It’s hard to want much beyond quiet, a good cup of tea, and knowing that my mother is all right.” He smiled wryly. “I guess I’m not ready to leave just yet.” He was starting to feel guilty for continuing to hide as the days progressed, but not enough to make him leave, not yet.
“I know what you mean.” Harry sounded sad.
“Look, Harry,” Draco said. “I wish I’d realized sooner that I didn’t need to do everything that people wanted me to. Shoulds, shouldn’ts…It’s hard to live with yourself if, deep down, you question the choices you’ve made. And you usually end up fucking up the bad ones.” He swallowed hard as images of Dumbledore’s face atop the Astronomy Tower flashed through his brain, followed by Katie’s lifeless body as she became cursed from his necklace.
He looked over to find Harry watching him. “Just…do what you need to do, that’s all,” he said finally. “Not what everyone else needs you to do. We’ve both done enough of that.” Draco sighed. “At least, that’s my plan from now on.”
Harry smiled at him, rolling onto his side to face him. “I think that’s a good plan.” They drifted into silence once again as he thought, for the first time in a very, very long time, about his future.
Sitting in their respective chairs, Harry and Draco looked out of the window at the rain.
“It’s easy to be melancholy when it’s raining,” Draco commented.
Harry nodded in agreement. “No wonder Pepper Up is the best-selling potion in Britain.”
“At the same time, the sound of it is comforting,” Draco mused.
Listening to the rhythm of the water pelting the windowpane, Harry added, “When I was a kid, it reminded me that I was inside, warm and dry, if nothing else.” Aunt Petunia had never gone as far as to banish Harry from the house when it was raining, if only because of the mud he’d drag in when he tromped through the front door later.
They sat quietly, presumably lost in their own thoughts. He was glad Draco never felt the need to fill the silence with pointless chatter. Perhaps it was because Draco wasn’t a chatterer, full stop. But Harry appreciated it none the less.
At one point, he got up to use the loo. After, he poured himself some coffee, spelled steaming hot and with a dash of milk, and once again joined Malfoy by the window. He handed Draco one of the two large cookies he’d grabbed while he was up: pumpkin and raisin, Draco’s favourite. He kept the pumpkin and chocolate chip for himself.
Draco murmured his thanks as Harry bit into his, realizing immediately that he’d gotten the two flavours backwards. He could never quite tell them apart. He frowned and held out the rest of the raisin cookie to Draco, whose own nose was scrunched as he chewed. While he didn’t like raisins much, Draco wasn’t a great fan of chocolate. Silently, Draco swapped their treats, and Harry happily ate the remainder of the correct cookie as he sipped his coffee.
They continued to watch the rain drench the Hogwarts grounds throughout the afternoon, the downpour prolonged and steady.
He thought he’d have to learn how to make cookies, when he left the Room. He’d want them some day, he decided. Parsley wouldn’t always be around.
Later, he Summoned them each a second cookie—no harm in it, they were both still a little too thin. As he finished it and polished off the last of his cooled coffee, he realized he was something very close to happy.
Harry lost himself in Draco’s skin, sucking at the place where Draco’s slender neck ended and his shoulder began. He didn’t normally stray so far from Draco’s intoxicating mouth, but this bit of salty smooth skin had been too enticing for him to ignore.
From there, he trailed his lips down farther, pressing open-mouthed kisses to the lines criss-crossing over Draco’s chest, all the way down to the start of Draco’s pale hip and back up his body, the paths of the raised white scars visible even in the relative darkness.
“I’m not…” Draco said.
“Neither am I,” Harry responded.
When he looked up, the tears in Draco’s stormy eyes matched those he knew were falling from his own.
“Harry,” Draco breathed. “What is this?”
“I don’t know,” Harry said softly, dragging his teeth over Draco’s hipbone.
Draco sucked in a harsh breath as he carded his fingers through Harry’s hair. “Fuck.”
“I might always be fucked up, you know,” Harry said, resting his head on Draco’s abdomen and reaching for his dick. “I had to let go of too much. That won’t change.”
“Yes, well, don’t you dare let go now,” Draco gasped and Harry smiled despite himself as he held Draco’s prick firmly in his hand.
Afterwards it was Draco who took his hand and refused to let go.
“I think,” Draco called from the other side of the bathroom door, “that—on a purely practical level, of course—when we leave, we should go together.”
When we leave. When we leave. The words had been circling through his mind lately as well, so Harry spit his toothpaste into the sink and rinsed his toothbrush. “How’s that?”
“The attention. It will be split between us instead of each of us having to deal with all of it individually.”
Harry rinsed his mouth out with water and spit out into the sink. He’d been wondering what would happen if one of them was ready to go before the other, and he’d wondered who would be the first to leave. He wasn’t sure how long he could stay in there alone, especially now that he’d discovered needs he hadn’t known he had; the pleasure was addictive. He doubted the Room could meet those particular requirements if Draco left.
And as unpleasant as the attention would undoubtedly be, Harry suspected Draco also had more reasons than he was currently saying aloud.
Wiping the edge of the sink where he’d smudged toothpaste and dribbled water—Draco hated when he left messes—Harry decided that Draco’s proposition was an excellent idea.
He emerged from the bathroom. “It only makes sense. I mean, it would be confusing for Parsley if only one of us was here.”
