The storm suits his mood – dark, wild, and angry.
Draco chases his prey across the hospital grounds while Potter keeps pace behind him, urging him to stay calm. Stay focused. Stay sane, Malfoy! And that's amusing enough that Draco stumbles, laughing at Potter's stab at placation. How often has some poor sane sap been incarcerated in such a place only to wake up a few months later completely and utterly mad?
He hates this. It's been five days of pure hell (during which Potter has spouted unprofessional, romantic drivel at every turn – none of which has been aimed at Draco). Granger said this would be the easy part. A walk in the park, she said. The lying bitch. It's no wonder he can't stop the bursts of hysterical laughter that bubble up as he gives chase through the stinging rain.
"Malfoy!" Potter's voice is a winded huff of exasperation. Draco feels fingers brush his shirt, grab at the material, then fall away. "Damn it, Malfoy!"
Ahead of him, his quarry slips in the slick mud and goes down on one knee. With a crow of triumph, Draco bounds forward and pounces. Their arms and legs tangle, and Draco feels his leverage give way as the manicured grass beneath him uproots, oozing mud through the thin cotton of his hospital pants. His prisoner flips them and lands on top with a thud, his hysterical laugh an eerie twin of Draco's.
"Well met, Dragon," he cries as muddy water drips from his hair. "You gave quite the chase."
Draco bucks up with a growl, struggling to breathe. "Get off of me."
He wants to add something suitably insulting, perhaps including the words "barking" and "mad" for good measure, but as he opens his mouth lightning flashes across the sky. For a moment, the world is midday-bright. The sight of the man above him – his carbon copy, but for the deep lines cutting away from the corners of his eyes and the too-thin cheeks – is enough to steal his ability to speak. As usual.
"It never gets old, does it?" the older Draco asks. He pins the younger Draco, the angry Draco, with deceptively strong arms, driving him into the mud until he can feel it seep over the top of his cotton pyjama pants and squeeze down the crack of his arse. "Looking at yourself, I mean," he continues. "I expect you thought you'd age more gracefully." He laughs again, a quiet, wheezing noise that is masked almost entirely by the patter of rain. "But you didn't. You threw it all away, and look where it got you. Where it got me."
For once, Draco is happy to hear Potter's voice. "Get him off of me," he growls.
Potter slides to his knees in the mud. His t-shirt is ripped up one side, and a ragged tear of skin is visible behind the loose, flapping material. There must have been blood at some point, because Potter's shirt is stained with it, though the rain has rinsed the wound clean. "Come on, Draco," he says, slipping an arm around the older's waist. "Come on. I've got you."
Draco grits his teeth at the tender tone, and the surge of concern over Potter's injury evaporates. If only the same could be said for the mud oozing over his bollocks and between his legs.
Fuck them both. He hates this.
The east wing exit door is still ajar. The pristine white of the corridor beckons – dry and warm, but also free of panicking staff – and Draco supposes Potter did something to disable the alarm before coming to find him. He grudgingly approves, though he has no plans to say so.
"You left the door open," he grumbles under his breath, then adds a derisive snort and shakes his head.
They reach the cement steps. Potter steps into the pool of light and shoots Draco a nasty look. "At least I thought to disable the alarm." Without taking his eyes off Draco, he reaches out with his free arm – the one not wrapped around the older's waist. "Accio wand."
His wand shoots into his hand from under the hedge, which is where Draco knocked it when Potter dared to point it at him fifteen minutes ago. "Yours, I believe, is down there." Potter gestures to a puddle in the sagging concrete slab at the base of the steps. Without another word, he turns back to the older and whispers soothingly to him.
The sight makes Draco's blood boil, but the hex on the tip of his lips is useless without a wand. "Why are you coddling him?" he asks through clenched teeth, fists balled at his sides. "He knows exactly what he's doing, you know. He's making a fool out of you." Out of us, he doesn't bother saying, since it's quite obvious.
"Harry," the older moans. He drops his head – muddy, stringy hair and all – onto Harry's shoulder. "My legs hurt. My head hurts."
Potter's fingers curl around his waist. "It's alright. We're back. Let's get you cleaned up and settled." His eyes dart to Draco, coldly indifferent, and Draco swallows. He would have preferred hot anger.
"Can you manage the rest?" Potter asks.
Adrenaline rush expired, all he can do is nod. It's all he has the strength for. "Yes. Just put him back where he belongs. And watch him this time," he can't resist adding.
Potter drops his eyes. "I will."
And that's it. No denial, no excuses. How like Potter to take full responsibility for his fuck up. He gives the rest of humanity a bad name. Draco almost can't help mocking his failure, but he bites back the petty retort at the last minute. After all, he suspects Potter's distraction involved kissing and groping and shagging and he had no desire to hear the details. "Well," he says. "I'll take care of the rest then."
Despite the older's whinging, Potter hasn't moved. He studies Draco intently. "Fine," he replies, his voice the barest whisper.
After another few seconds of uncomfortable silence, Draco calls his wand to hand and turns up the steps. "Bloody fucking fine."
The hospital lights blind him, and it takes a moment for his eyes to adjust. Behind him, Harry guides the older over the threshold and then left down the hall to his room. Draco watches out of the corner of his eye as he bends down to scoop a pile of glimmering fabric into his hand. The invisibility cloak.
Draco works his jaw back and forth as he turns to repair the damage to the exit door. Potter probably wasn’t even wearing the damn thing. Far too difficult to get fucked that way. With a vicious jab of his wand, he repairs the cracked glass and broken lock on the door. Another swish and the mud and stray shards of glass vanish, leaving the area around the door as pristine as the rest of the hallway.
He pauses and listens. Down the corridor, Harry's speaking in that soothing voice again. Draco's eyes drift shut for a moment as he listens. The words are indistinct, but it hardly matters when the tone of Potter's voice skates over Draco's rattled nerves like a balm.
Feeling calmer despite himself, he turns away and sets off down the corridor to the nurse's station. There, Humphrey, the night nurse, a hulking giant of a man, lies motionless on the floor, a victim of Draco's Binding Curse.
Humphrey gives an angry grunt when he sees Draco, but the sight of the raised wand turns it into a whimper. Draco sighs. "Sorry about this, old man," he says, doing his best to mimic Harry's gentle tone. A quick Finite Incantatum and Humphrey is free. He lumbers to his feet and eyes Draco warily.
"What did you do to me, Lucius?" he asks.
"It was unavoidable I'm afraid," Draco says. "But I promise I have no intention of hurting you."
Humphrey's gaze darts to the bank of television screens that circle his desk. "And Draco? He's alright?"
Draco's hand clenches around his wand. In the beginning, he thought he would enjoy everyone fussing over him, even if it was an older him. Now, the more he distances himself from the older, the more it rankles.
He doesn't want to become the older. He can't imagine being so weak that he rots away in this small corner of the Muggle world, insane with regret.
"Draco's perfectly fine," he says through clenched teeth.
Humphrey's sharp eyes follow Draco's movements. "He's a good man. Doesn't deserve any trouble."
"He's fine." Draco tries not to growl. "Not that you'll care in a moment. Obliviate."
He uses the few seconds it takes Humphrey's eyes to clear to Scourgify himself, removing the filth of the chase, and to slip his wand into the back of his pyjama bottoms.
Sometimes Draco regrets choosing that name. He hates it as much as the nondescript brown hair and hazel eyes that he uses for his glamour. Both are unavoidable. But he wonders why – in that split second he was given to choose an alias – it was his father's name that spilt from his lips. Useless ruminations, of course. There's no changing it now.
"Lucius?" Humphrey asks again.
Humphrey blinks and shakes his head, before refocusing on Draco. "You should be in bed. It's way past lights-out." He steps around the desk, graceful despite the bulk. "You want me to walk you back?"
"That's quite alright." Draco pulls at his pyjama shirt. "I can find my own way." He turns, unsurprised when Humphrey calls out behind him.
"I'll be watching to make sure you get there safe."
Draco's lip turns up in a snarl, though Humphrey can't see it. "I'm sure you will be." He walks back to the room, Humphrey's eyes on his back. The nurse means well, but Draco isn't crazy, and he hates being treated like he is.
The room he shares with Potter is a disaster. He shuts the door behind him before Humphrey or any other curious staff members arrive. A flick of his wand rights the chair he overturned in the sudden excitement of the chase and returns the sheets to his thin mattresses – starched corners tucked neat and snug.
This is the third time this week that the older has managed to cause some sort of trouble for them. Draco thinks he must thrive on it. After all, it's what ,i>he'd do, and as much as it irks him to acknowledge it, he and the older are one and the same.
It's also becoming quite obvious that they may never learn what they came here to find out.
A soft, insistent tapping on the window pulls him from his thoughts. The wood faeries hover outside, keening for the older. Draco shoos them away with a careless wave. "He's not here. Go bother him in his own room."
Most fly away, but one hovers stubbornly at the glass, papery wings beaten down by the wind and rain, wispy hair knotted with dead leaves and other debris. This one seems intent on blaming him for tonight's debacle.
She glares back.
"I said, he's not here. He's home safe and sound, no thanks to you." He flicks a finger against the glass, and she flinches, but doesn't retreat. He leans down until his nose is pressed against the pane and snarls at her. In response, she flaps her wings in a furious rhythm, and – hands on tiny hips – begins to sing. The meaning of it eludes him. He's always been pants at understanding Faerie. But the clipped, high-pitched warble and finger pointing is familiar.
"Fuck off," he says, breath fogging the glass. He wipes the condensation away with his sleeve and the faerie's angry face reappears. Draco's eyes narrow. "Fuck off or I'll step on you."
The faerie sticks out her tiny tongue.
The bitch. A split-second later, his wand tip is pressed to the glass, even as his fingers toy with the window latch. "Fuck off. Last chance, now, or I'll hex your wings off. It's a long walk home."
This threat carries some weight. With one last high-pitched screech, she flies away. Draco collapses onto his saggy bed and closes his eyes. Yet another drama ended at wandpoint.
In the corridor, a night nurse makes his rounds, opening and closing doors with all the stealth of an elephant. How anyone sleeps through the checks is a mystery, though he supposes the medications help.
"We found it."
Draco throws a hand over his eyes and prays for sleep. It's his only legitimate escape from this maelstrom of insanity. As always, before he surrenders, he remembers.
"We found it."
"Potter." Draco doesn't invite him past the door. "What do you want?"
Potter's smile turns just shy of bitter. "What makes you think I want something?"
"You don't want something." Potter never gives in to his wants. He makes his bed and lies in it every night, martyrdom warming the pillow beside him. "You need something," Draco clarifies. "Or you wouldn't be here."
He doesn’t mean for it to sound pathetic. Nostalgic would have been acceptable. Potter probably won't deduce the difference anyway. He's too excited.
"We found it."
Draco feigns nonchalance. Potter can read many of his emotions, but not this one. Not his indifference. "Have you?"
Potter smiles. The hateful bastard smiles. "Yes." He reaches out and puts his hand on Draco's arm. "We have."
"Then you have no need of me."
"On the contrary, you're the key."
Draco still doesn't answer, and this, he can see, worries Potter – anxiety begins to leech through his exuberance. A most satisfying sight.
He considers how to discover what he wants to know while maximizing Potter's discomfort. It shouldn't be difficult; Draco's a master at extracting information. And Potter, for all his bravery, is about as aware as an iron cauldron.
Draco chooses his next words carefully. "You're not making any sense."
Potter drops his hand from Draco's arm. He leans back against the doorframe and begins to slide back and forth, rubbing the sharp-edged wood into the skin between his shoulder blades. It's a habit Draco's well familiar with. He barely resists offering to scratch whatever itch Potter has. Instead, he scowls. "Well?"
"Want to know more, do you?" The smile Potter's been trying to hide breaks through.
