Title: The Depths of Winter
Rating: R, 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 (Sarya on ) (my dear plotbeta), Magdellin (britpicker), Fionnabair (info-giver) and my three betas: Antarianprincess, Delphina and IceGoddess. 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.
The Depths of Winter
Harry and Draco's first decision had been to continue to stay away from the Wizarding world, but it turned out that that would not be possible. Many of Harry's old friends came to St Mungo's to see him because of the many articles in The Daily Prophet and all the other magazines,
"I've missed you," said Neville's wife, Ginny. Her eyes were filled with tears as she hugged him, holding him tightly. "Don't you ever leave like that again."
"Sorry," Harry said, feeling guilty. Not all that he had left behind had been bad.
He was introduced to Ginny and Neville's son, an energetic toddler named Michael Ronald Longbottom, with hair as red as his mother's. Michael took an instant liking to Draco. Harry was surprised to see that Ginny just smiled fondly at this, rather than throwing a fit. In fact, both Ginny and Neville were taking Draco's presence with surprising – and suspicious – calm.
Ginny's mother, Molly Weasley, was also in tears as she hugged Harry. She went between scolding him for leaving them without so much as a note, joy of seeing him again and tears of both happiness and sadness because of all the memories he brought forth.
When she turned to Draco, still lying on the hospital bed, quietly watching the reunion, her eyes filled with more tears.
"Draco Malfoy," she said and Harry wasn't quite sure of how Mrs Weasley felt about his boyfriend. He moved closer to them, but then she pulled Draco into a tight hug as well, holding him close until he was choking. "Oh, I'm sorry dear," she said then and pulled away. "I just never thought I'd see you again."
Harry looked at Draco, frowning slightly.
"She helped me when I fled," Draco said, seeing his expression. "She helped me long before that, as did Ginny." He blushed suddenly and didn't continue.
Harry's frown deepened and he looked questioningly at Ginny.
"He saved my life back in my fifth year," she said. Harry was surprised; he hadn't had a clue. This apparently showed on his face, because Ginny continued, "No, you don't know about it, because we were the only ones there."
Ginny smiled slightly. "I'd just been down in the kitchens and got some food. I was walking back to the Gryffindor Tower, chewing on nuts, when I suddenly tripped on one of the stairs. A piece of nut got stuck in my throat and I was choking. Then Draco of all people came walking up. He decided—" she glanced at Draco "—that even a Muggle-lover such as me didn't deserve to choke to death. So he performed the Heimlich Manoeuvre on me."
Harry stared, his mouth slightly open, first at Ginny, then at Draco, with an 'are you serious' look on his face.
Draco blushed under his stare and looked down on the sheets before him.
"I told mum, who decided that Draco's heart hadn't been completely blackened yet and she became completely set on helping him over to our side instead. Little by little, she and I managed to make him see that we weren't as bad as he first thought." Ginny smiled gently at Draco.
Harry smiled at Draco, who was still looking down, studying his hands. He reached out and ran his hand through Draco's hair, down to cup his chin in his hand.
"So that is how Draco Malfoy, Muggle hater and future Death Eater, saved the life of Ginny Weasley, Muggle lover and Harry Potter fan, with a manoeuvre that Muggles first came up with, and became an honorary Weasley, just like you are," Ginny said, her smile widening as she looked from Draco to Harry. "Life is ironic sometimes."
Harry nodded slowly. "Indeed it is," he said, thinking of the many twists and turns his life had taken, like a never-ending rollercoaster.
As he bent down and placed a kiss on Draco's lips, however, he had the feeling that the biggest adventure had yet to start.
"So what exactly happened – how exactly did Hermione manage to kidnap you?" Myra asked, slurping on a newly made smoothie. Her hand trailed lazily through Darius' dark hair.
They were sitting almost identically in the way they'd sat on the night of the house warming party; Harry sitting on one couch with Draco's head in his lap, Myra lying on the other couch and Darius on the floor. Her motions were far more loving now than they had been back then however, and when Darius told her that he loved her – which he did quite a few times – she believed him rather than brushed it off as drunken talk.
