Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter or associated plotlines, and am making no money off all of this.

A/N: I spend a lot of author's notes apologizing for the long wait in between chapters, but I truly am sorry. Now I'm torn about the direction to take some of Harry's relationships. I'm really unsure if I should keep Harry in the gang or if I should devise a way to get him out of it and away from Tom. And I am pushing a little Harry/Tom around….

Enjoy!


Thirteenth to Fifth

Hurt and Comfort

Consciousness came slowly. First he felt cold, then warm, then the pain settled in. His ribs hurt, his shoulders and back hurt, his face hurt, but mostly his throat hurt. As the waves of pain hit him, Harry gasped, choking on the rush of air. His breath sounded more like a wheeze. God his throat hurt.

He opened his eyes and was surprised to find that he was not in his room or the dungeon-esque room in the basement. He was in Tom's room. In Tom's bed, more specifically. He tensed when he became aware of the sheets tangled around his body, and the strong arms that were wrapped tightly around his waist. Tom twitched behind him and Harry flinched.

"Fuck, Harry…juss….gotosleep…" Tom mumbled from behind him. Harry jerked and managed to dislodge Tom's arms. He rolled, falling off the bed and grunting when he hit the floor on his side. He stumbled to his feet to see Tom pushing himself up in bed, running a hand through his hair. "What the fuck are you doing, Harry?"

Harry stumbled backward, shaking his head. He put a hand to his throat. A mixture of fury and despair boiled up until he was shaking.

"You…you…what the fuck am I doing?!" Harry raged. His hoarse and raspy voice was less dramatic and intimidating than he would have liked, but he relished in the acute pain yelling caused. "You fucking strangled me last night! I thought you were going to murder me in the Malfoy's goddam front yard! And then I wake up…here? And you…you…" Harry stopped, tripping over his own tongue in his fury. Tom was staring at him with a small smile on his lips. It made Harry even more angry, but he couldn't formulate the words he needed to adequately express his anger.

"Harry. I would not have killed you."

"Forgive me if I don't believe you," Harry snarled. Tom slid out of bed and Harry fell backwards.

"Harry, come here." Harry looked at him as if he grown three heads. Tom held his hands up so Harry could see them. "I honestly won't hurt you." Harry actually laughed. It sounded painful. It was painful.

"Give me one good reason why I should trust you after the shit you pulled last night? I didn't even do anything to deserve that!" Harry cried, grabbing his shirt off the floor and putting it on. His ribs twinged, but it was bearable. And he may as well get used to the twinges, as he would be dancing all day. If Tom let him go to school.

"I…" Tom trailed off, his dark eyes avoiding Harry's blazing ones. "You're right, Harry." He sighed. "You're right." Harry stared at him in shock and took a few more steps toward the door. Tom waved a hand in Harry's direction. "Go. Sleep. I will wake you in time for school in the morning." Harry didn't have to be told twice. He managed to walk calmly out of the room, only to bolt down the hall once he had quietly shut Tom's door. He could hear Anthony walking briskly after him. Harry wrenched open the door to his room and jumped onto his bed. Only when he was curled into a ball on top of the comforter did he let the tears leak from his eyes.

He was angry. So angry.

He was confused. What had Harry been right about? Why was Tom admitting it? Was Tom going to change? Why did he strangle him last night? His sobs ripped from his throat, burning it, almost choking him with the pain. He was coughing, sobbing, desperately gasping for air, and the realization that this may be his life for a long time only made him cry harder, until he was almost screaming in agony.

Through all the noise he knew he was making—he seemed to have forgotten all the lessons Vernon had taught him about crying silently—he heard footsteps outside his door. He saw shoes outlined in the light of the hall, twin shadows through the slit under the door. The shoes stopped in front of his door, and he heard Anthony's low voice, followed by Tom's. After another minute Tom walked away and Harry relaxed. He glanced at the digital clock on the nightstand. It was three in the morning.

