A/N: Ooo, chapter eight. Aren't I special? Okay, here goes me pimpin' the indie music. Everyone go listen to "Funerals" by the Arcade Fire. That is one really great album, and one really great band. If you don't like them, you suck. (Not really. But your taste in music sure as Hell does.) Anyway. I'd thank my reviewers if I had any… but I don't. Waaah! Oh well, I'm sure I'll live. But everyone be sure to review this chapter!
Chapter 8: Healing
Harry scowled at Malfoy's retreating back. Such an odd man, warm one minute, cold the next. The sooner Harry regained enough of his strength to resume his hunt, the better. In fact… Harry felt that now was as proper a time as any to begin testing the limits of his body. Disentangling his legs from the blankets proved to be a far more difficult task than he had bargained for, and he found himself having to recuperate from the exertion. He nearly spat in self-loathing and disgust. A young man his age should not be clinging desperately to the bed-post like an invalid oldster. Even if that had been a hefty bit of sorcery that he had attempted, he shouldn't be like this… Harry expelled a breath and pushed away from the safety and support that the bed offered. If he didn't force himself to stand now, what was to stop him from languishing for days, weeks even, in the dubious care of Lord Malfoy? No. The thought of staying here, with that man, made his mouth purse in displeasure.
One step, then another. Harry wandered over in the direction of the window that the Lord Malfoy had been only moments before staring so pensively out of. Perhaps from that window he could ascertain just where he was, and where he needed to go. He placed the heels of his hands on the sill, hoping to lean over the thick pane to see the outlying lands. This proved to be a mistake. With a yelp, Harry drew his hands back from the black stone that composed the walls of the room. The stone was cold enough to have a bite to it, cold in a way that the weather alone could not make it. Rubbing together his hands briskly to ward off the chill that seemed to pervade even to his very bones, Harry could only come to the conclusion that this was one more mystery on the list of many that he had mentally been writing. A mystery wrapped in an enigma. He didn't know where the saying had come from, but it certainly seemed to fit his current host.
"I'm going to remain forever the tenant of That Man. What a miserable way to die." Hedwig hooted as if to chastise him for his ridiculous thinking, which made Harry smile. "Oh, don't worry yourself so. I know I'm not really going to die here. It just feels that way now because I'm weak and helpless." His health was really a problem, though. Lately he had been feeling this insistent pressure in the back of his mind telling him that if he did not complete his quest swiftly, he would lose the chance forever. Harry didn't know what he would do with himself if he was forced to abandon this hunt. He would feel like an owl told never to catch mice—useless and starving. With another sigh, Harry gathered up his energies and went to the door. That, mercifully, was made of nothing more than good, strong oak-wood fitted with silver trappings. It was something of a struggle to get even one of the doors open. Finally, after much cursing and berating of inanimate objects he had created an opening just wide enough for him to squeeze his body through.
Once outside the door, Harry was hit first with a feeling of cold, and then disgust. The wide hall was lined with perfectly ordinary stone, but every bit of available wall space was covered with more of the garish green and silver tapestries, all emblazoned with what he assumed was the Malfoy coat of arms, a snake wrapped around a vicious-looking sword that was buried in the breast of a hawk. In fact, the place seemed to give off a distinct air of great dislike for feathered things. The hall branched out in either direction for about fifty feet and then made sharp turns to connect it to the rest of the castle. The room in which he was currently residing was only one of about ten additional rooms on either side of the hall, and further investigation proved these to all be bedrooms, exactly like his in size and style, though considerably dustier. The guest wing, then. Well, that would tell him nothing. He needed to see the rest of the castle—but his little excursion had cost him precious energy, and he dared not get himself lost in what he had the feeling were labyrinthine passages. It would be far better for him to go back to his bed now, rest, and continue his investigation when he awoke.
Hedwig clacked her beak at him in a faintly irritated fashion when he returned—she most likely had resent not being included on his foray. "Don't worry," he told her, climbing into the bed, "I'll take you along next time, I promise. You didn't miss anything, really." Hedwig seemed to consider this, then ruffled her feathers and hooted in what Harry took to be acceptance. He sank against his pillows with a yawn, and within minutes he had drifted into sleep.
"Wake up, boy." In his half-slumbering state, Harry could not match the voice to a speaker, but it set his teeth on edge. "I said, wake UP!" With that last word his blankets were snatched rudely off of him and Harry came to complete wakefulness. Malfoy stood next to him, holding the blanket in one hand and a steaming mug in the other. His expression was one of impatience and irritation, which only served to incite Harry's own annoyance further. "Here," Malfoy said to him, shoving the cup into his hands. "Drink it." Harry obeyed unthinkingly and almost gagged on the bitter liquid. Coughing, he managed to swallow all of the mug's contents, fixing Malfoy with a baleful look afterwards.
"Just what was that?" The drink left a distinctive, harsh aftertaste in his mouth.
"Rockroot tea. It will speed your healing along and help soothe your burnt-out channels," Malfoy replied without actually looking at Harry. The dark-haired boy made a face. A healer's brew; no wonder it tasted so vile.
"Why do you know something like that?" Harry asked suspiciously. Malfoy gave him a singularly condescending glance. When he made no further comment, Harry ground his back teeth in anger. He did not give vent to these feelings, however. Though he had been perfectly horrible about it, Malfoy had just done him a kindness, and he didn't want to spoil whatever mood his host was in that prompted such a measure if he could help it. "Why did you give it to me, then?" He tried his best to keep his tone pleasant, but some of his frustration crept into it anyway. For a moment, Malfoy looked startled, as if he himself had not considered the question. The moment quickly passed and that expression was replaced by the much more familiar one of disdain.
"Because I want you out of my home as quickly as possible, that's why," he said. Harry sensed there was something more to it then that, but he didn't press the issue. "I brought you some food, as well. I don't want you dying of starvation—I would have to make arrangements for a corpse, and I'm not finished with the last one." Was that a thinly veiled threat, or a slip of the tongue? Harry couldn't tell. Malfoy shoved into his hands a bowl of stew, then stood there waiting for him to eat it. "Well, go on then." Harry did as he was told, and though he had had his doubts it was actually rather good. The meat had a strange flavour to it that he could not identify, and all of the vegetables were foreign to him, but it was good. When he had finished the last of it, Malfoy took both mug and bowl and set them on the windowsill. Harry saw, now that he was looking, that there was yet another mug. This one was the same colour and had nearly the same scent as the first.
"Is that more whatever-root tea?" Harry was quite sure that he could not stomach more of that abominable liquid. He would lose all of that delicious stew that he had just finished eating.
"Rockroot, and yes it is." Was it Harry's imagination, or was that trace of laughter in Malfoy's voice? "You're going to drink it, and like it." He pressed the mug into Harry's hands once more, not taking "no" for an answer. Giving in, Harry quickly knocked it back. At least it was cool enough that he didn't scald his tongue the process.
"Why are you doing this…?" He asked again. When Malfoy gave him only silence, Harry wanted to ask again, but he found that he couldn't. There must have been something more in that tea, because he felt his mind grow fuzzy with sleep.
"You'll know everything eventually. For now, rest." Malfoy said this as Harry's heavy lids closed, and in his half-aware state, Harry almost thought he heard softness there.
A/N: Uhm. That's an odd place to leave the chapter, but… Yes. Anyway. I wanted to post something up. I decided that the story needed more flesh to it, so it's going to take even LONGER to develop—haha! This really just gets more AU by the second, doesn't it? Please R&R! I love yooooou!