“House elves are easily confused.” Draco smiled from his place at the window. “They hit their heads on hard surfaces far too often for it to be otherwise.”
“Do they like that?” Harry asked. “I can never tell.”
“Not sure. Bloody little bug-eyed masochists.” Draco grinned.
Harry hesitated. “Sometimes I wonder what’s going on out there,” he said, gesturing towards the window to the outside world.
“Me too,” Draco murmured. “Me too.”
The thought came to Draco as he was lying in the darkness; something had been tugging at his brain all evening.
“Harry!” Draco gasped.
Harry was fast asleep beside him, tucked into a little ball around a giant pillow, but Draco woke him anyway. He tugged at Harry’s arm. “Harry!”
Giving a soft snuffle, Harry rolled over to face him. He slowly blinked his eyes open. “Whasth’matter?” he mumbled. “Sleeping.”
“Wake up. Harry, what if…what if this isn’t real?”
“Not…real.” Harry’s forehead furrowed. “Hmm. Am I dreaming again?”
“No, Harry. Listen. Think about it; the Room gives us everything that we need, doesn’t it? Everything but food, I mean. What if…what if it conjured you?”
“Don’t—Draco, what’re you even saying? Don’t be ridiculous…” Harry closed his eyes. “Go back to sleep.”
“I don’t sleep,” Draco said with a sniff. “And I’m serious. What if the Room made you to, I don’t know…give me company.”
“I’m real, I promise.” Harry’s breath began to even out once more.
“Harry,” Draco whined.
“Mmmhmmm…” Harry said, mumbling something unintelligible before he pulled up the covers more tightly around him and settled back into his pillows. “Go…sleep.”
Draco watched Harry, whose face was calm as he began dozing off again. Meanwhile, Draco continued to panic. What if…what if…What if this wasn’t real? He couldn’t get the notion out of his head, and worse, it made more and more sense, the more that he thought about it. Harry was so different from the Harry Potter he’d known before. Of course the Room would have made him out of character, if that’s what Draco had needed. In many ways, a conjured Harry made more sense than believing that the real Harry had pulled him into his bed and started to twine their lives and limbs together. Draco felt like he’d been punched in the gut. Not real…
He rolled over onto his back.
Harry wasn’t real. Of course he wasn’t. He’d shown up mysteriously sometime after Draco had entered, and he’d simply assumed it was the actual Harry Potter. How could he have been such an utter—
He turned sharply to Harry, who was scrambling to sit up, suddenly wide awake. “Bloody—you’re not. You might not be real!” Harry gasped.
Draco laughed sharply as he sat up as well. “Me? You’re the one who must be conjured. Weren’t you listening? The Room must have made you for me. Salazar, I’ve been such a fool!” How could he have ever believed this was the real Potter? Didn’t act like him in the least—and the Room had obviously been happy to provide a made-up Harry for Draco, even if it was all fake in the end. He wanted to throw something. Or sick up. Perhaps both.
Harry scrubbed his hand through his hair and rubbed his eyes. “I’ve been…all this time, I’ve thought…thought that maybe…and you’re probably not even fucking real.” He pinched his nose and squeezed his eyes shut. “You’re not real.”
“I am though!” Draco insisted.
“Well, so am I!”
“How do you know?”
“I just do.”
“Ahh, there’s the Potter I know. All confidence with nothing to back it.”
“Shut the fuck up, Malfoy. Or should I point out that you pick fights when you get scared.”
“Fuck you,” Draco said, even as he reached towards Harry, just to check that he was still solid. He put his hand over Harry’s heart, which beat steadily beneath his palm.
“I’m real, Draco.”
“But what if you’re not? It only makes sense. You’re too—you’re not like who you used to be at all. I thought maybe you’d changed, but I think the Room just made you up. That’s so fucking twisted.“
“I’m allowed to change. Haven’t you? Or, Godric, maybe you really haven’t after all and you are made up. I can’t tell what to believe. Fuck.” Harry’s brow furrowed. “Do you really think it’s possible that one of us isn’t real? Fuck. The more I think about it…”
Laughter burst out of Draco. He knew he sounded completely mad but there was nothing to be done for it. “Listen to us! We can’t even figure out which of us is actually here and which is just some damn apparition!”
“Well if one of us is conjured, it’s obviously you,” Harry interrupted. “You’re not…Merlin. I need you! More than I ever could’ve fucking imagined. And obviously the Room knew it, so when I came here, it had you here waiting for me. Just like everything else I needed. Bloody hell, I can’t believe I never realized. I’m such an idiot! It makes sense…definitely easier to believe. I really think that it’s you who might not be real!” Harry’s face was stretched in disbelief. “I can’t believe it,” he kept saying, over and over again, and it something inside of Draco broke.
“Wait,” Draco said. “Please don’t cry,” he pleaded even as he realized his own eyes had become a bit watery. “You’re wrong. I was here first. When I arrived the bed was here. I was so tired, so I went to sleep right away. And then, when I got up, you were here, just like everything else I needed. You’re the one conjured.”
“No,” Harry insisted, his cheeks flushed. “You’re dead wrong. You don’t understand. Draco, I need you. The Room had to make you for me.”
“Do you really not understand that I need you too?” Draco asked. “How can you not see just how badly?”
“Well, we can’t both be made up!”
