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To the Memory of Love

Chapter Text

The light was bright as he blinked open his eyes. He was vaguely aware of the steady sounds of beeping. And he left weird. His mouth felt like it was full of cotton. Strange.

Eyes open fully now, he took a look around the room. Strange. Things were white and sterile and everything smelled slightly off. And his hand hurt. He looked down to the back of his hand to find an IV. Oh, just an IV nothing to worry about.

He sat up straight, eyes wide open. An IV? He was in a hospital. But it wasn’t St. Mungos. It was muggle. All the technology, it was muggle.

A nurse walking past saw him up and peeled his head in, looking slightly panicked and unsure of what to do. “I’m going to go fetch the Doctor. She’ll explain everything to you.”

Explain? There was nothing to explain. He had to get out of here, he had to—

“Mr. Potter.” A woman walked into the room wearing a Doctor’s coat and carrying an official clipboard. “So glad to see that you’re finally awake after all this time.”

“After all this...” Harry tried to speak, but his voice felt like it was trapped. A different nurse from earlier handed him a glass of water. He swallowed eagerly, then thanked her. “What do you mean, after all this time?” His voice still sounded gravely and off.

“Well, Mr. Potter, you’ve been in a coma for the last seven years.”

“What? No, no that’s impossible. I’ve been at—“ Hogwarts for the last seven years. He had been at Hogwarts for the last seven years. But the way the Doctor was looking at him made him decide to not say anything about that. She may think he was crazy. And, after all there was the statute of secrecy. He looked back up at her. “How?”

“Well, when you were eleven, you took a terrible run face-first into a wall at King’s Cross.”

No. No. He didn’t run into a wall. He ran onto platform 9 3/4.

“No, but. But Ron. Molly was there and she...she directed me to. And Hagrid. Hedwig. Diagon.” This was a mistake. This was all a terrible mistake.

“Sir, you have sustained a terrible head injury. We knew there was a likelihood in your favor of you waking up, which is why we refused to allow your family to take you off life support.”

“My family?”

“Yes, one...” She lifted a few papers on her clipboard. “Vernon and Petunia Dursley. They are your legal guardians, yes?”

No. No, that wasn’t right. They weren’t supposed to be. Sirius was supposed to be. He should have grown up at Grimmauld Place. Actually, fuck that, he should have grown up at Godric’s Hollow, dammit.

“Yes,” he responded, instead.

“Right, well. You are eighteen now, so they are no longer your guardians. Since your eighteenth birthday, they have not had to sign any sort of papers and I regret to inform you that they have not been back since.” She added softly, “You’ve been eighteen for six months now.”

Eighteen for six...? No, his eighteenth birthday was still a couple months away. No, they....They had plans. He and Draco had— Draco.

The beeping sound next to him increased in tempo rapidly. This couldn’t be happening. It couldn’t have all been a dream while in a coma. Draco was real. Ron was real. Hermione was real. Arthur and Molly and Sirius, Remus, Neville, McGonagall, Luna, Ginny, everyone. They were real, he knew it.

There were nurses at his side, fussing with equipment and trying to calm him down.

“I’m good. I’m fine.” He waved them off.

The Doctor looked sympathetic. “I’m very sorry that I had to be the one to deliver the news to you about your family.”

“They’re not family; I don’t care; good fucking riddance,” Harry muttered, but loud enough that the Doctor obviously caught what he said. Her eyebrows had spiked. “My entire childhood they left me locked in a cupboard under the stairs, barely fed me, and worked me like a slave, so you’ll pardon my language, Doctor?”

“Of course, Mr. Potter.”

See, this wasn’t all a dream. It was Draco that had helped him come to terms with all that. Draco and Ron. It was the first time he had ever seen them truly work together on something.

“Mr. Potter, since you are awake now, we will be moving you to a different section of the hospital where you will be monitored for the next couple of days. After that, you will be moved to rehabilitation, as your muscles have experienced significant atrophy from years of disuse. From there, you will be assigned a counselor who will speak to you about your options moving forward. Do you understand?”

Harry nodded absently. He needed to get out of here as fast as possible. Get back to his family. There was a war going on, after all. And Voldemort was gaining on them.

Once Harry had been moved to a new room, he seemed to be incredibly tired. One of the nurses took his vitals in extreme detail before recommending he rest over the next couple of days before his physical therapy began. So, that was just what he did. There was nothing else he could do— may as well get his strength back up.

It wasn’t until he started working with the physical therapist that he began wondering if he really was crazy. He felt like he couldn’t walk. Sure, she had made remarks about how amazing his progress was for someone whose muscles were so atrophied, but he felt like couldn’t move. It was terrible. And, he had been in prime physical shape as he was hunting for horcruxes. At least, that was what he thought.

Even the Doctors told him that they wanted to keep extra tabs on his vitals, as he was apparently severely malnourished when he arrived.

That would have made sense. He was eleven and living with the Dursleys. No Great Hall to go eat in every night. No Dobby to sneak him and Ron extra foods.

About a week into his physical therapy, Harry had almost given up. He was about to disclose to the Doctor his terrible theories and was ready to be admitted for mental health reasons.

That is, until she sat him down and reviewed the history they had of him, checking for any signs of amnesia.

“Well, you did good. No signs of any amnesia. Everything seems to be working perfectly fine. Now, since you are mentally stable—“ Debatable, but she didn’t know that. “—we are going to give you the history from your time with us. So, to begin, you ran directly into a wall at King’s Cross Station when you were eleven and were immediately taken to the nearest hospital. You were unconscious and had what appeared to be severe brain damage, so they induced a coma to stabilize you. Only, you didn’t wake up.”

“Might I interrupt you?”

“Of course.” She looked up from her notes, giving him her full attention.

“You said I was taken to the nearest hospital but, correct me if I’m wrong, we’re nowhere near King’s Cross.”

“Oh, no, Mr. Potter. You were transferred here when their long-term coma ward closed down.”

“And when was that, abouts?”

“That was about...” She checked her notes. “Eight months ago.”

Eight months ago. That would have been about when his last memories were. He couldn’t place exactly what they were, couldn’t get any details just fuzzy...fuzzes. But it was something. Maybe he did sustain a head injury. But, that still wouldn’t explain all the history being told to him.

Harry took a few steadying deep breaths. You can’t deny the reality that is right in from you. Harry couldn’t. This Doctor was sitting with him, giving his entire life’s history. This was real. He was a muggle.

Scrap that. That was wrong. Everyone is muggle because there isn’t anyone that’s not. Wizards don’t exist.

But, something tugged at the back of his mind. If he had been in a coma for seven years, his muscles should have been absolute shit. As it was, they were only weak and stiff and difficult. Just like as if he had been in a coma for eight months.

No. No, that wasn’t right. He had to listen to what everyone was telling him. He had been in a coma and they knew better. He couldn’t just trust his own brain, no matter how wrong it feels. He had to listen to the professionals. They knew better.

It was a month into Harry’s physical therapy that he got assigned a counselor who began talking to him about his options. Enter the workforce was all they could give him. He had no family to go to, but the hospital said they did have some connections to help him get a job. They were supposed to talk about options, but this seemed the only one. It was then that he mentioned everything.

“I, um. I’m actually a little worried about my mental stability.”

The counselor looked back at him, not worried. “Don’t stress. You’ve had your amnesia tests and you’re alright. Your memory is very good, in fact.”

“I don’t mean like that.”

His eyebrows knit together and he leaned forward in his counselor chair. “What do you mean, then?”

“I—“ Well, he very well couldn’t just come out and say ‘I think I’m a wizard,’ could he? “Ever since I woke up I could have sworn that I had all the memories for these past seven years. That I didn’t miss a second of it.”

“I’m not quite sure I know what you mean.”

“I mean that I have memories of what happened directly after I ran into that wall. And they continued for the span of seven years. People I had never met, places I had never been. I don’t understand. Am I crazy?”

“It is...strange. But, no you’re not crazy. We don’t like to use that term. Do these, for lack of a better word, memories, have any sort of fantastical element to them?”

“Yes,” Harry said, eager.

The therapist nodded a few times. “I would say that in this unstable time, you’re mostly likely reverting to some sort of childhood daydream or fantasy that you entertained often when you were younger. Your mind most likely latched onto it as a coping mechanism for the trauma you have faced.”

Harry took a deep breath and exhaled feeling relieved. That made so much sense. See, all he had needed was a professional to explain it to him. He had thought often as a child of being whisked away from the Dursleys to a nice, warm place where people loved him. And that’s exactly what happened in these “memories.” It made perfect sense. His brain was just trying to cope with losing seven years of time.

Within a couple weeks of “discussing his options,” Harry was finally able to walk across the room unassisted. Gripping things like forks and pens was still a tad more difficult, but walking was getting steadily easier. His physical therapist was amazing and she also gave him a lot of confidence.

“Harry, you are improving at an amazing rate. Truly, I’m not sure if I’ve seen something like it before. It’s like magic.” Harry tried not to wince at that. “You’ll most likely be out of here fairly soon and I’m fully confident you’ll be able to provide for yourself.”

She was really sweet, and not too much older than Harry himself. He had to keep reminding himself he was eight months older than he kept thinking. Wait, no. He was seven years older than his last accurate memory. He really needed to break himself of that habit and stop treating those “memories” as if they were real. They were not. And, if he tried to talk with anyone about them he would be called crazy and he didn’t want that. He just wanted to move on with his life.

At this point, he just wanted to get out of hospital clothes.

His therapist was right. He was out sooner than expected. And so here Harry stood at the street corner of the hospital. They had given him some clothes to wear; it wasn’t like anything he owned fit anymore. His body type was all different. It was strange. Probably because he had made a jump from eleven to eighteen.

He was going to be okay. He could do this. The hospital had kindly set up a job for him to transfer into and he had a place he could stay. It was going to be alright.

After checking out the coffee shop where he now worked, Harry was led upstairs to a small studio that the owner had agreed to let him rent. It was very kind. The man and his wife apparently had an agreement with the hospital to help those who were being released with no family. The human kindness of it all was, quite honestly, shocking.

The room was small, quaint. An attic room, there was a small window across from the bed. The bed looked a tad springy, the mattress moreso like a sponge. The wood of the floor was cold and creaky, but Harry didn’t mind. There was even a desk in the corner with a lamp. It wasn’t much, but it was better than the streets. It was home.

In the closet, Harry found extra blankets and sheets, towels. There was a bathroom down the hall. A little inconvenient, but at least he had one. Wasn’t any worse than living at Privet Drive. In fact, it was much better than living at Privet Drive. Harry would work and he would earn his keep and then some. He had his own space, his own room. It was good. It really was.

Memories of five four-poster beds began to creep up. The deep shades of red and the bright windows from up in Gryffindor tower. The plush couches and cozy fires of Gryffindor common room. The portraits. All of his roommates. Nights lying awake talking with Ron and Neville, Dean and Seamus, all laughing and trying not to wake up any of the rooms next to them. All of the nights when he and Ron would take the map and the invisibility cloak and sneak down to the kitchens. Harry remembered countless nights sitting in the kitchens with Dobby and the other house elves, talking and eating. It was a wonder he ever got any schoolwork done and that Hermione didn’t kill them both.

No. He shook his head. It was just a coping mechanism, he told himself. That was what the therapist said, and he knew what he was talking about.

But, no matter how hard he tried, Harry couldn’t forget the exact feeling of the breeze on your skin when you were so high in the air the people looked like ants. That feeling of flying. There was nothing Harry loved more.

No. No, this was not happening. It was a childhood daydream, no more.

Harry almost groaned out loud in frustration, sitting down on the edge of the bed. He could feel the wind in his hair. Sure, he could accept that he had daydreamed having friends and family that loved him— even a boy that loved him— it was all plausible.

Harry paused for a moment, his heart aching. If he accepted that it wasn’t real, that meant Draco wasn’t—

He could deal with the repercussions of that later. Accept now, process later.

It just didn’t make sense. He knew it wasn’t real, but daydreams were supposed to only be about good things, right? Then how come Harry could remember the exact feel of the cold of the tombstone pressing into his back in the grave yard that night. Or what a crucio feels like. It just didn’t make sense.

Why would he do that to himself? The physical feelings were what he couldn’t wrap his mind around. Like how soft he knows Draco Malfoy’s lips are. That was a feeling like flying— it could never be taken away from Harry. If this was all fake, then how did Harry remember every single detail of the night when they first kissed? If he were at Hogwarts, he could walk blindfolded through the mazes of stairs and hallways to the exact dark corner. He remembered how they were interrupted by footsteps, and how Harry had thrown the invisibility cloak around and them and they stood huddled in a corner, waiting for Snape and a student to pass.

Explain that.

No matter. It was probably his daydreams just being all twisted. Maybe his mind was filling in the gaps from the coma with pieces taken from the Dursleys. It wasn’t real. Harry knew that. He accepted that. As much as it felt wrong, he knew logically that it was right. He was just going to have to get over it. And he would, eventually. Especially if he took the next few weeks and tried to push it out of his mind. Focusing on work and his future was what was important. Yes, this room was his, but he didn’t want it forever. He could do this.

Harry laid in his borrowed bed that night, looking up at the ceiling. He would start training the next day and he would work until he could get his own place. Maybe figure out what he was supposed to do in terms of schooling and then a career. He closed his eyes. It was all going to be alright.

Not thirty seconds later did his eyes fly open once more.

The letters, the owls, Hagrid, Diagon, the Weasleys, hell even Draco— they had all happened before he had run into the wall. It wasn’t a coping mechanism. They were real. He had met them before he had run into the wall.

Chapter Text

Eight Months Earlier

There were quiet whispers all around. The house felt cold and empty. People weren’t talking to him, weren’t touching him. They were avoiding him altogether. He could hear their whispers— the way the word “fragile” escaped their lips like they were pitying a young and sickly child. So he sat alone in a secluded corner of the house, facing out a window with his back to all their words and whispers.

A hand on his shoulder made him jump. “Draco, darling.” His mother. “It’s for the best.” How could she say that? Draco bit his lip until a metallic taste flooded his mouth. How could this be for the best?

Harry had been hit hard by a curse that was yet to be identified. In order to stabilize him, the medi-witches and wizards at St. Mungo’s had induced a coma. They said everything would repair itself. But, without Harry, the Order was dwindling. It was only a matter of time now before they were discovered. Dumbledore’s Army would be disbanded, the Death Eaters would take over. There was no stopping it. Not without Harry.

Despite being an Order member, Draco hadn’t been allowed in the room while they debated about what to do. So, he had sat in a drawing room upstairs with the Weasley children and Granger— none of them were allowed in because they were considered bias when it comes to Harry.

After hours, the senior Order members had reached a decision. It was Remus Lupin, Sirius Black, and Draco’s mother that came to tell them all what the plan was. The others had nodded along, commenting that it was the best option the Order had, whether they liked it or not. Draco, however, had shut down at that moment. He simply sat, staring. They were taking Harry away.

The news was that the Death Eaters were growing stronger. Draco knew that, of course, being one of the spies for the Order. Their numbers were growing and they were getting increasingly close to discovering Grimmauld Place. Draco, his mother, and Snape couldn’t keep diverting for them long without being under suspicion. They were going to be found out. And, with Harry in a coma, he couldn’t be at Grimmauld Place when they did. So they had decided to put him in the last place the Death Eaters would think to look: the muggle world.

Records would be faked and in a matter of days, Harry would be swept along with other “long-term coma patients” to a muggle hospital. That was the plan. And, once Harry woke up, the Order would find him and brief him and bring him back. That is, considering he was alright and all hope was not lost. They said it should only be maybe a month or so, at the rate Harry’s mind and body were healing themselves. He should be awake before his eighteenth birthday. He had to be awake before then. They had plans.

Draco remembers when they had brought him in a few hours ago. Remus had made the announcement, explaining the situation to them all. Then, Harry had floated along behind him, unconscious and looking half-dead. Draco had lurched forward, tears already making their way to the floor. It was Luna who had grabbed him and held him as he pressed a hand to his mouth in shock. And when they told him he was too bias to be a part of the decision, it was Hermione who had taken him by the arm and led him upstairs and brought him water when he vomited. She sat next to him as Lupin once more delivered the news, but he simply felt numb.

Now, his mother’s hand lay on his shoulder and she was telling him it was for the best. That’s what they were all saying. They didn’t want to risk Harry. Of course, Draco didn’t either. But that didn’t mean he could cope.

They were sending him away tomorrow. The muggle doctors would be putting sharp and pointy metal things in him and he would be surrounded by unreliable muggle technology. Yes, Draco was on their side in this war but that doesn’t mean he trusts his boyfriends life with muggle technology when the cause of injury was a magical curse. Not by any means.

People were lining up to say goodbye to Harry, despite him being unconscious. Draco didn’t want to go. At least, not with everyone else. With everyone passing bye with solemn looks on their faces, it felt like a funeral. He wanted to yell at them all, scream at them that Harry would be back in a month or less. By his birthday at the latest. Two months at the latest.

This was what he chanted to himself repeatedly as he sat in his chair and stared out the window. It had to be true, or Draco would be at a complete loss of how to handle the situation. He pushed the doubts about muggle doctors and their abilities away from his mind: the spells the medi-witches and wizards had put on Harry would stay and be undetectable by the muggles, helping Harry through this. He was fine. It was going to be alright. Harry would be back soon and with his help they would end the Death Eaters once and for all and he and Harry could leave all their bad memories behind and start a life together. They had plans. He had to wake up because they had plans.

He just had to.

__________

His mother’s hand was on his shoulder once again and Luna clutched his elbow. They made him say goodbye. Told him that if anything happened, he would regret it. He nearly broke a vase when they said that. Nothing was going to “happen” to Harry. He would be fine. Draco didn’t need to say goodbye because he would see Harry again, awake, soon.

Harry’s breathing was steady and his face looked calm. Yet, if it weren’t for his chest rising and falling, Draco would have thought he was dead. The thought made him shudder and he looked away. He couldn’t deal with Harry dying. That was not an option. The only option was to defeat the Death Eaters so that they could have a life together. That was the plan.

He looked back at Harry. His messy hair was fanned out around him and his hands were laying on his stomach. Posed like a corpse.

Draco didn’t say anything as they began to prepare to take Harry out and into muggle London. He was silent as they began to move him out of the house. It wasn’t until the door shut behind them all and Harry was gone that Draco couldn’t do it anymore. He sobbed all night. No one dared to comment and they all treated him as if he would burst apart at any moment. Fragile.

He was once more sitting in his chair when his mother came up behind him again.

“Remember, Draco. Your place in this war has not changed. You are still a spy for the Order. You will have to report back to the Death Eaters and you will not reveal anything to them about what has happened. Your emotional façade has never been more imperative. Do not let it slip. I know this is difficult for you, but you could easily get yourself and Harry killed if you aren’t careful.” Draco nodded. She was right. He was still a spy and he had to act like everything was normal.

__________

Draco burst into the door of Grimmauld Place a week later. He had just returned from his bit with Death Eaters and he needed to be in a safe space right now. Immediately, he ran up to the room that Harry had been staying in, seeing his things strewn about. He had sat through Death Eater meetings and celebrations— Harry Potter was nowhere to be seen and all the Death Eaters rejoiced. They were certain that still unidentified curse had been the end of Harry Potter. They had no idea he was still alive and Draco had been forced to rejoice in the, albeit fake, death of the love of his life.

There was a knock on the door and Draco looked up from where he was kneeling on the floor, clutching one of Harry’s shirts to his chest. Wiping his face quickly, he stood when he saw who it was. “Weasley.”

Ron looked around the room, his eyes sad. “Do you want to talk about it?” His voice was low as he asked the question.

“With you?”

Meeting his eyes, Ron nodded. “Yeah. I know how much you two care about each other. And I love him too, ya know. Just in a different way.” Of course Draco knew that. The two were practically inseparable for years.

When Draco didn’t really respond but also didn’t yell at him, Ron continued. “I know it’s hard, but—“

“You have no idea.” It wasn’t said like a jab, but rather sad. Draco was looking down at the t-shirt he was holding. All week he had been thinking about Harry dead. And he just kept picturing that funeral procession of goodbyes.

He looked back up at Weasley, blinking to clear his eyes. “They think he’s dead. So, I suppose that works in our favour. But, that means I spent all week having to—“ He broke off, not strong enough to finish. And to his surprise, Ron Weasley put a hand on his shoulder.

“Look, I’m...not really good at comforting people. But I can say that I have no idea how difficult that would be. And, I don’t think I would be able to do it.” There was a small, awkward pause as Draco tried to stop crying and Ron didn’t know what to do. “Do you want me to go get Hermione or Luna?”

Draco shook his head, not trusting his voice.

“Okay. Well, if you’ll be alright then, I’ll give you some time to process and have your emotions.”

Draco nodded, hoping Weasley would understand that as his thanks. He never would have thought Ron Weasley would be nice to him, let alone comfort him. Their relationship had really come a long ways.

When Draco first joined the Order, Ron had been incredibly skeptical and was constantly trying to keep Harry away from him. Thought he was up to something sinister, no doubt. But, it was about the summer before sixth year that Harry and Draco started finding time together on their own. And they started talking about things outside of school and the Order or anything about the war. They just talked.

It was in this room that it really all started. Harry had been sitting against the wall with his legs stretched out and Draco had his back against the dresser right next to him, his legs thrown over Harry’s. They were laughing and doing impersonations of their least favorite teachers and Harry was in the middle of being Trelawney when Ron walked through the door. They were both laughing so hard that neither of them noticed him enter. It was the kind of laughter that had no sound and that made you cry and unable to hold yourself up right. It wasn’t until it faded out that they noticed Ron standing in the door, obviously upset.

Harry had tried to ask him what’s wrong and he had very calmly responded, “Draco can I speak to you?” Still recovering from laughing, Draco had agreed. As soon as they were in the hall, Ron had taken him by the elbow and yanked him into a separate room.

“What do you think you’re doing?” He had yelled.

It was a long argument. Luckily, Molly Weasley has officially exterminated all of the Extendable Ears from the house so not everyone heard. Enough heard the end, though.

Harry ended up bursting in and telling Ron to stop. That he and Draco were friends. It was the first time he had actually heard Harry say his first name. Draco. It was beautiful, the way it rolled off his tongue, the sounds of the harsh consonants. Draco already knew he was in love with Harry, but he may have fallen a little harder right at that moment. Harry had made them call a truce, but it hadn’t really mattered. It would take a long time for he and Ron to truly not be at odds. And, of course, it was Harry who united them.

Ron and Draco were of the few that truly knew the extent to which the Dursleys abused Harry. Ron had seen it firsthand when he had gone to rescue Harry and found bars on his windows. Draco had heard about it during a few select late-night conversations sitting in the hall outside the kitchens.

Draco had gone to Ron about it first. And, together, they worked with Harry for him to accept that what had happened was not right and that he needed to stop making excuses for them. And that was when their relationship changed. It was love for Harry that had united them then and it was love for Harry that had brought them together now.

Draco was going to be okay. Just a few more weeks until Harry would be home. It would be alright.

__________

Tomorrow was Harry’s eighteenth birthday. Draco had managed to sneak away from the Death Eaters for a while and was sitting on the floor of Harry’s room at Grimmauld Place. When he walked in, Sirius had seen the look on his face and slipped him a bottle of firewhiskey, simply telling him to not go too fast. What a good godfather.

It was a few hours from midnight, which meant that Harry had a few hours to wake up. They had plans, so he would just have to suck it up and get out of his coma. They had said he would wake up by his birthday at the latest, so the time was up. It was time for Harry to be awake now.

Or so he told himself.

By the time midnight rolled around, half the bottle was gone. Under his breath, Draco sang softly, “Happy birthday to you, Come back to me soon, You’re 18 now Harry—“ His singing broke off. “And everyone thinks you’re dead.”

He had almost finished the bottle when the idea struck him. He and Harry had plans. It was his boyfriend’s eighteenth birthday and he was going to see him dammit. Concentrating, he stood up on legs that were only slightly shaky. Not bothering with a sobering potion he didn’t have, he cast a disillusionment charm on himself, laughing as he remembered how Harry always described the feeling.

Checking in the mirror to make certain that his drunkenness hadn’t affected his charm, Draco slipped out of the room. The stairs were tricky— the creaking nearly gave him away twice but both times it was brushed off as the house being old. He slipped past the people in the house and when no one was paying too close attention, he slipped out into the summer night.

He hid in an alley and checked that there were no muggles around but the crack of his apparition still startled the night.

There was no telling how long he stood outside of the muggle hospital Harry was in. They had been foolish to tell Draco which hospital that was. Yet, they had made sure everyone knew so that...in case. In case of whatever, someone knew where Harry was.

Draco watched as a couple walked up to the glass doors, which promptly slid open as if they were magic. No one opened them, it simply happened. He watched again as a woman walked in and the same thing happened. And no one seemed alarmed. Must be some strange muggle technology.

Just to be safe, he walked in next to someone, so as to not arouse any suspicion. Then, he followed the signs to the coma ward.

The signs had directed him to strange metal boxes that would ding. The doors would open when a person pressed a button, then the person would step inside. Unable to figure out how they worked and overall not willing to trust the muggle technology, Draco took the stairs to floor three.

It was eerily quiet and the hospital smelled strange. St. Mungo’s didn’t smell like this. It made Draco’s skin crawl. There were nurses walking around in flowery scrubs. Their shoes barely made noise. Sound felt soft and cushioned but Draco’s other senses told him the building was anything but. It was probably just a result of the night shift. Or, the fact that this was the coma ward. All patients asleep, possibly forever.

The one constant sound was all the beeping. As Draco walked, he could see that inside every room, patients were laying on identical beds, attached to strange machines that were beeping and drawing lines. Not wanting to waste time on trying to figure it out, and still too drunk to really think about it, Draco moved on, checking the windows of each room he passed.

Towards the end of one of the halls, he found him. Harry looked exactly the same as he did when they brought him back to Grimmauld Place. He looked near dead. It made Draco faint and unsteady on his feet. In combination with the alcohol, he had to place his hands on the wall next to the door and take a couple deep breaths.

Once the wooziness had passed, he gave a quick check of the corridor before opening the door and slipping in.

He sat by Harry’s bed and allowed himself to speak inside the quiet room. Drunk ramblings, mostly, about everything that was happening and how the Death Eaters were gaining ground and support with each passing day and how everything felt so hopeless.

“Harry,” he said, leaning forward and grasping Harry’s hand that had been laid over his stomach. “Harry, it’s your eighteenth birthday today. We had plans, remember? So, you’re going to have to wake up. You and me. We were going to go flying today.” He was crying now, his voice coming out choppy and strangled. “And I’m supposed to give you your gift. Remember?” He squeezed Harry’s hand, some delirious, drunk part of himself hoping it could wake him up. “Remember? We talked about it, Harry. The first step. The—“ He couldn’t, anymore. He couldn’t go on.

Pressing his forehead to Harry’s chest he sobbed, his arms trying to wrap around Harry. This was supposed to have been for the best. It was supposed to have been over by now. Harry should have been back. They had plans.

And Draco needed Harry to wake up because now he was beginning to panic that he never would.

Chapter Text

Harry took deep breaths, telling himself not not to panic as he slowly sat up. The letters had happened before he went to Hogwarts. And, Hagrid had taken him to Diagon Alley and then he had met Draco in Madam Malkins and he had gotten his—

His wand! Where was his wand? Someone had taken his wand.

This was bad. This was all very, very bad.

So what about all that shit about the coma and the coping mechanisms? He had not been in a coma since he was eleven, thank you very much. He remembered.

And he knew just the way to test that he really wasn’t crazy. Problem was, without a wand there was no guarantee any spells he tried would work. What about a nice, simple—

Wingardium Leviosa.” He pointed at his pillow.

Nothing.

He tried again. “Wingardium Leviosa.” No more success this time.

Harry took a deep breath, steadying himself. Then, he pointed once more, as if he had a wand and something told him to wait.

Some nagging feeling inside of him that he couldn’t explain told him not to do it. Maybe it was the doubt in whether or not it was all real— he didn’t want to be proven wrong. However, there was also a slight fear: his last memories were from nine and a half months ago. Things could have changed in that time. And there was some nagging feeling pleading with him to not try and use his magic. After all, there had to be a reason why he wasn’t contacted by the Order or DA since he had woken up.

What was going on?

He had to make some plans. He would find some time to slip away and he would get to Grimmauld Place and they would explain it to him. That’s what he would do. But, for now, he had to go to sleep. Had to be prepared and well rested.

Holy shit, he had forgotten how annoying muggle alarm clocks were. Even more unfortunately, how to turn them off. He ended up hitting it enough that it stopped. It may have broken, but it’s not like Harry cared.

After getting dressed in some borrowed clothes and getting ready in the bathroom down the hall, he trudged downstairs. It was early. So early the sun could not be seen yet. Then again, it was mid-March.

People were bustling around the kitchen and one of the owners spotted him standing there. Her name was Martha and she was at his side in a second. “Harry. You slept well?”

“Yes, thank you.”

“Go eat one of those muffins and then I’ll assign you someone to train with.” She was gone before he could even respond so Harry shrugged and did what she told him to.

He had finished eating when Martha was pulling a girl by the arm over to him. “Harry, this is Lily. She’s going to be training you.”

Once more, Martha was gone as fast as her words came out of her mouth. Lily nodded politely at him, looking awkward. Harry, the King of awkwardness, simply blurted out this first thing that came to mind. “My mother’s name was Lily.”

“Oh? Sorry, was?”

Oh, shit. Don’t make her feel weird, Harry. “She died when I was a baby.”

“I’m very sorry to hear that.”

Harry smiled to let her know it was alright and he wasn’t about to breakdown into a pile of tears or anything. “It’s alright.”

There was a small pause before Lily clapped her hands together. “Well, I’m going to be training you today. If you would follow me...”

Harry would have to admit— he probably looked like an utter fool with the way he fumbled around with everything. He had been away from muggle technology for far too long. At one point, the espresso machine gave a great shudder and spit out hot coffee all over Harry. Luckily, the majority of it landed on his apron. Lily had laughed quietly and taken him into the back to get him a new apron before explaining why it had done that. Apparently it’s happened before and it wasn’t Harry’s fault, he was relieved to hear. Some arsehole named John rigged it to do that every now and then.

“He was only lucky Martha hasn’t caught him yet.” Harry was mopping the floor while Lily cleaned the machine. “I’m surprised you didn’t curse when it spit hot coffee all over you. Impressive.”

Harry simply smiled in response. He remembered he had to be careful about cursing; didn’t want to say ‘Oh, Merlin’ in front of all these muggles. They’d think he was crazy.

There were still moments throughout the day when Harry wondered if he hadn’t lost it. Maybe it wasn’t all memories. But, he would keep reminding himself of all of those letters as they flooded into Number Four Privet Drive and the great, large man standing in that house and telling him he’s a wizard. If he was just able to keep that memory in his mind, he told himself, then he would know he was right.

He would simply shake his head and have himself focus back on his work. Lily was kind and overly patient throughout the day, and they spent a couple of hours reviewing simple “customer service” while sitting in one of the rooms in the back.

“Alright so, if a customer spills their coffee all over you, how do you react?”

“Mostly like I did with espresso machine. No cursing, no insults, just a simple ‘no worries,’ and get everything cleaned up.”

“Good. Great response. And if a customer does it on purpose?”

Harry gave her a look. “Yeah, but that wouldn’t happen. Would it?”

“It happened to me just last week.”

Harry leaned forward in his seat. “You’ve got to be shitting me. Why would someone do that?”

“I’ve no idea. Lady was in a huff and claimed I hadn’t given her decaf— I had our decaf tea just tastes exactly the same as normal tea and she wasn’t convinced when I told her that. So, she decided to throw it on me and yell ‘how’s that for decaf.’ As if that even would have proved anything. Luckily, Martha had seen it from the back and I didn’t have to react at all. She had ushered me into the back before giving that lady a piece of her mind and suggesting she take her business elsewhere if our decaf teas weren’t to her liking.”