Draco steels his heart. He doesn't answer, but he doesn't have the fortitude to close the door in Potter's face either.
Luckily, Potter's enthusiasm carries the day. He begins to bounce on his toes. "Well?" he asks. "Well?"
A compromise is in order. "Fine. Why are you here?"
"We've found it. And Malfoy…you're the key." Now Potter steps forward. Uninvited. But there's no blame or accusation attached to his declaration, which is novel enough to make Draco curious.
Tired of hovering in the foyer, he reaches past Potter to close the door. The move brings his face close. Too close. Potter smells clean, with just the barest underlying hint of stale sweat, and – God damn it all – he's hard in a matter of seconds.
It isn't fucking fair.
Draco spins away and saunters to the kitchen. "You're making no sense, as usual," he calls over his shoulder. Potter follows, and Draco's heart sinks. His cock approves, though.
"You're not going to ask, are you?" Potter has the gall to sound amazed. "You're going to make me say it." He drops into a chair, looking not nearly as defeated as he should, in Draco's opinion. "Fine. I'll play your game." The tiniest drop of anger leaks into Potter's voice, although his posture remains loose and relaxed. Draco cheers inside for ruffling the hero's feathers.
"No game," he tells Potter. "You know where the last Horcrux is." He tops this off with a one-shouldered shrug.
"That's not what I said."
Draco's head snaps up. "Isn't it?"
Potter leans forward, sly smile creeping over his features. Draco barely resists rolling his eyes. "Spit it out," he demands.
"The thing is," Potter says, "you know where it is. Or at least…you will."
The Noble and Most Ancient House of Black is a sty.
Draco sneezes on the thick dust and tries to remember if the filth was as pervasive during his (thankfully) short stay in the early days of the war. Dark energy is a dust-catcher, among other things. It attracts the world's waste, calls it from far and wide, and urges it to collect in corners, cracks, and niches. He doubts Potter knows that.
"You've been practicing Dark magic," he says, not a question.
Potter's sharp glance confirms it.
"Your house reeks of it." He muffles another sneeze. "Not to mention it's filthy." He turns in a slow circle, examining the state of the library.
The soft tinkle of crystal catches his attention, and Potter hands him a snifter. How bloody proper. "Shall we toast to our health?" Draco asks. He swallows the brandy without waiting for an answer. It's excellent – obviously not Potter's.
Potter watches with those damn piercing eyes. "To your health," he says, raising his glass towards Draco. He tips it back and drains the liquor.
Draco indulges himself by watching Potter's throat constrict and relax as he swallows. He refuses to feel anything but pity for a man who would toast to another's health before his own. But Potter's always been that way – compelled to protect everyone but himself. As if his life was worth nothing. As if his passing would go unnoticed.
He spins away and slams his snifter onto the table. "Where is everyone? I assume they want to welcome me back into the fold."
Potter chuckles. "They'll be here soon. I wanted you all to myself for a bit."
"Not interested," Draco says, over-articulating each syllable. He's pleased at how convincing it sounds, despite how his heart races and his cock tries to claw its way out of his trousers.
Potter dips a finger into his brandy, then glides the moistened tip around the rim of his snifter until the glass begins to sing. He shoots Draco a smug look. "Really?"
"Not on the menu, I'm afraid." Potter's snifter joins Draco's on the table. "You've made your stand on fucking quite clear."
Before Draco can dissect the layers of double entendre in that statement, Potter's ploughing ahead. "I wanted a few minutes alone because…. I just want you to know…they don't think you can do it."
"You're pleased, I'm sure. Proving them wrong will give you enough wank material for a decade. But I wanted to say…to let you know…."
Draco's intrigued despite himself. "Yes?"
"I think they're wrong. I think you can do it."
The confession sucks the air from Draco's lungs. Do you? he wants to say. Or maybe, You always were the brains of the outfit, but that's not really true. It's been Granger from day one, and to contradict that now would make him look foolish. Perhaps a simple, Of course I can, would be more appropriate.
While he's contemplating, Potter steps forward and touches his shoulder. "I still believe in you."
Well, fuck him.
If Potter believes that six months of drunken schoolboy fumbling and whispered confessions on a narrow, saggy mattress make him a sentimental fool, then Dark magic is the least of the problems at the Sty of Black. Potter's lost his bloody mind.
Draco slides out from underneath his touch. "You've gone soft," he hisses. He moves around the table until the comforting bulk of the wooden monstrosity is between them.
Hurt flashes in Potter's eyes. "I suppose I have," he agrees.
Before Draco can reply, the library doors fly open to admit the Order of the Phoenix. What's left of it.
Granger steps forward first. "Draco," she says. "Thanks for coming." She nods and shoots a glance behind her. Shacklebolt remains aloof, massive arms crossed over his chest. His one concession to Draco's presence is a barely perceptible nod.
"Granger," is all Draco offers in return. He ignores Shacklebolt.
McGonagall pushes through to the front, her wand – magically lengthened – tapping back and forth in front of her. "Mr. Malfoy," she says, eyes unfocused and voice sharp. "I knew you wouldn't let us down."
"Potter begged so nicely, how could I refuse?" He steps forward. "May I?" At her nod, he takes her arm and guides her to the table. From the corner of his eye, he sees Shacklebolt stiffen. Indignant prick.
"Your seat, milady," he says when they reach her chair. Her lips quirk before she takes her seat; she's noticed he's placed her at the head of the table. Draco suppresses a smirk. When he looks up, Potter is taking his place to her right, grin barely restrained. Draco lets a shadow of his own mirth through, and for a moment, it's like it used to be between them.
Then Granger speaks. "Has Harry told you everything?"
It's unfair that such a loaded question comes on the tail of such a perfect moment. To cover his dismay, he takes his time finding a seat. He chooses one halfway down the long table, on the side opposite from Potter. "I don't suppose. He's not particularly good with details, if memory serves." It's a cheap shot, and the looks of shock around the table prove it was well-aimed. Strangely, Potter's half-smile remains genuine.
"Well," Granger says. "Well. Why don't I hit the high points, then?"
Yet it's McGonagall who speaks. "Your father is dead."
"I'd heard." She'll not shock him this way, if that's what she hopes.
She nods. "What you may not have heard is that before he…died, he stole the last Horcrux and hid it away."
He hadn’t heard. "Where?"
She leans forward. Even blind, she is imposing. "The Malfoy Legacy."
"The Malfoy Legacy," he repeats. Potter hadn't mentioned that.
She nods. "He doesn't know that little detail yet. Voldemort." Her sightless eyes twinkle, an unnerving phenomenon. "Only we know where it is to be found. He, of course, would be content to have it lost forever. Should he ever discover the truth of its whereabouts…."
Draco cringes. He'll be dead inside of a week.
He's lucky the Order's protection has lasted this long. Sometimes it's good to be thought a spineless coward; there's little market for them these days. But even the Fidelius won't save him if Voldemort discovers Draco holds his fate in his traitorous hands.
He runs his fingers over his forehead, and hopes his confusion isn't too obvious. "What Malfoy Legacy? I don't have an inheritance. Not anymore," he murmurs.
"You don't have a family," Shacklebolt rejoins in his deep voice. "Not anymore."
It hurts, but damn it all, not in the way the bastard wants it to. Draco's long since finished grieving for his mother. He's put his father's betrayal behind him. Theirs isn't the company he misses.
"Kingsley," Potter says. "Enough."
How mortifying – Potter rushing to the rescue again. "So I am to receive my legacy. And you're saying that the location of the last Horcrux has been made a part of it."
"Not a part," Granger interrupts. "It's actually…that's the whole thing."
He can't help it. He laughs.
"It's not funny." Shacklebolt glares.
Draco presses his fingers against his eyelids. "Well, it kind of is." He opens his eyes to find them all staring at him. Except McGonagall, of course. She's staring through him. "How do you know any of this is true?" he asks. "Why would my father do that, knowing that I would eventually inherit this vital bit of information? And how, may I ask, are you privy to the details of my legacy?"
"Please, Mr. Malfoy," McGonagall says. "Trust us."
Had it been anyone else. Anyone. Even Potter would have received a tongue-lashing for that remark. Especially Potter. But it's McGonagall – Professor McGonagall – and Draco owes her a life debt. More than one, actually, and he's sure she's counting.
"Very well," he says. The concession tastes like ash.
"You come into your legacy on your twenty-fifth birthday." This from Potter.
Potter and Granger share a glance. "Will you inform the Order when you know the location of the Horcrux?" she asks.
Before he can answer, Shacklebolt slams a fist on the table. "What I'd like to know is if he would have ever told us in the first place? What are the chances he would've kept it to himself forever? That's what I'd like to know."
"Kingsley, I said that's enough." Potter's angry now. Shacklebolt backs down, but it's a close thing. It's obvious that more than simple dissention plagues the Order. But since their bickering puts him at an advantage, Draco feeds it by ignoring Shaklebolt's question.
When Granger looks at him, he pastes on an affronted expression. "Of course I'll tell you."
To his shock, Granger smiles. "Thank you, Draco," she says. Her voice carries genuine warmth and makes him wistful for a time long past.
"Certainly." This he says with his own bit of genuine feeling. Just a hint. Just enough for Granger to know it's there. He never held what happened with Potter against her, after all. "Still…this meeting's a bit premature. Three and a half years premature. Unless…" he cocks his head, "…this has something to do with the mission Potter's been blathering about."
"It does," she confirms.
"We cannot wait three and a half years, Mr. Malfoy," McGonagall says. "We need that information now. Our world is crumbling around us. We must end this war."
Draco calls his abandoned snifter and the brandy to hand. As he pours, he contemplates. "An ageing potion?"
Potter shakes his head. "This is Goblin magic. The spell guarding the legacy is too powerful. It won't be fooled."
Draco cups his palm under the snifter and inhales its headiness. Goblin magic. Unsurprising, but inconvenient. He's embarrassed to admit that even after a few minutes of stalling, he can't think of another solution. "Your plan?" he asks, voice clipped.
Granger's smile returns, and she tells him.
"You might experience periods of dizziness and disorientation."
What the hell has he got himself into?
"You might feel light-headed or weak."
What they're proposing is theoretically impossible.
It's just the three of them now. Granger, Potter, and himself. He figures if things go wrong and they end up a splatter of bones and guts all over the library floor, it's best for only one person to witness the carnage.
Shacklebolt outlined the worst-case scenario before leaving them in Granger's capable hands. "Total spell failure accompanied by corporeal disintegration," he said with a shudder. "Though that's highly unlikely," he added in a louder voice when McGonagall smacked him with her wand-cane. "Highly unlikely."
McGonagall stared at Draco with sightless eyes, then patted his cheek. "Don't let me down, Mr. Malfoy."
Like he had a fucking choice about it now. As if the old witch didn't understand the meaning of a life debt. "What if I'm already dead? In the future, I mean? What then?"
McGonagall thought it over. "I shall pray that you are not."
"Yet," Shacklebolt added.
On that note, they left.
Granger lectures like she's born to it – shifting her attention back and forth between him and Potter, as if each word that flies from her mouth is gospel and they should be recording the lot of it on a stone tablet. Beside him, Potter mutters, "Yes. Alright. Yes," under his breath while Draco concentrates on staying awake. The deep gloom of the library presses in, adding to his fatigue. They've been at this for hours, and Draco just wants to get it over with. He's sure he'd rather endure a messy magical demise than listen to Granger spout one more warning about bloody paradoxes – though this has the potential to be just that.
"You might suffer unexpected and unexplainable pain."
Better and better. He glances at Potter, discomfited to find himself the subject of the other man's scrutiny.
"—wake up to find this whole mess is nothing more than a nightmare brought on by too much spiked pumpkin juice?" he jokes, eyes locked with Potter.