“We can’t both be real!”
“Unless we actually are.”
“I guess that’s possible.” Draco frowned.
“I honestly don’t know which is scarier—that the Room gave me you or you gave me you.”
They stared at each other.
“What do we do?” Harry asked then, quietly. “I can’t do this again. I can’t. I can’t lose…You might not be real and you could just disappear and I’ll lose you and I never even fucking had you.”
“I don’t know,” Draco replied. The possibility that Harry was only some illusion was devastating. “I really don’t know.”
“Hold me,” Harry asked hesitantly, so Draco gathered Harry in his arms, inhaling deep lungfuls of the scent he had come to know intimately as Harry Potter.
Soon, he peeled off their remaining clothing and they lay together, wrapped in each other’s arms, every kiss and touch rife with longing. As best he could, Draco put aside the knowledge that the man he clung to might not be real, even as he realized his own feelings very much were.
Neither of them slept that night and dawn arrived slowly, if at all. The clouds were low, heavy and unrelenting; the rain-soaked night seemed hesitant to turn over the reins to a still greyer day.
When he finally peeled himself from Draco’s arms, Harry went to take a long, hot shower; however, he couldn’t seem to get warm no matter how high the water temperature.
Just as he’d begun to trust Draco, this new possibility wormed its way into his mind and made him doubt everything once more. And now he couldn’t figure out a way to prove whether Draco was real without them leaving the Room. Fucking Room. How could it have ever thought it was a good idea to make a Draco for him? Harry felt nauseated. Having this Draco around may have turned out better than he ever could have expected, but it wasn’t worth it, not if Harry had to lose him when he stepped out the door.
He stayed in the bathroom as long as he could. Just in case…If Draco wasn’t real, Harry thought it might be good to begin the distancing process necessary to protect his heart, even if it was just starting with this littlest separation. But in the end, he couldn’t resist Draco—real or otherwise. He wanted to spend whatever time they had together.
He never doubted for a moment that he himself was real. He was certain the Room couldn’t have conjured such a painful existence for him just for Draco’s amusement. But Draco was probably right…the odds that they were both real and had come to know each other—come to care for each other—like they had...
Harry swallowed hard. The odds couldn’t be good.
He wasn’t sure he could stay in the Room like this, not knowing. The possibility of another painful separation gnawed at him and the Room no longer seemed a haven and a respite. The walls resounded with echoes of Draco after all this time in close proximity, but it was a Draco who might not be real, and Harry couldn’t handle that chance.
Just the possibility of it changed the Room for him. Soon, he’d need to walk out that door and try to move on, somehow. Because now there was a chance, no matter how minute—and truthfully, he didn’t think it small at all—that on the other side of the door to the Hogwarts corridor was the old Draco Malfoy who called him a speccy git and hexed his friends instead of the one he’d come to know. The one who called him Harry and bandaged his wounds and kissed away his tears.
Harry bit back a sob and pounded his fist on the shower wall.
“I don’t want to be here now. Now that you might not be you,” Harry said, his voice low, gravelly and exhausted. “It feels fake. Even if you’re real, all I can think is that everything else in this Room is an illusion. All of it. I mean, I knew that before, but I wasn’t thinking about it. I liked hiding from the world. But now, now I’m just fooling myself by being here. I don’t think I can stay.”
They sat in their chairs by the window, tea in hand. Harry was tucked into a ball on his chair, wearing his pyjamas with a blanket around his shoulders.
Draco looked at him sadly. “I know. Feels like one giant Fuck You to Draco Malfoy. If you aren’t real, it’s all just been some sort of twisted punishment, giving me a few weeks of false happiness before it’s ripped away and you disappear and they throw me in jail as soon as I walk out that door. I’ll be mocked when it’s discovered I fell for it. Maybe the Room did it because of the Fiendfyre.”
“Stop, Draco. The Room is not punishing you.”
“Why the fuck not? Hogwarts has every right to—”
“What if it was you that was conjured, do you think the Room would have done it to punish me?”
“Of course not. But that’s irrelevant because it’s impossible.”
“It’s just as possible as the other way around.” Harry looked at him balefully. “We’ll never figure this out from in here, will we?”
“I don’t know,” Draco admitted, though he was certain he had to be the real one. He ran his fingers along his jaw, rough with whiskers, and rubbed his temple. He sighed, completely defeated yet again. “You’re right, though. Now that I’ve been reminded that it’s all just magic, I’m not sure I want to be here either.”
“When should we leave?”
“You still insist on going together? Knowing that one of us is going to fade away to nothing as soon as we step through that door?”
“Yeah,” Harry said. “I think I do.”
Draco nodded, eager to end the potential farce. “Fine then. Not today, I…need time. Tomorrow? In the morning. The castle will be empty early, so it will be easier to leave without being accosted.”
“Okay,” Harry agreed. “Tomorrow.”
Draco bit his lip. “I want you to be real. I need you to be.”
Harry smiled sadly. “I know. Me too. We can still hope that’s the case, can’t we?”
“Hope.” Draco rubbed his tired eyes. Salazar; he couldn’t believe it had come down to that.
Harry stood looking out at the endless rain.
Draco was pacing behind him. “Why else would Parsley have come to feed us if I wasn’t real?” Draco asked. “My mum wouldn’t have sent Parsley to feed you if you’d been here alone, would she?”
