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It was the dream again. Of course it was. Draco hadn’t dreamt anything else since eight year had started over five months ago. He stood on a crowded platform 9¾, his robes uncomfortably tight, the dark mark burning on his left forearm. The people on the platform looked right through him, walked right through him even, except for a special few who didn’t. Who looked at him. Who circled around him. Who closed in on him.

Big, white eyes, skin like wet paper, dried blood on various places.

Vincent Crabbe, Cedric Diggory, Albus Dumbledore, Remus Lupin, Sirius Black, his muggle studies professor.

Draco knew it wouldn’t be long before Harry joined them too. Knew in a couple of seconds the insults would start, the harsh judgement, the shoving, the cursing, until dream-Draco couldn’t take it anymore. Then he’d walk onto the rails, and wait for the train to come.

Like you should have done in the first place. Like your whole family should have done in the first place. To die a coward's death is the only thing fitting for a waste of space like you. You never deserved survival. You never deserved a second chance. You never deserved redemption. You deserve the death we got. You deserve the death you brought upon us.

And for a moment, Draco would believe them. For a moment he would have the courage, or maybe more the cowardice, to take his own life. For a moment, al Draco wanted to do was jump, or hang, or choke, or swallow. For a moment.

But then there were always Blaise’s strong arms, Pansy’s forceful words and Daphne’s bone crushing hugs. And he’d be alright again. For a moment. Always only for a moment.

But tonight was different. Tonight was very different.

Draco turned around to watch Harry join the circle, and waited for him to open his mouth and kick off the second stage of his dream. He looked even more transparent than usual, and his stride was slow and heavy, like he was wading through water.

“Draco.” The ghost-Harry said. There was something odd about his voice, something Draco couldn’t quite place. “Draco, they can’t swim.”

“Who can’t swim?” Draco’s robes tightened around his chest, and suddenly he broke out in cold sweat. This was not supposed to happen, why was Harry not doing what was supposed to happen? He felt more sweat run down his spine, and in the background there was a faint snapping noise.

“They can’t swim.” The dream around him was fading rapidly, until only the faint outline of Harry was left. “They can’t swim Draco.” Now he was fading too. “They can’t...”

His voice died away. And Draco was left with nothing but darkness. Darkness and the sound of rushing water.

Chapter Text

Draco opened his eyes.

He immediately wished he hadn’t.

Merlin, we’re all gonna die .

He shared a dorm with Pansy, Millicent, Daphne, Theo and Blaise. A dorm that was supposed to have seven windows. A dorm that currently had five, as well as two gaping holes and a fuckton of water. The first window must have been the snap he’d heard in his dream, the second must have woken him up. But the others were all still sleeping soundly, including Millicent whose bed was closest to the third window that already showed a growing crack.

The Slytherin dungeons hadn’t been maintained as they should, after all if you had a limited budget and needed to choose between fixing the heroic Gryffindor tower or the Slytherin dungeons only an idiot would pick the snakes. They were all death eaters in the eye of the public anyway. Which is why Draco’s second thought was shit this is all my fault.

“They can’t swim!” Draco yelled as he jumped out of bed, the line now finally making sense. His bare feet splashed into the cold water that came rushing into their dorm at a frightening pace. The raging februari storm had made the water levels rise to extremes, and now what appeared to be the entire content of the lake, mud included, came rushing into the dungeons. Already it was impossible to see where you placed your feet and the sound of the rushing water was deafening. Draco could barely hear his own panicked thoughts above the noise.

“Merlin's beard.” Blaise stammered, paling visibly. He quickly jumped out of bed, yelping when the cold water touched his skin, and waded over to Daphne who always slept with insanely strong silencing charms around her bed. The others were waking up too, most of them too shocked to say anything at first.

“This is bad. This is really really bad.” Pansy was shivering all over and she hadn’t even touched the water yet. Her breath made tiny fog clouds in the freezing air and the messy bun on top of her head shivered alongside the rest of her body. Draco quickly pulled her off the bed and into the water, handing over her wand in the proces. They had no time to deal with her hydrophobia now.

“We have to get everyone out, our windows might not be the only ones that broke!” Draco yelled. He took a deep breath and pulled up his occlumency wards, shielding himself from the panic that was threatening to destroy his ability to think. Then he waded towards Millicent’s bed to make sure she got out of it before window number three shattered. He cursed as his foot caught onto something underneath the surface of the muddy water. He was nearly knocked off his feet by Pansy’s now floating trunk, and had barely taken another step when he was stopped again, this time by the loud snap of breaking glass.

Shouting out Millicent’s name was all he could do before the rush of water from the third window knocked him off his feet. A shard of glass pierced the skin underneath his foot as he struggled to get up again, coughing like his life depended on it. The current was stronger than expected and the temperature of the water nearly completely paralyzed his muscles.

“Everybody out of the dorm!” Boomed Millicent's voice through the room. Though her bed had been crushed against the wall she was still alive and kicking, or rather wading towards Draco. He strongly suspected she could out-speed and out-calm anyone during panic situations.

Her strong hands tugged on his elbow and soon he was back on his feet again. His whole body was shaking from the cold and if it hadn’t been for milly’s strong grip he would not have made it out of the dorm. By Hades’ blue balls, they were in trouble.

Peto auxilio!” A large blue jet of light sprouted from the tip of Draco’s wand and it quickly disappeared into the hallway, illuminating the four inch layer of water already standing in it.

Videntur vitae! ” Pansy’s wand lit up, then extinguished, and suddenly there were numbers on every door. Seven third year girls. Four third year boys. Six fourth year girls. It went on like that for eleven more dorms.

“Pansy, you take the first six dorms with Blaise, Daphne and Theo you do the four after. Millicent and I do the last ones.” Draco had to yell in order to be heard above the tumult of the water. As the others took off and Millicent dragged him along to the far end of the corridor he quickly whispered a sonorus .

“EVERYONE WAKE UP NOW! THE WINDOWS ARE BREAKING. LEAVE ALL YOUR BELONGINGS AND GET TO THE GREAT HALL.” He managed to shout before his voice gave out. His vocal cords had never been a great fan of the cold and at the moment even dementors could not chill the place down further. Moments later the first panicked screams met their ears and soon after several doors flew open. The water level in the corridor rose several more inches before he and Milly had come halfway.

“Make sure everyone stays in the great hall when they get upstairs, we need to do a headcount.” He told Emily, a passing by third year. He knew all of his fellow snakes by heart and she was one of the few with enough leader qualities to make people listen. ”And make sure the house elves are safe, they sleep in the dungeons too.”

“Will do!” She answered before disappearing with a group of fourth years. Then he turned back to where he was headed; The end of the hallway that was as far from the common room door as you could get on this level of the Slytherin dungeons. It was a proper titanic like scene now, though the water was much muddier. For a second he froze, tempted by the idea to just run out of there as quick as he could, living up to his reputation as selfish, spineless dickhead.

“Well let's get on with it Draco!” Yelled Millicent as she pulled him further towards what looked like their doom. “We’re not letting those students drown now are we?”

“Of course not.” Draco told her firmly, replacing the idea of running away with the image of Harry. “They can’t swim!”

Chapter Text

When he and Millicent finally reached the end of the hallway they were both soaking wet, frozen and shaking all over. Draco could feel his rapid heartbeat in the tips of his fingers now, and his breathing was fast and heavy. The water had risen up to three feet high now and the current was getting harder and harder to conquer, even for someone as sturdy as Milly. Draco was rapidly losing faith in their fight against the rising tide, but forced himself not to think about that too much. Unlike Harry walking calmly into his own death wasn’t really his cup of tea.

Checking the first two doors showed them empty, flooded rooms. However, the two furthest doors still had a shiny five and four on them, indicating that for some reason its inhabitants hadn’t gotten out yet. Draco could only pray it was because they slept very deep, and not because of…

He couldn’t get his brain to even think about that, didn’t think he could survive the guilt of causing even more deaths, so instead he pulled out his wand in order to blow the first door out of its hinges. They opened outward into the hallway, so the water pressure would be too strong to open them normally if the dorm was still mostly dry.

“Draco no!” Millicent slapped his arm away, nearly knocking him off his feet. “The force of the water will drive the students away from the door, we have to cut off the upper half.”

By this point Draco’s body was so stiff from the adrenaline and low temperatures he wasn’t even capable of thinking about the huge mistake he’d almost made. Instead he re-aimed his shaking wand and cast a difindo . The corner of the door got ripped off and fell inwards, where it landed with a soft splash. Only then did he hear the panicked voices behind it.

Alive. They were alive.

“Hold on! I’m breaking the top part of the door down. Whatever you do stay away from the windows!” His voice was giving out more and more with each word, and it took him three more tries before the upper part of the door was gone. His hands were shaking too severely now for proper aim.

Behind him Millicent was already pulling out the first student. Second years. Lightweight second years . Circe’s tits how were they going to manage this?

“Get a chair and climb through, I’ll catch you on this side!” He yelled through the gap. Tamara was the first to climb out, followed by Gabrielle, Persephone and Emma. Maria, the last girl to come out of the dorm, was nearly as scrawny as Harry had been in his first year. Draco had to grab her with both hands to prevent the current from pulling her under. The water had nearly reached his belly button now, and when Millicent pulled the last boy out of the dorm the torches went out with him.

“There’s not enough oxygen for fire, use your wand!” It was Daphne yelling at them from the other end of the hallway, or at least that’s what Draco thought. There was no one around to check anymore when Millicent finally managed to produce a lumos charm.

Draco couldn’t help her with that now, he had lost his wand while saving the last girl. She now clung to his arm as if her life depended on it, which it did in this mayhem. One faulty step and they’d get swept off towards the lower basement. The staircase leading to the dungeons below them, the only place for the water to go except for the common room, was only twenty feet away, and the power of the water would have been enough to floor Hagrid. Draco suspected the only reason they hadn’t washed away yet was some sort of unconscious magic. He could only hope that it would hold them until they’d reach the top of the stairs.

“Stay close to the walls and hold on to each other, especially around the other doors where the current is stronger!” Millicent yelled. Then she conjured several floating lights and stuck her wand in her hair, so she could keep her hands free to support the kids. Draco fervently wished it would stay there, because they’d be even more fucked if both of them were wandless.

When they took off Millicent stayed behind the second years, ready to put anyone who tripped back on their feet. Draco stayed mostly at the front. He was sure now that he influenced the water with wandless magic, because it could not be his bony frame that kept him upright in the violent currents around each door opening. It was a true miracle that he hadn’t been swept away by the water yet, especially when you took into account all the floating pieces of furniture that kept colliding with Draco’s body as he shielded the others.

“If Harry doesn’t date me after this heroic bullshit I will murder his sorry ass.” He muttered to no one as the corner of a desk collided with his lower back. He found being a hero was nothing for him, and he couldn’t help but feel a sting of regret thinking back to the moment when he could have ran off. He could have claimed to go and manage the setup of an emergency dorm, or fetch the headmistress, or anything else really. But no, of course he had to fucking decide that this was the moment to be a heroic dipshit with morals and use his soon to be dead body to shield his fellow students.

His fellow students . Now there was a thought that hit home. He wasn’t doing this to fix his reputation or to prove he was a changed man or get into someone’s pants for Circe’s sake. He was doing this for them. For the people who went through hell every day because of the damage he’d done to the reputation of his house. For the friendly smiles and tight hugs that drove away the memories of hostile stares. For the people who had stopped him from going completely insane for the past five months.

“Hold on guys, we’ve nearly reached the common room!” He yelled, trying to fuel the others with his own newfound courage. Their system was working, they were making progress, and he slowly started to believe they might actually make it.

Stupid of him of course, since nothing he ever hoped for came true, and he was about to find out that this wish was no exception.

Chapter Text

The stairs . How, for the love of Circe could he have forgotten about the stairs? The water reached up to his navel now, he and Millicent already had to carry five of the second years so they wouldn’t go under and now they had to cross the common room. The common room that lay exactly three four and a half inch steps lower than the hallway leading to the flooded dorms.

“I can’t swim!” Cried one of the boys in a panicked tone as he came to the same realisation as Draco, who turned around to look at Milly. Please let her have a solution please let her have a solution please let her have a solution , he prayed to no god in particular.

There was a flash of panic on her face too. She had no solution.

He tried to clear his mind enough to occlude, which would make it a lot easier to think, but the panic was too overwhelming. He’d been able to occlude while undergoing torture, living with the Dark Lord and even during a part of the battle of Hogwarts. And now he couldn’t. When he’d finally taken on the challenge of saving lives he failed at the one thing he could usually always rely on. And now he had no idea what to do next.

“We have to move to the right a bit!” One of the girls clinging to his side exclaimed as she drew her wand. He had no idea what kind of spell taught in second year could be of use now, but he didn’t know what else to do either. He forced a last bit of strengths back into his numbed muscles and moved to where she wanted him to be. He could feel her bracing herself between him and the wall before aiming her wand.

Bombarda maxima .” The curse hit the door on the other side with surprising precision and it exploded with a deafening bang, creating a huge opening for the five feet high water in the common room. They immediately felt the difference as the current shifted towards the door and the water level went down. Most of them were tall enough to keep their heads above the surface now.

“Thanks.” Relieved, he pulled her closer to his side again, pleasantly surprised by her initiative.

“You can thank me when we’re out of here.” Gabrielle told him, somehow managing to sound a tad smug despite the circumstances. He wanted to say something about that, but then several windows broke to the left of the blown-up doorway, making the water of the lake spill into the common room at an alarming rate. He and Millicent immediately descended the three steps and began crossing the room as quick as they could. They wouldn’t be able to get to the other side anymore in a moment.

“Hold on tight!” Millicent yelled as she grasped one of the boys just before he could be swept off towards the door. The water was full of floating furniture and other debris, it would be way too dangerous to let the kids cross it on their own.

Draco went first again, resuming his task of pushing floating couches and chairs out of the way. It took ages to make some decent progress. By the time they’d reached the centre of the room the water was nearly four and a half feet high and Draco had more bruised than not-bruised skin. He barely felt any pain due to his hypothermia, but something he did feel was just how fucked their situation looked like at that moment.

They still had to get from the common room to the top of the stairs, a distance of at least two hundred metres, the water level was rising, some of the kids looked like they could pass out at any moment and Draco himself did not at all feel steady on his feet.

Suddenly another even colder gush of water came at them from some newly snapped windows on the left side of the room, and the extra current created a whirl around them. Ahead and behind the water rose, while it dropped in the middle. Draco’s breath hitched in his throat as he saw the wall of the whirl rise higher than his own head.

Tamara started crying. Several of the floating lights flickered and went out. Something small and heavy collided with his ankle so hard it broke, though the cold shielded him from feeling any pain.

This is not how I am supposed to die , Draco thought, in his head going back to the dream he’d had ages ago. Ages ago that couldn’t have been more than fifteen minutes, though with these temperatures it wouldn’t be long before the hypothermia would knock them out completely. Fifteen minutes was already far too long.

“Follow me!” Draco barely realised he’d spoken, but he damn sure realised that he was not going to die like this . On pure willpower he forced new energy into his arms and legs, pulling the kids clinging on to him closer. The thing that had broken his ankle had also given him an idea.

