Disclaimer: J.K. Rowling owns the Harry Potter universe.
"I actually sort of miss Malfoy, is that weird?" Harry looked up at Snape through the hair hanging over his eyes. "I mean, he's pretty annoying on his best day, but it's so quiet and boring down here all day… even if I spend most of the day sleeping."
Snape snorted, passing Harry the thermometer to stick under his tongue. "I'm dutht taying," he tried to continue around the thermometer.
"Close your mouth," said Snape, "We can't go out tonight if you're running a fever."
Harry made a face at him, but obediently stopped talking.
They were going to muggle London to shop, then to meet Aunt Petunia at the safe house where Dumbledore had left them after the fiasco at Privet Drive. Harry liked to think they were just going so he could get out of the dungeons, but he knew the real reason.
He'd woken up yesterday morning with a bald spot on the back of his head and a pillow covered in short, black strands of hair. His hair. Which had already begun to shed. Harry was ashamed to admit he hadn't handled it very well.
In fact, he'd only gotten out of bed to eat when Snape had promised to take him to buy hats and see Aunt Petunia.
(Of course he'd gotten right back into bed when Snape had tried to suggest going to a barber, but was anyone really keeping points?)
There was something so… Harry hated to use the term heart-wrenching, but there it was. Heart-wrenching. And painful. About his hair falling out, bit by bit.
When he had fallen asleep that night his dream had been a clipshow of Sirius telling him how his hair looked just like his dad's. Maybe it was a little ridiculous, but Harry couldn't help but feel that pieces of himself were deteriorating right along with his body.
He was skeletal, at best. There was a lump where his skin covered his port. His clothes hung on him like drapes, and he had a perpetual cough and sniffle. He was living with Snape and weirdly buddies with Malfoy, but he'd still looked like himself. He still had green eyes like his mother, and messy hair like his dad.
Well. No hair. Not anymore.
The cancer would take that too.
And alright, so he'd curled into a ball with his hands over his head for two hours yesterday...and maybe those were tears in his eyes. There wasn't anyone down here to witness his piteousness anyway.
Besides Snape, who seemed to understand.
The thermometer beeped, and Harry removed it from his mouth, passing it into Snape's waiting hand. Harry had told Snape he didn't have to come in every morning and help him do this-he could do it himself. Snape had said, "You could," and passed him his anti-emetic pills.
"No fever. How are you feeling?"
Snape had such a weird way of being affectionate, Harry thought, flopping backwards onto his bed with a sigh. He always asked Harry how he felt, but when he did it was in a 'not really comfortable but trying to sound normal' sort of way. "The same I guess.. Just tired and bored, as usual."
Snape pat Harry's leg, "Up. You need breakfast," he nudged Harry again. "Your friends can come over tonight if you'd like. It is Friday, after all. I'm sure they have all sorts of gossip to share about your classmates."
"How is Hogwarts, by the way? And Malfoy? And everything?" Harry rubbed an eye with his fist, yawning, "I feel so secluded down here. Like, I literally have no idea what is happening at Hogwarts and I'm living here."
Snape sat on the edge of Harry's bed, nudging him in the thigh until Harry sat up again. "Hogwarts is the same as it always is. Brats run around the halls causing noise and destruction, imbeciles use what little brain cells they have to create excuses for absent homework, weepy first year miss their homes, etc. etc. etc."
Harry laughed, "I don't remember me or Ron being weepy about being away from home when we were first years. Maybe Hermione a little, but she had it tough in the beginning."
Snape pushed him in the back until Harry stood, stretching his arms over his head and groaning. "Go brush your teeth," said Snape, standing himself, "What would you like for breakfast - and don't tell me you aren't hungry!" he snapped just as Harry opened his mouth to say just that.
Harry walked gingerly to his lavatory, one hand trailing the wall to help him keep his balance. "Toast I guess...and maybe an egg?" he added when Snape's eyes narrowed dangerously.
Harry walked a little faster to get to the loo and closed the door behind him before Snape tried to make him eat anything else.
Draco's favorite class was, without a doubt, potions class. It's the only class he can actually relax in because Severus was the only other person he absolutely knew who could watch his back.
