Chapter 1: Prologue
The war came to an end for both Severus Snape and Draco Malfoy the night Draco lost his legs. It had been six months since Dumbledore had died, and five months since Snape had helped Lucius Malfoy escape from Azkaban. They had been on the run more or less continuously and they were cold and tired and hungry and Snape was wounded. It was not a very bad wound-only a hex that had hit his shoulder--but it hurt and it was enough to slow him down and make him careless.
He did not even see the spellmine until he stepped on it, and Draco-who must have seen it at approximately the same time-barreled into him and sent him flying. He landed rolling, and his weight on his bad shoulder was enough to make him black out for a few seconds. When he opened his eyes he was on his back ten feet from the mine and there was blood, warm wet blood that was not his own, on his face. He struggled to hands and knees and crawled to where Draco lay.
He was in a pool of blood spreading far too quickly for his injury to be anything but mortal. Snape had seen and done a number of very bad things, and this was as bad as any of them. Draco's legs ended just above the knee, and the wounds were ragged, with bone protruding. He was bleeding to death, his skin already cool to the touch. And he was conscious, and screaming, the thin and relentless noise an animal makes in extremity.
Snape had been trained to kill and not to heal. If he had had time to think, time to wonder what kind of life he was condemning Draco to, he might not have managed it. He closed his eyes and gripped his wand, and cauterized the wounds as best he could. After the first leg, Draco passed out.
Their pursuers were less than a minute behind them. Snape got to his feet and stood, swaying a little, waiting for them to come. They were moving slowly, cautiously; they would have heard the mine going off, and be wondering whether it had been successful. His wand was in his pocket; he held his empty hands out to either side. He had always thought he'd die before he yielded, but this was hardly the first plan Draco had destroyed.
The first man over the rise was Remus Lupin. Of course it was. He had been witness to almost all of the worst moments of Snape's life. "I surrender," he shouted. "The boy with me needs immediate medical attention."
"Throw your wand down to me and lie down on the ground with your arms over your head," Lupin yelled back.
"I'm getting my wand out of my robes," Snape warned, and then complied.
When he was down Lupin hit him with a Petrificus and jogged by him to kneel beside Draco. "Christ," he said softly. "Oh, Jesus. I told Moody not to use the damn mines. I'll have a team here in five minutes, Snape, I promise." He had forgotten, Snape thought--that they were on opposite sides in this war. Or maybe, Lupin being Lupin, it didn't matter to him.
It didn't matter to Snape, either. He was tired of running. He closed his eyes and tried not to picture what was left of Draco.
Lupin had mediwizards on the scene very quickly. They loaded Draco on to a stretcher, casting stabilizing and monitoring spells on him as they did so. Snape listened to their voices, and came as close to praying as he had done in a very long time. What Draco had done for him, given up for him, did not bear thinking of; it was as supreme a sacrifice as the one Dumbledore had made years earlier, that had put Snape on this path to begin with.
After Draco was gone they took him to Azkaban. Snape was very tired, and the pain in his shoulder had grown exponentially. The trip, consisting as it did of a half dozen Apparitions, followed by a boat ride, seemed nightmarishly long and miserable. He had been to the prison only once before, the night he had come with Bellatrix Lestrange to liberate Lucius Malfoy-the night he had quarreled with Malfoy and left him in London to die. Azkaban had seemed smaller then, less grim: they had been full of hope, and pleasure at their own cleverness. This time he felt sure he had come here for forever.
He rather thought that Lupin had given his guards their orders. They were kinder to him than he expected them to be, though they supervised him ruthlessly. When he had bathed and changed and had his rights read to him, they led him to his cell and locked him away. And, though he did not know it then--that was the last human contact he would have for more than a year.
They came for him after the war ended, long after he had lost count of the days, lost track of the world. Long after any of it had ceased to matter to him. They seemed to think he should be grateful for his freedom, and he tried to be. But the sun was so bright it made his eyes burn, and he was still so very tired, though he had spent the long months sleeping. They took him before the Minister of Magic, and pinned medals on his chest.
And Lupin told him what had happened, how they had learned the truth about his role in the war. And then he asked if there was anything that Snape wanted. Snape could think of only two things: he wanted to see Draco, and he wanted to go home. Home was the little house at Spinner's End that had been his father's. He wanted peace. Lupin agreed, reluctantly. He seemed to think Snape was owed something more. "Don't do me any favors," Snape said to him, which seemed to silence him.
All the same, it was Lupin who proposed that Snape take Draco with him. "For company," was how he put it, and if it had been anyone else who said it, Snape would have looked for a double entendre in the words. Since it was Lupin, he took them at face value. The last thing that he wanted was company, to be burdened with a crippled child who would be dependent on him forever. But Draco had saved his life, and deserved the kindness Snape could spare for him.
"Very well," he said, after a pause that he had let go on far too long. Lupin smiled, and began to talk of handicapped accessibility and wheelchair ramps, and Snape bared his own teeth in a grimace that passed as a smile and ignored him. He was surprised to find that the boy he had Flooed to St. Mungo's to collect was closer to eighteen than fifteen, and as much a prisoner as a patient.
Snape had been a spy, but Draco was a traitor. The Wizengamot had been lenient, in view of his extreme youth and his horrific injuries, and spared him his life. And such a life it would be, confined in a chair and without even the use of magic for consolation. Snape did his best to look at his face and not the stumps of his legs, but he did not quite know how to talk to him, and he knew that the awkwardness between them would not simply go away.
Chapter 2: Rolling Out the Red Carpet
Draco had known for some time that Snape was a halfblood. His father had not believed in withholding useful information, not when said information could buy his son and heir a bit of extra consideration. It had not meant very much to Draco when he'd found out; pure blood was not so common as it had once been, even in Slytherin House. And Snape was one of them, despite his poor taste in ancestors.
He was learning now that Muggles and wizards were every bit as different as Lord Voldemort had said they were, and that in this place Snape was different too. Since the house was not on the Floo network, Snape shrank Draco's bag of clothes and Apparated them both to London. They landed in weeds as high as Draco's head, and Snape struggled to push his chair across the rutted drive to the little house. It was not exactly what Draco had hoped for. Rigid with embarrassment and nerves, he sat as still as he could, trying to will the chair to glide smoothly instead of slipping and catching. He could hear Snape panting behind him, and feel Snape's resentment washing over him in waves.
He had thought he was inured to humiliation, to the fact of his own helplessness. He had thought the first months he'd spent in hospital, when he could not get himself across the room to the toilet, when he had woken to the sound of his own screams, and begged for a potion to stop the pain--begged for death-had been the worst he would ever experience. But yesterday they had introduced him to the Auror who would serve as his parole officer, and it had been Harry Potter. And today, finally, Snape had come.
They were the first familiar faces he had seen since his injury, and they had registered identical expressions of embarrassment and disgust. It had hurt more than he had expected to see shame from Snape and pity from Potter. If he had to spend the rest of his life this way--it did not bear thinking of.
It took two levitation charms, a great deal of muscle, and a small amount of swearing by Snape, to get the chair in the front door of the house. Although he'd done nothing but sit in it, Draco was exhausted and near tears. Snape pointed out the significant features of the downstairs, which consisted of four rooms: a tiny galley kitchen, a toilet, a smallish sitting room and an even smaller bedroom. It had clearly been remodeled and hastily cleaned for Draco's benefit, and he feigned gratitude as best he could.
Snape did not seem to notice either his insincerity or his agonizing mortification. He was thinner than Draco had ever seen him, his eyes shadowed and his skin sallow from his time in prison. Far worse, he seemed to have lost all of his old vitriol. He had not sneered at Draco once since he'd come to retrieve him. Draco had done this to Snape, although he had not meant to. Snape had had to choose between going to Azkaban and letting Draco die.
"Make yourself something for dinner," Snape said when the tour had been concluded. "I think I'm going to go to bed." He turned and went upstairs, where Draco could not follow him, and Draco was left alone in a kitchen with counters and cupboards he couldn't reach, and a refrigerator full of food he didn't know how to cook. When he was sure that Snape wasn't coming back, he hauled himself out of his wheelchair and into his bed, and this time he did cry.
In the morning Snape made him breakfast and did not offer to help him shower and dress, and Draco remembered why Snape had been his favorite teacher. They sat at the kitchen table--Snape had lowered it to match Draco's chair--and drank black coffee and made lists of things they would need to buy. It seemed almost normal, if Draco could have forgotten that his legs were missing, could have ignored the emptiness that lurked behind Snape's put-on, brittle cheerfulness.
After they'd eaten, Snape went out to bring the motor around. Although Draco pretended to be blasé about it, he was secretly excited: he'd never been in a true Muggle automobile. "What sort is it?" he asked Snape. "Does it use petrol?"
Snape shrugged. "It was my father's," he answered. "It's black."
Draco had been picturing something small and green and speedy, but Snape's motor was not only black, but also bigger than he'd imagined an automobile could be. Even more disappointingly it didn't have any sort of maker's mark on it that he could see. But there were a few tattered stickers still clinging to the rear. Draco wondered if it was Snape or his father who had been fond of Clash, and what it meant, but he decided the question could keep.
"Is it a Roller?" he asked, as Snape helped him into the cavernous interior.
This time Snape smiled. "It began life as a Rover, I think, but at this stage it's being held together mainly by magic. I haven't opened the hood since before you were born."
Draco settled back against the worn upholstery. "Never mind," he said. "I'd like to keep what's left of my illusions, please."
The smile slid away, and Snape looked as grim as ever. "I should think you'd have gotten over that some time ago."
