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Chapter 1

Draco Malfoy woke up with a jolt behind the curtains of his four poster bed. He sat up slowly, his head already aching. He ran a shaking hand through his blonde hair, slicking it more or less back into place. His hand came away drenched in a cold sweat. He couldn't remember if he screamed that time or not. He sat very still, listening for signs of movement in his shared dormitory room. It was dark. Too dark to be anywhere near morning. Another nightmare. What a childish problem to have, but every time Draco closed his eyes, it seemed, there were disturbing scenes, frightening images, and when he awoke, he could barely remember what it was that scared him so badly. He just knew it was getting worse.

Before he had left for the school year, his father had grown angry about the "bad dreams", punishing Draco for what he could not control. His mother had been a little more understanding. She had tried to place a warding spell around his mind, so the dreams would cease to touch him. His hopes had been high that the dreams would stop altogether once he got to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

So far they had only gotten worse. Much worse.

The thought of going back to sleep made his stomach turn. The thought of studying divinity or ancient runes, his worst subjects-not because he didn't apply himself, but because he didn't care- was infinitely more appealing. He leaned over and pulled his curtain back. The biggest problem with having your dormitory in the dungeons, he thought, isn't the smell or the lack of hot water, it's not having any windows. He had no way of knowing if was an hour after he went to bed, or an hour before breakfast. He decided that it didn't much matter; he wasn't getting any more sleep tonight either way.

He sighed and swung his bare feet to the cold flagstones and stopped short. An arm's length away, was a form on the floor. A shifting, sighing shapeless lump in the dark. Draco felt the metallic taste of fear in his mouth before reminding himself sharply that he was awake. There would be an explanation. He was at Hogwarts, after all, and nothing so sinister could even enter the grounds. Well, almost nothing. He thought of all of those times before that Harry Potter had to save the day from whatever menace happened to trudge through the Great Hall. Trolls and evil teachers that first year, the Basilisk second. The list went on. Why would it be different in this, their seventh year?

He gathered up his courage and padded over to the lump on the floor. If stupid Potter could do all those things, he could certainly check out this weird thing on the floor by his bed. It looked as though it were something wrapped in a sheet, the same color sheets that were on his own bed. Gingerly, he grabbed an edge and pulled, slowly. He hissed through his teeth as his efforts revealed the top of Goyle's sleeping head. Cursing himself for his foolishness, he kicked Goyle's sleeping form. Goyle only snored a bit louder than before.

Draco sighed deeply and rubbed his tired, sleepless eyes. He wondered, not for the first time, if his father was right, maybe it was all in his head. He briefly considered the implications, then shut it from his mind. It would do no good speculating on his future as a madman. He gathered his school uniform and towel in his arms and headed towards the semi-private bathrooms adjoining the seventh year boys' dorms.

He shut the door, applying a minor locking spell as an afterthought. He turned on the water and let it run, waiting for the water to heat up. You'd think that wouldn't be such an issue in a magical castle. Draco looked at himself in the mirror, seeing a ghost of who he used to be. His skin looked paler than usual; his face had a gaunt, haunted look, making his sharp features look even sharper. He looked.. dangerous. What is happening to me? He shook his head to clear his thoughts.

The mirror was starting to fog. He sighed and began to undress, leaving his pajamas on the floor. They landed in a puddle of water. That was strange, he didn't remember stopping the drain. But then again, there were a lot of little things he forgot to do or did and then forgot he did them lately. Water was running over the sides of the porcelain tub. He stepped through the water, now as deep as his ankles, wondering how it got to this point without him noticing. He reached towards the full tub, ready to pull the plug, when the water spraying from the sprayer head turned a dark shade of crimson. He could see it splashing in the tub below, the red drops curling underwater the way that only blood would. In seconds the entire tub seemed full of blood; the water, if that's what it still was, ran over the sides in rivulets. He reached for the drain plug once more when a scaly white hand shot out of the water and closed around his wrist. Draco gasped and tried to wrest his arm away but his feet couldn't find purchase on the underwater tile. He slipped with a splash, kneeling before the tub, still pulling when what looked like a human head started to rise above the surface. Draco wanted to shout, to scream, but his mouth only opened and closed instead.

The figure in the tub kept rising slowly, the blood, Draco was sure it was blood now, running off the pale white flesh, leaving it a bit pink. He saw a face, a man, head and shoulders, but he had chunks of skin missing, flaps of decrepit flesh all over his body, as if he had been waiting in this full tub, right here in the Hogwarts dungeons, for years. Then the blood man opened his eyes.

"You", the thing half rasped, half gargled, "you did this to me."

Draco shook his head, eyes wide with shock. He finally pulled his wrist free, his momentum carrying him against the opposite wall. He felt his head hit the stones, hard. Draco sagged to the floor, sitting in the water, vaguely worried that his underwear were getting wet.

"You!" the thing in the tub shrieked. It was pointing a long white bony finger at Draco's face.

For some reason, the fear was suddenly gone. Draco felt sleepy, the sleepiest he had in a long while. His eyes threatened to close. He fought to keep them open, but only halfheartedly. He was vaguely aware of a pair of cool clammy hands around his neck, squeezing tighter and tighter, when he realized he didn't have to fight anymore. He could be done. Give in. He let his heavy eyes close and forced out a final breath.

Suddenly, he heard a harsh voice on the other side of the door.

"Alohamora!" Professor Snape was suddenly in the room, looking very annoyed indeed. Draco heard another spell, or maybe a curse from his professor. He was so tired. Through half-lidded eyes, Draco saw the potions master wading through the water, lifting up his sleeping robes in a futile attempt to keep them dry. Something tickled at Dracos mind. This was all so different a moment ago, but he couldn't remember how or why.

"What is going on in here, Mr Malfoy?", Snape asked in his usual accusatory tone. Draco closed his eyes, ignoring Snape's questions. He was too tired for this. Snape grabbed his chin and peered into his face. Draco complied, only because it was easier than fighting. His eyes closed.

When he opened them again, his head felt clear. He was still on the bathroom floor in his underwear, Snape was still in front of him but the bathroom was dry. The water or the blood, whatever it was, was gone. Draco craned his neck to see into the tub behind his professor. It was empty. Not even a drop of red. Nothing. Draco's head was suddenly pounding. He vaguely remembered hitting it against the wall. He raised a hand to feel the back of his head. There was a bump, but his hand came away clean. He was suddenly aware of his classmates crowding the doorway and whispering to each other urgently. Great, he thought, more rumors.

"I healed your..wound the best I could," Snape said scathingly. The potions master seemed to turn everything into a personal offense. He turned his attention to the doorway. "Back to your rooms." His command was heard and obeyed, yet the curious students took their time, some sneaking another glance before moving away. Draco covered his face with his hands. It felt like his eyeballs would fall right out of his pounding head if he didn't keep his hands up.

"Tell me what happened here, now." Snape was stern, more stern than he should've been with an injured student. Draco wondered what his professor was thinking. Did he believe the rumors?

"I was.. asleep. Dreaming. Nothing more." Draco fought to get the lie out. He hadn't even been able to reason out what had happened for himself yet, how could he explain it to someone else? Snape regarded him with a level stare. Draco knew that he knew he was lying and found that he didn't very much care. Snape looked as if he were about to speak, when the water suddenly started running, filling up the tub again. Draco's eyes went wide. Snape barely reacted at all. He helped Draco to his feet, hurrying him towards the exit. "Go", he said, "wait for me outside."

Draco looked down at himself, wearing underwear, and red ringed marks around his ankles and one wrist. "But Professor, I.."

"Outside, Mr Malfoy." Snape cut him off. "Outside of the Slytherin common room, but do not leave the dungeons. I will take care of this, but I need you gone." Snape shut the bathroom door in his face.

Draco Malfoy sat outside the the door to the Slytherin common room as instructed. The hallway was dim, lit only by torchlight in sconces on the walls. He didn't know what was happening. He only knew he wanted to punch the solid rock wall of the dungeon, scream, cry, anything at all to get rid of this feeling. He rubbed his eyes. He had thought it all a dream, all inside his head, until Snape saw it too. He had to have. What in hell did that mean? And banishing him from the dorms so quickly, Snape must think it was his doing.

He looked toward the hidden door, knowing it wouldn't be moving already, and saw a shape moving down the darkened hallway. Footsteps were echoing on the dungeon walls, getting closer. Draco smoothed his hair with both hands, standing up straight to his full height. If he was going to be seen like this, he'd have to look like he was doing it on purpose. He cursed Snape silently for not giving him even a moment to get dressed. He ignored the pounding in his head and made his face impassable. He fixed his gaze on the opposite wall. Anyone who knew who he was, and it basically the entire school by now, wouldn't dream of saying anything to him. The echoing footsteps stopped near him.

"Malfoy?"

Draco turned to look, making his gaze all ice and daggers. He recognized the voice and hated the sympathy it was already laced with.

"Potter." He spat the word as if it were poison in his mouth. Harry Potter stood before him, a few inches taller than he was last year, but still standing half a head below him. Draco smirked, pleasantly surprised that this was still one of the things he bested Harry Potter at.

"Malfoy, why are you..?" He trailed off as he looked Draco up and down. Draco felt exposed under the other boy's concerned look, but only for a second. He remembered who he was and wherever he was, that was where he was supposed to be. Potter was the one out of place.

"Bugger off, Saint Potter."

To Potter's credit, he actually winced. It was always good to know when insults landed and he was suddenly grateful that Potter's face showed it every single time. Potter's brow started to furrow and Draco prepared himself for whatever comeback the other boy decided to sling at him.

Potter screwed up his face. Apparently he was thinking hard about it. "Are you okay?"

Draco gaped, caught off guard. His eyes locked with Potter's obscenely green ones and he saw it there, the shining concern, the genuine feeling and he felt.. something. He couldn't remember the last time he had heard those words all strung together like that and directed solely at him. Then the moment passed and all he felt was a little sick to his stomach. He felt suddenly drained, physically, emotionally, completely. He raised a hand to his head and rubbed his eyes, slowly. What he wouldn't give for just one good night's sleep. "Yes, I'm fine", he tiredly sighed.

"What was that?" Potter leaned toward him. "No 'Potter' at the end of that line? No personal insults? Sure you're okay, Malfoy?"

Draco leaned back against the wall, forgetting how cold the stones get in the dungeons. He shivered and crossed his arms over his bare chest. "Potter, don't. I'm not in the mood."

Potter sighed. "Look Malfoy, I'm not either, to be honest." He started to take off his cloak. Draco's eyes widened. Why wouldn't he just leave? "Something is wrong and you're obviously cold. Here, take my cloak." Draco stared at Potter's hand, holding out the garment. For a second, Draco was touched, and he stood frozen, not sure how to handle it.

"Last time I checked, I didn't need to be saved by the illustrious Harry Potter." He was back to spitting poison. He turned his face to the side, snubbing the gesture entirely.

Potter gasped sharply. Draco turned to look at the other boy; his insult could've been better. The cloak was dropped to the floor and Potter's eyes were wide and fearful. Draco turned to look down the hallway, following the other boy's gaze. There was nothing there.

"Malfoy, uh.." Potter's voice trailed off.

"What is it?"

"You, um, you have a great bruise going around your neck." Potter came closer, reaching towards Draco's neck. Draco froze with the memory of what had happened in the bathroom. He froze at Potter's soft, delicate touch, the fear in the other boy's eyes. Green eyes looked up and locked with his silver ones. "It looks like.. hands." Potter's voice was almost a whisper.

Suddenly there were noises coming from inside the Slytherin common room. A door slamming. Snape's angry yet quiet voice. Draco was suddenly aware just how close Potter was. His enemy. He placed his shaking hands on Potter's chest and pushed him away, gently. "Go."

"Tell me what's going on."

Draco scoffed. "Just go, Potter. You don't want to be around when Snape comes to fetch me."

"But why-?"

"Leave. Now." Draco plastered his steely gaze on the other boy, trying to make it register. It was a command, not a suggestion. Potter glanced at Draco's body once more, scowled, and turned and ran down the stone hallway. Draco was vaguely aware of a sense of loss, but at what, he couldn't be sure. The pounding in his head returned and doubled, as if making up for lost time.

The door to the common room suddenly materialized out of stone and burst open, clanging, the noise echoing in the empty space. Draco's hand went to his temple, trying to relieve the sharp burst of pain the noise had brought him. The potions master stepped toward Draco, his voice a dangerous whisper, "Headmaster wishes to speak with you. Dress." Malfoy looked down the hallway, the way Potter had gone. "Now, Mr Malfoy. Don't keep us waiting."

Snape's black sleeping robes billowed out behind him as he left, just as his regular robes always did. Draco forced down a chuckle. He smoothed his hair into place and set his face to stone. Facing the others after Merlin knows what Snape told them wasn't going to be easy. Hardly anything was these days, anyway. He turned to the door, his foot hitting something soft. He looked down. It was Potter's cloak, right where he had dropped it. Draco thought of Potter's surprisingly gentle ghost of a touch on his wounded neck and shivered. Telling himself it was just the cold, he picked up the cloak, shook it out, and draped it over himself.

Chapter Text

As soon as he hit the first floor landing, Harry had looked back. He wasn't sure why, he knew no one would be there. It wasn't Snape's style to track him down. He would just make Harry pay for it later. And that was if Snape had even realized Harry was in the dungeons when he certainly wasn't supposed to be.

He made his way towards the Great Hall, sounds of students gathering for breakfast already reaching him. It had barely been early morning when he started wandering the castle. How long had he been in the dungeons? And what was up with Malfoy standing around in nothing but his skivvies? He was hurt, Harry could tell that much. It sounded to him as if Malfoy was also in some kind of trouble with Snape. Would Snape hurt a student like that? Harry didn't think so, but Malfoy seemed almost scared when they had heard him coming. Harry sighed. All he wanted was to have a normal school year, just once. He knew it was impossible, but he still wished it. It was the first week of school and something weird was happening already. Except, it was happening to Malfoy. Or Malfoy was involved somehow. He wanted very much not to care, but it was just too weird.

He took his usual seat at the Gryffindor breakfast table, next to Ron, across from Hermione. The way they grew silent as soon as he sat down told him they were probably definitely talking about him.

"Morning," he said more casually than he felt.

"Harry! You look positively dreadful! Didn't you sleep at all again last night?" Hermione fussed over him. He regretted telling her he had had trouble sleeping since the summer. He hadn't heard the end of it ever since.

"Thanks, Hermione." Harry tried to flatten his hair and sweep it to one side. He felt it flop back over his forehead.

"That's not what I meant, Harry, it's just that-"

"Hey mate, have some eggs!" Ron interrupted whatever Hermione was about to say, piling steaming scrambled eggs onto the empty plate in front of Harry. Harry gave him a weak smile.

"Harry," Hermione started, "where's your cloak?"

"Oh, Herm, lay off him a sec, will you? He's had a hard night, obviously, and-"

"Thanks, Ron, but that's okay." Harry said, stopping Ron in the middle of his tirade. His cheeks grew hot and he suddenly felt very tired.

"Did you forget it?" Hermione kept on, "Ron can run back up to the dorms and grab it for you." She ignored Ron making gestures where he thought Harry couldn't see. "It's just that it will be points from our house if you don't have your full uniform and we have Potions first and you just know Snape will be waiting for an excuse."

"I didn't forget it. I left it in the dungeons."

The two sat gaping at him as he realized what he had said. Sometimes his honesty ran away with him. He hadn't even decided if he was going to tell them what had happened that morning.

"What were you doing in the dungeons, mate?" To Ron's credit, he only had a little bit of egg in his mouth.

Harry sighed. "I couldn't sleep-"

"I knew it." Hermione interjected. Harry gave her a look and continued.

"I couldn't sleep so I went for a walk. I wanted to be alone, so I went to the dungeons." Harry pushed the eggs around on his plate with a fork. "I saw Malfoy."

Ron made a noise in disgust, but Hermione could see the struggle on Harry's face. She was always terribly good at reading him. He hated it. She nodded, urging him to continue. "And, well, something was very wrong with him."

"More than usual?" Ron muttered into his orange juice.

"Way more than usual", Harry agreed. He knew he couldn't stop now, his friends would be too concerned. He leaned in and continued in a hoarse whisper, "he was hurt, you guys, like.. I don't know. And he almost seemed afraid of Snape."

"Hurt like what, Harry? And what does that have to do with why your cloak is missing?"

"It's not missing." It was like they weren't hearing anything he was saying. "I gave it to Malfoy because he was standing around the dungeons in nothing but his underwear." He finished in a rush, grabbing a piece of toast and shoving it into his mouth, so he wouldn't have to talk anymore.

His friends looked at each other, at Harry, then back at each other. Ron made a face. "Gross! Harry, how did you even stand it, that's just-"

"Not helpful, Ronald." Hermione chided. "You said something was wrong with him, Harry, what do you mean? And why would he be afraid of Snape?"

Finally, Hermione was getting it. He suddenly thought about the huge hand-shaped bruises going around Malfoy's throat. He thought of how he had touched Malfoy and he felt his face grow hot again. For some reason, he didn't want to mention either of those things to Hermione and Ron.

"He was acting strange. I think he actually got tired of insulting me while we were talking", Harry said instead. His two friends exchanged glances. It was happening entirely too much for Harry's taste. He was always the last to know. "Something I don't know?" he asked irritably.

Hermione leaned forward and whispered, "You mean you haven't heard?"

"Heard what, Hermione? It's like the third day of school." He rubbed his tired eyes in annoyance. The pounding in his head was worse today. He hadn't even wanted to talk about Malfoy in the first place. Forgetting it was probably better.

"Fourth, actually. Well, there's rumors going around saying that Malfoy is going crazy."

Ron nodded vehemently. "Complete nutter. Probably all the deatheater stuff."

Hermione shot him a look. "Well, I was chatting with Parvati and she heard from her sister in Ravenclaw who heard from a boy in Slytherin that Malfoy hasn't slept in months and when he does sleep, he's got horrible nightmares. Like screaming fits, waking everyone up. And.."

Harry had no idea Hermione was such a gossip. "And..?" he urged.

"And he's got.. self-inflicted wounds", she said with a wince.

Harry's mind went to the bruise around Malfoy's throat. That couldn't have been self-inflicted, could it? Now that he thought about it, he remembered seeing dozens of scars, all over the other boy's body. At the time he thought it was the low dungeon light but he had dismissed it. After all, Harry himself had lots of scars, famous one included.

Hermione must have noticed the faraway look in his face because she asked, "What is it, Harry? Did he say something to you?"

Suddenly Harry wasn't sure if he could confide in her without the whole school knowing. Or at least the Patil twins knowing and them telling the entire school. "It's nothing."

"Harry, you really didn't know?" Ron asked through a mouthful of eggs.

"No, I didn't," he replied with a sigh. Harry craned his neck for a better view of the Slytherin table. Malfoy was nowhere in sight. Instinctively he looked towards the teachers' table at the front of the hall. Dumbledore wasn't there. Neither was Snape. Harry felt his stomach flip flop. "If he is nutters," Harry started slowly, "what would do with him?"

"Probably send the git to Saint Mungo's don't you think, Herm?"

Hermione nodded, maybe a bit sadly.

"How long has this been happening?" Harry asked.

"Oh, maybe just this past summer, according to rumor. Why?"

"Well that's when.." Harry hesitated to speak his thoughts.

Hermione waited, looking as if she were trying very hard to be patient with him.

"That's the same I started having nightmares as well." He shifted uncomfortably in his seat, the pounding in his head growing.

"Yes, but Harry, it's not exactly new for you, is it? I mean, this has happened before." She stared at him. "Is it your head again? Should you go see Madam Pompfrey?"

"Herm, stop fussing over him. Harry can handle it and if he can't, he'll tell someone." Ron turned to Harry and nodded in an I-got-your-back sort of way.

"Harry, all I'm saying is, your dreams and your circumstances are vastly different than Draco Malfoy's." She said his name with a disdain that made him feel odd. Trashing Draco Malfoy was commonplace in his friend circle but today it felt different. Harry couldn't put his finger on it.

He dropped his eyes to his untouched breakfast plate. "What if it's not?" he said quietly.

"Yeah," Ron said loudly, "You know he's going to be a death eater soon, if the prat isn't already." Harry remembered last year, when it seemed the students were forced to pick sides. Good or evil. Dumbledore or Voldemort. Malfoy had been against them from the start. He bristled with the memory.

"Do you think it has to do with You-Know-Who?" Hermione said. Every other time Harry had had these sorts of headaches or dreams, it was a direct link to Voldemort. It wasn't something Harry hadn't considered. It was just something he hoped it wasn't. If Malfoy was having similar symptoms, what did that mean? And what did Snape have to do with it? Harry decided to let the question hang. Ron went back to chewing his breakfast. Hermione looked over her shoulder at the Slytherin table.

"He's not there." Harry said absently. Hermione quirked an eyebrow. "What?" Harry asked her, feeling defensive for some reason.

"You know Harry, you might want to, you know.." She waved her hand in the air, as if that made her point. Ron and Harry both stared at her. "You know, talk to him!" she finished quickly and a little too loudly.

Ron let out a gaffaw. "Get serious Hermione! That prat isnt even capable of normal conversation. We only look in his direction and hes calling us Weasel, Mudblood, and Scarhead! I mean we'd have to be -" Harry raised a hand and cut off Ron's rant.

"You guys don't understand. It was weird. Malfoy wasn't himself and Snape.. It was like Malfoy was afraid of Snape."

"You didn't say anything about Snape, Harry." Hermione's head swiveled to the teachers' table.

"Yes, I did. He's not there either."

Hermione gave him a sour look. "You think Professor Snape is involved?"

"Of course he is, Herm," Ron started, "it's all of them. Malfoy, Snape, probably Malfoy's dad too. He's probably the head Death Eater by now and they're staging a takeover!"

"Really, Ronald."

"Yes, really," Ron was nodding his head, as if that helped make his point valid. "My dad talks about the weird stuff Malfoy Senior does at work all the time. And you know they're all pretty much back and stronger than ever. Last year proved it."

Harry's stomach turned as he thought of Sirius. He pushed back from the table and stood up.

"Where ya goin' Harry? You didn't eat anything, mate."

"I think I'll go and get my spare cloak before class." He probably wasn't going to, but he couldn't sit here and listen to this any longer.

"Okay Harry, but don't be late. Maybe you can talk to-"

"Oh Hermione, you sound like my mum! Harry's not going to talk to Malfoy. Right, Harry?"

They both turned to look at him.

"Uh.. yeah, sure. Whatever. See you in class." He turned and hurried towards the door before they could say something else to further drag him into another argument. An argument about Malfoy no less, he thought. What a weird school year this is shaping up to be. Harry walked quickly, absorbed in his thoughts. Before he knew it, he had turned towards the dungeons and suddenly ran into something very hard. It caught him by surprise and he fell backwards. Two shoes entered his field of vision and he realized he had run into a person, another student.

"Sorry," he muttered while adjusting his glasses. A pale hand with long fingers came into Harry's field of vision. He took it in his own and looked up. His breath caught in his throat. As if his thoughts had materialized, Draco Malfoy was now in front of him. Before he could react, Malfoy was pulling him to his feet. Up close and in better lighting, Harry could see the dark circles underneath Malfoy's eyes. His eyes flew to Malfoy's neck- he could barely make out the hand-shaped bruises underneath his upturned collar.

"Um, thanks," Harry said a little awkwardly.

"Don't mention it, Potter." Malfoy almost sounded normal, not snide or condescending. For a brief moment, they locked eyes. Harry had never noticed that Malfoy's eyes were more stormy grey than blue. He thought he saw something there, something very different. Then it was gone. Malfoy's eyes were no longer stormy, they were made of ice. Malfoy lowered his steely gaze to their still clasped hands. Harry's eyes followed, suddenly realizing he had never let go of Malfoy's hand. Harry felt his cheeks go hot and drew his hand back as if the other boy's hand was made of fire.

Malfoy cleared his throat and adjusted his tie. "Where were you going in such a hurry, Potter? Someone else in dire need of saving?" A familiar sneer snuck its way onto his face. Suddenly Harry didn't want to talk to Malfoy at all. Ever again.

"Look Malfoy, I was just going to Potions, so if you'd get out of my way.." Harry side-stepped around the other boy.

"Oh, so now I'm in your way, Potter?" Malfoy stepped in front of Harry, blocking his path.

"Malfoy, this isn't funny." Harry tried again, stepping in the opposite direction.

"Oh, but it is." Malfoy smirked at him, clearly enjoying this. The taller boy blocked him again.

"Malfoy. Move."

"And what if I don't?"

"Then Snape will have both our heads."

"Ah. Ah. Ah." Draco waggled a slender finger back and forth in front of Harry's nose. "Correction: Your head. I'm his favorite student, remember?"

"Oh, really? And all this time I thought you were only kissing his ass."

Malfoy laughed. It wasn't his usual snicker, Harry noticed, but a real laugh. It sounded odd, as if he didn't practice it as much as he should. It made Harry uncomfortable.

"Yes, well, if you're finished Malfoy, can I go to class now?"

"Oh, come now, Potter. Sarcasm suits you beautifully."

Harry's face started burning uncontrollably. He couldn't believe Malfoy was making him blush. Judging by the healthy smirk on his face, Malfoy was enjoying himself. Harry prepared himself for the onslaught of insults that was sure to follow.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Malfoy bend over and retrieve something from the floor. "Potter." His voice was devoid of feeling again. "You dropped this earlier."

Malfoy was picking up Harry's cloak, giving it a good shake. The fabric made a snapping sound in the air. Harry opened his mouth to protest, but it was already in his hand, a tidy folded bundle. Malfoy's face held a glimmer of a smile and then he turned to leave, brushing Harry's shoulder with his own. Harry watched him until he was out of sight.

Chapter Text

With nowhere else to go, Harry Potter sat in the empty Potions classroom, waiting for class to start. He had put on his cloak that Malfoy had so weirdly returned to him. He could feel his eyes getting heavy. He folded his arms on the table in front of him and laid his head down. He'd be able to rest his eyes for just a few minutes before other students started coming in.

He was asleep almost immediately. And dreaming again.

He was in a dungeon of some sort. The cleanest dungeon Harry had ever seen. A crimson carpet led the way down a dimly lit hallway. He looked behind him and saw nothing but darkness. Harry stepped forward, following what seemed like a stoic river of red. Muffled screams and shouts reached his ears, coming from ahead of him. He wanted to stop, but his feet kept carrying him forward.

As the screams subsided he heard a familiar voice. It was snide, and like Malfoy's, but deeper, older. Lucius Malfoy. It had to be. Harry noticed insignias carved into the dungeon walls. Too smooth and intricate to not have been done by magic. The closer Harry got to one of them, the more blurred it became. He squinted his eyes even though he knew it wouldn't help.

The hallway opened up into a great room, well lit by a greenish fire burning in the center of the room. Harry looked to either side, seeing what seemed to be cages or cells lining the east and west walls. It was too dark, that far away, but Harry wasn't sure he wanted to see what was in the cells anyway. The screaming started again, uncomfortably close. Harry noticed a small group of people standing in a semi-circle around one of the cells towards the back of the room. They were all of different heights, dressed in black, hoods covering their heads. No one turned as Harry approached.

"Excuse me," Harry said, tentatively.

No one moved. Harry turned his attention to the screaming coming from the cell directly in front of black-clad figures. He tried to push his way through their ranks and he passed right through them. Knowing you're dreaming and being able to do something about the fact that you're dreaming are two very different things. Harry knew it was a dream and as far as he was concerned, he was just along for the ride. Since his dreams started this year, he couldn't see any direct connection to Voldemort, not like before. This was the closest he'd been to seeing anything remotely resembling the Dark Lord's plans. Assuming the dark-clad figures were who he thought they were.

Once he cleared the ring of figures he looked back at their faces. Except, they had no faces. Where their faces should have been was smooth and featureless skin. Harry shuddered. The screamer was right next to him now. He turned and saw a man on the floor of a cell. His skin was almost shredded off of his beaten and battered body. He lay in a pool of blood. Just beyond the shredded man, inside the cell stood another figure wielding a wand. The figure was tall and slender, with short platinum blonde hair, slicked back from his forehead. Draco Malfoy did have a face. And it was screwed up with determination and pain. His cheeks were wet as if he had been sweating. Or weeping.

"Do it again, Draco." Harry turned towards the menacing voice. The same one he had heard before. It was another tall, blonde man. He had no face like the other followers, but Harry knew him just the same. Lucius Malfoy.

"Malfoy, don't!" Harry yelled.

Draco Malfoy looked right at Harry. He looked as if he was looking at a ghost. Malfoy was talking, but no sound was coming out. The other boy's face grew more and more agitated. He was visibly screaming now, but Harry still couldn't hear any sound. Malfoy raised a hand to point behind Harry. Harry turned and saw the hooded figures advancing on him, the circle closing in, wands raised. They all shot out a brilliant green light all at once.

Harry felt the blast hit him in chest. It was pure light and burning agony. He screamed and fell backwards, his chair hitting the hard stone floor of the Potions classroom. The laughter of the other students brought him forcefully awake.

"If you're finished, Mr. Potter," Snape's acid drawl cut through the laughter, "I'd like to return to today's lesson. Or will it be points from Gryffindor?"

Harry willed his cheeks to stop burning. He wanted to fall through the floor and be buried under the Black Lake for all eternity. How long had it been? He was just supposed to rest his eyes. How come no one woke him up when class started? He turned to Ron and whispered violently, "Why didn't you wake me up?"

"I didn't want to interrupt your beauty sleep, Potter."

Harry fell out of his chair again. He was sure Ron would be sitting next to him; he always did in Potions. "What.. what are you doing here?" Harry demanded.

"New Potions partners, Mr. Potter." Snape was suddenly in front of him, looking furious. "That's ten points from Gryffindor for interrupting my lesson again."

All of the Gryffindors in the class groaned collectively. Snape turned his venomous stare on them. They were suddenly silent. "And another ten points, Mr. Potter, for wearing the," he paused, looking Harry up and down, "incorrect uniform."

Harry picked himself up off the floor and straightened his cloak. "I am not wearing the incorrect uniform." He was aware of how petulant he sounded, but there was little he could do about that now.

Snape's robes billowed as he whirled angrily to face Harry once more. "You are wearing a cloak from Slytherin House, Mr. Potter. Last I checked, that is not your correct house. Have you joined my house without my knowledge, Mr. Potter?"

He heard Malfoy snort with laughter that was poorly contained. The other Slytherins joined in. "Fifty points from your house. Gryffindor." Snape added, as if Harry might be confused.

Harry sat once more, head down, defeated. He fumbled with the folds of his cloak, finding the patch attached that advertised his house crest. It was indeed Slytherin. He groaned inwardly. His mind raced back to this morning, when he had literally run into Malfoy and.. he had given him the wrong cloak. He looked at Malfoy sitting beside him. The blonde boy was still snickering, but dutifully taking notes.

"You did this." Harry said quietly. "On purpose."

Draco Malfoy gave him an innocent look and motioned towards Snape.

The potions master was towering above him, glowering. "Out, Potter."

"What?" Harry said stupidly. He knew it as soon as it was out of his mouth.

"Professor, please-", said a voice near the back of the room.

"Miss Granger, I do not need advice on how to run my classroom."

Harry gave his professor a hard look but packed up his things and slung his bag over his shoulder. He stopped at the door to look back. Malfoy had a huge genuine smile on his face. Harry felt like he wanted to punch it right off.

Harry sat on the school grounds, grateful for the cool breeze blowing across the lake. He was on a hillside, watching the Whomping Willow try to whomp a passing butterfly. It did little to ease his bad mood. He briefly considered getting too close and getting whomped himself. That'd land him in the hospital wing for a little while. Or maybe the secret passage to the shrieking shack would still be open. He could hide out there until everyone forgot his absolute mortification.

His thoughts turned to Malfoy. He couldn't reconcile the momentarily vulnerable and hurt boy in the dungeon this morning with the Malfoy who just humiliated him in front of an entire class. Then he thought of his most recent dream. Sometimes, Harry knew, his dreams carried a weight. Sometimes he saw things as they were happening. Sometimes he saw the past. Very rarely did he see the future. He wondered if this dream about Malfoy was any of those things. Or maybe none entirely. Maybe they were just a product of his tired and over-exerted psyche. He sighed, giving up on the whole thing. It made his head hurt worse than it already did.

He felt the presence of someone behind him before he could hear them. Soft footfalls on the newly fallen autumn leaves told him his feeling was right. He was too tired to turn and look. He didn't want to deal with anyone right now, especially not a well-meaning friend, feeling pity for him. He stared out at the Black Lake and wondered briefly how cold the water was already. If he jumped in, would the shock force the breath from his lungs? He thought of the burning in his lungs from when he ventured to the bottom of the lake in the TriWizard Tournament. No, he didn't want to go out that way.

Someone sat down next to him in the grass with a soft sigh. Harry knew immediately it wasn't a well-meaning friend.

"Thinking about drowning yourself in the Black Lake, Potter?"

Harry started and looked at the boy next to him, incredulously. How did he know? Malfoy turned to look at him, seeing it written all over his face, Harry was sure. Malfoy raised his eyebrows. "That bad, Scarhead? Things could be much worse, you know. The Dark Lord could be after you, haunting your every waking and sleeping moment." Malfoy snickered, then laughed loudly apparently enjoying his own joke. Harry's jaw dropped. Did Malfoy know? Who had Hermione told this time?

Malfoy picked up a dead leaf from the grass and began pulling it apart, piece by piece. "This is my favorite time of year." He was talking as though he and Harry had been pleasantly discussing the weather. Harry had only known one or two insane people in his short life. Second year, when Professor Lockhart had accidentally obliviated himself, the man had seemed like a confused child. Malfoy was different. He was full of nonsequiturs and nonsense. Or maybe, he was full of more truth than Harry wanted to believe possible.

It was also Harry's favorite time of year, but instead he said, "Why did you do that, Malfoy?"

Once again with the innocent look. "The leaf? It was dead already."

Harry rolled his eyes. "Why did you switch the cloaks?"

"Oh, that." Malfoy chuckled, his stormy eyes sparkling. "It was only a joke." He turned to the side to show Harry the patch on his own cloak. Harry leaned forward to see better. It was emblazoned with the Gryffindor crest. That didn't explain anything. Harry was starting to believe the rumors were absolutely true. A gentle breeze blew across the lake, ruffling Harry's hair and making Malfoy's fall out of place. "I didn't think anyone would notice", he said finally.

"That's a shitty apology."

"It wasn't an apology."

Harry scoffed and turned towards the lake. The giant squid was swimming in lazy circles near the surface.

"What did you dream about?" Malfoy's voice was soft, barely above a whisper.

"How did you know I was dreaming?"

"Come on Potter, no one shrieks like that and falls out of their chair if they're not dreaming about something horrible." Malfoy thought for a moment, then added, "Or terrifying."

Harry suddenly had a weird feeling. That same weird feeling he had had in the dungeons. He regarded the tall boy sitting next to him, awfully close next to him now that he thought about it, and saw the storm waging in his grey-blue eyes. Harry thought he saw turmoil and.. a bit of hope? He wasn't so good at reading people. He just knew he didn't want to be caught in whatever trap Malfoy was trying to set for him. He'd had enough of that for one day.

"Well, I wasn't. I woke up and saw you there next to me."

Malfoy laughed. "You're a dreadful liar." He picked up another leaf and started tearing it with his long fingers.

"How long are you going to sit here?" Harry demanded.

Malfoy raised an eyebrow. "How long are you? Most of today's classes are already over."

"What? No they're not, it's only.." Harry craned his neck to find the sun's position in the sky. Sure enough, it was well past when he thought it was. He couldn't believe he'd been out here all afternoon and the only person to come looking for him was Draco Malfoy. He rose to his feet, brushing off his pants. Somehow, bits of leaf were all over him.

"Leaving already, Potter?" Malfoy's annoying sneering drawl was back.

Harry turned to face him, suddenly angry. "What's going on with you, Malfoy? One minute you're doing everything you can to embarrass me and the next it's like you're.. you're trying to be-"

Malfoy rose languidly to his feet. He straightened up and looked down his nose at Harry, the way he had so many times before. "Trying to be what?", spoken like a challenge.

There was a pause. Harry tried to think of another way to say 'friend'. Except there was no way he would ever be friends with Draco Malfoy. Not after that first night in Hogwarts. Especially not after everything he had done to him and his friends since then. Recent events excluded. And there was no way that was what Malfoy was trying to do now.

"Normal", was what he said instead.

Not knowing what he would find in Malfoy's eyes, Harry decided not to look. He gathered up his bag and started to storm off when he remembered his cloak. He needed it back. "Give me my cloak, Malfoy." Harry found himself offering the one he had been given that morning.

Malfoy smirked. Harry's blood began to boil. "Hm, I think I like yours better. It is a tad short though." That was the last straw. Harry launched himself at Malfoy, gripping him around his middle, carrying them both tumbling down the short hillside. The look of surprise on Malfoy's face alone almost made the bumps and bruises worth it. Harry was up first. The world was blurry and spinning. His glasses must have gotten knocked off at some point. He was vaguely aware of Malfoy in front of him, coming more into focus.

Malfoy reached back, his hands balled into fists, and let a punch fly at Harry's head. Unfortunately, depth perception without his glasses was nearly impossible. Malfoy's fist connected with Harry's nose. He felt a sickening crunch and pushed it from his mind. He immediately threw a punch back, hitting only air. Malfoy laughed, his stupid normal-person laugh. Harry tackled him again and they rolled end over end, locked in combat. Suddenly both their bodies hit something hard. Malfoy gasped. Harry couldn't make out what it was. Only that it was rough and felt sort of like tree bark.

A branch from the Whomping Willow landed right in between them. Harry couldn't make out Malfoy's face, but knew it must mirror the shock of his own. They had rolled down the hill, right into the roots of the sentient, violent tree. Harry wished for once, he could face this tree with his glasses on. He saw the blurry figure of Malfoy running away. Typical, he thought. A sledgehammer of a branch caught him in the stomach. He doubled over, coughing. Harry saw another branch coming for him and tried to roll out of the way. He looked up, expecting to be safe enough, but the branch was still heading right for him. Suddenly, Harry felt two hands grip his shoulders hard. He was pulled quickly out of harm's way. The deadly branch landed just shy of his feet.

Harry looked back at the person who had saved him. "Aren't you going to thank me?" Malfoy said snidely. Both boys got up and ran a safe distance away from the tree. The Willow shuddered with disappointment.

He stared at it for a while, recognizing that it could have gone much, much worse. There are some things that magic cannot help. Malfoy was beside him, handing him something. Harry squinted at the black object in his hand. His glasses. He snatched them up and put them on, one large crack going through one of his lenses. Malfoy waved a hand and his glasses were as good as new. Harry could only watch, dumbfounded, as Malfoy gave him a small smile and turned and walked away.

Chapter Text

Draco made his way around to the main entrance of the castle. He stuffed his hands (one of them a little bloody) in his pants pockets. That didn't go the way he had hoped. Why did Potter have to overreact the way he always did? Draco supposed that was a little bit of his charm. If you knew what buttons to push.. the rest of the thought was cut off by a blinding pain, right behind his temples. He staggered and his hand went to the side of his head, knowing it wouldn't do any good.

"Are you okay?"

Draco tried to focus on the voice, reminding himself that pain was always temporary. Pride was forever. He straightened up and saw a bushy haired girl with a tall red-head.

"Yes, Granger. Move please." It was agony to talk, but he still made his voice cold and commanding.

"Whoa, did you hear that, Hermione? The git actually used manners."

Draco grimaced at Potter's entourage. "I'm surprised you know what those are with that many people in your family begging for scraps." The look on Weasley's face was worth the effort it took to get that insult out.

"Malfoy, I know we have our differences but if you need medical attention we will help you."

Draco turned and looked back down the hill where Potter was still standing, holding his own head in a similar fashion. The clever mudblood witch followed his gaze.

"Oh, Merlin! Ron, Harry's hurt too!" She took off down the slope, her want already out. Weasley followed, giving Draco a healthy glare. How can Potter stand those two?

Draco was barely inside when the potions master swooped down on him. At least, that's what it looked like to Draco. His professor's dark billowing robes were reminiscent of a large bird's wings. Paired with his hooked nose Draco wondered why it had never occurred to him before.

Out of the corner of his eye he saw the Potter Trio make their way through the entrance hall, no doubt going to the infirmary. The weasel and the mudblood gave him glares that would have killed him if they had been magicked correctly.

"Mr. Malfoy, with me."

Draco followed without question or hesitation. Snape led him down into the dungeons, just past the hidden Slytherin common room door. His head of house tapped the stones in an odd pattern; up down, up down, left and then right. Draco stepped back and another door materialized right where Snape had done the tapping. He went in, Snape right behind him.

Inside was a small studio room. A four-poster was pushed against a wall, a hearth with a blazing green fire on the opposite side in front of which sat a couch and a low table. It looked like Draco's things were already brought in. He let out a low whistle.

"Am I being promoted?"

"Don't be ridiculous." Snape went to the fireplace as if he were inspecting something. "Your grades have dropped steeply this year. I was hoping you'd be Head Boy. We haven't had one from Slytherin in quite some time."

Draco wasn't sure how to respond. He thought he'd get Head Boy this year as well. Then the nightmares and headaches had started. He made sure his face was as stony as his voice. "Then what is this about, Professor?"

Snape regarded him coolly. "Your.. episodes are disturbing the other students. Seeing how loathe Dumbledore is to expel you," the potions master paused, letting it sink in, "something else had to be done."

Draco nodded, looking around the room. Dark green curtains covered the entire wall straight ahead of him.

"Have you given any more thought to what I told you, Professor?"

Snape took his time in answering, which told Draco that yes, his professor had taken him seriously. "I do not have an answer for you at this time."

Draco tried not to let the disappointment show. He had another thought. "Do you need to confer with someone else?" Having a conversation about something semi-secret when you didn't know who could be listening and without naming names was actually quite difficult.

Snape's face took on a grieved expression. "No, Mr. Malfoy. I do not. I believe that we can solve the problem, given a little more time." Snape turned to leave, hesitating at the doorway.

"I left a sleeping draught. It should work better than the last one."

Draco didn't have time to thank him. His professor seemed to have passed through the wall and was gone.

Draco walked over to the small table and found a bucket full of steaming ice with a chalice sitting neatly inside. He reached in, grabbed a handful of the steaming ice and placed it against his burning bloody knuckles. He couldn't lie to himself; part of him had rejoiced at landing such a punch on the Boy Who Lived. For all those times Potter had humiliated him. For all those things his father said when comparing them against each other. Even for all those times Potters stupid friends got the better of him. It felt good.

The other part of him, the part that had looked in Potter's eyes afterwards, saw the anger and betrayal there, clear as day. It had made him feel something. Draco wasn't entirely sure what that meant. Or what he even wanted it to mean. He just knew he had the tiniest sensation of guilt building in the pit of his stomach. He thought of the glares he received from the three of them in the entrance hall. He felt cold rage replace the guilt. He threw the still steaming ice cubes across the room. They made a slight plinking sound, as if they had hit glass. That was odd. He was aiming for the curtains. He walked over to them, his curiosity making him forget the sleeping draught. Pulling back the heavy green curtains his breath caught in his throat.

The ice cubes had hit glass. The South wall in his room was made almost entirely of glass. But it wasn't a window, not down here in the dungeons. It was more of an aquarium, giving him an opulent view underneath the Black Lake. His stomach lurched. It was very beautiful, in a dark sort of way, but Draco felt like he was underwater, which technically, he was. It was a strange feeling, to be seasick while standing in his own bedroom. He turned his head, scanning the dark waters for some sort of creature or sign of life. All he could see were waving fronds of seaweed, growing darker in the distance. The surrealness of it made his head hurt worse, accompanied by a new, spinning sensation. He dragged the curtains shut.

Draco remembered the sleeping draught Snape had left and suddenly felt exhausted. Maybe his professor was right, maybe it would work better this time. Or maybe it wouldn't. He didn't fancy being stuck in a nightmare, not able to wake himself up. Then he might really go insane.

Walking back to the low table, Draco Malfoy realized something was wrong. The fire in the hearth had gone out. As long as he lived, he didn't know a magical fire that would stop burning without a command. As he got closer, it looked like there had never been a fire in the first place. He exhaled the breath he didn't know he had been holding. Maybe there had been no fire. He turned his attention back to the draught Snape had left and gasped.

The chalice was laying on its side on the table, empty save for a few drops. He stepped back; not wanting to believe he had drank the entire draught without knowing it. As soon as his back hit the mantel, the fire sprang up, red and hot and angry. Draco cried out, from the heat as much as surprise. He struggled over the low table top, knocking the bucket of steaming ice to the floor, and collapsed on the sofa, staring at the fire. Was he asleep right now? He didn't remember having time to close his eyes.

Suddenly the fire grew to double, triple the size, forcing itself out of the fireplace and into a shape of a man. Not possible, Draco thought, not possible here. The flames receded and the man in front of him stood unburnt. He was clad in long black robes, his head bald, his face flat. The man's snake-like eyes regarded Draco as a predator might.

"Finally, we get to talk, Draco." The Dark Lord said.

Draco's breath hitched in his chest. "Not real," he managed to whisper.

The Dark Lord was abruptly in front of Draco, leaning in face-to-face. "Reality is subjective."

A whimper escaped his throat. Voldemort traced the side of Draco's face with a long bony finger. "Do you have what I want?"

Draco couldn't stop a shudder. He started to shake his head, slowly. "Not yet, my Lord." For some reason, his voice wouldn't rise above a hoarse whisper.

"Will you get it for me?" Voldemort hissed in his ear.

"Yes, my Lord," Draco whispered, a tear falling down his cheek.

"Good", the Dark Lord drew out the word, making it sound long and deep, and above all, threatening. Voldemort turned, taking out his wand. Draco knew he should do something, willed himself to do anything, but it was as if his body was made of stone. The Dark Lord raised his wand, pointing it directly at Draco's chest.

"I trust I don't need to remind you," he said slowly, "of the price of failure."

What started out as a strong poke on his chest soon felt like it was boring into him. Draco pressed himself into the sofa cushions. It started to glow with a green light. Draco's eyes widened. He knew the price. He could barely nod his head to let the Dark Lord know.

"Because you know, if that is a price you could pay," Voldemort was suddenly across the room. He waved his wand and the heavy green curtains drew back quickly, as if they, too were afraid of him. "We could come up with something new." The Dark Lord gestured with his wand and Harry Potter appeared on the other side of the glass, underneath the Black Lake. His sworn enemy was held in place, underwater, and obviously drowning. Bubbles left his mouth as he seemed to scream for help. He kicked his feet but didn't move an inch. Voldemort's flat face split in a grin.

Draco felt his heart leap into his throat. He thought he wanted this. For the past 6 years, ever since they first met, this is what he thought he wanted. To see Potter suffer. As it turns out, it made his stomach turn and his head dull. He recalled the last interaction he had with Potter: punching him in the nose. He felt a sudden grief but couldn't put his finger on why. It wasn't exactly remorse. It may have been.. disappointment. He dropped his eyes, not needing to see what events transpired on the other side of the glass.

That's when he noticed the empty chalice for the second time. This could be a dream. Except he couldn't remember ever falling asleep. He glanced at the glass. If it was a dream, he could change things. Small things, at the very least. If it wasn't a dream, well, he supposed he might actually owe Harry Potter a real apology.

It took all of willpower to show the Dark Lord as little reaction as possible. He could feel sweat dripping down his neck. He licked his lips. He tried to speak, but no sound came out. He cleared his throat and tried again. "Isn't that what you want, my Lord?" Draco cringed under the full glare of Lord Voldemort, but he swallowed and continued, "the death of Harry Potter?"

Voldemort suddenly appeared in his face again, without seeming to need to move. "You presume to know my desires?" His voice was low and decidedly dangerous. Draco couldn't stop his body from quivering. The Dark Lord's wand was again boring a hole into his chest. "You are just as bad as your father, boy." His voice was in his ear now. "You can do better. You can be greater. Just do as I say."

Draco turned his head to the wall of water. Potter was still struggling to breathe, his thrashing down to a minimum, as if he were giving up. "Yes, my Lord", Draco said, as if it were hard to get the words out of his mouth. He raised a shaking hand towards the glass wall, fingers splayed, looking Voldemort in his snake-like eyes. He made a fist and pulled his arm back in one quick motion. He had exactly one second to see the surprise on the Dark Lord's face before the glass wall imploded, flooding the room.

Harry woke with a long, rattling gasp. He filled his lungs with deep breaths, on the verge of hyperventilating. Suddenly Ron was there, pulling back the curtain of his four-poster, practically shouting, "Harry! Are you okay, mate?"

Harry waved him off, still trying to catch his breath. "I'm okay," he said, his voice sounding rough, "I think."

Ron was still starting at him, however. "What?" Harry croaked.

"You sure you're okay? I mean, your bed, your hair.."

It was only then that Harry noticed what his friend was on about. His hair was dripping wet. His bedding was soaked. It was way too wet to be from sweat alone. It was as if he had dragged his bed out of the lake and then decided to sleep on it. "Ron.. what's happening to me?" Harry erupted into a coughing fit.

"I don't know mate, what can I do?" Ron looked shell-shocked. "I can take you to Madam Pompfrey, want me to do that? I can go get Dumbledore, I don't mind waking him up, Harry. Just tell me what to do."

Harry looked at his friend for a moment and decided to tell him the truth. "Ron. I dreamed I was drowning."

Chapter Text

Harry stood in his robe and pajamas, dripping water all over the floor in Professor McGonagall's office. His normally uptight professor was in her dressing robes, her hair pulled into a messy bun, as if she couldn't be seen with her hair down. She looked mildly annoyed, but Harry thought she was probably as tired of having him in her office like this as he was. Ron and Hermione stood to the side of him, minding the puddle. The head of Gryffindor house looked him over with an appraising eye.

"Tell me again, what happened?"

"I was asleep, Professor. I dreamed that I was drowning, in the Black Lake, then I woke up soaking wet." Harry spread his arms, as if that made his point clearer.

"And he's been having these sorts of dreams since the summer." Hermione added.

Harry shot her a look. He hadn't even wanted to tell his head of house any of it and now Hermione was telling her everything. Hermione just shrugged.

"Alright, Mr. Potter," McGonagall took off her spectacles and pinched her nose. "Start at the beginning please, you three."

Hermione opened her mouth but Harry cut her off. "I've been having strange dreams since the summer."

"And having headaches." Hermione piped in.

This time Harry and McGonagall both gave her a look.

"And having headaches," Harry continued grudgingly. "It's not my scar like before, it's like a bad, all over, constant headache."

"These dreams," his professor started, " are they showing you.."

"The Dark Lord? No."

"Just random events then? Do they all carry over into your waking life like this?" She gestured at all of the water.

He thought of the pain in his chest after his nightmare in Potions class. He wondered if that counted. "This is the first."

"And it has something to do with Draco Malfoy." Hermione again.

He was sure his face mirrored the surprise on McGonagall's. Even Ron was now staring at her, mouth open. Hermione shifted on her feet. "Well, at least, I'm almost positive it does."

"And what do you, Miss Granger, know about Draco Malfoy." It wasn't exactly a question, more of a demand.

"Well, Professor, I only know what the other students are saying."

"And what are they saying." McGonagall's voice was hard as iron. Harry wished Hermione would spit it out already. Harry wished Hermione had told him before this meeting. He was sick of feeling clueless anytime something out of the ordinary happened to him.

"That the git's gone bonkers!" Ron interrupted. He seemed not able to help himself. He turned bright red under everyone else's glares. He stared at his feet. "Well, it is what they're saying", he mumbled.

Hermione continued, "That he doesn't sleep, and when he does he has terrible nightmares and ends up screaming or something and waking his whole house. And that.." She suddenly lost her courage.

"Go on."

"And that he's been hurting himself."

Professor McGonagall stood up with a sigh. She came around her desk to face the trio. "Those are simply rumors, Miss Granger. There is no way for you to know what Draco Malfoy is currently going through, but I, like the other teachers, am aware of his circumstances." She turned to Harry. "As for you, Mr. Potter, I wish you had come to me with this earlier, but alas. We can only wait and see."

Harry stepped forward. "When can I talk to Professor Dumbledore?"

His head of house pursed her lips. "The headmaster is extremely busy at this time. We will keep an eye on you, Mr. Potter. Along with Mr. Malfoy. And we will wait and see. If there is some connection to the Dark Lord, any at all, you must tell me. Right away." She glanced at Ron and Hermione. "And only me, please."

Ron and Hermione looked at each other. Harry nodded sullenly. This was exactly why he didn't want to tell anyone. McGonagall offered no solution and seemed to downplay his experiences. It made him feel like a naive first year.

Once they were clear of McGonagall's office, Harry rounded on Hermione. She had her wand out and muttered a drying spell. In an instant, after what felt like some heavy wind, his clothes and hair were completely dry. "Thanks," he muttered, "but when were you going to tell me you think that my dreams are related to Malfoy?"

She gave him a guilty look. "I had only just made the connection, Harry. It just seems to fit. And when I saw the two of you together, I-"

"When did you see us together?" Harry demanded.

"Just this afternoon, I saw you sitting together on the grounds. You've been holding your hand to your head ever since you got back to school. Or, you know, just looking like you're always in a great deal of pain. You didn't do it once when you were with Malfoy."

Harry realized he had been pressing his fingertips against his temple. He lowered his hand, self-consciously. It still felt like his brain was going to leak out of his ears.

Hermione stepped closer to him. She was studying him like he was a particularly difficult arithmancy problem that she was determined to solve. "Does your head still hurt when you're near Malfoy?"

Harry thought about it. He hadn't really realized one way or the other. "Come to think of it," he started slowly, "I'm not sure." He could see Hermione literally deflate in front of him. "I just remember feeling very annoyed most of the time." He finished with a shrug.

They continued to walk back to Gryffindor Tower in silence. Once they reached the hidden portrait door, Hermione said softly, "What if Malfoy knows already?"

Ron opened his mouth, no doubt to say something demeaning about Malfoy's character. Harry quickly said, "Knows what, Hermione?"

"The connection."

"I don't think there is a connection. He's just being his usual self. Mostly."

The three of them walked into the Gryffindor common room. There was hardly a time when this room didn't make Harry feel instantly better by setting foot in it. The fire blazed but it was somehow always the right temperature. Sometimes still, Harry forgot about magic. Even though he was surrounded by it daily, getting rid of the presuppositions of everything you were taught when you were little wasn't as easy as it seemed. Growing up, you were taught that fire was hot and that it always would be. The idea of a cool fire or even warm fire was still impossible in his mind. He lowered himself into a plush chair in front of the fire. He wanted to close his eyes and sleep for a thousand years. Without dreaming, that is.

"What do you mean 'mostly', Harry?"

He turned to Hermione, suddenly very tired and very aware of the dull pounding in his head. He should have known she wasn't going to let it go that easily. He sighed. "It's almost as if.. sometimes.. he's trying to be.. my friend." He didn't know why that was so hard to say.

"Gross! Didn't he get the clue first year? The guy is a total prat." Ron scoffed.

"Ronald, why don't you go back to bed?" Hermione said gently.

Ron yawned without covering his mouth. "You're right, Herm. I think I'll do that." He turned to Harry, "You okay, mate?"

Harry gave him more of a smile than he felt like and nodded. Ron made his way up to the boys' dormitories with another loud yawn.

Hermione turned back to Harry. "Why do you think he's doing that?"

"I suppose he's very tired."

"Not Ron. I mean Malfoy."

"Oh." Harry rubbed his face. "I have no idea, Hermione. I'll admit that I don't spend a lot of time wondering why Draco Malfoy does the things he does."

"Maybe you should start."

Harry was walking the castle again. He couldn't get what Hermione had said out of his mind. A connection between him and Draco Malfoy? What were the odds? What did it even matter, unless it was true?

His friends had gone back to bed, but it was the last place he wanted to be. He needed to be doing something, even if it felt like it was useless. With a feeling of apprehension, he ascended the stairs to the Owlery. He had talked to Hermione a little more; her convincing him that opening a dialogue would be the easiest way to find out if there was anything worth investigating. Harry doubted that Malfoy would be so open to the idea. After all, the last time they had talked, they got into a fight and Malfoy scored a lucky punch. Harry reached up to touch the bandage covering the bridge of his nose. Malfoy had actually broken it. Madam Pompfrey had set it and made sure it didn't hurt, but often wouldn't heal things like that outright, saying it was better to leave it and teach them a lesson. About what, Harry wasn't sure.

He stopped on a landing pulled a scrap of parchment out of the pocket of his jeans. On it, he had scrawled a simple message.

"We need to talk. –HP"

Harry crumpled it in his hand. He was suddenly angry. He shouldn't have to be the one to make first contact. He took a breath and let it out slowly. He knew it wasn't like Malfoy was going to seek him out and apologize. He let out a mirthless chuckle thinking about earlier that day (or was it yesterday, now?) when Malfoy had not-apologized to him.

"Something funny down there, Potter?" Malfoy's voice was soft, but it carried down the stairwell.

Harry gave a start and felt his chest constrict. He briefly wondered how this kept happening. It was like his feet took him toward his thoughts, but only thoughts about Malfoy. He didn't want there to be a connection, things were weird enough already. He cleared his suddenly dry throat. "Not at all."

The two boys started at each other in the darkness, waiting for the other to make a move.

"Are you coming up, or what?" Malfoy disappeared from the bannister he had been leaning over.

Harry took another breath and reminded himself of Hermione's words. 'Try to control your emotions, Harry. He does and says things just to get a rise out of you.' He knew if he didn't, they wouldn't get anywhere. Fighting with him was just too easy, Malfoy made sure of that. Most of the time. Lately it had been slightly different. He started up the rest of the stairs.

The moon was almost full and it was cloudless night. Harry felt himself pulled to the large open windows of the Owlery, looking up into the night sky. Malfoy was at the window next to his. Harry felt him staring and turned to face him. Malfoy looked terrible. He hadn't been able to tell before, in the dark stairway, but now.. the other boy looked haunted. As if he had seen a ghost and no one believed him. Harry shrunk back from his unworldly penetrating gaze.

"Why are you here, Potter?" Malfoy had turned back to look at the stars.

"I couldn't sleep."

Malfoy smirked. "You weren't coming to send a message?"

"How did you-?"

"I told you, Potter," He turned to Harry, his smile turned genuine. "You're a dreadful liar."

Harry gaped at him.

"Plus I saw you take a piece of parchment out of your pocket on the stairs."

Harry scowled. "Listen, Malfoy, when you want to stop playing these games you can talk to me again."

"Who's it for, then?" It didn't seem like Malfoy was listening.

As if considering, Harry took it out of his pocket once more. Hedwig suddenly appeared, flapping around Harry's head, landing roughly on his shoulder. She must've heard his voice and the rustle of parchment and assumed he had a message for her to send. He stroked her front and she nipped at his hand.

"Sorry girl, I don't have any treats for you tonight."

Malfoy reached into his pocket and pulled out a handful of pellets, offering them. Harry looked at Malfoy uncertainly. Was this a trick? He somehow didn't feel like he should feed his feathered friend whatever Draco Malfoy had lying around in his pockets. Malfoy raised his eyebrows.

"It's not poison or anything. I come up and feed the owls sometimes."

The sincerity in his voice was.. strange. Hedwig flapped her wings, abandoning her post on Harry for one more favorable. To Harry's shock, she landed on Malfoy's shoulder, happily scooping the pellets from his hand into her beak. Harry thought he saw Malfoy smirk at him, but it was gone just as quickly as it came.

"I guess you do", was all he could think to say.

Malfoy was stroking Hedwig now, much in the same fashion that Harry always did. It made him bristle until he realized he hadn't spent much time with her lately. Then all he felt was a bit guilty. Harry watched the other boy. Malfoy was wearing a dark v-neck t-shirt over a pair of jeans. It seemed too common for the proud pureblood wizard. Malfoy's light hair fell around his face, as if he'd simply stopped trying to do anything with it. It softened the sharpness of his features. It suited him. There was only a light shadow where the handprints used to be. It seemed like a lifetime ago.

Malfoy looked up from Hedwig caught him staring. He could see the question on Malfoy's face so he quickly said, "The message was for you."

Malfoy's steely glare almost made Harry believe that he hasn't just surprised him.

"And what does it say?"

Harry, however, was not ready for the follow-up. He wished he had thought that one through a little better. "It demands an apology."

Draco Malfoy laughed, a dour laugh this time. Hedwig flew back to her perch in the rafters. Malfoy seemed sorry to see her go. Harry immediately wished he had kept up the banter a little bit more.

"For which offense, Potter?"

Harry was almost certain Malfoy wasn't asking him seriously. He still thought about it, though. Would an apology make him feel better about anything that had happened in the last day or two? Probably not. Harry shook his head.

Malfoy stepped closer to Harry. "The cloak?" He asked. The Slytherin moved languidly, slowly, around Harry's back, circling him. "The punch that broke your nose?" His voice had gotten lower. Harry stared straight ahead, bracing himself in case the other boy did something a little crazy. "For almost letting you drown underneath the Black Lake?" Malfoy's voice was a dangerous whisper in Harry's ear. Harry turned quickly, not believing what he had heard. There was no way Malfoy could know about his dream. That was impossible, even in the wizarding world.

"What did you just say", Harry demanded slowly. Malfoy was close. Way too close. Harry took a step back, and then another. Suddenly he was tottering over the edge of the stone stairs. Malfoy's hands shot out and grabbed him, pulling Harry back towards him and away from the edge. Malfoy practically had him in an embrace. Harry was aware of a subtle warming sensation, too warm to be body heat alone.

"You know," Malfoy said, his voice low and deep, "if I keep saving your life like this, you're going to owe me."

Harry felt his face go hot. Malfoy's smirk was very real this time, but he could tell it contained little malice, if any at all. Harry fought for words, any words, before Malfoy could say anything else. "You're avoiding the subject", Harry said, suddenly focused on fixing his rumpled clothing.

"Which was?" Malfoy seemed annoyed now, drawling again.

"The thing you said earlier."

"Potter, I said a lot of things earlier. You're going to have to be specific."

He was going to make Harry spell it out. Fine. "The thing you said about saving me from drowning in the Lake."

Malfoy had turned back to the windows, as if he was trying to shut Harry out. There was a long pause before he said, "When we were on the grounds, earlier today. Yesterday. I knew you were thinking it so I talked you out of it."

Harry couldn't believe it. Either Malfoy was testing him or was literally a nutter who made up his own reality. It suddenly occurred to Harry that his headache had stopped almost completely. He could think clearly. Malfoy was covering up something. But what? Another possibility occurred to Harry.

"Am I in your dreams, Malfoy?"

Malfoy scoffed, more loudly than necessary. "Why would you be in my dreams?"

Harry took a step closer to Malfoy, the blonde boy straightening up as if Harry was some great threat. Maybe he was. "Malfoy, I think there's something more that you're not telling me."

Malfoy's expression was unreadable; the dim light didn't help much, either. Harry took a step closer, as if that might help him read the other boy. Instead, he found his eyes roaming over Malfoy, thinking of the scars he had seen in the dungeons. Malfoy s exposed arms held a multitude of scars, some long and curving, some short and deep. There were also some that were fresh, but in a different sort of pattern. Almost as if.. Without a word Harry grabbed Malfoy's arms, bringing them up and around the other boy's face, as if to avoid an impact or blow. Harry was right; they were defense wounds. The cuts seemed to radiate from a single point. Malfoy wrenched his arms away and stared daggers at Harry, daring him to say something. Harry stared back, not letting himself be intimidated by Malfoy's silver eyes, hard as iron.

"What's happening to us?"

"Us?" Malfoy spat. "The last I checked, Potter, there was no us." Malfoy turned to leave.

Harry side-stepped directly into his path. His hands went up to Malfoy's chest. Both their eyes widened, Harry's because Malfoy's chest was so inexplicably warm in the cool night air. He was suddenly filled with a good feeling, a general sense of well-being that he hadn't felt in months, maybe longer. It took his breath away. He heard Malfoy gasp too, their eyes meeting. Harry saw the raw wonder in his eyes reflected in Draco's. Once again, they turned hard in a fraction of a second. Draco Malfoy leaned close and whispered, "Never touch me again."

The Slytherin left the tower in a hurry. Harry could hear his footfalls getting farther and farther away. He sunk to his knees as the pain in his head steadily grew and resolved to stay and watch the sun come up.

Chapter Text

Harry Potter had to ruin everything. Everything for the past six years. Draco had to admit, he had gotten the better of the Boy Who Lived a few times, but in the grand scheme of things, they were small indeed. He had fumed down the stairs of the Owlery tower and still wasn't sure why. The feeling he had when Potter had touched him like that, it was unlike anything he had ever felt. And he knew Potter could feel it too, which it made it even more disturbing. As he got to the bottom of the stairs, his headache returned with a vengeance. He was vaguely aware that he almost wished Potter would come after him and told himself it was only so that the pain in his head would diminish.

The pain flared, his vision darkening at the edges. He sank to his knees in the hallway, holding his head, afraid to move. A dozen images flashed through his mind and he gasped with the intensity. His father in Azkaban, emaciated and angry. Harry Potter's lifeless body before the Dark Lord. His own lifeless body, eyes wide and staring with Potter standing over him, breathless and clutching his wand. Draco, as a boy, being left in the dark dungeons of Malfoy Manor.

He willed the images away. Past, present, future; whatever they were he had no use for them now. He pushed off the wall with a grunt. The dreams and visions were leaking into his waking life. Snape had warned him it may come to this. The potions master had been pressuring him to take the mark, to get it over with. Snape couldn't see another way out, but then again, the man had little vision. Draco was in no hurry to make a decision either way. Draco had been the one to pressure him into involving the Headmaster, but that had made little difference now. Somehow, he didn't feel like hearing a cleverly veiled 'I told you so' from his head of house. Besides, his sleeping potion was complete and utter crap. Maybe this magic was darker than he and Snape had originally thought.

Malfoy let out a deep, but not quite desperate, sigh. He knew he'd have to find another way. Potter was proving too difficult to manage and this new development was too.. disconcerting. He had felt it from the beginning of the dreams, the pull towards the famous Gryffindor, but if he was being completely honest with himself, there was always a pull there, for some reason or another. It was stronger, now, however. Even in this moment, plodding along the dark dungeon hall, he felt an absence. Less of himself. It's the lack of sleep, he told himself. It definitely was not because he had left Potter behind in the Owlery. Potter had touched him and it had felt good. It had made him feel, normal. Better than normal. It had felt like being flooded with a healing light. He shivered thinking of it and what it might mean. "Harry Potter will not be the one to save me", he said under his breath.

He tapped the blocks to gain entrance to his secret not-head-boy-room and stopped short. There was a silvery glowing deer standing his room. Draco blinked, wondering if he had fallen asleep and the whole thing with Potter was also just a dream. Draco knew a patronus when he saw one, and he only knew one person with a patronus like that.

Then the deer began to speak.

"Mr. Malfoy," it said. Draco realized with a start that it was Snape's voice, not the one he'd been expecting. He pushed the disappointment away. "I know you're awake. Come and meet me in my office."

The deer flickered and vanished. He let out a breath he didn't realize he had been holding. Draco rubbed his eyes. Would this ever end? Couldn't he have just a moment to rest peacefully?

Draco knocked softly on Snape's office door. The door swung open swiftly and silently. Professor Snape was sitting at his desk, pouring two mugs of tea. He didn't look up as Draco came in and sat down in front of the desk. Draco looked around. The Potions Master's office hadn't changed in all seven years he had been at Hogwarts, and probably longer. Draco eyed the tall glass cases beyond the desk, neatly filled and organized with various potions ingredients. Along one wall hung what seemed to be pieces of creatures, artfully preserved, waiting to be used in cunning concoctions. Draco saw a large raven's wing, feathers splayed hanging next to what seemed to be a small piece of dragon tail. Draco wrinkled his nose.

Snape set a mug in front of Draco and took the other for himself, leaning back in his chair. Draco took the mug, enjoying the warmth that was seeping into his cold fingers. He sniffed the contents and looked at Snape. Snape gave him a level look. "It's tea, Mr. Malfoy. I may do a lot of things, but drugging you without your knowledge is not one of them."

Draco narrowed his eyes as he thought of the 'improved' sleeping draught. "Isn't it, Professor?"

Snape took a slow sip from his own mug. "The Headmaster has a new plan for you."

Draco waited for Snape to continue, losing patience. "Drink your tea, Mr. Malfoy, it will help your headache."

Draco rolled his eyes. "Only one thing seems to help my headaches," he muttered. He sipped the tea anyway. It was bitter with a slight citrus tang. He didn't realize his throat had been sore until it wasn't. The throbbing in his head quieted, but only momentarily. He took another sip.

"The Headmaster and I agree that your training in defending against dark magic is somewhat lacking-"

Draco scoffed. "It's not like Hogwarts could hold onto a Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher for long."

"-Given your background." Snape finished with a glare. "I will excuse your behavior this morning, Mr. Malfoy, as I am quite sure it is due to your current stress levels."

Draco moved his mouth to form a witty retort but thought better of it and sipped his tea instead.

"As I was saying, the Headmaster and I believe a patronus could act as a useful shield. At least for a short amount of time. Are you familiar?"

Draco looked into his cup, swirling the liquid. He knew what it was, he knew what it was for, and he knew the one person in the school adept at summoning a full-fledged patronus. He didn't want to hear what Snape had to say next. "Yes, I'm familiar", he said quietly into his cup. "Is this what the deer in my room was about?"

Snape straightened in his chair. "It is a doe, not a deer."

Draco smirked. He could tell Snape was trying to avoid looking at him. The potions master cleared his throat. "To summon a patronus powerful enough to protect you in your sleep, you will require a.. unique teacher."

"No."

Snape's eyebrows lifted without his expression changing.

"I refuse." Draco set down his mug and got slowly to his feet. "Sir."

"Then you let the Dark Lord tear your mind from you."

"I will not do that either. I can handle this myself."

"I've heard that before." Snape's low drawling voice dripped with disdain.

"From me?" his question held an accusatory tone. Draco Malfoy would not be made into a fool.

Snape stood. Draco tensed, reflexively raising his right hand a little. The professor ignored Draco's jumpiness. "No, Mr. Malfoy. I said it. I once thought I was strong enough to resist. I, too, went through something similar." Snape moved closer, unbuttoning his sleeve as he did so. "It is far too late for me. You, however, still have a choice. But you must make it soon."

The mark on the potions master's arm was very clear in the dim light and Draco had no questions about what it was. He had known it was coming to this. For how long, he wasn't sure. His whole entire life, maybe. Draco felt as if he stood on a precipice, death below for a certainty, but walking away.. that would be another kind of death.

He thought of Potter, always fighting the good fight. For what? Friendship? Love? Draco had none of those things. He couldn't imagine putting his own life on the line for someone else. To be on the side of Good? Whatever that meant. Good and evil were not as black and white as most people thought, Draco could personally attest to that. Could Harry Potter take himself out of the equation, even if he wanted to? Draco thought that was probably another sort of death in and of itself.

"How long do I have?"

Snape grimaced as he pulled his sleeve back down. "I wouldn't toy with this, Mr. Malfoy. The damage can be irreparable."

"Which is what makes it so effective, I'm sure," Draco said dryly.

"Quite."

Draco regarded Snape a moment, feeling like pieces of the puzzle could be pushed together. "What did he show you, Professor?"

Snape was so quiet and aloof, Draco started to think his professor hasn't heard him. Snape's robes gently billowed as he moved to the lone window in the room. Draco knew it faced the lake. He was about to repeat himself when Snape started to speak softly. "He showed me a multitude of futures, all within my grasp. Things I wanted. Things I never knew I wanted until I saw them. When that didn't work, he showed me a person, the only person I ever loved.. hurt, tortured, died.. hundreds, thousands of times."

"But it isn't real. Even when the magic is modified-"

Snape was suddenly angry, talking fast. "He makes it real. He made sure she died the minute I even thought about-" he stopped suddenly, composed himself. "No matter. You need protection." Snape turned to him, his face dark. "Unless you choose the mark."

Draco had never seen Snape like that. The only comparison was when Potter did something exceptionally foolish during Potions. His head of house was visibly shaken for a moment, but just a moment. Draco watched warily as Snape walked back around his desk and sat down. He poured them both another cup of tea.

"I can tell it's getting worse," Snape said to the tea. "I know you won't talk about it, but I can tell. Let me help you."

Draco scoffed. "You want Harry Potter to help me."

The potions master took a sip of his tea and rubbed his eyes. "Trust me, Mr. Malfoy, if there was another way.." He ended his thought with a sigh.

"Does he know?"

"Of course not. I know of your previous.. relationship. It is not, by any means, ideal."

Draco wanted to yell at his professor. He wanted to take the mug of hospitable tea and smash it to pieces. He wanted to punch Harry Potter in the face again for making his life more difficult than it had to be. He suddenly felt the gnawing guilt deep in his stomach. The feelings of anger and resentment washed over him like a wave, and were gone. Exhaustion took their place. He ran a hand through his hair and exhaled forcefully. "I'll think about it."

He left Snape's office without another word. He needed to get out, needed to actually think. But the constant throbbing in his head made it so difficult. He made his way out of the castle, onto the grounds. The sun was just coming up; better late than never, he supposed. He put his hands in his pockets and walked around the outside of the castle. He felt his headache lessen considerably. He looked around but saw no one. Noticing the feathers strewn about the grass he looked up. He was just underneath the Owlery. Was Potter still there? Why would he be? It suddenly occurred to him that there would be a radius of calm surrounding the Gryffindor. If he could figure out the bare minimum distance needed to feel relief.. but even that was a long shot. He envisioned it in his mind, like some sick joke of a Venn diagram. He knew he couldn't be seen forever hovering in Harry Potter's shadow.

He leaned against the Owlery tower wall, his breath barely pluming in the cool fall morning air. He could figure this out on his own. The circle of relief, the dreams, the headaches, even the strange and wonderful warmth, it was all connected somehow. And it wasn't all simply the work of the Dark Lord; some of it was, that much was certain, but which? And why?

His thoughts turned to Snape and he wondered, not for the first time, what his motivations truly were. His professor had been his advocate to Dumbledore, and a go-between ever since. He wondered what Dumbledore really knew about him, about what was happening. Was this how Potter felt all of the time? Being pushed and pulled around like a wizard chess piece? There was a bigger picture here that he knew he was missing. If only he could..

His headache grew more and more distant. He looked up as if he would see Harry coming down the tower stairs. Of course he couldn't. The pain returned. Harry Potter was gone. He pressed his fingers to his temples, but it did very little to ease the pain.

Chapter Text

Harry was on his way to breakfast, shuffling down the stairs from the Gryffindor common room, when Ron and Hermione came up behind him. Ron clapped him on the back and Hermione said something about the state of his face or hair or something but he found himself tuning them out. He wished he was alone, even though he had been alone all night. He would've skipped breakfast altogether if his stomach would let him. They were staring at him as they hit the landing to the Entrance Hall. He realized he had probably missed a question or something.

"Uh, what?"

His two friends stared at him and then each other.

"Nevermind, I don't care," Harry said honestly. "Hermione, could I talk to you?"

She looked worried. Moreso than usual, anyway. "Of course, Harry."

They both looked at Ron, who hadn't moved and was looking at them expectantly.

Harry cleared his throat.

"He means alone, Ronald."

"Oh, oh. Of course you guys, I knew that." Ron walked away slowly and kept looking back at them, as if they were about to have a tremendously good time once he was gone. Hermione actually shooed him away with her hands. Harry sighed.

"What is it, Harry?" Hermione's face was concerned, but Harry knew he'd get nothing if not a level opinion on the recent events. He took a deep breath and told her about Malfoy in the Owlery, the real reason for Malfoy's wounds, how he'd acted so strangely but sincerely, and grudgingly, about what happened when they had touched.

Hermione was quiet for a long awhile, her brows furrowed in thought. The hall had emptied of other students, everyone having gone into the Great Hall for breakfast. The thought of eating was not as appealing as it once was. Harry tried to patient, knowing without a doubt that if anyone could puzzle it out, it was her. She was the smartest person he had ever known.

"I don't know, Harry."

He tried his best not to look as crestfallen as he felt.

"It doesn't mean that we won't figure it out!" She said hurriedly. "It's just weird, is all." She was tapping her finger to her cheek, as she often did when deep in thought.

"What is?"

"Oh, sorry. I know there's a connection there, Harry. Between the dreams and the two of you. I'm certain that's why you're crossing paths with Malfoy much more often than you normally would. Didn't that seem strange to you?"

Harry hadn't thought about it like that. He shrugged.

Hermione sighed. "Did you ask him about his dreams? You know, when you weren't.. physical?"

"No, he.." Harry found himself at a loss for words. Could he tell Hermione that Draco Malfoy was distracting him? That when Malfoy looked at him sincerely he felt like melting into a puddle? That it felt good, way too good, to be around him? That touching him was- He cut the thoughts off, unsure of where they would lead him.

"Are you okay Harry?"

Out of the corner his eye, he saw someone tall and blonde arrive in the Entrance Hall, late for breakfast. Harry's stomach did a flip. The only thing he wanted right then was to be closer to Malfoy. He found himself hoping he would come over and, as much as he really hated it, call Hermione names. Hermione followed Harry's stare and saw him too. "Oh", was all she said.

Draco Malfoy's steely gaze landed on the pair of them, standing off to the side in a doorway. Harry wondered what it must look like to him. His eyes caught Harry's and he felt his breath catch in his throat. He expected a smirk at the very least and was more than a little disappointed when the tall Slytherin broke eye contact without any reaction, turned, and strode into the Great Hall.

He was suddenly aware of Hermione studying him. "What?" he asked.

His friend had a bemused expression on her face. "It's almost as if.."

"As if what?" Sometimes it took her so long to get to the point.

She cleared her throat. "Harry, I think we need more answers from him, but I also think you should be careful."

"Careful how?"

"Well," she pushed her hair behind an ear as she paused, "one minute he's kind and the next he's breaking your nose. He seems a tad unstable, Harry."

Harry winced. "It's not like that, Hermione. He just has a tendency to, you know, escalate things."

"I do know. But now you're making excuses for him."

Harry sighed. "I am not."

"And you don't even seem mad about what happened. You just seem.."

Harry had reached his limit. Sleeplessness and patience did not go well together. "Spit it out, Hermione. Are you going to tell me I'm walling off my feelings again? That I'm trying to find someone else to save so I don't have to focus on my own problems? Or maybe you want to bring up my abandonment issues?"

Hermione looked wounded and Harry felt immediate regret. He opened his mouth to apologize but Hermione cut him off.

"I only meant that it seems like your judgement may be a bit clouded. Like it was with Cho. Or with me, last year? I just don't want to see you get hurt anymore. You're always getting hurt and there's not much I can do about it."

She reached out a hand to touch his cheek. Harry turned away. He knew he shouldn't be mad at Hermione, she was just trying to help. He was the one being the ass, throwing all the things she had said to him last year back in her face. Besides, it wasn't like that.. was it? The connection to Malfoy couldn't be romantic. Was that what Hermione was implying? The guy was a total prat. Solidly on the side of evil, to boot. Though he was a bit good-looking if Harry was honest with himself. His stomach flopped the other way as if to say maybe it could be. Maybe. He thought the feeling he had gotten when he saw Malfoy was a little like seeing a crush from a distance. He groaned inwardly. He absolutely did not have a crush on Malfoy.

