Title: Graceful Cure (I should be banned from naming my stories.)
Genre: Mystery(?)/past Angst/Fluff to come
Rating: R overall because of... death and stuff.
Summary: Draco Malfoy knows something is wrong when Harry Potter returns to the wizarding world in disguise to buy potions ingredients every week. Post-Hog, Post-War.
Warnings: Past character death.
Disclaimer: I own nothing.
Potter sometimes sneaks back to the wizarding world. Draco know this because he always likes to keep his eyes open. He knows the exact way Potter walks, moves his hands, the little touch of tongue against the upper lip when he's thinking something over, the way he scrunches his nose while watching mucus filled potions ingredient bottles, and the very very telling wand he carelessly waves around with. Hence, he knows it is Potter who prances around Diagon Alley every saturday with a brown-grey haired glamor charm and dressed in plain black not too shabby robes.
He also knows that Potter is sick.
He himself has changed since the War ended. He is not unfamiliar to glamors, it was actually one of the requirements of him getting the job as potions maker and cashier at the D.A. Apothecary–people are too unsure of him when they can see his father's traits in his face. They know his story. They are aware that he was on their side in the end. But people's minds are fickle–one little glimpse of silver blonde and they are ready to cast an unforgivable. They all carry their scars. Yet some are worse than others. This is why he refrains from giving them his name unless requested, and covers his sleep muddled grey eyes with blue irises every morning.
He is quite pleased with his existence. He is invisible, something he has never been before in his life, and he finds that at times it's better to fade away from the public eye. The Manor was ruined during one of the raids. It still stands, but everything he could recover from the scorch-marked and torn building has been neatly put away in storage until the time when he has the heart to go through it. The memories still burn bright and clear; his mother trapped inside her bedroom and screaming until the smoke killed her, his father's maniacal laughter while tears were streaming down his face, the imperius curse, the insanity, the red eyes, the despair, the dementor's kiss. The silent after.
He isn't hiding. He's merely not making a fuss of himself. Potter on the other hand has practically left the wizarding world. There was a great outcry when he disappeared without a word only two months after he had vanquished Voldemort. He had been 'missing' for a year when he came into the Apothecary for the first time. Draco had felt that there was something familiar about him, but it wasn't until he tossed his head in that special Potter manner and smoothed his bangs over his forehead that Draco started to understand that it was the boy hero who was standing in front of him. Draco had resisted the urge to throw a jibe to see the man's reaction, and instead watched his movements, expressions and purchases.
What he could conclude from his observations left him puzzled if nothing else. The items Potter would come by regularly to buy were mostly ordinary enough potions ingredients, ox tongue was mainly used for boils, blisters and other blemishes on the skin, assylima seeds were mind numbing and used in sedative potions, but antikka essence was a slightly obscure ingredient, it was hard to handle and as such it was not favoured to use and often replaced by other ingredients with similar effects. Antikka essence was used in mostly ancient potions and with varying success, but its main property was the ability to patch things up, to mend torn tissues, often inner organs.
Potter was making some sort of healing potion. Whether he was being unsuccessful or the disease was not curable Draco couldn't figure out, but each week he seemed weaker, less energetic. Of course, it didn't show through the glamor, and the slowing of his movements was not unsuited for the middle aged man he was pretending to be, but Draco could see how he was deteriorating, how the eyes were getting more pained and tired, how he would cough often into a handkerchief while sometimes waiting for Draco to finish serving some other clients.
Draco had started to worry.
One Saturday Potter had come right before closing time. Draco had already put everything in order for closing when Potter came flying through the door, panting heavily. Draco sighed inwards, he was tired and aching to go home to his little nicely decorated home and read a good book while sipping some mint tea. Yet, he smiled at Potter and started to gather the usual ingredients together without being asked. Potter smiled back slightly with a nod, still breathing heavily, but started coughing worse than usual when Draco summed the items up and put them in a bag. Draco frowned as Potter handed him the money and with a short "Bye" staggered out the door.
Draco sighed once more, and with a quick once-over he locked the Apothecary and stepped out in the soggy weather of Diagon Alley. He began to swiftly walk towards the Leaky Cauldron to buy some butterbeer as the stores had just closed for the weekend and he had run out the previous day, when he almost ran into a cloaked figure who stood panting, bent double and supporting themselves with the right hand against the front wall of Flourish and Blotts. It was Potter.
Draco stopped. Should he approach Potter? The other wizard might fend him off, goodness knew he had been rejected while trying to help Potter in the past–but Potter didn't know who he really was, to him he was the quiet clerk in the shop he had just been in, not former school nemesis Draco Malfoy. Also, Potter was coughing his lungs out while rubbing his chest, and it didn't look to be abating at all.