As his cries slowed, Harry slid under the covers and curled back into a ball, willing sleep to take him away.

Tom opened the door to Harry's room slowly, unsure if the teen was awake or not. The room was still dark, but for the faint light streaming in from the windows and the hall. Harry was sleeping fitfully, his eyelids trembling and his hands clenching and unclenching. But he was beautiful, Tom saw, especially now that he was gaining some weight. Such delicate, pale skin contrasted with wild and dark hair. High cheekbones, full lips, stunning green eyes framed by dark eyelashes. Asleep, he looked like an angel to Tom. Awake, he looked like a fighter. Small, lithe, quick, and smart. Tom sighed. Harry was perfect.

And that hadn't prevented Tom from beating him half to death, from strangling him until he passed out.

He gently placed a hand on Harry's head, sliding his fingers through the boy's hair. Any moment now…

Harry's eyes snapped open, instantly aware and tense. He flinched away from Tom's hand moments before his pale hand shot out and smacked the man's hand away from his face. Tom smiled down.

"Good morning, Harry."

"Fuck you," the teen snapped. His voice was still raspy, and speaking caused obvious discomfort. Tom stepped back, his smile growing into a smirk. Harry sat up, glancing to the digital alarm clock. "Six AM? I don't have to be at school until…"

"Eight. I know. I wanted to make sure you were feeling up to it. I asked a friend to have a look at your throat. He'll be here in half an hour."

"You called a doctor?" Harry asked incredulously. Tom shrugged.

"I acted rashly last night. It is the least I can do for you, and the only responsible thing."

"Nothing some doctor is going to say will keep me from going to school today," Harry said, dragging himself out of bed and over to the closet. It seemed to have a nice supply of clothes that actually fit him. What were his friends going to say when he showed up looking like death warmed over and in sharp new clothes? He was keenly aware of Tom's eyes on him while he changed into a simple grey t shirt and jeans.

"I expected that. Nevertheless, I wish for you to cooperate with him. He won't need long."

Harry slid into the passenger seat of the car, hardly daring to say anything to Tom in case the man suddenly changed his mind and wouldn't let him go back to school. Instead, the dancer let his head fall back against the head rest. Who would have thought that he would ever look forward to school this much? Tom slammed the driver door shut and started the car. Harry noticed Anthony wasn't in the car. Tom glanced at him.

"Relax. I have no intentions of injuring you in the twenty minutes it will take to get to Fifth Avenue," Tom chuckled, guessing Harry's thoughts. Harry remained tense. "I took the liberty of acquiring a new dance wardrobe for you. It came to my attention that you did not have all the necessities required by the school." Harry's eyes widened. "They're in the back seat." Harry twisted around and reached into the back to grab the large plastic bag. In it were dance shoes, tights, shirts, pants, even warm up clothes. All nice, clearly high quality. "I also picked up ankle, knee, wrist, and elbow braces. The owner of the shop said they would be useful." Harry smiled. He could think of ten times in the last three weeks alone those would have made a world of difference. "Everything should fit, but if you think something looks too big…"

"It's all great," Harry interrupted, too excited to remember he was supposed to be furious at the man driving the car. Tom smiled. "What do I tell Regulus? I work for him at his dance shop."

"He is aware that you are unable to continue working for him. He was very understanding," Tom said lightly. Harry tensed. He hoped Regulus was all right. The man had been kind to him, and he was one of Severus' friends, after all. Harry stayed silent, however, unwilling to jeopardize his attendance at school. He desperately wanted to see Draco, and Severus, he realized with some surprise.

Tom drove quickly, and although it felt like hours to Harry, the car arrived in the drop off zone before the school in twenty minutes. Harry slung his new schoolbag—courtesy of Tom, of course—over his shoulder and held his bag of new dance clothes. He waited for his dismissal.