It felt rather like a slap in the face. Draco stared out the window at the streets of London, and hated Snape with all his strength. It would have been better to spend the rest of his life in hospital, or even in Azkaban, than spend it being resented by Snape.
Before they could go shopping, they had to meet with Potter. Draco suspected that this, not house arrest, was meant to be his punishment. Potter appeared to have decided that he was not only crippled but also partially blind and completely deaf. He spoke so slowly and so clearly to Draco, and used such small words, that even Snape noticed and snapped at him to get on with it. The terms of his sentence were simple enough: no wand, no attempts to use magic, no leaving the city unaccompanied or the country at all. And Snape would serve as his keeper, in more ways than one.
What made it especially unbearable was that Potter had survived the war entirely intact, and grown into exactly the type of person Draco found most attractive, all slender muscle and green-eyed intensity. Draco was gloomily aware that he might never get laid again. It did not make Potter's smug righteousness any pleasanter; he seemed to believe that Draco in particular and the Malfoys in general had gotten what they deserved.
Afterward--agony added to agony--Snape and Draco bought groceries and a tin opener and a cooking box that Snape said was Merlin's gift to Muggle housewives. Neither of them could manage much in the way of optimism, and when they got back to Spinner's End--Draco could not bring himself to call it home--Snape carried in the shopping and vanished upstairs again.
Draco bludgeoned open two of the tins--the opener was harder to operate than it looked, but he hated to ask for help--and sat at the table to eat dinner. Snape's kitchen was disconcertingly tidy, except for the splatters from the pasta he'd just opened, and the newspaper he's spilled over the tabletop. It was nothing at like Malfoy Manor, nothing like Hogwarts. And Draco, who'd had snobbery bred into his bones, hated it.
He left his dishes on the table, a small rebellion against Snape's order, and wheeled himself into the sitting room. It was very small, and every inch of space was lined with shelves of books, or stacks of books. Despite himself, he was tempted. Slipping out of his chair and hoping Snape would not come down and see him on the floor, he pulled himself closer to the nearest pile. There were potions books from Snape's office at Hogwarts mixed in with Muggle texts and novels. Some of the books were ancient and probably priceless; others were new, with uncut pages. He chose a dozen from the surrounding stacks and the shelves within reach, and heaped them on the seat of his chair.
Most of what Potter had said to him that morning had been utter crap, which didn't especially surprise him-but Potter had said something that resonated. He had said that Draco needed a job--worse, an occupation. While no one in Draco's family had ever been employed, he wondered if a job wouldn't be preferable to spending his life trapped in the world's smallest house with a man who wished he was dead. Unfortunately Snape's collection seemed to be heavy on writers with long Russian names and light on books on career counseling. Draco restacked them as neatly as he could, so that Snape wouldn't be able to tell at a glance some were missing, and pushed the chair into his bedroom.
There was nothing in it but the bed and a wardrobe--not that there was room for any more furniture-and the plastic bag of clothes Draco had brought with him from the hospital, most of which were probably from Muggle charity shops. He should unpack, or read one of the books he'd acquired. Instead he hauled himself onto his bed and flopped against the pillow with a sigh.
He couldn't stop thinking about Potter, which was a real problem. It was one thing to hate Potter, or envy him--Potter was a hero and not an outcast, Potter still had his legs--no one could blame Draco. But lust was something else again. He knew that if they'd been in his place, neither his father nor Snape would have been thinking about the green of Potter's eyes against his black shirt, or the strong capable curve of his wrist. Draco's hand had slipped down onto his crotch, and he drew it away reluctantly. Not with Snape upstairs, and not when all he could picture was Harry Potter. Not tonight, or ever. That part of his life was over, anyway, and he knew it.
Chapter 3: Keeping Up Appearances
Draco had the same nightmare a large percentage of the time. It had nothing to do with the day he'd been injured, although ironically in the dream he was running. In the dream the war was lost, and everyone he loved was dead, and someone or something pursued him with all the fury of the hounds of hell. In the dream he was always a step too slow, or he stumbled, or sometimes he gave up--but it always ended when he turned, back against the wall, to face the thing behind him, only to realize there was nothing there.
He always woke from it drenched in sweat, all of his muscles aching as if he really had been running. Sometimes even the muscles he was missing hurt. The therapist at the hospital had explained that this was not uncommon, and that it would go away on its own, or it wouldn't. He knew that even if the phantom pain in his legs faded, the agony of his right hand--fingers clenched tight around a wand that no longer existed--never would. It was the mornings after he'd had the nightmare that he wondered which loss was worse.
He had six nights in a row of more or less uninterrupted sleep in Snape's house, before he had the nightmare he'd hoped was gone for good. In the morning he dragged himself blearily out of bed and into the shower, and almost fell asleep sitting on his stool. He pulled on the last of his clean clothes and rolled himself into the kitchen. He and Snape had worked out a more or less equal division of labor, in which Snape cooked and paid the bills and played chauffeur and Draco did everything else.
He set the table with Snape's mother's heavy, tarnished silver and linen napkins, preserved by magic as the house itself was preserved. Snape was still upstairs, but probably not asleep. Draco could hear him pacing at night sometimes, walking the confines of his room as he must have walked the cell in Azkaban. The biggest advantage of having Snape as a housemate was that he was completely willing to let Draco make his own mistakes and learn for himself what he was and was not capable of doing. Draco's mother would have been horrified to see him slinging the plates like Bludgers, preservation spell or no.
But Draco could not help wondering just how much of Snape's laissez-faire attitude was trust, and how much was indifference. He had had the same policy at Hogwarts, and been largely successful; he had involved himself in Slytherin House's affairs only rarely, and only when lives were in danger. Draco had been his only failure in almost twenty years, the only one of his students to precipitate a disaster so vast not even Snape could save him from it.
He had finished with the table. Now he pushed his way over to the draining board and began to put away the previous night's dishes. Snape, who was never anything but punctual, was now officially late. Draco kept going, wondering if something was wrong, and what he'd do if it were. He was just beginning to panic when he heard something scratch at the kitchen door, the way a house elf begging for admission might. He had a brief moment of hope: maybe it was a house elf, coming to make his breakfast. It seemed unlikely.
After a brief struggle he got the door open for what was probably the first time in thirty years or so-Snape did not seem like the type to have neighbors stopping by for a cup of tea. There was a cat sitting on the step. It sauntered past him and leapt onto the table, where it sat licking itself and staring at him. Draco turned laboriously to face it and stared back. The cat was the color of clotted cream, with gray-brown stripes on its head and legs and tail, and the bluest eyes he'd ever seen. It was clearly a special, magical beast, and to judge by its air of self-possession, a powerful and dangerous one.
"His name is Lucifer," Snape said from the vicinity of Draco's right shoulder. Draco only barely stopped himself from squeaking.
He had forgotten altogether about Snape's ability to creep up on one. The cat regarded Snape with intense interest. Snape looked back at it with cool disregard. "It wants breakfast and a bath, Draco. What do we have that a cat might eat?"
Draco steered himself to the refrigerator. "There isn't any milk," he said after a moment. "Do you think it-he-might like canned tuna? We could get some cat food for him later."
"I suspect that the tuna will be acceptable," Snape agreed. He picked the cat up and set it on the floor. "He's been on his own for too long; he's forgotten those few manners he had."
"So he was your pet?" Draco demanded. "Forgive me for saying so, but you don't exactly seem like a cat person." He had to admit that he was a little disappointed. Now that he looked closely, Lucifer was clearly only a cat with interesting markings, too small even to be part Kneazle. Still, he might be company when Snape was sulking.
This won one of Snape's rare smiles. "More like I was his pet. He didn't exactly ask permission before he moved in. It looks as if he's been living rough, doesn't it? Scrounging from trash cans and that sort of thing." He handed Draco a saucer as he spoke. Draco had gotten the lid off the tin using the opener-a small personal victory-and now he dumped the tuna on the saucer and leaned down to put it on the floor for Lucifer.
The cat brushed past Snape, sniffing delicately at Draco's chair before he settled, purring, on the tuna. Draco stroked his thin, knobby back and felt guilty. It was his fault Snape had been gone so long, his fault Lucifer was half-starved. Snape had probably given his pet up for dead. Under his hand, Lucifer began to purr, and Draco felt his eyes fill up with tears he had to blink away.
As wonderful as it was to have Snape treat him as a person and not as a cripple, it had its downside. No one but Snape would have expected Draco to give the cat a bath. But Snape went blithely to the shops to stock up on cat food, leaving Draco to fight for his life. When he finished, Lucifer looked more like a wet, angry rat than a cat, and Draco was equally wet and bleeding from scratches on his chin and his arms. He dried the cat as best he could and let it go. It sprang away from him, growling and disappeared up the stairs. Draco wished it joy of whatever it found there. He mopped half-heartedly at the soaked floor, toweled off his hair, and changed into a dry shirt.
It was almost time for lunch, which meant that he'd spent the whole morning on the cat. Yet another day was half over: if he lived only ninety more years, than that would mean he'd managed to get through another-he gave up on doing the fraction in his head. It would come out to something depressingly small anyway. He was replacing in their approximate piles the books of Snape's he'd finished reading when the front door opened and Snape came in with his arms full of carrier bags.
This was unexpected enough; Draco hadn't realized he was still out. It seemed unlikely he'd spent the last hour and a half shopping for cat food and, apparently, liquor. It seemed even more unlikely that Remus Lupin and Harry Potter had just happened to be in the neighborhood, shopping for lottery tickets and lime flavored Coke and oranges, or whatever excuse they'd used. Snape's expression was a priceless mix of disbelief and frozen misery, Potter looked embarrassed, and Lupin was smiling like a man who'd ruined everyone else's day and didn't even have the grace to realize it.