"Sir, are you alright?"
Potter shook his head, but replied something which sounded like "Fine" in between coughs. Right. A bit of a dubious answer, but Draco could see on Potter's face that he was in pain and he doubted that he could stand up straight on his own, even less walk home.
"Can I help you get home?"
"I-" a violent cough wracked through the hunched-over body, and Draco could see specks of blood colouring the hand that Potter had raised to cover his mouth. It had been a while since Draco saw blood like this, and the colour was more vibrant and intense than he remembered.
"Scrath that," Draco said as he got closer and gripped Potter's arm lightly, "We need to get you to a healer."
"N-no." Potter shook his head. "No healer. No hospital." A breath. A cough. "No use."
Draco's instincts were telling him Potter needed professional medical attention and quickly, but the man was looking up at him with wide almost pleading eyes, and for a second Draco thought he could see a sparkle of green in them. He already regretted his next words.
"Alright, just... let me help you home."
Potter had been quite unwilling, but he had at long last realised that if he didn't accept help he would have to stand cold and unable to move in Diagon Alley until night fell, and perhaps longer as he seemed completely incapable of doing anything but coughing and drawing shaky lungfuls of air. His wheezing breaths had sounded very forced and shallow as he clung to Draco when they made their way out into muggle London. The apartment Potter was seemingly inhabiting Draco learned was not very far from the Leaky Cauldron. It wasn't as cozy as Draco's own little house in the outskirts of a small village along the coast where the wind was always lapping at the walls and the highest waves crashing against the rocky beach sprayed the windows with a light sheen of salty drops, but it was homey enough.
He helped Potter over to a blue couch that was thread-worn in places and was with Potters vague and breathless directions able to in a cupboard find small bottles containing some sort of liquid that looked more like mud than anything else. Potter accepted it greedily and gulped it down quickly, wincing at what Draco supposed was the vile taste of a mixture containing Antikka. Useful a mushroom though it was, the taste of it was nothing one would pine for.
After a few moments Potter started to breathe more easily and he relaxed, leaning back against the couch, rendering Draco in view of the pale neck and Adam's apple that bobbed every time he swallowed.
"What kind of disease is it?"
He had blurted it out before he even realised he'd thought the question, but he had asked and now Draco found himself curious, even more so than before.
Potter sat up straight again, fiddling with his hands in his lap. He swallowed and brushed his hair over his forehead, a nervous habit which looked quite out of place on a middle-aged man.
"Look, I really appreciate you helping me home and everything, but..." He looked up at Draco, jaw tense. "I think it'd be best if you left."
Draco felt himself deflate a little. Oddly, it felt as though it would have really meant something to have had the question answered. But of course, he wasn't anything to Potter. He was the clerk of the shop Potter frequented, not some kind of confidant.
"I get it. It's not my place. I'll erm, show myself out." he turned and slipped through the door adding in a whisper, "Bye Potter."
It wasn't until late that night when he was cuddled up beneath a blanket in front of a merrily crackling fire that he decided to look up what potion Potter was making. He supposed he had enough knowledge about the potion itself to be able to figure out what it was for, but it was like nothing he had ever seen in his studies both during and after Hogwarts, which spurred him to assume that it might be something dodgy about it. He also happened to have the most thorough library in all of England when one was trying to find information about the more dodgy magic. He smirked and sipped his tea, he could practically sense his father rolling over in his grave at the potential of helping Harry Potter.
Draco pushed the heavy door to the side and coughed as nine months worth of dust swiveled up into the air and seemed to coagulate around him at once. A nice little sweeping would do with this place, but he was too bent on finding that potion to have time to clean the floors. He plowed on right through the furniture section of the warehouse and came to a stop in front of the vast area which was covered with bookcases which in turn were covered with books. Draco faltered.
"This might take longer time than I expected."
Three hours later he was sure that he had swallowed enough dust to be considered the human hoover. He sighed, slamming shut another thick volume of completely useless text, instantly regretting it as he was spurred into another coughing fit from the cloud of dust he upset. Dust, dust, dust everywhere. He spelled a broom to sweep the floors (while huffing about the total incredulity that somebody had decided that rubies were the best things to decorate a cleaning tool with) and then left the warehouse, none the more wiser than he'd been before. He just couldn't understand it. He couldn't. Potter had been using Antikka and ginger. Antikka and ginger. It made no sense at all since they closed each other out. He had also not found any component which could somehow combine the two without spurring something slightly nasty to happen, like a growth potion making you grow long ear and nose hair.