"Thank you, Hermione. You do help", he said softly.

She touched his arm. "I know you're trying your best, Harry. I know all of this isn't and never was fair to you. If I can come up with anything new, I'll tell you right away. We better catch up with Ron before he gets the wrong idea." She gave him a weak smile and started walking towards breakfast.

Suddenly she turned, "Oh, have you seen Dumbledore yet?"

Harry shook his head.

"Aren't you coming to breakfast?"

He shook his head again and walked away.

Harry thought skipping Potions would be his best bet. He wouldn't have to deal with Snape and some dumb assignment. He wouldn't have to deal with the stares and whispers of the other students. Most of all, he wouldn't have to deal with Draco Malfoy. As much as he wanted to be near him, he didn't think he could face him yet. Not after what had happened in the Owlery. Not after what Hermione had tried to infer.

Harry had never had much luck with girls, but he had always told himself he just didn't put in the effort. There was always too much going on around him. The girls he did attract were of a different sort. He thought of Ginny, wild and carefree. He could admire that, aspire to be that, but he didn't love that. He needed someone more complimentary, maybe. He wasn't even sure what that meant right now.

His feet had taken him to the spot he sat a few days ago, when Malfoy had started that fight. He realized he still hadn't gotten his cloak back and laughed a little to himself. He found a tree to lean against and watched the Black Lake ripple slowly. He thought of the dream in which he was drowning. He remembered being ready to die right before he woke up. He hated thinking of it, but it was a most intrusive thought. Like a flobberworm, once it got in you, you couldn't get it out. Harry felt his eyes threaten to close. He knew he needed the sleep and he was tired. So tired of fighting.

His eyes closed.

He heard a crash, an explosion, just behind him. He scrambled to his feet, wand out and ready. The huge magnificent doors that marked the entrance to Hogwarts was simply gone, pieces of it strewn around like kindling. Some were actually on fire. He heard screams and shouts coming from inside. Without a second thought he ran inside, hesitating only for a moment while his vision adjusted to the darker interior.

He looked toward the Great Hall. It was quiet, the door pushed open just a little bit. He peeked around the corner and his breath caught in his throat. Bodies were everywhere, hundreds of students, eyes wide and dull. Harry heard another muffled shout and ran towards it. This time there was only one body and he knew it. "Ron!" Harry shouted, but he was too late again. Harry shook Ron's lifeless body as if he might just be sleeping and needed to be woken up. Harry blinked hot tears away and got to his feet as another scream rang out, this time above him.

He took the stairs three at a time. He knew that scream; Hermione. He saw a bright green flash of light under the doorway of a classroom. "No!" he growled as he barreled through the door. The room was empty except for a girl lying on the floor, in between some desks. Harry pulled Hermione's head into his lap, willing her to blink, to tell him off, to be angry with him, anything. She didn't. She didn't do anything. He heard footsteps in the hallway. He placed Hermione gently on the floor and angrily wiped the tears from his eyes.

Out in the hallway he saw a tall robed figure, a bald head. He didn't need the man to turn around to know who it was. How he got there didn't matter. He had killed everyone he knew and loved in a matter of minutes. And he seemed to be prowling for more.

Harry walked on silent feet, following the Dark Lord. He could stop him. There wouldn't even have to be fight. It was the only way to end this. Harry took careful aim with his wand, right in the center of Voldemort's back.

He thought of his parents, his friends, all the people that this man had hurt and killed. All The destruction he had wrecked upon others, but most of all, upon him, Harry Potter, the Boy Who Lived.

"Avada Kedavra!" he shouted with all his might. Tears stung his eyes, his whole body was shaking. The green light left his wand, hitting the man in the back. He let out a groan and crumpled.

Harry was breathing hard, not knowing if he would ever be able to stop. He took unsteady steps toward the lifeless form. He had to be sure. With shaking hands he turned the body over. He gasped and fell backwards. It wasn't Voldemort. It was a tall boy with blonde hair and pointed handsome features. Harry stared into his lifeless grey eyes, stormy no more and would never be again.

"No, no," Harry mumbled. He had been so sure it was Voldemort. How could he have been so wrong? He felt something rip from him, a physical chasm of blinding pain in his chest.

He woke suddenly, his hands on his chest as if he would find an actual wound there. There was nothing, no pain, not even his nearly perpetual headache. He even felt a bit more normal. He thought it must've been the short nap that refreshed him, no matter how awful his dreams were, until he saw Draco Malfoy not 10 feet away. The tall Slytherin was at the edge of the lake. Harry took a couple deep breaths and repeated to himself that it was just a dream, trying not to think about how often he had to do this lately.

Harry watched him for a moment, certain that Draco knew he was there. He cringed to think that Malfoy had seen him sleeping. He hoped he hadn't said anything in his sleep.

"You going to come talk to me, or not, Potter?" Malfoy's drawling voice carried up the short hill to where Harry sat even though it wasn't particularly loud.

Harry sat up straighter, unnerved even though he had assumed Malfoy knew he was there. He got up and walked slowly down the hill, still a little dazed from his dream and feeling disconnected from reality. Talking with Malfoy won't really help that, he thought.

Malfoy was skipping stones across the lake when Harry stopped beside him, careful not to get too close. He made the flat rock skip 8 or 10 times before it sunk beneath the dark surface.

"You're quite good", Harry said, surprising himself as much as Malfoy.

Malfoy turned to him and wiggled the fingers of his right hand. "Magic."

Harry smiled in spite of himself. Malfoy took a rock from his pocket and handed it to Harry. He made a face that said 'really?' Malfoy raised his eyebrows and nodded towards the water. 'Yes, really.' He took the rock from Malfoy, careful not to touch his hand as he did so. Harry whipped his arm in a curve, letting the rock go. It skipped, 2, 3, 4 times and sunk. Malfoy smirked.

"I didn't use magic", Harry said in his defense.

"You wouldn't."

Malfoy skipped another and Harry counted to 13. It was still going when Malfoy said, "You weren't in Potions."

Harry pushed his glasses up onto his nose. "No, I wasn't." Sensing that Malfoy wanted something more he continued, "Why? Did you miss me?"

Draco smiled at him. A genuine one. "Yes."

Harry stared, his mouth might have even been open. He wanted to walk along the bottom of the lake until the water covered his head. He could just stay there. Draco skipped another rock. "You are my partner after all, I had to do all the work by myself."

Harry felt like a deflated balloon for the second time that day. He tried to promise himself it would be the last. He tried even harder to believe it.

"Plus," Malfoy was brushing his hands off on his trousers with a sigh, "my head hurt the entire time."

"And now?" Harry couldn't help himself from asking.

"Now is much better." Malfoy's voice had gotten low.

Harry shifted on his feet, looking anywhere but Draco's face. "Why do you think that is?" A weak attempt to change the subject. He could feel the other boy's stare, boring into him. Malfoy wasn't answering. Harry slowly turned, his green eyes meeting grey ones. Not the cold steely eyes, but the warm stormy ones. Harry felt a flutter in his chest and tried to suppress it.

"I'm still thinking about it." Draco said quietly. Harry got the feeling he was talking about more than just Harry's question. Malfoy took a step closer. Harry stood, rooted to the spot. He could feel the warmth radiating from his body. Just as when Harry had touched him the night before, in the Owlery. He thought it strange, he had always thought of Malfoy as cold, a literal embodiment of the temperature. That he would be warm and practically kind flipped his image of Malfoy on its head. This new Malfoy was different. He made him feel differently than anyone ever had. Then he remembered the dream he had and shuddered, looking away. Maybe the two images couldn't be reconciled so easily.

"Do you dream of me?" Draco's voice was low again, his drawl closer now. Harry felt shivers down his spine. It was as if Malfoy was reading his thoughts. Could he do that? Harry pushed it away, coincidence made much more sense. But the magical connection that Hermione was talking about, leading him to Malfoy again and again. There were just too many missing pieces. Harry looked into Draco's face and saw his silver eyes narrowed intently, searching. But also a small smile played on his lips, as if he already knew the answer.

"Yes", Harry admitted softly. Malfoy's small smile turned into a knowing smirk. Harry frowned. "Do you? About me?"

"What do I do, in your dreams?"

Harry thought of Malfoy killing all of his friends. He shook his head, as if that could make the images disappear.

"You can't do that." He said instead.

Malfoy gave him an innocent look. "Do what?"

"Head off my question with another."

Draco shrugged. "It's been working pretty well for me so far."

Harry fumed silently. Malfoy was doing it again. He couldn't let him get away with it. "Answer the question, Malfoy."

Malfoy's eyes narrowed, now shining steel rising to the challenge.

"Or what, Potter?"

"Or we'll probably never figure this out. Don't you want it to end?"

Malfoy stared at him, his face giving nothing away. Harry bolstered himself for the eventual attack.

"End?" he whispered. Malfoy took another step closer. The warm feeling doubled inside Harry's chest, he almost felt..happy. When was the last time he had felt happy? It was hard to be afraid as the taller boy leaned in close to Harry's ear. Harry could smell the sweet scent of Draco's hair, mixed with something a bit spicy.

"When you call my name in your sleep, Harry," his voice dropped an octave on Harry's name, making him shiver, "I'd say it's only just beginning."

Harry's face burned with a different sort of heat. So he had talked in his sleep. And Draco was there to hear it. Harry forced himself to take a step backwards. Being this close to him was intoxicating, he couldn't think straight. Draco was smirking; of course he was. Harry fought to gain control of himself, the situation, and the conversation.

He cleared his throat. He could outsmart Draco Malfoy. He'd done it plenty of times before. "You not wanting to answer the question tells me everything."

"Oh yeah? Everything?"

"Enough."

Malfoy made a face. "It's not that simple."

"It is. You just tell me. Tell me one thing you dream about because I'll bet," Harry took a step closer and watched Malfoy's eyes widen. "I'll bet it's not that different from mine." Before it was a conscious thought, Harry reached for Draco's hand, a whisper of a touch, exhilaration filling his chest. Malfoy's skin felt cold despite the warmth enveloping them both. Harry inhaled sharply in surprise as the cool pale fingers wrapped around his own. Draco looked into his eyes and Harry saw the ghost again. The person who didn't have any answers, was haunted by his worst demons, too proud to ask for help. Harry knew the feeling all too well. He gave Draco's hand a small squeeze. The cool hand left his very suddenly. Harry sighed. If he looked close enough, he thought he could see Draco rebuilding the wall behind his eyes. When he spoke, his voice was raw and tight. "In my dreams, you're dying."

Malfoy put his hands in his pockets, as if to ward off any other intimacies Harry might have had in mind. He turned away from Harry and started walking up the sloping lawn.

"Draco, wait!" Harry thought he turned out of sheer surprise. Harry briefly wondered if that was the first time he had used Malfoy's first name. He started walking away again. Harry ran after him.

"I told you not to touch me."

"I just-"

"Stop following me, Potter."

"Draco, if you just-"

"Last warning." Draco raised his hand, pointing a finger at Harry's chest.

Harry scoffed and closed the gap between them. He barely heard Malfoy's whispered stupefy charm before he hit the ground. It was a half-hearted spell; Harry was mostly conscious, albeit a bit sleepy, only he couldn't move his body.

"I always save you." Draco said, maybe a little sadly. "I don't know why."

From his vantage on the grass, Harry watched until the Slytherin was inside the castle. He waited for the spell to wear off. It was all he could do. That, and silently curse Draco Malfoy for ever existing.

Chapter Text

Draco had tried very hard to keep it together. By the time he reached his private room he was breathing hard and hot angry tears threatened to leave his eyes. This wasn't the way it was supposed to go. Not over Harry Potter.

He let his guard down, that was all. It wouldn't happen again. But that feeling, that warm sensation.. He had no doubt that Potter had felt it too. He was as easy to read as ancient runes. Draco had seen the genuine concern in his face and, once he was done mooning over it, it made him feel ill. He wanted desperately to blame whatever magical connection it was, tying their dreams together, tying them together, but it was harder to convince himself than he liked. The dull thud behind his eyes grew to sharp pangs. He moaned and shut his eyes, pressing his cold fingers over his eyelids.

He thought of what his father would say, if he could see him now. It wouldn't be good, whatever it was. He felt weak. He felt like a coward; running from Harry Potter's stupid outpouring of emotion. He should have turned it against the Gryffindor, hurt him until he crumbled. He should have made sure it was over, removed the temptation for good. Something stirred in his chest and he knew deep within himself he never could. Just as he couldn't let Harry die in his dreams, he couldn't do that sort of irreparable damage. But he knew he should.

He slumped over to the sofa and sat down heavily. Homework was calling his attention. As was a recent letter from his mother. Deciding to ignore them both, his gaze landed on a long box sitting atop the mantelpiece. His wand. He hadn't opened it since he arrived at Hogwarts. Draco wasn't sure he could ever open it again. Instead he had opted for practicing his seemingly innate wandless magic abilities. He could do simple spells and charms by pointing a finger. Other more complicated spells and hexes he could do with his whole hand.

Ever since he was a child he could do magic without a wand. Of course, his father had thought it reprehensible, that even powerful wizards needed a wand to make themselves the best they could possibly be. Draco found it easier to conduct the magical force through his body instead of a piece of wood inlaid with an item from a magical creature. It seemed silly to him. The only literature he had found in his father's study was a brief mention of other wizarding cultures who had no use for wands. It was, however, written in a derogatory way that suggested the inferiority of such a practice along with the inferiority of the culture and people as well. Albus Dumbledore was the only wizard he knew personally who could also channel magic without a wand. The Headmaster made it seem like no big deal. But then again, the Headmaster was usually quite jovial, almost childlike, about such things.

Draco sighed. He conjured up a frost spell in his hand and held it to his temple. It had little effect on the pain. He knew it wasn't a physical thing, not really, but distractions did help a little bit. Distractions. His thoughts turned back to Harry Potter. His messy dark hair. His too-green eyes in the late autumn sunshine. His touch, Potter's fingers on his. His hands were so warm, when Draco's were almost always cold.

The first sob that broke from his throat felt like a dam bursting. He let himself be washed away in the torrent that followed.

Draco woke up in bed. A bed that was not his bed. In a room that was not his room. It was furnished simply, but with good taste. The walls were painted a pale yellow, early morning sunlight filtered through hazy curtains. The bed felt comfortable, familiar even though He was sure he had never so much as seen this place before. He heard a sigh next to him and realized he was not alone. He froze. There came a muffled and sleepy, "Morning." followed by a warm hand curling around his abdomen. He recognized the voice. And the touch. He still lay frozen, his mind working double-time to catch up. "Draco? You okay?"

"Potter" he whispered.

A gentle laugh answered him. It sounded like bells ringing. "I haven't heard you call me that since our days at school. You know, the early ones."

This wasn't real. There was no future where this was remotely possible. He remembered something Snape had said, about the Dark Lord showing you what you fear, but also what you deeply desired. Draco couldn't tell which this was supposed to be.

Harry propped himself up on an elbow. He wasn't wearing his glasses and he had a handsome start to a beard, but it was definitely him. The covers fell back to reveal his bare chest, a smattering of chest hair, with plenty of scars. With his other hand he smoothed Draco's hair behind his ear. Draco's hair was longer, almost to his shoulders. Draco knew his eyes were wide and staring. He felt like he couldn't quite catch his breath, only getting shallow gasps. This was bad. He had revealed too much already and now this. He felt the pull Potter had on him, mentally, emotionally, and wanted nothing more than to wrap his arms around him and convince him to stay in bed. To just stay in this dream forever. He took a last, longing look at this older version of Harry Potter and forced all emotion from his mind. He cleared his thoughts, erasing everything. It was easy to do, if you had enough practice. Draco most certainly did.

Older Harry seemed to melt away and was replaced with Hermione Granger, in the same state of undress, propped on her elbow looking at him.

"What's wrong?" she said, her hand reaching out to touch his cheek. Sure, the mudblood girl was a bit cute and he admired her tenacity and cleverness, but it wasn't enough to fool anyone. Especially not the Dark Lord.

He cleared his mind again. Pansy Parkinson took Hermione's place in Draco's bed. Her long black hair spilled around her shoulders, making her skin look milky and pale even in the warm morning light. Her heavy lidded eyes looked like deep impenetrable pools. The look she gave him made his whole body stiffen.

"Draco." Voldemort was standing at the foot of the bed. Draco willed himself to show no fear but couldn't tell if he was succeeding or not. Pansy didn't seem to see him. Her hands were like butterflies, lightly landing on his chest, his stomach, his thighs.

"I can give you exactly what you want, Draco." The Dark Lord started to walk around the bedside. "A loving wife, a family, your own manor." The pale man spread his arms wide and the simple cozy room was replaced with the posh high-class of the master bedroom in Malfoy Manor. Draco smiled in spite of himself. "Your family," Voldemort hissed, "will be well taken care of." He pointed to the bedside table. Draco looked. There were moving photographs of his parents, very old and very happy, posing with little children. A boy that look a lot like him and a smaller girl who looked like Pansy. Draco felt his heart ache in his chest. He felt doubt creeping in around his thoughts like a dark cloud. He was suddenly unsure. This future, this one felt more real than anything else. This one, he knew, was possible, if not completely probable. The odds were in his favor. He had every advantage here. He could probably be happy here. For the rest of his life.

"I can make you more powerful than your father ever was," the Dark Lord continued. "Just give yourself to me. Give me Harry Potter."

The mention of his name snapped Draco out of it. He was almost sorry to leave the fantasy of his plausible and safe-bet future. He was suddenly falling through the floor of Malfoy Manor. He landed hard on his shoulder on cold damp flagstones. The dungeons.

He sat up, trying to rub the pain from his shoulder, when he heard a small voice. He followed the familiar red carpet to the antechamber, where the cells were kept. He realized it wasn't a small voice at all, but one wore down to the point of exhaustion. It was hoarse and shallow and he couldn't make out what it was saying, only that it was coming from one of the cells. He moved closer, his bare feet making no noise. He peered into the darkness as the whispering grew closer.

"Lumos" He muttered, holding up his hand. The light fell on a man, huddled in the corner, clothed in long hair and rags. His glasses cracked and caked with grime. Despite his appearance, Draco recognized him. He gasped and fell backwards, the light going out. Harry Potter came slowly to the bars of his prison cell, reaching for Draco.

"You," the prisoner whisper-yelled in his gone voice, "you could have saved me, again. You can still. Draco."

Draco opened his eyes. He stumbled to his desk, whipping out a piece of parchment and hurriedly inking a quill. He wrote a note in his neat looping script, rolled it up, and went to find Harry's owl.

Harry was sitting with Ron and Hermione at dinner. His friends had convinced him that being around people and food would be good for him. Restorative, even. It had proven the opposite. His head was killing him. The raucous end of the day chatter was positively painful. Hermione was berating him for skipping classes again, sure he was going to get himself expelled. Harry was never one for entitlement, but sincerely wondered if he even could get expelled. Dumbledore never followed the rules as far as Harry Potter was concerned, why would he start now? Harry glanced up at the teacher's table. The Headmaster hadn't been there for weeks. Harry noticed, however, that Snape was there, near the end of the table, and he was glowering at him.

"Probably mad you missed Potions again, mate" Ron said through a mouthful.

Harry pushed some potatoes around on his plate. Ron swallowed loudly and lowered his voice. "This isn't about.. Hermione, is it?"

"What?" Harry asked, alarmed.

"You two," he gestured with his fork at Hermione across the table. She was engaged in conversation with Dean Thomas and didn't seem to notice. "You aren't, you know, are you Harry? Not anymore, right, mate?"

Harry stared blankly at his friend.

"The other day in the hall. What was it?" Ron's voice was suddenly unnecessarily loud.

"Oh. That." Harry smiled at his friend, lowering his head and his voice conspiratorially. Ron followed suit, his face ashy and pale. "We were just talking."

Ron banged his fork handle on the table. "Answer the question, Harry!"

Harry was suddenly reminded of his interactions with Malfoy. Was he sounding like the snide Slytherin just now? Was Malfoy rubbing off on him?

"Ronald." Hermione had finally noticed. Her voice sounding as though she were admonishing a child.

"What." he said, not completely insolently.

"I already told you, it's not like that. Why don't you believe me?"

Ron stood up. "It's not like you two were very forthright about it last year, right?"

Dean was nodding his head. Harry kicked him under the table. "Hey," he complained. "Seamus, Harry kicked me!"

Seamus Finnegan suddenly joined the fray. "You did lie about it, Harry." He pointed a finger at him, adding, "and don't kick my boyfriend."

Harry raised his hands in a sort-of apology-but-not-really. He turned back to Ron. "Ron, I promise you, it isn't like that. I needed help."

"I'm sure you did, mate. I'm sure you did." Ron stomped off in a huff. To Harry's surprise, Hermione let him go. She didn't even look concerned. She almost always ran after Ron, trying her best to smooth things out right away. Instead, she sipped her tea and turned her back to Dean and Seamus.

"Are you not worried, 'Mione?" Harry asked her quietly. "Did you tell him about me?"

"Harry," she started, "you didn't tell me not to tell, but it is rather personal, don't you think? What you're going through? Plus, you know how he feels about Malfoy. I just don't think Ron will be much help this time around."

Harry felt a surge of gratitude for his friend. Hermione must have seen it in his face because she simply nodded with a small smile on her face.

A flurry of owls coming in the windows of the Great Hall halted any further conversation there might have been. Harry hadn't received any letters this year. The only people who wrote to him were here at Hogwarts and he saw them every day. The only other person he might have waited for mail from was gone. He looked down at his plate and started to mash his potatoes with his fork.

"Harry!"

He looked up. Hedwig had landed on the table and was desperately trying to get his attention. She seemed excited to finally have some work to do.

"Easy there, girl." He unwrapped the small scroll attached to her leg. She nipped his hair as she waited.

He unrolled the scroll and promptly dropped it in his now mashed potatoes. Hermione snatched it up. "May I?" She didn't exactly wait for an answer before unrolling it. She pursed her lips.

Harry took it back again, reading it over to make sure his tired eyes weren't seeing things.

"Meet me tonight."

-D.M.

Harry stared at the looping script, wondering how on earth Malfoy could write so neatly, so elegantly when Harry's always looked like chicken scratch. He looked up to find Hermione and Hedwig both staring at him, waiting for his response.

"Well?"

"Well what, Hermione?"

"Last time you talked, you said you were getting along until he cursed you and left you."

Harry felt his cheeks flush. He hadn't told his friend everything that had happened. It was getting to be too much to explain, even to Hermione.

"His track record is becoming very poor" Hermione continued.

"Yeah", Harry said, noncommittally. He knew he had pushed too hard, too soon. He felt like all of the answers were so close, if only..

"Why would he try to arrange a meeting all of a sudden?"

"I have no idea." He found he didn't want to think too hard about it. He had been a bit proud of himself; all during dinner he had wanted to look over to the Slytherin table, but resisted. He looked now, feeling foolish. Of course he wouldn't be there if he was sending notes.

"He's not there" Hermione said.

He gave her a wondering look. She just shrugged. Hedwig flapped her wings impatiently.

"He wants a response?" Harry asked his owl. To his surprise, she actually bobbed up and down. He reminded himself to spend more time with her. Malfoy might be spending too much.

Harry turned the small piece of parchment over and took a quill out of his bag. He scribbled a 'where' and 'when'. He looked again from Draco's neat hand to his messy one and cringed. He tied it back onto Hedwig's leg and she took off without a goodbye nip. He felt his stomach clench with a sudden anxiety. A planned, purposeful meeting was entirely different from a chance encounter.

"What'd you say?" Hermione asked.

Harry gave her a look that said it was probably not her business.

"Harry, I don't want to sound-"

"Too late."

She gave him a withering look. "If he hurts you-"

"'Mione, you're the one that's been convincing me this is the way to do this, to talk to him. Now it seems like he actually wants to and you don't want me to. Which is it?"

"I don't know." She sighed, looking defeated. "Oh!" She said suddenly, raising a finger in the air. "I could go with you!"

Harry squirmed in his seat. He loved his friend dearly, maybe a little more than was appropriate but he couldn't see Hermione actually helping.

"I know," she said in a normal tone, "I probably wouldn't actually help. Malfoy would start calling me names. Then I'd have to break his nose. Again."

They both laughed, remembering their third year at Hogwarts.

"He's different, Hermione." Harry voice was sober. "I can't explain it, but he is."

Hermione regarded him over her cup of tea. "I believe you, Harry."

He sensed a 'but' was coming.

"But he's extremely intelligent. Have you considered that all of this could be a well-laid trap? For you?"

Harry had. Briefly. He didn't want to. Luckily, at that moment Hedwig returned, a white savior against the darkening enchanted ceiling. He unrolled the second parchment. Hermione leaned over the table, craning her neck to see it too.

It was blank.

Chapter Text

"He's messing with me." Harry said dejectedly.

"You don't know that, Harry," Hermione said unconvincingly.

They were in the Gryffindor common room, Hermione diligently studying, Harry lounging in his favorite chair. He held a hand to his temple, feeling like if he let go, his addled brains would fall right out of his head. Harry was not looking forward to a failed attempt at homework, facing Ron, or another sleepless night. So far Ron had been avoiding them. Small miracles.

"Maybe you'll just run into each other, you know, like you have been," Hermione said without looking up from her book.

"Huh?"

"You and Malfoy."

"Oh, right." Harry nodded, not entirely believing it would happen. He felt his eyes get heavy. He stared at the fire. The warm red and orange flames steadily flickered. It was almost hypnotic.

Harry found himself standing in a massive entryway. A huge staircase wound it's way up to the second floor. A huge crystal chandelier rose high above his head. Everything was a rich white marble except for the deep red carpet under his feet.

The huge double doors behind him burst open and in came a laughing child. Harry stared with wonder at his gleeful silver eyes, his slicked back hair so blonde it was almost white. The child paid Harry no mind as he ran through the entryway and up the stairs.

Someone else burst through the door, panting. It was a maid or servant of some sort, her hair a disheveled mess, her uniform likewise.

"Master Draco!" She yelled. "Oh please, Master Draco come here!"

She looked to be on the verge of tears.

"He went that way," Harry pointed, trying to be helpful. It seemed she could not hear Harry nor see him. So it was one of those kinds of dreams. Harry started walking up the marble staircase, marveling at the intricacies carved into the banister. It started out as vines with leaves, transforming into flowers, plants, trees.

He blinked and he was in the gardens, looking up at the backside of the manor. Harry stood under a trellis with hundreds of vines with curling yellow flowers. As he walked they reached for him. Harry walked a little faster. He came around a very large purple bush and found an older Malfoy this time, but younger than he was now. Harry guessed he'd be in third or fourth year. Knowing he couldn't be seen or heard Harry walked closer to see what Malfoy was doing. He was reading a newspaper, the Daily Prophet. To Harry's surprise, he himself was on the cover. Younger Malfoy was staring at a photo of Harry. It was taken right before the third task of the TriWizard Tournament. He was looking scared, maybe a little shell shocked next to a surprised Hermione. The photographers flash went off and the Harry and Hermione in the photo relaxed. He looked at Draco, his face unreadable, but intently studying the photo. Was it a longing look?

Harry blinked and he was in a darkened master bedroom. Everything looked very expensive to Harry, and hardly used. He realized with a start that there was a man in the room with him, standing before a full length mirror. Lucius Malfoy, Harry thought. He stepped closer, watching Lucius finish tying his tie. Harry walked forward and gasped. It wasn't Lucius, it was Draco. He was older, his blonde hair down to his shoulders, looking so much like his father it was almost scary. The Draco in the mirror sighed and moved to the window. His long pale fingers moved the heavy curtain aside only slightly, as if he were afraid of being seen. Harry stepped closer and looked with him. Outside in the gardens, where Harry was just a second ago, was a large party of people. Upon closer inspected, Harry surmised that it was a wedding party. A young woman with pale skin and black hair done in an elaborate up do, wearing a white dress was standing under the trellis of yellow flowers. They seemed to be straining to get away from her, whoever she was. He saw Dracos parents in the crowd but couldn't place anyone else.

He turned to look back at Draco, now realizing he was dressed for a wedding indeed. His own. He looked incredibly sad, lonely, trapped. Harry wanted to reach out and touch him, to comfort him.

"Draco," he said softly.

Draco turned toward the sound of his voice.

Harry recoiled in shock. How did he hear me? Draco wiped his eyes hurriedly and looked around. "Potter?" he whispered.

Harry was falling. He cried out as he hit a hard stone floor. He tried to sit up and found it extremely difficult. Everything hurt, his whole body was stiff. He grunted with effort just getting into a sitting position. He looked around and found it too dark to see. Everything was a dark blur. He reached up to take his glasses off and was horrified to see old tattered sleeves. The skin on his hands looked old and papery. He inspected the rest of his body. His clothes looked a hundred years old, falling apart. His feet were filthy, toenails long and curved. He shuddered, his mind racing. That's when he noticed the bars in front of him, locking him in. Behind him, the coat of arms of the House of Malfoy was emblazoned on the wall. Harry screamed.

Hermione was jerking him awake. "Harry! Stop! Wake up!" Her hand wheeled back and Harry realized she meant to slap him.

"I'm awake!" he yelled.

She visibly relaxed, placing her hand over her heart. "Harry, that was terrifying. You probably woke up the whole house. Are you okay?"

Harry pushed his glasses up onto his nose. He still felt like he couldn't catch his breath. "Was I.."

"You were screaming, Harry. I think it's time you get some help."

Harry s head was throbbing. His stomach turned, threatening to empty its pitiful contents on the common room floor. He suddenly remembered about his meeting. "What time is it?" he asked through gritted teeth.

"It's late. Everyone is in bed, I was just trying to get ahead and I lost track." She looked apologetic but Harry wasn't sure it wasn't entirely not on purpose.

His look must've said as much because she said, "You were actually getting some rest; I didn't want to wake you."

"I have to go." He stood and nearly doubled over from the pain.

Hermione rushed over and put an arm around him. "He must be far, Harry."

Under any other circumstances this would have been more than agreeable but Harry felt annoyed. He had somewhere to be. "What do you mean?"

"Whatever it is, it's proximity based." She said it as if it were the simplest thing in the world. "You feel better the closer you are to him. The farther apart you are, the more the pain affects you."

"And you were going to tell me this when?"

"Sorry, Harry. I thought it was a bit obvious."

"How do I find him?"

Hermione looked clueless for once. "Do what you did the last few times?"

"So, wander around and think about Malfoy?" he said sarcastically.

Hermione nodded with a helpless look on her face.

Harry wandered the castle, careful to avoid the crabby caretaker and his creepy cat. He had to guess which hallways and staircases would lead him to Draco, using his head as a painful dowsing rod. Eventually he found his way to the entrance hall. He figured the Slytherin dungeons were the next logical step, but his headache told him otherwise.

Relief led him to a nondescript door. He opened it and found a set of stairs. He descended, his headache slowly receding. He knew where this staircase went. Or at least, one place this staircase went. But why would Malfoy be waiting for him in the kitchens? Who said Malfoy was waiting for him at all. For all he knew, he could be very, very late.

He found the picture of the pear and tickled it, feeling better with every step he took. He felt a now familiar lump in his throat, whenever Malfoy was involved. He didn't know how he felt about it. Harry was elated, yet unsure. It would be much easier to enjoy if he knew without a doubt that Malfoy felt the same. As weird as that was. Sure, there were clues here and there, but could he possibly feel the way Harry was feeling? They'd been at odds for so long. For all intents and purposes, they still were. Sometimes Harry had trouble remembering that. His dream had brought it to the forefront, though. Why Malfoy?

The pear giggled and turned into a large green door handle. He had a distinct feeling he was in over his head, but then again, he felt that way most of the time. Harry took a deep breath and opened it.

The kitchens were a spectacular sight and were no less spectacular now that they were dark, the only light coming from the large fireplace on the far wall. House elves, it seemed, did sleep sometimes. There was a lone figure sitting at one of the long tables. Harry thought it funny how he could tell just who it was, not by the appearance, not by the absence of pain in his head, but by the figure's posture. His heart leaped into his throat.

Movement caught his eye, in the far corner. A small figure dashed toward Harry and wrapped him in a strong embrace before he could even think about reaching for his wand.

"Harry Potter, Sir!"

"Dobby?" Harry looked down in disbelief. He thought the freed elf had moved on long ago.

"Yes, Sir! It is Dobby, sir! Sir Malfoy said you would be coming but the hour is so late Sir."

"Ah yes, sorry about that, Dobby. How are you?"

"Dobby is just fine, Harry Potter, sir. Just fine indeed. Dobby is so happy sirs Harry Potter and Malfoy are together, sir."

"What do you mean?"

Dobby didn't answer. He took Harry's hand and led him over to where Draco sat. He pulled out the stool next to Malfoy and patted it, smiling even more broadly when Harry sat. Harry couldn't help but smile back. Malfoy didn't look up from the drink in front of him, but Harry knew his pain had vanished too.

Dobby hurried away and back again with a platter of cheese, crackers, and tiny sausages. Another appeared with fruit. Finally, Dobby set a giant frothy mug of butterbeer in front of Harry.

"Oh, um, thank you Dobby."

Donny looked reproachful. "Is there another drink Harry Potter would like, Sir? Sir Malfoy thought-"

The house elf was silenced with a wave of Malfoy's hand.

"Its fine Dobby, really," Harry said. Knowing Dobby he continued, "It's perfect." He took a large swig and was pleasantly surprised to find that it was, in fact, perfect.

"Oh good," Dobby clasped his hands together, "Dobby has been waiting for this for five years now, sirs."

Harry choked on his beer. He felt Draco stiffen beside him. "What?"

Draco turned to look now, his face a drawn scowl. Harry knew nothing could stop Dobby once he got going. The house elf beamed. "Well, when Sir Malfoy sent me to warn you about the Chamber during Harry Potters second year of school, I-"

"Enough, Dobby. Please excuse us now." Malfoy's voice was cold and commanding.

Dobby bowed low, smiled at Harry one last time, and excused himself from the kitchens.

They were alone now.

Harry took another gulp of butterbeer to fortify himself. The sheer presence of Malfoy hadn't been quite so intimidating a few weeks ago. He let his eyes roam. Malfoy had dark circles under his eyes, but his was dressed in a dark fitted button down shirt, the sleeves rolled up as if he had a hard day at the office. Harry was still in his school uniform he had fallen asleep in.

"So," Harry started, "you were the one who sent Dobby to keep me from school second year?" To Harry's credit, he tried to keep the smile out of his voice.

Malfoy glanced at him and finished off his drink in one gulp. His eyes were cool, if a tad unfocused. "You're late, Potter." Malfoy reached for a bottle of something and refilled his glass.

"How many have you had?"

"Campbell's finest", Malfoy said with a dark smirk and took another sip.

Harry tried to keep Draco on the subject. "Did you really do that? I always wondered who it was."

"You know," Draco drawled, "You make my head feel better, my thoughts clearer. But you can be so annoying, Potter." He said it with a genuine smile, which only made it more confusing.

"It was you," Harry said, studying the semi-intoxicated boy next to him, "Why would you do that, Malfoy? You hate me."

Malfoy raised a slender finger in Harry's face. "I never hated you, Potter."

Harry reeled for a minute at this new information. "Then why-"

"I didn't bring you here to clear the air", Draco turned to face Harry in his seat, leaning his elbow on the table, his head on his fist.

Harry squirmed under the full force of Draco's gaze. He couldn't help but marvel at the other boy's handsome features. His eyes slid over Malfoy's jawline, his neck. He thought of the younger Malfoy gazing at the picture of him in the paper in the gardens in his dream. He drank more of his butterbeer, hoping it would calm him down. "Why did you bring me here?"

"To talk." He said it so nonchalantly, as if they were good friends who always met over drinks to just talk.

"About?"

"This", he said, his voice low and deep, almost a growl as he placed a hand on Harry's leg, just above his knee.

Harry actually yelped, a small sound of surprise. He felt the coldness of Draco's hand mixed with a warming sensation, traveling up his leg, through his core and into his chest. It was stronger this time. So much stronger. Draco was smirking at him. "Why does this happen, Potter?" his voice was barely above a whisper. "What does it mean?"

Harry was at a loss for words. Malfoy was leaning closer. Harry had faced a giant basilisk, dragons, and dark lords bent on his personal destruction, but this was completely different. His bravery faltered, he moved away. Malfoy's face was open and questioning. An expression he had never seen before on the pale Slytherin.

Harry reached across Draco, who raised his eyebrows, grabbed his whiskey and downed it in one gulp. He thought Draco might have looked impressed.

"I need to know, Malfoy." Harry said, "I need to know this isn't some sort of prank or, or.." He trailed off, unable to say the word trap. Or something worse.

Malfoy grimaced and poured himself another. "You feel it," he said it like an accusation, to his drink, "I'm not exactly asking you to trust me, Potter. There is more going on here. It seems we may need to work together." He said it slowly, his drawl exaggerated, as if these words were particularly difficult to get out of his mouth. They probably were.

Draco nodded at his empty butterbeer mug. "Need something stronger?" Before Harry could answer, Draco was conjuring up a glass like his own and filling it with Campbell's Finest. He pushed it towards Harry with a wink. Harry felt his cheeks flush. He hoped the other boy wouldn't notice in the dim firelight.

"Wandless magic," Harry muttered. "I thought that.. nearly impossible.. only.."

Malfoy shrugged.

He looked into his whiskey as if his cup held the answer. Harry remembered the dream he had of Malfoy torturing someone in the Manor dungeons. He had had a wand, then. Now that he thought about it, he hadn't seen Draco with his wand all semester.

"What happened to your wand, Malfoy?"

Malfoy didn't answer. Was Malfoy that great of a wizard? Harry felt he had a hard time judging magical ability. It had come so easily to him; he only knew what people said about him, what his teachers told him in terms of ability. He knew Dumbledore to be one of the greatest, Voldemort also, leaving squibs on the other end of the scale, of course. Harry previously assumed that he was magically stronger than Malfoy, but he had no idea, really, where either of them landed on that scale.

Draco looked at Harry with that penetrating gaze. "You look good, Potter. Better, I mean." The compliment threw Harry for a loop. He had never known the Slytherin to be so forthright about anything, especially not about him. He swirled his drink. "You get some sleep?"

Harry sipped his whiskey this time. "I did, actually. That's why I was," he made quotation marks in the air with both hands, "late."

Malfoy laughed such a genuine laugh it made Harry's chest ache.

"What did you dream about?" Malfoys voice was quiet, the sudden mirth gone as quickly as it came.

Harry sipped his drink, staring straight ahead. "You."

"What about me?" Malfoys voice was low again, sending shivers down Harry's spine.

"I'll make you a deal," the whiskey bolstering Harry's courage, "I'll tell you if you tell me your last one as well."

Draco raised his eyebrows. Harry wondered if the proud pureblood had ever made a concession in his life.

"Very well."

"No lying." Harry placed his hand on Draco's shoulder for emphasis. He was also feeling the liquor. He closed his eyes as the now familiar sensation buzzed through him. He opened his eyes to find Malfoy watching him.

"No lying, Potter", Draco agreed with a smile.

Harry related his most recent dream in a quick summary sort of way, feeling like he should leave out the part where he saw Malfoy crying on his wedding day. "Then I was older, in a cell, in the dungeons. Like I'd been there for years." Harry finished weakly. He hadn't wanted to mention that part either, but it was already out of his mouth.

Draco looked positively stricken.

"I- I'm sorry." Harry said. "I didn't mean to-"

Malfoy cut him off with a wave. He seemed to gather himself but Harry could tell he was having difficulty.

"You can't control it." He finally said. "Mine was similar, except.."

Harry watched Draco try to find the words. He had a feeling that something wasn't quite right. Like Malfoy was holding back, just as he had done. He suddenly felt guilty. Maybe if he had been completely honest the other boy would have been too. Malfoy tossed back his drink and continued with a sigh. "No lying", he muttered. "The same as yours, Potter. My past, my present, my future. I saw all possible futures." He looked into Harry's eyes. "I saw my future with you. We were together. Older. In bed.

Harry could only gape at him.

Draco gave him a sad smile and continued, "Then the Dark Lord was there so I had to change it. Hermione." Harry started at the mention of her name. "Then Pansy. We were married, two kids. My parents were so happy." His smile had changed and was now rueful. "Then you, in the dungeons. As if you'd been there for years." Malfoy using his words chilled him to the bone.

"You didn't tell me-"

"What?" Draco's eyes were heavy-lidded with drink. It was undeniably sexy. "That I actually liked you, Potter? Would it have made any difference?"

"No, that Vol- wait, what?" Harry's head started to spin. Did he hear that right? Was Draco just drunk? How drunk was he himself? What in the bloody hell was going on?

"Draco, I'm not-"

But Draco was close to him again, and all further implications were wiped from his inebriated mind. Long, cool slender fingers were gentle on his chin, Draco's thumb brushing his lower lip. Harry knew he couldn't fall for it so easily. However much he wanted to, he had a nagging feeling in the back of his mind, feeling like a lamb being led to the slaughter. Draco must have sensed it because he let go. "You don't feel that part," Malfoy said quietly, the rueful smile back on his face.

"It's not that, it's just..all the things you've done before, to me, to my friends..I can't pretend it didn't happen." Harry looked down, unable to meet the other boy's face.

Malfoy waved his hand as if there were a fly he was shooing away. "That was someone else, Harry." His drawl had become only slightly slurred. His long arm reached for the whiskey bottle, but Harry was faster. He took it away. Malfoy gave him a venomous look, but didn't argue. "That was a boy desperately seeking the approval of his father. That was a boy who was very angry with you for a long time."

"Because of the train?"

"Because of the train."

"You knew who I was before I did. It wasn't fair."

"Nothing is fair, Potter."

"And you're not now?"

"Not what."

"Angry with me."

Draco laughed.

"I thought we were talking about how you could never forgive me, Harry." Draco stared into his empty glass.

"That's not what I said."

"Then what is it?"

Harry wasn't sure what he was trying to say. "I don't know", he ended up saying. The two were now sitting knee to knee; the constant warm buzzing feeling had become background noise to Harry. He felt good. Malfoy leaned forward again, this time trying to reach the whiskey bottle again.

Harry grabbed his hand. "You've had enough, I think."

Malfoy smirked. Harry looked to Malfoys other hand. He had somehow gotten Harry s glass which was almost full. Harry had to laugh.

"How did you-?"

"I made the team on merit, Potter. I know you've always thought otherwise."

"Quidditch?!" Harry asked incredulously. "You want to talk about Quidditch, now?"

Malfoy shrugged and downed Harry's drink. Harry took the glass back and refilled it for himself.

"I knew it was merit." Harry said softly, "I didn't at first, but then I watched you play against the other houses. Besides, you were the only one on the field who ever presented me with a challenge." He sipped the whiskey, feeling a different kind of burn in his chest. "I don't know if you know this, but I was pretty good at it."

"I know, Potter," Draco said, his voice low and predatory, "I bet there's all sorts of things you're good at."

Draco reached for Harry again, his fingertips lightly brushing his cheek, trailing down to stroke his jawline. The touch sent a shockwave through him. They were both leaning in, closing the distance.

"You told me not to touch you," Harry breathed.

Draco smirked. He could feel that smirk was working its way into his heart. "Since when do you listen to anything I say, Harry?"

Harry grinned and gingerly reached forward, finding his hand in Draco's soft hair at the nape of his neck. He could smell the whisky on Draco's breath along with the same spiced smell from the last time he was this close to him. It was heady and Harry fought to keep his wits about him. Malfoy's fingers were at his lips again, his silver eyes stormy. Harry smiled, removing Draco's hand and pulling him closer. They both seemed to hesitate; Harry knowing in the back of his mind that there was no going back after this. It was Draco who closed the gap first, the barest touch of his lips on Harry's and then gone again. A test. Harry inhaled sharply. The touch of his lips felt electric, leaving him feeling happy and a little dizzy. Harry had to have more. He pressed his lips against Draco's again, firmer this time, not just wanting it but needing it.

They both pulled away, breathless.

Draco's eyes were still closed. "Come with me," he whispered.

"Where?"

"To my room."

"The dormitories?"

"No, my room." Draco stood up, weaving on his feet.

"Draco?"

"Potter." Draco Malfoy crumpled into a heap on the kitchen floor. "Don't leave me."

Chapter Text

"Draco?" Harry was on the floor next to Draco's limp form, shaking him gently.

The Hogwarts kitchens started to spin. Harry groaned and held his head. He guessed Draco Malfoy wasn't the only one who had had too much to drink.

He wanted to get Malfoy to his room but he had no idea what he was talking about. And looking at Draco, he wouldn't be any help any time soon. He tried to come up with alternatives. He could take him to the Gryffindor dormitories, but waking up with a Slytherin in your bed was not a common occurrence. There would be talk. He could take him to the hospital wing, but he suspected there would be hell to pay for getting drunk in the kitchens in the early hours of the morning. Plus, Malfoy had asked him not to leave. Was that the drink talking? Or did he really need Harry around? Maybe the dreams were worse than Draco made them seem. Harry knew the last one that he had described to Malfoy had been somewhat tame compared with some of the others. Maybe the warmth they felt while they were awake would somehow translate into their sleeping state. Maybe.

Harry decided to take Malfoy into the Slytherin dungeons and by that time, maybe he would be awake enough to direct Harry where to go. It was a long shot, but then again, Harry's whole life had been a long shot. Harry took out his wand. "Levicorpus" he said, and Draco's unconscious body rose into the air. Harry had a sick feeling in his stomach, like he was a puppet master over an unwilling victim. Or maybe it was all that whiskey.

Using his wand, he maneuvered Draco out of the kitchens, up the staircase, and out into the entrance hall. He turned the both of them down the stone steps leading to the dungeons.

Malfoy's head lolled sickeningly with each step. Harry tried his best to keep him steady, but it wasn't easy. It was hard enough to keep himself steady. Turning a corner, Harry felt his foot slip.

 

----

 

Draco hadn't meant to drink so much. He really hadn't. He knew he must have passed out, because there would be no way he fell asleep on his own. In front of Harry Potter, no less. Also, there was the fact that he was dreaming again. He was in a dark forest, the full moon peeking out in between the high branches. He knew it wasn't just any forest; the creeping feeling up his spine told him it was the Forbidden Forest.

His feet moved of his own accord, as if he had no control, taking him deeper into the woods. Leaves crunched and twigs snapped under his steps. The small sounds felt deafening and terrifying. Lately, his dreams were centered around Malfoy Manor. Dreaming of that place felt alright, it was his home, after all. But being in a place that truly terrified him was another thing altogether.

He tripped on a high root and went sprawling, scraping his chin and his palms on the forest floor. He groaned, rolling onto his back. He was suddenly on his feet and walking again, aware of some rustling noises just in front of him. He willed his feet to stop, but they wouldn't listen. He came upon a rocky ridge. He climbed to the top and found himself looking down into a small gully. There was a figure there, hooded and hunched over. The thing below it was white; it sparkled in the moonlight. Draco knew what it was. He had seen the same thing his first year at Hogwarts on detention with Harry. He wanted to do what he did then: run away, screaming. His feet, however, had other ideas.

He stepped closer to the figure, sliding down the steep bank into the gully. He could hear obscene sucking noises coming from the figure. His stomach lurched. The figure turned toward him, its face covered in shadow. He knew who it was without having to see. It rose, only slightly, so that Draco could see what it had been feasting on. Instead of a unicorn it was Harry's body, his torso ripped open, dark blood spilling between the roots and underbrush. It shone, beautiful and dark, in the moonlight. Harry's glasses were gone, Draco's incoherent thoughts coalescing into a single one: he had to find Harry's glasses. Then he heard the Dark Lord's hissing voice.

"This bothers you so, Draco. Why?"

Draco's feet had finally stopped. He had never been so grateful in his life. He set his face to stone and hoped his voice would follow suit.

"It doesn't. Just a bad memory."

"A bad memory?" The Dark Lord sounded offended. "Why, it is the first time we ever met, isn't it? Shouldn't that be a good memory?"

"I was eleven. I didn't know yet, my Lord."

"Ah, yes, to be young." The Dark Lord went back to slurping up the remains of Harry Potter.

Draco cleared his throat and tried to find some courage, deep inside of him, afraid he would still come up short. "I thought you wanted Potter alive, my Lord."

The slurping ceased. "You, boy, are not allowed to know my plans." Draco's heart froze in his chest. It was not the Dark Lord's voice, but another's.

The figure stood, slowly turning and lowering the hood. Lucius Malfoy's long blonde hair and pointed features emerged from the darkness. Draco took a step backwards, slipping on a rock and falling hard on his backside. "F-Father" he mumbled.

 

----

 

Harry was falling down the winding stone steps. He heard the clatter before he knew he had dropped his wand, and Draco fell with him. Harry wrapped his arms around the unconscious Slytherin, trying to protect his prone form from the worst of the bumps and falls. They both landed at the bottom of the staircase with a thump.

Harry groaned. The taller boy had landed on top of him. Malfoy sure didn't look as heavy as he felt. Through his drunken stupor, Harry realized the peculiar warming sensation was gone. He should've been feeling it times one hundred, Draco's entire body splayed out over his, their faces cheek to cheek. He only felt the comforting weight of a solid body on top of his.

He didn't hear the footsteps until they were right on top of him, near his head. He craned his neck and an upside down Professor Snape filled his field of vision. Even in the low light of the dungeons, Harry could tell how angry he was.

"What is the meaning of this, Mr. Potter?" Snape could give Draco a run for his money with the way he spit out Harry's name.

"Ah, um.. Well, you see.."

Snape muttered a spell and Draco was on his feet, a puppet once again. Harry got slowly to his feet, the hallway threatening to send him spinning, like he had just gotten off a merry-go-round that had been spinning entirely too fast for its own good. He held a hand to his stomach. He looked at Draco and noticed scrapes and bruises had appeared on his face and hands. He was sure he had protected him during the fall down the stairs.

"Explain. Now."

Harry was brought back to reality. Why did Snape have to ruin everything?

"Dr- Malfoy was unconscious. He asked me to bring him to his room, so I brought him down here. Sir."

Snape leaned forward, too close to Harry's face. Harry backed up and hit the stone wall. Snape retreated and did the same to Malfoy.

"You've been drinking", the Potions Master said snidely. "I could deduct a fair amount of points for this..offense." He seemed to watch Harry's face for a reaction. Harry gave none. "I demand to know what you two were doing."

Harry crossed his arms. "It's none of your business, Professor." He hoped he wasn't slurring his words too much.

Snape looked irate. He opened his mouth to retort when Draco moaned in his sleep. His head lolled side to side as if he was fighting something off. Small scratches were appearing on Draco's face, right before their eyes. Harry turned to Snape, his eyes wide and disbelieving. Without a word, Snape turned and rushed down the corridor, Puppet-Draco following behind. Harry rushed to keep up. The Potions Master stopped at a blank wall, tapped the bricks in a Diagon Alley fashion and a doorway appeared. Harry's mouth fell open. Snape laid Draco on top of his bed. The tall Slytherin moved in his sleep, murmuring unintelligible words. Draco's cuts became deeper, blood was beginning to drip down towards the pillow.

"Do something!" Harry yelled at Snape. Snape looked at him as if he had forgotten he was even there.

"What did Mr. Malfoy tell you about this?" Snape demanded instead.

"Next to nothing," Harry said hurriedly, "but it needs to stop."

Snape regarded Harry with an air of annoyance. "Indeed, Potter. He will wake if it is too much to handle."

"Even if he's had too much to drink? What if he's unable to? Can't we just wake him up?"

Snape scoffed as if Harry had no idea what he was talking about. Harry really did have no idea, he just knew something needed to be done. "We cannot. It could cause serious damage to his psyche, his magical abilities, even his mind. It's not worth the risk."

Deep cuts were now appearing on Draco's forearms.

"Potter. You must do as I say. No questions."

"I'm not leaving."

Snape exhaled forcefully. "Conjure a patronus. The stronger the better."

"How is that going to-"

"I said no questions. Do it."

Harry took a breath and backed up from the bedside. He had an iron grip on his wand in front of him. He wasn't sure how great his patronus was going to be, as inebriated as he was. The recent events had sobered him a little, but he still felt unsteady on his feet and a bit sick to his stomach. He thought of becoming a wizard, his parents, flying on a broom. "Expecto patronum!" a silvery light came out of the end of his wand, and fizzled.

"Again!" Snape said, his voice tight.

 

----

 

Draco's father was advancing on him, his face a mask of ill-contained rage. His walking stick was in one hand. Draco couldn't help but eye it. If he took it apart, that was when the trouble would start. He tried to crawl backwards but found his back up against a large rock face. He swore it wasn't there a minute ago.

"How could you do this to me, Draco?" His father's voice was quiet, just above a whisper, at its most dangerous.

Lucius Malfoy kept advancing, slowly, menacingly.

"No heirs? The end of the Malfoy line?"

Draco found his footing and got slowly to his feet. "Things change, Father."

"Indeed they do, Draco. Indeed they do." His father gripped his cane with two hands and removed his wand, a soft metallic hiss escaping like someone unsheathing a sword. Draco knew the sound too well. "Think of what the Dark Lord would say, keeping Potter for yourself." His father made a tsking sound while shaking his head. "What are you going to do now, Draco? Switch sides? Be good?" His voice was mocking. "We both know that was never in the cards for you. I know who you really are. Who you're meant to be. You are, and will always be, my son. A Malfoy."

Lucius raised his wand and Draco knew what was coming next. He managed to flick his fingers upwards and produce a shield charm with both hands just as his father said, "Crucio." The spell bounced off. Lucius Malfoy's face showed only rage.

The next thing Draco knew he was running. Running as fast he could through the Forbidden Forest. Branches slapped and cut his face as he ran. He ignored it, his only mission to get out, to leave the Dark Lord and his father behind him.

Something suddenly struck him from the side, sending him sprawling. He sat up holding his ribs, desperately seeking the culprit. No hooded figures. His father was nowhere in sight. He scrambled to his feet, trying to ignore the pain in his side. A massive branch swept at him again, he ducked under it. Another Whomping Willow? The huge sentient tree was suddenly in front of him. He tried to run around it but slender roots rose up around his ankles, pinning him. Vines shot out of the giant tree trunk and laced themselves around his wrists, slithering up his arms like snakes. The more he struggled the more they cut into his flesh. The vines were razor sharp; he could feel his hot blood begin to flow, trickling down his arms.

 

----

 

Harry pushed his annoyance with Snape and fear for Draco out of his mind. He closed his eyes and focused. He thought of their time in the kitchens. He thought of Malfoy confiding in him. The way their knees touched while they talked about Quidditch, of all things. The warmth. The kiss. This time a fully-fledged stag appeared from the end of Harry's wand, the silvery light bathing the room. He thought he saw Snape flinch at the sight of it.

The giant stag seemed to know just what to do. It walked slowly and smoothly around Draco's bedside, Snape nearly tripping over his robes to get out of its way. The stag stopped at the head of the bed. Harry watched in wonder as his stag bent its head, touching Draco's forehead with its muzzle.

Immediately Draco stilled, the injuries ceased. Snape and Harry both let out a breath they hadn't realized they were holding. Harry dropped to his knees, feeling entirely spent.

 

----

 

Draco squeezed his eyes shut. He willed himself to wake up. He focused on the sick feeling in the pit of his stomach, hoping it would wake him, not knowing what would happen to him in real life if it didn't. He could see a bright light behind his closed eyelids. He opened his eyes. A silvery glowing stag was in front of him. The razor-vines were suddenly gone, as was the Willow. The forest seemed still and serene. Draco's heart leaped into his throat. This time, he knew without a doubt whose patronus it was. The stag snorted and stepped closer. Draco held out his hand and the stag came.

Harry's stag nuzzled Draco's face, his hands going up to stroke its powerful neck. He was surprised he could touch it. Even in dreams, corporeal patronuses were unheard of. The stag lowered its great head and touched Draco's forearms. He gasped as the cuts vanished along with the pain.

Snape stared at Harry. Was it awe that Harry saw in his face? Or something else, like fear? Whatever it was, it was hardly important. Harry crept closer to Draco's bedside, opposite his stag. He inhaled sharply when Draco's many cuts faded before his eyes and then vanished altogether.

 

----

 

"Professor Snape," Harry called. "It's working."

Snape still had that weird expression on his face. He didn't get too close to Harry or the stag as he inspected Draco. "So it seems," the potions master said quietly, "I need you to stay here. Keep the patronus with him."

"Where are you going?" Harry asked, but the wall was already changing from a slammed door to a wall again. No doubt Snape was running off to tell someone, but who? Dumbledore? Harry shook his head, trying to clear it. He was still fuzzy from the alcohol and all he wanted to do was sleep. But if he fell asleep, what would happen to his stag? What would happen to Malfoy?

Harry figured he didn't want to find out. He wondered what Malfoy had been through in the dream and if he himself would be destined for a similar fate. He shuddered.

He checked on Draco once more. The cuts and gashes had all but healed, some blood on the sheets the only indication there was ever a problem in the first place. Even Draco's face looked better, healthier, more handsome. The dark circles were gone from his eyes and his cheeks held a pink tint.

He sat at the foot of the bed with his wand on his lap, watching Draco's chest rise and fall with deep rhythmic breaths.

Chapter Text

Draco opened his eyes. The first thing he noticed was that he was in the clothes he wore last night. The second thing was that he was in his bed. A place he hadn’t been for a week or so. The third was that Harry Potter was sitting on the end of his bed, leaning against a bedpost, wand in hand, softly snoring. He remembered his dream; the Forbidden Forest, the Dark Lord who was also his father, the Willow, and finally.. Harry’s stag patronus. The patronus had not only healed him, but had stayed with him throughout the remainder of his dream, never leaving his side. Just like Potter in real life, apparently.

He looked at Harry now, so serene, so fragile. Draco sat up and, reaching across the bed, removed Harry's glasses which had been sliding down his nose. The events of the night before came gradually trickling back to him. He covered his face with his hands and groaned. What had he done? He had only meant to have a drink to calm his nerves, to loosen up before the meeting with Potter. He had gotten sloppy. He let his emotions get the better of him. His meticulously built walls had all but crumbled in the presence of the Boy Who Lived. Yet, here he still was. Draco touched his fingers to his own lips. Did that really happen?

More importantly, perhaps, was the knowledge that the patronus had, in fact, worked. It effectively shielded Draco and more. How Potter knew to do it and, come to think of it, how Potter had known where to find his room, and how he had even gotten Draco inside was still a mystery. Snape, he suspected, must have had something to do with it.
Draco looked around the room for other clues but found none, except for a disturbing amount of blood on his sheets. The heavy green curtains on the side of the room were thrown back, morning light filtering its way through the clear lake water. He couldn’t stand seeing them open. That must’ve been Potter’s doing. He wanted to be angry about it, Potter coming into his room and messing with the furnishings, but it made him smile instead.

He grunted as he pushed himself off the bed, his body stiff but his mind sharp. The sharpest he felt in a very long time. He stretched, still keeping his eyes on Harry’s sleeping form, the words of his father echoing in his ears. Draco Malfoy had a decision to make. More than one, to be exact.

Folding his legs underneath him, he sat in front of the lake window. He slowed his breathing and allowed his vision to unfocus. For now, he would meditate then wash the dried blood from his body.

Harry was still sleeping when he was finished. He got dressed in his uniform, taking great care to button every button, tie his tie in a perfect half windsor, and make sure his shirt front lined up with the zipper of his pants. If there was one thing his father taught him that he actually agreed with, it was that there was no excuse to look like the help when you were the master.

Draco toweled off his hair, letting it fall around his face. He quite liked it that way, but didn't think he would ever let it get any longer, like it had been in his dreams. It made him look too much like his father for his comfort. Hopefully those dreams were done. Potter would teach him how to produce a strong patronus and then things could go back to normal. Or at the very least, buy him some more time.

Draco sat on the edge of the bed, regarding the object of his affection, not entirely lost to the fact that it was strange indeed. And yet it felt so right. More right than anything he had ever known. He pushed Harry’s hair back from his forehead to reveal the lightning shaped scar. If that hadn't happened to him, would the two of them still be here now? Like this? He expected not. They would have been two entirely different people. Both of their lives would certainly have been easier; Draco without the Dark Lord hanging over his family, Harry simply with his family. Maybe they could have even been friends. Then again, maybe this was the only way.

Harry stirred in his sleep. Draco stiffened. He wasn't sure if he was ready to face a Harry Potter that had kissed him, taken care of him when he had passed out from drinking too much, and saved him from nightmares of the Dark Lord all in one go. In fact, he was sure he wasn't. As if Harry had sensed his sudden inner turmoil, his bright green eyes shot open. Draco recoiled instinctively, the openness of Harry's face like a shock to his system. He felt the warmth in his chest, even though they weren't physically touching. Draco didn't know if that was a good thing or horribly bad.

Potter glanced around wildly, then, seeming to remember where he was, calmed down. His green eyes stared into Draco’s surprised ones and the other boy promptly turned red. Draco found his smirk again, guessing Potter had just re-lived last night just as he did upon waking.

Harry squinted and said, “Where are my glasses?”

“Good morning to you, too, Potter,” Draco said dryly, handing him his glasses.

Harry smiled in an apologetic way. “You sleep well?”

Potter’s concern for his well-being tugged at his heartstrings. “Quite.” He looked down at his leather wingtips, painfully aware of how uncomfortable Potter was making him. Uncomfortable that anyone could have this sort of power over him. Especially Harry Potter. It had an animal in a cage type of feel to it and Draco wanted to leave. But not leave. Maybe pace the floor, instead. Draco stood, intending to do just that when Harry caught his hand.

The feel of Harry’s warm fingers on his eased him considerably. He felt the warm feeling balloon in his chest, making him almost giddy. He grinned stupidly at the floor.

“You've got to stop doing that,” he said with a smile.

“Stop doing what?” Harry asked with feigned innocence.

“Trying to hold my hand all the time.”

“You gave me permission to touch you.” Harry's voice was low and a bit seductive. The Gryffindor tugged him back to the bed and he let it happen. Harry’s other hand went up to Draco's face, tracing a cheekbone before tucking a loose strand of hair behind his ear. Harry's eyes were sparkling in the early morning water-filtered light. It was almost like they themselves were underwater; no one to know where they were, no one to bother them. No one else existing outside of their small aquarium.

“How much do you remember?” Harry suddenly asked.

Draco was jolted out of his thoughts, but he knew what Harry meant. “Of what?”

It was Harry’s turn to look uncomfortable. “Last night,” he replied softly.

Draco was quiet for a moment.

“We’ll be late for Potions,” Draco said, attempting to stand again.

Harry pulled him back down with a small laugh. “And you’ve got to stop doing that.”

“Doing what?”

Harry rolled his eyes. Draco sighed. The game wasn’t working anymore. Time to switch up the play. Except, it was hard to think with Harry looking at him that way. It was like he knew Draco, completely, like he knew he was better than feigned innocence and petty lies. It almost made him want to be a better person. Almost. It made his chest hurt.

“I remember everything, Potter.” He turned his silvery-blue eyes on Harry and enjoyed watching him turn pink. It was too easy. He smirked with satisfaction. He leaned close to Harry, letting the other boy make up the difference, as Draco knew he would. He did. Harry gingerly pressed his lips against Draco’s and the familiar feeling warmed him from the inside out, going straight to his head. He tangled his fingers in Potter’s unkempt hair, pulling just a little bit. Harry gasped and Draco grinned.

“Seriously, Potter, your Potions grade is complete shit.”

Harry was still trying to kiss him. “It's always been shit,” he agreed breathlessly, “What does it matter?”

Draco bit Harry’s lip lightly, playfully. “The Boy Who Lived may be given a pass, but some of us have to earn it.”

Harry drew back suddenly, his face a mix of emotions that Draco couldn't read. He guessed he hit a nerve. A real one, and he wasn’t even trying.

“Don't call me that.” His green eyes flashed with anger.

“That's what you're mad about? Really? Everyone in the wizarding world calls you that.”

“Exactly. That's why I hate it.”

“Okay, I won't call you that.”

Harry breathed a sigh but was still looking expectantly at him.

“What?” Draco asked.

“Don't you ever apologize?”

Draco pushed Harry down on the bed, rolling on top of him. He looked deep into those emerald eyes and thought again of his future. The older, devastatingly handsome Harry Potter in his bed.

“No,” he said, his voice a whisper. He kissed Harry again, snaking his tongue between Harry’s lips. It was as if all of the fight left the Boy Who Lived and it was all he could do to hang on.

 

The two of them rounded the corner to Potions class, nearly running. They were late, of course. Harry marveled at how fast Draco was on his feet, trying hard to match him stride for stride but the fact was that Draco just had longer legs. Draco looked at him and smirked as if he could hear Harry’s thoughts.
The truth was that this was getting weirder and weirder but still felt so..right. He made out with Draco Malfoy. In his room. Before Potions class. And that was after getting drunk with Malfoy and kissing and staying up protecting him all night. And more still, he had showered in Malfoys private bathroom while Malfoy basically did his laundry. Harry's tie had never been tied better than when Draco Malfoy did it for him. It all made his heart feel full to bursting.
He stole another glance at Draco. And promptly ran into something. He hit the stone floor with a grunt of surprise.

“Watch where you're going, you blinking sod!”

He knew that voice. “Ron?” Harry said.

“Harry! There you are!” Hermione was helping Ron up off the floor.

Draco extended his hand, his smirk almost too big for his face. Harry took it and Draco pulled him to his feet.

Ron and Hermione stared, open mouthed.

“We- we were worried, Harry,” Hermione started, glancing at Draco and back to Harry, “you weren't in the dorms or at breakfast.”

“I'm fine, Hermione.”

“Nice of you to let us know, then.” Ron interjected. “Hermione’s been worried. And what are you doing with this prat?”

Draco’s eyes narrowed and Harry could sense what was about to happen. They'd all been through it many times before, but this time would be different.

“Why are you guys late for Potions?” Harry quickly asked.

“Making out.” Ron said proudly. “Why are you?”

“Making out,” Draco said.

Harry turned red. Ron turned white. “That's uh, that's not a funny joke, Malfoy.”

Draco leveled his gaze at Ron. “I know.” He glanced at Hermione, then Harry, giving him a wink, and walking into Potions class like he owned it. He probably did, for all intents and purposes.

Harry couldn't help but stare after him. He suddenly noticed Hermione and Ron staring at him expectantly. Harry decided he would take a lesson from Malfoy and change the subject.

“So you weren't too worried then, if you were making out before Potions.”

“Oh, Harry, we never know with you lately. Usually you're wandering around the castle but we see you for breakfast. We figured you'd turn up after Potions like usual,” Hermione said only a little defensively.

Ron seemed to fume, looking anywhere but at Harry.

“What is it Ron?”

“You just don't get it, do you?”

“Ron, you promised you wouldn't.” Hermione inserted herself in the conversation.

“No, Herm, I'm sick of it,” he turned his anger back to Harry, “you can't stand that I have the girlfriend and you don't. You can't stand that she chose me and not you.” Ron was stabbing a finger in his chest. Harry let him, trying to make his face as cold and impassable as Draco's could be. He glanced at Hermione. She was hiding her face in her hands.

“You can't stand that I can be late snogging her before class and you can’t,” Ron finished. Ron spun away from him, entering the Potions classroom.

“Hermione, none of that is true.” Harry walked to her and squeezed her shoulders. She put her hands down.

“I know, Harry. He promised he wouldn't bring it up again.” She let out an exasperated sigh. Harry thought they had a good relationship, her and Ron, but oftentimes Hermione would act as though she were dealing with a petulant child instead of a boyfriend. Harry supposed she might be. Was that love? Putting up with someone?

“Anyway, I did want to talk to you privately. And since we’re already late..” She looked up and down the corridor as if someone might be listening. “I've been doing some research into your.. condition.”

“Yeah?” Harry said, excited. Hermione was the best at research.

“I could only find two mentions of something remotely like what you're going through. One is that, years ago, like hundreds, there were two wizards who would get the same headaches at the same time. But they shared dreams and eventually went insane.”

Harry gulped. He sort of regretted not telling Hermione about the dreams, but now it seemed way too late. Plus, he probably wasn't going insane. He felt great.

“The second is a spell that-"

The Potions classroom door burst open. Snape was in the doorway, covered in black and rage.

“Ms Granger. Mr Potter. Would you care to join my class this morning? Or should I mark you..absent.”

Something was wrong. Snape wasn't looking at him or spitting his name with the same venom as usual. Harry figured it had something to do with last night, but couldn’t put his finger on what exactly.

“Sorry Professor,” Hermione said and ushered Harry into the room before her. He took his seat next to Malfoy, trying his best to act normal.

He didn't have to look; he knew Malfoy was smirking. Things might be changing, but he knew there was no way the Slytherin was not enjoying seeing him get in trouble. Snape started to drone on about whatever potion they were about to make and Harry found his mind wandering to what Hermione had tried to tell him. One random occurrence in all of wizarding history? And then they both went insane? Harry imagined holding hands with Malfoy in St. Mungo’s. At least there they would fit in.

Draco’s knee hit his and he looked up. Snape was looking at him as if he had asked a particularly hard question and had called on Harry, knowing full well he wouldn't have the answer. Draco kneed him again and he glanced beside him. Draco was raising his eyebrows, nodding towards a scrap of parchment he slid across the desk. Harry read Draco’s neat handwriting out loud. “Deadly Nightshade, sir?”

Snape looked extremely annoyed. “Yes, Deadly Nightshade.” He glanced at Draco and back to Harry, letting them both know that he knew what had just transpired. He continued on with his lecture. Harry exhaled forcefully. Once again he was stuck in some arbitrary class when there were bigger things going on.

Draco’s knee started rubbing against his own. The slight tingle had turned into an almost constant buzz, something comforting and soothing. Another scrap of parchment entered his field of vision. Draco had written, ‘pay attention!’ Harry gave him a sardonic look. Draco took the parchment back and wrote ‘please?’ Harry scoffed. Even in light of their new and weird relationship, he wasn't about to let Draco Malfoy tell him what to do. Especially not in Potions.

Malfoy put his hand on Harry’s leg and it was all he could do to just nod his head.

Snape was talking about some potion that mimicked the effects of death, while leaving the user totally conscious and aware. Harry felt like he had heard this all before, but then again, he didn't pay attention in Snape's classes all that often.

He must’ve missed something because now Snape was talking about a counter-potion, not to be confused with antidote, which would grant the user imperviousness to actual death for a very short amount of time, but the user would have to be very very good at faking it.

Harry’s eyes threatened to close. He stifled a yawn. He looked at Draco sitting next to him and to his surprise, the Slytherin was dutifully taking notes. Draco had even drawn detailed diagrams interspersed between his notes. Harry knew Draco got good marks, and was at the top of their year (always behind Hermione), but it somehow never occurred to him that Draco actually paid attention and took notes. He imagined Malfoy studying in a darkened library, lamps all around him, his slender fingers covered in ink, his hair disheveled. Harry would like to sneak up on him and hug him from behind. Then Malfoy would convince him to study. He suddenly realized he was fantasizing about Draco while sitting right next to him.

Somehow he made it to the end of the Potions lecture awake and had even taken some notes, albeit at Draco’s urging. It slowly dawned on him that Malfoy was not in any of his other classes until late afternoon. When he looked to Draco, the blonde boy looked away. He had probably known it was coming before Harry did. Not probably, most definitely.
Harry started to pack up his things in resignation. It wasn’t as if his school schedule would suddenly bend to keep them together. And what was this anyway? Harry had barely a moment to wrap his head around the last 18 hours.

Snape was suddenly in front of their table, clearing his throat. “Might I have a word, Mr. Malfoy?”

Harry looked at Draco. Draco’s face was unreadable as he nodded. Snape swirled away. Draco met Harry’s gaze. If he was trying to tell him something, he didn't get it. Malfoy’s eyes were cold and silent. So it was back to the way it was. Harry should have known it was never going to last. He didn’t even know what he was doing in the first place. Harry slung his bag on his shoulder as Draco started walking toward Snape’s desk. A ghost of a touch. Cold fingers on his, pressing something into his hand. A piece of parchment.

Harry unfolded it, making sure the no one was looking.

“Wait” was all it said.

He would wait.

Chapter Text

Harry stuffed the note his pocket and left the Potions room. Out in the corridor, he took a few steps in the direction of Draco’s room and leaned against the stone wall. Waiting. Other students filed out, off to their next class. He saw Ron stalk off in a huff and, predictably, Hermione right after him. She noticed Harry waiting. She looked after Ron as if deciding what to do.

She chose Harry.

He could pretend to be above it all, but the truth was, this gave him a small bit of joy.

“Hi Hermione.”

“Hi Harry. Are you waiting for.. him?”

“He's not the Dark Lord or anything, you can say his name.”

Hermione blushed. “I didn't mean it like that Harry, it's just strange, is all.”

“I know.”

“So what is going on? Did you talk?”

Did they talk? Yes. And no. Harry was aware he was taking too long to answer. Hermione looked him up and down.

“Did things get.. physical again?”

Harry felt the heat rise in his face. Whatever the spell was for hiding flushing cheeks, he vowed to master it.

Hermione gasped. “It wasn’t a joke, was it? What Malfoy said before class?”

“You can't tell anyone, Hermione.”

Hermione looked like she had just stumbled upon a new set of facts in Hogwarts: A History and simultaneously gotten other than top marks on a paper. “I won't tell anyone,” she said stiffly. “But.. how? Why? Did you find more to the connection?”

Harry wondered where he should start. He could only picture Draco’s long fingers entwined in his own, while they kissed. He figured he would start at the bit his friend already knew something about. The bit that didn't directly involve Draco kissing him.

“Dreams, Hermione. I see him in my dreams. Or rather, it's like we're sharing dreams. Sometimes it's like I'm dreaming his dreams. How can that be?”
“I don't know Harry. I only know what I recently read. That time you dreamed you were drowning, was that a Malfoy dream?”

Harry had forgotten about that one. It had been incredibly real and vivid, not to mention the actual presence of water when he woke. Draco hadn’t been there, to his knowledge. Had Draco been dreaming of him? Didn't he say something about saving him?

“I don’t know,” he answered honestly.

Hermione had a pained look on her face. “Do you think spending time with him is a good idea? I mean, the only other time this happened to you was when you saw what You Know Who was doing or had recently done. Harry, the rumors could be true. This could be a Death Eater test or something. A rite of passage.” Hermione was talking fast.

Harry’s eyes narrowed. “You're going to tell me that Draco Malfoy is going through all of this just to get at me? For some sort of initiation?”

Hermione had fallen silent. Her eyes flicked over Harry's shoulder. Harry turned to see Draco Malfoy standing behind him. The tall Slytherin’s face was stoic. There was no doubt in Harry's mind that he had heard enough of what they were saying.

“Draco-"

He ignored Hermione starting at the sound of their sworn enemy’s name passing Harry’s lips.

“We need to talk.” No smirk or anything. He nodded to Hermione with a barely audible, “Granger", and he was walking away down the corridor.

Harry broke out in a cold sweat. What could they have to talk about? Was he angry that they had been talking about him? He suddenly cared about what Draco Malfoy thought of him a great deal. More than he was currently comfortable with.

“Be careful, please Harry. I know you never listen to me the first few times, but this seems like a path I can't follow you down.”

Harry looked at the floor.

Hermione placed a hand on his chest. He blinked at her in surprise. “Do you like him?” she asked.

Harry took a deep breath and glanced down the hall. He could still see Malfoys tall slender form receding in the semi-darkness.

“Yes,” he whispered. “Merlin help me, Hermione. I do.”

She smiled a sad smile. “Does he like you?”

“I think so. He's hard to read.” Harry felt his face flush.

“A person like Draco Malfoy,” she said slowly, “must have a lot of secrets.” As if for emphasis, she turned and looked down the hallway after him.

“Look, Hermione, I'm not-" Harry suddenly doubled over with pain. He felt like his head was going to explode. He pressed his hands to the sides of his head as his vision got dark, and then too bright, then dark again. He was aware of someone screaming but wasn't sure if it was himself or someone else.
Hermione was at his side, trying to help him stay on his feet. She was saying something, but he couldn't tell what. She was trying to get him to move. Every step he took was excruciating. His slow footfalls echoing up to his head where the pain was frying his nerve endings. He wished Hermione would stop talking but all he could do was grit his teeth.

She was probably taking him closer to Draco, to get him inside the circle. What if it was a square? Harry thought and maniacal laughter erupted out of him, reverberating inside his own damaged skull. His vision went dark around the edges, then flickered back to normal. It was kind of like watching an old VHS at his uncle’s house on Privet Drive. Someone was adjusting the tracking on Harry’s brain and it was getting clearer, cleaner.

He saw Draco sprawled on the floor, no doubt feeling what Harry just had. Hermione let Harry slip into a sitting position against the wall. She looked in his face and felt his forehead, before moving to help Draco. To Harry’s surprise, Draco let her help him sit up against the wall, next to him. The warm buzzing feeling cleared his head the rest of the way. Hermione was now looking into Draco’s face, for what, Harry still didn’t know, and was feeling his forehead. Draco was scowling, but he let her do it.
Harry wanted to laugh at the sheer absurdity of it. He held his breath, afraid that another laugh like the last one would bubble out of him. He felt cool fingers along his own. He grabbed Draco’s hand reflexively, feeling the rest of the pain and the anxieties wash away, replaced with a simple warmth.

He risked a glance at Malfoy. He was already looking at Harry, his face still in a scowl, his grey eyes concerned. He turned to Hermione, who was still fussing over the pair of them.

He cleared his throat. “Thank you, Granger. That’s enough.”

Hermione rocked back on her heels. “It’s getting worse.”

Draco actually rolled his eyes at her. Harry stifled another laugh. “I’m aware.”

“I can help.”

“No, thank you.”

“If it’s because you think I’m somehow lesser of a-”

Draco met her eyes. With his other hand, Draco took Hermione’s. “I know we haven’t gotten along in the past, but I think you are terribly clever and determined. You always deserved to be at the top of the class.”

Hermione gasped.

Draco let her hand go. “I’d like to talk to Potter. Alone.”

Hermione was staring at her hand.

“You okay, Hermione?” Harry asked.

She looked from her hand to their clasped hands. Harry felt his face go hot. This was becoming very tiresome.

“Is this.. Is this what you feel?” She said, seemingly short on air.

“You can feel it?”

She gingerly reached out to Harry and he took her hand. Her eyes grew wide and a smile crept onto her worried face. Draco understood the implications and let go of Harry’s hand. Her smile disappeared.

“It…” She seemed lost for words.

“Conducts.” Draco finished.

“What does that mean?” asked Harry. He felt like they were running circles around him.

Hermione started, “It means the process by which heat or electricity is directly transmitted through a substance-”

“No, I know what it means, I mean, what does it mean for us? For the situation?”

“Oh. I don’t know, Harry. But it is quite interesting.” She tapped her finger to her cheek. “No wonder you want to be around him all the time.”

Draco turned to him as if this were new information, a grin splitting his face.

Harry coughed. “Don’t you have a class or two right now, ‘Mione?”

She gasped sharply and stood up. “Yes, I do. Three, in fact. See you later, Harry.” She nodded at Draco, and Harry couldn’t tell if she was mocking him or not. “Malfoy,” she said. She turned and ran down the corridor, her footfalls echoing.

“Well, that was painful.” Harry said.