A single word.

A single chance.

Undercurrents .

Chapter Text

“We’re going under, hold your breath!” He shouted at the place where he thought, hoped , Milly and the other kids would be. The last floating light had been swallowed by the darkness of the water just moments before. The pitch black night around them made the sound of the  rushing water all the more overwhelming.

“What the fuck are you planning to do Draco? Drown us?” So Milly was there. Thank Circe for that.

“The undercurrent still goes into the hallway, but we’ll have to dive now, I don’t know how long it will last!” He shouted back. The muscles in his arms were trembling from the effort it took to hold on to the girls, but at least the rest of him had stopped shivering. Which meant he’d just entered stage two of hypothermia, but he could worry about that later.

“Whatever you do, keep as far away from the floor as you can without losing the effects of the current, because the lower you are the more likely it is you’ll get trapped underneath something!”

“That’s not very reassuring!” Yelled Tamara in his ear.

“Well I don’t seen you come up with better ideas, so shut up!” Yelled Maria back. Draco quickly cut in when Tamara opened her mouth again. They would need that energy for clinging on to him later on, his arms weren’t having this for much longer.

“We’re going down, now !” He yelled. Draco granted the kids two extra seconds to take a deep breath before pulling them down into the depths of the common room.

Being underwater was terrifying, there was no other word for it. The deafening noise of rushing water suddenly went mute, and was replaced with the heavy, deep resonations of desks colliding with couches and walls. It was impossible to say where the furniture was until you crashed into it, just as it was damn near impossible to push it away once it hit you. The weight of the girls clinging onto Draco made him sink down easier, but once he was close to the bottom they barely moved forward. The current was there for sure, but it wasn’t strong enough to pull them into the corridor before they ran out of oxygen. They needed either more air or more speed.

Draco squeezed his eyes shut and tried to think. They were too heavy for the current, but they might not be if they each went on their own. Problem was though, that he didn’t have the strength to pull himself out of the water in order to tell them that, and even if he did Millicent wouldn’t know what he’d done. She might just stay at the bottom and drown. Then of course there was the danger of losing one of the kids if they went their separate ways. The current could shift, furniture could trap them and they can’t swim .

But they can walk . A stubborn, calm voice told him over the screams of panic that now only came from inside his own head. They could walk, just as he could walk. Underwater or not, a floor was a floor, and feet were feet.

He gathered his last bit of strength and pushed off. He could only use one of his legs, because the ankle on his right foot started doing all kinds of crazy things as soon as he tried to put it on the floor and he didn’t particularly fancy losing a limb. This one-sided leg movement made them drift to the right a bit, but Gabrielle, clever girl , noticed what he was doing and planted one of her own legs on the ground, putting them on a straight path again.

After a couple seconds the current weakened further, but it wasn’t replaced by anything else and they’d gathered quite some speed now. Hopefully it would be enough to make it through the doors. There were no windows in the hallway, with a bit of luck they might even be able to wade instead of swim through the water once they got there.

If they got there.

A heavy bookshelf pushed itself against him on his left, and for a moment all he could focus on was shoving the thing away as hard as he could. It brought them off track again, and now something was holding Gabrielle and Persephone on the other side of him back. The bookshelf refused to move away and now they were neither slowly nor gently getting squashed between it and…

The blown up door opening of the common room. They were almost out of there. Now if Draco could only get that bloody bookshelf to fuck off they might just actually make it.

It took immense force to push the thing away, and every fiber in his body felt like it was on fire. The effort made him bare his teeth and inhale a large gulp of cold, muddy, with debris filled water. But it did work. The shelf moved away, Gabrielle and Persephone both helped distance them from the blown-up brick wall, and they moved forward again into the hallway that would lead to safety.

His lungs were screaming from the sudden cold splash of water as Draco struggled to break to the surface. His brain started blanking out due to a lack of oxygen and his arms simply refused to hold on to the kids any longer. Their departure diminished his weight enough to get his head above the water, but it had taken too much time to reach the air. If the fluid in his lungs wouldn’t come out soon he’d choke.

Before tonight he had been utterly convinced dying in a fire was the worst way to go, but now he knew better. The burning in his lungs was hotter and worse than fiendfyre had been, only this time it destroyed him from the inside out. The small part of his brain that hadn’t been swallowed up by the sensation of pain yet realised that while you can’t fight a sea of flames, you can fight a sea of water, if only you are strong enough to swim. He could have been strong enough to save himself and his housemates.  

Could have.

But he wasn’t. And maybe dying after realising that was for the best, because he knew he would never be able to live with the guilt.

Chapter Text

Never underestimate the strength and persistence of twelve year old girls. If Draco ever had a kid that would be the first advice he’d give them. His coughing reflex hadn’t kicked in on its own when he came up to the surface. He’d later learn that occluding, or trying to at least, tended to oppress that sort of things. However even oppressed reflexes were not immune to external stimulation, which Gabrielle and Tamara didn’t know but did provide. They had started pounding on his back as soon as they saw he wasn’t breathing, and kept at it until his reflexes kicked into action.

He couldn’t recall any of that himself later. The only thing he remembered was the soreness of his throat, the white hot panic that engulfed his body and the fact that his coughing fit seemed to last for hours.

By the time he could register his surroundings again Millicent had joined them too. She had a huge wound where her shoulder and neck met, one that would probably have been lethal if it hadn’t been for the low temperatures of the water. The cold made her blood vessels retreat enough to stop her from bleeding out, though it didn’t stop her arm from falling lifeless to her side. Most of the kids now had to cling onto their saviours on their own, because neither could offer enough support for all of them.

“You okay?” Draco yelled at Milly, after checking if he still had his five girls. He did, but both Maria and Emma were slipping in and out of consciousness now. Tamara, Persephone and Gabrielle tried their best to hold them above the water while at the same time clinging to Draco, but he could read from their screwed up faces that they wouldn’t be able to keep that up for much longer.

“I’m not dead.” Millicent answered in between heavy pants. She eyed her wounded shoulder in the flickering light of the handful of torches still burning on the walls. “Not yet anyway.”

Then they both turned their heads to check out the rest of the hallway. It didn’t look much like a road to safety, more like a wild water course to hell. Nearly all adjacent doors leading to classrooms and supply closets were wide open and rapidly filled the corridor with both water and floating furniture. There were multiple swirls present, though luckily none as huge as the one they’d just escaped, and the deafening noise was back again too.

The water level was only a little bit lower than it had been near the dorms, and the current was strong enough to let desks and chairs collide with the walls with such force many of them splintered and broke in half. All in all not the walk in the park Draco had hoped for, but it would have to do. They didn’t have any other options.

“Are we swimming or walking?” Millicent asked as she tried to feel if somewhere amidst the madness there was a current that could guide them to the stairs.

“I don’t know.” Draco yelled back. He tried to put some weight onto his right foot again. Now that he had the floor under a ninety degree angle again he could feel that his ankle didn’t do much of the wobbling it had done before, but it was still far from steady. I think I can only drift with a bit of one legged steering. My ankle is ruined.

That last bit had only been a thought combined with some mouthed words, because his voice had finally given out. When his rapid breathing triggered another coughing fit he even drew quite some blood even, which he quickly washed off his hands before anyone saw. He felt no need to worry the kids about the poor condition of his lungs, since more panic would hardly be of any assistance.

And because the extra wave of panic that the scarlet droplets send through his body was nearly enough to let him pass out. He had to stay focussed on other things. Things like Milly shouting out “over here!”, as she found a current that flowed in the right direction.

Clenching his jaw shut against the cry of desperation he felt welling up in his chest he pushed off with his still functioning leg. Millicent was already caught in the stream and drifted away from them faster and faster. When Draco reached the current it had gathered even more strength and pulled the six of them with it. They didn’t catch up with Milly, who was now at least twenty yards ahead of them, partially because of the ever growing amount of half-broken furniture that kept blocking their path.

The cold made it next to impossible to push it away, due to the stiffness in their muscles caused by lactic acid and carbon dioxide buildup. The water was still freezing and Draco suspected most of them were pretty close to stage three hypothermia. At the very least he was, his breathing was getting more and more shallow and irregular and it was interrupted with coughing more often than not. His already pretty overwhelmed brain flaked now from time to time, suddenly taking away the feeling in his arms and legs, or silencing the deafening sound of the water resonating between the ancient walls.

He could feel his condition rapidly worsening as they got further into the hallway. There were fluids building up in his lungs again, despite his every effort to keep his head above the surface, and at some point the water level had gotten so high his feet barely touched the ground anymore. They managed to float though, together with a little aid from a passing by tabletop, where Draco now leaned on quite heavily. He was barely conscious by the time they reached the point where the hallway split directions.

To the right were the stairs going up towards the great hall, though they were still a good fifty yards away. Straight ahead the hallway went on for another thirty yards before narrowing slightly and crashing the water down a spiral staircase onto the second level of the dungeons. The current inevitably pulled them forward, away from the great hall, and there was no undercurrent this time to save them.

Draco’s skin was numb, one of his legs was out of order, his muscles were completely rigid from the cold and his lungs were now definitely taking in water again because he couldn’t keep his head above the surface. The girls seemed to cling to each other and the tabletop more than him now, though Persephone still had an arm tightly wrapped around his shoulders and Maria was embracing his torso with her legs. With his last conscious action he awkwardly elbowed them away from him, hoping that at least a few would have enough energy left to get out of the water.

It wasn’t a heroic thing of him to do. He wasn’t sacrificing himself or anything like that. He was just acting on some cold hard logic and the basic principles of his own house. No real Slytherin would take their fellow snakes with them to the other side if they could prevent it in any way.

I’m not going to make it, but they might . He thought, before he blanked out completely, and he let the water engulf his destroyed, exhausted body.

Chapter Text

If Draco had to name the three most unpleasant things that could happen to a person, getting the fluids in your lungs magically removed would win first second and third place by a landslide. It felt a bit like vomiting, if vomiting happened with your lungs while they were both on fire and collapsing in on themselves at the same time. Not that either one of those things actually happened, but it definitely felt that way.

The pain was so intense that whoever dragged him into the relative safety of the adjacent corridor did so while he was tightly curled up in a fetal position. He was trying desperately to cough, only he couldn’t because the cold had stiffened his muscles too much. He could only make frantic gasping noises as he slowly tried to catch his breath.

Once he had enough oxygen back in his bloodstream for his brain to stop screaming for air, he slowly became aware of his environment again. He became aware of the deafening rush of water around him. Of several voices yelling incomprehensible things at each other. Of heat seeping back into his system through the contact he made with his saviour’s heaving chest and strong arms. There was only one person clinging onto him now, and that person was quite clearly not a twelve year old girl.

The temperature change started to clear his mind from the hypothermia-induced fog, until he came to a point where he could think again. Or rather, where his mouth could voice thoughts he supposedly had but could later for the life of him not recall anymore, in the shape of incoherent noises.

“Back… we’ve, no swim…” He managed to produce, though the words were difficult to understand as he had finally regained his ability to cough. His back bent slightly forwards as his lungs tried to throw themselves out of his body. The movement made his forehead come into contact with what had to be the warmest neck in the history of the universe. Without a second thought he pushed against it, trying to shove his frozen skin into his saviour. He didn’t realise that by doing so he made it even harder for them to keep a hold of him, though frankly if he had known he wouldn’t have cared.

“Relax, you’re safe now, the second years are save. I’ve got you. Relax.” Draco heard someone say to him, though the words were distant and surreal. He was sure he knew the voice but couldn’t quite place it yet. Not that he was actively trying, he had better things to do. Or rather better things to worry about.

“Hozo… hozo… hearstop, say hozo…” He stammered, before ending his mumblings in a pained howl. His nerve cells were coming back to life again, and suddenly his whole body became a palette of different kinds of pain. While his lungs had never ceased to feel like they were on fire, now his shoulder and lower back had joined the party. Meanwhile the cramp in his upper legs differed little from crucio spasms and the agonizing sensation in his ankle nearly tipped him over the edge of passing out again. His body jerked heavily and his voice failed to express the cries of pain he wanted to scream until the entire castle was awake.

He threw his head back and panted hard enough to make the air audibly wheeze in and out of his lungs.  

“Easy Draco, easy. We’re nearly there.” The voice sounded far away, just as the sobs escaping his sore throat. “You’re safe now, I’ve got you. I will always get you I promise.”

But he wasn’t listening to his saviour anymore. Instead a different voice caught his ear. Maria was yelling something, something panicked, though he couldn’t actually make out what she said. He opened his eyes and tried twisting in his saviour’s arms when he didn’t spot her right away, fighting to stay conscious. Maria was small, they might have missed her. She might still be in the water or trapped underneath something or…

Several yards ahead of him in the arms of a ginger man he didn’t recognize, yelling out his very own name. She’d probably been afraid he was dead. He let out a sigh of relief, triggering a coughing fit that soon became so intense his mind went blank again. Blank but for the image of blood on a green shirt, and a familiar voice going from calm to worried to frightened out of their mind.

Chapter Text

It was crowded. That was the first thing slowly seeping into Draco’s mind as he started to register the noise around him. People were running and walking and quite possibly that last sound had been a limp. There were also a lot of voices talking and yelling and screaming and whispering and crying. At the same time his chest was still burning, just as his ankle still throbbed.

Draco wanted all of it to stop. It was too much, too overwhelming to feel the stone hard floor underneath his body. Too overwhelming to be so tightly wrapped in someone’s strong arms. Too overwhelming that despite thinking otherwise for quite some time he’d come out of the dungeons alive. Or sort of anyway.

He was bleeding in various places, still soaked with cold water and he couldn’t stop shivering. He was pretty sure his lungs had been drained from any fluid they might have held, but despite that breathing didn’t seem to have the effect it ought to. Inhaling was difficult, and his pants became more shallow by the minute. He tried to sit up, hoping that would ease the pressure on his chest, but the weight of the person holding him kept him pinned to the ground. He didn’t have the strength to push them away, but he needed to get up . So instead of wasting precious energy on his fruitless struggle he tried to tell them that he couldn’t breathe.

“Ne- no… No air.” He slurred, his mouth refusing to cooperate the way it should. His saviour didn’t seem to hear him properly, because all they did was tighten their grip and whisper some incomprehensible nonsense about him being alive.

If you don’t let me go soon I won’t be alive anymore you moron, he wanted to tell them, but all that came out was some incoherent gurgling. Then he tried opening his eyes, which didn’t get him very far either. His eyes didn’t focus at all, resulting in nothing but some weird dark shapes floating about in his vision. The input of the extra sense overwhelmed his suffocating brain even more. He tried talking again, but found that he could only inhale now, his chest slowly filling with an overload of air that couldn’t get out. The sound of his own wheezing pants blocked out everything else, until…

“He’s choking! Potter roll him onto his side he’s choking again!” Finally, someone noticed. His oxygen deprived brain thought. Harry let go of him and he was rolled onto his side. He coughed twice, then stopped halfway through his third. There was something wrong. His vision turned even more blurry, then black. A more intense black than before, though by this time the sudden increase in pressure on his chest was doing a damn good job at distracting him from it.

