Title: The Depths of Winter
Rating: PG-13, for bad words, bloody scenes and some kissing
Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
Summary: Four years after getting out of Hogwarts, Harry lives alone in the Muggle world. He has turned his back on the magical world – until one day, when Draco Malfoy gets into a car crash before Harry's eyes and ends up paralysed in a wheelchair. HP/DM slash.
Author's notes: Thanks to all the people who've helped me with this fic. Sarah (my dear plotbeta), Fionnabair (who helped me with London universities) and my three betas, antarianprincess . Also, this story is completed and will be posted one chapter per week, on every Thursday. If you would like an email when I update, leave your email in your review.
Dedication: This story is dedicated to Laura, for being my beloved little sister in every way but by blood, and to Jen, for being the best friend a girl could have and for keeping me motivated through the months it took me to write this.
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The Depths of Winter
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Journey of a thousand miles
It was a beautiful day; the kind of day when birds sang, the sky was blue and people all around were smiling.
A man with messy black hair and bespectacled green eyes made his way down the street. Harry Evans, twenty-two years old and a university student, felt fairly happy. It was Wednesday afternoon, which meant half the week was over – and as he had nothing planned with his friends and his schoolwork was done, he would be able to spend some time by himself.
First, though, he had to go to the grocery store. He needed pasta, potatoes, some vegetables and perhaps some chicken. He would see about that when he got there. He wasn't the kind of person who wrote down on a list each and every thing he needed to buy; instead he kept it in his head. It usually resulted in him forgetting something, but he had lovely neighbours. They had never been able to say no to him.
All of this would have happened, if not for what took place next.
A car speeding down the road didn't notice – or didn't care – that the light ahead switched from green to red. Instead, it flew into the intersection at a high speed, where the crossing lanes' light just turned green.
At the same exact moment, a motorcycle entered the intersection.
The crash could not be avoided.
Harry saw as if in slow motion as the driver of the motorcycle was thrown to the side, landing on the ground with the motorbike on top of him. The driver of the car slammed on the brakes, but couldn't stop the vehicle from running over the man on the ground.
The sound of metal cutting into metal was deafening.
Harry ran, his legs obeying him before his brain even had time to give the order. Other people were running towards the scene as well, but Harry arrived first. The driver of the car was getting out; it was a young man. Harry didn't care to register more of the person's looks; if he was up and walking, he would be fine. He was far more worried about the lifeless body of the motorbike driver.
Trying to be both fast and gentle, Harry and another person who came running to the scene lifted the motorbike off the man below. Harry heard someone calling for an ambulance.
The man on the ground didn't move. Harry bent down next to him, carefully trying to avoid touching him, while at the same time trying to decipher the man's injuries. He unfastened the helmet and moved it upwards, off the man's head. It wouldn't go all the way off without Harry having to move the man, so he left it there, instead searching for a pulse along the man's neck. When he'd searched for several long seconds and still hadn't found one, he made a quick decision and pulled the helmet off the man completely.
Without pausing to look at the man, he bent down and began giving CPR. The guy who'd helped him lift the bike off the man on the ground helped by doing the chest compressions, whilst Harry blew air into the victim's mouth.
Suddenly, Harry felt a little gasp of breath as the man began breathing on his own again. At the same time, he heard and saw the ambulance arrive on the scene. He looked down at the man whose life he'd just saved.
His mouth fell open and his eyes widened as he saw who the unconscious man on the ground was. Memories assaulted him, memories of a school and a life from the past.
It was Draco Malfoy.
He would ask himself later why he had asked to come with the ambulance as it rode at high speed towards the hospital. He would never come up with a good answer other than that it had felt right at the time.
He sat in the front of the vehicle, turned towards the back to watch as the paramedics struggled to keep Malfoy alive. He looked a mess; the blond hair that was trademarked to the Malfoy family was stained with blood. The medics didn't tell him anything; they didn't have the time. They asked questions, all about Malfoy. His name, his blood type, his medical history, any allergies… Harry couldn't answer more than the first one. He didn't think it would be appropriate to tell the Muggle paramedics that Malfoy had injured himself a few times whilst playing Qui—
He stopped the thought before it became anything more, refusing another assault of the memories he had locked away long ago.
