It had been two years since the war, and eighteen months since Harry had moved into the Manor. In that time, Draco had come to read Harry very, very well. It was unthinkable that in all of that time he shouldn't come to know Harry like this. In those eighteen months he had put up with things he would previously have never tolerated from anyone else.
When Harry woke thrashing and screaming from nightmares in the middle of the night, Draco was there, to hold him and soothe him and murmur reassurances as Harry shook and sobbed and whispered his deepest fears in a trembling voice.
When the dark moods that descended without warning claimed Harry's smile, Draco was there, pushing and prodding Harry into an argument so he'd have an outlet for his pent-up anger, and he'd stand silently as Harry hurled insults and hexes until, exhausted, he collapsed into Draco's arms.
When Harry became suddenly and unexpectedly snappish, Draco was there, fighting the anger with kindness, bringing Harry a cup of tea just the way he liked it, gently massaging the tense shoulders, until Harry calmed.
And when Harry sat for long evenings deep in thoughtful brooding, Draco was fucking there, sitting patiently and silently until Harry finished and they could both go curl up in bed, and sometimes Harry would tell him what horrors from the war were dancing through his mind, and Draco would listen and hold him close until they both fell asleep.
Yes, Draco had responded to it all with a tenderness he had not thought himself capable of. He could gladly deal with all of that, and give Harry as much time as he needed to recover. But there was one thing that Draco would never, ever tolerate from Harry. Indeed, it was the one thing he never thought Harry capable of.
Harry was hiding something from him.
And lying about it.
Draco scowled into the fire the house elves had built in the fireplace of the Manor's library. Harry had excused himself early that night, pleading a headache but refusing any potion to ease it. He had claimed he was tired and wished to be up early the next morning, and then taken himself off to his bedroom.
Not the bedroom he shared with Draco. Oh no, he went off to his own bedroom. The one he hadn't used since the first few months he'd moved into the Manor.
Well, Draco corrected himself wryly, the one he hadn't used up until a month ago.
"Mizzie!" he snapped suddenly, and a small house elf popped into being beside him.
"Yes, Master Draco?" she asked, looking up at him with wide, eager eyes.
"Wine. I need wine."
"What kind of wine is Mizzie to be fetching for Master Draco?"
"I don't bloody care!" he snarled at her, and she drew back, her already large eyes widening impossibly in the face of his fury. "Just bring me wine!"
"Yes Master Draco," Mizzie said, and popped out of the room almost before the last syllable of his name had left her mouth.
Draco's face twisted into a deeper scowl and he returned to staring into the fire and his dark musings. It had started out innocently enough. Harry had seemed, in general, happier. Some of the darker moods he'd been prone to lessened, and then mostly disappeared. At the time, Draco had assumed that the passing of time had finally began to ease the wounds Harry had carried for so long now. But then suspicion had began to creep across the shining surface of his joy at seeing Harry happier, like a fungus creeping across the bright surface of an apple, slowly corrupting it to its very core.
He began to realize that the dark moods were not actually disappearing, but when one began to come over Harry, Harry quickly made an excuse to disappear. And Draco knew they were excuses to escape his company. What else would explain the sudden bout of headaches, tiredness, sudden urges to use the loo, and urgency to complete errands that the house elves could have taken care of? No, Harry was hiding something. Something that was making his dark moods disappear. Draco feared that Harry was taking some sort of potion, possibly an addictive or illegal one. That didn't quite fit with Draco's image of Harry - he was far too noble to do something like that. But then Harry would emerge again from wherever he'd gone to, after an hour or two, or sometimes as few as twenty minutes, and once again he'd be his happy self that Draco had once been so thrilled to have. If Draco asked him where he'd been off to, Harry would just cling to the same flimsy excuse he'd made to leave in the first place, and if Draco pressed, Harry would simply ask him "But don't you trust me, Draco?" and that killed the conversation.