“I can’t believe someone would do that.”

“Me either.”

“How are you even supposed to react in that situation?”

“I’ve no idea and I’m not the only one it’s happened to here, either.”

“That’s just ridiculous.”

“I know. I can’t believe people would be that rude!” Something about Lily reminded Harry of Hermione. Maybe it was her indignancy at the way other people act. Yeah, that was probably it. “Anyway, the best thing to remember about customer service is to keep a smile and keep it polite and if you can’t handle it, tell them you’re going to go get your manager. If it’s real bad, tell them you’re getting the manager, but actually Martha instead. She’s very protective of us.” Yeah, Harry would say something about her was reminiscent of Molly.

Harry nodded. “She seems to be.”

“We’re kind of like a family here. I’ve been working here for going on three years and most have been here longer. We tend to stick around. Except for, you know,” She gestured to Harry. “Those of you that are staying upstairs and trying to get back on your feet. But, we do hope you’ll come visit. Most of them do.”

“That’s so sweet.”

“Yeah, Martha’s kind of like our mum. Never had kids of her own but the motherly instinct is very strong in her. Gregory— her husband, have you met him yet— is also very kind, but tends to be more analytically focused so he tends to stay in his office and work on the finances.”

“Yeah, haven’t met Gregory yet. Wasn’t around last night when I got in.”

“Wait, you just got here last night?”

Harry nodded, feeling awkward.

“Didn’t you come from, like, the coma ward?” After seeing the look on Harry’s face, she looked a little sheepish. “Sorry, Martha told us. Didn’t mean to invade your privacy any.”

“It’s fine.” He waved her off.

“Right, well, if you need a moment to rest just let me know. I understand that it can be quite the transition.”

“Yeah, I went through about a month and a half of physical therapy before they released me. Still a little stiff, though.”

“Sorry to hear that.” She clapped her hands. Lily seemed to do that a lot. “Well, how about I show you how to run the register, then?”

It wasn’t until three days later that Harry’s training finished. Lily was far more patient with Harry than he thought she should have been. It may make him reconsider how he felt about comparing her to Hermione. Martha gave him a half day and a small advance on his paycheck, seeing as he had no money. He thanked her and left the coffee shop for the first time in days.

How the hell was he supposed to even get to Grimmauld Place? He could apparate, but that was risky and if there was a nagging feeling telling him not to levitate his pillow, teleporting didn’t seem like a smart idea.

Counting out his money, he decided to try a cab. Before getting in, he had the driver give him an estimate of the cost to Number 11 Grimmauld Place, explaining that he didn’t have much money. The driver, bless his heart, told him, “If you’re low on money, you may as well walk. You’re only about five blocks.” He then proceeded to give Harry directions, which Harry thanked him profusely for.

Turns out five blocks was a longer walk than Harry thought, despite London being so dense. It may have taken him so long because he kept getting turned around and had to stop and ask for directions on three more occasions. Luckily, he had a charming enough personality that it didn’t seem to matter.

And so here he was, standing in the chill of the mid-March afternoon air, staring at where Number 11 Grimmauld Place met Number 13 Grimmauld Place. Taking a deep breath, Harry thought the same phrase he had when he was first brought here: “The Headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix may be found at Number 12 Grimmauld Place, London.”

Nothing. There was nothing. He tried again, to the same result.

Glancing around him, he decided to risk it. “The Headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix may be found at Number 12 Grimmauld Place, London,” he whispered. And still, he was greeted with nothing.

In exasperation, he let his head fall on the wall that should have spanned the doorway to his godfather’s house. Risking looking like a crazy person talking to himself on the sidewalk, Harry began to speak. “If anyone is in there, please. Please, I’m begging you. Let me in. Tell me what’s going on.” He looked up at the sky, still talking. “I woke up from a coma in a muggle hospital. They’re telling me that all my memories since I was eleven were just a coping mechanism. I can’t do it.”

He felt tears make their way down his face. It was hopeless. Was anyone even home? He knocked loud a couple of times against the brick that should have been the door. Maybe the banging would wake up Walburga’s horrific portrait and someone would come to investigate and shut her up.

“Sirius?” He questioned. “Remus? Ron? Draco?” Nothing.

Maybe no one was home. Yes, that had to be it. Number 12 Grimmauld Place simply wasn’t occupied at this moment and no one was here to see Harry.

Harry squinted up he sun. He still had a few hours before he should be getting back to the coffee shop in order to sleep before his shift in the morning. So, he made his decision. If no one was home, then someone would have to come back at some point. He would just sit here until one of them showed up and then they would let him in and he would be with his friends and they would fill him in on everything.

Still, part of him was asking why they hadn’t contacted him yet. How he even got to be in a muggle hospital in the first place— and that story they had made?

There had to be a reason. Maybe Harry had been badly concussed in a muggle area and he didn’t remember the incident. The muggle authorities could have found him and taken him to the hospital. Where they got that entire backstory, he had no idea. And how they were apparently able to contact the Dursleys? Harry shook his head. It was all too confusing. But, it would explain why no one had come to find him. They may not have known where he was— especially if he was in the muggle world. That had to be it. How the rest of it fit, Harry and no idea, but that was the only viable explanation for why they hadn’t come to get him yet.

Because surely they wouldn’t leave him if they knew where he was. Right?

They were his friends, his family. And you don’t abandon family.

There was no way that Draco would have not contacted him. There had to be a reason, Harry just knew it. There was an explanation for all of this. He just couldn’t figure it out yet.

Then, the thought hit him. It made all too much sense.

He clasped a hand over his mouth, trying not to draw attention to himself with his sobs. He was right— his friends and family and Draco would never abandon him. There was only one explanation:

They were all dead.

__________

He walked around muggle London in a daze. All of his friends were dead. It was the only thing that made sense. The Order, Dumbledore’s Army, everyone at Hogwarts most likely. The Death Eaters had won. They were probably getting ready to start a public massacre of muggles worldwide. What was he going to do?

The thought occurred to him that if the Death Eaters truly had taken over, it probably wasn’t safe for him to be walking about like this. It gave him a spark of hope that it wasn’t true. Maybe Order headquarters had changed. Maybe they had been found out: there were endless ‘what if’s’ of possibilities. There was probably no need for Harry to even worry.

That didn’t change the way he was feeling, though.

If headquarters had been changed, that would mean something serious had happened. He blew out a sigh. This was all seeming hopeless.

He wanted to scream in frustration: he just wanted to know what was going on. The gnawing feeling that all of his friends were dead still hadn’t left him and he wasn’t able to truly consider other options. Not even ones that made sense.

Eventually, he found himself back in front of the coffee shop. It was late evening and he hadn’t meant to come back quite yet. His feet had simply wandered here. And now, he was standing outside in the cold air of the almost-night and he watched the warmth from inside the shop across the street. It looked so cozy and he could see Martha bustling around inside. It made him smile. She really did remind him of Molly.

That thought then became crushing. What if they were all dead? Oh, Merlin, please tell him that Molly Weasley hadn’t experienced her greatest fear come to life?

Not sure if he could hold it all together much longer, Harry had braved the front door and Martha’s questions, looking for a quick-out in claiming he had a headache and was going to lie down.

Once alone in his room, it all hit him full-force. His friends were all dead. If not, the Order must have been low on members. The cause was hopeless. Harry was going to die alongside good and innocent muggles, just like Martha and Lily. It wasn’t fair. And, furthermore, this hatred of muggles from Voldemort himself seemed to stem entirely from daddy-issues and Harry wasn’t going to stand aside and let parental problems commit genocide. It was bullshit.

He began pacing, his mind running back and forth with theories, and his feet moved faster as if he was trying to keep up with all of them. He eventually fully accepted the conclusion that his friends were all gone or close to it. Now, he had to decide what he was going to do about it. The Death Eaters must not know where he was. If they did, he would for sure be dead by now. The coma story he still wasn’t sure about, but that didn’t matter. He needed a plan.

After maybe a half hour of pacing, it dawned on him. He needed to finish what he started. The horcruxes. He had to find the rest and get rid of them, especially before Voldemort could make more. If Harry could do that, he could find and defeat Voldemort and for now he just had to hope that the Death Eaters hadn’t gained too many members to make this hopeless.

After the conclusion, he continued pacing, his thoughts becoming angry and violent. His friends. The only family he had ever had. And they were probably dead. He wasn’t even there for them when it happened. He didn’t have anything to lose, anymore.

Turning, he pointed directly at his pillow. “Wingardium Leviosa.” It hovered a few feet above the bed before dropping back down, Harry mimicking the motion as his knees connected with the floor. So it was true then.

All his friends were dead.

Chapter Text

A Month After Harry’s 18th Birthday, Early September

Of course, Draco knew it was coming before it hit. He knew it was going to happen. You can only hold out hope for good to triumph over evil for so long until you’re drained of all that hope. He had been with the Order when they got the news.

Death Eaters had officially taken the Ministry.

It seemed dismal to even continue. Pointless. They had lost. Death Eater numbers were growing at an unprecedented rate— many people were joining their side simply because they were winning. But, there was no way to know for sure. As an insider, Draco knew it was only a matter of time before they started arresting people without the Mark and throwing them in Azkaban for being an enemy of the Ministry.

It was only a matter of time.

There was a five year plan: Death Eaters needed a majority of wizarding support worldwide before they were able to continue on with their plans regarding muggles. Draco knew from his father that it was bad. Worse than anything they ever could have imagined. At the final stage of the plan, there would be no one but pure blood wizards left. It was terrifying, and it seemed like there was nothing they could do. But, for now, that part of the plan was being kept to only the senior members of the Death Eaters— inner circle members like his father and his aunt. They would get majority support before getting rid of the muggles and then they would turn on any witch or wizard that wasn’t pure blood, even if they had the Mark. It was terrifying.

And Order members were at an all-time low.

They were all sitting, huddled in a room in Grimmauld Place. Draco cast a glance around, taking in how abysmal their numbers were. It was him, the Weasleys, Sirius, Remus, Moody, Tonks, his mother, Snape, Kingsley Shackelbolt, and a few others— classmates from Hogwarts and the like. Numbers had never been so low.

It was Remus who broke the silence. He and Mad-Eye were good leaders now that they had lost Dumbledore.

“We need to decide what to do about Harry.”

The silence in the room became thicker. Draco felt like he was breathing underwater. From the corner of his eye, he could see Hermione and Ron holding hands, looking down.

Draco had essentially checked out mentally while those around him talked and debated the best course of action. He didn’t want to have any part of this. Of course, he wanted Harry with him, but it was too dangerous. It was too dangerous. They couldn’t put Harry at risk.

“We can’t bring him back here.” Others quieted, all turning to look at Draco by the window, amazed that he had spoken— even moreso at what he had said. “We’re still worried that Grimmauld Place may be in danger of being discovered. On top of that...Death Eaters think he’s dead.” If Draco was being honest, he didn’t know where he was going with this and he didn’t know what conclusion it would lead to. He simply spoke slowly, knowing it needed to be said. “We can’t bring him back until it’s safe. Unfortunately, it may never be safe.” He tapered off, turning back to the window. He had no idea what he was saying; he shouldn’t have started speaking in the first place. It was foolish.

If he stared out the window long enough, it seemed like he could see the colors changing on the leaves. The passing of time that was bringing them all closer to death and destruction.

He knew the others had resumed their conversation, but their tones felt more somber now. It was like they had forgotten he was there. They all treated him like a child. At one point, he had overheard someone saying he was more cryptic than Luna these days. He didn’t care. He just wanted the love of his life safe.

There was a breeze rustling the leaves of the trees as Draco slipped a hand into his pocket, his fingers slipping around the cool metal band that was in there. Had been in there, since he and Harry made their plans. It shouldn’t be in his pocket. It shouldn’t be cold like this. It should be warm and wrapped safely around Harry’s finger, it’s twin on Draco’s.

“Harry may never wake up.”

Again, the room went silent as all turned to him. Draco didn’t spin to meet them this time, his gaze following a leaf as it drifted to the ground.

Eventually, they decided he wasn’t going to say anything else and went back to their conversation. Once more, what he had said affected them. They knew it, but no one was willing to say it. No one wanted to face the truth: everything was hopeless. May as well lie down and let the Death Eaters have their way. Not like they would be around to see it, anyway.

Harry was never going to wake up. All hope was lost.

__________

The Order has reached the decision that they were going to change some things. First, they were going to slip into the muggle hospital and change out Harry’ records. It would remain this way until the Order determined it was safe for Harry to return.

The records would no longer say that Harry Potter had been injured in an accident and put in a medically induced coma a few months ago, but would rather now reflect that Harry Potter had been in a coma since he was eleven years old. It was too dangerous for Harry to be a wizard right now. He couldn’t be found out— he was their only hope.

After determining that matter, the Order moved on to current plans of action against the Death Eaters. Draco was forced to be a more active participant in these conversations, as they mainly revolved around questions asked of him, his mother, and Snape. Now that the Death Eaters had expanded so much, they were compartmentalizing information. Luckily, the Order’s spies were receiving different pieces of the puzzle. Most of Draco’s mother’s information came from Lucius. It was the most important, as Lucius was top-tier. One of the Dark Lord’s Inner Circle. Had been a trusted servant for a long time, but became even closer after he killed Dumbledore. His information had to be handled carefully. If the Order used it against the Death Eaters too blatantly, their use of spies would be obvious.

Snape was on the next tier. Not quite inner-circle, but comprised of those who had fought in the first war. Senior members. His information was typically supplemental to Narcissa’s. It would give more detail on the plans and courses of action.

Draco’s information was third tier, yet still useful enough to rival Snape’s. They often repeated facts. Because of his familial connections, Draco had found himself essentially managing the Death Eaters who worked up the exact details to all of the Dark Lord’s plans. The Order didn’t have any spies among the Death Eaters who would then enact those plans, but that hardly mattered as they knew all the details. And, the information Draco gave the Order would be traced back to an incredibly large number of sources, as may Death Eaters would work on and/ or execute a variety of plans. It would hardly be traced back to Draco with his loyalty record.

Now that they were in the Ministry, however, that may change. Rumors were that since this big goal had been accomplished, there were going to be some changes in the ranks. It seemed that many people of both Draco and Snape’s levels would become Ministry workers, Draco especially with his inclination for politics.

It wasn’t until later that Draco discovered exactly what that change would mean for him. He was now running a new Ministry Department that was able to exist thanks to a couple of turned Unspeakables. Every spell cast by a witch or wizard without the Dark Mark— whether wandless, wordless, or both— would now be tracked by this Department. When the Order learned that this terrifying new development was to be managed by one of their own, all were immensely relieved. They would be able to continue their works and, with Draco’s help, not get caught. Draco simply had to dance the line carefully.

And dance he did.

Every day, Draco would pace his section of the Ministry, watching thousands of papers fly about. All had imprinted on them the name of the unmarked witch or wizard that had casted the spell, the exact time at which it was cast, where, and what spell. The Order had set up a system, thanks to Arthur and his love of muggle technology. Draco wore a seemingly normal necklace that would give a small vibration if one of them cast a spell. All Draco had to do then was count to six and it would be the next letter that came flying in.

Luckily, it didn’t seem out of the ordinary at all for Draco to snatch papers out of the air before they reached the desk they were traveling to. It was part of his job description to do so. No one on the floor blinked when he did it and sorted the papers into “threat” or “not a threat.” And, at the end of the day, it was Draco’s job to take those marked “threat” to the Aurors and to file those marked “not a threat.” Of course, ones from the Order never made it to the files. It was just risky because they did have to sit in that pile all day. If anyone decided to spot check Draco’s work by looking at either pile, there was a chance they could be caught. But, then again, it would be traced directly to the desk which it was meant to go, giving Draco time to spin the tale that the worker told.

It was all very risk but so is, of course, being a spy in a terrorist organization.

His necklace gave a small buzz. One, two, three, four, five, six. Eyes tracking the paper that had just whizzed into the room, Draco lifted it up a hand as it went by him and took it. Unfolding the paper, he began walking towards the bins.

It read “Sirius Black, Seven Seconds Ago, Unplottable Location, Lumos.”

Sirius was going to get them all killed. A Lumos? They had brought in candles for a reason. Yes, of course, living like muggles was incredibly difficult, especially when they didn’t have modern technology like “electricity.” He was going to have to speak to Sirius about this later. It had to stop.

Carefully looking nonchalant, Draco dropped it into the “not a threat” bin. Someone behind him asked, “what was it, boss” causing him to jump slightly. Hoping it went unnoticed he replied casually, “Just a Lumos.” He could finally let out a breath when he heard the footsteps behind him fading.

It was a difficult job and it was nerve-racking to say the least. Every time Draco was called away from his post, he silently prayed that his necklace wouldn’t vibrate, or there was nothing he could do. And that was what every day felt like. It felt like they were barely scraping by— always one half-step ahead of being caught. Just one hesitation away from being found out, from losing someone. One wrong word and everything they had worked so hard for would be gone.

Two things happened at once, and they seemed to happen in slow-motion. Draco’s necklace gave a buzz, and the lift opened.

One, two.

Out stepped his father.

Three, four.

His walked to Draco. He was halfway. Only a few steps.

Five, six.

The letter zoomed into the room. Lucius was standing at Draco’s side. He couldn’t catch it. Couldn’t open it next to his father. Only prayed there would be some mistake when it got to the desk it was going to.

And then horror struck.

Lucius took the paper as it was flying by their heads. As he unfolded it, he began to talk. Small things such as, “This is incredibly boring. Do you really do this all day?” But then, his words cut off as he saw what was written on the paper. A slow smile spread over his face before his eyes lifted to meet Draco’s.

“We’ve got one.”

All Draco could think was Please don’t be Sirius’ nox.

Lucius turned the paper so that Draco could see it. His stomach turned. It was worse than that. It read, “Alastor, ‘Mad-Eye’ Moody, Ten Seconds Ago, Hog’s Head, Hogsmeade, Muffliato.”

No.

“Draco, go take this to the aurors immediately. We can’t let him get away. I’ll watch the floor.” Draco nodded, taking the paper. There was nothing he could do. If this didn’t arrive at the department of turned aurors immediately, Lucius would know. And he would turn him in.

He handed the paper over and walked casually to the loo, running once he was inside to vomit.

__________

Months Later, January

It had been a long day at the Ministry and Draco wanted nothing more than to go into his apartment and rest. Be done with this war. But, it was the first opportunity he had had in days to visit Orders HQ, and so he found himself standing in the front room of Grimmauld Place, casting warming charms on himself. The January air was downright biting.

He noted that everything seemed eerily quiet. It was odd. Not bothering to remove his coat, he made his way to the drawing room, where he could hear hushed tones. They all stopped as he entered, looking up at him frightfully, as if they were unsure how to proceed.

“What?” he questioned. “What happened?” What could possibly have occurred that Draco, a spy, had not already heard?

The news that Harry was awake hit him like a Bludger. Unable to breathe, he felt Luna’s hand clutching at his arm, reminiscent of so many months ago when the exact opposite had happened. She lowered him into a nearby chair as they all gave him a moment.

When he was ready, he looked up. “What are we going to do? What’s the plan?”

They all glanced at each other, unsure of how to deliver the news to him. It was Remus who was silently elected, leader now that Moody was gone. He took a deep breath before clasping his hands together and looking Draco in the eyes. “The plan is nothing, at the moment. It is still too dangerous for us to bring Harry back.”

“Well what does that— What does that mean? He’s awake. Will it ever be safe? Are we supposed to just leave him living in the muggle world? What are they going to tell him?”

“They have already informed him of the medical backstory we had fabricated. He believes that he has been in a coma since he was eleven and that he is a muggle who tragically ran into a wall and that he is not a wizard.”

“What about his memories?”

“That’s another thing.” Remus took a deep breath, glancing at Sirius for reassurance. “We do not know the extent to which the still unidentified curse has affected him. It would be unwise to seek him out while he is in his state. Not only could his memory have been severely affected, his personality could have shifted as well. On top of that, he has been in an actual coma for the last eight months. His muscles are undoubtably extremely atrophied and if he were to be discovered by Death Eaters at this point, he would most likely be defenseless.”

“Well then, that just proves we should bring him back here.”

“We will not for the same reason we did not keep him here. He is not well and able. It is not safe.”

“But—“ Draco began to stand with his protest until Sirius cut him off.

“Draco. We all want him back. Dare we say you may want him back the most. But, Remus is right. This is the decision the Order has made, and this is how we will proceed. As you know, Death Eaters are being hyper vigilant about persecuting those not among them. If they found Harry in this state....” He didn’t have to finish his sentence. They all knew what he meant.

“And if he does have his memories and he tries to use magic because he maybe feels like he’s crazy?”

“You would intercept it just like you do when it’s one of us,” Remus answered.

“Yes, but you all know my hours. What if it happens when I’m not there? The Death Eaters will know Harry is alive and they will find him in this ‘very weak state’ as you said, and they will kill him. You do understand that, don’t you?”

“Of course we know that—“

“Actually, I don’t think you do. You haven’t witnessed what they’re capable of. You don’t know.” In a huff and not listening, Draco stood. He was glad he hadn’t bothered to take off his coat as he could not make a speedy exit. They could call after him all they wanted, but he was leaving right now.

Unable to think or process what they were all saying properly, Draco headed to the only place he would be able to have any peace of mind: Harry. Luckily, since the Death Eaters didn’t have too many suspicions currently, Draco wasn’t being tracked by them, so he made his way through muggle London.

Walking at a brisk pace, hands shoved deep in his pockets, Draco didn’t hesitate to enter the hospital this time. Doctors and nurses and that damn beeping equipment surrounded him as he arrived off the stairs onto Harry’s floor. And he stopped dead when he saw him.

They were transferring him to a new room, by the looks of it. Harry was laying in the same bed, awake and talking to a nurse, looking confused. The old lady he was questioning had a sympathetic look on her face. That couldn’t be good. That could be—

All of Remus’ words came crashing back to him. He could have memory loss or unexplained affects of the curse.

Draco took half a step forward, thinking that if he could just get Harry to see him they would know for sure. But, he stopped. A sweet looking nurse came over to him, flowers on her scrubs. “Can I help you? Who are you here to see?”

“I—I must have the wrong floor. I’m incredibly sorry.”

She kept speaking as Draco walked away, her words blurring together in his mind. He was unable to hear past his mother’s voice ringing in his head. He recalled what she had said to him back in September when they changed Harry’s medical records. “Remember, Draco. Should he awaken at a time when the Order has not deemed it safe for him to return to the wizarding world, we must not interact with him. And, if you happen to encounter him for whatever reason, you are not to acknowledge that you know him. Do you understand, Draco? You do not know Harry Potter.”

 

 

Chapter Text

The next morning, Harry didn’t feel like getting up. It was all pointless. All his friends were dead.

An hour later, he was handing a bustling mother of eight way too many children’s hot chocolates and a black coffee. After making her change, he turned to the next customer, a young man about his age who gave him a shy smile as Harry handed him his latte. The hours passed in a blur and he had hardly noticed it was time for his break until Lily popped her head by his shoulder and brought him to the back room with her.

They had a nice time, sitting and talking for about ten minutes until a loud bang erupted from the kitchen. Rushing out, they found the place covered in hot, steaming liquid. Luckily, it was just water and didn’t cause too much damage but, unluckily it was scalding and a few of Harry’s coworkers had been burned. Martha was in the room so fast, it was as if she had apparated there. Within seconds, all the staff were working to stop the burning on their coworker’s arms— one girl had got some bad on her face. They were rubbing ice on the now red skin and Lily ran to call an ambulance, which arrived in minutes given their proximity to the hospital.

Once the three coworkers of Harry’s were taken to the hospital to be treated for their burn wounds, Martha surveyed the scene in front of her for only a moment before delegating out tasks.

“Okay, so we are three members down, which just leaves the four of us.” It was Harry, Lily, Martha, and a girl named Sarah. “Sarah, I want you to get to work cleaning up the mess and get rid of the broken tea machine that caused all this. Lily and I will get to work brewing more tea and coffee— Harry you work the front. I’m sorry to say, but I’m going to have to ask you three to stay for a little longer tonight, as we are short handed.” The three of them all nodded, understanding before Martha shoo-ed them off to their positions.

There was a line when Harry got to the front, most people looking understanding and slightly worried as an ambulance had just left the premises. A couple customers even asked what was wrong. Then, a man in a business suit who could hardly look up from his blackberry snapped his gaze to Harry’s, looking angry.

“What can I get for you, sir?” Harry asked with a smile, ever the pinnacle of customer service.

“I demand to know just why this has taken so long.”

“Well, sir, we had a bit of an accident in the kitchen and half of our staff was taken to the hospital in an ambulance a few minutes ago. I apologize profusely for the wait and ensure you we are doing everything we can to speed up this line. What can I get for you, sir?”

“I don’t care if there’s only one person here. I expect my coffee in a timely fashion. Do I look like a man that it is wise to keep waiting?”

Careful to keep his tone polite, Harry responded, “Sir, I can get you your coffee now, if you would tell me your order.”

“I don’t like your tone! Back-sassing me as if it were my fault that this has taken so long. Do you even—“

“Sir, please. This is man is just trying to do his job.” Harry and the man both turned, startled at the newcomer. It was the same boy from earlier who had given Harry that nice smile. He had a hand rested on the man’s arm and was not attempting to talk over him as the large and angry businessman began yelling.

Because of all the ruckus from the front, Martha burst through the doors and flicked a tea towel at him when he wouldn’t quiet enough to listen to her. “Listen to me, sir. My shop has just experienced an emergency situation and we are doing are best to serve the line of people coming to us for their beverages this mid-morning. If you are finding our services unsatisfactory in any way, you may feel free to take your business elsewhere, rather than yelling at my perfectly capable staff!”

The man yelled a bit more before huffing out a “Fine!” and storming out the door. To Harry’s surprise, a round of applause followed him.

The rest of the customers were all very apologetic for the other man’s behavior and increasingly patient. Within a few minutes, the shop was rather quiet again, yet the young man from earlier remained. Once things had calmed down, he approached Harry.

“Hi,” he said a bit sheepishly.

Harry wasn’t really sure what he was supposed to say, so he went what came into his head first. “Oh, um. Thank you for, uh, what you did.”

The young man turned red at his ears. “That was nothing. He was just being a jerk.” There as an awkward pause. “I’m Tanner, by the way.”

“Hi, Tanner. I’m Harry.”

“I come here a lot and I— uh— I noticed you’re new.”

“I am.”

“And I, uh, just felt bad. Customers like that can be a real handful, and you haven’t seemed to have been here long...” Tanner tapered off, looking unsure and nervous.

“Yes, well, like I said, thank you for intervening.”

“Oh, it was nothing. I just, um...”

“Yeah?” Part of Harry wanted the conversation to end, but he was also curious.

“I was just wondering if....If you maybe just wanted to go, maybe, get drinks sometime, or something?” Tanner glanced up, hopefully.

Harry knew he turned bright red at being asked. “Actually, I, um.”

“Oh, I totally get it. I am so sorry.” Then, under his breath so that Harry had almost not heard, he said, “I don’t know why I always ask out random men; they’re always straight.”

“Oh, well. Actually, I’m not.” Tanner glanced up, confused. “Straight, I mean. You look very nice and you’re really attractive, but I actually have a very serious boyfriend and I’m planning to propose soon, I’m very sorry.”

Tanner’s face lit up. “Oh, no I’m sorry. Congratulations. I always feel terrible when I hit on someone in a relationship.”

“Don’t worry about it.” Things fells silent for a moment.

“Well...have a nice day, then.”

“You too,” Harry responded, watching as Tanner left, obviously mortified.

He turned around to find Lily behind him. “Wow. That was bad.”

Harry grimaced. “Exactly how bad was it?”

She made a noncommittal noise. “Eh, not too bad, I suppose. Unless you were lying about the almost-fiancée, as I am assuming you were because I haven’t seen anyone.”

“Oh. Yeah, that was a sort-of lie. I do have a boyfriend and we have discussed marriage and we are ready, but we had all these plans...and then I, you know, slipped into a coma.”

“I’m very sorry to hear that.”

Harry had no idea what to say to that, so he just nodded. Luckily, the bell on the door gave a ding and Harry turned. “Better get back to work.”

All in all, they were short on staff for the next four days, so Harry was unable to enact the plan he had made. But, Martha had given him a day off for all of his hard work, so he woke up early and threw on some clothes.

He knew where he needed to go.

Finding the right place was difficult enough. He had never really paid much attention before to what was around the Leaky Cauldron. But, at last he spotted it.

Seeing the Leaky was proof he wasn’t insane.

Before Harry walked in, he tugged a hat low on his shoulders and wrapped a scarf around his mouth. He would look strange, yes, wearing the scarf in March, but it was a particularly chilly March, so he didn’t seem to get too many odd looks while on the street. When none of the muggles were paying particular attention, he slipped inside, expecting to be greeted by witches and wizards. Or at least someone.

The Leaky was absolutely dead. Not a soul remained— not even a barkeep.

Panic and anxiety mounting in his chest, Harry walked to the wall and tapped on the bricks in the right fashion, waiting for Diagon to open to him. Nothing happened it. It was just like with Grimmauld Place. He tried again, and there was no reaction. Glancing around the room, he felt a knot in the pit of his stomach. None of this boded well. Surely, someone should have been in there. He knew he wasn’t crazy, but something was definitely wrong.

An instinct in Harry told him to get out of there. This wasn’t right. He didn’t look back until he was once more safe in Martha’s tea house.

__________

More than a month had passed. The Order still refused to do anything about Harry. Conditions were getting worse— Shacklebolt had barely evaded capture last week when Draco had been unable to catch and dispose of the message of his use of magic. The Death Eaters were all anxious, feeling like they were closing in on the Order. Regulations were set to become even stricter.

It was now March, and Harry had been transferred out of the hospital. Draco had been making far too many wanderings into muggle London. He simply had to see Harry. He would watch him from afar and evade Harry seeing him. It was risky and if anyone from the Order found out what he was doing, he would be in trouble with Remus— and not to mention his mother— for sure. But, there was no helping it. He couldn’t stay away.

The official reason the Order had decided to not do anything was because they were unsure about Harry’s memories. Although, Draco wondered if that was the only reason. If they weren’t, perhaps, afraid that Harry wouldn’t be enough to win this fight anymore.

But, they were right— Harry didn’t show any signs that he had any memories of them.

__________

Once more papers were flying about the office under Draco’s watchful eye. He snatched a paper out of the air at random, looking at it with a close eye. He didn’t recognize the name of the person or the place they were in, but the spell was interesting. Why would anyone be needing a Disillusionment charm? He crossed the room, depositing the note in the “threat” bin. The Order had a system for this, as well.

Draco had to put things in the threat bin as often as his workers did, so as to not arouse suspicion. However, this bin was full of non-urgent investigations and would not be delivered to the “aurors” until the end of the shift. Therefore, it was typically a few days before they were investigated. Draco would make duplicates each night, if he was able, and the Order would be sure to talk to the people before the “aurors” were able to get there, desperate for recruits. Most were too afraid to leave with anyone from the Order and were carried off as threats with the aurors a few days later, to be thrown in Azkaban or to take the Mark.

A few minutes later it was nearing the end of his shift and most of Draco’s workers were gone. He was once more pacing the floor when his necklace vibrated.

One, two, three, four, five, six.

The letter appeared, flying directly to Draco. He picked it up, hoping as he opened that it wasn’t Sirius again. For Sirius sake, actually, as Draco was going to yell at him and hex him if it was.

When he read what the paper said, he almost dropped it. He tried to conceal his facial expression.

“Harry Potter, Eight Seconds Ago, Martha’s Tea House, Muggle London, Wingardium Leviosa.”

Taking a quick glance around, Draco saw his only employee left was packing up her bags to leave for the night. He bade her goodnight and watched her leave before slipping the note into an inside pocket.

