Three weeks passed where Draco spent little time with Potter, save the every other night feed where Potter knocked on his door and stared at his feet and scratched at the back of his neck until Draco let him in. And that only lasted a few perfunctory minutes with a handful of gestures and nods between them. Potter ate, got hard, and went on his way. It dawned on Draco that this awkward dance between them was a bed of his own making, but he refused to be the first to budge. As Potter made no move to articulate an apology, Draco made no move to elicit one from him. Silence was easier than arguing.
Potter spent most of his time upstairs, behind the warded door of Walburga's old study. Draco had no idea what was going on in there, as Potter holed himself in for hours on end, only coming out sporadically, looking like fermented hippogriff shit. Not to mention the packages and deliveries that came at all hours, which seemed to vex Potter in no uncertain terms. Draco caught snatches of huffed expletives and broken tirades about the infernal laziness of owls (with a permanent scowl reserved for Potter's own irritable eagle owl, Ajax), the unreliability of something called 'ee-bay', and an especially colorful and creative rant about 'the fucktacular gall of some people'.
As for the door, 'warded' was an understatement. It was sealed to hell and back with every spell under Merlin, naturally raising Draco's curiosity. A pinkie finger to the doorknob got him a nasty Stinging Hex to the arse for his troubles, and now the fucking thing had taken to spitting one at him whenever he got too close. He gave the door and its hair-trigger knob a wide berth when he passed down the hallway. And if Potter noticed him rubbing his arse and hugging the wall like he was plastered to it when he went to piss, he at least had the decency to not mention it.
Much to his surprise, Draco's saving grace over the past few weeks had come in the form of Granger and Weasley, both of whom had infiltrated Grimmauld and at one point or another had dragged him out in daylight, forcing him to grasp at some semblance of normalcy. If he had to label it, it would have looked dubiously like friendship.
Hermione (as she was insistent to the point of madness that Draco used her given name) appeared one morning, bright and smiling as ever, to drag him bodily from the comfort of his bed, threw clothes at his person, and slapped a cup of coffee in his hand. Her circumvention of his protests was admirable, so when she offered her arm, he took it without reservation and found himself Apparated to the manor grounds.
He had stared at her with some incredulity before remembering his manners, offering her his arm in turn to walk up the path. She had slipped into his hold immediately, and if his presence of mind was soothed by her gentle acceptance, he supposed no one else was around to see it.
As he murmured soft words over his mother's crypt, she stood back, far enough to be respectful, but close enough for Draco to draw strength. In that moment, which part of him still bitterly felt should have been Potter's, Draco felt himself fall under her spell. She was an amazing witch, her intelligence tempered by the generosity of her heart. It was no wonder Weasley and Potter were so enamored of her.
The rest of the day was spent under a great shade tree on the grounds, overlooking his mother's favorite section of the gardens. Hermione had packed along a picnic lunch, and they ate sandwiches which could have only come from Molly Weasley's kitchen on a soft blanket followed up with a surprisingly good bottle of Muggle wine. The small talk was easy and effortless, and when they lapsed into a companionable silence, she pulled out a book, and Draco reclined with his arms behind his head. He dreamed nebulous thoughts of laughter and flowers, of green eyes and a lightning bolt scar, and his mother's fleeting smile. It was the best day he could remember having, even before the war.
The Weasel was even worse. Affable and easygoing, he was nothing like the Ronald Weasley he remembered from school. Then again, neither of them were the same people they had been before. This time, Ron made no bones about clattering around Grimmauld, shouting to tear the roof off. Potter had shouted for Weasley to 'fuck off since vampires were trying to sleep', but even he could hear the protest held no heat. Maybe whatever transpired between them had been resolved, or Potter was too worn out from his secretive exploits to effectively posture a threat. Again with the clothes-throwing, but with more man-handling (he hadn't been thrust into a shower that hard since his Quidditch days). Draco should have suspected something along those lines, because he found himself side by side with Ron in the stands cheering for the cringe-worthy Chudley Cannons.