Because Draco was trying to trust him, he really was, but it was awfully hard to keep trusting someone when you just knew they were lying to your face.
He frowned, sinking further into his thoughts. Draco was still reluctant to hop to the conclusion of potions abuse, but what else really fit the clues?
He started when Mizzie reappeared with a soft pop, and presented Draco with a large glass of red wine, and bless her little brain, she'd brought the bottle with her and set it on the table beside him. He took a grateful sip of the wine and closed his eyes.
"Is Master Draco to be needing anything else?" she asked hopefully when he didn't snap at her.
"Yes," he said, opening his eyes. "Would you please go see whether Harry has gone to bed already and let me know?"
Mizzie flinched back as if afraid Draco would throw the glass at her. Draco frowned. Mizzie bowed to him several times, her little hands anxiously wringing her tea towel apron.
"Mizzie is apologizing, Master Draco, but Master Harry has told us that he is not wanting to be disturbed." She tugged on her ears, and stared up at Draco as if expecting a blow.
He allowed himself a gusty sigh that he never would have uttered in polite company, and for a moment cursed himself for instructing the house elves to obey Harry's orders exactly as they obeyed his. But he had expected tonight to be no different than all the other times Harry had vanished on him, after all. Each time Harry disappeared, he left strict orders with the elves to not be disturbed under any circumstances, and no amount of threatening or pleading on Draco's part would budge them.
Naturall, this was alarming. The few times Draco's fears had forced him to confront Harry about his sudden absences, pushing past the issue of trust, Harry only tightened the grip he had to those same flimsy excuses. But Draco knew Harry was lying. A good liar can always tell when he's being lied to.
"Is . . . Master Draco to be needing anything else?" Mizzie asked timidly. Her hands were still at her ears, ready to yank on them at a moment's notice if she sensed that she was displeasing him again.
Draco frowned, having forgotten her presence for the moment. He waved a lazy hand, and Mizzie disappeared with another pop that Draco would have sworn sounded eager. He gulped down the rest of the wine in a manner that would have caused his mother to have an apoplexy if she could have seen him, and sloshed more into his glass from the bottle.
He returned to his brooding. Something would very clearly have to be done about Harry. But what?
* * *
"Harry!" Draco said, raising his voice to be heard over the steady drumming of falling water. "Harry, are you almost done in there?"
"Quit yelling, I'll be out in a minute!" Harry called back, his voice echoing inside the tiled shower.
Draco sent a superior look at the closed door of the bathroom. "Malfoys do not yell," he muttered, then raised his voice again. "Hurry up, then, we are going to be late." He considered, for a moment, trying to clarify the difference between fashionably late and actually late, then decided that it would be completely lost on Harry. Harry was many things, but cultured was not one of them.
Harry's laughter echoed out to him. "And Malfoys are never late, either, eh? Like they don't yell?"
Draco sneered at the door. "Just hurry up in there."
"You going to come in and help me?" Harry's voice was light and teasing, but it held a very real offer.
Draco was tempted - and really, who wouldn't be? - but only for an instant. There'd be plenty of time later tonight, after all. "You know very well what would happen if I went in there. It's why we agreed to take separate showers to begin with. We'd be so late we'll miss the party altogether. Which we very well might be the case if you don't get on with your preening."
Harry only laughed.
He crossed his arms and stalked away from the bathroom, looking around the room that Harry called his own. He'd never spent very much time in here, and up until recently, neither had Harry. In fact, it looked much the same as the other dozens of guest rooms in the Manor, as though no one really lived here. It was tastefully decorated with objects of untold value, and perfectly neat, aside from Harry's discarded clothing leading a trail to the shower, Harry's broom leaned in a corner, a letter lying folded on the bedside table --
Draco cast a quick glance at the closed door between himself and Harry, and crossed the room to the letter in just a few strides. And then, in a sudden and very inconvenient fit of morality, he hesitated. Harry trusted him not to pry into his privacy, and reading this letter very much qualify as prying. But all of his worry and concern and frustration came boiling up, and Draco snatched the letter from where it lay.