"So you have a cat," he said, and Snape grimaced.
"Yes, Lupin, I have a cat," he answered. Draco bit his tongue and kept himself from smirking, but he could see that Potter hadn't had as much foresight. Snape dropped his bags on the nearest chair and turned on him with a ferocious frown that was still no more than a ghost of the ones he'd been infamous for. It still wiped the smile off of Potter's face. "I also have a headache. If you'll all excuse me." He turned and went upstairs, not quite stomping. Draco thought that this retreat was all too similar to Lucifer's. This time he did smile.
Since Snape had left him to play the gracious host, Draco offered his guests lunch. He wasn't sure what to do when they accepted. After the canned spaghetti incident, Snape had forbidden him to use the cooker and the hotbox. The only thing left was sandwiches. Draco spread peanut butter and jam on half a dozen slices of bread, wondering as he did so whether werewolves were strictly carnivorous. He had forgotten to cut the crusts off before he put the filling in, but he decided they were good enough for Potter and Lupin.
He turned to put the plates on the table and discovered that Potter was fluttering uselessly behind him. "I can handle this," he snapped. "It's my legs that went missing, not my hands or my brain."
To his amazement, Potter actually blushed. "I'm sorry," he said. "I didn't mean-I'll just go get Remus, shall I, he's looking at Snape's books."
Draco filled water glasses from the tap and pretended not to feel guilty. It had had to be said, even if it could have been said more tactfully. But lunch was spectacularly awkward, even for someone who'd once shared a meal with Lord Voldemort, Aunt Bella and a man with the table manners of a rat. Neither Potter nor Lupin seemed disposed to linger, which raised the question of why they'd come at all.
Draco saw them out, and barely kept Potter from apologizing again. When he went back to the kitchen to start on the dishes-now feeling even more like a house elf-he found that Lucifer had licked them all clean. "Where were you earlier?" he demanded, putting a handful of dry cat food in one of Snape's china saucers. "I could have used a little help with the entertaining." Lucifer finished eating and began licking himself. He looked smug, as well he might. Not only was he well fed, and clean, and sheltered, but Draco was talking to him as if he were a person and not a cat. It would have been embarrassing, if Draco had not been too glad of the company to care.
Chapter 4: Everything Is Broken
It took him a long time to realize that something was wrong with Snape. It started the afternoon after Lucifer turned up, when Draco came in from reading in the garden. He could hear Snape talking to someone in the kitchen, and he stopped for a moment, half shy of someone new seeing him, and half curious as to the identity of Snape's unexpected visitor. "This is the way things are now," Snape was saying, in the too-formal, gloating voice Draco had thought he'd reserved for giving bad exam results to his students. "Yes, I'm sure you don't like it, but there is nothing I can do. The war--."
And then he must have seen Draco, because he paused for a second before he said, "The war changed everything, and not all of it for the better. We are not what we once were." Draco suspected that that was his cue. Besides, he was dying to know whom Snape was talking to. He wheeled himself into the kitchen and looked around as subtly as he could. There was no one there but the cat.
Lucifer, at Snape's feet, sat as still as an Egyptian statue, his pale eyes on Snape's face. "Were you lecturing him?" Draco asked. "You remember he's a cat, right?" He knew it was a mistake as soon as he said it. His father had always said that Snape had his virtues, but a sense of humor wasn't one of them. "Snape, I--." He couldn't think how to finish the sentence. He'd known Snape since he was a child--he'd called him Uncle Severus when he was very small. But the grim, angry man Snape had become during the war was a stranger. "I'm sorry," he finished, and he knew it sounded stupid.
But it was enough, at least for the moment. The corner of Snape's mouth twisted up. "No," Snape said. "You're absolutely correct. He is a cat. He's the one who seems to have forgotten. I've just been reacquainting him with that fact. He's gotten a bit too independent."
Draco looked at Lucifer, and back at Snape. It didn't make sense, not Snape talking to the cat and not Snape having a cat at all. Snape hated animals as much as he did people. He wasn't the type to keep one around unless there was something in it for him. On the other hand, it seemed unlikely that Snape would be plotting anything with a cat, and Draco had no intention of turning into the Mad Eye Moody sort who saw conspiracies behind every closed door. He let it go, but he didn't forget.
The conversation with the cat was only the beginning. The longer Draco and Snape were alone in the little house, the odder Snape grew. As summer turned to fall and the weather cooled, he spent more and more time in the rooms upstairs where Draco could not easily follow him. Draco considered again that he might be up to something, but Snape seemed too distracted to carry a conspiracy. He alternated sleeping a great deal with not sleeping at all, he did not eat and he bought Muggle liquor Draco assumed he drank by himself.
Out of self-defense, Draco developed a routine of his own--it was that or going out of his skull with boredom. He had taken over almost all of the housework, but the house was so small and had been so heavily spelled against dirt and time that cooking and laundry and shopping were the only real drains on his time. Snape had pointed out the laundromat on the next block the second week, and once Draco's initial fascination with the machines had worn off--Muggles really were clever--he'd managed to persuade one of the other customers to show him how it worked, and he'd taken such copious notes that by the fourth time he did it, his laundry actually seemed clean.
Laundry used up one morning satisfactorily, and shopping used up three others, since Draco only bought what he could carry. Money was another revelation. Draco had a plastic card with Snape's name on it that drew on Snape's account, and all he had to do was forge Snape's signature on the charge slips. Because he was in the chair, and probably a little because of his age and his accent, everyone was brilliantly friendly and willing to believe him.
The problem was that even with shopping and laundry and weekly trips to meet his friendly parole officer-and Potter was obnoxiously, determinedly friendly despite Draco's best efforts-Draco was very, very bored. Eventually, curiosity won out. He waited several days for Snape to go wherever it was Snape went, and then he went upstairs to see what Snape was doing.
It was not quite that simple, of course. The stairs were narrow and slippery, and his arms were still not as strong as they could be. He'd spent a great deal of the last two years in a hospital bed, after all, while his wounds healed, and later between surgeries to remove shrapnel the battlefield medics had missed. In the end he went up backwards, and it was surprisingly quick and painless, if undignified.
The second floor of Snape's house consisted of two rooms, opening off of a bookshelf-lined hallway. It was substantially smaller than the first floor, and Draco wondered if this was by design, or because the magic had run out. The first bedroom had clearly not been used for some time. Draco thought that, given the faint rodent-y smell, it had probably belonged to Peter Pettigrew during the time Snape had kept him as a pet.
There wasn't much furniture: a bed, a wardrobe, a chest of drawers, a big trunk, and another bookshelf crammed to bursting. Draco ran his fingers across the spines of the books, and decided reluctantly to leave them for another day. He was less than a quarter of the way through the ones downstairs. The bed had been stripped, the stained mattress left bare. Draco looked away. He knew that his father had died in this house, but he did not want to know where. The chest and the wardrobe were empty.
He blew away the top layer of dust on the trunk and fumbled the latches open, expecting the lid to be charmed shut. Draco knew what it was. He'd had one himself, with the same crest and labels. It was full of folded clothes, things Snape had laid aside long ago but been unable to part with. And on top, a few more personal items: Snape's teaching certificate, a tangled handful of jewelry and medals, and a wand.
Draco picked it up with trembling fingers. It was made of a dark wood he did not recognize, and it was smooth and cool and heavier than it should have been. Full of magic, even now. In his hands it was no more than a piece of wood. There was a sound in the doorway behind him, and Draco turned too quickly and lost his balance, fell onto his back with the wand still clenched in his fingers.
When he opened his eyes, Snape was standing over him, not quite grinning. "I wondered whether you'd manage the stairs," he said, and bent to offer Draco his hand.
Draco took it and let Snape haul him into a sitting position. "I'm sorry," he began," but Snape brushed the words away and took the wand Draco held out.
"It was my mother's," he said softly. "She died in Azkaban, a long time ago."
Draco looked up at him, lost. Snape never, never told anyone anything he didn't think they needed to know. But the look on Snape's face was one Draco had seen only a handful of times, one Snape had always reserved for Lucius Malfoy. Draco ran his fingers down the smooth edge of the trunk, and wondered what to say. He missed his own mother, but it had been years since he'd seen Narcissa, and he'd never quite forgiven her for the things she'd said about his father the night Draco had taken the mark. And of course, she wasn't dead. He missed his father, too, but that was not a wound he could share with Snape, or share at all: it was still too raw for that.
He'd let the silence drag on too long. Snape turned and set the wand in the trunk, staring at its contents as if he'd never seen them before. "I should get rid of these, I suppose," he said, holding up a black t-shirt with a glittering logo. "There's an Oxfam shop in town."
Draco reached for it. "I could use them," he said. "If you're just going to throw them out."
Snape snorted. "A Malfoy, taking leftovers from a Prince? Your grandfather would roll over in his grave, Draco."
Draco blinked at him. "Because I haven't been dependent on you to survive for the last two months? My grandfather might roll over in his grave, but my father would have said that a Malfoy does whatever he has to do to survive."
Snape smiled, in honest amusement. "No. Your father would say that a Malfoy does whatever it takes to get ahead. Lucius is Slytherin to the bone."
The tense was wrong, and Draco wondered if Snape realized, and what it meant. He could remember the night Snape and Aunt Bellatrix had broken his father out of prison with a clarity that verged on the nightmarish. Snape had left him at Riddle House, with Peter Pettigrew as "protection," and Apparated away. Twelve hours later he'd returned with blood on his hands, and told Draco that they'd failed. And after that he'd killed Pettigrew, and he and Draco had spent the next five months running from both the Death Eaters and the Order.