Yes, he knew how pathetic he was, thank you very much.
Draco spent every day looking over his shoulder, waiting for someone to try and sneak up and curse him from behind. At night he practically slept with one eye open. He was exhausted, and once a day for 120 minutes, he can finally let his guard down.
Today they're brewing some sort of elixir, Draco can't even remember what, he followed the instructions methodically, and sat silently when he was finished.
Around him his classmates are gathering their things and stuffing them in their bags. Potions is their last class of the day, so Draco gets why they're in such a rush.
"You comin' or what?" asked Greg, slinging his bag over his shoulder, his fat face twisted in a grimace as he stared down at the scorch mark his ruined potion had left on his table.
Draco shakes his head, schooling his expression to look nonchalant. "I have to ask the professor about the grade he gave me on my essay yesterday."
Greg grunts, "Be'er you than me, mate," he said, shoving his cheer in with a screech.
Almost all of the students have gone when Draco realised that Potter's obnoxious friends are merely pretending to pack up their stuff. Great. He sat very still in the hopes that they wouldn't notice him.
Severus waited until everyone else had gone before he waved his wand, locking the door.
Weasley's already too pale and freckly face went even whiter, if that was possible.
"Can I help you?" asked Snape in a voice that Draco recognized to be barely tolerant. He must be making an effort for Potter's sake.
What had the world become?
"Well," began Granger, inching up to Severus' desk, "We were wondering, since it's Friday...if we might visit Harry for a bit?"
Draco rolled his eyes. Did she really think that simpering, tentative, little voice would work on Severus? Please. Spare him the second hand embarrassment.
"Very well. However, Mr. Potter is going to visit his aunt tonight, and we will not be home before 8pm. Come at 9:00 and be discreet."
Draco's mouth had dropped open wide enough to swallow elephants.
"Thank you so much, Professor!" exclaimed Granger, positively beaming. She grabbed Weasley's arm and pulled him along with her as she made her way to the door.
"I can't believe you're willingly letting them in your home," said Draco the minute the door had slammed shut again.
Truthfully, he was jealous, and maybe a little upset. He'd wanted to go back to Severus' quarters that night himself, but if Potter and company would all be there, well, that's two too many for him.
Even if he's sick and tired of watching his back 24/7.
Severus massaged the bridge of his nose with two fingers. "Yes, well, Potter's been downstairs alone for a week, and I'd rather he not sink any further into the mood he's been in of late."
"What mood?" asked Draco, leaving his seat near the back of the class in favor of one closer to Severus' desk.
Severus sighed, "His hair has begun to fall out. Potter is finding it difficult to come to terms with the reality of his situation."
Draco propped his feet up on the table in front of him, "You should just take him to get it all shaved off at once," he stated. "Then he won't have to watch the slow depressing process."
"I broached the idea to him yesterday." Snape replied.
"What'd he say?"
"Nothing. But he spent the rest of the day in bed with a pillow over his head."
A feeling akin to sympathy bloomed in Draco's chest. Dear sweet Merlin, what was wrong with him?
"I am hoping to convince him while we are out tonight buying hats and visiting his aunt."
Draco pursed his lips, "You're leaving the school?" He tried not to sound petulant.
Severus nodded. "I promised him an excursion yesterday in an attempt to coax him out of bed."
"Hah! You've gone soft," Draco accused with mirth.
Severus fixed him with a glare, "Well, I was going to invite you along, but since you seem content to sit there and insult me-"
"Yes!" he nearly shouted, "Yes, I'll go. Can I go home now though?"
Maybe at the same moment, both he and Severus realised what Draco had said.
Draco couldn't meet Severus' eyes.
"Yes. You can go home now."
Harry craned his neck from side to side, trying to catch a glimpse of what felt to him like a massive bald patch in the back of his head.
He didn't have a hand mirror to use, but he'd been hoping he could at least see part of it.
He craned his neck again. Strained his eyes.
Harry sighed, tentatively reaching up with his hands to probe his scalp. He could feel it. A perfect circle, right, smack in the middle of his head.
Coincidentally, he realised, the same spot of hair that always stuck out stubbornly whenever he'd bothered to comb his hair.
