Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter, or much of anything for that matter.
Harry Potter could never be certain why he had taken in Draco Malfoy like a stray cat off the streets, but in retrospect it seemed terribly simple and somehow inevitable.
He had decided to forego his usual stay at the Weasleys' for the summer, living instead at the no longer Unplottable Grimmauld Place. He'd used his conflicted feelings towards Ginny as an excuse, when the truth was that he simply wanted to be alone for awhile. He had always thought that killing Voldemort would be a sort of catharsis; he would fulfill his destiny, be a hero, kiss the girl, and ride off into the sunset – happily ever after. However, he had never counted into that equation that people he knew would die, that babies would be left parentless, or that, after spending the last seven years with the knowledge of impending doom hanging over his head, he simply had no idea what it was to live without that knowledge. He had also never thought that he would know what it was to die.
Hermione had gone to Australia to retrieve her parents almost immediately, and was still there attempting to smooth things over with them, as they hadn't exactly been pleased with her upon learning what she had done. Ron was busy as well, alternating between helping his mother and assisting George with the joke shop. They met up for breakfast most days of the week, occasionally playing a quick game of Quidditch. But at night Harry always returned to Grimmauld Place in spite of Mrs. Weasley's protests. The nights were his time.
In September he, Ron, and Hermione would be returning to Hogwarts to complete their seventh year. Harry had originally opted to take his NEWTs by correspondence, but Hermione had been so adamant that they go about life as normal and return to school that he had reluctantly given in. The thing was, life wasn't normal, and he wondered how attempting to backtrack would make it so.
The day Draco Malfoy came into the picture had passed by like any other day; Harry had met up with Ron and played chess for a few hours, then on a whim had visited his godson, Teddy, then had returned home. The absolute last person he had been expecting to see was Draco, whom he hadn't given much thought to since testifying at his trial. Through Harry's testimony, both Draco and Narcissa Malfoy were given nothing more than five years of probation apiece. Lucius had been taken immediately back to Azkaban, in spite of Narcissa's vocal protests. Draco had been oddly silent throughout the entire trial, staring impassively forward and nodding when appropriate. His gray eyes had met Harry's briefly, betraying nothing before quickly averting them.
That night, there was a sharp knock on the door. Harry put down his book with a sigh and walked down the hallway to open it.
Draco Malfoy was standing in front of him, hands thrust in his pockets, head thrust forward just enough so that his pale hair swung in his eyes.
"Malfoy," Harry said flatly.
Draco tilted his head upwards to look Harry in the eyes, the ghost of a smirk playing on his lips. "Potter."
"What do you want?" Harry asked, not caring if he sounded rude. After all, it was Malfoy.
"My wand," he answered, brushing past Harry to walk through the doorway. Harry watched him for a moment with a scowl, slamming the door shut.
"Malfoy!" Harry shouted, catching up with him and turning him around roughly by the shoulders. "Who the hell do you think you are?"
Draco shrugged, his head swiveling to glance at his surroundings. Harry took a moment to study him more closely, noting with some amount of satisfaction that he looked terrible; his skin still had a sickly gray tinge to it and the circles under his eyes were bruise like. Combined with this, his face appeared pointier than ever and his exposed collarbones looked sharp enough to cut glass.
"It's been years since I've been in this house," he said in a conversational tone. "And it's as depressing as ever."
"So sorry I couldn't live up to your standards, Malfoy," Harry said sharply. "It's not as if I didn't invite you or anything."
Draco gave him a nonplussed look before crossing to the sitting room, sinking into a chair with a contented sigh. Harry attempted to feel furious at the way Draco obviously saw fit to make himself at home, yet found he simply didn't care. He gave a shrug of resignation, then trailed after Draco.
"So, how about my wand, Potter?" Draco asked in his familiar drawl.
"Accio Malfoy's wand," Harry said in reply, and the wand flew into his outstretched hand. He held it out to Draco without preamble.
"You'd better not try anything," Harry said warningly, letting the wand hover just inches from Draco's hand.
Draco's eyes flashed angrily. "Just what the hell do you think I'll do? You were at my hearing, Potter. I'm on probation, remember? If I so much as breathe wrong they'll send me to Azkaban." He lunged forward with a sound of disgust to grab the wand out of Harry's hand, then settled back into the chair with an indignant cross of his arms. Harry thought for sure he would get up to leave, but he when he made no motion to do so, Harry took a seat directly across the room. Draco could stay and have his tantrum if that was what he wanted; Harry could honestly say he didn't care.
