So, um... *coughs*

*points to story*

*wanders off*

Chapter 9: Quid Pro Quo

Day two of the nine was spent entirely in boredom for Draco. He wasn't sure if Harry even left whatever room he had disappeared into. So of course, Draco was left to take care of Sara. She was obviously displeased with his lack of attention, but she knew better than to beg it from him. She was young, not stupid.

Day three had Draco making a sandwich for Harry and then going on a hunt to find him. It didn't take him long to figure out that Harry was in the only locked and magically barred door on the second floor. The room practically shimmered with magic, and Draco frowned as he knocked, feeling a sharp twinge in his knuckles as they brushed up against the nearly tangible energy. Something wasn't right. He'd been with Harry long enough by now to know what Harry's magic felt like. This wasn't the same. It felt…warped, somehow, and Draco wasn't even sure how he came to that conclusion. It just seemed to fit. "Harry?" he tried when there was no reply to his knocking.

There was only stillness behind the door, and so he set himself to the task of trying to get inside the room. He worked his way up from first year unlocking spells to seventh, and even then had to call on a couple more that weren't taught in Hogwarts. How did Harry know those?

Finally he felt the last of the barriers give way, and hesitated only a second before turning the knob and opening the door so that he could see inside.

What he found was an empty room.

The bed was unmade, the sheets so messed up that it looked like someone had picked a fight with them rather than sleep under them. The window was open, occasionally creaking as the breeze moved the swinging glass.

Draco didn't know what to think. He probably should've been panicking, but his emotions had been running so high for so long that he couldn't find the energy in himself to do so. He was worried, of course, and found himself wondering, more level-headedly than he would've thought himself capable at the moment, just what course of action he should take next. He needed to find Harry. Could he do that on his own? Should he contact Snape? Oh, that would go over so well… "Oh Harry…" Draco mumbled, staring out the window and wondering where his boyfriend could've possibly gone. Or why he left. Then his eye caught something shining just outside his line of sight, and he turned to look.

"No…tell me you didn't…" he said to the not-there Harry as he walked over to the object, only to confirm his suspicions. The medallion he'd given him for Christmas was lying on top of the dresser, shining innocently and taunting Draco with its suddenly useless state. When he picked it up, he could feel the infection of dark magic and he closed his eyes, trying to will it away. He said he wouldn't take it off…that he didn't want to. So what did it mean? Draco wasn't sure he wanted to know. But he had to. He sighed heavily.

The big question, though, is what on earth was he supposed to do about it? He had a feeling the patronus method wouldn't work this time. Draco suddenly found himself wishing he could yell at Harry to stop disappearing already! Really, it was starting to become a familiar pattern now. He sighed when he realized he should probably tell Snape.

"He did what?"

Draco cringed; Snape was understandably displeased. "He ran off. Escaped through the window. He's gone and I don't know where he went."

Snape sighed explosively and crossed his arms, leveling a glare on the far wall. "Well we'll have to find him," the man stated obviously. Draco wisely said nothing.

And they did try to find him. For two days. Point-me spells were ineffective, any guesses his friends had on his whereabouts turned into dead-ends, and Dumbledore predicted that with the level of Harry's power, if he didn't want to be found…he wouldn't be. And so it seemed.

On the third day of this – the fifth day of the nine until the potion was ready – they found him. But not in a way any of them had expected. Hermione had gathered them all together, and once they were all situated in McGonagall's office, she pulled out a muggle newspaper and offered it to Snape first. The group watched with anticipation as Snape's eyes slowly widened. Then he brought up two fingers to pinch the bridge of his nose. "Idiotic boy…" he muttered.

Draco all but snatched the paper from Snape's hand, and quickly scanned its contents himself. There on the front page was a still image of Harry, brandishing his wand at a mean-looking group of muggles and casting a spell that Draco couldn't identify. The headline read, Magician Plays at Resident Super Hero. "Magician?" Draco asked, looking at Hermione.

"Muggles that pretend to do magic with tricks and illusion," she answered absently, obviously answering out of reflex. Draco nearly rolled his eyes as habitually as she had answered him.

Ron leaned over to look as well, and raised his eyebrows, snorting slight amusement at the title. "So, even when he's evil, he's good? That's our Harry," he said with a grin.

Draco frowned, resisting the urge to roll his eyes again. "This is hardly a good thing, Weasley."

"Come on, it could be worse!" he countered. "At least he's not out killing a bunch of random people, or gathering hordes of evil minions in order to overthrow the ministry and become supreme dark ruler of the world or something."

Draco looked a little bemused, as did a few others in the room. "Have you thought about this?"