He had never emptied the bins so fast before. He didn’t even bother with copies of those labeled a threat to the Death Eaters, simply removed Sirius’ daily magical mishaps and waved his wands for the rest to file themselves away before finding his way to Number 12 Grimmauld Place as fast as he could without looking suspicious.

Draco burst into the somber room, not taking note of how everyone was downcast with their hands folded. He held the note high above his head.

“Harry remembers! He used magic. He remembers!” Draco felt himself crying at the joy and relief of it all. Harry could come home now.

No one had even looked up.

“What are you all doing? We have to go get him.”

Slowly, the room began to stir. Draco felt like shaking them all: Harry could come home! They had proof he remembered!

Again, it was Remus who spoke. “We know. He was here earlier.”

Immense relief washed over Draco. “Well, why did he leave? When is he coming back?”

Remus shook his head. “Today they got both Percy Weasley and Colin Creevey.” Draco’s breath caught. That was tragic, but—

“What does that have to do with Harry?”

The room was once again silent.

“Stop treating me like a fragile child, dammit, and tell me what’s going on!”

It was Ron who spoke, which was surprising. He stepped forward, red in the face and obviously angry, throwing a frosty look at Remus. “They think it’s too dangerous. Once again, we have elected to do nothing, as if that’s going to help. As if things are going to get better before we can bring Harry back.” He paused, his own large sniffles interrupting him. “As if Harry isn’t the one person who can make things any sort of better.”

“Ron,” Remus began.

“No!” Ron spun towards Remus, who kept his head down and let Ron have his emotions. “You don’t get to tell me any more of that bullshit that you’ve been saying for the last ten months! You’re fresh out of excuses. I don’t want to hear it.” He stormed off, leaving the room in a silenced shock.

Remus looked up once more, this time meeting his eyes with Draco’s. “I know how you must feel about this, but—“

“Weasley’s right.” Draco spoke in a much more even voice, despite his emotions running as high. “You’re fresh out of excuses. Now, I won’t go on my own and try to talk to him. But, there’s a good chance he’ll do magic again. He could be caught. You’re out of excuses, and I really hope you decide to think about this a tad more.”

Draco left before any of the others could talk to him, the note of Harry’s confirmed bit of magic sitting on one of the chairs. Maybe part of him felt bad, as it was clear how much this responsibility was weighing on Remus. And maybe it was the bias they all seemed to keep referencing, but Draco thought this was all incredibly foolish. How dare they? They had no excuse. They were just being cowardly.

Draco kept his promise, but he refused to stop seeing Harry, a fact none in the Order knew of anyway.

It was the next day, and Draco didn’t have to go in to his shift at the Ministry until later. So, he was sitting outside at a bistro across the street from Martha's Tea House. He heart jumped when an ambulance pulled up, sirens blaring.

Immediately, Draco got as close as he could dare. However, with the crowd forming around the ambulance, Draco doubted he would be spotted by Harry. But, he didn’t care. He would risk it because he needed to know for sure that something hadn’t happened to Harry.

Draco was finally able to breathe again when the ambulance left and he could see Harry at the till once more. He was okay.

Then, Draco’s hand jumped to his wand when a man started yelling at Harry, quite rudely. And it didn’t slip past Draco the way that handsome man their age was looking at him. Nor did Draco fail to notice how the same young man approached Harry when things died down a bit.

Unable to watch without intervening, he left before he could see any more.

__________

Harry was taking a leisurely stroll around downtown London while he had the afternoon off. The fiasco with Diagon had happened yesterday and he decided it would be a good opportunity to clear his mind and come up with a new plan to reinsert himself in the wizarding world. Maybe find a few horcruxes.

And that’s when he saw him.

At first, it was just a flash, and Harry wasn’t even sure it was really him. Could have just been a trick of the light. Maybe wishful thinking. He spun quickly to his right, taking steps around the crowded square to get a better view.

Sure enough, there in his line of sight, was Draco Malfoy. The love of his life.

Harry’s heart surged. Not only did he feel like he had been saved, but out of all the people for him to find? He could cry right there for knowing that Draco wasn’t dead. The Order may have fallen, but at least Draco hadn’t been figured out as a spy. All was going to be well.

He ran to him, calling out his name. “Draco! Draco Malfoy!” People around him turned, but Draco remained where he was, standing in the profile as if he hadn’t heard Harry when half the square did.

Finally, he had reached him. “Draco!”

The look his boyfriend gave him was enough to make him vomit. No. “I’m sorry. Do I know you?” No, no it couldn’t be. The Death Eaters must have modified his memory. There had to be some explanation. He couldn’t just— What was Harry going to do?

Draco took a step back, looking at Harry like he could be dangerous. “I’m sorry. I don’t know you. I really must be going now.”

No.

Chapter Text

Panicking, Harry grabbed Draco by the shoulders. “Draco, it’s me! Harry?”

“I’m sorry, but, I don’t know a Harry.”

Harry took a step back, scandalized. How dare he? How dare they? His own future husband? Couldn’t be.

“Draco, it’s—“

“Sir, I am terribly sorry, but I really need to be on my way and—“

Harry took a deep breath. It was a long shot and he knew it, but he at least had to try. This was Draco whether he remembered Harry or not. And Harry was not going to let that happen. Whoever obliviated him must have forgotten how well Harry knows Draco.

And, besides, if he’s wrong, the person in front of him already thinks he’s insane. So he does it. He reaches a hand up into Draco’s left sleeve, where he knows he keeps a wand holster for when it can’t be otherwise readily available. And, sure enough, his fingers closed around the hawthorn wood.

He knew it. He knew he wasn’t crazy.

Before Draco could react, Harry had his wand out, the tip pressed just barely into Draco’s throat in a way Harry hoped didn’t come across as too menacing. He leaned forward.

“Don’t bullshit me, Draco Malfoy.”

Draco’s face stilled and he was going pale. “Put that away.”

“Not until you tell me what’s—“

A cold hand reached up and wrapped around Harry’s wrist. “They’ve taken the Ministry and we’re surrounded in a square of muggles. Not here.” The last sentence was said through his teeth.

Their eyes met for a tense moment before Harry relented, slipping the wand up into his own sleeve. “Fine, but I’ll be holding on to this.”

Obviously furious, Draco grabbed Harry’s wrist once more and nearly drug him into a nearby alley. Once safely out of the view of passerby, he whirled on Harry. “What do you think you’re doing?”

“Excuse me?” Harry raised a hand, waving it in front of Draco’s face. “Still going to say you don’t know me or do you want an Occlumency lesson?”

Draco scoffed. “Harry, I know you anywhere. And you’re not that good a Ligilimens so don’t even threaten.”

“What is all this bullshit about? Why did you pretend to not know me? Why has no one come to say anything to me? Why was I told by muggle doctors that I have been in a coma since I was eleven? Draco, what the fuck is going on?”

Draco took a deep breath, looking like he was contemplating something. “Harry, I can’t explain that right now. And, to be honest, I’m not sure if I should be the one to do the explaining. I wasn’t exactly on board with the whole plan. And neither was Ron, for that matter. You should ask Remus about most of these things.”

“Remus? Why Remus?”

“Because Remus was the one making all the decisions, that’s why.”

“But why…” Harry trailed off and Draco suddenly looked guilty. “What happened to Mad-Eye?”

“Harry, a lot has happened since—“

“Yes, I realize a lot has happened. I thought you were all dead. Well, at least now I know you and Remus are at least alive.” There was a small pause. “Who all have we lost?”

“Honestly, fewer than was expected which is good, but also not what we should be focusing on right now. I have a lot to fill you in on and very little time.”

“Draco, I need to know now about who—“

“Shut up and listen to me, Harry.” Draco had grabbed Harry by the shoulders and was looking him intensely in the eyes. “You don’t understand just how bad things have gotten. Death Eaters have the Ministry.”

“Yeah, you mentioned that.”

“My job is to head the Department of Magical Tracking and Potential Threats. Do you understand the sound of that? Magical Tracking and Potential Threats. They finally turned enough people from every department in order to take over, including a handful of Unspeakables. Thanks to those few, there has been a system developed in which every single use of magic— at all— that is done by anyone who does not bear the Dark Mark is tracked. A piece of paper appears on my floor with the name of the person, the time, the place, and the spell used. It is incredibly dangerous, especially for the Order. It’s how Alastor was caught: he used a muffliato to talk to some possible recruits who were obviously scared off by the sudden presence of Death Eater ‘aurors.’” Draco made sure to include air quotes when he said aurors. They were, after all, intended to catch Dark wizards, but here they were: dark wizards themselves.

“How have we not all been caught, then? How many have been…because of that?”

“Only a few. I manage the department, so I intercept what I can.”

“How do you know they’re coming?” Draco took a moment to explain the system of both the necklace, as well as the bins and how he sorts them. “Sounds risky,” Harry commented.

“Incredibly so.”

Harry’s eyes widened. “Draco. About five days ago, I—“

“A wingardium leviosa. I know. I intercepted it just before I left. You’re lucky I hadn’t gone yet, or it would have been found in the morning.”

“I’m so sorry, Draco. I didn’t know.”

“No, you didn’t.” Draco still looked angry though, despite what he said. “How could you know, what with all of Remus’ stupid rules?”

“What?”

Draco turned back to Harry from muttering to himself. There was obviously some tension between Draco and Remus, and Harry was not liking what that meant.

“I think it’s time for you to tell me why no one has contacted me yet.”

Draco met Harry’s eyes and the look in them was unreadable. “Harry, I want nothing more than to bring you home. But the Order has elected against that, so I am unable to bring you back there. I understand you need to know what has been happening, but my shift at the Ministry starts in three minutes, Harry, and members of the Order are counting on me to be there to intercept the letters so that they don’t get arrested.”

Harry grabbed on to Draco’s arm. “So, what, that means you’re leaving me here?”

Unable to deny that he would be furious in Harry’s position, Draco turned and kissed his boyfriend softly. “Go back to Martha’s Tea House for now. Please. Keep your head low and don’t do magic, as me being able to intercept these letters is not always a guarantee. I’ll figure something out as soon as I can, but you’re just going to have to trust me. Okay, Harry?”

He wanted to say no. Really, he did. Of course he trusted Draco entirely, but he was dying with the need to know what was happening. It wasn’t a simple curiosity that would be expected of someone who just woke up from a coma. Didn’t Draco understand that he needed to know if his friends were still alive?

“Here.” Draco reached up and then Harry felt the metal ring slip around his left ring finger. “This is my promise to you that everything will work out. You just have to trust me, alright?”

Slowly, Harry nodded, looking down at the silver band in awe. His eyes welled with tears. Their plans.

He met Draco’s eyes. “I trust you. Go.” He slipped Draco his wand back and with the quickest kiss, Draco was gone.

__________

Harry was sitting on a stool in the kitchen of Martha’s Tea House. He wasn’t on the schedule, so he really didn’t have to be there. Martha kept trying to shoo him out into the sunshine, but he didn’t go. Draco had told him to stay at the Tea House and lay low. Now was not the time to go wandering.

He could hear Lily’s pleasant voice drifting from the front where she was working at the till, but he wasn’t paying attention entirely.

“Hello, sir, what can I get for you?”

“Actually, I’m here so see someone.”

“What’s your name?”

“Ron.”

“I’m Lily. You must be here to see Harry, then?”

“Lily, oh that’s a…nice name.”

The conversation had just barely registered in Harry’s mind when he leapt up from the stool and ran into the front and around the counter, straight into the arms of his best friend. After a long hug, they finally pulled apart to see Lily giving him a strange look.

“Is this the guy?” She asked, obviously curious.

“The guy?” Harry questioned, at the same time Ron said, “What guy?” Then, the realization dawned on them both at the same moment and they began talking over each other, saying, “No, no, Ron is not—“ “I am most decidedly not the guy.”

Lily didn’t look all too convinced.

“No, Lily, really,” Harry assured her. “This is Ron. He’s my best mate.”

“Well, then, who’s the guy? Why haven’t I met him yet?”

Ron spoke up before Harry had a chance to. “You probably haven’t met him yet because he’s incredibly busy and he’s also an arse.”

Harry hit his best friend on the arm. “Have you two really not gotten over all that yet?”

Ron put a hand on his shoulder. “Don’t worry, mate. We actually got a closer crying over your comatose body.” He glanced around, not noticing the scandalized look on Lily’s face. “Anywhere else we can take
this conversation?”

Harry led them upstairs quickly, before Lily could ask more questions.

“She seems nice,” was the first thing Ron said when Harry shut the door of the upstairs room behind him.

“She is. Did Draco send you?”

Ron nodded. “I’m about the only one from the Order who wouldn’t have yelled at him for coming this close to you. Tells me he’s been watching you from afar for weeks. A few of us suspected. Mate, he’s been acting really strange ever since you left. I mean, yeah, it was hard on all of us, obviously, but it’s been bad for Draco. He doesn’t eat or sleep as much— for a while there hardly at all. All the Death Eaters think you’re dead and when it all happened…Draco had to endure weeks of celebrating his boyfriend’s death. Can’t imagine.”

Okay, yes, the information about what had happened while Harry was away was important, but he was also dying to tell someone that he and Draco were technically engaged now. And, here his best friend was: the perfect opportunity.

“Actually, not my boyfriend.”

Ron stood up, looking like he was going to punch someone. “What do you mean no—“ Harry held up his hand.

“We had been planning it for months but when I saw Draco about an hour ago, he…”

“Mate, that’s amazing!”

“I know! I’m getting married! You know, if we all don’t die.”

Ron nodded, understanding. “Hey, if I’m still alive by the ceremony, can I be your best man?”

“You really think I would pick anyone else?”

Looking a tad sheepish, Ron blushed. “Aw, thanks, mate.”

Harry jumped slightly as his mind gave him a nudge in the right direction. “Anyway, back to the matter at hand. What’s been going on? Get me caught up, yeah?”

“Well, what all did Draco tell you?”

“Just about the Ministry and the Department of Magical Tracking and Potential Threats. What else?”

“Well, we’ve lost a few people, Mad-Eye included. And, we can’t hardly go anywhere. Death Eaters are everywhere, Harry. Anywhere magical in the UK is crawling with them. It’s near impossible to recruit. They’re tracking anyone without a Dark Mark— that is to say that all Death Eaters now have the Mark. It’s quickly becoming something that you need to have in order to not be thrown in Azkaban.”

“And why hasn’t anyone come to get me since I woke up? Why was I put in the muggle hospital in the first place?”

“The Healers at St. Mungo’s put you in a coma to stabilize you after that curse hit you. But, they couldn’t keep you there. Isn’t safe. So, we were going to bring you back to Grimmauld Place, but we’ve been on edge about being discovered since before you went into the coma, so it wouldn’t be safe to keep you there, either.”

“And they wouldn’t think to look in muggle hospitals.”

“Exactly. You were originally under the backstory that you had been injured and had been in a coma only a few months. Then, they took the Ministry and we changed it to the backstory you heard when you awoke. It wasn’t safe for you to come back. Still isn’t. Probably won’t ever be.”

“But it’s never going to be safe unless I come back and fight.”

“You know, that’s exactly what Draco and I have been saying.”

Harry didn’t miss that. “Oh, so he’s Draco now?”

Ron threw him a look. “Like I said downstairs, we’ve bonded a tad. Over crying about you— well mainly he was crying, not really me— as well as wanting you back when everyone else voted to keep you here. Safe.”

“Of course I understand why they want me safe, but they have to understand that I can’t be safe. Not if we want to win this.”

“Exactly. Well, at first their argument was that we weren’t sure about your memory or your abilities. We didn’t know the effects of the curse. But, then you came by Grimmauld Place on the same day that you cast a spell. So we knew you were fine. But, still they voted for you being safe.”

“Who, though?”

“Well, Draco, Hermione and I aren’t allowed to vote on any decisions about you. We’re apparently too biased. They think there’s a chance we want you back so much that it’s causing us to overlook the potential risks. Ultimately, it’s Remus’ decision.”

Harry sat down, thinking hard about this. “The longer we wait to bring me back to this fight, the worse our chances are.”

“They seem to think the opposite. You’re out of practice and—“

“It’s not like I can get back to where I was with a lot of practice. Not when they’re tracking everything. Draco can’t keep intercepting things that often. Especially when it’s me. My name can not appear on any of those pieces of paper. It’s too dangerous.”

“Exactly.”

“We need to find Vol—“

“There’s a tracker on his name don’t do that—“ Ron rushed out, slapping a hand over Harry’s mouth.

Harry reached up, gingerly pulling Ron’s hand off his mouth. “Okay. We need to find You-Know-Who’s horcruxes and destroy them. We already got Ravenclaw’s diadem and Hufflepuff’s cup— wait. Did you destroy Hufflepuff’s cup?” Ron nodded. They had broken into Gringotts just before Harry had gone comatose. “Okay. Dumbledore destroyed Gaunt’s ring. We just need to get Slytherin’s locket, Nagini, and that last one that we don’t know. That’s our next step.”

“I agree.”

They paused for a moment, both nodding and hoping the other had any ideas. “Okay, so,” Ron began. “Any idea where the locket is?”

“Dumbledore mentioned something about this cave where Tom had gone when he was living at the orphanage. But, I have no idea where that cave is. It’s somewhere by the coast but I have no idea where.”

“And, there’s no doubt to be heavy protection on it. I mean, look at how guarded Hufflepuff’s cup was. Gringotts is unbelievably secure and the Diadem was at Hogwarts.”

“Yeah, no doubt he has countless protections on it.”

Ron sat down next to him for a moment. “So, the first step is to figure out where this cave is.”

“The protections are probably very Dark. I wouldn’t know enough about the Dark Arts to get past them.”

“Hermione has been holed up in Grimmauld Place for months. She has been doing nothing but reading. And, since she can’t leave the house to get books, she’s been working her way through Walburga Black’s library and, let me tell you, she has learned a lot about the Dark Arts. She comes down to dinner each night and looks disgusted. It really bothers her, but we figure it’ll come in useful.”

“Her reading typically does. The sword is still safe, right?”

“Course.” Ron stood up, pacing again. “So, how do we go about finding this cave?”

“I don’t know. I would know if I was able to see it, but....”

“So the only information we have is that it’s on the coast?”

“Pretty much.”

Ron paced faster now. “So, what are we supposed to do? Take a trip around the entire coast?”

“Maybe we could find the orphanage....”

Ron threw him a glance. “It’s been destroyed, remember?”

Harry swore under his breath. “Well, is there any chance that anyone who worked at that orphanage or lived there is still alive?”

Snapping his fingers, Ron stopped and turned to Harry. “That’s exactly it. We have to find someone from the orphanage who can tell us where they went. Hermione and I will get on it.”

Indignant, Harry stood up. “And what am I supposed to do? Just sit here?”

“Look, we can’t bring you back to Grimmauld Place without revealing that Draco and I are technically going against what the Order has decided. We’ll look into it and see if we can find someone and we’ll come get you when we’re ready to go find and destroy the horcrux, okay?”

Harry had to admit he would have to be okay with that. He understood. “Fine. Alright. I’ll walk you out.”

Ron stopped him with a hand on his shoulder. “Mate, we’re gonna win this. It’s not going to be easy, but it’s going to be alright, okay?” Harry nodded in response.

They were walking down the steps when they heard Lily’s voice drifting up from the front. “I’m sorry, sir, but we’re closed.”

“Well, actually—“ Harry knew that posh accent anywhere. He broke into a run, through the kitchen and around the counter to throw his arms around Draco.

“So, this is the guy?” He heard Lily asked. Ron must have answered her, because she didn’t ask anything else to Harry.

He just gave himself this moment to hold Draco. He hadn’t realized how worried he had been.

When he finally pulled back, he saw the troubled look on Draco’s face. “What’s wrong?” He asked, a cold feeling nestling in his stomach.

Draco’s gaze flickered back and forth between Harry and Ron. Nothing needed to be said. It was Order business. Harry walked them both upstairs.

The room took on an entirely different atmosphere than a minute ago. Silence was sitting heavy as they waited for Draco to speak.

“It’s Sirius.” Cold gripped Harry’s heart. No. “He’s always careless with his magic but I wasn’t able to intercept one today. The alarm was raised. He wasn’t at Grimmauld Place, so his location was right there. He tried running, but there was an entire crowd gathering to read every single paper the second it came in in order to find Sirius’. He was on the run for about three hours before they caught him.” Harry’s hand flew up to his mouth. No, no he couldn’t listen to any more. Yet, Draco continued.

“It was Bellatrix. They didn’t even bring him in or put him in Azkaban. She hit him with the Killing Curse. He’s dead.”

Chapter Text

Harry felt like all the air had been taken out of his lungs. Sirius? The world began to darken at the edges and Draco’s words weren’t exactly making sense in his ears. Sirius?

The world went black.

“Harry,” came the soft whisper. “Harry?” There was a soft pat on the side of his face, insistent. “Harry, it’s time to wake up.” As Harry’s senses came back into focus he was able to detect the downright panic in Draco’s voice. “Come on. Time to wake up.”

His eyes flew open. “I’m up. I’m up. I’m awake. I’m awake.”

Draco looked more relieved than Harry had ever seen him. Then, his face seemed to turn angry. “Don’t ever do that to me again.”

What? Was he supposed to control his fainting? That was kind of the point of fainting: abrupt unconsciousness. “I can’t control it, Draco.”

“I don’t care. Don’t ever go unconscious again.” It was the hitch in his voice and the way he kept glancing to the side that made Harry realize. Of course Draco was worried. It was the first time he had seen Harry unconscious since he was in a coma and it happened to be a surprise. He was in shock. And, judging by the way his eyes were skittish and refusing to stay at one point for long, he was about to cry.

Harry reached out. “Hey.” Draco’s eyes were still fidgeting, glancing back and forth, at the walls, the ceiling, the floor. Anywhere but meeting Harry’s eyes. “Hey. It’s okay. I’m not going anywhere. I’m awake and I’m here. Yeah?” His hands were on Draco’s shoulders, looking directly into eyes that refused to look back.

After a silent moment, Draco glanced down at his hands before mumbling, “Yeah.” He looked back up, carefully wiping under one eye. “Sorry.”

“Don’t be. Hey,” Harry put a finger under Draco’s chin as he tried to look down. “It’s okay. I can’t imagine what the last few months have been like for you.”

Draco took Harry’s hand and held on to it like it would save him from drowning. “You have no idea. And I’ve been trying my best. I’ve been doing everything that I can and it’s not enough and now Sirius is—“ His voice broke and cut off. It was just too much.

Reaching forward, Harry pulled a crying Draco in towards his chest. “It’s not your fault. None of this if your fault.”

They paused, giving Draco a moment to recover. Once he sat up and the crying had stopped, the conversation moved on.

“I say tomorrow we try and go find that cave,” Ron said.

“What cave?” Draco asked. Still holding his hand, Harry gave him a quick overview of the pensieve memories and where they believed the other horcrux to be. Draco nodded, obviously in agreement with their guesswork. “We should be able to find someone from the orphanage who would be able to help us.”

“Yes, but the problem is...How do we track them down?”

There was a pause as the three thought on it. “I’ll speak to my mother,” Draco said. “And when we find the cave, I am going with you.”

Ron looked uncertain. “I don’t think that’s—“ he began, but Draco cut him off.

“First, both of you and Hermione are unable to do magic without being tracked. On top of that, I am also both more versed in practical dark arts. Sure, Hermione knows the theories, but I have experience. You’re not going without me. You can’t even apparate. How do you expect to even get there? You’re taking me with you.”

There was a silence in which Harry and Ron both seemed to accept it. It lasted until Harry began getting fidget-ey once more.

“So am I supposed to just keep waiting here until you find out where the horcrux is?”

“Yes,” both Ron and Draco said immediately.

Harry rolled his eyes and Draco gave him a stern look in response.

“Look,” Ron said. “I think you two probably have some things to talk about, so I’m just going to leave you to it.” With a very sheepish look and a quick goodbye to Harry, Ron turned and closed the door behind him, leaving Draco and Harry alone in the room.

Draco lowered himself to be sitting on the couch beside Harry. Neither spoke a word, but Draco reached out and took Harry’s hand in his. And they just sat like that, for a moment. All of Harry’s thoughts began spinning around in his head. Sirius was dead. All of his friends were being picked off one by one and he couldn’t do anything about it. Especially because he had to wait for the one thing he could make progress on. It was times like these— quiet times when they were really able to just sit and think about the situation— that everything just felt so hopeless.

Harry heaved out a sigh, leaning his head into Draco’s shoulder. It was all too much. And it was all up to him. How could they expect him to just sit around and do nothing when he knew he was the only one who could stop all the death, pain, and suffering that was befalling all these innocent people?

It wasn’t until then that Harry realized he had been crying into Draco’s shoulder and that Draco had reached up and was running his fingers through Harry’s hair lovingly, shushing him and telling him everything was going to be fine.

Bullshit. Harry sat up. “Everything is not going to be fine. People are dying, Draco, and I have to fix it and I have to just sit here?”

Draco’s hands came up to rest on either side of his face. “Darling. What is it that Dumbledore told you would save us?”

Harry shook his head. “Love.”

“Exactly. Love.”

His eyes snapped back to Draco’s. “Yeah, and what’s that supposed to do? How far has ‘love’ gotten us? What—“

“Love brought us together. Love gave me the courage to join the right side, no matter the dangers it posed to myself and my family. Love is the reason we have been able to intercept so many of those magic notifications. Love has kept all of us fighting when there seems to be no hope. I know it’s difficult right now, Harry, for you to sit around and do nothing. And that’s because of the great love that you feel for others. And your ability to empathize and to know that you would do anything to stop those people from being harmed. That is what makes you you, Harry. Don’t give that up for anything and don’t forget it.”

“Draco, I just feel...”

“Forget those doubts. Forget those insecurities. You love to such a full capacity and that is what’s hurting you right now— your need to help despite being helpless. There are times when you have to realize that there are some things you have to do alone, but there are also things you have to trust others with. And now is one of those times, Harry. Do you trust me and the others to find where the locket is?”

Harry blinked, feeling more tears slip out as he did so. “Yes.”

“And do you trust me and the others to do everything we can to help while you are unable to?”

Again, “Yes.”

“Then you’re going to have to stay here, as difficult as that is.” Harry was silent for a moment and one of Draco’s hands went back to combing through his hair.

“I don’t want you to leave,” Harry said, his voice a broken whisper.

There was the briefest moment between Harry’s last word and Draco kissing him. Harry sunk into the kiss, knowing that whatever was happening outside in the world would sort itself out but that he just needed to be here, right now, with Draco. And when this was all over, he and Draco were going to get married and everything was going to be alright.

Draco reluctantly pulled back from the kiss, instead pressing his forehead to Harry’s. “I don’t want to leave you either. The day they took you away was the worst day of my life. I felt my heart break.”

“Please don’t go. Not right now.”

“I’m here, Harry.” They both took a moment to sit like that for a while, relishing the feeling of breathing together. It felt like everything they were fighting was just so hopeless that they should just stay right here in this room together and forget about it all.

A soft rain began to tap against the windows as Harry pulled back and rearranged himself so that he was lying on his back. He pulled Draco to him, once more leaning in for a kiss. It was slow; there was no need to rush things. Lately, Harry felt like all of their time together was rushed. They were so focused on the fact that they might die tomorrow that it was almost like they were trying to pack in as much as they could into each minute. But not tonight. Tonight, Harry was sick of all that and he just wanted to lazily make out with his fiancé and ignore the world.

And that they did.

Draco shifted so he was straddling Harry, his hands once again coming up to either side of Harry’s face. In turn, Harry’s hands found themselves on Draco’s thighs. He had forgotten how much he missed feeling Draco’s body with his.

One of Draco’s hands began to run down Harry’s chest and Harry sat up, bringing Draco with him so that he was sitting in Harry’s lap. He wrapped his arms around Draco as they kissed again, pulling him close and not ever wanting to let him go. Draco then put his arms around Harry’s neck. The kiss was still unhurried because it didn’t matter how long they stayed there. They could do this all night if they wanted. Not wanting to rush things, Harry slipped a hand underneath Draco’s shirt and left his hand pressed against the small of Draco’s back, just wanting to feel the other’s skin under his hands. As Draco’s hand began roaming down Harry’s chest again, his other hand now pressed against the side of Harry’s neck, pulling him closer to deepen the kiss before reaching down and beginning to slowly undo the buttons on his shirt.

Harry’s shirt came off his shoulders slowly before being tossed off the side of the bed. He let his eyes fall closed as Draco’s mouth moved down to his neck and his chest, his own hands reaching up farther to stroke his fingers along Draco’s spine. It was nice to just be together. All of Harry’s worries from the past few months and all of Draco’s stress and longing from the past near year evaporated as the two took this time together.

Eventually, the kiss broke and Harry lifted Draco’s shirt over his shoulders, letting it fall to the floor beside his own. Both leaned back in, chasing each other’s lips. And it was enough.

It was strange. At this point, Harry usually felt the need to speed things up. Once clothes began to come off, they both typically finished that and moved on to sex. But something about tonight didn’t call for that.

Harry lowered them back down and Draco fell lightly onto his side. Harry rolled onto his and they both just laid there for a moment. There were no words spoken, and none needed to be.

In his heart, Harry felt a sharp pang of loneliness, despite his fiancé being here next to him. Because Draco was going to leave. They were all going to leave him working in this coffee shop, serving mochas to mothers while people died because Harry wasn’t doing anything to save them.

He was jolted out of his thoughts when he felt Draco’s cold hand on his face again.

His voice was soft when he spoke, the sound barely permeating the air. “Stop running in circles in your own head. It’s not doing anything to help.”

Harry reached up and intertwined his fingers with his fiancé’s. He stared at them as he spoke, instead of meeting Draco’s eyes. “Everyone leaves me.”

“Didn’t we just discuss this? I’m here.”

“You’re here right now.” His voice wasn’t harsh as he spoke, but rather saddened. “But you’re going to go. I just— I feel a strange sort of alone, you know? Never had my parents and now Sirius is gone....I spent the last few months feeling alone and crazy. And now, I know what’s going on and I still can’t come back home. It just....”

“It feels like you’re not wanted?”

His eyes met Draco’s. “Yes. Exactly. I’ve felt like that so often in my life.”

In response, Draco held up their intertwined hands in front of Harry’s face. “This is proof that I want you.” The soft light from the rainy window glinted off the ring around his finger. “Harry, I know my proposal was a tad rushed. But I did have an entire speech planned, as well as the entire day. I think now may be time for you to hear that speech.” He cleared his throat and took a deep breath.

“Harry, you know that I love you. Despite all of the shit that has happened between us, we have been able to move past it. I felt a connection between us when we first met and when you turned down my offer of friendship, I was devastated. Obviously, you know what followed.” He laughed a little bit. “It evolved into a classic schoolboy crush. I hope you know that when I said things like ‘nice face, Potter’ I was genuinely trying to compliment you.

“When the Dark Lord came back, I was terrified. For a lot of reasons, obviously, but also because I feared for you. I knew that he wanted you dead and I remember trying not to panic every time I heard your name mentioned. I kept thinking about those times when you were in a coma, you know.

“And then, we went back to school for fifth year. You followed me around that year and you think I didn’t notice you following me around, but I did. Every time. There were so many moments that year that I fantasized about you taking me and getting me away from all of that shit. And then you did.

“When you came to me and asked me to join the Order, I can’t even describe what I felt. And, for the following months, every time you walked into a room I felt like I could breathe a sigh of relief. Like I was safe and protected. And then came that fateful day.” Oh, Harry remembered it well. “When I found you that day, hidden away sobbing in a corner of Grimmauld Place, I felt my heart break. The man I loved, the man who made me feel safe, was just as vulnerable as I am. And I cannot tell you how glad I am that I made the decision to sit down next to you and talk. Because look at where we are now.

“Harry Potter, the world hails you as the Savior. But, to me, it is so much more personal. People look to you because they want you to save their lives. But, you saved me as a person and I, ironically, have found my life in even more danger since. But I feel more alive. And whenever I’m with you, everything feels right. I knew I had a crush on you in third year. I knew I loved you in fourth year. And now, I love you more than I could have ever thought possible. Harry James Potter, will you marry me?”