Draco gave him a look that said his joke was not funny. Harry grinned. He knew it was. Harry got slowly to his feet. His body felt tired and sore, as if he had just played a hard
match of Quidditch and lost. Harry helped Draco to his feet and was surprised to see a pink tint to his otherwise pale cheeks.

“You alright?”

“Never better,” Draco answered softly, pulling Harry close. One hand wrapped around the small of Harry’s back, the other in his hair on the back of his head. Draco’s face was so close, Harry thought he meant to kiss him right then and there. Instead his mouth went to Harry’s ear.

“I’m not going to share you,” he growled.

-----

Draco had led the way back to his room. It was still a bit strange, letting Harry Potter have access to his personal space, but then again, they were a little bit beyond that, now. Potter had walked next to him the entire way, stealing goofy glances and smiling like an idiot. A charming idiot. A charming idiot who didn’t seem to mind skipping classes in a consistent manner.

He tapped the bricks with a finger, gaining entry. Harry went right in and sprawled out on his burgundy sofa. He looked like he was tired and was trying his best to hide it. With what just happened in the corridor, Draco was feeling the physical strain even after a partial night’s sleep.
He turned his back to Harry and waved open the heavy drapes. The water made him feel a bit ill, but he knew how much Potter enjoyed the view. “Snape is excusing us from classes,” Draco said, his back still turned to Harry.

There was a pause and then Potter said, “Can you read my thoughts?” His voice was so quiet, he almost didn’t hear him.
Draco turned, smirking.

Harry gasped. “You can!”

He was too easy to fool. “Read them? Not exactly. It’s more of a feeling.” Draco said it in a matter of fact way. He sat on the sofa next to Harry, relishing his look of shock. “You do it me, occasionally.” He added.

“The connection?”

“Perhaps.”

Harry exhaled forcefully, in relief, probably, that Draco could not, in fact, read his thoughts. “Okay, but why is Snape excusing us?”

“Well, there is a condition.” Draco crossed an ankle over his knee and leaned back, lacing his hands behind his head. He watched Harry as he looked him up and down, thinking Draco wouldn’t notice. He wanted to seem more relaxed than he actually felt. Asking Harry Potter for something wasn’t exactly easy. No matter how many times they had kissed in the last 18 hours. Framing it as though it was from Snape, which, really, it was, made setting the terms was only slightly easier.

“What is it?” Harry asked.

“You are to teach me to conjure a patronus. As strong as yours.”

Harry Potter laughed. Draco had been expecting this reaction but he still wasn't as prepared as he thought. Draco turned away in case his embarrassment decided to give him away. He suddenly felt warm fingers close over his own cold ones. Again he felt the warmth travel as if it were a physical thing, up his arm, straight to his chest where it pounded and sang.

“Is that all?” Potter’s voice was soft. “I could've taught you that two years ago.”

Draco scoffed. “I don't exactly remember being invited.”

Harry’s other hand found his cheek. He sharply inhaled as the sensation within him grew. Draco let Harry turn his face, their eyes meeting.

“Draco,” he started slowly, “Tell me it's different now. I will teach you how, I just need to know..”

“To know what, Potter?” Draco had a feeling he knew where this was going.

“To know,” Harry said slowly, “which side you're planning to be on.”

Draco was on his feet before his brain had made a conscious decision to do so. He paced in front of the fireplace. He heard Potter sigh. “It isn’t that simple,” he said finally.

Harry was on his feet now, too. “Sure, Malfoy, it is.”

Back to Malfoy, was it? Draco frowned, his brow furrowed. “There is something going on, Potter, I can't explain it to you but..” He stopped pacing.

“Can't? Or won't?”

He turned his back to the Boy Who Lived and studied the thin box containing his wand. Maybe if he killed Harry Potter right now this would all be over. He could escape the castle and reap the benefits the Dark Lord would most certainly bestow on him, on his father, on his family. He suddenly had an image of his father, arms spread wide, welcoming him home as a hero over Harry's lifeless body. Draco shuddered, pushing the intrusive thoughts away.

“Your wand is in there, isn't it?” Potter’s voice was a little more than a whisper.

Draco whirled, forgetting to hide the surprise from his face.

“And I was drowning,” Harry turned and pointed to the Black Lake window, “right over there, wasn't I?”

Draco was at a loss for words. He hadn't expected Potter to put it together. The guy could barely put his homework together.

“I woke up and I was soaking wet. I think you had a similar experience that first morning in the dungeons. Though I didn’t share that one with you,” Harry was smiling just a little.

Draco tried his best to erase any emotion from his face. Harry stepped around the table, closing the distance.

“I dream about you. I don't know what's real, sometimes it's the past, sometimes the future,” he turned bright red as he said it, “but it’s always you.” Harry reached for Draco’s hand and Draco let him reach it. The anger and shock dissolved as his heart beat a new rhythm.

“All I know is,” Potter continued, seemingly bolstered by the physical contact, “that it's all connected. You, me, the dreams. This.. feeling.. if you could tell me anything..”
Potter trailed off but Draco stayed rapt with attention. He could see the question in Potters green eyes. He could tell what he was trying to do. The truth was, he wanted to tell the other boy everything. He wanted to find out just how many of their dreams were shared. But it also felt like a violation. It was bad enough that the Dark Lord was constantly in his head, but now Potter too? That was simply unfair.

Draco dropped Harry’s hand. He felt the loss almost immediately. A lump formed in his throat. He swallowed hard but it didn't leave him.

“Draco, don't.”

“Don't what”, he spat, not caring about his tone.

“Don't shut me out. All I'm trying to say is that I'm involved too, whether you like it or not. We might be able to help each other.”

Draco stiffened, trying to use his height to seem intimidating. “I don't think that's wise.” He made his voice cold.

“Why not?”

Draco turned and started to walk away, to the other side of the room, into the Black Lake, anywhere away from Potter. Harry grabbed his arm, a strong warm hand wrapping around his wrist. The feeling caught him off guard this time and he gasped, feeling like the next breath would never come. Harry was pulling him back, his green eyes shining with determination. As if this were Quidditch, Draco the golden snitch, and Potter the winner. Always the bloody winner.

Draco allowed himself to be caught. Harry brought Draco’s hand to his face, and kissed his upturned wrist. It was incredibly sweet and incredibly sexy. Harry Potter kept surprising him. “I'm with you,” Harry said softly, “whatever you tell me, I'll believe it. We can face it together.”

“Are you asking me to tell you what you want to hear?” Draco whispered. For some reason, he couldn't quite find his voice.

“I'm asking you to trust me. I'm asking you,” he kissed Draco’s open palm, “if you'd like to be with me.”

Draco shivered. His knee-jerk reaction was to tell Harry yes, a million times over and probably grab him and never let go. But Draco Malfoy knew dreams didn't come true, not even for wizards. Draco Malfoy was firmly rooted in reality, harsh as it was; he had to be to survive.

Surviving. That was the whole idea when this got started. He had to survive the school year. Then.. who knew what could happen then. Circumstances change.

Harry was stroking Draco’s long pale fingers. Draco felt his eyes begin to sting. “You have no idea what it's like for me,” he said, his voice still nonexistent.

“I know it's bigger than the two of us, I do. I know it's all pretty well fucked up,” Harry laughed a grim little laugh, “but I know how I feel.”

Draco had to smile. “Doesn't it interfere with having to save the wizarding world, Harry Potter?”

Potter scoffed. “I don't want to save the world,” he turned Draco’s hand over and kissed the back of it, “I only want to save you.”

Draco pulled his hand away, a scowl on his face. Harry looked abashed then angry.

“You're going to say that I don't get to save you, right?” Harry’s eyes flashed.

Draco’s smirk was mirthless. “See? I told you. You do it to me, too.”

Harry was not amused. “I think you want me to save you. You want me to because you know I can. Except you can't admit it. Your pride is getting in the way of your life, Draco. You'll end up wishing this moment went differently when you're crying on your wedding day.”

Draco turned his face to stone. That was a low blow and he knew Harry knew it. His chest ached and the lump in his throat returned. Harry’s eyes were wet behind his ridiculous glasses.

“I'm sorry,” Harry said. “I can't do this anymore. Hermione is right, you're hiding too many secrets.” Harry turned and strode purposefully towards the door.

“You can’t leave,” Draco said. His face was steady but his shaking voice betrayed him.

The magical door materialized in preparation for Harry’s exit. Draco willed him to stop, even thought about cursing him, but he knew they were beyond those childish pranks. Harry was issuing an ultimatum; the truth or pain, both emotional and physical. Draco wasn’t sure which would be worse.

Harry looked back, his green eyes shimmering, and Draco knew it was one last chance to tell him everything. He clenched his jaw, crossed him arms, and let the moment pass. He watched as Harry Potter left him.

Chapter Text

Harry made it two steps into the dungeon corridor before his head began to ache. Two more before it felt like his head was in a vice, meant to pop out his eyeballs. Two more after that, he vomited suddenly as the world seemed to shift and turn under his feet, the pounding in his head an audible thing. He was determined to get away, as far away as he possibly could, from Draco Malfoy.

Hermione was right; the safe pain-free radius surrounding the two of them was shrinking. What did that even mean? How did it come to this?

He could take the physical pain. The kind that left a scar. That was easy. He'd been through much worse. His heart, however, was not so easy to convince. That sort of pain got harder the more of it a person received. And Harry had received a lot. More than his fair share, to be sure. He didn't mean to keep a running tally, but it popped up in his head anyway, his mind distracting itself from the other pain. His parents, Sirius Black, Cedric Diggory, the heartache over Cho and Hermione. Letting Ginny down. The constant fights with his best friend. The awful childhood he spent with the Dursley's.

He kept walking, forcing one foot in front of the other, using his hands on the cool dungeon walls to support himself. It was a bit of a challenge: how far could he go until he collapsed? Harry quite liked challenges. Usually. The sick feeling in his stomach bubbled up again, returning. Or had it ever stopped? He thought of how silly he must look to Draco, to Hermione, falling head over heels for the guy who did nothing but torment him and his friends. Was he really fooled that easily? It was, he was sure, the complete and utter humiliation Draco Malfoy always wanted to see. He hoped Malfoy was in as much pain as he was right then.

Hot tears stung his eyes; he blinked them away furiously, getting droplets on the inside of his glasses. He reached the stairs and started crawling up them. The pain in his head grew steadily, and his vision was getting hazy again. It was a physical reminder that he had lost sight of what really mattered. Draco's words echoed in his head about saving the wizarding world. He was probably supposed to be finding a way to kill Voldemort instead of falling in love. Harry Potter wasn't allowed to be a normal teenager. He berated himself for ever thinking otherwise. For thinking Malfoy could be a friend to him, for thinking he could be something more. They were simply too different. They were from different worlds. On different sides. A war was practically on, for Merlin's sake and they are and would always be, against each other.

Harry reached the landing to the Entrance Hall and collapsed, letting the blackness and the pain take him.

Harry dreamed. He was back in the dungeons of Malfoy Manor. He was getting sick of this. He never wanted to see this place again. He trudged along the dungeon corridor, torches lighting his way, but only barely. For the first time, his head hurt even in the dream, but not nearly as bad as it had in reality. His feet led him into the large square room where the cells were housed. They were abandoned. He wondered what he was doing here, if there was nothing to see. He suddenly heard a quiet sniffling coming from one of the cells. He moved closer. The dim torchlight didn't light the whole cell; someone was sitting in the shadows, crying, maybe.

Harry peered into the cell, not willing to get too close to the cold iron bars. He still couldn't see anything. "Hello?" he called, cautiously.

The sniffling stopped almost immediately. A young boy of about 10 or 11 came to the bars. Harry stepped back as Draco Malfoy came into the light. "Potter," he spat, just like that first year at school. His platinum hair was slicked back, his face was wet with tears. He wiped them angrily away.

"What are you doing here," the young Malfoy demanded.

Harry wasn't sure how to respond. He usually couldn't interact with the people in his dreams. Or, rather, Malfoy's dreams, as this one surely was. Was this Malfoy, then? Or was he just a dream apparition? Somehow, Harry felt that these things probably didn't have such rules.

"Why are you in there, Malfoy?" he asked softly.

Young Malfoy scoffed. "What do you care." He moved to the back of the cell again, out of Harry's sight.

"I could help you."

Malfoy let out a dry laugh. "What, Potter. You going to be my friend? My boyfriend? Going to talk to my father?"

Harry started at the mention of boyfriend. Despite his appearance, it must be the older Draco. His Draco. Except, not his. It would make sense, he supposed, if they had both passed out at the same time, started sharing the same dream. Who was he kidding, nothing made sense any more.

"We would've been friends, Draco. If you had been kinder to the first person to show me kindness in my entire life."

Young Draco came back to the bars, his face a mask of rage. "Weasley?! People like them don't deserve kindness. They are lesser wizards. You would have seen that. I would have helped you."

Harry had to laugh. "What is it with you?"

"With me?! I am a prince. I am descended from royalty, my blood is pure," Malfoy spat the words as if Harry wasn't worth the effort.

Harry scrutinized the boy behind the bars. "Is this what your father tells you?"

Before Draco could answer, Harry heard footsteps approach. They seemed amplified, too loud for the space, too ominous. Draco retreated to the back of the cell. "Hide, Harry." He whispered.

But Harry was done hiding. He stood his ground, ready to face whatever demons Malfoy had.

Then Voldemort came out of the shadows. Harry reached for his wand, but it was gone. "Draco," the Dark Lord said in a whispery hiss, sounding positively delighted, "you've been keeping a very important secret from me."

The Draco in the cell mumbled something but Harry couldn't quite catch it. Voldemort had his wand raised in Harry's direction. Before he had time to think, he was enveloped in a green light, searing pain burning his body all over. He wasn't dead, but he certainly wished he was. He cried out, needing it to end. And it did. Very suddenly, he was in a forest, the trees rustled in the wind, a most comforting sound. His body still burned, but it was still here. A silvery light started to flow through the trees. At first, he thought it was his own patronus, but that wouldn't be possible. It was a definitely a deer, but as it crept cautiously closer, he saw it had no antlers. A doe, then. He thought his mother standing beyond the trees, but that wouldn't be possible either.

Harry awoke to Professor Snape standing over his bed. His dark eyes looked concerned and his mouth was moving but Harry could hear no sound. The only thing he could hear was the obscene pounding in his head. The room started to spin again. Harry groaned, leaned over the side of the bed (it took all of his strength to lean over the side opposite from Snape) and retched onto the floor. Snape's face took on a massive frown. Harry's vision came and went, bright then dark, dark then bright. Snape was there again, trying to get him to drink something. Harry obligingly took a sip. Snape tried to get him to drink more but Harry smacked it away and closed his eyes, losing consciousness again.

Draco had collapsed onto his bed as soon as Harry had left. He had lain there, waiting. Waiting for the pain to crescendo and kill them both. Waiting for Potter to return. Now he was unconscious, he was sure of it. He was standing on a street that looked so plain, so ordinary, that it must be a muggle street. A house marked number four was right in front of him. The next thing he knew, he was inside the house, in a small foyer. It wasn't a poor person's house, by any means, but it wasn't like his own home, either. He'd actually never seen anything like it. Car keys, jackets, and hats by the door. A small rug for shoes. He continued on into the house. The furniture was bland and in bad taste, and for some reason, all the furniture was pointed at a shiny black box in the center of the room. Draco wrinkled his nose. This was not a place he knew. He should not be here. This dream was all wrong.

"Up! Wake up!" He jumped at the high-pitched female voice suddenly filling his ears.

"I'm up, Aunt Petunia!" That voice he recognized.

He stared in shock as a younger Harry Potter, probably around first year age, emerged from the cupboard under the stairs. His clothes were baggy, his glasses seemingly taped to his head, but it was the same unruly dark hair and emerald eyes. Young Harry gasped when he saw him there, standing in the Dursley's living room.

"You can't be here!" He yelled in a whisper.

Draco could find no words. He didn't even try to mask his emotions. He simply blinked. Things were already strange, but this was another level.

Little Harry sighed in exasperation. "You can't be here," he said again, as if it would have a different result this time. They both looked up as they heard extremely heavy footsteps coming down the stairs. Little Harry hissed through his teeth and looked around wildly. He opened the cabinet door and pushed Draco inside. Draco could still see Harry through the slats in the door and he thought he heard something that sounded like a lock. Draco Malfoy was not known for his tolerance of dark, tiny places.

"I don't know what you're doing here, but my aunt and uncle can't see you here." Little Harry whispered hurriedly through the door.

"You don't know if they even can see me, Potter," Draco replied, not bothering to lower his voice.

"What was that?!" came a deep raucous voice. "Is that you, boy? Pulling pranks already?"

"No, Uncle Vernon," Harry's voice was quiet, subservient. It made Draco sick to his stomach.

"Good, because you know what happens if you do.."

"I know, Sir."

Draco peered between the slats as Harry's uncle came into view. A huge muggle, probably the biggest he'd ever seen, with a huge purple face contorted with barely contained rage. "Yes, you know. You'll go into that cupboard and never see the natural light of day again!" The fat muggle stomped off, adding, "And where is my bacon?!"

Little Harry winced, glanced at the door Draco was behind, and left, presumably to cook the fat old man some bacon. Draco tried to open the door. It rattled, but that was it. He could have forced it open or even magicked it, but he took a look around the tiny room, instead. There was a small thin mattress on the floor, a few shelves, a pile of clothes and that was it. To be honest, he never thought about where Harry Potter had come from. He had been told the story growing up, just like all the other wizards and witches who had come after the Dark Lord's defeat. He was beginning to realize, however, that the version he was told was different from everyone else's. Or at least, mostly everyone else's. That somehow, a small baby was able to defeat a great and terrible wizard and someday, that baby would grow up and be the greatest threat their kind had ever seen. Or, their greatest ally.

Sitting here, in Harry Potter's closet, he could see how wrong that story had been. Everything had been taken from him, even his identity. Harry Potter truly did not know who he was until that day he came to Hogwarts. Most of the wizarding world hailed him a hero before he knew how to walk. And it had been Draco's job to recruit him. In all fairness, he had no idea what he was up against, no way to know the way into Harry Potter's good graces, no one did. He had done it the only way he knew how. But he had failed. Failed and paid dearly for it ever since.

He sighed. He wanted to wake up. Best to get this silly dream over with. Draco waved his hand and the door to the cupboard erupted off its hinges. He heard a scream and a shout from the kitchen. As Draco barreled through the door, he saw Little Harry tending bacon and eggs on the stovetop looking up at him with a shocked expression.

Harry's uncle cried, "Petunia, it's one of them!"

Harry's aunt was clinging to the fat man. Draco bent down and saw an equally fat child hiding under the table, his face covered with orange runny egg goo. Draco smirked as he flipped the table with a flick of his finger.

"What are you doing?" Little Harry cried.

Draco was nonplussed. "They're terrible and I'm saving you."

He turned back to Harry's awful family and nearly had a heart attack. Sitting in their place was Lord Voldemort. He was reading the morning paper and sipping tea. Draco looked next to him at Little Harry. Even though the timeline was all wrong, the younger Harry seemed to know who that was.

The Dark Lord folded up the paper and sipped his tea. He looked at the two of them over his teacup. "My, my, my." He said. "What have we here?" His flat pale face broke into a wide grin. Draco felt his courage leave him, his legs turning wobbly. He still put an arm out protectively trying to shield Little Harry from what might come.

"There it is." Voldemorts voice was quiet, but satisfied. The house started to crumble around them. Large chunks of the ceiling were falling, the boys already knee-deep in rubble. Draco pointed at the Dark Lord with two fingers and shouted, "Avada Kedavra!" knowing full well it wouldn't work. Voldemort produced a shield and it bounced back, hitting Harry. The house came down in a loud rumbling crash and-

Harry woke for the second time, the pain not much better but not much worse either. He decided it was definitely not something he wanted to live with. He opened his eyes and the pain increased, bright sunlight stinging his eyes, magnifying the pounding in his head. He heard a shout and the light lessened. Someone had closed the curtains.

Hermione's face hovered over him, all pale and worried. He felt her hand on his face, but still couldn't hear her words, not exactly. Something about a spell, maybe. He assumed they were trying all sorts of things, none of them working. He really didn't need a play by play. He closed his eyes.

He was on the Quidditch field, in his uniform, broomstick in hand. The golden snitch whizzed by his head and without thinking, he took to the air, following the small golden globe. He reached out a hand to grab it, but it was flying just out of his reach. A solid form hit Harry from the side. He let out a groan and spun sideways in the air. He righted himself and saw a flash of green and silver.. He felt his heart leap into his throat and his mouth go dry. Malfoy. He pushed up his glasses and urged his broom forward, chasing after him.

Draco was flying fast, zigging and zagging all over the field. Harry saw the other players on his team and on the opposing team, except, they appeared to moving in slow motion. Fighting over the quaffle, beating the bludgers. One of them zoomed close to Harry and he stopped his broom mid-flight. His teammate had no face. Where a face should be, there was only stretched skin. Harry flew away, desperate to find Malfoy.

Harry's keen eyes spotted him way up, above the Slytherin team's goal posts. Harry charged, going fast enough that the wind hurt his face and his eyes started to water. He was relieved when he was close enough to see that Draco, at least, had a face. His eyes narrowed at the sight of Harry and he dipped away, aiming towards the ground. Harry followed, both of them, straight as arrows and probably faster, careened towards the ground, shoulder to shoulder, the golden snitch just in front of them.

Harry glanced at Draco. He was smirking. "I remember this," he said, although it was more like a shout to be heard over the wind.

Harry couldn't help but smile. The snitch still in front of them, they pushed their brooms harder, faster, the ground was getting closer and closer. They looked at one another, grinning like idiots, neither of them backing off or slowing down. At the last possible second, the snitch reversed course and flew up into the air. Harry's fingers and toes scraped the ground as he pulled up, Draco right beside him.

The snitch flew high- and then exploded. Harry and Draco flew through the wreckage, all sparks and light. Then Harry realized what it was: a dark mark. He looked at Draco next to him, his face stricken.

"Sorry, Harry. I had fun, but I have to go." Draco pointed his broomstick to the ground.

"Draco, no! Wait!"

Harry looked where he was headed. In the middle of the pitch was a black robed figure. He didn't need to get closer to see who it was. Voldemort was standing there, and he was clapping.

Chapter Text

Harry awoke with a start. He sat up, amazed that he could without vomiting. His curtains were open and late evening sunlight slanted across the hospital wing floors. His first thought was that Hermione must have figured it out and they ran the counter spell or potion or antidote or whatever it might have been. Then he noticed a slim blonde figure sitting in an armchair near the tall floor to ceiling windows. His heart beat a little bit faster. Anxiety gripped his chest, making it difficult to breathe. He waited for Draco to say something. The room stayed silent.

Harry grabbed his glasses from the side table and put them on. He could see Draco, legs crossed ankle over knee, his head in his hand. He was asleep. It wasn't over, then. He wasn't sure if he felt anger or relief.

Harry threw back the covers. Someone had dressed him in some ridiculous striped pajamas. It took him a couple tries to get out of bed. His body felt disused and sore. He wondered how long he had been here. Gingerly, he stepped over to where Draco was sleeping. Draco was not in his pajamas, not even close. He wore grey dress slacks, a white button up shirt (again with his sleeves rolled up to the elbow) covered by a creme colored vest. His blonde hair was falling in his face and, despite his impeccable dress, he once again had bags under his eyes and his handsome face looked drawn, almost skeletal. Harry realized he was mumbling something. Harry dropped his head near Draco's mouth.

His voice was barely audible. "Sorry, Harry. I have to go."

Harry fell backwards in surprise, landing on his backside with a yelp. Draco woke up; his cool gaze finding Harry sprawled on the floor beneath his feet.

"Having a time, Potter?" he drawled. Harry searched his face for humor but found none. He picked himself up and straightened his pajamas in what he hoped was a dignified sort of way.

"What are you doing here?" Harry tried to make his voice sound like he didn't care.

Draco shifted in his chair, crossing his legs the other way. He splayed his fingers in the air as if he were stating the obvious when he said, "Pain relief."

Harry sat on the end of his infirmary bed, trying to keep his hungry eyes off of Malfoy's immaculate form. He was pretty sure he dressed like that on purpose. No one goes around dressed like that on a school night. He realized he wasn't sure if it was a school night.

"How long has it been?"

"Since when?"

Harry rolled his eyes. Back to these stupid, petulant games.

Draco took his meaning and sighed. "It's been nearly three days since you left," he said softly, "or so I'm told."

Three days. Had they been sharing dreams that entire time? The dreams had been different, with the both of them seeming to be active participants, instead of Harry feeling like an observing specter, talking to people who could neither see nor hear him. Harry was certain they had on that last one, with Malfoy saying the same exact words in his sleep. But would Malfoy admit it? Did it matter if he did or didn't? Harry found that it did matter, at least to him. He couldn't have a relationship built on deception and half-truths.

Draco was looking out the window. "Stop staring at me, Harry." His voice was tired, pained.

"Come here." It was a small request and Harry didn't expect Draco to comply, he just knew that if he asked, Draco would have said no.

Malfoy sighed and got up languidly from the chair he had been relaxing in. Harry knew his body must feel as tired and worn out as his own, but Draco didn't show it. His movements were nothing but fluid grace. He sat down next to Harry on the bed, their legs and shoulders touching. The warm feeling radiated through Harry. It felt like a healing spell, seeping into his bones, making him feel whole again. He sighed with relief.

Draco turned to him suddenly, reaching for him, a hand on his cheek, cool lips pressing against his, a warm tongue meeting his own. The warmth ignited into a fire in Harry's chest. His hand went to Draco's face, tracing his jawline, his neck as they kissed, his other hand gripping Draco's vest.

"Watch it, Potter, that's expensive," Draco whispered and Harry could hear the smirk in his voice. Harry let go anyway, and swung his leg over Draco's lap, straddling him. Their kisses deepened, turning fevered, passionate. Draco's hands were on his hips, surprisingly strong, pulling him closer. Harry bent to kiss Draco's neck, nipping lightly. All he could hear was Draco's hot breath in his ear and the pounding of his own desperate heart.

"Potter," Draco whispered, and Harry took it as encouragement. But Draco's hands were gently pushing him away. "No, Potter." Draco's voice a little louder and firmer this time. Harry stopped kissing him, winding his arms around Draco's neck instead. Someone cleared their throat from the other side of the room.

Madam Pompfrey stood there, looking angry, arms crossed, Hermione and Ron flanking her on either side. Hermione was smiling, but Ron had turned an ashen grey/green color and looked as if he were about to vomit slugs all over his shoes. Harry jumped off of Draco, his face burning with the fire of a thousand suns.

"That's quite enough, you two," Madam Pompfrey scolded, "This is a hospital wing and you are here to get better. Back in bed Mr. Potter!"

"Yeah, Potter," Draco smirked, "back in bed."

If it was possible, Harry felt his face grow even hotter. He dutifully sat on the edge of his bed while Draco stood up, adjusting his expensive vest.

Madam Pompfrey came over, felt his forehead, and tutted over him before heading out of the infirmary door muttering to herself. Draco moved to follow her out. Panic gripped Harry's chest until Draco's hand landed on his shoulder. It was such a simple gesture, but it felt like more.

"I'll wait outside," his voice was soft and kind.

Harry nodded. He watched him go, wishing he had stayed, knowing he was right. Draco nodded to Hermione and completely ignored Ron on his way out the door. Harry had the dullest bit of pain in his head, but it stayed at that level, telling him Draco was just outside the door, waiting like he had said.

"Harry!" Hermione ran to him and threw her arms around his neck. Harry chuckled and returned the hug. He glanced at Ron, who still looked about to be sick but now his mouth was opening and closing like a fish out of water.

"You were out for three days, Harry, what happened? They wouldn't let us in to see you, but I heard Dumbledore came and I tried to talk to him but he wouldn't see me and now he's gone again. None of the teachers seem to know what's going on with you two, well, except for Snape, I suppose but it's not like we're going to get anything out of him." Hermione was talking way faster than usual.

"Hermione, slow down. I can't follow you. Dumbledore? He was here? Could you make Ron snap out of it?"

"Yes, I saw him when I was trying to see you." She got up and started shaking Ron by the shoulders. "Ronald!"

Ron's mouth closed with a final snap but his face didn't gain any color. "Hey, mate," he said weakly. "Sorry about before, eh?"

"Yeah, sure Ron. You okay?" Harry realized he was smirking, just a little bit.

Ron cleared his throat and looked at his shoes. "Herm told me a little bit, but this, uh, this is uh.." Ron seemed to find his voice as he looked up. "What the actual fuck, Harry?"

"Ronald!" Hermione said again, her voice full of chastisement.

"You're seriously okay with this, Herm? The guy is.. evil, okay?! He's one of them!"

Harry looked down at the floor. It wasn't that he was ashamed or anything, he just wished his best friend would understand. But it seemed like he didn't want to understand, not about him and Hermione, let alone about him and Draco Malfoy.

"People are allowed to change, Ron."

He winced as Hermione fought his battle for him.

"Not that git, he isn't. And I'm sure he won't." Ron turned to Harry, "I certainly hope you're not believing anything he tells you, Harry, you know he's a lying, cheating bastard. Always has been and always will be. And you were..you were.." He seemed like he couldn't bear to say the words. Harry said them for him.

"Making out?"

Ron's face paled more. "Yeah, yeah, that's it."

"I think you better leave, Ron. This isn't helping Harry's condition."

This time he rounded on Hermione. "And Malfoy is?"

"Actually, yes, he is."

Ron crossed his arms and exhaled loudly. "Yeah, I better leave." He cast another warning glance at Harry. "I don't want to be the one to say I told you so when it ends in shambles, Harry, but I will." Ron turned on his heel and stomped out of the infirmary.

"Good thing all the other beds are empty," Harry said, trying to lighten the mood.

Hermione opened her mouth but Harry cut her off. "Please don't apologize, 'Mione."

She looked pained for a moment, like she had to swallow something unpleasant. "Okay, then," she said instead, "tell me what happened."

Harry related what had happened since she left the two of them in the dungeon corridor three days ago. About how Draco had asking him to teach him to conjure a corporeal patronus, but wouldn't tell him anything, even what side he was on. About how Harry had left him despite the growing pain.

"And I'm certain we were sharing dreams for those three days, Hermione."

"Sharing dreams?" Hermione muttered in a way that told Harry she was speaking mostly to herself. She tapped a finger to her cheek, staring off into space. He knew he should just wait patiently for Hermione to work out whatever it was she was working out, but patience was in short order already.

"Hermione."

She started, looking at him as if she had forgotten he was there. Her eyes suddenly lit up. "Dreamsharing, Harry."

"What?" Wasn't she just repeating the thing he had just said?

"I just have some research to do," she said with a wave of her hand, like she was shooing away a fly. "So Malfoy was in all of your dreams?"

"More than that, it was like a constant presence. I could interact with him when usually, it's like I'm a ghost."

He fidgeted with the buttons on his pajama top. "And Voldemort was there, too," he added quietly.

Hermione gasped and jumped to her feet. "That's a big deal, Harry! You can't just say it like it's no big deal."

"Fine, You-Know-Who."

"No, that's not what I meant. We have to tell Dumbledore!"

"You said he's gone."

Hermione sat back down, her urgency leaking away. "He is gone. We could tell Professor McGonagall."

"Yeah, she was loads of help last time," Harry said sarcastically.

They sat in silence for a moment, trying to absorb the facts.

"He won't tell me anything, Hermione." Harry hadn't meant to sound so sad about it.

"And, really, you can't make him, Harry."

Harry looked around the hospital wing. "Obviously," he said with a smile.

Hermione let out a small laugh. He could tell she wanted to say something more.

"What is it?"

Hermione smiled sheepishly. Harry saw where this was going. "You can't gossip about me."

"Harry! I would never. I just want to know.. you know.."

"I'm quite sure I don't know. You had better ask me."

"Fine. Are you two.. together?" She looked at him expectantly.

Harry knew that was going to be her question and he thought he knew the answer, but upon further reflection, he didn't know.

"I don't know."

Hermione visibly deflated.

"It's not so simple, 'Mione. If we were, it'd have to be a secret. For his sake more than mine, probably. It's more like," Harry took a minute to find the right words. "It's more like I can't help myself when I'm around him."

Hermione nodded and patted his leg. "He is pretty dashing, isn't he?"

Harry stared at her, his mouth open.

"I mean," Hermione said, "He is, he's handsome. Everyone knows it. He's just totally not my type."

"You mean he's a rich racist twat with a Death Eater for a dad," Harry said, a smile on his face.

"Yeah, that." Hermione sighed. "I hope you know what you're doing, Harry."

Harry grinned. "Don't worry, Hermione, I never know what I'm doing."

Harry found himself following Draco to his private room once more. Earlier, he had watched from his bed in the hospital wing as Professor Snape, of all people, came to negotiate with the school nurse for his release. Draco had stood off to the side, nonchalantly staring out of the now dark windows, arms folded. Snape had explained that Harry Potter would be released into his care, via one Draco Malfoy. The absurdity had struck Harry suddenly, causing a wild laugh at Snape's words. The potions master and the nurse had glared at him. Draco had smiled and chuckled a bit himself. Hermione had returned with some of Harry's things packed in his bag, like he was going on holiday. The first thing he had done was change out of those silly pajamas, into a simple ensemble: jeans, t-shirt, hoodie.

Now, as they entered the hidden room, Malfoy was quiet, almost pensive. Harry felt like he probably shouldn't talk, so he didn't. He didn't want to lapse back into arguing with him, knowing now that there was nowhere else to go. Hermione was right; if Draco didn't want to talk, he couldn't make him. He wanted to, though, so desperately. Harry stretched out on Draco's sofa, hands behind his head. He searched his memory banks for some sort of spell or potion that might, well, not make him do things, exactly, but make him more susceptible to suggestions, maybe. Even that sounded a bit too far for Harry. No, he guessed he would just have to sit back and wait. Possibly even enjoy the waiting if it was anything like it had been when they were alone together. Harry felt his face flush even thinking about it.

"Make yourself at home, Potter," Malfoy said with only a hint of sarcasm.

Harry turned to look at the other boy's face, unsure of Draco's mood. Malfoy was starting to undress, unbuttoning his vest. Harry froze. Draco lifted an eyebrow and started to unbutton his shirt, slowly, a small smirk playing on his lips. Harry let out the breath he had been holding when he realized Draco had a shirt on underneath. Still, seeing Draco Malfoy in a plain white t-shirt was taking his breath away.

"Enjoying the show, Potter?"

Harry cleared his throat and laid his head back down in a lame attempt to hide his embarrassment. "Sorry," he muttered.

"What was that?"

Harry winced. Draco's voice was so cold, all it was missing was an insult.

Harry sat up and ran his hands through his messy hair nervously. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry I tried to force you to talk. It wasn't right."

Malfoy sat on the other end of the couch, heaving a great sigh. "It's not entirely your fault, Scarhead." His voice was lighter now; he gave Harry a weak smile. Then just as quickly, it was gone.

"What's the matter?"

Draco put his face in his hands. "This shouldn't be happening, Harry."

"A lot of things happen that shouldn't."

"No, I mean, this really shouldn't be happening. Dreamsharing? For three days straight? It's unheard of."

Dreamsharing. Once again he felt like Draco and Hermione were running academic circles around him. Harry felt some of the tension leave his body anyway. The important thing was that Draco was talking to him, actually talking. He had to keep it going. "So you do know."

Draco gave him a look that said, of course I know.

Harry felt a little silly. Of course he knew. "Except, one of them..one of them was mine and you were in it. Usually it's only me in yours."

"It's getting stronger."

Harry inched closer to Draco, hoping he wouldn't notice, and if he did notice, he hoped he wouldn't mind. "So," started Harry, hoping he felt brave enough to ask the next question, "How does Voldemort figure into all of this?"

Malfoy turned to Harry, his eyes narrowing, searching. Harry reached over and took his hand, grateful that Draco let him. He felt the comforting warmth, but Draco's silver eyes were still turbulent, unsure.

"Harry, I'm going to be a Death Eater."

Chapter Text

"What? No. You're not." Potters response was sweet, in a way, naive in others.

"You know my father." Draco watched with interest as Harry put the pieces together. He definitely wasn't stupid by any means, it just seemed to Draco like he simply didn't try unless he absolutely had to. Potions, Quidditch, the motives and plans of his enemies. He had seen Harry Potter blunder his way through classes and matches, always coming out on top or near enough, at least. He assumed, for the first time, it was that way with the Dark Lord as well, Harry just barely leaving with his life by sheer luck. It flipped the image of Harry Potter his father had tried to instill in him on its head, the massively powerful, good and righteous to a fault, Harry Potter. The threat that must be dealt with at all costs. Draco saw him now, just a teenage kid with no idea how things really worked in the real world. The wizarding world. But definitely not stupid.

"I do," Harry admitted, "but that doesn't set anything in stone. It should be your decision. It has to be your decision."

Draco laughed. It sounded empty and hollow, even to his own ears. "I've been groomed for this my entire life. My father.." somehow he faltered. Could anyone else really understand? Potter was looking at him, waiting. Potter's green eyes seemed to be trying to peer inside his soul. For all he knew, Harry already had through his dreams. It was embarrassing and wrong but it still felt..well, not great. Maybe it felt okay. Maybe it even felt nice to not have to try to explain all of the things going on inside his head.

As if he could sense Draco's thoughts, Harry asked, "What does this have to do with the dreams?"

Draco sighed. That was starting to happen more often too, and was proving troublesome. He made a mental note to be more careful. For some reason, he still didn't want Harry to know everything. Not yet and maybe not ever. No matter how good it felt. There was too much he didn't know himself. He kept having a feeling like he should know, like possibly he used to know, but the knowledge just wasn't there anymore. Or it was locked away where he couldn't reach it. Or maybe that was just how a mystery felt. Is this a mystery?

"What don't you want me to know?" Harry's eyes shone like rare pure emeralds. It made Draco's breath catch in his throat, how beautiful his eyes truly were. It was like he could see through them, see the feelings Potter was feeling behind them. The concern, the mild annoyance, the suspicion. It was an unreal feeling. How could this be real? Even in a world full of magic, it was a strange thing indeed. Draco reached up and gently took Harry's glasses. Harry squinted his eyes but didn't argue. He wanted very much to tell him everything, to bare his soul, to open his heart, to let Harry Potter save him and whisk him away, anywhere far away from here. No family, no Dark Lords, no obligations. Harry gave him a small, sad smile, touched his face. "We can't leave. We need to have this conversation."

"I know," Draco whispered. The implication being that Harry wouldn't help him. That he might leave again. Draco leaned forward, kissed his cheek. His cheeks were so warm, it made his lips tingle. "The dreams, the nightmares, the visions," Draco said softly as he kissed Harry's other cheek. Somehow, it was easier to talk when he didn't have to look into those enchanting green eyes. "It's how the Dark Lord convinces you it's better to be with him than against. And when that doesn't work.."

Harry drew back, his eyes searching Draco's. "That's what's happening?"

Draco nodded. "I was supposed to take the mark last June, on my birthday."

"Your birthday's in June? Mine is in July."

"Harry, focus."

"Sorry," Harry said with a grin. "You're older than me," he whispered, as if it were some sort of revelation. Perhaps it was, for him.

Draco cleared his throat.

"So what happens now? What did you say last time to get out of it?" Harry asked.

"Now," Draco sighed, "my parents want me home for the holidays." He made a face, entirely ignoring Harry's second question on purpose.

"So don't go. I never go home for the holidays."

Draco wished that he could be angry or even annoyed with his stupidly grinning boyfriend while they were discussing his future career in evil. But he wasn't.

He only smirked, but thought of all the hurtful things he would have said to Potter before all of this, given an opportunity like this one. He could hit the dead parents angle, or make fun of him for staying with his insufferable friends. It was almost like an itch he couldn't scratch. It's not that he wanted to be mean to Harry, quite the opposite. Draco figured it was old habits, it was intrusive thoughts, it was their old and familiar relationship when this new one was so strange and hard for him to navigate.

"We could..you know, spend it together." Harry's sweetness caught him off guard.

"It's not like we'd have a choice," his words came out clipped and short, not how he'd intended. He hadn't really intended to say anything.

Harry moved away. "But you do have a choice. Don't take the mark."

Now Draco felt annoyed. It rushed over him in a wave and the words came tumbling out of his mouth, too fast to control. "It isn't that easy. It's been generations in my family, Potter. It is part of my family and has been as long as I can remember. I would be breaking an unfathomable chain, and as the only heir, it is my duty and has been since my birth."

Harry seemed confused. "But Voldemort has only been around for-"

"The Dark Lord is but one of many, Potter." Draco didn't mean to sound so exasperated, but he was pretty sure even most first years had a limited understanding of the history of dark magic and those particularly strong in it. It was rather important to wizarding history. He waved a hand, saying, "Nevermind, it's not important. All I could do was stall for time." Draco leveled his gaze at Harry, willing him to understand. Don't make me say it.

Harry turned pink and looked a bit uncomfortable. "You mean.." Harry ran a hand through his dark hair. It was becoming noticeable as a nervous habit. Draco quite liked to watch him do it. Draco quite liked it more that he made him nervous.

"Let me get this straight. You, Draco Malfoy, you were waiting for me to kill Voldemort?"

Draco got to his feet and started to pace in front of the fireplace. He still had his pride, after all. "Not exactly, no."

Harry opened his mouth to protest. Draco shut him down with a glare. "What I mean is, something has happened to incapacitate the Dark Lord once a year, every year, since I started attending Hogwarts. With you." He folded his arms across his chest and continued, "You made it so I never had to seriously consider this decision before."

Harry put his glasses back on, green eyes narrowing, his voice tight. "You just figured I would've done it by now, is that it?"

Draco shrugged. "I figured it to be more than likely."

Harry Potter was sitting on his sofa in his room, smirking at him. Now, Draco found his anger. "What are you smirking at, Potter?"

"Nothing."

"Nothing?" Draco stepped closer to the Boy Who Lived, really taking him in. His cavalier attitude, his weird sense of humor. And all the things that must be lying beneath.

"Nothing at all." Harry's laugh finally got away from him. A not quite maniacal laugh, but not quite normal either. Draco dismissed it as a defense mechanism and briefly wondered how many of those Harry Potter must have by now. Probably as many as he did, if not more.

Draco let Potter's laugh die before turning to glare at him once more. He made his eyes hard, his face stone, determined not to show how much it had bothered him.

Harry sobered suddenly. He looked as if something new had just occurred to him. "Draco," he said, and a feeling burst in his chest as Draco reveled in Harry calling him by his first name, "do you want to be a Death Eater?"

He was not ready for the question. They were so far into the conversation without Harry having asked this question, he thought it wouldn't happen. He resumed his pacing in front of the fireplace, giving his boxed wand a glance every now and then.

"Draco?"

"I heard you Potter." He knew he sounded sullen. There was no map for this interaction, no certain way it was supposed to go. His life had, by and large, been planned out for him. Everything had a purpose, he had a clear aim, to follow in his father's footsteps, to be the head of House Malfoy. As the only child it was his burden to bear. His free will taken away and replaced with duty, with family honor. Then, Harry Potter had entered the picture. He felt his eyes burning and felt the first tear fall before he was aware that he was crying.

Harry was there in an instant, wrapping him up in a strong embrace. The warm feeling enveloped him and made his chest ache wonderfully. He thought about pushing him away, but only for a moment. Harry's head was a comforting weight on his shoulder. His tears continued to fall, Harry held him and he let it all happen.

"Stay with me at Christmas," Harry whispered into Draco's neck. His tears fell faster now, hot and heavy on his cheeks. "I'll teach you to conjure a patronus."

Draco inhaled sharply, the start of a controlled sob, but buried his face in the place where Harry's neck met his shoulder instead. He was mildly aware that his long fingers were gripping Harry's clothing tightly, like he was worried the other boy would disappear at any moment. Or maybe he was worried about Potter letting go too soon and seeing him so weak. Either way, he held on, waiting for the warmth to ease him.

Harry kissed his neck, sending shivers down his spine. The tears stopped falling. The full weight of what Harry had just promised hit Draco. "Don't you want assurances?" He whispered to the boy who was supposed to save him. He hated how weak his voice sounded.

"A patronus repels dark magic, right? If you want to learn, you can't want the mark that badly."

"I never said I wanted it."

"You never said you didn't either."

"It's complicated."

"You keep saying that."

They were both silent for a bit.

Harry kissed his neck again.

"Potter," Draco muttered, but he only had the energy to make it half of a warning.

"Hmm?" The vibration from Harry's lips traveled up and down Draco's spine. He squirmed only a little. He felt Harry's mouth curl into a smile against his throat. He suddenly didn't want Harry to have that sort of satisfaction.

"I can't owe you."

Harry stepped back. "Who said anything about owing me?"

"I can teach you how to do magic without a wand and we'll be even."

Harry's sparkling eyes were discerning. Looking for a trap, Draco suspected. It's okay, he reminded himself, I never asked him to trust me.

"But that will give me a marked advantage in the fight against evil," Harry said with a goofy grin. "Don't you want to try and turn me? Or at least make it more difficult for me, Malfoy?"

Draco wasn't ready for jokes quite yet. "No, Potter," he said, his voice low. "I want you to win."

They had started practicing the patronus charm that very night. Draco waved the furniture out of the way and Harry had lit some candles. Mood lighting, he had said with a wink, but Draco still wasn't even smiling at his jokes. Harry knew he should probably stop, but the more quiet his boyfriend got, the more he needed them. Maybe if Draco saw some progress on the patronus, he could relax a little bit.

It wasn't that Harry was not at all concerned, he just wasn't used to this level of tension without there being actual danger. It made him feel jumpy and anxious. It made him need to be doing something with his hands, saying something, anything. It was a bit amazing to him, how Draco could control the feeling in the room with his mood. Harry never considered him a commanding presence before, but perhaps he was growing up. It reminded him of Draco's father, really, but Harry didn't want to think about that. In any case, Draco Malfoy was tightly wound. Harry's mind kept wandering to all of the things he could do to release his tension and had to remind himself that this was Draco's life on the line. If not literally, then at least his future. And Wandless magic, that would definitely (hopefully) give him a leg up on defeating the most powerful and evil wizard of all time. Harry was looking forward to it. He always did love a challenge.

Draco had refused to use his wand for practice and wouldn't say why, but Harry knew it had something to do with the flayed man in the Malfoy dungeons from his, or rather, their dreams. He wasn't sure how this was supposed to work without a wand.

"Maybe you should teach me, first," he said to Draco, "Then I'll have wandless instructions for the patronus."

Draco actually tapped his foot with impatience. "Just show me how you do it and give me the basics. If a ragtag group of Gryffindors can produce one in a week, I'm sure I'll get it sooner."

Harry frowned. He was enjoying getting to know Draco, but sometimes he still acted like the old arrogant Malfoy. It was mildly annoying. The things he wanted to do Draco vanished as suddenly as they had come.

Harry sighed, centering himself mentally. He was suddenly reminded of how nervous he was when he started teaching Dumbledore's Army, especially when Cho had shown up. He remembered the odd feeling in his chest then, and compared it to this feeling now. He could vaguely feel the warmth with Draco in the same room, as if it had sneaking tendrils wrapped around his heart. Teaching Cho had been odd, had made him nervous, but had gotten easier.

Teaching Draco Malfoy, however, was a bit like that, a bit like having to teach Fluffy, Hagrid's three headed dog, to sit on command. Not that he felt afraid, but he definitely had a feeling that he might be dealing with something distinctly dangerous. Draco was staring at him, his grey eyes cool. He wished his boyfriend's eyes were playful and stormy instead.

"So," Harry started, taking out his wand, "the wand motion is a quick upward flick, coming from your wrist more than your fingers."

Draco crossed his arms and scowled. "What?" Harry asked defensively. "You said the basics."

Draco was across the room in two quick strides, a smirk replacing his scowl. "Am I making you nervous, Potter?"

Harry's wand faltered in the air. "Always?" He joked.

"Always, really," Draco said, his voice low.

"Well, no," Harry stammered, "just lately, I suppose." He ran a hand through his hair.

Draco's smirk widened. "You've been thinking of me," he said as he came even closer, "as your boyfriend?"

Harry felt his cheeks grow hot as the warmth surrounded him and looked down. "You said you would stop doing that."

"I said no such thing, Potter. I said I couldn't explicitly read your thoughts, but I sure as hell feel them."

Harry raised his eyes to meet Draco's. He was so close, his eyes dancing and stormy like he had wanted. The gravity of the situation came back to him, the lesson, and what would happen if the two of them didn't do something productive. He shrugged it off as best he could. This moment. This moment was important too. "And what does it feel like?" He breathed.

Draco's arm snaked around his waist and Harry tried to hide his surprise and delight. Draco's other arm wound around his neck, bringing him closer still. Harry swore he could feel electricity crackle between their bodies.

"It feels warm," he whispered into Harry's ear. "It feels good, too good to be real." He kissed Harry's ear then, his cool lips sending a shiver through him and he never wanted it to stop. "It feels like what home should feel like."

Harry dropped his wand with a clatter. He took Malfoy's face between his hands and kissed him hungrily. Draco returned the kiss, squeezing Harry's body against him harder. The familiar heat burst inside his chest, aching, Draco's touch was electric and cool, giving him gooseflesh. A small moan escaped his lips; Draco grunted and pushed away roughly, turning his back to him.

"Draco," Harry said softly.

"We have work to do, Harry," Draco said. He sounded breathless, like he had just run a great distance at top speed, but was trying to sound normal. Harry watched curiously as Draco composed himself, straightening clothing, fixing his hair, clearing his throat. Harry realized Draco had probably made a career out of looking like nothing was wrong. It made Harry sad, but also a bit proud.

"Right." He retrieved his wand from the floor. Draco stood facing him now, smirking and ready.

Chapter Text

It was early morning. And a Sunday. They walked the castle grounds, getting some much needed fresh air. Harry liked Draco's room, but it was still the dungeons and spending too much time there made him feel claustrophobic, like trapped in his cabinet back on Privet Drive. Draco seemed to understand and even more, seemed to pick up on Harry's needs before he was aware of it himself. He was the one who suggested they go for a walk. Harry felt grateful.

They had practiced the patronus most of the night, facing each other much in the same way they had for their short lived dueling class second year.

"Scared, Malfoy?"

"You wish," Draco smirked. Then they had grinned at each other like idiots.

Harry was surprised at Draco's quick progress. He knew he was sickeningly smart, got good grades and all, but somehow, Harry never expected this level of commitment and patience. He wondered, not for the first time, how strong Draco Malfoy really was. He often wondered how strong he himself really was, but always in the context of a fight with the Dark Lord. Maybe it was one of those things no one knew until they had to fight a dark wizard or two. A sink or swim kind of thing.

By the early hours of the morning, Draco had managed to summon a swirling glowing mist from his fingertips. Harry had been impressed. Draco had been disappointed.

Today, however, they started to loop around the Black Lake, their shoes crunching on the rocky shore. Red and gold leaves covered the ground with many more yet to fall. Draco hadn't said a word, so Harry hadn't either. The silence felt heavy, but also necessary. Harry decided he was comfortable with it as long as Draco was next to him. He stole a sidelong glance at the tall boy walking beside him. He was wearing another expensive outfit, Harry guessed; a charcoal v-neck sweater over a powder blue oxford, the top button unbuttoned. Usually he wasn't so casual. His pale long-fingered hands were stuffed in the pockets of his brown chinos. Harry never appreciated Draco's fashion sense before, but he had to admit, he looked good. Better than good. Harry looked down at his tired jeans, worn out chuck taylor sneakers and the same zip up hoodie he had worn last night. It was his favorite and it was red, or at least, it used to be. He pushed his glasses up and ran a hand through his dark hair, knowing it didn't matter. Nothing fixed that mess.

"I quite like your hair," Draco said quietly.

Harry smiled, a bit embarrassed. "Am I thinking too loudly?"

Draco looked up at the sky. "No. I can just feel you more when my mind is quiet."

Harry wasn't sure what to say to that so he said nothing. The connection, the warmth, the dreams. It was all getting stronger. The few times he had brought it up with Draco, he claimed to know nothing, but Harry was starting to get a feeling he wasn't getting the whole truth. Not a lie, exactly, just not the truth. Harry knew he still had secrets, everyone had secrets, after all, and he really shouldn't expect to know everything about another person in a few weeks' time. Especially not someone he was so recently at odds with. In school. In Quidditch. In a war. He realized Malfoy was looking at him. Harry tried to clear his mind and put a neutral expression on his face. It occurred to him very suddenly that this was the first time this mind-feeling thing was an inconvenience. It was far too easy, however, to let his mind wander while looking at his handsome boyfriend, odds or not. He thought he saw Draco's cheeks turn slightly pinkish before he turned away.

A cool breeze blew across the lake, rippling the water. Harry turned his face to meet it, the fresh air smelling like lake water and dead leaves. It was wonderful. His eyes caught sight of someone coming towards them, around the other side of the lake. Three people to be exact. He glanced at Draco, suddenly unsure of the protocol that came with this new and unusual territory. He must've looked worried because Draco was looking at him with his brow furrowed. Harry nodded across the lake. Draco followed his gaze, then looked back at Harry and smirked. That smirk put fire in his heart and daggers in his chest.

"Don't want to be seen with me, Potter?"

Harry scoffed. "I was thinking it was the opposite, Malfoy."

Draco acted overly offended, placing a hand over his heart, his voice exaggerated. "Whatever will I do if respectable students see me walking around with a scarheaded Gryffindor?"

Harry punched him in the arm playfully, grinning. "You're the one with the dad on the school board with ties to the Dark Lord. Nobody cares about who Harry Potter is dating."

"If the Dark Lord already knows about it, then so does my father," Draco said much too nonchalantly. "And I happen to care very much whom Harry Potter is dating."

Draco flashed him a look. It was strange, as if Harry was seeing the real Draco Malfoy. The person who was underneath the jokes and the bullying, the person free of family, money, obligations. There was no smirk, no wall, no pretense. It was the Draco he met in the Owlery, the one who was sweet and sincere. Harry felt as though he had been punched in the gut. And in a flash it was gone, replaced by a rueful smile. "So do they."

Harry followed Draco's gaze, ready to curse out the persons that had stolen this moment from him. Ron, Hermione, and Ginny were walking toward them, talking and laughing. Harry's thoughts wouldn't keep up. "Is that something to worry about, Draco?"

"I don't know Harry, they're your friends."

Harry stopped walking. "No, I mean, that your father and the Dark Lord know. About us. Is that a problem?"

Draco stopped a few steps ahead of him but didn't turn around. Harry waited for the there-is-no-us line but it never came. Instead, Draco sighed deeply. "I dont know."

Harry strode forward to meet him, putting himself between his friends and his boyfriend, steeling his facial features. That feeling again. "What are you not telling me?"

A glimmer of surprise on Draco's handsome pointed face. Hurried footfalls on the lakeshore, coming closer. Too close. He thought about grabbing Draco and running away, anywhere else. They spent so much time alone together lately, but it was all he wanted, now and always, just the two of them. He cringed when he heard Ginny's voice calling his name excitedly. Draco's face had turned to stone, looking over his shoulder.

Harry turned in time to catch Ginny, who didn't slow at all, crashing into him with a bone-breaking hug. "Harry! I haven't seen you in ages, are you alright?" She stepped back, the huge grin faltering on her face when she saw who he was with. Under any other circumstances, it would have been funny.

Harry forced a laugh, "Hi Ginny, I'm fine."

"Are you sure?" she said, eyeing Draco.

Draco raised an eyebrow but said nothing.

Hermione and Ron caught up to them, Hermione smiling, Ron looking an insolent mess. Harry saw Hermione elbow Ron in the side. Hermione hugged Harry then, to everyone's surprise, she hugged Draco as well. Harry smiled as Draco stiffened and hesitantly placed one arm around his friend, gave her a quick pat, and stepped back. "Granger," he said, "a word?"

"Oh," Hermione looked taken aback, but said, "of course."

The small party watched as Hermione and Draco walked a short distance away, Hermione's head inclined and Draco's bowed.

"What's that about, then?" Ron was next to Harry.

"Hi Ron, how are you?" Ron's face told him the sarcasm wasn't lost on him.

"Yeah, Ron, get over it, already."

"You don't even know what's going on, Gin."

"I know enough," Ginny sniffed.

Ron turned to Harry, "She doesn't know anything."

"I can hear you, you know. You guys have a big fight like once a year. Ron, you'll get over it and Harry, you'll forgive him for being insufferable. It doesn't matter what it's about."

Harry felt it coming before he could stop it. It was like Ron's mouth was opening in slow motion, but the words were already formed and there was nothing Harry could do to contain it or take it back.

"Harry's dating Draco Malfoy."

The color drained from Ginny's face. She looked at Harry, maybe giving him a chance to refute what her brother had just said. Harry opened his mouth but nothing came out. He closed it. Ginny looked back to Ron, then over to Malfoy, then back to Harry.

"Excuse me," she said weakly and started walking quickly back towards the castle.

"Ginny!" Harry called, for what purpose, he wasn't sure, he just knew that didn't go particularly well. He rounded on Ron. "What the hell, Ron?"

"She loves you, you know."

Harry sighed. "I know, Ron. Everyone knows. What's the point? You upset your sister and I go and shag her instead?"

Ron's face went to ash. "Graduated to shagging now, have you?"

Harry put a hand to his forehead. "That's not the point, Ron. Just - What's the matter with you? For once in my life, I'm actually happy. Is that so bad?"

Ron kicked a rock. It skidded into the water with a small splash. "I thought we were close, Harry. I thought I knew you. This-" he gestured rudely at Draco, "this isn't you. He's doing something to you to make you change."

Harry scoffed. "This is ridiculous, Ron. I didn't say anything when you and Hermione got together."

"Maybe you should have, mate."

"Look, that isn't the point. I don't feel that way anymore. This, between me and him, it's..different. I know it's strange but it feels right. There's no doubt in my mind."

"Maybe there should be. You're not.." his hand gestured wildly in the air, as if it had a mind of its own.

"Not what, Ron." Harry lowering his tone, daring him to say it.

Ron looked everywhere except Harry's face.

"Is it a gay thing? Or is it just about Malfoy? Would it be different if it was someone else? If I were dating Justin Finch-Fletchley would it be a big deal?"

"Justin Finch-Fletchley isn't even good looking." Ron muttered.

"And Malfoy is?" Harry grinned.

Ron turned red and sputtered, "So you- You're gay now?"

Harry shrugged. "I dunno. Does it matter?"

"I guess not."

Harry stuffed his hands in his hoodie pockets. "Then it's a Draco thing." Of all the things going on just then, Harry had considered his friends' opinions of his boyfriend to be the least on the list. He figured Ron would be angry but he would come around eventually. Eventually was taking a long time to happen. And for some reason, there seemed a lot of explaining to do.

Ron was suddenly animated. "I don't like him, Harry. All the things he's done, not just to me or Hermione, but all of us, how can that just go away? Has he even apologized for any of it?"

It wasn't like Harry hadn't thought about it before, but he always came to the same conclusion. Apologies didn't change the past. Draco's recent actions and manner seemed to negate the past, in any case. "He doesn't need to."

"Maybe he does."

"Maybe he would if you were dating him, but you're not."

They were silent for a moment. Ron was kicking around some rocks with the toe of his shoe. "I guess we've grown apart a bit, mate," Ron said quietly, his gaze still on the rocks he was moving around.

Harry shrugged. "It happens, Ron. We're still friends, aren't we?"

Ron's face looked relieved, then broke into a wide grin. "Of course, Harry."

They both looked over to where Draco and Hermione were still talking. Draco looked tall and impassive next to Hermione, but she was talking animatedly and gesturing with her arms. Harry watched Draco's lips move as he responded to whatever Hermione was saying, his face betraying no emotion. He wanted to respect their privacy, but he desperately wanted to know what they were discussing. He had a weird feeling they were probably talking about him. He watched them for clues, but there wasn't much to go on. Hermione looked over at them, seeming defeated. The nuances of their conversation must have been lost on Ron.

"So, is he a death eater?" Ron's voice was quiet, as if he was worried about being overheard.

"What?"

"I mean, you have to know, right? If you're shagging him? Is he or isn't he?"

"That's, ah, so insensitive, Ron."

"Come on Harry, are the rumors true?"

"I'm not talking to you about rumors, Ron. All you need to know is that he's different."

Ron folded his arms. "I'm sure it's true."

Harry sighed. This was getting old. "You don't know anything, Ron."

Ron turned to him with an open mouth, but Draco and Hermione were walking back toward them. Ron was smart enough to let the conversation die.

"Any news, Hermione?" Harry called.

She glanced at Draco before shaking her head. "None, sorry Harry. I thought I had something, but it wasn't very helpful." She looked around. "Where's Ginny?"

Harry opened his mouth to explain.

"Oh, she had to go, um, do some homework." Ron interjected.

Hermione scowled at him. "What did you do, Ronald?"

"He told her that Draco and I were.." Harry faltered, feeling Draco's gaze on him like a physical thing. They hadn't named their relationship in explicit terms, not really. Certainly not in front of other people, Voldemort and Lucius Malfoy not included, if they even knew.

"Dating," Draco said, like it was most natural thing in the world. Harry breathed a sigh of relief and hoped no one noticed. "I heard you from all the way over there." He jerked his head to the spot where he had been talking to Hermione. "You know", Draco continued, and to his credit, he only had the smallest of smirks on his face, "you really should be nicer to your sister."

Ron stepped to Malfoy, both of them glaring daggers at each other. Ron's hands were opening and closing as if he were considering reaching for his wand. Harry's hand instinctively went to his back pocket where he kept his. "Yeah, Malfoy? And what would you know about sisters? Or being nice?"

Hermione was between them in an instant. "Ron, let's go find Ginny."

Ron didn't stop glaring at Draco. "Yeah. Right. I don't know what you see in him, Harry." Ron let Hermione lead him away towards the castle. Hermione turned around and mouthed an "I'm so sorry" as they went.

Harry sat down heavily, a different kind of exhaustion taking him over. Draco kneeled next to him, putting a cool hand to his cheek. It was still so strange, that warmth could radiate from something so cold. The simple touch made Harry feel better.

"You alright? Did I ruin things for you with the Weasley girl?" Draco's eyes were stormy and dancing. He was smirking like he was saying the best joke there ever was. Harry didn't find it so funny.

"She's just a sweet kid with a crush. I didn't want to hurt her feelings."

Draco's eyes narrowed. "I told you I won't share you."

"So I'm yours, am I?"

Draco took Harry s chin in his hand and tilted his face to meet his own. Their lips touched and Harry's hands were at Draco's collar, pulling him closer. Draco lost his balance on the stones and fell, Harry sprawling out beneath to catch him. Harry felt the heat rise in his face, felt it travel down his chest, and farther down still. Draco smirked a very big smirk indeed.

"Yes," he growled, "You are."

They took their time coming back from the lake. Laying in the rocks had been a bit uncomfortable, so they made their way back to grounds, stopping to sit by the Whomping Willow awhile, basking in its unholy glory, the danger being very real but too far away to pose an actual threat, Harry guessed. That was why he liked it, after all. Maybe that was why Draco had agreed it was a good spot as well. Plus it reminded him of his dad, Sirius, and Professor Lupin, too. Sometimes, when things were quiet for Harry, he wondered what his parents would think of him. Before, it had been easy; of course they would be proud. He survived encounters with the Dark Lord and not only lived to tell the tale, but had won. His marks in school weren't that great, but he always imagined how happy his dad would be about his spot on the Quidditch team since his first year. His parents would love Ron and Hermione, no doubt in his mind, just as Sirius had. He looked at Draco, sprawled out on the lawn, in the shade of a benign tree, hands behind his head, his eyes closed. Would his parents like his boyfriend? Probably not, if he was being honest with himself, especially not if they knew how Malfoy had tormented him every moment until just recently. People change. Things change.

He closed his eyes and lost himself in a fantasy. It wasn't a new one by any means. His parents' house in Godric's Hollow, his own bedroom, just how he'd always wanted it to be. They were alive and happy to have Harry home for the holidays, because he always came home for the holidays, of course he did. Except this time, Harry brought Draco Malfoy with him. His parents would beam, his mother would fawn over how handsome and well-dressed he was, his dad would shake his hand. They would make tea. Draco would be perfect, polite in every way, even help his mother with the washing up, even though she would tell him he didn't have to. His dad would talk to them about quidditch and Draco would say all of the right things, even make his dad laugh. They would relax on the sofa, holding hands, maybe Draco would put his arm around his shoulders, watching the snow fall together through the large windows.

Harry knew it was silly. Most of the time, thinking of his parents being alive right now only made him sad. With Draco, it was almost bearable.

He opened his eyes. He closed them again, rubbed them, opened them again. He still couldn't believe what he was seeing. He nudged Draco with an elbow.

"Hm? What Potter, I'm just relaxing."

"Are we sleeping?"

"What?" He sounded annoyed.

"Draco, are we sleeping or awake?"

"I hate that this is a question you have to ask."

"Either we're dreaming or your dad is here." Lucius Malfoy was striding down the hillside straight towards them, coat tails billowing behind him, staff in hand.

Draco sat bolt upright next to him. "We're awake, Harry."

Chapter Text

Draco got to his feet, unhurriedly, as his father came towards him across the school grounds. Harry was already standing beside him, tense.

"Should I go?"

"Go where, Potter," Draco was annoyed. He couldn't go too far anyway and his father had already seen them together. Operating under the assumption that his father already knew, it wouldn't matter if him and Harry were making out when Lucius reached them. Not that he really wanted to be in that situation, but he could've been. He wanted to smirk, but cut it off, making his face a mask devoid of emotion.

"Draco, I've been looking for you," his father had a smile on his face and a lilt in his voice, but Draco knew better. His father's eyes were narrowed, his back straight; he was trying to use his height to appear intimidating, but as Draco got taller, the effect just wasn't the same. His father glanced at Harry beside him. Draco resisted the strong urge to put himself between his father and his boyfriend.

"Father," he replied with a nod of his head, "what are you doing here?" He knew it was a bold question but he needed to know. He needed to know if the stakes had changed, wrath from his father be damned.

"School board business," he said gruffly, "and your mother was worried." The second part was said with disdain and a slightly mocking tone.

Draco felt his mouth tighten into a thin line. "Please tell her I've been busy with my studies and my full apologies for neglecting to write."

Lucius' eyes stayed on Harry longer this time. Much to Harry's credit, Draco noticed he didn't shy away or fidget under his father's stares. Most other wizards would have the sense to. "Quite," his face held a shadow of a smirk, "if your..friend Potter could run along so we could talk.."

"He stays."

His father cleared his throat. It clearly wasn't the answer he was expecting. Draco felt through with complying. Especially where Harry Potter was concerned. "Well then, can I tell her you'll be home for the holidays?"

Lucius' voice held only a shadow of a threat, if you knew what to listen for. Draco flexed his fingers, a momentary reaction, knowing full well nothing would happen here. Even his father had virtually no power at Hogwarts.

"The holidays are months away."

"Still, I feel we should let her know, don't you."

Draco couldn't help it, he glanced at Harry. He knew he was playing right in to his father's hands, but it was as if his eyes had a mind of their own. His father would notice, then there would be no doubt in his mind. Let him. "I'm still weighing my options."

His father shook his head, a smirk on his face. "I wish you wouldn't, Draco. Oh, how I wish you wouldn't." His voice was quiet, aimed at the grass, and dangerous.

Draco made sure his face remained stone. He felt Harry stiffen beside him. Harry's hand was traveling to his back pocket. Slowly, but still traveling. Draco caught his arm, Harry's emerald eyes meeting his in understanding. Lucius looked up and Draco dropped Harry's arm. He watched as a wicked grin crept its way onto his father's face. It made his stomach knot. He felt movement beside him. Harry stepped forward, touching his shoulder to his own. Just a touch, nothing even noticeable, only a reminder that Harry was there beside him. With him. A feeling of gratitude welled up within him, along with the warmth. A wind blew up, stirring the dead leaves on the trees.

"I'll let you get back to your.. studies." His father's voice was low, the grin plastered on his face. He turned to walk away, but stopped short, raising his cane. Draco was proud that he didn't flinch.

"Oh, one more thing, Draco. You really should bring Harry Potter with you. For the holidays, I mean. Your mother would love to meet him."

With another flash of that ghastly grin, Lucius Malfoy walked back the way he had come.

Draco physically sagged with relief. He felt Harry's arms wrap around him as the warmth resounded.

"You guys weren't really talking about your mum, were you?" Harry's voice was soft, his breath warm on his neck.

"Nothing escapes you, Potter." Draco chuckled in spite of himself, "I think we were, at first. Voldemort doesn't write me letters."

"Don't feel bad, I don't think Voldemort writes anyone letters."

He shivered as Harry planted a kiss on his neck, just above his shirt collar.

"Your mum is okay? To you, I mean." The humor was gone from Harry's voice. Draco almost wished he would just keep joking, but then again, he couldn't remember the last time anyone had cared to ask him how his mother treated him.

"She's fine," he said with a sigh, "she cares, she just doesn't know how to show it."

He could feel the sympathy radiating from his boyfriend in waves. It made his chest ache and his stomach turn. He moved away.

"Everyone has a bad life, Harry. Some people are just better at hiding it than others."

"Is that what you think?"

Draco raised an eyebrow. "You don't?"

Harry was quiet. Draco wondered if he had said something wrong, to see Harry's eyes shining in that way. He really didn't want to fight anymore, especially not now. Dealing with his family left him feeling drained and exhausted.

"I think," Harry started slowly, "that you and I are not like most people."

Draco smirked and reached for Harry's hand. "I think you're right."

They walked hand-in-hand through the entrance to the Great Hall. Earlier they had agreed that since Draco's father knew, the Dark Lord knew, there wasn't much point in pretending otherwise. Draco often felt as though the world was about to end tomorrow, not so specifically, more like an overwhelming feeling of dread. Never about anything in particular, just a bad feeling like he had forgotten something important, or something evil was looming around the next corner, just waiting for him. Since being with Harry, however, that feeling had all but disappeared. He felt he had a right to enjoy what he could, while he still could. And he meant to.

He felt exposed, viscerally so, but he wasn't alone. And he still had his pride. He straightened up, rolling his shoulders back, shaking off the experience with his father on the lawn. Everyone in his house would have already known about that by now, but after dinner, they would have something new to whisper about. Let them.

Harry gave his hand a squeeze as he led Draco to the Gryffindor table. Granger actually looked happy to see them, Weasley not so much. "Hi Harry! Malfoy," she nodded her head at him. He wasn't sure if this was a joke anymore or not. He supposed he should take what he could get where Harry's friends were concerned. He made his face grim and nodded back. She grinned. He gave her a small smile in return.

They sat down opposite them, others Draco didn't know so well shifting to make room. He noticed them staring, so he tried a stiff smile and a nod. The Weasley girl shot him a scathing look, picked up her plate and moved farther down the table, slamming it down with a loud crash. Draco felt his eyebrows raise of their own accord. Kid with a silly crush, indeed.

Someone on the other side of Harry was clapping his boyfriend on the back. He leaned forward and saw the Irish kid, Finnegan his name was probably, saying something in conspiratorial way with a goofy grin. Finnegan leaned forward, making eye contact with Draco. "I was just saying to Harry here, welcome to the club." He gave Harry another hearty pat and gave Draco a wink.

"Hey Harry," he said loudly this time, "let me know when you want to trade boyfriends."

Another boy leaned forward into their conversation with a strangled, "Hey!"

"Just joking, Dean, love."

Harry turned to him with a red face and an apologetic expression, but Draco just smiled. Is this what it was always like at the Gryffindor table? Friends joking with each other, having fun? Everyone being pretty much nice to everyone else? It wasn't as if the Slytherin table wasn't like that, they did laugh and joke; it was just different. Draco had always thought there was an underlying threat or motive to most anything anyone did. Like living with spies. He was suddenly grateful for this simple experience. He laid his hand on Harry's thigh, feeling more than warmth rush through him when those sparkling green eyes met his.

Harry ate like he hadn't had a bite in months. Draco showed a tad more restraint, only getting a second helping. In the lull between dinner and desert, Granger leaned across the table. "The patronus is a wonderful idea, Harry."

Harry gave a start next to him. "How did you-"

"Draco and I discussed it. At the lake." She gave Draco a meaningful look. He furrowed his brows at her, hoping she would knock it off. There were things he had told her that she shouldn't say. Not now. Not here, of all places. Possibly not ever.

Harry looked at Draco, a question on his face. Draco cleared his throat and sipped his tea.

"Yeah," Weasley was suddenly paying attention, "not like he'll actually be able to make one."

Hermione frowned at him. "What are you talking about? Draco is a talented wizard."

Draco coughed into his tea, surprised Granger would say such a thing in front of him, making it splash into his face. Harry giggled. Draco decided to pretend it didn't happen.

"I mean," Weasley leaned in closer, presumably to make it clear that he wanted Draco to hear, "that patronuses can only be conjured by the pure of heart." He spat out the last few words, his face contorting as if they left a bad taste in his dirty mouth.

"Ron, that's uncalled for." Granger was berating him.

"You know it's true." He continued to spit, "You mark my words, he won't be able to do it. Harry will end up protecting him and getting shit on for his trouble."

"We're sitting right here, Ron." Harry's tone said he was done with this conversation. Draco said nothing, just fixed him with his cool stare. The weasel wouldn't even meet his eyes.

"He's got you enchanted or something, Harry, I'm sure of it. Hermione even said so." Weasley was on his feet now, nearly yelling.

Granger turned pink, but didn't back down. "I said maybe, Ronald. And after more research, I told you that wasn't right." Her eyes flicked to Draco and back to her boyfriend. Draco knew what he had to do.

He stood up slowly, placing his hands on the table, leaning in towards Weasley. Others at the table were staring, conversations quieting. He was of a height with Ron and his newness at the Gryffindor table seemed to place him at an advantage in this situation. He waited until it was quiet enough so that he didn't have to raise his voice. He locked Weasley with his best icy stare. "I know you're his best friend. I know you've been through a lot together, and you're all very brave." He took a moment to breathe, to make sure he was keeping the contempt he felt out of his voice. "I swear to you, everything I feel is real and I will not let anyone harm him, as long as there is breath in my body."

The whispers rushed in to fill the silence at the table. Weasley's mouth opened and closed. He turned slowly and walked out of the Great Hall. Draco sat down and picked up his tea. Hermione's eyes were shining and he didn't dare look at Potter. It wasn't exactly a public profession of love, but it was close enough to make his skin crawl a little bit. He had only meant to say enough to shut him up, but his words had run away with him. He knew he couldn't let it show.

Dessert appeared.

"Hey guys, its treacle tart, my favorite," Harry said weakly.

They left the Great Hall, Harry and Hermione discussing the finer points of teaching Draco to summon a patronus, Draco walking just behind them, content to listen. As soon as they passed through the enormous ornate doors, however, Draco saw Snape across the entrance hall, eyeing the three of them. Harry and Hermione stopped in their tracks, Draco bumping into both of them. He ran a hand through his hair, thinking fast.

"I'll talk to Snape." He walked quickly away, hoping Harry and Hermione would keep their distance.

"Mr. Malfoy, I trust you've spoken with your father." The potions master looked down his long nose at him.

"I have, professor."

Snape's mouth formed a thin line. "He had.. unique questions for me. Concerning.." He looked over at Draco's shoulder. Draco didn't have to look to know who he was talking about.

"I can handle it."

"You keep saying that, and yet.."

Draco glared at his head of house. Severus Snape wasn't usually so bold with any Malfoy, lesser or not.

"I want your plan sped along, Mr. Malfoy. I'm fairly certain now that my life hangs in the balance as well."

Draco was a bit embarrassed to admit to himself that he hadn't actually considered that to be a possibility. He figured maybe things like goodness and kindness were like muscles; the more you used them, the bigger they got. And his had been long since atrophied, probably since birth. He nodded, keeping his eyes on the floor.

"And Granger?" Snape asked, an air to his voice, "what part does she play? You said this would be relatively quiet. The more players you add-"

"I know." Draco didn't need to hear the lecture again. "She has no part." He glanced at her then, Harry too. They were standing a short distance away, watching him talk to Snape. The idiots weren't even pretending to be having their own conversation.

"Well," Snape said stiffly, "if there is nothing else.." Snape turned to leave.

"We require a room." Draco said quickly.

Snape's eyes narrowed. "I have already given you a room."

"No, we require a different sort of room."

The potion master raised his eyebrows as he took the real meaning from Draco's statement.

"You'll find it on the third floor." His black robes billowed behind him as he left the hall.

Hermione and Harry were on him in an instant.

"What did Snape want?"

"Can you really do wandless magic?"

"Hermione."

"What? I can't think of anything else since you told me that."

Draco held up his hands and they stopped talking. "I've got us a training room. I need to master this. Tonight."

"Tonight?" Harry balked.

Draco started rolling up his sleeves. "Yeah, why not? How long did it take you?"

"Longer than two days, Malfoy," Harry said dryly.

He turned to Hermione. She was staring at his right forearm but he pretended not to notice. "And you, Granger?"

Hermione turned pink under his stare but only said, "Longer than Harry."

He smirked at the pair of them. "Challenge accepted."

Chapter Text

Harry felt uneasy about the way Draco raced up the stairs. Maybe it was his sudden determination to beat him at something that Harry had considered extremely difficult. It made him feel like the old Malfoy again. Maybe it was the fact, and yes, he had decided it was a fact, that Draco was hiding something from him. Or maybe it was the fact that they were not alone. He glanced at Hermione beside him, vaguely wondering what she was still doing there. She had wanted nothing but to help from the start of this whole thing, Harry knew that. He still couldn't shake the feeling that she was butting in. He assumed that Draco would make her leave or she would run off after Ron again. Neither one had happened. Draco was taking them somewhere on the third floor, but it couldn't possibly be.. He wouldn't..

Draco led them to a blank stone wall. The three of them stood in front of it, waiting. Harry glanced at Hermione. She knew what this was. Or rather, what it was supposed to be. The door wasn't appearing, however. The Room of Requirement remained shut to Draco Malfoy, just as it had during their fifth year. Exactly when Harry had been teaching other students how to conjure a patronus.

The laughter bubbled up out of Harry before he knew it was coming. Draco glared daggers at him and he tried his best to silence it.

"Something funny, Potter?" Draco was not amused, an edge to his voice.

"It's just ironic," Hermione said, unhelpfully. He glared at her, too.

"Trust me, Granger, it's not lost on me," the tall Slytherin muttered, placing his hands on the stone wall in front of him.

Harry cleared his throat. "Maybe if, uh, maybe if you walk down the hall, Hermione."

"Oh right, maybe the Room is confused because there's so many of us at once."

Harry nodded and Hermione took off down the hall. He saw her stop a short distance away in the shadows.

"Trying to get me alone, Potter?"

Harry could hear the smirk in his voice and truthfully, he wanted nothing more. Instead, he didn't answer. His brain felt packed to the rim, every thought struggling to get noticed. He only wanted to be with him, to touch him, clear his mind, make everything simple again. Nothing was simple, though, and probably would never be again. Not after this.

Draco turned to him, ignoring the Room for the moment. His eyes and his voice softened. "What is it?"

Harry was at a loss for words. He still felt like he needed to process what Draco said at dinner, and all of the events leading up to it for that matter. Looking into his grey eyes made his knees feel weak, made his stomach knot. It felt ridiculous, it felt wonderful, it felt like their time was running out.

Draco took him by the shoulders, pulling him closer. "I know we're running out of time, Harry, but I promise you, after this is over, we will have all the time in the world."