As per usual, the Cannons lost, but put up a valiant effort. When Draco asked him why he hadn't asked Potter to come, Ron had shrugged in that casual way of his and replied, "I've asked. He won't come. I've asked. He snarled. I've stopped asking. It's a thing." Either way, it hadn't seemed to affect Ron, and Potter hadn't seemed put out that Draco went. And if anyone had ever told Draco he would have a good time at the hands of Ron Weasley, he would have hexed them into oblivion and then punched them in the face for good measure (bad pun notwithstanding). Another shining example of a mediocre existence made good by the company of a friend.
He was starting to get to the point of feeling like this was to be his life. Barely civil interaction with a man he was all but married to, time alone with nothing but his thoughts and the company of a fawning house-elf, and sporadic moments of happiness to break up the mind-numbing monotony. He was a second away from leaving his breakfast on the table to brave that damnable door and force Potter into a half-hearted apology just to have something interesting to do, when Potter appeared in front of him.
He was scruffy, from head to toe, more of a general rumpled appearance rather than lack of hygiene. Because if that had been the case, Draco would have refused to speak to him until he was scrubbed clean.
"If you've got a moment, would you come upstairs, please?"
That one sentence contained more words than they'd spoken to each other in the past three weeks, and Draco didn't know if it was the soft-spoken quality to his words, or the 'please', or the silent hope that was banked far back in the depths of Potter's eyes, but he dropped his spoon into his oatmeal and he stood up.
"After you, Potter."
Potter stopped outside the door to the study and looked expectantly at Draco. "Go on. Go inside."
Draco shot a wary glance at the doorknob.
"Your arse is safe, I promise."
Draco's eyes cut from the knob to Potter. "You knew about that?"
Potter rolled his eyes. "Really?" he said with a dry grin.
Draco stiffened. "Oh, yes, His Saviorness and his Boundless Magical Talents. How easily one forgets such things."
"Just open the door, Draco."
Draco opened the door and gone was Walburga's well-appointed old lady study. In its place stood a state of the art potions lab. Potter had resized the room at least three times over and filled it with the stuff of Draco's dreams. Shelves and shelves of glittering vials and potions ingredients took up a large portion of one side of the room, there were not one, but two, stasis chambers, a rack of shiny new cauldrons, and several workbenches scattered through the work area. A tall, heavy-drawered chest in one corner looked to contain tools and implements, and one wall was nothing but bookshelves. Hundreds of tomes lined the wall, breaking only in the middle to frame a large portrait. It was a vignette of a library somewhere, with more books in the background. It looked homey and lush, and a large leather wing-backed chair sat to the forefront with a small side table. A steaming cup of tea sat all alone, its wispy tendrils of vapor rising into the air as if someone had just poured it. The room was heaven. And Draco was speechless.
Potter stood there awkwardly, looking sheepishly at him while scratching at the back of his head, waiting for Draco to say something. And he honestly wanted to, but his brain had short-circuited the minute he stepped into the room.
"Do—do you like it?"
Was it his imagination, or was there a small waver to Potter's voice?
"What—what is—I mean, it's wonderful. But why did you do this? I thought you were redoing the study for you."
Potter's eyes held a world of untold emotion. "Because you were right. You've given me back my life, at least one part of it, anyway. This is me, trying to give you back yours."
Draco's mouth worked, but no sound emerged.
"You said you were thinking about potions. Now you can do that. I'll explain how in a bit, but for now, this is yours. I know nothing can bring back your expectations of how you thought your life would go, but this could be your life. If you wanted it to be."
"And if you don't, that's fine, too." The words rushed from Potter's mouth and he held his hands out in supplication. "Really, it's okay." There was a flash of earnest protest in Potter's eyes as he continued, "If it's not, just tell me what you want and I'll do everything in my power to give it to you, I promise."