When they arrived at the chaotic Muggle hospital, Harry was once again pushed to the side as Malfoy was wheeled into surgery. A nurse showed him to the waiting area and he sat down. The same nurse told him where the coffee machine was as well and told him that the police would be likely to contact Harry to interview him about the accident. Indeed they did. An hour after he'd arrived at the hospital. Still in a state of mild shock, Harry answered the questions automatically about what had happened and that the other driver had definitely caused the accident. He then gave the police his address and phone number, so that he could be reached if he was needed. Then they bid him a good evening. Harry returned the good bye, before sitting back down, the world around him disappearing as he sank into thought.
Harry headed over to the coffee machine, desperate for something that he recognized, even if it was only a drink.
Four hours ago, he'd been at the university, happy that the week was halfway over; only Thursday and Friday left before the weekend. He'd been looking forward to a calm weekend at home, where he would continue writing his new novel. He'd written about a hundred pages so far, but was still unhappy with its progress. If it didn't get any better in the next fifty pages, he would scrap it completely and start over again. His muses just didn't seem to be with him these days. Unlike when he wrote his first novel—
Again, he stopped those thoughts before they could get any further.
Now he sat here in the waiting area of the hospital, waiting for a word from the doctors or the nurses, on whether Draco Malfoy, his school nemesis, would pull through after such a horrid motorbike accident. He wondered if he would care if he didn't make it. It had been close to five years since the last time Harry had seen the youngest Malfoy. Five years is a lot of time to think, especially when he had done almost nothing but think for the first year after leaving Hogwarts.
Yet again, he stopped the painful memories of the school he used to love before they could continue to hurt inside. He had worked too hard at setting those feelings aside for them to be brought to the surface so brutally once more. He didn't want to think about—
Harry looked up to see a doctor. She was thirty and some, her face kind and tired. Ashen hair hung down her shoulders. She had a petite figure.
She stretched her hand out. "I am Doctor Salus. I am the doctor who operated on Mr Malfoy."
"I'm Harry," he said. "Harry Evans." Her eyes widened slightly in recognition before she went back to being completely professional. Harry felt a bit awkward standing there, making formal greetings when the conversation would soon be about another person's life.
"We finished operating on your friend," she told him and it felt strange to Harry to call Malfoy a friend.
"He is still alive, yes," said the doctor. "But I'm afraid that he isn't well at all." When Harry just looked at her questioningly, she continued, "His left arm was fractured in two places and his leg in four. He has multiple bruising, but managed to avoid any broken ribs. Two of them are cracked though. And— his spinal cord was also injured."
Harry's brows furrowed. "What?" He knew what it should mean, but he needed to hear it from her to actually believe it.
"Mr Malfoy's spinal cord was broken," she said again. "He is most likely paralysed from his waist down."
Harry stared. He couldn't come up with anything better to do. "He – what?" he asked dumbly.
"His spinal cord was injured in the accident," she repeated a third time. "We don't know just how badly it has affected him yet, or if it will be permanent; we won't be able to tell until the scans come back. We also have to test him once he's awake."
"He's not awake, then?" Harry asked, his voice sounding faraway in his own head. His mind was reeling – this was not how it was supposed to be. Malfoy was supposed to be fine; he had always been after every single accident and fight they'd gotten into. He wasn't supposed to be—
"No, he is sleeping. I doubt he will wake up at all today. You should come back tomorrow." She smiled kindly at him. "I'm sorry it couldn't be better news."
Harry shook his head slowly at her, "Don't – don't worry about it." A thought occurred to him. "I – I did CPR on him. Did I—"
"No, Mr Evans," Doctor Salus said, "You didn't cause the injury. His spinal cord was broken on impact, not when you revived him. You didn't worsen it. In fact," she said with a very small smile, "I do believe you saved his life."
"You saved his life."
The words echoed in Harry's head; he'd heard them before. He didn't reply to the doctor; he just stood there, perfectly still, the sentence ringing in his ears again and again. The words soon mixed with his previous thoughts – this is not how it's supposed to be.
