A Study in Cerulean
o :: o :: o
For the third time, Charity Burbage revolved to face Snape. Tears were pouring from her eyes into her hair. Snape looked back at her, quite impassive, as she turned slowly away from him again.
The flash of green light illuminated every corner of the room. Charity fell, with a resounding crash, onto the table below, which trembled and creaked. Several of the Death Eaters leapt back in their chairs. Draco fell out of his onto the floor.
"Dinner, Nagini," said Voldemort softly, and the great snake swayed and slithered from his shoulders onto the polished wood.
Snape did not watch as the massive serpent opened its cavernous maw and slowly began to devour her, head-first. His interest was now transfixed on Draco, who appeared to be inches away from a visceral reaction on the floor of the drawing room. His parents remained stiff and twitching in their spots, desperate to attend to their son but petrified under Voldemort's sharp crimson gaze.
"You all know what you must do," he said. "Do not disappoint me."
The clumsily unanimous assurances of success were mumbled in response, and the Death Eaters rose, beginning to file out. Narcissa and Lucius all but scooped their inert son off the floor and carried him away. Eventually, only Voldemort and Snape remained.
"You will stay, I imagine," Voldemort said, speaking over a hideous but mercifully quiet slurping sound. Snape could tell from the noise alone that Nagini had reached his meal's midsection.
"Just to prepare the nausea remedy, and then I'll be on my way," answered Snape, rising and needlessly brushing off his robes. "The boy's my charge and godson, after all."
"Quite. I'd forgotten how useless Draco is."
Tense silence fell over the room, peppered only by the crackling of the fireplace and Nagini's horrific slurping.
"We'll be in touch, My Lord," Snape said as he bowed stiffly and swept out of the room.
To no visible surprise, he found the three Malfoys in the posh, opulent sitting room. Narcissa was stooped over the divan on which Draco was lying, face flush and eyes wide. Lucius was rummaging messily through a large, double-doored cabinet full of common potions supplies.
"Severus," Lucius rasped when he saw him enter, "thank Merlin. The toadswort – I can't find the toadswort!"
Snape lifted a hand to silence him. "I will make the potion," he said. "I'll even see him to bed."
"Let me help," begged Lucius.
"The potion requires careful wandwork, and your wand is no longer in your possession." To this, Lucius flinched and Narcissa sobbed, once. "It's complicated enough without two worried parents hovering over my shoulder. Go. Get some rest."
The two exchanged looks that spoke of the knowledge that no rest would come to them. It was a worried and feverish look.
"If you need anything," Narcissa offered tentatively through her tears, rising.
"Go," Snape said a second time.
They left the sitting room, leaning on each other. Snape's dark eyes swiveled to the divan, where Draco still lay. There was nothing but horror on his long, angular face. His gray eyes, transfixed on the ceiling, clearly registered nothing.
Snape closed the doors of the cabinet and walked to Draco's side.
"I'm so very, very sorry, Draco," he said.
His godson looked to him. "That woman–" he began, "–Professor Burbage. I've never seen anything so– so–"
Snape reached into the collar of his robes. From beneath he produced a necklace on a thin, silver chain. Serving as a pendant was a tiny glass vial of liquid which glowed a very dull gold.
Draco seemed to recognize it, which didn't surprise Snape. He'd always worn the necklace; an emergency aid, he called it. When people asked, he explained it as being a medical draught used to immediately quell life-threatening allergic reactions.
"Your epiraphen?" Draco asked, the haze of confusion temporarily fogging his trauma.
"It's not epiraphen," answered Snape wordlessly as he undid the clasp on the chain. "And I'm not sorry about your inability to process death."
"What are you doing?"
Snape had begun to unscrew the vial. His face was tight and impassive.
"Please forgive me for this, Draco," Snape said, his voice scarcely above a whisper. "I don't have a choice."