Draco swallowed, bringing much needed moisture to his mouth. "This is one hell of an apology."
Potter's hand fell to his side. "And that's the other thing. I had every intention of making this a lab for you when you mentioned it. But after I…I hurt you, I knew I needed to make it as perfect as possible. At first, I was angry. Angry with you because you should have known better than to bleed in my presence." Draco's eyebrow rose, but Potter put up a hand. "I know, I know. And then I was angry at myself for thinking that. You were suspended in a moment that had forgotten you. You were not at fault, I was. All this control I fight to keep every day, and I came undone from the scent of your blood." Potter shook his head and dropped his eyes to the floor. "There is a time and a place to lose that control. Standing over your mother wasn't it." It felt like ages for Potter to lift his head and fix him with those eyes. "I'm sorry, Draco. You don't know how much. I was overwhelmed with what I—the bond makes me feel for you." Potter's eyes were pleading for him to understand. "All I knew is that you were in pain, and I—the bond urged me to comfort you. But you were bleeding, and there's a part of me that reconciles all that. Hurt, blood, and sex all equal comfort to that baser side of me. It was never meant to discount your grief. Only distract you from it." Potter's hands clenched into fists at his side. "I am a man, a wizard, and a vampire. I am a dark creature, with dark magic, and even darker desires. But I don't want to be a monster."
"I—I don't think you're—"
"But I can be," Potter finished. "And I have to trust you with my life. You should be able to trust me with yours."
Draco stiffened. "I didn't think you were going to kill me, Potter."
"No, but the pain I would have caused you if I had finished that would have been just as great. To you. It would have destroyed everything, wouldn't it?"
"Yes," Draco whispered. "So, you did all of this, for me?"
Potter's smile emerged. "I did all the heavy lifting, and Hermione and Minerva consulted. And there was one other person that I couldn't have done without." Potter's eyes moved past Draco to the portrait. "You can come out now," he called.
Draco whipped around in time to see a large swath of black robes swish into the frame, and Draco's heart caught in his chest. A familiar profile appeared, a hook-like nose he'd known since childhood, and suddenly he was looking square into the dark eyes of Severus Snape.
Draco grabbed at Potter's arm to keep from falling over. He chuckled and righted Draco with a pat to the shoulder. "Catch up. I'm going to grab a nap." And then Potter left him, alone in a potions lab, with his dead godfather.
"Well, that was certainly eloquent," Severus drawled. "For Potter."
Draco could only nod. At Severus' arched eyebrow, he found his voice. "Yes, it was."
"A worthy apology, I presume?" There was too much of a knowing tone to his words.
"Did he tell you what happened?"
"I refused to help him otherwise." Severus' chin was set at a haughty angle. "My first concern was your well-being. You've always been like a son to me, and if Potter was mistreating you, I wasn't going to stand for it."
"Still watching out for me?" Draco smirked.
"But you're watching out for Potter, too, aren't you?"
Severus' mouth pulled into a tight line. "Less than a minute and you're giving me lip. I think that's a record." Draco opened his mouth to snark back, but Severus continued, "Have you forgiven him?"
"It's not that simple, I can't—"
"The courage of your convictions is admirable, but don't martyr yourself to them. It will only end in pain. Trust me." Severus' fingers rested on the back of the chair, curled into the worn leather. His dark eyes radiated sorrow and heartache. "Listen to me, Draco. There is no shame in forgiveness. Nor is there in weakness. I know Lucius taught to seek every advantage over your enemy and to keep them beholden to you. Don't spend your life fighting to keep the higher ground. Because you may be able to look down your nose, but it won't mean a thing when you tumble over the edge."
"Go to him. I think the fact that I'm here is sufficient proof of Potter's capability to grovel effectively, don't you think? We'll discuss the terms of this arrangement and why I'm here at a later time. Right now, you have other business to attend."
Draco nodded, turned on his heel and bolted out the door into the empty hallway.