Ron shrugged, moving away from the paper to stand near Hermione again. "That's what Voldemort did, more or less." Well, he had a point.

"May I?" McGonagall asked, and Draco handed over the paper, surprised she hadn't heard of this. Somewhere in his mind, he wondered if Dumbledore would've known, if he'd still been alive. Being a portrait didn't count. Not that it mattered, now, and Draco focused his attention as McGonagall spoke again. "We must retrieve him before he causes any more damage." She scanned through the article, and frowned slightly when she reached the end. "He's near his childhood home."

"Revenge?" Snape offered after a beat, and McGonagall pursed her lips, obviously not wanting to answer.

"I'll go get him," Draco offered, but Snape immediately shot the idea down.

"No," the man barked, surprising Draco. "He is obviously dangerous now. I will bring him back."

"But maybe I could-"

"Draco, at this moment, he is not the same boy you are used to. The fact that he left Grimmauld Place rather than stay in your presence proves that your influence is not enough."

Draco winced, his gaze dropping to the floor. Did he have to be so harsh? A hand fell upon his shoulder, and he looked up to see Granger smiling sadly at him. He frowned and pulled his shoulder away, though the movement was not offending as it would have been before last summer. He simply wasn't that comfortable with her touching – or even looking at – him like that.

"Draco, Granger, Weasley," Snape said and the three looked up expectantly. "You will not go looking for him, understand?"

"But we can help!" Hermione protested, her look of sympathy replaced with a familiar desire to be involved.

"You will stay at Grimmauld place and assure that Sara does not escape our grasp as well." It was not so much a suggestion as a threat. The three of them exchanged grim looks, but they all knew that there was no arguing with Snape at this moment. Draco wanted to point out the fact that they were all legally adult wizards (and a witch) and could in fact be helpful, but it seemed his mind had been made up. As he thought about it, he realized they had been leaving Sara alone an awful lot lately. But there was nothing for it, really; she was well-off with house elves, and things were a little serious for them to be playing babysitter to the cause of this mess.

Snape apparated to Surrey, hidden in a park, the wand in his hand completely still as it sat in a point-me spell. They had tried to use the spell before, but it kept changing directions on them, and Snape guessed that Potter had been apparating large distances to make himself harder to track.

But now he sat stationary, and Snape disillusioned himself as he walked out of the park in the direction his wand had shown him. What he found after a bit of walking was not altogether surprising for the situation, but it was still somewhat of a shock to see Harry Potter threatening muggles. While he was still unnoticed, Snape sent a stunning spell at Potter's back. It hit, but then Potter actually threw it off, and Snape took a half-step back as the former Gryffindor threw a spell backwards, luckily missing him by a few feet. Snape suddenly remembered that this was the boy he'd watched defeat Voldemort.

"Who's there?" Harry asked, frowning at the empty air behind him. The muggles that had previously been under wand-point looked on, wide-eyed and shaking. Snape found himself wondering what Potter had said or done to them.

Erring on the side of caution, Snape did not reveal himself, stepping slowly sideways, and calling on every bit of stealth he'd learned to keep silent. He watched Potter closely, and furrowed his brow when the boy closed his eyes. Snape tensed as he watched, waiting for Potter to do something. He didn't have to wait long. In a split second, Harry had spun and faced him directly, opening his eyes and shooting an unfamiliar spell at him.

With reflexes born through years of war, Snape jumped to the side, taking off the disillusionment spell since it was obviously of no use, and just took unnecessary energy to maintain.

"I'm not going back, you know," Harry said, watching Snape's movements with an intensity that the potions master didn't think the Gryffindor should posses.

"You would rather stay here?" Snape countered. He wasn't sure himself whether he was stalling, or actually trying to get information.

"Where I wish to be is none of your business, Snape," Harry said, nearly managing to snarl the words as much as speak them. It was this more than anything that made Snape realize he wasn't talking to Harry, Draco's lover and proud Gryffindor. This was someone else, a new version of Potter that was in no way improved. Which meant he had no idea what to expect from the boy.

"Then have you come for revenge?" Definitely stalling now.

Potter inclined his head in a way that could have been affirmation or denial. The expression didn't suit him.

Snape wasn't sure how to respond, and he didn't get a chance to figure it out, either. Before he could even open his mouth to speak, several pops resounded through the streets, and nearly ten more witches and wizards appeared. Snape recognized most of them.

Potter's attention snapped to the figure closest to him, which also happened to be the one Snape was least happy to see. "Lestrange..." Potter said, his voice an eclectic mix of apprehension, curiosity, bewilderment and anger. Then again, anger seemed to be a staple with him these days.