Harry thought for a moment. It did seem odd, but it wasn’t impossible. He said as much. “Besides,” he added. “Why would your mum send enough for both of us if I wasn’t real too?”
Draco stopped and turned to him. “I don’t…I don’t know. Unless Parsley thought you were real, just like I did?”
Frowning, he watched the water stream down the windowpane. “I wish I could believe that again, that you’re really you and I’m really me and we’re here in this place as long as we want.”
“I know. I’m not sure I can trust that, though.”
Harry sighed. “It’s hard to imagine. Good things don’t really happen for me very often.”
“I know what you mean.” Draco said. “Though, actually, I do have an idea.” He went to the table and grabbed a quill, Transfiguring another piece of parchment and then an origami owl. “I’m asking Parsley to come. I have a few questions for her,” he explained as Harry looked on. “Maybe we can figure out which of us is fake.” The paper owl soon flew out into the storm with Draco’s note clasped in its intricate talons.
Harry wasn’t sure how much time passed until Parsley arrived, but it didn’t seem like much of a wait. As Draco proceeded to ask the little elf strings of questions, Harry had to admit that Draco was smart. He’d thought of several that hadn’t occurred to Harry at all. Still, he couldn’t seem to find any evidence that either of them were conjured, any more than he could find proof they both were real. Meanwhile, Parsley seemed to grow more and more alarmed as he questions continued.
“Do both of us look the same to you, Parsley?”
Parsley cocked her head. “No, Master Draco. Mister Potter has spectacles! And his scar is on his forehead.”
“Not that,” Draco corrected, stopping Parsley quickly as she went charging face first into the wall. “Please don’t…do that. Or that,” he added when Parsley changed gears and went to pinch her fingers in the door to the loo. “I wasn’t clear. I just mean, are we both…solid? Do either of us look like we might not be real?”
“Real? You is both real to Parsley,” she said cautiously.
Draco hummed, obviously thinking he was on to something. “But not real to anyone else outside the Room?”
“Parsley is not knowing that, Master Draco. Parsley is the only one seeing you.” Frowning, Draco looked around. His gaze settled on a grapefruit which he Summoned. “Parsley, is this food real?”
“Oh yes! Parsley is buying it yesterday from the man with the blue hat.”
“What about this table?” Draco pointed to the table that had been in the Room since the beginning.
Parsley looked at him. “Master Draco, if you is wanting a real table, you is only needing to be telling Parsley. Was Parsley already supposed to be bringing one? Parsley is sorry!” she squeaked, reaching for the grapefruit, peeling it expertly, and squirting the acidic juice directly into her eyes. She sniffled. “Is Master Draco also wanting real chairs and beds?” she fretted. “Parsley can bring those too. Parsley wasn’t thinking.”
Draco Banished the remainder of the grapefruit. “Stop. Stop. It’s fine. We don’t need any real furniture. But you can tell the difference then, between what the Room has created and what is real?”
“Oh yes, Master Draco. Parsley can tell you all of the things.” She pointed to Harry’s glasses. “Real,” she said, then pointed to Harry’s throw pillow. “Not real, though it needs cleaning. Can Parsley clean it for Mister Potter?”
“That won’t be necessary,” Harry interjected.
Draco’s forehead furrowed as he thought things over. “Have you seen either of us, Harry or myself, outside of the Room since the war?” Draco asked.
“Oh no, Master Draco.” Parsley blinked up at him. “Parsley is seeing you here each morning, unless you is in the bathroom or Mister Potter’s bed.”
Harry snorted despite himself.
Draco looked at Harry and shrugged helplessly. “Can you think of any other way to tell?”
Harry shook his head, wondering if it was possible that they both were, in fact, who they believed themselves to be.
“And my mother thinks we’re both real?” Draco asked finally. When Parsley nodded, he sighed. “Okay. I guess we can’t tell either way. You can go.”
Parsley nodded and took Draco’s hand, patted it, and led him over to where Harry stood. She placed his hand in Harry’s and gently squeezed their fingers in hers.
“Real,” she said, smiling sweetly. “Real.”
She Apparated away with a soft pop.
Hope, Harry thought. Hope.
Draco looked at him until eventually they both turned to watch the windy, wet world outside. They remained quiet as the grey daylight turned to foggy night.
Harry felt nauseated. “I thought I was done hurting for a while, but this is painful all over again, thinking you’ll not exist when we walk through that door.”
“I know,” Draco agreed.
“Let’s just stay, then,” Harry pleaded, though he knew it was irrational. They couldn’t stay in the Room forever but imagining the world outside, pushing and pulling at him, was overwhelming.
“Harry, we can’t.” Draco took a deep breath. “We have to go. It’s time to stop pretending. Even if we are both real, the rest of this…isn’t.”
“I wish I knew what was going on out there. Maybe we could stay longer…”
“There are things we have to do. People who need us.”
“I thought you said you were done with shoulds and shouldn’ts,” Harry said with a pout. “Besides, I need you here.”
“I know, I know. But…what if I’m not ready?”
Draco hesitated, but only for a moment. “Then I’ll stay too, of course. We said we’d go together.”
