A Place to Sleep

The bed was hard and the room was cold and he hadn't eaten all day.

Draco lay back and closed his eyes, ignoring the rumbling in his stomach, ignoring the pain shooting down his back, ignoring the metallic taste in his mouth.

He heard low mutters coming from the other side of the tiny cottage. Snape was probably attempting to light a fire without the aid of magic again. If it had been any other situation, it would have amused Draco to watch his old professor struggle with Muggle methods. As it was, he didn't feel like he was up to the sight.

It had been three weeks, and he was still alive. That was all he could say of the journey. Somehow, miraculously, they had not yet been caught. There was that one close encounter in the forest just outside Brittany, when they had stumbled upon a Wizarding settlement that recognized them from the wanted posters.

At this point, Draco wasn't sure who they were running from.

He wasn't quite sure where they were running to, either Snape had mentioned something earlier about Spain, but then again, it could be anywhere in Europe. They avoided people, and Snape didn't talk much. If this mad escape had an end destination, Draco would be the last to know about it.

He kept his eyes closed and enjoyed the almost darkness. The lights still flickering on his eyelids only added to the sensation. He exhaled slowly and savored the feeling of breath leaving his chest, going the longest time he could before inhaling again.

There was a small crackle to his left and the room outside his shut eyes seemed a little brighter. No warmer, but Draco had learned the Muggle fires took longer to heat a room than the enchanted ones at Hogwarts.

He flinched a little when he thought of the school. It seemed years ago when he had attended there, simply a normal student doing normal things. His last months there had hardly been typical.

Not, he reflected, that his life had ever been typical.

Draco couldn't think of the tower and he couldn't bear to remember his arm lowering, so he decided to think of something else, anything else.

He began with his bed at school, with its soft mattress and down comforter and rich, silk hangings. He remembered nights spent there; nights when he cried and choked for air, nights when Blaise and Crabbe and Goyle and Theodore sat with him, laughing and playing Exploding Snap, nights that were scary and sweet all in one, nights when he and Pansy clung to each other, sweaty and breathless and terrified.

He thought of his bed until he fell asleep, lulled by the soft heat and the sound of his teacher's breathing.

The next night, there wasn't a bed. There wasn't even a cottage. Draco lay rolled in his blanket, back to the fires, small stones that had escaped his notice earlier poking into his back. Grass wasn't nearly as comfortable as it looked like.

That night, he thought of flying. He pretended he was sleeping on the Quidditch Pitch, hours before an early morning match. The wind ruffled his tangled hair and he imagined that he was on his Nimbus, soaring above, higher and higher, searching for a glint and glimmer of gold in the sky. He imagined he was searching for a chance to prove himself, to beat Potter, to have the rest of the school respect Slytherin for once.

He hadn't flown in over a year. He wished he had never quit the team, just so he would have newer, fresher memories to fall asleep to.

It was a farmhouse next, with soft ticklish hay and the gentle sounds of animals in the background. He shut his eyes and inhaled as deeply as he could. Draco thought that he just might like the smell of a barn.

He began to imagine being a Muggle, to his own surprise. The past few weeks had been an intense and hurried introduction to the Muggle World. He had never been exposed to it before, and he was shocked to find how much he liked it. Part of him toyed with the idea of just vanishing into the hills for the rest of his life, owning a small house and patch of land, maybe some animals, growing everything he needed.

Then he clutched his wand and whispered that he didn't mean it and fell asleep to a cow lowing and the image of Diagon Alley stuck determinedly in his mind.

Snape sprung for an inn the next night, confusing Draco and offering no explanation. It was here that Draco found out that they were in Italy. He also found out that Snape spoke perfect Italian.

The food was warm and the innkeeper's daughter had curly dark hair and flirtatious dark eyes. Later, as she lay sleeping and curled around him, he played with her hair and thought fleetingly of Hermione Granger.

The next night was outside again, this time under the cover of rocks instead of trees. Huddled against the fierce onslaught of the wind, Draco squeezed his eyes firmly together and decided that he would fall in love with Granger.

He thought of her bushy brown hair and her eyes and the way she looked when she answered a question correctly. He thought of the way she chewed her bottom lip when she thought too hard, of her ink-stained fingers and rumpled clothes and how she looked so unexpectedly beautiful at the Yule Ball. He thought of the story Myrtle told him, of how she had accidentally turned herself into half cat. He thought of how her face showed confusion the first time he called her a Mudblood. He thought of her tongue and her curves and her intelligence and how hard she had slapped him in third year.

He woke up and cried silently, so that Snape wouldn't hear him. Draco quietly sobbed and knew that he would never, ever, be in love with Hermione, no matter how much he suddenly wanted to be.

The following night was also outside, and the next, and the next. Draco remembered each night and cried each morning and started to lose track of the days. His life became relentless moving and recollections.

One night, they found a small hovel and ran into it, fleeing the bruising rain. It was abandoned and filled with only dried weeds and shards of broken pottery.

Draco wrapped himself in his blanket and curled up in a corner, keeping his eyes open because he knew there was only one thing left to remember.

When he finally did fall asleep, his traitorous brain continually looped the weak plea, the flash of green light, and the lack of strength in his arm.

He woke up and blinked in the rough light. The sun streamed in through several holes in the roof. His mentor and protector stood with his back to him, gazing at the world outside.

"We're going back to England," Snape said shortly. He exited the hovel.

Draco sat up and rubbed his shoulder, sore where he had slept on it. He picked up his wand and his blanket and stood.

He went through the door and began following Snape over the muddy hills.