"Hello, Potter," she practically cooed at him, and Harry's upper lip curled a little at the tone. "What a pleasant surprise," she said, like this was actually a surprise. She wasn't fooling anyone.

"Go away," Harry said almost flippantly, sounding entirely unconcerned. It was a warning, Snape could hear it easily. Judging by the glint in Lestrange's eyes, she heard it as well.

"Oh I could hardly leave when this party is just beginning!"

A few laughs followed that statement, and Snape was lost to find the humor in it. More likely it was forced laughter just to stay in the good graces of the current leader of the death eaters.

Harry's eyes flicked towards Snape briefly, but he obviously decided Lestrange was more worth his attention at the moment. He might decide to be insulted about that later. "Fine, then get to your point. What are you doing here?"

"My, you've become bossy," the woman said, walking in a slow circle around Harry and his eyes tracked her movements like an animal stalking prey. His animagus form had never fit him better, Snape mused.

"Answer the question," Harry responded.

With a long suffering sigh, and a what-can-you-do look to the yet inactive death eaters, she replied, "Fine. I'm here to take you back."

"Back?" Harry echoed, his cool, don't-mess-with-me aura melting into cautious confusion.

"Back with us," she confirmed. "Your potential is much greater than what you will ever be allowed here. Don't you want to be useful again, Harry?"

When Harry's expression shifted from completely guarded, to somewhat considering, Snape decided it was time to step in. "Volemort's time is over, and it's time the death eaters realized that," he said, frowning at her and pointedly not catching Harry's eye. This moment had the potential to turn really ugly, really fast. He could only hope it wouldn't.

"And I think you should realize," Lestrange said, turning her attention to him fully for the first time, "that it just might not be. Not if dear Harry here wishes to be at peace with himself again."

"What?" Harry cut in, looking at Lestrange almost hopefully, yet a little reproachfully. "What do you know about what I'm feeling?"

Snape suppressed the urge to groan in annoyed exasperation. It seems Draco had not told him all they had discovered. He wondered if it would have even made a difference.

"I know that you are probably confused. But this – a metamorphosis – is nothing to fear." Merlin, she sounded like one of those muggle religious extremists. Snape resisted the urge to roll his eyes.

"Not interested," Harry said almost immediately, narrowing his eyes at her. "I don't like you."

A small smirk worked its way onto Snape's face despite himself, until Harry turned to frown at him too. "I'm not going back with you, either." The amusement was gone as quick as it had come.

"You will, whether you want to or not," Lestrange said, sounding angry now, and with a small forward-flick motion of her hand, spells began flying from several directions, and Snape ducked behind a tree almost before he realized what he was doing.

Harry threw a shield around himself, causing a multitude of dangerous spells to bounce back, careening off their intended courses and very quickly making the surrounding area an impromptu battlefield. The muggles, previously quiet, forgotten, and quite frozen in fear and curiosity, now shot to their feet and high-tailed it away from the area, rightly fearing for their lives.

Spells both offensive and defensive in nature flew through Snape's mind as he stayed out of sight for the moment, but those thoughts took back seat to a hastily formed plan as he realized the possible advantage of the situation. Making a decision, he disappeared from the scene, only to return to the same spot with a potion vial in his hands. The crack of apparition went unheard in the chaos of the ten (or more)-on-one battle taking place.

The constant strain Harry had recently been under was quickly becoming apparent the longer he fought. Snape watched, tense, as the tiring Gryffindor missed his footing, stumbling before catching himself. The recovery almost wasn't quick enough, and the next shield he threw up couldn't stand against the spell thrown at it. The spell broke through with a loud bang, and both spell and shield fizzled out in a shower of sparks as Harry was thrown backward. Snape seized his chance. He leapt forward and grabbed Harry mid-fall, and knowing this would only work while he had the element of surprise, he apparated them both away, Lestrange's angered cries echoing in his ears even after they had left the scene. As soon as they reappeared, tumbling to the ground in an awkward and undignified heap, he unstopped the potion and practically shoved it into Harry's mouth. The boy had no choice but to swallow, lest he choke on the liquid instead, and Snape watched as he fought against it but ultimately succumbed to the effects of the very strong sedative.

When he was sure Harry was deeply unconscious, Snape let out a deep sigh, and rolled over onto his back, simply taking a moment to allow the adrenaline rush to fade. They were both now lying in the entrance hall of Grimmauld Place, and Snape marveled at how Lestrange and the death eaters' appearance had actually been the lucky break he needed. There was no way he'd have been able to wrestle Harry back on his own.