“No, I’m being…It’s time. I won’t force you to stay. I won’t hold you back.” He felt like his chest was going to implode. They had to go—for them to move on, and for them to know for sure that their connection was real. But that didn’t mean he wanted to. Hadn’t he let go of enough? And if it proved that Draco was conjured…well, Harry thought he might well die a third time.
“Are you really not ready?” Draco asked after some silence.
“When I first thought you might not actually be…you, I couldn’t imagine getting out of here fast enough, but now I’m not sure of anything. That hope stuff is dangerous.” The Room was dark. Intimate. And Harry felt safe. And he could pretend.
“I’m real, Harry. When we walk through that door, I’m still going to be here. I won’t disintegrate like the table after supper.”
“I am too,” Harry bit his lip, recalling how the table had sort of faded into nothingness after they’d finished eating. It was alarming, though he supposed he was lucky he hadn’t been sitting on the bench when it happened. It seemed even the Room agreed their time inside it was coming to an end. Apparently, they wouldn’t be needing the table for additional meals. “I guess we just have to trust that this is real, that we’ll both still be these incarnations of ourselves when we get outside,” Harry added eventually.
“Yes. I think so,” Draco said. “We can’t stay. We’ll just doubt each other more every day and that would destroy us both. The guilt will get worse. I know you feel it—guilty for not visiting Teddy or your friends. And I’ve got to see my mother. She probably needs help dealing with everything. I’ll be resentful and you’ll get all tetchy. And we’ll wither eventually, without sunlight. We need each other here, but we need to let each other leave even more.”
“I just…are you sure you’re real?” Harry asked, his stomach clenching.
Draco looked at him sadly. “As sure as I can be, Harry. In some ways, none of this feels real, and in other ways, it’s the war that feels like it was all a bad dream.”
“I lose everyone, Draco,” Harry said, feeling a good deal lost himself.
“And I push everyone way,” Draco said. “It’s easier, isn’t it? But that’s not what I want this time. So I’m not going anywhere tomorrow without you. We can’t hold each other here because we’re afraid.”
Harry nodded. “Okay.”
“Now, if I remember correctly, you owe me a favour.”
“I do?” Harry had a vague recollection but couldn’t quite remember the details. “If you made me promise something while we were...you know.” He cleared his throat.
“From when I helped you grow your hair back and you made me rub it all over your misshapen head, you git.”
“Now wait a minu—”
“A deal’s a deal,” Draco interrupted. “And you owe me.”
Looking at him suspiciously, Harry chewed his lip. “What d’you want then? Spit it out.”
“I want to pretend, tonight, and I want you to pretend with me. Pretend we know this is real, that we’re real. Pretend we don’t have a single doubt about what’s going to happen when we walk out that door tomorrow morning. I want tonight to be ours, even if it’s just...Look, I’ve lost enough to worry and fear. So, no matter how unsure we are of what will happen when we leave, tonight is ours. And I need you, badly, and don’t want to apologize for all of the ways that I need you.”
Harry stepped over to where Draco had been leaning against his bedpost and reached up to wind his hand through Draco’s silky hair. His profile was visible in the soft moonlight that had finally broken through the clouds. The sharp angles of Draco’s face had become beautiful with familiarity. Tonight, with the moon at his back, he was simply gorgeous. Parting his lips, Harry leaned in and touched his mouth to Draco’s, and the pull of need awakened his nerves and gave rest to his worrying mind.
Pulling Draco with him, Harry fell back onto the bed, needing to feel Draco’s warm weight heavy against his body. “You’re gorgeous, you know,” Harry whispered, brushing a strand of Draco’s hair from his forehead. Draco mashed his lips against Harry’s in response, impatiently and repeatedly. The bed curtains rustled in the cool night air.
“I’m here,” Draco breathed.
“You’re here,” Harry echoed, his heart skipping a beat. He ran his hands up Draco’s sides until they came to rest on his slender but muscular back. Draco was no longer too skinny, nor did he jump at every one of Harry’s touches or startle when Harry accidentally dropped his spoon. The purple bruises under his eyes remained, but they’d both be sleepless that night.
Draco’s lips met Harry’s again and again as they held each other. Harry wasn’t sure when life had become tolerable again, very much worth living, but it had. Draco against him, their mouths breathing together as they stole kiss after kiss from each other’s lips—this was right. Harry’d never asked for much, but he wouldn’t have known how to ask for this if he tried. He never knew healing went beyond potions and Pepper Up.
The worrisome ache he’d felt earlier was changing into a more urgent need; Draco certainly felt real as his weight settled against Harry. The emotional ties they’d formed had come as nearly as much of a surprise to him as the physical ones, but the pull for both was building in his stomach and making him breathless.
Draco’s hips began to move over Harry’s, the small thrusts steady as Draco nibbled at Harry’s lower lip and scraped his teeth lightly over Harry’s jaw. Harry reached up to pull him closer, his hands on Draco for leverage, their cocks growing as they pressed themselves together.
Craning his neck, Harry reached to taste Draco’s skin where a light sheen of sweat had clung to his neck. Draco wrapped his arm behind Harry’s neck to support his head, keeping their bodies connected from head to toe even as he canted his hips against Harry’s.
The thrusts were small and steady but made Harry breathless with need. He reached for Draco, slipped his hands under his shirt to feel the flat planes of Draco’s chest under his fingers.