The lid of the vial came off. At first contact with the air, the golden liquid turned to mist, slithering and twisting its way towards Draco. In surprise, he took in a sharp gasp, and the mist followed the breath into his nose and mouth.
For the briefest of moments, Draco's eyes glowed a bright, dazzling gold. They settled quickly, however, and Draco was left on the couch, motionless once more.
Snape waited in tense silence. About a minute passed.
And then, abruptly, Draco rose from the divan and began to smooth his wrinkled robes.
"The Ministry, is it?" Draco asked.
Snape lowered his head. "Yes," he answered. "I'm sorry, Draco. I'm so sorry."
"There's no value in repeating yourself, Professor," came Draco's taut reply, "not to me of all people."
"I had no choice," said Snape, looking up at him from where he was still kneeling on the floor. "There was no one else upon whose competence and loyalty I could thoroughly rely."
Draco seemed irritated. "First you apologize, and now you defend your actions? I'm confused, Professor. Do you want me to crucify you or offer you compassion?"
"Neither," Snape hissed, rising to his feet. "I don't want you to do what you think I want you to do. You know what I've done – now react accordingly."
For several long, tense moments, there was nothing but silence. Then Draco abruptly pulled his wand from his sleeve and pointed it at the center of his professor's chest.
Snape was hit full-on with the spell, and it sent him flying back into the wall with a dull crash. For a few terrifying seconds, his breath escaped him. When he finally managed to grapple in a scrap of air, and then another, he looked up.
Draco's gray eyes were rimmed with tears. His hands were trembling, almost too violently for him to hold his wand. His face, however, remained hauntingly serene. Snape knew the explosive reaction would not have a follow-up.
"I'll do what needs doing," Draco hissed, stuffing his wand back into his sleeve. "But don't expect me not to hate you for this."
"I had to, Draco."
"That doesn't make it any easier!" he snapped. He shut his eyes, tightly, and cupped his hands over his temples as if trying to quell a violent headache. Snape's face flooded with compassion, and he rose unsteadily to his feet. "Merlin's beard, the pain's coming back already."
"I'm sorry," Snape offered uselessly, staggering towards him.
"Don't touch me," Draco said, turning away. His hands were still clasped to his head. "I said I'll do it.
"I'd help," Snape began, "but–"
"Yes, Professor, I know," Draco said, voice rising. "The Order of the Phoenix is preoccupied with Potter and your attentions have to be focused on Hogwarts. I'll infiltrate the Ministry and do damage control. I worked it out long before I tossed that stupefication charm at you."
Snape sighed. He pushed a hand through his greasy hair, but it fell stubbornly back into place.
"After all this time," he said, "I'd forgotten just how incredible you really are."
The hands on his temples ball into fists, but Draco offers no verbal reply.
"You have an entrance plan?"
"Obviously," Draco answered.
"An exit plan?"
"Don't insult my intelligence."
"Be careful," Snape begged. He hesitated a moment before he gripped Draco's shoulder briefly and strode out of the room.
Draco looked down at his hands. They were still trembling.
o :: o :: o
"Undesirable Number One," Harry muttered under his breath as he replaced Mr. Weasley's folder and shut the drawer. He had an idea he knew who that was, and sure enough, as he straightened up and glanced around the office for fresh hiding places, he saw a poster of himself on the wall, with the words UNDESIRABLE NO. 1 emblazoned across his chest. A little pink note was stuck to it with a picture of a kitten in the corner. Harry moved across to read it and saw that Umbridge had written, "To be punished."
In his frustration, the last thing he was expecting was a hand to abruptly clasp over his mouth. Harry cried out in surprise, though it was muffled. He struggled violently before he heard a voice in his ear.
"I have absolutely no desire to harm you, Harry Potter," said a familiar voice, "but if you're stupid enough to scream, I will be forced to knock you unconscious."
Harry quieted, and the hand released. He turned and shrugged off the invisibility cloak and saw, to his complete astonishment, Draco Malfoy.