Draco shrugged slightly, his eyes closed as he spoke. "She just Apparated to right outside the youth center and took me."
"Apparated?" Myra asked. "That's the thing where you just disappear and appear somewhere else, right?"
Harry nodded. There had been a lot of explaining going on the last few days. Myra was very interested in magic and how it worked; her logical mind wanted to understand it. Darius was simply fascinated with the idea of being able to make things float. Harry was planning on taking them to Diagon Alley and then to a Quidditch match, and perhaps even to Hogwarts, so that they could see more of what magic could do, beyond what Harry and Draco could show with their wands.
Because now truly cleared of all charges and finally able to move freely in the Wizarding world as well as the Muggle one, Draco bought a new wand. He liked to play with it and see how much he remembered. He sparred with Harry, trying to recall as many nasty spells as possible.
"Yeah, it is," Draco said. "Then she took me to the room where you found us and beat me, screaming at me that I was finally going to get what I deserved and that everything that was wrong would finally be set right."
"She was insane," Harry said. "Her love for Ron drove her insane."
Harry met Myra's eyes as he said this. He smiled slightly at her, remembering their conversation at the hospital before Draco had woken up, and trying to reassure him that he wasn't insane as well. She smiled back, knowingly.
"I don't remember that much of what happened after that, until I woke up at St Mungo's," Draco said. "The Aurors didn't have much use of me."
Draco looked up at Harry. "Oh, I've been meaning to ask," he said. "How is it that the Aurors and you could Apparate into the room from St Mungo's to pick Myra and Darius up, when the place was so safely warded that it wouldn't even show up with a location spell an hour earlier?"
Harry said, "The wards were linked to Hermione. When she was injured, her magic drained away and both the spells holding us prisoner and the wards keeping everyone else out fell."
"How did you find me when she had the wards up?" Draco asked.
Harry looked down at him, at first hesitating to answer for some reason. "I called upon the blood we shared," he said finally.
Draco paled. "You know about that—"
"Why didn't you tell me?" Harry asked softly. "You saved my life."
Draco seemed just as hesitant as Harry to answer the question, but after a few moments during which he closed his eyes, he said, "You'd just saved me. For the second time, might I add. You saved my life the day of the accident – yes, I know about that – and you saved it again by going into a burning building to get me…" He trailed off, his eyes cast down, away from Harry. "I didn't want you to think that I only did it as repayment."
"I wouldn't have thought you did," Harry said, cupping Draco's cheek in his hand. "But really, a blood bind – you don't think it would have been a better idea to tell me?"
"What does a blood bind do, anyway?" asked Darius.
"Well," said Harry, "for a Muggle such as yourself, it's only a blood exchange. A few hundred years ago, best friends did it with each other, to show that they were 'brothers'. For a wizard or witch, however, you can combine the blood exchange with a spell."
"I gave Harry some of my strength, to keep him alive," Draco said, continuing to explain. "They'd gotten his heart going again, but he was still terribly weak and he was disappearing again. So I did the exchange and performed the spell. It is an old ritual, to create a bond between two people so that they are able to share strength and sense each other."
"Did you do a spell while the doctors and nurses were working on him as well?" asked Myra. "One of the nurses said you were mumbling and that there was 'an aura of strength' or something around you."
Draco nodded. "I did," he said. "It was another strengthening spell."
The four fell silent, their thoughts straying away in different directions. Harry's mind went over the last few months, from the accident, to the bombing of the apartment, to Hermione's subsequent death. He didn't like to think of Hermione on the day of her death. He tried to only think of how she'd been back in school, before Ron had been murdered. That was when she'd been the genius girl with the highest grades in her year, with bushy hair and warm brown eyes, who was always there for her friends when they needed her. That was the person he tried to remember, rather than the insane woman they'd encountered in the room without windows.
Waking Harry from his musings, Myra said softly, "I'm just glad we got out of it alive."
The three men nodded in agreement.
Five months later
It was a beautiful day.