He would have to confront Potter. Offer him his help, and ask what in the world he thought he was doing mixing ingredients which made the potion useless. Then again, being Potter he mightn't accept. Well... No matter. If Potter wanted to behave like a fool, let him. At least he would have given him a chance.
These were the events leading up to the moment where Draco Malfoy is sitting in the worn but quite comfortable couch in Harry Potter's living room, his bright blonde hair falling into his eyes, but it's such a relief that it's not brown that he doesn't tuck it away. He sighs, glances at the clock on the wall above him, returns his gaze to the door. Shouldn't Potter be home soon? In reality, he doesn't know what Potter does during his days, it's another mystery to add to the pile, something which is not a very pressing matter compared to other issues.
He is just about to stand up and leave when the doorknob turns and the middle aged man Draco has assumed is boy wonder Harry Potter comes in, clutching a paper bag full of groceries. He kicks the door closed with one foot and upon seeing Draco stops, stares, and promptly drops the bag. It is not until this moment that Draco even allows himself to think that maybe he has been at fault. The panic slowly rises within him, hot and acidic in his stomach.
"What are you doing here?"
Fighting down the bitter taste that is rising up in his mouth he smirks.
"Why, haven't you gotten gracious since your mid-life crisis Potter. Good day to you too."
Potter bites his lip and bends down to pick up the groceries which have scattered over the floor.
"How did you find me?"
He doesn't look up, and the devious streak in Draco makes him mutter the glamor charm under his breath before kneeling down on the floor. He hands Potter a cucumber and earns a muttered "Thanks", but when Potter glances up at Draco he jerks, startled, and starts coughing.
He doesn't stop. Bracing his hands on the floor as great heaving coughs wreck through him he looks like a cat coughing up hairballs. Draco is frozen, kneeling on the floor until one little word penetrates the panic clouding his mind: Potion. He scrambles over to the cupboard where he last found the mud-like brown-grey potion, and reaching over the top shelf his hand grips the cool glass of a small vial. Pulling it down he hurries over to Potter who has turned red with lack of breath, and has to uncork and force it down his throat himself.
It takes a little while for the ragged breathing to slow down, but when Potter has seated himself in one end of the couch and Draco returns to the seat he had occupied before the episode he starts talking.
"Well, that answers that question." Potter states, looking tiredly over at Draco. "To think that was you all the time..." He shakes his head. Draco mutters a finite incantatem and slides his hand through his blonde locks. He really loves his hair. It's a shame that he has to hide it constantly.
"I didn't mean to scare you like that."
"So what are you doing here if you're not here to scare me?"
Potter is looking pretty knackered. His eyes are puffy and have circles beneath them, heavy lines creasing hos brow–then again, the glamor probably brought its part to it.
"I came here to offer you help."
A surprised face turns towards Draco.
There is a minute of silence before Potter speaks again.
"Help with what exactly?"
"Oh, you know, the usual, saving the world, redecorating, the works."
Potter smiles, shaking his head. "For some reason you don't have me convinced about that one."
"No? Well, I suppose I could go with the truth then. It'll be quicker if nothing else." He takes a deep breath before plowing on. "I know that you are sick and that you're brewing a healing potion, but my guess is that you don't know what kind of illness it is nor how to cure it. Correct?"
Potter simply nods and Draco continues, picking at a loose thread in the blue fabric of the couch cover.
"I have probably the greatest source of dark arts information in this country at my hands. I am willing to try and help you search for a cure in what remains of the Malfoy library."
Potter is tugging slightly at his lower lip. The silence stretches on for several minutes.
"And if I accept..." Potter looks up at Draco. "What's in it for you?"
Draco doesn't know. He hasn't even pondered what he could gain from letting Potter have access to his family library. Nothing really he supposes. Not that he can admit that to Potter. He glances at a strand of hair that has fallen over his forehead and smirks.
"I'll have somebody to admire my pretty hair."
When Draco pulls the door to the warehouse open the next time he is not attacked by a cloud of dust, but rather a company seeking broom. He scrunches his nose at it and shoves it away, but Potter has the audacity to laugh and pet its handle. The broom then continues to follow them around, swishing happily down the isles of the makeshift library.
They levitate a table and some chairs over to an empty spot near the bookcases, and pulling out some potions books Draco bids Potter to sit down.
"So," Draco says, clearing his throat, "Did you bring the recipe for the potion?"
"Erm..." Potter looks away, scratching his neck, "I don't actually have it."
Draco blinks. "You don't have it, at all?"
"I sort of... lost it."
"Right. So how have you made the potion? Do you have it memorized?"
"Er, no, I just did what I remembered and kind of did what I felt like."
Draco pushes his blonde fringe away from his face and stares at Potter.
"You do know that you are absolutely insane, right?"
