He laughed, the sound light and carefree as he spun among the trees, finally collapsing into a pile of the leaves that he had just raked up moments before. He had never had the chance to do this when he was younger, living at the Dursleys. The leaves had to be raked up and put straight into a trash bag, so that they'd be picked up on the next trash day. He'd never been allowed to play in them, although occasionally Dudley would romp through the leaf piles, scattering Harry's hard work all over the yard, so that he had to rake them up again, or risk not getting any dinner.
"I'll never understand what's so interesting about getting all muddy tumbling among the leaves," Draco commented snidely, but his eyes were amused and gentle as he watched his friend romp around the yard, wading through giant piles of leaves. After Harry would finish with one pile, Draco would sigh and wave his wand, sending all of the leaves back into their pile. They had been asked to rake up the leaves, but nobody had ever said they couldn't use magic, so the yard had been cleaned up in no time.
Harry grinned at him. "Aw, come on, Draco!" he wheedled. "Just try it!" Draco snorted and shook his head, but followed Harry into the next leaf pile willingly enough. At nineteen, they were really too old to be playing in the leaves, but if it made Harry smile and laugh like this, then it was worth getting a little muddy for. He'd just make sure he got the first shower – and used up all the hot water.
Just as he reached the first pile, Harry spun around and grabbed his wrist, yanking him down onto with him, so that they both crashed into the leaves, sending them scattering outwards, some of them flipping into the air and fluttering back down the ground, rustling pleasantly in the wind. Above them, the trees whispered among each other, a dry crackling sound as the wind breathed through them, taking a few more leaves and dropping them to the ground below.
Harry laughed again, and Draco couldn't help it; he laughed, too. It had been a long time since he had heard the other boy truly laugh, and it was a welcome sound. Severus would be so pleased, Draco thought, his thoughts changing direction as he thought about his godfather. The Potions Master was working right now, trying desperately to find a cure for Harry's illness, and Draco had volunteered to keep an eye out for the young man who had become like a brother to him after the war.
Draco had never expected his life to turn out as well as it had, to be honest. The moment he had been dragged before the Dark Lord and forced to take the mark, he had lost everything. At least, that's what he had believed. But when Voldemort had been defeated, and the Death Eaters rounded up, both Severus and Harry had fought for him. He was young, and impressionable, and had not been able to go against his parents' wishes.
And so, the Wizengamot had granted him mercy, and put him on probation for a period of three years. Part of their requirements was that he live with a sponsor, someone who would keep an eye on him and make sure he was fully reformed before being allowed to live on his own. His sentence was for three years, but since Harry Potter was his sponsor, he didn't worry too much about it.
Harry had been traumatized after the war, but he had never taken his rage and helplessness and fear out on Draco. No, he had turned all of that hatred inwards, and had nearly succeeded in destroying himself. Only Draco's quick firecall to Severus, and the Potion Master's subsequent arrival, had saved Harry's life that day.
Even now, it was a precarious hold on life that Harry had. He was dosed with potions daily to keep him alive. Harry hadn't appreciated the effort at all, but he had slowly adjusted, so that they no longer had to bind him to a bed and force potions down his throat. They no longer had to feed him nutrient potions intravenously, as Harry had finally started eating on his own, though it was hardly enough to feed a bird.
Still, Harry's depression had slowly faded, and he had started to recover, his life beginning to take on new meaning, with Severus and Draco at his side. When, exactly, his grateful affection for Severus had turned into something more, Draco wasn't certain, but it had seemed to give Harry a new lease on life, a reason to go on, struggling against the damage that had been dealt to him.
Having lost everybody important to him during the war, and in the aftermath that followed, Harry had tried to follow his parents and friends into the afterlife. He had waited just long enough to see that both Severus and Draco were acquitted of most, if not all, of their charges, and then had tried to kill himself, turning all of his destructive magic inwards.
Draco had felt the surge of power, a sharp line of pain that had scoured his soul, and he had run to Harry's side, finding the boy broken and bleeding on the floor of his living room, blood pouring from his mouth as his organs ruptured. The magic that he had used had been dark and had almost been impossible to stop. Panicking, Draco had called the only other person he could think of that might be able to save the Hero of the Wizarding world.
When Severus had flooed into Harry's home in Godric's Hollow, he had taken one look at the boy and cursed long and fluently, even as he had knelt next to him, unconcerned with the blood that had soaked through his clothing as he had worked desperately to stabilize Harry, to bring him back from a curse that he had learned from Voldemort, a curse that, as far as anybody knew, had no cure.
He had managed to keep Harry alive, but it had cost him, cost them all. Draco and Severus had both tied their life force to Harry's, keeping him alive with their own life and magic. The bond could be severed, but only by the one who had cast it, so Harry had no say in the matter. That bond had been all that had kept him from trying to kill himself again in the days immediately following his first attempt. As badly as he wanted to die, he refused to take down to innocent people with him, and so there was hope.
Draco had felt the change in the bond they shared with Harry the night that his godfather and his now best friend had first consummated their relationship. Suddenly, though they were both still tied to Harry, things had changed. Severus had Harry's heart and soul. Draco kept his body alive, kept it moving, kept blood flowing through his veins. It seemed that neither of them had noticed the change yet, or realized the implications of the power shift, but Draco wasn't about to enlighten them. Not when Harry was finally starting to want to live more than he wanted to die.