Potter smiles. He remembers the pumpkin juice incident.
Granger isn't upset that Draco interrupted her. Instead, she drops her eyes and fiddles with her scroll. Draco scowls. A contrite Granger is never a good sign. "Right, listen. If it's so dangerous, why is Potter coming? I thought you only needed me."
"You're the anchor. But you need Harry's power to get you there."
Draco arches an eyebrow. "And back."
"Yes, of course. And back." She consults her scroll again.
He doesn't like the sound of that – like his return ticket's nothing more than an afterthought. But from Potter's suspicious expression, neither does he. "I've been practicing the spell. I'll be able to get us both there and back without a problem. I'm sure of it." He turns to Draco. "I won't leave you behind."
"I appreciate that."
Granger bites her lip. "Are you ready?" Without waiting for an answer, she hands Draco a hairbrush. Its silver embossment glitters, even in the low light. He admires the craftsmanship for a moment before pointing it at her. "I thought you said it was a spell. This feels like a Portkey."
As if in answer, the brush tingles under his fingertips.
"It's both," Granger says. "The Portkey is to take you…wherever it is you are. The spell that Harry's going to do, that'll take you to when you are. It's very draining and not entirely accurate. But Harry will get you there sometime after your twenty-fifth birthday. The Portkey…well, it's a guiding influence, if you must know. It's keyed to you – so you and Harry will arrive in the right place. You see—"
"That's enough." And really, it is. He knows what comes next, and he has no desire to hear it regurgitated. "Let's get on with it, then."
Harry steps forward and wraps his arms around Draco's waist. "Don't let go of me, okay? It would be bad, for both of us."
Sarcasm escapes him for once. Humour seems to have fled as well. Draco settles for third best: honesty. It's usually successful at throwing people for a loop. For that reason alone, he employs it rather frequently. He doubts even Potter knows that.
"Understood," he says with a nod.
"It's going to be quite a ride," Granger says at the last moment. "Brace yourselves."
"Potter's the one who can't Floo without tripping over his feet," Draco reminds her.
Potter scowls at him. Then his grip on Draco turns vice-like. He closes his eyes and begins to incant. For a split second, Draco's so caught up in how Potter's lashes brush his cheeks, and how the Latin spills prayer-like from his lips, he almost forgets to activate the Portkey.
A moment later, the world explodes into a riotous soup of colour and movement.
Draco's stomach flies into his throat as the ground drops out from beneath him.
"We're here. Open your eyes."
Draco obeys without a second thought, even though it's Potter giving the order. The spinning, whirling kaleidoscope is gone, for which his stomach is grateful. Not even Floo travel is this disorienting. Potter, the bastard, sounds perfectly fine – like he's just taken a walk in the park. Draco's only comfort is that the buffoon has the grace of a kneazle in most other circumstances. He turns away and pretends to inspect his surroundings, swallowing the urge to vomit.
Before him, a trim, manicured lawn slopes away to a choppy lakeshore. A quick inspection of the grassy area turns up a handful of meandering foot paths, most of which disappear behind tall privet hedges. Draco frowns, even though his nausea is fading.
The garden is disturbingly bland.
"Surely I don't live here."
"And why not?" Potter's smile is as dry as a desert. "Is it so hard to believe?"
"Yes." He spins in a circle. "Lack of a proper garden aside, I can guarantee that no Malfoy would allow that on the grounds of any family estate." Draco points to a stone statue of a rabbit, poised mid-jump. "Leaping bunnies," he murmurs, lip curling in contempt.
Potter gives a solemn nod. "At least we didn't land in Azkaban," he says, and Draco hates that he can't tell if he's being mocked.
Potter turns in a circle, taking in the setting. Absently, he pushes his fringe from his forehead. Each strand separates and stays stuck where the fingers leave it. Draco's hair – when circumstances require he touch it – falls back into a place in an obedient wave, no matter how badly he musses it. He both loves and hates that. Just as he both loves and hates Potter's undisciplined mop.
Potter turns to find him staring. "What?"
"Nothing." Draco walks away before his eyes betray him. He chooses the closest path and soon finds himself on a sun-speckled walkway under an awning of oak branches. Lingering nausea ripples through his gut.
"What is it?" Potter asks, coming up behind him. "You look like you stepped in something foul."
The smirk is heartfelt and unforced. "Potter, you do have a way with words." He stops in the middle of the path and crosses his arms. "It's…cute." He spits the word.
"Isn't it?" Potter grins and runs the sole of his shoe over a smooth stone in the path. "I like it."
Draco knew he would.
Something catches Potter's eye, and he breaks into a smile. "Look! Wood faeries."
Draco turns in time to see three faeries swoop by. He resists the urge to swat them out of the air.
"Beautiful," Potter muses. "How funny to see them out in the open."
One faerie's wing beats falter as she passes. She stops short and hovers in front of Draco. Eyes wide, she cocks her head this way and that as she examines him closely.
"I think she recognizes you." Potter takes a careful step closer. "That must mean the future-you is nearby."
The faerie drifts closer and closer, wings fluttering, creating a gentle wind over Draco's face. He leans back, away from the scrutiny, and digs his fingers into his palms. "Get away, you loathsome pest."
She recoils, tiny hands to her chest, and keens – three short mournful bursts of sound – before dashing off after her companions. Draco smiles in triumph, but Potter's soft "oh" of disappointment ruins his rush of satisfaction.
"Oh, honestly," he says. "They're nothing special. Annoying gnats, really. I've always hated them."
Potter's half-smile is almost affectionate. The almost, Draco tells himself, can't be overlooked. Especially since Potter made it clear on more than one occasion during their short relationship that Draco was little more than that – an annoying gnat. His nails dig deeper into his palms.
"You should be flattered," Potter says. "It's said they only approach the pure of heart."
Draco's mouth goes dry. "It's also said love makes the world go round." He starts after the faeries. "And we both know what a load of shite that is."
"You never change." Potter's voice floats forward, buoyed with resignation. Draco knows that if he turns, he'll see Potter staring after him, slouched, hands deep in his pockets, a disappointed frown on his face.
"So you've always said," he whispers. He's pleased when his steps only falter a bit.
Potter catches up and without speaking, they follow the faeries down the path. Draco hears distant voices, and although the words are indistinguishable, his stomach begins to churn with more than just nausea. "Something's wrong," he hisses.
Potter sets his jaw and doesn't reply, which puts Draco even further on edge. He hates how Potter ignores the obvious whenever it suits, and considers telling him so.
An unnecessary course of action as it turns out, because the next turn in the path confirms his prediction. That is where they find Draco's older self – sitting on a wide bench, smiling as the wood faeries dance in the air before him. A dull brown jumper is drawn over a loose white shirt and matching trousers. His feet are slippered.
But it's none of these details that make Draco's heart leap into his throat. It's the older's face. He stops, unsteady, and Potter stops next to him. Strong fingers curl around his bicep. "Alright?" Potter asks.
"It's just…." Draco's next words won't come.
"I know." Potter inhales deeply. "I know."
It's a small comfort that he's not the only one so affected. At least Potter is feeling off-balance as well, which eases Draco's mind. But only a bit.
The older tips his head back and laughs as the faeries continue their show. He is relaxed, completely at ease. Draco needs no confirmation on that point, because never in his life has he been quick to laughter, even in the early years. Only two people have ever coaxed it from him, and they're both lost.
The first, his mother, is dead. And the second… the second, he is sure, hates him.
"You look… old," Potter says as his eyes rake over the man in front of them.
It's true. According to Granger, this Draco Malfoy should only be in his late twenties. But his gaunt features and lined face could belong to a wizard twice his age, though his movements as he claps to the lively beat of the faerie music speak to agility and strength.
"You're right. I look awful."
"No, I didn't say that." Potter screws his face up as he stares. "You just look…." he shakes his head. "Not like I thought."
"Nor I." The older's physical state is a shock, but as the surprise fades, other details creep back in. "What am I wearing?"
Potter tries and fails to swallow a snort.
"And what am I doing?" Draco continues. He narrows his eyes. "I despise faeries."
"Well they, it seems, adore you." Potter laughs under his breath. He glances at Draco and immediately claps a hand over his mouth as the snickers increase in volume.
"Something," Draco says, ignoring Potter's mirth, "is not right."
"So you've said. Come on." Potter touches him again, briefly, on the arm. "Let's get this over with." He starts forward.
The faeries see him before the older does. They scatter like dandelion fluff on the wind, but hover a short distance away. Draco frowns as they form a loose circle around Potter. Are faeries dangerous? He can't recall for sure, but these look small enough to step on if the need arises.
The older makes a sound of protest when the performance is interrupted. He rises from the bench, places his hands on his hips – and just like that, panic grips Draco, followed by an equally swift desire to turn and run.
But that, of course, is impossible.
"You okay?" Potter asks over his shoulder. "Are you in any pain?"
"You have no idea," Draco murmurs. "No, I'm fine," he says, much louder, since Potter seems to be waiting for an actual answer.
Potter's arched brow means he sees through the lie, but he lets it go. Just like he used to. "If you say so. Just don't disappear on me."
His uncertain smile trips Draco's pulse into overdrive, and suddenly all he wants to do is finish the mission, go home, and rip out his pounding, traitorous heart.
"Never," he says. He manages to push this past the lump in his throat and still sound sarcastic.
Potter looks him up and down before turning back around. "Draco Malfoy?"
The older spots him. He pales and takes an uncertain step backward. "It can't be," he whispers. "Harry?"
Potter falters at that. Draco knows why.
"Harry?" the older asks again. Still, he doesn't advance.
"Yes, it's me. Ha—Harry."
"It can't be," the older repeats. He shakes his head and steps backward once more.
The far-off hum of voices doesn't sound so far-off anymore. Draco turns and sees two men, white coats drawn over matching white pants and shirts, walking up the trail. Engrossed in conversation, they've yet to notice the commotion between Potter and the older. But it's only a matter of time.
"Potter," he says out the corner of his mouth.
"I swear, it's me. It's Harry," Potter's saying. "We're here from the past and we need your help."
Potter nods, relieved, Draco's sure, that the conversation seems to be advancing. It's not the only thing advancing, unfortunately. Draco glances back to see one of the men staring at him. He pokes his companion and points at Draco.
"Fuck," Draco mutters. "Potter!"
"Yes, we," Potter continues, ignoring Draco's furious whispers. He steps aside.
The older spies Draco and gives a gasp of surprise. "My God." He draws a shaky breath. "It's… it's me."
Draco's eyes narrow. This man – his older self – sounds unsure. Confused. Frightened. He begins to think this is a joke. A terrible, tasteless joke. This shell of a man standing before him in rags and slippers cannot be him. It's impossible.
"From the past, you say? My past?" the older asks.
The older scrutinizes them – first Potter, then him. His eyes trace every detail, and Draco lets him, refusing to fidget. "I'd forgotten," the older says on a sigh. He turns back to Potter. "I'd forgotten how beautiful I was."
While Potter blinks in shock, Draco relaxes. "By god, you're right, Potter," he says as he laughs. "I never change."
"You, there! Draco?"
They all three turn towards the voice. One of the two men Draco had been watching earlier is striding up the trail on long, thick legs. "Draco?" His gait falters when he reaches them.
Little wonder, as the older dashes forward and slings an arm around Draco's neck, announcing, "Look, Humphrey, it's me! I told you I was a wizard. Now you'll have to believe me."
Draco figures Potter clues in at the same moment he does. For once, their ability to communicate wordlessly doesn't give Draco the usual thrill.
Humphrey's white-on-white ensemble begins to make sense.
"Show him your wand." The older prods him.
Humphrey's bushy brows shoot to his hairline.
"Oh, no! On second thought, let me do it! I haven't held my wand in years." The older grabs at his sleeve.