Draco brushed Harry’s hair back from his forehead and pressed his lips to Harry’s head. “I need you. I need you so much,” he whispered, his lips brushing Harry’s forehead as he spoke, and Harry knew there was something more for them that night. Maybe it was that their emotions had finally been forced to catch up with their physical urges, but Harry wanted to worship every inch of Draco’s body with his tongue. No, not wanted to; needed to.
Urgent, undeniable, and uncontainable, Harry reached for the clasp at Draco’s waist and unbuttoned his trousers, slipping his hand inside to grasp Draco’s prick.
“Harry. Harry, Harry,” Draco pleaded, and Harry stroked him through his pants.
Harry smiled up at him then, pulling his hand free and rolling Draco off him. Yanking his shirt over his head, he watched as Draco fussed with the buttons on his own before Harry grabbed both shirts and tossed them aside. Their trousers soon followed.
Their current clothing evaporated entirely before it ever hit the floor; the Room would provide new clothes come morning.
Even Harry’s bed had begun to fade from its place across the room. It wasn’t the darkness that had Harry squinting to see it—the mattress, pillows, bedframe, all had become cloudy, ephemeral. They’d be spending the night together in Draco’s it seemed.
Draco paused when he saw Harry’s attention had turned to the Room itself, and Harry heard him gasp when he noticed Harry’s bed and his own leather chaise which had become nothing more than a shadow. Harry’s armchair, at least, remained in its usual solid state, at least for the time being.
Harry began to panic. If Draco disappeared before they even made it to morning… He looked at Draco helplessly. Draco was already pale enough in the darkness that Harry couldn’t be sure he wasn’t some sort of apparition.
“No, Harry. Stop it. Remember what I said. Tonight is ours. That’s what I ask from you. Give me everything that you are—except your fear and doubt. There’s no room for that and no time.”
Harry swallowed the lump in his throat and threw himself back into Draco’s arms. They tumbled back to the bed, and Harry tried to lose himself once more in Draco’s touch. They pulled off each other’s pants and Harry soon found himself kneeling between Draco’s spread legs, his hand ghosting over Draco’s prick and the hot skin of his bollocks.
Draco sat up, bracing himself with his arms behind him as he angled his neck up to meet Harry’s mouth. Reaching up with one hand, Draco fisted Harry’s hair as Harry leaned over him. Harry held tight to Draco’s shoulder as he continued to stroke him while they kissed.
He wanted to kiss every inch of Draco. The arch of his foot, the side of his knee. The place where his thigh ended and his hip began. Wanted to taste his light pink nipple, the crook of his arm, the inside of his wrist.
He’d already tasted Draco’s mouth countless times, but he still wanted that, too. Always. So he did all of those things. He dragged his lips over the long limbs and lean frame, the soft places and the rough. The places that tasted like Draco, and the others that tasted even more like Draco. He pulled soft moans from Draco’s lips as he nuzzled the potent skin at the base of cock.
“So you…really don’t mind, then. That I’m male?” Draco asked as Harry did so.
Harry took Draco’s dick in his hand and stroked it. It wasn’t too long or too thin or too short or too pink—it was just Draco. “I promise you, I do not,” Harry smiled softly. “It’s just another part of who you are, and I like it just as well as your nose and toes and arse. Possibly better than some bits, actually. Your elbows are very pointy.” Harry stroked him again. “I might like your neck most of all.”
When Draco protested, Harry stopped him. “It’s true. But now you’ve made me wonder. What about me…being a man. Is that…not what you had…not okay?” He looked up at Draco.
The way Draco’s grey eyes drank him in had Harry changing his favourite body part as he waited for Draco to answer. Clearing his throat roughly, he opened his mouth and then stopped, closing it again before he finally managed to speak. “I think…perhaps…I might be glad that you are—a man,” he finally choked out. “I don’t…I’ve not told…it is a sore point, you could say. The Dark Lord wasn’t a big fan of purebloods with inclinations that didn’t continue bloodlines.”
“Oh Merlin, Draco.” Harry reached up to take Draco in his arms and they lay there together, Harry holding him, as Draco breathed softly into the darkness.
“You’re beautiful,” Harry said. And Draco was—all angles, perhaps, but ones that were interesting and perfectly placed.
Draco sighed and the puff of air danced through Harry’s hair.
“Draco,” Harry breathed into his mouth. “Will you roll over for me?”
Draco studied him before nodding slightly and dropping back to the bed and rolling onto his stomach.
Harry reached for his arse, kneading the pale flesh there, before settling once more between Draco’s legs and lowering himself onto Draco’s back. He curled his arms under Draco and around his shoulders, and let his head fall so he could press open kisses along Draco’s upper back, his shoulders, and his neck until Draco turned his head enough for Harry to kiss the side of his mouth as well.
Rocking his hips, Harry’s prick found a path between Draco’s buttocks, and the heat and friction made him groan with need. Draco trembled as Harry stroked himself along the cleft of Draco’s arse, alternatingly pressing back against Harry and down into the blankets below him.
Reaching between them, Harry adjusted his angle, and slipped his legs outside of Malfoy's. Licking his palm and using the bit of fluid at the top of his prick, Harry tried to slick his cock before he pressed it against Draco again, this time at the apex of his thighs.
Draco dropped his head to the mattress. “Is this…is this okay?” Harry asked, thrusting again into the tight space between Draco’s legs.