"I suppose Granger left these here?" Draco asked after a moment, perusing through the stack of books Harry had left on the desk.
"No," Harry said shortly.
Draco raised his eyebrows in surprise. "Yours then? Why Potter, I never knew you could read."
"Fuck you," Harry said softly.
Draco gave no indication of having heard him, continuing to pick up each individual book and read the jacket before thumbing through.
"Hmm," he said after a moment. "Philosophies on Death and Dying? The Science of Death? Potter, every single one of these books is about death."
Harry simply shrugged. "It's my interest at the moment."
Draco just looked at him strangely, placing the books carefully back in a neat stack. "Potter, you're not thinking of…doing anything to yourself, are you?"
Harry had to laugh at that question. Of course he wasn't. After having died once, he was now more afraid of death than ever before. But he didn't say that, of course.
"No," he said finally, sharply. "And what would you care, anyway?"
Draco stared at him with inscrutable gray eyes. "You saved my life," he said softly, looking down at his fingers. "I have to."
"I would have done it for anyone," Harry snapped, rising to his feet and stalking out of the room. "Even you, Malfoy."
If Draco replied, Harry was out of the room before he could hear it. Walking to the kitchen, he made himself a sandwich that he didn't eat and stared out the window for close to two hours. When he finally made his way back to the sitting room, he was stunned to see that Draco was sprawled asleep on the couch, a hand tucked under his white-blond head. Harry considered waking him, then decided that if Draco wanted to wake with a stiff neck, it was his problem. Scowling, he threw a still folded blanket on Draco's sleeping form, then went to bed himself.
Draco was gone in the morning, with nothing to show for his presence but the blanket folded neatly on the couch. Not knowing why, Harry left it there, then went about his day.
Draco came back that night, and the night after, and every night for the next two weeks. Mostly he just sat on what Harry now thought of as "Malfoy's couch" and read, or he studied for his upcoming NEWTs. Occasionally he would engross Harry in conversation, but it was always trivial, unimportant things such as Quidditch or whether or not Celestina Warbeck was really having an affair.
"Why do you keep coming here?" Harry asked him one night. Draco looked up in surprise, his finger keeping his place in the book he'd been reading.
"I mean, it's not like we were ever friends or anything. Aren't there people who would be more appreciative of your company?"
Something like hurt flashed fleetingly across Draco's face to be quickly replaced with a trademark sneer.
"Fine," he snapped, standing to his feet. "I'll just leave then. And I won't be back, either!" he yelled across the house as he stood in the doorway, waking Mrs. Black's portrait.
But he was back the next day, this time with two bottles of firewhisky. "One for each of us," he explained. Harry took his bottle without question, and sitting in their trademark sitting spots, they both proceeded to get drunk.
Draco beat Harry to it, as he had been chugging the firewhisky like water since his arrival. Harry had been going about it halfheartedly, and was barely tipsy when he saw Draco drop his empty bottle to the floor. It landed with a loud thud, and Draco immediately pitched over, his face in his hands.
"I don't feel so great," he said with the careful deliberation that only the very drunk can handle.
"Well, I wonder why," Harry said sarcastically. Draco groaned in response, swaying slightly. "Don't you dare get sick on my sofa, Malfoy," Harry said warningly. There was a sniffling noise in answer, and Harry realized with horror that Draco was crying into his hands, his shoulders shuddering violently with each breath.
"I've done terrible things, Potter," Draco gasped out between sobs. "Terrible things."
For some reason this statement annoyed Harry greatly, causing him to respond sharply, "Yeah, well I don't want to hear about it. You had a choice to do them or not."
Draco sobbed harder, his hair stringing into his face. "The world will never forgive me."
"Well, maybe you should have thought of that," Harry said softly, taking a quick swig of his own firewhisky bottle. At the back of his mind, he could hear Hermione telling him to stop being cruel, and he felt slightly ashamed of himself as Draco gave a pathetic sniff and looked up at him with raw, puffy eyes.
"You'll never forgive me either," he said with his lower lip trembling. His watery eyes bore into Harry's. "Will you?"
Harry sighed in resignation, feeling as if a headache was coming on. "Yes, Malfoy, I forgive you."
Draco stared at Harry in open disbelief. "Really? I never thought…" Suddenly his face paled, and he clenched the sofa cushions with whitened knuckles. "Going – to – be – sick," he managed to ground out and threw up on the floor.