Draco shakes him off. "No."
"Please! This is my chance. Hex him! That'll do the trick."
"No!" Draco looks to Potter for help.
"Malfoy—" Potter begins.
"Oh, call me Draco," the older says. "I've always wanted you to."
Potter hesitates at the admission, and Draco's heart stutters.
"Alright," Humphrey says. "I don't know what the hell is going on here, but you're all coming with me. Right now."
"Please let me hex him," the older says, pulling on Draco's arm.
"No!" Draco says, exasperated.
"No!" he and Potter yell together.
The older continues to paw him, and a half a dozen wood faeries join the fray. They buzz around Draco, emitting short high-pitched squeals. One tries to climb up his sleeve and dislodge his wand. "Get away, you bloody pests," Draco yells. He shakes the intruder from his shirt, and by some beautiful, perfect miracle, she drops onto his foot. Grinning, he prepares to launch the little bitch.
"No!" the older cries. "Don't hurt her."
Draco freezes. Potter's voice still has that effect on him, magically enhanced or not.
"Malfoy," he says, voice icy. "Don't kick the nice faerie."
Draco fumes, but allows the older to fetch his addled pet from the top of his boot.
"Beast," the older hisses at him. He shoots Draco a poisonous look before turning away to coddle and stroke the vile thing. Mournfully, she sings back.
"Disgusting," Draco says under his breath. He meets Potter's unreadable eyes without flinching. It's as he's brushing the faerie dust from his shirt that he notices Humphrey on the ground at his feet, a lump of crumpled white. "Stunner?"
"Yes," comes the terse reply. "With all the faeries around, I didn't have a choice."
"How efficient. Can we get the fuck out of here now?" The sound that gurgles out of Potter's throat is good enough for him. "Excellent. Fine. Ask him, then."
Potter steps forward and clears his throat. "Mal- Draco?"
The older's all smiles for Potter. "Yes?"
"We need your help. We're here about the legacy."
"The legacy?" The older's hand falters from smoothing his faerie's rumpled wings.
Harry nods and tacks on a reassuring smile. "Yes, the Malfoy Legacy. We need to know the location of the last Horcrux."
At that moment, three more white-clad men round the corner at a jog. "There they are!" one yells. These three are, if possible, even bigger than that hulk, Humphrey. As one, they rush up the path. Draco spins back and grabs Potter's arm, readying himself for the return spell, but the older is staring at Potter, expression blank.
"I'm sorry," he says. "I haven't the faintest idea what you're talking about."
"Dra—" No, that won't do. He works his jaw back and forth. "Lucius…Black."
"Black?" The nurse looks up from her clipboard.
"Just write it down." She nods with Confunded eyes and bends to comply. "This is the dumbest idea you've ever had," he grumbles.
The nurse speaks without lifting her head. "This wasn't my idea."
"Not you," Draco spits. "You!" He jabs a finger at Potter.
Potter ignores him. "And you should put us in a room together," he says to the admitting nurse sitting across from him.
"Yes," she says in a monotone as she scratches away with her pen. "That would be best. A room together."
"Excellent." Potter shoots him a triumphant look.
It's all Draco can do to hold back a groan. Sleeping with Potter. Listening to how he shifts around the bed, especially in the early hours of the morning, when it's not unusual for him to speak out from dreams and fantasies. Draco feels a headache burst to life behind his eyes. Hasn't he been tested enough these past few hours?
"Now," Potter says. He stands and walks over. "We need to do something about your appearance. Can't have you still looking like Draco when I'm done Obliviating everyone."
Rather than answer – because he doubts Potter wants him to – he deflects. "Are you sure this is the best course? Why not just take him? Go somewhere where all this subterfuge isn't necessary. We might even be able to find your older self. He may know what's happened."
To his credit, Potter gives the idea some thought. "No, I'd rather not risk making him even more unstable. He's comfortable here."
Since when does that matter, Draco wants to ask.
"This will work," Potter says. "It may only take a few hours – until I have the chance to use Legilimency on him." He scratches at his temple. "Pray it works."
Draco already has. He's two steps ahead of Potter, as usual.
Potter jerks his head at the nurse across from Draco. "Done with her?"
Draco sighs. "Yes."
"Let's work on your glamour then."
Resigned, agitated, Draco rises. "I don't suppose it's possible to keep my striking eyes and sharp cheekbones, is it?"
There's no mistaking the affection in Harry's smile this time. As always, it takes Draco's breath away.
"I'll do my best," Harry promises.
Draco keeps his eyes lowered as he walks. He's learned that eye-contact with anyone – patient or staff – leads to trouble more often than not. Paranoia is rampant.
It's been a wasted morning rummaging in the records room. The older's file is thin and uninformative. Admission date, schedule of medication, and treatment. The doctors report little progress in regard to his 'delusions' of being a wizard with magical powers. The patient refuses to give up the fantasy – page six. His short-term memory is spotty at best – page nine. Sometimes even his own name eludes him – pages two, seven, eight, and twelve.
All in all, general consensus is that Draco Malfoy will be a guest of the institution for the foreseeable future.
The word 'foreseeable' makes Draco laugh.
He's just outside his room when he hears them. Potter and the older.
"Are you feeling okay?"
"Yes. Having you here…it's hard. I've missed you, though."
"I…I've missed you, too, Draco."
"Have you? Really?"
"Then why don't you ever come to see me?"
He peeks through the small crack in the door. They're sitting across from each other on Potter's bed, heads bent close. A sound of disgust emerges from Draco's throat and he turns to leave. Even the offal in the dining hall outranks another session of emotional vomiting. He's tired of listening to the older's nonsensical whinging.
Then Potter reaches across the very small space separating them and lays a hand on the older's leg. "We need to know why you're here, Draco. I've tried to look into your memories, but I'm not having any luck. Is there anything I can do to help you remember? Anything?"
The rich, seductive tone is familiar, a punch in the gut – even after all this time – and it stops Draco in his tracks. He blinks, rooted to the spot. Surely Potter doesn’t mean to fuck the memories back into him.
"I…it comes and goes. My memory."
Draco backs away from the door and takes up position in the hall. He crosses his arms with a snort. Comes when he wants it and goes when it's convenient, in all likelihood.
"Comes and goes," Potter repeats. "Do you remember anything now?"
"Yes. I remember that I’m a wizard. But—" Draco hears a muffled whisper.
"It's okay," Potter's voice soothes. "I know you're not supposed to talk about it. It's alright to talk about it with me."
The older sighs. "Thank you. I've missed you so much, Harry." Draco hears the sheets rustle and the bed creak. "And I'm sorry. I'm so sorry."
Potter clears his throat. "I— What do you mean?"
More rustling, and then Draco hears it: a sharp indrawn breath. Potter's.
His mind fills in the details. Because he knows exactly how much he's been missing Potter. Down to the smallest measure. And he also knows that breathy sound Potter made, because he's heard it before. Many times before.
Just not recently.
"Draco. Wait." Potter caps his directive with a soft moan. "Please."
Draco pulls in a deep breath, but it leaves him in a rush as another moan reaches his ears. The tips of his fingers burn. He curls them into the soft flesh of his palms and tells himself it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter. It doesn't matter.
"Harry," the older says. "I've missed you so much. Let me. Let me touch you."
Draco stumbles away from the door, arms wrapped around his roiling stomach.
"Good Morning, Lucius."
Draco grunts and slouches down into his chair.
"You're not a morning person, are you?" the doctor asks.
Sun streaks through the curtains and cuts into his skull. He slept little, visions of Potter and the older dancing through his nightmares. He risks a glance at her blazing smile. "Your tea is atrocious."
"Would you like a cup of coffee instead?"
He can't stop the groan. "God, no. That's even worse. It tastes like you ground the beans with dirt."
"Actually, I believe it comes from the supplier already ground."
He can't stop the involuntary grimace. "That explains it."
The doctor – Dr. Morgan, by the nametag – looks to be no older than sixteen. The wall full of diplomas and other awards behind her rather contradict that, though he supposes they could be counterfeit. A hospital that can't make a decent cup of tea is likely slipshod at checking references.
This is, hands down, the worst idea Potter's ever had.
"So," Dr. Morgan says, "you've had a few days to settle in, and you seem to be adjusting well. I'm so pleased you decided to speak with me voluntarily. Um…" Her hair, twisted into a perfect, round, blonde bun, receives a cursory pat before she begins to flip through his file. "There's very little here. Your name, who admitted you, who you were admitted with…" She pauses. Then removes her glasses and smiles at him over the desk. "About Harry—"
"What about him?"
Flustered, she leans back. "I'm just curious. Did you know him before you were admitted or was it coincidence you were brought in together?"
Draco shrugs. The truth hardly matters when she's unlikely to believe a word he says. "Yes, I know him."
"No," she says with a laugh. "Do you know him well?"
He bites back a defensive snort. After all, this woman knows nothing of their past liaison. "Yes," he says when he feels more in control. "I mean…a bit." Or maybe not at all, as Potter always claimed.
Dr. Morgan folds her pretty pink manicured hands in front of her on the desk. "I can tell."
Draco blinks. "You can?" Her empathetic smile suddenly seems less blinding.
"Yes. It's obvious in the way you speak to him, the way you touch him. The whole way you interact speaks of a…of an intimacy."
He shakes his head. "You're mistaken. There is no intimacy."
"Perhaps not anymore. But there used to be."
Draco shuts his mouth with a snap.
Dr. Morgan winks at him. "Am I right?"
Draco swallows twice before attempting to speak. "You can tell that?"
She nods. "We're observers, Lucius. That's how we help you. The real problems, the hard stuff," she points at him, "that's your job. We simply guide you along. Help you accept the parts of your life that have made you want to hide."
That didn't sound so bad. He'd often thought a bit of closure would ease the sting of the whole Potter mess. "That does hold a certain attraction," he admits.
"Talk to me," Dr. Morgan says as she slips her glasses back on. The million-watt smile returns.
Draco fills his lungs with state office air and opens his mouth to speak, but hesitates at the last moment. He leans forward and squints. "Is there…?" He gestures at her glasses.
"Yes?" Dr. Morgan asks. She adjusts the frames on her face, and Draco flops backward in his seat. He gestures at her face again. "Did you know there's no glass in your glasses?"
The sunshine smile falters. "Yes," she says.
"Wha—" Draco shakes his head. The mystery of the Horcrux is still afoot, but the question of whether he's going mental overshadows it for a moment. "On purpose?"
Dr. Morgan gives an enthusiastic nod. A few wisps of hair escape her perfect bun. "Yes, absolutely on purpose."
"They're an accessory."
"An—" Draco closes his eyes, and a bark of laughter escapes him. "Sod this whole bloody mission."
"You should be," Draco says.
He stands and Dr. Morgan scrambles to do the same. "Your session isn't over."
That he was about to share his most private thoughts about Potter, about their history, with a Muggle quack, is too embarrassing to contemplate. That he was so easily manipulated makes him shake with anger. That Potter is late – which a glance at the wall clock proves – and has left him to endure this predicament alone is the proverbial icing on the cake.
"We're quite through," he tells her as he removes his wand from inside his sleeve.
"What's that?" Dr. Morgan cranes her neck to see. "Is that a stick?"
"Certainly not, my dear," Draco drawls. "It's an accessory. Imperio."
She goes slack-jawed in a heartbeat, but unfortunately for her, he's still smarting from his short jaunt into insanity. Whatever possessed him to consider talking about Potter? He curls his lip. This place may make him insane yet.
Dr. Morgan stands still as a statue, fixing Draco with an expectant look. He narrows his eyes at her. "Charlatan," he hisses.
A frown mars her features. "No."
"Yes!" he yells.
Draco spins to see Potter in the open doorway, a thunderous expression on his face. "What are you doing?" He doesn't wait for Draco's answer, but steps through and closes the door behind him. "What are you doing?" he asks again as he turns the lock.