"I want to go downstairs," he said, to break the silence. Because what else could he say? His father was dead. His father had been a Death Eater, and Snape had been a spy, and the whole thing had been so pointless and so stupid. Draco blinked back tears and waited, because as much as he didn't want Snape to see him cry, he really, really didn't want Snape to watch him shuffle his way back down the stairs and into the chair. And after a while, Snape took the hint, maybe, because he left.
Chapter 5: The Way We Wish We Were
Having given up going through Snape's more personal belongings, Draco started in earnest on his books. He spent three weeks worth of afternoons sorting them, by subject and author, and reshelving as many of them as he could. It wasn't a difficult job physically, because Potter inexplicably took to turning up after work and handling the higher shelves. Potter was a problem, in ways Draco couldn't have foreseen if he'd devoted his life to divination.
Potter wore jeans that hung too low on his narrow hips, and shirts with the sleeves rolled up to show his pale forearms. Draco hadn't been touched by another person since he got out of hospital, and Potter insisted on giving him back massages, in leaning close enough so that their shoulders brushed, in putting a hand on Draco's thigh for balance while he reached for a stack of books. It was brutal, and it got Draco hard every time. He had to admit, though, that he preferred dreaming about Potter's mouth on his cock to nightmares about the war.
He couldn't imagine what it was Potter thought he was going to get out of it. Maybe it was the pity fuck to end all pity fucks, because Draco was not just a convicted traitor with no magic, but a cripple as well. Maybe Potter was just trying to get Draco to make a fool of himself. In any event, Draco pretended not to notice. He made dinner and put out a plate for Potter, and since Snape never ate there was plenty to go around. He read the best bits of Snape's books out loud, in the name of education, since neither he nor Potter had finished school. He did not think about what it would be like to have Potter's hands on him for real.
It wasn't something they talked about, anyway. Every evening started with Potter leaning on the doorbell, even though he must have realized it took Draco a while to get to it. Potter would say, "Hey," as he brushed past, drop his cloak and his bag in a pile, and wrestle off his tie. And then, up went the sleeves. Every last time, even though the house was never really warm inside. Draco usually sat on the floor in the sitting room, his lap full of books. Potter sprawled in one of the chairs that flanked the fireplace, and Lucifer sat on the mantel and glared, and occasionally made noises that were probably rude comments about Potter. He'd hated Potter on sight, and lately he seemed to hate Snape, too. It was cozy, in a horrible sort of way.
Draco still talked more to the cat than he did to either Potter or Snape. At the end of the day, it was Lucifer who stayed—though he sometimes thought Potter would have liked to—and Lucifer who slept next to him on his pillow. Lucifer's grating purr was the last thing he heard at night, and his ragged, indignant voice was the first thing he heard in the morning. And Lucifer knew all of his secrets, including the one about lusting after Potter.
Time passed, even at Spinners' End. It just passed so fucking slowly that sometimes Draco could have sworn the clocks had stopped. September dragged its way into October, and October dragged its way into November. Draco started physical therapy at St. Mungo's, and they gave him a port key for the hospital, and one for home, which almost felt like independence.
The things the therapists asked of him were difficult, and often painful. The mine that had claimed his legs had damaged nerves as well as skin and bone, and because of its magical nature, magic had been useless in healing him. Almost two years later, his stumps ended in raw, ugly lumps of scar tissue. He would have to regenerate a great deal of muscle, and the nerves themselves, before prosthetics were even a possibility. There were times when he thought that the chair might be preferable.
When the doorbell rang, early on a Friday afternoon, Draco assumed it was Potter, out early on a holiday he'd forgotten. "Coming," he yelled grumpily, and left his lunch dishes and his book on the end table while he hauled himself out of the sofa and into the chair. It was only when he flung the door open rather too hard that he realized the man on the other side wasn't Potter. It wasn't anyone Draco'd ever seen before in his life—just an ordinary middle-aged Muggle in a blue coverall.
"Mr. Snape?" he asked doubtfully.
Snape didn't have callers. Ever. Other than Remus Lupin, the once, Draco didn't think the man had had a visitor in five months. Draco wasn't sure if Snape was home: he wasn't sure he'd seen him in the last week. He wondered, briefly and hysterically, if he ought to go upstairs again and check whether Snape was still alive. "I'm Severus Snape," he said as coolly as he could, thinking of identity theft and Muggle prisons. He'd used Snape's bank card more often than Snape, lately.
"Right," the Muggle said. "I'm from British Gas. Do you mind if I come in for a minute?"
As far as Draco knew, the only thing gas did was make the motor run, and it hadn't been out of the garage in a month. He knew, because he'd been tempted to teach himself to drive it, using a stick to push the floor pedals, but he hadn't been able to find Snape's keys. "I don't know anything about that," he said as innocently as he could, "but come in if you like."
He rolled his chair back out of the doorway and motioned the man in. When he was seated, awkwardly, on the sitting room sofa, and Draco had positioned himself on the other side of the little room, there was a brutal silence. Draco opened his mouth to ask what in hell the man wanted, and caught himself just in time. What if the man were a secret policeman? Maybe it was better not to antagonize him. "The weather's been lovely lately," he said, and winced at the inanity.
"Yes," the man agreed. "Er. Mr. Snape—."
"Call me Severus," Draco interjected.
"Yes," the man said again. "Severus. You see—this is awkward—it seems you haven't paid your gas bill in several months. You don't want us to shut off your heat--."
"Of course not!" Draco said, startled. "I'm sorry. The thing is, I had a mate who took care of this sort of thing for me while I was out of commission, but he's been ill and I'm afraid things have been let go a bit." Even to his own ears, the words sounded prissy and unSnapelike. "If it's okay, I can just give you a cheque."
"That would be fine," the man said, watching as Draco wheeled himself to the secretary and dug out Snape's cheque book. "Do you mind if I ask—how it happened?"
Draco thought about pretending he didn't know what the man meant, but it wasn't worth it. He scrawled Snape's name on the cheque in his best approximation. "It was the war," he answered as vaguely as he could.
Out of the corner of his eye he could see that the Muggle was blushing. Good. Served him right for being so nosy. "Only—you seem so young."
"I'm nineteen," Draco said coolly and untruthfully. "Old enough to fight for what I believe in."
"I'm sorry," the man said, and he sounded as if he meant it. "My boy's over there now, and I just--."
Draco felt like an idiot. "I'm the one who should be sorry," he said. "It's not something that I like to talk about." Especially, he thought, given that I'm not sure exactly where you mean by there.
"I understand," the Muggle said, taking his cheque. "Really. The way this government treats its veterans is a crime."
"Yeah," Draco agreed, interested despite himself. "My—my mate," he cringed a little, thinking of how Snape would react to that description, "he's been having a hard time getting his head straight since we got back—he was a prisoner for a bit, even. But they can't be bothered to turn up and see how he's doing, or anything. Just chucked him some medals and sent him on his way. I mean, it's saying something when the gimp's the one who has to take charge, right?"
He ended up having the Muggle to tea, and barely got him out before Potter turned up. Still, it was interesting to hear the man complain about the Muggle government, which sounded like a primitive version of the wizarding one. That night, as they ate dinner, Draco quizzed Potter about the state of Muggle Britain. The war wasn't entirely a British one, apparently, and it was in Persia, although the Muggles had a different name for it, Potter thought. For someone who'd been raised Muggle, practically, he was appallingly ignorant. Draco was aware that he, himself, had few holes in knowledge of current events.
When they'd finished the dishes, Potter suggested they go out and have a drink. Draco thought for a frozen moment that he might be suggesting some kind of date. He didn't know what to say, and before he could stop himself he'd said yes.
Chapter 6: Right and Wrong
They went to a pub in Hogsmeade called the Unlucky Griffin. It wasn't quite what Draco expected, ambience-wise, although it was reasonably clean. Potter went and got the drinks, and came back to the table. He and Draco sat in silence until Draco couldn't stand it anymore. "So this is where the Gryffindors go to drown their sorrows?" he asked.
Potter stared at him moonily. Not a date, Draco thought. He wondered, a little grimly, if he ought to have left a note for Snape. Just in case Potter really was that much of a lunatic. At least then someone might find his body. "Pot--," no, that sounded awkward. "Harry?"
Potter's eyes refocused. "Sorry," he said, and smiled. His teeth were a little crooked. Draco resolutely did not find it charming. "I'm just a little nervous. I don't usually do this, you know."
"Go out and have a drink?" Draco asked, resolutely misunderstanding.
"With a handsome bloke like yourself," Potter clarified.
"Flatterer. For that, you can buy the next round." Draco was pleased; the words came out pleasantly flip. Inside, though, he was panicking. He felt like the setup for an elaborate joke--and he wasn't sure he'd like the punchline.
"For you, anything," Potter said, and he probably meant it to be light and funny, but Draco wasn't capable of laughing at things like that. He looked around. The pub's walls were covered with old Quidditch gear--old Quidditch gear, and blurry, black and white photographs of teams from the 19th century, scorecards, autographed Chocolate Frog cards.
"Do you think they buy this stuff in bulk?" he asked. "I mean, where else would they have gotten some of it?"
Harry turned to look at the walls. "I never thought of that," he said. "Maybe they do. Maybe there's a warehouse somewhere full of it--broken brooms and muddy robes and dented Bludgers."
"And the ashes of the glorious dead?" Draco suggested. "Used condoms? Empty bottles?"
"Do you ever miss it?" Harry asked abruptly.