There were tears running sideways down Harry’s face as he listened to Draco’s speech. He leaned forward, kissing his fiancé. “Yes.”

Draco smiled and they both laughed. “I know it’s a bit unconventional to do the ring and then the proposal but...our situation is a tad unconventional, wouldn’t you say?”

“I would. Just a tad. You know the whole ‘we can’t be together right now because I’m supposed to be dead and you’re working undercover for the people that think they killed me’ thing.”

Draco laughed again, burying his head in the sheets underneath him. When he looked back up, his mood seemed to have changed.

“I miss you.”

“I know.”

“I wish you could come back with us.” Harry didn’t need to respond to that; they both know he wanted to more than anything.

“Shouldn’t you be getting back?”

Draco avoided eye contact, instead trailing a finger around the creases in the sheets. Still not responding to the question he looked up again. “I think I want a small wedding. Maybe we should elope. We could probably go right now and get muggle-married. Where do you want to honeymoon?” Draco then met his eyes, smiling to try and hide that his were wet with the beginnings of tears.

Harry reached out to take his hand once more. “When this is all over, you and I are going to plan an amazing wedding. We’ll keep it to family and friends— no press—“

“You know they’re going to sneak in. The wedding of saviour Potter?”

“We’ll do all the normal wedding stuff. The colors and the cake tastings and the tailors. We’ll do it all. I promise. We’ve just got to get through this.”

A small silence followed before Draco spoke again. “Harry, can I stay here tonight?”

“Are you sure that’s safe?”

“No. But I want to be with you.”

“If you’re willing to risk it, so am I.”

Draco fell asleep minutes later to the sound of the rain pittering against the window, his arms wrapped around Harry. Harry looked down at the sleeping form of his fiancé and knew that this man was the love that would keep him going through all of this.

Chapter Text

Harry blinked open his eyes to the upstairs room he was staying in. There was still a light pattering of rain on the windows and the room was cast in the bare light of early, overcast morning. Sighing, he turned to the side and found his fiancé, asleep next to him. Smiling, he realized it was the first time they had woken up next to each other since their engagement. And, at that moment, everything felt right.

He didn’t know how long he sat staring at Draco’s peaceful, sleeping face before Draco woke up. He always startled awake and it made Harry smile every time. This morning was no exception so when Draco opened his eyes he was immediately greeted by the smiling face of his husband-to-be.

They both laid for a while, not needing to say anything. The bubble from last night had carried over to this morning and neither wanted to do anything that would change this calm they felt. Until Harry’s alarm clock went off.

Draco jumped about a foot in the air from where he was lying down and when Harry shut it off he had a hand pressed to chest, trying to calm down from the scare. “What is that thing?”

“It’s a muggle alarm clock. It wakes you up.”

“Well, it’s atrocious.”

Harry laughed at that. “Shouldn’t you probably be going?”

With a groan, Draco let his arm fall over his face. “What time is it?”

“Nearly eight.”

Draco sat bolt upright, his eyes wild. “Shit. I’ve got to go. Got to be in to the Ministry at eight. Shit.” He was already on his feet, snatching his shirt from the floor and tossing it over his head. “Harry, love, I am so sorry—“

“Don’t be. You have to be there. You’re keeping all of us safe.”

Draco took Harry’s face in his hands and looked him deeply in the eyes, taking every second he dared to spare. “I love you. I’ll talk to my mother and see if she has any ideas about that cave because until we find it everything is kind of stalled and, I don’t know about you, but I would like to get on with planning my wedding, yeah?” He leaned in for a quick kiss before disappearing out the door.

Harry sat for a moment, unsure about what to do. He knew he should probably get up— his shift was going to start at eight as well. But, shit, if that wasn’t a blow to his emotions. Obviously, he knew that Draco really did have to go. It made him feel selfish and guilty that he wanted him to stay. He needed to go. Or more people may—

Sirius.

With a gasp like it was all new again, Harry pitched forward. It was like in the few blissful minutes since he had woken up, he had forgotten. Sirius was dead. It didn’t feel real, though. He hadn’t seen the body. He hadn’t even seen Sirius in months. It all felt detached and unreal.

Would they have a funeral? If they did, Harry wouldn’t even be able to attend, would he?

How dare they? How dare the Death Eaters take his last family member from him and he can’t even go to the funeral? That was bullshit. It was all—

He would never see Sirius again. Never see his smile. He would never make a comment about Harry being like his parents, or act like a petty child. Never give Harry that sly smirk that said he was planning something but to not let anyone else know because it was something that was a tad sketchy. And he was the closest thing Harry ever had to a dad.

They take his dad, they take his mum, they take his godfather, they take Dumbledore. And, they may as well have his fiance. The poor thing is constantly fretting for their work and consumed by everything that they have done. And, as far as they’re concerned, they took Harry. But no. They weren’t going to have any of that satisfaction. Not only was he here and alive, but he still had people on his side. They were not as unopposed as they thought and they had no idea the threats that were coming for them.

Congratulations, Voldemort, Harry thought. You have officially pushed to the breaking point the only person that can bring you down.

Harry stood up fast, whipping off the covers and throwing on a random shirt that was sitting on the table. He didn’t care about his hair or his breath. None of that mattered. Throwing on a jacket, he flew down the stairs.

He knew Lily would be in this morning to collect her paycheck, but that she didn’t have a shift. Harry caught her in the back just before she got her paycheck.

“Hey, can you cover my shift?” Lily took one look at the frantic look on his face and nodded, speechless. She had never seen him this way.

With a quick thanks, Harry ran out the back door. Thankfully, he remembered this time how to get back to Grimmauld Place.

Fuck this shit. He was not going to stand idly by, no matter what they all said. His godfather was dead for fuck’s sake.

Marching up to Grimmauld Place with purpose, Harry stood in front of it and yelled like a crazy person. “I know you’re in there. Let me in.”

There was nothing. Fuck it, he was going to find a way to the Burrow. It just may take him seven weeks, but that was fine, he would—

Seeming to materialize out of thin air, Ron came to be standing next to him. He grabbed Harry’s arm harshly, not speaking as he drug him across the street to a fairly deserted alleyway.

“You better consider yourself damn lucky that I was standing near the door when you yelled that shit. Had it been anyone else, Remus would have lectured you for hours. What the fuck, Harry? Couldn’t you just do what Draco and I told you to?”

“I need my invisibility cloak.”

“What?”

Harry looked his best friend in the eyes, trying to convey all the things he didn’t have words for. “Mate, I need that invisibility cloak. Really. Because I will do what I’m about to do without it. And I think it’s in your best interest to help me not get caught by Death Eaters.”

Ron looked like he couldn’t decide for a moment before meeting Harry’s eyes again. “Fine. But only if I get to come with you wherever you’re going.”

Harry didn’t even think about it a second. “Deal.” Ron nodded, still looking a tad unsure before he walked back into Grimmauld Place. As Harry watched him go, he felt guilty. He shouldn’t have lied to his best friend. Obviously, that didn’t mean he was going to let him come with, though. No, this was something he had to do on his own.

He was still staring at the gap between Number 11 and Number 13 when Ron appeared beside him, making him jump. “Get under,” Ron said, lifting the cloak up.

Harry took a deep breath, knowing this wasn’t right. He reached a hand out and grasped the edge of the cloak. “I’m sorry, Ron,” he said before yanking the cloak and pulling it on, making a quick getaway as Ron lunged at where he had been.

“Harry, please!” He heard Ron call out as he made his way down the street. Harry turned away from the sound, unable to bear it if he heard it again. He couldn’t believe he had just betrayed his best friend’s trust like that. But, he knew what he had to do.

Once he was safely far enough down the street that he wouldn’t be in eyesight of Ron, he inconspicuously pulled the cloak off and hailed a cab. Slipping in, he gave the driver the address. It was a long drive and therefore expensive, he knew. But he could wait.

The miles rolled past and Harry found himself not caring. The only thought that kept passing through his mind was that Sirius was dead. Bellatrix killed him. She murdered him.

Once they were only a little ways away, Harry told the driver that they could just stop there, paying and exiting before any questions could be asked. He stood, waiting until the driver pulled away before taking out the cloak and throwing it over his shoulders once more. And he started down the lane, invisible to any passerby.

It was just outside the quaint village that Harry took a turn off the road. There was a hedge to his right that didn’t take much to get around and he was greeted with the sight of a ghastly, old house. At this point, Harry wasn’t sure how this would help him, but he just knew in his heart that this was something he needed to do.

The house looked different than it did in the memory that Harry saw it through. A for example, it was older, looking run down and fragile. And, there was no snake nailed to the door.

Stepping inside, the air itself seemed to change. It was magically charged. Harry could feel that much. He didn’t know what he was looking for inside the Gaunt house, but it was something. He could feel it.

There was more to the house than what Harry had seen in the memory and he felt drawn to the other rooms. One door opened to a small and cramped space and Harry had to close his eyes to stop a terrible flashback. But, based on the small accumulations of possessions, it was where Merope Gaunt had lived. Voldemort’s mother. And there, in the pile of discarded things, was what had been calling to Harry.

A small, dark grey journal was lying there, the corner poking out from beneath the other things. Wary of journals from this family, Harry opened it cautiously and was greeted with the strange cursive of Merope’s handwriting. She had journaled her pregnancy.

Harry flipped through the dates, noticing they ended abruptly. Because she died when she gave birth, Harry remembered. He read the last entry:

I can tell that there isn’t much time left. The child is going to come soon, and I don’t know how much of me will be left afterward. I have found a nice woman that will take the child in to her orphanage. Her name is Mrs. Cole and she cares for the children herself. Seems to do what she can. I’ve sold the locket and it gives me joy to know what brought me enough money to feed myself in my last days would have brought my father so much anguish. I hope my child never feels this way. I know that giving up hope and abandoning my child seems like a terrible thing to do, but I hope that he grows to be good and strong, as all mothers do. Mostly, I hope he inherits so much from his father that he doesn’t have the talents of our family. Mrs. Cole has made me a personal promise that the child will be taken care of and that they even take the children once a year to a small island down at the south shore. I hope the child likes it there...

Harry closed the journal, not needing to read any more. A small island down at the south shore. Where exactly could that be? It sure narrowed things down by far and Harry felt immense relief wash over him. He also then was able to feel better about abandoning Ron; his gut feeling about coming here had been right. This was what he had needed to do.

It felt strange, though. Kind of like he was retracing Voldemort’s childhood footsteps. And, after reading the journal, he felt a strange sort of sympathy for Merope Gaunt. She had wanted her child to be good and muggle. Wrong on both accounts. What would she think if she were to see him now?

Sitting on the dusty floor of Voldemort’s mother’s childhood home, Harry realized exactly what Dumbledore had meant. Love.

Voldemort only got to where he was now because he didn’t have love. Objectively, Harry had known that but it was this account of his mother’s pregnancy that had made it all make sense. Out of love for her child, she had wanted good things for him. To not be poisoned by magic the way she felt she was. But Tom never reciprocated that love. He hated and resented his parents. For that matter, he had even murdered his father. It was the exact opposite of Harry. His mother had died for him and that was the reason Harry was strong. Voldemort was made strong by severing those exact ties.

They were terribly similar but in ways that were exactly different. No doubt Lily had felt this way when she was pregnant. But it was her love that let Harry be where he was today. And Harry accepted that love and loved her back. Voldemort had rejected it and it placed a weakness in him.

Because everyone wants to be loved and if they’re not, they retreat within themselves. Harry knew that better than anyone: he had grown up feeling useless and unwanted, just like Voldemort. But then he learned about his parents and he understood. Tom, instead, threw all of that away and retreated further into himself.

It was exactly why he never told anyone about his horcruxes. He had never trusted anyone. Yet, he had chosen places that were significant to him. Places where he felt a connection to something.

Love. Love and acceptance are all anyone want. And Tom had never felt that so here he was, literally breaking himself apart.

That was the key: Voldemort was not whole. He had an army, sure, but they’re not a united army. They are compartmentalized pieces, just like the horcruxes. Every one of them is told enough to have a part, but never enough to know anything. It made so much sense. That was how they were going to fight him: as a united force they could take him down.

And Harry just may know how to find out where the island was.

Stuffing the journal inside his cloak, he walked back out of the house and down to the main path. Once he was within eyesight of the village, he took the cloak off and hailed a cab to take him back to Martha’s Tea House.

By the time he arrived back, it was late and Lily was already gone. He would have to find a way to thank her for covering his shift. Walking up the stairs to his room, Harry’s mind was spinning with possibilities.

When he opened the door, he went straight to the desk, leaving the door swinging on its hinges behind him. He looked up when it slammed shut.

Turning around, he was greeted by three angry people. “Hermione!” He shouted, dropping what he was working on onto the desk and running for her, smothering her in a hug. “I have missed you so much, Merlin, you don’t even know.”

“Yes, yes, Harry, I missed you too, but—“ She shoved him off of her. “You owe the three of us an explanation.” She gestured towards Ron and Draco.

“Ron especially,” Draco added, his voice icy.

“Look, I know and...Ron I can’t tell you how sorry I am. But there was something I knew I needed to do and it paid off. I’m a step closer to finding that cave.”

“Yes, Harry, so are we,” Hermione said. “Draco talked to Narcissa and asked if she had any ideas. She said that somewhere there had to have been a Death Eater who knew where it was because everything is—“

“Compartmentalized. Exactly. One of them knows. But, there’s more, wait.” As he turned back to where the journal lay, Hermione kept talking.

“Narcissa said that she may be able to figure out who if she had some sort of way that we could narrow down where this cave could be because then she could figure out which Death Eaters had ever been alone with You-Know-Who and where. It’s all very complicated and it may take her a while, but— What is that?”

“It’s Merope Gaunt’s journal where she recorded her pregnancy. In her last entry, she mentions that she found an orphanage that will take her child and that Mrs. Cole— who runs the orphanage— mentioned that the children are taken on trips to ‘a small island at the south shore’ every year. Does that narrow it down a bit?”

The three were stunned into silence at Harry’s new information.

“What do you mean, that’s Merope Gaunt’s journal?” Draco stated, calmly.

“I mean, I went to the Gaunt house and I found it. I don’t know what made me go there but something did and I found it.”

“Harry! What were you thinking?” Hermione exclaimed. “It could have been a trap and you didn’t even tell anyone where you were going.”

“Just for the record, I would have gone with you,” Ron interjected.

“Would you all shut up? That’s not the point. The point is that we have another clue. We’re a step closer. Draco, can Narcissa do anything with this?”

Draco shrugged. “She was talking about all the known trips to the coast that Death Eaters had made. She listed so many that I couldn’t catch them all. She may know something. We should talk to—“ Draco stopped dead in his tracks, his face stilling. “A few years before we were born, there was an incident. A Death Eater betrayed the Dark Lord. I heard my father telling me about it a few years ago when he was emphasizing how you shouldn’t even think about betraying him. And, he mentioned that this Death Eater had gone to an island of great importance to the Dark Lord that he had been order to never go back to for reasons that were never disclosed.”

“Do you remember who it was?”

Draco’s eyes lifted to meet Harry’s. “It was Regulus Black.”

Chapter Text

“Regulus Black?” Harry asked. “Why would he go to the cave?”

The other three thought on it for a moment before giving up. “Maybe he went because of the horcrux?” Ron suggested.

Draco shook his head. “It’s possible, but Regulus died before the news of the betrayal got back to the Dark Lord. The story goes that he had seen something in Regulus’ mind and had become enraged, assumedly the cave. Black then committed suicide before the Dark Lord could find out more.”

The room seemed to pause as if in thought. “If he knew Regulus was at the cave, then he would have gone and checked the horcrux, wouldn’t he? So, it would be safe to assume that it wouldn’t be there. Either Regulus took it and hid it, or You-Know-Who has it and moved it to a different location and we’re fucked,” Harry said. He threw his hands up in the air. That was the most likely option. If Voldemort knew that Regulus had been there, the locket would definitely not be in that cave.

“Does that mean we go to the cave and find out?” Hermione asked.

Ron turned, looking scared. “We could very well die doing that. If there’s another option that’s just as plausible, maybe we should try out that first. Now, everyone think. Where would Regulus have hidden the locket?”

Harry shrugged. “Probably in Grimmauld Place?”

“Well, yes, but,” Draco began before stopping short. He always did that when he pieced things together: cut himself off mid sentence as his eyes would widen infinitesimally. Harry loved it. “Sirius cleaned Grimmauld Place. He took out anything that had any sort of Dark magic. No doubt a locket with crest of Slytherin would have been included in that.”

Hermione ran a hand through her hair. “Yes, but that doesn’t help us, does it?”

But, a slow smile was creeping over Draco’s face. “There are a few options here. One: Sirius didn’t find the locket in his search and it’s still in Grimmauld Place. Two: the locket was never in Grimmauld Place to begin with, in which case I don’t know what we’ll do. Or, three: Sirius attempted to throw out the locket, and Kreacher took it. We have to talk to Kreacher.”

“Yeah, but he’s not going to be doing any of us any favors, is he?” Ron asked.

Hermione swatted him on the arm. “Maybe if you would be a bit nicer to him, then—“

“After Sirius’ death, who is Kreacher’s master?” Harry interrupted.

Draco answered. “All of his things automatically went to Remus. As Sirius didn’t have a will, it defaulted to his husband. Or, it would have if it had gone through the Ministry. It’s technically not officiated, but I doubt Kreacher pays attention. We’ll have to talk to Remus.”

Harry sighed and Ron looked sour. He had a feeling that wouldn’t go over too well. And, besides, Dumbledore had told him not to tell anyone about the quest for the horcruxes. The three had already brought Draco in, and then Draco went about asking his mother questions— he had made sure to never mention horcruxes by name but Narcissa was smart. She would know something was going on. And now they were going to tell Remus? There was no way he would help him if they didn’t.

“Is that really the only way?” Ron asked. “For some reason, I don’t think Remus would be too keen on helping us at the moment when all he wants to do is lay low.”

“I agree,” Draco said, and Harry was able to note how both of their moods were beginning to boil at the talk of Remus.

Hermione interrupted them, obviously frustrated. “I understand the problems you two are having with Remus, really I do. I feel them too. But you have to understand what it must be like for him. He wasn’t prepared for this kind of responsibly. And he’s lost everyone. Have you no sympathy? All of his friends are dead. And now he has to lead a tiny rebellion against the Death Eater Empire, following in the footsteps of Albus Dumbledore— greatest wizard to ever live— and Alastor Moody— one of the best aurors in history. He doesn’t feel prepared. He doesn’t feel adequate. And he’s not going to order anything because he’s scared of wrong steps and of making mistakes. He’s just like us. He has no idea what he’s doing and I think you two are being too hard on him.”

Both Draco’s and Ron’s faces had hardened at her words. They begrudgingly knew that it was true, but neither wanted to admit it because they were still upset. Besides, it was never easy to admit your leader was just as clueless as you were when they were supposed to give you instructions and guidance. Lead you to safety and out of the war.

Harry, on the other hand, felt a crushing wave of solidarity to Remus. Not too long ago, he had been spiraling wondering if all of his friends were dead. He knew people were dying because of his inaction, so he wanted to take action to prevent it. It was just what Remus was feeling, only in reverse. When he made decisions, people died. So he had stopped making decisions.

For Remus it was true: all of his friends were dead.

No. Harry stopped himself. They weren’t. Not unless Harry allowed them to be. Because as far as he was concerned, he considered Remus a friend. They were going to go into Grimmauld Place, and Harry was going to have a heart-to-heart with him. If there was anyone who could understand what Remus was feeling— like there had been a gross overestimation of their abilities— it was Harry.

All three of his friends were brooding when Harry looked up. “Tomorrow morning, we’re going back to Grimmauld Place and I’m going to Remus. He’ll help us in any way he can, I know it. It may take a bit to convince him to let us put ourselves in danger, but he can be convinced. Hermione’s right; he’s just as scared as we are. He needs to know he’s not alone and that we believe we can win this if we all work together. And he’s not wrong, entirely, you know. Laying low is a smart idea and I say we keep that until the final moment. Yeah?”

Hermione nodded enthusiastically and the look on her face showed she was proud of Harry. He smiled at her and she smiled back. Draco lifted his eyes to Harry’s, giving him a look that asked ‘are you sure?’ In return, Harry nodded softly and he knew Draco was in.

Ron, on the other hand was still staring at the floor with his arms crossed until Hermione nudged him. “What?” he asked. He jerked his head up, looking around to see everyone staring at him, expectantly. “Oh, what, you want me to promise I’ll be nice?” he said, his tone mocking.

“Yes,” Harry said.

Still clearly bitter, Ron blew out a sigh. “Fine. I’ll be nice.”

“Okay. We’ll go see him tomorrow.” The group agreed and Hermione and Ron decided to leave and head back before their absence was noted.

Before leaving, Hermione came over to Harry, reaching out and clasping his hands in hers. “First, Harry, I’m not sure if you should keep that journal so close. It doesn’t seem safe to be around. Second, you really hurt Ron today. He would have gone with you, you know. I think you may want to apologize to him— just the two of you.” But Ron was already out the door.

“I will,” Harry promised. Hermione gave him a nod before following Ron, leaving him and Draco alone.

The room was silent for a moment, neither knowing what to say. Draco’s arms were crossed and he was looking down.

“Draco...” Harry began.

Draco’s head snapped up in response. “I kind of feel like fighting with you.” Harry was taken aback by that. Why? “Harry, I asked you to do one thing. All I wanted was for you to stay safe so I wouldn’t have to worry. Next thing I know, Hermione and Ron are telling me that you’ve stolen your invisibility cloak and have run off to Merlin knows where. What the fuck? I asked one thing, Harry.”

“What do you expect me to—“

“We talked all night about how it’s difficult for you to lay low, but that you had to, Harry. And you decided to just ignore everything we had talked about. My heart has been racing for hours. And not only had you disappeared but you’d gone and put yourself in danger. What possessed you to go there?”

“I don’t know!” Harry exclaimed. “I don’t know. I just felt drawn there and I knew it was something that I had to do alone—“

“Because you have to do everything alone, don’t you? We also discussed this last night! You have to let people help you, Harry. You can’t go galavanting on your own when—“

“You think this is fun for me?” Harry took a step forward, tension building. It felt far too reminiscent of the long past. “I’m just trying to do what I have been prophesied to do, sorry.”

“Exactly. You.” Draco’s face was resigned, drawn tight, his shoulders hunched. “The prophecy didn’t say you had to do everything alone. Stop acting like you’re the only one involved in this. Like you’re the only one risking your neck. And for the love of Merlin, stop taking unnecessary risks alone!”

At Draco’s words, Harry found himself fighting back tears. “You think I want to be alone? I’m always alone. That’s just my lot in life. If I take anyone else along, I just risk their lives and I can’t stand losing anyone else, Draco!”

Their eyes met across the room. Draco spoke quietly. “You think we can stand losing you? Take someone with you. It’s no lie that there’s strength in numbers. Yes, in the end it will be you who has to face the Dark Lord alone. But that doesn’t mean it’s you against the entire Death Eater army. You seem to think that you’re the only one on your side.” Draco paused, trying to not let his voice break under the weight of his emotions. “We’re here to support you Harry. With everything we have.”

He knew Draco was right. But didn’t he see? The less people that were in danger, the better for Harry. He could think, he could act without worry. If Draco was there, his safety would be the only thing that Harry would be able to focus on. His sacrificial gene was just too strong.

After a long silence in which both gathered their emotions, Harry spoke with a voice worn and beaten down. “Draco, if you get hurt, I don’t know what I would do. If you’re there, I’m far more likely to jump in front of a curse. Don’t you see that?”

Draco crossed the room. “Of course I know that. I feel the same way, which is why I want to go with you. And, you must remember,” His hand came up to grasp onto Harry’s. “I am on your side voluntarily. Whatever sacrifices I make, I have chosen to make. And you’re going to have to accept that.”

“I know,” Harry whispered.

A slender finger came under Harry’s chin, tilting it up to meet Draco’s eyes. “I love you. And I know you love me. Harry, I would die for you, and I know you would do the same. That is exactly the kind of love and compassion and empathy that this war needs.”

Squeezing his eyes shut because Harry knew it was true but didn’t want to admit it, he nodded.

Draco placed a soft kiss to Harry’s forehead before whispering, “Get some sleep, love. One of us will come to fetch you in the morning.”

With that, Draco moved away. Harry felt his presence go, but he couldn’t bring himself to open his eyes. If he did, he would reach out and cry for Draco to stay. He couldn’t stand to see him leave again, no matter how short the time was. It was just too much.

Draco closed the door softly behind him before walking down the steps, heart heavy in his chest. He knew he had to go back to his flat— couldn’t be away two nights in a row— but it felt like he was leaving a piece of himself behind.

Slipping out through the alley, Draco found himself in a deserted area that was perfect for his apparition point back home.

A moment later, he was in the kitchen of his flat, ready to be done with the day. It was less stressful than most, however. After Sirius being caught on Thursday, no one in the Order had dared use magic the entire day.

He was just reaching to pour himself a glass of wine when he heard the distinct sound of his floo from the next room.

“Hello?” He called out.

“Draco, darling!” At the sound of the voice, Draco’s spine snapped straight and his knuckles turned white on both the glass and the bottle. This couldn’t be good. He swallowed thickly and it felt like poison going down. Giving himself a small shake, he forced his posture and expression into cool, collected, and slightly annoyed at being bothered.

Into his kitchen stepped the family: his father and mother, led by his Aunt Bellatrix.

Bellatrix crosses the room to him, taking the bottle from his hand and placing it back on the counter. “You won’t be needed that. We brought better!” Her cold hand settled on his shoulder, steering him towards his beaming family. But Draco noticed the detached panic in his mother’s eyes that told him to remain calm.

“Where are your glasses, darling?” His attention was brought back to Bellatrix as she shuffled through this cabinets. “We should get you a house elf. Can’t believe we must do these things ourselves.”

After finding the glasses, they all began to congregate at the island. Draco’s mind was on full-blown panic. What was this about? And couldn’t they have done it at the Manor instead?

“We never got the chance to celebrate as a family,” Bellatrix began and it all clicked into place. Draco felt a pit of ice settle in his stomach. He couldn’t do this. No. “We decided to bring the party to you because we didn’t want the other Death Eaters joining in.”

His father spoke next, a smile hinting at his lips. “Sirius’ death is a highly personal family matter, after all.”

Draco forced a causal smile along with the rest of his family. He had to do this. He had to survive this night.

Bellatrix began pouring wine, starting her recounting of Sirius’ track, capture and subsequent death. “It’s always the thrill of the chase, isn’t it? And when I finally had him cornered...” She made a pleased sound that brought bile to the back of Draco’s throat. “He tried to pull off that Gryffindor bravado bravery, but he must have known he was finished. After all, he didn’t even try to run.”

She paused in her tale to take a sip of her wine. “This is excellent, Lucius, nice choice,” she complimented.

“I thought the occasion warranted it,” Draco’s father responded.

It was then that Draco thought panic would overtake him and make it all too much. It was then that his mother reached a hand to brush against his, anchoring him back to the task at hand: don’t reveal yourself.

He threw his mother a subtle, grateful glance. What would he do without her?

“As I was saying,” Bellatrix started. Then, she turned to Draco. “You weren’t there, so this part is specifically for you.” Draco focused all of his attention into channeling amusement with his body language. He was going to collapse from the emotions inside of him.

Bellatrix leaned forward, getting fairly close to his face as she whispered, “Did you know I crucioed him first?” Her chilled giggle sent Draco’s stomach reeling, but his face showed the smile they expected of him. “And when he died, he fell flat just like—“

Draco’s mind shut off. Entirely on survival mode, his brain refused to hear a second more. He couldn’t bare it. This was almost as bad as the parties celebrating Harry’s death. How had he kept himself so steady then?

Once more, his mother’s hand brushed his. When he looked at her this time, she was laughing, eyes on her sister. It served as a reminder to Draco to fake it. He had to fake it, no matter the pain it was through.

They didn’t leave until the early morning. After a couple bottles of wine, Bellatrix and his father had begun exchanging stories of the most grotesque murders they had ever committed. Draco stared in wonder, not understanding how he could possibly be related to this man? How could this man be his father?

The second the last one stepped into the floo, Draco heaved himself over the kitchen sink, all the wine from earlier spiraling down the drain. There were so many things about that conversation that stretched Draco’s emotional limits to their taut end.

After washing out the sink, he made his way to the bathroom where he locked himself in, should he have any other unwanted visitors. And he began to panic.

Sitting with his back against the door, Draco let his emotions loose. His breaths came too fast, hyperventilating as the conversation looped in his mind. His father and his aunt speaking of murder and torture— detailing the death of his mother’s cousin.

It was times like these when all hopes seemed lost. Could good truly prevail over evil when evil seeped it’s ways between the rules of the good to poison and perish?

He closed his eyes, leaning his head back and willing himself to calm. Sleep was what he needed right now. The sooner Draco got to sleep, the sooner he would be able to wake up and see Harry. The sooner they would be a step closer to ending all of this.

With a deep breath, Draco stood and opened the door. He knew that you can always lock yourself in a bathroom, but eventually....you had to face the world and all the horrors it boasted.

Chapter Text

Abysmal. That was Draco’s outlook right now. Rolling out of sleep, he laid in bed and stared at his ceiling and that is what he thought. This is abysmal.

He had spent hours last night listening to the detailed story of how his fiancé’s godfather had died, followed by recounting of gruesome murders committed by family members. The words were still echoing in his head. Before he went to go get Harry, he should probably stop and vomit again.

And what were they even supposed to accomplish this morning? The chances of Kreacher being able to just hand them the horcrux were slim to none. That is, if Remus even wanted to let them talk to him. Of course, that depended on if Remus wasn’t busy yelling at them because he still didn’t know about all of their interactions with Harry.

Groaning, Draco felt he could bury his head under the covers forever. Remus was going to be so upset. Especially when he found out how and why they were all interacting with Harry: because Draco had fucked up. It was all Draco’s fault. If he had been able to keep himself away and let Harry be safe on his own, none of this would have happened. That day when Harry saw him, Draco had known he was too close. He was making his way to leave when Harry spotted him. And his heart had stopped when he did. Not only did he have to deny ever knowing the love of his life, he also knew just how upset Remus was going to be.

But then they had made it worse, hadn’t they? Because not only had they gotten both Ron and Hermione involved, but Harry had taken his invisibility cloak and fucked off to where? The fucking birthplace of Voldemort’s mother.

Remus was going to yell at them for hours and, quite frankly, Draco wasn’t sure if he could handle that emotionally right now.

Not after last night.

He screwed his eyes shut, willing his brain not to dwell on it further. Besides, he told himself. It wasn’t like he had known Sirius well. But Harry had always talked about him and Sirius slipped him alcohol multiple times during the months when Harry was gone.

From what interactions Draco did have, Sirius was an amazing human being. A little reckless, perhaps, but with overall good intentions. Draco flashed back to his fondest memory of the man. It wasn’t Sirius telling wild stories, or laughing with the group, but rather a moment that the two of them had had together a few days after Harry’s eighteenth birthday.

Draco had been ghosting around Grimmauld Place in a daze, still thrown from the fact that Harry hadn’t woke up yet and still unable to accept that they had no idea when he would. He had found himself on one of the topmost floors of the house— where he had never been— and heard something from down the hall. In the room had been Sirius, sitting alone.

Draco was just about to step back when Sirius spotted him. “Come on in, kid,” he had waved and, reluctantly, Draco had entered the room. “Come on, sit down,” Sirius had encouraged, patting the spot next to him. Draco sank down.

Together, they stared into the distance for a moment. “Believe me, I know it’s hard.”

Draco’s immediate reaction was anger. What could he possibly know? He— Then, the guilt came rushing in as he remembered. Yes, Sirius has lost James and Lily and he was Harry’s godfather. Or course he understood. He had fought beside his best friends in the Order.