"Harry?" Dr. Morgan asks, voice tremulous.
"Quiet," Draco instructs. Her mouth snaps shut. "Just getting down to business," he says to Potter." I don't appreciate being kept waiting. And by the way—" He cuts the line of dialog before he makes an even bigger fool of himself.
"By the way, what?" Potter shoots back.
Telling Potter to keep his cock in his pants has a petty ring to it, and that's unacceptable. Draco sniffs and turns his back. "Never mind."
He points his wand at Dr. Morgan, and her eyes balloon behind her fake glasses.
"Stop that," Potter scolds. He brushes past, pushing Draco's wand down as he passes. "I'm sure it's not necessary." Draco catches the hem of his jumper as he passes. "What?" Potter asks, exasperated.
"Be vigilant, Potter. She's tricky."
"Oh, please," Potter mutters. He shakes loose of Draco's fingers and approaches Dr. Morgan. "Sit down, Stacey."
She plops down into her chair with such force, her glasses fall askew. Draco can't help a small burst of satisfaction at her helplessness.
"We need to know about Draco Malfoy." Potter crouches by her chair. "I want you to answer my questions as concisely as you can. Is that clear?"
"I…yes." Her eyes, when they shift to Draco, are flinty specks of brown – a show of resistance that would normally impress him. But today all he wants is obedience and information. A glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel. Some indication that they might be able to go home and pick up their lives.
The last three days have been hell. He's ready for a stiff drink. Watching Shacklebolt eat crow while he savours it would make it even tastier.
"Do what he says," he barks, and her gaze skitters away.
Potter's chastisement is on the tip of his lips. Draco can see it hovering, ready to fall. He isn't sure if his ability to read Potter so well after all this time is a blessing or a curse. "Save it," he barks. "Let's get this done."
Potter clears his throat. "Is she—?"
"Yes, yes. Didn't you see her leap for the chair when you told her to sit down?"
"Fine." Potter approaches her, rubbing a hand over his stomach as he does. Still not comfortable with the Unforgivables. Endearing, but dangerous. It's one of the things Draco both loves and hates about Potter: he needs to be dragged kicking and screaming into the Dark, but he arrives at the other side cool and collected.
True to form, he's no-nonsense now. "When was Draco admitted?"
Dr. Morgan hurries to answer. "June 5th, 2005."
"Whe—" Potter stops. "June 5th?"
"Yes." Dr. Morgan's head bobs. "I'll never forget. It's my birthday."
Draco shares a look with Potter. "It's mine, too," he says.
Potter flips through Draco's notes, lifted from the records room. "It says here he was admitted in late July of that year."
"No. That's when he was accepted as a non-transfer." Dr. Morgan nods and wrings her hands in her lap.
A not-going-anywhere-for-the-foreseeable-future type of patient, Draco gleans from what she doesn't say.
"You arrived here on your twenty-fifth birthday," Potter muses. "Maybe your father cursed the legacy so that hearing it drove you mad."
"He was a loving parent, in his own way."
That they can still share such macabre humour makes Draco laugh quietly. Potter's lips twitch, but don't curve into a smile. Obviously, he wasn't joking.
Potter turns back to Dr. Morgan. "So he was brought in on June 5—"
"Walked in," she interrupts.
They both blink. "I’m sorry?" Draco asks.
She fidgets in her chair. Even under the Imperius, she's uncomfortable breaking her confidences. "He…he…."
"Walked in, yes, we heard you. Explain that," Potter says. His own patience is wearing thin if his tone is any indication.
"He…walked in. Through the front door and up to the Admitting Desk. He demanded to be taken in."
Potter strokes his chin. "That does sound like you." This time he does smile.
"And…well…he was going on about witches and wizards. Magic spells." She breaks the narrative off and laughs. "And…and…flying on broomsticks. Can you imagine?"
"Yes," he and Potter answer together.
"Oh." She blinks. "Well, he was clearly delusional."
Draco rolls his eyes. "Clearly." He plucks the empty frames off her face and throws them on the desk. "And he's not the only one." He turns to Potter. "He's hiding something."
Potter pinches the bridge of his nose. "You do realize this is you we're talking about."
"Again with the obvious. How do you think I know he's not being one hundred percent truthful?"
"Because statistical sampling supports it?" Potter plants his arse on Dr. Morgan's desk and chews the inside of his cheek. Silence reigns for several seconds as he appears to examine the inestimable doctor's many diplomas. "You think he's having us on about this memory loss."
"I do." He'd bet his life on it.
Harry must sense the sentiment in his voice, though he didn't say the words aloud. "Why?"
"I have no idea."
Potter starts to gnaw his bottom lip. Draco knows the drill – the fingernails will be next. "What?" he asks.
Potter glances at Dr. Morgan. "Go to sleep, Stacey."
Draco eyes slip closed before he can stop them. He manages to shake off the magical suggestion – quite literally – by rising from his chair and bouncing on his toes. Between Draco's Imperius and Potter's spell, the good doctor doesn't have a chance. She slumps to the side and begins to snore.
"A little warning?" Draco asks around a yawn. He scrubs his hands over his face and scowls at Potter.
Draco lowers himself back into his chair. "Right, then. You've got something to say. Get it off your chest."
It takes Potter two laps around the office before he speaks. "I know you don't like him. Which, I have to say, is both amusing and deeply disturbing, but you need to stay objective."
The shock escapes him before he can temper it. "Me? You want me to stay objective?"
"I'm not the one-" He can't finish the sentence. Even after everything, his pride won't allow it.
"What? You're not the one what?"
Potter wants him to say it, he sees in that instant. Wants him to be the weak one. It's an old game of theirs. Sometimes it was harmless and sometimes it was devastating, but no matter how much Potter wants to play right now, Draco refuses. Let subtext stay subtext.
"I'm not the one who's been with him day in and day out. You can't possibly be thinking clearly. Take some time to rest and get your thoughts together. Let me have a turn."
Potter stares at him. "Will it do any good?"
"I know him better than anyone. It can't hurt."
Potter graduates to nibbling on his fingernail. "I think you're probably wrong about that."
Unnerving doesn't begin to describe the experience of standing in front of the mirror with the older. Draco thinks that even twins like the Weasleys must experience some unease, a taste of wrong, when observing their reflections together. But watching himself and the older is far different. Draco's glamour is no-frills, non-descript – something he's never been – and he looks plain and unattractive, even next to the older's tired, lined face.
He feels like his life's been stolen.
"So you're to be my watchdog today." The older meets his eyes in the mirror.
Draco glances away, disguising his shiver as a shrug. "Potter deserves a rest."
"He deserves more than that."
Draco curls his palms around the edge of the icy porcelain sink. He doesn't grace the obvious with a reply.
"I'm not sure what you think is going to happen," the older says. His eyes return to his own reflection, and he runs his fingers over the scruff of his morning beard. "Why don't you try Legilimency on me, if this legacy is so important to you?"
Draco's gaze is sharp. "Potter tried. Our first day here. Remember?"
"You Occlude too well. He wasn't able to see anything."
"Well, don't take it out on me," the older says with a sniff. "You're just as responsible as I, in that regard."
True. Draco had practiced until Occluding was like breathing – necessary and completely second nature. A life-saving measure at the time, though it really fucks things up now. He doubts the older even realizes he's doing it. If, that is, he's telling the truth about his missing memory in the first place.
The older frowns at his reflection. "Say, do you think you could…" he waves his hand over his face, "take care of this? I abhor feeling like a wild animal."
"You know the spell. You have your wand. What's the problem?"
Draco grits his teeth. "You didn't ask for shaving privileges or a razor today."
"They'll never notice." The older winks, then his eyes light up. "May I?" He betrays his mild tone with a clumsy grab for Draco's wand. They grapple briefly, their struggles echoing off cracked tile that runs along the shabby sinks.
Draco pushes him back. "Don't ever do that again."
"Or you'll what, exactly?" The older arches an eyebrow and plants his hands on his hips.
It's in that moment that Draco recognizes himself for the first time. Pleasure and fear rear up in equal measure. "I'll hex you, that's what."
The older cocks his head. "Would you? Could you?" He swoops in close and Draco's nostrils flare, but he doesn't step back. "Could you hex yourself?" he asks.
Draco wrinkles his nose at the older's sour breath. "I could."
"You would actually hurt yourself?"
"I could do it." No hesitation at all. He could, and he wouldn't think twice.
The older steps back. He turns from Draco and gazes into the mirror. "Look." He jerks his chin at their reflection. "This place is dying. Decaying. The grout will never be anything but mould-ridden black; the doors to the stalls will never close properly. This sink will always lack hot water. That one, cold." He glances upward at the flickering florescent lights, nodding at their yellowing covers. "Up there, dead flies and moths will collect until they overflow, and everything will go dark. The bulbs won't be able to compete." He nods at Draco's reflection. "You can't compete with death."
Draco scrapes his tongue along his teeth. "What's your point?"
"Well, my point is…why do you want to hurt us?" The older twists his hands in the tie of his robe and watches Draco, waiting for his answer.
He refuses to give one. Wand gripped in his sweaty palm, he spins and walks away. Just as the door slams behind him, he hears the older begin to laugh.
"Why do you think," the older asks, "Harry let us go so easily? Why didn't he fight to keep us?"
The older wants to sit by the lake, though the chill wind sweeping off the water bites into their skin. Draco ignores the question – the seventh he's been asked in as many minutes – and passes the time by skipping rocks over the rippling surface. A few benches dot the shore, and the older chooses one nearby. Within seconds, the wood faeries appear and flutter about him. Some alight on the bench, curl their tiny legs underneath them, and sing. One lands on his shoulder, whispers something in his ear. The older listens, then nods, lips pursed in thought.
"Do you remember what Harry whispered in our ear when we left him? When we walked out on him that last time?"
Draco pretends not to hear. A few faeries circle him, chirping in distress. They're still confused. He knows they can scent him, and the fact that he smells like the older probably scrambles their tiny brains.
"Are you going to ignore me all day? I thought the point of us spending time together was to jog my memory."
Draco abandons his pebbles. "Does it need jogging?"
The older grins and strokes one of his faeries along her back between her wings. She purrs.
"You know what I think, don't you?" Draco stalks over to the bench. "I think you remember everything."
The older blinks, expression innocent. "I would never lie to Harry."
"That's a load of shite. I lied to him all the time."
"Yes, and look where it got you."
Draco buries his hands under his arms, deep in the coarse wool of his jumper. It doesn't ease his frustration. He wonders if this is how Harry feels about him sometimes, since apparently, age hasn’t erased his talent to obfuscate. A comforting fact, but annoying.
Double talk seems asinine. "I refuse to discuss Potter."
"I'm awash with shock."
"It's over. What difference does it make?"
The older shoots to his feet and his winged entourage scatters. He's angry, the first honest emotion Draco's seen from him. "You idiot! It was never over between us, even when everybody thought so. It wasn't over even when Harry thought it was. He's stubborn, yes, but you knew that. You knew that, and you walked away anyway. As if—" he pauses, "—as if you believed he'd really try to stop you from leaving. You ignorant, arrogant child."
Draco's fingers twitch, and he grabs at his jumper. He won't brandish his wand like the petulant youth the older accuses him of being.
The older sighs and lowers himself back onto the bench. "It doesn't matter now. All of that's behind me. I've changed." He gives a rueful laugh. "I've changed so much. But Harry – he hasn't changed at all."
Draco swallows hard. "What do you mean?"