"You are expected to be outside half an hour after your class. That will give you time enough to speak with your professors about anything school-related." And not enough time to speak with them about anything else. "You are finished at three?" Harry nodded. "Then you will be outside at three thirty. I will hear of it if you are late." Harry nodded again and with a quick glance over to the tall man next to him, bolted from the car. Harry practically ran into the school, ignoring any of the strange looks people were throwing at him.

"Harry! Harry!" The emphatic voice made Harry halt and spin around to see Doug running at him. "Jesus, Harry, you were gone for ages! Are you feeling better?" Harry remembered that people had been saying he had been sick and nodded. Luckily, with his bruises covered mostly by makeup, his near strangling last night had left him with a convincingly sick voice.

"Yeah, I'm better for the most part. Just need my voice back now," Harry said with a wry smile. Doug squeezed his shoulder and gave him a friendly grin.

"Good. I'll see you in Latin, then? Missed ya." Harry grinned at his friend's back when Doug turned and walked down the hall. He turned and continued walking to the staircase, keeping his eyes open for any of his friends. But the halls were only filled with acquaintances and classmates. Soon enough he reached Snape's office door. Suddenly nervous, Harry shifted his bags and lightly knocked. He couldn't help the yelp that he let out when the door opened with a swoosh and strong armed yanked him inside. He had no time to react before Snape's arms enfolded around him, holding him securely against the man's chest. Harry didn't know what to do with his hands, so he left them at his sides, holding his bags.

"I was unbelievably worried about you last night. I had no idea Tom would react that way to my presence. If I did I would not have come," Snape said. His voice was oddly soft and lacking its usual bite. Harry felt his lips twitch into a smile at the idea of a worried Snape. It was a comforting idea, though.

"It's…it's okay. I'm fine."

Snape released him and Harry took a small step back, dropping his bags on the floor. Severus grabbed his chin lightly and tilted it up, gently touching Harry's throat and pushing lightly on the places bruises showed through the makeup. Harry did his best not to wince.

"You sound horrible," Snape remarked dryly. "And you look it." Harry shrugged, but his eyes fell to the ground. Severus put both his hands on Harry's shoulders. "Are you all right? I was prepared to bring you to the hospital this morning. Sinistra is covering my first class. If you are injured, tell me," Severus insisted. Harry blinked.

"You…would have done that for me?" he asked, surprised. Snape rolled his eyes.

"I would do that for you, yes," he corrected. "Tell me, Harry." The dancer shook his head.

"I don't need to go anywhere. I'm okay. Tom actually brought a doctor this morning to make sure my throat was going to be okay. He…I think he feels bad. Maybe." Snape was quiet. "I mean, he beat me up pretty badly, but that was earlier in the week. I can probably dance today without doing too much damage."

"I don't think you should dance today. I'll write a pass to get you excused," Snape said. Harry finally looked up.

"No! Please. Let me dance. I'll be careful!" His professor gave him a hard long stare. "If anything starts to hurt too bad I'll stop. I promise."

"All right. Check in with me for lunch. And if I change my mind you will not disobey me," he commanded. Harry shook his head.

"No, sir."

Snape let his hands fall from the boy's shoulders and walked back to his desk. "You will be coming back to my home tonight."

"Someone is picking me up at 3:30. I didn't ask questions. I don't think I can go with you," Harry muttered. Snape felt like throwing something.

"Fuck!" he swore. Harry jumped, his eyes wide and staring at his professor. Snape could have laughed at Harry's expression if he wasn't so frustrated. "I could rip Tom apart with my own hands," he growled. "Go get ready for school. I see Tom provided you with new dance clothes?" Harry nodded. He felt as if they were dirty somehow, tainted, now that he was away from Tom. Snape nodded. "At least he did something good for you these past few days." The man turned and rested his hands on the large bookshelf that took up most of his back wall. Harry took that as a dismissal and gathered his bags, opening the door. "Harry." The dancer turned to see Snape looking at him. "I'm glad you're back." The teen smiled, a real, true smile and walked out into the corridor.

