DISCLAIMER: The following original piece of fiction contains characters, situations, places, and a fictional universe which are the intellectual peoperty of JK Rowling, her agents and representatives; and to a lesser degree, the property of Warner Brothers Pictures/ Time Warner Inc. These facts, characters, places, events, circumstances and sundry errata are used by myself with no prior permission. I have not sought or received, nor is it my intention to seek or receive any remuneration for this work. No infringement is intended.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: Darker than anything I have ever written. And I think I know what happens next. Maybe I'll write it. Please review, even flames keep me warm. Takes place more than a year after the war is finally over.

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Morning.

Harry awoke this morning as he always did; the clamor from the people cueing up at the baker's shop making it impossible for him to sleep any longer.

You must get there early or there won't be any bread left.

It wasn't as bad as it had once been, though. Now, at least, there was bread. Harry considered himself somewhat lucky in that vein- where bread was concerned. The old Squib woman who ran the shop fancied him some sort of a war hero and she brought him up a loaf nearly every day. He was fortunate to have found a flat upstairs from a baker's.

Harry shifted and slid out of bed. The crowd was getting louder and he knew that trying to get back to sleep would be, this morning as every morning, a futile effort. He stumbled to his bathroom and, like every morning, found it occupied. He leaned against the wall and waited for his flat mate.

He thought it odd that he found it comforting to be sharing quarters with Draco Malfoy. However, in the face of the tragedies they had both experienced, been party to, perpetrated, neither had the energy for hatred any more. Harry was content with the familiarity of his old nemesis. It seemed peculiar to him that he should delight in the countenance of a person whom he had once so despised, but when his was the first face Harry has recognized in nearly a year's time, just seeing something familiar was enough to let Harry put aside old animosity. Enmity creates an intimacy that Harry had never considered until a year ago.

It had been a year since Malfoy had come to stay with him.

A year had gone by and yet it seemed as though no time had passed, and yet it had also been an eternity. It had been an eternity since he'd gotten the news of Ron and Hermione; killed in a Muggle-style car bombing while on Ministry business. And it could have been yesterday when he had heard of Ginny's death, in the last officially recognized battle of a war which had yet to be given a proper name.

The damned war.

And damn what all came after.

Harry had been among the fortunate to secure housing in the village of Hogsmeade, as it had been nearly completely razed and was not yet rebuilt. War and destruction undoubtedly would lead to housing shortages, as wizards from across the country and on the European continent had been displaced by battles and their aftermath. Harry had managed to secure the flat before the restrictions had been enacted affecting how many square feet a landlord was allowed to let to a single tenant. It had not mattered to him when the restrictions had been put in to place, as he had always planned to invite Ginny to come and live with him.

But then there was no Ginny. Ginny was dead along with everyone else Harry had ever known; as dead as his way of life.

It had been only a matter of time before he was found out to be living alone in a two room flat and forced on to the street. The Hogsmeade garrison would have seen to that. An unfortunate side effect of never having taken a side. An unfortunate side effect of fighting for what he believed in, and not toward the carefully managed political agenda that the Ministry had set forth. Harry could have been a General in their army. He had, instead, become an outlaw, a renegade; fighting with the Ministerial forces when it suited him, and without them more often than not.

Harry had become the enemy of both sides in the reconstruction.

He had chosen the side of good over the side of the winner and refused to do the Ministry's bidding. And yet he alone could be credited with Voldemort's eventual demise. He had refused to join them and then beaten them at what they thought of as their own game. The garrison was no particular friend to Harry.

They would gladly have put him out in the street to die.

But then there had been Malfoy.

Malfoy: who had seen him across the snowy expanses of the burned out buildings of High Street. Malfoy: whose family's misfortune had been splayed out across the pages of the Daily Prophet for all to see. Malfoy: whose mother had been murdered in her sleep by soldiers of the Ministry; soldiers, who were supposedly the 'good guys', who had promptly moved their garrison into the family's ancestral home. Malfoy: whose fortune, while still legally his own, had been all but lost forever in the wake of the siege at Gringott's and the chaos that followed.

