"Harry? C'mon mate, we've gotta move." Harry vaguely picked Ron's voice out of his sleep-induced haze. He could have sworn he just hit his pillow when he'd felt someone shaking his arm. His eyes blinked open slowly, taking in the still form of his best mate standing among the stale air.
"Come on, Harry. It's time to move." Ron's voice sounded almost apologetic.
"What time is it?" Harry asked, noting the still dark night sky just beyond the filthy window.
"Just about half three."
Harry groaned, but dragged his aching body off the makeshift bed. It wasn't so much the sore muscles that were painful, but the weight that pressed heavily on his shoulders. Ron noted Harry's slightly swaying form and rushed forward to brace his hand on the shorter boy's shoulder. Harry managed what he hoped was a smile, but it looked more like a grimace. He hated this.
They had been on constant move since they'd left Hogwarts after Dumbledore's death. Harry briefly visited Privet Drive for the last time, gathering all of his earthly possessions. He hadn't intended on saying goodbye to the Dursleys at all. It was quite clear they didn't care a bit for him, so when Aunt Petunia suddenly burst into tears as he breeched the stair landing, he was completely taken aback. When she'd flung her arms around his neck and poured out her heartfelt goodbye, Harry was certain she'd gone mad. He'd wrapped one arm around her in an awkward half-hug to placate her and left without another word.
Ron and Hermione, his two best friends in the world, had followed him at a distance, gathering their own belongings from their respective houses and moving into Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place with Harry. Shit had hit the fan when Dumbledore was murdered. It seemed no one was prepared for their unofficial leader to suddenly expire, so when Harry showed up on the doorstep, everyone was relieved to say the least. They'd treated him as their only God—their Savior—as they'd always done, but now they were looking to him for all the answers. Answers which he didn't have.
Mercifully, Remus Lupin had taken Harry aside once his things were settled into the master bedroom, which he insisted Harry take now that Sirius was dead. Harry had refused outright, but Remus wouldn't be persuaded otherwise, finally threatening to Betray the Order's position if Harry didn't take the room—a bit dramatic and drastic in Harry's opinion, but he honestly didn't care enough to argue further.
Since Sirius' death, Harry had felt a huge void in his life. He'd finally had a father figure, someone to share things with, someone to love him for who he was—Harry Potter, not The-Boy-Who-Bloody-Lived—only to lose him in his first test of strength. It was a heavy burden to bear, but he had managed to do it surprisingly well he thought.
That is, until Dumbledore died.
Harry had been reluctant to let Hermione and Ron join him on his journey. He knew one or both of them would die in the battle and couldn't bear the thought of someone else he cared for dying because of him. When he told Ginny he couldn't see her anymore, his reason had been sound. Everyone he'd ever loved, or who had ever loved him in any way had eventually died. It was only a matter of time for Ron and Hermione. If he could spare Ginny, he would.
It wasn't surprising that Harry had completely shut down after the funeral. Hermione and Ron saw it coming gradually, but acknowledged there was nothing to be done to stop it. Ron had put up a damn good fight, but Hermione convinced him it was better this way. Harry had to deal with his own problems and if shutting off completely would save his life in the end, it was worth it.
Hermione didn't know Harry was listening to the conversation with rapt attention. He heard them argue about it a bit more, but was silently grateful that Hermione had—for once—decided to stay out of it. It hurt that she'd give up on him so quickly, but perhaps it would hurt less for her, and Ron, when he was gone.
Harry had no illusions about the situation. He was going to die at Voldemort's hand, but he'd be damned if he wouldn't take the sick fuck down with him.
It was this thought alone that kept him on the move with his friends these past few months. They'd been constantly hiding from one "safe-house" to another, never staying longer than a week. The more they moved, the less likely it became for the Death Eaters to find them. Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place wasn't a sure safe haven anymore. Nobody had ever bothered to think of what would happen if their Secret-Keeper died. They weren't certain if the wards would hold without admitting anyone else in or if they'd all break apart automatically, revealing the house to anyone who bothered to look for it. The Order couldn't forfeit their most precious weapon that easily, so Harry had been practically thrown out of his own house.
It wasn't a secret that the Order wasn't concerned much with Harry's health. So long as he did his job, destroying all the remaining Horcruxes and eventually taking down the Dark Lord, they left him alone. It was only Hermione and Ron that seemed to notice their friend slowly decaying from the inside out.