"What in the hell–"
"Do keep your voice down," came his immediate reply. "We have about twelve minutes before Vaughn from Improper Use of Magic comes in to spike Umbridge's tea leaves with laxatives."
"I was wearing–"
"–an invisibility cloak? I noticed. No offense, but you're the worst invisible person ever." Malfoy's voice was completely calm, but he was speaking so quickly that Harry would have thought he'd planned what to say beforehand. "Banging about, pulling open drawers, leaving grains in the carpet from your staggeringly indelicate footwork. Finding you was about as difficult as finding an elephant in a china shop."
"What are you–?"
"–doing here, yes. I figured that would be your next question. Unfortunately, the situation is extremely complicated and difficult to explain and if I'm right about where your friends are right now, we don't have a lot of time. If you'd be so kind as to follow me?"
"What? No!" Harry pulls back. "You're a Death Eater!"
"Perfectly sound analysis, but I was hoping you'd be clever enough to see what's staring you in the face."
Harry was flustered and frustrated. He took another half-step back and looked Malfoy over. He was, without a doubt, the same blonde-haired Slytherin brat he'd met seven years ago, but he had to admit that he looked different. His robes, for one, were not the immaculately tailored ones he remembered; if anything, they looked wrinkled and worn. His hair was no longer slicked back over his head, but rather hanging down in a frame around his face – it seemed longer than Harry remembered.
"I could have killed you or knocked you out a moment ago," Malfoy said, head canting to the side. "Considering who I am and who you are and our current location, it would have been the very easiest thing in the world and certainly in the best interest of a puritanical Death Eater with everything to gain. Now let me draw your attention to the fact that you're presently standing, conscious, and very much alive."
Harry looked down at himself, then up at Malfoy. "You're talking different."
"Brilliant, Holmes," he said scathingly. "Your powers of deduction are second to none."
"What's going on, then?" he asked, graciously ignoring the sarcasm – for now, at least.
"Put that cloak back on and follow me. And for Merlin's sake, be quiet about it this time."
Harry opened his mouth to protest, but he suspected that he'd get another longwinded rant similar to the one he just received. Worse come to worst, he supposed, he could always slip out undetected.
Malfoy turned on a heel and strode out of Umbridge's office. Harry followed, with no small amount of hesitance, back into one of the larger corridors of the Ministry. A short walk, two lifts and one escalator later, they reached their destination.
The room was dark – pitch dark – and lined with endless rows of shelves, upon which rested large vials full of silvery liquid. The liquid glowed faintly, and Harry recognized them immediately as liquid memories, like ones from a pensieve. The room seemed to stretch on for miles.
"Bottled memories?" Harry guessed. He shrugged off his cloak when the door swung shut behind them.
"Obviously," sighed Malfoy, moving down several rows. Harry followed cautiously, his hand on his wand. "The best place to hide a tree is in the forest."
Each of the bottles, Harry noticed as he followed Malfoy, had a label. And each label seemed to be different, not just in terms of its written contents, but of the age and style of the label itself. The collections of memories must have begun a very long time ago.
From one not-so-special shelf in one not-so-special row, Malfoy plucked one not-so-special bottle from its spot, whose label was blank. He moved back towards the wall, which had several basins like the one Dumbledore had in his office.
"Quickly, now," Malfoy said, pouring the memory into the basin. "The memory is long and we're pressed for time."
Harry looked with trepidation at Malfoy. Malfoy threw his hands into the air, exasperated.
"Yes, you caught me," he said. "In lieu of doing something simple and easy like kill you or capture you, I decided to go down a needlessly excessive route and trap you in a pensieve forever. For Merlin's sake, Potter, just go. We don't have time for your cynicism."