Potter just gazes down at the table and rubs his finger along an ink stain that some irresponsible person left there perhaps a century ago.
"Do you know how many things there are which could have gone wrong? You were handling Antikka for Merlin's sake! You could have poisoned yourself!"
Potter sighs and meets his eyes with an impatient expression. "Are you going to rant at me or are we going to try and find a cure?"
Draco glares petulantly at him, but relents and pushes an old tome towards him. "Look through this for potions containing the same ingredients."
Potter nods and accepts the book, starting to turn the crisp pages carefully.
"Bloody Gryffindors." Draco mutters and thinks he can see Potter smiling out of the corner of his eye.
An hour later Draco flings another book shut with such force it ends up on the floor where the broom needlessly sweeps it off. He watches as it finishes and then edges up to Potter to be petted. Without averting his eyes from the book before him Potter stretches out a hand and slides it lightly over the broom handle. The broom makes a sweeping movement and nuzzles into his hand.
"Potter. You're spoiling my household equipment."
Potter looks up at him and grins. He still has his glamor charm up, and it irks Draco because even though he knows that it's Potter it is not the same without the deep green eyes and charcoal dark hair. Still, the smile that lights up the pale face is the same and the friendly way he behaves is comforting.
Draco bites his lip and leans back in his chair. They are not getting anywhere. He really needs to ask Potter about the Antikka and the ginger. It hurts his pride as a professional, but...
"Why did you mix the ginger and the Antikka?"
"What?" Potter is looking at him, nonplussed. Draco vaguely wonders what Potter had to do in order to get his NEWT in Potions. Studying was apparently not part of it.
"Antikka. And. Ginger. Why did you mix them? How did you mix them?"
Potter raises an eyebrow. "I didn't."
"But you bought ginger! I know, I was there!"
"Yes Malfoy, for cooking." He rolls his eyes, shaking his head.
"It's not that extraordinary, surely. You must have done it yourself on some occasion."
"Cooking..." Draco whimpers and bangs his head on the table.
"Well," Draco isn't sure how to word his request in order to make it not sound lewd, but decides that if he mucks up then he can always explain himself. Then, if he mucks up the explanation too there is always the apology way about things. And if all else fails, suicide. But he doesn't think that it will have to go that far. "I thought it might be good if I could have a look at what we're trying to find the cure to."
Potter smirks. "You want to examine me?"
"In a strictly scientific manner, I assure you." Draco counters, trying not to look at any place on Potter's anatomy that is inappropriate, nor averting his eyes which would make him seem guilty of something. He wonders where this insecurity has sprung from, but is interrupted by Potters answer.
Then Draco's vision fills with green eyes.
Potter stands nervously in front of him, black locks curling around his face. His stature is still tall and lean, but he looks fragile where tanned skin once stretched over hard muscle. Now he is pale as a ghost with blue and red blemishes scattered all over his skin, he is terrifyingly thin–Draco has never seen him thinner than the day they met in Madam Malkin's shop all those years ago, but now Potter is even more scrawny. Potter looks away while Draco inspects his body, clearly uncomfortable with the situation. Draco sympathizes with him, it can't be easy to see your body deteriorating in front of your eyes every day. Then suddenly Potter speaks.
"Didn't Malfoy Manor burn down?"
Draco glances up at Potter from his inspection of a rather large bruise on the side of his stomach.
"Yes. There was a fire. Practically every room was damaged. Why?"
"Well, books are usually very flammable. Yet you have a lot of them."
Draco smirks. "Ah. Well, the library got out of it unscathed. Most of the stuff in here is from the library. There was a really powerful fire protection spell cast over the room."
Potter furrows his brow and looks down at him. "But why not protect the entire house then? Why just the library?"
Draco lets his fingers slide lightly over the bruise and Potter winces. "It's very dangerous to cast such a thorough spell. There is always a fifty percent risk in Ancient Magic, and the greater the spell the greater the chance of... well, backfiring. Which could be lethal. I think the man who cast the protection spell was called Emanulus or something. Silly thing was that he chanced his life for his books but he beheaded his daughter for falling in love with a servant."
He looks up at Potters face again, and watches the other man's conflicted expression. He knows what Potter is thinking. Once a Gryffindor always a Gryffindor.
"I never said that my family history was pretty." He pauses. "Nor have I said that I agree with their choices. Both recent and ancient." He turns to another nasty looking blemish as Potter smiles slowly at him, and Draco feels something fluttering oddly in his stomach.
A few days later they are again looking through endless thick tomes full of recipes for lethal or torturous potions.
"Eww, listen to this one: The Swollen Death. It makes your body swell up from the inside and you choke while your intestines burst through your skin. The people who created these must have been mental."