Harry's appetite had waned drastically. He now managed to keep down only a few slices of toast and maybe a biscuit if he was lucky. What little nutrition he did consume usually came back up some hours later from a nightmare or a vision or just simply his own self-disgust.
His physical state was nothing compared to the mental anguish plaguing his thoughts. No matter how much they pep-talked him, Harry couldn't help but feel responsible for all the death around him. The guilt weighed heavily on him, oppressing him to the point of utter exhaustion.
It was this exhaustion that caused his complete apathy. He found that if he didn't let anything get to him, if he was indifferent about everything, he could go numb and the pain would subside, at least for a while.
"Harry." Ron's voice was back, pulling Harry from his reverie.
"Yeah. Sorry Ron… let's go."
Hermione was waiting for them at the entrance, her wand constantly drawn. Where Harry had let himself slip slightly inwards, Hermione had gone into hyperactive overdrive. He could tell she was completely exhausted, but she would never show it. Her eyes were always wide and alert, giving her an almost shrewd expression. She had gotten thinner, if that was even possible. Her hair was no longer bushy, but it lay stringy against her shoulders. She'd taken to chewing the ends of it when she was nervous or thinking, which was often. Harry barely noticed that her clothes were sagging off of her, much like his own, if he'd ever take the time to think on it.
Ron was still tall and awkward, but he had a fierce loyalty that glued him to Harry and Hermione's side regardless of the mood swings and slight abuse. Hermione would never hit him or hurt him purposefully. Mostly she just snapped at him when she had hit the end of her tether. It wasn't a blow, but her words could slice him apart. He knew better than to be bothered though. They needed him and he'd be there forever for them, regardless of what came their way.
Harry would lash out randomly in uncalculated increments of time. Sometimes he'd go almost completely catatonic and nobody could touch him for days at a time. This always worried them more than anything else. Whatever he was doing or wherever he was retreating to in his head, they'd hoped it was a sanctuary. More often than not, though, he'd lash out physically, striking at whatever moving item was in his path. At times like these, Ron would deliberately place himself between Harry and Hermione, finding it much easier to have his wounds healed by Hermione when she wasn't inflicted with pain herself and because if anyone would bear the brunt of their best mate's blows, it would be him. Hermione was far too fragile and besides which, Ron loved her.
However, as angry as Harry got, he never used magic to vent his frustration. He always resorted to physical violence, usually sucker-punching Ron before getting his lights knocked out. Hermione and Ron just assumed it was a way to alleviate the tension, though they didn't even pretend to know why.
It was about two months of running when the once-Golden Trio stumbled upon Draco Malfoy.
Malfoy was an unexpected delay in their plans. What he was doing in their new located "safe house" was entirely beyond them. However, upon seeing the Slytherin brat prince's unmistakable platinum blonde head, three separate hexes went flying without question.
"Huh," Harry started, looking at his bound, bleeding and unconscious nemesis, "who used Incarcerous?"
Hermione moved forward to check her handiwork, "I did."
"I take it you did a simple Stupify, Ron?" The boy in question nodded his head. "Well, let's move him somewhere out of the way, shall we?"
They'd found a good room to keep him in, breaking down the connecting wall and magically fitting bars across the space. Ron originally suggested they just get rid of the door entirely and lock him within the four walls, leaving him to die or rot or whatever. Hermione shot that idea down almost immediately, rationalizing the fact that they had to keep him strictly for information purposes.
Harry had been the one to say imprisonment. He didn't like the idea of Malfoy lurking around in a room where he couldn't be seen. Both Ron and Hermione were surprised to see a spark of something beneath Harry's usually dead and guarded eyes. Since they'd not seen any reaction from him quite this strong in a very long time, they complied without another word.
The safe-house was a large, run-down, old Victorian right on the edge of Godric's Hollow. At first, Hermione had protested about the new location, but there was nowhere else for them to go. The two friends watched Harry closely as he made his way through the little village. They were completely surprised by the lack of interest he seemed to be showing, although Harry was always one to mask his feelings quite well, they found.
The house had four bedrooms on the first floor. Hermione and Ron let Harry choose his first. He took the smallest of the four, leaving the two with the connecting bathroom to Ron and Hermione. Harry wasn't stupid. He knew his friends were shagging like rabbits, even if they outright refused to admit it.