Doctor Salus' beeper went off. "Excuse me," she said, "I have to go. Good night."
"Good night," he mumbled back. Then she left and he stood in the waiting room with people milling about around him, feeling utterly alone.
"You saved his life."
Unable to sleep, Harry was back at the hospital early the next morning. It being in the middle of January, the sun had barely risen by the time Harry reached the Intensive Care Unit at the Muggle hospital to which Malfoy had been taken. He didn't have an exact reason as to why he was back there, but some part of him told him that it was time to bury the hatchet between him and Malfoy. It should have been done long ago, but they had never had the chance. At least that was what Harry told himself was the reason, as he made his way up the stairs to the hospital's entrance.
Harry had wondered where Malfoy had been for the last five years. He hadn't even shown up when his parents were sentenced to a lifetime in Azkaban, the Wizarding prison. Of course, Azkaban belonged to the things that Harry refused to think about, so he barred those thoughts before they could get any more involved.
Harry walked up to the counter. "Hi," he said with as much of a smile as he could muster, "I'm looking for Draco Malfoy."
The nurse, who'd been writing in some papers, looked up. "Wait just a moment," she said and turned to the computer. Then she turned back slowly, stared at him and then turned back to the computer once more. "Just a second," she said. This time her words were mumbled and a light blush spread on her cheeks.
Harry continued to smile and nod. He was used to the treatment, although it always made him feel a bit stupid. He was good looking – according to others, at least – and his picture had been in the paper a few times. People liked celebrities.
"He is in room 256," she said after less than a minute, "but our visiting hours aren't really until—"
"I will make it short, I promise," Harry said and fired off another smile.
"Oh," she said, blushing slightly, "All right. It's down the corridor, to your left. But be careful not to disturb him – he's been through a terrible trauma."
"I know and I won't," Harry said and then he left, the nurse still staring after him.
The hallways were filled with equipment and stray beds, but vacant of people. He passed a nurse or two, and a doctor told him good morning, but during the rest of his time walking down the long corridor, he was alone.
248, 250, 252… There was the room he was looking for. It had windows out to the hallway but the curtains were drawn, so Harry couldn't look inside. His heart rate sped up for some inexplicable reason, as he raised his hand to open the door. He wondered what he was expecting, but then he pushed the handle down and the door opened soundlessly and he didn't have to wonder anymore.
There, in the middle of a small room with windows on both sides – the one Harry had seen from the corridor and the other one overlooking the street below and the red sky outside – lay Draco Malfoy.
"You saved his life."
The left side of his face was covered with white gauze, the skin beneath looked purplish and unhealthy. Bandages covered various parts of his body and his left arm and leg were in casts. Malfoy's face looked paler than Harry remembered it, but that could just be his fuzzy memory playing with him, or possibly the light of the room. Around Malfoy's body was some sort of structure, connected to the blond in various places. Harry guessed that it was the thing to keep Malfoy from moving around, which would put his spinal cord in an even worse condition.
Malfoy's body was also connected to an arsenal of machines – pulse, blood pressure and many more that Harry didn't recognize. They filled the room with beeping noises that soon faded into the back of Harry's mind, somehow safe in its continuity.
He didn't know how long he stood there, just staring at the figure that had once been his school nemesis. The Draco Malfoy before Harry looked nothing like the tall, proud and to no end irritating, spoiled git that had been a nuisance to Harry for six and a half years.
Of course, that may not be completely true, as Harry had, after all, pestered Malfoy back. So the blame couldn't be put entirely on the blond, although he felt it would be fairer. He almost smiled as memories came forth, but then remembered that he didn't want to think about those things, and he swiftly shut the door to that part of his brain.
The blond in question suddenly emitted a small, pained sigh.
A sudden panic seized Harry, but he found that his limbs were no longer responding. Instead of running out of there, which was Harry's first impulse, he stood frozen on the ground as Malfoy woke up before him.
His eyes fluttered open as Harry suddenly reminisced who it was he was dealing with.
His nemesis from school, who had hated Hermione for not being a pure-blood and despised Ron for being poor.