"You can't promise me that," Harry said softly.

"I can, Harry. I do. I meant what I said at dinner."

"I know you did," Harry tried to swallow the lump in his throat. "I felt it."

"Then-"

Harry's hands went to Draco's collar, pulling him down as he stood, barely on the tips of his toes, their lips colliding, their tongues entangling. To his satisfaction, Draco groaned softly and tightened his grip on Harry's shoulders. To his dismay, Draco pulled away first. He held Harry at arm's length, his silver eyes penetrating his own. If Draco was trying to beam some thoughts into Harry's head, it wasn't working. Draco cried out suddenly, his grip turning to iron on Harry's shoulders.

"Draco! What is it?"

Draco's knees buckled as Harry tried to keep him from hitting the floor.

"Harry," Draco said through gritted teeth, "it's him." Malfoy's eyes rolled back in his head and his whole body started to shake and convulse sickeningly. Hermione was suddenly at his side, helping to lay Draco gently on the floor.

"What happened, Harry?" Her face was full of alarm. She sat, quickly taking Draco's head in her lap. Harry wondered why he didn't think of that. His head felt like it was packed with wool, his thoughts coming slowly, his reaction times taking minutes when they should be taking seconds. A dull throbbing started in his temples.

"Harry!"

Harry tried to snap out of it. He went to the stone wall and this time it opened, a dark gaping maw appearing. "Get him inside," Harry said urgently.

"He needs medical care!"

"He needs me. Get him inside!"

Hermione still looked like she didn't completely agree. "Help me or leave," Harry growled with finality, grabbing Draco under his arms and starting to haul him inside the Room of Requirement. Hermione huffed, but went to grab Draco's feet. To Harry's relief, Draco stopped spasming and just looked asleep. They both let out a heavy exhale.

"Let's do it now, before it starts again. Ready? Lift"

"Oof," Hermione said, "he's heavier than he looks."

"Tell me about it."

Hermione raised her eyebrows in question but Harry said nothing.

As they crossed the threshold, greenish flames burst from sconces on the walls. Hermione gasped with surprise, almost dropping Draco's bottom half. There was a couch to one side, but mostly the Room was empty. It looked to Harry like it had barely changed since his teaching days a couple of years ago. There was a massive hearth on one side of the room, unlit, and gleaming mirrors covered the walls, with heavy grey curtains hanging in between. Like his classroom had been taken over by a stylish Slytherin. Harry smiled grimly and tried to push through the pain in his head.

"Harry, it looks-" Hermione said breathlessly.

"I know."

"But there's no way he could've known-"

"Hermione, I know."

They placed Draco on the couch as gently as they could, Hermione rushing to feel his forehead. Harry already had his wand out and ready.

"Expecto Patronum!" His stag seemed to gallop right out of the tip of his wand, straight to Draco. Once again, the stag lowered its head to Draco's and stayed still.

Hermione watched in wonder. She turned to Harry. "What happens now?"

"I dunno. Maybe we wait for him to wake up? It's never happened like that before."

Harry didn't want to think about the implications. Draco had said it was "him", which Harry took to mean the Dark Lord. As if on cue, Harry's scar started to burn. His hand went to his forehead. The pain grew exponentially and Harry grabbed Draco's hand, knowing the warmth didn't work when one of them was unconscious but wishing it still might. His vision started to blur and darken at the edges. His stomach lurched and he tasted bile in the back of his throat. He didn't remember falling to his knees, but there he was, on the floor, clinging to Draco. Hermione was saying something to him, but he couldn't hear her, couldn't focus.

"'Mione," he managed to get out, feeling like it took every fiber of his being to do so, "if I pass out-"

Harry saw her with her wand, silvery wisps already shooting out of it. She didn't need him to finish saying it. She really was so clever.

Hermione watched with trepidation as Harry's stag patronus grew faint and winked out.

"Oh no," she murmured. She tried again with her own patronus charm, but now she wasn't sure where to direct it. A wispy smoke came out of the end of her wand but nothing more. She didn't think her small otter could protect both of them from something that seemed so dark and so strong. She knew it must be Voldemort somehow and she couldn't stop a small tremble that started in her knees.

"Okay, Hermione, get a grip." She closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and cleared her mind, focusing on her happiest of memories. Her friendship with Harry, traveling back in time, when Ron finally told her how he felt about her.

"Expecto Patronum!" she yelled from the depths of her belly, as Harry had taught her. This time her playful otter shot out and swirled around her. She was about to tell it what to do when she realized she didn't have to. Her otter scampered over Harry and Draco's prone forms, seeming to do the best it could. Hermione wondered if it simply wasn't big enough, when she suddenly recalled the story of the wizard who saved his entire village from a dark wizard and an army of dementors. His patronus had been a field mouse. As long as she was strong enough.. She stopped that train of thought, concentrating on keeping her patronus as formidable as possible.

Harry found himself in the middle of a rolling field covered in long grasses and wild flowers. He put out his hands. He could feel the coarseness of the plants, the breeze whispering through his fingers, through his hair. The sun even felt warm and comforting. Was this an attack from the Dark Lord? It didn't seem that way. It was a dream; he knew he was unconscious on the floor of the Room, but it all seemed so real. There was a sudden shout from the distance. A long, drawn out scream that went up and down. He thought it sounded like Draco, but he had never heard him sound so pained and desperate.

"Draco!?" he called. He started to run in the direction of the screams. The grass whipped at him as he passed. A huge and dark forest opened up to his left, Draco's screams echoing off the massive trees. Harry recognized it: the Forbidden Forest.

"Harry." A woman's voice called his name from somewhere to his right. He had never actually heard her voice, but knew it instantly. It made his heart stop in his chest. He held his breath. He knew he shouldn't turn to face her, knew that he might never make it back if he did, but he had to know, had to be sure. Didn't he?

"Harry, there you are." The woman's voice was closer now, full of happy relief. Harry couldn't resist it any longer; he turned and faced his mother.

Lily Potter stood in front of him, her long reddish hair blowing with the gentle breeze, a smile reaching all the way to her bright green eyes. Harry's own eyes. She reached out to him, stroking his hair. Her touch was so loving, so perfect, like nothing he'd ever known.

"So much like your father," she chuckled.

"Mum?" Harry felt his eyes begin to sting. It wasn't real. It couldn't be real. He opened his arms and his mum was there, embracing him for the first time in so many years. She wrapped her arms protectively around him as Harry sobbed openly into her shoulder.

"There, there," she said soothingly. "It's not all that bad, is it?"

Harry heard another scream, more high pitched than the others. Either Draco was reaching a crescendo or it was someone else. If it was someone else he didn't need to care so much. He could forget it and stay here. He didn't need to save everyone. Maybe it was time for him to do something for himself. He deserved it, didn't he?

Lily was stroking his hair. "You could just let him go."

He pushed back from her, startled. "What?"

His mum was still smiling at him, "Let Draco Malfoy go." She walked forward, Harry instinctively taking a step backward. "He's not the one for you, my dear. He belongs to the Dark Lord. Just like I do."

"No," was all Harry had the strength to say. "I- I can help him."

Lily Potter shook her head sadly. "Does he mean that much to you? The son of a Death Eater?" Her beautiful face was contorting with anger at every word she spoke. "How could we approve of that?"

The sky was starting to darken as if a storm was rolling in, but Harry saw no clouds. "We?" he managed weakly.

"Yes, we." His father appeared with an arm around his mother's shoulders. Harry grinned in spite of the odd circumstances.

"Dad!"

But his father wasn't as happy to see him as his mother had been. "You're a disappointment, Harry. To your mother, and to me." His face was a mask of ill-contained anger, like, Harry suspected, if he had had a normal childhood with his parents and he was caught lying about who broke the lamp in the living room.

"It's time to mind your own business, Harry. Time to let the Dark Lord have what is his." His father raised a finger, pointing it at Harry's chest. "Including you."

A glimmer caught Harry's eye. A silvery creature was dipping in and out of the long grass, almost like it was playing a game. Harry squinted. Hermione's otter swam through the air, straight through his parents. They vanished as if they were made of smoke. Harry let the hot tears flow down his cheeks.

Draco Malfoy was dying a thousand deaths. He screamed every time. He didn't want to, it was so embarrassing. The screams felt ripped from his chest, his throat, his very being. Then he would come to again, in a different situation, under different circumstances and do the whole thing again. Since the stag disappeared he had been cursed, hanged, drowned, sent to Azkaban and received the Dementor's Kiss, and more. This time, however, he didn't die. He almost wished for death, to quell this unending pain. Mostly, he just wished Potter or Granger would hurry up and help him out. He vaguely wondered what was taking them so long, realizing that time worked different here, because of course it did.

He was on the cold ground; his head lay in his mother's lap. She was muttering something and smoothing his sweat slicked hair back from his forehead. For some reason, he couldn't move his arms or his legs. His entire body felt like it was burning. His father stalked by his field of vision, wand free of the cane and pointed at his chest. Lucius' hair was uncharacteristically out of place, a pink tint to his cheeks, breathing hard as if some under some unseen exertion. As with all of the other deaths before, Draco seemed to come to in the middle of whatever was happening. He couldn't remember there being anything before this moment. But he had an idea of where it was heading.

"Draco," his mother said, her voice barely above a whisper. He looked up, her face upside down peering into his. "Stop this foolishness. Do what your father says." She glanced up at his father, her husband, as he stalked by the pair of them. Lucius didn't meet her eye. "He can't be more important than family." She said it with a smile, but her eyes were sad.

He knew it was a dream, had been a dream for a long while after Harry's stag had dissipated. He knew that meant Harry would be here too, probably, somewhere. Granger was probably helping Harry, Draco in the real world all but forgotten. She had accepted him but he couldn't imagine she would forgive him so quickly. He wasn't even sure if Harry had. After all, he never did apologize to the Boy Who Lived. For any of it. He felt a wave of hopelessness wash over him. He didn't deserve Harry's help. He didn't deserve Harry's friendship, or Hermione's for that matter, let alone Harry's love. Was that what he wanted? Love?

His thoughts were destroyed by a sudden searing pain all over his body. Every inch of skin felt like it was on fire, his head about to combust with agony. He cried out against his will, vaguely aware of his body's own thrashing on the cool hard packed earth.

And then it was gone. But not gone. His skin burned, his brain buzzing, feeling fried. His father stood above him, breathing heavily. Draco tried to sit up but couldn't. He tried to raise a hand but couldn't. He rolled away from his mother, onto his side. He knew it was only a matter of time before it would come again. If he was going to die once more, it wouldn't be while he was being pitied by his mother. That much he could control, at least.

"You will bring him to me."

"Yes, father," Draco said blandly.

"Don't patronize me, boy. There is more at stake here than you know." Lucius' voice was a low growl, dripping with intent.

Draco managed to get to his hands and knees with a grunt. "I would never, Father," his voice was a bit rough, but he thought the sarcasm still carried nicely.

His father screamed a bone-breaking curse and Draco felt it hit home, feeling like he just got whomped by a huge whomping willow branch, accompanied by a sick wet cracking sound. He sprawled in the dirt, gasping for air. "You defy me. You defy the Dark Lord! After all I've done for you.."

Draco wrapped an arm around his ribcage, coughing up a small bit of blood, finding it difficult to breathe. He glanced at his mother. He knew he would get no help from her; he never had. She was sitting on the ground a short distance away, staring at her hands.

Lucius Malfoy straightened up, towering above Draco. His father had always been larger than life to him, the end-all be-all to most things. He supposed most fathers were to their sons. Lucius raised his wand. His other hand smoothed his long platinum hair into place. "You will bring him to me," his voice taking on a calm surety.

Draco curled into a ball, anticipating the next attack, as if it would do any good. But the curse never came. He unwrapped his arms from his head and saw his mother, standing a pace away from his father, clinging to his sleeve. Draco couldn't hear what they were saying, the buzzing from the cruciatus curse wouldn't leave his ears; everything was terribly muffled. He saw his father's face contort in a mask of rage as he shook off his mother and raised his wand again.

He hadn't thought it possible to aim a curse and hit in the exact same spot twice in a row. Maybe he should give his father a little more credit. He knew he came from a long line of what his father referred to as powerful wizards, but as he got older he was sure those were just things his father liked to say. They had no real meaning and only served to bolster Lucius Malfoy's ego. Maybe it was true. He certainly felt the curse hit in the exact same spot, the bone-breaking curse finding no bones to break and breaking other things.

He cried out that time, in a much higher pitch than he was used to hearing. He rolled in the dirt from the force of it, his father's face too near to his own. Lucius had an ugly snarl on his face. "We want to meet your.. boyfriend."

Draco forced himself to grin. "You already have."

This time Lucius' aim wasn't as true, but hit near enough. Draco hated the sound of his own voice. He tried to bite back the scream, tried to make the mask work for him but the pain was too great. He hoped that wherever he was in the real world, he wasn't uttering a sound. That would be even more embarrassing. "Harry-" he called out weakly, needing this to end.

His father's curse relented, the pain only diminishing slightly, but at least it was something. He felt his body shaking, quavering, out of his control. All of the other deaths combined were nowhere near this painful. He kept telling himself it would end soon, one way or the other.

Draco watched as Lucius straightened up, pointing his wand somewhere else. "Here," he drawled in a sinister voice, "I'll make it easy for you." Draco followed the line of sight of his father's wand. It was pointing directly at his mother.

"No," Draco's voice came out as a hoarse whisper.

The killing curse hit her before she looked up. She crumpled to the ground, her face looking peaceful, more peaceful than Draco could remember ever seeing it. Behind her lifeless body, behind the trees, he thought he saw something. Something silvery and glowing with a peculiar light. Draco's eyes widened as he searched the treeline for a stag, but saw nothing.

"Crucio!" his father screeched. The white hot pain hit Draco again. He retreated into it, letting it consume him. He was the pain. There was nothing else and would be nothing else again.

When the pain finally started to retreat, he was aware of the ground beneath his head, and that someone was screaming. Ghastly, high pitched screams. He realized it was him. He ground his teeth together to shut it off, blinking away tears that threatened to fall.

His father's boots crunched on the dead leaves and twigs that covered the forest floor, coming slowly to rest near his face. Draco's vision blurred. He wondered how long it took someone to die of the cruciatus curse. Then he remembered this place wasn't real, even if he did die, he'd probably have to do it all over again. Or would he suffer enough that he would actually die? He wasn't sure if that could happen. What if he never saw Harry again? He groaned at the thought, turning his head to face his father.

This time he did see something behind the trees. A flying rat. Or a weasel. He couldn't tell what it was, only that it was coming closer. He realized it wasn't flying; it was swimming. A beaver, then. Granger sure was.. different. The beaver patronus swam through his father, turning Lucius Malfoy into wisps of smoke. His mother's body, likewise disappearing. The beaver circled him as if it wanted to play. Draco was tired of this. He was definitely not in the mood to play with a beaver. He waved his hand in the air to dispel the weird little creature and was shocked when that was what actually happened. He looked around, but it was definitely gone. "Granger.." he muttered.

Hermione gasped loudly when Malfoy started talking in his sleep - and saying her name. Before then he had been only groaning. She leaned closer to hear him.

".. didn't mean to kill your beaver.." He mumbled. She made a face. It was obviously an otter.

"Malfoy, can you hear me?"

Draco groaned and tossed his head. Hermione didn't know what to do. Should she shake him? Perform a waking spell? She assumed there were all sorts of things that could go wrong if she did, especially since she didn't know what she was dealing with, exactly. She hated not knowing the answer. It made her anxious.

She could get Snape, but then again, she wasn't sure how much Snape knew at this point. He had granted them access to the Room, which meant he must know something of what's happening. Still, she didn't know how much explaining she'd have to do, or what secrets to keep. Probably all of them. That sounded exhausting. That sounded like a lot of lying. To a teacher.

Harry stirred on the floor. She went to him, ready to recast her patronus at the first sign of trouble. His lips were moving, too. She wondered if this was a common occurrence for them or something new. "Draco.." Harry whispered.

Her heart went out to him, her best friend. She could only imagine what it would be like for her if Ron were in this sort of trouble. But then again, that's what she liked best about Ron; that he didn't get into this sort of trouble.

".. my parents.. they don't like you.." Harry was barely audible. Hermione gave a start. Harry was seeing his parents? What was Voldemort trying to accomplish?

Her thoughts were cut off by a choking gasp behind her. Draco Malfoy sat up, very much awake and very much in physical pain. He coughed terribly, his arm around his ribcage. "Malfoy! Are you okay?"

Draco glanced around wildly. "Where's Harry? He wasn't there. He isn't here. Why isn't he awake?" His normally cool voice was frantic.

Hermione tried hard to keep her voice level. His blatant concern and sincerity was freaking her out. "He- he's right here." She gestured to Harry's sleeping form on the floor.

Malfoy was on his feet immediately, wincing at the pain, half falling down, half sliding over to where Harry lay.

"You're hurt," she told him.

He gave her a look like she was telling him the sky was blue. "I'll deal with it later, Granger. If the dream is over, why is he still in there?"

"You have to tell me more about it, Draco. There's too much I don't know. I can't help."

Draco was leaning over Harry, his slender fingers tracing Harry's slack face, his eyes worried. It was such a tender motion that Hermione suddenly felt that she was intruding.

"Teach me the patronus." It was a cold command, done without looking at her. She suddenly wondered what it was that she had just nosed her way into.

Chapter Text

Harry stood, scrubbing his face with his hands and replacing his glasses. He looked around for Hermione's otter, but it was nowhere in sight. He figured it would stay, but then he remembered that Draco was also unconscious. Hermione must be trying her best to protect them both. How long would she be able to keep it up? He squeezed his eyes shut, willing himself to wake.

When he opened his eyes the field disappeared. He was in a graveyard. He could barely see the massive headstones in the darkened fog, but he recognized the place. It was the same graveyard where Voldemort had sincerely come back to life, when he was in his fourth year. Being here again sent a shiver up his spine. Everything about this felt wrong. He was usually with Draco, where was he? He didn't even hear the screams anymore. He couldn't be sure if that was a good or bad thing. Instinctively he reached for his wand, but of course it wasn't there. He wondered vaguely if wandless magic worked in dreams; somehow his wand never traveled with him.

He came upon a set of twin headstones. His heart beat double time behind his rib cage, knowing what he would find; knowing it wasn't real didn't much help. The headstones belonged to his parents. He traced the letters in their names, his family name. The stone felt rough and damp beneath his fingertips. He was tracing the R in Potter when a chunk fell off. It hit the ground with a dull thump. Both headstones started to crumble.

"No," Harry whispered. "I didn't mean to."

He watched as the last physical memorial to his parents' life crumbled to ash and was gone forever. Tears slid down his face. He turned to run, to leave this place. All of the other headstones started to fall apart as soon as he passed them. He ran now, full out, the headstones all but exploding. He ran through the dust and ash they left behind - and collided with metal bars.

"You don't have to look at me like that, Granger." Draco knew why she was looking at him like that, of course. He must have looked dreadful coming out the other side of his unbelievable dream, where the things that happened to him there happened in real life as well. He was sure that being cursed repeatedly and in different ways by your own father left its own sort of mark though.

"You're not alright."

He fixed her with a steely glare. She was probably about to suggest getting a teacher involved. She was his only hope if he was going to help Harry. Snape was the only one they could contact, but he would ask too many questions and Draco was never sure of his loyalties. Sure, his father would skin the potions master alive if he ever betrayed Draco, but he knew the senior Malfoy would always come first, no matter his intentions.

"Neither is Potter." He gave Harry a last worried look and pushed himself to his feet. It was harder than he thought it would be. Hermione moved to help him, but he waved her off. His breathing sounded ragged in his ears, wet in a way that couldn't be any good, and his skin still felt like it was burning, or prickling, as if he were being stabbed with tiny needles all over.

"Malfoy, you can barely stand, how will you learn a spell as difficult as this one? There must be something else we can do for Harry. I'll cast my patronus again." She raised her wand. Draco pushed it down again, not able to hide the grimace that came with the motion.

"Your beaver was good, it helped me and probably helped Harry too, but it's just not strong enough right now."

Hermione made a face. "It's an otter."

"It doesn't matter. You know the charm. Potter taught it to you. He taught me the basics so teach me the rest."

"It- It's not that easy. You're not using a wand or- or anything!"

"Granger," he growled, "You're getting hung up on the details." He coughed then, tasting the metallic tang of blood in his mouth. He walked slowly towards the center of the room, spitting as he went. "Watch and tell me what I'm doing wrong."

Hermione looked stricken, but nodded.

Draco gritted his teeth and raised his right arm. He pivoted his wrist in an upwards motion as he called out the incantation. Silvery wisps shot out of his fingertips -Granger gasped annoyingly -coalescing to form a cloud, and then it was gone.

He looked at Hermione expectantly. She stared at him with her mouth open.

"Granger!"

"What? Yes, of course." She cleared her throat and came closer. "You're doing an upward flick, when the wand motion is more of a circle and then an upward flick. Harry was never much for technicalities."

"Raw talent," Draco muttered with a smirk.

"Something like that, yes. And you have to um, you have to.." She faltered.

He didn't have time for this. Harry groaned on the floor a short distance away, tossing in his sleep. "Think a happy thought." He said wryly.

"Yes, but it's more than that. A happy memory works best. You have to let it fill you and-"

"The patronus feeds off the positive energy."

She gave him a look of surprise.

"I do my homework, Granger."

Hermione turned pink. "Of course you do, it's just-"

"You can't imagine I'd have a happy memory?" He grinned wryly at her, which turned into a grimace sooner than he liked, but he hoped his teeth were covered in blood. She looked away, towards Harry.

He fell back on a damp stone floor, all of this seeming too familiar. The fiery pain in his forehead blazed once again, blurring his vision, making his stomach roil. This definitely wasn't supposed to happen. Unless..

Harry forced his eyes open and saw the Dark Lord standing on the other side of the iron bars. Much too close. Harry scuttled backwards, putting his back against the opposite wall, anything to get some distance between him and Voldemort, anything to be able to think. Where was Hermione's patronus? Where was Draco?

"Harry Potter."

"Voldemort," Harry said through clenched teeth.

"What are you doing here?" The Dark Lord's voice was high and lilting, as if he were genuinely surprised to find him there, in a cell, underneath Malfoy Manor.

"Just having a lie down."

Voldemort chuckled. "Oh come now, Harry. There's no need for jokes." Voldemort laced his fingers through the bars and Harry's pain went up a notch. He tried not to let it show. Harry got to his feet, keeping a hand on the damp wall to steady himself. If he could just bide his time, he was sure Hermione would help him. He couldn't sleep forever, could he? What would happen in the Dark Lord tried to kill him in here? He pushed the thought away.

"Now tell me, Potter. How is it you are here? This isn't meant for you." The Dark Lord cocked his head to the side. "Unless.. You've changed your mind and wish to join me." A horrifying grin spread across Voldemort's flat ugly face, showing teeth that were worn and black. "We would all be so good together, Harry. The two of you, and I."

"Never." Harry meant to yell it in his face, but it came out softly. The truth was, he was startled. This all seemed too real to be a dream. Harry felt himself start to lose his grip on reality. What if it wasn't a dream? Was this what Draco had been feeling all along? No wonder he had acted so unpredictable and reckless.

Voldemort turned away, his dark robes flaring. "I thought not."

Maybe if he could keep this Voldemort talking, he could get some answers. He coughed, making sure his voice was working properly this time. "What do you want with him? Where is he?" Harry demanded.

"Hm?" The Dark Lord said as he turned back to Harry. "With who?"

"You know who." Harry grinned as he said the words slowly.

Voldemort's face twisted with rage. "You dare." He reached right through the bars of the cell as if they didn't exist. He grabbed Harry by the front of his hoodie, yanking him through and throwing him bodily to the floor. Harry rolled and was on his feet. Somewhat. More on his feet than not. He felt dizzy, the tang of bile in the back of his mouth as the world spun.

"Draco Malfoy is nothing but a tool." The Dark Lord was advancing on him. Harry straightened his shoulders. It took so much effort.

"A tool for what?"

"Ah, ah, Harry. I know what you are doing."

Harry had to step back, the pain was blossoming in his head, making his vision grow too bright and then too dark. What happened if you passed out in a dream? More importantly, what happened if you passed out in a dream with Lord Voldemort in front of you? The line between reality and a simple dream was blurring and he couldn't find the boundary. Harry shook his head, trying to clear it but it only made it worse. His back hit another wall. The Dark Lord was on him, his skeletal fingers twisting around his throat, his face almost touching his own. "I know all about the two of you." Voldemort ran a finger down Harry's face in mock intimacy. "In fact, it was my idea," he hissed.

Harry clenched his teeth but a scream rattled its way out of him.

Harry.

He cleared his mind of the pain, of Granger's stupid hesitations, of Harry on the floor, possibly in grave danger, facing the Dark Lord alone. He closed his eyes, concentrating on the feeling he got in his chest whenever Harry was near. Harry bringing him to the Gryffindor table, how he was always trying to hold his hand, the way it felt to kiss him. He could almost feel the crushing warmth even though Potter was unconscious. If this wasn't enough for a patronus, well, it had to be. No matter what he said to Granger, this was it, his happiest memory.

Suddenly Harry screamed, a horrible, heart-breaking scream. Draco felt his blood go cold. Hermione was by Harry's side; if he thought she looked stricken before, it was nothing compared to her face in this moment. Harry's body started convulsing and Draco's mind went immediately to the cruciatus curse. If Voldemort wasn't in my dream, he must be in Harry's.

"Malfoy, Harry's not breathing!"

Draco felt fear grip his chest and he froze. This was his fault. He knew it in his bones. Exactly how it was his fault, he couldn't say, but he felt like he had led the Dark Lord right to Harry Potter and had given him direct access to his mind.

"Malfoy!" Hermione screamed.

He struggled to push his thoughts aside. There would be time to figure it out later. Right now, Harry was dying. He reached deep inside himself, feeling something breaking, a wall crumbling, an emotional evisceration, as at last he admitted to himself that this was love. It had to be. He thrust out both arms, wheeling his hands in circles with the last upward flick. "Expecto Patronum!" he shouted, his voice raw, his breath coming in shallow gasps. He felt the magic pouring from his shaking fingertips, like a cold icy burn, rivers of silver smoke meeting and forming the shape of a large dog. It turned to Draco, nodding as if by way of introduction. Draco saw it clearly now, it was majestic, wild, and it wasn't a dog; it was a wolf.

His wolf patronus stalked over to Harry's prone body. It looked down with its head cocked, as if considering what to do about this boy lying on the floor. Then the wolf threw its head back and howled. It was a ghostly, otherworldly howl, Hermione and Draco both covered their ears, staring at each other with wide eyes. The mirrors and the chandelier rattled, threatening to shatter, and then it stopped.

Draco's wolf paced a small circle and lay next to Harry, placing his great muzzle on his forehead.

"Draco Malfoy is more powerful than you realize," The Dark Lord was still talking and Harry tried to focus on his words but the world kept threatening to go dark. He looked beyond Voldemort and saw a semi-circle of people forming. People in long black cloaks with hoods covering their faces. He saw something behind them. A glowing creature. Something big. Not Hermione, then.

Voldemort gripped his throat, his dry boney fingers crushing his airway. Harry gasped, unable to find a breath. He flailed against the wall, trying to find a way out. His vision grayed out again, and he thought about what it might be like to die while asleep. Maybe it would be a peaceful way to go. He thought of Draco. What if Draco was dead already? He felt a wave of sadness, of regret. Their weird, amazing relationship was just starting. Now it was over.

The Dark Lord released him suddenly as a Death Eater behind him made a startled noise. Voldemort turned and Harry slid to the floor, hands going to his throat, coughing uncontrollably.

"I'm beginning to see that," Harry replied hoarsely, grinning as an ethereal howl filled the air. The torches rattled in their sconces; it seemed to shake the dungeon walls themselves. A silvery wolf appeared behind the crowd, scattering them into plumes of smoke.

Voldemort hissed through his teeth. "These childish charms will not stop me for long, Harry Potter." The dream Voldemort exploded into a cloud of dark smoke and ash.

The wolf patronus padded through it, not seeming to notice or care. Harry put out his hand and the wolf came. "Draco?" He whispered. The wolf gave him a long, penetrating stare with wild silver eyes. Just like someone else he knew. "He did it," he muttered to himself.

The wolf sat down next to him and Harry scratched behind its ears. The walls of the Malfoy Manor dungeons fell away and Harry was back in the field. The sun was shining. Birds were singing. Harry wrapped his arms around the wolf and was surprised to find a warming sensation travel through him.

Draco fell to his knees, wrapping an arm around his broken ribs. Hermione was rushing to him, putting herself under his other arm. Without her there, he would have surely collapsed. He only hoped she didn't notice how badly he was shaking.

"Draco, you did it. I can't believe it," she breathed. "Is Harry okay now?"

He grunted as Hermione struggled to guide him over to the lone piece of furniture in the Room. If she saw the tears running down his face, she didn't say anything.

"He'll be alright." Draco gingerly touched the pain in his ribs. His breathing was sounding raspy. "Harry is always alright."

Hermione was tugging at his shirt. He glowered at her. "Easy, Granger. I saved your friend, that doesn't mean this is going to happen." He gestured weakly between the two of them, his smirk turning into a grimace.

"Shut up, Malfoy." But Granger's cheeks were pink.

He let her pull his sweater over his head. He watched her face as she undid the buttons on his shirt. Her brow was furrowed in concentration. He thought of his dream suddenly, Granger in his bed, topless and tangled in sheets, concerned for his well-being. He turned away and tried to think of something to say.

"So, Potter had a thing for you, did he?"

Hermione didn't look up, but he saw her cheeks turn a deeper red. "He did," she admitted.

"Why didn't you?"

She looked up then, meeting his eyes, searching, probably trying to tell if he was being genuine or making fun of her. He didn't blame her. She sighed, her attention turning to the last of his buttons.

"Harry Potter," she said with a sad smile, "comes with a lot of baggage."

"Hmph," Draco grunted noncommittally, "Don't we all."

Hermione glanced at him but said nothing. She was touching his chest, gently pressing on his ribs. A muffled groan escaped between his teeth.

"Sorry," she said softly.

Against his better judgement, he looked down. A large purple-red bruise spread around his side, darker in the center, with pink and red streaks following the lines of his ribs.

"At least two of them are broken. We need to get you to the hospital wing." She sounded tired, as if she was already expecting him to say no.

"No."

"Malfoy-"

"I can't leave without him."

They both looked at Harry with the wolf next him.

"It's so strange," she said.

"Were you expecting a ferret or something?" Draco said dryly.

Hermione smiled. "Actually, yes. But that's not what I meant."

He waited for her to continue. She was tapping a finger to a cheek, staring off into space.

"Hermione."

She started at the sound of his voice. Or maybe it was that he was being too familiar.

"Oh, I just mean everything."

He started to button up his shirt, slowly and painfully. "You're holding back."

"And you're not?"

He grunted as he finished with his buttons. "What I told you by the lake, I told you because you already knew."

"I don't see why we can't just tell him."

Draco looked away. "I still don't know enough." She raised an eyebrow. "We don't know enough," he amended.

"But keeping this from him, even the little you do know," she shook her head, "He won't take it very well when he finds out."

"Who says he''ll find out?"

"Malfoy, I'm serious." She gasped then, and he saw a sudden understanding alight in her eyes. "You're actually-"

"Don't start, Granger," he said, trying to keep his voice a cool warning but a wet cough ruined the affect. She had the nerve to smile at him.

"How long will he sleep?"

"I don't know. He hasn't slept in a while, maybe all night if he's lucky."

"What about you?"

"I stay."

"Even if it kills you?"

"Yes."

Hermione stood with a sigh. "Don't be so dramatic."

"Where are you going?"

"To get you help." She walked towards the end of the room, the door materializing in front of her.

It shot open before she could reach it and a dark figure stood in the huge doorway. Professor Snape strode into the room, taking in Granger, Harry on the floor, and the wolf patronus. His eyes widened as he looked from Draco to the wolf and back again.

"Excuse us, Miss Granger."

Hermione cast a last meaningful look at Draco before she left.

Draco stood, not quite reaching his full height, but trying. He coughed wetly into his fist.

"Don't move, Mr. Malfoy." Snape's beady black eyes were scrutinizing him, his wand already out, his voice hard. Draco tensed. Was this it? Snape's turning point? He knew word would spread once the dream was over, but he didn't think it would be quite this fast. He didn't even know what Harry had gone through. It had escaped him before, but Snape's presence so soon made it glaringly clear that he wasn't the only target. He should have known. He kept feeling like something was missing, like it should be right in front of him, but it wasn't. Now, however, it was so painfully obvious.

Draco stepped lightly and swiftly, putting himself between Harry and Snape. A flicker of a smile on the potions master's lips told him read the situation correctly. Or, correctly enough, at least.

"Tell me what happened here," his head of house demanded.

"Lower your wand." He meant to sound in control. He meant to sound like his father. The guttural rasp that came out sounded like neither. Snape's face turned into a grimace.

"You're hurt. How badly?"

Draco's arm went around his ribs, his other hand he raised just a bit. He wasn't as good with his left hand as with his right, but he was sure he could make due. He was surprised to find, however, that he actually missed Granger. Something tickled in the back of his mind, but he couldn't quite grasp it. He felt like he was forgetting something again, the same feeling he had during his last conversation with Snape. His thoughts felt muddled together and it was getting harder to keep his focus off the pain.

"Let me help you, Mr. Malfoy."

"I think you've helped enough." Draco spat blood on the floor. For some reason, his mouth kept filling with it and he was angry enough to observe some unsightly habits.

Snape's gaze went from the blood on the floor to Draco. "I can heal you, Draco, until you can get to the hospital wing. Don't be foolish."

"Foolish, indeed," Draco muttered, thinking it odd that people kept saying that to him lately. "Why are you here?"

"Earlier today, your father told me the Dark Lord was getting..impatient and that I should help guide your decision sooner rather than later. Then you asked for the Room."

"Ah, I see. You were worried about my well-being."

Snape finally lowered his wand. "And his."

Draco turned to glance at Harry. He was on the floor, still asleep, still protected. "What do you care about him?"

"It's more tangled than you can imagine, Mr. Malfoy," Snape shot.

"I can imagine quite a bit," Draco shot back.

"You'll just have to trust my devotion to your family," Snape said wryly.

Draco scoffed, which quickly turned into a cough that he couldn't stop. It came from deep inside from, pulling painfully at his ribs as it came out. It brought him to his knees and he knew if there was to be a fight, he would lose.

Snape moved more quickly than Draco thought him capable. He was at his side in an instant, helping Draco back to his feet. The potions master tapped his ribs with his wand, muttering an incantation Draco couldn't quite hear. The pain dissipated slowly and was replaced with a great burning itch as the pain dissipated. He gasped at Snape's quickness and surety, as well as at the new sensations.

"I wish you both no harm," Snape said quietly.

The tickle in the back of his mind was back with a vengeance. It was like searching for a word that was on the tip of the tongue but wouldn't quite form. Along with it came the anxiety, as if he'd be paying with his life if he couldn't get it right. A dark thing around a dark corner. He remembered something in one of their first conversations when Draco had arrived at school. A promise of relief. A promise of protection.

"You planned this," Draco said, his voice just above a hoarse whisper.

Snape regarded him coolly, as if considering denying everything, lying, or possibly a bit of both.

"Not entirely. Who else knows?" Snape's voice was too calm.

"Granger." The word was out of Draco's mouth before he had made the decision. If Snape thought another knew, Draco would be out of danger. But now he would be involving Granger directly. Apparently, he was no good at this hero stuff.

Snape's face turned sour. His hooked nose swiveled to Harry's sleeping form and back again. "No one else?"

Draco shook his head, now able to stand to his full height. But the taste of blood didn't leave his mouth.

"It would probably be wise to keep it that way, Mr. Malfoy." Snape turned to leave in a billow of black cloth.

"When does the headmaster return?" Draco called to Snape's retreating form.

"I do not know." Snape didn't even slow to reply, then he was gone.

Chapter Text

Hermione was trying to sneak her way back to Gryffindor Tower, where she was supposed to be at this hour of the night. She had waited in the shadows until Snape had left the Room of Requirement and tried to go back in, but it remained shut. She waited as long as she dared, but it didn't open. She supposed her frustration was only an iota of what it had been for Malfoy during fifth year.

Malfoy. She felt her cheeks go warm as she thought of the things he had said to her. He was joking, for certain, and it wasn't like she was attracted to him, not really, it was just her body's natural response. That's what she told herself. It was the most logical thing, after all. Plus, he was her best friend's boyfriend now, so all that didn't even matter. It was just that this new Malfoy was someone different. It was like meeting an entirely new person with a familiar face. She could see it now, she could. The attraction. She hoped he would stay this newer, nicer version of himself, for Harry's sake. She didn't want to think about what might happen if he didn't.

She heard footsteps coming towards her, echoing off the castle walls. She held her breath, hiding in a dark doorway that the torchlight didn't reach. If it was Filch, he might just walk right by. If it was Mrs Norris, she would be found immediately. If it was Snape, it'd be more than points from Gryffindor, she was sure. Best to not get caught at all. She felt the doorknob jabbing her in the small of her back. If she could open it quietly, she'd have a better hiding place. She turned it as slowly as she could, the knob still emitting a small squeaking sound. The footsteps stopped, closer now.

Hermione willed her heart to slow, breathing slowly in and out through her nose, her hand instinctively reaching for her wand. That's silly, she thought, what am I going to do? Hex Mrs Norris? She'd be in so much trouble. Instead, she pushed on the door. It swung inward without a sound. She plunged into the blackness, closing the door partly behind her. She peeked through the gap, waiting to see who came looking for her.

The footsteps resumed, slower this time, but still advancing, shuffling from time to time like someone looking for something. Or someone. Hermione waited, feeling sweat break out on the back of her neck and on her upper lip. She'd have to wait to wipe it away, fearing that if she moved, she would be found. If she was found, she'd have quite a lot of explaining to do. She stifled a sudden giggle then, thinking how absurd it was that she, one of the top students in her year, maybe even the top by now since Draco was out of the running (the thought gave her a small thrill), should be hiding in an empty classroom after hours. Harry would have simply stridden down the hall and went to bed. But that was what she liked about Harry; he was bold, he didn't care too much what other people thought. Hermione had always harbored a borderline troublesome respect for authority and a sorry need to be validated by that authority. Being friends with Harry had made her stronger, without a doubt, and she felt his absence now, more than ever.

The footsteps came, slowly, and went, passing right by her door. The only indication she saw was a slight, tall shadowy figure passing by her narrow field of vision. What would Harry do right now? She thought. Harry wouldn't be hiding in the dark, that's for sure. She took a breath, opened the door wide, and jumped into the hallway, directly behind the figure.

"Here I am!" she shouted, feeling more than just a little crazy.

Ron Weasley jumped about a mile off the ground. It was a wonder he didn't hit his head on the ceiling. His face was a white mask of fear until he turned all the way around and saw who it was. "Hermione! Merlin's beard, do you have any idea-"

Hermione's fit of giggles cut him short. "Ronald," she said in between her laughter, "you should see your face!"

Ron crossed his arms and looked down at her. He'd been doing that a lot lately. "I've been out here, wandering most of the night, looking for you! And you're hiding in doorways, popping out at people. Bloody hell."

"That's not all I was doing, Ron. I didn't even know it was you."

"So you're popping out at strangers, then? At Filch? Or Mrs Norris? What then, Hermione?"

"I was being brave."

"Oh, you sure were Herm." He started to walk away, back the way he had come. "You were very brave." He stopped suddenly, as if something had just occurred to him. "You weren't with him, were you?"

Hermione scoffed. "You'll have to be more specific, Ronald." She started walking towards the common room, getting ahead of Ron. She felt a great deal braver now and she told herself it wasn't because her boyfriend had showed up.

Ron matched her quick stride easily with his longer legs. It was annoying how he was always able to do that. "You know, Malfoy."

She shot him a sideways glare. "What does it matter, Ron?"

Ron threw up his hands. "He's up to no good! I came to find you because we have to protect Harry."

"Harry's fine."

"How is Harry fine?"

"He just is. He's happy, Ron. And he's different."

"Harry's different? I can tell."

Hermione exhaled through her nose. "Malfoy. Draco is different."

"Oh, it's Draco now, is it?" A mocking tone had taken over his voice.

"It is," she said, trying her best to stay calm.

"So you're just going to hang out with Draco Malfoy now?"

"No, Ron, I just want to help him. Both of them."

"Then let me help, too. Tell me what's happening."

Hermione tucked her hair behind an ear. "You aren't going to like this," she said, trying to gauge his reaction. "I can't."

"Why the bloody hell not? I care about Harry just as much as you do. Certainly more than Malfoy does."

"I'm not sure that's true right now, Ron. And I promised I wouldn't."

Ron had stopped walking, but Hermione didn't. He jogged to catch up. "You were talking about patronuses. I have a patronus. I can definitely do that better than Malfoy."

Hermione scoffed loudly without meaning to. Her mind went to the wolf pouring out of Draco's fingertips, the feeling in the room as he did so, the earth-shattering sound when the wolf had howled. She shivered. "I'm sorry Ronald. But no, you can't."

"Then what can I do, Herm?"

She turned to look at Ron, the desperation in his voice piercing her heart. He was plodding along the hallway, his tall form slouching forward, hands stuffed in his pockets. He looked tired.

"I'm losing my best friend, Hermione. Maybe I already have. And now I'm losing you, I can feel it." He scuffed his shoes along the flagstone floor. "And now you're both hanging out with Malfoy, of all people, instead of me."

Hermione grabbed him by the elbows. He looked up, his blue eyes deep pools that held a hidden anguish coming to light. "Listen to me, Ronald. Draco has a problem. Harry is involved somehow. It seems to me that they can't handle it on their own. If you'd really like to help," a small smile spread across his face and his head started to nod, "then you have to be nice to Malfoy." The smile disappeared. His head stilled. He looked like he was going to be sick.

Hermione let out an exasperated sound and started walking away.

"Okay." His voice was so quiet she almost didn't hear him at all.

She grinned. "What was that?"

"You heard me, don't make me say it again, Hermione. But no promises, do you hear me? The minute he starts something-"

"Oh, I hear you Ronald." A small smile stayed on her face.

"Alright. What's first?"

She looked at Ron, a bit surprised. She had assumed he would be off to bed this time of night. "You really want to help?"

"Yes, Hermione, I do."

"Then we have some research to do."

Ron groaned. "Not that kind of help. I'm here to do the magical help. The adventurous help."

"We'll need Harry's invisibility cloak for that and we'll have to wait until he wakes up at least-"

"I can get that."

Hermione gave him a quizzical look.

Ron grinned at her. "Hermione, I live with the guy. I know where he keeps his stuff."

-------

"Ow! Ron, you're stepping on my foot."

"Sorry Herm."

Hermione shifted the cloak around the two of them. "You're too tall, Ron."

She didn't need to look at him to know he was making a face at her. They were sneaking into the restricted section of the library. Again. Hermione sighed and lamented the fact that she was in her last year at Hogwarts and had yet to be granted permission to enter. She thought for sure that if any student was to be given access to the restricted section, it would be her. Even though she had asked Professor McGonagall many times and the answer was always a very stiff no.

Hermione took Ron by the hand and led him through the darkened stacks, looking for the books Draco had requested. It had been odd, his request, even the fact that he had made this request of her was odd in itself, but the subject matter.. What could Draco Malfoy want with these ancient books? It worried her a little when she thought about it. It worried her a lot if she really thought about it. He hadn't explicitly asked for her trust, the proud Slytherin would never do a thing like that, but it had been implied. She tried to shake the feeling she was becoming a messenger, a go-between of sorts, an agent of Draco Malfoy, operating behind Harry's back.

No matter what, he genuinely seemed to care for Harry, surprisingly. His patronus was proof of that. How does something like that happen? Enemies one day and lovers the next. Stranger things have happened, especially in the wizarding world, she supposed.

She dragged Ron over to a shelf, trying to read the old and faded titles in the dim light.

"If you tell me what we're looking for, I can help."

She shushed Ron with more vehemence than she probably should have. Hermione absolutely hated having her concentration interrupted, plus she was tired. There came a muffled moaning sound from somewhere in the dusty stacks. Ron spun, trying to find the source, his face going white.

"Ron!" Hermione hissed, "You're moving too much!"

"Hermione, the noise," Ron's voice was quavering. As if the source of the moaning had heard him, more voices rose to meet it, a great moaning and groaning choir. The cloak slipped, exposing their feet, ankles, knees. If anyone else was there..

"Ron, be still!" She whisper-yelled. "You've been here before, it's nothing!"

"That's not nothing, Hermione. We have to get out of here! They know were not supposed to be here!"

Hermione rolled her eyes. "I thought you wanted to do the adventurous help, Ronald."

Ron opened his mouth to respond, but another voice cut him off. A terse, no-nonsense, drawling voice rising above the din, a spell being cast, Hermione had no doubt. What followed after was a deadly silence. She held a finger to her lips, staring wide-eyed at Ron, who nodded and shut his mouth with a snap.

She felt her boyfriend crouch down farther under the cloak behind her, his hands coming to rest on her hips. Under any other circumstances it would have excited her, his firm touch, his breath behind her ear, a darkened library, but they both knew who that voice belonged to. Soft footsteps began tapping their way towards the hiding pair.

Hermione put her hands over Ron's and starting stepping lightly away, Ron shuffled soundlessly behind her, following.

"I know you're here," Snape's voice was louder than it should have been. She told herself it must be echoing in the small space; there was no way he could be gotten so close to them already. Hermione slowed, still scanning the titles of the books. Ron tapped her left shoulder. She turned just in time to see a billow of dark robes vanish around the nearest corner. Too close, indeed.

Hermione and Ron shuffle-stepped around the next aisle, but moving swiftly and silently proved tedious, especially with their mismatched heights. She felt a quiver under the cloak, Ron's legs getting tired, no doubt. They made it to the center of the aisle and stood still, Hermione straining to listen for sounds of movement over Ron's labored breathing. Footsteps approached, then faded. She heard the metal clang of the door to the restricted section closing, then nothing. She glanced at Ron. He looked hopeful, that meant he had heard it too.

She mouthed a wait here, and stepped out from under the cloak. It was too difficult to read in the dim light, under the cloak, with Ron touching her. Her fingers lighted over the thick covers, a tiny cloud of dust trailing in their wake. She heard it begin, and her heart dropped into her stomach. A gasping hitch from underneath the cloak, just behind her. She had her wand in her hand, but she knew that it was too late. Ron Weasley sneezed a great sneeze.

Hermione's face scrunched, her shoulders coming up to her ears. The moaning started up again, loud and abrupt. She redoubled her efforts, searching for the book. If she could only get one of the many Draco had asked for, it had to be this one. She found one on wandless magic, not the one she had been thinking of, but it was better than leaving with nothing, and quickly pulled it. As soon as it was in her hands, the moaning stopped. A flicker of movement in the corner of her eye. She turned and found herself staring down the length of Snape's outstretched wand.

Chapter Text

"Miss Granger. In the restricted section. Again. How strange." Snape's voice dripped with sarcasm.

Hermione eyes traveled from his wand, pointed at her chest, to his face. "Professor, I-"

He silenced her with a wave of his hand. The low light and shadows exaggerated his hawkish features, his greasy hair seemed to shine. Hermione found herself afraid, and not just of detention or losing house points. They seemed far beyond that now. Draco had warned her about Snape, in a vague sort of way, and while she didn't know if Draco could be trusted, she had been sure, ever since first year, that Snape most definitely could not be.

"Let me guess," Snape drawled quietly and dangerously, trailing his long pallid fingers along the book spines, "you're here to do a little research, am I correct?"

"Well, sir-" Hermione started, but the potions master cut her off again.

"Research for your..new friend? Hm?"

"He's-"

Snape stepped quickly forward and snatched the leatherbound book from her arms. She didn't even have time to cry out in surprise.

"Wandless Magic of the Ancients." He read the title aloud, slowly and with plenty of disdain. Hermione winced. It was so obvious who it was for. Harry could probably talk his way out of this, but what could she do? She felt her cheeks growing warm.

Snape looked up from the book with an eyebrow raised, challenging her. She looked down at her wand. She could perform a stunning spell. But that would probably land her in more trouble. She could simply grab the book away from him and run. But he would have full recourse later. She could lie. But she knew she was a terrible liar, especially to teachers. She decided to tell the truth.

"It's for Draco Malfoy."

She saw Snape's eyes widen in the half-light. Apparently, he thought she would have chosen another option. Hermione put her hand out, as if she expected Snape to simply put the book back in her hand and be done with it. To her surprise, he did. She clutched it to her chest like a lifeline.

"So, you do know," his low voice was almost a whisper piercing the deadly silence that followed.

"A bit," Hermione admitted, keeping with her decision to tell the truth. It seemed to be paying off, so far.

"Stay here." A curt command. Snape disappeared into the back of the stacks in a billow of black robes, almost indistinguishable from the dark room. She heard Ron move under the cloak. Putting her hand out in a gesture of stay-where-you-are, she hoped he would get the message and stay put. If Snape knew someone else was there, well, she could see the rest of this interaction going south almost immediately. She wondered idly if Snape had the power to expel students. Her stomach churned. Waiting made her nervous.

Hermione turned as she heard the thumping of.. What? A door? Then the rattling of chains. What was Snape doing back there? Was it a trick? Some sort of trap? She told herself there wasn't anything Snape could do to her on school grounds, caught in the restricted section or not, but she wasn't sure how low the man could stoop. Draco had seemed unsure at best about that himself. That was precisely what made her nervous. Draco had always been Snape's favorite student, and there seemed to be more besides. But if Snape wasn't in Draco's corner, whose was he in?

The rustling of the invisibility cloak was closer this time. She felt a tugging at her sleeve. She could all but feel Ron's urgency to leave, and although she agreed with it with every fiber of her being, Snape had given her the book back right away. It had been too weird and if they ran now, she wouldn't ever find out. She pushed him away with a glare.

Snape's soft footfalls came steadily closer. In his hands was a large tome, so old it looked to be falling apart. He frowned and glared down at Hermione as he, seemingly regretfully, handed her the book. Sheafs of parchment stuck out at odd angles, the words on the worn deep blue cover looked illegible, as if they hadn't been able to be read for hundreds of years. The spine was cracked and pieces of it flaked off between her fingers even though she was handling it with the utmost care. Snape's robes were already billowing, marking his quick departure.

"Professor?" Hermione called, maybe too boldly, definitely too loudly.

He didn't respond, but stopped where he was, at the end of the aisle of forbidden books.

"What is this?" she asked, her voice returning to a normal level.

"Mr. Malfoy will know. It goes without saying, Miss Granger, but you did not get that book from me."

She nodded and he was gone, swallowed up by the darkness.

Behind her, Ron stepped out of the cloak. "What in the bloody hell was that all about? Whose side is he even on?"

Hermione ran a hand over the cracking cover. "I suppose he's on his own side, Ron," she said simply.

There was something about old books that made her feel comforted. More than that, there was an almost religious reverence, especially to this one. Maybe it was holding something that had withstood the test of time, something a lot older than she was or could ever hope to be. Maybe it was the knowledge stored inside and thinking about how many hands had held it before she did, how many witches and wizards had absorbed the information contained within before her. She opened it and turned, with great care, to the first page. "Well, what is it?" Ron stood over her, trying to read over her shoulder. "Hermione, I can't read any of that. Can you read any of that?"

She glanced up at him. "You didn't take Ancient Runes, did you?"

He made a face. "You only did because you were taking sixteen classes at once."

"It was only twelve, Ron. And I dropped some later."

Hermione's fingers were deftly turning the brittle pages, translation of the text happening almost automatically in her head.

"Twelve then. You didn't say this was for Malfoy."

She wished Ron would stop talking so she could read. She had promised to bring it right back to the Room of Requirement, to Draco, so she wanted to read as much as possible from the book before leaving. Because if she left and didn't bring it right there, it would start to be a lie. She didn't want to start a new relationship, or an old one over again, with a lie.

"If I had, would you have come?"

Ron grunted while she read a few more lines, flipped a few more pages.

"Can Malfoy read Runic?" He asked slowly.

"Hm, I'm sure he can." Another thing occurred to her. "Assuming Snape knew what book he wanted before I did."

"How would Snape know?"

"I'm not sure. I get the impression they talk quite often." She didn't really think about her responses, her voice coming out as a distracted mumble.

"Does Malfoy know that you know Runic?" More questions.

"Ron, you're just looking for some reason not to trust him, aren't you?"

"Yeah, I am. Just like you should be doing. Not running his errands." She grimaced at him but he continued, his tone turning insistent. "Does he know you know?"

She read a bit more before answering, just to show him how unimportant his question was. "He's been in my Ancient Runes classes since third year. I'd say he has an idea."

Ron was silent for a short while before he started pacing between the shelves and muttering, "He's up to something. I just know it."

Hermione blew a sigh in his direction. "Ron, this book is about magical binding." She gestured to her open page like it should be obvious. "The methods, the spells, everything."

Ron only gaped at her, uncomprehending.

"You do know what magical binding is?" She asked, hoping a prompt would refresh Ron's memory, saving her some explanation.

Ron made a face and shrugged. Oh well.

"Magical binding, between two magical persons, is a ritual that allows them to combine their powers, their minds, even their life force. But it fell out of practice because of its many deleterious side effects and complications. It's been considered highly unstable magic, dangerous and unethical, frowned upon for centuries. I had no idea a book like this even existed. I thought it was all a myth." She felt her finger tap her cheek and it put her into an almost trance-like state. Her mind was working double time, making connections where none seemed possible. Pieces of the puzzle were fitting together. Just not in the way she had originally thought.

Ron cleared his throat. "Herm, what side effects?"

"Hm?"

"You're doing it again, Hermione."

She shook herself mentally, getting grounded. "Bad side effects, Ron."

He crossed his arms, his freckled face taking on a pout. "I know what the word means, I want to know what the side effects are."

Her cheeks grew hot. "Sorry, sometimes I can't tell. Oh, um, I'm not sure specifically." She paged through the delicate book as fast as she dared. She hated not knowing the answers right away.

"Might it include horrible headaches when the other wizard is too far away?"

She was lost in the book, Ron's words barely bouncing around inside her head. "Hm? I suppose it might."

"And might it include things like, falling in love with someone you once hated?"

Hermione's head came up. She felt a scowl take over her face. "What are you saying?"

Ron started pacing and gesturing in the air with his long arms. "I'm saying, if you had a spell or ritual like this one, say, cast on you without your knowledge, could it make you fall in love with someone?"

Hermione scoffed. "I really don't think so Ronald. You can't magic love. It's been all but proven. Even love potions are hit or miss, and those are temporary besides."

"You don't think so? I think you'd better be sure, Hermione. It's Harry we're talking about here."

"I know it's Harry we're talking about here, why do you think I don't know that? Would you like to study Runic and translate this book before I give it to Draco?"

"And that's the other thing, Herm. Why do you have to give it to him at all? This is obviously important, why don't you study it and then produce the counter-spell and free Harry? We could do it, just us. Like always. We don't need him."

"Free Harry? I think it's more complicated than that by now. Besides, I told him I would."

"They're not shagging yet," Ron muttered under his breath.

"Ron!"

"Well that's what Harry told me!"

"That's- You're completely missing the point!"

"What is the point Hermione? You tell me it's a spell and then it's not a spell, only now it's a spell again! A spell we know that Malfoy cast because he sent you to get the secret Runic book that only nerds can read because the git can't ask for help like a normal person because he knows he's in over his head and he probably doesn't even love Harry."

Hermione stared at him a moment, trying to work out everything he had just said. Ron was emotional, talking fast. That was all. But a lump was rising in her throat and she wasn't sure why. She swallowed but the lump stayed. She thought of the wolf patronus again, the sheer power of it, all because Harry was in mortal danger. Besides, she had felt it, the feeling they shared in the dungeons after Potions class. But how could she tell Ron about that? It couldn't be both ways, could it? She had already decided to trust in Draco Malfoy's intentions, feeling like she owed it to him to see it through.

"Ron, calm down."

"No, Hermione, I-"

She went to him and wrapped her arms around his neck, standing on tiptoe to reach. His hands circled her waist reflexively. "You're right about some things, okay? Horribly, horribly wrong about others." She kissed him, pressing her lips to his slightly wet ones. She liked the first moment after she kissed him best of all. It was like he was always surprised that she would decide to do such a thing. His body would freeze, especially his mouth, this weird moment of sheer panic, and then he would relax and respond. She wondered if it was a teenage boy thing or a Ron thing. She hoped it was a Ron thing.

"I think you're right. I think Draco does need help, but can't ask for it," she kissed his neck, observing the freezing phenomenon again. Her lips curved into a small smile. She was talking softly into his neck, but she knew she now had his full attention. "I saw his patronus, Ron. Harry was in trouble and he cast it perfectly. What were you saying about being pure of heart to cast a patronus?"

"That, well," Ron stammered, "Didn't that awful teacher have one, too? She was definitely not pure of heart."

Hermione chuckled. "I suppose. I know you don't like it, but I think Harry might love him, too."

"That's what I'm worried about. I just can't shake this feeling that everything is going to come crashing down. It's my best friend. I have to do everything I can to protect him, right?"

"Yes, I suppose we do. There's got to be more going on here, though."

Ron was trying to kiss her neck through her bushy hair and not having much success. "More like what?" He mumbled, but she could tell his focus had changed.

She settled for thinking her own thoughts. Why would Malfoy want to cast the binding spell? What would he gain from it? It seemed a desperate move. And then there was that conversation by the lake. He had assured her he had everything under control, all while asking her to keep a secret. She could tell it hadn't been easy for him. Perhaps that's why she believed him.

"Can we get out of here now, Herm?" Ron shifted from foot to foot. "I like what you were doing before, it's just quite creepy here."

"Just a minute," she said, the words coming out as a mumble.

"Can't you give him the book tomorrow? Let's go, before Snape comes back or the books start wailing again."

Hermione sighed. Ron was probably right. "He's staying awake all night to protect Harry, he probably needs something to do."

"Protect Harry from what?"

"From- Nevermind, I'll explain later." She had the feeling she wouldn't be doing too much explaining tonight.

Chapter Text

Granger had brought the book, just as she said she would. Draco stood in the doorway of the Room of Requirement, feeling more than a little out of sorts as the clever mudblood handed him a short stack of books, her petulant boyfriend standing a pace behind her, arms crossed and staring grimly at the floor. What was he doing here? Snape's comment about adding too many players rattled around in his sleep-deprived brain. He had been outnumbered before, with the addition of Granger, but now the odds were dangerously against him. But that was only if he failed.

Draco ran a finger along the spine of the larger one, hoping it would seem familiar. It didn't.

He looked up at Granger s expectant face. "Thank you," he said softly. He had meant to put more steel in his voice, especially with the unwelcome guest, but he was tired.

"Is there anything else you need?" It really was sweet of her to ask. His mind raced, just for a second or two, thinking of all the things he could ask for, that she would do without question. And underneath it all, the itch again, the small voice telling him how much fun it would be to tell them both to fuck off, with a healthy slew of insults to see them off. Their faces would be priceless. Fortunately, at least he preferred to think of it that way, that voice was getting smaller and quieter. Weasley scoffed behind her, interrupting his thoughts.

Draco raised his eyes, but the weasel still wouldn't meet his. He must've promised Hermione he would be, well, not nice, but civil, maybe. He let it go.

"Was this the only one you found?"

Hermione nodded, then her brow furrowed.

"What is it." A demand, not a question.

"We um," she danced from foot to foot in a nervous way that would have been cute under normal circumstances.

"Tell me, Granger." He hadn't meant to growl it at her, he was just so tired. The pain in his side started to throb in deep hot waves.

"Snape gave it to me." To her credit, her voice was stronger than it had been a moment ago.

Draco peered at her, eyes narrowing. She wouldn't have any reason to lie to him. Would she? And certainly no reason to lie about that.

"You got caught." His eyes glanced up to Ron, who turned away. "Because of him?"

Hermione had her hands up. "No, no, we just weren't careful enough. I wasn't careful enough. It's so late, I didn't think anyone would be there."

"What did you tell him?"

She bit her lip. He felt his thoughts start to wander, but he pulled them back. "That it was for you."

Draco sighed, his attention turning back to the books in his hands. He couldn't be angry with Hermione; his head of house would have already known. Perhaps he had even known that Draco would send her to retrieve such a thing and had been waiting for her in the library. He wondered how far ahead of him Snape actually was. Snape was starting to become more slippery than he thought. He had to stop underestimating the greasy potions master. Snape and the book about binding. It was like having a loose tooth, except in your mind. There was a spot in there that wasn't quite right, so his thoughts kept going back to it, like a tongue trying to ease it out. A weird sensation of loss, but at what, he couldn't say.

"Draco, are you okay?" Hermione's hand was on his forearm. The touch felt.. odd. There was no physical warmth behind it. It made his heart ache for Harry's presence, Harry's warmth. Was that it? The loss? He missed Harry? He turned around, checking on his boyfriend's sleeping form. He was right there, with the wolf, not ten feet away. How strange it was to miss someone when they were in the same room as you.

He shrugged off her touch. "I'm alright." Then he smirked, seeing how much her touching him had bothered Weasley. The tall redhead was glaring at him, his arms crossed. Draco reached out, taking her hand. He saw Weasley go rigid, take a step forward.

"Actually," he said, his old drawl coming back far too easily, "There is something you can do."

"I should have gone back to bed." Weasley was grumbling, saying the same thing he had said only a minute ago. How did Harry stand him?

"Ronald, concentrate."

Draco watched with his wolf patronus at his side as Hermione and Weasely levicorpus'd his boyfriend's sleeping form down the dungeon stairs. He walked as close to Harry as he dared, making sure the silvery wolf had constant contact.

"It's a bloody wolf, Hermione."

"I know, Ronald."

Granger sounded almost as tired as he felt. Weasley kept stealing frightened glances at Draco's patronus when he thought no one was looking. Draco smirked every time, but, having some time to reflect, he had to admit to himself that the wolf was quite strange. It wasn't something he would have thought to pick, even though he knew it didn't work that way. Wolves were pack animals; he certainly didn't have a pack. Wolves were wild and brave; two more qualities that he was pretty sure he didn't possess. He could feel the coolness of the silvery wisps as the wolf brushed against his hip. And it was big. Much larger than a big dog. The wolf turned to look at him, as if it knew Draco's thoughts. Perhaps it did. His world was turning upside and he felt willing to believe in anything. Another thought occurred to him; the fact that patronuses were usually docile, tame animals, like deer, horses, and beavers.

"What's your patronus, Weasley?" He snapped the question at the other wizard.

"What? Me?" Weasley faltered on a stair.

Draco rolled his eyes. "Are there more of you around that I don't know of? Yes, you."

He seemed to fume for a moment, but silently. "A Jack Russell Terrier," he said curtly.

Draco didn't even try to stop the giant grin from taking over his face. He made eye contact with Hermione, who gave him a reproachful look. He returned the look with what he hoped was an innocent looking one.

He knew he would owe her after this. Owe both of them, probably. His mind was already cycling though possible actions he could take to mitigate this.. transaction, as it were. Plus, he was letting them in on a small secret, providing Potter hadn't told them already; the location of his room. He didn't see why it should matter, it just felt wrong. If there was any other way he would have taken it. He couldn't take the risk of casting another spell while the patronus was guarding Harry's dreams. And he couldn't let his boyfriend sleep on the floor, no matter how deep his level of rest seemed to be. A bed would be much better. His bed would be best. He smirked to himself at the thought of Harry's two best friends, depositing him in what was, up until recently, his antagonizer's bed. But now, now it was his boyfriend's bed, and they were good friends, to be doing such a thing, at such an hour. Draco suddenly felt humbled. He didn't know anyone who would do such a thing for him. Except maybe the three people he was with right now. He suddenly felt sick to his stomach.

He began to feel slightly better once in his own room, Hermione and Weasley gone, Harry Potter tucked into his bed, sleeping soundly, the wolf patronus laying next to him like a huge lapdog. He gave a great sigh and collapsed onto the sofa. The fireplace was empty. He wanted it to stay that way. He tried to clear his mind, to plan his next move, but his eyes kept roving to his boxed wand on the shelf. He didn't even feel its absence anymore, now that the wandless magic had been serving him so well. It felt freeing, in a way, to not rely on a piece of wood tucked into his pocket. As in all things, Draco Malfoy relied only on himself. He glanced over at Harry. Maybe that could change.

He shook his head. His thoughts kept going back to Harry. Always Harry. Thinking of him was pleasant, daydreams involving him more than pleasant, but it was like his brain wouldn't work the way it was supposed to. The way he needed it to. He stood up with a grunt, pushing himself to his feet. He couldn't sleep now, and he wouldn't, no matter how tired he felt. The patronus spell, Harry nearly dying, dealing with Snape's secretive actions and Harry's friends felt like too much to handle. He considered waking Harry up, just for the comfort and the company. But he knew that was too selfish, even for him.

The wand on the shelf called for his attention once more. There was that feeling again, like he was forgetting something important, like he had a paper due in an hour that he had forgotten to write but he couldn't remember which class it was for. This foreboding, prickle in his mind. He could know for certain, the thing he didn't want to think about. He could take out his wand, cast the spell, and be certain of the last spell that it had brought to life. Draco didn't know if he really wanted the answer just yet, nor all of the implications that came with it. There was only one thing he wanted, and he wanted it desperately.

He turned away from the fireplace, moving towards Harry. That was a choice in and of itself, wasn't it? Didn't that mean something, as well? Or did it still make him a coward? He sat on the edge of the bed, smoothing his hair even though his boyfriend was fast asleep and wouldn't see him. He gently took Harry's glasses off, folded them carefully up, and placed them on the bedside table. He touched Harry then, just with the tips of his fingers along his cheeks, along his forehead, tracing the scar he found there. Harry didn't stir and Draco hadn't really wanted him to wake up anyway, but he was still a little disappointed.

Getting up, he retrieved the large book from where he had left it. He gave the other a cursory glance, wondering what the ancients could teach him about wandless magic that he didn't already know. The book he was interested in, however, was much too large and much too old. He wondered how Granger managed to read any of it in its current state. No doubt she had found a way. He hefted it into his hands, his ribs beginning to ache again. He muttered a spell, spreading his long-fingered hands across both covers.

The book began to mend itself, the brittle pages sliding into place, securing. The cover seemed to shake off the dust and years of both use and neglect, becoming new, the cracks and flakes sealing themselves before his eyes, the leather becoming soft and supple once more. He watched as the Runic letters on the cover began to shine and glow, restoring themselves to their former glory. He wondered idly how many hands had held this book before he did. How many hands had held this book as it was now, shiny and new? The founders of his school? His ancient and benevolent Headmaster? Perhaps someone more sinister? Voldemort? Where did he, Draco Malfoy, fit into that spectrum? His stomach turned as his fingers traced the letters as he thought about where this journey might lead him. The Perils and Pitfalls of Magical Binding.

Perils and pitfalls, indeed. He heard a shuffling of blankets and he glanced up, but it was only Harry tossing a bit in his sleep. He longed to join him, to wrap himself around the Boy Who Lived and sleep. If he was being honest with himself, he had a hunch it was a binding spell from the beginning. What surprised him, however, was the sheer magnitude of it. And also the fact that he hadn't cast it. He knew he didn't cast it; why would he do such a thing? Sure, there were those feelings that he had for Harry, but he had been pretty sure he could suppress them, negate them, make fun of Harry until he was out of school. Then Harry Potter would be all but a distant memory, no matter his dealings with the Dark Lord, no matter which side Draco chose. It was soon to be over, one way or the other, the way his father talked of it.

There was the other element to be concerned about as well. If it was, in fact, a magical binding, then how real were their feelings? How real were Harry's? Was he just being pulled and pushed along by the wonderful warmth and the fantastic pain? Was it only a reciprocation, or a side effect? Or was it possible that Harry could feel real feelings apart from the binding, feelings that were for Draco and no one else. It certainly seemed that way, when they were in the kitchens that night, at the lakeshore, after Harry's stay in the hospital wing, nearly every time they were alone together, now that he thought about it. But there was no way to be sure. It felt like his love life had been meddled in. And that made it lesser, somehow. He felt silly, like he should have known that it was too good to be real. Someone was making a fool out of him. Harry, too.

Draco sighed. He knew it was deeper than that, it had to be, but his tired brain just wouldn't stay focused. If he could learn more about the methods and yes, perils and pitfalls too, though he was sure he already knew most of those, then he would at least have more information as to how and why it had been cast on the two of them. The two least likely to come together on their own.

Slipping off his shoes, he waved the Black Lake curtains open, thinking that Harry would like that when he woke, and made his way over to the unoccupied side of the bed. He would have to settle for reading his massive tome near his boyfriend, instead of snuggling to sleep.

Chapter Text

Harry Potter opened his eyes. The first thing he felt was the warmth coursing through his chest, waves of it pleasantly reaching all the way to his fingertips, his toes. It was refreshing after the horrible dreams. The dreams had been awful, unreal, and yet too real. The warmth between him and Draco was the most real thing he had ever felt. It brought him back to reality, assuring him that he was alive and, maybe not well, but certainly alright.

The second thing Harry noticed was that he was not where he had passed out. This was definitely not the Room of Requirement. Pillows were under his head and a plush blanket was pulled up to his chest. The rest of the room was a fuzzy blur. Someone had taken his glasses. The room was a bit dark, but a soft greenish glow was coming from one side. He was most certainly in Draco's bed. He grew tense at the thought of Malfoy directing his sleeping body with his hands, just as Harry had done on their way from the kitchens that night. No doubt Draco had an easier time of it than he had, being sober and all.

He looked briefly for the wolf, but knew it would have already gone. The wolf. How strange Draco Malfoy could conjure such a creature. He wouldn't have believed it if he hadn't seen it firsthand. Not that Draco wasn't a competent wizard, he always knew he was, it was just not at all what he had expected.

The little he knew of patronus' dictated that the protector animal was one the conjurer had the most affinity with. He had seen some of his closest friends conjure patronuses and, while he thought he might be able to predict what form they would take, he was always wrong. Harry felt as though his own had been somewhat handed down to him from his father. He always harbored an odd sense of pride at that. Maybe he had chosen it without realizing. Maybe there was more to it than he thought. He was, after all, no expert.

Even the simple fact that Draco was able to produce one with that much power after only one lesson with him was astounding. The Dark Lord's words echoed in his head, Draco Malfoy is powerful than you realize. An involuntary shudder passed through him. He supposed it could be possible; he himself had conjured his strongest patronus while he and Sirius were in mortal danger. Did the dream get that bad? He remembered being strangled, but only for a short time. His hands went to his throat. It felt a little sore, raw, maybe, but no worse for wear. How did he do it, then?

"You stopped breathing," Draco's voice was quiet, soft, close.

Harry started, not realizing that the Slytherin had been beside him the entire time, leaning against the headboard on top of the blankets, a large open book across his lap.

"Draco," Harry breathed, sitting up as quickly as his stiff body allowed, throwing his arms around his boyfriend and practically diving into his lap. Draco's book fell to the floor with a heavy thump. Harry felt the other boy stiffen under the sudden affection, then felt him relax, one long arm coming to rest around Harry's middle. The familiar warmth enveloped him, making him feel a bit tingly and giddy.

Harry felt a great wave of relief; it was over. Draco was here. Then suddenly, it was gone. It was as if a flood gate of emotion had opened and Harry's were washed away. He felt a rush of Draco's nameless despair, fear, and anger all at once. Harry shut his eyes tight, trying to let it wash over him like a wave, but it was strong-There was something else there, too. Underneath it all was a pulsing feeling of affection, respect, and..love? It was a tender and hopeful feeling. As quickly as it had come, it was gone. All of it.

Harry was stunned. It had almost felt the same as when he had lost Sirius two years earlier. He had no doubt; it was the sudden pain of losing someone important, a loved one. He had no words. And Draco hadn't moved or said anything. Did he let him in on purpose? Was there something there that he wanted Harry to know but couldn't say? Or was it an accident, a lapse in a carefully created and maintained emotional wall?

"I didn't die, though," Harry said softly, mostly to himself.

Draco stiffened underneath him. It was an accident, then. He suddenly had an awful mental image of Draco disappearing in a plume of dark smoke, just like his parents had in his dream, just like Voldemort. He held his boyfriend a little tighter, the warmth growing, spreading.

"Harry," Draco's voice was a tight rough whisper

The words started pouring out of Harry in a rush. "Your wolf, Draco, it was amazing. And I saw my parents, they were alive and-"

"Harry."

"Voldemort was there and it was so real, how can this be-" Harry stopped talking suddenly as he realized he had been holding on tighter than he meant to and Draco was trying to push him away. "Merlin's beard, I didn't even ask if you were okay, are you okay?" He knew his words were coming out too fast. He felt like he was struggling to keep up with reality. That certainly wasn't a normal thing that normal people had to do.

Draco sighed, "I'm okay."

For the first time since waking, he had a good look at his boyfriend. His blond hair was swept handsomely to the side, but the Dark circles under his wintry eyes were back. He looked haunted again, like he had seen more than he ever wanted to again. The sweater he had been wearing was gone and his shirt was rolled up at the elbows as usual, but was uncharacteristically rumpled; he had dried blood on the collar and Harry noticed that Draco had missed a button. The Draco he knew would never miss a button.

"You're not okay." Harry was sure of it.

Draco sighed heavily, turned away. "Do you ever wonder, Potter, how much you can take before you break?"

"All the time," Harry answered honestly, not missing a beat. Draco looked at Harry now, his pale face discerning. Harry knew he was trying to read him, and that was okay. He knew what the other boy would find there. He watched as the look in Draco's silvery eyes changed, the ice there seeming to melt and soften. Then his long fingers were undoing the buttons of his rumpled shirt.

Harry watched, frozen and wide-eyed, as his boyfriend opened his shirt. Angry purple and red streaks covered one side of Draco's ribcage, almost top to bottom, the edges darker than the rest.

"What happened? I couldn't find you." Harry knew he was still talking fast. It was like he couldn't think properly, like he had too much to say, too little time to say it in, and every thought was just as important as the last. Harry's hand went to touch Draco's bruised ribs, his fingers flitting across their surface. It was a compulsion, as it had been in the dungeons that first night of the school year. It seemed like a lifetime ago. It seemed like yesterday. He gasped again, Draco's normally cool skin feeling fiery.

"My ribs were broken- are broken still, probably."

Harry frowned at him.

"I had to let you sleep, Harry. Plus I had all these books to read." He gestured toward the large stack of books on the bedside table. His face held none of the humor in his voice.

Harry's frown deepened. "No, you didn't. You were in pain the entire time? You're so-"

"Smart?" Draco had half a smirk on his face.

"No, I was going to say-"

"Good looking?" Now it was a full smirk.

"Stubborn." But now Harry was smiling.

He placed his hand on Draco's ribs, suddenly feeling an ungodly heat, his normally cool skin a furnace. Draco gasped sharply. Harry pulled away, worried.

"Harry," Draco said breathlessly, grabbing Harry's hand in both of his and pressing into his ribcage, hard.

"What-?" Harry's question was cut off by what he saw. The painful looking bruises were disappearing before his eyes, seeming to be sucked into his hand by the fingertips. It felt like grabbing fire, entirely too hot, but there was no pain. He looked to Draco to see if he was seeing the same thing. Was he dreaming again? Draco's brow was furrowed, his eyes closed, his mouth tight. "Is this really happening?" Harry whispered.

"It is," Draco replied through his teeth. "It burns."

Harry took his hand away as the heat started to ebb away. There was barely a shadow of where the bruises and painful streaks were. Harry gave him a couple pokes. Draco snorted. "Careful, Potter, I'm ticklish."

"You're healed." Harry said wonderingly. "What does this mean?"

"It was like the warm feeling, Harry, but tenfold. It burned but it was..good. Incredible. I feel incredible."

Harry didn't feel incredible. He felt drained. Plus, he wasn't sure he liked how Draco was looking at him in that moment. Like he was a mouse, and Draco was a cat with an appetite. And his shirt was open. Harry forced himself to look away. The room started to pitch and sway, the greenish glow from under the lake only adding to the feeling that Harry was on a ship in a storm. Or simply a ship that happened to be sinking. He closed his eyes and leaned back against the headboard, groaning.

"Harry." The sound of Draco's soft voice saying his name was like a breath of fresh air. He let it fill him up, his ears, his mind, his heart. He felt Draco's weight shift on the bed, felt cool fingers on his forehead. Then a curious thing. Another curious thing, he supposed, since there had been so many lately. His scar began to feel icy and cold, soothing his dizziness. Before, it had only ever burned, but that had been someone else's touch.

His eyes fluttered open. The room had stilled and Draco sat before him, watching him intently, a small smirk playing on his lips. Harry felt his energy return, not incredible like Draco had said, but normal. Maybe a little better than normal. But why would his touch be so cold when Harry's had felt like fire?

"You know what's happening." Harry tried to keep the accusation from his voice, but he was afraid some leaked out anyway, despite his best efforts. He had been sitting on that thought for a while now, and this..exchange, or whatever it was, seemed to prove it.

He thought he saw a look of surprise flit across his boyfriend's handsome features, but he couldn't be sure. Draco was so good at that, but Harry felt like he was getting better at reading him. Even if it was just a little bit.

"Is that better?" Draco asked, leaning closer, tugging on the front of Harry's t-shirt. Draco's shirt was still open. Even though he looked a bit worse for wear, harry had to admit, Draco Malfoy still looked good. His grey and stormy eyes were heavy-lidded, a small smirk on his perfect lips. Harry suddenly wanted to kiss it off his face. He felt his own face go hot, felt the warmth dive deeper into his belly. He knew Draco was avoiding the issue, trying to distract him. He also knew it was working.

Harry reached for Draco, suddenly overcome by the desire to be closer to him, as close as possible. Harry's hands acted without thought, one snaking inside Malfoy's open shirt, the other curling around the back of his head, fingers tangling in the fine hair there. Draco made up the difference, pulling at Harry's shirt, tangling his long fingers in Harry's messy hair, his mouth teasing, their lips barely touching.

"Yes," Harry grinned in spite of himself. "But you still aren't telling me anything."

Draco kissed him then, soft cool lips slightly parted, still pulling on his shirt. Their tongues met, their warmth deepened, feeling electric, every time they kissed feeling like the first time and Harry loved every single one. He let his hands wander over Draco's bare chest, up to his throat, his jaw, kissing him like he needed him. Maybe he did. Maybe it was okay to need someone.

Draco's strong slender arms pulled him closer, their bodies meeting, Harry pushing him back against the pillows. He found Draco's hips with his own and pushed gently. Draco made a small sound in the back of his throat, in surprise or pleasure Harry couldn't tell. He just knew he liked being the cause of it. The warmth was burning through him, turning any other thought he might have had to ash. He was kissing Draco's lips, his jaw, down his neck. He wanted to see if he could taste the spiced smell he loved so much. He wanted the sound of Draco's heavy breathing in his ears forever. He wanted Draco's long fingers tugging at his hair always. Harry kissed a perfect collar bone, his hands sliding Draco's shirt off his shoulder as he went. Then the hands in his hair were pulling him upwards, his mouth meeting Draco's waiting one.

"I missed you," Draco whispered into the kiss.