And, suddenly, Draco felt overcome with emotion. This shit was hard. And they were dealing with it generation after generation. The war would seemingly end only to rise back up again. And what if all they were doing here— all the lives that were being lost— were in complete vain? What if, even if they managed to kill Voldemort it was only to make way for a new evil wizard lord to rise up out of bigotry. Would the struggle ever really end?

His head fell into his hands and before he knew it, he was choking on his sobs. They couldn’t do anything, could they?

Sirius had placed a silent arm around his shoulder and Draco had cried and cried. Neither knew how long they had sat there, but it was something Draco truly needed.

When Draco had finally sat up, wiping his eyes and not daring to apologize for fear that speaking would end whatever this was, Sirius looked him dead in the eyes. “No matter what, we carry on. No matter the sacrifice, evil must be destroyed. Just remember that.”

Months later, that was what Draco remembered about Sirius the most: no matter the sacrifice, evil must be destroyed. Was that what he was thinking in his final moments?

Shaking himself, Draco knew he needed to get out of his own head. He couldn’t spiral like this. Especially when Harry needed him.

He stood and dressed quickly before making his way to Martha’s Tea House.

Ron and Hermione were already there when he arrived in Harry’s bedroom. Hermione was going over a plan that she had made— Merlin knows why they needed such detailed of a plan, but that was Hermione.

“...And if he gets mad, we remain calm. Does everyone understand that?” She threw a pointed look at Ron and Draco.

There was silence for a moment and Ron stared at this feet.

“Maybe we should let you and Harry do the talking, then,” Draco suggested.

“Okay, sounds good. So, to catch you up, Draco: we’re sneaking Harry in under the invisibility cloak and confronting Remus alone. No one else needs to know that he’s in the house.”

Draco nodded, his mind still far away. Still fixated on last night. They had no idea what he was going through.

“Alright,” Hermione clapped her hands together. “Let’s go.”

The invisibility cloak was thrown over Harry and they made their way out of the Tea House, headed the few blocks to Grimmauld Place. Draco disillusioned himself on the off-chance that they were seen by any Death Eaters. It was a short walk, but Draco’s panic was mounting. He had been dealing with this shit for too long; he was reaching his breaking point.

“Are you alright?” The whisper came right by his ear, causing him to jump.

“Of course, Harry. I’m fine,” he said, but he was sure his voice betrayed him.

“You’re not fine,” Harry whispered back. “What happened?”

“Will you two hush?” Hermione whisper-yelled over her shoulder.

Taking a risk, Harry quickly snuck his hand out from under his invisibility cloak to fumble around for Draco’s. When he found it, he pulled both their hands back under the cloak, his thumb rubbing comforting circles into the back of Draco’s hand. Just as they arrived at Grimmauld Place, Harry reached up the invisible hand and placed a kiss on the back of it before releasing it after a reassuring squeeze.

“Thank you,” Draco whispered.

“Promise we’ll talk about it later?”

Draco didn’t promise and the door swung open, ushering them into Grimmauld Place.

He disillusioned himself, a relieved breath escaping him now that he was here. Everything was safe. Hermione was already walking through the house, asking around to find Remus. She emerged once more, beckoning them all towards the stairs.

Luckily, they didn’t have to try and get him alone: he already was, pacing up and down the floor of an empty room. His head jerked up when they entered.

When Remus caught sight of them, his face crashed. “Look, I know that you’re all still mad at me about what’s happening with Harry, but now is not the time to talk about it. Please.”

Closing the door behind him, Harry took off the invisibility cloak. “I’m sorry, but I think it is, Remus.”

At the sight of Harry, Remus’ eyes lit up and he looked like he wanted to rush forward and take him in a hug. But that quickly faded to anger, directed at the other three. “Why did you bring him here?”

“Because he’s not helpless and frail and he’s been doing stupid shit on his—“ Hermione elbowed Ron in the ribs before he could give away more.

Now, Remus turned on Harry. “What have you been doing?”

Everyone was looking flustered and panicked, so Draco stepped in to cool things down. “It’s not his fault. It’s mine. I was worried about him possibly doing something stupid or getting hurt and he saw me one day and so I had to tell him everything. And, Ron’s right: Harry’s not helpless or frail and hiding him is just trying to ignore that this war needs him. In fact, that’s why we’re here.”

Remus looked unsure of how to respond to this, so he looked to Hermione for further explanation.

"Before Dumbledore died, he gave Harry a..." She struggled for the right word. "Task. He gave Harry permission to tell Ron and I, as well. But, now that Dumbledore is gone...we've hit a bit of a wall."

“Oh." Remus looked a tad more relaxed now. "So, is there something I can do?"

Hermione looked a tad awkward now that she saw how that could have been interpreted. "Well, actually...we need to speak to Kreacher."

Remus' expression turned dark. "Kreacher is not to be trusted. I think since Sirius' death he has turned to Bellatrix. He always said there were other Black relatives he would have preferred to serve. You shouldn't-- under any circumstances-- talk to him. Anything you say will most likely be taken back to Bellatrix. You can't risk it."

Draco sighed mentally. He had already hit his breaking point: he already had had enough. If this meant blowing his cover and living on the run and constantly afraid of death, then so be it no matter the repercussions that could have for the Order. His mother and father would both undoubtedly be cleared and maybe the Ministry situation-- It didn't matter. If this was the way in which Draco could help, then he would.

“Kreacher would speak to me. If he's willing to serve Bellatrix, he would be willing to serve me."

All four turned to him immediately, a chorus of "no's" ringing out.

“Why not?" He challenged.

“Draco," Remus began. "There's a good chance it could blow your cover."

He shrugged. "It's the only way. If he's working for Bellatrix, he can't see Harry alive and there's no way he would listen to any of you three. I bet he would listen to me and tell me what we need to know."

“But, what about--"

“I don't care if it reveals that I'm a spy. I don't care. I'm done. I have been stressed to my fucking breaking point and I can't do this anymore. I cannot watch from the sidelines as my fiancé risks his life. Do you not understand that?" Draco realize this mistake too late, just as Remus' face morphed into something else entirely-- difficult to read.

“What do you mean, fiancé?"

They all paused, unsure of who would answer.

Harry, ever the brave one, spoke up. "Draco asked me to marry him if we survived all of this and I said yes. It's that simple and not a focal point right now. Let's get back to Kreacher. Can you or can you not call him here?"

Remus sighed, pushing his hand through his hair and letting go of the fiancé bit sooner than any of them expected. "I'm not sure. Legally, I should be able to but that's only if the paperwork of the Black family will is approved by the Ministry. Which we haven't filed because it would reveal the location of Grimmauld Place to whoever reviews the file. So I honestly don't know. But I'm afraid to try."

“Because of Bellatrix?" Draco asked.

“Exactly." Remus nodded.

“I'll call him. Go into the next room."

“Here?" Remus asked.

“There's no way for him to reveal the location of Grimmauld Place. We don't have to worry about that. He's also not allowed to reveal anything that happens inside Grimmauld Place so it's safer for me to call him here than, say, at my apartment. Get out of the room." His tone left no room for argument and they filed into the hallway, Harry lingering behind.

“Draco, you know this is risky."

Their eyes met. "Everything is a risk. This is war." The memory of Sirius from this morning was still strong in his mind and Draco tried to not be overcome with anger at the thought of Kreacher now serving his former master's murderer. He took a deep breath to steady himself before calling Kreacher once Harry had left the room.

The house elf popped into the air in front of him, bowing low at the sight of him. "Oh, young Master Malfoy, I--"

Draco rolled his eyes. He did not have time to deal with this. "Kreacher, you are going to answer my questions straightforward, yes?"

“Yes, Master Malfoy. You have always been such a nice, kind--"

“When Sirius was cleaning the house and you were saving things, did you come across a locket?" Kreacher scowled at the mention of Sirius and Draco's stomach turned.

“He tried to throw out Master Regulus' locket. Master Regulus loved that locket. Master Regulus asked Kreacher to keep his locket safe and Kreacher did. Kreacher kept it safe just like Master Regulus had told him to."

Draco squat down to be eye-level with the house elf. "Yes, Regulus' locket. Had a big 'S' on it?" Kreacher nodded enthusiastically. "Where is that locket, Kreacher? I need to know."

Kreacher's eyes turned down to the floor. "Master Regulus made Kreacher promise to never tell anyone about where the locket was hidden."

“It's hidden? It's not here still?"

Kreacher's wide eyes darted back up to Draco's. "Oh, no, Master Draco. It was hidden here but Master Regulus told Kreacher that if it was ever found to take it and put it back where Master Regulus got it from."

Draco's mind was racing. Did that mean it was back at the cave? "Kreacher, do you mean the cave? On the coast?" Kreacher's eyes went wide and he began to panic.

“Kreacher has said too much. Kreacher has--"

“No, no, no. Kreacher." Draco made his tone soft and soothing, finally taking a note from Hermione who was always telling them to be nicer to house elves. With a small pain, he remembered how Dobby had been treated at their house. Already he was treating Kreacher far better and Kreacher didn't deserve it nearly as much. "You're doing good. You're doing very good." He needed to think fast. "As Regulus' locket, it should be to someone in the family, should it not? I want to protect it, just like Regulus did. But, I need to get to that cave. Is that where the locket is, Kreacher? The cave?"

“Yes," came the small reply.

“And you know where that is?"

“Yes."

“Okay, Kreacher. I just have a few more questions." He paused, unsure if he should ask. "How does Bellatrix treat you?"

Kreacher was clearly at a loss, having never been asked that question before and he sputtered, unsure of what to say.

“I know that you're loyal to your Mistress, Kreacher, and that's good. But, that does not mean that she treats you well or values you like she should." Here was the tricky part. The part that would no doubt make Kreacher run to Bellatrix and tell all if he refused. "Kreacher, would you rather I be your master?"

There was a tense moment in the air. Kreacher had likely never been asked such a thing. Possibly never been asked anything.

“I would treat you well. I would--"

“Kreacher does not wish to be relieved from service."

“I know. And that is not what I am suggesting. I know Bellatrix is not nice and does not treat you well. I know that you are loyal to her, but she has no legal claim on you. You can choose to serve me instead, Kreacher."

Silence passed for what felt like a full minute before Kreacher looked up. "Yes." Draco was inwardly relieved: he had been banking on Bellatrix's bad temper to help him with that one.

“Okay. So, now that we are working together, Kreacher, I'm going to bring some of my friends in." He stood and crossed the room, beckoning Harry, Ron, and Hermione, into the room.

Kreacher immediately had a fit. It was only to be expected. Once again, Draco crouched down to his level. "Kreacher--"

“Master Draco is just like Master Sirius, he--"

“I am not Sirius."

“Master Draco is friends with-- with-- Harry Potter is alive!"

Draco began the very tedious process of calming the house elf down. It was a good sign that he hadn't run to Bellatrix straight away and they were making good progress, despite the slow pace. It took maybe an hour and a lot of help from Hermione, but eventually Kreacher was on their side. Mainly Draco's, but that wasn't the point. (He still didn't like Ron very much and he typically gave Harry a rude glance out of the corner of his eye when he thought no one was paying attention.)

“Now, Kreacher," Draco began. "Remember what we were talking about earlier? Regulus' locket and the cave?" Kreacher threw a panicked glance at the other people in the room before nodding. "Would you take us there?"

Kreacher looked highly unsure. "Master Regulus did not want Kreacher to show anyone there." Draco let the pause linger, hoping there was a 'but' coming. Sure enough, there was. "But since Master Draco is Master Regulus' cousin...and he wants to protect the locket...and is nice to Kreacher...Kreacher will take him there."

Ron began sputtering behind him, but Draco paid him no attention, letting Hermione deal with it.

“Thank you, Kreacher. What about my friends? Will you take them, too?"

Kreacher obstinately shook his head. "Master Draco only."

 

Chapter Text

Twenty minutes later and Draco had still made no progress trying to convince Kreacher to at least let Harry accompany them. But the house elf had refused to say a word more on the matter to anyone but Draco. It was absolutely exhausting and Draco didn't know if he could handle another moment of it.

He stepped into the hallway, closing Kreacher in the room behind him. The others were standing in the hall waiting.

“Any luck?" Hermione asked. Draco below out a sigh in response, shaking his head.

“Well, what are we supposed to do?" Ron asked at the same time Harry said, "Draco, I can't let you do this."

Pushing a hand through his hair, Draco sighed again. "I really don't see any other way, Harry. I can't seem to convince him."

“Well, we're going to figure something out then, aren't we?" Harry challenged. "Because I'm not letting you do this alone. Especially not just with Kreacher. We don't trust him yet."

“Oh so you don't trust him but you want him to take you away from here to a place we don't know. Brilliant, Harry. You're the one we can't afford to sacrifice."

“I will not let my fiancé be a sacrifice."

Hermione stepped between them. "Look, this isn't going to work without all of us. Harry's right-- he should go. The horcruxes were his quest from Dumbledore and we are just meant to help. We need Draco because of Kreacher and because Draco's magic isn't being tracked and I have the knowledge of anything that we may encounter from the Dark Arts and..." She threw a glance over her shoulder at Ron, cringing at the fact that she didn't know what to say.

He shrugged good-naturedly. "Hey, I'm just moral support. I know that."

Hermione turned back to them. "So we agree? We either all do this, or none of does."

Draco agreed. Harry didn't look so sure.

“Look, 'Mione, that's a nice sentiment and all and I would like to agree with you, but I can't. Because, when it gets down to it...It has to be done. With or without all of us. But, yes, I say we try and convince Kreacher to take us all."

“I honestly can't believe he isn't just doing it because we told him to," Ron grumbled.

“That is no attitude to have towards a house--"

“Hermione, that is not what I'm saying. All I was commenting on is that he just came from working for Bellatrix and it can difficult for a house elf to understand that they now have a say and things and to learn to find their voice. All I'm saying is that Kreacher found his fairly quickly and it makes me a tad suspicious about him. That's all."

“Ron, does have a point."

Hermione whirled on Harry. "Not you too!"

He held his hands up. "You know I care about house elves. But he does have a point that it's a tad shady and all. I mean, whenever Dobby disobeyed, he--" Harry cut himself off as his and Draco's eyes met.

“Dobby!" They both exclaimed.

Ron and Hermione both looked confused. "I'm sorry, but I don't understand how Dobby can help in this situation."

Ignoring them, Harry called Dobby and the house elf popped into the air in front of him. "Harry Potter, sir!" Dobby exclaimed as he began jumping up and down.

All four rushed over, shushing him, not wanting to alert the rest of the house to either Dobby or Harry's presence.

“Dobby, I need a favor."

“Oh, Harry Potter, sir, we all though you were dead. That is what they said to all of the house elves working at Hogwarts, sir, yes they did. But now Dobby knows and--"

“Dobby, you can't tell anyone. Okay?"

“Oh, Dobby won't, Harry Potter."

“Okay, good." All four seemed to breathe a collective sigh of relief. "Now, Dobby, we have a couple of questions."

“Dobby will answer anything he can for Harry Potter, sir."

“Is there any way to tell who a house elf's loyalty lies with without trying to order them to do something?"

Dobby didn't have to think about it for even a moment. "House elves will always do as they are asked, Harry Potter, sir. For their masters or their mistresses, they do not have to be ordered if they truly are loyal."

Harry and Draco exchanged a worried glance. "So if a house elf recently changed ownership and is not legally bound to any one specific person in the family, there is no way to tell who their loyalty lies most with?"

“Oh, no, sir. But most house elves-- if belonging to a family-- will not share secrets among members of the family unless ordered to by the head of the house."

“Shit," Harry cursed. This was bad. This meant that Bellatrix could order Dobby to tell her all about this. Shit. They were all going to die. Harry looked up, just now realizing that Draco was running up the stairs to another room. "Where is he going?" He asked to no on in particular.

They waited for only a few moments before Draco came running back down, out of breath but with a triumphant smile. "Bellatrix isn't the head of the house quite yet."

They all stared at him in awe and confusion before Ron asked "What?"

“My great uncle Alphard. He's still alive, if only barely. Once both Sirius and Regulus had died, Kreacher should have legally passed to Sirius' spouse-- but their marriage isn't technically recognized by the Ministry-- and Regulus has no one to leave him to. Since he had originally belonged to Walburga, he would then be passed to her next living relative who was her next younger brother, Alphard."

There was silence as they all considered this, Harry thinking back to when Sirius had shown him that tapestry. The name Alphard sounded familiar but he just didn't know why.

And then he remembered. "Wasn't Alphard burned off the tapestry because he gave Sirius money when he ran away?"

There was a light in Draco's eyes and he seemed positively giddy. "He was. But, Walburga was content to do just that instead of going through all the trouble to actually legally disown him-- same as she did with Sirius which is how he was able to still be Kreacher's master. And," he paused for dramatic affect. "I know where we can find him."

__________

The house they were standing in front of was falling apart. The dark, black walls were caving in on all sides, giving an ominous and haunted feel.

Kreacher stood by their side, grumbling about how he didn’t want to be here. They walked up the gravel path, the stones crunching beneath their feet.

When they reached the door, a brass knocker was swirled around itself in the shape of a snake. Draco reached out a confident hand and rapped on the door.

From inside came bumping and cursing as someone made their way to the door. The four companions leaned back, unsure of who would greet them. Draco knew this was his idea, but he wasn’t sure it would work. He had only met Alphard once and the man was old...and what if he agreed with Bellatrix? This could all backfire terribly.

The door flew open with a yell from the man opening it. He had a long beard trailing down from his wrinkled face, and was missing an eye. The other had a crazy look in it that made Draco take a subconscious step back. He was leaning heavily on a cane made out of wood just as wrinkled as he was.

He pointed the cane sharply at Draco. “I was wondering when you would come to see me.” Without another word he turned and walked back into his house, which was falling apart substantially more on the inside.

They all exchanged a confused glance before Harry shrugged and silently suggested they should follow. The second they stepped in, the air around them seemed to change and the house now looked at least livable. But it still wasn’t glamorous by any means.

The roof had holes spattered throughout it which were spanned by a glimmering sheen of magic that probably protected from the elements. Around the room, furniture was tipped over here and there and miscellaneous objects were scattered all over. They could hear Alphard yelling about something in another room and they followed the sound deeper into the house.

Kreacher kept ringing his hands, staring at the clutter like he desperately needed to put it all in its place. When they passed a particular book, he even winced.

They found Alphard in the kitchen in the back— a rather small, cramped space covered in dust. He was digging through cabinets and setting strange objects on the table.

Turning, he pointed his cane again at Draco. “You. Sit.” Brows knitted in confusion, he complied.

Set in front of him was a mess of objects. Most of them were random and it made Draco wonder if the man’s mind was failing.

“Aha!” Alphard exclaimed. “I found it.” He removed from a cabinet a large crystal ball. Behind him, Ron could be seen rolling his eyes. Alphard caught it. “Oh, now, don’t be a skeptic, boy. This is a special kind of crystal ball.”

The look on Ron’s face said ‘oh, I’m sure it is.’ Hermione was politely trying to look like she was treating this seriously but Harry’s face hadn’t changed. He was stoic. Focused.

“With this,” Alphard indicated the ball. “I keep track of my relatives. Including you, Draco.”

Now Draco was seriously confused. He had never met Alphard in his life. How had he been able to—

“I can see what you’re thinking. And I have met you once before— I snuck in just after your birth.” Alphard wheezed with laughter. “The entire family was upset that I had the audacity to show after being so kind to your dear cousin a few years back.” His face fell a bit. “Tragic what happened. And from his own family, too.” His eyes brightened once more. “Well, my own sister wanted to disown me so I say that’s just the way this family goes.

“Anyway, Bellatrix, nasty woman, she is. One of the reasons why I stopped watching. That first war was just a mess but now this?” He made a strange noise in his throat. “Anyway, Draco I stopped watching the day you did that.” A wrinkled finger was pointed at Draco’s covered left forearm, causing him to subconsciously pull the sleeve down further.

Alphard reached past Draco to another piece he had set on the table. “But, you must know....You’re my youngest relative and I only wish the best for you. I want you to be safe and I believed that you could always have a change of heart. So, after I got over a bit of the shock, I checked in on the family again and what do I see? Bella standing over her cousin’s body! And I changed it to see you and you were distraught. So, tell me, Draco. Which side are you on?”

It was clear that Alphard wasn’t approving of the Death Eaters, so Draco felt it was okay to tell him. “I’m a spy for the Order.” He felt Hermione hit him lightly from behind.

“Oh, don’t worry, deary. I won’t tell.” Alphard gave that same chuckle again. “You are Miss Hermione Granger, is that correct?” Hermione nodded meekly. “And Mr. Ron Weasley?” Another nod. “And Harry Potter.”

He considered Harry for a moment before smacking his lips together in an incredibly annoying old person type way. “Welcome to the family, Mr. Potter. Don’t pay the politics too much attention.” He turned back to Draco. “I’ve been wondering when you would stop by. What do you need?”

Now Draco felt a little bad. He knew where Alphard was all these years and he had never bothered to visit. Then again, his morals were a little fucked for a while there and he had believed Alphard should live in isolation. But now, knowing that Alphard had been watching him all this time— which was a little creepy— did make him feel a bit guilty.

“Kreacher.”

“Kreacher?” Alphard reared back. “You finally come to me needing something and it’s about that old rat of a house elf? Why—“

“Alphard, my friend Hermione here would really appreciate it if you didn’t talk like that about house elves.” Sure enough, when Draco peaked over his shoulder her fists were clenched at her sides.

“What about Kreacher?”

“Well, he’s technically yours now. You are technically the head of the Black house at this point and if you pass him up he will go to Bellatrix. He knows too many Order secrets for that to happen. And we also need him for something else and we can’t order him to do anything and—“ He cut himself off. He was rambling. “There are lots of reasons.”

Alphard eyed Kreacher for a moment. “Well, I don’t want him, that’s for sure.” He turned to address Kreacher now. “Kreacher, you are hereby relieved of my service to my young grand-nephew, Draco Lucius Malfoy.” Alphard nodded at Draco. “That should be binding.”

“Thank you,” they all four began to rush at once.

Alphard looked taken aback, which was only natural. Who ever heard of four teenagers being so excited for a house elf’s binding service?

He raised a hand to cut them off. “Now, I suppose that’s all you need?” Sheepishly, Draco nodded. “Well, be off then. You do have a war to fight. But, before you go.”

Alphard turned, rummaging through the nick nacks he had piled on the table before giving up and heading back to the cabinets.

He bent over digging through a low one and tossing objects over his head as he did: pots and pans and books and clothes. Suddenly, he must have found what he was looking for because he let out another “Aha!”

The object was clutched tightly in his hand as he came back to Draco. He held it out, presenting a sleek, but definitely old watch. There were exposed gears and the numbers were partially scratched off. The back had the Black family crest engraved in it. “Phineas once gave this watch to his wife, Ursula. It’s charmed in a unique way. I want to give it to you, now.”

Draco looked at the antique. It seemed broken: the hands were frozen in place.

“I know it doesn’t seem like much, but most magic items usually don’t. The watch will only begin ticking when danger in close. Comes in very handy. I think you could make use of it.”

Gingerly, Draco picked up the heavy metal. He didn’t know what to say, but he was sure his look of awe conveyed that. Alphard gave him a soft smile as he clasped it onto his wrist. It fit perfectly and, despite its weight, didn’t feel too heavy.

“It also has a few other tricks, but you’ll find those out in time,” Alphard whispered. “I may have tinkered with it a bit.”

“Thank you so much, I—“

Alphard placed a hand on his shoulder. “No need to thank me. Just be on your way. Do what you need to do and—“ He looked up at Harry now. “—end this war.”

Draco stood cautiously, eyes still fixated on the watch. It was enchanting.

Harry stepped forward, clasping Alphard’s hand. They exchanged a few words, their voices too low to be heard by the others. Draco wasn’t particularly paying attention anyway.

A light hand touched his elbow, jerking him out of his head. Harry’s hand circled around his arm and led him out of the room and through the house. When he glanced back, Alphard wasn’t anywhere to be seen.

They stepped outside once more— by now it was nearing noon. The house behind them was still in shambles, but Draco’s attitude towards it had changed. He had felt safe there and he hadn’t even realized it. Was this what having loving relatives was like? They just? Gave you things because it may help you?

It took a moment for Draco to shake off the experience. With everything that had happened to him in the last 24 hours, he felt he was coping fairly well at this point.

They were all congregated in the front lawn when Draco joined them, Kreacher by his side, still mumbling about the state of Alphard’s house.

“Yes, well, you don’t need to worry about his house anymore, do you, Kreacher?” Draco asked him.

“No, no. Master Draco treats Kreacher so nice and is probably much more clean than Master Alphard.” He kept going on and Draco had to cut him off once more.

When he joined the group, they all looked to him once more. “Kreacher, will you take my friends and me to the cave you went to with Regulus.”

Kreacher looked down at the ground, scraping his feet. “Is Master Draco sure he does not want to go alone?”

“Is there any reason why I should, Kreacher?”

“The cave is dangerous. Kreacher does not like the cave. And Harry Potter should not be in that place. Kreacher knows that Harry Potter is important and should not go to dangerous places.”

Draco pushed that aside. They all knew the cave was dangerous. They could just only hope that they would be able to make it out unscathed. Evil must be destroyed, no matter the cost.

“Kreacher, we understand the risks. Please take us.”

Draco almost didn’t have time to recover and process as Kreacher took hold of them and apparated them away. The twisting feeling of traveling so far nearly made him sick and he almost fell against Harry when they arrived.

The first thing he noticed was the salty smell of the ocean. It was behind them, tumultuous waves crashing at the rocks and sending small droplets of water careening towards them. And there, not too far, was the cave.

They were here.

Chapter Text

They were standing on a small cliff, huddled fairly close together. The waves were crashing on the rocks behind and below them, the salt clinging to their skin.

Harry took a glance around before spotting the cave. It was down a ways and they would have to swim but one glance at the icy, turbulent water and Harry knew that wasn’t something he was very keen to do.

“There,” Harry said, pointing down towards where the cave was. The rest of the group focused on where he had indicated and Ron groaned. Kreacher stood shivering, but for once was silent.

“Well,” Hermione spoke with determination. “We’ll just have to swim.”

She led the way as they all watched, wide eyed, hearts in their throats hoping that she didn’t slip. When Hermione reached the cold water and lowered herself in, they could all see the look on her face and judging by the sound she let out, it was frigid.

Hermione threw a glance up at them. “Come on. I’m not waiting for you.”

Ron rushed down next, almost falling to his death at one point but swam to catch up to Hermione. Harry and Draco exchanged a glance.

Trying to lighten the mood, Harry cracked a hesitant smile. “Now or never.” He followed his friends down the cliff, leaving behind only Draco and Kreacher.

Draco had temporarily forgotten the house elf was even there until he felt a tug at the hem of his robes. “Master Draco?”

“Yes, Kreacher?”

Kreacher looked like he was about to cry, but Draco wasn’t even sure house elves were capable of such a thing. “Kreacher does not want to go in the cave.”

“Because it’s dangerous?”

Looking down, Kreacher scraped his feet on the ground. “Master Draco will not make Kreacher do what Master Regulus made Kreacher do, will he?”

Now, Draco crouched down to be eye level with the house elf. “What did he make you do, Kreacher?”

“Kreacher and Master Regulus took a small boat to the small island. Master Regulus ordered Kreacher to drink the potion. Bad potion. Made Kreacher feel like he was dying. Lots of pain. Kreacher does not want to go in the cave, Master Draco.”

His voice sounded genuinely frightened, but Draco couldn’t leave him here. “Kreacher, we need your help. I promise that I won’t make you drink the potion, but we need you to show us the way. Please? I won’t make you, but I also won’t lie to you. We do need you, Kreacher.”

Kreacher made a small noise before looking up to meet Draco’s eyes. “Kreacher will go for Master. But Master Draco promises not to make Kreacher drink the bad potion?”

Draco nodded. “I promise, Kreacher.”

Satisfied, Kreacher made his way down the rock face after Harry. That left Draco alone on the cliff with a little time to think. Hermione had just disappeared into the cave, the others swimming after her.

He took a deep breath. The way Kreacher spoke made it clear that someone was going to have to drink a potion that made you feel like you were dying. His eyes wandered to Harry and he knew that there was no way around it.

Draco decided the others had no right to make climbing down the rock look so easy. There were multiple moments when Draco had to pause and cling to the rock, willing himself not to fall. It felt like pushing gravity away from him.

When his feet entered the water, they were numb near instantly. Then, his legs began to sink in and a full shiver had enveloped his body before the water conquered his kneecaps. He planned on making this a short swim.

His chest was the worst, however. When the water slipped up above his ribs, Draco found himself shivering so violently he could barely swim properly, but pushed himself on, following the shapes of his friends in front of him.

They all were entering the cave now and Draco sped up his swimming after them.

Inside the cave was dark, sending further shivers down Draco’s spine that had nothing to do with the cold he felt. When he got close enough, he saw that Hermione had risen out of the water, Ron and Harry standing next to her. Kreacher clambered up to stand by them and as Draco reached the area he found there were steps underneath the water. The companions all crowded around, none wanting to be the first to set foot into the cave.

Ron took the first step. They all breathed a sigh of relief when nothing happened. He chuckled, turning around to face them. “Well, that’s good because I was worried about magic traps or something.” His face, however, still looked remarkably worried and he gulped. “Anyone want to join me in taking a step further into the cave?”

Harry did, but he clearly wasn’t scared. His face looked, rather, angry at the situation. “What the hell is this? There’s clearly no place for the locket to be.” He whirled on Kreacher. “Are you lying to us, Kreacher?”

The house elf shrunk at the tone of Harry’s voice, gripping Draco’s sodden robes and semi hiding behind him. That reminded Draco of something important and he pulled out his wand and quickly spelled them all dry— Kreacher included. Ron immediately thanked him.

He was about to respond to Harry and chastise him for speaking to Kreacher in such a way when Hermione walked deeper into the small cave. “Harry’s right. This isn’t where the locket will be. But, Kreacher did still take us to the right place.” Now, she turned to the house elf. “Kreacher, how did Regulus get in to where the locket was?”

Kreacher was still shivering behind Draco’s robes but he liked Hermione well enough to answer. “Master Regulus went through the wall.” He pointed a shaky hand ahead of them. Directly toward the wall.

Nodding, Hermione set to work. She removed one shoulder strap from her pack, slinging it around in front of her in order to rummage through its contents. “I think there was something in one of these about...hidden...passageways.” After a moment, she pulled out a book. The title Advanced Defense for the Post-Schooling Learner (subtitle What the Aurors Don’t Want You to Know) could clearly be seen written on the cover. Humming, Hermione flipped through it before dropping it onto the ground in order to continue digging through the pack. Must have been the wrong one.

Next she retrieved another clearly titled book, her face immediately falling at the sight. Also wrong. It landed atop Advanced Defense. Finally, she retrieved a thick, leather bound, black book.

The rest all took a step back when it was brought out: its mere presence radiated Dark Magic.

“Hermione, put that back. That isn’t the kind of book we should be using,” Draco said at once. He knew books like that. There were ones similar in his father’s library. It must have been one of Walburga’s. Even Kreacher sunk back behind Draco’s robes again.

“No need to worry,” came Hermione’s cheerful response as she cracked the cover of the ominous book. When the pages were opened, the wave hit them all stronger, Ron letting out a small gasp.

“Hermione—“ he began.

“I said no need to worry.” Her voice came out much sharper this time. “And don’t distract me I need to get through this fast. You can only have this book open so long before it corrupts you.” As she spoke, she flipped through the pages.

That was exactly the reason Draco had warned her against using such a book. There were things that magic contained. It could potentially affect them all if Hermione was unable to find what she needed fast enough.

Suddenly, she slammed the book closed and slipped it back into her pack. All of them breathed out a rush of thankful air. Draco only now realized that his senses were coming back to him: he was once more able to feel the cold the water had left on his skin and hear the sounds of the wet cave.