Autumn had come and with it the trees exploded in colourful fireworks, creating a calm, cool and beautiful view. A lonely bird sang, sounding wistful now that summer was over.
Harry Potter walked through the park slowly, feeling anything but sad.
On his arm, a pale hand rested.
Draco Malfoy's steps were agonizingly slow, each movement requiring power, thought and determination. There was a crease between his brows and he bit his lip unconsciously as he moved his right foot in front of his left, his weight on both Harry and the cane in his free hand. A pearl of sweat made its way down his cheek, despite the weather being rather cool.
"Do you need to take a break?"
Draco looked at Harry, who was watching with fascinated worry. "No," he said, "I want to keep walking."
It had taken months of hard training and a great deal of luck, but Harry's promise to Draco that he would walk again had come true. Many tears had fallen down his pale cheeks; tears of frustration and anger when things didn't go as Draco wanted them to, but also of happiness and excitement when he made progress.
His goal was to be completely free of his wheelchair. They still had a long way to go for that; for now, it took all of Draco's energy to walk a distance that a healthy person strode past in a couple of seconds.
A few minutes – two or three steps – later, all of Draco's energy reserves had been exhausted and he agreed to sit down on one of the benches.
Harry pulled Draco closely to him and Draco happily complied, nuzzling into Harry's shoulder. The park was almost empty for once; it was an early Wednesday afternoon and most people were working or in school.
"We are quite lucky," said Draco, his voice quiet and content. "No jobs that we have to go to and no classes." He looked up at Harry, smirking slightly. "Isn't your life much better now than it was a year ago? Your new book is out, winning award upon award and being blessed by every non-homophobic critic in Britain, soon to be the world. You have no school with dumb tests and boring classes. Your friends have finally realised how well they fit together and are as we speak planning their wedding. We have opened the café so that we can eat cookies and cake and get fat at any time. You have faced your past and earned back several friends—"
"And most important of all," Harry said, interrupting Draco. "I have you."
Draco flushed. Even after six months together with Harry – six sweet, incredible, wonderful months – he still seemed to have problems understanding just how much Harry loved him. Harry intended to spend every day of the rest of his life showing Draco. That was why he now had a small box in his pocket.
He disentangled himself from Draco, who looked up at him, confusion written all over his face.
"What is it?"
Harry didn't answer; instead, he stood in front of Draco and dropped down on one knee. Draco's eyes widened, grey eyes showing shock – and hope?
"You are the best thing that ever happened to me," Harry said softly. "The most important thing of all. I quote Albert Camus when I say, 'In the depths of winter, I finally learned that within me lay an invincible summer'. That is you; that is what you represent to me – amazing strength, invincible will, and incredible love. I love you more than I could ever say in words. That is why you would make me the happiest man on the planet if you would be my husband."
Draco stared at him for a few seconds, looking as though he tried to grasp the concept that someone – Harry! – had just asked for his hand in marriage. Then, after several long seconds with Harry's heart hammering wildly in his chest, he broke out in a wide, rare grin, his smile lightening up the entire park. "Of course," he breathed. "Yes, yes, I will be your husband. Of course. Yes!"
Then he pulled Harry towards him and their lips met in a searing kiss, filled with the promise of a wondrous future to come.
A few months later, on the one year 'anniversary' of Draco's accident, Harry and Draco exchanged rings, defied fate and marked that day as the happiest of their lives.
Started: May, 2003
Finished: January 3rd, 2004
Edited until: August 5th, 2004
Betas: Sarah (plot beta)
Jen (cheer-author-on beta)
And that's the end of it. Please tell me any thoughts in a review; I want to hear good, bad, wonderful and awful. If you haven't commented before – please, if you could, do it now. I'd love to hear what you think of it.
To read 'behind the scenes' of this fic, go to www. cosmicuniverse. net/fiction/myfics/tdw/behindthescenes.htm (without spaces) and read about everything there, and to www. cosmicuniverse. net/fiction/myfics/tdw/sources.htm (without spaces) for the sources (names, quotes and sites).
Hugs and love to everyone who has read this story,