Harry was silent for several seconds. Slowly, though, because he figured Malfoy was at least right in this seeming all a little too creative to be a trap, he stepped forward and bent over the pensieve. It quickly sucked him down, and within a few seconds, the world around him vanished.
o :: o :: o
When Harry came to, he was in a bedroom. It was a nice bedroom, decorated green and golden, with a large double bed, oak armoire, and immense bookshelf opposite a bay window that overlooked a garden.
It took him a while to realize that what he originally thought was a small green pillow sitting on the bay window ledge was, in fact, a child. Going by the size of him, he couldn't have been more than seven years old, at a very generous estimation. He was curled around himself tightly, with his hands gripped in his white-blond hair. He was shaking violently.
Harry was about to get a closer look when someone knocked on the bedroom door. The child didn't answer and so, after a few seconds, it opened on its own.
In walked Severus Snape, just as pointy and greasy as Harry had always remembered but several years younger. He looked worried.
"Anything?" Snape asked.
"Yes, I'm curled up in fetal position gripping my hair because it worked perfectly," said the astonishingly articulate seven-year-old.
"There are other spells we can try," Snape offered, stepping over. "Other potions, other charms. We don't have to give up."
"I know precisely what spell we're going to try," Draco said. "The book on the bed."
Snape looked towards the bed, as did Harry. There was a large, leather-bound tome with its pages edged in gold resting on the bedspread. He walked towards it and put a hand against the page. He said nothing as he read. After a moment though, he straightened.
"Draco – Draco, for Merlin's sake!" he cried.
Sighing, Malfoy said, "I had a feeling you'd react like this."
"The pain is tied to the areas of your brain responsible for logical thinking and higher reasoning. Partial erasure could cripple you mentally."
"With my level of genius, crippling would do nothing but bring me down to something resembling a normal level," Malfoy said, but there was no pride in his voice. In fact, Harry realized, he sounded almost sad. The child uncurled and slumped against the window.
"You can't do this to yourself!" Snape cried, snapping the book shut. "Think what you'd be depriving yourself – depriving the world!"
"It's my mind to do with what I will," Malfoy snapped, his eyes narrowed to gray slits of anger transfixed on Snape. "I don't owe the world anything."
"You're only five," Snape said.
"Five?" Harry repeated, flabbergasted.
"Draco, you are far and away the most brilliant person I've ever met. There's a better-than-decent chance that you're one of the most brilliant people who've ever lived!"
"And?" he asked hotly.
"And," Snape continued, "seeing all of that erased would be – why, it would be nothing short of a crime!"
"It would not be erased," said Malfoy the five-year-old genius, pushing himself off the ledge of the bay window and heading for his desk. "At least not completely."
Harry watched as Draco pointed to the top of a large, uneven stack of parchments full of scribblings and diagrams. "The spell allows the information to be erased to materialize outside the body, briefly, as mist. With the right series of follow-up charms, it can be liquefied and bottled."
"Bottled genius?" asked Snape, sounding incredulous.
"It can be stored in any common vial once in liquid form," Malfoy said as he stuffed his hands into the pockets of his jade-colored robes. "And, should the need arise, the vial can be broken and the contents of it returned to my mind."
"Why would it be necessary?" Snape asked.
Malfoy looked up at him, and Snape looked back. Neither of them spoke for several long moments, perhaps because they both knew the answer to the question and neither of them wanted to think about it.
"If things become bad enough, simply break the vial and all this genius and the blinding, crippling headaches that go with it will be restored," Malfoy said, sounding bitter. "But only if it is absolutely necessary."
"Draco, think about this."
"I have thought about it, at great length, and in many dimensions you have yet to even consider."
"You're choosing to handicap yourself intellectually."
"What I'm choosing, Professor, is normality." The five-year-old Draco Malfoy sunk down against the wall, his tiny, balled hands pressed to his temples. "The headaches are getting worse every day. Painkillers aren't helping and they aren't going to help. But even the pain seems manageable next to the herculean effort it takes for me to even pretend to have a normal life."