“Yeah,” Draco said. “But I think we need…” Draco trailed off as a small vial appeared by Draco’s shoulder. “I think that will help.”
Harry reached for the warm oil gratefully, using it liberally on his dick. When he pressed between the smooth skin of Draco’s upper thighs a second time, the slick hot slide was so pleasurable he couldn’t help but groan. “Fuck, Draco. Merlin, I can’t, it’s so…” Harry babbled as he canted his hips, thrusting into the tight space Draco had given him.
His breathing soon became laboured as he rocked against Draco, grunting roughly as he fucked between Draco’s thighs. Except it was more than fucking; the soft sounds Draco made in response tugged at Harry’s heart and told him so. He reached for Draco, slowing his rhythm back to a gentle roll of his hips so he could turn Draco’s head towards him, eager to see his haunting grey eyes and kiss his parted red lips while he ran his hands over every inch of Draco’s skin.
“I wonder if, one day…” Harry burrowed his head into Draco’s shoulder. “I just mean…I think I could. I could try anyway. To love you. One day—as much as I could love anyone at this point, whatever that means. Or maybe I’m not ever going to be capable of that, but if I could…” He cringed. “That sounds—much worse than I’d hoped. I’m such a mess. Not so romantic, it turns out,” he confessed helplessly.
Draco craned his neck. “This isn’t about romance, Harry. This is just us. This is who we are. And I think that’s enough. It’s definitely enough for now. I’ve…I have no idea how, but somehow you made me care about you, too. Let’s know that tonight. That we care, despite how we came into this Room fucked up and with a history we’ve every right to be ashamed of. Against all odds, we’ve found something here. It’s ours and no one else’s. And it will still be ours tomorrow when we leave. We’ll let the days after that work themselves out. I don’t need romance from you. I just need you, okay?”
Harry nodded, his eyes bright with unshed tears. He kissed Draco desperately until the pull to thrust deeper and harder again became impossible to ignore. He pulled out until just his head touched Draco’s legs and then thrust back between them into the tight space.
Leaning down as he rocked, Harry kissed along Draco’s spine as his hands traced over the white skin stretched over his back and shoulders and ribs, Draco’s muscles quivering in the wake of his touch. Finally, Harry melted, draping himself over Draco, their sweaty bodies slick as they rocked together languidly. Lacing their fingers together, Harry dragged and pressed his cock through Draco’s thighs as Draco rutted against the mattress.
“I’m here,” he breathed into Draco’s ear. “It’s really me. I’m here.”
The anguished gasp that ripped from Draco’s throat had them both shaking.
As determined as he was to last, eventually Harry couldn’t hold back any more. He dropped his forehead to Draco’s shoulder, and began to thrust more quickly as Draco fisted the blankets below them. Harry made sure their bodies remained in contact as much as he could manage, his chest on Draco’s back, their arms entwined, as Harry grunted with each thrust.
Tangled, meshed, and a mess, Harry came with a hoarse cry, bucking his hips erratically as he spilled into the divot between Draco’s legs. “Draco,” he gasped, almost frightened by the strength of his need, and Draco turned and kissed him through his climax, swallowing his grunts and devouring his mouth.
When he could move again, Harry rolled off Draco and onto his back, allowing Draco to climb between his legs. Harry groaned as Draco lowered his hips, Draco’s erection sliding against his own softening cock. Draco’s nipples pebbled and his abdomen flexed as Harry reached for him.
“Harry.” Draco’s voice was raw and his cheeks were flushed pink, the colour bold against the creamy white of his skin and hair and the rest of the night time greys that surrounded them.
“C’mere,” Harry said, pulling Draco against him.
Draco lapped at the skin on Harry’s shoulder as he frotted against him, the movements slow and deliberate. Draco’s whiskers scratched at the skin of his neck but Harry wouldn’t have traded it as Draco’s lips trailed over this throat.
“I changed my mind,” Draco confessed. “I don’t want to go. Let’s just stay like this. We can get up to eat occasionally, I suppose. And I’ll want a bath, but—”
“Draco,” Harry whispered, silencing him with a desperate kiss, even as his own heart ached at the knowledge. “We have to. It’s time.”
The room had grown darker as clouds crossed over the moon. Even so, Harry could make out the look on Draco’s face, as well as the medicine table by the door that had now faded into nothingness. He couldn’t stand seeing either, so he closed his eyes and breathed deeply, their own scents heavy in the air as Draco rutted against him.
Slowing his rhythm once more, Draco leaned down to kiss Harry’s eyelids, and Harry soon found them fluttering open despite himself. He reached for Draco’s shoulders, brushed the hair from Draco’s sweaty forehead, and then locked his ankles behind Draco, hanging on as tightly as he could while Draco rolled his hips, chasing his own release.
It didn’t take long; they’d been too worked up for too long already. Even as he stiffened in Harry’s arms, he grunted, “Don’t wanna…let…go. Don’t. Let. Go.”
Harry didn’t, and Draco’s body tensed and relaxed in turns as his hips bucked and he came against Harry’s hip.
Harry licked his lips, his fingers gripping Draco until they were white, and craned his neck up until their tongues found each other once again.
They held each other through the remaining hours of the darkest night.
Harry didn’t think they ever slept, although, perhaps, he may have dozed at times. But mostly he let Draco cradle him in his arms, and let the safety of their fading home and Draco’s unending kisses sweep him under until the faintest hint of light began to emanate from the east.