Harry pulled away, just a little. He looked into his enigmatic boyfriend's face, hoping he wouldn't a find a sarcastic smirk there. He didn't. Draco's eyes were warm and sincere. Like in the Owlry, like at the lake. "I missed you, too," the words were automatic, surprising him. "I was worried when I couldn't find you there."

Draco found one of Harry s hands and laced his long fingers into it. "You looked for me?" A small smile was on his face. Harry couldn't say exactly how, but it was very different than the smirk. It made his face look nice, open, relaxed. Harry thought it looked very good on him.

"Of course I did. Saint Potter, to the rescue."

Draco's smile grew wider and the full force of it hit Harry like a punch to the chest. He thought he'd never breathe again and that was strangely okay.

"Where were you?"

"In a field", Harry said with a sigh. "A very real field. My parents were there."

"Your parents?" Draco's face turned serious, his fingers gripped Harry's hand a little tighter. "What did they do to you?"

Harry furrowed his brow, thinking he had misunderstood Draco's question. "Do to me? Nothing like that, they were only.. So real..and very disapproving." He looked down at their entwined fingers. "Disappointed in my life decisions."

Draco snorted with muted laughter. "That's it? Your parents didn't like your new boyfriend?"

Harry was silent. It didn't seem so bad now, hearing the words come out of his mouth. He knew it was more, much more, but couldn't explain it. Not to someone who had their parents around for their whole life, even if they weren't the best ones.

Draco was reaching out to him, touching him. "Harry, I'm-"

"Don't worry about it," Harry said quickly.

'No, I'm being an ass," Draco's fingers brushed his forehead, tracing his scar, "I forget who you are sometimes. Where you come from."

"That's what I like most about you, I think." And Harry felt it again, a wave of emotion from Draco, of gratitude or something like it, intense affection or something like it. He stared at the proud Slytherin in front of him, a bit amazed that these emotions were pouring out of him.

Draco probably sensed Harry's too because he cleared his throat and dropped his eyes. "I saw my parents, too."

Harry felt his eyes widen in surprise. Draco was actually sharing without him having to ask? His heart felt like it was swelling up. And suddenly, it felt empty. Draco's questions about his parents suddenly made sense. He felt a little sick to his stomach. "And what happened?" He asked, even though he had a feeling he knew already.

"Oh, a lot of things," Draco said off-handedly, but his face, for once, gave him away. "Mostly, it was my mother telling me to listen to my father."

"I'm assuming you didn't."

Draco scoffed. "No, I didn't. He wanted you, Harry. He wanted me to bring you home. He cursed me when I refused."

"More than that, right?" Harry said softly, his fingers tracing Draco's ribs.

"More than that," Draco repeated.

He felt the warmth tingling through his fingers. He waited, in case Draco wanted to continue, but he had the distinct feeling he was done sharing. He could almost feel the wall going back up and it worried him.

"Draco?"

"Hm?"

"Is Voldemort always in your dreams?"

Draco's eyes narrowed. "Not always. He was in yours this time, wasn't he?"

"Yes, but it's not that unusual for me."

Draco was quiet for a moment. "What happened?"

Harry took a breath. He had wanted to talk about it with his boyfriend, so why was it so hard to say? Did speaking the words out loud lend them more truth than if he kept it to himself? He knew it would start to eat at him if he didn't share it.

"Something about us?" Draco was too close to be guessing.

Too late to turn back now. "Yes," Harry's hand came up, about to adjust his glasses, when he realized he had never put them on. He put his hand back down awkwardly. "He said he knew about us."

Draco's silvery gaze was boring into him, as if he knew there was more to it. Harry squirmed, but continued.

"That it was his idea. That the three of us would be unstoppable."

Harry tried to read Draco's face, but the mask of indifference was back. Or was it anger? He tried to feel out some emotion, but the wall was up. He felt a trickle of despair, a thinly veiled hatred. Harry's hand went to his boyfriend's face, his fingers finding his slender neck, his thumb tracing Draco's taut jaw.

"It doesn't change anything." Harry had meant for his voice to sound strong and sure, but it came out a whisper.

"It changes everything, Potter." Draco's voice was laced with, something. Frustration, maybe. Draco was moving towards the edge of the bed, leaving. Harry felt a vice grip his chest, his throat.

"Draco, wait," Harry caught his arm. Draco turned to him, glaring daggers. Harry held fast. "You can't just leave."

"I need a minute, Potter." His voice sounded choked, like he was barely holding it together.

"I want to help you, Draco."

His boyfriend scoffed. "Yes, but why? Why would you? "

Harry took a deep breath. He knew how he felt. Maybe he should say so. Something was holding him back, a tiny doubt.

"If you're not completely sure, don't say it." He knew the other boy was reading him like an open book. He didn't try to fight it.

"I want to be sure, Draco. It's just-"

"I never asked you to trust me."

"Yeah, I know," Harry said softly, "but I would if you did."

Draco sat on the edge of the bed, back turned to Harry. At least he wasn't leaving.

"The truth is, Harry," he leaned closer to hear Draco's soft voice, "I really don't think you should."

Harry's heart plummeted. A lump rose in his throat, threatening to choke him. He felt tears welling up in his eyes. He blinked, willing them away. "What are you saying?"

Draco stood suddenly, shaking free of Harry's grip. "I need a moment, Harry."

"But," Harry couldn't think.

"I won't go far. You know that."

Draco's slender form turned blurred as he walked away. Harry scrambled to the other side of the bed, snatching his glasses from the bedside table, knocking down a stack of books as he went. He put them on hurriedly.

"Draco, come back," he called, but as he looked toward the door with his vision much improved, he could see that Draco Malfoy was already gone.

Chapter Text

Draco left the room, his room, as fast as he possibly could, his eyes burning, his breath catching in his throat. Knowing full well that if he didn't do it quick enough, he'd never do it at all. Pathetic. He felt pathetic. This attachment, the warmth, the dreams, Potter's green eyes, he thought he could handle it all. Keep it under control. Now he was losing it. Again.

His father would always say that he couldn't trust him with any task that was for the cause, for the Dark Lord. That no matter how Draco acted, he was too emotional for anything of importance. He had tried to prove his father wrong, at every turn it seemed, but it all came back to Draco's lack of emotional control. Feeling the burn in his throat and the sudden emptiness of being without Harry, he felt a new pang of self-hatred. He could make all of his problems disappear with one simple action, he knew. It would be easy, he could convince himself it was so. All he would have to do would be to bring Harry home, for the holidays or sooner, and take the mark. He would be hailed a hero, probably. The one who led to the death of the boy who lived. The one who won the war. There wouldn't be a prouder father, not ever.

The tightness in his chest told him it wasn't so easily done. The yearning in his heart after only a few seconds away was proof enough that he wouldn't be able to do it. No doubt they would make him watch Harry's demise. A final lesson. Perhaps it would be for the better. Perhaps it would finally lend him the emotional void that he merely pretended to have. His thoughts went back and forth, getting darker each time. He was lost in their labyrinthian nature when he almost ran into someone in the darkened dungeon corridor.

"Draco? Are you okay?"

He set his mouth in a grim smirk and gave Granger an icy glare. He definitely didn't need this as well. "Granger. What are you doing here," he spat at her.

Her eyes raked over his bare chest. He was so lost inside his head that he had forgotten to close his shirt. The same shirt he wore yesterday. He fought down a wave of shame and glared at her harder while he hurriedly did his buttons.

"I came to talk to you and Harry." If she was bothered by Draco's venomous voice, she didn't show it. She shook her bushy head back and forth, looking around and behind him. "Where's Harry?"

Draco jerked his head back towards his room and sidestepped around her.

"Where are you going?"

The dismay in her voice pulled at him, but he resisted. "Away."

"But, but how far?"

"Until my head hurts, Granger. Sod off."

She scoffed at him. He deserved worse. He winced as he heard Hermione's footsteps coming after him. "Draco, tell me what's happening."

He cleared his throat and fixed his hair. Granger was waiting for him to speak, but he didn't know what to say, so he said nothing. She was keeping up with his long strides and looking at him. He glared sideways at her.

"Alright," she huffed, "Will you tell me if I guess correctly?"

Draco made a noise in the back of his throat. She could go anywhere in the castle. He couldn't. As far as he figured, he'd be stuck with her unless he told her what she wanted to know. "Why don't you go talk to Potter? I'm sure he'd have loads to tell you."

She rounded on him, blocking his path. He stopped in his tracks, flinching a little bit, his mind going back to when she punched him in the face third year. She had quite a hook. It wasn't something he wanted to revisit. "Look, I know you're under a lot of pressure and you don't sleep and everything is a bit unusual but I'm trying to be your friend. I'm not asking Harry what's wrong, I'm asking you. Did you find something? Did Harry? Are you fighting?"

He sighed, letting his shoulders sag. He rubbed his eyes, noticing a dull thud beginning behind them. Good, that meant Harry didn't come after him like he thought he might. "It's not like that, Granger. I just needed a minute to think without-" he stopped talking suddenly, realizing what he was about to say. Without Harry touching me, kissing me, without that damn warmth making me lose all sense.

She studied him for a moment, as if deciding her next move to get through to Draco Malfoy. He scoffed, more at himself than at her, and stepped around her once more. He felt better when he was moving. The headache intensified and Draco felt an odd sense of relief come over him. This was familiar. This was something he could deal with.

Hermione stopped him again as they came to a split in the corridor. The hallway opened up into a circular room, the ceiling becoming higher and domed, with more corridors coming off of it like spokes on a wheel. Some leading to classrooms, some to storage rooms, and some to Draco didn't know where even though he had spent a good part of 6 years down here.

Granger was standing next to him. "Where to now?" she said, her own smirk on her clever face.

He glowered down at her. "This is as far as I go," his voice was sadder than he meant it to be. He had to keep that in check.

"In what sense?" Still with that knowing smirk.

"Shut up, Granger."

They stood there in silence for a moment. Draco crossed his arms. Hermione did that thing where she nervously shifted her weight from foot to foot. This time he found it utterly annoying.

"You know," Hermione started, "it's not a bad thing to have someone who's important to you."

Draco shot her a look. "You don't know what you're talking about," he growled.

"It's also not a bad thing to have someone who wants to help you."

"I don't need help from anyone."

Hermione seemed nonplussed. "Well, I found something. Would you like to hear about it?"

Her know-it-all tone was the same as it was during classes. He found he didn't miss it one bit. He felt his face curl into a sneer. "What is it."

"The Dark Mark, it's a sort of binding spell in itself. I don't think-"

Draco spluttered with a poorly contained derisive laugh. "Come on Granger, you can do better than that."

"Alright. The complications you're both..suffering from, it probably stems from latent feelings."

"I thought you were top in our class."

"I- I am," Hermione stammered. He was finally getting under her skin. Good.

"Then tell me something I don't already know."

"Latent feelings from you both, Draco."

He steeled his face. "You can't be sure of that."

"Well no, but it's my best guess."

Draco made a face.

"I can't cite a source, so I can't be completely sure, but from what I've read, it makes the most sense."

Draco thought about it for a moment. It did logically follow what he had read, too, he had just dismissed it so quickly. It seemed, well, too good to be true. In his experience, if something seemed too good to be true, it most definitely was. It got your hopes up, and hope was a truly dangerous thing.

"I know you've read it, you've had it longer than me," Granger shifted her weight again, pushed her hair behind an ear, "so why do you want me to tell you what I found?"

"I don't know if you noticed," he sighed, "but I have an impossible bias right now."

Hermione smiled at him. Whether because she felt pity for him or because she was impressed he would be so thorough, he wasn't sure.

He looked at the floor. He was surprised to see he was in his socks. If he couldn't remember his shoes how was he going to outsmart Voldemort? Or his father? And keep Harry safe? Or were those things mutually exclusive? Would a normal person even be considering the alternatives? He shook his head, trying to clear his thoughts.

He already owed Hermione a debt. Perhaps several. Perhaps he would owe her more before this was over. Perhaps it would be fine, in the end. He decided it was the only chance he had right now and started talking.

"The Dark Lord was in Harry's dream. He told him that our relationship was his idea. He's using me to get to Harry, and I let him in."

Hermione actually took a step back. "You did it? You cast the spell?"

Draco exhaled forcefully. "I'm being figurative, Granger. They knew about my feelings and they exploited it. They knew I was someone who could be controlled, who could get close to Harry if circumstances were right." He turned away from her then, unable to meet her face. Saying it out loud made it real. It was as if he had known all along, he just hadn't connected all of the dots in the correct order. It made the roil in his stomach come back and he thought he might actually be sick. It made his eyes sting with fury and embarrassment. He swallowed hard, tasting bile.

"But then who did it? Who 'made the circumstances right', as you say?"

Draco shrugged, feeling worse than useless. "I can only think of one person, but the pieces don't quite fit."

"Snape."

Why was she so godamn clever? Why was he even talking to her? He was getting sloppy, making too many mistakes. "No, this is over." He turned on his heel and started down a random hallway, making sure it was a dark one.

"Draco, I can help you. I can-"

He whirled, facing her. "You're in over your head, Granger. I can't be held responsible for you and Harry. If I were forced to choose-"

"You'd choose Harry." She said it so simply. A simple truth. "I realize that. But it's not about that, is it?"

"No."

"It's about choosing between Harry and yourself."

Her words hit him harder than any punch she could have thrown. She was hitting him with the truth he was so artfully hiding from himself. The pounding in his head grew more pronounced. His chest ached, the distance between him and Harry feeling like a physical and heavy weight, crushing him. He wanted to run back to his room, back to his boyfriend, back to bed with him. Instead he went to the curved wall, putting his forehead on the cool stones. "What can I do, Hermione? I don't even know if.." His voice was choked and wet. Pathetic.

He felt a hand at the small of his back. He pulled quickly away. Her touch was all wrong. It didn't feel right at all. He wiped his nose with the back of his hand, unaware that he had been crying. Granger was looking at him in a sympathetic way that didn't help his stomach or his feelings of self-deprecation.

"Harry is my best friend." Draco rolled his eyes. "No, listen to me," Granger was saying. "He's selfless and acts impetuously and reckless when someone else is in trouble. He's also stubborn and quite thick when it comes to his own needs and feelings." She was smiling now.

"What's your point?" He did like hearing about Harry but he was feeling impatient.

"My point is, Draco, he wouldn't be in this if he didn't want to be, spell or not. He would help you if you asked, without question, but I'm quite sure you haven't. And the way he talks about you-"

He had heard enough. He put up a hand, palm out, to stop her. He needed time to process, time to think and plan his next move.

"You can't think your way out of everything," Granger said quietly.

He stared hard at her. Next she would be telling him to let Harry in on everything.

"And you have to tell Harry."

"You need to stop talking," he growled, towering over her. He could tell she wouldn't be so easily intimidated. Her last word carried so much weight with it, he knew she didn't just mean about the binding spell. He sighed, letting the facade drop. Granger was impossible. He rubbed at his tired eyes. "I can't do that."

"Why not?"

"I'll tell you why not."

"I'm waiting."

"You think I can just talk about my feelings? Bare my soul like that? To anyone? Especially Harry Potter. Me?" Didn't she know who he was? Where he came from?

"Why not?" she said again.

"Why not, Granger? You want me to walk in there and tell Potter, 'Seems to be a binding spell with some serious side effects that will never go away for the rest of our lives, I don't know who cast it, how to undo it, or even if can be undone, my father wants you dead and by the way it's all an elaborate plot from the Dark Lord to lure and kill you, so you're stuck with me, a prat and a coward, but at least I'm in love with you'? There's no possible response for that."

The weird smile that had been on Hermione's face faltered. Her gaze went over his shoulder. Draco didn't turn around. He knew who he would find there. Now that he was paying attention, his head didn't hurt at all.

"Something like that, yeah," Hermione whispered.

There was a silence so thick that Draco thought it might stretch on forever. That the three of them would live out the rest of their lives and die here, in that silence, never having moved a muscle. Then Harry spoke, and Draco felt something shatter within him.

"How long have you known?" Harry's voice was soft, with an edge of hidden anger, of sadness.

"Harry, I-" Hermione started, but Harry cut her off.

"How long for you then, Hermione?"

Draco still didn't turn around as Hermione dutifully answered. "Since before that time, by the lake. Harry, listen, it's not his fault-"

Harry cut her off again. "Don't, 'Mione. Just don't."

Hermione looked at her shoes, then up at Draco. For once in his life, he didn't know what his face was doing. Was he revealing everything to her, in that moment? At the very least, he was sure she could see how vulnerable he was. His stomach was sick and there was that bitter taste again. He was getting used to it.

"I'm sorry," she whispered, but Draco wasn't sure if it was meant for him, or for Harry. There was a sudden noise, of many doors banging open all at once, the noise of students letting out of class. The hallways just beyond them filling with kids talking, shoving, on their way to the next one. The throng of young witches and wizards took no notice of the three of them in a darkened corridor. Draco looked to Hermione, but she was gone, her bushy head barely visible in a sea of students.

"You can't even face me?" Harry's soft voice carried, even over the din.

Draco hunched his shoulders, as if he were expecting a blow. He wanted to turn and face Harry, he wanted to be brave like that. But the truth was..

"I guess you really are a coward."

"Not everyone can be as brave as Harry Potter," the words came out before he had time to think. At least his sneering drawl didn't make an appearance.

He heard Harry scoff and then a loud thump just behind him. He turned reflexively, wincing, his shoulders coming up to his ears. Harry was gone. The large binding book was at his feet. But that would mean..

"Harry, wait!" He saw Potter's green eyes flash from the mouth of the corridor. Those obscenely green eyes, stabbing him right in the heart. "You can read this?"

The anger in those green eyes was unmistakable, even if he hadn't been able to feel it radiating from Harry. "Of course I can. If you didn't want me to know, you could at least be better at hiding the truth."

"Harry, I didn't-" He stopped talking suddenly, as Harry quickly stomped toward him. Draco flinched at the sudden movement from the Boy Who Lived.

"You didn't think I'd figure it out? That you could leave me in the dark, just like everyone else in my life?" Harry turned away again, his voice softening. "I thought you were different, Draco. I thought this was, would be..different."

"Harry," Draco reached out, his hand landing on Harry's shoulder. He was relieved when the other boy didn't shrug him off or walk away or hex him. "You aren't in my Ancient Runes classes." He meant for it to come out differently. His brain was a jumble of feelings he couldn't manage, plus Harry's anger and disappointment, and all he wanted was to go back to his room, back in time, and tell himself not to leave his wonderful boyfriend. Not ever. But he had. He did. Things were changing too fast to control.

"Why would that matter right now?" This time Harry did shrug him off, the warmth in Draco's fingers turning cold.

"This book is in Runic."

"No, it isn't. I can read it, plain as day. Maybe you really are crazy. Or maybe I am for believing you."

"How can you read it, Harry." Now he needed to know. It didn't make sense.

"That's the most important thing right now? Really, Draco? Because whatever trust I had in you, in Hermione, it's gone. And whatever this is," he motioned with his hand to the space between them, "it's over. "

"Harry," Draco hated his voice, how weak it sounded, but he couldn't just let Harry walk away. There was so much more at stake. Did he overhear everything?

"I heard it all, Malfoy. Voldemort, your father, all of that, it's nothing new and I've been perfectly fine on my own."

He noticed there was another part of it Harry was leaving out. His chest ached, his throat felt closed, his own emotions choking him. Or were they Harry's? He couldn't tell where one of them started and where the other ended.

"I thought I was in love with you, too," Harry's voice was so quiet, Draco stepped forward to hear him better. Harry's hand came up, stopping him from getting too close. Draco felt his mask fall away, the energy needed to maintain it suddenly drained out of him.

"But.." Draco prompted, his voice a whisper. He didn't want to know, but he had to.

"But if I can't trust you," Harry stepped closer and Draco felt his cheeks flush with the warmth, "I can't do this." Harry touched his cheek, and Draco's face felt suddenly wet. Was he crying? He didn't think he was.

"Harry, I need you."

"Isn't that convenient."

"I know you're angry with me, Harry, but I can explain."

"It's too late."

It was too late. Draco knew it. He still had to try. "But, you can't-"

"I won't go far. You know that." Harry Potter threw his own words back at him and Draco knew he deserved every bit of it and more. He tried once more to grab Harry, to get him to listen, but the Gryffindor seeker had always been just a little bit quicker than he was.

Chapter Text

Harry made his way to Gryffindor Tower, his home. He was suddenly sick to death of the dungeons, sick of the lake, and sick of Draco Malfoy. He knew his ex-boyfriend would be following him, let him. The full pounding behind his eyes told him Draco was near, but not near enough to see. Let him see how it feels to be led around by pain and broken promises.

He climbed the tower to his dorm, his headache growing deeper, but this was probably as bad as it would get. He guessed Draco would have to be standing outside the portrait hole, waiting. It was either that or end up in the infirmary. He was sure that Draco would hate waiting outside the Gryffindor common room more. It was probably more embarrassing, for him, anyway.

His chest ached when he thought of handsome proud Draco, his Draco, standing there, looking out of sorts, withstanding the inevitable jeering of other students. He wanted to ignore it. He wanted..he didn't know what he wanted. Things had been so clear before that dream, that nightmare. The familiar yet awful imagery, Draco's constant screams, the Dark Lord telling him his plans.

Harry faltered on the stairs, thinking hard. It wasn't like Voldemort to let him in on his secrets; he had always ridiculed Harry for not figuring everything out. What if this was part of the plan? To bring them together, tear them apart, and take them out while they were mired in their teenage angst and heartbreak. Harry shook his head. It seemed pretty far-fetched, even in this place. Even if it were so, Draco had still lied. A lie of omission is still a lie, isn't it? Hermione too, for that matter.

He reached the quiet dormitory. It was empty, his four-poster bed immaculately made, not slept in for weeks. Or was it only days? Harry couldn't count the passage of time and it was just one more thing on top of all the others. He felt a great anger welling up inside of him with nowhere to go. He kicked his trunk, sending it violently spinning across the room. He grabbed the blankets from his bed and threw them on the floor. The pillows went too, soaring through the air. It wasn't enough, it would never be enough. He felt the hot angry tears start to flow as he kicked his bedside table, making it rattle. He punched the headboard and almost immediately regretted it. Pain welled in his knuckles, his toes, his head. He let it consume him, the physical pain blotting out the emotional heartache, if only for a short time.

Harry found Draco just as he had thought, sitting on the landing of the staircase, near the portrait hole. He was folded up, resting his head on his knees. Was he..sleeping? Would he be dreaming? He wasn't sure if that was still his problem. Protecting Draco Malfoy wasn't at the top of his list, as least not right now. The warmth that bled into his bones with his nearness was so familiar, so comforting, he didn't know how he existed without it.

"Slytherins are not allowed in the Gryffindor common room," the Fat Lady chided behind him.

Harry turned. "Did he try to come in?"

"No, but still, Mr. Potter, you of all people should know the rules." She looked down her fat nose at him.

Harry only scowled. He straightened his jacket, ran a hand through his hair, and pushed up his glasses. It was over, he had said so himself, but Harry found he still cared a great deal what Draco thought of him.

He wondered how far he could get without the tall blond Slytherin. Probably not even down the staircase, let alone all the way to dinner. He reached out to touch him, but pulled back. Better to not, he supposed, better to not feel that any more than he had to. His resolve would weaken and crumble, without a doubt. Instead, he gingerly touched Draco's leg with the toe of his sneaker.

"I'm awake, Potter." He was drawling again, sounding tired, his arms muffling his voice. Harry pushed down the tight feeling in his chest.

"We're going to dinner."

"Like hell I am."

"You kind of have to."

"Harry, please," Draco raised his face. Harry had only been in his dorms for a short time, but it looked like it had been a lifetime for Draco. His eyes were slate, the color of stone, red rimmed and lined with dark circles. It made Harry's heart ache, and he knew the other boy could feel it, too. There was no hiding. It only made him more angry. He could feel Draco's feelings, now more than ever, it seemed.

"It's not a punishment," he said, fury igniting in him in response to words unsaid, "I'm only hungry."

Draco got to his feet slowly, like it pained him. Harry resisted the urge to reach out and help him up, to pull him into a loving embrace, to kiss him until his eyes turned warm and stormy. He was completely unprepared for the hope he saw in Draco's eyes. He turned away and started down the stairs, shoving his hands in his jacket pockets.

"We can stop by the dungeons, if you like," Harry said over his shoulder.

He felt Draco shuffle behind him, not too closely. "I would like that," he said softly.

They were alone on the stairs, late afternoon classes still in session.

"Harry," Draco's voice was no more than a sigh.

He felt a tug at his jacket. He ripped it away violently and spun to face him. "What is it, Malfoy?"

Draco actually winced, his normally straight shoulders sagged. He looked smaller, somehow. "I had reason to do what I did."

Harry scoffed. He wasn't ready for this, maybe he never would be. "I'm sure you think that."

"I was trying to protect you."

"And I thought it was you who needed the protection. You need me, remember? I'm fairly positive I don't need you. I never have."

"Never, Potter?" His knowing silver eyes were narrowed.

"All you're missing is your stupid smirk."

Draco smirked. "You love my smirk."

"Besides the point," Harry muttered, turning to leave.

Draco was grabbing his arm, the warmth shooting through him, straight to his-

"I'm sorry, Harry." The other boy's voice was soft, so soft and laced with pain, as if it physically hurt him to say the words.

Harry scowled up at him. Why did he have to be tall? It was so annoying. "Stop it."

"I am, Harry. You know it to be true."

Harry sighed. "I know you feel that way. Maybe it's only because you got caught." He started down the stairs again. "Besides," he said over his shoulder, "Malfoys don't apologize, isn't that what you told me?"

"I'm not that person, not anymore."

"Could have fooled me."

Draco said nothing more, but Harry felt his words hit home, the emotional pain an echo. Good. They walked to the dungeon in silence. This time, however, it felt like a giant invisible weight pressing down on the pair of them.

"Would you like to come in?" Draco asked, when they were at his room.

"I'll wait here, thanks."

"But you would like to."

"You need to stop doing that."

"You know it can't be helped," Draco said softly, his face open and vulnerable.

The truth was Harry wanted nothing more than to enter that room with him and never come out. The truth was Harry was tired of others getting the better of him. Tired of getting hurt. Tired of feeling alone.

"I'll wait here," he repeated and watched Draco's face fall again. It was unnerving, seeing the proud Slytherin's emotions play out in real time before his eyes. He almost missed the mask.

Harry closed his eyes and leaned against the dungeon wall. He hadn't seen Draco go in and shut the door, but he felt the absence.

He breathed a sigh, equal parts relief and frustration. Harry didn't know what to do. He had tried examining his options, when his anger had eventually ebbed away in his dorm room. The only thing he knew for sure was that this whole situation was dangerous, unbelievably so. His judgement had been clouded, blinded even. The Dark Lord was in his mind, in his love life. Harry itched to bring the fight into the real world, to be done with it, one way or the other. But he didn't know how. Let Draco bring him in, he supposed. Then what? He had no plan, no help, no backup. Unless Draco chose his side. Draco would be a powerful ally; isn't that what Voldemort had said? He didn't see that happening, no matter what was between them. And even if he did, how could he trust him after this?

He felt the anger flare again, sick of having other people in his head. Wasn't the killing curse that backfired some sort of binding spell, too? From the little that he had read from Draco's book, he was fairly certain it was. His hand went to his forehead, feeling his scar. He wasn't entirely sure, he just knew he shared some things with Voldemort when he'd rather share nothing at all. Now he was sharing with Draco, too. How many binding spells could one wizard hold? There had to be a way to undo it. An unbinding spell.

On second thought, he would like to wait inside Draco's room. He turned to tap the bricks, but it was already opening. He walked in, quickly searching for the large book, The Perils and Pitfalls of Magical Binding. The title made Harry want to laugh in that weird crazy way that took hold of him sometimes. Draco had been up all night reading it, and the way she was talking, Hermione had a look at it too, but maybe there was something they missed. Unlikely, but possible.

He stopped short, his eyes landing on a partially clothed Malfoy, fresh from the shower. His hair was slicked back and still wet, a towel around his slim hips. Harry stood still, not knowing if Draco had seen him, or felt him, as the case may be. He was rooted to the spot, watching Draco's smooth and deft motions, plucking expensive-looking clothing items from his closet and laying them on his bed. A different sort of warm feeling filled his chest, making his stomach feel a little sick. He felt like he did in the dreams, watching a Draco that couldn't see or hear him. A sad Draco, caught up in his own life's decisions. And regrets.

"I thought you were waiting outside," Draco's quiet voice interrupted his thoughts.

"I changed my mind."

"The book is on the table."

But Harry's eyes wouldn't leave Draco. He hadn't stopped rifling through his clothes, his back to Harry. He stepped closer, not remembering making the decision to move. He felt drawn to him, like a magnet to metal.

"Stop staring at me, Potter."

As he came closer, he saw the scars. They criss crossed Malfoy's back in a crude typography, a map of past traumas. Harry's hands went to Draco's back, his fingers tracing them over his cool damp skin. He felt Draco shiver under his fingertips. "Draco," he whispered.

"It's over, right?" Draco's voice sounded cold and far away, 'Well, that is, too."

"Doesn't seem to be," Harry whispered, as his fingers found a mark that was more purple than white, somewhat healed, but definitely more recent than the rest. He leaned down and kissed Malfoy's pale puckered and scarred skin. He kissed his way up to Draco's shoulder, his neck, behind his ear, somehow not being able to stop, not wanting to stop.

Draco abruptly turned to face him, his hands tangling in Harry's hair, kissing him forcefully, lovingly. Harry kissed him back, unaware just how much he needed this. It was so hard to be apart. Everything was so simple when they were together. He couldn't remember why he was so angry moments before.

His hands trailed over Draco's cool, damp, perfect skin. Draco was pulling at his jacket and suddenly it was off. Everything was moving so fast, the need, the desire, the warmth, Draco, pulling him closer, deeper. It was like drowning but in the best possible way. He didn't need air anymore, just this feeling. Just him.

Draco's hot breath was on his neck, making his whole body tingle. He wrapped his arms around Draco's shoulders, hanging on. Draco's hands were inside his shirt, gripping his sides, up to his ribcage and back down to Harry's belt, making him sigh and shudder. Then his t-shirt was being pulled up, over his head. He couldn't not smile as it happened.

They paused, Draco adjusting his towel with a sheepish grin on his face, Harry taking off his glasses, folding them up. "We can stop, if you want," Draco said, in that quiet, sincere voice Harry loved so much.

Harry chuckled. "The glasses coming off, that's the green light."

Draco came closer, a wonderful smirk on his handsome face. "Aren't you mad at me?"

Harry's hand went to Draco's face, tracing his jaw, rubbing a thumb over Draco's lower lip. "I'm furious," he whispered as he kissed him.

He was mildly aware of Draco's hands on his belt, his soft voice in his ear, "Then what are we doing?"

Harry exhaled forcefully and pushed away. What were they doing? Draco looked heartbroken once more. He turned away. It was as if a cold winter wind blew through the room, the warmth, the feeling, suddenly extinguished. "I don't know." The words felt choked, ripped from Harry's chest. His eyes burned and his mind felt slow. "It's this bloody binding, I can't tell what's real."

"This is real, Harry."

"How can you say that when magic is involved? When he's involved?" Harry didn't have to say his name, or the silly thing that everyone else said when talking of him. They both knew who he meant. Harry shuddered.

He felt Draco's long arms wrap around him from behind. He felt the coolness of his bare chest pressed against his back, Draco's lips pressed against his ear. "I just know. I've been fighting against it for a long time now. I'm so tired of fighting. And now you're here, with me." He felt Draco shift behind him, clear his throat. Harry couldn't move if he wanted to. He listened. "It has always felt too good to be true. Much much more than I deserve. With you," Draco inhaled sharply, pausing. Harry waited. "You make me want to be a better person. You make me feel like I could be. If, if you'll have me, please give me another chance. I'll gladly spend the rest of my life making it up to you."

Harry's arms wound around Draco's. "Why are you telling me this?"

"It has recently occurred to me that we're quickly becoming the sort of people who could be dead tomorrow."

Harry snorted with an inappropriate laugh. "I don't know if you know this, Draco, but I've felt that way for a long while now."

"I do know," Draco said softly. "If this really is done, I want you to know how I feel. I want you to know, without a doubt, that I'm not trying to trick you or trap you. If I can protect you, moving forward, I'll do anything, no matter the magic."

The magic. The binding. He suddenly thought of what Ron had said that time at dinner. "Draco, tell me you didn't cast the spell."

Draco was silent.

Harry ripped his arms away, breaking out of the embrace. Draco's face was blank; the wall was up. "You're still hiding something from me," Harry growled. "If this isn't over, Draco, because it sure doesn't feel like it is, I need complete honesty from you. If you can't do that..you might as well take the mark and be done with it." Harry watched as his harsh words broke Draco's mask.

The tall blond Slytherin swallowed hard. He ran his hands through his damp hair. He cleared his throat. Harry could feel it, the vulnerability, coming from him in waves. It almost made him uncomfortable, but he had to know the truth, all of it.

"I can't be sure, Harry."

The familiar rage ignited within him. He kicked Draco's bed post, not having much effect other than making Draco recoil in surprise and pain in his toes. "What does that even mean?" He hadn't meant to shout, but there it was.

Draco cleared his throat again, nervous. "There is a time I can't remember. Before all of this. With you." His ex-boyfriend was talking fast but still not making much sense.

"What? Before that first night in the dungeons?" Harry heard the anger lacing his words. It made him sick but he couldn't control it, and moreover, found he didn't want to try.

Draco shook his head. "I remember before, I remember you giving me your cloak. What I don't remember is the time between then and running into you after breakfast."

What was he saying? It seemed like such an insignificant amount of time to be missing.

"It was only a couple of hours, but I've been getting the feeling I've been forgetting something important. Especially when," he took a breath, seeming to steel himself for what he had to say next. "When Snape is around. When he starts to talk about you. I think he," Draco paused again. Harry exhaled forcefully, feeling impatient. Draco gave him a look.

"I'm trying to be patient. This is just- it would have been-"

"I know, Harry." Draco sat down on the edge of the bed. "It's been coming back to me, little by little. It sounds like a lie, even to me, how would it not sound like a lie to you?"

"If you told me it was the truth, I would have believed you."

"And now?"

"Just tell me the rest."

"I think Snape cast the spell. Then obliviated my memories of it."

Harry's eyes narrowed. "Why would he do that? It doesn't make any sense."

"After the Room, he was there. I thought he was there as my.." Draco paused again, his eyes flitting back and forth. "My handler. He said he was there to protect you."

"Me? He hates me."

Draco gave him a look. "Most things are more complicated than they seem, Harry."

"But you said you couldn't be sure you didn't do it. Why are you pinning it on Snape?"

"I can't be sure. Could I cast it and then obliviate myself?"

Harry thought about it. As with most things in the wizarding world, he wasn't sure. There didn't seem to be any hard and fast rules here. He supposed it was possible, Draco was fairly adept, after all. Then he had an idea.

"Where's your wand?"

Draco jerked his head towards the mantel over the fireplace. "You already know."

"Why did you put it away?"

"Bad memories," he muttered.

Harry felt the anger return. "Transparency, Draco. Stop with the half-truths and omissions. This is it," his voice raised of its own accord, "this is your chance. Tell me everything. Now."

Draco's cheeks flushed, his eyes widened. "This is difficult for me, Harry."

"I know. And you know how I feel about it, too." Harry bent down, picking up his t-shirt and pulling it on. He squinted, looking around for where he put his glasses.

"Over the summer," Draco's voice was barely audible, "my father devised a series of tests, meant to be my final preparation for serving the Dark Lord."

Harry stopped what he was doing, listening hard.

Draco folded his hands in his lap, his fingers moving nervously. "My father, he always said I wasn't quite right. I wasn't the son he was supposed to have. I was too emotional, I made the wrong decisions, I was better off dead. These tests, were to be a cleansing of my unwanted qualities, to turn me into a son he could be proud of."

Harry sat next to Draco on the bed, taking one of his nervous hands in his own. Draco gave him a grim smile.

"I wanted to please him. I wanted to be that person, for him, for my family."

Harry remembered the flayed man from some of the first dreams they shared. He felt his stomach flipflop inside of him. "You don't need to tell me the rest."

"Transparency, Potter. You wanted the truth. It was the last test. I made it through all of the others, barely, but still so. He was our gardener, a squib. No family, wouldn't be missed. He had been in our employ for years, I grew up with him tending our gardens. My father wanted me to torture him, so I did. I thought if I could get through that, it would be done. But it wasn't."

Harry understood where this was going. "Did you do it, Draco?" He held his breath as he looked into Draco's face, his silver eyes rimmed with red again. Draco looked away.

"I couldn't."

Harry exhaled in relief.

"He died anyway, Harry. My father finished it for me. I failed. Imagine his surprise and pride when the Dark Lord wanted me still."

"Because you're powerful."

Draco shook his head sadly, his voice barely a whisper. "Because I could get him you."

"Draco.." Harry's mind reeled. A powerful ally. A powerful ally in a position no one else could hope to enter. A powerful ally inside a fortress, a protected castle. "Are you a spy?" Harry whispered.

Draco shifted, uncomfortable. "I was supposed to be. Since our first year together, I was supposed to get close to you. Gain your friendship, tell them your every move. I couldn't do that job very well, either, it seems."

"I, for one, am very happy in your failures, Draco Malfoy." He squeezed Draco's hand and was rewarded with a sad smile. "You're very close to me now, aren't you?"

Draco laughed grimly. "That's part of the problem."

Harry leaned forward, meaning to kiss him. Draco moved away.

"I think that this a last ditch effort, our last year of school, my very last chance to complete the mission. But.."

Harry could actually feel Draco's courage leaving him. What a strange feeling. Harry ran a hand down the side of Draco's face, his neck, his chest. Why was it so good to touch him? Having him so close made Harry feel whole.

"Does it really make you feel that way?" Draco whispered, finally meeting his eyes.

Harry could only nod. "But..?" He prompted, trying to keep Draco on track.

"But they took me out of the equation. Snape may be acting on my father's orders, casting a binding spell, binding us without my knowledge. Because without my knowledge-"

"You couldn't fail again. It would happen or it wouldn't."

"And no one would be held accountable, unless it was successful."

Harry thought about it for a moment. It made sense, he supposed. "This is an awfully strange plan though, don't you think?"

"I'm sure my father knew of my..unconventional feelings for you."

"So he's using you."

"You sound surprised."

"How would he, though?"

"Use me? He's been doing it my whole life, Potter."
"No, I mean, how did he know?"

Draco was quiet once more. Harry was waiting to hit a wall. He was waiting for Draco to clam up, for all this progress to mean nothing once more.

"He may have figured it out," Draco said slowly, "when I kept taking action against him, where you were concerned."

"Dobby," Harry breathed.

Draco nodded. "That was one instance, yes. It was quite careless of me."

"Why didn't you tell me?"

Draco peered at him with his silver eyes. "Would you have believed me?"

Harry imagined it. Draco coming to him second year, telling him everything that he knew. "Not at first, but I'm pretty sure I would have eventually."

"I figured as much, Potter, you're so good and pure of heart," Draco had a strange smile on his face, "But then, say you did, say you trusted me after that. What would have happened?"

"We might have been friends."

"And?"

"Your mission would be there, hanging over your head."

"Yes."

"So you kept me away."

"Yes." His voice was a sad whisper.

Harry let that sink in a moment. Terrorizing someone you liked, or maybe even loved, if Draco was to be believed, in order to protect them? Would he be strong enough to do something like that? For years? "Draco, I.."

"Don't, Potter. I can feel your pity and I don't need it."

Harry scowled. "It's not pity. Not exactly."

Draco scoffed. "Then what is it?"

Harry thought for a moment. "Maybe it's more like admiration."

Draco was looking at him with a quizzical expression, like he was waiting for Harry to pull a rug out from under him at any moment. "Don't people usually say nice things to Draco Malfoy?" Harry asked, jokingly, a bit of a smile on his face.

"You're the only one," Draco's voice was barely a whisper.

Harry felt the now familiar tightness in his chest, his desire to reach out and kiss the other boy nearly taking him over. He reminded himself that Draco had lied, had placed him in this precarious position in the first place. He got up, needing to move, to feel like he was doing something.

Draco stood, adjusting his towel once more. Harry's eyes roamed over his nearly naked body, drawn there. He tried to imagine if there was no warmth, no binding, would he still want to see Draco Malfoy naked? A Draco Malfoy who loved him and only him? He thought of the way his skin felt, the way he kissed, the way he talked to him when they were alone together. The way his blond hair fell across his forehead, the way he walked so tall and proud, the way he played quidditch, the way he encouraged Harry to study and pay attention in Potions class. He smiled to himself. He wished he had seen the dream that Draco had mentioned, of them together, older and in love.

Thinking of the future gave him a warm feeling. Ignoring the past, though, was easier said than done. He had been fooled before. This time, he had to be sure.

"There is a way to tell, isn't there? If you were the one who cast the spell?" Harry asked suddenly.

"What do you mean?"

"Well, we can see the last spell you cast with your wand, right?"

Draco looked stricken. "Maybe I don't want to know, Harry."

"Isn't wondering worse?"

"If I did.."

Harry waved a hand. "We'll burn that bridge when we come to it."

Draco made a face. "Is that a muggle phrase?"

Harry ignored him and stood up, moving towards the mantel.

"Could I get dressed first, Potter?"

Harry smirked over his shoulder. "No. We're doing this, right now." He reached for the ornate wooden box, trying to ignore the feeling of icy apprehension in his chest, trying to be braver than he actually felt. But when he opened it, Draco's wand was gone.

Chapter Text

"Where is it, Draco?"

The accusation in Potter's voice was completely unwarranted. He stared at him for a moment, needing him to see that. To feel the way he was feeling.

"I don't know, Potter. I left it here; it was always here."

"Who else has access to your room?"

Draco adjusted his towel, standing in front of the fireplace wishing he had gotten dressed, wishing Harry would suddenly forget he was angry and kiss him again. Or kiss him angrily again, that had been nice. "You, me, and Snape."

"You just let him come and go whenever?"

Again with that tone. "No, Harry, he's my head of house. He holds all the proverbial keys down here."

He could see Harry visibly deflate. He hadn't known that his boyfriend had such a temper. It made him feel more than a little anxious. In Draco's experience, people with tempers tended to lash out in more ways than one.

"I don't have a temper; I'm only feeling protective of you," Harry growled defensively.

Draco felt it then, true enough. But Harry's quick-to-rise anger was still there, poorly hidden.

"Would he have a reason to take it?" Harry was asking.

Draco thought about all of the nefarious things a wizard could get up to with another's wand. The truth was, unless the wand recognized said wizard, there wasn't much. A man like Severus Snape, though, as resourceful as he was, he wasn't sure.

"I'm not sure."

Harry looked like he was trying to pierce right through his mind with those shining emerald eyes of his. Draco tried hard to remain open to the Boy Who Lived, it seemed to be the only way to garner what little trust was left. He was finding it more difficult that he thought, however, after a lifetime of protecting himself, of hiding who he was.

"I know you're trying, Draco, but I'd really like to get to the bottom of this." Harry sounded weary.

"Does it even matter at this point?" Draco mumbled. It seemed to him there were bigger problems facing them right now. There was terribly little they could do about the binding, even if he himself had done it.

"Of course it matters." That wave of anger again. "You're trying to distract me, aren't' you? Next thing I know you'll be taking off your towel."

Draco's eyebrows went up, a small smirk curling his lips. "I can do that if you'd like, Potter."

Harry looked him up and down like he was actually considering it. Draco felt his smirk grow larger. His fingers toyed with the top of his towel and he watched Harry's eyes get big. His eyes were truly beautiful, shining in that way. "You would?" Draco whispered.

Draco started at the side, untucking what was tucked, slowly revealing a hip, a portion of his thigh.

Then Harry's hands were on his, stopping him. "Merlin's ghost, Draco, stop," Harry sounded out of breath and weirdly afraid. He thought Harry Potter wasn't afraid of anything.

"You've never done this before." Draco didn't think it was possible but Harry's eyes got even wider.

"I'm sure you can read my thoughts, Draco."

"I can't. But I can read you like a book." Draco leveled his gaze at Harry, but secured his towel back around his hips.

Harry ran a hand through his hair. Adjusted his glasses. He took more than a small amount of pride at the fact that he still made the other boy nervous. That meant something, didn't it?

Draco smirked.

"What are you smirking about now?" Harry demanded.

"I'm your first relationship, really? I thought you and that girl-"

Harry looked quite uncomfortable. It wasn't exactly that Draco enjoyed it, it was..complicated, familiar, made him feel a tiny spark of joy. "No, it was never..like this."

"Nothing is like this," Draco whispered, reaching out, pulling Harry closer.

Harry hesitated, looking away.

"You're my first boyfriend, Harry Potter."

Harry's eyes went wide again. "Seriously, stop doing that."

"What? You were wondering."

"So? Doesn't mean you have to answer." Harry pushed him away again and walked to the other side of the room, eyeing the large tome Draco had left on the table.

"What is it?" Draco asked, his voice soft and knowing, "You wish it were different?" He watched Harry run his fingers over the cover, feeling Harry's emotions: uncertainty, regret, love. Others probably, he couldn't name or sort out. They were both a mess, emotionally, it was plain to see, and feeling each other's mess of emotion, well, that was tangled indeed.

"I don't like feeling as though we were puppets on Voldemort's strings," he said, his voice acidic.

Draco scoffed. "You and me both, Potter." He swallowed hard, pushing down his own conflicting emotions, hoping Harry wouldn't notice. He seemed to have enough of his own to deal with, currently. It was like sliding back into an old skin; putting up the wall, making his face a mask of indifference.

"You're doing it again."

Draco turned at the sound of Harry's voice. He was turning the pages in the book now, not even bothering to look up. "It's a defense mechanism, Potter. Since when do you study so hard?"

Harry didn't respond so Draco busied himself in his closet. Everything he had picked out before was wrong. He would have to start over. He would have to keep Harry's attention, keep trying to make him see that the only way through this was together.

"If it were different.." Harry was muttering while running his finger down a page and frowning.

"Yes, Harry?"

Harry looked at him as though he hadn't realized he'd been talking out loud. He cleared his throat, flattened his hair. "If it were different, if we unbound the spell, we would know then, for sure, right?"

Draco thought about the implications of being unbound. He had been quite enjoying getting this close to Harry, even if the circumstances were less than ideal. The warmth was incredible, the physical sensations it brought were nothing short of divine. But he could feel Harry's uncertainty, his doubts. And, perhaps worse, he could understand it. Having sudden feelings of love and lust for a bully? Because if he was being honest with himself, that's what he was. But then again, Hermione had talked about latent feelings. It was as if Harry's uncertainty was contagious. "Is that the most important thing right now?"

"Of course not, but it would answer some questions. Wouldn't it? Give us some direction, instead of none."

Answers, yes. But somehow, Draco felt the questions were better left unasked.

Draco crossed the room as he buttoned up his dark shirt. He stopped by Harry's elbow, purposely waiting until this moment to tuck it in. He watched with delight as Potter's cheeks flushed a bright red. "I've been through this book, Harry. There's no way to undo it, short of death."

"Who's death?" Harry asked quietly. "This isn't your handwriting is it?"

Draco leaned over Harry, touching him as much as the other boy allowed. The warmth flooded him, and he knew, Harry, too. It made him feel good, better than good. All he could think about was Harry's tongue in his mouth, his soft touch on his scared back. "The caster's death," Draco said, the words almost dying on his lips. Harry craned his neck to look up at him, a discerning look on his face.

"Is that why you don't want to know?"

Draco backed up, finishing doing up his belt. He felt that the question didn't need an answer, so he didn't waste his breath. Of course he had thought about it, that night while Harry had lain next to him, sleeping soundly. He wondered if he would have the courage to end his own life, if Harry wanted it that way. Not that he could say any of that out loud. He chose to answer a different question instead. "That's not my handwriting, Potter."

"I suppose not, yours is more loopy."

"My handwriting is not loopy."

"It looks so familiar.."

Draco was at his mirror, knotting his red silk scarf around his neck, staring at Harry in the reflection. "It's not Granger's, is it?"

"No. Have you read some of this stuff? It's real weird."

Draco laughed. He knew what he was talking about. Harry looked up and favored him with a smile, making his heart melt.

Harry started reading aloud from the book. "'The binding, if done correctly, requires a part of the wizard to meld with another, but the rewards reaped can be without bound.' I mean, who writes like that?"

Draco turned, meeting Harry's eyes. The smile was gone, realization dawning in his face. Draco had a suspicion, a hunch, some might say. If Harry came to the same conclusion, it might even be correct.

"Do you remember, Harry, just before our second year?"

Harry's face turned grim. "When your father slipped Ginny Tom Riddle's diary?"

"Well, it was meant for you, but yes."

He felt Harry's anger flare at his words. Perhaps it wasn't the wisest way to phrase things. He turned away, shrugging on his patterned vest, his fingers faltering at the buttons, apprehension compressing his chest.

"Voldemort. It's Voldemort's notes I'm reading, isn't it?"

When Draco didn't answer, Harry made a disgusted noise in the back of his throat and shoved the book off the table. It hit the floor with a dull thump and a papery rustle. Draco waved a finger and it floated easily to his outstretched hand. "Careful, Potter, it's very old."

Harry's intoxicating eyes and his taut jaw held the promise of violence. Draco cleared his throat, thinking fast of how to defuse the situation. He took a breath, calming himself, trying to feel his own emotions so Harry would too.

"Anything else you want to tell me, Malfoy?" Harry was on his feet, advancing. At least he didn't have his wand out.

Draco stood his ground, squaring his shoulders. "I had a theory, Harry. I needed you to come to your own."

"And?"

"And you've confirmed it. I believe the dark Lord was in possession of this very book. That he probably poured over it just like we're doing, but for a different purpose."

The anger left Harry in a rush. Draco actually gasped, his boyfriends mood changed so suddenly, it was like a cold shower. "The dark mark."

Draco smirked as he nodded. He knew Harry wasn't stupid, but he was actually much quicker than anyone gave him proper credit for.

Harry was suddenly in his arms, arms wrapped around Draco's neck, his breath in his ear. "Stop being proud of me," he murmured.

Draco chuckled, feeling it odd that such a sound could come from him, and Harry's lips were suddenly on his own. Harry's tongue on his lips, his teeth, his tongue. It took his breath away and made his whole body tingle every time.

"Are you ready, yet?" Harry asked with a smile on his face, tugging at Draco's vest.

Draco's hands went to his hair. His wet hair had dried in that slicked back style he used to wear. "I have to fix this, Potter."

"What? This?" Harry grinned, his hand touching Draco's hair. "It makes you look..younger." He snorted with laughter.

"Shut up, Potter." He felt the air swirl around his fingertips, turning cold. He ran his hands through his hair and as he did so, it changed. It fell around his face, tickling his ears. He did it once more, sweeping it to the side. He met Harry's wide eyes.

"How does magic still shock you?"

"I don't know," Harry stammered, embarrassed. "I just never think about it for regular things like, that." He gestured to Draco's hair.

"That's probably why yours is always a mess." Draco meant it good-naturedly, but by the look on Harry's face, his tone must have been wrong. Something to work on. "I meant it as a joke, Harry. You know I love the way you look."

Harry sighed. It felt to Draco like just one thing too many. The straw that broke the wizard's broom, or however the saying went.

"I've been thinking," Harry said, turning his back to Draco.

Draco wanted to reach for him again, but he could tell the other boy wasn't in the mood. Besides, they were both fully dressed and what a pain it would be, to get ready all over again. Draco set his mouth in a firm line. Whatever it was, it didn't feel good. "What is it?"

"We need to break up."

"I thought we already did," Draco said slowly. "I also thought I was winning you back with my good looks and impeccable charm."

Harry smiled grimly. "You were. That's the problem. Nothing has changed."

Draco felt the floor open up beneath him and swallow him. He felt his heart drop into a bottomless pit of despair. He couldn't breathe and the room swam. His knees shook once and buckled, thankfully he was able to grab the edge of the table and stay on his feet. His chest was tight, very little air going in and out, or maybe it was too much, he couldn't tell.

Harry turned, alarm on his face. His hands were on Draco's chest, on his face. Harry's firm grip was on his shoulders, guiding him to a chair, warming his bones. The despair wouldn't leave, though, it only got stronger. He looked into Harry's eyes, needing him to say more, to say anything except what he just said.

"What?" His voice came out a strangled whisper.

Harry was suddenly on his feet, pacing, his voice a bit frantic. "I'm sorry Draco. I am very sorry for this, but with everything you've told me, everything that's happened," Harry paused, he stopped walking, but he wouldn't meet Draco's eyes.

"You can't trust me."

"No, I can't. And this is too important.," Harry's voice was getting louder, his arms waving around. Draco could only listen and watch. "You- You're the son of a Death Eater. Not only a Death Eater but this particular Death Eater is the right hand man of the dark wizard who is trying to kill me. He's been trying to kill me all my life. You say Lord Voldemort is your family legacy. This is everything to me, Draco, it's my life. He wanted us together for a reason, so it's extremely clear to me," Harry paused. Draco could feel his resolve weaken, build again. "We have to stay apart. "

Draco's head whirled. The room spun. He couldn't think. He had to think. If he could just convince Harry to stay-

"I can protect you, Harry. We-"

"How can you when you won't chose a side?"
Draco bristled, his hands curled into fists. "I told you I would help you."

Harry scoffed. "Yeah, you did and where is that help now?"

"We've been a bit," he paused, looking for the right word. He could feel Harry's anger and every time he talked it seemed like he inadvertently stoked the fire. "Preoccupied," he finished, thinking of the wild dreams and romantic interludes. Preoccupied indeed.

Harry scoffed again, walking away, pacing. Draco wanted to reach out to him, to calm him. "Don't touch me," Harry mumbled. Draco could sense that wasn't what he really wanted, but he respected Harry's wishes.

"We can start now, Harry. I'll teach you everything I know. I said I would. But what you're asking me to do, that's an impossible choice. I would need.." his words failed him as Harry came rushing back to him, all anger and frustration.

"Assurances?" The Boy Who Lived spat.

Draco cleared his throat. Adjusted his shirt collar. It felt quite tight all of a sudden. How could he tell Harry Potter that the only way he would be on the side of good is if they were together? It sounded like a weird play for power in their already strange relationship and that wasn't how he meant it, not at all. He just needed a reason. A good reason. A life-changing reason.

"Your hesitation says everything, Malfoy." Harry turned away, swatting at the air as if Draco was a bug. "No matter how you feel."

Harry's anger was catching. Or maybe he was finally feeling some of his own. It was so hard to know the difference. "It's more complicated than that, Harry. You know it is. Even this, this war-" the word was hard to say; no one he talked to had referred to current events as such, no one except for Harry, "-it's not all black and white, good versus evil. You of all people should know this. You're not the savior of the wizarding world, Harry, no matter what they, what Dumbledore tells you. You don't have to shoulder that responsibility. A seventeen year old kid, responsible for killing the darkest wizard of our time? It's insane. It's ludicrous." Draco thought his words would calm Harry down, but they seemed to have the opposite effect.

"And you?" He was advancing on Draco again, his glasses obscuring his beautiful angry eyes. "Choosing between doing something good and right and your awful family who hardly cares for you? And you won't do it? That's insane. That's ludicrous. You have no secrets from me, not any more."

"I didn't ask for it, Harry."

"It's not like I asked for this either! For any of it!" Harry paused and Draco felt that he was talking about him. About them. Harry's eyebrows pulled down in a scowl, maybe feeling Draco's sudden pang of hurt feelings, he couldn't be certain. "And for all I know, you did ask for some of it. You could have cast the spell, you said it yourself."

It felt like a blow to the chest but Harry's hands never left his sides. "I said I didn't know for certain."

"And now your wand is gone. How convenient."

"That's not fair, Harry."

"You want to talk about fairness? He killed my parents. He wants to kill me. After everything I've been through, it's becoming increasingly clear to me that this is just something I have to do. No one else can. It's him or me."

"You don't have to, Harry." He made his voice soft, trying to remain calm and clear-headed. "There's always a choice. You could walk away. We could leave, together."

Harry scoffed. "Maybe you could, but I can't." Harry paced a bit more then stopped suddenly. "There is another option."

"What?"

"You bring me in. Complete your mission. Let me face him head on."

Draco's felt his insides turn to ice. He had trouble drawing a breath and once again, he couldn't find his voice. He thought of his father's face when he walked through the threshold of Malfoy Manor with Harry Potter in tow. "I can't do that, Harry."

Draco could feel Harry's frustration coming off him like heat from a fire. He could also feel..

"You love me," Draco whispered. "Stay with me." He reached for Harry's hand, but the other boy pulled away.

"I can't, Draco." The anger had leached out him in a rush, replaced by resolute despair. His voice was quiet and choked. "You know I can't."

Chapter Text

They had gone to dinner, albeit separately. Hermione and Ron had gathered around Harry, needing to hear the latest updates, he supposed. He didn't feel much like talking. After all he went through to get Draco to come to dinner, the conversation that followed, feeling his ex-boyfriend's feelings through it all, he was just too exhausted. Maybe it was good news; Draco's feelings for him were very real, no doubt about it. If only he could say the same for his own. It was such a tangled mess with too many pieces, he didn't think he'd ever be able to say for sure.

He tried to think of the Draco he knew before this year started. The blond kid who made fun of him at every turn. The prat with the pointed face who called his friends despicable names, who got his favorite teachers fired, who tried to show him up in potions class and on the quidditch field. Was it all lies? Could it have been? He searched his memories for pieces of this Draco, his Draco.

"What is love, anyway?" He muttered sadly into his dinner.

"It's just a feeling, Harry," Hermione said softly beside him.

He gave her a wry look. Her of all people should not be saying this to him. "The binding. Voldemort. Everything. How can I tell?" He looked over to the Slytherin table where Draco had opted to sit. He didn't blame him, after what Harry had just put him through. It was necessary. Wasn't it? He found he missed Draco's company more than he thought he would. Draco was sitting alone, the other students giving him a wide berth. What did he say? That he was a failed spy? He wondered how many of the other Slytherins knew about it. Draco slouched with his head on his hand, magicking his fork around his plate with a finger. His silver eyes flicked up to Harry, catching him watching. Harry looked away. His heart felt like a lead weight.

"Love can't be magicked."

"Not ever?"

Hermione shook her head. "Not possible. Even the wizarding world has rules, Harry. By all rights, you two should be sharing dreams and getting headaches, or worse, when you're apart, but this," she gestured in the air with her fork, "other stuff, is very unlikely."

"So let me get this straight," Ron interjected around a mouthful of food. "Malfoy was on a secret mission to get close to you since our first year at school, repeatedly failed, and now You-Know-Who cast a spell to make you fall in love with each other?"

"Haven't you been listening to anything I'm saying?" Hermione was annoyed. "No one can magic love. The binding doesn't induce love."

"Voldemort didn't cast it," Harry said half-heartedly. "We don't know who did-"

"I'm telling you," Ron was stabbing his fork at Harry and Hermione, "It was Malfoy all along. That's why he's such a sad sack over there, because you found out and his mission is bust."

"You can't cast a binding on yourself," Hermione said.

"We broke up," Harry hadn't expected that to be so hard to say.

"Bet he's done for now, with the Dark Lord and all," Ron was still talking as if he hadn't heard either of them, a weird smile on his face. "Bet his father will be furious."

Harry's stomach lurched. He suddenly wanted nothing to do with dinner.

"Oh Harry, are you okay?" Hermione's hand was at the small of his back.

He shifted away from her. "No, 'Mione, I"m not. Why'd you lie for him?"

"I don't know. I wanted to trust him, Harry."

"But-"

"He said there was a delicate balance that could be upset. That your life was in danger. That if you knew too much, you'd act rashly."

Harry scoffed. Had Draco seen through everything? "I don't act rashly."

Hermione and Ron gave him a look that said he wasn't fooling anyone.

"Alright, sometimes, maybe, I rush in, but it's usually, definitely warranted."

"Even where You-Know-Who is concerned? Harry, I thought- I still think he was right. You would've wanted to fight right away. He couldn't let you without knowing all of the facts, it's the way he is."

Harry gave her a sidelong look. "And what do you know about the way he is?"

Hermione's face turned the slightest pinkish color. "I know his type. He's methodical, intellectual. Not unlike myself. He needs to have a plan before he acts."

"Herm, why are you sticking up for him? He's been found out, they broke up, end of story."

Harry was quiet, needing to think on what his friend had just said. The reasons for her actions, the reason for Draco's, he almost didn't want to admit it but it was making sense.

Hermione got up suddenly, walking away.

"Herm, where you goin'? Where is she bloody going?"

"I don't know, Ron," Harry said slowly, his heart hammering in his chest. He watched with trepidation as Hermione walked right over to the Slytherin table and sat next to Draco Malfoy. His grey eyes went from her, to Harry, and back to her. She was saying something and Draco was nodding, his face a perfect emotionless mask. A handsome perfect emotionless mask. He watched Draco's lips move as he responded to his friend, his eyes still on Harry. He found it difficult to breathe, difficult to blink.

"What does she think she's doing?"

"I have no idea, Ron. No idea." Harry was surprised any words could come out, his throat felt so tight.

Ron turned back to talk to Harry, leaning over the table, beckoning him with a finger. Harry raised his eyebrows at Ron, but couldn't stop his eyes from flicking back to Draco.

"Psst! Harry, come closer!" Ron was whispering angrily.

"What is it, Ron?" Harry suddenly wanted to be done with dinner, to be alone.

"You want to know for sure, right? About if he cast the binding spell? Then things can get back to normal, right?"

Harry searched his friends face for a trace of a joke. He didn't find one. "Well, yes Ron, that'd be fantastic."

"Well, now we can find out." Ron had a grin on his face and was obviously waiting for him to take the bait. Harry had had enough of traps and bait to last a lifetime. He sighed heavily and looked at Draco. It was like his eyes couldn't stay away. He wondered why he didn't sit farther away with his back to the Slytherin table. He usually did, didn't he? Draco was smiling at something Hermione had said. Not a smirk, but his real, genuine, nice smile. He felt the jagged edge of jealousy whip through his chest.

"Harry? C'mon mate, don't you want to know? I did something this time. Ask me what it is."

Was Ron still talking? Didn't he care that his girlfriend was making Draco Malfoy smile? "What Ron? What is it?"

Ron was grinning from ear to ear as he pulled a long thin object out of the front of his sweater. It was dark polished wood with a blunt tip. Harry's heart stopped, his breath caught in his throat.

"I nicked it from his stupid stuck-up room."

Harry couldn't find any words. He gaped at Ron, his eyes stuck to the piece of dark slender wood in front of him. "You", he managed, before the words caught in his throat. He coughed into his hand and continued. "You were in his room?"

"Yeah, Herm and me. We brought you there from the Room the other day."

"But how did you.." Harry held out his hand, and Ron put Draco's wand into it, but not before looking up and down the table. As if the Gryffindor table was their biggest worry right now.

"I've had 4 older brothers who never let me into their rooms, Harry, why do you think that is?"

Harry forced a laugh. Ron looked like he had just passed his O.W.L.S. with full marks without ever cracking a book.

Harry brought Draco's wand under the table, into his lap. He ran his fingers over the smooth surface, tried his hand around the handle. It was a bit shorter than his own, the handle a little thicker. Harry had held and used wands belonging to others, when the situation called for it, and it was always a strange experience. He couldn't say how, exactly, just that it was different, like his power was lessened, magic not so easily called upon. Draco's felt like the opposite. Like if he were to use it, it would be utterly effortless. It felt like his own, the same and yet different. It felt somehow intimate, but also wrong, having it in his hands. Like kissing a stranger while they slept. His chest ached as he thought of Draco and the things he had been through over the summer, with this very wand.

He felt eyes on him then and looked up. Draco was staring daggers at him, his steely eyes piercing him from two tables away. Harry pushed his feelings down, hoping he didnt give away too much, running his fingers from the wand's handle to the tip, turning it over in his hands.

"Well?"

"What?" He hadn't realized Ron had been talking.

"When are we going to find out?"

"Oh, um, I dunno. After dinner?" That answer seemed to satisfy Ron. He nodded and grinned into his dinner instead of at Harry. Now that he had the wand, he wasn't sure if he could go through with it. It was certainly a violation of some kind, wasn't it? But was Draco's privacy worth his life? He felt a wave of nausea pass through him. He hated making decisions.

"Are we just going to stand here, then?"

Draco glanced sideways at Granger standing beside him. He straightened his vest, pulled out his silver pocket watch to check the time, put it back, and leaned against the wall. They were outside of the Great Hall, the noise and clatter of hundreds of students hardly dimmed. "I'm waiting for Potter. I don't know what you're doing, Granger. Besides," he added, "Isn't it better than being in there?" He jerked his head in the direction of the Slytherin table.

Hermione peered around the corner, as if she needed to see what he was talking about. "I suppose. They're not the friendliest lot. Is it because of you and Harry?"

Draco scoffed. What an understatement. "It's a lot of things," the weariness of his own voice surprised him. He tried to think of the last time he slept and couldn't remember. He supposed it didn't really matter.

"Like what?"

"Are you always this annoying, Granger?" He growled as he pinched the bridge of his nose with a thumb and forefinger.

"I'm just trying to-"

"Be my friend?" He put the poison in his voice to help carry his point.

Granger huffed. "Yes, I am. But you're making me seriously rethink that decision." She crossed her arms and leaned against the wall next to him, mimicking his posture. Draco felt his mouth press into a thin line, his eyebrows pulled down in annoyance. Granger was going to give him early wrinkles.

"Stop scowling, Malfoy." She nudged him with her elbow. "I know you put on this act, but you're a good person."

"You don't know anything about me, Granger."

"I know you're emotional, but calculating. You're intelligent and driven. You want to be a good person, but maybe you don't always know how to do the right thing."

Why was this happening? He glared at her through narrowed eyes, annoyed, tired, done. "This is not how this goes, Granger." He was up off the wall, a long finger pointed at her chest. "We are not friends, you're not going to wear me down until I open up to you. I'm not even dating your best friend anymore so there's no reason for you to be here."

Hermione smirked at him. The nerve. He wished he was capable of walking away, as far away from all of these stupid, incessant Gryffindors. "Like I said before, Harry's thick, but he's trying to do the right thing."

"I'm sure." Everything that Harry said during their breakup had been rattling around inside his head, repeating. He was sure it would for all eternity. And he was sure, that more than anything, Harry did believe he was doing the right thing. Looking back, he had known it would come to this, once Harry found out. It wasn't all that surprising, really. Knowing, however, didn't make it any easier to bear.

It felt like a massive weight on his chest, hard to breathe, hard to care about not breathing. And Harry had been staring at him all during dinner. He had tried to ignore it, but every time he looked up, Harry's green eyes had been nowhere but on him. He felt his eyes start to sting, a heat creeping up his neck, into his cheeks.

Hermione's hand was at his elbow, her touch gentle. He had been threatening her, or trying to, just a moment ago and here she was, touching him again.

"For what it's worth," she was saying quietly, her big brown eyes peering into his own, "I know you didn't do it."

Draco scoffed. "Why? Because I'm secretly a good person and we're such good friends?"

"No," She turned and looked up and down the castle entryway. She peered around the corner into the Great Hall. "You can't cast a binding spell on yourself."

Draco leveled an icy stare at her. "That's not true." The words came slow and unsure.

"Oh, it is," she said, tucking her hair behind an ear, not meeting his eyes.

"Granger," he growled, "What did you do?"

"More research, that's all."

"Look me in the eyes and tell me you didn't ask a teacher."

She glanced up at him, then quickly away, biting her lip. He sighed and buried his face in his hands. Harry was right, probably. He could go home, take the mark, and be done with all of this. He could sign his own death warrant right now. All he would have to do was say the word. He wouldn't even have to wait until the holidays. Hell, he could probably leave school right now, never come back, and his father would find a way to get him any credentials he needed.

The real problem came crashing back to him with a sudden clarity. The binding. He couldn't just leave, not for all his wishing, nor all his magic. Not for the first time, he thought he could end his own life and it would simply be over. For everyone. Him especially.

"I had to be sure, Malfoy. With everything going on, how could you just take my word on anything? How could Harry?"

He couldn't find it in himself to give her a response.

"Draco?"

He felt angry and worthless. If what she said was true, he was out of options. His head was spinning, too fast and too slow at the same time. He felt his hands clench into fists, his teeth grinding.

"McGonagall said it's impossible. Even-"

"But the Dark Mark-"

"Have you seen it happen? Does..he.. do it himself?"

He gave her a sardonic look. She was so presumptuous, had he seen it, indeed. He had, but that wasn't the point. "I have seen it. He insists on being present, but I don't think he performs it. But Harry, his scar-"

"No one really knows what happened that night, but McGonagall said that she's positive it wasn't just a backfired spell, but rather it's more likely that it was a last minute binding performed by one of Harry's parents."

Draco rolled his eyes.

"No, really," Hermione was tugging at his elbow. Why was she always touching him? "It makes sense. It's so strong. And think about it; a one in a million chance of a powerful killing curse being turned into a binding spell by accident or a desperate parent's last attempt to protect their child from someone who would surely keep coming after him?"

He felt the pieces click into place. It would have been satisfying, if there was anything he could do about it.

"Does he know?"

"No, McGonagall said she only told Dumbledore, but he was quick to discount it."

"So why is she telling you?"

Hermione fidgeted. "She already knew you were bound together. No one knows what to do. She's waiting for Dumbledore to return." Hermione was peeking around the doorway into the Great Hall again.

Draco sighed. "What are you doing that for, Granger?"

"Just keeping an eye on things."

"What's Harry doing?" He kept his voice low, hoping Granger wouldn't hear him, then he wouldn't have to talk about it. He wanted desperately to know and not know at the same time. He needed the warmth, needed Harry with him.

"He's talking to Ron," she replied quietly, sadly, maybe. "I haven't seen Snape since yesterday."

"He'll be back."

"You know where he is?"

Draco pinched the bridge of his nose again. Merlin's beard, if he could just get some sleep. "No. Why would I?" He meant it as a challenge, daring her to say that he knew more than he was letting on. For once, it wouldn't be true.

Students were starting to file out, talking excitedly about things that Draco had all but forgotten about. Classes, tests, the latest Quidditch match, or maybe there was one today, his tired brain couldn't catch any specifics. He crossed his arms and glowered at the few brave enough to meet his eyes, the few that exchanged whispers while walking by him.

"Hey, Malfoy!" A strange, accented voice in the crowd. His keen eyes spotted that Irish Gryffindor kid coming towards him. Merlin's wand. What next? "Are the rumors true, then? You and Potter split?" He had a huge grin on his face. Draco was not amused.

"Get lost, Seamus." Hermione said at his elbow. Draco raised an eyebrow. Was she defending him?

"Hey Hermione, I'm just wondering. There's no harm in that, is there?" He looked to Draco, giving him a wink.

Draco stepped forward, feeling like his old self, a smirk spreading, insults on this tip of his tongue. But Hermione was shoving the grinning Irishman back into the crowd. He saw him say something to Hermione, and then he was walking away.

"What did he say?"

"You really want to know?"

Draco spotted Harry coming towards them, his dark hair messy, like he hadn't been able to leave it alone, the firelight bouncing off his round glasses, making them flash dimly. Draco's chest felt tight, his throat like it was full of ice. "It doesn't matter," he muttered.

As Harry came closer, he could tell something was wrong. More wrong than before dinner. His jaw was tight, he felt worried, anxious. Maybe even a bit sick. He reached for him, instinctively, he supposed. He mentally berated himself for being a little surprised when Potter pulled back. Draco cleared his face, adjusted his vest, stood a little straighter, pretended that it didn't happen. What else was there to do?

"What's wrong, Harry?" Granger, covering for him. He sighed inwardly.

"Could you give us a minute, Hermione?"

"Of course," she said, sounding more than a little disappointed.

"And um," Harry started, looking guilty, "if you could distract Ron for a bit, that'd be helpful."

She gave him a weird look, but nodded and left.

Draco gazed at Harry, steeling himself for whatever the Boy Who Lived had to say to him. Harry gazed back, the two of them trying to read and block each other simultaneously. Potter ran a hand through his hair, a small smile on his face. Draco could feel it then, a simple and pure feeling, the perfect accompaniment to the warmth. He smiled then, too, a small one, in spite of himself and his overwhelming self pity. Harry still felt the same. That was definitely something.

"Starting fights with Weasley, too?" Someone had to say something, even if it was sarcastic.

Draco was rewarded with a small laugh from Harry, small but enough to cause his chest to constrict. "No, we uh, had a disagreement."

"Isn't that the same thing, Potter?" He allowed himself a small smirk. "What about?"

"He actually doesn't know it yet, but it's about this." And he watched Harry Potter pull a familiar dark and slender object from the front pocket of his jacket. "Whatever happens, I feel like you should have this back."

Chapter Text

Draco plucked the wand from his hand as if it were made of hot lead, a weird mix of surprise and disgust on his pointed face.

"Where did you find it, Potter?"

"You won't believe it, but-"

"Weasley."

"Yeah, how did you-?"

"I didn't. He looks angry and he's coming this way. Weasley took it?" Draco's contorted in anger.

Harry looked, and sure enough he saw Ron's red face and hair bobbing towards them through the crowd. He saw him stop, look down, and start talking to someone, his mouth opening wider and wider with every word. Hermione. Good.

"Listen, Draco, about earlier-"

He had meant to apologize, sort of, but someone had sidled up next to Draco, taking hold of his arm, and his attention along with it.

"Draco, everyone says you're sick, is that true?" It was Pansy Parkinson, her voice lilting and saccharine sweet. She was almost as tall as Draco, certainly taller than Harry, her long dark hair hanging around her like a curtain. Her thin arms were wrapped around Draco's shoulders, her face much too close to him, awaiting his answer. A frozen weight settling into the pit of Harry's stomach as he realized this was who he saw in Draco's dream. The wedding dream. Pansy, in the garden, wearing white and waiting.

Harry had trouble remembering to breathe as she laid a hand on Draco's chest, trailing her long fingers over his shirt buttons, slipping across his front and into his vest. Harry felt his anger rise and he clenched his fists.

Draco glanced at Harry, coughed into a fist, and took a step away from her. "Indeed, Pansy." Draco made his voice low and hoarse. His wall was up and Harry couldn't feel any of his emotions. He wasn't sure of their past relationship, but if the way she was acting and touching him was any indication, he really didn't want to know right now. Probably not ever.

She leaned forward to talk in his ear, but her eyes stayed on Harry. "You missed the owls. There was a message for you." Her eyes were blue and pale, but not like Draco's. Hers were all malice and ice. She kissed Draco then, pressed her full lips to his cheek, just in front his ear as she slipped an envelope into his vest pocket. Harry felt the heat in his face, the jealousy working sharp needles deeper into his chest. As she turned to leave, she flashed Harry a wicked smile that didn't reach her eyes.

They both watched her walk away.

"You can't marry her," Harry blurted.

Draco looked at him with a bewildered expression, quickly followed by a large smirk. The tall Slytherin stepped closer, warmth and a pleasurable feeling radiating. "Should I marry you instead, Potter?" His voice sounded snide and knowing, like the old Malfoy, but his eyes told a different story.

Harry felt his face burn with fire of a thousand suns. "Um, ah," was all he could manage through his tight throat. He ran a hand through his hair, pushed up his glasses. Just being next to him felt good. Being married to him, waking up in bed next to him, having tea with him every morning, being intimate.. Harry shook his head, not letting his imagination take him there. When he looked up Draco was grinning at him. How much did he feel?

"Jealousy becomes you, Potter." He whispered it at Harry, like a seductive secret. Was this a game to him? Was he only teasing? Saving face in front of others? All of those things and maybe more, he suspected.

"I'm not jealous," Harry mumbled.

Draco raised one eyebrow, giving Harry a knowing look. Harry swallowed hard. He couldn't go back on everything he said, no matter what he wanted. It did feel good to simply be next to him, though.

"Malfoy, you prick!"

Ron's angry voice echoed through the entrance hall. Not every face turned to see the commotion, but enough did. The last thing Harry wanted was an audience. He stepped around Draco, heading off Ron, who was now very close indeed.

"How did he-?! Harry, what did you do?!"

Harry straightened his shoulders, feeling at a distinct disadvantage, in between these tall people. Hermione was behind Ron, arms crossed, looking like she was done fighting. No help there, then. "I gave it back, Ron. It's his, he should have it." He glanced back to Draco, who was looking at the wand in his hand like he had never seen it before in his life. Draco cleared his throat and slipped his wand inside his vest.

"But Harry, we were going to-"

"Yes, Harry, what were we going to do?" Draco drawled smoothly from behind him.

Ron fumed, his face turning as red as his hair.

"Ronald, I told you-"

"I don't want to hear it, Hermione. I'm going to prove to you, to both of you, what an asshole he is." Ron leveled an accusing finger at Draco's impassive face.

"And why is that, Weasley? Then you don't have to realize that you're the one who's being an insufferable asshole?"

"Give me your wand and I'll show you. I'll show everyone. Or are you afraid of what I'll find out?"

Draco fixed Ron with an icy stare, his face grim. Harry wanted to walk away, to break up their fight, but he also wanted to see what would happen. To see if Draco would let the spell be performed. Earlier, in Draco's room, he hadn't made any move to stop Harry, but now he seemed to be avoiding it.

"Ronald-"

But Draco raised a hand, cutting Hermione off. "I'm not afraid," he said in his normal voice. "But if anyone is performing the spell, it's going to be Potter."

Harry froze as everyone in the small group turned and looked at him. He was suddenly aware that more people were staring at him, the last of the students leaving dinner had stopped to watch the excitement in the hallway between the famous Gryffindor and the prince of Slytherin.

"Let's uh, go somewhere more private?" Harry suggested.

Ron scoffed. Draco gave him a small smile, a relieved feeling, and started walking towards the entrance hall doors. He pushed one open without touching it and grandly gestured to the courtyard outside. The sun was setting already, the dim light shining on the water in the fountain, making it sparkle. Leaves blew in small eddies, into the hall and around their feet.

Ron huffed past, taking quick angry strides and not looking at anyone. Hermione hurried after, stopping to say something to Draco that Harry couldn't quite hear.

"Time to test your theory, Granger," he heard Draco reply dryly.

Draco waited by the open door. Harry had been so quick to know just a few hours ago, but now he felt something holding him back. He was supposed to be brave, supposed to be able to deal with anything. And it wasn't that he regretted what he had said to Draco, not exactly. Maybe he wasn't ready. On the other hand, he had never been ready for anything that had happened to him, why should this be any different?

Draco's presence pulled him forward. Harry could feel his need, and it felt..good. Surprisingly good. Good to be needed by someone you loved. He thought of what Hermione had said, about latent feelings and love not being magicked. He supposed it might even be true. He walked slowly across the threshold, aware of Draco's heavy gaze. Harry felt the warmth grow as he passed through the doorway and he looked up and met Draco's silver eyes. He could see it there and knew he felt the same. Even though Harry had

Harry forced himself to put one foot in front of the other. The courtyard was silent with a chill in the air, the promise of winter not far away.

The door shut on its own, silent.

"There," Draco said softly, "privacy."

"Mostly."

Draco smiled at his joke, but Harry felt a wave of sadness.

"You don't have to go through with this."

"You should know I'd have absolutely no problem telling Weasley to fuck off," Draco smirked.

Harry chuckled.