Really, if Harry didn't want Draco to pry into his secrets, then he shouldn't try to keep secrets in the first place.
He unfolded the letter, revealing a frank, no-nonsense script.
Draco frowned at the salutation and continued reading.
I've just gotten your letter, and I have to say that I didn't expect you to run out quite so soon! Of course I'll sending along another box, just as soon as I can have it prepared. Please let me know if you would like me to include any needles with it, or if the ones you have already will suffice. I await your owl.
Draco managed to stop his clenching fingers from crumpling the letter, but only just. Oh God, this was worse than he'd thought. He'd assumed that Harry was taking some sort of potion to ease his mind, but this mention of needles made it much more likely he'd been taking Muggle drugs instead. And this M person was his supplier. Anger boiled up inside Draco, fueled by his fear. As his mind spun, his hands carefully refolded the letter and replaced it on the bedside table, fingers nudging it back into exactly the same place he'd found it of their own accord.
The water of the shower shut off, and without thinking Draco crossed the room in just a few strides to a comfortable chair just across from the door.
When Harry emerged from his shower a few moments later, damp hair plastered to his skull, glasses fogged, and a fluffy white towel slung low over his hips, he found Draco sitting down, limbs arranged casually, with his features a mask of bored indifference as he idly picked an invisible speck of lint from his dress robes. Harry rolled his eyes and dropped the towel on the floor as he went to the wardrobe.
Draco regarded his lover's body with only a vague sadness and none of his usual lust, though he did manage to say, as Harry began to pull out a garnet colored robe, "The green one, please. It does set off your eyes just so." And he forced his lips to curve up in a pleased smile as Harry turned to look at him.
* * *
Draco didn't have to wait long to find out Harry's response to the letter. He'd tweaked the wards of the Manor very early the following morning, whilst Harry was still asleep, so that any owls flying from the Manor would need to detour to him to show him their contents before they could fly on to their destination. Then he'd settled down in his father's office to go over some of the household papers. Harry had popped in to say that he was going out for a while. Draco didn't press him about where exactly this "out" was. Instead, he simply waved a hand and murmured a vague good-bye, pretending to be thoroughly engrossed in what he was doing. Harry looked relieved at not having to provide any flimsy excuses this time, and left quickly.
But not quick enough that Draco didn't catch sight of the letter in his hand.
Sure enough, not ten minutes later, and owl soared through the window he'd left open and dutifully offered its letter to him. Draco had to refrain from ripping it open, his hands shaking as he slipped the letter from its envelope.
Thanks so much for everything you've done for me. I'd very much appreciate another box of supplies just as soon as you can send one along. I'd be very eager to try out what we discussed in earlier letters, but I'll have to wait until Draco's gone because once I start I'm afraid I won't be able to stop. I know you think I should just tell him, but I know him and I can say for sure that he just wouldn't understand. And, as much as you deny it, I'm positive you enjoy this sort of secrecy we share.
It was the "love" that did it. Draco very nearly flung the letter into the fireplace of his study, but restrained himself just in time. His fingers trembled as he handed the message back to the owl and sent it on its way. He allowed his fearful thoughts to run wild, just for a minute. Then he settled down for some planning. If Harry wanted him gone, well, he'd best cooperate. At least that way he'd have some control over the timing. And if he were to unexpectedly arrive back early, well, that was hardly his fault at all...
The plan began to form, and Draco smiled at the idea of catching Harry red-handed.