"Fuck!" Harry yelled. He pulled out his wand and uttered a quick Scourgify. Draco laid himself on the couch with a tortured moan, trembling slightly.
Harry stared at him for a moment, then moved across the room with resolve. He flung the blanket over Draco, who raised his head slightly, his gray eyes unfocused.
"The whole room is spinning, Potter," he slurred.
"Yeah, that's kind of what happens when you drink an entire bottle of firewhisky."
Draco lowered his head to his arms, and Harry grabbed a pillow from a nearby chair and handed it to him.
"Thanks," Draco muttered, positioning the pillow under his head.
"Well, good night then," Harry said uncomfortably, beginning to make his way out of the room.
"Tried to help you, you know," he heard Draco mutter sleepily, and Harry wondered what he could possibly mean.
Draco was gone again the next morning, and Harry wondered how he could possibly have managed to go anywhere given the state he had been in. He wondered if he'd managed to make it home alright, and nearly used the fireplace to talk to him at Malfoy Manor before deciding against it.
He needn't have feared, because Draco was back that night, this time an armload of groceries in tow.
Harry watched silently as Draco fumbled about in the kitchen, his wand waving sporadically.
"I'm surprised you know how to cook," Harry said nonchalantly. "I mean, don't your house elves do all the cooking?"
Draco's shoulders stiffened slightly, then his head inclined to face Harry.
"The Ministry took our house elves," Draco said softly. "And we're really not in the position to hire anybody at the moment, so Mother and I have been learning how to cook." He managed a small smile. "It's not so bad."
He turned back to cooking spaghetti then, and minutes later they were both sitting at the table, eating. Harry found himself relaxing and even laughing for the first time since he had died, and was vaguely disconcerted that it was apparently caused by Draco's presence. He wondered what it could mean, and whether he should care.
The next night, Draco Apparated directly into Grimmauld Place, startling Harry. He nearly said something sharp to him, then noticed a strange red welt on the side of his neck.
"Stinging hex," Draco said with a shrug. "It happens."
For some reason, this filled Harry with inexplicable rage. "What do you mean, it happens? Who did it?"
Draco blinked in surprise at Harry's tone. "What I mean is, when you're an ex-Death Eater, you come to expect this sort of thing from time to time. As for your other question, I have no idea who they were. I was just in Diagon Alley buying some supplies, and they started throwing hexes at me, so I Apparated here."
"But you have a wand! Why the hell would you just let them throw hexes at you?"
Draco smirked. "Please, Potter. You and I both know that if I raise my wand at anybody, no matter what the circumstances, I'll be in Azkaban before you can blink."
He was right, of course, yet Harry was still filled with righteous indignation at the unfairness of it.
"Well," Harry said, swallowing back his anger. "I can heal them for you if you want."
"Thanks," Draco said softly. He took a seat at the kitchen table, allowing Harry to whisper a quick healing spell for the welts on his neck.
"Is that all?" Harry asked, his fingers lightly tracing over the newly healed skin. Draco shivered visibly at the contact.
"Not exactly," he said softly, and began unbuttoning his shirt with a cringe. His chest was a network of old scars and new welts, and Harry gulped upon seeing the jagged white scar that ran from his sternum to disappear under his belly button. Harry healed the stinging hex marks quickly, looking away as Draco replaced his shirt.
"God, I'm so sorry," Harry said quietly.
Draco shrugged. "It's alright."
They sat in silence for awhile, then Harry spoke up. "Hey Malfoy, you want to play a Seeker's game?" And then they were outside, flying in the cool night air. Draco caught the Snitch, much to his obvious delight, but they continued to fly for at least two more hours. Draco flew like a bat out of hell, swerving and spinning in a near suicidal manner.
"Are you insane?" Harry yelled after Draco just managed to miss a tree trunk at the last second. Draco turned around, grinning over his shoulder.
"Scared, Potter?" he jeered in a strange echo of yesteryear which filled Harry with an inexplicable feeling of loss.
"You wish," he said softly, as it was the expected response.
When they were both back inside Grimmauld Place, Harry grabbed Draco by the shoulders and kissed him roughly. He wasn't sure what made him do it, or how he felt when Draco simply stood there, arms held stiffly at his sides. Draco pulled out of his grasp after a moment, his breathing ragged and uneven.
"You'll hate me tomorrow," Draco said softly, not meeting Harry's eyes.
"No, I won't," Harry replied with a shrug. Draco stared at him for a moment, seemingly transfixed by Harry's mouth.