"Is this what you do all day while we're gone? Preen in front of the mirror?"
Harry knocked his hip against the marble counter edge in his haste to wheel 'round.
"You jerk- owwww," he breathed out as he bent in half, clutching his hip bone.
Malfoy left his spot against the door jamb, his hands clutching Harry's arms and pulling him upright. "This was not my fault - you're a total klutz," he said, leaning Harry against the counter and batting his hands away.
"You snuck up on me!" Harry protested, still breathing hard as Malfoy lifted the edge of his shirt up over his hip. Already his skin had turned a sickly colour of yellowish green. The bruise throbbed along with his heart beat.
"Damn it," sighed Malfoy, "Severus is gonna kill me."
"I hope so," Harry said, yanking his shirt back down, he stepped away from the counter, meaning to leave the lavatory and get away from Malfoy, but a wave of dizziness overwhelmed him suddenly.
"Easy there, oh unstable one," said Malfoy, grabbing his arms again as he swayed on his feet.
"I hate you," replied Harry, as Malfoy half dragged, half supported Harry back to his bed.
"I hate you, too. Wait here while I get an ice pack."
Harry flopped backward, stared at the ceiling, and waited for the world to stop spinning.
"So how's school?" asked Potter, lying on his side in bed, ice pack on his hip, supporting his upper body with one elbow.
Draco, sitting crossed legged at the foot of the bed, moved his knight to E4, taking Potter's last bishop before answering. "It stinks. Not as bad as this-" he gestured towards Potter's prone form "-but Slytherin isn't the greatest house to be in when you might be in trouble with the Dark Lord."
Subconsciously, he rubbed the bandaged mark on his arm. He wore long sleeves all the time now, but down here in the dungeons, he had rolled up his sleeves to trounce Potter in a game of wizard's chess.
"Does it still hurt?"
Draco stopped rubbing his arm. "No."
Potter moved another pawn, completely opening up his queen and king to his castles.
The pieces groaned in protest.
"You are truly terrible at this game," commented Draco, his castle destroying another one of Potter's knights.
"I know," Potter groaned, "Ron lets me win sometimes."
Draco snorted. "I find it absolutely unbelievable that he has enough brain cells to rub together, let alone to play this game," he scathed.
Potter fixed him with a look, "If you're just gonna say nasty things about my friends, I'd rather you not keep me company."
Draco rolled his eyes. "You are ridiculously sensitive. But fine. I will leave your friends alone."
"You know, if you weren't so prickly all the time, we might be friends."
Draco felt heat rise in his face. What the hell does one say to that.
"Are you prone to making such sentimental comments?" he sniped. "Because if you are, I'd rather we weren't friends."
Potter laughed, "Once upon a time, you wanted to be my friend. In fact, I remember you making the effort to find me in the train and everything."
"Shut up," groused Draco, "I was young and foolish."
"I'd like to point out that you are still both of those things," said a deep voice from the hallway.
Draco looked up, Severus stood just outside Potter's door, looking at the two of them playing chess with an odd expression on his face.
"Hi, Professor," said Potter.
"Good afternoon. That move is ill-advised."
Potter paused in the act of moving the last pawn blocking Draco from putting him straight into check mate.
"Severus! Why did you tell him? I could have put us both out of our misery."
"Hey!" Potter protested, "You know, for the record, I've never actually been taught how to play this game."
Draco shook his head, "That's a losers excuse," he told Potter, "This game can be played by a simpleton."
"D'you know how to not insult people?" asked Potter caustically.
"Now who's the prickly one," muttered Draco. He moved his queen forward, "Check."
Severus sat on the edge of the bed by Potter, reaching forward to move a piece.
Draco nearly slapped his hand away. "You can't help him!"
Severus looked up, "Yes, I can."
Harry beat Malfoy (with Snape's help) 20 minutes later, cackling with delight.
Now he was laid out on the couch in the sitting room, Malfoy was going over Snape's books, scoffing at some of the titles, and pulling others out that he'd already read, handing them to Harry with a, "If you're going to be here all day you might as well read."
"I do read," said Harry, sitting up to make room for Malfoy to flop down by his feet, "I just get headaches before I get very far."