Snape sat up to see Draco and Weasley, of all people, rushing towards him. He stood slowly, patting down his robes and greeting the two boys

"You did it, you got him back," Draco breathed after making sure Snape was all right. His brow furrowed as he made his way over to the prone boy on the floor. "Is he okay?" he asked, kneeling next to Harry's shoulders and smoothing a few errant bangs from his forehead. Snape pretended not to notice the motion.

"I gave him a sedative potion. It is the only way I can think of to restrain him that he could not escape from using magic. He can easily dispel physical bindings with a single thought if he wishes."

Draco nodded, understanding the reasoning but not necessarily comforted. The fact that they had to 'bind' him at all kind of sucked, to be honest. "Are you just going to keep him like this until the potion is ready?" he asked, already guessing at the answer as he tugged Harry up and settled him awkwardly against his side. Ron quickly moved to Harry's other side and they both held him up.

"That would probably be for the best. I do not know if he would attempt escape like that again," he tried not to think about how much it sounded like they were talking about a prisoner, "but I would simply rather not risk it. Perhaps keeping him unconscious will allow his body some of the resting time it needs, as well."

"Yeah…okay," he agreed. "We'll just take him to his room, then." Just as the two boys turned, Hermione's voice drifted toward them from around the corner.

"Ok, boys, Sara's aslee- Harry!" She rushed forward as she caught sight of the group in the corridor and stopped just short of them, as if she wanted to hug her unconscious friend, but realized it wouldn't do any good. "He's…okay, right?" she finally decided on asking.

"Yeah," Draco answered as Snape removed his cloak and hung it over by the door. "Severus gave him a potion to knock him out."

She glanced at Snape, then looked between Draco and Ron before nodding, almost absently. "I'll help you get him upstairs, then."

The last four days required for the potion to brew were spent in a sort of tense haze for all currently staying at Grimmauld Place, which included Snape until they got everything back to normal again.

Draco spent a good deal of time in Harry's room, sometimes sitting by the window and losing himself in thought, and sometimes sitting on the bed beside Harry, carding his fingers through the dark hair and usually getting lost in thought then, too. He knew it was pointless; it's not like Harry was in the hospital and he was waiting for him to wake up. But it's not like he really had anything better to do, either. Ron and Hermione were in and out, checking to make sure Harry was still out, and sometimes staying longer to talk to Draco. Well if nothing else, the three of them were getting a little bit of bonding time, however stilted it may be, due to circumstances.

Snape generally stayed out of the way, more often preferring the company of the books in the library. He'd moved the potion into the manor, and all they could do was wait. Draco hated waiting. He was pretty sure Ron was getting impatient, too.

"The potion is ready."

Draco jumped up from a somewhat deep sleep at the words, his brain taking a moment longer to click into place and process why that statement had required such an immediate waking. When he did, his eyes widened and he hopped out of bed – he'd been given one of the many guest bedrooms to stay in – and donned a robe before following Snape out to wake the other two. It was somewhat late at night, but Draco would prefer to be woken up and have this done with, than wait until morning. Again, patience was not his forte. Not when it came to people he cared about.

Once everyone had been made aware of the potion's status, they made their way to Harry's room, Snape making a short detour to get the potion. It was a little frothy and green, and the detached thought crossed Draco's mind that it was the exact sort of potion Harry hated drinking.

"So he just...has to drink it, right?" Ron asked, sounding nervous as they all gathered around the bed while Snape pulled out the vial with the appropriate dose of potion. "What will it do to him?"

"In theory, it will break apart the dark magic that has connected with his own. Unfortunately, despite my own research on the subject, I cannot say exactly what will happen, because the process of purging dark magic is different for everyone, and depends on the imbiber's strength, both body and mind. I suppose now we will see how strong his will truly is."

A stillness befell the room as Snape tipped the vial to Harry's mouth and assured that the correct amount of potion made it past his throat. Everyone held their breath. Then everyone released those breaths as enough time passed that they were forced to start breathing again.

"…Is it working?" Ron ventured hesitantly, leaning forward as if getting a closer look at Harry's prone form would tell him whether or not the potion was doing its job.

As if those were the magic words, Harry's body convulsed once on the bed, his spine arching awkwardly before he fell back to the mattress with a soft thump. Snape cast a spell Draco had seen mediwizards and witches use before to run diagnostics on a patient.

"Is everything all right?" Hermione asked, looking worriedly at Snape's face.

"Nothing truly abnormal about his normal bodily functions. Since we have been keeping

him unconscious to begin with, and this potion puts the drinker in a short coma, I imagine that was the start of the potion taking effect. "All we can do is wait it out."