Malfoy blinked at him, grey orbs focusing on the world around him. He squinted at Harry, trying to make his eyes function correctly again, his mind confused. Harry could see and read the puzzled expression as clearly as a book, something that was also quite different from the old Malfoy.
"Do I know you?" he asked, looking like he wanted to cock his head slightly to the side, but unable to because of the structure keeping him in place. His voice was raspy, like someone who hadn't used his voice in a while. He also sounded tired.
Harry smiled and he could feel how forced and unnatural it looked. "Yeah, Malfoy, you do," he said.
Malfoy's mouth fell open. "Potter?" His voice held a mixture of wonder and loathing.
Harry shrugged. "Well, Evans these days, but yeah, that would be me."
"Without the scar and new glasses. Wonderful. What the hell are you doing here?"
Judging by the tone of Malfoy's voice, he could just as well have been talking about the weather.
"I – um," Harry said and damned his ineloquence. As long as he was alone with his notebook and a pen, he could 'do things with words that I have never seen before' – as Harry's agent, Ms Pally Devan, had once told him. Faced with a former nemesis from his teen-years, however, he was, obviously, a bumbling idiot.
"Well? Spit it out?"
When Malfoy still wasn't able to sound harsh, Harry suddenly realised that he was still heavily drugged. He probably wasn't able to sound nasty at the moment. If someone had told Harry when he was at school that the day would come when Draco Malfoy couldn't sound nasty, he would have told them to go to St Mu—
Yet again, he forced the thoughts back.
"You were in an accident," Harry finally managed to reply. "I was there. I kind of— came with the ambulance— to the hospital." The last words were mumbled, close to incoherent.
Malfoy's brow furrowed slightly. "I was riding my motorbike," he said, the frown deepening. He looked up, though the movement was small, hindered by the structure around him. "So you've come to gloat?"
"I – what? No, I haven't. You were in an accident and I just – I wanted to see that you were okay," Harry finished off lamely. Truth was, he still hadn't figured out why he'd come back today.
"You wanted to 'see that I was okay'?" This time Malfoy managed the harshness, although Harry thought he could hear a trace of tiredness too. "Your enemy. You wanted to see that I was okay. You do understand why I think it's a bit— hard to believe."
Harry glared at the blond. "Whatever. I don't care."
"Now see, that I recognize. You – don't – care." Malfoy's steel gaze met Harry's. "So now that that's over with, get out."
"What?" Harry asked dumbly, the glare disappearing immediately.
"You heard me. You've come, you've seen that I'm 'all right' and now you're getting the hell away from here." Malfoy's eyes were hard, his jaw set. "Leave."
Harry sighed softly. "Malfoy, I—"
"Out!" Malfoy didn't manage a real scream, but his voice was definitely louder.
Harry didn't try again; he turned and left.
He spent the afternoon wandering around town. He couldn't bring himself to go to class. He should but he couldn't possibly sit through tedious classes when his world had just, yet again, been turned upside down. Malfoy's involuntary return into his life had brought back memories of a life he'd rather just forget all about. He didn't want to remember. He had turned his back on the Wizarding world for a reason, a good reason, and to be brought back into it so forcefully—
He pushed the thoughts away, trying to tell himself that he hadn't been brought back, not really. He could still just turn his back on Malfoy, on that life.
Harry walked into his favourite café, Espresso House, and ordered a caffe latte. Realizing that he hadn't eaten all day long – he seemed to have forgotten all about breakfast that morning and his lunch had been an apple – he also bought a scone with butter and cheese. Still with thoughts rumbling around in his head, he paid the girl behind the counter and made his way over to a table by the window. The late afternoon sun was colouring the sky a deep shade of orange but Harry barely noticed.
"You saved his life."
Among all those other thoughts that filled his brain, that sentence stood out clearly. Two voices repeated the same word; one was the doctor, the other was— a voice from the past, a voice he should forget. He didn't want to remember; it only brought back his failure.
So he sat and stared at the sunset until it was dark, when the girl from behind the counter came up to him and told him they were closing for the evening. The skinny girl, eighteen years old or so, waited by his side until he'd put his jacket on.
"Sorry," Harry mumbled when he noticed that the rest of the café was empty.