Malfoy regarded him somberly, "Oh. Well, that's-"
Harry put up a hand to stop him, "You don't have to say anything. It's just reality now."
"I do have to give you credit for taking this all so calmly. If it were me, I'd still be curled in a ball on the floor doing something undignified."
Harry chuckled, "I spent yesterday curled in my bed, crying over my hair so don't give me too much credit."
Malfoy scratched the back of his own head as if to check that he hadn't also gotten a bald spot. "Well, I suppose we can make an exception in what's dignified in that case."
"You know, I really thought being forced to live with you would be worse than the cancer."
"I feel as though I should be insulted, but I'm too busy contemplating how I ended up sitting on a couch with you having a conversation that doesn't involve hexes."
Harry let out a bark like laugh. "Remember when you blew up that potion in Snape's lab?" Tears of mirth gathered in the corners of his eyes.
Malfoy punched, albeit lightly, his leg. "Shut up, you fool!"
Oh, right. Snape wasn't supposed to know about that.
Harry reeled in his laughter, "You're not so bad, Malfoy. Too bad you were such a prick in the beginning."
Malfoy shifted in his seat. "I don't know that I'd be so forgiving if I were in your place," he said, suddenly serious. "Last year with Umbridge was-"
Stiffening, Harry looked down at his hands, "I'd rather we didn't talk about last year at all, if you don't mind."
There was no sense dredging up the past in anything less than a lighthearted joke. Between him and Snape and Malfoy, coexisting under the same roof would be impossible if the hashed out every past transgression.
Harry pinched his finger tips on the hem of his shirt, mumbling, "I'm fine with letting all that go, you know? I mean, if it were me last year, I'd be so angry I'd have cursed you into within an inch of your life, but me now? Well, no point in fighting about things like that anymore," he said, eyes still averted, "I mean, I know you're alright-ish, and that you're not on Voldemort's side anymore so…"
Malfoy sighed, sounding relieved. "Yeah. Me too."
They ate dinner before they left. Or rather, Severus and Draco ate dinner, and Potter slurped half his soup before declaring himself 'not hungry'.
Muggle London was a bustling, exciting place, even after dark. They are, all three of them, disguised to look like a brown haired muggle man with his two sons.
Severus couldn't use any magic on Potter, but he'd turned one of Potter's Gryffindor scarves into a beanie he could pull down over his scar, and changed the shape of his glasses to squares.
Draco was crossing his fingers that the cover of darkness would keep anyone from recognizing him immediately.
It's chilly for a night in September, Draco thinks winter will come sooner rather than later this year. He wonders how Christmas will work for the three of them and their weird little dynamic.
He considers Severus family, and Potter 'alright', but he can't imagine doing 'family-ish' things with the two of them.
Draco didn't even know if Severus celebrated Christmas. And Potter never went home for Christmas, so maybe he didn't observe the holiday either.
Draco is accustomed to waking with a pile of presents at the foot of his bed, and even more under a huge tree in the foyer. The Malfoys hosted a Christmas party every year with all of the richest and most influential people from all over the Wizarding World.
Recently, Draco's been forgetting how well-placed his family had been before the Dark Lord returned.
In the last two year, they'd been reduced to groveling servants. Servants! The thought makes Draco's skin crawl, but even as he thinks it, he pulls his jacket closer around him, and clutches his wand in his pocket a little tighter.
What if the Dark Lord or one of his glorified servants recognizes him somehow through the glamour.
He quelches the urge to grab Severus' arm as he walks beside him.
The first store they enter is a department store so large Harry knows he'd get lost if he doesn't keep up with Snape's brisk pace.
The shopping list he'd been made to write before they had left was clutched in his hand. It read: shirts, pants, hats.
He'd only put hats at first, then Snape had pointed out none of his clothes fit anymore either.
Harry had wondered aloud how he was going to pay for his things if he had no muggle money, Malfoy had rolled his eyes, and Snape had said, "It is taken care of." Like that explained anything.
Harry had a sneaking suspicion that Dumbledore or Snape were paying for his chemo treatments, but he can't figure out a way to ask without being rude. So he awkwardly tried to say thanks for everything when he can.