“Poppy, quickly! Over here! I think Draco’s having… ” Draco failed to hear what he had as all of his senses flaked at once. His muscles relaxed and his limbs fell lifeless onto the dry hard stones. Reaching the ground floor hadn’t been enough to save him after all.

Chapter Text

“His blood pressure is onetwenty over eighty now, body temperature thirty six point four degrees celsius.” Apart from the healer’s voice there was a faint noise from a scribbling quill entering Draco’s ears. So far his hearing was the only sense that had returned, though his mind was still far too foggy to really progress the words.

“He's pulling through?” A second voice asked surprised and maybe a tad disappointed.

“I think he is, though Circe may know how he beat those odds. I would have declared him a lost cause after two minutes.” The first voice said before letting out a deep sigh. It sounded like the type of sigh one utters while thinking too much about too many things. Draco was all too familiar with that feeling.

“You'd like to call him a lost cause, wouldn't you?” The second voice informed, not really noticing the shift of mood in the other person. There was a sound of a cork being pulled out of a flask before the first person replied.

“He’s a lost cause no matter if he pulls through now or not. He looks just like his father, and that guy took too many lives from me and the rest of our colleagues. I’d be very surprised if he lives to see tomorrow, if only because of that similarity.”

One of Draco’s healers started nervously tapping their quill on the edge of a clipboard. The other, unnoticed by Draco, took their wand out and magically scanned his lungs. “Like we thought, pulmonary laceration with some hematomas caused by the vaporized dittany essence. Poppy made a mistake administering that so deep into his lungs. She should have rinsed them first.” The voice tutted disapprovingly.

“Well to her credit she did save him from a heart attack, which is one of the least common medical issues in magical folks. I don’t think we would have done any better.” Someone walked around the hospital bed and checked its heating charms. Again, the action went unnoticed by the inhabitant of the bed itself. Draco’s consciousness was slipping away.

“Would we have tried to do better?” The second voice asked, putting the emphasis on tried.

“I like to think that we would, though I am going to ask for a healer transfer. I just can’t shake the feeling that I’m treating the man who tortured and murdered my parents all those years ago. They look so alike.” Understandably the first voice had turned saddened and bitter now.

It was a long time before either of them spoke again.

“How much lung capacity will he lose if we don’t operate?” The first person asked as they checked the bandages around his ankle. His foot had been nearly severed from the rest of his leg, but it was looking better now. Something that couldn’t be said for his lungs.

“My guess is twenty to twenty five percent in the best case scenario, and a lung transplant in the worst. We’ll have to wait until the pulmonology expert is back, though I very much doubt she’ll return from vacation early to treat the offspring of the guy who tortured her wife.”

The first voice sighed. “Like I said, he’s a lost cause no matter if he pulls through or not.” His vital signs were checked one last time, and the heating charms on his sheets were freshened up. Moments later two sets of footsteps walked out of the room and the door was pulled shut. Draco drifted off to sleep again before he had a chance to process the conversation.

Chapter Text

The next time Draco gained a bit of consciousness it was silent around him, and he could muster moving too, albeit only a little. He tried peeking through his eyelashes, which he succeeded in for his right eye only, the left was not as cooperative.

The view was far from spectacular. When the blurry outline of his hospital room slowly came into focus, it revealed a sad looking plant on an ugly cream coloured night stand, as well as a small sink and a window showing a dark night sky behind mostly shut curtains. The walls weren’t white, but one shade darker cream than the nightstand. All in all Draco found the room to be about as aesthetically unpleasing as it could get. The sheer ugliness of the colour scheme already inspired him to get better as fast as he could.

He would have found his view to be a lot less depressing had he been able to open his left eye. That would have provided him with the image of a sleeping, slightly drooling Harry, resting his head against the ugly wall of his St. Mungo’s room, legs awkwardly folded underneath him in a hard blue plastic chair. There was a slight swelling around Draco’s left eye though, so he had to make do with the other half of the room.

He only became aware of Harry’s presence when the man woke up and started talking to him, clearly under the impression that Draco was still unconscious. He could have been, he nearly fainted from shock when he first heard Harry’s voice, and nearly lost it again when the actual meaning of his words sank in.

“You look like shit Draco. Pansy said so when she came to visit this evening, though you probably didn’t notice.” Harry let out a pained sigh and gently took Draco’s hand in his. He intertwined their fingers and brushed a rough thumb over the soft skin. It send a weird pins-and-needles like feeling through his arm, and it was all Draco could do to lay still. He was shocked by Harry’s action in the most positive way, and the warmth flowing into his fingers from where they touched Harry’s skin felt a thousand times better that the heating charms around his bed.

“I think she’s wrong you know. You always look gorgeous.” The last part of Harry’s sentence got stuck in his throat, and Draco tried his very best to keep still despite the sudden flutter in his chest. It sounded like Harry was coming undone.

“Fuck, I should have told you that when you were still prancing about with that stupid smug kissable face of yours.” Harry cursed, and he stood up from his chair. Draco quickly closed his right eye, he didn’t want Harry to know he heard every word the man said.

Harry let his eyes go over the nearly severed ankle, the crisscross scars on his chest and the heavily bruised ribs that for some reason couldn’t get magically healed. His other hand touched Draco’s chest lightly, feeling the heartbeat underneath his fingers. It came from a heart that had stopped completely after he’d pulled Draco out of the water. A heart that held a place for every Slytherin student at Hogwarts, and that, when all else failed, proved willing to never beat again for every last one of them.

Hopefully it would make room for a certain Gryffindor too at some point, or so Harry wished. He was oblivious to the fact that Draco had loved him for months now. Even Draco himself didn’t fully know that yet.  

“Please don’t die on me Draco. I have so much still left to say to you, even though you’ll probably just laugh in my face when I do.” There was a short pause, during which Harry pulled Draco’s hand up to his face and pressed a light kiss on it. The movement hurt, all of Draco’s muscles were about as sore as they could get, but he found he didn’t care much when Harry uttered his next words. “I think I might be falling for you.”

Chapter Text

I think I might be falling for you . Had Draco died right there on the spot after hearing those words, he would not have died peacefully. That might be a nice dramatic ending for your average shitty muggle romance novel, but not for his very own fucking life. It appeared, however, that his body quite frankly did not agree with his brain on that point.

His breath hitched, as most people’s breath would do after hearing Harry Potter say that he might be falling for you , but most people weren’t hospitalized with a severely punctured lung while he said that. The fact that Draco was very much hospitalized and in a very bad state of health gave the breath-hitching some quite catastrophic results.

At first his chest started heaving. His bruised ribcage rose and fell faster and faster without actually managing to in- or exhale any air. Then an alarm went off around his bed to warn the healers something was wrong. By this time Draco’s entire body had been flooded with panic and adrenaline, and he’d nearly completely blanked out about how he’d gotten himself in this situation in the first place. The thing he did know, however, was that his entire throat was bruised and burning and somehow blocking the air from coming into his lungs.

He wanted to trash around in his bed, or rather felt the need to, since what he actually wanted was to not be choking again in the first place. His windpipe was still blocked though, so for now trying to trash around in his bed and failing at it since his muscles weren’t responding was all he could do.

About two minutes in, when Draco had gotten a slight blue colour again and Harry was in every stage of panic, anger and fear at the same time, a male nurse calmly entered the room. It was only when the man saw he was in the presence of Harry Potter that he quickened his pace and called for a healer.

“What happened?” He asked sharply as he checked which spell had set of the alarm.

“I- I don’t know.” Harry stammered, shocked. “I was just talking to him and-”

“He was awake? You should have told us if he-”

“No! He was not awake.” Harry quickly cut in. “I was just, uhm, thinking out loud for a bit.” He took a quick step back as the nurse put his hands on Draco’s neck and tried to guide his head and windpipe into a better position. A healer entered the room then, and if Draco hadn’t been close to dying of oxygen deprivation, he would have been offended by the lazy stride and careless expression on his face. Every inch of his fifty-something year old body seemed to say I don’t actually care what happens to you, I just want to go back to my midnight lunch break .

“Ah, Mr. Potter.” The healer straightened up in the same manner as the nurse had done before and quickly made his way over to the bed. “I take it Mr. Malfoy is having trouble breathing again?”

“Tro- trouble breathing?” Harry sputtered, finally noticing how little the medical staff was actually doing for Draco, who was still quite obviously choking. “He’s bloody well not breathing at all, even I can see that!”

“Well then, let’s do something about it.” The healer said in an excruciatingly calm tone. He went over to the other side of the bed, opposite the nurse who was still trying to guide Draco’s head in the ideal position.

A shower of diagnostic spells revealed that an allergic reaction to one of his healing potions had caused a swelling around his neck, slowly narrowing his airways until there was nearly no space left for the oxygen to pass through. The healer would later strategically omit to mention the neglegted allergy, both in Draco’s medical file and to Harry. Eventually he was given a muscle relaxant and an airway clearing charm, which seemed to widen his windpipe enough for the air to come through.

“Is he okay now?” Harry asked, shaken and leaning against the wall for support. He’d been awake for over forty eight hours now, if you didn’t count his short nap from before, and it was beginning to weigh down on him.

“He’s as good as he’ll get in this condition, Mr. Potter. The strengthening charm around his windpipe must have snapped during irregular inhalation, but the alarm for chest breathing never went off. We have strengthened both charms now, Mr. Potter, so if you would wish to return to Hogwarts-” But Harry was already shaking his head. He wasn’t leaving Draco until he was absolutely sure he’d pull through. The healer and nurse nodded, checked Draco’s vital signs one more time and then left the room. Harry could do little else but stare at the faint blue pulsing light indicating the speed of Draco’s breathing. It seemed awfully slow.

Harry had nearly lost Draco before because of his own cast sectumsempra . Then again, in the fiendfyre, and a third time as he got a heart attack while he was choking in Harry’s arms one night ago. The fourth really was too much for him to take. Trembling all over, he sank down in the hard plastic chair, frantically reaching for Draco’s hand to feel his pulse with his own fingers.

“Asshole.” He muttered with a quivering voice once he’d found Draco’s heartbeat. “Don’t you dare die on me before I can tell you that I love you okay?” He gave Draco’s hand a shaky squeeze, and after a moment or two Draco unconsciously squeezed back.

When Harry drifted off to sleep again later that night, it was with a faint smile on his lips and his hand intertwined with Draco’s. His thumb still nestled in the soft spot of Draco’s wrist where a steady pulse reassured Harry with every beat that he wasn’t going to lose another loved one.

Chapter Text

Draco was already exhausted before he'd even properly woken up for the third time.  Keeping his eyes open was a challenge and his breathing was still shallow and uneven. He still didn't have the clarity of mind to process everything that had happened since his nightmare from twentyfour hours ago, he rather preferred to wait with even trying to do that until his pounding headache was gone.

It was due to this headache that he flinched when the door of his private room was thrown open with a loud bang. He would have said something about the rudeness of entering a room without knocking, but sadly his throat wasn't up to talking just yet. He could only lay still in bed and listen.

“I’m being serious here Hermione, they didn’t look like they wanted to try and save him at all until they noticed I was in the room!” He could hear the heated words came from Harry. The man marched into his room followed by a tired looking Ronald Weasley and a defensive Hermione Granger, who repilied with a nearly equal amount of passion in her voice.

“And I’m just saying that you’re being paranoid Harry! It was four in the morning, they were nearly at the end of their night shift and probably just very worn out. Of course they’d try extra hard around the saviour but that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t have tried to save him if you hadn’t been there!”

Harry groaned in frustration and put a hand through his already messy shoulder length hair, before turning to stare at his ginger friend. Ron exchanged a quick look with Hermione before answering.

“I’m sorry mate, but I think I’ll have to side with ‘mione on this one. It seems a little far fetched, even for you. The St.Mungo staff jointly plotting Malfoy’s death? I don’t see it.” He then took the time for an elaborate fake yawn and sat down in the hard plastic chair, trying to avoid Harry’s angry glare by pretending to be asleep. He looked like he wanted to be anywhere but here, and Draco found he didn’t blame him. He even started to share his sentiment when Harry continued yelling, this time possibly even louder than before.

“But neither one of you were here last night! They didn’t do anything until they saw me. It took ages for them to get here in the first place and when I asked what was wrong the healer was being all vague about it. I’m telling you, Draco is not safe here!” Harry stamped his foot on the floor in frustration, turning his broad muscled back at Draco in order to face Hermione. Draco didn’t really mind the change of position. The yelling was too much and too loud for his tired, drugged brain to process, but his eyes were just open and awake enough to enjoy the sight of Harry’s butt.

“And your presence would make it safer? Last time you tried to help him he got a heart attack Harry. He needs proper medical care from experts who know what they’re doing.” Hermione was clearly trying to calm Harry down with her tone of voice, but it appeared to have an opposite effect. “He’ll get that without you hanging around all the ti-”

“But he doesn’t!” Harry interrupted. “Can’t you see it Hermione?” There was a desperate edge in his voice now, but the bushy haired woman still clearly didn't agree with him, so Harry turned to his best mate. “Ron?”

Ron was still pretending to be asleep despite the loud argument, and again Draco found himself sharing the sentiment with him. He might have even actually drifted off to sleep himself if it hadn’t been for this perfect opportunity to stare at Harry.

“Last night’s events weren’t even written down in his medical file. I checked and it wasn’t. What I did saw though is that he’s gotten several allergies for common ingredients in healing potions, and they’re blatantly getting ignored.” Harry's voice was a tad calmer now, as he started pacing up and down while making frustrated gestures with his hands. Draco had always liked how much of a physical talker he was. It made his arguments all the more fun to watch.

“Well if that’s the case then they’re probably not that serious. No healer in their right mind would try to kill and eighteen year old kid, I refuse to believe that’s what the world has become.” There was an undertone of doubt in Hermione’s voice  and Draco suspected Harry was winning this discussion, though he still couldn’t quite grasp where it was about. Not that he was really trying to, he had other things to focus on.

“You’re ignoring the facts Hermione!” Harry exclaimed, raising his voice again. “It’s a fact that he’s allergic to asphodel root, and a fact that that ingredient is present in at least seven of his healing potions. It’s a fact that when I got back to his room this morning someone had removed the heating charms, it’s a fact that they cut corners taking care of him, and a fact that I’m not coming back to Hogwarts until he’s coming with me!”

“Wow.” whispered Ron, who had stopped his fake-sleeping after his girlfriend had harshly poked him in the ribs. “You’ve really got it bad for Malfoy, haven’t you?”

“That’s not the point, Ron . The point is that Draco worked his ass off trying to become a better person over the last months and nearly died saving five second year girls, but he’s being treated like he just murdered them!”

“Harry…” Hermione tried to butt in, as she saw her best friend get agitated to the point where he might just accidentally set the hospital on fire.

“No don’t you ‘Harry’ me! If you don’t believe me then you can piss the fuck off, and if you do believe me then you know I have to stand guard the entire time he’s here. Join me or don’t, but I'm not going anywhere until Draco is out of here.” Harry turned on is heels, stressing his words by pointing at Draco, and stared right into his very open though also very sleepy grey eyes.

“Morning.” Draco uttered hoarsely, casually waving at Harry and his friends. “Would it be a terrible inconvenience to hand me a glass of water? I’m dying of thirst over here.”