Malfoy: whose life had become just slightly more pathetic than Harry's own.

Malfoy: who Harry had felt sorry for. Of course he had taken him in.

And Draco had changed. He had become a different person in the years of conflict.

Hadn't they all? But Harry could not help but notice that Draco seemed further altered than did the rest of the people Harry met. Gone was the swagger, the self assurance, the arrogance and the wit. Gone, it seemed, was the very essence that had been Draco Malfoy. It was as if his spirit had left him, but his body had simply refused to die.

Harry had not so much as seen him pick up a wand in the year they'd shared a flat.

He wondered if Draco could still use magic at all. Harry had heard of such things, of course; of wizards who had lost their command of magic altogether. And magic was different for Harry now, too. But the world was different. It was to be expected that the way magic functioned in a world where magic had been so grossly misused of late might be addled; the universe had a way of correcting itself in the face of such an upheaval.

But Draco; for whom his identity had stemmed from his pure and noble blood line, for whom the power in his wand was his strength and his sanity, for whom the identity of 'wizard' was more than a function of his abilities, well, if his magic had left him… Harry was more than a little concerned for his mental state.

Draco cried a lot; a lot and often. Harry pretended not to notice. Draco pretended to believe him. It was safer that way. When Draco would wake up screaming in the middle of the night, Harry would roll him over and tell him that he had been snoring loudly. Harry wondered what nightmarish things he might have been inadvertently sharing when Draco kicked him so often and told him to stay on his half of the bed. Pretending had become an important part of their routine.

Draco slipped out of the bathroom and past Harry. He was going in to the kitchen to sit with the paper. Again, Harry was content to find comfort in this. In routine. In anything expected and familiar.

Harry dispatched with his morning ablutions in his usual manner. Routine equals comfort. He left the bathroom and went to sit with Draco at the kitchen counter. The same series of events every morning. He felt a pinch from the same crack in his chair as he had the day before and the day before that. Harry could have fixed the chair. He preferred the predictability of the tiny pinch he got when sitting. It was a comforting sort of hurt.

Harry looked across at Draco's bare chest. And again, as he did every morning, he winced at the sight of the faded scar across Draco's left side. Harry had given that scar to Draco himself. Harry had cursed a fellow student without knowing what the curse was for. He felt it a sort of penance to be forced to see what his "Sectumsempra" had become all these years later. The faded scar held more discomfort for Harry than the ominous black tattoo on Draco's left arm. But it was predictable discomfort, and Harry welcomed it.

Draco poured over the pages of the Daily Prophet in the same methodical way that he did every morning. Even after all this time, bodies were still being recovered and identified. And every day the names of the newly identified were printed in a special section of the Daily Prophet. And every day Draco read each name carefully. And every day Harry posed the same question.

"Anyone we know?" The answer wasn't always the same. Most days Draco shook his head and kept reading. This was normal. Usual. Better. Today, however, Draco answered him.

"Ashleigh Mitton and Liese Lagergren."

"They were in our year."

"They would have been with Pansy."

"But that was two years ago."

"The building collapsed. Pansy was found near the door. These two were under the rubble pile. Likely they were at the back of the shop."

And that was all that they spoke. Most days that was the most conversation that Harry could look forward to. Draco told his theories on how his friends had died. Those two girls had been with Pansy Parkinson, who may have been Draco's girlfriend. Harry never asked about her. Harry never asked anything personal. Pansy had been dead for two years. Harry could tell by the dismissive tone in Draco's voice when he would read the names of the dead from the Prophet that he had not come upon the name he was looking for.

Harry waited for the day that Draco did find who he was searching for.

Harry cursed himself silently for not asking who it was. He dared not upset the routine. The silence and distance had become sacred. But it ticked in Harry's mind; who had Draco cared enough about to search casualty lists day after day just for confirmation of his death?