There was only one realistic answer to that. Of all the things Draco missed, standing up to take a piss was first on the list, and playing Seeker was something like thirty-ninth. But he could hear the ache in Harry's voice, and he knew this was something he could share. "Yeah," he said, peeling the label off his beer. "I miss it." He did, too, suddenly. Not only flight, or the feel of the wind on his face, but the cool sense of certainty: the belief that he was right, and that he would be rewarded for it.
"Things were easier then," he said when he realized he'd let the pause drag on too long. "Simpler."
Now it was Potter who looked away, and said, "Not for me." Draco had--not forgotten, precisely, but stopped thinking much about the fact that they'd been on opposite sides of the war. And he'd never thought much about what Potter's life was like, before it had begun. Unlike Draco, Potter hadn't chosen his side so much as he'd been born to it. All at once, Draco felt ashamed of himself, of the self-pity that he wore like a cloak. However bleak his future looked, it was no more than he deserved.
He caught the waitress's eye and waved her over. "Shame I can't charge this round to Professor Snape," he said, forcing a smile. "I know he'd like to buy you a drink."
Potter snorted. "I don't think they serve hemlock here. Would he buy me a pint?"
"Absolutely," Draco said, "and one for me as well. Not hemlock, Mr. Potter. Asphodel and and wormwood, maybe. Didn't you pay any attention at all in Potions?"
"None at all," Potter admitted. "Education is wasted on the young. You didn't pay attention either."
"No," Draco agreed. "And now look at how successful I am--Muggles stop me in the street and ask for my autograph, you know."
"Do they?" Potter asked, but he was grinning.
Draco's stomach twisted. Lust, he thought desperately. That's all this is, you sad crippled fuckwit. You can't possibly be falling for Potter. And whatever he wants from you, it probably isn't good. "Look, Potter," he said. "We should probably get going. I don't want Snape waiting up for me or anything."
"Sure." Potter dug into his wallet for a Galleon to leave as a tip. "I know what a hard-ass Snape is." There was a little bit of an edge to Potter's voice. He knew that Draco only saw Snape in passing, these days, and rarely at that. He'd heard Draco complain about it often enough.
Draco bit his lip, but he didn't apologize for the lie. It was better if Potter thought he wasn't interested. Maybe it was better if they weren't friends, even. "I'm tired," he said, and that least was the honest truth. "Let's go."
He followed Potter to the back, and closed his eyes while Potter Apparated them to Spinner's End. He had never got used to being without his magic, and he doubted he ever would. Tonight he was almost hoping to be splinched: it would be entirely in keeping with his mood. Disappointingly, however, they arrived completely intact. Draco leaned forward in his chair, helping Potter heave him across the drive and up to the steps. He'd gotten better at that, at least. Even if it wasn't so much a skill as a survival tactic. He jammed his key in the lock and turned it until it clicked. Snape hadn't put the deadbolt on, which meant that either he'd left it off on purpose because he'd noticed Draco was gone--or he hadn't been downstairs.
Draco knew which was more likely, and he pushed back the panic that seemed to flare up every time he thought of Snape. He was going to wind up with an ulcer if this kept on much longer. He shoved the door open and wheeled himself in. Potter followed him, which hadn't been the plan. Draco bit back a sigh and turned. "Thank you," he said. "For the beer, I mean."
Potter looked as awkward as Draco felt, hands in the pockets of his coat, eyes on his trainers. "Yeah," he answered. "I had a nice time." And then he leaned over and kissed Draco on the mouth. It was unexpected, but not unpleasant, gentle but not tentative. Draco didn't have much experience, but he knew what he liked--he always had. The hand he'd put up to shove Potter away ended up curled around the collar of Potter's coat, and Draco closed his eyes and didn't struggle. He knew what it was like to be on the losing side of a war. He knew when to stop fighting.
That was as far as it went, that night--just the one kiss, and not a particularly long one. But Draco knew it could have gone farther, if he'd let it. He didn't know what to do--he didn't even know what to think. He needed to talk to someone about it, but his choices were limited to the absent Snape and an angry Siamese cat. He said good night to Potter and went and had a bath. He thought about the kiss a great deal, and he resolutely did not touch himself.
In the morning he dragged himself up and made breakfast. Snape didn't come down for it. Draco sat at the table and read the paper from beginning to end while he nerved himself up for what he knew was going to be an unpleasant conversation. He was never sure whether procrastinating made it worse or better.
He made far better progress up the stairs this time than he had before, which meant, at least, that the physical therapy wasn't completely useless. Maybe it was his new muscles that had attracted Potter, not his pathetic helplessness. Snape's door was half-open--but then, why would he ever bother to close it? Draco went in without knocking. It wasn't as if he were quiet: Snape had to have heard him slithering his way up.
He was alive, which Draco hadn't seriously doubted, not really. Not until the last ten minutes or so. The room wasn't even much of a tip: just a tidy row of bottles along one wall, and Snape, fully dressed, lying on the unmade bed with his arm over his eyes and Lucifer curled beside him. Lucifer looked up when Draco came in; Snape didn't. He did say, "What is it?"
Oh, Draco almost said, nothing. I hauled my ass up here to see if you wanted cream in your coffee, since you haven't bothered to come down for it in two weeks or so. But years of living with Lucius Malfoy had taught him that sarcasm rarely improved any situation. "I can't do this," he said. It had the advantage, for once, of being absolutely true. Today was a day for truces: a day to lay aside arms and shields and comforting lies, and tell the truth.
"I can't watch you die," he said, "and know that it's my fault, and not try to stop it." Lucifer, who hated excess emotion, leapt off the bed and fled from the room. Draco, angry and embarrassed to be crying, already, wiped his eyes on his shirt sleeve. Somehow Snape always saw him at his worst.
At least this was enough to make Snape sit up, though. "Draco," he said almost gently. "I'm not dying. You're hysterical."
"You don't eat," Draco said, the words tumbling out in a rush. "You don't sleep. You don't do anything. You won't talk to me. You don't even yell at Potter."
"Well, I'm sorry to disappoint you and Potter--" and there was a hint of Snape's usual sarcasm--"But I haven't any intention of dying. Breathe, Draco, for Merlin's sake. The Blacks may have been known for melodrama, but that certainly is no reason for you to indulge."
Draco was breathing, so hard he felt sick. He didn't think it was only the stairs, either. "I can't--" he choked out. "I don't care if you hate me. I need you to be all right. I need to be able to talk to you."
And Snape was looking at him now, really looking at him, for what felt like the first time since he'd collected Draco at hospital. He was still Snape, still capable of that narrow focus that made you feel like the only other person in the world. He was too pale, and far too thin, and it looked as if he'd cut his hair with a blunt butter knife, and Draco would never get used to seeing him in jeans and a sweater--but he was Snape. It was an unbelievable relief, or it would have been, if Draco hadn't had such a terrible secret to reveal. "What's so wrong?" Snape said.
"I'm in love with Harry Potter," Draco told him. "I've tried not to be--I've tried not to think about him, and the gas man says it's probably PTSD, and I need therapy. But--."
"Fuck," Snape said. Draco had never heard him swear before. He flopped back onto the bed for a moment. "Your mother's only in France, Draco. Are you sure you wouldn't rather talk to her about this?"
Draco swallowed, hard. "No," he said, as bravely as he could. "I want to talk to you."
Snape did not say that Draco would. He got up, rubbing tiredly at his eyes. He didn't seem to be drunk, or completely out of his head, as the British Gas man had gloomily prophesied he might be. Draco felt a glimmer of hope, quite apart from the faint possibility that Snape could somehow sort out his troubles with Potter. Depression, he thought, could be dealt with, if that was all this was.
Snape went stiffly down the stairs. It was the first time in weeks, if not months, that he'd been up during the day. Draco followed him a good deal less gracefully. There was really no graceful way to go down stairs.
When they were sitting at the table, coffee in hand, Snape said, "Talk." And when Draco opened his mouth, "Start with why you thought I was dying, and why you thought it was your fault."
Chapter 7: Everything You Thought You Wanted
"It's my fault," Draco said miserably, wondering where Snape was going with this. "All of it. I'm the one who promised Voldemort I'd kill Dumbledore. I took the Mark, and I couldn't do it. I know that my mother made you swear an Unbreakable Vow. That's the only reason you were there that night. Otherwise Voldemort would've had you fight on the other side. Anything to keep your cover intact. It's because of me that they thought you were a traitor."
Snape said, softly, "What makes you think there is anything your mother could have done that would constrain me to make a promise I was unwilling to keep? Leaving aside the fact that Unbreakable Vows sworn under duress are not binding? You give Narcissa far too much credit."
And when Draco didn't smile, because it wasn't funny, he said, "Your father asked me to stand as your godfather, did you know? I told him it was too much responsibility for me. I never planned on loving you--." He got up and dug in the cupboard for the vodka, and poured three fingers worth into a glass. The look he gave Draco was half defiant, half sorry, but he drank it. "I never planned on loving you," he said again. "I loved your father. You know that. We were children during that first war, and we thought we were invincible-- and infallible."
"What made you change your mind?" Draco asked. He looked at the table, not at Snape, because the table was less likely to sneer at him for the desperation he could not quite keep out of his voice.
"People started to die," Snape said tiredly. There was no anger or grief in his voice for the men and women he had been friends with, long ago. He had not grieved for Dumbledore; he had not even grieved for Lucius Malfoy. "You have to believe in a thing to be willing to die for it, and I never did believe. I am a traitor, Draco, several times over." He rubbed his fingers over the label on the bottle, like a man holding a talisman.
Draco wished he'd never started this. He wasn't sure what he'd expected, but it wasn't Snape's quiet, echoing despair. It would have been easier if Snape had blamed him, if he'd yelled and screamed and cast Unforgivable Curses. Draco could have dealt with anything but the truth. "It's my fault you went to Azkaban," he said finally. "You know it is."