As soon as the door shut behind Harry Severus ripped a book off the bookshelf and hurled it at the opposite wall. It crashed into a portrait of some old chemist that Dumbledore had given him. The portrait dropped to the ground and the glass in the frame shattered. "God damn it!" Severus yelled, tugging on his hair in frustration. He was helpless to get Harry away from Tom. He could do nothing. And yet it didn't seem as if Harry could either.

I will not let Harry fall into the grasp of that sociopath, Severus thought, sinking into his desk chair. The problem was, Harry was already in Tom's grasp.

Draco couldn't remember the last time he was late to school. It must have been freshman year…maybe? He already had multiple texts from Blaise and Vince asking where the hell he was.

The only good part about oversleeping was that it meant he actually got some sleep, Draco figured, as he careened his car around a corner and blew through a yellow light. Or maybe it had been red. He came to a skidding halt in the schools' small parking lot, disregarding his messy parking job, grabbed his violin case and music folder, and bolted into the school. He made it to the third floor in record time, ditching his stuff in front of a friend's locker and rushing to the end of the corridor. Please please please be in class, he begged, over and over. Draco was aware that his shirt was just enough unbuttoned to look like a total player, and it wasn't tucked in, and the most he had done to his hair that morning was rake his fingers through it a couple times (not that it needed much more than that), and that his shoelaces were untied. He probably had circles under his eyes. And he was breathing hard. And overall looked like a hot mess.

But Harry's surprised eyes staring back at him made his heart stop for a moment. The adrenaline rushing out of him and the flood of emotions tearing through him should have been enough to had him running at the dancer, but instead Draco straightened and turned to Trelawny.

"My apologies for my rather abrupt appearance, but the headmaster sent me with word that he needed to speak with Harry. He said it was urgent, and that he should hurry," Draco said as calmly as possible. Trelawny looked at him, then looked at Harry, and finally back to Draco before shrugging.

"Be back before class ends, please, Mister Harry," she requested. Harry nodded jerkily and walked away from the rest of his classmates. One of the girls he had been partnering with often gave him a wink and he tried not to blush.

As soon as Harry had rounded the corner into the hall Draco's hands clamped down on his shoulders, steering him to the left. He noticed that the blond's hands were shaking. He was pushed none-too-gently into the bathroom before he was able to slip out of Draco's grip and turn around. Wide grey eyes grew even wider as they took in the bruising under the makeup, and still-trembling hands came up to ghost over Harry's neck. He couldn't help but flinch away, flinching again when Draco snarled.

"Fuck. I…Harry…I…" Draco's words came out in a tumble of harsh gasps until he wrapped his arms around Harry and pulled him close. Harry couldn't help but smile. Draco, the impenetrable Draco Malfoy, really cared about him. Just like Snape. The thought almost made him laugh.

The dancer lifted his arms to wrap around Draco's waist and he rested his forehead in the curve where the blond's neck met his shoulder plane.

"It's okay, Draco. I'm fine," he whispered, repeating the same assurance he gave to Snape. Draco's arms tightened until Harry winced from the discomfort it caused, and Draco instantly dropped his arms. "No," Harry said. "Hold me. Please." Hesitantly, Draco's arms came around his shoulders again, his hands resting on Harry's shoulder blades. "I'm not that hurt, actually. Looks worse than it is, at this point."

"Harry, I saw that bastard strangle you last night!" Draco hissed.

"I'm sorry you saw that," Harry replied. Draco put his chin on top of Harry's head, closing his eyes and taking a deep breath.

"Don't apologize. You didn't do anything. It wasn't your fault."

"No, Draco. I just…I don't want you involved."

"Involved in what?! You and Sev won't even tell me what's going on!" Harry leaned back to look Draco in the eye.

"Draco, you don't want to know what's going on."

"I know my father's involved. I talked with Aurelie last night, she told me everything she knew." Harry scowled and looked at the floor. "I mean, it wasn't like she knew much."