"Don't worry about it." The girl smiled pleasantly at him. She was taking the cup and the plate when she turned to him and asked, "Did you not like the coffee, sir?"
"What?" Harry asked distractedly.
"Your cup is still full," she said, her tone pleasant. She seemed curious.
"I – I guess I didn't feel like coffee after all."
She only smiled at him. "Good night, sir," she said as he pulled open the door to leave.
"Good – good night," Harry said.
Morning arrived and Harry went to class. He had already missed a whole day yesterday; he couldn't very well miss another. When his last class finished at three in the afternoon, he thanked whatever deity was in charge of the world for making the day a Friday. His professors had asked him questions several times during the day's classes and he had been able to answer a grand total of none, because his mind had been somewhere completely different.
As much as he tried to force the thoughts away, they just continued to invade his mind. In fact, the more he attempted to push them away, the heavier were the loads of memories that washed over him. Like a tidal wave they only grew stronger and stronger, destroying all the walls that he had so carefully built up around himself.
"Harry!" The shout caused Harry to stop in mid-stride to see who wanted his attention. He turned around and was faced with a young woman with long, dark hair.
"Hey Myra," Harry said, trying to bring enthusiasm to his words. The sight of his friend didn't stop the thought from entering his mind though:They all die…
Myra regarded him, frowning. "You don't seem happy," she said.
"I just – something happened the other day," Harry said. "I just – I don't—"
"You don't want to talk about it?" Myra said, raising an eyebrow.
Harry looked helplessly at her, wondering how she would react if he told her everything about the world he'd once been a part of. The logical part of his brain replied that she would be scared, revolted by the notion of something so— unnatural. The voice came to him; Uncle Vernon's voice, telling him he was a freak. He met Myra's brown eyes. "Sorry," he said, voice a bare whisper. "I just can't."
He started to turn around, but Myra grabbed his sleeve. Being several inches shorter than him, she had to look up at him. She opened her mouth to say something, but closed it again with a thoughtful expression.
"I'm here," she said. "If you need me, I'm here."
He attempted a smile, but had a feeling that he failed miserably at it. "Thanks," he said and left her staring at him.
That afternoon, Harry sat brooding at home. He didn't know what to do – he wanted to block out the memories and never have to deal with them again, but everywhere he looked suddenly seemed to be connected to the past in some way, despite his efforts to buy everything anew when he left his past behind him.
Or, rather, he admitted to himself, when he fled from his past. He had never actually left it.
Finally becoming annoyed with himself, he stood and grabbed his coat again. Filled with a sudden urge to do something, he picked up his keys and left the apartment. Almost running down the steps, he left the building in no time. The pavement was, as always, filled with people, since he lived in a busier part of Muggle London. They paid no heed to him as he sped down the road, destination clear in his mind: the hospital, and more precisely, the Intensive Care Unit.
The hospital was buzzing with activity, just as it had been the last time Harry had come there. Nurses and doctors, all clad in the customary greens and whites, and patients on beds, some unconscious and others crying, and finally the relatives and friends, all anxious and tired. Harry fitted into neither group; he was not a member of the medical personnel, he was not a patient – thankfully – and he could consider himself neither friend nor relative of Malfoy's.
"Uh, hi," he said to the nurse in the reception. "I'm looking for Draco Malfoy?"
"Relation?" the man asked, clearly stressed.
"Friend," Harry said despite his earlier thoughts.
"He's been moved to the third floor, room 317," the man said. "Visiting hours are until five. Next?"
Harry was pushed aside. He didn't mind; he made his way down the corridor to the stairs. Arriving on the third floor slightly out of breath, he swore to himself that he would start exercising again. All he ever did nowadays was walk to and from the university.
He realised how wrong the thoughts were, when he remembered whom he was going to visit and why.
The third floor was much calmer than the first. Harry soon realised that this was the ward for people with long-term illnesses and injuries. The ward was quiet, though not eerily so. It was more like a home-environment, with pictures, paintings and drawings on the walls, a big room with couches, a TV, a stereo, and an assortment of videos and CDs. A man in his forties sitting in his wheelchair was watching the TV with interest, not looking up as Harry walked past him.