Snape seemed to realize he was waiting for something different. "Yes," he agreed, but he said it flatly, without the faintest hint of a smirk. "If you hadn't saved my life, I would never have gone."
"I didn't save your life," Draco snarled. "Since we're being honest with each other. I didn't mean to do it, okay? I tripped, is all that happened. I tripped and fell on their fucking mine, and now my legs are gone and my dick might as well be, because the only person who will sleep with me is Harry fucking Potter."
Now Snape sneered. He poured himself another drink, and raised it to Draco. "To the truth," he said. "Since we're being honest with each other, I don't want you in my house any longer, Mr. Malfoy. So why don't you shag Potter, since you're dying to anyway, and maybe he'll put you up for a bit. Then I can have a drink in my own kitchen, without you watching me and sighing reproachfully at me like Albus Dumbledore reincarnated."
"You're throwing me out?" Draco demanded. "Just like that?"
Snape smiled his old cruel smile, the one that accompanied unexpected exams and probably torturing prisoners. "No," he said sweetly. "I'm gambling you've got just enough of the Malfoy pride left, that you won't stay where you're not welcome. Don't worry. I won't die of loneliness if you leave me, although the boredom might kill me if you stay."
If he had been able to, Draco might have gone. But it was not so easy as that, not in the wheelchair. Snape was between him and the hallway, which meant that if he wanted his things, he had to wait, or try to push by. It would have been so satisfying to be able to stand up and walk away, close that door for good. He had told Snape once that Malfoys were known for pragmatism as well as pride, and by the time Snape and the bottle had gone, that was true again.
He sat at the table for a long time, Lucifer in his lap, wondering what to do. If Snape really wanted him to go, wanted it badly enough to insist on it, Draco would have no choice. Where he would go, was a different question entirely, and one he preferred not to think about until absolutely necessary. But he was not convinced that Snape had meant what he'd said.
He didn't want to think about what that would mean, leaving Snape alone in his shabby house with his stacks of books and his empty bottles, leaving him not to die but to live. He tugged gently on Lucifer's crooked tail, and then pried the cat's strong jaws off his wrist. "I'll take you with me," he told him. "I promise. I won't leave you here with Snape."
Someone banged on the door--Potter--and Lucifer jumped from his legs to the table and began licking himself. Draco smiled a little, despite his gloominess. Lucifer viewed Potter as a rival for Draco's affection, and alternated between ignoring him and acting as threatening as was possible for a cat weighing less than a stone.
Potter had not brought flowers or chocolate, thankfully, but he did have Chinese food and a bottle of wine. Draco helped him carry the lot into the kitchen. "You're early today," he said, testing. Were they going to pretend the night before had never happened? He resigned himself to following Potter's lead.
But Potter grinned shyly at him. "You don't mind, do you?" he asked. "I bunked off work. I haven't been able to stop thinking about you all day." He leaned over to put his bags on the counter, brushing Draco's shoulder as he did so, and Draco's stomach turned over. Lust, he thought, please be lust, and wished he'd managed to talk to Snape about that. it was a bad idea, and he knew it was a bad idea, but he couldn't help smiling back at Potter.
This time when Potter kissed him it wasn't much of a surprise. This time Draco opened his mouth, deepened the kiss, played for real. He got his hand in the back of Potter's untucked dress shirt, under his tee shirt, against the soft warm skin of Potter's back. Potter's thigh was between his legs, and Potter's hands were on his shoulders: the whole thing was awkward as hell and it had to be killing Potter's back, but it was so hot that Draco wondered if maybe this wasn't pure lust.
Eventually they had to stop, though, if only to breathe. When he'd more or less finished panting, Draco said, "I've been thinking about you, too."
"Really?" Potter demanded. He'd moved back a little, or Draco had, but they were still close enough Draco had to tilt his head back to look up at him. His eyelashes were startlingly long and dark against the green of his eyes, magnified further by the lenses of his glasses. "What were you thinking about me?"
Draco couldn't keep himself from blushing. "Oh," he said. "You know. About last night--."
"Yeah?" Potter asked. "You liked that, didn't you?"
"It was okay," Draco admitted. "As that sort of thing goes."
Potter started to protest, and Draco let the corner of his mouth twitch upward, just a little. Potter caught it. "You bastard!" he yelped. "You had me going for like, a tenth of a second. Okay! If it was just okay, you wouldn't have been dying to do it over again."
"I might have done, if I wanted to get it right this time," Draco pointed out.
"It was better than right," Potter argued. "It was brilliant. The kiss of a lifetime. A wizard's lifetime."
"You're a hero for our time," Draco said, and then winced. The words might be snide, but in this case they were true. Potter didn't seem to mind, though. "Look," he said, catching Potter's hand.
"Harry--" and it almost sounded natural this time. "Let's eat while the food's hot, even if it is early. There's something I want to talk to you about. Besides the kissing thing, I mean."
"So you want me for more than my body, at least," Potter said happily, but he sat down and let Draco get plates and glasses and forks and knives. He'd seen everything in the kitchen a hundred times, but tonight he stared at the intricate flowers on the china, the crest on the silver, like he'd never seen any of it before. "Did you ever meet her?" he asked suddenly. "Mrs. Snape?"
Draco shook his head, struggling with the corkscrew. "She died before we were born, I think. In Azkaban. You're going to have to magic this, I'm afraid."
"Okay," Potter said obligingly, taking out his wand. "What charm should I use?"
Draco frowned at him. "I know you're Muggleborn, but how have you avoided learning that? Use Aperio."
Potter shrugged. "I never drink wine, you know that. I just thought it would be nice."
"It is nice," Draco said, taking the open bottle back from him and pouring. His mother wouldn't have cooked with English wine, never mind drunk it, but it was the thought that was important.
"She was a Death Eater, then?" Potter asked. One thing Draco didn't find at all attractive about him: once he started on an idea he was almost impossible to distract.
"No," Draco said shortly. "She wasn't a Death Eater. She married a Muggle. She obviously wasn't a big believer in racial purity."
"Snape is the son of a Muggle, and he was a Death Eater," Potter pointed out.
"He was in love with someone who joined," Draco said reluctantly. "I don't think he realized, in the beginning. Anyway, I get the impression that if his father was your only experience of Muggles, you'd hate them, too."
Potter frowned, and Draco knew he was thinking of his own family. Anyone else would have given up this line of inquiry as unproductive and risky, but Potter just put his head down and plowed on. "So why was she in Azkaban?"
"My father told me she poisoned her husband," Draco said. "Snape's father. She used a Potion to do it, so it fell under wizarding law. She was a Prince, a distant cousin of my grandfather's, somewhere on the Malfoy side, except I think they'd been disinherited. They were on the wrong side of the first war, I think. Hence the silver, and the poverty: she sold just about everything else worth selling to put Snape through Hogwarts, and when she went to Azkaban the Malfoys took Snape in. My father met her, a couple of times--he said she was mad as a Diviner." Lucius hadn't liked her, and he hadn't been kind, describing her. But whatever his faults had been, however he'd failed his wife and son, he'd loved Snape and been loyal to him until the end. "Anyway," Draco said, dishing prawns and squid and leaves onto plates for himself, Potter, and Lucifer, "I need your help with something else. Something Snape-related."
"Sure," Potter said easily. Draco set Lucifer's plate on the floor and the cat appeared from nowhere to eat it. Potter glared at him for a moment, until he noticed Draco noticing. "I'll help any way I can. You know that."
"I think he needs therapy," Draco said gloomily. "Snape, I mean, not Lucifer. I need you to sort something out with the Ministry. It might need to be residential, even." He pretended not to notice Lucifer twining himself around Potter's leg, and Potter kicking him away none too gently.
"Is that what's been bothering you?" Potter asked. "I'll talk to Remus. We'll sort out Snape, you'll see. Remus is great at this sort of thing. It's kind of his specialty."
"Great," Draco said, with a confidence he did not really feel.
"First thing Monday," Potter promised.
Chapter 8: Ways to Skin a Cat
Potter was busy over the weekend doing what he called Auror things, so Draco spent the time skulking, trying to avoid Snape--who was probably trying to avoid him right back. Unfortunately, this gave him entirely too much time to think about what a mess he'd made of things. It might have been better, and it couldn't have been worse, if he'd waited, recruited help, before he'd talked to Snape. He could have consulted his mother, maybe: she hated Snape, and she wasn't allowed back in England, but she was good at people.
He could have kept himself from kissing Potter back, and saved himself all of this stress. Because he'd clearly given Potter the impression that they were in some kind of relationship, and just the thought of that made Draco hyperventilate. Aside--aside--from the fact that this was Harry Potter, who had been his first enemy, fought on the opposite side in the war--aside from all of that, Draco could not quite imagine what sex was going to be like.
He hadn't looked at himself, really looked, since he'd got out of hospital. He hadn't forgotten how his legs looked: the ugly, raw scars that were still healing, the unevenness of the stumps, cut and cut away again by surgeons working to save his life. It is worse than he remembered, because he'd never before imagined how it would look to another person.
Even if he were not a cripple, even if they were only scars, he would be ashamed. He wanted to be beautiful, all muscle and tanned skin as Potter was, but more than that he wanted to be normal. His father had taken him to a Muggle carnival: he'd seen bearded women, men so fat they could not stand unassisted, tattoos covering a body like a road map. He did not want this to be what defined him. Even in the dark, it would be hard to hide, harder than the faded mark on his arm that he did his best to cover when Potter was there.