Hermione walked to the section of wall Kreacher had indicated, extending her wand and pointing at it.

“Hermione, don’t!” Harry yelled, grasping her wrist. “We can’t use magic, remember?”

She turned to look at Draco. “Does the Department of Magical Tracking and Potential Threats track wands or people?”

“Wands but, Hermione, you can’t do any of that wandless.”

“I know. Give me yours.” Her tone left no room for argument, but Draco was still hesitant to hand it over. When he stepped forward to hand it to her, he noted Kreacher stayed behind, still shivering with fear.

When Hermione has Draco’s wand in her hand, she made no hesitation before casting her spell. A small diffindo cut open her palm and Harry leapt forward once more. This time, Draco held out a hand to stop him, sure that Hermione knew what she was doing.

They all watched as she placed her bloodied hand on the wall, breaths frozen in their throats out of anticipation and fear.

A blazing white arch outline appeared in the rock face before it opened up to reveal the deeper part of the cave. With another quick spell, Hermione mended her palm and Draco noticed she didn’t hand his wand back.

They stood peering into a large chamber with high ceilings that sprouted stalactites. Far beneath paved deep waters, frozen without the ripple of a single wave to fold them. Together, they entered.

Draco looked down when he felt a tug on his robes. Kreacher— who was shaking harder than ever now— clearly wanted to say something to Draco. “Master, there is a boat. We must go to the island in the middle.” This time, Kreacher didn’t dare extend a hand to point.

“Where is the boat, Kreacher?”

Still shaking, Kreacher stepped deeper into the cavern before he grasped at something unseen and began to pull. Suddenly, a chain materialized out of the air and Kreacher began to give heaving pulls. It wasn’t long before the tip of a small boat started to break the surface.

Just then, it was as if the boat began to pull back and Kreacher lurched forward, the chain dragging him along. The house elf scrambled to his feet but there was another tug— a grayish hand reached up to give a pull from the other end of the chain. With another harsh tug, Kreacher lurched forward once more, now within reach of the ghostly hand.

The inferi reached out faster than it should have been able and took hold of Kreacher by the arm. Draco surged forward, hand extended towards Kreacher’s outstretched one. “Master!” Kreacher screamed, his eyes locked with Draco’s as the inferi pulled him back and into the water.

Draco was still careening after him, something in his blood begging to dive in after the house elf and save him but, luckily, Harry caught him around the waist before he was too close to the water.

Finally, the frozen scream erupted from him. “Kreacher!” Then, everything fell still. Harry was still holding, making small sushing sounds and it was only then that Draco noticed the tears streaming down his cheeks, his hand still reaching out to where Kreacher’s would have been.

“It’s okay, Draco. There’s nothing we can do.”

Gathering himself, Draco pushed down his feelings to the same place as he did with everything that happened to him in the last ten and a half months. He had further resolve now. Sirius did not die in vain. Kreacher did not die in vain. Evil must be defeated no matter the cost.

He straightened up, shaking Harry off with a look of determination in his eyes. “We need to get the boat,” he said quietly.

Together, the four of them were able to pull it out of the water easily, the inferi’s strength being no match for them collectively. It was then that they all exchanged a few glances. The boat was clearly only big enough for two of them.

Harry took a deep breath, looking at the boat. “I’ll go.”

Hermione rolled her eyes. “Don’t be ridiculous. We’re all willing to go, of course, but if you look at this from a logical standpoint it should be me.”

“No, I’ll go,” Ron joined in. “There’s no reason you should risk it, Hermione.”

Harry turned towards her. “Yeah. Ron and I’ll go. We’ll be a team on this.”

Hermione scoffed. “Don’t be preposterous. You two would die in three seconds flat. Harry, we can’t risk that and Ron, you don’t know enough about the Dark Arts to go. If there’s anyone who would be able to complete this successfully and with the least risk, it would be Draco and I. You two can’t even do magic without being tracked! Draco has to go.”

Harry took a step towards and they stood toe to toe. “There is no way I’m letting my fiancé—“ As the fighting broke out between the two, Draco stepped forward and took Ron by the elbow, tugging him away slightly.

“Listen, Ron,” he began. “Kreacher had somewhat told me about what is going to happen. You see that?” Draco pointed towards the island where the basin with what he assumed was the potion was. Ron nodded. “It’s filled with a potion. There’s no way to get rid of it other than to drink it, but it causes immense pain when you do so. Essentially, you have to have someone force you to keep drinking.”

Their eyes met for a somber moment: a look of understanding.

“While they fight, you and I are going to take the boat and go to the island. And then, Ron. Ron, I will drink the potion.” Ron’s eyes went wide.

“But, Mal—“

“No. I’m going to do it. I need you to make me keep drinking no matter what I say. No matter what you hear Harry yelling or how much I beg you. Do you understand, Ron? Make me keep drinking until the potion is gone and you are able to grab the locket.”

“But, why? Why you? The Order needs you to—“

Draco put a hand on Ron’s shoulder, looking him seriously in the eyes. “The Order needs you too, Ron. Do this, yeah? We don’t have a lot of time to bicker; Harry and Hermione will stop arguing soon and I think we can both agree we don’t want either of them going, right?”

Ron nodded, straightening up with a look of determination in his eyes. Bloody Gryffindors. “Okay. Okay, yeah. Let’s do it, Draco.”

They were barely settled into the boat when Hermione caught a glance of them over Harry’s shoulder. “What are you two doing?” she shrieked.

But they were already headed towards the island. As the boat pulled them closer, Draco blocked out their words in his mind. He knew what he had to do. While he was sure his imagination couldn’t begin to compare to the pain this potion would cause him, he had already survived being crucioed multiple times. He could do this. If he died in the process, well then...that is just what would have to happen. Sacrifices must be made. Evil must be destroyed at all costs.

The boat rocked slightly when it touched the shore— the inferi could be seen drifting dead under the surface of the water. Both Draco and Ron exited the boat, Draco placing a hand on Ron’s shoulder when he turned his head back to Harry and Hermione.

“I need you to focus, Ron. No matter what I say, okay?”

Meeting his eyes, Ron nodded. Draco pulled out his wand and transfigured Ron’s button into a goblet. He gazed down at the putrid liquid, his stomach turning. Already, he wanted to panic and the pain had not yet started.

He plunged the goblet into the potion and raised it to his lips.

It burnt his lips and tongue like he imagined acid would and he swallowed fast. His hand flew up to his throat, certain he would find a hole there. He could feel the potion ripping its way down to his stomach where it began to boil him alive from the inside. Tipping the goblet back, he drained the rest of it.

Now, his body crumpled to the ground, both hands coming to grasp at his throat. He felt like he had been forced to drink fiendfyre and that it would not stop until it spread from his lips and tongue and throat and stomach to consume his entire body.

His mind didn’t even notice Ron bending down to retrieve the fallen goblet, nor did he notice how much Ron’s hand shook when he filled the goblet a second time.

And then the acid was once more pourn down his throat.

Draco’s hands shot out to grasp Ron’s wrist and as the torrent stopped and he swallowed it all, he pulled tight, trying to prevent Ron from refilling the goblet. “No more,” he cried, his voice broken. “Please, no.”

Panic stricken, Ron shoved off Draco’s hand hastily refilled the goblet a third time. It was forced down Draco’s throat fast and he didn’t have time to try and stop Ron before the goblet was empty for a fourth time.

As Ron was refilling the goblet again, Draco lay on the ground and his eyes focused back to the shore. The pain was filling his body and his mind— he was unable to hear what was happening— but he was vaguely able to register Harry struggling towards him, Hermione holding him back at the water’s edge.

His face was titled to the sky and the foul liquid sloshed down his throat again. Pain overtook his body. It was worse than any crucio he had ever experienced— the greatest pain he would ever feel and he began convulsing. He couldn’t do this anymore.

Just as the sixth goblet full of potion was coming at him, Draco lunged forward, his nails going straight for Ron’s eyes. Yelling, Ron jumped back before pinning Draco to the ground underneath him and pushing the goblet past his lips again.

Draco swallowed and when he came up for a breath, he let out a wild scream that echoed across the cavern. The sound was grating on the ears and the water shook with his agony.

It was as the seventh goblet came down towards him that Draco began to beg, his throat raw. “Please, no! You can’t! You can’t, you monster! Don’t! Please, no. I can’t do it, I—“ His pleas were cut off as he began to choke when Ron poured the potion down his throat again.

After he swallowed, the fire spreading inside of him, his body convulsed again, his mind whited out in agony. No longer aware of what he was saying, he thrashed and tried to run, but Ron held him down and forced the eighth portion down his throat.

He was vaguely aware that he was screaming as his body revolted against him, turning to base survival instincts. With strength he didn’t know he had, Draco broke lose of Ron’s grip and swung a punch directly at his jaw. It knocked Ron back and off of him for just enough of a moment that Draco began clawing his way towards safety: Harry and the water that would stop the flames ripping through his body.

His fingers were mere inches from the water when he was violently pulled back. Ron flipped him back over and poured more down his throat.

Kill me,” Draco screamed. “Make it end, kill me!

More potion. Draco started spitting any curse or hex he could think of, but Hermione still held his wand and in his frazzled state none of them did anything. As Ron attempted to push the goblet past his lips again, he turned his head to the side and bit down on the back of his hand as hard as he could. Draco could taste the blood coating his teeth as Ron cursed before the other hand came up to pin Draco’s forehead to the ground.

“This. Is. The. Last. One,” Ron grit out through his teeth, ignoring the way Draco’s hands reached up to claw at his face. When Draco’s mouth opened in another pained scream, Ron took the opportunity to tilt the last portion into his open throat.

Draco was fully incoherent now, shivering in pain as Ron snatched the locket from the bottom of the basin. Harry and Hermione were yelling at him from the shore— Harry in particular. His voice was hoarse and there were tears streaming down his face.

“He needs water, Ron,” Harry screamed, his pain evident in his words.

“He has to drink from the lake. It’s the only way. I’ll use Draco’s wand to fight off the inferi, but Ron if he’s going to live, he has to drink the water!” Hermione yelled.

Ron lunged, sure that Hermione was right, and filled the goblet with the dead water, tipping it past Draco’s near comatose lips.

His eyes were shocked open and he grasped Ron’s wrists, his nails digging in as he screamed in agony once more. The inferi began climbing out of the water all around them and Hermione was clearing them a path as best as she could.

Draco was holding tight to Ron, tears streaming from his eyes and begging for an end to his pain. Ron threw them both into the boat and it began to race back across the shore, Draco convulsing in his arms.

Chapter Text

Harry’s mind only registered one thing: Draco had just drank some random potion.

What were they doing? What was happening?

And then Draco fell to the ground in obvious pain.

Harry watched in horror as his best friend picked up the empty goblet, refilled it, and began to force it down the throat of the love of Harry’s life.

This couldn’t be happening.

He heard Draco’s cry of, “please, no more,” and that was when Harry lost it.

He began to run towards the shore: he would swim through the inferi if he had to. It didn’t matter. He had to get to Draco. He was in pain, he—

Hermione grabbed him around the waist, struggling with him to stay back from the water. “It’ll only make things worse, Harry,” she tried to tell him, but he couldn’t hear her over the sound of his own voice.

“Ron!” He yelled. “Stop, Ron, what the fuck are you doing? What are you doing? Why are you hurting him? Stop, please. Just stop. Please!”

Draco’s head lolled to the side and his eyes landed on Harry. With renewed strength Harry reached out to him, Hermione having to throw all of her weight backwards in order to prevent them from both falling into the deadly lake.

Harry watched, terrified, as Ron took Draco’s face and tilted it, pouring in more of the potion. Draco began convulsing, his hands reaching out as if to grasp safety, a scream ripping from his throat. Harry couldn’t handle it anymore. He collapsed to the ground, his body to weak to hold him up.

But he couldn’t tear his eyes away.

Blinded by pain, no doubt, Draco began to attempt to claw out Ron’s eyes and Harry couldn’t look away as Ron forced Draco to drink more.

Harry felt like his heart was being physically ripped out of him and when Draco let out that blood curdling scream, Harry couldn’t stop his own from answering, his hand clutching at his chest.

Hermione kneeled next to him, rubbing his back as he began to vomit. The sound kept him from hearing Draco’s begging for the pain to end.

Anger began to swell in Harry. What was Ron doing? How could he do this to Draco? When Harry got his hands on him, he was going to fucking—

Draco’s scream echoed through the cavern once more.

“Make the pain stop. Please, I’ll do anything. Anything! Just make it stop!” His voice cut itself off with a long, drawn out cry: Harry’s name.

This time when Harry lurched forward, Hermione had no choice but to petrify him to the spot where he looked on in horror as Draco reared up and quite possibly broke Ron’s jaw before making his way for the water.

Ron grabbed Draco and forced him to drink the last of the potion making him go slack and Harry’s heart stopped.

He didn’t even register that Ron was able to grab the locket. His eyes were just fixed on Draco’s seizing form. Hermione took the petrification off of him and that’s when it clicked.

“He needs water, Ron!”

Harry was vaguely aware of Hermione yelling something beside him, but he paid it no mind, only able to focus on the crippling relief he felt when Draco was for sure alive.

Draco clung to Ron for dear life as they clambered to the boat past the inferi Hermione was fighting off. Harry left her there to focus on her task and made sure he was standing at the exact spot for where they would end up. Hermione was having trouble keeping the inferi from sinking their boat and Ron was having to shove their hands off as they grabbed on, attempting to pull them down.

Harry reached as far as he could without touching the water, both hands extended. Once the boat was close enough, he leapt on, grabbing his fiancé at once and pulling him off the boat, Ron quickly following.

He cradled Draco close to his chest, feeling the way his body still convulsed and the vibrations in his chest from his moans of pain. Draco’s slender, pale fingers curled into Harry’s clothes and he pulled himself closer.

“We have to get out of here!” Hermione yelled and they all began running to the outer cave at full speed, Harry doing his best to carry Draco with him, Draco’s head pressed into Harry’s chest as he shivered in agony.

They exited into the smaller cave and Hermione was able to close the wall behind them. Now they were no longer under the threat of the inferi, but they still had to find help for Draco.

“We need to get him to Pomfrey,” Hermione said, coming to touch Draco’s skin and take his pulse. “He needs medical attention immediately. We need Pomfrey and his mother and Snape now.” Harry wasn’t paying attention to what she was saying: his eyes were burning a hole in his best friend.

He didn’t care that Ron was shaking half to death and ready to vomit. He didn’t care about the tears still streaming down his face or the way he was barely able to stand. He didn’t care about how Ron couldn’t take his eyes off of Draco.

“How could you?” He asked, his voice low, cutting off Hermione.

She slapped him across the face, his attention rapidly coming back to her, shocked. “Now is not the fucking time, Harry. We need to find a way out of here and we can’t apparate without Draco or Kreacher. So think or he is going to die, Harry.”

Harry’s brain scrambled as the thought occurred to him. Hermione was right and his fiancé was dying in his arms. Not allowing panic to overtake him, he desperately tried to think of a solution.

“Dobby!” Harry screamed, hoping Dobby would be able to get to them here.

“Harry Potter, sir!” Came the chipper reply from directly in front of him.

“Dobby, take us to Madam Pomfrey at Hogwarts immediately. We need her help. Also, once you get us there we need you to subtly retrieve Snape and Narcissa without alerting them or anyone around them to the situation. Can you do that?”

“Dobby can keep good secrets, Harry Potter, sir.” Dobby reached out and took hold of them, apparating them directly into the hospital wing of Hogwarts.

Madam Pomfrey fell over herself at the startle, sending magical medical objects flying across the room. She shrieked the moment she saw Draco.

“My dears, what happened?”

Harry laid Draco down on the nearest bed as Hermione began vaguely explaining. “He had to drink a potion and we can’t tell you why and we don’t know what it was, but he’s dying.”

Pomfrey already had her wand out and was running checks on Draco who was looking paler than ever. Harry couldn’t stop the tears as he clasped at Draco’s hand and found it cold.

Before she had reached any conclusions, Snape burst into the room, escorted by Dobby. He took a quick step forward to Draco and began talking in hushed tones with Pomfrey about what she had found out so far.

While they were discussing, Dobby delivered the third requested guest to the room. Narcissa cried out and threw herself to her unconscious son’s side, sobbing.

“Dobby,” Snape whirled. “I need you to go to my office and retrieve the locked, black and purple box. Now.”

With a pop, the house elf was off. In a matter of moments he was back and Snape had already procured the proper key. Pomfrey was rummaging in one of her cabinets.

Pomfrey pulled out a pink potion at the same moment Snape picked two from the box: one was black and thick, the other clear, as well as a bezoar.

The bezoar was shoved down Draco’s throat, followed by portions of each of the three potions, carefully measured out by Snape

Draco awoke with a start and began hacking, his hands flying to his throat until he coughed up the bezoar. He opened his mouth and began to speak, but Snape cut him off.

“Do not attempt to speak, Draco. Madam Pomfrey and I will do everything in our power to restore you to full health but, for now, you must leave here and rest. Dobby will take you all back to where you will be safe. I alone will remain here and I will send the necessary potions to Narcissa. I need to say that I have no idea what you four were doing, but that I hope you well thought out the risks you were taking.”

Snape turned and left in a flourish. Silence returned to the room before Narcissa lifted her head to glare at them.

“What were you doing?” she asked, her voice low.

Madam Pomfrey cut in. “I believe Dobby should deliver you back before you get quite into that.” They all took her cue and Dobby apparated them individually to Grimmauld Place, Draco first, Narcissa last. Draco leaned on Harry, half being held by him.

She immediately turned on them, her voice louder than before. “What were you doing?”

The harsh sounds of her voice woke up the portrait of Walburga and Ron and Hermione rushed to shut it up. Harry stood toe-to-toe with his future mother in-law, his anger building. He didn’t understand the situation either. And why should he be the one to blame, anyway.

Once Walburga had stopped shouting, Hermione quietly suggested they find a room where they could have this conversation in private. It was only then that Harry even noticed the rest of the Order crowded around the hallway, looking for a peak at what had happened. Most of the faces were clearly shocked to see Harry— he had forgotten he technically wasn’t supposed to be there. Remus shouldered his way to the front and gestured for them to head upstairs.

Ron tried to come over to help support Draco as the group made their way up the stairs but Harry raised a hand in front of him. Draco’s head was lolling on Harry’s shoulder, half conscious as Harry whispered, “Don’t you come near him.”

Harry didn’t let anyone else touch Draco: he picked up his fiancé and carried him up the stairs before depositing him in a chair of a nearly empty room that Remus had led them into.

The moment Remus latched the door behind them, Narcissa turned, expecting answers but she couldn’t begin to question Harry before he turned on Ron.

“What the fuck was that, Ron?”

Tears immediately sprung to Ron’s eyes as he stumbled over his words to explain.

“You could have killed him!”

“I—he—“

“He could have—“

They both stopped short when Draco groaned from the chair, his eyes opening just barely, still incredibly weak with dull pain throbbing through his limbs. He extended a weak hand out and Harry was about to make a move to grab it when he realized Draco wasn’t reaching for him.

He was reaching for Ron.

Tears now falling openly down his face, Ron collapsed to the floor beside the chair, holding white-knuckled to Draco’s hand. “Draco, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, I—“

“Shh,” Draco cut him off with a small sigh, barely heard. He lifted his head feebly to look Ron in the eyes. “Thank you,” he croaked, his voice and throat raw before laying his head back and promptly falling asleep.

They all gave Ron a moment as he sat sobbing, still holding tight to Draco’s hand. With a sniffle, he lifted his head up and it was only then that Harry even truly registered the sorry state that his best friend was in.

Ron had a deep purple bruise blossoming on the left corner of his jaw, yellow around the edges already. There were long, red scratch marks across his face, especially around his eyes, and he was even bleeding in a few places from where Draco’s nails had broken skin. The same claw marks could be seen running the lengths of his forearms. And he looked exhausted.

His eyes lifted to Harry’s. “Harry, I’m sorry. Really. I didn’t want to do it but we knew someone had to. Kreacher had told Draco that someone had to drink the potion and that it would be terrible and he volunteered himself. He told me that I would have to force him to drink it and then we stole the boat while you two weren’t paying attention.” Ron reached his other hand up to wipe at the tears coming down his face, wincing when he caught the back of his hand on one of the open wounds. “I’m so sorry, Harry.”

Harry didn’t know what to say. Obviously, it wasn’t like he wanted Ron to have done it instead. He would rather have been in the situation himself.

But that was just what Draco was always talking about, wasn’t it? Harry didn’t always have to be the one sacrificing anything.

And this was exactly Harry’s problem with other people making the sacrifices. He couldn’t just watch his loved ones die. He couldn’t do it anymore.

After taking a steadying breath, he spoke. “Okay, new friendship rule. If you’re going to do stupid shit, fucking inform your friends first. Do you have any idea what I was thinking when I was watching all of that happen?” Ron squeezed his eyes shut and Harry was sure he was picturing having to hold Draco down and force him to drink the potion.

It was only then that he realized what that experience must have been like for Ron and his anger immediately dissipated.

“Hey, Ron. It’s okay.” He knelt and reached a hand out to rest on his friend’s shoulder. “I don’t blame you. I don’t blame anyone but Vol—“

“Don’t!” Came shrieks from around the room and Harry near jumped out of his skin, clearly having forgotten the trace on the name.

Inexplicably, Ron began to laugh at that moment. The sound broke into the room, lifting the hairs on the back of Harry’s neck. It didn’t seem right. Not when he was holding Draco’s unconscious hand.

“Thanks for making things feel a bit more normal, Harry.” Their eyes met and Harry found himself wearing a shadow of a smile as well.

Draco was right: he should have payed more attention to what Dumbledore said about love. Here he was, with a fiancé tortured by his best friend and it was only the fact that it was his best friends that Harry wasn’t panicking right now.

While he and Ron sat and had a moment, Hermione began talking to Narcissa and Remus in hushed tones. Harry only noticed when Remus slipped out the door but his attention didn’t linger because Draco began to blearily open his eyes again.

This time, he saw Harry and he gave him a soft smile before mouthing “I’m sorry.”

Harry reached out to cup Draco’s face in his hands. “There’s no need to be sorry, Draco. I would have done the same thing.” A moment of silence passed. “How about we get you to a bed, love?”

With an immense amount of effort, Draco nodded his head. Harry stood and bent down to collect Draco in his arms.

It was only once they had shut the door on Draco’s sleeping form that they all began to speak in hushed tones in the hallway.

“Severus will be sending over a few potions within the hour,” Narcissa said. “I will administer them according to his instructions. We don’t know how long Draco’s recovery will take, however.” Now, she gave a pointed look at Harry. “And, I would like to know exactly how you are here. Come talk to me when you get a chance.”

That left Harry, Ron, and Hermione.

“Remus has the sword of Gryffindor,” Hermione said. “He’ll bring it to us so we can destroy to locket. After that, we’ll only have Nagini and whatever the last horcrux is.”

That was a relief. They were almost at the end of this. Just a few more horcruxes to go and then Harry would be able to kill Voldemort. It made his skin thrum in fear and anticipation.

He nodded to Ron. “Let’s see it.”

Slowly, Ron reached into his pocket and pulled out Slytherin’s locket. It gleamed in the dim light of Grimmauld Place.

Ron slipped it back into his pocket as Remus came up the stairs, the sword of Gryffindor in his hands. He looked skeptically at it, then them. “I don’t know why you need this, but I know you do. Severus made sure that it was kept here and he said that you would know what to do with it.” He extended it out towards them and Harry took the familiar blade into his hands. They had already used it to destroy the other horcruxes and now this was all close to being over.

Remus nodded at them before leaving them alone. They were the only ones in the hall and they decided to just do it there: get it over with.

“Ron, you can do the honors,” Harry said, pushing the handle of the sword towards his best friend. “You and Draco were the ones who had to struggle for it. You should do it.”

The locket was placed on the floor and Harry knelt by it.

“How do we get it open?” Ron asked, the sword hovering above the locket.

Harry blinked. He didn’t know. They had come all this way and if they weren’t able to open the locket to kill the piece of soul inside of it, it would all be for nothing.

Above him, Hermione looked thoughtful. “Well, it’s Slytherin’s locket. Maybe....Maybe ask it to open?”

They both raised an eyebrow at her.

“I mean, in parseltongue. It’s a clearly Slytherin trait and remember second year? Everyone was saying you must have been a descendant if Salazar himself if you were able to speak it. Ask it to open. See if it works.”

Harry and Ron exchanged a glance. “Okay. Let’s try it. But Ron, you’ll have to be ready to stab it if it opens, okay? Immediately. Don’t waste time or this could kill us.”

Ron nodded, his eyes sure. “Go.”

Harry focused on the locket. “One, two, three, open,” he spoke in parseltongue.

The locket flew open and Ron heaved his weight onto the sword without hesitation. A small shriek emanated from within the locket before it shattered into multiple pieces, the sword tip thunking against the floor.

Harry stood up, now realizing that he was shaking. They all were. Breathing heavy, Ron slumped against the wall behind him.

The locket was destroyed and they were one step closer to being able to kill Voldemort.

Chapter Text

It was official. Draco was under suspicion by the Ministry. They hadn’t determined him a collusionist yet, but they were close. Narcissa wasn’t able to come and visit him during his recovery— as his absence grew longer and longer, she had to publicly state that she did not know where her son was or what he was doing, all by the side of her husband who was doing the same, only much more truthfully.

If Draco pulled through this, he would have to have a damn good story about his absence. And he didn’t. So as far as the Order was concerned, he could no longer be a spy.

He was sleeping a lot these days, Madam Pomfrey stopping by often to check on him, as well as Snape. Snape especially would send over potions quite often— one in particular that Draco had to take a dose of every six hours. Slowly, he was starting to get his strength back, but it was taking a long time.

Throughout these days, Ron and Hermione had been trying to convince Harry to continue with what they needed to do: kill Nagini and find out what the last horcrux was. But Harry refused to leave Draco’s side.

Draco was asleep again, Harry sitting at his side, perched on the edge of the bed. These past few days he’d been running a pretty bad fever— Snape had warned that may happen as a side-effect of the potion. Harry reached over to the nightstand where a basin full of water rested, a washcloth inside of it. He rung out the washcloth and pressed it against Draco’s forehead and the back of his neck, trying to bring his temperature down. Draco’s eyes fluttered when the damp cloth touched his skin, but he did not wake.

Because none of them were able to use magic, Harry had found a muggle alarm clock that he would continually set for every six hours to make sure that Draco would get his next dose of the potion.

A knock came from the door, startling Harry from his task. He turned over his shoulder, not moving from his position at Draco’s side.

Hesitantly, Ron opened the door before stepping in and closing it behind him. “Hey,” he whispered. Harry acknowledged him with a nod and Ron made his way over to Harry. “How’s he doing?”

“No improvement. He’s still pretty out of it. Pomfrey said she’ll be back to check on him tomorrow.”

Harry looked back at Draco, laid out on his side, knowing that something inside him was struggling to wake up by the way he slept fitfully. Reaching out, Harry took his hand, moving his thumb in soothing circles on the back of it, trying to calm him. It didn’t help. Nothing helped.

He looked up when he felt a hand on his shoulder. Ron was clearly concerned. “And how are you doing, Harry?”

“What do you mean? I’m fine. It’s Draco we should be worried about.”

Ron repressed the urge to roll his eyes. He knew where Harry was coming from and he shouldn’t chastise him for being concerned for his fiancé. “Yes, Harry, but you have to take care of yourself too. You haven’t left this room in days.” Harry’s eyes didn’t leave Draco’s face. “Come on. It’s dinner time. Please just leave this room once or my mother is going to break down in stress. You can come back up here right after you eat and you can stay here for the next three days but you need to come out of here occasionally, okay?”

Harry didn’t move. When he spoke, his voice was barely a whisper, thick with emotion. “What if he wakes up?”

“Well then, you’ll be right downstairs. And, for the love of Godric, you have to start sleeping better.”

“Draco needs his potion ever six hours.”

“Yes. I’m aware. But someone else can take the alarm clock and come in here and give him his potion. You need to sleep too. You aren’t alone in this.”

A lump had formed in Harry’s throat. “Draco always used to tell me that,” he choked, desperately trying not to sob as he remained staring at his fiancé’s far too pale skin.

“Hey.” Ron grabbed Harry’s face and turned it to make eye contact with him. “He’ll tell you that again. Probably as soon as he wakes up and we all tell him that you didn’t leave this room. Please, Harry, come eat dinner or my mother is literally going to start crying.”

With another glance at Draco, Harry gave a small nod. “Fine,” he whispered. Ron took his other hand and gave him a gentle tug and Harry reluctantly let go of Draco to stand and leave the room for the first time in days. At the door, he was unable to stop himself from glancing over his shoulder one last time before Ron placed a hand on his shoulder and guided him out.

Harry’s feet hit the bottom step and out onto the landing and the world seemed to snap to reality. He was actually here. It felt weird being so far from Draco, knowing what state he was in. Ron guided him, almost in a daze, into where everyone was gathered for dinner. Conversation wasn’t loud, per se, but the moment Harry walked in it definitely quietened.

It was Molly who rushed towards him. “Harry, dear,” she said softly, her hands reaching out to touch his upper arms. “So glad you came down for dinner. Come, sit.” She guided him to sit down between Luna and Hermione, the latter of whom gave him a sympathetic glance and reached out to touch the back of his hand. Harry, however, was simply staring at the opposite wall. Draco was upstairs. He would need another dose of his potion in a half hour. Harry should have taken the alarm clock with him. He should go get it.

He made a move to stand and he felt a firm hand pressing down against his shoulder. Looking up, he saw Ron standing above him, a soft smile on his face. “Don’t worry. Remus is watching him. He’ll make sure Draco gets his potion when he needs it,” Ron said under his breath.

With that, Harry felt like he was able to breathe. Just simply knowing that someone was keeping a close eye on Draco comforted him. Especially knowing it was someone capable. Really, Harry could cry knowing he had such amazing friends. They all truly cared for him so much.

Everyone gathered at the table and it was as if the food had suddenly appeared in front of them. Of course, it hadn’t because of the magical tracking— nearly everyone had taken part in bringing the food out to the table like a muggle family but Harry had zoned out for a second. He hadn’t even realized it.

Minutes later, Harry was jostled out of his thoughts once more by Fred, who was sitting across from him. “Harry, you look like shit. Eat something, yeah?”

Molly was sending Fred a practically murderous glare. “Don’t talk to him like that, Fred. We are incredibly happy that Harry has joined us for dinner.”

From Harry’s side, Luna spoke up. “With respect, Mrs. Weasley, I don’t think we’re doing Harry any favors by pretending he’s doing alright.”

Hermione leaned forward now. “I actually agree with Luna. He’s hasn’t come out of that room in days. Please eat something Harry.”

Not even feeling like he was making his own decisions, Harry reached out and took some bread, beginning to pick it apart with his fingers, his eyes fixated on a spot on the table. Draco was upstairs. What if he woke up? What if Remus wasn’t paying attention? What if— Harry nearly choked every time thought entered his mind: what if Draco died and Harry wasn’t there?

A warm hand closed around his wrist and Harry looked up, meeting Hermione’s eyes.

“Harry, did you hear what I just said?”

Blinking, Harry shook his head.

She nodded towards his plate and it was then that Harry’s eyes focused and he realized he had been tearing the bread to pieces without actually eating any of it. “Oh. Sorry.” He set the roll down, reaching instead to fiddle with the hem of his shirt.

“Alright, this is ridiculous.” Ron set down what he was eating and the room went silent. “Harry, when was the last time you ate?”

Harry looked vaguely in his direction, but not necessarily at his friend. “Yesterday.”

“Oh, really? What did you eat?”

“I—“ Harry paused, trying to think of what it had been. “I ate what you brought up.”