Chapter Text

Though Draco would have loved to continue watching the dark blush spread over Harry's face immediately after the man caught on to the fact Draco had overheard the entire argument, it seemed his body was not agreeing with him again. In hindsight maybe he shouldn’t have tried to talk that much all at once, so maybe it was a tiny bit his own fault. Still, that didn’t make him like the coughing fit that followed his snarky comment much more.

His ribs screamed murder every time his muscles contracted, and though he tried to sit up he found that he didn’t have the strength to do it. All his energy was sucked into the contractions of his lungs, which destroyed his ability to make any other movements. It was as if he was completely paralyzed with the exception of coughing, which made the entire ordeal all the more awkward and painful.

Someone, Draco couldn’t see who since his eyes were squeezed shut from the pain, tried to offer him the requested glass of water, but that only made his teeth collide with the glass. The impact knocked the thing out of the person’s hands and its content splashed over Draco's chest. The water that now dripped down his front immediately pulled up memories from the night of the flood. Flashes of huge, dark bodies of water coming down to crush him and his housemates combined with a deafening fantom noise of the flood came cascading down on his senses, and mixed with his current state of distress they nearly send him spiraling down into a full blown panic attack.

It was a good thing that the healer on duty was a quick responding former Slytherin, who spend no time fussing about or judging if Draco deserved her care yes or no, since a slow response would have definitely led to some serious and lasting damage this time. She ran into his room as soon as the alarm went off, only just in time to stop Harry from making the same mistake as the one he'd made on the night of the flood.

“Don’t pull him up Potter, that would lower his blood pressure way too much! are you trying to give him another heart attack?” The sentiment that the hero of the wizarding world should be tiptoed around and treated like expensive china was clearly not shared by her. The saviour was roughly shoved aside as she pulled a tiny pink flask from her robes. Unceremoniously the healer ripped open Draco's hospital gown and dumped the oily liquid on his chest. It burned like crazy, especially in the half open wounds still scattered on his skin, and Draco now gasped for breath in between coughs. Lucky for him the healer quickly started rubbing the stuff into his skin with fast, well-practised circle movements. They slowly made the burning sensation disappear, and soon the rest of the pain in his chest followed. After another minute he didn't feel a single thing anymore, all the nerve endings in his chest appeared to have died.

“Easy now Draco, easy. Your ribs are numbed for now, but that will only last for a minute, so can you try breathing for me?” The healer asked gently, though she sounded far, far away. Despite that Draco still tried to listen, he really did, but it just seemed impossible to catch his breath. He had build up an enormous oxygen shortage again, and in his panic he didn't know what to do except inhale, inhale inhale…

“And exhale. Yeah that's right. Just breathe, don't cough, there's no need for that. Just breathe. In and out. Calm and steady, you'll get there Draco, I promise. Just relax.” Her voice was gentle and warm. Now that Draco had calmed down a bit he could finally hear her voice from up close, and the words seeped into his panicked adrenaline fueled brain like honey, trickling slowly through his flashbacks of flooding and choking, and replacing them with the smell of parchment and the memory of a tight hug.

He recognized that voice now.  

It was the voice of safety.

The voice of the dungeons before the flood destroyed his last safe space.

The voice of home.

Chapter Text

“Yeah that's right.” The healer spoke softly as Draco started breathing more easily. “No need to torture those poor ribs of yours by coughing hey?” The numbing option was all over his chest now but she just kept on rubbing his skin, gently massaging the now pain-free muscles until his breathing was entirely normal again. Then she turned to Ron, Harry and Hermione, and her tone was far from gentle when she spoke this time.

“If I catch the lot of you disturbing the rest of my patient again I won’t hesitate to permanently ban you from his room.” She took a step towards the golden trio, glared at Ron until he got up and continued her tirade as soon as she had their undivided attention.

“No one raises their voice around him, no one tries to wake him unless it's a medical emergency, and when something happens that might be a danger to him I do not want to find out because one of the warning charms goes off but because you get into the freaking hallway and scream murder until someone comes in to help. Half of my colleagues seem to think that his death should be celebrated instead of mourned, so you bloody well make sure you don't give them the choice wherever they heal him or not. I am not letting him leave this hospital in a bloody coffin. Am I understood?”

They nodded in sync, taken aback by what was probably the first serious scolding they'd received since saving the wizarding world, though Harry shot an angry I told you so glare at a shocked Hermione as soon as Alice looked away.

“Good. Now one of you fetch a clean sponse from the sink over there.” The healer turned back to Draco and pulled another vial from her robes. She started gently wetting his lips with the liquid after Harry handed over the sponge.

It had an immediate effect. The drug induced drowsiness started to lift from Draco's mind, causing an attack of bright colours and loud noises on his senses. It made his breath speed up for a moment, but then a new sort of fog came in, taking the edge off the sharp signals entering his brain and enabling him to think clearly again. Or sort of anyway, most of the signals he received still came from the constant pain in his limbs, which were pretty overwhelming now that the painkillers were suddenly gone.

“Hey.” Draco breathed, glad to finally spot a familiar and kind face that wasn’t yelling about things he didn’t quite understand. He got a wide smile in exchange for his effort to talk.

“Hey.” Alice Flint, the sister of his old quidditch captain and former slytherin head girl, replied before putting away the sponge and bending over to press a light kiss on his forehead. She knew how her colleagues thought about him, and how they'd neglected to take proper care of him for the last two days. In her opinion that called for a warmer approach than her usual professional distance.

“Did you just take his temperature or…” Hermione asked perplexed at this open sign of affection.

“No. I just felt like kissing his forehead.” She answered dryly. Then she turned back to Draco with a tiny flask in her hands. “This tastes like shit but it'll fix your voice for a moment, since I’m afraid I'll have to ask you some questions.”

Draco eyed her suspiciously as she pressed the vial to his lips. His arms were still not up to the task of functioning yet. The previous potion had only cleared his mind, but his limbs were still lifeless. He braced for impact and swallowed.

The potion tasted like a homemade honey drizzle. Alice grinned. “Nothing wrong with a tiny positive surprise from time to time hey?”

“Cheat.” Draco grumbled, but the pain relief in his vocal chords was heaven, so he gave her a smile anyway.

“So, on to the boring but important healer questions, then we can switch to hogwarts gossip.” Her face turned serious. “Do you still have any acute pain anywhere? Or any lingering pain?”

“I'm sore.” Draco answered truthfully. He was still a bit overwhelmed from the potion and had nearly forgotten that Harry and his friends were still in the room. He would have never talked this freely had he remembered. “And my back is killing me but it does that quite often so I'm trying to ignore it.”

Alice gave him a disapproving look. “Pain is the body’s way of telling something is wrong. It shouldn't be ignored.”

“I know. But my back spasms are my body’s way of telling me that prolonged crucio is not a good idea for a still growing seventeen year old.” Draco tried to keep his tone light, he didn't want her pity. “I kind of got that message when it was cast on me.”

Alice didn't gasp or pale or look at him with pity in her eyes, unlike the still present golden trio. Her face remained impassive. It was a trick nearly every slytherin knew, by staying impassive you could put on a mask much more easily once you processed the information. After a second she smiled and gave his hand a squeeze.

“In that case we'll provide you with some local painkillers. We're here to take care of you Draco, but you have to tell us what to do first. Don't ignore your body's needs.”

But Draco was already too busy ignoring her words to hear the last bit; He’d noticed the presence of the golden trio. “What are they doing here?” He whispered, discreetly nodding in the direction of Harry and his friends.

“Oh, sorry, I forgot.” She whispered back. She quickly got up and send them out of the room. Not exactly what Draco had in mind, he just wanted to know what the golden trio was doing there in the first place. He occasional studied or sat next to Harry after the man had forgiven him over an extremely awkward cup of tea following his trials, but Ron and Hermione never even went near him. It was odd to say the least.

But then Draco suddenly reminded something that obliterated all other thoughts. That nearly made him forget Harry had been in his room at all. That made him forget about the pain and the lifelessness of his limbs. That scared him like only the worst moments of the war had been able to do.

“Alice, what happened to the other students?”

Chapter Text

“That’s not a question for now Draco.” Alice replied without looking at him. “It’s important that you don’t stress yourse-”

But Draco had already reached sky high stress levels as soon as he noticed her reluctance to answer. “Alice, what happened to the other students?” He send her his best glare and struggled to sit up, ignoring the pain in his own body and the sweat starting to pearl on his forehead as soon as he put some tension into his arms.

“I’ll have to ask you my questions first, then we’ll see if there’s time for yours.” Again Alice didn’t look at him. Instead she walked to the other side of the room and pushed the curtains open to reveal a drowsy London morning.

“I am not answering anything until you tell me what happened to the other students.” He told her as clear and as coldly as his voice could muster. He hated how glaring at her was all he could do. How he couldn’t force her into doing anything when his body was being this useless. How asking about the other students hadn’t been the first thing he’d done when he’d woken up.

“And I’m not telling you anything until you sit back and relax.” Alice had turned around and was now very much looking at him. Her emotions were invisible as her face was closed off by a steel mask of professionalism. The distance it created made Draco’s blood turn to ice at first, and fill with panic moments later. It wasn’t looking very promising if Alice needed that much time to recompose herself.

“I. Need. To. Know. Now.” He grunted from behind his teeth. He let himself fall back onto his pillow after rising about two inches above it. It had still cost him so much energy that he was shaking all over now. His mind was threatening to overwhelm him with images of rows and rows of dead bodies and coffins. Of previously happy eleven year olds with puffed up blue lips and swollen lifeless faces. Of traumatized children whose friends were suddenly gone. Of mourning parents wailing over a loss they would never be able to live with. Focussing on the face of his healer was all he could do in order to not lose his mind.

“You’re never going to relax until I tell you now, are you?” Alice asked in a tone that said he already knew the answer, which she did. She had grown up in an all slytherin family and had been a mentor student for years before being made head girl. She knew the type of loyalty Draco felt for his fellow snakes.

“No.” Draco answered stubbornly and a tad hoarse. The honey drizzle potion he’d been given before was clearly not meant for raising your voice. Draco didn’t care much, he needed to know if his rescue attempt had been of any use. If the other students got to the great hall safe and sound. If no one died because his past fuck ups had resulted in a full stop of maintenance of the dungeons, which had led to this entire ordeal in the first place.

“No one died.” Alice fiddled with one of the bags connected to his IV. “Yet.”

“Yet? What do you mean yet?” Draco asked panicked and even more hoarse than before. It sounded like he wouldn’t be able to talk anymore in the near future.

Alice sighed, and bit her bottom lip. She was dropping parts of her mask, as she felt that some things shouldn't be brought in a distanced  manner. That wasn’t what Draco or any of the other slytherin students in St. Mungo’s deserved. “You were the first student to wake up out of seven who are comatose. We cannot say for certain yet if the other six will pull through yes or no.”

“Six?” Draco mouthed. His voice was entirely gone now, as was his stomach. Six students might just die because of him. Six. It suddenly felt like the highest number in the known universe.

Alice nodded, slowly dropping the rest of her mask. “I only know about the injuries of three of them so far. A third year with a severe head injury from when she slipped on the stairs leading to the great hall. A second year whose magical core has pulled her into a protective coma she won’t come out of and a sixth year whose hips and lower spine have been shattered when he got slammed against the wall by a desk.”

“Who?” Draco whispered as his entire body went stiff from the paralyzing fear that was caused by waiting for the answer. He was holding his breath as he eyed his healer, watching the lips that would form a possible death sentence for six of his peers anytime now.

“I don’t know their names. They’re not under my care.” He didn’t say anything to that. Instead he just stared at Alice, willing her to do something to find out their names. To find out about the condition of the remaining three. Alice wasn’t stupid, she must know he wouldn’t rest until he knew which students might lose their lives because of his mistakes.

“That’s all I know Draco, and that’s all what I can tell you now.” Alice squeezed his hand again and offered a watery smile. It suddenly doomed on him that it was strange Alice didn’t know.

“The prophet?” He asked, though he feared he already knew the answer. Usually when Harry got a nose bleed it was front page news within a few hours, but a disaster like this, caused by the faulty decisions of both the ministry and Hogwarts... The entire matter screamed to be wiped under the rug as fast as possible.

“Nothing. Not on the front page, not in the back pages. Not one line. If there had been my father would have told me, he reads the entire thing back to front twice a day. It took a firecall from your mother before I found out what had happened. The head of the emergency department never called in any extra healers.” Alice spat bitterly.

“Bastard.” Draco whispered, though he felt himself struggling to really process the information. His eyelids were starting to droop and his head slowly rolled sideways. He glanced upwards just in time to see Alice fiddle with his IV again, but lost his consciousness before he could ask what she was doing.

“I’m sorry for this Draco. But you need your rest more than you need my honesty.” Alice felt a pang of sadness in her gut as she watched Draco’s mind drift off, the hurt, fear and anger slowly falling away as his muscles relaxed. She bent forward again to press a kiss on his forehead, that was still hot and clammy from his effort to sit up before. It was still far from certain he’d make it through the upcoming night.

Chapter Text

There were no voices pulling Draco out of his sleep this time. Instead it was a touch, the gentle caress of fingers brushing over the palm of his left hand, that slowly guided him back to the waking world. Long nails ran over his skin again and again in a way that was vaguely familiar though he couldn’t remember why. It tickled.

“Draco.” A sharp familiar voice whispered near his ear. “Draco can you wake up for me? We have very little time, the healers will be back for their rounds soon.”

The woman speaking sounded rushed and cautious, but nonetheless she made Draco think of freshly cut grass and careless fun times. He understood why as soon as he’d cracked open one of his eyes and saw whose voice it was. The sound must have reminded him of his fourth year, which had been his last year at Hogwarts filled with unburdened joy. His mother had steered clear from depression for the second year in a row, he had a blast making  Potter stinks badges and Blaise finally had a stepdad he got along well with and who didn’t look like he could die at any given moment.

It hadn’t lasted of course, the joy, the careless bit of youth he got between the burden of being the Malfoy heir and the rise of Voldemort, but he refused to let the memory of what came after taint the joy he’d felt back then.

“Ah, you are awake then.” The woman with the blinding white perm on his bedside whispered somewhat relieved. Her Quick-Quotes quill floated next to her, taking notes so she could continue drawing intricate patterns on his palm with her large hands.

“Rita?” Draco brought out hoarsely, his throat dryer than an average Professor Binns lecture. Rita left his palm for what it was, grabbed a glass of water and guided a straw in between his dried and burst lips. She didn’t allow him much of it but did get what appeared to be a chapstick out of her dark green robes and used that on his cracked lips.

“Yes my love, the one and only queen of quills.” She gave him a smile which held a sadness behind it than Draco had never seen on her before, though granted he’d mostly spoken to her while she was in beetle form. She wore thin wire framed rectangular glasses, no jewels and the fabric of her robes was plain, dark and dull, as if she was trying to blend in with the shadows. Her words lacked their usual speed and desire to pry loose some good gossip, and Draco huffed as he eyed every part of her that he could see. It almost looked like she felt sorry for him, for lying there badly wounded and powerless. She didn’t of course, Draco wasn’t stupid, but it looked like it just a little bit.