"I know," Harry said, biting his lip and resting his head on Draco's shoulder, raising his arms even more to wrap around Draco's neck. "You look terrible, by the way. Like you woke up five minutes ago." He could sense, rather than see, Draco's smile.

"Yeah, sorry. I had a late start this morning." He gave an unconvincing laugh. Harry moved his hands to Draco's shoulders, pushing back enough to make eye contact.

"I'm really okay. I promise. I wouldn't lie to you." Draco's smile was soft and caring.

"Yes, Harry, you would," his eyes dropped to Harry's neck, "because you lied to me just now. You're not okay. Your neck is bruised, you were strangled, you were missing for days." Draco's left hand dropped suddenly to the hem of Harry's long sleeve black shirt and yanked it up. Harry jerked away, stumbling until his back hit the bathroom wall, hands scrambling for the hem of his shirt.

"Draco, what the fuck?"

"No, Harry. Fuck. Does that look okay to you? Does that feel okay?" Draco asked, pressing three fingers against the darkest bruise on Harry's ribs before letting the shirt drop back down. Harry flinched, exhaling harshly.

"Stop, Draco. Just…stop," Harry choked out. The blond dropped to his knees, once again pushing Harry's shirt up. This time, Harry didn't bother trying to prevent it. Draco's nimble hands moved over his thin torso, exploring the dark discoloration.

"What did he do to you?" the blond whispered through clenched teeth. Harry hissed when Draco hit a particularly painful spot underneath his ribs, letting his head fall back against the wall. Draco's fingers were replaced by his lips, gently kissing the purple skin. He moved from the bruise underneath the teens ribs to the bruises on his stomach, then the fainter bruises on Harry's hips, his lips moving lower until they ghosted over his boyfriend's low riding sweats. Harry sucked in a trembling breath, moving his hands to burry in Draco's hair.

The door to the bathroom banged open and both boys turned their heads to see a rather shocked boy staring back at them from the doorway.

"Dude, Draco…Harry? What the fuck?" the teen asked, letting the door close behind him.

"Get out, Brian," Draco ordered. Harry was doing his best to worm his shirt down and ignore Draco's hands which had somehow moved to his ass in the last minute or two.

"No, I have to—"

"Use the downstairs bathroom. Just get out!" Draco paused. "I'll turn pages for a week in orchestra." Brian's eyebrows rose before he shrugged.

"Fine. Deal. Have fun." Brian said, pulling the door back open and sliding back into the hall, presumably to head downstairs. Draco batted away Harry's hands and lifted the dancer's shirt again, his lips latching onto the dip in between Harry's hip bone and abdominals and sucking. Harry gasped, his hand's clenching on Draco's shoulders.

"You're going to leave a mark," he breathed out. Draco just hummed in response, nipping lightly at the reddened skin before moving his mouth to a new location. "Draco, we can't do this in here. Anyone could walk in!" the dancer protested, trying to squirm away. Draco's hands pressed Harry's hips into the wall, hard enough to keep him locked him place but not hard enough to hurt him. The senior rose to his feet, kissing up Harry's neck and over his jaw line until they were eye to eye.

"I didn't just get you out of class and offer to turn pages for my stand partner for nothing. You, Mr. Potter, have to put out," he said with a smirk, before leaning in and pressing his lips to Harry's. The dancer opened his mouth and let Draco's tongue slip in just as the musician's hands moved from his hips to his back, pressing the two closer.

"What if a…ah…yes…teacher comes in?" Harry whispered against Draco's lips.

"Well, if it's Trelawney, we can invite her to watch. Pretty sure she'd go for it," the blond muttered. Harry made a face of disgust that quickly turned into one of hungry pleasure when Draco's hand slipped below his waistline, sliding over his ass and around to his front.

"Mmmm, no, Draco," Harry said, breaking their heated kiss.

"Too fast?" the teen replied, his voice lower than normal. Harry shook his head.