When the sun began to bring colour back into the Room, Harry and Draco got up and shuffled over to Harry’s armchair. Wrapped in blankets, they sat together in silence and watched the sun rise over the eastern horizon.
When they stood, they found two piles of clothes on Draco’s bed—the same clothing they wore into the Room the day the war had ended. Then, their clothing had been tattered and torn, dirty, and ill-fitting due to weight loss. Harry’s trainers had been filthy, with a hole worn in one toe and the rubber sole peeling off on the other.
The clothes that waited for them now, though, were clean and whole again. The stains and worn patches were gone, the stitching again perfect, the weaves tight, and the shoes in one piece. If Harry looked closely, he could see evidence of the small tear he’d made in one of his sleeves when he’d run through the woods, now mended, but still there. The grass stains were gone from his jeans, but he could still see the colour barely faded in places that had been worn down to a few threads.
When Harry put his jeans on, they fit once again, though whether he’d changed or the clothes had, he wasn’t exactly sure.
After tying the laces on his trainers, he stood and found Draco gazing around them. Harry’s armchair was fading fast and the bathroom door was starting to blur.
“Just a second,” Harry said, walking quickly to the bathroom door. The doorknob felt funny in his hand—almost like spun sugar—but it opened. Once inside he looked quickly in the mirror.
He didn’t need to squint; they were there waiting for him: Remus. Tonks. Fred. Sirius, his mum, and his dad. Dumbledore and Dobby. And, there, perched atop the reflection of the shower curtain rod, was Hedwig.
“I came to say ‘Goodbye’,” Harry said. “I don’t have the Stone anymore—and I’m not sure why you could come to me here in the Room, but I’m glad you did. I don’t think I’ll see you again for a while.” He gazed at all of their faces, memorizing their reflections as they stared back at him. “I came back from King’s Cross because it wasn’t over. And I guess it’s still not, for me, because I’m still here. So, as long as am here, I suppose I should make the best go of it that I can.”
He glanced out the door at Draco, feeling the urge to return to his side and take his hand instead of talking to the ghosts in the mirror.
Turning back to them, he met each of their kind gazes: Fred’s grin, his mother’s soft concern, the twinkle in Dumbledore’s eye, his father’s proud look. “Thanks,” he said softly. “I’ll see you…when it’s time to see you.” He tried to give one last smile as he slipped out of the bathroom and back to Draco.
The door faded away into the wall before it fully shut behind him.
Harry took a deep breath took Draco’s hand. Everything was gone now—Draco’s bed, the last chair. The spider web in the corner, the crack in the ceiling.
He didn’t want to be there when the window disappeared too, so he looked at Draco. “Are you ready?”
Draco’s face was pale. “I don’t know,” he replied, his voice shaky.
“It’ll be fine,” Harry said as confidently as he could, lacing their fingers and taking a step towards the door. Draco didn’t move, though, so Harry barely made it two steps.
Turning, he came back and pressed his forehead to Draco’s. “I’ll still be with you when we walk through the door. I promise. But you need to let me go or you’ll never know. We’ll never know for sure that this is us, and our truth.” They had to trust in each other, and in what they could become.
Fear tightened Draco’s face, but he nodded once and leaned back, straightening his shoulders. “Right.” He looked at Harry. “Okay.”
They walked to Room’s entrance, the only place Harry hadn’t stepped a thousand times during the past weeks and months. Before they opened it, Draco dropped Harry’s hand and reached for Harry’s shirt, tugging him close into a desperate, aching kiss. Harry cupped the back of Draco’s head, his soft hair as white as rays of the early morning sun.
“Okay,” Draco said more firmly. “I’m ready.”
“Okay,” Harry said, shivering as they broke apart from their kiss. Fingers entwined, Draco reached for the doorknob with his other hand. As Draco opened it, Harry squeezed his hand, even as he knew he must set Draco free.
Holding his breath, Harry closed his eyes and bravely stepped forwards, pleading with Merlin that the hand wrapped around his would stay as solid as the stone castle floor beneath their feet. He could manage, he thought, if it did.
Harry took three steps forward and then stopped. Paused.
A warm hand squeezed his. He opened his eyes and looked over only to find his Draco looking back at him with wonder.
Harry nearly sobbed with relief. He may have done, actually, as he pulled Draco to him, placing kisses all over his equally astonished face, right there in the grey Hogwarts corridor.
When Draco laughed, Harry joined him. He couldn’t stop smiling. They could do this. Together.
“Let’s go,” Draco said, and Harry nodded.
“Yeah. Let’s.” Harry grinned.
Their blackest night had passed. There would always be foggy days and shadows lurking in their corners, but together, Harry thought, they just might be able to keep their darkness at bay.
As they walked through the deserted castle corridors and out into the sunny morning, Draco guided them, explaining to Harry the best route to slip out of the castle unnoticed. Making their way out the door and into the sun, Harry realized that, like Hermione and Ron before him, he’d become so attuned to Draco’s voice he could discern every hidden emotion colouring his words.
As such, he could tell Draco felt very much the same as he did in that moment; a touch of careful hope lifted the ends of his words. But then, Draco’s hand was warm in his, and that, perhaps, was all the difference.
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