“What are you doing here?” He whispered, not willing to raise his voice and possibly draw attention to her presence to someone in the hallway. You could say whatever you wanted about Rita, but she knew her facts well despite always twisting them in her articles. If anyone would know what had happened after the flood it would be her.

“I’m here to propose a bargain. I know your type Draco Malfoy. Nothing ever comes for free in your world.” She had dropped the saddened smile now, leaving behind a tight mask decorated with a cold smile. “You ask a question first, I answer and vice versa.”

“And why shouldn’t I wait for the healers to tell me everything for free?” Draco eyed her warily. They might have been on friendly terms before but nearly four years later it disgusted him how the woman abused other people’s words, lives and trauma just to sell a couple extra newspapers.

“Because the healers won’t tell you everything sweetheart. They don’t know the full story and even if they did they wouldn’t be telling you anything about it. That would be far too stressing for someone as badly wounded as yourself.” Draco glared at her, but in his gut he knew she was right. Rita was probably one of the few with the right network to get something known to the public when the ministry had put a ban on the story, and only she was malicious enough to pry loose every last bit of information about what had happened.

And Draco just really wanted to know how his housemates were doing.

“Fine. Ask away.” He sighed, feeling defeated. Though he had suffered from severe wounds and illnesses multiple times in his life, they had never been so bad that he wasn’t able to even sit up. He felt immensely vulnerable with Rita standing over him like this. Only now did he realise that he was completely at her mercy, or at anyone’s mercy really as soon as they stepped into his freely accessible room. He wouldn’t be capable of lifting his wand even if he hadn’t lost it in the flood. His stomach clenched uncomfortably as he eyed Rita’s face, the door and then Rita’s face again.

“Don’t worry darling. You’re no use to me when you’re dead, I mean no harm.” Draco didn’t buy her innocent smile for a second, but even rolling his eyes was painful now so he settled on sending her another agitated glare, before focussing back on the ugly cream coloured ceiling.

“What were your first thoughts when the windows in your dorm broke?” Rita asked.

“Merlin we’re all going to die and shit this is all my fault.” Draco blurted out before he’d even processed the question. He realised too late that Rita could very well have put veritaserum in the water from before. Knowing her it was very likely that she had, though he didn’t really feel the effects of it yet. He couldn’t do anything against that now though, so he decided to hope for the best and continued to ask his own question.

“How badly injured are the other students?”

“Two will be permanently handicapped though they are out of life threatening danger. Three others are out of lethal danger too but the last one is still hitched to a breathing ventilator. Her survival odds are fifty fifty at the moment.” Rita spoke as if she were trying to break the world record for speed whispering. Draco had a very hard time accepting that he couldn’t do much with the information that was to given him except feeling bad about it all, and Rita gave him no time to let her words sink in. She immediately asked her second question. “Why would it all be your fault?”

“Because Slytherin students have always been seen as evil and unworthy to even be asked to join the light side,” Draco took a deep shaky breath, forcing his body not to cough despite the itch in his throat. “I amplified that sentiment enormously by being the first and only student in the second war who already got the dark mark before graduating. And as cherry on the cake I even tried to kill our former headmaster. I ruined the last bit of trust and respect society still had for my house.” He eyed Rita for a second. “For our house. That’s why the dungeons hadn’t been maintained as they should.”

He could hear Rita swallow after his confession and quite frankly he had to recompose himself too after his little speech. Thinking that the flooding had been his fault was one thing, but saying it out loud was quite another. He tried to distract himself with his next question.

“What are the names of the wounded students?” He whispered in the dark, his eyes closed and his body tense as he awaited their names.

“Astoria Greengrass, Gabrielle Delacour, Michael Farley, Mafalda Prewett, Maugis Bulstrode. The girl still in critical condition is first year Eleanor Shacklebolt.” She spat out the last word as if it were an awful contagious disease. She and the girl’s uncle Kingsley had always hated each other. “Why didn’t you run to safety as soon as you saw the water? Were you trying to impress a certain other Hogwarts student?”

“A little bit,” he sighed, feeling the substance Rita had given him pull the truth from his lips. “But I did it mostly because ever since I came back for my eighth year I have been telling my peers that things would be alright. The stares, the articles, the alienation from non-Slytherin family members weighed down on everyone, especially the younger students, and since I knew I was at the very least partially to blame for that I kept telling them everything would be alright. I feel awful for never checking if that was actually true.” He sniffed. “And now it might just be too late. At least for Elle.”

He bit on the inside of his lip hard enough to draw blood. His breathing was heavy as he thought of Eleanor. An energetic presence with a kind and disarming smile. Absolutely brilliant at transfiguration, though she used that skill mostly to win pillow fights. He chuckled despite the awful feeling in his gut, thinking back to the week before when Elle had defeated Milly’s cousin with an air of drama that could rival his own. Promising, innocent and in no way deserving of being hooked onto a breathing machine in order to live.

“Your question?” Rita’s sharp whisper roughly pulled him back into reality.

“I don’t have one.“ His words were more like a slightly irregular exhale. A breath filled with sorrow and pain. The presence of the journalist, and the knowledge that she would probably abuse the vulnerability of not only him but other wounded students too, made him sick to his stomach in a way he’d never experienced before. As if his entire body wanted to vomit.

“Are you sure? You would cost your house precious publicity if you don’t speak up.” Draco shook his head just enough for it to be visible. Maybe the healers would have done the right thing by not telling him anything. He could feel the beat of his heart pulse through his entire body, from the tip of his ears all the way down to his toes. His distress made it irregular and rapid.

“I had expected you to care more about our house after all the wrongs you did to it.” Rita got up and plucked her Quick-Quotes quill from the air. “But maybe that is too much to ask from an ex death eater. Caring.”

Seemingly forgetting that she was there without the staff’s permission she stalked over to the door and slammed it shut behind her. Draco didn’t notice. His memories of Eleanor slowly shifted into the shape of a dream, and for the first time since the start of eighth year he didn’t have the same nightmare again. Instead his mind was filled with wet pillows, blood soaked feathers and the sound of people wailing in despair. In real life Eleanor was fighting for her life, but in Draco’s mind her grave was already dug and the one next to it would be a perfect fit for the man who hadn’t saved her.

Chapter Text

Draco noticed the warmth on his face before he became aware of the whispered voices in his room. The heat wasn’t very pleasant and he rather suspected he had a fever, which all things considered wasn’t all that strange, though he didn’t worry about it for very long. Focussing on the conversation at his bedside was much more useful. He could pity himself for being under the weather on a later hour.

”...How she even got into the hospital at that time of night. This place is in lockdown from eleven at night until seven in the morning. Not even family is allowed in then. Even during the day there is supposed to be a very strict regulation.”

“I think I know the answer to the first question.” Whispered a second voice. “Skeeter is an illegal animagus.”

The first speaker seemed completely unphased by that revelation. “That shouldn't matter because there's a block on animal transformations of any kind on the ICU, because animals are very unhygienic.” Someone let out a deep sigh. “I think it's time for me to punch some people in the face.” It didn’t sound like the person really minded punching some people in the face. “Figure of speech of course.”

“Of course.” The second voice responded. Then footsteps led away from his bedside. A door opened and closed. Draco thought for a moment that he was alone, and was a bit startled when a hand was placed on, of all places, his ankle.

The hand was warm and restless, kneading the skin above his foot through the thin bedsheets in a way that was both nice and uncomfortable. Deciding between the two was too big a task for his still sleepy brain, and he didn't fancy focussing on it anymore when his visitor started talking again.

“I won't let anyone take advantage of you like that anymore.” It was hard to distinguish whose voice it was because they kept on whispering. He wasn’t even sure if it was a man or a woman.

“You must have felt so helpless, lying there without a wand or a muscle to move.” Yes I bloody well did. Draco thought a tad bitter. He wished now more than ever that he could just sit up or better even stand up. He wanted to get out of this bloody room so he could see with his own eyes what his negligence had done to the other snakes. He hated being immobile.

“We’ll sort it out, ey? You don’t have anything to worry about except getting better.” And my dying housemates, the guilt that comes crushing down on me every five second, the fact that I will probably never fully recover from my current state and oh yeah, the healers who are trying to kill me. Draco rolled his eyes and groaned a bit because he’d forgotten that that movement hurt too. It was the most frustrating thing, wanting to move and do things more than ever, starting with kicking the person who was now downright tickling his ankle, and not being able to anything. He couldn’t even move his eyes without pain.

“Shh, it’s okay.” No it bloody well isn’t . “Just relax.” Stop saying things that make me want to roll my eyes you utter fucktwat. Draco now had enough irritation running through his veins to use as fuel for opening his eyes, which was still awfully difficult for some reason. He immediately got blinded by the bright sunlight on his face because of course he didn’t have a fever, this hospital was just too bloody incompetent to even close some stupid drapes. Ulgh.

He squinted his eyes, making him aware of a cut alongside his cheek that he hadn’t noticed before. Or maybe one of the nurses had stabbed him, which honestly wouldn’t surprise him anymore at this point. A blood droplet trickled down his face, making his skin itch and his right arm hurt because he tried to lift it in order to scratch his cheek but it refused to respond in any other way than sending back sharp jolts of pain.

“Shit you’re bleeding.” Draco opened his eyes in shock as he suddenly recognized the voice as coming from Harry, only to be blinded again by the bloody sun. He groaned loudly and instinctively squeezed his eyes shut again. Harry’s previous visits got high-speed projected on the inside of his eyelids as some sort of muggle film and he suddenly felt himself torn between pain, relief, disbelief, laughter and maybe just a tiny bit of happiness, though the last two died pretty quickly as he remembered that following Harry’s visits he’d heard Eleanor might be dying. That notion took away the entire momentum of Harry telling him he always looked gorgeous and had a kissable face.

“Oh hold on I’ll close the curtains.” Hurried footsteps walked off to the left and he could feel the burning sunlight leave his face. When he opened his eyes for the third time he could keep them open and he saw Harry exit the room without as much as a glance in his direction. Draco had no reason to feel hurt though as it became clear to him that Harry had left to call out for Alice, or rather ‘Healer Flint’, to tell her he was awake. Draco rather appreciated the gesture since he didn’t feel up to yelling just yet.

He was left alone and breathless as his brain mixed up pictures of Harry at his bedside with Rita’s scraping nails and horrifyingly huge machines attached to an ever shrinking first year. Lucky for him his mind was blissfully cleared from those images as soon as Alice came in. She looked tired and was rubbing over the knuckles of her left hand that seemed to be a bit red. “Ah Draco. You decided to join the waking world again? I thought I heard our Lord and Saviour screech something amongst those lines in the hallway.”

She smiled, lovingly and genuine, before approaching Draco and sitting down on his bed. Draco was grateful to see her. Alice didn’t have to tell him everything would be alright, she just had an air around her that let him know and believe that very statement without even having to open her mouth. She immediately sprang into action and wiped the blood of hs cheek before disinfecting the wound and casting some healing charms over it.

“Does he know you’re here?” Draco asked with a soft but somewhat steady voice as soon as Alice was done with his face. It seemed a bit odd to him that Harry would run off to fetch his healer and then not join her at his bedside. Though admittedly it was already very odd in the first place that Harry had been in his room at all, several times even, to basically declare his undying love for Draco and tickle his ankle. The world had become a strange place.

“Nah, he would only stand in my way all the time. He really wants to help but he’s not very good at it.” She paused, biting her bottom lip for a second before speaking again. “Not when it comes to healing anyway. He’s quite practical in other area’s though.”

Draco thought he saw a cheeky grin flash over her face, but he didn’t press the matter any further when she grew serious. “I’m so very sorry that you had to hear about our housemates from Skeeter. I’ll cover her in paper cuts and throw her in a basin of lemon juice at the first opportunity that presents itself.”

Draco chuckled a bit, but he grew serious too when he thought about what he’d heard from Rita the night before. “Eleanor…?”

“Is still comatose I’m afraid. There’s not an awful lot we can do since we’re trained to do injuries somehow caused by magic, and these wounds were more or less caused the muggle way. It’s not our area of expertise.”

“But what about quidditch damage then?” Draco cleared his throat before attempting to continue and Alice quickly gave him another dose of her honey drizzle potion. It sadly didn’t taste as good as it had before. “Those are rarely caused by magic in the traditional sense.”

“That’s a bit of a technical story.” Alice send him an apologetic smile which didn’t satisfy him at all. He wasn’t thrilled at the prospect of meeting Rita again but he would if his healers kept beating around the bush. His glare told Alice so.

She sighed and shook her head, but it was with a tiny smile around her lips. “What it basically comes down to is that the dungeons that flooded offered a storage space to some very dangerous potions and potion ingredients. Until we know if and how much of that came into your system and the system of the other students none of you are allowed to take heavy forms of magical medication. Apart from casting some very basic healing charms and potions our hands are tied.”

“But what about the honey potion then?” Draco asked confused. “And the stuff in those bags, surely that’s a potion too now, isn’t it?” He indicated at the infusion bags hanging next to his bed and the plastic tubes that lead down to a weird white piece of cotton stuck to his arm, which he only really took notice of now.

“That’s either not heavy or muggle medication. It's a very tricky line to walk on. I don't know the full details either, potions was never my best subject and I never paid much attention in muggle studies.”

Draco frowned, glossing over the muggle bit because he wouldn't understand any kind of explanation about that and instead he focussed on the thing he did get; Potions. He knew the type of potions they kept at school and none of then would require this much precautions, at least not when it was so diluted. Though of course it wouldn't be perfectly mixed, and if one of the storage spots had flooded just when a student went past it… But then still there were neutralising potions, though those came in varieties and if they'd gotten into contact with erumpent ivory, which was very water soluble.

He closed his eyes so he could more easily focus on the matter and had drifted off deep into his mind-potion lab in no time, making mental lists of ingredients and how they would respond to other potions or being inside a human being, how to neutralise them, what would happen when a substance had a certain concentration… He barely noticed Alice carrying out several physical exams or muttering some fancy medical terms. He didn’t even hear her explain that he hadn’t been able to move because they’d stunned his muscles below the neck since he kept thrashing around in bed while he was asleep at first, nor did he feel her lift the charm.

“Hello hello, earth to Draco.” Alice clapped her hands in front of his face, pulling him out of his ponderings. This time that didn’t just made him open his eyes but also made him move the rest of him up a bit too, which hurt like hell. It felt so painful that he couldn't even muster a yelp. Alice didn’t seem to notice as she’d turned around to talk to a new person.

“I should have know the nerd in him would take over as soon as I mentioned potions.” She sighed, smiling. “Please try not to kill him while I'm off to finish my rounds.I won’t be more than ten minutes.”

“I'll try my best but given my track record I'm not making any promises.” Harry, who else could it be?, gave Alice such a dazzling smile Draco was smiling along himself before he even took notice of it. He quickly dropped it before Harry could see. He had no idea what the man's intentions were. Maybe he'd just said all those things before because he might be dying and it was what Draco wanted to hear.

“Hey.” Harry spoke somewhat awkwardly, not dropping his grin but replacing it with a tentative smile.

“Morning Potter.”