And if Potter was doing this for any reason besides the obvious one--Draco thought of what it would be like, to see pictures of himself in Witch Weekly, on the cover of the Quibbler. They would say that he was as ugly on the outside as he was on the inside, that he'd gotten exactly what he deserved. Remembering the things he'd done and said at Hogwarts, remembering what a failure he'd been as a Death Eater, the things he'd screamed at the nurses of St. Mungo's when they been too slow, or too rough, or too familiar, Draco cringed.
Although it was only eight o'clock, he was already in bed. The little house was bitterly cold, and Draco wondered if Snape had somehow shut off the heat in an attempt to freeze him out. He was trying to read one of Snape's books, a moldy paperback edition of a Russian novel, but all of the characters seemed to have the last name Ivanovitch and it had taken him half an hour to get through the preface. When his fingers went numb, he gave up and got out of bed. He could live without frostbite.
He ran water for a bath, as hot as he could make it, and climbed in. Sliding down so that the water came to his chin, he wondered what it would be like to do it with Potter, wondered whether he'd ever be comfortable enough to try. He wanted something different from the edgy, awkward relationship his parents had had, the arguments that stopped whenever he entered a room, the Snape-shaped space between them.
Thinking of Potter, he slid his hand under the water. He was usually careful, when he did this, not to make it about anyone he knew. But he was tired of it, tired of never taking anything for himself, tired of trying to be sensible and responsible and good. He curled his fingers around himself and pictured Potter's square strong hands. He knew as he did it that he'd made his decision, and damn the consequences. He'd take whatever Potter--whatever Harry--would give him.
In the morning he felt decidedly less optimistic, but that was partially having to go to physical therapy, and partially wondering what Potter--Harry--had accomplished on the Snape front. And partially, of course, pure terror at the decision he'd made. He wished sometimes for Gryffindor impulsiveness, even if the thought of living that way made him shudder.
By the time Harry came by that evening, he was ready to forget the whole thing, but the kiss he got when he opened the door changed his mind. Somehow they went from the hall to his bedroom without a word being spoken. Draco did not even have time to be nervous. They didn't do anything he wasn't comfortable with, anyway, it was too rough, too frantic for second thoughts or lingering looks, or even pulling his jeans all the way off.
After, he lay with his forehead pressed against Harry's shoulder, feeling the tension drain out of his body for the first time since he'd come to Spinner's End. He wasn't an idiot; he knew that fucking Harry didn't mean he could trust him. But it had been so long since he'd been this close to anyone, so long since anyone had touched him, simply for the sake of touching him, and not because he was a job to be done.
"You're only the second person I've been with," he said, when the silence seemed in danger of going on too long. "Did I tell you that? Blaise Zabini was the first, but it didn't mean anything. It was just one of those things you did at school."
"Mm," Harry said, his breath warm against Draco's hair. "So this means something?"
"Only if you want it to," Draco answered. "Do you want it to?" He promised himself he would not panic, no matter what Harry said.
"I think it's far too late to worry about that," Harry said sadly. "I'm expecting you to make an honest man of me, no matter what your personal feeling on the matter are. Bad enough that you debauched Zabini--."
Draco rolled over and got his elbows under himself, so that he could kiss Harry properly. "You know as well as I do that Zabini was born debauched," he said, and kissed Potter to keep him from responding.
When they'd finally got out of bed, cleaned up, and made dinner, Draco asked, a little reluctantly, whether Harry'd had any luck getting help for Snape. "The whole thing is driving me insane," he confessed. "I mean, I owe him, I know that, but I'm afraid he's losing it. He said he wasn't suicidal--but I don't know if I believe him or not."
Harry didn't roll his eyes, which was a wise choice on his part, since the bread knife Draco was holding was fairly sharp. "Someone's coming around in the morning to talk to him," he said. "Apparently they have a whole department for that kind of thing. Just try to keep him from going out, if you can."
Draco sighed. "I've been avoiding him all weekend," he confessed. "But he almost never goes out before dark anyway."
"Ron thought he was a vampire," Harry said, grinning. "When we were kids, I mean, in first year. I owe him, too, Draco. He saved my life on a pretty regular basis, even if neither of us were very gracious about it. He deserves any help we can give him--I know that. Not that I don't like doing you favours."
Draco couldn't keep himself from smiling. He leaned forward to reach the salt, and made sure his shoulder brushed Potter's when he did it. "Thank you anyway," he said. "I'm sure Snape thanks you, too. Deep down."
Harry snorted. "Very deep down, maybe."
Even in the morning, when there was nothing left of Harry but the fading scent on Draco's sheets and the bite marks on his collarbone, he felt the same restless disbelief—it was like being back at school, having won a big Quidditch match, with his father looking on, and being afraid he'd wake up and find out it had been a dream. The kitchen was still the only warm room in the house.
He fed the cat and made himself breakfast, and he was halfway through the paper when someone banged on the door. "Coming," he yelled, and did the quickest clean-up of all time before he went to answer.
It was Remus Lupin waiting, and beside him on the step was Alastor Moody. Draco very nearly shut the door in their faces. He was furious, at Potter and at Lupin; they were insane if they thought this would work. There was no one Snape hated more than Moody, the man who had hounded so many of his friends and students to their deaths, Moody who had allowed no compromises, and no surrender.
"Let us in, boy," Moody said now, as if Draco were still fourteen and terrified. As if physical imperfection could scare Draco now.
Draco let the door go, and rolled back, out of the way. "Of course," he said. "Do come in. It is lovely to have you." He was a Malfoy, his mother had been a Black: apparently he had some pride left after all, because he could not bring himself to give Moody the rejection the man was clearly after. "The kitchen is to the left. Have a seat, and I'll make us some tea."
He had just set the cups out and was looking in the refrigerator for the milk when Lucifer came in. Seeing Moody and Lupin, he hissed and leaped onto the counter, as close to Draco as he could get. Draco had seen him angry, but never afraid, and he rubbed the cat's rigid back, wondering why he was so upset. Perhaps it was the smell of werewolf. Lucifer had fluffed himself to twice his normal size, but he was still no match for Lupin. "Steady there," he said. "Want to go back outside?"
"So that's Snape's cat?" Lupin asked curiously. "He doesn't seem like the exotic breeds type."
"No," Moody said slowly. "That's no cat. That's--" He drew his wand more quickly than Draco would have thought possible, and Lucifer sprang at him in the same second.
Moody's "Finite Incantem!" hit him in mid air, and Lucifer turned all at once into Draco's father, and crashed into Moody. The table, and Moody, and Lucius Malfoy, and Lupin and Snape's mother's tea service all went flying.
Draco closed the refrigerator door and stayed where he was, grateful that he was already sitting down. He thought that he might be having a heart attack, or a stroke, or a hallucination. His father was dead. Snape had told him his father was dead. He had watched Snape wash Lucius's blood from his hands: he had cried, and Snape had watched him cry, and said nothing to comfort him: Snape had apologized to him for his father's death.
Lucius had his hands around Moody's neck. Lupin tried valiantly to separate them, slipped in the spilled tea, and brought them down with him. Draco wished he'd let them kill each other. There was nothing stopping him from going out the kitchen door into the garden, and from the garden to the street, and from there, anywhere he wanted. He didn't owe anyone anything—not his father, and not Snape, and not even Potter, who should have seen this coming and prevented it. But he wanted to know why, and he could hear Snape's footsteps on the stairs. He would have an answer, before he went.
Chapter 9: Walkaways
Snape had always been fast on the draw, but today he outdid himself. None of the three men had a chance; his "Petrificus Totalus!" caught them and held them in what looked like phenomenally awkward and uncomfortable positions. He didn't bother with casting it on Draco, but he had no reason to. Draco was unarmed and a cripple: even a man as cautious as Snape wouldn't view him as a threat. In that, Snape was overconfident. Draco was angry enough to strangle him barehanded if necessary, and he rather thought he was strong enough to do it if Snape gave him the opportunity.
Snape didn't. Snape stayed where he was, leaning against the doorframe, and said, "How is it that you came to invite Alastor Moody into my house?" in his most hateful drawl.
He would be expecting Draco to back down, to apologize, and Draco had done it before. No matter how angry he was, Snape always managed to make him feel like a small child having a tantrum. But today he was beyond that. "You told me my father was dead," he said quietly.
And Snape said, "Yes." He looked over at Lucius, his eyes softening. Draco had always known what lay between Snape and his father; it was the worst-kept secret in the wizarding world. He had grown up thinking of Snape as an uncle, a familiar and comforting presence, always at his father's shoulder. Snape did not have Lucius Malfoy's charisma, or his wealth, or his looks, but he had a cool head in a crisis, and he could be bitingly, viciously funny, or unexpectedly kind. The night Snape and Bellatrix had freed Lucius from Azkaban, Snape had come back alone, his robes streaked with blood. "Well. Obviously that was a lie."
"You told me he'd been hit by a lorry," Draco said. "You told me--."
"He killed Bellatrix," Snape said now. He did not look away from Lucius. His face didn't change at all, as he said it. "As soon as we were clear of Azkaban. As soon as he knew what Voldemort had asked of you, and that she'd failed to prevent it. I could hardly take him back to the Dark Lord after that. I Transfigured him, because I thought it would make him easier to manage."
He turned away, so that he was facing neither Draco nor Lucius. He put his wand in the back pocket of his jeans, and touched the mark on his arm with his other hand. Draco knew the gesture: he'd seen his father do it, and he knew that he did it himself. "He got away from me," Snape said, very softly. "He jumped down, and that fast, he was in the street. I don't think he even saw the truck. I thought he was dead, Draco, or I wouldn't have left him. You believe me, don't you? You believe that?"