"Sweats and tights don't hide erections very well," he pointed out. Draco's hand beneath Harry's waistline reached its destination and he pressed his palm against Harry's already hard cock. The dancer moaned, fingers clenching on Draco's shoulder's again. "Fuck. Draco, seriously…unnn…" Fingers wrapped around his length, gently, lightly pumping up and down, up and down. "You really want Snape to walk in on this?" Harry asked in a last attempt to convince Draco that some privacy would be nice. That at least gave the violinist some pause.

"Fine. Stall," Draco bit out, removing his hand from Harry's pants long enough to shove the smaller teen into the handicapped stall, which was large enough that most of it couldn't be seen from the doorway. Harry was once against pushed up against the wall, but this time Draco hooked his thumbs over Harry's elastic waistband and pulled until his sweats were around his ankles. "You're not even wearing tights. What's there to worry about?" Draco said lightly, sucking on Harry's earlobe.

"I'm wearing black warm ups!" Harry hissed. "I'm not getting come all over them." Draco kissed Harry's lips again.

"Don't worry, Harry," he nudged Harry's legs apart just enough to slip his leg in between them, leaning forward so the top of his thigh brushed against the dancer's arousal, "you can come on me," Draco suggested, whispering right into Harry's ear. "Now grind."

Draco brought his leg up to rub firmly against Harry's fully hardened erection, enjoying how the dark-hair teen's hips jerked to earn more friction. Harry's hands buried themselves in blond hair, dragging Draco's lips to his own in order to muffle his groans of pleasure.

Harry slid into the seat next to Hermione, slamming his tray down in front of him. Hermione looked up in surprise before letting out a squeal of excitement and throwing her arms around the thin dancer.

"Oh my god, Harry! I can't believe you didn't come say hi to me before school started! I heard you were back in third period. I missed you in class the last few days," she exclaimed, releasing him after a moment. Harry had to bite his lip to prevent a hiss of pain from escaping his throat.

"Uh, yeah, Snape needed to talk with me. It's good to see you," he gave his friend a smile and finished setting his bag down behind his seat. Neville and Luna sat down opposite from him, giving friendly smiles and asking how he was feeling. Harry calmly lied about being sick and now feeling better, waving the discussion to something new as soon as he could. "Anything new happen while I was gone?" Hermione's eyes lit up and the table, including Blaise who had just sat down with his lunch, groaned. Hermione glared at them.

"The songs for the spring performance were finally announced," she mentioned, as her friends rolled their eyes.

"What? Why is that important?" Harry asked. "Draco's known for weeks."

"Well of course the soloists in the orchestra are told a head of time, but they're not supposed to say anything to anyone else. But what's more interesting is the type of song the professors chose. For the past few years the spring performance dance routine has been pretty classical, but this year, they apparently decided to mix in some hip hop influences, because the songs they chose don't use a full orchestra and wouldn't actually be good songs to dance to. I know because I bought all the songs and listened to them at lunch yesterday," Hermione explained enthusiastically.

"I don't get it. Why would they pick songs that aren't easy to work with?" Harry asked, picking at his lunch.

"Because they obviously will have to remix it to make it interesting. And if they remix it, which accounts for the use of a smaller orchestra, too, it means they're looking for a sound that classical instruments can't achieve." Harry looked to the rest of his friends.

"Is she always this obsessed with the spring performance?" Hermione gave him a light shove before starting in on her lunch. Blaise laughed, giving Hermione a fond look.

"She was last year. But freshmen aren't generally allowed to perform. They act as stagehands." Hermione shrugged.

"This year, we'll get to audition!" she said, giving a glance to Harry and Doug. Doug sat down on the other side of Harry.

"Audition for what? What are we talking about?" he asked. Neville held up a hand.

"No, Hermione. Doug, don't get her started again," he said by way of explanation. Doug gave Neville a wink.

"Ah, the spring performance then."

"Am I really that bad?!" Hermione whined.

"Um…yes," Harry answered, leaning into Doug to escape Hermione's less-gentle shove. "Ow. Stop being mean."