Chapter Text

An awkward silence stretched while Harry fiddled with the fabric of his shirt, not looking like he’d talk any time soon. Draco sighed. The man had seemed so straightforward before, but now it was apparently still up to him to make conversation if he wanted to know why Harry kept visiting him. He supposed that was only fair for Harry, since the man was obviously socially inept because he’d grown up with a bunch of abusive muggles and Draco himself had been trained for making smalltalk since before he was born, but that didn’t mean he had to like it, especially not when he felt like absolute shit.

“Are these purely altruistic visits or am I expected to reciprocate anything in my current or future state in exchange for your presence?” Draco blessed Harry with the most haughty look he could muster as the man snorted loudly and nearly knocked his glasses off his face trying to cover his mouth. At least he’d gotten the sentiment that laughing wasn’t an entirely appropriate reaction at the moment, that was at least something he supposed.

He let Harry recompose himself as he tentatively started to move his fingers, shoulders and arms. They were very stiff and he had to try very hard not to groan, which would be even less appropriate then Harry’s clumsy laughter. His limbs started to shake as soon as he moved them so he let them be for the moment. There were more important things to focus on.

“Sorry,” Draco looked up to see Harry had somewhat calmed himself. “I’m just surprised to hear you talk so posh while on this many drugs.” He indicated at the bags above his head. “I’m pretty sure they put morphine in there, most people would be completely off their rocker.”

“I would talk posh in a coma. It's a gift." Harry snickered and Draco felt himself smile along with him until the atmosphere grew serious as Harry looked at the state Draco was in. The bruises stood out starkly against his pale skin where the duvet didn’t cover them. His foot was slightly elevated on a mountain of pillows and wrapped in thick bandages. There were all sorts of pulsing monitoring charms hanging over him and several of the wounds on his chest had some sort of weird black wire in them, as if they’d been stitched shut.

Draco decided not to question them. If Alice thought that was safe then it was, and Harry would probably be bollocks in explaining what they were even if he did know, since he already struggled with simple chit chat.

"I’m sorry for causing that coughing fit Malfoy. I don't know what got in me, yelling at Hermione like that while you were sleeping in the same room.” Draco got a bit lightheaded as he shifted his face to get a better view of Harry. He was now chewing his bottom lip and messing with his shirt again, which looked like he had been wearing it for three days straight. He probably had.

“I wasn't sleeping, more like admiring the view.” He chuckled a bit as he thought back to what he remembered from before the fit. Mostly someone calling him Draco and Harry's butt. He didn't know why his drugged mind had decided that that was a good moment to stare at Harry's ass, but he didn’t mind it much. All things considered it wasn’t even that surprising, since he’d been pining after Harry for months now. Maybe even more than that.

“By the way last time I checked I was the one coughing. You'll have to try a lot harder to make me do anything Harry ." The words didn’t come out the way he wanted to as it seemed that the previously mentioned drugs were finally starting to kick in, but that didn’t make Harry’s reaction to his given name any less extreme.

His green eyes went wide, then squeezed shut and stayed closed for several seconds as his breathing seemed to stop entirely. His hands gripped his bedframe as if he was trying to steady himself, which even for Draco’s standards was a bit overdramatic, and then he started stammering nonsense. Draco didn’t even try to make sense of the latter, coming up with a witty-ish reply was hard enough.

"What? You called me Draco before, but I can't call you Harry? That's a bit hypocritical don’t you think?” Draco let his hand do a casual spider walk until it was nearly touching Harry’s. He was for the first time sure why he did that. After all if he made an ass out of himself then he could always blame it on being drugged out of his mind.

“You heard that?” Harry blushed intensely. Draco sighed with relief. He’d been scared for a bit that he had dreamed the entire thing. “What else do you remember?”

“Nothing. Just that.” And your ass, but I’m taking that one to the grave . He cleared his throat to give himself something to do and to absolutely accidentally press his hand a little bit more forward. As soon as the tip of his middle finger came into contact with Harry’s hand the man looked down, shocked. Draco contemplated pulling back, worried that he might have misread Harry’s signals though he had no idea how that could have happened.

However his hand was captivated by Harry’s warm fingers before he could make up his mind. Harry’s hands were rough, he noticed. Real working hands.

It felt weird, very weird to finally be holding Harry’s hand while fully conscious. Somewhere it even felt a bit wrong. Their shared past was so filled with hostility and confrontations that had nearly ended in death.

And of course there was the tiny detail of Harry being a guy.

“So I take it you don’t hate me?” Harry’s eyes went back and forth between their hands and Draco’s face. He sounded surprised for some reason.

“You know I don’t hate you. We discussed that over the world's most awkward cup of tea, remember?” He gave Harry a stern slightly puzzled look. He thought he’d been clear to the man on that front, but apparently not. He could only hope that Harry wouldn’t force him to drink tea in an accidentally way too romantic muggle cafe again to confirm they didn’t hate each other. He’d rather get a coughing fit again.

“Oh I remember, it’s just that we’ve barely spoken since.” Harry brushed his thumb over Draco’s hand before looking up with those ridiculously intense green eyes. “You changed. A lot.”

“Not that much. Not nearly as much as I would want to. And we talked during potions.” He added thinking back to his original surprise when Harry had claimed the seat next to his at the start of the year. Not that he’d read anything into that gesture since he was the best potions student in their year while Harry was usually rubbish.

“Oh yeah, ‘pass me your flobberworms will you?’ really is the best pick up line I have ever heard.” Harry replied sarcastically before smiling that stupid smile of his again that made Draco’s stomach do a salto. Like he didn’t have enough on his mind yet without Harry setting his already painful nerve endings on fire as well.

The pain was fading, probably because the muggle drugs were starting to do their job. It appeared to remove not only his pain, but the boundaries between his thoughts and his mind as well.

“It’s pass me your flobberworm.”

“What?” Harry looked confused again. Draco had clearly pulled him out of his stream of consciousness.

“It’s pass me your flobberworm not flobberworms, and people usually see that as an insult, which is actually quite strange considered that flobberworms average ten inches which would be quite impressive, though I suppose also quite impractical.” Draco chuckled, okay, giggled , as his eyes flicked upwards to see Harry blush all the way down to his collarbones. He obviously had no idea how to respond to that, and after Draco had finally stopped giggling he decided to change the subject.

“Your hands are cold.”

“My everything is cold.” He shot back, because despite the high room temperature he was still far from comfortable. “And sore, and in pain.”

“I’m sorry about that.” Harry said full of sorrow as he looked down at his feet. He hadn’t noticed yet that Draco was soon starting to get baked.

“Why? Did you smash our windows? Block our maintenance funding? Control the sky? You know now I think of it you could be Zeus, with the lightning bolt on your face and all that, but then water is more Poseidon's thing.” He bemused, looking at the ceiling with a dead serious thinking face on as his mind got more and more clouded by meds. Harry laughed.

“I’m pretty sure I’m not a Greek god, sorry to break it to you.”

“What an utter disappointment.” He responded after letting out a shocked gasp. “And here I was thinking a divine being thought I had a kissable face, but it’s merely the saviour of the wizarding world. An absolute abomination.” He sighed the most dramatic sigh he could muster before bursting out laughing as he saw the horror on Harry’s face.

“You… You heard that too?”

“Loud and clear.” Draco smiled. Then he let out a weird sort of chuckle as the corners of his mouth curled up unnaturally high. He snorted and pointed at Harry. “You fancy me. Me. Idiot. An idiot with a terrible taste and terrible hair. I have mentioned that to you before now, haven’t I? It looks like a mob. Hideous really. Should be illegal. I’ll ask Granger to ban it as soon as she makes minister of magic.”

He reached out to touch the hair, certain that Harry was close enough for that even though the man had already taken a step back. He pouted when the black mess turned out to be out of reach.

“Are you okay?” Harry cast a worried look at the door, his watch and then the door again. Draco nodded to the best of his ability, which was at that moment more a sort of hyperactive neck spasm.

It was probably for the best that Draco’s next gibberish talk was interrupted by a knock on the door. As Alice entered the room Harry let go of Draco’s hand and Draco himself giggled.

“Hi Al.” He beckoned Alice to come closer and the woman obeyed with a bemused smile on her face. “You’re pretty.”

“I take it the meds have kicked in then?” Her question did not need an answer, Harry’s flabbergasted face and Draco’s odd behaviour was more than enough. Draco giggled again and poked Alice lazily in her stomach.

“Uhm.. Sleep tight I guess.” Harry was fiddling with the hem of his shirt again.

“Bi Harry…” Draco waved at the man as he backed out of the room and Draco relaxed into his pillow. Bi Harry… He ought to remember that one.

Chapter Text

“Draco.” Draco produced a sound that could only be described as a purr when somewhere far away a familiar voice whispered his name. “Draco, darling. Wake up.”

He purred again and tried to roll onto his side, but many things stopped him from doing that. Mostly someone’s hands. “Draco you can’t move, you’re in a hospital bed. You’re badly hurt.”

Draco cracked open both eyes as he heard the voice break at the end. It took a while before his consciousness joined too. It felt like bliss when it did.

“Mom.” His left hand spider walked over to his right hand to join his mother’s warm fingers. He barely had the strength to squeeze them but did it anyway, before redirecting his energy into the smile on his face. “Hi.”

His mother leaned forward and pressed a kiss on his forehead before giving him a tight one armed hug that crushed his already wounded ribs. In that moment Draco could not care less about any of it. His mom was there, he didn’t focus on anything else.

“I thought I’d lost you.” Narcissa whispered against his neck, making his skin tickle. Draco knew she was keeping her face hidden to hide her tears, which were clearly audible in her voice, and with the use of tremendous willpower he managed to get his left arm free from underneath her. He rubbed her back until she breathed normal again. He didn’t stop her from getting up when she tried, it wasn’t like his mother had never seen him cry before.

“You didn’t lose me.” He rasped, glad to notice his voice was slightly less shitty than it had been before.

“I didn’t.” She sighed. Her face looked perfectly normal and Draco actually doubted if he really had hear her cry. He wouldn't put it beyond her to fake it, though he didn't doubt she'd been worried sick about him.

“Pull a stunt like that again and it will be the death of me. I don’t even have any hair left to turn grey,” and she tucked one of her grey strands demonstratively behind her ear. Draco chuckled, he knew she didn’t mind turning grey at all. It was proof she was living, which was why she never hid her wrinkles either.

“Did you get my warning call?” Draco asked, suddenly thinking back to his hurriedly cast peto auxilio . It was both a safer and a more risky charm than a patronus, because it only became apparent to the family of those who were in trouble, but they needed to be awake in order to get it which was a risky thing to count on at four in the morning.

“Miss Zabini got it, she woke me up.” His mother sat up a little straighter. “I am however under strict instructions not to tell you anything about what happened that night because you need to rest.” Draco did not make the mistake of rolling his eyes again, but he did look unpleased at his mother, which obviously didn’t persuade her to say anything that she didn’t want to say.

“All you need to know is that apart from Eleanor Shacklebolt everyone got out and everyone will live.” She smiled. “Including you.”

She squeezed his hand, just like Harry had done some time before that. He groaned and pressed a hand against his face as the memories of that morning came rushing back. At moments like these he was convinced the universe hated him. He really really was.

“Is it anything I can help you with?” Draco peeked through his finger to see his mother’s amused expression. Of course she’d recognized his whine as coming from embarrassment and not pain. He shook his head, feeling the wound on his cheek burn with every movement. Luckily it didn’t start bleeding again.

“I suppose I can’t tempt you to perform an illegal memory charm?” He was happy to see his mother hold in a chuckle. If anything Draco knew how to make his mother laugh, and with all the trouble she went through for him she deserved at least that.

“Draco Lucius Malfoy I raised you better than that. No illegal charms unless it concerns looks.” She gave him a stern look but of course he could see a spark of joy in her eyes. He squeezed her hand, suddenly so overwhelmed by gratitude that his mother was there, and that he himself was there, alive and semi-well, that he couldn’t speak up anymore. Not that he needed to say anything, his mother already knew he loved her and compared to that the rest was trivial anyway.

“I spoke to Alice before I came in here.” Draco tried raising one eyebrow but ended up raising both. Stupid drugs. His mother eyed him with an amused smile again.  “She said you will need to stay here for at least another week before they can transfer you to the hospital wing. However she did mention Poppy is trying to rally up some healers to help her at Hogwarts so you and the other students can be moved earlier, given the way some of the staff here thinks about Slytherin.”

There was no bitterness or judgement in his mother’s words. Instead there was a smug twinkle in her eyes making Draco think he didn’t really need to worry about the healer problem anymore. He just wanted to ask what she’d done when there was a knock on the door and Harry stuck his head around the corner.

“Eh, sorry to disturb you but there’s someone outside for you Mrs. Malfoy, and Alice can be here any minute now for a checkup.” Harry’s face was slightly flustered, and Draco would have closed his eyes and pretended to sleep if the combination of a blush and the jet black messy hair hadn’t been that adorable to look at.

“I’ll be there in a minute, and please Mr Potter, Narcissa will do just fine.” Draco’s mother smiled at Harry, her body language telling him that yes it was okay for him to leave without saying anything back. Draco could just see Harry relax at the sight and was once again very grateful that he had the mother he had.

When Harry’s head disappeared Draco noticed he’d felt a lot less embarrassed in front of him than the circumstances actually asked for. He thought maybe it was because he suddenly realised how much he loved and trusted his own mother while Harry had never even gotten to know his. He decided not to dwell on it for now, he was enough of a mess as it was.

“I’m off to make sure you are left in capable hands,” Narcissa announced as she got up and released his fingers. “I’ll be here when you need me to be.”

“I know.” Draco waved a tired hand at her while Alice came in behind her pushing a cart with a blanket covering most of it. “That’s where mothers are for now, aren’t they?”

His mother wisely decided not to answer that and walked off with a content look on her face. For the first time since he’d gone to bed on that fatal night Draco felt happy as he watched her go. His mother was an amazing woman.

Chapter Text

“So can I conclude from that grin on your face that you feel less awful then the last time I spoke with you?” Draco glared at Alice who had totally ruined his moment of bliss with her medical talk.

“Last time we spoke I had completely lost my marbles,” he glared a bit more when Alice started snickering as she replaced one of the IV bags, but then he though of something else and nearly ruptured the wound on his cheek again as he frowned. “Why did I even need those meds? I mean I was in pain before but I wasn’t that out of it all the time. What changed?”

“I changed your medication because this worked better against acute pain without slowing down your magical healing process.” Alice approached his bed and guided his head forward so she could fluff up his pillow, which nearly made him miss her next words. No doubt that would have been on purpose. “I may have had some other options though.”

“Alice.” Draco gave her a sharp look as he leaned back into his pillows. A very unpleasant realisation had risen from one of the many dark corners in his mind and suddenly he wasn’t looking at Alice with embarrassment and irritation anymore, but with a nervous fear.

“Yes Draco?” There was something playful in his healer’s demeanour. She didn’t appear to have noticed his moodswing.

“What do you mean with different options?” He tried to make his voice sound stern instead of scared and only partially succeeded. Alice was too busy adjusting his heating charms to notice the emotion mix, and she replied without looking at him.