Snape wasn't a fan of 'thank yous' or apologies for that matter.
Harry trailed his hand over a rack of t-shirts as he passed by and took a moment to take in the fact that he, Malfoy, and Snape were shopping for clothes in a muggle department store.
The store is cold. A little too cold, and Harry is sort of freezing in his too thin jacket. He kind of just wanted to be done shopping and back in bed, to be completely honest.
He sniffled, swiping a hand under his nose, and folding his arms across his chest. "Malfoy," he hissed, panting and walking as fast as he could to catch up. Snape was a little further ahead, walking with purpose to a section filled with pajamas.
"What is it?" Malfoy asked, stopping in the middle of the walkway so that Harry could stop breathing like a steam train in his efforts to reach him. "Merlin, you're like Longbottom every time he's late for class. Is that actual sweat?"
Harry scrubbed a hand over the cold sweat breaking out on his forehead, spots appearing in front of his eyes as he swayed on his feat in front of Malfoy. Harry open and shut his eyes repeatedly, the snappy retort he'd had on his tongue forgotten.
Malfoy grabbed him by the upper arms, "Whoa. Are you going to pass out? If you're going to pass out you'd better tell me now because weight loss or not you aren't that thin. Are you going to puke? Don't puke. Should I call Severus? I'll call Severus. Can you stand here on your own, maybe I should just yell for him-"
Harry shook his head, blinking furiously to clear his vision, "No. Malfoy, just- stop talking. Gimme a second here. I just...Overestimated myself, I guess." The world stopped spinning and returned to rights. "I think it's just vertigo or something. From being horizontal all the time. Or not eating."
He peered into Malfoy's face, at his pinched expression and blanched skin.
Harry couldn't stop the sly grin pulling at his lips, "Aw, shucks, Malfoy, are you worrying about me?"
Malfoy's expression went from panicked and concerned to carefully indifferent.
"No, you toad. Now what do you want?" he snapped.
Harry recognized the deflection for what it was, and let it slide. "Er, I was wondering if you were actually cold enough to be wearing your jumper?"
Malfoy gave him a weird look. "Okay… no? I guess. I dunno. I'm just wearing it."
Harry scratched the back of his neck self consciously. "Well, I'm sort of freezing so I was wondering how attached to it you were, and if you might mind letting poor, sick me borrow it?" He put on his most winning smile.
Rolling his eyes, Malfoy shucked his jumper and passed it and his scarf over to Harry. "Just don't wipe your nose on it, you cretin."
All in all, Harry considered the shopping trip to be a success. He had four different coloured beanie type hats. Two different shades of blue, (Harry's favorite colour), a red one, and a green one Snape and Malfoy had forced on him saying things like, "Green isn't just for Slytherins" and "Don't be ridiculous, that band of colour around the rim is more white than silver."
Snape had helped him pick button downs to wear to chemo, and Malfoy had helped him find slacks that didn't make them both bust a gut laughing over ugly styles and colours.
But mostly shopping was a success because Harry had almost entirely forgotten about shaving his hair off.
"Can we go to my aunt's first?" he asked, biting the corner of his lip, hoping his voice hadn't sounded half as simpering as he thought it did, "I just don't want her to see me, you know… after." Harry looked anywhere but at Snape and Malfoy.
A hand landed on his shoulder, squeezed and let go. "Okay, Harry."
And wasn't that another thing he'd never get used to?
It gave Draco pause to realise he hadn't thought of Potter's relatives as just 'muggles' at all since he'd entered their home.
He'd thought of them as Potter's Aunt Petunia and cousin Dudley.
The familiar 'at war with his upbringing' feeling creeped up on him, but it wasn't as strong as it had been when all of this had first started.
Slowly and quietly, he'd become accustomed to his new life.
Liked it, even.
How very… strange.
Draco shifted awkwardly in his seat on the couch, dividing his attention between a box in front of them that had somehow been charmed to display a continuing stream of images called a 'telly', and the rather heavy-set boy beside him whom Potter had addressed as 'Big D'.