Harry came to with the sensation of nothing beneath his feet, and for one half-asleep, panic-stricken moment, he flailed and kicked at the empty air until he opened his eyes with a full-body jerk, breathing heavily for a moment before his eyes focused. Unfortunately, this didn't really help him any, because all he was staring at was darkness with a few spots of darker darkness thrown in for some variety.

He furrowed his brow, darting his gaze all around as he tried to find something recognizable. After the initial moment of complete disorientation, an almost foreign feeling of calmness settled over him, and he spent a moment just…floating, allowing the feeling to take him because at this point he couldn't remember the last time he'd felt completely calm.

Seconds and hours later, he was startled out of his moment of peace by a sudden blinding light, and he threw his arm up to shield his eyes. He had a quick, detached thought where he almost expected someone to tell him to walk away from the light. When he could finally look without being blinded, he removed his arm and gaped. The only distinguishable item in the darkness was now the medallion he'd been wearing for months. Except it was huge, shining brightly, and oddly dented. There was also sparking red and black energy darting around it that looked rather dangerous. Naturally, he had to get a closer look.

As he approached, the whispers started. Whispers of things people had said to him, and some things people hadn't. Green eyes narrowed dangerously as he recognized one voice above all others. It was one he would never forget.

"Voldemort," he hissed into the relative darkness, the word passing his lips in parseltongue without him realizing the slip.

The voices cut off as if someone had hit a mute button in his own head – he had to be in his own head, because what other place did he know that was this messed up? – and the hairs on the back of his neck stood on end.

With the silence pressing in around him, and nothing else to focus on, he started a closer study of the medallion, and fully realized all the damage it seemed to have taken. With a start, he recognized the colors of his own magic aura pulsing faintly around it, almost completely overshadowed by the red and black. That explained the burning, at least…the medallion had been trying to protect him the whole time. A rueful smile crossed his lips. Draco had been doing everything to protect and help him, while Harry had pushed him away and been increasingly hostile. And wasn't that a switch from how they both used to be?

Before he could contemplate that any further, a whipcord of the red magic lashed out and struck him across the shoulder. He yelped and jumped back, his hand immediately clutching the stinging wound. He barely dodged the second one, and the third cut across the back of his thigh as he turned to run in the opposite direction. When his feet had actually found the ground, he wasn't certain, but it was a small realization beneath the screaming instincts to run.

But where do you run inside your own head?

Nowhere, apparently, Harry discovered as he found himself running up to the medallion again, even though he was certain he'd never turned around or changed direction at all.

Harry skidded to a stop, automatically trying to throw up a shield in defense, and immediately trying to quell the panic when it didn't work. The dark, sinister-looking magic seemed to be growing in size, and an ominous creak filled the space around him as it seemed to bend the already damaged medallion nearly in half.

A nearly overwhelming sense of dread and helplessness washed over him, and Harry swallowed against the feeling of impending doom. This was it; the culmination of everything that had been slowly eating away at him and suddenly it seemed to make so much sense that he was about ready to give in simply because the logic of this twisted timeline ended here so seamlessly.

He thought of Draco, and of Ron and Hermione, and hissed at the sting in his shoulder and leg as he snapped out of whatever daze he'd been drawn into. He couldn't just give up, not like that!


Harry's head snapped to the side as he heard the voice of – surprisingly – Sara somewhere in the darkness. Her small form appeared off to his right, and she stumbled a bit as she found her footing before running over, barreling into him and wrapping her arms around his stomach. "Sara?" What the hell was going on here?

"Don't die Harry. Everybody's worried."

He blinked down at her, slightly thrown by the fact that she felt as much detached from this…dream as a part of it. "Die?" he repeated, frowning. Was he dying?

She nodded and stepped back, smoothing out the plain dress she was wearing and studying the floor with intent. The magic crackled behind them and Harry doubled over, dropping to one knee and clutching his stomach, even though the sudden pain that flooded his body didn't seem to have an actual focus point.

When he looked up again, one eye clenched shut against the pain as he fought to ignore it, Sara was biting her lip, looking between him and the damaged medallion, to which he was beginning to fully realize his direct connection. "I can stop it."

"What?" Harry asked, eyes wide. He wasn't even sure he'd heard her right.

Her lips pursed slightly, and suddenly she seemed so much older. "It's all my fault, I know it is. They all said it. I'm not s'posed to be…"

"…be what?" Harry asked, finally straightening.

She shook her head, and started backing up. "Just be. The nice old man said it."

She was making less and less sense and Harry wished he could just figure out what she was talking about already. "What nice old man?"

Sara hesitated and looked off to the side before meeting his eyes again. "I like you Harry. I can save you. I'm gonna save you, 'kay? He said you saved everyone, so now I can save you, even though I wasn't made to do that."