"No," Draco answered. "I don't believe a goddamn word you said. You let me believe he was dead, these last five months, and maybe you had a reason—whatever, Snape. I'm done with this. Let them go, or kill them all, it's not my problem." His hands were shaking, but it didn't matter because Snape wasn't watching him. There was room, just, to get around the men and the mess in the middle of the kitchen.
He went around them, and past Snape, to his room. There was a plastic bag full of dirty clothes he'd meant to take to be washed, still on his floor. He dumped it out on his bed, and crammed it full again: clothes, mostly, and he swallowed his pride and took the ones Snape had given him. The books were Snape's, and he ran his fingers over them, saying goodbye before he left them. It might be years, or a lifetime, before he found a library as good. He put on his coat, and went out.
Draco was crying by the time he got to the end of the drive. It was very bright, and very cold, and he put a hand in his pocket and his fingers closed around the Portkey he used when he went to London for physical therapy. It was as good a place to go as any.
The charm took him to St. Mungo's outpatient treatment centre. From there he went to a Muggle bank machine and took the maximum--two hundred and fifty pounds--out of Snape's account. He didn't even feel guilty about it, much. He dropped Snape's bankcard and both Portkeys down a storm grate and got on the first handicapped-accessible bus he saw. He knew where he was going, even if he wasn't sure how to get there.
The most ancient and terrible house of Black had been abandoned during the war, but Draco didn't need to pry the boards away from the windows. He had to get out of the chair and drag it up the steps, but the doorknob turned under his hand and the door swung open. It was almost dark outside, and very dark inside, but he wasn't afraid. The house was sentient in the way only very old buildings could be, and it knew him, and welcomed him.
It had been his aunt's house when he was small, and his mother had brought him here twice a year until the old lady died. Someone had made an effort to shut the house up properly, though he thought that a lot of things were missing. The furniture was covered and the paintings turned to face the wall, except for Aunt Walburga's which had been destroyed. He touched the scorched wall where it had hung, wondering what had happened. Harry had told him they'd used the house for Order meetings before Dumbledore had died; he could not think of anything most of the Blacks who had lived in the house would hated more.
He'd bought food and bottled water and matches at one of the kiosks in the Underground, and now he lit the old, charred logs in the fireplace and settled down to eat and sleep. It was cold, and too quiet, and he could not help wondering where his father was sleeping tonight, and hoping it was not Azkaban. The bitter anger that had driven him this far was gone, and now he felt more sorry than anything else.
He tried to imagine what Snape had done after he'd gone. Transfigured all three of the men in his house into cats, probably, and dropped them off at the nearest shelter. He tried not to imagine what Harry had done, if he'd come as he usually did, and found Draco gone. How had he never noticed that Lucifer wasn't what he seemed? How had Draco never noticed? And that brought him full circle, back to his father, who was supposed to be dead.
He had said things to Lucifer the cat that he would never have dared say to Lucius Malfoy, things he had never meant to say to anyone. His father knew he was a cripple, and a coward; his father had watched him cry, and listened to him falling in love with Harry Potter. Draco had never been closer to him than he had these last few months, with all of the pressure to please or conform removed. He could not be sorry about it, however it had come about. He could not really be sorry about any of it.
The next morning someone banged on the front door at approximately dawn. Draco woke up, found the fire had gone out, and reluctantly dragged himself from his nest. There was not really anything to be gained from staying where he was: even if he had not been found, he could hardly spend the rest of his life in Grimmauld Place, subsisting off Snape's two hundred and fifty quid. His aunt had died in this house and they hadn't found the body for weeks. Draco had no intention of going the same way.
"All right," he yelled, as the banging continued. "Legless, here! Only so fast I can move."
"Hurry the fuck up," the person on the other side of the door said crossly. "It's freezing out here." It was Harry. Of course it was Harry.
Draco fumbled the door open and let him in. "It wasn't locked," he said, puzzled. "It doesn't even have a lock."
"This house hates me," Harry said morosely. His nose was red, and there were dark circles under his eyes, and he wasn't wearing gloves. "I thought—I thought what if you were dead? How could you just take off like that?"
"I've only been gone twelve hours," Draco protested, but he knew he was wrong. "I just—panicked, I guess. I still can't really believe it—either that my father's not dead or that Snape--. I'm sorry. I didn't mean for you to worry."
"Well, I did worry," Harry said crossly, but Draco thought that he saw a glimmer of a smile behind it. He knelt in front of Draco and cupped Draco's fingers in his cold ones. "Draco—I know it's too soon, but I thought we were friends, at least. You know that you can always come to me, when something like this happens. I mean, not that I think your father's going to be coming back from the dead again anytime soon. But, you know, I think I might--." He was blushing, Draco saw. It was adorable.
"Me too," he said, with a shyness that wasn't entirely feigned. "And I will, Harry, I promise. I just, when Moody of all people turned up. He was a shit choice, you know that, right?"
"Yeah," Harry said. "Believe me, it was not really a choice. And I tried to Owl you to warn you, but it must not have gotten there in time."
Draco shrugged. "As it turns out, Snape deserved it."
"Fucking Snape," Harry said. "We hate him now, right? It's okay to hate him?"
"For the moment, anyway." Draco couldn't keep himself from grinning, though. "Yeah, it's safe to hate him. If there's anything Malfoys are good at it, it's holding grudges. And hating people and loving them at the same time. Those two things were the foundation on which my parents' marriage was built."
"I thought your father was in love with Snape," Harry pointed out. "Which is just weird. Where did you sleep last night, anyway? It's freezing in here."
"I could show you," Draco said, not even pretending to be coy. "But I'd rather see where you slept last night."
"Bed it is, then," Harry smirked, but he leaned in, open mouthed, and kissed Draco like he meant it, so Draco didn't mind too much.
Chapter 10: Epilogue
Harry sort of had his doubts about the whole Malfoy Family Yule thing. On the one hand, Draco was curled up next to him on the couch, the fire was blazing, and he could smell the roast turkey the house elves were cooking. On the other hand, Snape and Lucius Malfoy were in the other room, fighting in the kind of whispers that carried as well as shouting. And Harry hated them both.
He ran his fingers lazily through Draco's fine, pale hair, because he couldn't stand not to touch him. Draco sighed, but he curled into Harry's touch, too. The past few weeks had been hard on him, and Harry knew he still hadn't really come to terms with his father's resurrection—or with Snape's betrayal. Or with the fact that Harry, no matter how much he struggled to conceal it, clearly hated them both.
"You've made him into a cripple!" Lucius was saying, and Harry flinched, even though words never seemed to bother Draco. "You let them keep him pinned in that chair, dependent on you for everything, like he was some kind of pet."
Harry could remember when Lucius Malfoy had been nothing more than a pampered house cat, with a dish of his own and a bed made out of folded towels. Draco's cheek was against Harry's knee, his face turned away from Harry, but Harry could feel him smiling. And, that was almost harder for Harry than civility: dealing with the realization that for Draco, Lucius wasn't a monster or a legend, that Draco loved his father as much as Lucius loved his son. Draco knew exactly how dirty Lucius's hands were, Draco knew that Lucius belonged in Azkaban and that he was managing to buy his way out. Draco didn't mind, and he expected Harry to look the other way.
Harry was doing it, more or less. There was nothing else he could do, short of killing Lucius; the Malfoy fortune had magically reappeared, and with it a dozen legal specialists who seemed to honestly believe that Lucius deserved his freedom—and was owed restitution for the time he'd served.
Snape said something, low and probably obscene, that Harry couldn't hear; Lucius overrode him. "His best interests? The way it was in my best interests to spend that time as a cat? You told me the spell was irreversible." Harry could feel Draco tense, straining forward. They both wanted to know how Snape would answer this accusation.
"It's a bit late in the day to be moaning about lies," Snape said derisively. "I didn't turn you back because I didn't want to, Malfoy. What do you think about that? You landed on your feet anyway. You always do. Draco doesn't. He needs something neither of us are capable of giving him. Merlin knows how, but you and Narcissa and I managed to raise a child a thousand times more decent than any of us. If you think that all he needs is a broom to make him all again, by all means buy him a fucking broom. Throw some more money at the problem. It's what you always do, isn't it?"
Lucius snorted, and Harry winced. He'd heard Draco make that noise a thousand times and until now he'd found it sexy. But Lucius was laughing, and he sounded like Draco, and not at all like the man who'd been responsible for Sirius's death. "Now you sound like Snape," he said. "That's the man I love. 'I left you as a cat for six months because I liked you better that way, and besides you talked less!'"
"You talked just as much as a cat," Snape said grumpily, but there was a breathless edge to his voice, so much so that Harry involuntarily wondered what Lucius was doing to him. "You just said less."
Abruptly, Draco lifted his head and let it fall, quite hard, against Harry's shins.
Harry yelped. "What was that for?" he demanded.
"I think my father might be having sex with--that person--with his child in the next room," Draco said tragically. "Do you think Snape is going to be my new stepmother?"
Harry kissed the only part of him he could reach, the top of his pale head. "If you were really a decent person," he said, "you wouldn't mind."
"Fuck that," Draco said. "But, Harry, do you think it's true, what my father said?"
"Nothing your father has ever said in his life has been true." Harry would have liked to take the words back as soon as they came out of his mouth, but he couldn't. He could only wait, and hope Draco wouldn't be too angry. Their relationship was still new, the boundaries undefined. "Sorry."
"Not the cripple part," Draco said, twisting around in Harry's lap so that they were face to face. "The broom part. You brought yours, right? Want to give me a ride?"
"In more ways than one," Harry said, and kissed him. "But you'll have to settle for just the one today. It's too cold to go outside."