"Easily sickened Potter?"
"No..." Potter looks at him strangely, biting his lip.
"Nothing." He returns to the book and flips a page, but looks up again. "Actually..."
"You could call me Harry you know. Nobody's called me that for over two years now. It might be nice. I sort of miss it."
Draco smiles and extends a hand. "First name basis then, Harry?"
Potter shakes his hand, smiling back. "Sure thing, Draco."
Draco ignores the light tingle which lingers in his hand as he pulls it back and rests it palm up in his lap.
Draco lies on the cold concrete floor between two bookcase-isles one day when Potter arrives for their next session. He hears the heavy door slide open and then close with a bang.
"Over here!" he calls. There is the sound of steps coming closer, and then Potter appears around the corner of a bookcase. An amused smile curls his lips as he comes to stand right next to Draco's shoulder.
"What are you doing down there?"
"What about?" He slips to the floor, agilely curling his legs beneath him.
"Just stuff." Draco sends Potter a surprised look. "I didnt think you could move that easily."
Potter smiles. "I took the potion only a minute ago. It's a really nice batch. Thank-you for helping me with that."
"I'll have to show you how to do it properly sometime. Come by the Apothecary at closing time some day you're available."
They descend into a pensive silence, and the broom comes sweeping around the corner and drops down in Potter's lap to be petted. Sour jealousy rises in Draco as Potter's hand slowly runs up and down the jewel-inlaid wood, which is ridiculous because it's a broom and no sane person is ever jealous of one.
Draco stares up at the ceiling–if the slightly rusty metal of the roof does actually qualify to the term of ceiling–and the bright cold light from the fluorescent tubes.
"When did you find out that you were sick?"
Potter sighs and is silent for so long that Draco thinks he's not going to answer before he responds. "It was right after I killed Voldemort. I was pretty badly wounded: I had internal damage and fractured bones, and they were trying to patch me up at Saint Mungo's, but their spells would only work on me for a little while."
Draco looks at Potter and is almost startled to find him staring back.
"If it hadn't been me they would have just given up, I'm sure. It was hard work undone every few hours. I had to have a team of healers around me all the time while Hermione lead this huge search for a cure in the Ministry archives. Her team found the potion which enabled me to live normally. But... I got worse every day." Potter's voice has gotten thicker and Draco reaches out with his hand and twines their fingers together. Potter smiles sadly at him.
"What happened then? Did they know what it was?"
Potter's fingers curl around Draco's tightly, and he feels oddly content about this.
"They... they said that it was a curse. That was the only explanation they had for the reappearing wounds. My insides are being eaten away–that's why I cough up blood, because my lungs are full of it when I haven't taken the potion recently or if it's not a good batch." He pauses, and his right hand leaves the broom handle to trace the lines of Draco's hand. The broom sweeps a bit of dust at Draco's head before huffily leaving, the hard resounding sweeps speaking their own language. Draco fights down the urge to smirk triumphantly. His little feud with the broom is insignificant compared to Harry's choice to trust him with his problems.
"I didn't–don't–want them to see me just fade. I thought... that, if I disappeared... I would be just lost, not the war hero who wasted away. So I left."
"What did you do when you were away? Did you work or...?"
Potter smiles grimly. "I went clubbing. Every night. God, it's so stupid." He props his right elbow on his knee and leans his forehead in his palm. "I thought... I don't know what I thought. I wanted to live while I had the chance I guess. I danced, drank, used drugs, fooled around... almost every night."
Draco looks at Potter with a confused expression. "But how did you manage without the potion?"
"I didn't." Potter smiles humorlessly, "I apparated to Hogsmeade to buy ingredients. I thought it would be safer that way. Living in London but keeping my business in other places. But eventually it came to the point when my Magic was so weak that I couldn't apparate without the possibility of getting splinched. The potion doesn't restore my Magic, just my body as you know. I had to keep close to home. And I think they had started to notice something was curious about me anyway. The shopkeepers in some stores were looking at me oddly even though I had a glamor."
"So you moved to the apartment near the Leaky Cauldron?" Potter nods with his eyes closed. "And you started buying your potions ingredients in the Apothecary where I work. And I figured you out." Potter smiles again, and this time it is a genuine one.
"That you did."
Draco bites his lip, rolling around his next question in his mouth before uttering it.
"About your powers..."
"Yes?" Potter meets his eyes.
"You say that they're... fading?"
"They are." Potter admits. "That is why I don't take my glamor off that often. It takes a lot out of me to get it back up. I have basically lived in the appearance of a middle-aged man for a year. It's starting to get a little dull." A wry smile shimmers on his lips.