"The way he touches me. That's the same. The way he tastes. That's the same. The way he kisses. Need I go on? Yes? He still loves to have his mouth fucked – he loves a hint of pain with sex. And he still sucks my cock like it's what he was born to do. So sweet. So—"
Draco has his hands around the older's throat before he realizes he's moving. When his vision clears, he finds himself bent over the back of the bench, heart pounding with adrenaline and hands shaking so hard that the other man's body is jerking beneath his.
"Shut up," he says, his voice barely a whisper as he struggles to rein in his fury. "Shut up, shut up, shut up."
"You left him alone," the older wheezes. "With nobody to take care of him."
"He didn't want anybody to take care of him. He didn't want that," Draco growls. He concentrates on loosening his hold, and slowly, slowly, his fingers relax.
The older struggles for a breath of air. "Of course he did." Unexpectedly, he bucks up, throwing Draco to the ground. The faeries, sensing his sudden disadvantage, surround him in an angry swarm. They tug at his hair and pinch his skin. The older just stands over him and straightens his clothing. "Of course he wanted that. He still does. He was just too proud to ask you to stay. And that's not the only thing you don't know."
Draco gives up trying to slap at the attacking faeries. He collapses back onto the grass and throws his arms over his face. "Enlighten me, then."
"Harry lied to you, too. He lied to you all the time."
The older's smile is pure evil.
"You look happy tonight," Potter says. He claps the older on the shoulder, and his hand lingers as his fingers massage small circles across his collarbone. Draco's glower has little effect since they have eyes only for each other. The older nods, coy, and Potter graces him with a tender smile. The whole song and dance is enough to make Draco sick up the slop they served at dinner.
"He's not happy. He's plotting. Can't you tell the difference by now?" Draco points. "That's an evil Malfoy smile. He's probably thinking about chopping up puppies or something." He shakes his head. "You don't know me at all, do you?"
Potter frowns, and the older's words swirl though Draco's consciousness, haunting him. The ones about regret and pride and the mistakes of his past. He doesn't really believe that was the way of things. Even if Potter never does ask for what he wants.
The older is shaking his head. "I can't believe I was ever like you," he says. He's got his hands wrapped around his stomach in a familiar hug. "What did you ever see in me, Harry?"
Draco seethes. "Shut it," he snaps.
"Enough. Both of you. Please." Potter's tired sigh kicks Draco's instincts into overdrive.
"What's wrong?" he asks. He sizes Potter up in less than a moment. "Are you ill?"
Potter runs his hands over his face in one long, slow motion. "Tired."
Draco steps forward, opens his mouth to speak…and the older's voice rings out. "You need to rest, Harry." He lowers himself onto the bed next to Potter – a move Draco considers hexing him for – and slips an arm around his waist. "I'm sorry this is so hard for you. I'm sorry."
Sorry. Draco tries to remember the last time he said that, but can't honestly recall. He mouths the word silently and even that feels strange. The fact that it emerged from his lips at all should cause one of Granger's paradoxical rips in the universe.
Potter must agree, because he's looking agog at the older. Agog and something else. Happy, Draco realizes with a sickening jolt. A bit of fatuous concern made Potter happy. What the fuck is the world coming to?
"Since when do you care that people care?" he asks.
Potter accepts physical comfort. He's rather mad for it, actually. But as a rule, he refuses the rest. Sympathy. Reassurance. Condolence. Compassion. They all get rebuffed. His reasons for doing so are both noble and stupid.
"Since always?" Potter answers. His innocent surprise turns Draco's stomach. Before he says something he knows he'll regret, he stalks out.
To his surprise, Potter arrives in their room a few minutes later. "Malfoy," he says by way of greeting. He strips off like his clothing weighs a thousand pounds and sinks down onto his bed.
"Back so soon?"
"Yeah." Potter tilts to the side and falls onto his pillow. "He just…won't stop talking."
Draco waits for him to roll over and dismiss the conversation. Dismiss him. But instead he meets Draco's eyes in the gloom. "I just want…a bit of quiet."
The invitation hangs there, in the cold space between the beds, until Draco is able to calm his racing heart and push the lump down his throat. He doesn't speak as he folds back his blankets and takes the two steps to Potter's bed.
Potter's equally subdued as he slides over to make room. Draco slips one hand beneath Potter's neck and the other around his waist. The mattress dips under their combined weight. Draco holds him without speaking. Without platitudes. That's why he's welcome here; he never bears false hope. Instead, after Potter sighs against this throat and returns the embrace, Draco speaks of the past.
"You were mumbling something about pumpkin juice in your sleep last night."
Potter snorts. "Did I sound terrified?"
"Difficult to say. But I distinctly heard, 'no, please, no more.'"
"I still can't look at the stuff."
"Don't blame the juice. It's Weasley's homemade swill that made you miserable."
Potter sighs. His breath tickles the skin of Draco's throat. They're pressed together, blanket-warm and pseudo-safe, and Draco's libido purrs, but doesn't wake and stretch.
"We'll figure this out," Potter slurs in half-sleep. "Then we'll go home and finish things."
Draco stays mum, giving Potter his quiet.
"I don't believe you! You can't be who you say you are!"
Not this again. Draco pushes through the door to find the older backed into a corner, hands raised, while Potter coaxes him forward. Potter's hands are also raised, though his are more beckoning than defensive, and Draco is reminded of the Muggle Renaissance paintings his mother always favoured. Back then people were always reaching up for heaven or fending off hell. Curiously, they never much cared for the world in between.
The older turns on him with wide, dilated eyes, and Draco prepares himself for a fountain of nonsense. But he gets something else altogether.
"You cannot be Harry and Draco from the past," he says. "That's impossible. The sheer number of paradoxes that creates…" He shakes his head, then points to Draco. "If you're me, then I would remember this. This trip would be in my past, but it's not. I don't remember this, so you can't be me."
Draco snorts. "You can't remember what you had for breakfast."
"You're trying to trick me. You're desperate to know about this legacy."
"Yes, we are." Draco ignores Potter's exasperated glare. "We are," he says again. A different tactic is in order, as Potter's handholding is getting them nowhere. "Do you really want them all to die? Again?"
The older goes pale.
Draco nods and sidles up behind Potter. "We can stop that. A lot of it."
"We?" Potter asks quietly out the corner of his mouth.
Draco ignores him. "We want to put an end to it, and you know we can, because I know you can goddamn well remember!"
They all turn when angry tapping begins at the window. Two wood faeries beat at the glass with their tiny fists, glancing worriedly between Draco and the older.
"Oh, look," Draco drawls, "your miniature army's arrived."
Potter pulls the curtain, much to the chagrin of the older, and spells the door locked and Inperturbed. "Stop goading him, Malfoy."
"No! He's lying. I know he is!" He swivels to Potter. "It's me! Don't you think I'd know?"
Potter's mouth opens and closes. He turns back to the older. "Are you lying?"
Draco rolls his eyes, "Of course he i—" Potter's gasp cuts him off.
It happens in less than three seconds. The older has a large butcher's knife – stolen from the dining hall, most likely. The sight of it jolts Draco into action. He lunges in front of Potter, but his heroics are for naught; this isn't an attack. The older's trying to cut himself.
Draco changes directions and jumps towards the older. He manages to grab the weapon before it meets the older's skin, but miscalculates and finds his palm wrapped around the blade instead of the handle. There's a sting, then a burning. Predictably, a gush of blood follows. At the sight of it, the older yells and jumps away.
"Fucking drama queen," Draco pants. Then his legs stop working.
The collision with the floor could have been spectacular, especially considering the growing puddle of blood beneath him, but Potter's arms soften the fall, and Draco's knees clunk to the linoleum with nothing more than a dull thud.
"Easy, Malfoy. I've got you."
Potter's voice sounds strained. Worried. Draco blinks, but all he sees is red. "Just a cut," he says, inanely. He wonders if Potter remembers the reference.
"It's more than that," Potter barks.
Well. Obviously, he doesn't.
"No. I—" Why won't the words come? The air in the room is arctic, and he succumbs to violent shivers. "Just a cut," he pushes past his chattering teeth. "Re-remember?"
"Yes." Potter's voice is right at his ear. "I remember." Then he whispers a spell, and Draco's reality fades to black.
When he wakes, he can still smell the blood, though it's muted. He's in Potter's arms, on the bed, cocooned in the centre dip where the springs have failed.
Blood and a saggy mattress. It reminds him of other nights – when Potter came home, filthy and bleeding, and Draco healed him, and he would tell him to be more careful, but Potter never listened. And Draco would Vanish the blood, but the smell would remain, and it didn't matter, because there was always sweat and tears and come to ease the way.
"It's just a cut," Potter would say.
"I don't know how much more of this I can take," Draco would reply. But the tears that followed were never his.
Wriggling does the trick, and in less than a minute one of his legs is wedged between Potter's. He's far too seasoned to let the stench of dried blood tame his cock, and he's gratified to notice Potter is the same. At least in sleep.
A dark, stubbled chin tempts him, so he bites. The taste and smell have him rigid in seconds. He could come like this – just kissing and tasting – and he's not the least bit embarrassed. Potter mumbles in his sleep and pushes up against Draco's thigh.
"What?" Draco whispers. He nuzzles Potter's cheek. "What did you say?"
The sighed name leaves him cold. Potter has never called him that. Never. Even when he'd curl up behind Draco and fuck him so slowly that they were barely moving. He'd press his face to the back of Draco's neck and breathe, and occasionally he'd moan, and sometimes he'd say, "Fuck, Malfoy, oh fuck," but he never called him Draco.
It's the other that Potter wants. The Draco that's not him. His chest constricts, but he doesn't pull away. That he doesn't have the strength for.
"It's just a cut," his voice says.
Disoriented, he lifts his head. The older is sitting cross-legged on the other bed, biting his thumbnail and watching them. "What?" Draco asks, his voice raspy.
"It's just a cut." The older drops his hands to his lap. "We never told anyone about that. Harry and me. It was our inside…joke."
The older squints at him. "So it's true. What you've been saying."
"Is it so hard to believe?"
"Well, yes." The older leans forward. "I'm sure this is dangerous. Why would you agree to it?"
It's a cheap shot. Especially since the older knows all about his sacrifices. He answers anyway. "Professor McGonagall."
Understanding fills the older's eyes. He nods. "That makes sense. She did take that blinding curse for us. Never expected anything in return, either."
"Until now," Draco feels compelled to say.
The older tips his head back and laughs.
"Shhh." Draco glances at Potter.
"I wouldn't worry about waking him. He's exhausted from healing you."
Recent events slam back into his memory. Draco growls. "You cut me, you bastard!"
The older blinks. "You grabbed the knife. You should never grab for a knife. What were you thinking?"
"I—" About Potter. He'd been thinking about Potter.
He tries to wiggle free, but only succeeds in wedging them both deeper into the mattress. Potter's arms tighten around him, his hips arch forward, and Draco regrets ever opening his mouth. If he hadn't, they'd both be basking in post-orgasmic bliss right now.
Instead, he's stuck talking to himself.
"Why did you do that? With the knife," he whispers.
The older leans back. Stretches like a cat. His pose morphs from awkward confusion to cool calculation, and Draco can't hold back a bark of laughter. "You do remember."
The older doesn't confirm or deny. Instead, he asks, "Do you know the contents of the Malfoy Legacy?"
Idly, Draco strokes Potter's hair. "I do."
The older drops his eyes and sighs. "Have you ever held the fate of the world in your hands?"
Draco considers. "I've held it in my arms."
The older looks up and shakes his head. "Not good enough."
It's Potter's turn to watch him.
They're vigilant all the time now since the knife incident. Draco suspects it was a ploy for attention – not an unworthy goal – and if so, it worked magnificently.
The staff remains ignorant of the entire drama; Potter's Confundus Charms are up to snuff, but then those are his specialty. The two of them are able to move through the hospital as they please without attracting too much attention. Potter's invisibility cloak helps. As does an intimate knowledge of the building's layout.