"Sara, what are you talking about?" Harry finally asked, possibly a little more harshly than he'd intended. But she wouldn't get to the damn point!

"Thank you for taking care of me, Harry, even though I was supposed to hurt you." She took another couple of steps back, and Harry's eyes widened as he realized she was heading towards the crackling mass of energy that was the only visible thing besides the two of them.

"Sara, get away from there…you'll get hurt."

She shook her head and continued to back up, even as the red and black energy began flowing towards her, drawn in like she was a magnet for it. "You can wake up for them. Make Draco happy again." She said it with a smile, and it hurt, the way she looked at him. No child should ever wear such an expression of resigned determination. That was his thing, dammit. "I'll take it all back, 'cause mamma was a bad woman…"

"Sara! You don't have to–" He didn't even get to finish before she jumped back, grimacing as she disappeared without so much as a sound into the swirling mass of dark magic.

"Make them happy again, Harry!" her voice echoed around him, and he looked around frantically for a moment in vain, before closing his eyes in bewildered sorrow. The pain he'd been feeling as a constant burn dissipated, and he stood up defiantly. Sara had just…she sacrificed herself, he knew, with a conviction that settled in his mind and simply left no room for doubt. All the things she had said, confusing as they were, and not to mention what had just taken place, left him sure that she had been an integral part of everything that had been happening to him lately, and he was going to be questioning Draco about that later.

To be able to do that, though, he had to actually get to him first. The mass of magic crackled loudly in front of him. Whatever Sara had done, or perhaps was doing, had upset the hold the dark magic had over what he recognized as his own.

"Thank you, Sara," he whispered as he raised his hand, moving purely by intuition, hoping it was what needed to be done. When he concentrated, he could push against the weakened dark magic, and he did so as he walked towards the bent and nearly broken medallion until he could rest his hands against it. He hissed at the overwhelming sensation of connecting to pure, raw magic, closing his eyes as he kept contact, his fingers twitching a little at the sheer intensity. He realized with a jolt that this was his magical core, not just a dream-image or illusion, and was slightly awed despite himself. He imagined this was something that not many magical beings were able to do.

An errant bolt of the dying dark magic struck out at him, and he grit his teeth, returning his concentration to the task at hand. He felt Sara's energy pulling it back in, while a different, foreign energy seemed to be working on weakening the dark bit of magic, while strengthening his own.

He gave a particularly strong push of energy, and nearly jumped as he heard the creaking of metal again, and when he looked up, he realized the medallion was straightening out, and the dents that had been placed in it were disappearing. He gaped for only a moment, feeling the rush of cool comfort spread through his body like a wave. The feeling was incredible; he hadn't realized just how oppressive the dark magic had been both mentally and physically, since it had overtaken him so gradually.

With one final push against the dark magic, it disappeared with an impressive pop, and the medallion straightened out completely, shining even brighter than when he first appeared in this dark place, and he had to shield his eyes again, even as he let out a triumphant laugh at the lightness in his chest.

Harry woke with a gasp, nearly snapping into a sitting position and clutching his chest lightly over his heart.

"Harry!" came a chorus of voices, sounding a mix of excited, relieved, hesitant and he was sure there were other emotions in there he wasn't picking up on.

He turned his head and saw his two best friends, his boyfriend, and Snape of all people by his bedside, all with expectant looks on their faces. He gave them a grin, which changed quickly into a sheepish smile as he realized the reason they weren't smothering him with hugs by now. "Hey guys," he said. After a beat he added, "So...I've been a right git lately…"

Hermione was the first to act, and she laughed, jumping up on the bed and tackling him back down. "Oh Harry, it's so wonderful to have you back! We weren't even sure if the potion would work!"

Harry hugged her back, and when he looked over at the others, he couldn't help but laugh at the pout Draco was giving him. He smiled, loving and sincere, and watched as Draco's expression softened into something similar. Ron walked up to him and he held out his hand, grinning as Ron immediately clasped it within his own. "You really had us worried there, mate," he informed him, and Harry wasn't entirely sure how to respond. He'd had himself worried.

After a few minutes of the Gryffindor love fest, Hermione and Ron backed off and Harry sat up again, scrubbing a hand over his face and through his hair. He was surprisingly tired for having just woken up.


Harry looked up at Snape, slightly thrown by the teacher voice, and it was almost instinctive when he replied with, "Sir?"