Draco squeezes his hand reassuringly. "I knew it was you from the first time you walked through the door of the shop. No matter what you look like you're still you. You'll still be the Gryffindor with the hero complex. You'll always have your courage and your heart. You'll always be beautiful." Draco feels himself flush a little. He didn't mean for it to sound like that. He only wanted to make Potter feel a bit better, not sprout some almost love declaration at him. But the next second this doesn't matter because Potter is lying next to him on the floor, his head resting heavily on Draco's shoulder.
He hears quiet sniffles escape the dark-haired man, and when he peeks down he can see wetness spread over the fabric of his robes. Something aches inside him at the sight of Harry Potter crying, be it the soft feelings he has started to hold for the other man, or the knowledge that nobody has been there to comfort him in his pain all this time. He reaches out a long-fingered hand and slowly lets it slide through soft shining locks of jet-black hair.
They stay like that long after the tears have stopped falling.
"Ok, I think I found something useful... Look here." Draco turns the large book that lies splayed out in front of him towards Potter. "The Invincible Draught." he points at the top of the page, "It is made up of the same basic ingredients as your potion but there is one great difference... while your potion merely restores internal damage to a certain level, this potion goes all the way. It can heal any wound, mend all damage, vanquish any poison that you might have ingested... on the other hand, if you do not drink it every 4 hours it will kill you. Ten minutes overtime and you'd be joining the angel choir."
"Not very pleasant then?"
"Not as such, no."
"Who would invent something like that?" Potter asks curiously.
"Somebody who wanted to punish a person who betrayed them perhaps. It would be quite easy. If say, a knight had a best friend who dallied with his wife, then he could give his friend the potion when he had been wounded under the pretense that it was simply a healing potion."
"That seems incredibly cruel."
"It might be, but it fit its purpose. Look, Harry, I'm not going to get into a pro or con Dark Arts debate with you right now." Draco almost pleads. He knows he doesn't possess the strength for such a conversation right now.
"Right." Potter bites his lip. "So about this potion then."
Draco breathes out thankfully. "It's very similar to the one you've been brewing. I think that we should be able to try and work out a way to brew this potion to its full healing capacity and counter effect its killing property."
"You know, that sounds fantastic."
"It does, doesn't it."
"So what's the catch?"
"We need Phoenix ashes."
"So, explain to me why exactly we need Phoenix ashes," says Potter a couple of hours later as they sit curled up beneath a blanket on either side of his squishy blue couch, eating some strange chinese take-out they bought on the way over. Their feet are tangled, and Draco's toes pleasantly warm where they are nudged between Potter's thigh and the couch cushion.
"Hmm..." muses Draco, swallowing a shrimp before answering. "There is always room for faults, but I was thinking that we need to reverse the potion from within itself. It's a bit like an oxymoron if you want to think about it in a technical term. The Phoenix is reborn from its own ashes, and the magic that is left in the ashes is therefor formed to bring life from death."
"But to bring life from death there would actually have to be some death involved." Potter interjects.
Draco hesitates. "Yes."
Potter stops mid-chew, goggling at Draco. "You're telling me I'll have to die?"
Draco scrunches his nose and looks down into his noodles. "Yes. You see, Phoenix ashes are only ever used in Necromancy. So basically we'd have to combine the Invincible Draught with a Necromancy ritual."
"Yes Harry, Necromancy."
"That's Dark Arts."
"Yes, that too."
Potter's feet shift beneath the blanket and he bites his lip."Why not only use Necromancy, why go through the trouble of making the potion?"
"There is a greater risk of failure when performing it by itself. With straightforward Necromancy the soul has left the body and passed on. You need a soul-searcher to bring the soul back, and then you can't be sure that the soul isn't... how should I put this... tainted."
Potter frowns, but wiggles his toes to make Draco carry on.
"Combining them would mean that we never let go of your soul. You would be dying and revived at the same time. Why you need to die in the first place is because of the curse. It is tied to your life. When you die the curse will be vanquished."
Potter locks gaze with him. "This is going to be really dangerous isn't it?"
Draco looks down, twisting a few threads of the blanket fringe between his fingers, nodding slightly. Potter sighs, reclining on the arm rest.
"What are my chances if I keep on just drinking the potion?"
"Not much better."
They are silent for a moment, the low ticking of the clock on the wall above them the only sound in the room.
"There's another thing." Potter looks up at him with an askance expression and Draco lunges on. "Besides the Phoenix ashes there is something else we will need help with. We need a huge magical force to back us up. If your powers were still intact then we could have managed, but without them we need... oh, I don't know, maybe three other people to fuel the the residual magic from the Phoenix."