“Bullshit. I collected it this morning.” Molly gave him a scandalized look and told him to tone it down but he completely ignored her. “Harry, we had a talk about this fourth year, remember? When you’re stressed you forget to eat. You know that about yourself.” Harry now was looking pointedly away from Ron, knowing what he said was true. Very softly, Ron said, “You know that’s not what Draco needs right now.”

Harry leaned forward, putting his face in his hand, his eyes welling with tears.

Still speaking calmly, Ron kept talking. “When was the last time you slept?”

Sitting up, Harry wiped his eyes. “I don’t know.”

“Harry, how is that helping?”

“Nothing is helping!” Harry said, a bit louder than he intended but he found he couldn’t control himself. “Nothing is helping him but that doesn’t mean I can just go about my life as normal! I can’t function! What if he—“

Harry cut himself off, unable to say anymore. He couldn’t bear the thought and he buried his head in his hands, shoulders arching in on himself. His back racked with sobs as Hermione flung an arm around him and pulled him to her.

When he was able to breathe steady again, he sat up and wiped his eyes, looking back to Ron. “I just can’t leave him. I can’t about anything else.”

“I know, Harry. But you have to be strong enough right now to take care of both yourself and him. But we’ll help. All you have to do is eat what I bring up to you, yeah? Go to sleep at night. All we are asking is that you take care of yourself. Think about it, what would Draco say if he saw you in this state.”

Harry almost smiled at that. “He’d probably slap me. Tell me to get out of my own head.”

“Exactly. Now eat something.”

Luna began heaping portions onto his plate and Harry nodded, picking up his fork. It wasn’t long after he started eating that conversation began to buzz again in the silence. Harry, however, did not participate, preferring to remain acting on autopilot to free up his thoughts which were, of course, turning back to Draco. He wouldn’t think of anything else— it would probably stay that way for the rest of his life.

It was that thought he caught onto. The rest of his life. He could think about Draco for the rest of his life. Harry’s one grounding thought through all of this was that— if they survived— he would marry Draco. Their wedding would be gorgeous and Draco would look flawless in his dress robes and they would get married and everything would be happy. They would live in a world without Voldemort or without unnecessarily endangering themselves for whatever reason. They would get married and they would start a family and their problems would be normal people problems like a baby with a fever instead of a fiancé with one so bad he could barely wake up.

But, truly, this thought stabilized Harry. Draco was going to be his husband. There was a small band on Harry’s finger that proved that. And Ron was right: Harry had to be strong for them both right now. And he should listen to what Draco was always telling him because sometimes being strong is about being strong enough to admit that you need help. To lean on others. So Harry would.

After Harry had actually eaten, he quickly excused himself to dart back upstairs to Draco.

Remus was sitting in a chair by Draco’s beside when Harry got back up to the room. He looked up when Harry entered. “I gave him his potion as needed when the alarm clock rang out. He didn’t wake up, but he seems to be doing better.” At Draco’s side now, Harry could see what Remus meant. No longer tossing fitfully as if in pain, Draco was no lying on his side calmly, looking simply as if he were asleep.

“Thank you, Remus,” Harry said.

“Of course. And, I assumed Ron talked to you?” Harry nodded. “Then you will be getting some actual sleep tonight?” Again, a nod. “Well then. I will sit here to make sure he gets his potion in another six hours and you can go sleep in—“

Harry jerked his head up. “No.”

“I thought—“

“Just because I’m sleeping doesn’t mean I’m leaving him. Thank you, Remus, but you can go now. I’ll be sleeping here, next to my fiancé.”

Remus gave him a soft smile. “As long as you’re resting, I’ll take a compromise.” He stood and crossed the room to the door before pausing. “Remember. If you need anything.”

Harry nodded in acknowledgement.

Once the door clicked shut behind Remus, Harry moved to the other side of the bed and once more sat down at Draco’s side. Reaching out, he took the washcloth again from the basin, wringing it out before pressing it to Draco’s forehead and the back of his neck. His fever still hadn’t broken— Harry could tell by the sweat that beaded along his hairline. Hopefully Madam Pomfrey would be able to do something about that on her visit tomorrow. In the meantime, Harry would keep watch over him.

Harry remained in that position for another few hours, watching over Draco same as he had been doing for the last few days. Eventually, however, it got dark and Harry had made a round of promises at dinner to take care of himself better so he set about turning off the lights. He then lifted up the covers behind Draco and slid underneath them, determined to try and sleep but also unwilling to be more than a few feet from Draco for those long hours.

With the warmth of his fiancé mere inches away, the exhaustion from the last few days overwhelmed Harry and he fell asleep almost instantly.

He awoke to the sharp ringing of the alarm clock and had to stumble out of bed and over to the other side to turn it off, as he had stupidly left it on the opposite nightstand. Still in the dark, Harry reached for the next potion vial and tipped the contents into Draco’s mouth, same as he had been doing multiple times a day. He would take Draco’s chin and tilt it back to ensure the potion all slipped in. Harry was just setting the empty vial back on the table when Draco began to cough.

Rushing to his side, Harry reached out. “Draco,” he whispered into the darkness, his eyes only adjusted enough to make out Draco’s form, shoulders hacking. Panic began to seep in now as Harry repeated himself. “Draco?” Harry’s hand finally found his and he linked their fingers together, his heart soaring when he felt Draco squeeze back, even if it was only a light grip.

“Love, are you alright?” Harry asked as the coughing died down.

In response, Draco gave out a low moan.

“Okay, okay,” Harry kneeled next to the bed so he was eye level with Draco and found that his eyes were scrunched shut in pain. “Don’t try to speak, then. Just...nod or make sounds. Are you in pain?” A small groan came in reply. “Uh, okay. Is it bad? Do you want me to try and get a hold of Pomfrey?” Even in the darkness Harry was able to see Draco shake his head. “Okay, alright. I think I have a pain potion somewhere. Do you want that?”

Draco nodded and Harry jumped back to the nightstand, his one hand never leaving Draco’s for reassurance— his or Draco’s he didn’t know. He pulled open the drawer and reached in, searching through the vials he had stowed there until he finally found the pastel pink he was looking for.

“Okay, tilt your head back for me,” Harry said, popping the cork on the vial. Draco shifted slowly onto his back and Harry poured the potion into his mouth, watching him swallow it. “Better?” he asked a moment later. Draco’s moaned reply clearly communicated that it was.

Harry leaned forward, brushing hair away from Draco’s face. “It’s all going to be alright, love.” Draco’s skin was still fever-flushed, but he at least now looked like there was some color of life in him. For the past few days he had looked like a ghost. “It’s alright. Is there anything else I can do?”

When no response came, Harry realized that Draco’s breathing had become even once more. He was asleep. Standing, Harry reset the alarm clock and walked back around the bed. Lifting the covers, he slipped in next to Draco, reaching a hand out and snaking it around his waist, wanting to pull him close despite the intense heat his body was giving off.

Draco shifted in his sleep, pressing in towards Harry. Trying not to cry for what felt like the hundredth time that day, Harry pulled Draco closer and pressed his nose into Draco’s pale blond hair. He held him slightly tighter than he probably should, hoping and praying that everything would be fine and that Draco would wake up in the morning. Harry needed him. He couldn’t do this without him. And he knew that he would continue needing Draco for the rest of his life.

Chapter Text

Draco blinked his eyes open in the morning to the soft light filtering in the window behind him. It perfectly illuminated the highlights of golden in Harry’s dark hair and Draco smiled, one hand reaching out to softly brush it off of his forehead. At his touch, Harry’s eyes jumped open.

A beat and then a soft smile was stretching across Harry’s face. “You’re awake,” he whispered into the early morning.

Draco nodded in response, his throat in enough pain that he didn’t think it would be wise to speak aloud.

Harry’s hand came up to catch his before bringing it down to place a kiss on the back. “What do you need?” Draco made a pained face and reached up to his throat in response, not wanting to talk. Harry nodded in understanding. “Pomfrey’ll be stopping by later today. Now that you’re awake, she’ll be able to help more with specific things. I’ll also see if I can get into contact with Snape to see how long you need to take this potion every six hours.”

As Draco reached out in protest, Harry sat up, shaking his head and running a hand through his hair. Draco wanted to speak out and ask him to stay, but instead he reached up and wrapped his hands around Harry’s bicep, hoping he would get the message. Harry saw him and leaned down to kiss his forehead.

“I’ll be right back. I’m going to go see if I can get in contact with Pomfrey or Snape. See what you need, okay? I’ll take care of you.” Then he slipped from Draco’s hands.

He laid back on the bed and tried to just breathe. His throat really still felt like it was on fire. The memory of the one time he had spoken since drinking the potion— to thank Ron— was still clear in his mind and he was not keen on repeating that pain again. It felt like nothing Draco could even compare it to. He wondered if he would ever be able to get his voice back or if he would be unable to speak the rest of his life.

While it was a terrifying thought, Draco was surprised by how little it affected him. He felt no regret for what he did, no matter the pain. Just the thought that Harry would have been in this situation and Draco not acted quickly....He didn’t want to even consider it.

It wasn’t long before Harry arrived back. He came to Draco’s side. “They’ll both be over within the hour. Is there anything I can do for you until then?”

Knowing that he wouldn’t be able to communicate well, Draco made a motion of writing and Harry’s eyes lit up with understanding. He ran out of the room to fetch the parchment and quill.

When he came back balancing everything, Draco reached out to take it from him. Writing without a hard surface underneath was incredibly difficult with a quill, but Draco made do by propping it up against his leg. The first thing he wrote was what he really wanted to say to Harry about all of this:

I’m sorry

He turned the paper to allow Harry to see and Harry’s hand came up to wrap around Draco’s other wrist. “I know why you did it,” he whispered, unable to make his voice any louder. While he knew why he still didn’t want to accept that it happened.

I know, Draco wrote. But that doesn’t mean you’re okay with it. I want you to know that if there had been another solution that didn’t put any of us in danger, I would have done it. But there wasn’t and I stand by what I did. Harry watched over his shoulder, deciphering the cursive as Draco wrote it.

“Yeah, I uh—“ Harry stopped to clear his throat. “I talked to Ron about it a bit.”

Speaking of Ron, is he around?

Harry nodded. “Do you want to see him?”

I think I should talk to him.

“I agree. I’ll go get him.” Draco’s eyes followed Harry out of the room and he sat back against the headboard. What was he going to say to Ron? What is one supposed to say to someone who they had mutually hated for years but is now the best friend of their fiancé and also almost murdered them per their request?

There wasn’t exactly a formula for him to follow.

When he came back, Harry lingered in the doorway after allowing Ron to pass him, unsure if Draco wanted him to stay or not. Draco wasn’t sure either, so he simply didn’t acknowledge it as Ron walked to him.

“You wanted to talk?” Ron asked, but it was quiet, soft. Like Draco was fragile. People were going to act around him again the same way they had when Harry was in a coma: like Draco was going to shatter at any moment.

Reaching out to take the quill again, Draco wrote on the parchment same as before. Yes, Ron. I believe I owe you an apology.

Ron shook his head, defiant. “You owe me no such thing. We both did what we had to do.”

You still have my scratch marks on your face!

“Yeah,” Ron reached up, rubbing one and wincing. “For some reason, Pomfrey thinks they’re less likely to scar if we don’t use magic to mess with them. They sting like a bitch under water, though.”

Draco pulled a face, writing I’m sorry.

“Again, don’t be. I’m just glad you weren’t able to actually get me in the eyes,” Ron laughed. Draco found he could not return it.

Ron, I do have to apologize, though, he wrote. You had no idea what you were getting into and you were given no warning. I can’t imagine how difficult that was for you.

“Well, I’m not gonna lie. It was difficult. But, rather you and me than Hermione or Harry, right? And I will admit that for a moment there, I was actually seriously afraid of you. Kinda felt like you were trying to kill me. But, Draco, I know why you did what you did. Had I known, I probably would have done the same thing. It had to be us. Don’t apologize. Especially because it isn’t your fault. Blame the You Know Who.”

Draco nodded, still unable return the casual smile that Ron had.

“Rest up,” Ron said, clapping a hand on Draco’s shoulder. It was such a friendly gesture that it shocked him for a moment. Draco blinked a few times as Ron walked away, wondering, were they friends now? He supposed that when you go through something that traumatic together, you would likely become friends.

When he passed Harry he paused in front of him and the two shared a small moment— just a look that Draco didn’t quite catch before they pulled each other into a bro-type hug. Harry was left standing in the doorway alone, lingering as if he wasn’t sure Draco wanted him there.

To let him know everything was alright, Draco extended a hand feebly in his direction, having to put it down before Harry even reached him as it began shaking from the effort. It was strange for Draco, feeling so weak. While he had never been particularly strong, he was now an invalid and it made him worry about how his condition would improve— or not— in the future.

Harry sat next to him on the bed and Draco laid his head on Harry’s shoulder, feeling weak just from holding his neck up. Picking up the quill, he shifted to write, head still on Harry’s shoulder, making his writing slanted at a strange angle.

Did Snape say anything about me getting better?

The pause that lingered in the air was enough to make Draco’s heart race. If Harry had to consider how to phrase this, there was definitely bad news he was about to break. Before speaking, he kissed Draco’s hair. Oh no, was all Draco could think.

“Not quite.” What did that mean? “He has a theory about what that potion was. If he’s right, he’ll apparently be able to get you the antidote and after three days you’ll be mostly back to normal. I don’t know what normal means but he thinks there will be some lasting effects— not too many, though, because of the potion I’ve been getting you every six hours. Which, by the way, is coming up in about ten minutes so we can’t forget that. Anyway, if he’s right, you’ll be fine soon.”

The unspoken option hung in the air until Draco wrote it.

And if he’s wrong?

Harry took a deep breath. “Uh, I think I may let him explain that one when he gets here soon.”

Draco’s head shot up to look Harry in the eyes before darting back to the parchment. What does that mean?!

“It just means that I don’t know exactly what—“ He stopped to watch what Draco was already writing.

That doesn’t help calm me down any, Harry!

Reaching out, Harry put his hand atop Draco’s, stilling the quill. “What I can say for sure is that you won’t get worse.”

Draco rolled his eyes and shook Harry’s hand off his. Well isn’t that so comforting

Kissing his hair once more, Harry’s arms came to hold him. “Don’t worry, love.”

He wiggled away enough to write. How can you say that when you don’t even trust Snape?

“Don’t even go there. You trust Snape!”

How can you look me in the eyes and say things will be fine when I know you don’t trust the man who is supposed to save my life!

“Supposed to?” Harry shifted, his hands coming up to cup Draco’s cheeks. “Draco, he already did save your life. You’re right that I don’t trust him, but I don’t trust him as a person, Draco. I can still acknowledge he’s an amazing potioneer. If he hadn’t been there, you would be dead now. I owe him my trust on this.”

Draco paused, thinking it over. Harry was right. Of course he was. He trusted Snape and if Harry was now saying that he trusted him as well...there should be nothing to worry about. But, something still bothered him about all of this.

You’re right, he wrote. I’m sorry for yelling.

Harry laughed a little bit, his arms around Draco. “See, that’s the nice thing about this parchment-quill type deal. It doesn’t actually feel like I’m being yelled at.” Draco lightly shoved him, but Harry caught his hand and held it against his chest. “I think I’m already starting to miss it.”

Draco rolled his eyes, wanting to tell Harry that was such a sap. Writing those kinds of things, though, just didn’t give off the same sort of feel. The thought struck him, and he wondered if he would ever be able to speak again. How different would that make his life? He wouldn’t be able to laugh or....

“Hey,” Harry said, pulling him out of his thoughts. “Lost you there for a second. You good?” Draco nodded just before there was a terrible clanging from behind him.

He must have jumped nearly two feet in the air as Harry stood and turned it off. Instead of writing, he gave Harry a scandalized look and hoped that conveyed what he was thinking.

“This terrific muggle contraption is an alarm clock,” Harry explained, picking up a small vial of potion. “Tells me when to give this to you.” As Draco took the potion, he watched as Harry reset the alarm. Interesting invention. He wasn’t able to comment on it, however, before people began pouring in the door.

“We heard you’re awake!” Hermione exclaimed, Luna on her arm as they walked towards him. Not a second later, Remus has appeared followed by the rest of the Weasley clan. Ron stood in the back, looking sheepish.

Harry stood, holding out a hand in front of him as they all began to crowd the bed. “Hey, okay. I know you all want to see him, but Draco needs his rest. You all know this. Please.”

A grumbled round of disagreement filtered through the room. “We won’t be long,” Ginny said. “We just want to thank the man who finally punched Ron.”

Just as laughter began to circle at her joke, it all quieted in response to a new presence, ominous at the door. “What are you all doing in here?” Snape’s cold voice permeated the room.

There were mumbles of “uh, just leaving,” as they all began to make their way past him. Even Fred and George realized that now was not the time to mess with Snape— as a spy, his time was limited, and Draco needed him right now.

Not a second after everyone was gone did Snape slam and lock the door with a wave of his wand. “Potter, please know the only reason I am allowing you to stay is because, as Narcissa is unavailable, you will be Draco’s primary caretaker until he is well.”

Harry gave him an even look. “Yes, that and the fact that Draco is my fiancé.”

Snape lifted an eyebrow but otherwise showed no reaction. “I was not aware that you two were betrothed.”

It was times like these when Draco wished he had his voice again. Had he been well, he could have jumped up and gotten between them, told Snape himself that they were happily engaged and that it was in fact Draco who proposed, thank you very much.

But Draco couldn’t speak and Harry was already standing. “We are. Draco proposed first I saw him after getting out of my coma.”

Ugh, Draco could have buried his head in his hands. Stupid Harry with his stupid foot in his mouth.

“Oh, yes?” Snape said. “And when was that? Because as I recall, we were all ordered to not make contact with you.”

Harry glanced to his side, clearly searching mentally for a way he could win this. When he realized he couldn’t and that he had given Snape the perfect upper hand, he gave an exasperated sigh. “Can we please get back to the matter at hand?” He gestures toward Draco.

Snape nodded. “Certainly.”

Pulling out his wand, he began performing a multitude of spells on Draco, subtly inching Harry out of the way as he did so. Draco was surprised: he thought it was going well so far. Knowing these two, they had kept things quite civil for Draco’s sake.

Eventually, Snape lowered his wand and stepped back. “It’s just as I suspected. Inconclusive as to which potion it was. So, Draco. Either I give you this antidote or not. If it is the proper antidote, you will be fine within three days, possibly with some side effects, but not likely. If I give this to you and it is not the proper antidote, you will die.” Draco’s eyes went wide and Harry— standing behind Snape— looked like he was going to hit something. Probably Snape.

“If I do not give you this antidote,” Snape continued. “And I am right, then your body will continue to eat away at itself. The potion you have been taking every six hours has held this off, but it won’t for long. It will only slow the process of the potion’s effects. However, if I am wrong and do not give you this potion, your condition will not change. But, if I am right, this antidote will only be effective within the next forty-eight hours, so we must act fast.”

Harry began talking, grabbing Snape by the arm and making him face him as he asked questions, his hand flailing. Draco didn’t hear a word he said. He had to make a decision. Either way, not taking the potion didn’t seem like a good option. He would either have a slow, painful death or stay like this forever. Currently, he was unable to speak and could barely sit up without an immense amount of effort. And there was a chance he would be fine in three days? How could he not take it.

With his fiancé still shouting, Draco picked up the quill and wrote four words on the parchment. Then, he reached out and tapped Snape on the arm.

The two paused, turning to look at Draco. He held out the parchment, angled so Snape would see. “Wait, Draco, what—“ Harry more or less lunged for the parchment but he was too late.

By the time Harry had it in his hands, Snape had already handed Draco the vial. His eyes went wide as he watched Draco swallow it.

__________

They had a row about that. It lasted for hours, Draco furiously scribbling on the parchment, throwing things when Harry would cut him off while writing. At a couple points, he even began to speak, earning him a small stinging hex from Pomfrey each time. They fought for hours, both frustrated and upset until they wore themselves out.

Harry was slumped on the ground, his back against the side of the bed. Draco sat on top, exhausted. He reached his hand down to rest in Harry’s hair. When Harry reached up and took it in his own, he knew all was forgiven.

At least they knew by now that it was the right antidote. If it wasn’t, then it would have killed him by now. Or so Snape said. Harry had just felt it was a violation of his trust.

Pomfrey had left an hour ago, giving Draco permission to whisper— not talk not yell, but whisper.

“I’m sorry,” Draco said.

“I know why you did it. It’s just—“ Harry paused, exhaling a sigh through his nose. “This is just too soon for you to go drinking another random potion that might kill you without even telling me first, okay?”

Draco chuckled lightly at that. “Okay. I’m sorry.”

“Me too.”

Draco gave a tug on Harry’s hand. “Come on up here.”

Without hesitation, Harry crawled into bed beside him. They lay face to face for a moment, fingers still intertwined. “I’m so glad you’re okay,” Harry whispered into the darkness of the evening.

Draco smiled. “Just think, Harry. When this is all over, we’re going to get married. We’ll have a life together and it’ll be normal. No scary potions or racist Dark wizards.” Harry leaned forward and kissed the tip of Draco’s nose. “Harry, you don’t have to promise me this but....I would like you to just be aware of my opinion on the matter.” Harry’s brows furrowed, unsure as to what Draco was referring to. They met eyes. “I don’t want you being an auror. I think we’ve had enough of fighting Dark wizards. I know that you really want to—“

“Draco.” Harry gave his hand a small squeeze. “I have had more than enough of my share of fighting Dark wizards. I’ve only got one more, okay? Gonna lock up the Death Eaters and then get a boring job as a teacher or something, okay?” Draco nodded. “Okay. Now, let’s get some sleep. Tomorrow we’re going over plans on how to get to Nagini. If everything works out, we’ll be at the final confrontation with Vol—“

“Taboo!” Draco let his voice get a bit louder than Pomfrey would have allowed, but it didn’t matter.

“Right, thanks, love. I keep forgetting that. Anyway. If things work out, he shouldn’t see next month. So sleep.”

Draco cuddled his head into Harry’s shoulder. “I love you,” he whispered.

Harry kissed Draco’s hair. “I love you, too.”

Chapter Text

The next few days were spent in deep planning. The table had been converted into map central and the entire Order was holding their plates to eat at each meal, standing around the table to talk with food in their mouths and point— constructing their attack.

It was that first day that Draco got out of bed for the first time. With Harry’s help, he had made it all the way down the steps to flop in a chair and have Molly pile his plate high with eggs. Now, Draco was standing, holding his plate and shoveling food into his mouth with all the rest of them— everyone yelling over each other when they had an idea.

The current map spread out was that of the Ministry. Draco had been vital in helping them understand this one. Apparently after Death Eaters took the Ministry, they gave the place some upgrades. Anyone who was unaware of these things was put under immediate suspicion. Oh, and anyone entering the Ministry was required to take a polyjuice antidote under the watchful eye of a Ministry official.

And infiltrating the Ministry was only step one.

Ginny and Luna had apparently gone wild in the last few months recruiting students and with Headmaster Snape in on it, they would have all the resources they needed to do this right.

First, they needed someone to polyjuice as one of the officials guarding the door but they needed them to do it from the inside. Which meant they had to sneak in. That was the trickiest part: getting Narcissa in without being caught. From there, she would feed a fake antidote to the rest of the Order members coming through. Their job once inside was to fuck the Ministry up as much as possible.

Once a majority of Death Eaters were inside, dealing with the mess, they would shut down the Floo network from inside and perform some damn wild magic— thank you McGonagall and Flitwick and about 17 students— that would prevent apparition in or out of the building, but it wouldn’t hold for long. The Death Eaters would all be locked inside.

The next step would be to ambush Voldemort himself. Draco would summon him with his Dark Mark and the rest of the Order would be waiting to duel any other Death Eaters that showed up with him. Then, Harry would reveal he was alive and face off with Voldemort until he was dead.

This would all launch as soon as they could fucking kill Nagini.

The last horcrux was just a bust at this point: they had given up. They just had to hope Voldemort would be weak enough to be murdered and that it would buy them enough time to find and destroy the last horcrux before he rose again. If only they had even a single fucking clue what it was.

Harry paced the room, frustrated. “So, how the fuck do we kill Nagini?”

“Language, Harry,” Molly chided him.

“Sorry, Molly.” He ran a hand through his hair. “I’m just frustrated, is all. When are we going to even have an opportunity to get to her? She’s never too far from Vol— You Know Who.”

From where he was standing towards the back, no one saw Draco tilt his head, his eyes narrowing. “Why don’t we bait her out?”

Multiple sets of eyes turned to look at him. He shrugged. “In the past, the times when she’s been away from the Dark Lord are when she’s carrying out his bidding. We need to lure her out somehow.”

Ron raised an eyebrow. “Yeah, but that was before they had the full power of the Ministry. Now, we’re all too vulnerable. They would waste time sending Nagini. Why would they?”

“Because we aren’t important enough for the Dark Lord himself, obviously, but if we choose the right person....It has to be someone not important enough to warrant, say, Bellatrix, but also not someone offhand enough to send a random turned auror.”

“So me,” Hermione said.

They all turned, shocked and wide-eyed. Ron jumped to her side. “What? No. No, babe. What? No.”

Ginny shrugged. “She’s kinda right. It would have to be one of you two. You’re Harry’s best friends which makes you important, but you’re also not one of the Order’s leaders.”

Harry took a step into the center of the action. “Okay, wait. Even if all of that worked out and Hermione went, we still have one problem. We have to kill her with Gryffindor’s sword. The only people confirmed true Gryffindor enough to wield it are me and Ron.“

Seeing that Harry had given him an opening, Ron took it. “Clearly we can’t let Harry go: he can’t be seen until the moment You Know Who is summoned. Not until our endgame. There’s way too much to risk. So I have to go.” A silence settled over the room as Ron’s entire family seemed to search for a way to argue the point.

None of them had to, though, when another stepped forward. “I can wield it,” Neville said. “Harry, we’ve talked. About what Dumbledore told you. Because of that, I’m fairly certain I would be deemed important enough for Nagini to be sent.” The two shared a look. Harry held Neville’s eyes for a moment before nodding.

Hannah Abbott reached out and laid a hand on Neville’s arm. “What did Dumbledore say?”

Again, Neville and Harry exchanged a glance and again, Harry nodded.

Neville took a breath before launching into the tale. “When the prophecy was made about the one who would defeat You Know Who, Dumbledore was the one it was made to. Therefore, he was able to show Harry the exact wording of the prophecy. Because of the parameters, there was a chance that I could have been who the prophecy intended. However, You Know Who made the decision for the prophecy when he attacked Harry. That is what determined that Harry is meant to defeat You Know Who.”

The room was shocked by this information, Draco, Ron, and Hermione included. Apparently, Neville was the only one Harry had spoken to about this, which was only natural.

“It is because of this,” Neville continued. “That I am certain I am able to wield the sword of Gryffindor. I have not tested this. We should, though.” He turned to Harry.

Ron ran off to fetch the sword, returning shortly and extending it to Neville. He reached out a steady hand and lifted from Ron, brandishing it and giving a small swing.

“And?” Harry asked.

Neville blinked in shock. “It feels so natural. Like it’s a part of me.”

A wide grin broke out on Harry’s face. “Right?” He clapped, turning back to the table. “So, what exactly is the plan for luring Nagini out?”

__________

“Take my cloak.” Harry extended his arm out towards Draco. “I want you to have it. I want you to be safe.”

Draco bypassed the cloak to come straight between Harry’s arms and kiss him. “It’s going to be alright, love. We’ll make it through this.”

Harry’s arms tightened around him. “After all we’ve been through....Are you sure we haven’t chanced luck too many times? I feel like it seems that we’ve narrowly cheated death—both of us—and that we can’t do it again.”

“It’s going to be alright,” Draco repeated, staring into Harry’s eyes.

“I just....” Harry trailed off, glancing to the side for a moment. “I have a bad feeling about this. I can’t shake it. It’s like fate is....I can’t explain it.”

Before Draco could respond, Hermione burst through the door. “Harry!” she shrieked. “We figured out the symbol! All we had to do was talk to Luna.”

Ron was beside her and Luna could be seen lingering behind them. “It’s this thing called the Deathly Hallows. The invisibility cloak is one, the second is what’s called the ‘Resurrection Stone’ and the third is the elder wand,” Ron said.

Hermione launched into the tale of the deathly hallows, Luna supporting her throughout. Harry and Draco stood in awe as they put all the pieces together: the resurrection stone was what Dumbledore had given to Harry after his death and Harry already had the invisibility cloak.

“We think the elder wand was Dumbledore’s,” Hermione explained.

“But he and Snape coordinated his death so the elder wand has no master,” Harry said.

“No,” Draco said. “No. Remember, Harry, when we first started dating? I told you about how I was supposed to kill Dumbledore. We talked about it a lot because I was worried and I had just become a spy and all. But I tried. They told me I had to try. I disarmed Dumbledore.”

“So you’re the master of the elder wand?” Harry asked.

Draco smiled. “No, Harry. Remember when I walked around the corner at the end of sixth year when all the Death Eaters were there and you disarmed me? You’re the master of the elder wand, Harry.”

“Okay,” Harry took a deep breath. “So does that mean I’m the master of death, then? I have all three deathly hallows.”

Hermione nodded. “I think that’s exactly what it means, Harry.”

“Okay,” Harry said again. “What good does that do us?”

Draco crossed the room and removed what they now knew to be the resurrection stone from one of the dresser drawers. “Take this,” Draco said, pressing it into Harry’s hand. “I have a feeling you’re going to need it.”

“But why?” Harry said. “Why would Dumbledore give me these things?”

In response, his friends basically all shrugged, none of them wanting to say to him that Dumbledore must have thought he would die.

“Wait,” Draco said. “I remember before I stopped working at the Ministry....The Dark Lord was boasting about how he had taken Dumbledore’s wand from his corpse. He thinks he’s the master of the elder wand. We know how he was searching for another wand because of the bond his shares with yours. Dumbledore set this all up so that the Dark Lord’s wand won’t work against you because you are its true master.”

“So?” Harry shrugged. “Why do I need the resurrection stone? Why do I need to be the master of death?”

They all glanced at one another. None of them vocalized it, but they all wished more than anything that Dumbledore was there and able to explain.

Harry looked down at the stone he was holding. “I’m going to die, aren’t I?”

Hermione stepped forward. “Harry, we don’t know that.”

“No. That must be it. I must have to die. I don’t know why, but I know Dumbledore had a reason. I have to let Vol—“ They all shrieked, reminding him of the tracker. He sighed in annoyance. “I have to let He Who Must Not Be Named kill me.”

Draco rushed to his side, holding on to his arm. “Don’t say that.”

Harry met his eyes. “It’s the only explanation.”

“You don’t know that,” Draco’s words rushed out. “And you can’t risk it if you don’t know for sure.”

“It’s the only explanation,” Harry repeated.

“But why?” Draco’s voice was on the edge of breaking from emotion. He couldn’t send his fiancé into a battle knowing he was going to die.

Harry stared into the distance for a moment, deep in thought. “I’m sure Dumbledore had a reason.”

“Screw that old bat!” They all turned to Draco in shock. “What has he ever done for you? When had Dumbledore ever had your best intentions at heart? What do you mean you have to die? That’s absurd! You’re the only one who can save everyone, Harry. You can’t throw that away because you think Dumbledore wants you to die. I, for one, wouldn’t trust anything he said. He doesn’t actually care about you. I know that’s hard to hear because you looked up to him and all, but Harry. Please, you can’t do this without knowing for sure. If you’re supposed to die—“ He paused to take a breath. “If you’re supposed to die there has to be a reason.”

In the silence that followed, it was Hermione that spoke up. “Draco’s right. He can’t just ask you to die without giving an explanation. There had to be clues that we missed.” It was now that Harry realized she was wearing her backpack and she swung it around and began digging out books. “Everyone start reading. The plan is set into motion tomorrow morning so we better find an explanation before then.”