In his thoughts the day before, Draco referred to the sanatorium as 'home'. The horror still hasn’t worn off. He rolls over in bed and the scratchy sheets pull away from the mattress, wrapping him in a bleach-scented cocoon. It's more comforting than it has any right to be.
He keeps his eyes shut and concentrates on regulating his breathing. With infinite slowness, his body finally relaxes. Thunder booms in the distance and a gust of wind rattles the window. The occasional pat of rain signals that more is on the way. But unsettled weather has never kept him awake before, and it doesn't now. He nods off just as the door bangs open.
The room floods with light, and Draco's struggling out of his starchy shroud before his eyes can even adjust to the glare. An anxious presence fills the room. It can only be Potter. When Draco can see without squinting, his eyes confirm it.
"What?" He demands and he gains his feet. "What's happened?"
"He got away. I need your help."
Potter's panting, distressed, and his cheeks are stained pink. It's the blush that stops Draco. "What happened?" he repeats. The words aren't even out of his mouth before he realizes he doesn't want to know. "Never mind." He jams his feet into his shoes and follows Potter out into the hall in nothing but his thin hospital-issue pyjamas. How embarrassing. His only consolation is Potter's equally inappropriate attire, and the fact that he has the power to Obliviate whoever sees them.
They rush down the hall. When it's clear Potter's destination is the east wing exit door, Draco groans. "Idiot," he says.
"I know. I told him it was storming."
"I meant you!" Draco snarls.
Potter's blush deepens, but before he can retort, Humphrey's voice rings out. "Hey now, what's going on here?"
Draco turns to see the large man lumbering around the corner of the nurse's station and acts before Potter has a chance. "Incarcerous!" Draco waits to make sure Humphrey is incapacitated, then dashes after Potter.
He finds him standing by the exit, scowling at a pile of broken glass. There's no blood, a small comfort, so at least the older's not too badly injured. Yet.
Draco may still remedy that.
"How did this happen? You were supposed to be watching him?"
"I was!" Potter snapped. "We were—" he cuts off.
Draco seethes. "What 'we'? He was supposed to be sleeping. You were supposed to be watching."
"He couldn't sleep. I thought it would be a good time to talk." Potter steps over the glass and through the doorway. Draco follows. The wind whips their thin pyjamas against their skin, and Draco shivers.
"I bet you did," he says, voice heavy with scorn.
"Just what does that mean?"
Draco hates him then. Hates him for the lies. He rounds on Potter, wand in his hand, and points it at his chest. It shakes, but he blames the buffeting wind.
"It means you thought a good shag might help things along. Well, did it?" He's yelling now. "Does he feel like me? Is he so tight you can barely stand it? That's what you always said about my arse, anyway. So tight you could barely fucking stand it." He can't deny the thrill that explodes through him at the thought. Or the visceral twist in his gut at the thought of Harry wrapped around him. Behind him. Inside him.
Harry's face screws up in anger. "Don't do this," he hisses. He knocks Draco's hand away, and it's the last straw.
As Potter turns to rush down the stairs, Draco catches him by the arm and spins him around. He aims his fist at Potter's face, but training and experience best his clumsy effort. Potter deflects the blow easily. His arm arcs back to reciprocate when the sky opens up.
The sudden deluge gives Draco the advantage. Potter's glasses are streaked within seconds, and he doesn't even try to defend himself when Draco jerks loose and slaps his wand out of his hand. It flies over the side of the concrete landing and lands in the privet hedge.
"Damn it, Malfoy!"
Draco's halfway down the steps when Potter's fingers find his shirt and yank. He stumbles, takes Potter with him, and they land in a rapidly forming puddle at the bottom of the stairs. His wand settles close by, and as Draco struggles to push Potter off, it sinks below the water. Draco swears and redoubles his efforts, but twisting and bucking do little more than get them both wetter and muddier.
Inappropriately, he enjoys how Potter's body slides over his, slicked by rain and muck.
A last ditch Herculean effort – and a vicious wrench to Potter's dripping hair – do the trick. Draco manages to throw him off. He labours to his feet and Potter does the same. They face off across a puddle of water that may as well be as wide as the ocean. "Malfoy," Potter says, his voice cracking a bit, but his next words are cut off as peals of mad laughter echo back across the lawn.
With a growl, Draco sprints into the dark.
The storm suits his mood – dark, wild, and angry.
He chases his prey across the hospital grounds while Potter keeps pace behind him, urging him to stay calm. Stay focused. Stay sane, Malfoy! And that's amusing enough that Draco stumbles, laughing at Potter's stab at placation. How often has some poor sane sap been incarcerated in such a place only to wake up a few months later completely and utterly mad?
He hates this. It's been five days of pure hell (during which Potter has spouted unprofessional, romantic drivel at every turn – none of which has been aimed at Draco). Granger said this would be the easy part. A walk in the park, she said. The lying bitch. It's no wonder he's unable to stop the bursts of hysterical laughter from bubbling up as he gives chase through the stinging rain….
He wakes from his doze when he hears a noise. He glances at the window, but the faeries haven't returned to harass him. Instead it's Potter, looking exhausted and defeated. He slumps onto his bed and lowers his head into his hands.
Draco rides conflicting waves of emotion. Potter should be tired. It was his fuck-up, after all. Defeated, no. It's a bad look on him, and Draco's body thrums with the need to comfort the pathetic idiot.
"Shouldn't you be minding your charge?" He frowns at the grit in his voice.
Harry's fingers curl into his hair. "No," he says without looking up. "I gave him some Dreamless Sleep. From our emergency vial. He'll be out for hours."
"Drugged him, did you? Would that have been after you gave him his goodnight fuck?" He bites his tongue. He sounds as petulant as the older.
Potter doesn't deny it. Not that Draco would believe him if he did. Instead he whispers, "I’m sorry," which leaves Draco quite speechless. He didn't expect a confirmation of events, if that's what it is.
Aching, he burrows into his stiff, starched sheets. "For what? For fucking him?"
Potter sits like a statue. Except for his fingers. They comb through his hair in steady, despondent strokes.
Draco rolls over to face the wall. "Well, I don't give a shit."
The silence is heavy with something. Pity, he thinks. He punches his pillow.
Pity. Potter can keep it.
It's Dr. Morgan again the next morning. Skipping the appointment will end in nothing but grief, and he's tired. Too tired to cast Confundus on a dozen people rather than sit in her cushy chair and volley psychobabble back and forth across the polished wood of her desk. That isn't to say he's cooperative. King of all things passive-aggressive, he shows up in nothing but a bathrobe and slippers.
She, on the other hand, sports a white silk blouse and sensible tan skirt. The frames of today's glasses are dark brown. To call the ensemble bland would be kind.
He provokes her at the first opportunity. "Blondes should never wear white. Do the fake glasses make you feel smarter?"
"Good Morning, Lucius," she replies, sunny smile at full strength. "Feeling a bit combative today?"
"Kill me now," he mutters.
She leaps on his words. "How long have you been feeling this way?"
"Like you want to kill yourself. Is this a recent urge?" Her voice lilts upward on 'recent.' The bitch seems almost giddy about the possibility.
Draco smiles through clenched teeth. "Last night, as a matter of fact."
Dr. Morgan twitches, but her smile never falters. "And why, do you think, did you have these feelings last night?"
"That's simple." Draco shoots forward in his chair and places his palms on Dr. Morgan's desk. He can't help but grin when she recoils with a soft cry. "You see, first – I didn't stay where I was supposed to. Instead, I broke out of the hospital and went for a run in the fucking rain. Then, when I got caught, I slobbered all over Potter like a puppy until he tucked me into my bed and fucked me all better. Clearly, I deserve to die."
Dr. Morgan's pert little mouth forms an O. It takes her a full thirty seconds to respond. "This isn't healthy, Lucius."
He collapses backward. "Are you a real doctor?"
"You need to accept yourself."
"No, thank you. I'd rather not."
"You won't be happy until you do," she continues, undeterred.
He snorts and crosses his legs, taking evil pleasure in how the doctor's ears go pink when his robe falls open. He decides against readjusting it. Sod modesty anyway. It's about as useful as regret. "Really? Is that your professional opinion, or did you read my horoscope this morning?"
Dr. Morgan gives him a sad smile. "You don't need to be a doctor to know that."
"No. Just a human being."
"Hello, Dragon." The older looks all recovered from his midnight adventure. He's lounging on his bed, nose buried in some tattered book from the hospital library. Except for the abrupt greeting, he ignores his visitor.
Draco hovers in his doorway for a long moment before he speaks. "I understand."
"I'm sure you think you do," the older says. He doesn't look up from his book.
"I know you're reluctant to trust us. It is a fantastic story, isn't it? Though, I'm not sure what else we can do to prove ourselves to you."
His impromptu speech startles them both. The older flounders before retorting, "My faeries don't like you. If they don't like you, I don't like you."
Draco bites his tongue, but not, it seems, hard enough, because as soon as his teeth release the tender flesh, he says something he immediately regrets. "You're withholding a piece of vital information that may end the war because your tiny flying beasts told you to."
"They like Harry." As if this explains everything.
"Lucky Potter. Well, I’m leaving today, so you'll have him all to yourself."
The older drops his book and sits up. "Where are you going?"
"To get Potter. Your Potter. If we can convince him, maybe he can reach you. Somehow."
He can't decipher the look on the older's face. It's the same blank mask he himself often wears. He should be able to see right through it.
Except that he can't.
The older hugs himself in obvious distress, but Draco forges on. "What's wrong? You don't trust your Potter?" he asks.
"I trusted him. With my life."
Draco hears the words, but their meaning doesn't register for several seconds.
The older nods, his bereft expression offsetting Draco's panicked one.
It's only two steps to the older's bed. A bloody good thing because that's all he can manage before his shaking legs give out. A violent shivering overtakes him. "How?" he asks in a hoarse whisper. "When?"
The older pries Draco's wand from his sleeve and spells the room locked and silenced. He hands it back right away, though Draco can see the effort it takes to do so. Through it all, the questions hang in the air. Unanswered.
The urge to get up, to seek Potter out, to see him breathing and blinking and being heroic, overwhelms him. His Potter is alive, he tells himself over and over. It's the other Potter that's dead and gone. The older Potter. The other Potter.
"When?" he asks again. His gut is coiling in on itself, tighter and tighter, as if the act itself is already done and his Potter is cold and lifeless on the ground somewhere.
The older answers with his usual non sequitur. "I left him alone. I shouldn't have done that. He needed me."
Rage builds. "Tell me how."
"You can't stop it. You can't protect him."
"The fuck I can't," Draco shouts. He takes a deep breath and calms his voice. "The fuck I can't."
The older puts a hand on his shoulder, and Draco fights the urge to snatch it up and squeeze it flat. Crush it until the older's screaming with the same agony that Draco's feeling. He stares, defiant, into the older's eyes. "I won't let it happen."
The older turns, grasps both of Draco's shoulders and whispers fervently. "Tell me what Harry said to you when you walked out the door that last time."
"Why?" His voice is breaking. Everything is breaking.
"Because I've never shared it with anyone else. Never. Because I want you to say it."
Draco shakes his head. He clenches his eyes shut and combs his memory for every prayer his mother every taught him. They're queued up in seconds, ready, but his lips won't work. Desperate, he begins to recite them silently.
He hears the older speaking. Pleading. "Listen to me. Harry died destroying Voldemort's body, but the last Horcrux was never found. They're still looking for it. To bring him back. Do you understand? Do you think I'm just going to tell you where it is?"
Draco bangs his fists on his knees. "I. Am. Draco. Malfoy."
"Then tell me what Harry whispered."
The truth of it all bursts open. "You're hiding," Draco says, stunned. He jerks away from the older's restraining hands. His emotions swell in chaotic waves, and grief recedes for another rush of anger. "Do you really think they won't find you here?"