Harry felt sorry for Draco where that was concerned. Harry had lost everyone he had ever loved in the war, but at least he knew that. He knew where Ron and Hermione were laid to rest- together, the few recovered pieces of their bodies impossible to distinguish one from the other. He had watched Sirius and Dumbledore take their last breaths. He had identified and claimed Ginny's body himself, and buried her with his own hands beside her brothers and parents, all of whom had fallen victim to poisoned water in Romania. All of those whom he had loved and lost: they were gone from his life; but he could not imagine what it might be like if they were only missing. Harry surmised that it might be worse not to know, and yet to be too afraid to hope.

Hope was a precious commodity in the aftermath of war, not a soul left living could seem to afford it. Not even the great and powerful Draco Malfoy.

An owl called out, startling Harry as it dropped a pile of papers onto the tiny concrete terrace outside the window of the cramped main room. Brown owl; must be Thursday.

Each morning a different owl arrived from somewhere in the world. Each owl carried the previous weeks' editions of some newspaper. All of the papers printed casualty reports similar to the ones in the Daily Prophet. And that would be how Draco would spend his day.

Silent, except to share with Harry the name of a familiar or famous person named on the lists, Draco would spend his day in front of the fireplace. He would not eat or drink until he had finished. He would carefully and meticulously read every word of these papers. Some days it was only the casualty reports. Monday: Bucharest, just the names. Tuesday: Marrakech, just the arrest reports and the names. But Thursday was from Dublin. Thursdays every word. Every week he read over each line of each page and then wadded it up and tossed it in to the fire. Harry wondered where Draco had come to learn so many languages, or if he only knew the words for death.

Draco slid from his chair and strode silently to his place in front of the fire. He finished his list from The Daily Prophet and tossed it in to the low flame. Harry was used to this. Draco reached out onto the terrace through a missing pane of glass in the window. He pulled the papers inside and untied the twine from around them.

Harry went to sit on their only chair, careful to avoid the busted spring that was beginning to push its way out of the upholstery.

"Eat something?" he implored Draco in the same fashion every day. Draco shook his head to indicate the same negative response as was his usual behavior. Harry nodded. This was how it had always been, this was how it was supposed to be.

Draco only cared to read the news from Dublin. Thursdays every word.

"If you tell me," Harry hesitated. He could anticipate the end of this routine; of the scene that played out between them often.

The scene that played often enough to feel like a part of the routine. Harry's comfortable routine. Maybe he had never asked on a Thursday.

"Did you see that they've indicted Percy Weasley for war crimes?" Draco asked, his gray eyes shifting up to look at Harry.

This was not routine. Maybe he had never asked on a Thursday.

"No, I didn't."

"They say he was the one who gave the orders at Peles." Draco looked back down.

Wrong.

Wrong.

"His whole family was at Peles."

"All of them?" Draco lifted his head from his reading. Harry was unsure. This was not routine. Honesty was not a part of the package.

"Not Ron. Not his wife. And not Ginny. But Molly and Arthur and Bill and Fleur and Fred and George and Charlie." The litany of the dead rolled off of Harry's tongue just as it had at the registrar's. Their names sounded to his ears just as they had when he had spoken for Ron, when they had gone to the Ministry; when they had fought Percy to release the bodies and allow them to be buried at the Burrow; when they said the final few words over the graves.

Draco nodded. He carefully separated a page from his pile and handed it up to Harry.

He had never done that before.

Panic.

Dread.

This was not part of the routine.

Harry took the page from Draco's hand. He barely even looked at it. He could read the front page of the Dublin Seer any time. He was more interested in why he had been given the page.

"What were they doing in Romania?"

Were they having a conversation?

Panic.

"Charlie worked there. For the Ministry. He managed the Dragon herd."

Too much? Not Enough?

Harry was terrified of this moment. In a year they had not said so many words in a single exchange. Some weeks they had not exchanged so many words at all. The silence was comforting. Predictable. Safe.

"Should have been safe at Peles."

Nowhere was safe.

"Nowhere was safe."

"It was war."

"It was criminal."

"It was the Ministry that did it."

Harry knew that could have been true. Harry knew that in the depths of conflict depravity could show itself from any side. The Ministerial Guard could have poisoned the well at Peles to drive back the Death Eaters. It could have happened that way as easily as any other. Harry hazarded to answer Draco; to perhaps engage him. He dared step out of his comfort zone and in to the no man's land of letting himself have feelings about something.