"I need to know. You need to know. Your friends," he gestured towards Ron and Hermione talking in hushed tones with lots of arm waving, "they'll hate me either way."

"But why would they..oh." Harry suddenly remembered what the last spell was that Draco cast, if it wasn't the binding spell. If he had been telling the truth this whole time. "The circumstances-"

"Were less than ideal," Draco finished. His silver eyes caught Harry's green ones. They were hard and serious. "What I told you about that, I told you in confidence."

"So I can't explain it and you won't either."

"Right."

"So they'll just think you tortured a guy for no good reason." If he could only explain, he was sure Ron and Hermione would see it the way he did.

Draco narrowed his eyes. "What I did, it was for a good reason?"

Harry sighed. "You know what I mean."

"I don't think I do, Potter."

Harry tried to read him then, but couldn't get much.

"I'm not being sarcastic." Draco clarified.

"I understand why you did it, that's all I'm saying. If they knew too, they would understand."

Draco glanced over at his friends and back to Harry. "Either way, this doesn't end well for me. If it's the curse, you'll know I was telling the truth, but I lose a friend." He gestured shortly at Hermione. "If it's the binding, I lose you. There will be no going back." He sounded like he was simply stating a fact, but Harry could feel that it mattered to him very much. More than Harry had assumed, anyway.

Harry didn't remember moving closer, but they both must have been. Draco was so close now, Harry's body was starting to feel tingly. He wanted Draco's touch, he wanted more, he wanted it to never end. Harry reached out to take his hand, forgetting his decision, his resolve. Draco moved away but only slightly.

"You told me not to touch you," Draco reminded him softly.

"Since when do you listen to anything I say, Draco Malfoy?" The words came easier than Harry thought they would.

"Maybe we should see what happens first, Potter," he said wryly.

"That wasn't the response I was expecting."

Draco stepped forward, closing what little distance there was between them, touching Harry's face but only briefly, like a ghost. He leaned forward. Harry thought he was going to kiss his cheek where he touched it, but he didn't. "If I cast the binding spell, Harry, you deserve better." His voice was a deep and sincere whisper sneaking into his ear. A weight settled into Harry's chest with Draco's words. He pulled away to see Draco's face, his eyes, but Draco was already walking away, towards Ron and Hermione.

"Finally," Ron muttered.

Draco gave Ron a scathing look. He reached inside his vest and retrieved his wand, handing it to Harry with a flourish, handle first. He certainly did have a flair for the dramatic.

"If you would be so kind, Harry." Draco's eyes were hard and unreadable as Harry reached for it. This was it. Too late to go back. He took his own wand out of his back pocket with his other hand. He stood there, with both wands, hesitant. The feeling from Draco's wand was there, like his own, but mirrored. He wondered suddenly, what it would be like to hold Voldemort's wand. Would it be similar? Different? He hoped he'd never find out. Then another thing occurred to him, something he never wanted to experience ever again.

"What's in your core?" Harry asked quietly.

Draco scowled at him, glanced at the others. "Unicorn tail," he said under his breath.

Ron snorted and Hermione elbowed him.

Harry smiled. "Good." Anything but a phoenix feather was good.

He glanced up. Everyone was looking at him, waiting. He told himself that whatever happened, it didn't matter. He hoped it was true.

"Priori incantatem," He said quietly, touching his and Draco's wand tips together. The wands recoiled, a bright red light shooting out of Draco's. Harry held fast to it as it shook, an image of a man shot out of it, a man laying on the ground in front of the fountain at their feet, the flayed man, impossibly beaten. The Malfoy's former gardener. It was like a ghost, like when this spell had happened to Voldemort's wand, when the after-image of his parents had appeared. The thought made his eyes sting, made him shudder, start to tremble. The ghost of the flayed man screamed and writhed, the four of them were frozen, watching, until Hermione cried out.

"Disparo!" And with a wave of her wand, the flayed man and the red light were gone.

Harry breathed a sigh of relief. Draco didn't cast the binding. He hadn't cast a spell with it since the end of the summer. He was telling the truth. Harry admitted there might have been a very small part of him, an itch in the very back of his mind, some part of him holding back during everything they had been through, just in case it was all a lie, a trick, a game. But it wasn't. If it was, Draco was a pawn, same as him. He knew it should have made him more worried probably, but it made him feel better.

Their eyes met, then, Draco's stormy eyes were hopeful but unsure. Harry's thoughts were crashing together, too many to count, like waves on the ocean. Draco's words, Hermione's insistence, his own feelings. He had a sudden feeling he had made a horrible mistake.

Harry turned to his friends, remembering they were there. Ron's face was ashen, horrified, almost like the first time he had caught the two of them making out. The thought of making out with Draco with reckless abandon made his chest ache. Hermione was the first to speak, her quiet voice cutting the silence like a knife.

"I told you so. You can't bind yourself."

"Very helpful, Granger." Draco said sarcastically, suddenly next to him, holding his hand out. It was shaking but only slightly. Harry wanted to hold his hand, but his hands were full of wands. "My wand, Potter."

"Oh, right."

Draco was still scowling as he slipped it back inside his vest. He was calling him Potter again, his voice sarcastic and cold. He could feel the wall, the emotionless void as Draco tried to separate himself. Harry knew it was his own fault, of course, but what else could he do? He had made his choice, hadn't he?

"That was the cruciatus curse, wasn't it?" Ron had come around, his voice choked.

"Yes, Ronald, it was." Hermione answered, her voice even, but Harry could see the way she was looking at Draco. It was different than before.

"Who was that? Is this just a thing you do, Malfoy? Use unforgivable curses on people?" Ron's voice was much too loud, his mouth much too large.

"Ron-" Harry started, but Draco cut him off.

"Maybe it is, maybe it isn't. If I've satisfied your curiosity where Harry is concerned-"

But Ron was stepping closer, his hands balled into fists. "No, you haven't. So you didn't cast the spell, but you cast something worse. You really are an asshole, an evil one at that. Harry, we have to tell someone. He belongs in Azkaban with his father! That's not-" he gestured to where the flayed man had appeared, "-not normal!"

"It's fine, Ron."

Both of them turned to him, shocked.

"That's not-"

"You knew?"

They were both trying to talk at the same time. Draco crossed his arms and looked impatient, but Harry alone knew how uncomfortable he really was.

Harry shrugged. "It wasn't the binding. Isn't that good news?"

"Doesn't mean he's not a prick," Ron's hands were balled into fists.

"Fuck off, Weasley," Draco's voice was quiet, dangerous, angry.

"Or what, Malfoy? You'll curse me, too?"

Harry stepped between them. "Ron," he sighed, "maybe you should go."

Ron gaped at him. "You can't be serious, Harry. You're taking his side? After what he did?"

"It's fine," Harry repeated, feeling exasperated and exhausted.

"Fine? Fine? That's what fine looks like? I'd hate to see the rest of your relationship." Ron looked like he was about to explode.

"Ronald!" Hermione gasped.

"What, Hermione? It's true! Harry's brainwashed or something! I'm more sure than ever! He's going to turn around and sell you to the Dark Lord Harry, you're just the price of admission to him."

"You have no idea what you're talking about, Ron. I'd stop, right now, if I were you." Harry didn't even raise his voice, but Ron's face went white. He was aware that Hermione and Draco had backed away from him.

"Harry.." Hermione said gently.

"What?" He snapped. He looked down and realized he was brandishing his wand, directly at Ron's chest. He hadn't even realized it was still in his hand. "Ron, I didn't mean-"

"Sure, Harry, yeah," Ron muttered, backing away. "Whatever you say, mate."

Hermione was at his elbow, pushing his wand down. He shook her off, scowling at her, putting his wand back in his pocket. "It's alright, Harry, we're going." She grabbed Ron's hand, pulling him towards the doors. She took one last look at Draco and the two of them disappeared inside the castle.

"I appreciate you sticking up for me, Potter, but I don't think you're making the situation better."

"Yeah, thanks, I got it," Harry said irritably.

"They were afraid of you." Draco's voice was softer now, directly over his shoulder. The warmth coming from him did little to ease Harry's edge.

"You were afraid of me."

Draco let out a short, barking laugh. "I know what you can do, Harry. I wouldn't insult your boyfriend and expect to get away with it." He heard Draco's shoes clicking gently on the courtyard stones, coming closer behind him.

"You're not my boyfriend anymore, remember," Harry muttered, but he could feel his convictions lessen every time he said it. A cool breeze blew through Harry's hair. He didn't know what he was doing anymore. Nothing had been solved and he had threatened his best friend. He had felt so much better a few moments ago, but now everything felt more confusing than ever. He stared at the leaves blowing around his feet.

Then he was in front of him, Draco's shiny black shoes contrasting sharply with his own worn out sneakers. He waited for Draco to say something pithy or sarcastic, but he didn't. Harry looked up, past his nice pants, his silver belt buckle, his expensive vest, up to Draco Malfoy's sharp, handsome face, his grey eyes looking darker in the twilight.

"If you insist," Draco said softly, putting his hands in his pockets. Harry longed to hold them, now that they were hidden from sight.

The autumn wind blew between them, getting cooler with the setting sun, but Harry didn't feel the chill. He let his anger fall away. It wasn't Draco's fault. None of it was. He had to smile at the absurdity of it all. Running away together was starting to sound more and more appealing.

"You were right, Harry," Draco's voice was gentle but sad. "Running away won't solve anything. There's something going on and it's bigger than the two of us."

"I'm sorry I didn't trust you."

He shrugged, hands still in his pockets. He looked away. "I never asked you to." His face held a wry smirk. "Why would you?"

Harry had no words. It was difficult. It was complicated. There was silence between them, broken only by the rustling leaves. "I should have," he said finally.

Draco scoffed. "You need to make up your mind, Harry. I can't be your lover and your enemy. No matter your decision, I won't be against you. Not anymore. Not ever again."

"Then why didn't you tell me everything from the start?"

"I didn't know if I could stop you if you chose to do something exceptionally stupid."

"What, like confronting Voldemort?"

"Exactly. Isn't that what you just asked me to do? Bring you in?" Draco's voice was mocking, scathing. "I don't think you know how bad it really is, Harry."

"And what? You do?" He knew he was picking a fight. He was tired of Draco having all of the answers while he was left with none.

Draco seemed to stand a little taller. "Yes, I do. Their plans, I can only guess at them, Harry, but I know he's stronger than he's ever been. There are more of them than there's ever been."

"How do you know?"

Draco paced a bit, ran a hand through his hair. It was distracting, how good he looked. Harry absently wondered why he always dressed that way.

"To impress you," Draco muttered.

"But that's not-"

Draco stopped pacing suddenly, advancing on Harry. His voice was low and his words were fast. "I will not be made into a spy, Harry. Not again. Not even for you."

Something clicked in Harry's head. Malfoy's attitude, his anxiousness, his venom, his quiet demeanor when they were alone. Just because Harry couldn't see it didn't mean Draco wasn't fighting his own battles. His breath left him in a rush. He was so caught up in his own dark wizard feud and were Draco fit into it that he had stopped seeing Draco for who he was. His mouth was suddenly dry.

"Draco, I'm not asking for anything."

"That's funny, I thought you were just asking me for information," Malfoy spat.

Harry looked at Draco, pacing again in the growing darkness, trying to see him. Trying to see all of him.

"What are you looking at, Potter?" Draco growled.

"You," Harry said, glad it was getting dark so the other boy wouldn't notice the color in his cheeks. "I couldn't see you before, but now I do." He stepped forward, closing the space between them, the air between their bodies unseasonably warm.

Draco's hands were back in his pockets, his posture stiff and formal. "That's not exactly an apology."

Harry ran a hand through his hair, laughed a little to himself. "Not exactly, no."

"There's still time to get it right." His voice was quiet and sincere, but he was looking down his nose at Harry, a small smirk on his face.

"You are a bit of a stuck-up prat, you know that, don't you?"

"And you're a bit of an insensitive asshole, you know that, don't you?"

Harry grinned. "I do know. I'm sorry about that. I get.. caught up in things."

"Don't we all," Draco sniffed. Then his voice softened. "I only wanted you to be safe."

"I only wanted this to be real."

"It is real, Harry. No matter what anyone says, Dark Lords and best friends included. If you're looking for reasons for it not to be, that's your prerogative. We can go our relatively separate ways, if you want. We can wait for a solution."

"I don't want that," Harry said quietly, reflecting on Draco's words. Thinking about separating left a sickening weight in the pit of his stomach.

"What do you want?"

Harry thought for minute, but his brain couldn't get past thinking about Draco touching him, kissing him.

"If that's what you want, I'd need your permission," Draco said in a low whisper.

"You can't keep doing that, Draco."

"You should keep a lid on it, then."

Harry scoffed. "Like you do?"

Draco's mouth formed a tight line. "It has its uses."

Harry reached out, touched Draco's elbow. His fingertips warmed right away. "You know, you don't need to, with me."

Draco still hadn't moved. He fixed Harry with a steely glare. "That remains to be seen, Potter."

Harry looked back, determined not to be intimidated. Then, to his surprise, the wall came down. He could feel Draco's emotions again, trickling back. The pain in his heart, the truth in his words, the fear of what was to come.

"I didn't mean to hurt you, Draco. I was just-"

"Trying to do the right thing?"

Harry sighed. "Yes."

"Do you ever not do that?"

"What? The right thing?"

"Mmhmm."

Harry thought for a moment. "One time I let Hermione write an essay for me."

"Oh, Harry Potter, living on the edge."

Harry stepped closer. "Sometimes I say hurtful things I don't really mean to my boyfriend."

"I think you mean ex-boyfriend." But Draco had moved closer too, just a little.

"I know what I mean."

"That doesn't make it true."

Their hips were practically touching now, Harry felt warm and giddy. "You want it to be true."

Draco lowered his face, dangerously close to Harry's. His eyes were stormy, but serious. "I need to hear you say it," he whispered.

"Draco Malfoy," Harry started, gripping the front of his vest. "Will you be my boyfriend again?"

Draco smiled and Harry felt his heart melt.

"Only if you tell me it's because of the way I dress."

"It's definitely not because of the way you dress, Malfoy." He leaned closer and tugged on Draco's vest for emphasis.

"Maybe if you hate my clothes so much, you'll want to take them off me," Draco's voice was low and deep, sending a shiver through him. His hands clenched around Draco's vest and there was a strange papery rustle.

Draco's letter.

He had forgotten. Harry pulled it out of Draco's pocket, where Pansy had so suggestively placed it. It was a dark colored parchment, addressed in an incredibly neat script not unlike Draco's own, sealed with silver wax bearing an elaborate M. There was no question about who it was from. "Aren't you going to read your letter?" He said, a little surprised to hear his voice come out so venomously.

Draco cleared his throat, taking the letter out of Harry's hands. "Trying to change the subject, Potter?"

"Nothing like hearing from your father to get me in the mood, is that what you mean?"

Draco made a face at him, but was breaking the seal on the letter.

Harry watched Draco's eyes skim over the contents of the letter, looking for a reaction. There was none. He stood on tiptoe, trying to see over the top of the parchment, hoping to see something, anything. Draco pulled the letter to his chest, out of Harry's view.

"If you don't mind," he drawled.

Harry scowled. "It has something to do with me, doesn't it?"

"That's presumptuous."

"Well, it's true."

"Not if you're not my boyfriend."

Harry exhaled. "You're the one who didn't answer my question. You don't have to tell me anything you don't want to."

"Thanks for your permission, Potter, it means a lot to me."

"Stop being sarcastic. You wanted my permission a minute ago."

"That was different. I am, above all else, a gentleman." Draco was responding like everything was normal, but Harry could sense something, now that he was really trying. Something was wrong.

"What is it, Draco? What does it say?"

The tall Slytherin glanced up at him with icy eyes.

"It's my mother, Harry. I have to go home."

Chapter Text

Draco let Harry take the letter from his numb hands. The other boy was squinting to read in the growing darkness.

"Lumos," Draco muttered, dim light coming from a fingertip.

He watched Harry's face as he read the letter once, and then again. Even in the gloom, Draco could see his emotions pass over his face, his brows furrowed together as he tried to sort it out. He looked up suddenly, his glasses flashing in the light from his spell. "Is it a trick? It must be, right? A trap."

"Or redemption," he muttered, extinguishing his finger. Darkness had fully settled around them now, torchlight from the castle casting glowing shapes on the ground.

"What?"

Draco cleared his throat. "Nothing. Of course it's a trap. I still have to go."

"You really don't have to. You could write a letter back."

He held Harry at arm's length, scowling. "I get word that my mother is deathly ill, hasn't woken in days, and you want me to write a letter?"

Harry ran a hand through his hair, sighing. "I'm sorry, just- just tell me you're not going."

"Fine. You're not going."

Harry scoffed. "You know what I mean. There's no way you could go without me."

"I know you're worried about me, Potter, but-"

"Shut up, Malfoy," Harry voice was scathing, but Harry's arms were suddenly around his shoulders, his hot breath on his neck. The warmth was seeming to rise in temperature, causing heat in his cheeks, in his chest, in his hips. It was suffocating, this feeling, in the best possible way. He felt tired, all of a sudden, exhausted. The warmth between their bodies soothing him, a comfort the likes of which he'd forgotten in the time they were apart.

His arms wound around Harry, pulling him closer. He closed his eyes and buried his face in Harry's soft messy hair. How strange it was, to feel so protective of someone else. He never thought he'd be in this position, no matter what he'd wanted. Never thought Harry Potter would ever be this close to him unless it was in violence. Never thought he'd have to be the one who stood between the Dark Lord and what he wanted. Could he even do that? For Harry? For himself?

"There's no way I could bring you there," he murmured.

"Maybe it wouldn't be as bad as all of that."

"Maybe it would be worse," Draco mumbled, thinking of the older Harry in his dreams, the one that was locked in the dungeons for all eternity. Dreams, sleep. He was so very tired. Tired of being tired. "I told you it was bad, Harry. I'm not doing it."

"When was the last time you slept, Draco?" Harry's voice was soothing and soft in his ear.

He must've been leaning heavily on Harry because the other boy stumbled backwards, his arms tightening around him.

"It doesn't matter," he said, his voice drawling.

But Harry had one arm around his middle and was leading him back to the castle. "Of course it matters. You're exhausted. Did you eat anything at dinner?"

"Potter," he growled. But Harry's words went right to his heart, making his chest ache a little. Having someone you care about be concerned for your well-being, well, it might be a feeling he could get used to. On the other hand, it might be too much to handle, it might be too much to miss once it was gone.

Harry tightened his grip around his middle and Draco was a little surprised at how strong Harry felt. He found he liked it very much. "You're going to let me take care of you," Harry said, his voice hard. "I don't care how many 'Potters' or insults I have to listen to."

"Oh, come now, Potter, when was the last time I insulted you?"

"Not that long ago, probably." Harry's voice was light, but Draco could feel the hurt underneath.

"Does it bother you so?"

"I'm not sure," Harry said slowly. "It used to, years ago. Then I got used to it. Now, it feels like it means something else when you do it. It's a bit..confusing."

"Terms of endearment, Scarhead," Draco smirked, putting an arm around Harry's shoulders.

"Yeah, you might need to work on that."

"Tell me what else I need to work on," he drawled. He felt Harry's uncertainty; he didn't know himself if he was kidding or not. Maybe a bit of both. His brain felt too full and too empty at the same time.

Harry was steering him towards the stairs, towards the dungeons. Draco attempted to steer Harry towards the other set of stairs, the one leading towards the kitchens.

"No, we're not-" Harry stumbled.

"Come have a drink with me, Harry." He knew it didn't make sense, it was just what he wanted the most right now. He didn't want to sleep. He wanted a drunk Harry Potter trying to make out with him. All problems solved.

"Ah, no," Harry laughed a little, nervously, "I don't think that's a good idea right now."

"Why not? We could just do that."

"We can talk this over in the morning. You need to sleep."

"I do need to sleep, Potter. With you," he smirked, gripping the collar of Harry's jacket. Harry turned a bright shade of crimson. Draco suddenly felt like a predator, one that had missed a meal or two, and Harry was his prey. How far would he have to push before Harry acquiesced to his desires? How many more chances would they get? How long would they be alone this time? He could feel Harry feeling a similar pull and it was as if his own feeling was doubled, quadrupled. It was infinite and it swallowed him whole.

He pulled Harry close by his jacket, making his eyes full of intent as he stared into the other boy's dazzling green ones. He could lose himself there and it would be okay, wonderful, even. He leaned forward

Then Harry was pushing him away, gently, as apologetic smile on his nice face. "Stop that, Malfoy," he said, looking at the floor. "You're going to get us caught."

"I couldn't care less about that," he growled, but he let go of his boyfriend's jacket. "Did I misread you, Harry?"

Harry's face was still red. "No, it's just," he ruffled his hair. He pushed up his glasses. Draco wondered if there would be a time when this sort of thing didn't fluster him so much. Maybe he didn't want there to be. "We can have that drink."

Draco raised an eyebrow and blinked heavily. His exhaustion was catching up with him.

"In your room," Harry said softly.

Draco raised both eyebrows. "Indeed?"

Harry nodded. "We'll have tea."

Draco's breath left him in a massive exhale. "Fine, Potter," he mumbled, draping his arm around Harry's shoulders once more. "Tea it is."

-------

Draco could barely keep his eyes open by the time they made it to his room. Harry left him by the bedside and was conjuring a fire in the hearth. It sprang up, gold and red, bathing the darkened room in a warm light. He had forgotten how cold it got in the dungeons, especially when there was no one tending a fire for you, magical castle or not.

Harry was only on the other side of the room, but their warmth had all but gone, leaving Draco with a chill he couldn't seem to shake. It was as if everything he had been trying not to think about was crashing in around his brain. For the first time in awhile, he wanted to be alone. He had to have a plan. For both their sakes.

"Do you have a kettle?" Harry was asking.

"A what? We use magic, Potter, not those muggle things." He didn't mean to sound so disdainful. Was that how he sounded all of the time?

"Of course. Can't have Draco Malfoy making his own tea, can we?"

"Potter," he growled a warning, but his heart wasn't in it. He was frustrated; he was trying to take off his vest, but his fingers kept shaking and he couldn't grip the buttons. It was such a simple task and he couldn't do it. His eyes stung. His body felt heavy, his mind slow. What good was he? He couldn't kill Harry Potter, he couldn't even lead him to his death correctly, not even when everything was set up for him. It was so easy. And so difficult. He couldn't save him. He couldn't save his mother. He couldn't even take off his vest. The more he tried to still his hands, the more they shook. His whole body was shaking. The room was so cold. He screwed up his face, closing his eyes so tight the tears couldn't fall.

Then Harry was there, the warmth, a dim feeling in the darkness. His hands were on his, steadying them. Harry's hands were so warm; how were they always this warm? His touch was perfect, always perfect.

"You're shaking," Harry said.

Draco ripped his hands from Harry, turning away. "Very astute, Potter." His words were harsh but his voice was a choked whisper. His emotions were threatening to explode; he had to keep control. He couldn't lose it with Harry here, looking at him that way.

"Draco, it's okay."

"Nothing is okay," he snapped.

Harry looked hurt, and worse, he could feel that Harry was hurt. It only compounded his frustrations, his feelings of utter uselessness and helplessness. If only the binding had never happened, he would've been perfectly fine keeping the wall up for the rest of his life where Harry Potter was concerned. He tried to block him now, to keep him out of his head, but he was too tired. He couldn't tell if it was working.

Harry's hands were back on his vest, undoing the buttons Draco couldn't seem to master. It felt like a slap in the face. It felt nice. "We're okay, aren't we?" Harry asked, and his voice seemed to ground him, to bring him back to reality, if only for a moment.

Draco scoffed. "We are," he admitted, "but it doesn't matter."

Harry was slipping his vest off his shoulders. Draco let it happen, trying to swallow his embarrassment. He wondered if Harry knew how green his eyes really were. He wondered if he knew how penetrating they seemed at this moment. Like Harry could see past him, through him, into who he really was.

Harry scowled at him, and he had to admit, even that was wonderful. "Im trying, but you're blocking me." Harry started to undo his shirt buttons, still scowling. "You know, you tell me I have to choose, that I can't have it both ways. So do you. I can't be your boyfriend if you won't let me in. Trust goes both ways."

Draco sighed. Harry was right, shamefully so. But for some reason, Draco couldn't admit that, especially not now. He had built his defences so high and so strong that taking them down required a certain kind of effort. The kind of effort that was the only thing holding him together right now.

Harry was finished with his shirt buttons and started unrolling his sleeves, slowly. Draco watched him do it, his warm fingers at the delicate skin of the inside of his elbow. "Its my fault, Harry."

"What is?"

The room was warm now, or maybe it was only because potter was so close. He felt the heat in his cheeks. Harry was tugging his dress shirt down his arms and off his shoulders.

"I couldn't do it. I can't do it. Not to you," his voice was tight in his throat, getting each word to come out was a battle in itself. He just hoped Harry could understand. It wasn't regret, not really.

"Your not-a-mission?"

Draco could only nod, a single hot tear escaped from an eye. He wiped it away with trembling fingers. "If I dont, my mother will surely die. If I had already, she wouldnt be-" he faltered, his voice rising, knowing he was losing control. "He wouldnt have-"

Harrys hands were on his hips, holding him sure and tight. "None of this is your fault. You were put in an impossible situation, Draco, all of it." Harry chuckled a little and continued, " You know, maybe we're more alike than we ever thought."

"A small consolation," Draco whispered wryly.

Harry was pushing him back so he was sitting on the edge of the bed. He watched as Harry got down on his knees in front of him, feeling his tired eyes go wide. "What are you doing, Potter?"

Harry only grinned up at him, his glasses glinting in the firefight. "Taking care of you, like I said." His words were innocent enough, but his tone was low and quiet, something entirely new. Draco felt a familiar tingling start in the pit of his stomach. He tried to ignore it.

Harry was unlacing his shoes and slipping them off. "It seems to me, you have two choices," Harry was saying, "You can turn me in, maybe saving your mum, if anyone there could bring her back."

Another thought hit Draco over the head very suddenly. "Its possible she's dead already," he couldn't make his voice above a whisper.

Harry nodded, his face solemn. "It is possible," he admitted. "The other choice is to stay here, bide our time. But if I know anything about the Dark Lord, he won't be stopped for long in getting what he wants."

"You think we should go."

Harry laughed, but didn't answer.

"You're not mentioning another part, Harry."

"Hm? What's that?"

Draco had to look away. "Taking the mark would smooth everything over. With my family. Maybe then I'd have power enough to-"

Harry was closer, his hand on Draco's cheek. "I didn't mention it because you don't want it."

Draco felt the frustration and anger well up in him again, he squeezed his eyes shut, clamped his teeth together. He felt Harry straddle his lap, pull him close with strong arms. His fingers started threading through Draco's hair, soothingly. Draco loved it. He hated it. He hated himself for loving it.

"I can feel you now, Draco," his voice as calm and perfect in his ear, "I know you now, and you're trying very hard to be something you're not. You're nothing like your father, and that's a very good thing. I think you should do what's right for you. I'm with you no matter what you choose."

Draco barked a laugh into Harry's shoulder. "So you'd support my decision to be a Death Eater, Harry Potter?"

Harry laughed, too. The sound of it made his chest hurt. "If that's what you really wanted, yes. I'd stay in your dungeon for all eternity if it made you happy."

"No, you wouldn't."

Harry's voice was serious again. "No, I wouldn't. But, like you said, I wouldn't be against you. Not ever."

"That's more than I could ever ask for," Draco whispered.

Harry had his face in both hands, kissing his cheeks where tears were threatening to fall. Draco wrapped his arms around Harry's waist, suddenly grateful for whoever cast the binding, even if it was Voldemort himself. Without it, he wouldn't be here, with Harry, having these feelings that were both wonderful and terrible. Terribly wonderful.

Harry's lips found his and he felt the warmth take him over. Whatever ice that was left in his heart began to melt. It was terrifying, like he was losing a piece of himself, replacing it with something that didn't fit quite right. It was also amazing, as if he was finally free of the chains that had held him down his entire life. He felt Harry's lips curl into a smile against his own.

"What is it, Potter," he growled. He was having an epiphany and Harry thought it was funny.

"It's nothing," Harry said softly. "I'm glad you're feeling better, that's all."

Just how much could Harry feel? Draco looked in Harry's obscenely green eyes, looking for a trace of sarcasm. He found none. "Nothing has been decided," he said, changing the subject. He traced Harry's jaw with a couple of fingers, "I could still throw you in my dungeon."

"Maybe," Harry grinned, "but I don't think you'd leave me there for very long."

He moved to kiss Harry, but the other boy moved away. "You're right," he made his voice low and quiet. "I do need you so."

He swallowed hard, waiting for the fallout, for the feeling he felt from Harry to change suddenly. It didn't; it grew.

Harry's hands were on his face, in his hair, his mouth trying to devour his own, an unspoken need turned into physical affection. Draco responded, the comforting warmth in his chest turning into an inferno, suddenly needing a way out. He let Harry push him back on the bed, his deft Seeker's fingers winding into his t-shirt, pulling him closer. Closer wasn't close enough.

Harry was kissing his jaw, his neck, his collar bone. Draco sighed with pleasure as he pulled at Harry's messy hair, earning a soft groan from the other boy. He was unprepared for the shockwave the simple sound would send through him. The buzzing, tingling sensation was all over his body, beginning to be concentrated in one spot above all others.

There was suddenly too much clothing between them. Draco captured Harry's lips with his again, his long fingers finding Harry's jacket zipper and pulling it down in one swift motion. Harry shrugged out of it, flinging it to the floor, along with his glasses. Seeing Harry's eyes sparkling so, with nothing between them, was making it hard for Draco to catch his breath. Harry grinned at him then, and Draco suddenly felt very tired of waiting. He sat up and pulled on Harry's arm, pulling him into bed, pulling him on top of him again.

His hands came up behind Harry's head, the other gripped Harry's belt, needing full contact. Harry was kissing him, his tongue in his mouth, their teeth bumping together in their haste. Draco smiled to himself and felt Harry smile too. The warmth was burning a fire through his chest and he never wanted it to stop. It could burn away the old Draco Malfoy, the new one too, for all he cared. He could be nothing and no one, only who Harry Potter needed him to be.

Chapter Text

Harry was in a field. He walked, his fingertips trailing over the tall grasses. It was the same as it had been before, in the other dream. He looked around for..what? Or, rather, who? Somehow, he already knew Draco wouldn't be there. He was relieved to find no trace of the Dark Lord or even his parents. He sighed and heard the wind whistle around him, playing with his hair, making the long grasses and flowers ripple like waves. The sun was warm on his skin. It felt so real.

There was someone here. They were coming towards him, but still far away. Harry squinted, trying to see. A tallish figure, wearing all white. He knew he should've stayed awake. He listened hard for signs of Draco. There were none. Only the sighing of the wind and the swishing of the long grasses.

He looked up. The field was gone, replaced with a garden. The Malfoy Manor gardens; he knew it by now, even though he had never been. He heard a melodic humming, a woman's voice. Harry was walking towards it without deciding to do so. He came around a tall hedge and saw the same tallish figure, dressed in a long white silk gown, her long impossibly blonde hair was in a single braid down her back, laced with the grey of age. She turned, stopping the tune. Harry was sure he looked just as surprised as she did.

He saw Draco's face there, or more like, where Draco's features came from. High cheekbones, sharp nose and chin, her eyes were different though, dark where Draco's were light, but her face held the same knowing shadow of a smile. Narcissa Malfoy. He had never met her, but there was no one else this could be.

"It's you," she breathed, and her voice sounded like music. She stood and held out her hand, her every movement was long and graceful. Harry knew he was really in bed with Draco, sleeping soundly, but he suddenly missed his boyfriend terribly. "I've been trying to reach you."

Harry took her outstretched hand. "Me?"

The corners of her mouth flicked upwards into a slow smile. It looked a bit forced, like she didn't practice it enough and didn't remember how to do it exactly right. "Walk with me."

They walked along a paved stone pathway, passing flowering shrubs and many other flowers and plants that Harry couldn't identify.

"Yes, you. My son," her smile faltered. "My son is too closed. I cannot reach him."

Harry shrugged. "He gets that way."

"Yes, I'm afraid it's my fault, as much as my husband's."

"Draco said- he saw you-"
"Die?" She laughed a tinkling laugh. "So I did. But not entirely, I am here now, in limbo it seems."

She reached out and touched a white flower that looked sort of like a lily. It curled and turned brown at her touch. "Neither dead, nor alive."

"Does Vold-" Harry began to ask, but Narcissa put up a finger, silencing him.

"Do not say his name. Not here."

Harry looked around, as if he'd be able to see the Dark Lord hiding under a bush. "I'm afraid I don't understand."

"For all his power, he is missing one thing. And, for all his power, he comes into this world and tries to use it, not understanding it. He can be made weaker, here."

"What is this world?"

Harry heard a loud, rhythmic banging, loud at first then receding, like thunder, but not exactly. Harry looked up; the sky was clear and blue.

Narcissa gave him a sad smile. The same one he'd seen on Draco's face more than a handful of times. "I thought we were trapped, you understand, don't you? I thought there was only one way out. Now there is another." She looked down at her pale long-fingered hands. "Do you think he can forgive me?"

The thunder-like noise rolled across the sky-

 

 

-And Harry woke to a furious pounding at the door. For a minute, he couldn't remember where he was. The fire had burned low, leaving the room in dim shadow. Someone was next to him, quietly snoring, a comforting weight on his body from an arm and maybe a leg as well. Draco. He squinted in the dark, trying to see the other boy's features. He looked peaceful. Handsome, unbearably so. Lying together, skin to skin, the warmth was a comfortable steady heat, a serene humming all over his body. Harry's heart felt like a balloon so full it could burst at any moment.

He jumped when the pounding came again. So it wasn't a dream. Or was it? He couldn't remember what having regular dreams was like. Maybe it was only that. Maybe he wasn't yet awake. Maybe he was trapped in that world, like Draco's mother.

"Draco? Do you hear that?" he whispered. But Draco didn't hear him. Even if it was a dream, he supposed he should still answer the door. What's the worst that could happen? Voldemort? He couldn't get into Hogwarts, not really. Harry swallowed hard, convincing himself he wasn't afraid, and moved Draco's limbs gently off of him.

Harry found his glasses, pulled on his jeans and shirt. The door magicked into place as soon as he was close, the pounding coming even more frantically. He reached for the doorknob and swung it wide.

Hermione stood there, a look of abject horror on her face.

"'Mione, what is it?"

"You have to leave, immediately. Get Draco and get out."

"Slow down, what's going on?"

Hermione pushed past him into the room, shutting the door behind her.

"It's Ron," she said, her voice hushed and frantic.

"Then why do we have to leave? Start making sense, Hermione." Harry put his hands on her shoulders, hoping to steady her thoughts.

She took a deep breath. "Ron went to McGonagall with what we saw in the courtyard. Told her Draco had performed an unforgivable curse. That he had proof. She's been in contact with the Ministry, Harry, they're coming to arrest him."

Harry's head spun. "What?"

"She had to report it, Harry, even if there is no proof. And with Snape gone-"

"Ron did this? How do you know?" He felt, once again, two steps behind.

"He told me. He wants to prove that Draco hasn't changed, no matter what, apparently."

Harry paced back and forth. "But that would mean Draco would go to Azkaban."

"Yes, at least until his trial, but who knows when that would be."

Harry thought of the dementors and shuddered. "I can't let that happen, Hermione. He had reason to do what he did."

"I know, Harry. When we touched hands that time, outside of Potions, I mean, I only got a glimpse, but.. I saw him for who he really is. I don't think he's intended to be so mean over the years, he's almost entirely a victim of-"
"Circumstance," Harry finished.

"His family," Hermione corrected.

Harry felt it ring true. What would someone need to do to please a man like Lucius Malfoy? Family legacy, indeed. He felt a frown creep onto his face.

"What do we do Hermione? We can't just leave."

"You need to wake him. Yes, you just leave. Now. Immediately. I'll try to stall them to give you more time." She turned and left, the door materializing and vanishing without a trace.

Harry ran a hand through his hair and scrubbed his face. What the bleeding hell? His head spun with thoughts of Ron's betrayal, with needing to protect Draco- from the Ministry now?- and how they would leave the enchanted grounds of the school. He only hoped Draco would have some ideas because short of grabbing his broom and flying out, he had none whatsoever.

He stoked the fire with a wave of his wand, making it spring up, bathing the room in a golden light. He sat on the side of the bed, fully intending to wake up his boyfriend, but seeing him there, sprawled in the bed, looking so peaceful made the task more easily said than done. Were they really going to do this? Steal away in the early hours of the morning, defying the Ministry? Harry tried to reason out some alternative, but there was none. Dumbledore was gone. Snape, loathe as Harry was to ask for his help, was gone as well. Any attempt to get a letter out would surely be intercepted and would take too long, besides. Harry remembered his own run-in with the Ministry of Magic. The only thing that had kept him from a fitting punishment was, he was sure, his fame. And possibly Dumbledore. Now that he thought about it, how many strings had Dumbledore pulled for him over the years? Maybe he would somehow show up in the nick of time as he was prone to do. He looked at Draco's sleeping form again. There was too much at stake for him to gamble on.

He sighed. He brushed Draco's blond hair to the side and whispered his name. He didn't stir. He placed a hand on his shoulder, shaking him lightly. Draco groaned softly and rolled over.

"Draco," Harry called. "We have to go. Draco?"

Draco's long sleepy limbs reached for him, pulling him back into the bed. "Stop talking, Potter," he mumbled. Harry's skin tingled and warmed where Draco touched him, a feeling he was getting used to. He smiled in spite of the imminent danger they were suddenly facing. He briefly wondered how much trouble he could get into for helping someone evade arrest.

"What's wrong?" Draco was holding him closer, coming to consciousness feeling Harry's anxieties, maybe.

"The Ministry was alerted that you performed the cruciatus curse. They're on their way to arrest you and we have to leave."

Draco snuggled closer, his pointed nose touching the back of his ear, his lips touching Harry's neck. "If that were to happen, my father would stop them before they left the building," he drawled.

"Hermione says they're here."

"Still."

"You can't think of one person at the Ministry who might keep information from your father?"

Draco started as if he was just now waking up. "Fuck," he muttered. "We have to go." Draco met Harry's eyes then, his grey eyes serious and sharp. They softened a moment, Draco's hand coming to rest on cheek, on his jaw. "You have a choice, Harry. I won't make you run if you don't want to. It'll get sorted, either way."

It wasn't a choice. Harry knew the second Hermione had said there was trouble. "I'm with you."

Harry leaned forward, reaching for the back of the other boy's head, pressing his lips to Draco's too-serious ones. It was electric, like always. He hoped it would always be. He felt Draco's need, felt his tongue in his mouth, felt the tingling warmth travel down his abdomen, past his hips. "Merlin's beard, Draco," he muttered, pulling away.

Draco was smirking at him. "Someday I'll do this properly, Potter."

Harry felt his face flush. If all of this wasn't proper in Dracos book, he couldn't even imagine what would be.

He watched as Draco threw back the covers and rolled out of bed, his long pale limbs moving quickly and gracefully. Draco turned suddenly, catching him looking. "I thought we were in a hurry."

Harry cleared his throat. "We are, yeah. Of course."

But Draco only smirked, shrugging on a crisp white button up. Harry found his sneakers and started lacing them up, glancing at Draco when we thought he could get away with it. Which was hardly ever. If Draco was embarrassed about last night, he wasn't letting Harry feel it. But Harry could feel other things, worry and anxiety, mostly. He didn't think even Draco Malfoy could hide some emotions and not others.

He grabbed his wand from the bedside table and shoved it in his back pocket. That was it.

"That's it?" Draco said, his voice drawling.

Harry shrugged looking down at himself. Shoes, jeans, his favorite hoodie, and his wand. "I travel light."

Draco raised an eyebrow pushing his arm through a trim black suit jacket.

Harry scoffed, a grin on his face. "I thought we were in a hurry."

"Potter, if I'm going to get arrested today, I'm going to look damn good doing it." He was pulling at his shirt sleeves in a quick, decisive, powerful sort of way that made Harry's knees feel like jelly.

"You're not going to get arrested today."

"I wish I felt as sure as you do," Draco said quietly.

 

-----

 

They crept silently up the stairwell leading out of the dungeons. The spiraled stairs were making it hard to get a glimpse of the Entrance Hall without one of them having to make an appearance. Harry listened intently, for voices or any sign of movement. He heard none.

"What's the plan?" he whispered.

Draco gave him a sideways glare. "Since when does Harry Potter need a plan?"

Harry frowned. "If I'm given the chance, which, for your information, is hardly ever, I'd rather have a plan than none. Plus, I really don't know how we're going to get farther than the grounds."

Draco answered without looking at him. "First we leave the castle. Then we leave the grounds."

"Oh, of course. It's so simple."

"Shh," Draco whispered, an arm shooting out and grabbing Harry's sleeve in the near dark. Harry heard it, too. Angry voices, followed by footsteps. And one familiar voice: Hermione. Harry couldn't make out her words, but her know-it-all tone carried over the adults. She could be diverting their attention, stopping them from entering the dungeons. Harry felt instinct take over, his nerves singing, urging him to move quickly.

He grabbed Draco by the front of his shirt, making the other boy emit a strangled, surprised cry, and tore into the Entrance Hall. He saw a party of 4 witches and wizards, looking very official in their long dark robes and pointed hats, plus Hermione who was directing their attention to the Entrance Hall doors. Harry froze, not knowing where to turn. The door were blocked. If they were spotted, there would be no way out of it. They were both too recognizable to quietly slink away.

Draco grabbed his arm and yanked him back towards the stairwell, but the other one that led down to the kitchens. Harry missed a step at the landing and slammed into Draco's back, nearly knocking him over too.

"Very graceful, Potter. What were you saying about having a plan?"

Harry did love his smirk, but now was not the time. "What now, Draco? There's no way out through the kitchens."

Draco was still only smirking as he approached a large painting opposite the green pear. It was of a bowl of fruit. Draco stroked the bottom of the bowl slowly with two long fingers, watching Harry's face as he did it. Harry wasn't sure why, but the simple gesture seemed overtly sexual, and he blushed.

"You're so easy, Harry," Draco said softly as the painting opened into a darkened hallway.
Harry heard a sudden shout, hurried feet clicking on the flagstones, sounding like they were coming down the stairs.

Harry gave him a look and pushed past him into the hall. But it was a dead end. He looked to Draco, panic clawing its way up his throat. Draco was calmly closing the painting and strolling over to where Harry was standing.

"This is a dead end," Harry said, wishing his voice was steadier than it was.

Draco's hands went to the brick walls, pale starfish spread in the dark, patting here and there, looking for something. The angry voices were closer now, Harry could make out McGonagall's lilting accent, sounding like they were right outside the painting.

"They're here," Harry said, tugging at Draco's jacket.

"Potter, not helping," Draco said through gritted teeth.

The back of the painting suddenly bowed inward, making Harry take a step backwards. "Draco," he whispered. He could hear the witches and wizards from the Ministry shouting spells. The painting pitched and warbled, but held firm. "What did you do?" He knew Draco must have done something; the Ministry was not so incompetent that they couldn't get through an enchanted portrait hole.

Draco grunted and Harry turned to look. He had his pale fingers sunk right through the bricks, up to his second knuckle. He grunted again, pulling at it. He grabbed it with two hands, pulled, and it came free with a sigh from Draco. He turned it counter-clockwise 180 degrees, put it back. He turned to Harry, smirking again, as the bricks stacked themselves out of the way, revealing a dark tunnel. Harry could only look at his boyfriend in amazement. A frustrated shout from the other side of the painting shook him out of it. He ducked past Draco into the dark hole.

He reached for his wand, whispering, "lumos."

Draco was behind him, closing the opening with a wave of his hand. "Go."

Harry went, leading them with his lighted wand. He could hear the bricks stacking themselves back up like they were. It wasn't unlike the tunnel that led from the humpbacked witch to Honeyduke's cellar. He wondered how many other secret tunnels there were that weren't even on the Marauder's Map. He felt Draco reach for his hand in the dark and he gripped it tightly, Draco's cool skin soothing him.

"You didn't think your father and his friends were the only ones to discover Hogwarts' secrets, did you?" Draco whispered.

"I still think you're reading my mind," Harry muttered.

"That one was just a guess."

"Good guess," Harry said, a little more irritably than he'd intended. If there was anything he didn't want to talk about right now, it was his dad.

They walked together in silence. Harry had to stoop only a little bit, but he was sure Draco was pretty uncomfortable, being the taller of the two.

"I'm fine, Potter," came Draco's smooth voice from behind him.

Harry scoffed, feeling like he'd never get used to this facet of their relationship. "How much farther? And where does it lead? Hogsmeade?"

Draco snorted with laughter. "Hogsmeade? That's what they'll be expecting. We're going the opposite way."

But the opposite way would be..

"The Forbidden Forest," Draco said, echoing his thoughts.

"So, we're hiding," Harry said, a little disappointed that Draco didn't have some grander scheme in mind.

"If you have a better idea, Potter-"

But Draco's drawling voice was cut off by a shout from behind them. A woman's voice.

"Stop! In the name of the Ministry of Magic!"

Harry didn't need Draco prodding him the back to go faster. He nox'd his wand, crouched and tried his best to run, nothing but darkness ahead of him.

It felt like they were running forever, Harry wiping the sweat out of his eyes. He bumped his head on the ceiling- was the tunnel getting smaller? He heard Draco's labored breathing close behind him. More shouts, both male and female voices, getting closer. Harry chose to believe the sound was just echoing in the cramped space.

"They're getting closer, Harry, but we're almost there." Harry could hear the grin in his voice. Harry would be happy to leave the tunnel behind as well.

Harry hit the end of the tunnel with a grunt, his shoulder and head running into something terribly solid.

"Oh. We're here."

"Not helpful, Malfoy."

Draco pushed himself in front of Harry, the warmth between their touching bodies seeming out of place and obscene under the circumstances. Somehow Draco opened a door and Harry found the dim morning light burning his eyes. Draco was pulling him out of the tunnel by an arm, Harry missed a step and tripped, sprawling in the dirt and tree roots. He thought he heard Draco sigh, but he could have imagined it. He turned, still lying on the ground, to see Draco waving at a tree. He saw the lines of the door disappear and weave itself back into the tree bark. Harry scrambled to his feet and peered around the other side of the tree. It was just a regular massive old tree. There was no sign a tunnel could be anywhere near here. He looked up, barely seeing the points of the castle towers above the tops of the ancient trees. "How..?"

Draco was grabbing his hand again. "Harry, your reverence for magic is quite charming, but now is not the time."

Harry shook himself. Draco was right. That didn't matter now. The people from the Ministry had been right behind them. Draco had smudges of dirt on his face and his once pristine shirt collar. His blond hair was plastered to his forehead with sweat. He laughed suddenly, a wild thing escaping his tight chest. On the run, a criminal, with Draco Malfoy. He looked at their clasped hands and laughed harder. Draco shot him a strange look and he tried to get a hold of himself. He was still chuckling as he followed Draco deeper into the misty woods, the golden sun rising up before them.

Chapter Text

The sun was coming up, spraying dappled golden light through the forest. A fine misty fog wound around the bottoms of the trees and swirled around their feet.

Draco hated the Forbidden Forest. He had hated it since he was a child and his father told him tales of the things that lived in there before he left for his first year at Hogwarts. He especially hated it after that time he had detention with Harry first year and had seen.. him. It had given him nightmares for weeks. How fitting it was that his most recent nightmares were the same.

He glanced at Harry hurrying along beside him. He wished he could say he knew what he was doing. Harry seemed to have a confidence in him and that he himself found baffling. Harry looked up at him then, his glasses catching the early morning light. The Boy Who Lived grinned at him. Draco could hardly believe it; Harry was actually enjoying himself.

"Your reputation precedes you, Potter," he allowed himself a small smile.

"What do you mean?" Harry was picking his way carefully around a large fern.

"You do have a certain penchant for danger, don't you?"

"I do not. It just, you know, happens," he shrugged. "And you make the best of it, live through it."

"Live through it, indeed." Draco had felt the same about his own trouble and, well, danger. Sometimes it's all you can do. "I can feel it from you, Harry. You're having a good time."

"Well, it is quite exciting, isn't it? We might both end up in Azkaban." Harry favored him with a wild grin. It made his chest hurt, but he wasn't sure why.

The ground between the trees was covered in giant ferns now, coming up to Draco's waist and above. He put out a hand, letting his fingers run over the smooth leaves. Draco found himself grinning back, Harry's feeling was catching. "We'd give the dementors quite a challenge, wouldn't we?"

Harry laughed, in a normal way, and Draco felt a rush of happiness steal through his chest. He wanted to kiss him suddenly, hold him and never let go. The thought of running together for the rest of their natural lives seemed more and more appealing.

"Harry.."

"We need to run again?"

"No, I.." His words suddenly left him.

"I know, Draco."

"What do you know," he didn't mean to sound so annoyed, but it was annoying.

"When I said I was with you," Harry started, smiling at him in a sheepish sort of way, "I mean I'm with you."

Draco lifted his head sharply, needing to know how serious Harry was. He knew what he was feeling, but he couldn't escape the fact that they should probably talk about what had happened last night. Harry was still grinning when he stumbled and fell, disappearing beneath the fern canopy with a gasp.

Suddenly there was a deep rhythmic thundering, as if an earthquake had footsteps. Then Draco was being lifted into the air by the back of his jacket.

"Harry!" he squawked.

A booming voice came from directly behind him. "I've got 'im, Professor! Over here!"

Harry popped up out of the ferns, the look on his face almost comical. "Hagrid!"

Draco swung slightly from Hagrid's massive fist, hunching his shoulders. How terribly embarrassing if this was the way he was caught.

"Harry! What're you doing here? With him?" He held Draco as arms' length as if he was a rodent he had just found in his kitchen. Draco scowled and flexed his fingers.

Harry was rushing forward, leaping through the tall ferns. "Hagrid, put him down! We're- we're together."

"You? And Malfoy?"

Draco was lowered to the ground, not necessarily gently. He hit the ground with a grunt, running a hand through his hair. He would need a new jacket before this was over. He straightened his collar and sleeves irritably.

"I mean, I heard rumors Harry, but," Hagrid chuckled, "There's always rumors. So it's not true, then?"

"No, it's true, we're together," Harry was stepping between him and Hagrid, reaching for his hand, but the danger seemed to be passing. The great oaf was having a conversation with Harry like they were out for a pleasant morning stroll in the Forbidden Forest.

"Not that, I meant the curse. It can't be true if you're helping Malfoy."

"It's ah, well," Harry said as he rubbed the back of his head with one hand, "it's complicated, Hagrid. He doesn't deserve to go to Azkaban. We're trying to leave the grounds, can you help us?"

Hagrid scratched his great beard, apparently thinking it over. "I'm not sure about him," he inclined his head Draco's way, "but for you, Harry, anything. So if you're sure-"

"I've never been more sure, Hagrid," Harry said quickly.

The three of them turned, the noise of people coming crashing through the forest, voices raised, reaching their ears.

Hagrid grunted. "Right then, keep going thatta way, you'll get to the clearin'. You can apparate from there." And with a meaningful nod at Harry, Hagrid trundled off in the direction of their pursuers.

"Hagrid," Draco called, both of them turning to look at him in surprise. The fact was that he was just as surprised as they were that any sound had come out of his mouth. Draco swallowed, hoping his voice would work. "Thank you."

Hagrid's face was hard as he called back, "Yeh jus' take care of 'im, you hear?"

Draco nodded solemnly, looking at Harry. Harry ran a hand through his messy hair, watching Hagrid's back recede into the trees. Draco stepped closer to him, pulling a few leaves out of his hair. Harry's cheeks turned a nice shade of pink.

"Who are you, Draco Malfoy?" Harry asked with a half-smile.

Draco touched Harry's jaw lightly with his fingertips, not knowing how to answer. They heard Hagrid's voice above the din of the forest, shouting something about Malfoy getting away. Draco grabbed Harry's hand and pulled him into a run.

"Draco, there's something you should know," Harry said next to him, sounding winded.

"What? Harry Potter can't apparate?" He had meant it as a joke, thinking he was misreading Harry. Draco slowed as Harry's uneasiness crept into him.

"You could make a corporeal patronus by third year, but you can't apparate?" In another life, he would've made fun of him terribly for not knowing something so simple as apparation before the end of school. Harry Potter, who had mastered advanced magic before most students had even considered it a possibility. It was unbelievable. His only plan had been based around the assumption that Harry could do it. Why wouldn't he know how by now?

Harry scowled at him for a second before turning his attention back to dodging tree roots and large plants. The trees were getting denser and running flat out was pretty much out of the question. "This is the first year I'm able to take the test, Malfoy. How do you know it already? You just turned seventeen, too."

"A month before you."

"Yes, I know."

"Death Eater trials, remember?" He said, only a little sourly. He didn't look; he knew that Harry's green eyes would hold some sort of pity for him. None came.

"Do you do the freaky thing with all the smoke?"

He smirked at Harry's sense of humor.

Then he saw it. Out of the corner of his eye, a blast from a spell hurtling towards them. He turned, tackling Harry to the ground, both of them hitting the hard earth with a grunt.

"What-!" Harry was about to be angry with him until the stunning spell hit a tree near the spot their heads had been a moment before. Harry's brilliant green eyes widened in surprise and understanding. "They're firing at us!"

"Harry, you sound so surprised. We're officially criminals."

Draco lay on top of Harry, in the dirt. The warmth resonated within him and he tried hard to push down his desire, his need. Worse yet, he could feel Harry feeling it, too. He groaned, mustering all of his willpower to push himself to his feet, helping Harry up along the way. He wished Harry would stop looking at him like that, it made it so hard to think.

"Draco Malfoy! Halt! In the name of the Ministry!" a female voice shouted.

"Time to go," Harry said with a grin.

Draco nodded curtly, flexing his fingers. Harry must've seen him do it, or felt him, or maybe he was only responding to the apparent danger, because he had his wand out.

"Defensive spells only, Potter," he growled. Things were bad, but they always had the potential to get worse. He wasn't sure Harry wasn't a loose cannon in a fight and he really didn't want to find out now.

"I'm not going to do anything," Harry growled back.

They ran as fast as they could through the thick plants, climbing over a downed tree, and speeding around rocky outcroppings. Then, they were there.

The trees stopped suddenly, giving way to long grass, a few ferns, flowers. The clearing was small, not nearly big enough for a large group of people. Draco felt it almost instantly; it was as if a tether had been removed. He suddenly felt very able to do whatever he needed to, magically speaking. He looked at Harry and could tell Harry had felt it, too.

"What is this place?" Harry whispered reverently.

"A loophole. A place made for an emergency apparation."
"How did Hagrid know about it? How did you?"

"There are more important things at hand, Harry." Draco's keen eyes darted around, seeing shadowy figures surrounding them in the trees.

"I see them," Harry said under his breath, his wand half-raised.

"If you cast anything-"

"Draco-"

"Cast a shield charm, the stronger the better."

There was a sound of a branch snapping behind them. They whirled. Professor McGonagall was entering the clearing, her hands raised.

"Boys," she said softly, as if she were addressing two wild animals instead of students. "Put your wands down and come along quietly."

More twig snapping and brush scraping could be heard all around them. The Ministry people were closing in. Draco whirled, putting his back to Harry's. She was his boyfriend's head of house, let him deal with her. He could keep eyes on the others. He hoped.

"We can't do that, Professor. This isn't right."

Draco couldn't see her, but he was betting she was nodding and walking slowly closer. "Potter, remember-" he said in Harry's ear.

"I know, Mister Potter, I'll see that you both are treated fairly. It's only an initial investigation, and if there's no wrongdoing-"

Harry laughed suddenly, a short mocking burst echoing off the tree trunks.

"Potter," Draco growled warningly, watching a middle-aged witch step into the clearing. "If they get too close, they can follow. Do it now!"

"What?"

Draco scowled and exhaled angrily. He thought the Golden Boy would be more help. He held two fingers together, leveled them at the approaching witch. "Ventus Tria!" he shouted, feeling the cold wind forming in the tips of his fingers. It shot out, blowing the witch out of the clearing with a strangled shout. He whirled around, blowing the other Ministry Officials away from the clearing. He heard them falling away with a crash into the underbrush.

He turned his head. McGonagall was almost to Harry, her hands still splayed in front of her, Harry however, was watching Draco with a dumbfounded look on his face. It would have been cute, had the circumstances been different.
"Sorry, Professor," he muttered as he turned the wind jinx on his Transfigurations teacher and blew her away. Harry was looking at him with a mixture of wonder and disgust.

"Harry, cast the shield around the clearing so we can apparate."

"But I told you, I can't-"
"I'll do it for the both of us! You'll have to trust me."

Harry had a snide smirk on his face. "So are you asking now, or..?"

Draco sighed with frustration. "Yes, Potter, I'm asking you to trust me. Please."

Harry grinned. Then he shouted, "Protego Maxima!", spinning with his wand in a circle. Things were suddenly quieter inside the clearing.

Draco closed his eyes, centering himself, concentrating.

"You can do it, right? Apparate both of us?" Harry's voice interrupted his thoughts.

He opened one eye. "Of course. If I can concentrate, Potter." He hoped. He had never apparated further than one side of the Manor grounds to the other, and never before with someone. He felt a stab of anxiety but forced it away. He could feel anxious later. Right now Harry was depending on him.

"You've never apparated with someone before? When were you going to tell me?"

He had forgotten to put the wall up. "It's not like we have much choice now, do we?" he growled.

There was a muffled bang from somewhere on their left. They turned. Draco saw a young man with dirt smudged on his face and a smart hat askew on his head. He was looking quite angry, trying to break Harry's shield charm. It was holding. So far.

"Harry," Draco called. But Harry was already next to him, winding his arms inside his jacket and clasping around his middle. Warmth flooded him, the familiar buzzing going straight to his head, making him almost forget what they were doing, surrounded by Ministry Officials, in the middle of the Forbidden Forest.

"Don't leave any of me behind," Harry said, a smile in his voice.

"Don't worry, I like every piece of you too much to leave any behind."
"Good. You better do it now."

Harry was right, the Officials were throwing spells at Harry's shield and it was starting to crack. Draco closed his eyes and tried to think of somewhere safe. Somewhere he had been before, many times preferably, since he was apparating two people. Not just two people, but himself and the person who meant the most to him. If anything happened to him..well, he couldn't think that way. Not right now.

The shield started to crack in front of Professor McGonagall. Her hair fell around her face and she had leaves and twigs stuck in it. Draco had never seen her look so angry.

Harry's arms tightened comfortably around him. "I know you can do it, Draco," Harry said into his shoulder. "I've seen you do amazing things. Get us out of here."

"Harry, I-"

"I know. Me too."

Draco breathed a contented sigh. The shield shattered. He heard voices shouting, spells being cast. He squeezed his eyes shut, gripped Harry tightly, and apparated.

Chapter Text

Harry closed his eyes and held onto Draco as tightly as he could. A deafening crack entered his ears and he felt his world turn upside down. Or round and round. He couldn't be sure, but he was definitely moving faster than he ever had before. It felt like his blood would burst in his veins, like his eyeballs would simply pop in their sockets and be done with it. His head started to hurt, immense pressure all over his body, like - his mind flickered back to the dream where he was in the deep green waters of the Black Lake - drowning.

Then, as suddenly as it began, it was over. His feet hit solid ground, shoes crunching on gravel, Draco's arms still tight around him. Harry stepped back, feeling suddenly sick to his stomach, his mind reeling to catch up. He took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes. He bent over with his hands on his knees, gulping air, waiting for it to pass.

"It'll pass, Harry." Draco's hand was on his back, but instead of being reassuring, his voice was strained and tight.

Harry cleared his throat and spat on the ground. He got a bad feeling. "Where are we, Draco?"

Draco didn't answer.

He put his glasses back on, pushing them into place. A great white building loomed before them topped with dark spires that pierced the overcast sky. Almost like a castle but smaller, ancient but well-kept. There were many windows, almost too many to make sense, all of them dark despite the early morning hour. Ornate gardens with high hedges flanked the gravel path they were standing on. Harry looked at it all from behind a menacing wrought iron gate. He had seen this place many times, but only in his dreams.

They were standing at the gates of Malfoy Manor.

Harry stepped forward, his fingers curling around the bars. It felt too familiar in a wrong sort of way and he stepped back, as if the cold iron was hot to the touch.

"What are we doing here?" He tried to keep his voice even as he turned to face his boyfriend. It wasn't that he was angry, not exactly. More like confused. "I thought you were going to take us somewhere safe."

"Harry, I-" Draco paced, swiping his blond hair to the side with a hand. "I didn't mean to."

Harry frowned. Draco's grey eyes were concerned and Harry could tell he was feeling almost panicked. He had trusted Draco so far, he would have to trust him some more. "I know."

Draco was still pacing in front of the gate. "I had to think of somewhere I knew, somewhere familiar, somewhere the Ministry couldn't follow."

"I know," he said again.

"It was far, Harry." There was a different look in Draco's eyes now, something Harry couldn't place. Amazement? Surprise? "Are you sure you're all here?" Draco started patting him down, as if checking for missing body parts.

"I'm fine, I feel good," Harry laughed. Except.. He reached in his back pocket and found it empty. "My wand," he said. "It's gone."

"Oh, that's nothing," Draco said with a wave of his hand.

"It's definitely not nothing. You brought me here and we're going to have to face your father, Death Eaters, Voldemort probably, without my wand?"

"It would've been taken from you the minute you crossed the threshold anyway, Harry, maybe even sooner. Not even I can stop that."

"But-"

"Tell me you've never done wandless magic before, Potter."

Harry thought about before he received his Hogwarts Letter. There was the time that he meant to jump behind some garbage cans and ended up on the roof. There was the time that he let a snake escape from the zoo. Those sorts of things.

He looked up and Draco was smirking at him, as if he already knew the answer. "Yes, I have," Harry said anyway.

"Then with my instruction, you'll be fine. Maybe even as good as me." He was still smirking but Draco's eyes were dark and worried, Harry could see the muscles in his jaw tensing and releasing, over and over. He reached up, running his fingers along it, down his neck and back up again. "I don't need to know what side you're on," Harry started softly, "as long as I know you'll be on mine."

Draco's silver eyes pierced his own, searching for truth, maybe. Draco sighed, and Harry felt a rush of relief pass over him like a wave. Draco leaned forward, pressing his forehead to Harry's.

"Yours is the only side I ever wanted to be on," he whispered.

Harry took Draco's face in both hands, stood on his tiptoes, and kissed him. Draco responded in kind, pulling Harry close, arms around his waist, deepening the kiss. Harry felt a tingling starting in the pit of his stomach, then he remembered where they were. The tingling feeling started to sink, warmth turning cold.

There was a sudden crack. Not like the loud thunderclap that Harry heard when they left the forbidden forest, more like a pop. An emaciated house elf stood before them looking quite annoyed. He was brown and wrinkly, his big eyes creased and covered by heavy lids.

"Master Malfoy," he drawled, in an impossibly deep voice. He bowed so low to the ground Harry thought he would hit his head for sure.

Draco nodded his head only once. "Maundib."

"Your presence is requested, sir." He motioned towards the mansion.

"Of course. By whom?"

The elf bowed his head low again as he answered, "Severus Snape."

Harry looked to Draco, but once again, his face was showing no emotion, no reaction. "What's Snape doing here?" he blurted.

The elf glared at Harry as if he was an insolent child who dared to talk out of turn. Harry recoiled from his wrinkly ugly face and he suddenly missed Dobby very much.

Draco nodded to the elf again. "You may bring us." His voice was cold and callous, making Harry wonder just how much Draco had changed. Or was it just this place that brought it out of him?

The elf raised an eyebrow and looked disdainfully at Harry, as if Draco was wanting to bring the trash in for dinner. Harry did his best to glare back. "If you're certain, Master Malfoy."

"I am," Draco stood taller, looking down his nose at the elf, "He is under my protection, Maundib."

The elf bowed low again, "There is only one invokable protection here at the manor, sir."

"I'm aware, Maundib," Draco growled, "It is as I say. Or should we involve my father?"

Maundib winced. "No, sir. That won't be necessary, sir."

Draco straightened his jacket, pulled at his shirtsleeves. He seemed to be getting ready for something so Harry did too. He pushed up his glasses and tried to flatten his hair. "What's the invokable protection?" He whispered.

Draco gave him half a smirk, but turned to the elf. "We're ready."

Maundib sighed and placed one hand gingerly on the edge of Draco's jacket. With the other he (reproachfully) placed on the bottom of Harry's hoodie. There was that popping sound, followed by a sickening feeling of falling and spinning again and they were suddenly inside the manor. Harry stumbled this time but took a deep breath and swallowed hard to get the bile to leave his throat.

Harry looked around, hoping the room would soon stop spinning. The irritable house elf was gone, and they were standing in a huge foyer. There were huge wooden doors behind them, almost as large as the doors to Hogwarts. Massive marble pillars flanked the entryway, leading to the double set of stairs that wound their way up to the second level. Harry remembered it well from the dreams, but it was much darker than it had been before. The white marble seemed older, dingier, only a fraction of the opulence it once was. He took a few steps towards the staircase, expecting to see the elaborately carved banister, but it was smooth and plain. He turned, realizing that Draco was watching him.

"You grew up here," Harry said. He knew it for a fact, but it felt strange. What must it have been like to be a child there?

"I did," Draco said. "It was lonely."

"What happened to the banister?"

Draco started as if Harry had something more serious. "How do you know about that?"

"A dream. You were a child, running from a nursemaid, and the banister was so intricately carved-"

"My father has recently made a series of decisions that have left the manor..less than it was."

Harry glanced around. It was dark inside, darker than it should have been, even for an overcast morning. It was quiet, too quiet. A mansion this size, Harry could only assume, meant lots of people, or at the very least, lots of servants.

"Where is everyone? Don't you have.." Harry waved his hand in the air as if searching for the word. He was uncomfortable saying it. It seemed a ludicrous notion, to have people who waited on you. It was Draco's normal.

"Servants?" He said, with a raised eyebrow.

Harry sighed with relief. "Yes."

"My father sent them away a few years ago," he said, looking into Harry's eyes. He got the impression Draco was trying to tell him something without having to actually say it. He wished he would just say it.

"Fine," Draco said, exasperated. He lowered his voice and pulled Harry closer. "When the Dark Lord returned, he insisted on a base of operations. Somewhere central, large enough to house many people, owned by someone with unquestionable loyalties."

Harry felt his mouth go dry. "Your house."

"My father let him in and everything changed."

"You said I didn't know how bad it was here."

"Yes, and now you do."

Harry jumped as a door slammed open somewhere to their right. The sound echoed in the vast space that was the Malfoy's foyer.

"Mister Malfoy," Harry heard Snape's voice before he saw him. He came around the corner and stopped short, his eyes landing on Harry.

Harry gave him a short wave. Draco gave Harry an elbow to the ribs.

"What is he-? In the library, if you please, both of you." Snape's voice was clipped and quiet.

"This is bad, isn't it?"

Draco glowered at him. "Of course, it's bad, Potter. Stop acting like that."

"What? Will I embarrass you? Am I the first boy you've brought home?"

Draco's glower slowly melted into a smirk. "Of course you are. You're also the only person who can bring my family's legacy crumbling to its knees."

"I don't think I'm the only one," Harry muttered.

Snape looked like the definition of poorly contained anger as they entered the library. Snape's demeanor was nothing new to Harry, but the library at Malfoy Manor was. The ceilings were impossibly high, covered in books from the top to bottom. Snape was behind a massive desk, mixing vials of some kind of liquid. Crackling fireplaces stood at both ends of the long room. Harry imagined Draco coming here to read on a rainy evening, the wind hitting the panes as he turned the pages without touching them.

"Professor," Draco said smartly, inclining his head towards his head of house. Not for the first time, Harry wondered about the nature of their relationship outside of school.

"Is it the holidays already?" Snape's voice dripped with sarcasm.

"There was a complication."

Snape raised an eyebrow. "So I heard. With the Ministry, no less. This type of behavior I expect of ..him," he favored Harry with a greasy glare, "but not of you, Mister Malfoy. You're..dare I say..smarter than that."

Harry crossed his arms.

"It was out of my control."

Snape acted like he hadn't heard Draco. "My ability to protect you is..compromised..in this place. And Potter.."

Harry watched Draco for a reaction, some indication of the real trouble they were facing. But Draco only seemed to stand a little taller. Harry reached in his back pocket, forgetting his wand wouldn't be there.

"I will be fine. I've invoked protection for Harry."

"I'm standing right here, you know." Harry was tired of being ignored. "What's the protection?"

But Snape only looked to Draco. "You know what this means, Mister Malfoy?"

"Of course." But Draco didn't seem half as sure as he sounded. Harry could see his fingers twitching. Was he..nervous?

Snape's eyes narrowed. "Does Potter?"

"Do I what?" he asked.

"How is my mother?"

Snape stopped his potion mixing and looked up. "She's stable. For now."

"And my father.."

"Is not here." The potions master regarded Harry with a glare once more. "Regrettably."

"Yes, regrettably," Draco muttered.

"What don't I know?" Harry snapped, tired of being ignored.

They both turned to look at him now. Finally. Draco glanced at Snape and back to Harry.

"What?" he said again.

Draco sighed, his mouth forming a tight line, fingers flicking. "I told you I would do everything to protect you, Harry."

"Yes, and?"

Snape cleared his throat and snatched up a small vial of dark liquid. "I have to bring to this to your mother. Come up when you are ready." He eyed Harry one last time -was it Harry's imagination, or was it different than before?- and added, "Both of you."

The door shut with a sigh and a click.

Harry turned to Draco. "What's going on?"

Draco looked like the cat who ate the canary. "There's only one protection a Malfoy can offer a certain kind of guest, under certain conditions. It's a necessity in our..line of work. It makes you untouchable, Harry."

"But you're still not telling me what it is." Harry had a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach.

"Harry," Draco said softly, taking his hand. Harry felt the wall come down, Draco's stormy eyes were warm, open, and loving. He watched as Draco dropped gracefully to one knee, looking up at him with his genuine smile, the one that made Harry's chest ache so wonderfully. His breath caught in his throat.

"No," he whispered.

"I haven't even asked yet, Potter."

"This isn't happening," Harry whispered.

"It's already happened, actually."

"When?" Harry felt breathless, dizzy.

"The second I invoked the protection."

"Is that why the elf hates me?"

"Only partially. Do you often forget that everyone knows who you are?"

"Fairly often," Harry said honestly. "So do I not get a say in this, if it's already happened?"

Draco cleared his throat. "You get a say. I wanted to do this right, but I had no idea what to expect on our arrival. I had no idea who would be here." Draco let the silence stretch to punctuate his statement. Harry knew who he meant. "If you say no, I swear I will still do everything I can to protect you. If you say yes, you can't be touched."

"I can't be touched by a Malfoy, you mean." Draco's father and the other Death Eaters were only one part of the equation.

"No, you can't be harmed by anyone as long as you're in the manor. In fact," Draco smirked, "All Malfoys would be compelled to protect you. The engagement means you're soon to become part of the family. Family is all."

"Anyone?" Harry asked weakly, his throat dry.

Draco's face was solemn, his grey eyes hard. "Anyone."

Harry could only stare at Draco and blink. The warmth was seeping up through his fingers where Draco was holding them. Harry swallowed hard. A weight had settled into his chest, making it hard to breathe. Part of him wanted to shout yes and take Draco to the nearest bedroom. A pretty large part, if he was honest. The other part of him felt trapped. If he said no, he couldn't say what would happen, only that it wouldn't be good. If he went back to school, the Ministry would be there. If he stayed, he'd have to face Voldemort. With absolute protection, with Draco on his side. There may never be a better deal than that.

"Is it another binding?" Harry asked softly.

"Only a minor one. I meant everything I said, Harry. Since the beginning. Our time together," he looked away, a pink tint coming into his pale cheeks, "has been better than I thought it could be. I do love you, but if you're at all uncertain, I understand. We can break it later, once the danger has passed. This is all I have to offer you." Draco's smile was less sure than before, but still there. "Harry Potter, will you marry me?"

Harry looked into his stormy eyes, thinking about all they had been through together, thinking about the future. He could feel Draco's raw honesty burning through the boy on one knee in front of him, he could feel the vulnerability, the openness from someone who, until very recently, was very closed. He wanted it forever.

"Yes," he whispered, amazed any sound could come out of his tight throat.

Draco was grinning. It looked out of place on his handsome face, but so right at the same time. Harry couldn't remember if he'd ever seen Malfoy actually, genuinely happy. Harry pulled him to his feet, grinning back. "But only because you're so insufferably charming."

"Don't forget handsome," Draco said softly. His cool long fingers traced Harry's jaw, lifting his chin. Harry's hands went to Draco's face.

"Don't push it, Malfoy," Harry whispered as they kissed. He could feel Draco's lips turn into a smirk against his own. It only made him kiss him harder, the heady buzzing taking him over. Draco's tongue was in his mouth, his hands were in his hair, gripping tightly, sending chills through him.

He felt the air around his left hand cool considerably. He broke the kiss and looked down, seeing a simple silver ring suddenly around his third finger.

"This is.." he started, his mouth dry.

"It's official," Draco said softly. "Were you expecting a diamond, Potter?"

Harry looked to Draco's hand and there it was, an identical silver ring.

Harry scoffed. "No, I just thought- Your tastes run a little-" he couldn't find the words.

"I thought this was more your style. Besides, it's only a placeholder, temporary. Either way-"

"It's perfect."

Draco smiled and took his hand. Harry's chest felt like it would burst. The circumstances weren't ideal, but Draco's intentions and feelings were clear enough. He was..happy. He was loved. He was sure he could make the best patronus there ever was if he needed to.

"I'm glad you're pleased," Draco said low in his ear, pulling him close.

Draco was leading him by the hand, up the great and winding staircase to the manor's second floor. The bliss Harry felt just a moment ago was replaced with a terrible amount of anxiety. The surroundings didn't much help. Despite the impossible number of windows, little light was coming in. Dark heavy drapes covered most of the walls and where the drapes weren't, the once immaculate white stone was now dirty and gray. A carpet muffled their footsteps, almost run through with age. Harry knew from his dreams that it used to be a deep red, like blood, but now it was the color of rust. Harry had the sudden urge to see Draco's room, the rest of his childhood home, to learn about Draco's life but the reality and gravity of the situation came crashing back to him.

They were going to visit his mother. Narcissa Malfoy, who had died in a dream. A dream the Dark Lord made and manipulated to try and get Draco on his side, to take the mark. Harry wondered if she would look the same as when he saw her in his dream. He had been fairly certain that it was just a regular dream and not a magical one, but how could he tell, really? All of this while they waited for Lucius, waited for Voldemort. Harry didn't know what would happen then. He kept moving his feet along the threadbare rug, one step at a time, right behind Draco.

"It will be fine, Harry," the taller boy said over his shoulder.

Harry couldn't help but scoff. "You're not sure either."

"No," he admitted, "but you'll be alright. You're always alright." He turned, giving Harry a sad smile. Harry wasn't sure if that was meant to be reassuring.

Harry had always been alright, somehow. It wasn't lost on him that he always managed to thwart imminent danger by the skin of his teeth. He wondered, not for the first time, if it wasn't all prearranged somehow, prophecy or no prophecy. Did wizards believe in God? It had never occurred to him to ask.

Draco stopped at a massive door, the wood intricately carved and inlaid with gold. The Malfoy Master Suite. Harry could feel Draco's hesitance. "I'm with you," Harry reminded him, placing a hand on his back.

Draco gave him a small smile. "Haven't you wondered, Harry, what would've happened if you, or me, if either of us, had died in a dream?"

Harry could only nod, thinking of walking with Draco's mother in the gardens he had never seen, thinking of the confrontation with Voldemort in the dungeons. He looked at his feet, as if he might be able to see through the floors to the actual spot where it took place. But that was only a dream. Wasn't it? He felt suddenly the need to tell Draco about the dream about his mum, but he was already waving open the door.

The heavy ornate door opened slowly with a whine. Harry followed him through. The room was decorated much like the rest of the mansion: dark. A woman lay in the middle of an overlarge bed, her arms crossed over her chest, four elaborately carved wooden posters flanking it, dark drapes pulled back in between. Harry had always thought Draco resembled his father, but he saw now that it wasn't true at all. His mother had the same pointed nose and chin, high cheekbones, skin far too fair to survive a summer out of doors. She looked older than Harry thought she might, older than his own mother would be, had she still lived. Her long blonde hair was streaked with silver, making her look dignified and wise. She looked the same as in his dream. How could he have seen her in a dream without ever meeting her? He felt a chill crawl up the back of his neck, even though the room was warm.

Harry wondered what sort of woman she was, to be married to Lucius Malfoy, to let these things happen to her son. He felt anger welling up within him, and then, Draco's hand on his shoulder. He glanced at the ring on Draco's long finger and realized what had been promised. She would be his mother, also. Should she survive. Should they all survive.

The anger was quickly replaced with the need to laugh. He knew it was a problem. It was happening more frequently, a 'simple reaction to stress' is what Hermione had said, when the laughing fits first started. That's what he told himself now, suppressing it as best he could.

Snape emerged from a side room, still holding the vial he had put together downstairs. It was steaming now. "What are you grinning about, Potter?" The potions master's voice held only malice.

Harry faked a cough, trying to wipe the crazy grin from his face. He loved Draco, now more than ever, but he wondered absently what he had gotten himself into.

Chapter Text

Draco waved the curtains open with a flick of his hand. Even though it was an overcast day, the room lightened considerably. He knew his mother would be horrified if she knew she was lying in the dark all this time. If his head of house was surprised by his use of wandless magic, he didn't show it. The massive fireplace at the end of the room was roaring, making the room stuffy and too warm.

The greasy potions master made a point of looking to Harry, back to him, and raising his eyebrows. Draco gave him a curt nod. Not that his romantic affairs were any of his business, but he supposed his head of house would like to know Potter would be protected during their stay. He didn't know how long they'd be there, he hadn't thought far ahead, honestly. He'd like to leave as soon as possible, as soon as the whole fiasco with the Ministry was solved. To do that however, he was afraid he needed his father. Being home gave him a weird feeling, as though he didn't really belong anymore. It made him wonder if he ever did.

He crossed the room and sat on the edge of the bed. He took his mother's hand in both of his, surprised at how cold it was despite the heat of the room. Draco ran a finger along his mother's wedding rings, wondering how he'd never noticed such a thing before. Hers were gold filigree, intricate and delicate, with small stones inlaid at regular intervals. He wondered if her and his father had felt like he had just a few moments ago; full of love, needing nothing but the other person standing in front of you, feeling the weight of the future and looking forward to it instead of fearing it. He glanced up and saw Harry watching him.

"She's asked for you," Snape's drawling voice broke through his thoughts.

"I was told she was unresponsive."
"There was only so much your father was willing to put into a letter."

"But it was meant to get me here, wasn't it?"

"Yes, but even your father still cares for you, Mister Malfoy."

Draco felt his eyes start to sting. His father was..what? Following orders, but only so much? He would often say he was doing what he did to protect Draco, to build a future for him. Draco had never believed it, however. What had happened to them? He tried to remember a time when things were normal, when his family had been happy. He thought he remembered a time at Christmas, when he was very small. He had been ripping open packages, his mother and father smiling on him. Was it a real memory? A dream? Or something he just conjured?