Despite his best efforts, Harry couldn't help but feel a little bitter about their relationship. He'd known they'd get together eventually, but it didn't help. He supposed he should be happy for their relieved sanctuary into happiness in such times of distress and unrest, but he was still righteously resentful about the whole thing. He had to sacrifice his happiness with Ginny for the good of all wizarding kind. It simply wasn't fair.
Harry threw himself across the small bed, noting the puff of dust that escaped the ancient mattress when his weight landed. He sighed deeply and closed his eyes, knowing he wouldn't sleep at all.
Draco woke to find himself slumped against a wall staring out of wide metal bars.
"Fuck," he swore loudly. How the hell had he gotten himself into this position? Where the bloody hell was he? Who had imprisoned him in a house instead of a penitentiary? It was quite obvious this wasn't a prison. The fading oriental rugs proved much softer than the cold hard concrete of Azkaban.
He checked his person for injuries and such, not really surprised to find his wand missing. The room he was in was quite small. It looked to have been some sort of office. There was an empty desk in one corner with a rickety looking chair. There was a bookcase in the other corner with a few miscellaneous books on it—nothing too interesting. To Draco's immense relief, there was a fading velvet couch set up in the middle of the room. He flung himself down upon it and immediately could feel some of the springs sticking into his back.
Just as he'd found a somewhat comfortable position, he heard voices coming down what he guessed was a staircase. Whoever it was seemed to be arguing quite a bit. His stomach churned when he recognized whose voices they actually were.
"Hermione, we can't just leave him here. What if he—"
"What do you expect him to do, Ron? Tap dance his way out of those bars? I put them up, you know. They're good and strong. Without a wand, he doesn't stand a chance. And anyway, you heard—"
But whatever it was Ron had heard was completely cut off when Hermione noticed Draco was awake and staring at them. He sneered when they approached. Ron looked murderous, but Hermione strode forward determined.
"I see you're awake, Malfoy." Could she be anymore disgusted when she said his name?
"Granger. Weasel," Draco replied, hoping he sounded as menacing as he wanted to, "Care to tell me what the fuck is going on here?"
"You know, we could ask the same from you, Ferret," Ron bit out angrily.
"Well, I certainly didn't imprison myself," Draco spat back.
"What are you doing here, Malfoy." Hermione's cool voice broke the glaring war between the two boys.
"Fuck if I know, Mudblood. I woke up behind bars. Bars which I understand you created. So why don't you tell me?"
Draco had stood and drifted towards said bars over the span of their short spat. He understood his mistake immediately, however, when a hand shot through the bars and pulled him roughly forward against the solid metal. Draco swore loudly and glared up into Ron's murderous blue eyes.
"Don't you ever call her that again," Ron ground out between clenched teeth. He twisted his fist in Draco's shirt, bringing the blond crashing against the bars harder and cutting off his air supply, "Understand?"
Draco froze at the sound of the low, deadly calm voice. He didn't need to look over towards the stairs to know whose voice it was. Harry Potter stalked calmly over towards the makeshift prison.
Ron dropped his hand away regretfully, glaring utter hatred at Draco as he backed away slowly. Hermione walked over and placed her hand in his, but didn't say a word.
Draco's breath caught when he finally focused on his childhood rival. Harry Potter looked terrible. He had great bags under his eyes, proving that he hadn't slept in what seemed like years. His normally baggy clothes were now practically falling off of his wiry frame. He still obviously had some Quidditch muscle left, but it was minimal due to lack of proper nutrition. However, despite his ragged appearance, Harry's eyes were what threw Draco most.
Harry's once vividly green eyes were now hard and cold, making his face look harsh and angular in contrast. There was none of the compassion that had once resided there, only cold undiluted hatred.
Draco shivered and swallowed audibly, unconsciously backing up a few steps. When Harry reached the bars, he stopped and stared at Draco for a few seconds before speaking.
"Let me see it."
Draco didn't even bother trying to play innocent. He raised the sleeve on his left arm, bearing the ugly tattoo that marred the skin there.
"You're a Death Eater."
"Yeah," he replied as if challenging the brunette to continue.
"I guess I couldn't actually believe it." Harry sounded disappointed. The Golden Boy of the wizarding world turned his back towards the bars and made his way slowly back up the stairs. Draco watched as his two faithful companions gave him a wide berth before following as well, Ron looking back for one final glare.
Draco sat back down on his couch and tried to ignore the aching emptiness in his chest.