"I believe you."

"I was there."

Panic.

Fear.

They were having a conversation. Thursdays Dublin. Thursdays every word. Draco had begun to read the casualty report, but he had not fallen completely silent.

Harry's palms felt clammy. He had never asked before on Thursday. Must be.

"At Peles?"

"At the well."

Dread.

Harry felt a lump in his throat. He might not be ready to hear any more. Had they not stepped out of their silence far enough for a single day?

No.

No. There was more to be gained from speaking than from not. There was someplace to go if they could be more than a pair of passing ghosts sharing a flat in single syllables and silent cooperation. Harry was terrified. But this was better. Better even than being comfortable.

"You'll be called to testify."

"I won't."

"Be called?"

"Better they think me dead. They could fear my demanding they vacate the Manor. It seems they're rather comfortable in my parents' house."

Harry had not thought of this. Harry had not thought of the danger that Draco was likely in; more danger from the Ministerial garrison than he was in. Harry had never considered why Draco never went out. Was this part of why?

He was still reading. Examining. Harry could see his eyes following line after line after line. Thursdays Dublin. Thursdays every word. What was he looking for?

"What are you looking for?"

Draco rattled the pages.

"Quidditch scores."

Harry shivered. The idea that someone somewhere was playing Quidditch seemed more surreal than even this conversation. Was there a normal life happening somewhere?

But Harry knew it was a dodge. He would not push.

Panic.

Curiosity?

He would ask one more question. This was Thursday, this was all new. Thursdays Dublin. Thursdays every word. He had never asked on a Thursday before.

"In the names? Someone?"

Draco's whole body stiffened.

Dread.

Harry looked at his flat mate.

"A friend."

Draco's eyes were glistening. He looked up at Harry, turning his whole face upward.

"Where?"

"Nowhere." Draco stood from his place in front of the fire. He had never done that before, either. Draco stalked into the kitchen with more presence and intent than Harry had seen from him since they had come to share a dwelling. Harry dared not turn and look.

Cabinet door. Glass on glass. Cabinet door.

Draco came back into the main room and put a glass on the empty crate that served as their only table. In his hand was the sole bottle of whiskey they kept in the flat. Draco had the other glass in his hand and Harry watched intently as he filled it. Draco then set the bottle on the makeshift table and went back to his seat.

Unfamiliar.

Draco knocked back the contents of the glass.

"Three years and no word." Draco leaned back against the wall and met Harry's eyes again. "You never look."

"No need."

"You've seen their names?"

"Their bodies."

Draco nodded.

"Non combatant." Draco's eyes were filling again.

Harry picked up the bottle from the crate and leaned in to fill Draco's glass again. He filled his own glass and waited for Draco to say more.

He didn't.

They sipped at their glasses in the first uncomfortable silence they had shared since Harry could remember. Harry was not quite ready to give up. He had lived in a comfortable silence with Draco for more than a year. It had been more like living with a corpse than another person. Harry realized he missed the company of people, having someone to talk to.

Sadness.

Loneliness.

Fear.

One more question and then he would leave it be.

"Did you consider that they might be alive?"

Draco quickly finished the drink he was holding. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.

"No one is alive."

"You're alive." Harry could not believe he had said that.

Terror.

Courage. If he had said that much he could say something more.

"You survived, Draco." Harry was not sure where he had found the gumption to repeat that. "And I survived."

"There's no way."

"A non combatant?"

"School teacher."

"Wizard?"

"Witch."

"In Dublin?"

"Near."

"Have you thought…?"

"There's no way."

Draco turned his attention back to the papers he had been looking over.

And that was the end. There were no more words exchanged. Harry could tell that Draco would not abide any more questioning.

But something had changed. Fundementally.

They had spoken more in the last five minutes than they had perhaps in the entire year they had shared a dwelling, and something had changed between them.

Harry wondered if he should ask again next Thursday.

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This story references a siege of Peles Casteul Romania. : http://sinaia. 8k .com / images/ peles-c.jpg will show you a picture of the Castle. Just paste into browser window and remove the spaces.