"What has been done?" He was glad his voice was steady.

Snape sighed. "I have done everything in my power. I'm afraid this is a bit..beyond my abilities."

"So bring in someone else."

"There is no one else."

"Get someone else!" He snapped.

He felt Harry's presence behind him, an incredibly warm hand on his shoulder. The warmth was instant, soothing his frustrations. Fighting with Snape wouldn't solve anything. The warmth. There was someone else.

He looked up, finding Harry's green eyes shining behind his glasses.

"Harry," he said softly, suddenly embarrassed by his outburst. "Go to the other side of the bed."

Harry looked hurt at first, then the understanding blossomed in his face. He never got sick of watching Harry's emotions cross his face. It was quite remarkable. And adorable.

Harry crossed the room, sitting on the opposite side of the bed. Draco glanced to Snape. He had busied himself at the sideboard, the clinking of various vials and containers reaching his ears.

Harry looked unsure as he sat down. Draco nodded his encouragement and Harry gingerly reached for his mother's other hand.

Draco gasped as he felt it, both warm and cold like when he had touched Hermione's hand, like when Harry had healed him with a touch. He felt the flow of magic, cold as it left his fingers, and the warmth from Harry, warming them and then cool again in a strange cycle. He looked to Harry, who was looking astounded and fearful all at once. Draco felt the air around him cool, a wind coming from nowhere and everywhere, circling the three of them, blowing hot then cold, then hot. The drapes around the giant four poster bed flapped wildly, the glass in the window panes started to rattle. He closed his eyes as the wind grew stronger. He thought he heard Snape's voice, but it was carried away by the wind.

Then it stopped.

All was silent.

He opened his eyes. His mother still lay in the bed, unmoved, unchanged. He breathed a sigh. He thought it would work. All the pieces were there, the shared magic, the conductivity, the healing, but for some reason it didn't work.

He felt a heavy hand land on his shoulder. Snape was there, a strange expression on his face. "You're sharing magic," he said softly, almost reverently. "With him."

Draco followed Snape's gaze to Harry, who sat there looking like he had just dropped in out of the sky and was trying to figure out what was going on.

"Yes," Draco said, his voice just above a whisper. He felt awfully tired all of a sudden. Drained.

"Why was I not made aware of this..development?"

"What does it matter?" Draco said dejectedly.

"Potter shares magic with him."

"I'm sitting right here, you know."

Draco could feel Harry's annoyance surrounding him like a blanket. Combined with the renewed stuffiness of the room and his failure to save his mother, it was overwhelming. It was hard to think. He got to his feet, shrugging out of his torn and dirty jacket. On to the next thing, he supposed.

"Did you cast it, Severus?" Draco didn't even look up as he addressed his professor by his first name. He was rolling up his sleeves, knowing full well that the challenges were only just beginning.

"Did I cast what, Mister Malfoy?"

Draco ignored the challenge in his voice. He was tired of being led along by a string. "The binding. To protect..us."

Harry's eyes were wide, glancing from him to the potions master, waiting for Snape's answer. Snape turned away from them, towards the fireplace. For a second Draco thought he might try to run. That his professor, his head of house, his supposed handler and retainer would turn tail and disappear into the floo network.

"You need to finish your own protection spell, Mister Malfoy. Potter is too important for his safety to be left to..you alone."

"What do you mean?" Harry was asking. "What does he mean? I thought it was official." Harry raised his left hand as if Draco didn't already know what he was talking about.

Draco finished rolling his sleeves to the elbow, feeling annoyed that there was so much dirt on his shirtfront. He rubbed at it absently. "It is official. To become a part of the family, however, someone else needs to confirm the engagement."

He watched Harry's brilliant eyes flick to Snape and back to him.

"Someone in the family," Draco clarified.

Harry's mouth fell open. "But- When-"

"I thought if we could wake my mother, heal her, she would speak for you, Harry."

Harry seemed to hesitate. "She doesn't even know me."

"She knows me."

Harry looked like he wanted to say something else, but he glanced at Snape and closed his mouth.

Draco suddenly needed a drink. He walked to the sideboard, touching Harry's back as he passed, earning himself a smile from the Boy Who Lived, enough to make his heart soar for a few seconds, and poured himself a double scotch. His father's favorite, not his own, but it would do just fine to calm his nerves. He watched his potions professor over the top of the glass. Snapes stoic face gave away nothing. Another side effect of their line of work, he supposed.

He sighed. Nothing was going how he thought it would. So much for carefully laid plans. "You don't need to tell me, Severus. I do think, however, that if you did cast it, it would be wise of you to leave. Now."

"I do not answer to you, Draco," he replied, putting emphasis on Draco's name.

Draco scoffed, stepped closer, made his voice quieter. "If my father knows, even if he's the one who ordered it, he will kill you. Now that Harry is here, the binding doesn't matter. He can end it all with one spell."

Snape glared at him, at Harry, and back at him. "I suppose." In one quick motion he unbuttoned his sleeve and shook it up, revealing his forearm. The dark mark there was red and pulsing. "But I do not answer to you, Mister Malfoy." His tone was different than before. There may have been regret lacing his words.

Draco downed the scotch in a quick gulp and grabbed Harry by the hand.

"What does that mean?" Harry asked angrily. Draco didn't have time to feel or entertain his hostility and frustration. He was coming. He had summoned Snape here, which meant his father would be there soon. Meaning the dark lord himself was not far behind.

"He's coming here, Harry. Without the full engagement we can't stay, we have to-"

And then he heard it. Multiple cracks sounded from the lower level of the manor. The air was filled with whip-like cracks and thunderclaps, but only for a few seconds.

They were out of time. They were here.

Harry heard the cracks and knew what it meant. He felt Draco's anxiety skyrocket and knew it was worse than he thought. Way worse. Snape rushed to Draco, laying a hand on his shoulder, saying something in his ear. What was worse than way worse? Incredibly horrible?

Draco looked to him, his grey eyes wide and panicked, his body straight and stiff. Snape gave Harry a weird nod, while turning to leave the room. "Be careful, Mister Potter," he murmured.

"What?" Harry didn't think he heard him correctly, why would Snape say a thing like that to him? But he was gone in a black billow of robes, closing the door behind him.

"Can we leave now?" He meant it as a joke, but Draco only grew paler.

"I just don't have it in me, Harry. After our attempted healing- I could apparate us, but not very far. There'd be nothing to stop them coming after us."

There came a calling voice from downstairs. Harry couldn't quite make it out, but it sounded familiar.

"And they know we're here," Draco added.

"We should probably make an entrance, then."

"Harry."

"Sorry, it's only a-"

"Defense mechanism, I know."

Harry took Draco's empty glass and set it down. It wouldn't do to have his only ally inebriated. "I need to call in that favor, Draco."
Draco's eyes grew even wider than before. "Favor? What favor, Potter? Now's not the time for anything like that," but Draco was smiling a tiny bit, looking him up and down.

Harry smiled back as he wrapped an arm around his waist, hoping to calm him down just a bit before they both faced their imminent doom. Maybe it was him that needed the calming. Either way, the closeness felt good, quite good. "Maybe not favor, exactly, but your end of the deal, remember?"

Draco's gaze was steel and ice. "Maybe you should just cut to the chase, Potter."

"Wandless magic."

Draco smirked, but only a little. "There's nothing I can teach you that you don't already know." Draco was touching his face, running his fingers through his messy hair. It made his scalp tingle.

"What's that supposed to mean?"

Draco sighed, draping his long arms around Harry's shoulders. "You feel it, don't you? When you cast a spell and it goes through your wand?"
"A little, I guess," Harry shrugged. He'd never really thought about it.

"The magic comes through you, and your wand channels it, focuses it into the spell you say."

Harry nodded even though he didn't exactly know that before. To him, wands were just how magic worked. When he entered this world, he was told he needed a wand, so he got one. He was pretty good with it, so he never even considered magic would happen without it. Draco's long fingers were tracing his own, leaving a cool tingly feeling.

"So if you don't have one, all you need to do is focus the magic yourself."

Harry scowled. He thought there would be more to it than that.

"That's it," Draco whispered, coming closer. "You'll do best to not think so much, Harry, like always." He felt Dracos fingers at his neck, pulling at his hoodie. "Feel it instead." His voice had gotten low and sultry, giving Harry shivers and a fluttery feeling in his stomach. They kissed, Harry felt Draco's reckless abandon; he was forceful, passionate, making it seem like it could be his last.

They pulled apart, hearing loud and angry voices downstairs.

"He'll try to use me against you, Harry."

Harry's head spun. How could he go from this loving embrace into battle against..who? The Dark Lord? His lover's father? His own father-in-law-to-be? Harry barked a short laugh. He pushed up his glasses just to have something to do with his hands. Draco only gave him half a glare. He stifled the rest of laugh with a snort, trying to make his face as serious as Draco's.

"Harry, trust me. No matter what happens." Harry looked into his grey eyes. They were suddenly hard as stone. Draco was tense, but it was different than before, focused in a way it hadn't been a moment before.

"I trust you." Harry nodded, as if that made it more true. He sort of hoped it did.

Draco raised Harry's hand to his face, kissing it gently, his eyes never leaving Harry's. "I love you," he whispered.

"I love you, too," Harry was surprised to hear the words come so effortlessly from his mouth. He didn't think he'd ever said them to anyone before, not in his whole entire life. It was suddenly extremely important to him that nothing happened to either of them.

They left the room to Lucius Malfoy's voice calling his son, sounding impatient.

"Draconius," he crooned when he saw them on the stairs.

"Your name is Draconius?" Harry said under his breath.

Draco elbowed him. "Shut up, Harold," he replied with a ghost of a smirk.

They looked down on Lucius, dressed in black, leaning on his cane in the middle of the dark foyer, surrounded by the graying marble pillars and a circle of death eaters.

"And a guest, how wonderful."

"Indeed, Father," Draco drawled, all pretense of the fear and panic Harry had felt earlier was gone. Not gone, he knew Draco well enough by now to know that it was more like hidden.

Draco turned to Harry and gave him a shadow of a meaningful look. Harry didn't have time to feel confused because Draco suddenly grabbed the front of his hoodie and threw him bodily down the stairs.

Harry tumbled down, landing on the foyer floor face first with a wet smack. He glanced up at Draco but only saw bright pinpricks of light across his vision, felt the metallic tang of blood in his mouth. Trust, indeed. Harry shook himself, determined to go along with Draco's plan. This meant he had a plan, didn't he?

He started to push himself to his feet, but there was a sudden pain in his back, something sharpish pressing him into the floor. He fell back down with a grunt.

"My, my, Draco. Come around, have we? And here I was, beginning to worry." He heard Lucius' smiling voice come from directly above him. It must be his dastardly cane poking him in the back. Harry felt a wet trickle come from his nose and had to wonder how hard he actually hit the floor. His face and shoulder throbbed dully, but he knew the real pain always came later.

He felt his heart leap in his throat as Draco's shoes came into his limited field of vision.

"Nothing to worry about, Father," Harry felt his chest constrict hearing Draco's old, snide, drawling voice. "I have brought you The Boy Who Lived."

Chapter Text

Draco Malfoy didn't have a plan. He only knew he had to be in control. He had to seize it and make them believe it. Unfortunately, that meant throwing his fiance down the stairs. He hoped Harry would forgive him later and idly wondered how many times he'd be able to break Harry's nose without him breaking up with him.

Harry was trying to get up off the floor again and Draco saw his father's boot move a fraction of an inch. Draco headed off his father by putting his own shoe on the side of Harry's head. He bent down close to Harry.

"Stay down, Potter," he growled. He tried to open his facade a little bit, to let Harry know it really wasn't what he wanted to be doing, but not enough to lose what little control he had. He couldn't tell if he got the message; Harry only glared at him with his terribly green eyes. He felt a wave of nausea.

"You finally did it, Draco."

He was surprised to find pride lacing his father's words, surprised to find its effect on him when he'd thought he was over it. It was an unattainable thing, wasn't it? For his father to be proud of him? Draco could only nod his head sharply.

"After all these years, you did it," Lucius Malfoy turned, spreading his arms wide as if addressing everyone in the room. "It only took you falling in love to complete your mission." The pride in his voice was replaced with a snide sarcasm. The Death Eaters all shared a sinister chuckle, except for Aunt Bellatrix, who laughed maniacally.

"Love," she sighed at him.

Draco scowled and gave Harry's head a little kick. Harry's arms came up defensively and he emitted a low groan. He hoped he wasn't overdoing it. "I'm not in love," he sniffed. "The Dark Lord saw fit to provide me with a unique insight into Potter's mind, into his dreams. I used what I found there to get close to him, to lure him here." He set his icy glare around the room, daring anyone to say differently. He had their attention now. Aunt Bellatrix was looking at him like she caught him kissing her boyfriend.

"Why you?" She hissed at him as he passed.

"Why me? I was the only one on the inside. Even my father," he gestured to his father, still standing over Harry with his cane in his back, "who had regular access to the school, couldn't touch Harry Potter." The old venom was back in his voice and it was almost effortless, the look on his father's face was almost worth it. "But, with the Dark Lord's help, I could. I did."

Harry snorted from his position on the floor.

Draco continued like he hadn't heard. "It was unfortunate to keep you all in the dark, especially you, Father, but it was necessary for my mission to succeed."

"And succeed it has," Lucius' face was smiling, but his words carried a warning. He was taking it too far. "Now, I assume, you are ready to join us, Draconius."

Another snort from Harry punctuated his father's words. Harry's weird laughing thing was going to get them caught. Well, more caught than they were already. Draco swallowed hard.

"Indeed, father. When can we expect the Dark Lord?"

"As soon as he is ready," his father growled. "But for now," he reached down and hauled Harry to his feet. Draco knew he poorly contained his wincing at Harry's face. He could only hope no one had noticed. Harry had a red scuff on the side of his head, his glasses were askew, and he had blood draining from his nose down his chin. He grinned at Draco. Draco sighed inwardly and set his face in a stony glare. He thought Harry would have been better at playing along. He had better get it under control.

"What are you grinning at, Potter?" He pointed a long finger in Harry's direction.

Harry adjusted his glasses and spat blood on the floor. Lucius made a disgusted noise in the back of his throat. "Oh nothing, Malfoy. It's just that you couldn't be a very good spy if everyone at school knew you were a Death Eater already."

Finally. He was playing along. Draco stepped closer, feeling the warmth, and suddenly stopped short. It wouldn't do to have Harry healed at his touch in front of a room full of Death Eaters. "Fooled you, Scarhead," he sneered.

"Enough." His father shoved Harry and he stumbled until Aunt Bellatrix caught him and wrapped her arms around him gleefully. Draco felt a sinking sensation deep within him. "His wand, Bellatrix."

Aunt Bellatrix caught Draco's eyes and held them with her own as she patted down his boyfriend forcefully. Draco made his face stone and added a smirk for good measure. Aunt Bella was the wild card. Her actions couldn't be predicted, she couldn't be manipulated. He had to keep her happy. She smiled half a crazy smile back at him, but that could've meant anything.

"He hasn't got it," she called. Then she grabbed Harry's hair, pulling his head back against her shoulder. Harry grunted through clenched and bloody teeth and Draco willed his body not to react. She was still looking at him when she licked Harry's neck from his shirt collar to his bloodied chin.

"Eugh! What the fuck is wrong with you?" Harry struggled against his laughing aunt and he had to wonder how much of this Harry would sit through before fighting back.

"It's at school," Draco said, struggling to keep his voice even.

"What a pity," his father's voice was lilting now, which meant something bad was about to happen. "Then he won't be able to fight back as you make him ready for our Lord's arrival."

Draco swallowed the bile that rose in his throat. He had to have an end game, immediately. He couldn't be made to torture Harry for appearances until Voldemort showed up. Then what would they do? He felt the skin on his forehead and the back of his neck break out in a cool sweat.

"Oh Lucius," Aunt Bella's own lilting voice traveled across the foyer. "I have something interesting here." She was holding onto Harry's left hand as he was trying to wrest it away from her.

His father shot him a dangerous look and grabbed Draco's left hand. He tapped Draco's simple silver ring with the snake head of his cane. Draco winced.

"And what is this, Draco? Not love? You're protecting him." His words were poison, his face triumphant. He leaned in closer and dropped his voice to a whisper. "Protecting him with our family's magic? I always knew there was something wrong with you, my son. My only son. I've tried so hard and this is how you repay me? Hm?" Lucius ran the head of his cane down Draco's cheek.

Draco pulled roughly away. "I am your son, Father. I had to protect my..investment. I will be the one to turn him over to the Dark Lord. The rewards will be mine." He made his voice cold, as much like his father's as he could stand. "No one will take my birthright from me. Not even you."

He saw his icy grey-blue eyes reflected in his father's as his face curled into a wicked smile. "Hmm, yes."

Draco could only watch as Lucius strode quickly across the floor and slapped Harry across the face. The air was filled with Aunt Bella's crazy laughter.

"Again!" She shouted.

His father only gave her a cool stare and turned his attention back to Draco. "I can see you didn't get another Malfoy to back your claim." His voice was snide and knowing. "You should know, Draco, I only want to support you. I would never put your..claim in jeopardy." He looked down his nose at Harry as he said it and Draco had to clench his fists.

"Support, Father? Is that why I was offered up as bait? Did you think I wouldn't make good on my promises to you? To the Dark Lord?"

His father scoffed. "I know all about you, Draco. You needed a final push. Put on this farce if you like. The Dark Lord will arrive and you will be free of the binding either way."

Draco was about to ask what he meant by that, to ask who did the binding, but his questions died in his throat as there was a tremendous thunderclap and a cloud of dark smoke appeared in the center of the foyer. Draco watched in horror, mouth dry, fingers twitching, as the dark smoke formed into a tall bald man dressed in black robes.

He was out of time.

Voldemort had arrived.

Harry was almost glad to see him. It meant this whole thing was almost over. Didn't it? He was tired of getting kicked around by Malfoys. The engagement was supposed to protect him, not make him a target. Well, a bigger target, anyway. He sighed.

"That's right, Potter, face your demise!" Bellatrix Lestrange whispered fiercely in his ear, probably mistaking his sigh of boredom for a sigh of defeat. She gripped him tightly, one arm around his middle, pinning his arms, the other was still pulling his head back uncomfortably.

"I'll kill you before this is over," Harry promised.

She only laughed her strange laugh. "You couldn't do it before and you won't do it this time."

He had thought about that moment many times over the last two years. She had told him then that he didn't have it in him, that he didn't feel it. He wondered what the killing curse would feel like flowing through his fingers instead of a wand. Would it hurt? Or would it feel good? Maybe he would like it too much. He wondered what revenge would feel like. Would it put his demons to rest? Any of them? Or would it only leave a bad taste in his mouth?

He felt Draco's gaze on him and wrenched his head away from Bellatrix's grip so he could see him. His grey eyes were wide and he was shaking his head, but only barely. Could he still read him that well? With all of this going on?

The Dark Lord was materializing through the smoke and Harry knew he should be feeling fear, trepidation, anxiety, something. But what he did feel was a sort of quiet calm. It was almost like he was disconnected, like these events were happening to someone else.

Lucius Malfoy was stepping forward. He bowed deeply and the other Death Eaters followed suit. All except for Draco. Harry felt proud of him. Bellatrix tried to force Harry into a bow, but he pushed out of her weird embrace at the last second, making her fall on the floor. He snorted with poorly contained laughter.

She was on her feet before his laughing fit subsided, her curled wand out and pointed at his face.

"Crucio!" she shrieked, and Harry felt jolted back to reality with an unworldly pain all over his body. He was only slightly aware of being on the cold stone floor again, writhing, waiting for the pain to end. Every nerve in his body was singing, on fire, he could only grit his teeth and hope he wasn't giving her the satisfaction of making any noise.

"That's enough, Bellatrix." The voice was cold, but also warm and slow. Harry knew it well.

"Yes, my lord," she replied demurely, and the searing white hot pain suddenly stopped.

Harry curled himself up, catching his breath, waiting for the pins-and-needles, the microwaved skin feeling to stop as well. If he could only get to Draco-

"Harry Potter," Voldemort's voice was high-pitched and sounded delighted. "So good of you to join us here. Let me help you up."

"No thanks," he grunted. "I'm actually fine down here." He pressed his cheek to the cool floor. It felt good and reminded him of Draco's perpetually cool fingers. He yelped as his body was suddenly forced to standing, but he couldn't tell who had made it happen.

"There, that's better, isn't it, Harry? Facing each other like men, do you remember?"

Harry pushed his glasses up and wiped his mouth with a sleeve. "I remember, Tom."

Voldemort clapped his hands together once, a hideous grin on his ugly flat face, but his eyes held anger. "Wonderful."

Bellatrix made a move to grab him again, but Voldemort waved her off. "That's not necessary, is it, Harry?"

"No," he agreed, looking Draco's aunt in her crazy no-one-is-home eyes. She only grinned and cocked her head to the side.

"Wonderful," Voldemort said again, the joy gone from his voice. He whirled, his robes billowing, following his movement. "Draco, my boy, where are you?"

Draco stepped forward, his face a mask. If he was afraid Harry couldn't tell, but with what he knew of Draco, he probably was. He hoped he could be brave enough for both of them.

Chapter Text

The Dark Lord was touching Draco's face, running a long grimy fingernail down his cheek. He made his face stone, determined to give away nothing. "You've done well, Draco. Harry Potter is here, with us. But I couldn't help but notice, you didn't bow."

"Malfoys never bow," Draco muttered. He hadn't meant to say it out loud, not to the Dark Lord of all people. It was just ingrained in him from an early age, a knee-jerk reaction. His eyes flicked over to Harry, standing a short distance away next to a pillar. He was only watching, with an odd smile on his face. Could he catch Potter's bravado?

Voldemort laughed. Draco stole a glance at his father only to find him white as a sheet. The other Death Eaters joined in uneasily. So far, this was not going well. But no one was dead. Yet. Voldemort stopped laughing suddenly.

"You know, Draco," The Dark Lord started to pace around the circle of his followers, "you remind me of me. You don't get along with your father, do you? Disappoint him at every turn, don't you? Yes, I thought so. You should've seen his face when I had a real mission for you. He couldn't believe it. He tried to talk me out of it. He was lucky he left with his life that night."

Draco swallowed hard. No, this was not going well at all. But at least the Dark Lord's attention was on him and not on Harry. Small victories.

"And," Voldemort continued in that bizarre lilting way, "you find yourself quite a bit more powerful than the average witch or wizard, don't you?"

Draco felt his fingers twitch of their own accord. He watched with horror as Voldemort's snake-like eyes followed his movements. He was giving too much away. He felt the back of his shirt start to stick to the sweat forming between his shoulder blades.

"Yes, I thought so. That is why I knew it must be you. You, who were so carefully groomed to follow in your father's footsteps." The Dark Lord's voice had dropped an octave, taking on an air of disdain on the word 'father'. "I have another purpose in mind, for you, Draco Malfoy. I need you to forsake your father's footsteps and follow in mine. I will make you into a leader. My general. The very first one. You should be honored. Your blood is so pure, anyone would follow you. In exchange, I can grant you whatever you wish, for the rest of your natural life."

Draco inhaled sharply, an icy feeling settling into his chest and throat. If there was one thing he knew, it was that the Dark Lord always got what he wanted. He glanced at Harry, who was staring at Voldemort with his mouth open. Well, almost always. His father was suddenly at his side, placing the top of his cane between his feet with a resounding clink.

"This is not what we discussed," his father said, his voice was strong and commanding, but Draco could see the fear in his pale eyes.

Voldemort waved a hand in the air as if swatting away a troublesome fly. "Things change, Lucius, it makes no matter."

"It matters to me," Lucius' voice was more forceful this time. "My Lord."

"Do you doubt me, Lucius? I know you have before, and you will again, I'm sure. Do you wish to leave my service?"

Draco watched as his father thought it over. He assumed the Dark Lord meant death; there was no other way out of this sort of contract. Draco's father made eye contact with him and Draco was so taken aback with the sincerity he saw there, he could only blink. There was something more going on here, in his home, with his family, but he couldn't see it. It had been hidden from him for so long.

"No, my Lord," Lucius bowed.

Draco couldn't stop the scoff that escaped his throat. He glanced at Harry, still smiling that weird smile. Was it possible he was projecting his emotions? He wished he would stop. Sometimes the fear is the only thing telling you what to do, how to survive. If he couldn't feel it, he was as good as dead.

"Wonderful," the Dark Lord said, giving Lucius a glare. "Now, Draco," Voldemort moved closer, putting an arm around Draco's shoulders, like they were about to be good friends. "You brought me the greatest gift of all, didn't you? The elusive Harry Potter."

Harry glared at them, his hands balled into fists. Draco could only let this play out and wait. Wait for what? Some opportunity to leave? To strike? He wasn't sure what Harry would do if something were to happen to him, but he was certain he wouldn't be able to control it. He wasn't sure if he and Harry could win a fight against five Death Eaters and Voldemort. There was no help coming. No one else knew they were here. They could both die today and hardly anyone would find out.

A silent death, fighting for someone you love. There were worse ways to go, he supposed.

"I see my binding has worked perfectly. I'm beside myself, Draco, I really am." He favored Draco with a grin full of black and rotting teeth.

"You cast the binding?"

Voldemort glared at him with his uncanny eyes.

Draco cleared his throat and tried it out. "My Lord."

Voldemort smiled. "Well, not me, personally." Then his eyes fell to Draco's left hand. "But, I see you made an adjustment, didn't you? You didn't forget the plan, did you, boy? Tell me you didn't fall in love?"

"Love!" Aunt Bellatrix's crazy laugh filled the foyer once again. Draco glared at her and she stopped. Apparently being this close to the Dark Lord gave him a bit of power of his own. He wasn't sure he didn't like it.

"Of course I didn't." His throat was tight, but his voice was steady.

"Good. Now I want you to kill him."

"What?" He realized how stupid he sounded. He realized how much trouble one mistake could cause here. Insolence meant death, pure and simple. "I mean, I thought-"

"And now you also presume to know my plans? Maybe you are too much like your father."

"No." He knew it was meant to sting. He knew the Dark Lord was trying to get a reaction out of him. The sad part was that it was absolutely working. He had to think. He had to act. "I do not know how the binding will be affected with his death. I cannot be your general if I, myself am dead."

Voldemort made an expression that would've included his eyebrows rising, if he had had any. It was equally comical and scary. He turned and addressed the room. "And he's intelligent. Are there any here among you, that wouldn't follow young Draco Malfoy?"

He watched Harry's green eyes as he heard a slight shuffling of clothing and boots but mostly silence from the Death Eaters. Harry was anxious, he felt it, but trying to be brave. The other boy licked his lips, mouthed something at Draco. Draco scowled. He couldn't tell what Harry was trying to say. Maybe he should take the deal. Maybe if he was in charge, if he had some measure of power like Voldemort, he could protect Harry. Indefinitely.

Voldemort turned, whipping out his wand. "Crucio!"

Draco hit the floor, convulsing with pain. His vision was reduced to pinpricks of light, his skin felt like it was on fire, every nerve a symphony of pain. He thought it would never end. Then it was over.

"Draco, Draco, Draco," Voldemort tutted, standing over him. "You are intelligent. And ambitious. A true Slytherin, aren't you? But I sense your doubt. I sense your.." He twirled his wand in the air, as if he could find the word he was looking for there. "Love."

Draco got shakily to his feet, trying his best to stand tall despite the needly feeling all over his body. "I completed my mission," he grunted through clenched teeth.

"You did, you did. And for that, I am grateful. I do commend you. But you forgot one thing. Crucio!"

The pain returned, redoubled. Draco didn't remember falling this time. He heard his own voice, pealing out from his chest against his will in a ragged shout. Then it stopped. He was breathing hard, a cruel ache sounding behind his eyes.

"I am bound to Harry Potter, just as you are. You are closed, Draco, so closed, but I can feel your doubt, your anger, your need to destroy me, and your love, all through him!" He levelled his wand at Harry and Draco didn't know how he didn't realize it sooner. Harry said he shared dreams with the Dark Lord, just like they did. Wouldn't it follow that Voldemort could pick up on their emotions, as well? Draco felt stupid. This was it. It was over.

The aftershocks of pain wouldn't leave his body. He tasted blood in his mouth. He rolled onto all fours, taking his time getting up, in case Voldemort decided to curse him again. It'd be less of a fall, if he did. A general for the Dark Lord. The thought kept coming back to him, how easy it would be to acquiesce. How proud would it make his father? Would he be able to help his mother? With a power like that, he could save them all. Then he felt something like a warm breeze. He looked to the massive doors but they were shut.

"Stay where you are, Potter," Snape was suddenly next to Harry, a hand on his shoulder, his voice a quiet growl. The warmth subsided with a flash of anger. Harry. His reason to fight. His reason to be better than all of this. Doing the right thing, as Harry would say. He didn't expect it to be this difficult. But what was difficult if not a challenge? If Harry could do it, so could he. Draco felt a snide smirk spread across his face.

"It is as you say," Draco grunted as he got to his feet. "I am filled with doubt, and anger." He glanced at Harry and wished he had more time with the Boy Who Lived. There was so much he wanted to do and never had the chance. And now that chance would never come. But if Harry lived through this, well, that could be enough. "And love," he said quietly.

The room filled with gasps, jeers, and Aunt Bella's crazy laughter. His father wouldn't meet his eyes.

"I will be your general, I will fight for your cause," he started, fingers flexing, "but Harry Potter goes free."

"Draco, no!" Harry called out. Draco wished he wouldn't. This was hard enough as it was.

Voldemort gave him an appraising look. "And your protection spell?"

"It doesn't work, anyway. I'll take it off." He couldn't help the sadness that had crept into his voice. He played with his silver ring, spinning it around the base of his finger. Breaking the engagement in exchange for Harry's life. He could probably forget how happy he'd been a few moments ago in the library. Eventually.

"I don't think Harry agrees with you, Draco. I don't know if I agree with you. It might be more fun to see you both die."

Draco suddenly felt cold all over. Ice in the pit of his stomach. He glanced at Harry, who was now being held back by their Potions professor, an angry glare in his green eyes.

"Nope," the Dark Lord said, positively jovial. "I've decided. I will take away my binding, then you will kill him to prove yourself worthy of being my general. You will win only one life today Draco Malfoy; your own."

Draco opened his mouth to reply, to refuse, to stall for more time but Voldemort's wand was out and he was shouting a spell. Green light erupted from the end of his wand and Draco squinted to see through it, around it, who it was meant for but even his keen Seeker's eyes were too slow for the arcing spell.

Then it was gone.

Severus Snape crumpled in a greasy black heap on the floor next to Harry.

Harry thought there had been some sort of mistake. There had to be. Voldemort missed. The killing curse was meant for him, surely. Then he remembered Draco accusing Snape of performing the binding. Not just upstairs in his mother's bedroom, but before too, at school. It had been his only theory. But if his theory was right, if what they had read in that strange old book was right, the binding would be undone.

He bent down to see if his Potions instructor was indeed dead. It seemed like the thing to do. "Don't move, Potter," Voldemort's voice was deadly. Harry froze. He waited. For what he didn't know. To feel different. For his intense feelings for Draco to disappear into thin air. For him to be next. Anything.

Nothing happened.

He looked to Draco. Not even his stoic boyfriend could hide his emotions any longer. Harry saw disbelief and horror written all over his handsome face. But he couldn't feel it. He needed to be next to him, needed to touch him, needed to know everything was still the same.

"Now Draco, you may kill Harry Potter and save your life, your career, and your family."

"My family?" Draco muttered weakly.

"Yes, your family. I'm getting the distinct feeling that all of you Malfoys are more trouble than you're worth. If you were all dead, the manor would go to.."

Bellatrix Lestrange was hopping up and down with her hand in the air, like a giddy school-child. "Oh, I know this one, Master! It would be me!"

Voldemort touched his fingers together in front of his chest, his snake-like face smug. "Yes, you, Bellatrix. See?" He asked Draco. "Much more simple. Much more..loyal."

Harry tried to catch Draco's eye. He was able to feel him a little bit before, to read him emotionally even when he tried so hard to be closed. It wasn't much, just an inkling, really, but now there was nothing. A void. He had assumed Draco had a plan, that Draco might be able to be in control of this, but now..

He glanced at Snape's body on the floor. So much had changed so quickly. Even if the binding was no more, Draco wouldn't kill him, would he? Harry felt all of his old doubts bubble up inside of him. For the first time in a long time, he was afraid.

"No," Draco's voice was quiet and tight, his face determined. "I'll do it."

Now Draco turned to face him, their eyes slowly meeting. Draco's eyes were rimmed in red. They were stormy, but not dancing- they were tumultuous, sad, angry. He was opening and closing his fists, getting ready.

"Draco," Harry started.

He watched his boyfriend, his fiance, his only lover, as he raised his right hand, fingers splayed, all of them pointing right at his chest.

"I'm sorry Harry," Draco's voice cracked. "I'm so sorry."

Chapter Text

"You don't have to do this, Draco," Harry's voice wavered, unsure if this was still part of the plan or if he was really reduced to bargaining for his life. From Draco Malfoy, of all of the people in the room. Should he play along?

The other death eaters had settled into a circle around them, some of them looking gleeful at the prospect of being entertained by his death. Harry figured they'd probably been waiting a long time for another moment like this. The least he could do was give them a good show.

"Harry," Draco's voice was a tight whisper, "I am sorry."

Harry watched as he straightened his collar, adjusted his shirt sleeves, and ran a hand through his hair. "Draco, we're not going to-"

But Draco was bowing, his eyes never leaving Harry's. He tried hard to read him, to get any inkling as to how the other boy was really feeling, but there was nothing. He glanced at Snape's crumpled form, still lying on the floor. Was that it? Was the binding over? Harry was a tiny bit surprised that he still felt the same amount of love as he had before this had all started. Maybe even more. His chest ached with it. And now they were here. About to duel each other to the death.

"Don't keep us waiting, Harry," Voldemort called, his tone of voice sounding like he was an old friend.

Harry bowed back, holding Draco's silver eyes with his own.

Draco's movement was all fluid grace, like a fencer, and suddenly a stunning spell was coming straight for him. He dodged out of the way, groaning as he rolled on his already hurt shoulder.

"Expelliarmus!" he shouted as he returned fire, not knowing what to expect, the magic pouring from his fingertips feeling hot.

Draco cried out as he was knocked back, spinning, into a pillar.

Harry got to his feet, his mind catching up to his instinctive reactions. He thought it would be relatively harmless. But Draco didn't have a wand. What happened when you tried to disarm someone who didn't have a weapon?

Draco wasn't getting up. Now that he was paying attention, there seemed to be too much blood on the floor. Things seemed to be happening much faster than his thoughts could make sense of. He followed the trail of it to where his fiance sat at a crooked angle, his pale hair falling across his eyes. Draco was holding his right arm in front of him, blood pouring from his wrist. From where his hand used to be. His face was chalk white, his grey eyes panicked, wide, disbelieving. "Harry?" he murmured.

Harry saw Lucius Malfoy rush forward, only to be blocked by the Dark Lord. "Let them finish," he growled.

"My son," Lucius started.

"Is alive. For now," Voldemort's harsh voice seemed far away.

Harry ran to Draco, duels be damned, Dark Lords be damned, and slid on his knees next to him. He tried to ignore the wet feeling soaking through to his knees. "Draco, I didn't mean to, I swear," Harry breathed.

Draco's teeth were clenched, his breathing was fast, his face ghastly. "I wasn't.. really going to kill you, love."

"I- I know," Harry stammered, even though he didn't, "I- I-"

"My hand," Draco's voice was getting quiet and low, his teeth were chattering. A fine sheen of sweat covered his face and neck. "Heal me."

"But-"

"Harry..please."

Harry looked around and saw something pale sitting in a pool of blood a short distance away. He knew those long pale fingers so well by now, but seeing them detached from the person he loved sent his stomach roiling. He swallowed hard, picked it up gingerly, and turned back to Draco. His eyes were closed.

"Shit, shit, Draco," he shook him gently by a shoulder. "Wake up, stay with me. I've got you."

Draco's pale eyes fluttered open, but barely. "Why did you do that, Potter?" Draco's voice was a low drawl and sleepy sounding. It reminded Harry of what he sounded like when he was drunk.

"Harry," Voldemort's lilting voice reached his ears. "I don't know if you know this, but now is the time to finish the duel, my boy. Your opponent is down. If you kill him, I'll let you be my general instead."

Harry ignored the laughs and jeers from the only adults in the room and was trying to find a way to put Draco back together. He held Draco's hand in one hand and his wrist in the other. He glanced up at Draco who was wide awake now, his jaw muscles tight, his grey eyes burning into Harry's soul.

"Any suggestions?" He said lightly.

"Harry," Draco growled.

Harry tried bringing the hand and wrist closer together, hoping the warmth would make an appearance before they touched. He felt like throwing up. Harry felt something, a faint glimmer of what the warmth used to be. He felt his magic, the heat from his fingertips, start to seep into Draco's hand and wrist but it wasn't enough.

"More, Harry."

"I don't know-" Harry stammered, attempting to force his will into the binding that no longer bound them. He felt the first needlepoints of panic start to nip in at the edges of his psyche.

Harry looked up as he heard an audible, dramatic sigh from Voldemort. "I tire of this Harry. You can't save everyone, you know." The man that used to be Tom Riddle turned his back, facing his followers. "Kill them both."

"No, you can't!" Lucius Malfoy was saying.

"Father," Draco called, his voice barely audible.

"I can, Lucius, and I will. I've tolerated your insolence for too long."

Harry grabbed Draco under the arms and pulled him around the back side of the pillar as spells started raining down around them.

"Harry," Draco growled through clenched teeth.

"I know, I'm sorry."

"You have to.." But Draco's voice was only a strangled whisper.

"What, Draco? Draco?" Draco's eyes were closed again, his face sweaty and pallid.

Harry clenched his teeth, trying to make his brain work. Could he kill a room full of death eaters and Voldemort? Could he do it to protect someone he loved? He figured it didn't matter much; he couldn't see another way around. He placed Draco's hand in his lap. It was bizarre, but he didn't know what else to do with it. He put his forehead to Draco's clammy one. "I'm so sorry," he whispered, his eyes starting to sting. "I won't let you die. I love you."

He wiped his eyes on the back of his sleeve, took a couple of deep breaths, and emerged from his cover behind the pillar. He missed his wand. He tried to be like Draco, cool and stoic, confident and powerful. He was focused, calm. He'd done this before, he could do it now.

Spells were coming from every direction, it seemed. Harry waved a hand, batting them away, only a little surprised that it actually worked. "Expelliarmus!" He shouted, disarming a couple of wizards who were standing too close together, blasting them into the stone wall. They fell in a heap and didn't move.

Bellatrix Lestrange lunged at him from behind another pillar, her wand dangerously close to his face. He ducked underneath her outstretched arm and punched her, as hard as he could, square in the stomach. She doubled over, then fell to the floor, her breath coming in angry retches.

Three down, three to go. Harry's head was filled with too many thoughts. Draco's health, his godamn hand, what were they doing to do? Should he take action against Lucius Malfoy? How serious was he about joining this family? Could he kill his future father-in-law? Would he stand by while Harry killed Voldemort? Because that was the only sure thought in his head, that he had to do it. The odds weren't as good as they were when Draco was on his side, but they were good enough, he supposed.

There was a gentle, almost ringing, whip-like crack and the spells suddenly stopped flying.

A strange silence fell. The only noise Harry could hear was his shoes on the tiled floor, making a slight squeaking sound as his feet kept carrying him forward. He was ready. Whatever this distraction was, he would use it to his advantage. He locked eyes with Lucius Malfoy and saw the hatred there, the fear. But his pale eyes flicked to something, or someone, behind Harry, and his face softened.

Harry felt cool fingers grip his wrist gently. His heart soared; the warmth wasn't there, but there was only one person here with fingers that cold.

"Narcissa?" Lucius' normally harsh voice was a disbelieving whisper.

Harry snapped his head around. It was Draco's mother, just as she was in his dream, tall and beautiful, dressed in white. Her eyes were rimmed in shadow and she looked gaunt, malnourished, maybe, but her dark eyes were clear and purposeful.

"Lucius," she whispered back and Harry wished he couldn't hear the longing in her voice. There was enough going on already.

Movement, to the left. Harry's eyes landed on the Dark Lord, his wand raised, and for the second time in one day, he saw the signature green of the killing curse coming towards him. He pulled Narcissa back, out of danger, around the pillar next to Draco's limp body. The curse hit the pillar making pieces of plaster and rubble rain down around them.

"My son.." Her voice no longer sounded like tinkling bells and Harry missed it.

"Mrs Malfoy, I-"

"Please, Harry, there's no time," she held out her hand to him. "You and Draco shared your magic with me, let me give some back. Maybe it will be enough." She smiled that sad smile.

Harry took her hand in one of his and with the other he held Draco's detached hand. She placed her hand gently on Draco's wrist.

Harry gasped as he felt the warmth again- but how? He felt the magic flowing through him, hot then cold, cold then hot, just as it was before, and then, too soon it seemed, it was done. Harry looked down.

The healing spell didn't work.

He thought Draco's hand would reattach, that everything would be fine, that this would even be something they could laugh about later. Draco's arm had healed, the bleeding had stopped, and Draco didn't look quite so bad as before, but Harry still held the disembodied hand. He was suddenly self-conscious. He placed the hand gingerly on the ground, removing the Malfoy crested ring that Draco wore there, slipping it onto his thumb.

"He'll be okay," Narcissa said. His eyes were still closed, and he was breathing shallowly. She was smoothing Draco's hair away from his forehead. She placed a kiss there that made Harry's chest ache. "Will you kill him?" She asked.

"Of course not, Mrs Malfoy, I love him." He felt his face flush with embarrassment. The words had just tumbled out of him.

"Not him," she smiled her sad smile, "the Dark Lord."

"Oh, right. Yes."

She nodded once. "Good. I will do all that is in my power to help you. Do you remember what I told you about the dream world?"

Harry did. "That Voldemort can be weakened there."

"I will help you get him there." She rose to her feet. Harry shakily did the same. After two healing spells and a few duels, he was feeling..tired. Beyond tired. He was amazed his legs held him upright.

"But how will I-"

"Narcissa, my dear, how was your sleep?" Harry would be glad when he never had to hear Voldemort's voice again.

Narcissa touched Harry's left hand, then Draco's.

"He's loved you for so long, my dear," Narcissa's voice was quiet, not much more than a whisper. "Please, take care of him."

Harry could only nod. His brain felt packed to the rim.

When she spoke again, her voice was strong and sure. "I, Narcissa Malfoy, recognize and legitimize this engagement."

There was a brief glow from Harry's ring, the ring Draco had placed on his finger. He watched in astonishment.

"It'll get you close, Harry, as long as my son lives and breathes, the Malfoys will protect you. You must put him to sleep, face him there. Draco will be there, waiting for you, I'm sure." Narcissa was talking fast and Harry was struggling to keep up. He had so many questions, but their time was up.

Narcissa led Harry away from the pillar, walking slowly towards her husband. Lucius Malfoy still looked like he was staring at a ghost.

"Narcissa, you're- you're-"

"Alive?" She said, her ringing voice held a challenge.

"Awake," he said sharply. "I never meant to-"

"Of course you didn't. You never meant to do anything, did you, Luce?"

He actually winced at the nickname.

Voldemort started clapping, slow and loud. "All reconciled? Good, good. Bellatrix? Please subdue our unexpected guest. Lucius, please do what no one else could and kill Harry Potter. Now."

Bellatrix was behind them suddenly; she grabbed Narcissa around the shoulders, her curly wand pointing at her sister's neck. "Hello Cissy," she growled.

Harry moved to do..something, anything, but Draco's mother waved him down. "Just wait," she whispered.

Lucius hesitated, looking from Harry back to the Dark Lord.

"Do you not value your life, Lucius? The life of your son? Your wife? Well, maybe not your wife, but still."

Narcissa scoffed quietly.

Lucius raised his cane and unsheathed his wand with a metallic whisper, a promise of violence. Harry had seen it before. Lucius pointed his blunt wand at Harry's chest, but his wand wavered. Sweat broke out on his forehead. It looked as if some unseen force was pushing his wand down and he was trying with all his might to hold it back up. His face was a mask of rage and effort.

"Narcissa," he growled, "what have you done?!"

Mrs. Malfoy smirked. "He is protected, now, my love."

"With our family's magic?! But, this means-" His voice was low and dangerous. His silver eyes flicked worriedly from his wife to his master. "My Lord, I can't.."

Voldemort sighed. He, too, pointed his wand at Harry. He wondered how far this "protection" would go. Would it stop the most powerful dark wizard of all time? He knew they were an ancient wizarding family, but could they have that sort of power?

"Avada," the Dark Lord started.

Harry watched with wide eyes as Lucius Malfoy quickly moved in front of him, a human shield.

"No," Harry whispered.

"Kedavra!"

"I'm sorry," Lucius Malfoy said his last words looking into Harry's eyes, but somehow, he didn't think they were meant for him, as the green blast hit him instead of Harry.

"Lucius!" Mrs Malfoy's voice sounded far away and slow. Harry felt like he should be waking up from this bizarre dream any moment. Lucius Malfoy gave his life for his. He felt like he was underwater. Everything was moving so slowly.

Bellatrix was laughing her crazy laugh.

Mrs Malfoy was screaming something, but Harry couldn't make out the words.

Everything was too quiet. Too loud. Too fast. Too slow.

Voldemort looked equal parts annoyed and joyous, his lipless sneer finding Harry.

Someone should do something.

Lucius Malfoy was on the floor at Harry's feet, his pale eyes, too much like Draco's eyes, wide and unblinking.

Everything seemed to suddenly speed up all at once.

"Harry, now! You must touch him!" Narcissa was still screaming at him. Bellatrix was trying to hold onto her sister, but she was putting up a fight. Harry saw her blonde head whip backward, slamming into Bellatrix's face. Bellatrix let her go, gasping, but Narcissa was on her again.

Harry saw the other Death Eaters he had knocked out start to stir and get to their feet. It was now or never. He gritted his teeth and ran towards the man he was meant to kill.

Voldemort laughed, a strange high and low-pitched twanging chuckle.

"Come now Harry," he called in his lilting, faux-friendly voice. "Can't you just face me?"

Harry dodged a bolt of green lighting, rolling out of the way. "I am facing you," he growled.

"Without your bindings and your protections?" He spat the words as if they were curses. "Just you and me, Harry."

"None of this was my choice!" He yelled as he dove behind a massive pillar.

"Ah, choice. What an idea," the Dark Lord crooned. "It may be too late for your parents, for your boyfriend, definitely for your boyfriend's father, but it's not too late for you. I can tell you've considered it, Harry. I know your mind!"

Harry had considered it, if he was completely honest. He had thought about the deals he could strike, the good he could do from the inside. It had been a very short thought, but there all the same. He knew, however, that would be the easy way out. He knew how it had to end.

Harry shook his head. He had to get closer. A sleeping spell, he knew, was relatively weak, but if he could touch him and then deliver the spell, it had a much higher chance of working. That must be what Mrs Malfoy meant. If he had his wand, he was sure his aim would be better; he wasn't as good as Draco with wandless magic. Draco. His heart caught in his throat and there was a sudden weight in his chest. Even if he made it through all of this..but he couldn't think that far ahead. He couldn't let himself. His weird laugh even failed to make an appearance.

Suddenly his head was filled with images of Draco dying from his wounds, of Draco mourning his parents' death, of Draco blaming him for everything. Of Draco leaving him.

"I can help him, Harry." Voldemort's voice was low and surreptitious. "I can heal him, make your lover new again."

Harry shut his eyes tight, willing the Dark Lord's images away.

"After all, how good can he be without his right hand? What a pity."

Images of him and Draco being intimate flooded his mind's eye. An image of Draco touching his face just like he used to, but a truncated stump was stroking his jawline instead of long cool fingers. An image of Harry reaching for his lover's hand and finding nothing there. An image of Draco undoing his pants with one hand and reaching for-

"That's enough!" Harry yelled.

"Then make your choice!"

Harry did. He knew it from the beginning. He kissed the silver ring on his left hand and whispered, "See you soon." He flexed the fingers of his right hand, testing the power there. He was shocked to feel it answer back. So that was why Draco was always doing that. Harry felt his mouth curl into a smirk.

Harry pushed himself to his feet with a grunt and ran, full out, towards the last place he heard Voldemort's annoying voice.

"Ah, yes, that's more like it, Harry!"

Voldemort threw another green lightning bolt of death at him, and Harry knocked it away with a wave of his hand. If the Dark Lord was surprised, he didn't show it.

"Crucio!"

"Protego!" Harry yelled, using the shield to close the last little bit of distance between him and his nemesis.

Harry grabbed Voldemort's sickly white wrist. It felt strange and fragile, like a chicken wing. Harry expected it to feel strong. His surprise must've shown on his face because the Dark Lord grinned at him, all sickly teeth and no lips. Harry looked into his snake-like eyes. "Somnium maxima," he murmured.

Nothing happened.

"Somnium maxima!" he shouted in Voldemort's face.

Again, nothing happened.

The Dark Lord let out a small chuckle.

"I know what you're doing, boy," he whispered, "do you think I wouldn't safeguard myself against my own tricks?" With his other hand, he gripped the front of Harry's hoodie, raising him off the floor. His feet kicked feebly at the air.

"You're strong for an old man," Harry smirked, trying to hide his dismay at being caught.

"Yes," Voldemort breathed, "and where you would be without my power? Without my binding? You'd be nothing without me."

"It was my mother," Harry growled back, "You tried to kill me."

"Ah, so I did. And have been ever since. Last chance, Harry, it ends here."

"You're right, Tom, it ends here."

And Harry raised his right hand just as Voldemort raised his wand.

"Avada Kedavra!" They said in unison, their voices echoing in the strangely empty space.

Harry's hand burned. It felt like his fingertips were on fire; he still didn't believe it had worked. He squinted his eyes as the killing curses met in a ball of green lightning. A sudden wind whipped at his face and hair. Harry's eyes widened as the curse ball grew larger and larger. He knew if he let go, he would be blasted with his own curse as well as Voldemort's. He felt the Dark Lord release him and he staggered back, grunting, trying to pour more magic into the curse, but he could feel it waning. There just wasn't any more left inside of him.

Green sparks and smaller lightning bolts were shooting from the turbulent ball in front of him. Harry glanced at Narcissa and Bellatrix from the corner of his eye. The sisters were still fighting; Draco's mother was shooting spells with a fluid grace reserved for a dancer, all while dodging the minor killing curses. Harry looked for signs of Draco, but there were none. He hoped that meant he was safe enough.

Voldemort made a snake-like sigh and the ball of killing curses grew larger still. Harry held on, not knowing what else to do. It felt like it was getting closer. It felt like he had to push it back, so he did. He ground his teeth together and used both hands to push the dangerous chunk of magic towards Voldemort. It was a dance they've done before; seeing who would be the first to break, but this time would be the last. Harry had to make sure it was so.

He closed his eyes then closed his fists, and in one swift motion, he pulled the sickly-green curse-ball towards the floor.

"No!" Voldemort cried.

It hit the stone tile of the Malfoy Manor foyer with a deafening silence. Harry didn't have time to be surprised, however, as a sonic boom resounded through the large space. Hot acrid air hit Harry in a single blast. The threshold of Malfoy Manor sighed and shifted, ballooning upwards like they were all standing on a hill, then caving inwards like a bowl.

Harry jumped as a huge marble pillar crashed down just behind him. Draco's words echoed dully through his head, what was it? Something about him bringing his family's legacy crashing to its knees? A wild laugh spluttered its way out of him.

He tried to keep his balance as the floor heaved and shifted again. It bowed, dangerously low, and this time, it started to crack. His eyes found Voldemort, on the other side, trying to stay on his feet as well, an angry look on his face. Harry grinned. He guessed he would get to see the dungeons after all.

He raised both hands and pushed them down, the floor giving him a satisfying cracking explosion as chunks of it fell into the dungeons below. He was still grinning as he felt the floor give way beneath him.

Chapter Text

Draco woke only to find himself in the dungeons. He was asleep and dreaming, he knew this for a fact, he felt too good to be awake, but still, the dungeons might have been the last place he wanted to be. He groaned, getting to his feet. He felt sick to his stomach, off balance in a weird way, almost like a hangover. He swept his hair to the side, or at least, he tried to, but his right arm was suddenly truncated at the wrist. His stomach lurched. He remembered it happening, sort of, but he still gawked at the place it used to be. He had allowed himself to think, for a time, that it didn't really happen, that Harry didn't do that to him, not like that, but the evidence to the contrary was plain enough. Still, he half expected to be made whole in his dream, if nowhere else. It probably meant that this was not his dream.

He carefully touched the place where his right hand used to be, testing it. Harry must have been able to heal him somewhat; even in the low torchlight he could see that skin had covered the open wound almost as if his arm had always been that way. It felt itchy. It burned. It felt like it should still be there.

He blinked away the moisture that was inexplicably clouding his eyes. He fixed his hair- with his left hand- and tried to force away the thoughts of all the things he could never do again. Tying a tie, holding Harry's hand, magic. He swallowed hard, took a few deep breaths. He had to focus.

If he was dreaming a dream like this, it meant the Dark Lord was still alive. Hopefully, that meant Harry was still alive, too. And that meant there was still a chance. He could feel sorry for himself later. There would be plenty of time for that. Unless he died. Then it wouldn't be a problem at all. Draco felt a wry smirk slide across his face. He suddenly missed Harry's laughing fits.

He took a few shaky steps forward, but he knew this place too well to not know exactly where he was. It was a cell in the dungeons, exactly in the middle on the southern side. It was where he was confined as a troublesome boy and where extraordinary punishment was doled out at the hands of his father. It wasn't just any cell. It was his cell. There were marks on the walls where he had scratched the passage of time in a very cliché sort of way. He resisted the urge to make another mark.

He laid his good hand on the bars. They felt cold and unyielding but offered Draco a weird sense of comfort. This place was meant to put him on edge, to throw him off balance, to scare him, but the truth was that this was his home. It always had been.

He had to get out of here. He had to find Harry. Assuming Harry was out there somewhere. Draco clenched his jaw and tried to conjure an explosion charm with his left hand. He felt it fizzle out in his fingertips.

"Damnit."

He wiped the sweat from his face and pushed his sleeves up- or he tried to but it was hard with only one hand. He kept forgetting. He tried the spell again. This time it didn't even reach his fingers. What good could he do in a fight without magic? Without a hand? Against the strongest dark wizard in history? Alone?

He clenched his fist and his jaw, resisting the urge the punch the dungeon wall. Two useless hands were worse than one. He laughed then, a laugh to rival Harry's, causing his whole body to shake. He stifled his laugh as he heard footsteps approaching. Ringing footsteps accompanied by a familiar metallic tapping on the dungeon flagstones.

His father emerged from the shadows, his long blond hair standing out against his impeccably tailored dark suit. With a final tap the cane was still. Lucius Malfoy rested both hands on the silver snake head and leaned toward Draco, a smug smirk crawling across his face. Draco had, for a very long time, tried to ignore the similarities between him and his father. He felt shame and disgust where there was once pride and a hopeless willingness to please. He didn't know what his father was here for now and he didn't much want to find out.

"Draco," his father said, his voice drawling in that dangerous way. "Is something amusing?"

"No, Father. Not in the slightest." He swallowed hard, his mouth suddenly dry.

His father's pale eyes looked him up and down behind the bars of the cell. "Indeed." Lucius Malfoy cleared his throat and stepped closer. Draco instinctually stepped back. His father gave him a wry smirk but when he spoke, his voice was low, as if he was afraid of being overheard. "We all make choices, my son. Those choices only lead to more and the path becomes confusing. Soon, too soon, we often forget what we were after in the first place."

Draco could only give him a cool glare. Was this the trick? Some sort of trap?

Lucius sighed deeply, almost sadly, it seemed to Draco. He slowly unsheathed his wand, the metallic whisper echoing off the dungeon walls. Draco swallowed, his eyes following the tip as his father pointed it, almost carelessly, at his chest. Draco took another step back. He flexed his fingers and felt a small wave of dismay as he felt nothing. No magic. How could he possibly defend himself? He straightened up, squaring his shoulders. He took a shaky breath and resolved to meet it with as much dignity as he could muster. He watched as his father waved his wand, opening the cell door. It swung wide with a mournful creak.

"We leave a lasting legacy, we Malfoys," his father was putting his wand back into his cane and tapping it idly on the stone floor. It was an odd habit that Draco had always hated. "No matter the choices, we think we have always made a better one than our fathers before us, don't you think so?"

Draco's mind raced, trying to find some sort of clue as to what he should do or say. "I know I'm not like you," he said quietly.

Lucius laughed, a short barking laugh, not unlike Draco's own. Draco winced at the sound of it.

"Yes, you're not like me. You once wanted to be, do you remember? I had to quash it out of you in the only way I knew how. The way shown to me by my father."

Draco said nothing. He felt a brief rush of anxiety claw up his throat, as if he was waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Lucius shook his head. "Nothing is ever ideal, Draco. I am glad you're not like me. I am.. happy for you, in a way."

"In what way would that be, Father?" Draco said slowly.

"Love," his father's face grimaced as though the word coming out of his mouth caused him great pain, "is a rare and wonderful thing. I am sorry I could not show you and your mother more of it. But that's the way of it, I'm afraid."

Draco shook himself, finally finding his courage. Whatever this was, it was wasting his time. Maybe that was the idea. "Is there a point to this, Father? You know I won't join you. Or him."

"Ah, yes, I do know that now. Choices, Draco. We can only try as we might to make the right ones. I sincerely hope you are on a better than path than I was, that you can be a better man than I was."

"Was?" Draco sensed something odd in his father, a simple change in his demeanor, his voice. "You can still choose, Father. You can help me. You can help us." He allowed himself to feel a brief shred of hope. There were clues, here and there, that his father was capable of feeling something besides scorn and regret for him, his only son. They were few and far between, but they were still there. Draco had always held out hope, the same hope that Harry would defeat the Dark Lord and his father might change back into who he used to be before.

Lucius turned away from him, his face obscured in shadow. "It is too late for me, Draco. I was always proud of you, but the Dark Lord wanted more. He wanted too much. I had no choice but to make you less. I could never say no. Your mother knew, if it came down to it, a choice between me or you.." he trailed off, as if he were afraid of the words.

"You would choose yourself," Draco finished for him.

"Yes," his father's voice was a whisper. "I was weak, Draco. You," he laughed wryly. "I wanted you to be as weak as I was. Weaker. Then the Dark Lord wouldn't have use for you. You deserve a better life than the one I have given you. I hope you can make one for yourself someday, even it is with.. him."

Was this acceptance? Draco felt a tightness in his chest that he couldn't place. His eyes started to burn. He felt a sudden tremor that shook the foundations of the manor. Dust and chunks of centuries old mortar fell around them like rain. An earthquake? Highly unlikely, even in a dream.

Draco stepped forward, out of the cell. "What's happening, Father?"

"You have always had a great strength inside of you, Draco, much more than I ever had. This," he gestured to Draco's missing hand. "This is nothing." Lucius gave his son a watery look, unsheathed his wand with that malicious whisper, flipped it around, and handed it to him. "You have the purest of blood running through your veins."

Draco only blinked. He could think of nothing he wanted less than his father's wand.

"Take it, please, Draco. This is the only thing I can do for you now," his father hissed.

The second he wrapped his long trembling fingers around the outstretched wand, his father disappeared. "Father?" he called, but he knew there would be no answer. He had the distinct feeling he wouldn't be seeing him again any time soon. He wasn't sure how he felt about that.

Draco looked down at the object in his hand. The silver snake head topped the long dark piece of magical wood. Ever since he could remember, he had always felt a strange sense of awe and fear at his father's wand. The travesties that it made, the curses that spewed from it relentlessly. He knew it had been in his family for hundreds of years, perhaps thousands. How many Malfoys had held this wand? How many Malfoys had felt exactly as he did now, shouldered with the burden of their father's past actions and spells?

The ground shifted beneath his feet once again, the torches flickering, the stones groaning. "Harry?" He called, embarrassed at the slight waver in his voice. What the bloody hell was Potter doing to his house? Did the worlds even overlap like that? Or was this just another mind trick courtesy of the Dark Lord?

He placed his father's wand, his family's wand, between his teeth and pulled the garish snake head from the handle. It hit the stones with a clatter as it rolled away into the darkness. It felt only slightly better in his hand now, as he ran his thumb down the length of it, feeling the old grooves in the polished wood and the new ones left by his own teeth. He smirked when he thought of how angry his father would be at him for ruining this abhorrent family heirloom.

There was a rumble as the ground and walls shook around him. The door to his cell clanged back and forth angrily. Draco waited for it to stop again, like it had before, but the tremors only grew. There was a massive crash and what sounded like the entire manor collapsing coming from the central chamber. The old bricks that held up the dungeon were coming apart, falling around him. He ducked with his arms over his head. He knew only one thing in that moment. That wherever the blast had originated, that's where Harry would be. He grinned and without waiting for the dust to settle, took off running down the darkened corridor.

Draco found Harry, bloodier than he left him, in a heap of rubble. "Harry." He wanted to shake him awake, but he also didn't want to put down the wand, as nefarious as it felt to have it in his procession, he was quite sure having nothing was worse. He knelt down among the partial pillars and nudged Harry with his elbow. Harry groaned and stirred, bright red blood coming from a cut above his hairline, mixing with the brownish dried blood on his face. Draco felt a wave of shame. It was his fault, all of it. He could've kept to himself this school year. He could've been more vigilant and guarded, then there never would have been a chance to be bound to someone like Harry Potter against his will. But, he guessed, Harry might have found a different way to him, a different way to the Dark Lord, that would've turned out much like this one: lying bloody in a pile of rubble.

He looked up, expecting to see a great hole where the Malfoy Manor foyer used to be, but there was only the stone ceiling masked in partial darkness, just as always. There was a tugging at his shirtsleeve and he looked back down to see Harry grinning at him with a mouthful of bloody teeth.

"Potter, what did you do?" He meant for it to come out lightly, a joke, but it sounded as pained as he was sure Harry felt.

Harry coughed, trying to right himself amid the wreckage. Draco put the wand between his teeth again and helped his fiancé up with his only hand. Harry's brilliant green eyes gave him a once over. "That's not your wand," Harry coughed.

Draco plucked the wand from his mouth, smirking at Harry. He was unbelievably happy to see him. His heart railed against his ribcage. He had to fight to keep his head level. "Potter, you always focus on the wrong details-" but he stopped talking as there was a shifting in the room. It was a barely palpable feeling, not something physical at all really, but by the look on Harry's face, he had felt it too. It was like a minute shift in tone, something in the air, something that felt distinctly evil and wrong and made the hair on the back of his neck stand up.

"Where is he, Harry?"

Harry turned to him as if suddenly remembering what they were doing, what the stakes at hand were. "He was right across from me," he pointed to other side of the chamber. "Then we fell down here."

Draco's eyes searched the wreckage for any sign of movement. He could see from the corner of his eye that Harry was doing the same. There was a scraping sound and Harry and Draco turned, hand and wand at the ready, but it was only a partial flagstone rolling down a pile of rubble. A sudden gravelly laugh echoed off the dungeon walls, seeming to come from everywhere at once.

"Show yourself!" Harry called, his voice loud and full of anger. Draco stared at him in surprise. Harry waved a hand and a broken pillar swung to the side of the large room. The laughter continued, growing louder.

"Harry, wait," Draco reached for him but he forgot again- his hand wasn't there and Harry moved outside his limited reach. Draco squinted his eyes in the semi-darkness. He thought he saw something moving..

Harry was angrily clearing the dungeon floor, like if he turned over enough stones and broken remnants of the manor foyer, he'd find Voldemort there, waiting for him.

"Harry!" Draco knew for certain he was seeing something now. Dark figures were coming towards them out of the wreckage. Now Harry saw them too. Draco didn't know what had happened; if Harry had weakened the Dark Lord, if this was only meant to be another distraction, but he did know one thing, that killing him sooner was better than later.

"What are they?" Harry growled at him in a low voice.

"His followers," Draco whispered.

"How would they be here, Draco?" Harry didn't seem afraid, only curious. It was strange. He wondered if Harry was really so brave or just pretending to be. He wondered if there was a difference.

"We're all connected now," he whispered back.

Harry grinned at him in the gloom. "We can take them."

Draco tried to swallow the lump that was rising in his throat. "We may not have to."

He raised his father's wand. It felt impossibly heavy and awkward in his left hand. His father's words came back to him and he made himself a promise. He would be a better man.

"Expecto Patronum!" Draco shouted, hearing it reverberate around the chamber, but not much else happened. He shot Harry a gawking look.

"Expecto Patronum!" Harry said forcefully, flicking his fingers upwards. He really was a quick study when he had to be. But only a few wisps shot out of Harry's fingertips.

The figures were moving faster now, closing in around them. There were four; two at their front, two at their back. Draco wracked his brain, cursing his slowness. What had Hermione said when he was learning the Patronus charm? A circle and then an upward flick? But he had done that. Then it hit him over the head like a hammer. He was left-handed now.

"Expecto Patronum!" He shouted again, emphasizing every syllable, thinking of Harry's touch, Harry's kiss, the acceptance and love. He turned his father's wand counterclockwise this time, his upward flick forceful and sure. This time his reverberating echo of a voice was met with the howl of his spectral wolf. Harry grinned at him, his hands covering his ears.

The wolf growled and started running- no, more like gliding- around the two of them, dispelling the shadowy creatures in a cloud of ash. Draco's wolf completed the circuit and came to stand next to Harry. Harry laughed, the sound of it causing Draco's chest to constrict in the best possible way, and rubbed the corporeal patronus behind the ears like it was a large dog. Draco couldn't hold back the scoff in his throat.

"What?" Harry said defensively.

"It's a wild animal, Potter."

"I think you're just jealous. Don't worry, I'll scratch you behind the ears later."

Draco felt a warmth creep up his neck, making his ears hot. He opened his mouth to retort, but the sinister gravelly laughter came again, seeming to flow all around them. The ground shifted and swelled beneath their feet. The wolf howled once more and dissipated in a plume of silver dust. Harry was at his side, hooking his elbow into his own.

"I told you I would not suffer your childish charms," came Voldemort's lilting, slithering voice.

The dungeons of Malfoy Manor disappeared. They were suddenly standing in a small but homey living room. A puce green sofa sat directly behind them, a leaping fire in a hearth in front of them. It reminded Draco of the dream in which he had unknowingly visited Harry's aunt and uncle's house, but much more open and friendly. Lived in. Made into a home, not just a house. Family photos adorned the walls and the mantelpiece. Draco could make out a woman with long reddish hair and a man that looked an awful lot like his boyfriend. In a few photos they were holding a baby.

He looked at Harry next to him. Yes, an uncanny resemblance. Harry was looking about with his mouth slightly open, his eyes wet. His hands were poised as if he wanted to touch everything, but was afraid to touch anything.

"Harry.." he started, but he didn't have to ask. Somehow, he already knew.

"My parent's house," Harry whispered.

Chapter Text

Harry felt Draco's hand on the small of his back, a gentle and reassuring touch. It was the last thing he wanted right now. He glanced around, his eyes barely taking in one item before moving on to the next. A cup of cold tea on the table. A pair of round glasses folded on top of a book. Coats and scarves on the coatrack. It was a shrine. It was a sick joke. It was impossible. It was perfect. It was as if his parent's home, his family home, had never been touched. It was as if they never died. He watched himself growing up in the photos along the walls, on the mantel, on the small side tables that flanked the couch. He moved away from Draco to inspect one. His mother and father were smiling and laughing while holding hands. A younger version of himself stood in front of them, holding his Hogwarts acceptance letter. Proud parents. They laughed and hugged Harry, who grinned unabashedly. He was pretty sure that never happened.

"What is this?" He muttered, more to himself than anything.

"Harry," Draco paused, probably wanting Harry to look at him, but Harry couldn't peel his eyes away from the photographs. "Harry," Draco started again. "He's only stalling for time. We have no idea what he's planning-"

"Are you seeing this?" Harry interrupted, picking up a small framed photo. It was a slightly younger Harry, in front of a bevy of lit candles on a birthday cake. The magical photograph moved, his parents mouthing the words, happy birthday to you, the younger Harry grinning, his round glasses glinting in the candle light, about to blow them out. He counted 15 candles.

Draco was pulling at the sleeve of his ruined hoody. He made a face at his boyfriend, who was annoying him more than anything at the moment. He unzipped it and let it drop to the floor, but Draco kept talking. "It's another trick, Harry. We're asleep and there's a reason we're here- it's exactly what he wants. If you injured him, we have to-"

"I didn't injure him, we barely fought," Harry said, his voice sounding far away and dreamy. It was like an alternate reality where his parents didn't die. The proof was here, all around him, in the photographs. His parents were alive and they loved him so much. There was no war. There was no Voldemort. There was only this full and happy home. It filled his heart to the brim and made it difficult to breathe.

"What do you mean? Harry, tell me what happened," Malfoy was still talking, trying to step between him and the past he never had.

"Nothing happened. Get out of my way, Malfoy." Harry watched as Draco's face registered shock, hurt, and then transformed itself into a stoic mask. He was surprised it mattered so little to him in this moment. He sighed. "I knocked out the Death Eaters, Voldemort tried to kill me a couple of times, and I wrecked your house. Happy?"

Draco scoffed. "No, Harry, I am not happy. Is that everything? You knocked out my father? My aunt? Then they could be here." Draco's handsome face became concerned and looked about, as if there could be enemies around every corner in Godric's Hollow.

Harry felt his stomach drop. "Not your father, no." He picked up another picture, of a place he didn't recognize, maybe a vacation spot. He and his family took vacations. It seemed so simple, yet for him it was revelatory. They all looked ridiculously happy.

"What happened to my father, Potter?" Draco's voice was quiet and low. Dangerous.

Harry felt a momentary pang of guilt. He couldn't meet Draco's silver eyes. "This is important to me, Draco," Harry whispered. "Don't you see that? This is everything I've always wanted. Everything." Why couldn't Draco let him have this? Even if it was just for a little while.

"Everything?" Draco asked, and Harry's pang of guilt intensified, threatening to choke him. He could hear the hurt in the stoic Slytherin's voice even if it didn't show on his face. "Voldemort shows you what you want to see. He-"

"I know, I know," Harry cut him off. "He lies." He felt his anger boiling inside him. It might be Voldemort. It might not be. This could be a world in which he could be happy, be with his parents. What was reality, anyway? This could be his reality. No dark lords. No more death. Just him and his parents and birthdays and vacations.

"Worse. Sometimes he tells the truth." But Harry heard voices and the clinking of dishes coming from the kitchen. Happy voices. Familiar voices. "Harry, don't do this."

"Do what?" He knew his tone was overly petulant, but he didn't try to fix it.

Draco moved in front of him, blocking his way. Was his wand raised? Harry tried to ignore the implied threat. Draco was talking again. "We need to stay focused. He's trying to separate us. I have a feeling that I won't be able to follow you in there." Draco's eyes peered into his, stormy and concerned. His gaze alighted something in his chest, but he pushed it down. His parents were here. Alive.

Harry scoffed. "Then don't. I need to know. Can't I do that? Can't I be selfish just this once?" He pushed his way past Draco, needing to see for himself.

He opened the door to the kitchen and was met with the bright and smiling faces of his parents. "Harry!" They both cried happily. Harry had caught them making dinner. His mother had her wand out and seemed to be stirring pots on the stove as if she were conducting an orchestra. His father was pinching and kneading some sort of dough with his hands. He grinned back at them, grateful, as he had always been, to learn something new about each of them.

"You're just in time, Harry," his mother called.

"We weren't expecting you so soon," his father added, giving him a conspiratorial wink.

Harry didn't know what they were talking about, he was just glad to see them. He thought of his mother and father the last time he had seen them, in a dream, in the field. He thought of how quickly their joyful reunion had turned to scorn and disappointment. About his life choices. About his relationship with Draco. He shook his head, easily finding his happy grin again. That was before. This is now. He pulled a chair out from the dining room table.

"Great," he said. He felt out of breath, but the words came easy. It was as if he had always sat at this table, as if he had always said these words to his living parents as they cooked dinner. "What're we having?"

"Oh, my dearest," his mother crooned. "You're going to love this."

Harry felt his stomach turn as his mother reached for something and came up with Draco's disembodied hand. It looked like a pale long-fingered spider. She winked at him as she dropped it into a saucepan with a splash.

"You know, Harry," his father said, pushing his round glasses up on his nose. "We're so glad you're here." Harry felt a great swelling in his chest, the likes of which he had never known. "I know you're upset now, but it's just a phase, son. Your godfather Sirius and I," he chuckled, sharing a meaningful glance with his mother before continuing, "we had a time like that. Like you and this other boy. At school." He cleared his throat. "It's all a time for experimentation, son. Magical and otherwise. You'll get it out of your system and grow up and marry a nice girl, like I did."

He pushed his chair back from the table. He meant to get up, to leave, but his mother was suddenly behind him, scooting his chair back in and placing a steaming bowl in front of him. A long pale finger bobbed in it like a log on a lake. "Just try it, sweetheart."

"Actually," Harry swallowed hard. "I think I'd like to leave now, Mum."

"You'd feel so much better if you just let him go. You can stay here, with us."

His father appeared on his other side, a heavy hand resting on his shoulder. "Give him up, son. Don't you want that, Harry? To stay with us?"

"I want it more than anything," Harry whispered. "But it's not real."

His parents were suddenly sitting across from him at the table, loudly slurping their soup. They acted as if they hadn't heard him. "Mum? Dad?" Harry looked on in horror as his parent's faces started to melt. His mother's eyeballs were drooping in her face. His father's cheeks were sloughing off into his soup with a splash.

Harry fell backwards out of his chair, rolling away from the grisly scene. His parents were coming toward him with ruined faces and cries of "Don't leave us, Harry," and "Stay." His chest felt the icy grip of fear and he knew he was wrong. So wrong. He scrambled to his feet and launched himself face first through the kitchen door, sprawling on the living room carpets. Draco was there, standing over him, his face giving nothing away. He thought he could feel Draco's disdain and frustration, but maybe it was only his imagination.

"Can we leave now?" He drawled.

"Yes, please," Harry breathed.

The Potters were banging through the kitchen door after him, their faces a melty bloody mess.

"Bloody hell, Potter," Malfoy was trying to help him up with one hand. "What the fuck happened in there?"

"Tell you later, babe," Harry said, quickly getting to his feet. He waved a hand, trying to dispel these ghoulish specters of parents, but nothing happened. Draco was backing up, his right arm across Harry's chest protectively, his left brandishing his wand. Where did he get that wand? He pushed Draco aside once more, gently this time. "I'll do it." Draco nodded and gave him space.

Harry took a breath, facing his dream-parents for the last time. It was nice while it lasted. Before their faces melted off and they tried to convince him to leave his boyfriend. Again. He knew deep down it was Voldemort, but he already wore that hatred like a warm blanket.

"Harry," his mother garbled.

"Don't go with him," his father moaned.

"It's pretty sad, you know," Harry called out to the ceiling, to Voldemort. "That this is the best you can do. I think you're afraid of me. You're afraid of us!"

"Harry," Draco warned beside him. They were backed up against the wall now. Draco knocked into the coatrack and tried to catch it with a nonexistent hand. "Bugger," he muttered. Harry thought it would've been funny in any other situation. He shook himself, he had to focus. He brought his hands up in front of him, rotating in a circle and a flick, thinking happy thoughts. His parents were not in them at all this time.

"Expecto Patronum!" He shouted from deep in his belly. The familiar silver strands shot out of his fingers, feeling hot, too hot to be touching his skin, surely, but it didn't hurt. The strands met and formed.. something. Harry felt a wave of despair. It wasn't a stag. It was some sort of bird, flying around his parents' living room, a fiery tail following in its wake, turning his parents to ash.

"A phoenix?" he heard Draco breathe. His grey eyes were wide and his mouth was partly open. Harry thought about how nice it would be to kiss him right then, but knew it wasn't the right time. Nowhere close to the right time. He reached for him anyway, but the cozy living room was transforming around them. Giant trees were shooting out of the living room floor. The ceiling was replaced with a dark leafy canopy. The front picture window cracked and shattered, a wall of water rushing into the small space. A river cutting its way between the enormous trees.

Harry stumbled to get out of the way of the full force of it and turned too late to see Draco heading for the other side. Harry scrambled up a sudden slope, mud and grass making his shoes slip. He stopped by a massive tree to catch his breath, looking over his shoulder at the river. It was night in the Forbidden Forest, if that's indeed where they were. Except, it was eerily silent. There were no sounds of creatures, no wind, even the river made absolutely no noise. There was only his heavy breathing.

"Draco?" He called into the silence. He waited for an answer, then tried again. No answer. He peered across the tumultuous silent waters, his trained Seeker's eyes seeing no movement. He let out a heavy sigh, resting his hands on his knees. If only there was a way to bring Draco to him, or the Dark Lord, for that matter. Then all of this would be over and done with. A wild thought occurred to him. But surely, it wouldn't work. It couldn't be that easy. Could it?

"Accio Draconus!" He shouted with a laugh, his hands in the air above his head.

He waited a moment, stifling his crazy laughter with a snort, his ears straining to listen.

Only silence.

Nothing was ever easy. He put his hands in his pockets, preparing to find a way around the river when he saw it. Something dark moving through the trees at a disturbing pace. Harry's eyes widened as he realized it was heading straight for him. He wracked his brain, trying to remember how to cancel a spell but it just would not come. Harry was trying to decide if he should run the other way or stand his ground and try to catch the incoming figure when it was suddenly too late. He saw a flash of Draco's once-shiny shoes and of his shocked face as he tumbled end over end, colliding with Harry on the forest floor. They flipped and flopped among the ferns and tree roots, Harry landing sprawled on top.

He looked down at Draco's annoyed face with a sheepish grin. "Hi."

"Harry Potter, you are an absolute idiot," Draco growled, his frown turning into a slight smirk.

"I think you mean absolute genius."

"I know what I mean." But Draco's smirk was back in full form, his long-fingered hand on the side of his face. His only hand.

"I'm sorry about your hand," Harry whispered, pulling his eyes away.

"It's all my fault, Harry. I misjudged everything. I made one mistake after another. And I paid the price. You shouldn't have to. Not anymore." Draco's hand held a gentle pressure, as if he could turn Harry's eyes back to him.

"I'm sorry your father died." Harry hadn't mean to tell him like that. It sort of slipped out. He felt the other boy stiffen underneath him. For once he was glad he couldn't feel what Draco was feeling. He knew the relationship between him and his father was complicated, to say the least, but he imagined it still hurt. He turned his eyes back to Draco's silver-blue ones. They gave nothing away.

"Did you do it?"

"What? No, of course not. It was Voldemort. He, uh.." but Harry trailed off, turning his face away, suddenly unable to find the words. He found himself feeling sad. Sad for Draco, losing a father, even if it was a bad one. Sad for himself, for having witnessed Lucius Malfoy's demise in such a personal way. Then Draco was kissing his neck. For some reason, it eked the words out him, through his dry and pinched throat. He told Draco how it happened, his mother waking, his father's last words, all of it. Draco only wrapped his arms around him and listened. When Harry was done, he cleared his throat.

"Thank you, Harry."