These rooms also had windows out to the corridor, although most of the blinds were drawn. Harry understood their need for at least some privacy. He knew there couldn't be much privacy involved when a person needed help to get to and from the bathroom and sometimes even to do the business itself.
Room 317 was towards the end of the corridor. Harry walked past a room where two nurses were sipping tea while discussing something quietly.
Outside of room 317, he stopped and took a deep breath. The blinds were drawn here too; Harry wasn't surprised. Malfoy had always been one to demand his privacy. Harry noticed his hand shaking as he lifted it and knocked on the door. Butterflies were fluttering – no, elephants were stomping – around nervously in his stomach. He didn't know why he was nervous; this was Malfoy, his school nemesis, really no one he cared about and nothing to be scared of.
A voice in his head reminded him that the last time Harry had seen Malfoy, the latter had screamed at him to get out.
He realised that no one had answered his knock. Deciding to chance it, telling himself that Malfoy couldn't actually do anything to him – nothing worse than screaming anyway – he pushed the handle down and opened the door.
Malfoy was sleeping. Voices were heard in the room, but Harry soon realised that it was the TV showing some stupid reality-series and not someone visiting the blond patient on the bed. Daring to step further into the room, Harry took in Malfoy's appearance. He looked pale, too pale for it to be healthy. The bruises visible on the sides of the gauze on Malfoy's face had lessened just fractionally in colour, but still provided a nasty contrast to his skin. The structure was, unsurprisingly, still in place around Malfoy's head and upper body, to keep him from moving. The covers were drawn up to his waist, his left arm in a cast over his stomach.
Closing the distance to the bed, Harry stretched out for the TV-remote, so that he could turn the TV off.
Harry suddenly found his wrist trapped in Malfoy's hand and blazing eyes were on him.
"Didn't I tell you to leave me alone?" he said, voice low and deadly.
Harry met his glare squarely. "No, last time, you only told me to get out," he said, knowing that the tone of his voice would drive Malfoy mad.
"Then I'll tell you again, get—"
"Malfoy, stop it," Harry said tiredly. "We're not at – we're not in school anymore, I live in the Muggle world and you are in a Muggle hospital, paralysed from the waist down. My being here should be the least of your problems."
Malfoy opened and closed his mouth several times in rapid succession. Harry enjoyed the moment when he had rendered Malfoy speechless. He realised suddenly that since deciding to come to the hospital to see Malfoy, his thoughts hadn't run rampant like they had before. Afraid to lose the ability to stop the unwanted thoughts from coming, Harry returned his attention to the blond before him. The other man was looking furious once more.
"I don't know how you found out about the extent of my injuries," he said, composure and deadliness won back, "but trust me when I say that I didn't want you to know. Now get out before I call the nurse."
Harry rolled his eyes and pulled his wrist out of Malfoy's grasp. He noted the flash of pain, the small wince, as he did so and reminded himself that he should be careful with the blond. Even if Malfoy didn't want to admit it to himself, he had been gravely injured in the accident. Some part of Harry wondered why he cared; Harry told that part that it didn't matter who it was before him; he was not going to hurt the person further after such an accident.
He turned off the irritating TV. Even with his back turned, he knew Malfoy was watching his every move.
"Does anyone else know that you are here?" he asked finally, turning back to Malfoy.
Malfoy seemed to be debating with himself whether he should reply or not and when half a minute had passed, Harry exclaimed, "Oh come on, Malfoy! Is it really that bad that I'm here? That I know?"
Malfoy's eyes flashed with anger familiar from years before. "Get out," he hissed.
"Is that the only thing you can say?" Harry asked, annoyance rising within. "'Get out'? Haven't you changed a bit? Are you still that spoiled brat that I knew long ago?"
Malfoy seemed to want to move and his anger only increased when he realised that the structure around him kept him from doing so. The fact that said structure was keeping him alive at the moment didn't matter; he wanted nothing so bad as to get up and punch Harry; Harry could see it, written clearly on Malfoy's face.
"Get out!" Malfoy screamed again. "Get out, get out, get out!"
His expression falling, Harry turned and left the room, door falling shut quietly behind him.
To be continued…