Potter rests his head against the back of the couch and closes his eyes. "What do you suggest then?"
"Go to the Ministry. Ask them for help. They would go out of their way to help you, you know they would."
Potter shakes his head. "It's not about that, and you know it."
"But without them it could take months, and I'm not sure that we can wait for that much time. Harry, I mean, think about it, you have nothing to lose-"
"DRACO." Draco stops mid-sentence and bows his head. "I'll think about it, alright?"
They eat in silence for a while until Draco breaks it again.
"You know, this "Shrimp noodle" does not contain enough shrimps to be called that."
"No? How much shrimp are there supposed to be then?"
"Fifty percent. And then half of the rest should be sauce, and then they could put a few noodles at the bottom I guess... I don't fancy noodles much, really." He looks up to se Potter grinning at him.
"Then why'd you pick it?"
"Well, you looked so certain, and I can never decide on anything unless it has chocolate in it. And stop snickering it's not funny." He reaches behind him and tosses a pillow at Potter, regretting it instantly as the chill of the armrest behind him makes him shiver. Potter blocks the pillow with one hand and keeps on snickering through a mouthful of noodles.
"And I can't believe I relied on the taste of somebody who puts a brown blanket on a blue couch, honestly." He shakes his head and smirks up at Potter who's lips are curling too.
When Draco gets up to leave Potter follows him to the door, and once he has gotten his cloak on Draco finds himself on the receiving end of a tight hug. He stands stunned for a moment before he brings his arms up around Potter's torso, and relaxes into the embrace, sensing Potter's scent of wind and shampoo surround him. A little jolt flares through his stomach, and as they let go of each other he offers Potter a smile before he slips through the door.
"Hey, taste these." Draco holds open a jar of cream coloured candies to Potter who is sitting on a stool in the back room of the Diagon Alley Apothecary a late Saturday afternoon.
"What are they?" Potter asks, randomly grabbing a candy and holding it pinched between his fingers. He looks at it, and it seems to cough, spreading a little cloud of golden dust in the air. Potter stares at it, wide eyed.
Draco grins. "Never trust what you can find in a potions laboratory do you?"
"No, Five years of Snape's teaching and I could never go near a cauldron without being cautious." Potter smiles.
"Ah. Well, these are harmless." says Draco, gesturing at the jar he just screwed on the lid to. "They're against coughing. I developed them myself."
"Oh?" Potter licks it testingly, and then pops it into his mouth, sucking in a breath as the sweet caramel starts to fizz and pop in his mouth. Draco snickers at his expression.
"I had a cold, the potion wasn't very nice tasting, and to my fever induced mind, not jumping around enough in my mouth." He stirs in the cauldron in front of him before turning back to Potter. "Remind me to never again create a potion while having a high fever. Even though the result was rather pleasing."
"'Ey tasd 'eally nish." Potter puts in through the mouthful of cough candy.
"Yes. They're very popular among children. I had a costumer who came back complaining that her son kept fake coughing so that he would get more of them. Of course, she thought that was a valid enough reason to get her money back, but she disappeared rather quickly when she turned over an entire shelf of bumble-boil butter and set fire to her hat." He grins at the memory, hearing Potter's muffled snicker, and tucks away a strand of golden hair behind his ear as he reaches over for the next ingredient to be added to the potion.
"Are you happy with your life?" Potter asks suddenly, apparently having swallowed the candy.
Draco scrunches his nose, adding a few chopped windor leaves for the potion to turn a transparent blue colour, and finally looks up at Potter. "As happy as I can be I guess. I... I can't be a public person. I live under a glamor. But, considering, yes, I'm happy with my life."
"Don't you ever get tired of hiding? "
"Not really. Nobody is attacking me on a regular basis." Draco smiles crookedly. "I guess I have learned to saviour the small favours of life." He stirs a bit more in the potion. "Besides, I have you here. You know who I am."
"Oh, yes, I'm here to admire the pretty hair, correct?" Potter smirks.
"Of course! A natural blonde needs attention, Potter."
"Well, it's a very nice view."
"Of course it is, you simply can not get this colour out of a charm."
"No, I... meant the entire view."
Draco feels himself flush, the fire beneath the cauldron suddenly too warm for his heated face. The corner of Potter's mouth twitches, and there is a twinkle in his eyes. Draco turns back to the potion.
"It's done." He pours the clear liquid into vials, and sets them on the table to cool. He walks over to Potter and sits down on the stool next to him. "Harry, we need to talk about going to the Ministry."
"Look, I know that you don't want to, but it's the only way. We can't get Phoenix ashes on our own. I have no influence and you're too weak."
"I know, I know. I just..." Potter takes a deep breath before continuing. "I don't want them to see me like this."