“Well there were some meds that may have had a slightly less serious effect on your mental-"

“You mean to say I told Harry all of those things because you wanted me to? Because you drugged me?”

“I’m your healer Draco. I’m supposed to drug you, it’s my job.” Alice frowned puzzled as she eyed him. Draco’s panic was now clearly visible on his face.

“But not like this!” He nearly lost his voice as he raised it, and it was incredibly frustrating not to be able to rant at full volume. Not even when Alice handed over another honey potion. He continued at a half whisper. “Not with Harry in the room! I basically declared my undying love for him, how could you do that?”

“The drugs were only a push in the right direction, I didn’t make you do anything.” Draco glared some more. Alice clearly didn’t understand the gravity of the situation.

“Well that still doesn’t take away the fact that I didn't want to tell him that.”

“And why don’t you want to tell him? Do you want to pine after him for eternity instead?” It was Alice’s turn now to give him a sharp look.

“No, it's just... I don't… I’m not… ” He stammered. He didn’t really know how to put it into words because he didn’t fully know himself why he struggled so much with saying it. It wasn’t as if not saying it would make it any less true, it was more that he’d never said it out loud before. He had never allowed himself to find the words for what he felt and thought.

“Stop freaking out so much about this Draco.” Alice gave him a sympathetic smile. “You might be upset now but you won’t be when you're strolling down the aisle towards our scar faced hero.”

Alice’s attempt to cheer him up did not work. If anything it made things worse.

“I’m not going to marry him!” He exclaimed, trembling from adrenaline and stress as Alice had named the exact thing that he could never do.

“And why not? Don’t tell me you don’t fancy him, I’m neither stupid nor blind,” snapped Alice, who probably thought it was just embarrassment that caused him to be so reluctant to admit his feelings. Draco wished that was all of it.

“It was never supposed to be real.” He replied weakly, feeling defeated even though there had been no battle. Or maybe it was just the emptiness that his hope left behind, though his hope on getting together with Harry had always been more of a fantasy and that was exactly the problem.

“He was supposed to stay unreachable, something I could think about to cheer me up when I felt like shit for the one hundredth time, but it has to stay that way. It can’t be real.”

“Why not? If he’s not an unreachable fantasy Draco, then why is that not good news?” Alice spoke in comforting whispers. Draco should be annoyed by them, by the belittlement of it all but he couldn’t bring himself to do it. He just stared at the opposite wall trying very hard to keep his face blank.

“Because I can’t come out.” He spoke softly after what felt like an hour.

“Why not?” Alice leaned forward and tilted his bed so that he came more onto a sitting position. It helped only a little, he still felt incredibly vulnerable.  

“Being that way is frowned upon in the wizarding world, you know that just as well as I do. I’m already an ex death eater, if I come out I will lose the last bit of support I still have, since the only people still backing me, including my mother, are pure bloods raised with the idea that playing for the other team is about as bad as being a squib or a blood traitor.”

He took a deep breath, driving his mind away from the subject by rambling on about other things. “I shouldn't even be focussing on this. I should be focussing on getting the funds together to drain the dungeons, getting better experts to look at Eleanor, visit the other wounded students and get some proper tests done on their blood for potion residues. I’m hardly in a position to start a vibrant secret love life. And then I’m not even talking about my N.E.W.T.’s yet, which I-”

“Draco!” Alice interrupted him with what was nearly a yell. She had tried to interrupt his rant several times before but Draco had just ignored her, barely hearing anything but his own babbling.

“What?” He bit back.

“How the hell can you think you would lose all support if you came out?” Alice spoke as if that was the single most ridiculous thing she’d ever heard. “I’m not going anywhere for one, neither is your mother and neither are your friends or Harry.”

“I doubt that,” Draco felt himself deflate and tried plucking at his nails to give himself something to do that wasn’t falling apart. He nearly cried from frustration. He wanted to do something, anything that would get his mind of Harry fucking Potter. With his stupid concerned face and clumsiness and his awfully rough hands. Only because of that he shouldn’t be with the man. Draco felt so fragile one brush of Harry’s thumb would probably tear his skin right open.

But most of all he found that he wanted to not be ill and limp and useless all the time when there was so much for him to do.

“Well you shouldn’t.” Alice announced as if that solved everything. “You shouldn’t doubt that because I will punch anyone who leaves you because of this in the face until they see that they’re acting like a giant dick.”

“Punching people in the face is not a solution for everything Alice.” Draco hated himself for the smile that crept onto his face as he eyed the defiant look of his healer. He didn’t want to smile, he wanted to sulk in his own bed in dry unflooded dungeons with no one around to see what he was doing.

“But it is a good solution for homophobes.” Alice gave him a sharp look but Draco didn’t respond to it. Instead he plucked on his nails again, gathering the energy and courage to start talking.

“I just can’t deal with all of this at once okay? It’s too much.”

And it was. His body was aching and more than half the time it wasn’t doing what it was supposed to do. His mind was trying to race at one hundred miles an hour but couldn’t because the drugs slowed everything down. He’d already been miles behind his N.E.W.T.’s schedule and he couldn’t get low markings because his job perspective already looked pisspoor as it was.

Then of course there was the fact that he couldn’t actually complain about any of it because it was his own fault the dungeons had flooded in the first place, there was the constant fear that Eleanor might die, the healers probably didn’t only try to kill him but his fellow students too and then there was Harry suddenly showing interest in him during what was probably the most inconvenient time he could have picked.

On top of all that he might lose the people closest to him because of what he was. He had already lost his father to Azkaban, he did not want to lose his mother to what would probably just be a short fling. “I can’t do it. Not now, not with everything else going on. It’s too much.”

He stared at his knees, willing the tears in his eyes to go back to where they came from. It was a stupid matter to cry over anyway, Harry couldn’t possibly mean what he’d said to him. They hated each other. They always had. The entire thing was stupid. Plain stupid.

“Hey, hey come here, it’s okay.” Alice pulled her wand out and enlarged his bed so she could lie next to him.

“I’m pretty sure this is against hospital protocols.” Draco sniffed as Alice pulled him into a gentle hug. It stung a bit around his damaged ribs but he found himself not caring again.

“And I’m pretty sure my shift ended half an hour ago so I can perfectly well screw the protocols.”

“That’s not how it works.” Draco huffed, shifting in Alice’s arms. He was a bit uncomfortable with getting hugged and usually he would have pushed anyone away who tried to touch him, but this felt strangely comforting. 

“Oh just shut up and let me hug you until your friends arrive.” Alice muttered as she suppressed a yawn.

He shot her a surprised look. “My friends?”

“Well there are quite a lot of people who want to visit you but for this afternoon there’s just Blaise, Pansy and Theo.”

He frowned. “Not Milly?”

“Millicent is still bedridden at the moment, but she’ll be fine soon enough.” Alice smiled at seeing his worried face. “Just a touch of blood poisoning.”

Draco relaxed a bit. Blood poisoning was doable. “What about Harry? Why was he here outside visiting hours?”

“Oh you and I both know normal rules don’t apply to the golden boy. He could walk in mid surgery somewhere and even then no one would send him away.”

“Privileged prick.” He muttered. They both snorted, with Draco still carrying the tears from before on his face. It felt good to laugh. Really good.

“Hey Draco?”

“Yes?”

“I won’t tell your mother, or anyone else for that matter, but only because it is indeed all a bit much at the moment. You need to know though that there is nothing wrong with being gay. There simply isn’t. I happen to know your mother and she’s reasonable enough. She will accept you when you come out.”

Draco opened his mouth to argue but Alice didn’t let him. “I’ll tell you something. She won’t just accept you, she will be proud of you.”

“If you say so.” He uttered unconvinced but too tired to fight about the subject.

“I say so. Now get some rest before visiting hour starts.” Alice settled in next to him and he followed her example. They lay in silence for a while then. Draco found himself trying to sleep and not succeeding. There was something he still needed to ask.

“Hey Alice?”

“Yes Draco?”

“What’s on that cart?”

“That? Oh just some potions books I borrowed from a friend. I thought you might fancy something to read once you feel up for it.” Alice flicked her wand to let the blanket come off. The thing folded itself neatly on the only chair in the room to reveal what had to be at least thirty thick leather bound books.

“How long do you expect me to be in here if I need that many books?” He raised one eyebrow and got the second one along with it. Stupid facial muscles.  

“Long enough for you to make a full recovery. Come what may, all bad fortune is to be conquered by endurance, as Virgil used to say.” Alice patted his stomach. “Now it’s time for me to go before I fall asleep myself. I haven’t seen my bed in nearly two days.”

She hopped of the mattress and stretched while yawning long and loud.

“Hey Alice?”

She sighed and turned to look at him. “Yes, Draco?”

“Thanks. For everything.”

“No problem. We snakes look out for each other, right?”

“I do hope so, Circe knows there’s no one else around here to do it.” Alice smiled a tad sad and didn’t deny the statement. Still, he felt quite calm as she left. He was not at ease with the prospect of coming out but having a safety net in place in case all did go to hell was a comfort greater than he could have wished for. Now all he needed to do was hope that he never actually had to use it.

Chapter Text

Draco did eventually doze off before visiting hours started, but that didn’t last very long, as quite soon there was someone on his bed. Someone who, without much gentleness, crawled from his sore legs up to his bruised ribs, and promptly sat down.

“Da.” The single syllable gently pulled Draco out if his half sleeping state, along with the pressure on his chest that interrupted his calm sleepy breathing. When he managed to open both eyes he rewarded for it with a more gleeful “Da!”

“Ted.” Draco breathed more than said. His throat was so dry it hurt, and his vocal chords were a far cry from functioning properly because of it. “Hey little man.”

Teddy grinned at seeing him awake. “Da!” He said again, and his hair changed from light brown to painfully bright pink, his go-to hairdo for when he was happy. Draco groaned loudly as his nephew leaned forward and gave him what was probably supposed to be a hug. To Draco it felt more like a twentyfive pound sack of potatoes just fell on top of him. A very cute sack of potatoes he had to admit, but it still hurt.

“Au?” Teddy asked as he sat back up again with a sad pout on his tiny face. Draco wanted to answer, but was too out of breath due to the weight of his nephew, so instead he just nodded. It earned him a sloppy placed wet kiss on the cheek and an even sadder looking Teddy. Tears welled up in his eyes and his bottom lip trembled.

Draco groaned again. Where were the adults when you needed them? He adored Teddy to the moon and back, but the kid could cry louder than a seagull on steroids.

“Teddy!” Draco’s aunt walked into the room. “Come back here you little devil, uncle Draco needs…” Andromeda trailed off as she saw Draco look back at her.

“Da!” Teddy called out gleefully again at the sight of his grandmother, and he pointed triumphantly at Draco. Andromeda broke into a wide smile.

“Finally! You're awake!” Draco relaxed back into his pillow and attempted to reach for a glass of water on his nightstand to soothe his throat. His aunt was at his bedside and grabbed it for him before he came halfway, and though the water was much welcomed he would have liked it better if he had been able to do it himself.

“Thanks to your excellent babysit skills yes.” Draco murmured before letting out a sigh of relief when his aunt pulled Teddy away from him. The kid immediately started crying at the loss of contact and Andromeda shot him an apologetic look for the noise. Draco barely managed to be happy at the sight of his aunt as a headache washed over him.

“I’ll take him outside for now, you have other visitors to tend to.” Andromeda hoisted Teddy higher up her hip and squeezed his hand before leaving the room.

“Is Draco awake?” Someone yelled from the hallway. Seconds later Blaise stuck his head round the door. “Ah! You are indeed. I thought I heard a familiar whine.”

“Oh shut up Zabini. We both know-” But Draco was smothered with a hug from his italian friend before he could say anything more.

“I hate you you know that.” Blaise told his pillow. “I had to spent hours trying to comfort Pansy. All my good shirts are full of salt.”

“You're bullshitting Zabini.” Pansy’s voice said from the hallway. She uttered her next words in an excellent imitation of Blaise’s whiney tone. “Oh but what if he dies Pansy. I can't live without my best friend Pansy. Who will guide me through my mother’s next seven husbands Pansy. He didn't deserve this Pansy.”

Draco saw her casually lean against the doorframe of his room, though the barely contained relief from seeing him awake was radiating off her in a near tangible glow. “Honestly Blaise, you were quite exhausting.”

Blaise tried to say something back, but did that while refusing to let go of Draco so he ended up with a muffled growl that tickled Draco's neck.

Help . Draco mouthed at Theo who had emerged behind Pansy. The man immediately sprang into action and pulled Blaise away from him. Hugging was nice and all, but not while suffering from bruised ribs.

“You really cried on her shoulder?” Draco asked Blaise with a cheeky grin. Blaise wasn't usually the one to cry, not even at the funeral of his favorite stepdad.

“I missed your pointy face more than expected.” Blaise answered stiffly as he straightened the tie of his Hogwarts robes. To Draco's bafflement it was a Gryffindor tie, and when he turned to Pansy for an explanation he saw that she wore a Ravenclaw one.

“What did I miss?” He indicated at their necks.

“Oh this.” Pansy looked down and plucked at the tie. “Borrowed it from Loony. The laundry room was destroyed alongside the slytherin dorms so the only ties still in circulation are from diffrent houses. Loony said she didn't mind walking without one, I didn't steal it.” She quickly added as Draco gave her a sharp look. He'd grown protective over the blond Ravenclaw after her time spent in the manor’s dungeons. His disapproving look didn't disappeared at her apology though.

“Okay fine, Lovegood didn't mind walking around without a tie. Now happy?” She huffed and started twirling her hair as she fell into an out of nowhere conjured chair produced by Theo. After that Theo promptly sat down on top of Pansy.

“Oi! Get off of me Theo, I sat here first!”

“And I made the chair, besides you sit quite comfy.” And Theo underlined his words by leaning further back into Pansy.

“Theo! That is totally ina-”

“Guys!” Blaise called out and the both of them froze immediately. Usually Blaise was calm, well composed and quiet but now his voice was raised and his eyes glared daggers. He even gave Draco the chills. “We were visiting our badly wounded best friend, not fighting about chairs like some third years quarrel about who gets to sit near the fireplace. And even they bicker less then the two of you now given that the fireplace has been destroyed alongside everything else on the night Draco nearly lost his life.”

Theo silently expanded the chair and slid off of Pansy, looking guilty. Pansy shot a pitiful look at Draco which luckily he missed because he’d closed his eyes for a second.

“Now let’s keep things in perspective okay? It’s been three days since the flood and I’m already surprised Draco hasn’t hexed us for keeping all the information from him this long,” Blaise swallowed in an attempt to recompose himself. “So let’s get cracking before he finds his wand back.”

“I wouldn’t worry about that.” Draco replied dully, saddened by the sudden realisation that his wand was gone. “I lost it in the flood when we pulled out the second years.”

“Oh.” Blaise deflated a bit when he heard that, which was probably for the best because and angry Zabini was possibly even more terrifying than an angry Dumbledore. It was best for all of them if the Italian wouldn’t start world war three that afternoon.

“Can’t you use your-”

“No.” Draco cut Theo off before he could say the rest of his line. “Last time I borrowed my mother’s wand he was still alive and staying at my house. I don’t need more panic attack triggers around me then I already have thank you very much.”