Snape's lips twitched before he spoke again. "I'm sorry for being the bearer of bad news, but Sara–"

"I know," Harry cut in before he could finish the sentence. He wasn't sure what it had looked like from this end – whether Sara's physical form had been pulled into the mess – and he wasn't sure he wanted to know. Maybe after his mind and body both had had a chance to settle down and rest. "She helped me," he said by way of explanation. He could tell them all about it later, when he found out everything else from them.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Hermione lean over to whisper to Ron, and when he looked over, Ron looked slightly affronted, but Hermione just gave him a look and he rolled his eyes. Hermione smiled and turned to Harry. "Harry, we're going to go into the kitchen to make breakfast. Come join us when you're ready," she said with a smile, and Harry nodded as she took Ron's hand and led them both out of the room.

"Tell me if you feel anything unusual, Potter. I want to make sure there are no lasting effects," Snape told him and at Harry's consenting nod and 'yes sir', he took his leave as well.

After a few seconds of watching the doorway, Harry swallowed and looked up at Draco, who was looking at him as if he might possibly revert to what he had been lately at any second. With a heavy sigh, Harry lowered his gaze. "Draco…I'm so sorrmmph" He wasn't able to finish the apology before it was completely swallowed by Draco. Harry let out a whimper he might be embarrassed about later, and reached his arms around Draco's waist, pulling him in as close as he could, opening his mouth as Draco's tongue pushed at his lips.

"Merlin, Harry," Draco murmured against his mouth after a while, barely pulling back at all, "I was so afraid I was going to lose you." He pressed forward to kiss him again, softer this time; sweeter, and with something far more profoundly desperate in his movements.

Harry brought his hands up to Draco's face, pulling back just enough to see his eyes, but close enough to press their foreheads together. "Draco," he said with a crooked smile, "I was afraid I was going to lose myself."

Draco laughed in response, even though it really wasn't that funny, but he was so relieved, and pulled Harry into a tight hug.

Harry closed his eyes and sighed, resting his head over Draco's heart, wrapping his arms around his waist again and gripping the back of the blonde's robes, using him as a sort of anchor as he readjusted to just being himself again.

"I'm sorry about Sara," Draco said after a while, quietly, afraid this may be the wrong time to bring it up.

Harry shook his head and sighed. "No you're not. But thank you," he said with a small smile. "I have a feeling there's a lot more to her story than I'm aware of."

"We'll tell you all about it later, Harry," Draco said, bringing one of his hands up and running it through Harry's unruly hair.

"Draco…" Harry mumbled, face half buried in Draco's shirt. "If you don't stop that I'm going to fall back asleep and then Hermione will yell at you for making me miss a meal."

Draco chuckled, squeezing Harry once and laying a kiss atop his head before pulling back enough to allow Harry to stand, offering his hands to help the boy up. "Like she needs an excuse to yell at me."

Harry raised a brow at him and Draco just smiled. Harry couldn't help the grin he sent in return; it was great to see Draco smiling at him like that again. He also couldn't help it when he leaned in for another kiss, and this one lasted until they were interrupted.

"Harry, Malfoy, Hermione says to – oh c'mon!" Ron, of course, was the one to walk in on them, and he ended on an exasperated – and from the sounds of it, slightly disturbed – note.

Harry pulled back and laughed at Ron's exclamation, and he grabbed Draco's hand as he started towards the door. "Let me guess, food is ready?"

"Yeah," he said a little sullenly before seeming to get over it. "Doing all right then, Harry?" he asked.

Harry smiled and nodded. "So far so good, yeah."

When they all sat down, Harry could feel the slight tension in the air, but everyone present resolutely ignored it, and this more than anything made him a little unsure of how he should be acting. Should he just forget the past weeks and pretend everything's normal, or should he get down on his knees and apologize some more? Well, maybe the kneeling wasn't necessary, but he did feel the need to apologize. Repeatedly.

"I'm really sorry, guys, for all the stuff I've done and said lately," he said to his toast, poking at the eggs with a fork and glancing up at his friends and Snape through his bangs. Surprisingly, it was Snape that spoke up first.

"There is no need for apologies, Mr. Potter. You would do yourself a favor by accepting the fact that all of this was beyond your control."

Of all the people to be supported by…. Harry gave a somewhat crooked smile, not sure what to do with kind words from the surly potions master. "Um, thank you." He received a nod in return and he chuckled quietly, shaking his head a little as he finally took a bite of his breakfast. The awkwardness seemed to ease a little after that, amazingly, and everyone dug into their food wholeheartedly, savoring it more for the simple fact that this was how it should be.

Conversation started innocently enough, but pretty soon, and unsurprisingly, all comments had turned to Harry's near fall into being the next dark lord. Though no one said it quite so bluntly, Harry still considered that to pretty much be the topic at hand.