"They will. Eventually. But I'm just not strong enough to retrieve what I'm protecting. And there's nobody left to trust."
"And when they track you down? You can't think they'll believe this silly charade."
"You did," the older reminds him
Draco disregards that. "What will you do then? Run?"
The older pulls away. He rises and walks to the window. "Maybe," he says. "But maybe I won't have to. Maybe tomorrow I'll wake up next to Harry." His words barely carry over his shoulder, and Draco strains to hear them. "Not here, of course. Someplace…else. The walls won't be white." His gaze sweeps over the sterile room. "No They'll be blue or green." He laughs softly. "Or red . The bed will be huge, and it won't sag in the middle. And nothing will smell like blood or tears. And Harry will be there. Still breathing." He chokes on a shallow gasp.
Speechless, Draco waits.
The older turns to face him. His eyes are dry. Dry and dead. "I really want that."
Draco speaks before he thinks. "I want that, too."
"What did he whisper in your ear?"
Something Draco swore he'd never repeat. Something that he thinks about every day. He swallows twice before he can work up the spit to say it. "He said he loved me."
"Yes." The older takes a deep shuddering breath. "Come here. Let me tell you about the last Horcrux."
When Draco takes down the locking and silencing spells, Potter is waiting at the door.
"What's going on?" He's worried, agitated. His eyes dart behind Draco to where the older sits by the window.
Draco doesn't bother beating about the bush. "He remembered."
Potter doesn't bother feigning ignorance. "He did?" He leans around Draco to study the older. "You did?"
Potter steps in and closes the door behind him. His grin splits his face. Draco prepares himself for a lecture, or instructions, or congratulations, but Potter sidesteps proper conduct and leaves propriety in the dust.
He hugs Draco.
It's unexpected, but Draco's just spent the past half hour dreaming of exactly this, and he's quick off the draw. His arms circle Potter and he hugs back, revelling in his solid, living presence.
The older's voice cuts in. "Will you be leaving right away?"
"Yes." Potter nods, still attached to Draco. He seems reluctant to let go, not that Draco would encourage such a thing.
The older nods and averts his eyes. "Ah."
He feels Potter stiffen in his arms. When he pulls away, Draco lets him go.
Potter reaches for the older. "Thank you. What—? How did—?"
"That's not important, is it?" Draco asks.
The older agrees with his eyes. After a moment, Potter shrugs. "I suppose not."
Before he can move off, the older wraps him up in a tight embrace. Over Potter's shoulder, he speaks with his eyes, and this time Draco has no difficulty understanding what he says.
What if he wakes up in the morning and nothing's changed? Will he know why? Will he have this memory? Will he grieve all over again?
Will Potter still be dead?
Draco has no answers.
But he can give him something. When Potter tries to retreat, end the embrace, Draco stops him. "Not yet," he says. He steps close, trapping Potter between them. He catches the older's eye.
What did he whisper?
"Kiss him," he whispers in Potter's ear. "Kiss him goodbye."
Potter goes still. "Malfoy, I don't—"
"Please," Draco says. "For me." Because life is unpredictable and he can't promise anything.
Potter's reluctant, but not unwilling. Why Draco's sensibilities should matter to him at this point is a mystery, but apparently they do, because Potter's kiss is chaste.
That won't do at all.
"No. Kiss him." He plasters himself to Potter's back, conveying just how much he approves of the idea. The older waits, quiet for once.
Potter reaches back to draw Draco's arms around his waist. "Okay," he says, breathless. "Okay."
The second kiss starts much the same. But Draco murmurs encouragement and rubs his palms over Potter's stomach and soon it's racing ahead, sloppy and noisy. The older takes Potter's face in his hands and presses his fingers into the tender skin. A touch of pain. Draco feels Potter's knees tremble.
They moan, and it's so erotic that Draco answers it. Potter's heart hammers against his roving hands, and the kiss goes on and on, and Draco thinks maybe they won't be leaving so soon after all. But when Potter begins to undulate forward and back, rubbing against each of them in turn and purring like a contented cat, the older withdraws.
It's more than a minute before anyone speaks. Draco's the first. "Thank you." He kisses Potter's neck.
"Thank you," the older repeats, but he's looking at Draco.
"'Course," Potter says, dazed. He clears this throat and steps to the side, sliding away from both of them. This time they let him go. It's over. Even the older senses it.
"We should be leaving," Potter says, straightening his clothing.
The older gives a stiff nod. "Could you wait?" he asks. "Just a little while. Until I'm asleep."
Potter hesitates. "Well—"
"Of course," Draco says. He moves aside, and the older crawls onto the bed like an obedient toddler. He sighs when Potter smoothes his hair back, and his tongue darts out without prompting when Draco produces the small vial of Dreamless Sleep.
There are no more goodbyes. The older smiles and closes his eyes.
They stand over his bed, lingering until he's asleep. Potter's content to take his information and leave, but Draco's disinclined to rush off.
He worries for his future.
The older's window is free of peeping faeries. For once. Draco takes it to mean they understand some of what's happened. Perhaps it even means they know something the rest of them don't. At any rate, they're gone. Events are about to spiral out of their interfering hands, and they seem to recognize that.
He'll do his best to carry on where they left off.
Potter produces his wand. "Ready?" he asks.
"Yes." Draco steps up and locks him in his arms. He whispers in his ear. "Yes. Ready."
A prompt request fill: The final scene of A Frayed and Threadbare Wish from Harry's POV.
They've been in there far too long.
Harry loiters in the hallway outside the older Draco's room and tries to look inconspicuous. He senses Draco's signature on the Inperturbed door, but has no idea if it belongs to the older or the younger. Their magic is identical, though that might be the only thing that is.
He's not sure who he cares for more. Or Less.
When the door does swing open, it surprises him enough that he jumps. His Draco's on the other side, looking pained, and Harry immediately scans him from head to toe for obvious injuries. There are none, which is only partly a relief. He sees the other Draco beyond, sitting on the bed and looking equally troubled.
At least there's no blood and everybody still has their important parts. He makes a concerted effort to release his own tension before speaking. "What's going on?"
His Draco answers. "He remembered."
Harry starts. "He did?" It's too good to be true, surely. He leans around to meet the other Draco's eyes. "You did?"
The other nods. "I…yes."
He wants to know how, and why now, and why the fuck was he was locked out, but all of that will wait. He can't stop grinning as he steps into the room and shuts the door behind him. His Draco looks tentative, which doesn't fit with Harry's mood at all. Feeling the need to share his excitement, he pulls him into a hug.
Draco tenses, but gives up his silent protest in far shorter a time than Harry expected and returns the embrace. It's different from what they shared a few nights back – at least for Harry. Then it was all about comfort and the reassurance that he wasn't a complete failure. Today it's reassurance of a different sort – there's finally an end in sight.
It's not in his Draco's nature to cling, but he holds Harry tight and close. Harry indulges in one deep breath, taken at the juncture of the other man's neck and shoulder, and the air that flows into his lungs is warm and Draco-scented. It's difficult to let go, and he thinks maybe he won't.
Then the other Draco speaks. "Will you be leaving right away?"
Harry nods. "Yes." He tells himself to step back, but his body only partly obeys. His fingers refuse to detangle from Draco's shirt.
The other nods and averts his eyes. "Ah."
Harry hears everything in that one word. His Draco's always had that gift – the ability to say so much with nothing more than a small puff of air. Harry reads him a lot better than Draco believes he can.
The other is no different – Harry senses his hurt. And even though he suspects – knows – they haven't been one hundred percent honest with each other, he feels guilty nonetheless.
He pulls away from his Draco and to his surprise, is released with a minimum of fuss. Hand outstretched, he approaches the other. "Thank you. What—? How did—?"
"That's not important, is it?" his Draco asks.
Since the other agrees with silence, Harry shrugs. "I suppose not."
The other throws his arms around Harry's neck, and he stumbles, caught off guard, but only because…it's Draco. Yet it's not. There's strength – that's the same – but there's also desperation, which his Draco never shows.
There's also so much open love that it takes Harry's breath away.
The other's arms pinch, and his breath against Harry's ear is broken, and he's whispering…something. Something Harry doesn't catch, but perhaps he isn't meant to. Still, it overwhelms him.
He begins to pull away, but before he can, his Draco is there against his back, holding him in place, and he's surrounded. His brain struggles to catch up while his body acts as it usually does when Draco touches him.
"Kiss him," his Draco whispers. "Kiss him goodbye."
He wants to. He shouldn't. It would be a sweet cruelty. "Malfoy, I don't—"
"Please," Draco says. "For me."
Since he'd do anything for Draco – anything – he places a dry, chaste kiss on the other's lips. It's nothing like what any of them want, and he wonders why he's insisting on being difficult.
His Draco must agree. Harry can almost hear the eye roll in his next statement. "No. Kiss him."
Fine. He will. But he wants them both. He reaches back and pulls his Draco's arms around him. "Okay," he says, breathless. "Okay."
He begins the next kiss much the same, but his Draco's touching him now, and he still has the sense memory of the other Draco's taste in his mouth. That and the relief that their mission is a success mix into an untidy jumble of thoughts, and the unfairness of what's happening spins away.
He deepens the kiss, and his Draco hums in approval.
The slide of the other's tongue is familiar, his taste slightly medicinal. Harry's already breathless and the sloppy duel makes him gasp for air. His Draco reaches under the hem of his shirt, teases a path along his stomach with his fingers, and Harry curls his own around them. He's tempted to shove them down the front of his trousers, but he lacks the coordination. It's been stolen by the other Draco, who cups Harry's face in his palms as he kisses him, digging deep with the pads of his fingers.
The brief flair of pain makes his knees weak and his cock leap toward the hands teasing at his waistband. His Draco's hard, nestled against his arse, the other is rigid and pressing into his thigh. He wants both at once and fuck trying to think through the logistics of that. All that's important is feeling them come, one in front and one behind, until he's sticky and wet and completely owned.
He rocks back and forth once, and it feels too good not to do it again. Then again. The kiss hasn't stopped, and Draco's hands slip further beneath the material of Harry's trousers each time he thrusts back against him. When Harry moans, he echoes it.
As if cued by their voiced pleasure, the other breaks the kiss and steps away.
Harry groans at the loss. He'd been less than a second from ripping at their clothing with hands and magic. Bereft, it takes all his will not to pull the other back against him.
A moment later, his Draco turns his hands in Harry's grip, gives Harry's fingers a squeeze, and kisses his neck. "Thank you," he says.
"Thank you," the other repeats, solemn.
"'Course," Harry says. He slides to the side, still aroused and freshly confused. His pulse pounds in his ears and groin, and thoughts slide through his head but don't catch on anything. He wills himself to focus.
"We should be leaving," he manages to say as he straightens his clothing. He doesn't look at either of them.
The older gives a stiff nod. "Could you wait?" he asks. "Just a little while. Until I'm asleep."
Harry means to tell him no, but his Draco takes the decision from him. "Of course," he says. He places three potent drops of Dreamless Sleep draught onto the other's tongue.
Harry smoothes the hair off his forehead while he succumbs to the potion. It's something his Draco rarely let him do.
His conscience is pulling at him, urging him to move, to leave, but Draco seems reluctant. Harry waits and watches while Draco stares at his sleeping counterpart. He won't pretend to imagine what Draco's feeling, though he has a fair idea. He's not imperceptive, after all.
He gives Draco as much time as he can stand – until his skin crawls with the need to act – then pulls out his wand. "Ready?" he asks.
"Yes." Draco steps into his arms and pulls him in, perhaps closer than necessary, and whispers, "Yes, I'm ready."
His breath whistles through Harry's ear and he shivers. He's ready, too.
This time he won't let Draco run away.