Draco is quite certain of who they are, but he asks in order to have his assumption affirmed.
"Ron and Hermione. The Weasleys. Well, what's left of them." He bites his lip, staring aimlessly at the floor. "They've had so many things crumble in their lives, they don't need to see me suffer too."
"Harry." Draco puts his fingers lightly against Potter's chin and forces him to look up, meeting Draco's gaze. "They wouldn't think that." he insists, "You know they wouldn't. They would be glad to have you back."
Potter pulls away from Draco's light grasp to look at the opposite wall, jaw set.
"I just need some time. Alright?" he says in a hard tone.
"I know!" Draco snaps. "But time is the only thing we don't have!"
Potter's eyes are on him in an instant, green gaze burning hotly. "Don't you think I know that?" he hisses, grabs the potion vials, shoves them in his pocket and leaves, slamming the door in his wake. Draco slouches in his seat and sighs.
Draco hears nothing from Potter during the next few days. It's strange how quickly he settled into the habit of meeting Potter at the warehouse every other evening, and he finds himself sitting there alone, having to fend off the company seeking broom every so often, waiting in vain for Potter to show up. It hasn't struck him before how fragile their little comradeship is. There are no basic rules to their interaction, no drawn-up pattern other than their sessions of scanning through dusty old books, no means of contact other than that of face to face. Potter isn't connected to floo, Draco can't owl-post him for the risk of exposure, Draco doesn't have a muggle phone–but even if he did he doesn't know Potter's number, nor is he certain that Potter even has a phone. Muggle letters could work, but it would take too long and he wouldn't be sure if Potter read the letter or not.
On Wednesday Draco finds himself on Potter's doorstep, right hand raised for a knock, when he hesitates. Was it not Potter's choice after all? Shouldn't he be the one to make the decision without Draco's interference? He pauses briefly, and then lowers his hand. With a last glance he turns his back on the door, walking heavily down the stairs. It's been four days since he's laid eyes on the other man.
By Friday Draco is fed up with the situation. He has never been able to take silence form Potter, not when they were little impressionable children, not when they were angry teenage rivals, not when they were bickering during those short and far between meetings during the final years of the war, and certainly not now when they are something akin to friends. Potter has always mattered somehow. Before it was more an infernal itch that Draco just had to scratch, but now... Potter has become much more than Draco ever could have anticipated. He is the only one who sees Draco for what he really is and still smiles at him. Unguardedly. Potter is the only one he can talk to, Potter is the only one who laughs at his jokes, Potter is the only one to really see him as a person, Potter is the only one who makes his heart thump and his head swim and his skin tingle...
So once again Draco arrives at the door of Potter's apartment, heart beating nervously in his chest. He knocks on the door, but no sound is heard from the other side. He sighs, leaning his forehead against the door, eyes closed. A cold feeling spreads through his body, and forcing it down he straightens up and knocks on the door again.
"Potter? Potter are you there?"
Still no sound. But something makes Draco keep on talking. Maybe it's the quixotic quality of the relationship he has developed towards Potter, maybe it's the already unfamiliar solitude, maybe it's the fact that he needs somebody to talk to, but he slides down to the floor, settles with his back leaned against the door, and continues.
"I just came to say sorry. I didn't mean to impose on your 'terf' before. I know it's your choice, and that you don't want to go back, it's just... I'm worried." Draco closes his eyes, swallowing against the thick nausea that sweeps through him. The words are simple, yet their meaning is jumbled up inside him, insecurity coating them with its sticky fingers. "I- I care. About you. It's stupid and strange and I don't know why, but I do, and I just..." he pauses, biting his lip. "The broom misses you... I miss you." Draco's eyes snap open as a muffled thump can be heard from the other side of the door. "Potter are you there?"
"Go on." Says Potter's muffled and slightly high-pitched voice from the other side.
A grin slowly spreads on Draco's face. "I was just going to ask you if, well, you might... I'm going to make another batch of your healing potion tomorrow, and... you can come just to pick it up if nothing else."
Draco waits for an answer a little while, but when he is met with only silence again he slowly rises. "I... I'll just go now. I err, might see you tomorrow then." He presses his palm against the door before turning to walk down the stairs. He thinks he hears a muttered 'Stupid Git' from Potter as he starts the descent, and flicks an 'Oblivious Twat' back over his shoulder.
When he walks out in the chilly evening he is smiling and filled with a warm peace for the first time in a week.
a/n: this is a WiP which is far from finished, but there are a few more parts posted on my lj, and you can find them in my memories. I'll see when I update this here, but it will take quite some time since I'm very lazy :P So... while you're waiting... why not take the time to comment?