The hours passed at a grueling pace, the five of them searching for an answer or just a clue of some sort. Draco was reading the fastest of them all, desperate for an answer or a sign that would prove Harry wrong. Anything. But after hours he could find nothing and he began to lose hope. No one else was having any luck either and Draco was afraid that if they didn’t find anything, Harry was going to walk out there tomorrow night and sacrifice himself without even knowing if it was the right decision. He could condemn them all.

Harry paused in his searching as it dawned on him. It all made sense. All of it. That was why he had to die. He raised his head up and looked at each of his friends individually, his eyes lingering on Draco’s hunched over form. Then, he broke the silence with his revelation. “I’m the last horcrux. That’s why I have to die.”

__________

Draco stood under the cover of Harry’s invisibility cloak, shivering in the light drizzle of morning rain. In the distance, he watched Neville as he stood proud in the center of the clearing, awaiting what they knew was coming.

Nagini.

They were only a bit worried that she may smell Draco and recognize him and cause some sort of a problem, but it also wouldn’t be too upsetting at this point for Draco to be confirmed a traitor to the Ministry. In fact, Draco secretly wanted it to happen.

All in good time, though. The second Neville stabbed Nagini and killed her, Draco would gather the rest of the Order while the infiltration of the Ministry would begin. And Draco would summon the Dark Lord to die by Harry’s hand. It was all coming to an end.

His head snapped to the side when he heard it. The slight cracking of soggy leaves being crushed beneath her scaly body as she slid along the dirt and grass towards her prey. Neville didn’t even flinch at the sound.

Draco realized now just how he had never really considered Neville. But standing here, the only witness to what was about to happen, Draco felt an immense respect course through him. He was shivering beneath the cloak, and he was now certain it wasn’t just from the rain. But Neville stood proud, and that was when Draco understood just why he was able to wield the sword that was in his hands, its shining tip piercing the Earth between Neville’s feet.

He waited as Nagini approached, not even lifting the sword. Patience was the only thing that would keep Neville alive here. He must wait to strike until Nagini has already started hers. If her fangs broke his skin, they were uncertain they would be able to save him. Draco didn’t want to risk that.

She was still unseen, her lithe body covered by the underbrush, but she could be heard getting closer. A small hiss sang into the air and Draco flinched. Neville remained still as a stone, his face determined and not afraid.

It happened like a flash. One moment Nagini was invisible to them and the next she was rearing up. She lunged, aiming for Neville’s throat and he waited.

Time seemed to slow to a crawl at that moment. Draco thought of all they had been through, all they had lost. Dumbledore and Mad Eye and Sirius and Kreacher, Harry going into a coma, the pain of drinking the potion. Thinking about Regulus and the scratch marks on Ron’s face and the way Harry was disintegrating into a shell of a human with each passing day and Draco’s heart stilled in his chest.

He could not witness another death without it breaking his soul.

In a blink, Neville flipped the sword, stabbing it up violently as Nagini was only inches from his face. She froze, her jaw hanging open. A small drop of her venom rolled down her left fang, pooling at the tip before dripping to the ground where it hissed like acid. A shriek came from within her and Neville forced the sword farther upward; it pierced through the other side of her skin, impaling her on the edge of the sword. Nagini fell, lifeless.

The world still moved in slow motion as Neville’s head turned to the side where he knew Draco was. His face was white, drained of all color and as Draco watched as his hands began to shake violently. He was in shock and the sword began to falter in his hands.

Without hesitation, Draco rushed forward to catch Neville right as he fell, the sword dropping to the ground with a soft thud in front of them. They both narrowly dodged the still deadly fangs before falling onto the ground.

Time resumed as normal.

They fell to the ground together, the grass squishing beneath Draco’s back. He sat up. “Neville, you okay?” He asked, reaching for him.

Neville nodded. “Yeah. I’m good, I— It was just that I had killed her and then I stared right into her mouth and sort of panicked for a bit there.” He gave a shaky chuckle.

Draco reached out and placed a hand on Neville’s arm. “Neville, you were so brave. You didn’t hesitate yet you were able to wait until the exact right moment. That was amazing.”

He smiled sheepishly. “Thanks, Draco.”

Standing, Draco reached out a hand and hauled Neville to his feet. “Alright,” he said. “Nagini’s dead. Time to let everyone know the rest of the plan is in motion. The war ends today.”

Chapter Text

“They’re in.” Remus stepped forward, wand at the ready. “Now we wait.”

The Order all looked around at each other. Now was the time. McGonagall and Flitwick has snuck in all the students they could and were in the process of creating chaos. Reports had come in from Narcissa that Death Eaters were flooding into the Ministry.

It was then that Narcissa’s patronus—a snowy owl—found them and delivered to them the message that they were closing off the Ministry.

That means it was time.

Once they were certain that the Ministry was closed off and that the Death Eaters wouldn’t be able to escape, Remus gave the signal and everyone got into their places.

The Order formed a large circle in the clearing, Draco standing just inside of it, ready to summon the Dark Lord. Harry stood outside of the circle in a heavy, black cloak to conceal his identity for the moment. When they were all in position, Draco glanced around at them from the center. He locked eyes with Ron and his new friend gave a single, solemn nod from where he stood in front of Harry.

Turning his back, Draco faced the center of the circle and pressed the tip of his finger to his Dark Mark.

The sky erupted in a fit of greens and blacks, the clouds beginning to swirl. All around them, the winds picked up and a storm began to blow in. The first raindrops began to fall hard against Draco’s skin but he didn’t move. He simply looked out into the distant clouds, waiting for Voldemort.

All wands were raised when Voldemort was spotted flying in from the direction they were all already turned. The Order was prepared. Hope was in the hearts of each and every one of them.

Behind Voldemort were his most loyal followers, the ones that the Order knew they would most likely not trap in the Ministry. The Dark Lord and his entourage landed in the clearing in front of the Order and Voldemort stepped forward, each of his Death Eaters behind him pulling their cloaks back.

Draco’s breath caught. What was his father doing here? He was supposed to be in the Ministry. He was always in the Ministry. And his mother must have known this when she gave them the signal to go.

Did his mother really expect him to duel with his father? To kill his father if it came down to it?

“So young Malfoy is a spy, after all,” Voldemort’s icy drawl broke into the stormy silence of the clearing, carrying easily over the wind.

Behind him, Bellatrix laughed. “You really think your petty plan will work? We have no qualms about killing and you’re all children. Most of you didn’t even finish school and you think you’ll have the power to crucio someone? I—“

Draco had enough of his aunt’s ramblings. Evil must be defeated no matter the cost. Without hesitating, he raised his wand and, drawing to mind memories of Sirius, Draco yelled “Crucio!”

The curse struck his aunt and the fight was on. It was Remus who ended up going toe-to-toe with Lucius, but he wasn’t alone. Ginny and Ron quickly backed him up, the other Order members fanning out. It wasn’t long before their wands were confiscated and they were all petrified and bound. None of them would be going anywhere.

Now the circle turned to face Voldemort.

He sneered. “You think that just because you are all united against me that you can defeat me? It is impossible. My power is too strong. The only one who could defeat me has been dead for months.” He raised his wand, pointing it at Draco. “So now you will all die.”

But Draco wasn’t afraid. In fact, he smiled. Clearly, it caught the Dark Lord’s eye.

There was a rustle in the grass behind them, a man in a large, black cloak cave stepping out into the circle. All eyes followed him.

For now, the cloak shrouded his face but his hands reached up to take hold of it. As Harry pulled down the hood, Draco’s smile widened and he turned back to watch Voldemort’s face.

Shock was clear on his features, alongside a little bit of panic. From behind Draco, he heard his fiancé speak.

“You really should have checked the body yourself, Voldemort. I’m not dead. Haven’t been.”

Once more, Voldemort sneered. “Still, you aren’t able to kill me. Not when—“

“Oh, your Horcruxes?” Harry asked. “Yeah, don’t worry about those. I got the diary, the cup, the diadem, the ring, the locket, and Nagini.” He raised his wand. “So, time to duel, Voldy.”

“There is one you are forgetting.” The Dark Lord smiled and Draco’s skin froze over. This is not what they needed right now. Voldemort raised his wand to match Harry’s, it’s point no longer directed at Draco. “You,” Voldemort said.

The clearing glanced around in confusion. What?

“You are the last horcrux, Harry Potter. So you cannot kill me. Yes, that night when you were a baby I went to kill you, but I ended up doing something even better. Because now the only one who can take me down must first die and then there will be no one left to threaten my power.”

Draco turned to watch Harry for a brief moment. Something on his face looked calm, at peace.

No, was the only thought in his mind.

Just as he went to move forward, to lunge, to take it, Harry’s wand wrist flicked and next thing Draco knew, he was standing in a full body bind.

No. No, he couldn’t watch.

Avada Kedavra!” Voldemort yelled and the entire clearing watched as the bright green light hit Harry in the center of the chest.

Draco watched in horror as Harry’s eyes flew wide when the blast hit, the force propelling him down and to the ground. All the sound of the world faded out except for the thud of Harry’s body hitting the grass and the scream that ripped from Draco’s throat as the petrificus totalus on him undid itself at Harry’s death.

He lunged forward, flinging himself on top of his fiancé’s body, hands fisting in the cloth of the cloak. Draco’s body crumpled on top of Harry’s, sobs wracking his chest.

Harry was dead. Draco could feel him still beneath him.

And it all came crashing down on him then: his future was ruined. There was nothing for him. There was no Harry, there was no escape from Voldemort and the Death Eaters. He would be tortured, he would be killed. There was nothing he could do to stop it. His fate was sealed.

Well, so be it then. He would at least die fighting.

The clearing was silent watching over him, Voldemort reveling in his triumph over Harry Potter. Draco’s head lifted slowly as he shook with sorrow and rage.

He yelled as he stood fast, hand immediately drawing his wand. Stepping in front of Harry’s body, he began throwing one curse after another, all directed at Voldemort.

It had caught the Dark Lord off guard and he began deflecting, but was quickly coming around to the offensive. Draco yelled with rage as his wand cut threw the air, some curses hitting their mark and knocking Voldemort back, others missing entirely.

It was just as Voldemort lifted his wand, a green light forming at the end, the word “Avada,” coming from his lips that he was hit on the side by a curse that knocked him off balance, throwing him to the ground. In all his rage, Draco paused, glancing to the side to see Hermione’s wand smoking from the potency of the curse.

The rest of the group took her cue and all began throwing as many curses as they could at Voldemort. He didn’t even have the chance to stand.

All were so engrossed in this fight that none noticed Harry stirring behind them. No one glanced back when he sat up, rubbing his forehead and blinking harshly a few times. None of them paused until he was standing at his full height, his wand raised in front of him and he spoke to get their attention.

“Stop,” he said.

The entire clearing froze.

“Expelliarmus,” Draco called in the silence, Voldemort’s wand flying to his open hand. With that, he stepped out of his fiancé’s way, watching in utter awe and disbelief as Harry stepped forward.

If Draco was being quite honest, he was numb at this moment. Shock had overwhelmed his system. A moment before, all of his emotions had been swirling, thinking that Harry was dead. Yet, here his fiancé was, standing before him in front of a crumpled and weak Voldemort.

Harry stepped forward and stood in front of the Dark Lord, wand still pointed at him. He hesitated, but it was only a second, before looking down and ending it all.

“Avada Kedavra!” Harry yelled, his wand violently slipping through the motions. An explosion of green light enveloped the clearing for a moment and Draco’s hand flew up to shield his eyes.

When he lowered them, he saw the faces of those around him: the relief that was there.

Voldemort was dead.

A cheer burst out in the clearing, everyone throwing their hands up. They had done it. They had won.

Draco, a step away, threw his arms around Harry’s neck, meeting each other in the middle. Harry slumped on him, leaning his weight on Draco, clearly worn out from just dying. Draco held the love of his life close, tears once more pricking at the corners of his eyes. “I thought you had died,” Draco whispered.

“I did,” he heard whispered back.

Draco pulled back from Harry then to look him in the eyes. “I don’t understand...”

Harry gave him a slow smile. “There was a reason Dumbledore sent me get the rest of the Deathly Hallows all those months ago. He knew.” Harry held up in his hand the Resurrection Stone.

Inwardly, Draco was pissed. Was Harry seriously telling him that Dumbledore had known the entire time and just never told Harry? Had raised Harry to be a sacrifice? But, outwardly, he kept his calm demeanor. He must realize that now was a time to be happy in the fact that his fiancé was alive and that the Dark Lord was dead.

They pulled back from each other, turning to face the gathered group. All were holding onto each other, faces beaming, cheeks wet with joyous tears. This was the end. And, now, they all looked to Harry.

“Do you think we should try and give our friends at the Ministry a bit of help?” He asked. “I’m sure if we send a patronus to McGonagall that she’ll let us in to help.”

But before anyone could make a move, a silver wisp of a cat made its way into the cleaning: McGonagall’s patronus. They all let it pass, listening intently as it told them that the Battle of the Ministry was done.

“Everyone that had a Dark Mark is being detained. We will now have to begin the long process of trials; finding out who was truly a Death Eater and who took the Mark so they wouldn’t die is not going to be an easy task. We lost a few in the battle, I’m sorry to say, but we have the situation under control for now. We’ll keep a watch posted on the detained and begin cycling tomorrow when we start trials. For now, I think you have all earned a well deserved rest. Especially you, Mr. Potter.” The cat slinked away, back into the woods.

Draco pressed a hand to his chest. That was it, then. It was all over. A great pressure that had been residing in his shoulders for the last nearly five years was suddenly lifted and it was like he was able to breathe again. A relieved sob crashed through his body and he and Harry turned towards each other, flinging their arms around the other.

At their embrace, the rest of the group came forward, piling on top of them in one group hug. Draco felt Ron’s hand come to grasp his, Luna taking his other, Hermione’s coming to his wrist.

It was over. It was all over.

All still sobbing, weak from the battle they had just had, they began to pull back. In turn, they would make eye contact with one another, joyous embraces all around. Ron caught Draco’s eye and he reached for him, taking him in a hug that nearly crushed his ribs. No words were exchanged between them, only a simple nod.

When he pulled away, Luna grabbed his hand next, her arms coming around his neck light as a feather and he cried into her shoulder. “It’s okay now, Draco. You’re safe.” Her hand smoothed his hair and as she pulled away, she pressed a light kiss to his cheek.

Next, Draco came face to face with Hermione. They both burst into a smile, lunging forward in an enthusiastic hug. She pulled back quickly, her hands coming out to gesture as she said to him, “We survived! We lived! We’re both going to get married and actually have a life! Draco, we did it!” She embraced him again. “We did it,” she said, quieter this time, taking pause.

When they drew back, the group were all still mingling, wiping tears from their cheeks. Remus and a few of the older Order members were walking over to the bound Death Eaters on the ground, hoisting them to their feet and no doubt preparing to bring them to where McGonagall was keeping the rest of the detained.

Draco ran forward, stopping Remus who was just beginning to march his father away. “Remus, wait. Please. I have something I...something I need to do.” His movement has caught the attention of all those in the clearing and they watched him and Lucius expectantly. Draco did not fail to note that Harry moved closer to him.

He looked his father evenly in the eyes. “You are not my father. I hereby disown you as such. You are a despicable and disgusting excuse of a human being. There are many deaths on your hands and I have heard far too many stories to do anything but let you rot in the worst accommodations possible. So when you sit in front of the reconstructed Wizengamot in the coming weeks, I will take the stand. I will testify against you. And I will show no mercy.”

Draco stepped back. After a moment, he looked to Remus. “Thank you, Remus. Please, continue.”

As his father was turned away from him, Draco spun around to face Harry. “Well, that was...intense,” Harry said.

Draco shrugged. “He deserves it. I don’t want that man to be known as my father. Rather, I don’t want to be known as his son.”

Harry’s arms came to wrap around Draco’s waist, pulling them together. “What do you want to be known as?”

Smiling, Draco leaned in to his fiancé’s hold. “How about the husband of the Boy Who Lived...Twice?”

He heard, or rather felt as his head was pressed up against Harry’s shoulder, Harry chuckle at that. “Come on,” Harry said. “Let’s go home.”

__________

Draco laid on his back on the bed, his fiancé by his side. Despite the fact that his bones, his muscles, his body were exhausted from the fight of the day, his skin was practically buzzing. It was like he still didn’t believe they had actually done it and he had seen Voldemort’s dead body with his own eyes.

Harry rolled over, propping his head up on his elbow. He smiled in the dark of the room, nudging Draco with his foot. “The war is over,” he whispered, his voice giddy. They had spent so long, so much of their life caught up in it that it seemed far too implausible to be true.

He turned his head toward Harry, his hand sliding across the sheets to find Harry’s free one, squeezing it tight. “We get our lives back.”

Even in the dark, Draco could see Harry’s smile. “You’re right. Do you know what that means, Draco?”

Draco laughed quietly. “What?”

Reaching a hand over, Harry pulled Draco’s body flush against his. “It means we’re getting married,” he whispered. “You and I. It’s going to be a big wedding. We’ll invite the entire Wizarding world. There will be flowers everywhere and everyone will be smiling. And then instead of a honeymoon we’ll help rebuild from the war. And we’ll keep doing that for the rest of our lives.

“We’ll adopt some children. In fact, we’ll make a point of adopting children who were orphaned by the war. The ones we can’t adopt, we’ll help in some way. Because, Draco,” Harry paused, his voice sounding so wistful, so softly happy. “The war is over. Now is the time for healing. Now is the time for beginning.”

Sitting up slightly, Draco moved to kiss Harry on the head. “I think it’s time for you to sleep. It’s been a long day. You did die today. Why don’t we start planning our future in the morning?”

With a sleepy smile, Harry rolled onto his back, taking Draco’s wrist and pulling it across him. Quickly, he fell asleep, his fiancé pressed against his side and Draco watched his calm face, the rising and falling of his chest. It was over. They were safe.

The curtains of the window of their room in Grimmauld Place flickered in the wind, sending a stream of light into the room for a few moments. They cast perfectly upon Draco’s wrist, a glint of light catching on the watch that rested there. The watch that Alphard had given him. Draco had almost forgotten it was there. Then, upon closer look, he realized something remarkable:

It had stopped ticking. There was no more danger.

Chapter Text

Fall was just beginning to set in. Draco breathed in the crisp, late August air as he sat on the porch of the farmhouse.

It was a quaint place, nestled at the top of a hill and overlooking a few acres of grassy property. He was sitting and supervising the last details of setup out on the fields below him. The altar had already gone up and the chairs were being set out; his mother would be coming to fetch him to get him ready at any moment. But, for now, he took a pause and enjoyed the moments in the calm of the morning.

The morning of the greatest day of his life.

A hand rested on his shoulder and Draco looked up into the beaming face of his mother. He rested his hand on top of hers.

“Are you ready, Draco?” She asked.

He smiled back at her. “Of course.” Together, they stood and she led him back into the farmhouse to one of the rooms that they had prepared for the wedding. Across the hall, they passed an identical room that Draco knew Harry was inside of, getting ready for their wedding as well.

Draco stepped into the room to be greeted by his wedding party: Luna was working on Hermione’s hair and Hermione—Draco’s “best man”—was mouthing along to her perfectly practiced speech for the reception later.

Oh, and not to forget his Uncle Alphard, already starting to drink too much in the corner.

Without a moment’s hesitation, Narcissa plucked the flask from Alphard’s hand and set it on the vanity next to Luna’s hairbrush. Then, she clasped her hands together, turning to address the room.

Turning back to her son, she signaled for him to get dressed. “Come on,” she said. “We want to see your dress robes, darling.”

Slipping behind the room divider, Draco began changing. Guests would be showing up in about an hour and a half so they were truly cutting it close. He still had to do his hair and his makeup after this.

Now down to his pants, he took a small breath and held it as he unzipped the cover around his dress robes to reveal them in all their beauty. They were a pristine white with gold accents that crawled up the bottoms and the sleeves.

Just laying eyes on it made Draco want to cry.

This was it. He was marrying Harry Potter.

Harry James Potter would be his for the rest of his life.

Carefully, he removed the robes from their hanger and pulled them on, glancing over to the mirror to admire the way the tailored material clung to his skin perfectly. He pressed a hand to his chest. His wedding day was finally here and he couldn’t be happier.

Draco stepped out from behind the divider to the perfect wedding party: all began cooing about how beautiful he looked in his robes even though Hermione and his mother had been there when he picked them out. Even Alphard began tearing up a bit.

“You okay, Uncle Alphard?” Draco asked, his own eyes wet, face split in a smile.

Clearing his throat, Alphard gave Draco a soft smile. “I’m proud to call you my grand-nephew. I’m proud to be part of this family.”

At that, Draco somewhat lost it. He lurched forward, embracing his uncle. In his past, he had never known what it was like to have family that truly cared for him so much and here he was, surrounded by those who loved him so dearly.

When he drew back, Alphard grabbed his wrist where the watch was. “I see it’s stopped ticking,” he whispered.

Draco nodded, smiling brightly. “The danger in my life is gone.”

Alphard lifted a finger. “Ah, ah,” he tisked. “But look closer: is there something else, I wonder?”

Draco looked at the watch face, confused. It was still, as always. He didn’t see anything different and so he shrugged at his uncle.

“Why, don’t you see where it stopped? This wasn’t where it was last time, is it?”

Blinking, Draco still wasn’t sure what Alphard was trying to say, but luckily the old man explained himself, lips smacking in their normal way. “You see,” he said. “Where it is stopped is a significant thing on its own. When I gave it to you, it was stopped at exactly three o’clock: the time that Ursula Black died. It was simply not in use, being passive. But now, it is frozen at exactly seven forty-two. Do you know what time that is?”

Draco shook his head, wondering how Alphard himself had known.

“Well, I’ll tell you. It was the exact moment in which Ursula and Phineas were pronounced married. That Phineas Nigellus...My mother always said that if you had met him that you never would have guessed it, but he was such a sap for his wife. Did everything for that Ursula, he did. This here watch just proves it.”

Now, he released Draco’s hand. Draco drew it to his chest, cradling the watch as he stared at it, completely moved by his great-great-great grandfather had for his wife. It was beautiful. Remarkable.

And the watch sensed that he had that too.

Oh, Draco was going to cry again.

Blinking quickly, he took a couple deep breaths. When the day started, he had told himself that he wasn’t going to cry but he had already broken that promise multiple times. There was simply no helping it.

“Let’s get your makeup, dear,” his mother said, guiding him by the shoulders to sit in the chair at the vanity.

Hermione perched on the edge of the vanity, assembling an array of makeup brushes the likes of which Draco had never seen before. Muggle tools, mostly likely, but Draco would have to admit that Hermione definitely knew what she was doing. Already, while Draco had sat on the porch and overlooked last-minute setup, she had done the makeup for herself, Luna, and Narcissa. They all looked amazing so when she came at him with a pointed brush, Draco closed his eyes like he was told to.

When he opened them, everything was perfect. Luna was even halfway done with his hair. His mother was watching over his shoulder, a quiet smile on her lips.

The day couldn’t be more perfect.

At least, Draco thought so until he was walking down the aisle.

Standing and looking down the aisle, Draco tried not to hyperventilate. The altar was in the distance, Harry walking up to it now from the other side being escorted by Molly and Remus. Even from this distance, Draco could already see that Harry was crying.

His mother placed her hand on his elbow. “Ready, Draco?” She asked.

With a deep breath, he turned to meet his mother’s eyes. “Yes.”

Draco took the first step forward, escorted down the aisle by his mother and his great uncle Alphard who walked with a spring in his step, despite his cane.

By the time he reached the altar, he could barely control himself but he smiled at his husband-to-be through it all.

Standing next to them at the altar were Luna and Hermione on Draco’s side as well as Neville and Ron next to Harry. Between them was their officiant whom they had asked on a quiet night to be there on this special day: Minerva McGonagall.

Every word that McGonagall said was cataloged into Draco’s brain, but his eyes never left Harry’s. By the time they got around to vows, his face was aching from smiling but he found he truly could not bring himself to care.

“I believe you have written your own vows,” McGonagall said, gesturing to Harry to begin reading his.

With shaking hands, Harry reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a crumpled piece of paper, flashing a sheepish smile at Draco. Clearing his throat, he begin to read off the paper.

“Draco. You are the best thing that has ever happened to me.” Already, Harry had to stop and pause and wipe tears away from his eyes before taking a deep breath and refocusing on the paper. “Through all of this, I have no idea what I would have done without you. You were my motivation and what kept me going.” Here he paused again, giving a little laugh as he continued.

“If I would have known when I was eleven that I would be standing here today, I would have said that that was crazy. But, as cheesy as it is, I’m crazy about you.” Harry took a moment to laugh again before muttering under his breath, “Absolutely bonkers.”

Taking another breath, he tried to hold the paper steadier as he continued, a bright smile taking up his face through the tears. “I know the past that we’ve had but, fuck it all, we’ve made it. We came through a war alive and together. Our relationship is already a miracle and I’m confident we can face any challenges that come our way, as long as we face them together.”

At this, Harry looked up Draco, one hand coming up to subtly wipe at his eyes as the other folded up the paper and slipped it back inside his jacket. They both paused for a moment before Draco took a breath and began reciting the memorized vows he had prepared.

“Harry James Potter, you and I owe each other a great many debts. We’ve a past so complicated that most can’t piece it all together. We are the most unlikely couple that any of our friends had ever considered. And, quite frankly, I like it that way.” Harry smiled at that, just like Draco had intended to make him. “You changed so much in me over the years, Harry. When we first met, I was a young boy seeking anyone’s approval, and I am now a grown man chasing after any single, delighted smile that he could be blessed with.” Again, as intended, Harry smiled, wider this time than the last.

“I don’t think I can ever communicate to you, Harry, how much I truly love you. For years, I actually thought it was unhealthy.” Again, on cue, Harry laughed a bit and Draco chuckled with him. “Nothing could ever have prepared me for how happy I am at this moment and how happy I will be in a few moments when I will be able to officially call you my husband. I don’t think that joy will ever diminish and I’m very glad about that. You make me a happy man, Harry Potter. And, if that makes me a simple man too, so be it.”

Vows done, their eyes met each other’s for a moment and they both laughed a bit, before glancing back at the officiant to continue.

It was at this cue that McGonagall said, “I now pronounce you married. You may kiss.”

Harry reached out and took Draco’s face in both of his hands, pulling him in for a kiss in front of the celebrating crowd gathered around them. Draco’s hands came up to hold lightly onto Harry’s wrists and he laughed openly when Harry pulled back, their foreheads pressed together for a brief moment.

“I love you,” Harry whispered.

“I’ll never doubt it,” Draco promised.

When they pulled back, McGonagall turned them to face outwards and said, “I now present Misters Draco and Harry Potter.” Again, the crowd went up in cheers, all celebrating as the couple walked back down the aisle, headed out to lead the way to the reception.

All in all, the rest of the evening passed in mostly a blur. There were the speeches from Ron and Hermione, Draco and Harry’s first dance, the cake. And, of course, the greeting of guests.

For every single one, Draco had at the very least a polite smile and thank you for their kind words and attendance. Harry, however, mostly stood at his elbow and smiled, not one for attention, as always. It wasn’t until a hand tapped at Draco’s shoulder that Harry—with a hand pressed against the small of Draco’s back—leaned in to whisper to Draco, “I’ve got this, babe,” and began talking to the long line of well-wishers.

When Draco turned, he was met with the open arms of his mother and Uncle Alphard. He embraced them both, a smile threatening to break his face.

While Harry shook hands and exchanged smiles, Draco and his mother made their way to the dance floor. As the two of them danced together, Narcissa smiled at her son, all of her love for him contained in it.

“I could not be more proud of you, Draco. You risked everything to do what was right. You played an integral role in saving the world.” She brushed his hair back with her fingers. “I am so proud of you.”

Beaming, Draco reached up and wiped away a tear. “Thank you, mother. Thank you for all the support you gave me throughout the war, no matter how difficult it was at the time.” As he continued to speak, he found it more and more difficult, terrible memories clogging his voice. “If you weren’t there that night at my flat, I wouldn’t have been able to do it. I wouldn’t have been able to stand there and listen to the two of them. Thank you for raising me how you did.” He paused in their dancing, throwing his arms around him mother in a hug. “I love you, mum.”

“I love you too, Draco,” Narcissa returned.

Draco pulled back, still wiping tears from his face.

“Oh, and I expect grandchildren,” she informed him. Draco laughed a little bit through the happy tears and the song came to an end.

“Mind if I cut in?” Turning to the side, Draco saw his Great Uncle Alphard. The old man had decided to put two, thin braids in his beard for the formal event, thinking it made him look ‘fancy.’ But he did nothing about the gaping hole where his left eye should have been.

“By all means,” Narcissa answered, stepping out of the way.

Alphard took her place as the next song started up but the two didn’t move much, Alphard’s cane abandoned back at his seat. “I think you were always my favorite relative,” he said. “This just confirms it. Harry’s a lovely boy.”

“Thank you, Alphard,” Draco said. “I really do love him.”

With a wrinkled finger, Alphard tapped on the watch on Draco’s wrist. “Did you find out some of the special qualities I tinkered into this old thing?”

Remembering now that Alphard had mentioned that, Draco said, “No, I don’t believe I have.”

“They might be more useful when you have kids.” Then, Alphard gave Draco a look that seemed to be meant as a wink, but since the man only had one eye, appeared as an over-emphasized blink.

Draco laughed. “Thank you for that, Uncle Alphard.”

Nodding, Alphard let Draco go. “Come visit whenever you feel like it,” he said as he began wobbling back to his cane.

The rest of the night passed in a daze for Draco, but he promised himself that he wouldn’t forget any of it. It was the start of his life, as far as he was concerned. And Harry had been right: they did all of the traditional wedding things and danced all night at the reception.

Throughout the night, Colin Creevy wandered around taking photos, including plenty of splendid candids of Harry and Draco. But it wasn’t long before even he cleared out, leaving just the wedding party to crash at one of the tables.

Draco sat with his husband, crowded around a table with the Weasley family, his mother, Granger, Remus, Luna, and Neville. Most others had slipped away for the night, leaving with their bags full of complimentary sobering and hangover potions.

As Draco looked around, he realized he had never been so relaxed in all his life. This was what it meant to be family.

At long last, yawns began to make their way around the table and slowly the wedding party trickled down. Narcissa stood, informing everyone she would turn in for the night, giving small kisses on the cheeks of both Harry and Draco. Most of the Weasleys left together, all the brothers teasing Harry and joking with Draco as they said their goodbyes. When Luna left, she gave each of them a small flower, tucked into the breast pocket of their robes. Neville smiled at both of them, giving tight hugs before he, too, left.

And then Harry and Draco sat with Hermione and Ron.

“I think this is the happiest I’ve ever been,” Harry said. “Nothing could make this better.”

“Congrats, mate,” Ron said. “I mean, I never thought you would be marrying the ferret, but I also never expected a war. Glad we all got through it. We all—“ Ron stopped, cutting himself off. He raised a hand to his eyes, covering them before the tears started. Harry, who was at his side, leaned over and wrapped an arm around him.

“It’s okay, Ron,” he said. “We’re alive. We ended the war. We made it.”

Drunk and unable to control his emotions, Ron threw his arms around Harry. “I love you three so much.” He lifted his head, one arm extending to Draco. “Get in here, you dumb git. I love you. And you two are married. And I was the best man. I love you two so much.” He pulled back, holding Harry at arm’s length and looking him in the eyes, serious now. “So much, mate.” Then, his eyes flooded with tears and he was gone again. “And you’re married.

Hermione wrapped her arms around him. “I think we should get going. We’ll see you two when you get back from your honeymoon,” she said, standing and carrying Ron off.

Harry took Draco’s hand and together, they went up to their room for the night, already packed to leave the next day for their honeymoon.

As they sat on the edge of the bed together, Harry breathed a sigh of calm. “I love you so much, Draco.”

“I love you too, Harry.” Leaning forward, Draco kissed his husband. There was nothing else he could have wished for to make him happier.