"For what?" Harry's eyes felt wet.

"You helped my mother when she needed it the most. You did what I could never do. You stood beside her."

"Draco, I-"

"It's time to get up, Harry." Draco's voice was soft, but serious. Harry complied, even though he felt as though he could just lay there on top of his fiancé for the rest of forever and be just fine. Harry ran a hand through his hair as Draco got to his feet. He watched Draco fumble with his shirt sleeves, which had unrolled and were flapping around his wrists. He stepped forward and rolled up Draco's sleeves to the elbow, like he knew he liked. He could feel Draco's cool gaze on him while he did it, a heavy weight that was both comforting and nerve wracking. Strange, how Draco could still make him feel nervous, after all they had been through. He pushed up his glasses when he was done, surveying his work. Not as neat as when Draco did it, but it was okay.

"That's perfect, thank you," Draco whispered.

"Can you still read my mind?"

Draco only answered with a smirk.

Suddenly a high-pitched scream pierced the silence. It sounded close, but Harry couldn't see anything through the dark trees. Voldemort was there, somewhere.

A question rose in his mind and passed his lips before he knew it. "Were you really going to join him?"

Draco's face was stone once more. Harry wasn't sure if he was trying to hide his fear or his surprise at Harry's question. "If it was going to save you," Draco cleared his throat and swept his hair to the side. "I would do that and more."

Harry's arms wound around his middle as Draco wrapped his arms around his shoulders.

"Do you feel that?" Harry whispered. It was warm. Warmer than just body heat. Tingly and familiar. But it was quiet, muted, much less than before.

"Yes," answered Draco. "But if we can still feel it-"

Another scream pierced the air, a man's deep voice this time, in incredible pain.

Draco's trembling fingers found Harry's chin and lifted it gently. Harry's mouth was already there, waiting for his. Their lips met and Harry worried it would pale in comparison to what they've already experienced, but it didn't. It was only different, but barely. Harry traced Draco's jaw as they kissed. He ignored the metallic taste of blood, trying to show Draco how much he meant to him in this moment, thinking it may very well be the last.

Harry pulled away as another pained shout reached their ears. "I love you," he whispered.

"I love you too, Harry," Draco whispered back. It was a strange feeling. Showing affection without knowing the exact effect on the other person. "Let's try not to die today, hm?"

Harry laughed. Not dying was at the top of his list. "Indeed, Draco Malfoy, indeed."

They started picking their way through the forest, both of them straining to see what awaited them in the shadows.

"You'll take my name, won't you?" It suddenly seemed very important to know.

"What?"

"When we marry."

"Harry, I hardly think this is the time-"

"Draco Potter sounds much better than Harry Malfoy."

"Harry-"

"Or we could hyphenate but that's a little silly, don't you think? Potter-Malfoy. Malfoy-Potter."

"Potter-"

"You're right, we should probably keep our own names. You know, for the sake of our witty banter and all."

Draco scoffed, but had a little smirk that wouldn't leave his face. Harry grinned back at him. He was suddenly grateful for Draco's presence. He had always thought he'd have to face the Dark Lord alone, a fight from which he'd never return. But now-

The mud and plants beneath his feet gradually gave way to rough-hewn flagstones. Walls seemed to materialize from in between the ancient trees. Torchlight now lit their path, even though Harry didn't see any torches. In all honesty, he was getting a bit sick of this dream stuff. He peered about for some sign of movement, hoping to find Voldemort, hoping to kill him. They were back in the Malfoy Manor dungeons. Sort of. There were walls, and a floor, but there were trees here and there, and the ceiling abruptly opened up into the night sky in a weird juxtaposition of the two places. The effect was eerie but familiar.

The torchlight rose higher as they entered, allowing them to see exactly what was happening in the long shadows. Voldemort was there, looking stronger than Harry had ever seen him before. He was surrounded by Death Eaters, but there was something off about them, something wrong. Their bodies kept wavering in the light, as if they weren't really there at all. Shadows or projections, maybe some sort of entity creating magic. If anyone could pull it off, he was absolutely sure that Voldemort could. He shuddered. He was surprised to see Bellatrix Lestrange, on her knees in front of the Dark Lord. Voldemort was removing his robes and Harry had to wonder what the fuck they were walking in on. Draco gave him a look that said the exact same thing. The Dark Lord was now stripped to his waist, only wearing some dark loose-fitting pants.

"Please, Master, please," she was begging. It sounded weird and overtly sexual. "Let me be next. Please."

"He's different," Harry muttered.

"He thinks he's in control," Draco muttered back.

"Isn't he?"

Draco didn't answer. They gripped the wall, not wanting to be seen just yet, if they could help it.

Voldemort leaned down, saying something to Bellatrix. She looked to be enraptured, as she always was whenever the Dark Lord was around. Harry cringed, not sure he really wanted to witness whatever this was. He watched as Voldemort ran his dirty fingers over her face, through her hair, like a lover. Then he put his mouth near hers and Harry was sure they were going to kiss, but instead, Voldemort inhaled deeply while Bellatrix gasped. It reminded Harry of the way a dementor's kiss might work.

"We need to stop this," Harry growled, stepping forward, hands ready.

Draco's hand caught his arm, holding him back with surprising force. His face was pale and worried. "Draco? What is it?"

"Don't go out there, Harry," Draco's voice was a pinched whisper.

They both turned their attention back to Voldemort and Bellatrix as she screamed as if in rapture. Harry wrinkled his nose at the obscene sound, and then, too suddenly it seemed, Bellatrix was only a shadow of her former self. Her flesh was gone, only a ghost-like visage remained. She floated over to where the others were hovering between the oddly placed trees, a short distance away from Voldemort.

"Harry.. I know what this is." His lover's voice was barely audible, but if it were, Harry was certain there would be a tremor in it.

Despite the fact that they weren't really there, that this wasn't reality, Draco looked like he was ready to turn and run. Harry thought of their first encounter with Voldemort when they were only eleven years old, on detention in the Forest. Draco had run then, leaving Harry to face it alone. He could only hope he wouldn't this time. "What is it? What's going on?"

"It's a spell that allows the user to consume the essence of another witch or wizard, which they then can use as their own power." Draco sounded like he was reciting a text book.

Harry was confused. "How do you know?"

"Because," Draco whispered. "I wrote it."

Chapter Text

"What do you mean you wrote it?" Harry's voice was an irritable growl beside him. Draco realized he was still holding onto Harry's arm, probably tighter than was necessary. He relaxed his grip, not wanting to let go entirely, not sure that Harry wouldn't run straight into the mouth of danger, like he always did.

Draco had read about dark magic in his father's library since he was very young. There was a time when he was obsessed with learning everything he could about his father's line of work, as if in that, he could finally find some common ground with the imposing, dangerous man. He remembered enchanting the lock to his father's study in search of something more important, something greater than all of the other books in the library combined. If he could show his father all that he knew about dark magic, well, what father wouldn't be proud of that? He would prove his worth, further the family business, take his place in the long and infamous line of Malfoys. For a time, it was all he wanted.

He had always had his suspicions, that there was more going on than he was told, and one day he had found the truth himself. He had found journals, diagrams, whole entire tomes, all written by Malfoys throughout the ages. It had taken him awhile to piece everything together, to decode and decipher, but he did. The Malfoys were, as he had told Harry, stewards of dark wizards, that much was true. But what Draco discovered that day meant more. He glanced at Harry, who was still waiting for him to answer.

"My family, the Malfoys, we have always been caretakers of dark lords."

"Yes, you told me that already." Harry's voice was edging towards anger.

Draco swallowed hard, forcing out the words. Words he had never spoken aloud to anyone in all the seventeen years he had lived. Words he knew he shouldn't be speaking aloud to anyone, even his betrothed. "We Malfoys," he cleared his throat and tried again. "We are spellwrights. Spellwrights who are unbelievably skilled in dark magic."

Harry's green eyes flashed. ""The spellbook.. the names you said weren't Malfoys.."

Draco looked away. "I lied. I didn't know you could read runic. We are the ones who keep the dark lords in power, Harry. It's been that way for centuries." Draco watched him, trying to keep his gaze even, ready for the onslaught that was sure to come from the Boy Who Lived. The boy whose life had been directly affected by something so mundane as his family's profession. If producing new and terrible dark magical spells for those seeking power could be considered a mundane profession.

"I can't read runic. Just like I can't speak Parseltongue," Harry scoffed, his attention turning back to Voldemort. "You were trying to add your name to the list."

"I was." Draco winced, hearing the words from his mouth. "I gave it to my father, but he said it wasn't good enough. That I would never be good enough."

"So how do we stop him?"

"Aren't you angry?"

"Of course I'm angry," Harry replied. "I'm angry Voldemort killed my parents. I'm angry your parents weren't nicer to you. I'm angry that everything I love gets taken from me. I'm especially angry that we're sitting here talking instead of doing something about whatever it is that he's doing. But I'm not angry with you. How could you have known?" Harry's voice had dropped to an almost desperate sounding whisper. "Tell me what to do."

Draco paused, unsure how to handle this.. what was it? Acceptance? Grace? He bristled at first, his knee-jerk reaction to curse Saint Potter and all that he stood for, but they were beyond that now, weren't they? He swallowed hard as the next realization washed over him. If they were to die today, it would probably be his fault. His fault for writing this spell, his fault for getting them trapped in this dream world. For all he knew they could be in St Mungo's already.

"Draco," Harry snapped. "What are you doing?" Draco blinked, realizing that he had slowly been stepping backwards, away from Voldemort, away from the fight, away from Harry.

"I can't, Harry." He felt his legs turn to jelly and realized he probably couldn't run away even if he wanted to.

"What do you mean, you can't?" Harry growled, gripping Draco by the shirt collar. Under any other circumstances, he thought he might quite like Harry being so forceful. "You're on my side now, right?"

Draco nodded. The fear was eating at his stomach, like a caged rat, crawling up into chest and gnawing at his brainstem in a primal way. Harry's grip lessened a fraction. "You made the choice already, love. Hard part is over. Just do this with me, help me. This spell.. whatever you did.. he's stronger now, I can feel it. But your mum said-"

"You talked to my mother?"

"Well, yeah." Harry's hands dropped into a small shrug.

"When were you going to tell me, Potter? First my father and now-"

"There wasn't time," Harry turned away from him. "There still isn't time. If he completes whatever he's doing while we're here arguing-"

"Okay, okay. I know. Harry, tell me what my mother said."

"He can be weakened here. Nowhere else." Harry's green eyes had a peculiar flash to them, and Draco knew he was holding something back.

"Is my mother alive?" He cringed inwardly at how weak his voice sounded. He wasn't sure he could lose both parents in one day. But, of course, that's how it had happened for Harry. His chest hurt a little more, like a twisting knife.

"She was when I left her. She was fighting with your aunt, and well," Harry gestured towards the place they last saw Voldemort. "Your aunt is here and your mother is not." Draco let out a breath he didn't realize he'd been holding. "So you go that way, I'll go this way," Harry was saying. "The shadowy blokes, they're made of dark magic, yeah? So the patronus will probably be our best bet. We get rid of them and then get Voldemort." Harry was nodding fervently, like it was the best plan in the world.

"No Harry, that's terrible- wait!" But Harry had already started off, picking his way through the enormous trees and bits of his family's ruined dungeons. "We need the counterspell!" He whisper-yelled after his fiancé.

"So write it!" Harry whisper-yelled back, motioning for him to go his own way, according to the plan.

Draco scoffed and ran his hand through his hair, slicking it back with the cold sweat that was pouring from his forehead. "This is ludicrous," he whispered to himself. He hadn't bothered to write a counterspell. His father had told him he would never be a true Malfoy, that his dark spells weren't worth any dark lord's while, but here he was, watching one of the greatest dark lords of all time perform a spell he wrote in his early teens. Any other dark wizard would be proud. He found he did feel proud. And a bit sick. He felt the need to laugh but suppressed it with a cough. He went the way Harry had motioned, being careful not to be noticed.

There was a sudden light illuminating the dark. Draco tripped and fell in surprise, his knees hitting the stone flagstones. He turned, seeing a massive fire in the center of the clearing, in the center of the dungeon, and Voldemort in front of it, arms raised. It must have been a trick of the harsh light, because the Dark Lord looked unnaturally large. It was as if he had always been a giant and Draco had simply never noticed. Not as large as Hagrid, for sure, but larger than he normally was. Draco shook his head and forced himself to his feet, ignoring the quiver in his knees. He reached for his father's wand, his wand now, he supposed, but it wasn't there. He patted his pockets, all of them, even his shirt pockets knowing full well he would never put it there. Keeping track of things with only one hand was proving difficult. Then he thought of when Harry had summoned him with that stupid charm. He cursed under his breath, wishing Harry was easier to work with.

"Good of you boys to join me," Voldemort's voice echoed slightly. "Good of you to let me finish the spell." He groaned then with a sharp intake of breath. "I feel so much better now."

"It's not finished," Draco muttered.

"Oh, but it's finished enough, isn't it?" Draco started at the Dark Lord's reply. He didn't think he would be able to hear him. "Come forward, Draco. Stop hiding in the shadows where you don't belong."

Draco's keen eyes spotted Harry across the clearing only for a moment before the dark-haired boy blended back in with the darkness surrounding them. Draco stood tall and straight, chin up, face blank. He stepped into the clearing.

Harry saw Draco and Voldemort exchanging words in front of the massive fire but couldn't hear them. Voldemort seemed strangely large, maybe it was just a trick of the light. He picked his way over the broken cobblestones, over the tree roots that seemed to raise of their own accord, trying to trip him on purpose. "Stop that," he muttered. To his surprise, the roots listened, snuggling themselves back inside the ground.

There was movement, to his right, in the darkness. He turned, but saw nothing. Movement on the other side, but all he could see were Draco and the Dark Lord. What was Draco doing? He was standing there, talking to him as if it were afternoon tea and not a battle to the death. Harry let out an exasperated breath.

"What's the matter, Harry, love? Draco switching sides got you down?" A ghostly whisper in his ear, a familiar voice. He whipped around, knowing well enough that there would be no one there.

"Come and face me, Bellatrix. Or are you afraid?" He pushed his glasses up. The bridge of his nose felt sticky with dried blood.

Her eerie laugh penetrated his skull, made his scar burn. "I am afraid of nothing. I am nothing. I gave my all to him."

"Or did he take it from you?" A foul-smelling breeze blew in his face. He wrinkled his nose.

"You know nothing of what we do, Potter."

"But I should think you didn't mean to die, did you?" He couldn't stop the grin spreading across his face. "We saw you. You were surprised. Shocked, even. And now, well, look at you." He laughed then, a short burst until the foul-smelling wind came back in his face. She showed herself then, a mere ghost, but the force of her presence was still the same. Hatred warmed the pit of Harry's stomach. He flexed his fingers.

"I may be dead here, but out there, I am very much alive."

Harry laughed in her ghost face. "I very much doubt that. Now if you'll excuse me.."

"I've seen my cousin here, Harry." Her words were laced with a poisoned meaning.

Harry stopped. "No. You haven't."

"Oh, but I have. And he blames you entirely." Her insane phantom laugh hurt Harry's ears.

He heard a scream come from the clearing. Draco. Harry didn't have to even say the spell this time. The magic seemed to leak from his fingers, already knowing what to do. The silver-white strands formed a magical flaming bird. Bellatrix screamed once and was gone. His patronus flew through the trees, a thing above grace, above beauty, lighting up everything in its path with its eerie and comforting glow. He thought he would feel better when faced with her death, but the truth was, he couldn't be sure. He was almost positive killing someone who was actually alive and not a ghost or in a dream world would feel very different.

He saw another form coming through the trees; a silver animal loping towards him. He grinned. Draco was able to cast his patronus. The wolf came to him but disappeared into his open arms with a mournful howl and a puff of dust. Somehow, Harry knew he was out of time.

Draco was surrounded by ghosts. Two held his arms on either side, one stood behind him. He could feel the cold ghostly touch of two hands loosely held around his neck. Only a warning, for now. The funny thing was is that he had known these people his entire life. Family friends, all. Crabbe, Goyle, McNair. He smiled at the irony of it all. "Did you watch my father die?" he sneered at them. He almost laughed when the one at his back released his grip on his neck in surprise.

"I am terribly sorry about your father," Voldemort's snakelike voice seemed to worm its way into his ears. "It had to be done."

"And now you're one short," Draco growled back, in a defiant way, he hoped.

"And now I'm one short." Voldemort sighed and shrugged his huge shoulders. "I am so very disappointed with how everything turned out, my boy. I couldn't be sure that it would even work here, in this world," he gestured around at the broken dungeon, the trees, as if Draco didn't know where they were. "But I'm very glad it has. It seems to work even better than anticipated, hm?"

Draco's mouth formed a thin line as he exhaled through his nose. "Quite."

"I mean," Voldemort laughed. "Look at me!"

The ghosts around him chuckled. It was the last straw for Draco. "What are you laughing at? You're all dead." The one closest to him, Crabbe's father, suddenly stopped his snickering as if this thought hadn't occurred to him.

"The one Malfoy left." The Dark Lord was strutting in front of him, pacing and stretching his great limbs. Draco made his face stone. Harry had said his mother was alive. He just had to trust him. "The one Malfoy, with the secret to my success in his hands. Well," Voldemort corrected himself, "hand." Voldemort came closer and Draco shrunk back instinctively. The Dark Lord chuckled. "How about one last deal, Draco? Hm? You know I need one more soul for this spell to work. I know of two that are here, right now, within my grasp. And I know," he paused, only for dramatic effect, it seemed to Draco. "I know that you are the very best at what you do. No matter what your father has told you. I would very much rather have you alive."

"What would I get out of it, then?"

Voldemort laughed, a cackle to rival all others. "What do you get? You get to keep your life! Is that not enough? You get to write spells for me. You get to see your name go down in history as one of the greatest wizards who ever lived! Is that not enough?"

Draco thought about those things. They may have been enough, at one time in his life. But not any longer.

Voldemort must've read something in his face because he came closer, his pasty flat face only inches from Draco's own. Draco felt himself tremble under that stare. "You can have Harry Potter's soul when I am through with it." He whispered it like it was an ugly secret. Voldemort's uncanny eyes scanned Draco's and he continued. "I will make you whole. I will undo the damage that he did."

Voldemort stepped back and spread his hands wide, directly at Draco's chest. Draco winced and shut his eyes tight. This was it. He would be absorbed into the Dark Lord and there would be no going back. He felt his entire body start to burn. His nerves were on fire, like the cruciatus but worse, like it was never going to end. Then he realized it wasn't fire, not really, it was so cold it felt hot. It felt like his own magic when it left his fingers but on a much larger scale. He opened his eyes. He saw Voldemort straining, pulling unseen threads with his fingers, and Draco knew, somehow, that the Dark Lord was pulling on his magic, pulling it out of his body. He screamed, though in response to the pain or the fear, he wasn't sure. He couldn't think, his brain was awash in panic. He tried to get free but the cold grip of the ghosts held sure and tight. Voldemort grunted with the effort and Draco felt the magic inside him form into a tight ball centered in his chest. It was too cold. He was sure to die. His heart would stop and Voldemort would pull his magic, his very soul, out of him. His breathing came in rapid shallow bursts, it hurt to breathe. Voldemort pulled on it and Draco screamed again, fought against it. He tried to hold onto this cold ball of painful magic as hard as he possibly could.

"Let it go," the Dark Lord grunted.

"Never," Draco growled.

"Harry Potter is a terrible influence on you, my boy." Voldemort nodded to the ghosts. "Do it now," he commanded.

Before Draco knew what was happening, the two ghosts on either side of him reached inside his chest. He froze, his breath taken from him, his autonomy gone.

"There," the Dark Lord whispered as he pulled Draco's magic to the side. Draco felt the cold burning travel to his shoulder, down his bicep, through his elbow, past his forearm and exit his body where his hand used to be. He watched with a morbid fascination, blinking. He had written the spell, he had even seen it in action. This was not it. He stared down at his hand as the ghosts released him and Voldemort stepped back, a weird confident smile on his face. His hand was back. Except it wasn't really his hand. It looked almost invisible, spectral. It felt cold, the same burning cold, as if he had stuck his hand in a snowbank and left it there for weeks. It seemed made of pure magic. His own magic. He flexed his fingers. The magic answered back in a powerful rush. More power than he had ever experienced, more power than he thought possible. It made his head spin. He gasped with the force of it.

It felt like the limits had been taken off. It felt great, phenomenal. He could probably kill Voldemort right now, if he wanted to. He did, very much so, but surprisingly, not quite so much as before. He spotted a glowing bird, out of the corner of his eye, dive between the trees and then vanish. Harry. He didn't say the words, he didn't even think about it. The silvery light started pouring from his new hand, his new fingertips and his wolf was at his feet, the ghosts vanishing. The wolf barked once and tore for the trees.

Voldemort looked at him as if he had cursed him instead of casting a passive patronus charm. "Think very carefully about your next moves, boy. I will have one more soul tonight and if you insist on protecting him, it will be you."

Draco heard a gulping sound come from his own throat as he tried to swallow his fear. He didn't doubt the dark lord's intentions. A sudden understanding washed over him. A lead weight attached itself to his heart, unbearably heavy. Was this how his father felt? Did the dark lord present him with one impossible choice after another? The duress of having something very important to lose on one hand, self-preservation on the other. It was suffocating.

"Your new hand will follow you into your waking life, Draco, I promise you. I can give you so much more. Your mother, she will be eternally taken care of. All you have to do, is give me something in return." The dark lord's voice was reduced to a conspiratorial hiss. "And you know what I need."

Draco knew he was right. Draco knew he would follow in his father's footsteps. It was inevitable. He was who he was. A Malfoy. No matter how much he tried to do the right thing. No matter who he was with. Anything else was just like this place: a dream. Under Voldemort's intense stare, he knelt slowly, his spectral hand resting on the ruined dirty dungeon floor. He couldn't feel anything. He sighed, deeply, feeling something, among many things, break inside of him. It felt like it was supposed to break. As if he had been waiting for this moment his entire life. He realized he was giving up but the only thing he felt was relief. Profound relief. He smirked as he raised his head slightly. "I will get you Harry Potter, my Lord."

Chapter Text

Harry admitted to himself that his plan had been rushed and foolhardy. He should have listened to Draco. Draco, who made thorough plans, who knew the other side from the inside, who trusted him even though he had blown off his hand just moments ago. Reliving it in his mind's eye made him feel sick to his stomach. He would have a lot to make up for, once this was over. He promised himself that he would. There was no way he could ever deserve the type of love Draco had offered him; he could only try his best to be worthy. He sniffled and wiped his nose with his hand.

"Harry," a hushed voice called from beyond the trees to his right.

"Draco?"

"Harry, it is you!" A dark figure lurched toward him, his dirty face obscured by long dark hair. It wasn't Draco. Harry took a step back. "Oh, Harry, I've been here so long. Please, come with me."

"No," Harry whispered. "She was lying."

Sirius Black reached for him and he stumbled away from the grimy long-fingered hand. "Bellatrix? Well, yes, she does that. But you are here. I am here. Let's go, together."

Harry's eyes narrowed. "Where?"

"To see your parents, of course."

"My parents are dead," Harry said. Somehow, that phrase never got any easier to say. "So are you."

"I'm fine, Harry," his godfather said, laughter in his voice. "Though I must take you away from here. This is no longer your fight."

"Why would you say that? It's always been my fight. Now more than ever."

Sirius reached for him again and Harry fell back, tripping on a tree root. Harry scowled at it as it burrowed itself back into the ground. "Your parents, they're here."

"So this place is.."

"Between worlds, Harry. It's where I've been these last few years. It's where you will stay forever if you don't come with me. I know a way out."

"You're trying to distract me." Harry heard another cry in the near distance; unmistakably Draco's voice, in great pain. He felt his heart speed up its rhythm. "I have to go. But not with you."

Sirius' face was the epitome of sadness. He stopped his advances and his shoulders slumped. "I had to try, Harry. Please be careful. I really don't want to see you here again." His godfather turned to go.

"Wait, Sirius!" Harry had dreamed of this moment for so long. Dreamed of finding Sirius and being able to bring him back, to save him. He was his only family, and now he was losing him again. Harry scrambled to his feet and reached for Sirius' shoulder, only to have his hand pass right through it. Sirius whisked away on the wind like smoke. "We have to get out of here," he mumbled to himself.

There was another scream. This time it was his name. Draco needed help. His plan was absolute garbage. If anything happened to him-

Harry broke into a run, heading towards the light. The trees seemed to grow thicker here, he had to run around them, and squeeze in between them. No, the trees themselves were moving. They were inching together, blocking his path. "I told you to stop that!" Harry yelled, feeling very foolish. Then, to his surprise, the trees moved, as if they were toothpicks and he had swiped them away with his hand. The way was clear now. Harry blinked. He could see the fire, Voldemort near it, with Draco but Draco was kneeling at his feet. What was happening?

"Draco!" He called as he ran closer. No use playing it safe now. Draco Malfoy raised his handsome pointed face, the shadows and firelight making him look like a different person, and smirked at him. Not the knowing or the joking smirk, but the old malicious one. Harry felt a shiver rush up his spine. Something had happened in his absence. Was he enchanted? Another binding? How could he possibly know?

The sound of Voldemort's deep chuckle reached his ears, turning his thoughts to nothing but a brilliant seething anger. "What did you do to him?" Harry demanded.

Draco rose to his feet with a languid grace that made Harry's heart skip a beat. "Do to me?" Draco drawled, "More like, did for me, Potter." He brandished an object in his hand- no, it was his hand, but also not his hand. It was strange; purplish and sparkly and yet, terribly see-through, almost like a ghost. He looked up to see Draco watching him notice it. "Nice, isn't it?"

"It's.. it's-"

"You always were so eloquent, Harry." Draco sauntered towards him and Harry knew he should move, knew he should be doing something, but his body felt frozen. "Haven't you put it together yet?" His fiance's voice dropped into a low whisper, the one Draco reserved for intimacy. Hearing it made his face heat up. "My father. My family's legacy," he gestured with his new hand and Harry could feel the latent magic coming from it in waves. Draco was stronger. Impossibly so. "It's only just beginning." The frozen feeling in Harry's body deepened into a hard weight in the pit of his stomach. Bile rose in his throat.

"You've changed your mind," Harry whispered, not believing it even as he said it. Was it another farce? Draco's last one hadn't worked so well. He looked in Draco's eyes, trying to see beyond the stoic mask he wore, looking for any sign as to what to do, how to act.

Draco threw his head back and laughed a harsh angry laugh. "You cut off my hand! You had my father killed! You ruined my home!" Draco stepped closer with every sin he ticked off his list. Harry still couldn't move. "Did you think we could go back to the way things were before? I'm glad the binding is off us, Potter, the whole thing was utter hell."

Harry felt his eyes start to sting. He blinked the tears away violently with a shake of his head. "No," Harry muttered. "He's got you under a spell or something, but we can fight it. I know you're stronger than this, Draco. This isn't what you want, you told me!"

Draco only laughed again. It made Harry feel like the butt of a practical joke at school; like Draco used to put him through before all of this. Strange how that feeling could come back so quickly. "I told you a lot of things," Draco sneered as he walked a slow circle around Harry. "I told you what you needed to hear. I bolstered your hero complex, Saint Potter," he spat. "You needed to save me. Me! Your sworn enemy!" His blond head tipped back in harsh laughter, as if he had told a great and very funny joke. Voldemort's hissing laugh joined his.

Harry felt something wet hit his scalp. Then another. He heard a series of pops and crackles as raindrops started to hit the fire next to them. It had started to rain.

Draco turned his pointed face back to Harry, his eyes too dark to read. "And then you fell in love with me!" The other boy spluttered with an incredulous and malicious laughter. Harry felt his face grow hotter as raindrops spattered his glasses. "It was too good to be true, Potter. You were too easy to manipulate. I thought it would take me till the end of the school year to get you here, but it wasn't even a month!" Draco leaned in close, smirking. Harry was sure he could feel his heart physically breaking. His chest hurt. His mouth was dry. When Draco spoke again, his voice was low and seductive. "And the things you let me do to you-"

Harry's fist caught Draco square on the jaw. The taller boy stumbled backwards, holding his face, his eyes wide and surprised. He recovered quickly, coming at Harry with a growl and a left hook, but Harry easily dodged out of the way, stepped inside his long reach and punched him again, feeling the bridge of Draco's nose give beneath his hand with a soft and sickening snap. Malfoy fell to the forest floor, blood running down his face, mixing with the rain. "I don't know why you're lying, but I know you felt something, Malfoy. If you want to change sides, go ahead, but don't lie about it. Not to me." Harry looked down at the ring on his left hand. He was surprised at how little anger he felt. Maybe a small part of him had been expecting this betrayal all along. He slipped off the ring and let it fall to the ground. He watched Malfoy's eyes as the other boy watched it bounce on the flagstones. It rolled away into the darkness.

Harry heard a single clap and turned to the Dark Lord. Somehow, he had forgotten all about Voldemort. Nothing seemed as important as it had a moment ago. Harry raised his hand, flexing his fingers he brought his hand forward, and stopped. Something was holding him back. The ghosts were there, at his wrists and ankles. He struggled against them, but they held him tight.

Draco was getting up off the ground, his blond hair plastered to his face in the rain. Voldemort whispered something to him then they both flicked their eyes to Harry. Harry struggled to get free, to think of any spell he could manage in this position, coming up with nothing. He couldn't wait until he didn't have to do this ever again. One way or the other.

Voldemort came closer, leering at him with an eerie grin. "Here we are, Harry. Once again."

"Once again, Tom," Harry repeated with a smirk. "There won't be another."

"Oh, I'll make sure of that." Voldemort leaned in close and Harry could smell his rotting breath. Then he pursed his lips and inhaled.

Harry ground his teeth together to keep from screaming. It was nothing like a dementor's kiss. Well, maybe it was a little bit, but instead of taking his happiness, Voldemort was taking everything. It felt like Harry's entire self was being ripped away from his body, stabbing pains filled him, seeming to come from the inside out. The Dark Lord stopped to take a breath. Harry's head fell forward. He would have doubled over, had the ghosts not held him up. He wanted to be sick. He wanted to die. He looked up to find Draco watching him. His face was a flat visage, revealing nothing, but his eyes- His eyes were stormy and horrified. What did that mean? Draco had said he would join the Dark Lord to save him, but Harry felt far from saved.

He could feel a vast emptiness inside himself. For the first time in a very long time, Harry was afraid. Harry had barely caught his breath when Draco came up beside him, running his long fingers through his hair. Harry's scalp tingled with the familiar sensation. He allowed himself to believe, for just a minute, that this wasn't happening. Draco was lying. They were in love, about to be married. They would get a small cabin in the countryside, away from everything and everyone. Harry felt a smile curl his lips. How simple it all seemed. How perfect.

His head was ripped back with a violent force, Draco's fingers were suddenly gripping his hair and pulling so that he faced the Dark Lord's ugly pinched face. "Stay awake, Potter. You wouldn't want to sleep through your demise," Draco growled in his ear. Harry tried to whip his head away, but all that happened was a small shake. He felt impossibly weak. Malfoy laughed as Voldemort leaned in again, his lipless mouth open towards Harry's own. He braced himself for another attack, squeezing his eyes shut. He heard Voldemort inhale deeply, then a choking cough. Harry didn't feel anything happening to him. He opened his eyes.

Draco's hand, his magical hand curled into a first, was in front of his face. Harry felt his other hand curl around his shoulder protectively. Draco grunted, his face a mask of pain as the Dark Lord inhaled the essence of his spectral hand instead of Harry. Harry glanced back and forth, trying to make sense of it. Voldemort's eyes were wide and angry. The ghosts that were holding him were whispering among themselves, but Harry couldn't catch the words. They let him go, one by one, and floated off into the dark. Without their support, Harry fell to his knees.

Draco clenched his teeth and tried to ignore everything else around him. Harry on the ground near his feet. The Dark Lord sapping his essence. His new wonderful, beautiful hand and all of the raw magical power that came with it. It burned ice-cold as he felt the magic being stolen away. No, not stolen. Given.

Voldemort's snake-like eyes were wide with surprise and the bitter truth of betrayal. It looked like he was trying to disengage, to stop what Draco had designed the spell to do, but he couldn't. It was already in motion. A sudden wind picked up, sending the dark lord's robes billowing, Draco's hair blew around his head, in his eyes and then gone, his shirt sleeves unfurled and flapped at his wrists. He didn't have time to be annoyed, however. The soul-sucking kiss was amping up, the power growing beyond even the dark lord's control. Draco cried out, feeling the power leave him, feeling pieces of himself going with it. He was unraveling from the inside out. His magic was being emptied out of him. He felt cold, freezing. He was vaguely aware of his entire body shaking. How had Harry endured it?

The Dark Lord started to yell, sending a pang of new fear through Draco, the space between them glowing brighter and brighter. Draco felt a tug at his pant leg, but he couldn't turn away. The light was growing, it was too warm, too bright. Yet he couldn't look away. If he could somehow capture that raw power, he could- Then a hand was in his, his real hand, warm and strong, familiar and comforting. Harry was beside him. He could feel the warmth, a slight tingle traveling up his arm, into his chest, replacing what was lost. Or maybe just making it not hurt quite so much.

The light exploded, all warm and cold at the same time. Draco gripped Harry's hand tighter as he felt himself flung backwards, away from Voldemort. He hit the ground with a hard thump, knocking the breath from his chest. He gasped for air, writhing in an undignified way on the wet ground.

It was over. It had to be. He couldn't take any more. He felt Harry's hand squeeze his and a gentle touch on his chest. It felt warm, like a beam of sunlight had broken through the dark cloudy sky just for him. He gasped as he found his breath.

"Alright, love?" Harry whispered beside him.

Draco turned and coughed. He opened his eyes but found he couldn't meet Harry's. Not yet. Maybe not ever after the things he had said and done.

"You're alright," Harry said. "We're alright." His voice held a surety, a finality, to it, as if nothing had happened.

"You're not supposed to be reading my thoughts anymore," his voice came out as a strange croak.

Harry's warm hand was on the side of his cheek, his fingers tracing his jaw. He wondered why it hurt so badly and then he remembered. Harry had punched him. He had punched him good. He almost felt proud. Harry, his Harry, refusing to go out without a proper fight. A sullen smirk stretched across his aching face.

Harry was leaning down, looking into his face. His green eyes were searching for something, something Draco wasn't sure he could give him. But he could try. His silver eyes connected with Harry's brilliant green ones and he was shocked at what he saw there. Only shining concern and acceptance. Love. Draco deserved none of it. He looked away, feeling his eyes burn with shame. Harry gently pressed his lips to Draco's cheek, his unruly dark hair brushing against his forehead. "Can you get up?" he asked, his tone wary as his eyes moved beyond Draco's, to the other side of the clearing.

It wasn't over, then. He struggled to stand, his limbs feeling like lead weights. Harry held out a hand and Draco offered his- but it was the wrong one. His magical spectral hand was gone. Only the stump of his wrist was there. He felt an odd sense of loss, but also relief. He could've done great and terrible things with a power like that. But a power like that came with strings attached. Harry smiled at him sheepishly, raking a hand through his dark hair. Draco grimaced and gave Harry his other hand.

Something dark flashed through the trees behind Harry. Something big. "Harry," he stammered, unsure how much more of this nightmare he could take. "There's something out there."

"I know," Harry said. "I saw him cast a spell of some sort. I'm not sure what."

"Well, you seem very calm about it, Potter."

Harry grinned at him. "It's just another thing."

Draco gaped at him.

"I'm mostly just glad you're okay and not enchanted anymore or anything. You are you, right?"

Draco closed his mouth. He looked everywhere but Harry's face as he replied in a small voice. "Yes, I'm me." Draco saw it then, a great shadowy beast, impossibly huge, dreadfully fast.

Voldemort's hissing cackle filled the silence. Draco could see a dark shape moving just beyond them. Then the Dark Lord's pale face came into view like a moon from the clouds. He seemed smaller, at least back to his original size, as far as Draco could tell. That meant something. "I'm finished with these games!" Voldemort suddenly shouted, his voice alive with fervor and malice. "I will kill you both and be done! My legacy is the only one that matters!"

Harry turned, following his gaze, squinting to see through the total darkness. "Oh," Harry said. "It's just a basilisk." He almost sounded relieved. Only Harry Potter could say those words in that order and make it seem like no big deal.

"A basilisk?!"

It came for them then. Harry flexed his fingers, getting ready to fight. Every instinct in Draco's brain screamed for him to turn and run, and he almost did, except he noticed something. Voldemort stumbled, he was down on one knee, his lips moving. He was still casting the spell. That meant- he looked back to the basilisk. It was curling around the two of them, mouth open, ready to strike. But something was wrong. Even in the darkness, he could tell it wasn't exactly.. real. It was a shadow, barely corporeal. Voldemort was too weak. He was probably pouring everything he had left into this one spell and it was only good enough if they were too weak to defend themselves, which, they probably were if Draco was honest with himself. Then, his exhausted brain clicked something into place.

"It's an inimicus, Harry!"

Harry turned to him, his eyes obscured by his rain drenched glasses. "A what?"

"The inverse of a patronus! It's dark magic meant to wipe out light. We need to-" Draco barely threw himself out of the way as the enormous shadowy head of the basilisk came at him. The thing bounced off the ground and moved to have another go. He froze, staring at the monster's glinting eyes.

Harry tackled him the ground, the basilisk nearly missing another strike. "You know all these things but you don't know not to look in its eyes?" Harry seemed half incredulous and half joking. How could he joke at a time like this? A small laugh erupted from the Boy Who Lived.

"Shut up, Potter," Draco growled, pushing Harry away and getting to his feet.

Harry's hands were already moving in circles and without calling it, his silvery-white phoenix patronus appeared. It flew around the inimicus' head, trying to claw out its eyes. Harry laughed again, a deep resounding belly laugh. If something were genuinely hilarious, Draco didn't get it. He hurriedly cast his own patronus with his left hand and only silvery wisps came from his fingertips. He let out a short roar in frustration as Harry still laughed. Draco took a breath, then another. He couldn't afford to be a useless coward. Not now. His name was still worth something, even if it wasn't glory and power. There were merits, he supposed, in being honest and steadfast too. Like Harry. He let thoughts of Harry fill up the vast emptiness inside of him. It was like pouring water into a cup that was too small. He let himself be filled, felt it start to overflow, and he tried the spell again.

The wolf sprang to life with a howl that seemed to shake the ground and what trees were left around them. The basilisk screeched back, causing Harry and Draco to cover their ears. The wolf lunged, attempting to bite the great snake. Voldemort's scream followed, full of rage and vindication. "Even two patronuses are no match for my inimicus!" He laughed. "I have your grandfather to thank for this spell, young Malfoy. It really is a shame that you have to die!" The Dark Lord reached his arms up into the night sky and the basilisk inimicus followed suit, raising its neck, preparing a strike. Draco bounced on the balls of feet, relying on his instincts, ready to dodge. He glanced over and saw Harry in a similar state, mouth drawn in concentration, the edges curling up in a slight smile. Draco suddenly felt outclassed by Harry, who had done this sort of thing many times before, who had both of his hands, who had no trouble conjuring magic under these extenuating circumstances.

Voldemort brought his arms down in a quick slash and the inimicus followed, its whole body crashing to the ground, sweeping back and forth. Draco watched in muted horror as first Harry's phoenix and then his wolf were reduced to plumes of bright smoke. Voldemort and the basilisk screeched in victory.

Chapter Text

The giant basilisk hit the ground with enough force to rattle Harry's teeth. He had gotten excited, seeing Draco's wolf and his phoenix about to fight together, but that excitement was cut short. Harry bit his lip, trying to think.

"Don't let it touch you, Harry!" Draco called to him.

"Obviously," Harry muttered under his breath. But if it couldn't touch them, in this place, what would happen if their patronuses touched Voldemort? Harry felt a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. They were attacking the wrong target. He looked across at Draco, seeing the raw emotion in his face, unreserved, unhidden. It was both strange and beautiful. "Draco, we need a spell!" Harry yelled, dodging the great snake's tail as it whipped over his head.

Draco had conjured a shield spell and was crouching under it, his face grim, the basilisk prodding it violently with its nose. Harry cast around until he found a large rock. He hefted it up to his shoulder and threw it, putting a little magical force behind it with the tips of his fingers. It sailed through the air and hit the inimicus in the head. Or, it would have, if it had been a physical thing. The rock passed right through it, hitting Draco's shield with a loud crash on its way down.

"Potter!" Draco yelled at him, though in annoyance or fear, Harry couldn't tell. Probably a bit of both.

Harry shrugged. But his plan had worked; he had gotten the monster's attention. He ran, calling out to Draco again. "You're a spellwright, right? Write a spell!"

"Harry, I can't just-"

"You can! Just make it light instead of dark!" Harry ducked under tree branches and over rocky formations he was sure weren't in these woods before, hoping to give Draco time to think.

 

-----

 

Light instead of dark. Potter always did oversimplify things. Draco didn't know light magic like he knew dark magic. He knew it only as a counterpoint to his own craft. And now Harry was luring the beast away and he had to do something. What sort of spell could dispel the inimicus? The patronuses hadn't worked like he thought they would. Were they just too weak? As far as he knew, he and Harry had some of the strongest patronuses ever in the history of magic. How could they-?

His thoughts were broken as a bright green curse whizzed by his head, narrowly missing him. A killing curse. Draco snapped back to reality, this version of reality, at least, realizing that Voldemort was indeed firing on him. He tried very hard not to panic. It was only him and Voldemort now, an intimate duel, where before, there was always someone else to take the full force of the dark lord's insane stare and magic. He thought of his father and felt a pang of regret surge through his chest.

"It's you and me now, young Malfoy," the Dark Lord crooned at him, as if he could read his thoughts.

Draco gulped and tried to make himself as ready as he possibly could be. He straightened his shoulders. He made his face stone. He flicked the fingers of his left hand. His magic answered, though it was short and weak. Voldemort himself couldn't have much more left, either, not after the complicated inimicus spell.

"It was clever of you, you know," Voldemort hissed.

"What was clever," Draco asked, not really a question.

"How you knew to break my hold on your boyfriend with my own magic. The magic I poured into your new hand."

Draco said nothing. He didn't actually know what would happen when he did that. It just seemed like the brave thing to do. It had seemed like a thing Harry would do. So he had done it. But it made sense, now that he thought about it logically. The magic hand was Voldemort's and his magic both. It must have created some sort of feedback loop. Then Harry had joined his hand and if they could still feel some of the warmth, maybe they could still be sharing magic. If they had, Harry had inadvertently looped the feedback again, with his shared magic with Voldemort.

Draco's thoughts went to the killing curse. If Voldemort thought it could work on him in this place, it probably would work on him, too. Or maybe it was only a distraction. A distraction from the real threat. Then he had it. Of course. He knew what he had to do. He knew what they had to do. He took a deep breath, mustering up what little courage he had left.

"Harry!"

"He can't save you now, my boy. My inimicus has probably got him by now." Draco didn't think he made a face, but he must have, because the dark lord continued. "Oh, my young Malfoy, he won't be dead, unfortunately. He will be between worlds, between waking and sleep. Forever."

Draco shuddered. So that's what would happen. "Potter!" he called again, hating the twinge of urgency in his voice. But he did need him.

"Be right there, babe!" Came Harry's faint call. Draco smirked, the irksome monikers Potter used for him touching his heart and making him feel light as a feather despite the circumstances.

"Avada Kedavra!" Voldemort sent another curse at him, and Draco deflected it easily. It suddenly occurred to him that he wasn't the only one stalling for time. He flicked his fingers and threw a stunning spell at the dark lord. Voldemort laughed and casually stepped out of the way. Draco saw his mouth moving, forming words not audible, his wand barely moving.

"Did my father write any spells for you?" Voldemort looked up at him, surprised maybe, at such an inane question. It served Draco's purposes just fine.

"As a matter of fact, he did." The Dark Lord started to pace around him, making Draco turn to keep him in his sights. "You Malfoys," he chuckled darkly. "You always want to outdo each other, don't you? The Malfoy ideal of family legacy," he spat the last words, as if the very notion of it disgusted him. "Your grandfather wrote the inimicus spell, not for me, but for another. Your father, he wrote another spell to control that one." Draco felt his stomach drop as he realized the implications. "And you, you wanted to surpass them all, my dear boy, and you have, really, you have." Voldemort was nodding his pale bald head. "You are leagues beyond them all. If only you hadn't interfered the way you had. You and I would've been unstoppable."

"So you say," Draco's brave words came out as a whisper.

"Just so." Voldemort raised his arms as the trees behind him broke, twisted, and groaned in the dark. Draco saw Harry sprinting towards him, a grin spreading across his face, followed closely by the immense inimicus. Draco's heart sunk as he realized he was too late. Harry wasn't leading it; the Dark Lord was already controlling it. He had done it right in front of his eyes. If he was as good as Voldemort said he was, this wouldn't be happening.

What was the thing Potter said? Not dark but light. Maybe it was only as simple as that. He started writing a spell in his head, hoping it was the right one.

 

-------

 

Harry ran, his legs pumping, his chest heaving. It would've felt good to run this way, if a giant shadow-basilisk hadn't been chasing him. He risked a look back. It was still there, not too far away and gaining ground all the while.

It reminded him of fighting a real basilisk, long ago, when he had no choice but to run. That wasn't the real Voldemort, though. And this wasn't a real basilisk. What was real, anyway? What would happen when this reality was over? Maybe he wouldn't even remember it, like so many dreams. If only the sorting hat or a sword would appear, his reminiscing would be complete. He chuckled to himself, wondering if there were a spell to conjure a massive sword. A sword made of light to fight this darkness.

"Gladius," he whispered, flexing his fingers, wholly expecting nothing to happen. He had taken a latin class ages ago in muggle school, though he hadn't been particularly skilled. He didn't even know if the word was right. Was spell writing that easy? Thinking of old words for what he wanted and stringing them together?

Nothing happened.

"Gladius Lumos!" he said with feeling, determined to be doing something other than running. He feet faltered as a massive sword shimmered into being in his hand. The blade was almost too bright to look at, a subtle heat was coming from it, warming him. "Bloody hell," he muttered in awe. He waved the sword in front of his face with two hands, marveling at it. The basilisk screeched behind him, startling him.

He whirled, turning to face it.

"Potter, what are you doing!" He heard Draco's call, his voice sounding harried.

"Writing spells is easy! Aren't you done with yours yet?" Harry called back, casting a glance at Draco across the clearing. He seemed to be dueling with Voldemort. And losing.

"Don't fight it, just get over here!"

"But I have a flaming light sword now," Harry grumbled.

"Harry!"

But the basilisk was rearing to strike. Harry planted his feet, wielding the sword. It lunged at him and Harry dodged to the side, bringing the sword down in a neat counterstrike. The sword hit the inimicus as if it were real, biting in and making a small slice. The basilisk whirled away, hissing in pain or anger, or both. Harry heard a strangled shout and turned to see Draco sprawled on the ground at the Dark Lord's feet. He felt movement in the air before he saw it; the shadow-basilisk's tail was whipping right for his head. He brought the sword up in a well-timed parry, the sheer force of it blocked with the sword, sending him flying across the clearing. He came to a tumbling stop in the wet mud near Draco.

"Draco!" He threw the light sword to the side where it vanished in a puff of smoke and pulled his boyfriend to his feet. He looked terrible. His pointed nose was a little crooked, blood pooling around his nostrils. His eyes looked tired, heavy purple bags sitting underneath them. Much like when they first began this strange journey. Harry grabbed his face in both hands and kissed his mouth.

"The fuck are you doing?" Draco whispered.

"We're winning, aren't we? And I missed you."

"I meant conjuring a bleeding sword made of light," Draco scoffed but a small smirk broke over his tired face. "Patronus Unescus," Draco whispered.

"That's a weird way to say you missed me too."

"It's the spell, Harry."

"Oh, right. So do we do it now, or..?"

Draco's arm came across his chest, pushing him back protectively, as the inimicus circled them with a dangerous hissing slither. Draco's eyes followed the great snake's head. Harry turned, putting his back against Draco's, keeping his eyes on the dark lord. Voldemort came walking towards him, but without moving his feet. He was gliding right through the basilisk, a hideous grin on his face.

 

-----

 

"I'd say now is a good time," Draco said tightly over his shoulder. "Together," he nodded at Harry, his green eyes shining with determination.

They conjured their patronuses in unison, unplanned and perfectly synchronized, the bright light swirling around them, the phoenix screeching, the wolf howling.

Voldemort's laugh reached them then, along with a shout. "Inimicus Totalus!"

Harry met his eyes in a quick fleeting glance. "Um, that's not good, right?"

Draco felt a wave of nausea creep though his stomach as he imagined the outcome. "Say the spell, Harry, with me."

"Patronum Unescum!" They yelled together, their arms extended towards their respective patronus.

Nothing happened.

"Uh, babe?" Harry asked gently, "What's supposed to happen?"

"It's a little bit of guess and test, love," Draco growled through clenched teeth. "Try it again. This time, aim it at my patronus."

Draco got ready for another go, cursing himself silently for the failure, but the inimicus basilisk was rearing above them again, but this time-

"It doesn't look so shadowy anymore, does it?" Harry voiced his thoughts.

Draco could only whimper in response. The basilisk looked incredibly real now and incredibly close. If he wanted to, he could have reached out and touched it.

Draco felt Harry fumble for his hand, his grip strong and sure once he found it. He was about to snap at his boyfriend. Here they were, in deadly combat and Harry was grabbing his only weapon. Instead he gasped as the familiar warmth surged through him, stronger than ever. Harry's face held only shock for a few seconds until it melted into his signature grin. Draco smirked back at him. He felt the warm tingle shoot up his arm, straight to his chest, filling him up. The warmth was back. But how?

The inimicus screeched but it didn't seem to hurt Draco's ears as much as it had before. The ground trembled a bit less under it's massive undulating slither. Draco felt the warmth from Harry fill in all of the empty places inside of him; the hollow of his heart, the pieces of his soul that were stolen, his loss, everything was wiped away and replaced, made whole, made new. Better than before, he felt stronger, like he could do anything. Like they could do anything. Together.

"Harry," Draco whispered, his voice unbelieving.

"I know. Let's do it again, but like he did it."

"Right. At mine. And aim for-"

"Voldemort," Harry finished for him.

"Yes," Draco said breathlessly.

The inimicus gave another screech, but the two boys felt no fear. Voldemort raised his wand, his feet leaving the ground entirely. Draco heard an incantation, but it didn't much matter what it was. He thought of everything the Dark Lord had taken from him, everything he had taken from Harry and all of the others like them. He let the warmth take him over and fill him up. He felt the magic mixing in his chest, warm and comforting, icy and tingling all at once. He felt it travel down his other arm, with a tickling slowness, and watched in fascination. His hand- no, not his hand, and not the magical hand Voldemort had given him, but something different, something new. He could see the magic in thin ribbons, silvery and cold that he knew as his own, and a deep warming gold; Harry's. The ribbons coalesced into an exact copy of his hand. He knew it. It felt right. It felt as if it had always been this way. He flexed the fingers of his right hand. It was time. Draco had no doubt in his mind. Not anymore.

"Patronum Unescum Totalus!" They yelled in unison, putting all of their combined strength behind it. Draco gasped as he felt the magic leave his fingers, more power than he had ever felt before. He watched with wide eyes as the combined spell hit Harry's phoenix patronus. It glowed a brilliant gold, turned into a comet of light, and shot towards his wolf. The two patronuses became a swirling cloud, looping around them, swirling faster and brighter, a gale force wind picking up along with them.

"Draco?" Harry said uneasily.

"It's working," Draco said, his voice tinged with laughter.

Draco squeezed his eyes shut and held onto Harry's hand as the wind whipped around them.

Then it stopped.

He opened his eyes. A great glowing dragon patronus was standing before them, its scales swirling with gold and silver tones. It flapped its wings but instead of the leathery rustle of a real dragon, it was an almost musical sound as the wings caught the light and shimmered. It shook its great head as if awaking from some deep sleep. It was almost as big as the inimicus. Draco felt his legs give way beneath him, every cell in his body magically spent. He was dimly aware of Harry falling to his knees beside him.

The great dragon roared, an earsplitting resonating bass that Draco could feel deep in his chest, threatening to push him all the way to the ground. He knew he should feel afraid, but it was strangely comforting.

"No!" Voldemort roared back. But it was too late. The dragon took to the air, flying through the basilisk inimicus, shattering it to an ashy smoke-explosion. Draco smirked as he watched the dragon lift higher, swooping in a slow circle, and diving back toward the Dark Lord. Voldemort's face was contorted in fear, his wand quavering as he tried to get a spell off. He raised his arms in a futile gesture of protection as the dragon swallowed him whole. The dragon's light grew brighter and brighter until Draco could barely look at it anymore. Rays of light were blasting from it, illuminating the darkness. He felt Harry squeeze his hand as the light went super nova. Draco couldn't stand it anymore; his body was falling. His eyes closed before his cheek hit the ground.

Chapter Text

Harry blinked his eyes open. It was difficult. He'd been through a lot in his life, but nothing that made even his eyelids hurt. His entire body ached, his head most of all. The room he was in was bright white, annoyingly so. He squinted but couldn't make anything out. It didn't seem like Malfoy Manor or Hogwarts. So where was he?

"Harry! Ron, he's awake!"

Harry heard a grunt and a snort and knew Hermione had woken Ron unceremoniously, probably with an elbow to the ribs. "Hermione, quiet down please, my head is killing me. Where are my glasses?"

Hermione was at his bedside, handing him his reliable black plastic frames. He slipped them on and the white room came into sharp relief. A simple bed, a small window, a small bedside table, and a single chair occupied by his best friend reading the newspaper. It wasn't anywhere he had ever been before. "Where am I?" He asked the question slowly, realizing he may not be entirely awake. He could be still asleep, trapped in the nightmare that Voldemort had made. Another thought occurred to him that made his chest tighten and his breath catch in his throat. "Where's Draco?"

"Bloody hell, mate. You disappear from school and wake up in St. Mungo's and the first thing you ask us is where is that prat?"

"Ronald, they're-"

"People are saying he kidnapped you, Harry."

"Ronald! That's a terrible rumor, they had to-"

Harry held up his hands for silence and was eternally grateful when they obliged. "I'm at St. Mungo's," he said slowly.

Hermione nodded. "Yes."

"Draco is here, as well?"

"Yes."

Harry peered at Hermione. "Is this real? Are we all really here?" He touched her cheek with a finger. It felt real.

"Harry, I'll just go get a nurse," Hermione said, her voice wavering.

"No, I'm fine, I just need to see him."

"Which one?" Ron scoffed. "The death eater or the dark lord?"

Harry blinked. It hurt. "What did you say?"

"They're both here."

"Ronald, he just woke up. We weren't supposed to-"

"He's going to find out anyway, Herm."

Harry threw off his covers and jumped out of bed. Or that's what he tried to do. Instead, his knees buckled, and he fell to the floor.

"Harry! I'll just go get a nurse," Hermione repeated. She seemed overly worried, frazzled, even. "Ronald, help him up!" She called over her shoulder as the door swung shut behind her.

"I'm fine, Ron, really," Harry said as he pushed himself up with a grunt.

Ron let out a sigh of relief.

"Hand me that over there, will you?" Harry motioned to something Ron was sitting on.

"What? Sure, mate." Ron handed him a flannel bathrobe.

Harry threw it on over his white pajamas, belting it tightly. He looked up to find Ron watching him with a bemused expression. "Aren't you going to try to stop me?" Harry asked, running a hand through his hair, hoping it wasn't too messy.

Ron scoffed. "You've been here like a week, mate, I don't think you'll get very far."

"A week?"

Ron nodded and went back to his paper. Harry squinted to see the date. Sure enough, a week since he was last awake. A week since he and Draco had left Hogwarts on the lam together and made their way to Malfoy Manor. A week asleep at St. Mungo's. That could mean anything. How much of the past events were real? How much of it was a dream?

He shuffled a foot forward. It was surprisingly hard. "Would you want to help me, then?" Harry asked, letting a joke creep into his voice.

"Hermione would kill me."

Harry shuffled another step and didn't fall. Progress. "Yeah, that's okay. It's not like you've been any help so far."

"Yeah, I'll just go and buzz your death eater boyfriend over to hold your hand," Ron said as he got up and walked out of the room.

Harry didn't have time to respond. He didn't know what he would say even if he did have time to respond. But he felt something, something like realizing he lost something important and had no idea how to get it back. He had so many questions and no one to offer any answers. But how was that different than any other time? He thought of Dumbledore and silently cursed his absence.

He spotted a walking cane in the corner. He thrust out his hand and the cane sailed easily into it. At least the wandless magic part was real.

He hobbled down the hallway, wishing for his invisibility cloak as he took in the stares of white-clad witches that he took to be nurses. He half expected someone to shout at him, to send him back to his room, to fuss over his health, anything, but no one did. Harry thought their stares resembled the naked awe that met him on every face when he first stepped foot in the wizarding world, except this time, they were tinged with fear. Were they afraid of him? How much did anyone know of what transpired? How much could they know, especially when Harry wasn't even sure himself?

Harry approached a witch sitting behind a desk, a huge ledger spread out before her. There were several magicked quills scritching and scratching at different places in the book. Harry peered at it, merely curious. It seemed to be full of names, room numbers, and treatments. Not for the first time, he wondered how this world got along without technology. He saw his own name with Draco's right beneath it. The nurse's hand slapped down on the book, obstructing his view. She looked quite cross as she said, "Can I help you?"

He tried an awkward smile that made his cheeks hurt. "Could you tell me which room Draco Malfoy is in, please?"

She gave him a saccharine smile, that made Harry drop his entirely. "Sorry, sir. The Malfoy's have asked for complete privacy in this matter."

"But," Harry started.

Her smile grew but it didn't reach her eyes. "Yes, I know who you are. I cannot give you the requested information."

Harry whirled, his anger taking hold. The lights started to flicker. The nurses station started to shake. Harry heard cries of surprise and worry but he didn't care. He raised a hand, pointing two fingers at the nurse. It wasn't a wand, but she seemed to get the point just fine. "Tell me where he is," he growled.

"Mister Potter!"

Harry turned in surprise at the familiar voice. The lights returned to normal. The floor stopped quaking. "Professor Snape?"

The Potions Master came toward him. He was similarly dressed; in white pajamas and a bathrobe, but Snape's was black and, of course, it was billowing behind him just as his regular robes did at school. "Mister Potter," Snape said again, regarding Harry with cold eyes. "Come with me."

"Okay." Harry hobbled after him. He could've been mistaken, but he was sure the Potions instructor's steps slowed to match his own. He'd never known Snape to be so considerate. "You're not dead."

Snape threw him a frown. "As always, Mister Potter, very astute observation."

"But-"

"I, like you, am very much in the debt of Narcissa Malfoy."

"Me?"

"Do try to keep up, Mister Potter."

"Kind of hard when you've been lying in bed for a week," Harry grumbled.

Snape scoffed. "Not what I meant." Snape led him through a set of double doors into another hallway. This one was empty of nurses and visitors. Harry got the feeling this section of the hospital was somehow more serious than the ward where he had been staying.

"Is Draco alright?" He asked, wishing his voice didn't come out the way it had. "You are taking me to see him, aren't you?"

Harry didn't think it was possible, but Snape's frown deepened. "Yes," he replied after a pause. "You two need to get your story straight before the Ministry comes back."

"Story?" Harry asked. "Ministry?"

Snape stopped abruptly, whirling to face Harry. "Do you remember nothing, Mister Potter? Are you playing at being dumb or are you simply dumb? They didn't tell me you lost your memories."

Harry's face burned with anger. "It's a little difficult, Professor, to know what's real after-"

"This is what is real, Harry Potter," Snape said, jabbing a finger at Harry's chest. "You and Mister Malfoy caused a great deal of damage in all senses of the word. People are dead. The Ministry has been waiting an entire week to question the both of you. I've put them off for as long as I possibly could but now that you're both awake, they will want to speak with you."

"And Voldemort?"

Snape's face registered naked fear for only a fraction of a second. "They're keeping him here. For now. Under heavy security."

"What happened?"

"Based on what Mister Malfoy has told me," Snape sighed heavily. "I can only imagine that he was somehow magically stretched beyond his limits. It seems that the two of you have effectively destroyed his mind. He will not wake."

Harry let that information sink in, waiting to feel something. Nothing came. He only felt a sense of mild relief. "Ever?"

"One can only hope."

"If he wakes up-"

"We're here." Snape stopped at a nondescript doorway.

Harry hesitated. "Are you not coming?"

"No." Snape turned, his bathrobe billowing behind him.

"Professor?"

Snape stopped, but didn't turn.

"What is that spell you use to make your robes do that thing?" Harry tried very hard to keep his grin out of his voice.

"I don't know what you're talking about, Mister Potter." And he billowed down the hallway.

Harry took a breath, his hand on the knob. He needed to see him, but something was holding him back. Harry knew he had taken so much from Draco; his father, his hand, his home. It wasn't as if he had done any of it on purpose or even with malicious intent, but did that even matter, in the end? The old Draco he knew would hold that against him for the rest of his life. Would he still want him? And the warmth. If the warmth was gone, what did that mean for them? It certainly wouldn't be the same, Harry knew that much. It felt like starting over. Harry looked down at his hand. There was no ring on his finger. He remembered taking it off during the battle, breaking their engagement himself. What if he didn't want that? What if Draco did? He wouldn't get any answers here in the hallway. He took another breath and opened the door.

-----

Draco sat on his bed, early morning sunlight filtering through the large window in his hospital room. "Bloody thing," he growled between clenched teeth. He was shirtless, trying to attach his new prosthesis to his right wrist. He had managed to get the leather cuff and support straps around his shoulder and secured around his elbow, but this part was the most challenging. He had to fit his wrist into the cuff just right while tightening the straps on the rigging. It kept slipping off and sliding out of place.

He heard his door gently click open. Must be yet another nurse coming to check on him. He'd asked for privacy. "Come back later," he snapped, his frustration and embarrassment getting the better of him.

"Oh, okay, sure. Sorry," a voice said dejectedly.

Draco's head snapped up. "Harry?"

"Yeah, it's me," he said, his voice a bit sheepish.

"Harry, I-" Draco tried to stand, found his legs way too wobbly, and sat back down heavily. His pride was somehow hurt a bit less when Harry shuffled towards him using a walking cane. He cleared his throat, running a hand through his hair. He hoped it looked alright.

"You look good," Harry said softly.

Draco regarded him as he sat down on his bed, barely any space between them, but still, there was. It seemed like a chasm. "I tried to come see you, but they wouldn't let me," he said, his voice equally soft, as if there were something in the room that would get spooked and run away if they spoke too loudly.

Harry smiled at him. "Did you invoke the Malfoy name and threaten to take away your funding?"

Draco chuckled. It felt good. "Actually, yes. St. Mungo's is officially defunded because they wouldn't let me visit my sleeping boyfriend."

Harry's face lit up. "So I'm your boyfriend again, am I?"

"I mean," Draco fished something out of the front pocket of his pajamas. He took a steadying breath. He had had a couple of days to think about the recent events, to think- no, more like worry- about how their relationship would be affected. The taste of victory started to sour when he thought of losing Harry as a real possibility. He opened his hand. Harry's silver ring lay in his palm. "I picked this up, in the dream, and it was in my pocket when I woke." He waited, but Harry didn't take it. He tried very hard to swallow the lump that suddenly rose in his throat. "We're not okay, are we?"

Harry's green eyes met his finally, brilliant and clear and sharp. They seemed to drive a spike through Draco's chest. "I thought," Harry started, but cut off. Draco watched intently as Harry fidgeted. He adjusted his glasses. He ran a hand through his hair. Then he noticed Draco watching and turned a nice shade of pink. Draco couldn't help but smile. "I thought you wouldn't want me," Harry said finally, all in a rush.

Draco laughed. Harry turned a bright red. "I'm sorry, Harry," Draco said. "I don't know how this usually goes for you-"

"Usually I wake up at Hogwarts and Dumbledore is there and explains everything that just happened."

Draco raised an eyebrow but continued. "But we won. We're here, we're alive, back in reality. And I-" he faltered, not sure if he could say the next part out loud. He had practiced this moment in his head; seeing Harry again and the things he would need to say to him, but now that it was here it was suddenly difficult. "My feelings haven't changed."

"Neither have mine," Harry said quickly.

Draco dropped the ring, hearing it clatter to the floor but not caring. His hand went to Harry's face, now free of bruises and blood, his long fingers sliding their familiar way down Harry's jaw, ending in his dark hair, pulling him closer as he leaned in. Their lips met in a kiss, chaste and gentle. A slight tingle formed there, but Draco was sure it wasn't the warmth they had grown so used to feeling. He was worried he would be disappointed if it wasn't there, but he wasn't. It was perfect just the way it was.

Harry's hands gripped his sides, pulling him closer. "I'm sorry," he whispered into Draco's mouth. "I'm so sorry." His voice came out choked with emotion.

Draco's hand went to Harry's cheek, wiping away the wetness there. He was only a little surprised that everything that had happened wasn't just catalogued as collateral damage to the cavalier hero had witnessed. He had to remind himself that they didn't know everything about each other. "You have nothing to be sorry for."

Harry scoffed and pulled away.

"I'm serious, Potter. Was it you? Or was it the Dark Lord? Or," he raised his naked truncated wrist just a little, "was it my own fault?"

Harry didn't answer for a while, seeming to think about it. "I did wreck your house, though."

Draco sighed. "I told you that you'd bring my family's legacy to its knees."

Harry laughed and inched closer to Draco, their legs touching, the gap closed. It felt good. It felt normal. A feeling Draco couldn't remember the last time he felt. He wanted it to last forever; just this moment: the sunlight warming them through the window, the comfort of a simple touch from someone who accepted him, even loved him. He marveled at the little things; the handsome creases on the edges of Harry's smile, the astounding green of his eyes, the way the light touched Harry's hair, making it look more brown than black. He threaded his long fingers through it gently, Harry's bright eyes boring into him. He looked away. "I'm sorry, too," he said gently. "I'm glad you're here." The words were hard to say, Draco felt like he forced them out, hoping he wouldn't sound insincere. After a lifetime of hiding his emotions, he wasn't sure he was doing it right.

Harry's hand found the side of his face and turned it towards his own. Their lips met in another kiss, Harry's other hand sliding over his bare chest. His hand was incredibly warm and sent shivers down his spine. Draco's fingers wrapped in Harry's hair, pulling him closer. He smiled as Harry let out a small but pleasurable groan. He deepened the kiss and Harry responded immediately, letting him. They broke apart after a minute, gasping a little.

"It's a little different, isn't it?" Harry murmured.

"The warmth?" Draco whispered.

"Yes. I mean, no. It's.."

"I know what you mean."

"It's not that it's bad or anything, it's just.."

"Different. We can go slow, if you like."

Harry nodded and looked relieved. Draco had expected things to be different and had prepared himself for the worst. The worst being Harry never woke up. The next worst being Harry woke up and felt differently about their relationship without the binding. Starting over or going slow he could handle.

"I'd like that," Harry said softly. He bent down and picked the ring up off the floor.

"We don't have to-" Draco started to say, but Harry cut him off.

"I know. It just might be kind of weird, being the only two students at Hogwarts already engaged."

Draco raised an eyebrow. "Do you get back to your normal life so quickly?"

Harry shrugged, his gaze still on the silver ring. "It just happens. Things keep moving."

"Indeed." Draco cleared his throat, suddenly nervous. Now was as good a time to tell him as any, he supposed. "My mother, she wants to leave."

"Oh? Where does she want to go?"

"France. We have relatives there, apparently."

Harry's eyes met his, suddenly sad. "And she wants you to go too."

"Yes." It pained him to say it, but he knew getting it over with was for the best. Especially since Harry didn't want his ring any longer.

"Do you want to?"

"I don't know, Harry. With everything that's happened.. it might be good to leave for a while. She said it will help clear our family name, help to distance ourselves from dark wizards seeking revenge, things of that sort."

"So, running away?"

Draco felt his face pull down in a frown. "That's a tad harsh, isn't it, Potter?"

"I said things were different, but I don't want you to leave."

"And you don't want my ring."

"I never said that."

"You aren't saying that you do."

"It's a big decision, Draco."

"You don't have to decide now. You could come with me." The words were tumbling out of his mouth, not listening to his brain. He hadn't meant to sound so desperate.

"I can't, I have school and," Harry seemed to cast about for another reason he couldn't go. Draco let him flounder, making his face impassive. "I have to finish school. You should too."

Draco scoffed. "With our names? With what we have accomplished? I don't think graduating Hogwarts will get us anywhere we can't get now. Besides the point, what do you think school would be like for me, Harry? You get to go back to your friends and your house where you're praised as a hero. I go back as a traitor."

Harry glared at him, his jaw working as if he were physically chewing over that piece of information. Draco tried to be patient, letting him work it out for himself. "I didn't think about it like that," he admitted softly.

There came a sharp knock at the door. Harry's arm looped around Draco's at the elbow. They exchanged a glance. The knock came again, louder. "Come in," Draco called, because what else could he do.

The door opened and three representatives of the Ministry of Magic entered the room. It was the same three who had tried to apprehend them at Hogwarts. With them was his mother, her face ashen with worry, and Professor McGonagall.

"Now boys," she said in that placating way. "We just want you to answer a few questions."

Chapter Text

 

 

The few questions had turned into an interrogation. Harry was sure that if they had been in better health, they would've been dragged down to the Ministry to sit before an entire court in person. He shuddered to think of returning to that chair bolted to the floor in the circular room with all those eyes on him.

Their story, however extraordinary, seemed to pacify them. They were no longer considered criminals and all charges against Draco had been dropped, mostly due to Harry's word.

They left the hospital as soon as they were able. Draco couldn't give him a clear answer on when he'd be leaving, so Harry decided to stay with him until he did. Returning to Malfoy Manor was surreal. Wizards and elves were hard at work restoring the foyer floor, but Harry could still see straight down, past a few floors, into the dungeons. Other than the obvious work that needed doing, the rest of the manor house was looking better every day. The heavy curtains were replaced to let the light in. Old tapestries and rugs were restored to their former glory. It made Harry wonder what the manor was like when it was first built. Or did dark wizards only flourish in the dark?

Likewise, Draco was getting the hang of his prosthetic hand. The wandless magic helped, he had said. Draco only had to envision his hand as a working entity, feeding his magic slowly into it until the wooden-made fingers started to bend and move. Draco liked to joke that he had five wands now, instead of one. Harry was proud of his boyfriend's endurance and progress. Harry helped him buckle it on every morning and undo it every night. Every time he did he felt a harsh pang in his chest. It was that way because of what he did, because of the spell he carelessly threw his way. He waited for the blame to lessen; Draco only ever absolved him, but it didn't seem to help Harry's guilt.

A funeral was held for Lucius Malfoy shortly after their hospital release. Only Harry, Draco, and Narcissa had been in attendance. It took place on the manor grounds as, Draco had said, all Malfoy funerals did. It rained heavily, as if the sky itself had to make up for the dry eyes that day. Harry shuddered to think of Draco someday being laid to rest here, with all of these dark wizards that were nothing like him. But then again, he supposed it wasn't all so simple as that.

It had felt like no time at all had passed when Draco told him that they were leaving. Ever since Harry had come to the manor, it had started to feel better and better. It wasn't just the general state of the house either, it was spending every day with Draco by his side. Walking in the gardens as the weather turned cold, joking around, watching Draco play the violin, playing wizard chess, even sparing a bit in a magical duel or two, and of course, the intimacy. They had started slow, like they agreed, but it didn't take long at all to fall back into their old habits. It felt like the restful vacation he had needed after the incident with Professor Quirrel his first year at school. It felt like a gift. The last gift that Draco could give him.

"I will be back, Harry."

"I know." They were in the library. Sun was shining through the tall windows and reflecting on a thin sheen of snow on the grounds so brightly Harry almost couldn't bear to look. "You don't know when."

Draco's hands gripped Harry's; one soft and cool, the other wooden and firm. A small smirk played on his handsome face, not quite reaching his grey eyes. "You're sure you won't come with me?"

Harry exhaled a breath he didn't realize he'd been holding. "I'm sure."

"I know." Draco swept his hair away from his forehead. "You'd better ace those N.E.W.T.S., Harry Potter."

"I don't know about-" Harry was cut short by Draco's mouth on his. It had happened many times during his vacation, or his recovery period, or whatever it was, but instead of feeling the intense flame of the warmth, each kiss felt different. Each one was a microcosm of the two of them. Each one was a conversation with no words. Draco's kiss told Harry that he needed him, that he was sorry to be leaving. Harry opened himself up, draping his arms around Draco's tall shoulders, savoring the feeling. He hoped his kiss was also communicating what he needed it to; that he would miss him and be waiting for him.

"I'm serious, Potter. Top marks only," Draco whispered when they finally broke away from each other.

"You're the one who's good in school, babe," he murmured.

"Apply yourself." Draco said, his manner suddenly serious, despite the smirk on his face. He tugged at the cuffs of his shirtsleeves. "Don't let Granger do your work. There's no dark lord this time, so you're out of excuses not to study."

"I do my own work," Harry frowned. "Most of the time."

Draco's smirk grew wider, more knowing. He opened his mouth to say something else, but was interrupted by a loud cracking noise. They both looked towards the huge double doors that led out of the room. "Snape is early."

Harry could only nod. He felt his eyes start to burn and he blinked rapidly. He had known this goodbye was coming but it didn't make it any easier.

"I do love you, Harry." Draco's long fingers curled around his ear, touching his neck.

"Then why don't you stay?" Harry played absently with Draco's shirt collar, knowing the answer would be the same as it always was when he asked this dreaded question.

"You deserve better, Harry."

Harry started. That answer wasn't the one he had been expecting. He had been expecting the one about taking care of the Malfoy family demons, making sure their entanglements with dark lords, past, present, and future were over for good. Starting with a clean slate, or at least, as clean as he could get it.

"You deserve better than me," Draco continued. "Your fight is over now, but it seems mine is just beginning. There's no place in this world for me right now."

"Of course there is. With me. No one will question it."

Draco shook his head, a rueful smile on his face. "I would love for that to be true, for things to be that simple. I'm a traitor to my people, Harry. Your people will see me as the enemy, even if I'm with you. You know it's true. Just look at your friends. After all of the things I've done.."

"But the things we just accomplished, Draco, there has to be some way. We'll meet with Dumbledore and-"

"Harry," Draco said softly. "We've talked about this. It's something I feel I need to do."

"I know," Harry replied. He hadn't really tried to change Draco's mind, they had talked in circles about this for weeks. He took a deep breath and knew he had to trust him. There was one more question, burning in his chest, one he'd been too afraid to ask. It was now or never. "Are we breaking up?"

Draco looked as though his words had physically slapped him across the face. "It never crossed my mind, Potter." Harry watched him recover, the emotional wall being built up again, just in case. He marveled for a second, at just how far Draco had come in showing his emotions. There was a time when he considered it impossible. When he spoke again his voice betrayed his face, it was thready, afraid. "Do you want that?"

"I've thought about it," Harry said, noticing that Draco had his ring on his left finger. He hadn't worn it since they got to the manor.

"And?"

There came a knock at the library door. Hardly a pause had passed and Severus Snape slid into the room. "Mister Potter."

"I'll uh, I'll be right there."

"We are on a schedule."

"Yes, sir."

Snape seemed taken aback by Harry's sudden respect, covered it as best he could, and swept from the room, closing the door behind him. He turned back to Draco who had an eyebrow raised in question. "Sir?" He mimicked.

Harry grinned. "Shut up. You call him sir all the time."

"He was my head of house, Potter. And an old family friend. You've probably never called a professor 'sir' in your entire life."

"I have so."

"Name one." Draco smirked. "And not Dumbledore. Everyone calls the Headmaster of the school sir."

Harry cast about but only landed on one name, one professor who had shown him the same amount of respect. "Professor Lupin."

"Thank Merlin for Professor Lupin, then," Draco said softly. Harry felt the gravity of Draco's words. Without Professor Lupin, Harry would not have learned the patronus charm. He wouldn't have been able to teach Draco the patronus charm.

"Have you tried to cast a patronus since?"

"No, why would I?"

"I dunno, just to see what form it would take."

Draco scoffed. "Probably not a dragon, Harry."

"I know," Harry said defensively. "It was a dream."

Draco smirked at him, stormy eyes dancing. Harry grinned back.

"Expecto Patronum!" They yelled in unison.

White smoke erupted from Draco's wooden hand, likewise from Harry's own hand. The familiar sounds greeted them as the smoke and light coalesced into a wolf and a phoenix; the unearthly howl, the ear-piercing shriek. But-

"They're switched," Harry whispered. The phoenix flew around Draco's head while the wolf padded to Harry, glowing eyes expectant.

"Take care of him," Draco murmured.

"I will."

"I was talking to the wolf," Draco smirked.

Harry felt heat creep into his face. They locked eyes and the mischief still sparkled in Draco's stormy ones. Without missing a beat, they performed the unifying spell Draco had wrote. Harry fully expected nothing to happen. It was just a dream. Shared magic wasn't real.

The two patronuses let loose their calls once more, an invisible wind swirling around them. The windows rattled in their panes, loose parchments and quills took to the air, books were flying off the shelves. The two boys looked at each other, no fear this time, only awe. The patronuses combined, just like they had in the dream. Their glowing dragon stood before them and roared. Harry and Draco laughed. The dragon beat its great wings and took the air, the wind heaving more books from the shelves, whipping their hair around, knocking over furniture.

"What the bloody hell-?" Snape had opened the door, apparently ready to admonish them, but was cut short by the vision that greeted him. The dragon turned towards him and roared. Harry and Draco waved their hands and the dragon exploded into a white-gold light and was gone. "If you're quite finished.. schedule.." Snape mumbled and returned the way he had come.

They turned to each other once more, smiles on their faces, their breath coming fast and short. "I think we're bound together by something greater than boyfriend and boyfriend," Harry said.

"I'd have to agree with you, Potter."

Harry felt better. Like a weight was somehow lifted with a simple spell. Or a not so simple one. He felt ready. "What will you do?"

Draco shrugged. "Visit family. Cut some ties. Create new ones. Practice my spellwriting, I suppose."

"Light instead of dark," Harry reminded him.

"Yes, Harry Potter." Draco's voice had dropped lower, his cool fingers on his face. He shivered in response. Their lips met again, and again. The tingling reached from Harry's lips, down his spine, gathering somewhere below the pit of his stomach in a pleasant way. He was almost relieved when Draco broke the kiss.

"You'll write me?"

"Yes, Harry Potter," Draco said again, running his fingers through his hair. He gave him a sad smile, but there was a light in his grey eyes, a light that Harry knew was there for him alone. "Thank you," he whispered.

"For what?"

"For saving me." He gave Harry a meaningful look, then turned and opened the library doors. His mother stood in the foyer, talking with Snape, packed bags stacked neatly nearby.

"Ready, Mister Potter?" Snape growled at him.

He looked to Draco one more time, standing coolly by his mother, hands in his pockets, a small smirk on his face. He nodded to Harry.

"Yes, sir." Snape came next to him and placed a heavy hand on his shoulder.

"Goodbye Harry," Draco said.

"Bye babe," Harry said. He had only a second to register the scowl on his handsome boyfriend's face before a whip-crack sounded in his ears and his world turned upside down once more.

The End