Draco’s voice became more hostile and bitchy with every word and he had no idea where that came from. Or rather he had, but he didn’t want to dwell on it. Not now that he was so close to finding out what happened after he and Millicent went off to help the second years. He figured, or rather hoped, that he could get some peace of mind together with that knowledge. If his thoughts didn’t calm down soon he might have to start occluding and then he might not stop anymore. Ever.

He wouldn’t be the first person to lose himself that way.

“Shall I tell the tale then?” Pansy inquired as she eyed Theo, who had gone silent and a bit red. Draco felt a bit guilty for snapping at Theo. Only two months back his father had passed away in Azkaban and coming to terms with that was a real struggle for the man. Sometimes they feared he would never manage it.

“As long as you’re not too graphic. Alice will murder you if you upset Draco too much.” As Blaise mentioned his name he stepped closer to the bed and took a hold of Draco’s hand. It felt belittling and reassuring at the same time, but before he could dwell on that too much Pansy opened her mouth again and he focussed on nothing but her voice and what it told him.

Chapter Text

”What happened to the rest of us wasn’t nearly as spectacular or dangerous as  what happened to you and Milly,” Pansy started as she took a step towards Draco’s bed. “Actually it was not spectacular at all in the beginning. More than half of us got out of the dungeons without a scratch.”

“Except Astoria.” Theo cut in, and Pansy gave him an annoyed look.

“I was the one telling the story Theo, not you.” But she refrained from saying anything more to Theo when Blaise glared at her. “Anyway, apart from being soaked and terrified everyone was in a reasonably good state as they got to safety, until Astoria came out of the dungeons. After her nearly everyone was wounded somehow because the hallway leading to the stairs had filled itself with floating furniture.

“By the time she came out Pomfrey was already in the main hall and McGonagall followed shortly after, thought the majority of the help came from the parents who’d gotten your distress call.” Pansy was talking slower than usual so Draco would have less trouble processing it all but that just left him feeling impatient. Why didn’t she just tell him what had happened to Astoria?

“There were around thirteen parents when the stream of wounded students grew larger and all of them were led to the appropriate place by Emily and my mother.” It was clear that the last fact was something Pansy took pride in. Miss. Parkinson was a no nonsense witch who was born for managing stress situations.

“They handled the situation very well, got students to collect blankets and beds from home and other places in the castle, got friends from other houses out of bed so they could comfort their snake friends, and then-”

“Hey Pans?” Theo cut in before the indonesian woman could continue. “How come you manage to tell something this dramatic in such a way that I’m falling asleep?”

He gave a demonstrative yawn and Draco saw Pansy tense up. “Maybe because I am trying not to give Draco a second heart attack Theo .”

“How come I had a heart attack?” Draco cut in before Theo and Pansy could start bickering again. He knew from experience that their so called discussions could take ages and he was genuinely puzzled as to why a reasonably fit person like himself could get a heart attack.

Because ,” Theo said quickly before Pansy could answer, “Potter refused to keep you horizontal, and when you’re very hypothermic sitting upright lowers your blood pressure which in turn triggers a heart attack. Oh and your magical core was entirely exhausted too so your magic couldn’t prevent it from happening. You were the first wizard in twelve years on record to get a heart attack.”

“Who’s being boring now Theo? Like Draco gives a shit about heart attack statistics.” Pansy glared at Theo and Theo blew her a kiss in return.

“Oh but you don’t know him like I do.” Theo shot back with a smug look on his face. “The Ravenclaw inside of him gets a total hard on from statistics.”

“I do not, what the hell?” Draco couldn’t help but feel like he was missing something. Theo and Pansy usually never argued this much, except when they were both stressed for exams.

Blaise was shaking his head while muttering bunch of fucking babies here under his breath. Utterly lost Draco let his gaze drift from Pansy to Blaise to Theo and back, but they seemed to be too busy looking either annoyed, smug or irritated to notice. And then they called him a drama queen.

“Okay, I’ve had it. You losers can get out of the way now and let me tell this thing.” An even more puzzled look at the door told Draco that Millicent was not, as he had been told before, still bedridden. She was however looking just as bad as Draco felt. Her neck was hidden behind a thick layer of bandages and her usually rosy complexion was drained from all colour. She seemed to regain some of that colour though when she spotted Draco, a wide smile decorating her face within a second.

“Milly what the hell are you doing out of bed?” Pansy seemed to forget her quarrel with Blaise as soon as she saw her now wheelchaired friend roll into the room.

“I told my healer I’d punch her lights out if she wouldn’t let me see my best friend.” Millicent explained as if it was the most normal thing on earth.

“I’m your best friend? That's pathetic.” Draco told her as a way of greeting.

“I meant Theo of course. You could be dead for all I care.” Milly chuckled at the offended look Pansy shot at her, and then continued to ignore it.

“Let’s get down to business.” Milly announced, directing her gaze at Draco. Her voice sounded much better than the injured state of her neck might suggest. “Your warning call got the snakes all the help they needed and everyone got out of the water pretty safe except for Eleanor. A bunch of Weasels and Scarface waded into the hallway ready to intercept you guys after a quick briefing from Pomfrey and now our biggest problem is the hostile healing staff. Or rather that’s what it was, because I think Blaise’s mom solved it by threatening to marry the entire hospital board.”

“You should not be talking this much,” the young nurse standing behind her said, trying to sound stern and failing at it. “Your neck wound might-”

“You should not be talking at all, fine ass or not this is a private conversation.” The nurse blushed but to her credit she didn’t lose her professional attitude.

“Nothing is private for a patient under my care if it threatens their healing process and I won’t rest until you are safely tucked back into bed where you belong, no matter if I need to marry Miss Zabini for it or not.”

“You are way too dedicated to this job considering the height of your pay grade.” Millicent muttered back, but Draco noticed she was impressed with the nurse’s response. He also noticed that he was the most relaxed he’d been since the flood. Maybe that had been Theo and Pansy’s plan as well. At any rate he didn’t mind it at all, feeling guilty, stressed and concerned reminded him of sixth year.

Theo shot the nurse an apologetic look and stood up to help her. “We’ll take it from here ma’am.” He offered.

‘Like hell you are. The only person taking me is this nurse right here.” And Milly pointed her thumb at the nurse, a cheeky look on her still unnaturally pale face.

“Miss Bulstrode! That is totally inappropriate.” The nurse told her sternly as Theo and Pansy cried out in sudden laughter. Draco in his turn narrowed his eyes and focussed on the IV bags attached to Milly’s wheelchair. He recognized those.

“It’s the truth, no one wants to bone Mr Skinny Face here, but you look hotter than Persephone herself.” Milly told them as if it was the most obvious thing ever.

“Okay that’s it. You’re going back to the ward now.” Without wasting a second the nurse turned the wheelchair around again.

“She won’t change her behavior there if she’s got Alice as main healer.” Draco said with a tired but amused look on his face. Now that he saw the effects of the muggle drugs in person he did not understand how on earth Harry could have been worried about him, since Millicent in her drugged state was only a reason for laughter and not concern. But Potter always wanted to be special. Idiot.

“What do you mean Mr Malfoy?” The nurse turned around, leaving Milly to face the wall. Her face was puzzled. She didn’t know about the drugs.

“She likes to drug people so they confess their deepest thoughts.” Draco could feel a strong fatigue pull at him but the surrealness of the situation was keeping him from sleep.

“And my deepest thought is that I want to bone youuuu.” Millicent more sang than spoke as she reached back to pat the nurse’s arm. Theo and Pansy looked like they might pass out from holding in their laughter in for too long. Blaise was just shaking his head again and muttering things about immature idiots.

“Well all the more reason to keep Miss Bulstrode from embarrassing herself too much.” The nurse said as she turned around in order to start pushing Milly again. “I hope you make a full recovery Mr Malfoy. Good day.” And then she left.

“I love you guys!” Millicent yelled from the hallway. By the time Theo Pansy and Blaise had their attention focussed on Draco again he was nearly asleep again.

“Confess their deepest thoughts?” Pansy inquired, still smiling a little. Draco pried his eyes open again with difficulty.

“It removes the barrier between your thoughts and your mouth, as well as getting you a bit high.” Draco’s voice was getting pathetically weak and cracked again, and his three friends went from looking amused to worried. Draco hated it. Worrying wasn’t going to make him better anyway.

“Sounds like you had experience with it.” Theo playfully pushed against his arm which sent a sharp jolt of pain through it, making Draco groan. All colour drained from Theo’s face as he apologised.

“I do have experience with it, but I won’t tell because you’ll all laugh at me anyway.” Draco closed his eyes to block out the worried faces of his friends. Now that Milly was gone he was starting to feel all his pains and aches and burns again. He just wanted to go to bed now. Or rather sleep, since he was already in bed.

“I don’t think I can laugh if one of my best friends is looking more dead than alive.” Theo said seriously, all traces of amusement now gone from his face.

“You laughed at Milly.” Draco shot back. Or rather gently pushed back, since he in no way felt up to shooting anything.

“At her yes, but you look ten times worse my friend.” Theo squeezed the hand Blaise was still holding.

“Even worse than sixth year.” Pansy added with a small voice, referring back to the time she’d come to visit him after Harry had sliced him open. Draco felt his stomach revolt. He always tried to forget about that incident.

“Don’t talk about that now Pans, he feels bad enough as it is.” Draco peeked through his eyelashes to see Theo put a comforting arm around Pansy.

He suddenly found himself wanting a comforting arm around him too, but he knew that in his current state it would only hurt him. He had to make do with the squeeze Blaise gave his hand.

“I think Draco needs some sleep guys.” Blaise said tentatively after a couple minutes of silence. “Before McGonagall arrives .”

Draco closed his eyes with a blissful smile on his face as he thought of sleeping, but life had other plans for him.

“Too late for that.” Pansy nodded towards the door, where a tiny window showed the unmistakable frame of their headmistress. “She’s already here.”

Chapter Text

“Do you want us to tell her to wait?” Theo asked seriously, even though he had never been a great fan of talking to authority figures. “You look pretty tired.”

“No, I can manage.” Draco muttered. It was a lie, but he had done too much damage to the school in order to send the headmistress away. He would just have to ignore his exhaustion and face her. Merlin knew he’d have enough time to sleep later, it was basically the only thing he could still do.

“Alright then.” Blaise squeezed his hand one more time before letting go and heading for the door. “Hang in there, okay? You’ll be fine.”

Draco nodded, and waved half-heartedly as Blaise and Theo walked away. That left him with Pansy, who didn’t seem willing to look at him. She kept twirling her hair around her finger, her eyes fixed on the floor. And even in his exhausted state, Draco recognized those signs of hesitation.

Before he could say anything about it though, Pansy came to a decision herself. She stepped closer and sat on the edge of the bed. Quickly, she entwined her fingers with Draco’s own. “You know I love you, right? It’s not really something we say to each other, but… If we already know, then why not say it out loud?”

A warm feeling spread through him as he watched his oldest friend in the world blush. Of course he knew. He was quite sure Pansy had been the first person he’d ever loved who hadn’t been family. Or at least at the time she hadn’t been. Now she was more dear to him that any family member had ever been. Well, except his mother then.

Weakly, he squeezed her hand. “I know.” His voice was raspy, making his words sound even more dramatic. “And I love you too.”

“Good.” Pansy smiled and seemed to pull herself together again. “Now, have fun with the headmistress, okay?”

He nodded in response, though he doubted McGonagall’s visit would be much fun. Their headmistress was still used to being Gryffindor’s Head of House. Which meant that even though she tried, she had yet to succeed looking at her students through a neutral lense.

“Well, I’ll see you later then.” Pansy squeezed his hand one last time. Then she bend over him to do something she’d never done before; She gave him a forehead kiss. “Bye Draco.”

“Bye Pansy.” He muttered as the door opened and shut.

He let out a deep breath, enjoying his solitude for as long as it lasted.

Which was exactly four seconds.

“Mr. Malfoy. I’m glad to see you’re awake.” The lack of sleep visible on her face did not stop the headmistress from briskly sweeping into the room. It immediately made Draco feel smaller than he already was. Like a young child being scolded by a teacher. Not that McGonagall was scolding him, but she didn’t exactly look kind and motherly either.

“I am, yes.” Or at least I have my eyes open . He watched the headmistress take place on the edge of Theo’s chair. It looked comfortable, and not for the first time he wished he could sit up as well. He hated being vulnerable, especially around adults. But he shoved that thought out of his mind soon enough. Now was hardly the time to dwell on that.

“Well, I suppose there’s no easy way to say this.” McGonagall sat up and folded her hands in her lap. “I owe you an apology, Mr. Malfoy. Me and the rest of the school board.”

Draco just watched her, too stunned to speak.

“We have seriously neglected the maintenance of the dungeons since the battle. There was no visible damage to the structure, so the repairs were focussed on other parts of the castle.” I highly doubt that’s the only reason . Draco thought bitterly, but to his surprise, McGonagall shared his view.

“The magic keeping the water of the lake at bay wasn’t said to be noticeably damaged when we did get ministry officials to look the entire building over. However, as several people have pointed out to me since, we can’t be sure there’s no prejudice involved in that conclusion. Which is something that we should have known about, and paid attention to. We didn’t, however, and that is inexcusable. Hogwarts ought to be a safe space for everyone, no matter what-”

Suddenly a huge yawn took over Draco’s face and stopped him from hearing the rest of the sentence. Which was just as well for him. The way McGonagall was apologising annoyed him. She was using facts to shield herself from showing any emotions. Kept using the word ‘we’, as if a large group of people was to blame and she was just a small part of that.

But it wouldn’t be fair to blame her for everything either. If she was telling the truth now, then she hadn’t known about the bad conditions of the dungeons until that fatal night. And besides, he didn’t doubt McGonagall would have done something if someone had notified her of the problem.

But no one had. Not the ministry officials, with their possible prejudice. Not Draco, with his empty promises of safety and better times ahead. Not their useless Head of House professor Slughorn, who had moved to the second floor after the battle because his previous quarters had been ‘too drafty’.

“I realise that you might not be in the best conditions to receive this apology, Mr Malfoy.” Draco was pulled back into reality when the Headmistress suddenly got to her feet, her expression grave. “But I do hope you know now that really, I am very sorry that this happened to you and your housemates.”

“If you mean that, I hope you’ll find us a more competent potions teacher and Head of House.” Draco shot back, acting on an impulse. He wanted to give McGonagall a sharp look combined with his sharp words, but his eyelids were falling shut and his voice barely came above a whisper. “The students deserve an adult who properly looks after them. They have enough trouble on their own as it is.”

“So do you, Mr. Malfoy.” Draco was surprised by the sad but warm smile that briefly showed on her face. He didn’t think he’d ever seen her smile before, especially not at him. Maybe he’d misjudged her on the matter of being neutral. “I’ll leave you to rest, now.”

Or maybe not. Because that was not a promise to give Slytherin a new Head of House. That was just an empty goodbye masked with a rare smile. He had no time to feel angry or bad about that, though. He was already asleep before his eyes had fully closed. And for the first time in ages, fate took pity on him, and nightmares left him blissfully alone.