Severus, Mrs. Dursley, and Potter were in the kitchen, but Draco could hear the buzzing of the 'electric' shaver they were using to remove all of Potter's hair. Draco considered the whole practice barbaric, using questionable muggle inventions to cut off ones hair, but Potter had seemed a strange mix between relieved and misty eyed when his aunt had run her fingers through his hair, cupped his face, and told him she'd cut his hair herself if he wanted.
Draco wasn't so blind he couldn't see there was some sort of past weight in the suggestion. Some complex of memories from Potter's childhood Draco knew nothing about. But here he was, sitting on a couch in, not just a muggle's home, but Potter's relatives' couch in front of a most ridiculous show where a woman believed she could wriggle her nose and babble nonsense to cast some spell.
A truly appalling creation to tell all.
"So, uh, are-are you Harry's friend from his s-school?" stuttered 'Big D', his second chin wobbling.
Draco made a concentrated effort to keep his manners about him. A small smile formed on his lips as he remembered the amount of schemes and curses and insults he'd thrown Potter's way in the six years he'd known him. "You could say that." he said curtly, hoping Dudley wouldn't try to continue a conversation.
The buzzing in the kitchen was now accented by soft sniffles and words murmured too quietly for Draco to hear. He wanted to go in there, he realised. Not even to tease. Just to… to be there, he supposed.
He felt strangely invested in Potter's sickness. Draco was blaming their dual confinement.
"D'you think Harry's going to be okay? You know...after?"
Draco turned away from the insipid woman on the 'telly' who had now taken to saying "Darren!" every two seconds. "A simple haircut is the least Harry Potter can handle," he bit out with a harsh, derisive laugh. His rudeness likely uncalled for because according to Potter, his relatives had very little idea about his life away from them.
It irked him, inexplicably, how little they knew. Even he, Draco, who had spent the better part of his time at Hogwarts searching for ways to undermine and discredit Potter was not unaware of just how much Potter had done, willingly or unwillingly, in the Wizarding World.
The damned kid was in history books for Merlin's sake.
Dudley looked down at his hands, which, in all honestly, looked like bear mitts to Draco, and made an expression akin to a pouting toddler.
Draco released a long suffering sigh, closed his eyes and prayed to the powers that be for patience. "Potter does not break so easily," he said haltingly, barely able to comprehend what was coming out of his own mouth, "I have seen him overcome great adversaries and be hardly the worse for wear." Draco formed his face into what he hoped looked like an encouraging smile and not a disgusted grimace.
Dudley looked up at him then, face shining with hope, "Yeah?"
What had is life become? "Yeah."
Aunt Petunia dusted the remaining hair from his shoulders, her thumbs circling gently around his ears before she cupped his face in her palms, stopping to kiss his forehead. She thumbed a wayward tear from his cheek.
"Sorry," mumbled Harry, forcing a weak, watery smile. "I don't know why I'm being such a baby about this." He sniffed, blinking back more stupid tears. Talking only seemed to make him cry more. "It's just hair, it'll grow back." He choked out, then stopped trying all together and pressed the heels of his hands into his eyes.
He wasn't even really crying. No breath hitching, chest aching sobs. Just tears that welled up and dropped down his cheeks and didn't seem to stop.
It was frustrating. And embarrassing. And… if Harry was going to be completely honest with himself, kind of relieving. Like the ball of stress and anxiety he'd had growing in his chest since Uncle Vernon's car flipped over on Privet Drive was unraveling with every pathetic sniffle.
Aunt Petunia put her arms around his shoulders, one hand coming up to rest against the back of his hairless head.
Harry wasn't sure where Snape had gone, but he hoped he and his aunt were alone. He'd rather not have anyone else witness his admittedly long overdue breakdown.
He kept his heels pressed into his eyelids, but he let Aunt Petunia hold him close, so close that the backs of his hands were digging into her bony shoulder, and he could feel her heart beat thumping against his forehead.
She didn't say anything. Just stood in front of him, holding him while he released shaky exhales and piteous, unstoppable tears.
A/N: Hey everyone! I just wanted to say thank you for all of the wonderful reviews, and I hope to post another chapter before the end of this month. If you have any questions, or you would simply like to talk to me, you can find me on twitter and tumblr where I am more likely to respond.