A tingle of the wards, and Harry perked up, looking towards the house. Draco smiled and stood, brushing himself off. "Go on, Harry. I'll just finish up out here really quick, shall I?" he grinned, brandishing his wand. Harry looked at him uncertainly for a moment, biting his lip, and Draco sighed impatiently. "Look, you're the one who insisted on doing this the Muggle way. We did it, so there's nothing wrong with using a little magic now, right? It'll be done in no time. Besides," he added pointedly, "if you don't go now, Severus is going to be worried."
That was all the prompting that Harry needed, and he took off at a job towards the house, a "thank you" thrown over his shoulder. Alone at last, Draco allowed his shoulders to slump forward, the exhaustion weighing him down. He'd be more tired after tonight, though, he was sure. Severus had been gone for the last four nights, working nonstop on a thread of research that might or might not lead to a cure for Harry's condition.
Quickly, he piled up the remaining leaves, and then set them on fire, careful to set up a proper containment barrier around each individual pile. He watched the vibrant colors for a while, the fire dancing merrily among the dried leaves. Reds and yellows and oranges burned black, crinkling and crumbling to ash. The heat beat against Draco's face, and he reveled in the warmth, the flickering flames reflected in bright silver eyes.
When the last leaf was nothing but a smoldering mound of ash, Draco turned away and walked towards the house. He found himself suddenly ravenous, his stomach clenching painfully. His heart thundered in his chest, beating rapidly as it pumped blood through his body. He made his way to the kitchen on wobbly knees, and sat wearily at the table, laying his head on the sturdy wood and closing his eyes.
A small 'pop' and Dobby showed up. When the war had ended, Dobby had been distraught to know that Harry would not be staying at Hogwarts to teach, though he had been offered the Defense position – or any position he wanted, really. Harry, unable to leave the house elf behind him to suffer, had offered him a place in his own household, which Dobby had accepted eagerly.
"Master Draco is hurting," Dobby spoke quietly, his long ears drooping as he stared sadly up at the blond. He and Draco had come to an agreement months before, when Draco had apologized sincerely for the way that both he and his family had treated the house elf. Dobby had been angry and distrustful, but Harry's obvious trust in the blond had helped to bring him around. And now, he took care of Draco just as conscientiously as he did Harry and Severus.
Draco forced himself to sit up, his body dragging as the magic took its toll on him, his heartbeat still rapid, sweat dripping from his skin in small rivulets. "I'll be fine, Dobby. Just…I need something to eat," he sighed. Dobby nodded in understanding and snapped his fingers. The table was set with a huge spread, and Draco smiled; there was no way he'd be able to eat everything, but Dobby had made sure to prepare a lot of his favorites, as usual.
Grinning, Draco dug into the food with gusto, his body slowly settling as time wore on. He didn't know if Severus and Harry had noticed, but the majority of their meals were made with Draco's tastes in mind now. Although Dobby would always make sure to have some of Harry's favorites, and Severus' tastes ran somewhere in between the two younger wizards'.
Full, he settled back, closing his eyes and allowing his breathing and heartbeat to regulate themselves. Dobby popped in again to take away the dishes, watching Draco in concern for a moment before nodding to himself, satisfied that the blond aristocrat was okay now. He disappeared again, and Draco stretched, working the kinks out of his body as he stood, heading for his room. He'd read for a little while before trying to get some rest, aware that he'd probably be up for a good portion of the evening, trying to keep his body from shaking itself apart.
He passed Severus' room on the way to his own, and heard the murmur of voices. Harry and Severus still had separate rooms, but it was just for show. They spent more time in each other's rooms, together, than they did apart. Even when Severus was gone, Harry would often curl up in his room, napping. Only Draco could rouse him out of bed to go and do something productive, like raking the leaves or making some basic potions to refill their personal stores.
Hearing Harry's laughter again, Draco smiled as he headed down the hallway. He'd never admit it to anybody, and could barely admit it to himself, but seeing Harry happy had become the most important thing for Draco now. If he didn't know better, he'd think he was in love with the other boy. But Draco had always had a very clear view of himself, even when he was acting like an arrogant toerag in Hogwarts. Harry was like the brother he'd never had, and he was closer to being family than Draco's blood kin had ever been.
Stripping quickly down to his boxers, Draco flopped onto his bed, lying spread-eagled on his back as he stared up at the ceiling. A lazy wave of his wand had the book he was currently reading floating in his direction, stopping right above him. It flipped to the correct page, and Draco closed his eyes and listened as the research read itself out loud.
Severus hadn't been the only one researching Harry's affliction. Every minute that wasn't spent with Harry was used to research Dark curses. Draco had found some promising leads, but hadn't found an actual solution yet. So now, he was following up on those leads, hoping that perhaps between him and Severus, they'd discover a cure.
He drifted off like that, listening to the book rattle off curses and their effects, his mind piecing together random fragments, then discarding them as irrelevant or impractical. Fortunately, he had charmed the books to stop reading once he was asleep, so that they'd pick back up at the proper point when he was ready to start reading again. He'd get a little bit of sleep, and then would go back to his research in the morning, while Severus kept Harry occupied. They would find a cure, no matter what. With that last thought, Draco slept.