"Yes, Hermione, stop being mean," a low voice spoke from behind them. Draco placed his hands lightly on Harry's shoulders and kissed the back of his neck. "Shove over Doug," he commanded. Doug rolled his eyes dramatically but did as he was asked, sliding over to allow Draco to slip into place beside Harry.

"Anyway, Harry, you're going to audition with Doug and I, right?" Hermione pressed, glancing at Harry, who shrugged. He hadn't thought about the spring performance since Draco had mentioned it last.

"I don't know. I…" I have too much other shit to worry about. "I'm just really busy with school and adjusting to everything. We'll see," he replied. He felt Draco's hand come up to rest on his back, rubbing light circles.

"Eat, Harry," he instructed.

"Yes, mother," Harry grumbled, but obeyed. Things never seemed to change for anyone else, Harry thought, as he ate his lunch and listened to his friends banter and gossip. He enjoyed their company immensely, but hearing their small talk made him realize how different he really was. None of them—even Draco—would ever really understand him. They could listen to his problems and nod in sympathy, but they would never understand what it was like to go home in fear every day, to walk through Thirteenth surrounded by prostitutes and addicts, to run drugs for gangs, to live with a gang leader. The last week had turned his world upside down, but school was the same. Except now it felt like he was more different, like he belonged even less. A pang of loneliness ran through him as he thought of all the friends he had left behind in Thirteenth. It felt like it had been forever since he had seen Ron and Ginny, Cho, Seamus and Dean. Fred. And George.

"You okay?" Draco whispered in his ear, breaking his train of thought. Harry's eyes flicked to Draco's concerned grey ones before dropping to the table. He nodded.

"Fine. I think I might go talk to Snape before lunch ends, though," he said quietly, not wanting to draw the attention of the rest of their friends.

"Sure. I'll walk you up there if you want. We can go after you finish." Harry nodded a second time and went back to eating. It only took him a few minutes until he announced he didn't want any more, and gave Hermione then Draco a suitable glare that said he wasn't going to argue with them about it.

"I'll see you guys later. Good to be back," the dancer said, giving his friend's a true smile and standing up with his tray. Draco stood up as well, grabbing the apple off his nearly-finished tray and walking with Harry to deposit them in the receptacles by the cafeteria exit.

"So why do you want to talk with Snape?" Draco asked casually, although Harry could tell he was fishing for more information about what was going on. He sighed and bit back his snappy retort. Draco was just worried. He cared. "Okay, okay, I get it. You don't have to tell me," the blond acquiesced. Harry shook his head.

"Look, Draco, it's not that I don't trust you enough to tell you the extent of the situation. And it's not that I think you can't take care of yourself. It's just that it takes a long time to adjust to thinking about the world the way that I do, and that kind of thinking is required when dealing with Tom."

"But you can talk to Severus about it," Draco said, clearly a little put off.

"Only because Snape—Severus, is used to thinking about things like this too. You said it yourself, we had similar childhood experiences. In more ways than one."

"I'm lost," Draco admitted. Harry stopped walking and turned to face Draco, clutching the violinist's forearms with his hands and pulling him close.

"I'm talking about gangs," Harry hissed. Draco gave him a serious look and Harry knew he was fighting the urge to roll his eyes.

"I know that, Harry. I'm not an idiot, and I talked to Aurelie," he pointed out.

"She doesn't even get it, because her mom and her aren't in the same business, if you know what I mean. I'm talking about the most powerful gang on this side of country. Dealing with one of the most powerful people, too."

"Tom?" Draco confirmed. Harry gave a jerky nod.

"Please believe me when I say you want nothing to do with him. He is untouchable by the law, by rival gangs, by politicians. He can do anything and get away with it. He has infinite resources—money, people, supplies, you name it."

"But he wants you." Harry gave Draco a small smile. The boy certainly wasn't an idiot.

"Yes."