* * *
Draco paused in front of Harry's door several nights later, his pulse pounding. He'd told Harry he'd be out for the entire evening with some old school friends. He'd offered to take Harry along with him, but Harry had readily assured him that he'd be fine for the evening by himself. Now, an hour after he'd left, Draco drew his wand from his sleeve and tapped the doorknob while muttering an unlocking charm. Then, after sucking in a deep breath, he twisted the knob and flung the door open. He found Harry sitting in a chair near the window, with a look of such utter tranquility upon his face that it made Draco's heart ache. But that tranquility was only visible for a split second, as Harry's head snapped toward the door with an almost comical look of horror.
"Draco - what ... what are you doing back?" Harry demanded, his eyes wide and a guilty look on his face. He frantically tried to shove what was in his hands behind his back before Draco could see exactly what it was.
But it was too late. Draco had seen.
Harry bloody Potter, the Boy Who Lived, the Chosen One, the Great Savior of the Wizarding World...was knitting.
"Harry..." he murmured, sinking against the door frame, relief and disbelief warring for control of his emotions.
"Draco, I... It's not what you think!"
And Harry looked so desperate that Draco could only laugh. "Harry, you're knitting?"
The panic vanished and Harry scowled defiantly. "So what if I am?"
Draco laughed harder, until he could hardly stand up. Harry's scowl deepened.
"See, and this is exactly why I didn't tell you. I just knew you wouldn't understand."
"No, no," Draco managed to choke out between gasps. "I'm just so bloody happy... "
Harry blinked. Whatever he'd expected Draco's next words to be, these certainly weren't it. "What?"
"I thought you were taking Muggle drugs. You were so calm all of a sudden."
"It's because of this," Harry explained with a sigh. He drew the needles from behind his back and lay them in his lap. "Molly Weasley recommended it to me. Said it was very soothing, with all the repetitive motions and counting and all. I thought it was all a bunch of hogswash, but gave it a go anyhow for lack of anything else to try. Nothing else has worked. But it helps. It really is very calming. I'm starting to see how she was able to raise seven children without completely losing her mind." He blinked at Draco, as if his statement were just sinking in. "Muggle drugs? Really?"
And Draco explained to him about his suspicions, about the letter, and about his plan for tonight. And then, incredibly, Harry laughed with him.
* * *
Some weeks later, Harry and Draco were spending a quiet evening alone in the library. There was a roaring fire in the fireplace, and Draco had his feet stretched towards it with a book lying neglected in his lap. He was wearing the pair of socks Harry had proudly presented him with that morning, and, good God, he'd never known that a simple pair of socks could feel so luxurious. Robes, yes, and shirts and even trousers, but socks? Harry had informed him that it was the yarn, a blend of wool and something called alpaca, with just a touch of silk. Draco didn't care if it was spun from bloody unicorn hair, he couldn't remember if his feet had ever felt this pampered. He let out a happy little sigh.
Harry didn't even look at him, but murmured, "I'm glad you like them."
Draco glanced over at his lover. Harry was knitting, as he had taken to doing in the evenings now that his secret was out. His features were calm and relaxed, and his silver needles were flashing in the firelight as Harry deftly manipulated yarn into fabric. They made a rhythmic click-click-click that lulled Draco's ears a little more than he cared to admit.
"I very much do. I might have to ask you to replace all my socks with ones like this."
Harry chuckled. "We'll see."
Draco wiggled his toes. "I'm serious. I might even lock you up until you do."
"Prat," Harry said fondly. "You'd best be nice to me while I'm armed. I'll stab you with my needles, don't think I won't."
"You wouldn't," Draco sniffed. "You'd get blood on my new sweater and the stains would never come out."
"Prat," Harry said again. "It's not even yours yet."
"Ah, but it will be."
Harry held up his work to admire it for a moment, and Draco admired it right along with him. The shade of grey Harry had chosen just matched his eyes, and he knew it would feel every bit as soft and luxurious as his new socks.
"Really, I am glad that this doesn't bother you. And that you let me make things for you." His needles began their steady clicking again.
"Well," said Draco with a soft smile. "I simply have an excellent grasp of the value of things. Especially things that are mine."
And he wasn't talking about the sweater.