"What the hell," he muttered, pulling Harry against him. And then they were kissing, really kissing, all lips, teeth, and desperation. They eventually made their way to Draco's couch and after a frenzy of wandering hands and grinding hips, both lay spent beside the other, still fully clothed.
Draco was gone in the morning again, and Harry wondered if he had expected differently, but knew he would return that night, as always. But when he didn't return that night, or for the next two nights, Harry found himself pacing the house out of worry. Finally, he crouched in front of the fireplace, sticking his head in and yelling, "Malfoy Manor," as he threw in a handful of Floo Powder.
Nobody appeared to be there. Feeling slightly ill, Harry made his way to bed.
The next morning, he went to breakfast with Ron as usual. Mrs. Weasley expertly went about preparing their meal, and was just sitting down to join them when Percy walked in the door.
"Hello, Harry," Percy said politely. Harry murmured a greeting in response, still not fully warmed to Percy.
"Sorry I didn't make it to dinner last night, Mother," Percy said after pecking Mrs. Weasley on the cheek. "I had mountains of paperwork to fill out – apparently some kids found a body in Diagon Alley, and we had loads to get done because the bloody Daily Prophet caught wind of it. This sort of thing doesn't exactly reflect well on the Ministry, you know."
Feeling as if icy fingers were clamping around his heart, Harry asked, "A body?"
Percy nodded, looking sympathetic. "Yes, it's always horrible to hear of these things, isn't it? But you know, you can hardly blame whoever did it – it was a Death Eater, you see. Probably done in retaliation."
"Who was it?" Harry whispered hoarsely, his fingers clutching the edge of the table for support.
Percy shuddered slightly. "It's hard to say. The body was completely unrecognizable. The only thing that was certain was that the Dark Mark was still visible."
Feeling as if he were going to throw up, Harry stood up so violently that his chair was nearly knocked backwards.
"I have to go," he said quickly, ignoring the questions and inquiring looks of the Weasleys.
Once he arrived back at Grimmauld Place, Harry stood next to Draco's couch shivering as if he would never be warm again.
It happens, Draco had said. Harry just barely made it to the bathroom before he really did throw up. Wiping his mouth, he stared at his reflection in the mirror for a good twenty minutes, hardly recognizing the pale, sickly face in front of him. Then he stumbled back to the couch and flung himself on it. And then he cried for at least an hour; for Draco, and for himself.
He hadn't realized he'd fallen asleep until a loud knock jerked him awake. He pulled himself off the couch and stumbled to get the door, hardly caring who it could be.
He gaped in astonishment upon opening the door, inexplicably seeing the familiar white-blond head and gray eyes that he had thought he'd never see again.
"You…you're alive!" he managed to choke out.
Draco's brow furrowed slightly in confusion and slight amusement. "Last time I checked." He walked inside, closing the door behind him. Immediately Harry was holding him for all he was worth, afraid that he was a ghost, or that he would vanish if he let go.
"Miss me much?" Draco asked softly against his ear. Harry gave a ragged laugh bordering on a sob, drawing a concerned look from Draco who had drawn back to look at him.
"Where the hell were you?" Harry choked.
Draco gave him a strange look. "Some relative of mine, whom I've never even met, by the way, died unexpectedly, and my mother and I had to attend her funeral."
"And you couldn't have sent me an owl or something?"
"I wasn't sure you'd care," Draco said softly, averting his eyes.
Harry just stared at him dumbfounded, feeling something like epiphany rise to his chest.
"Don't be an idiot," he replied quietly, pulling Draco against him again.
Later, after Harry had filled Draco in on the body found in Diagon Alley and the immediate conclusions he'd drawn ( Draco had laughed at first, but then his eyes had gone extremely soft), they'd ended up together in Harry's bed in a jumble of limbs.
"Hey Draco, can you do me a favor?" Harry asked quietly, much later.
"Another one?" Draco asked sardonically.
Harry smacked him softly on the shoulder, giving a snort of laughter. "Prat." He sighed. "I'm serious. The next time you need to go to Diagon Alley, could you please just let me know so I can go with you?"
"Yeah," Draco said immediately. "Yeah, Harry, I'll do that." It was then that Harry realized that he was offering to accompany Draco in broad daylight. It would be their first time seeing each other in the sunlight, rather than in darkness.
They both fell asleep shortly after, and the first thing Harry noticed upon waking up was that Draco was still there.