"Why? What can you possibly have to offer him?" Draco wondered. "Not that you aren't to be valued, but a man with that kind of resources doesn't need to go around recruiting new members himself. He has other people to do that. And he probably has hundreds of high school kids like you working for him."

"Yeah, well, he wants me," Harry said. "He says he…he needs a replacement eventually." He let go of Draco's arms in favor of holding his hand tightly and walking down the hall towards the stairs. He still needed to catch Snape up on everything before lunch ended. Draco sucked in a breath at the last revelation, but Harry didn't have the courage to meet him in the eye.

"Why you, though? Why are you unique?" Harry shrugged. He didn't really know, despite having heard Tom shower him with compliments regarding how perfect he was for the job.

"I don't know. I'm not, really. But I am convenient, at least. I have no family, I'm still a kid, so I'm easy to manipulate—moreso than an adult, at least—and I was abused. Tom loves abused teens."

"Because people who have been abused as a child are likely to view people who remove them from their abuser as saviors. And they're more likely to search for a parental figure. Easier to…" Draco trailed off, not wanting to tell Harry to his face that he was most likely easier to manipulate than non-abused teens, despite all his street-smarts. Emotions were powerful things. Harry gave a harsh, dry laugh.

"You've done your research, I see." Draco shrugged, not inclined to defend himself. Instead, he let go of Harry's hand to wrap an arm around his waist and pull until their bodies were flush against each other. They walked the final hallway to Severus' office in silence that wasn't comfortable, but wasn't uncomfortable either. Harry looked to be in another world when Draco glanced down at him; his eyes were on the floor as they often were, but his expression was blank. He snapped back to attention when Draco slowed them to a stop outside their professor's office. Harry finally looked up to meet Draco's gaze. "I'm sorry."

"What are you apologizing for?" Draco asked, turning Harry so he could wrap both arms around the smaller teen's back. To his relief, Harry hugged him back fiercely.

"I don't know," Harry muttered. "I just…I feel so bad about all of this." Draco kissed the top of his head.

"It's okay. I understand why you don't want to let me in entirely, Harry. And I trust you. And Severus. I won't push you for answers anymore," Draco pledged. He was conflicted in knowing that Harry didn't want him anywhere near whatever situation he had gotten himself into, but also in wanting to help. "But please, if I can help you, in any way, ask me."

"Okay." Harry's voice was small, muffled in Draco's shoulder.

"Promise."

"I promise," Harry declared, his voice slightly stronger. Draco had just detected Harry's shoulders tremble, then begin to shake, when the door to Severus' office opened with a quiet hiss of air. Harry's back was to the man, and Severus raised an eyebrow without a word at the picture of a crying Harry Potter in the arms of Draco Malfoy just outside his office. Draco gave a small shake of his head and Severus dipped his head before closing the door again. Harry never noticed the silent exchange, immersed in Draco's quiet presence and an overwhelming fear. Draco said nothing, but continued to hold his boyfriend tightly until the shaking quelled and Harry quieted. "Fuck. I'm so sick of this," the dancer finally murmured into Draco's shoulder, before he pushed away from the blond. Draco let him take a step backward, but he still reached out and brushed the tears away from Harry's face.

"Severus is waiting for you. I hope he can help," Draco whispered, raising his other hand and running his fingers over Harry's jaw. "Come here." Harry took an obedient step forward and Draco held the sides of his head with both hands, dragging him up for a firm kiss.

It was chaste, but not fast, and Harry let his eyes slip closed for a moment before Draco released him, the hands falling away from his face.

"I'll see you later?" the violinist asked. Harry shrugged.

"Hopefully. I have to leave right after school, but maybe I'll see you in between classes." Draco nodded.

"I'll come looking for you if I don't," the blond said firmly. Harry gave him a half smile before turning and opening the door to Snape's office.

Draco began walking down the hall, smiling to himself when he heard Snape sneer "You could have knocked, Potter," before the door to his office snapped closed.


Hope that was worth the wait! I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Wykkyd