Harry couldn't quite believe how close he had actually come to literally losing himself to the dark magic. It was a little weird, hearing about it from the other side, how much he'd both scared and worried them all.

How much he hadn't been himself.

It was a hard to wrap his head around, the fact that Voldemort and minions had found a way to change him from the inside out like that, even after he was gone. He shuddered a bit in revulsion just thinking about it, even as he listened to the four of them recap all they'd gone through in trying to get him back, right up to the potion that actually worked. He wondered if it would have worked without Sara's sacrifice, or if perhaps she was the main catalyst for the thing.

Pushing the 'what if's' and 'how's' from his mind, Harry told the story from his side of the whole ordeal. And his really was more of a story than theirs, because they'd had all the facts. Or at least, had gathered them over time, while Harry just had his thoughts and feelings from it all. Apparently this was worthy of complete and rapt attention from everyone present, and Harry mostly found himself telling the story to a wall over someone's shoulder, or the table in front of him rather than meeting the pity, sympathy, or even slight fear – for what was, or could have become, Harry supposed – in characteristic bashfulness.

All in all, it was a somewhat emotional dinner, and by the end of it, all Harry really wanted to do was go back to sleep. The forced unconsciousness by potion didn't count. They'd told him all they knew about Sara's unfortunate position in everything, and Harry was sorry that she'd just been another pawn of Voldemort.

"We can hold a small memorial for her later, if you like, Harry," Hermione offered, picking up on the regret in his voice when he mentioned her.

Harry gave her a small smile in return. "Yeah, that'd be great, thanks." It was the least he could do, he thought as he recalled the way she so willingly forfeited her own life for his. Yes, she definitely deserved that much at least. He cleared his throat and looked up again. "Thanks to all of you," he said with a sincere smile.

"Well we couldn't very well have you turning into the next Dark Lord," Draco said, his tone hinting at teasing. "You would've been much more difficult to deal with."

Harry laughed and rolled his eyes. "Of course, should've known you only saved me so that I wouldn't become an inconvenience."

Draco smiled back at him, and those grey eyes held his for several moments. He imagined it would take a while to stop feeling such overwhelming relief every time he realized he was free and 100 percent himself again.

He knew he would come out the other side in one piece. He always had with the help of his friends, and now he had Draco too. As if sensing his thoughts, Draco tilted his head in a silent invitation to leave the table. Somewhat relieved, Harry excused himself, as did Draco, and no one followed as they made their way into the back garden - the very one that had held the flower needed to complete the potion that finally fixed the whole mess.

After the door closed behind them, Harry felt warm fingers curl around his own, and he looked over in slight surprise. Draco could be affectionate when he wanted to be, but he didn't often reach for Harry's hand like that. He guessed Draco was working on grounding himself as much as Harry was. It was both a sobering and elating thought, for reasons he wasn't even sure of anymore.

What he was sure of was this moment, right now. He leaned into Draco, and they stayed like that for a while, not saying anything. Not needing to.

Harry knew he would probably have to talk to aurors and ministry officials and preferably not the press later, and Dumbledore and McGonagall, and he was sure the list went on. After all, they still had to find Lestrange, and any accomplices to hopefully tear down the last legs of Voldemort's forces once and for all.

"Harry...stop thinking so much; you're going to give me a headache."

Well that brought his thoughts to a grinding halt and he chuckled, not even bothering to ask how Draco knew he'd been contemplating things. He turned toward the blond and pulled him forward by their clasped hands. Draco didn't bother resisting, and finished the movement by leaning forward and kissing Harry, softly and desperately and lovingly and suggestively and yeah, thinking could come later. He could lose himself in Draco forever.

Right now this was all he wanted.

And all he needed.

I added a small sentence near the end so I could end the chapter at 7777 words. xD *Dork*

Anyway, it's finished! Finally! I'm sure most of you thought it would stay open forever. But I couldn't! Not when I was so close to the end. Even though I've kind of left the fandom...not completely, but the Star Trek fandom has sort of abducted me and it's so shiny! Dunno if I'll finish my other HP stories, but I promise I won't post them unless I finish them!

Thanks to all of you who stuck around through this, and to those of you who may have just seen this pop up in the queue because it's been so dang long. I'll go out on a limb and say Sara's death won't be taken too hard, considering how many people told me they didn't like her, lol. I'd been debating on her death since I first conceived the idea of this story, I just hadn't planned it like this. Oh well, hope you all enjoyed, and I can honestly say I'm glad it's over. I don't think there are many sequels in my future. Them and me...we don't get along so well.

Side note: can ff seriously stop messing with the formatting? Every time I upload a new document, it's changed! I can't even have my own dividers now? *huffs*