"You've managed so far," Snape pointed out.
"Through lies, chicanery, and settling," Malfoy said. "Genius is a fickle, fickle friend, Professor. It isn't all about being the smartest toddler on the playground and reading before anyone else and building tesla coils with coat hangers. It's isolating."
"I talk to my peers and I feel like I'm trying to speculate on existentialist philosophy with tree bark. I talk to adults and I feel like I'm discussing Proust with preteens. And I laugh at every joke that doesn't make logical sense so no one hates me, and I dumb down my vocabulary with my parents so I won't go over their head, and I pretend to be interested in the same asinine songs about sharing over and over when in reality it's making me hate this stupid, useless planet and every last stupid, useless person on it!"
Snape quieted. The young Draco Malfoy shut his eyes and curled up that much more tightly.
"I can't do it, Professor," he said, whimpering. "I'm just not strong enough to deal with it."
Harry stood, dumbstruck, against the wall, as Snape slowly closed the gap between himself and the child Malfoy. He rested a hand on his shoulder.
"I'll help," Snape promised. "I'll help with the spell. I'll even keep the bottled genius."
"Can I trust you with it?" Malfoy asked as he looked up at him.
Malfoy watched him for a while, and then he nodded. "If anyone's to be trusted, I suppose it ought to be you."
"I wouldn't have it any other way," said Snape, smiling.
"Just be careful with it," Malfoy mumbled as he went back to massaging his temples. "Remember everything you'd be bringing back by restoring it."
"Last resort only," Snape assured him. "Scouts' honor."
"Once again, Professor, your Muggle references go almost completely over my head."
"Oh, Draco," he said with a sad smile, "that's the only reason I use them."
o :: o :: o
Harry was jerked back into reality, and it felt a bit like falling backwards out of a swimming pool. He looked around as he tried to collect his thoughts. Malfoy was standing against the wall, his arms folded across his chest and his expression sullen.
"–a genius, yes."
"But you get–?"
"–blinding headaches which are all but intolerable."
"–erased the area of my brain responsible for the headaches, taking with it my genius. Yes, I've kept it hidden for over a decade. Yes, I'm aware it's extremely fantastical, but as you can see there is empirical evidence to support it. And finally, the million-galleon question which I'm sure is the only one you care about, yes, Harry Potter, with my genius restored to me, I no longer consider myself loyal to the Dark Lord."
Harry swallowed and looked down at his forearm, which was covered by a sleeve. Malfoy frowned and tucked both arms behind his back self-consciously.
"Are we done?" he asked impatiently.
"Do you have a plan?" Harry asked.
"Obviously." Malfoy turned on a heel and swept out of the room. Harry replaced his invisibility cloak and followed him.
o :: o :: o
Draco's ability to keep a level head with the Horcrux around his neck was, frankly, staggering. Harry would only be wearing it for a few hours before he found himself snapping at the smallest offenses – but not Draco.
He'd ask him about it once, about how he managed to ward off the magic's effects. His answer had been simple:
"Because my mind operates in pure logic," he'd said as he flipped the page in the book he'd been reading. "And logic knows no anger."
Even though he clearly had a higher tolerance for the blasted thing, Hermione continued to insist that they take turns wearing it. Draco would always agree. Harry wondered if it was because it really was getting to him, just not in a way any of them could sense.
Either way, being on the run from the Ministry of Magic was trying on all of them, Horcrux or no. The English countryside was beautiful, and the tent served them well enough, but tensions were always running high, especially with Ron, who felt betrayed that Harry had come to trust Draco so quickly. Hermione had verified that all the spells Draco had mentioned casting on himself did, indeed, happen, but it didn't seem to sate Ron. Draco was a Death Eater in his eyes, and there was nothing that could redeem him.
He usually kept to himself about it, but not when it was Ron's turn to wear the Horcrux. When he had it around his neck, he told Draco precisely what was on his mind, usually very loudly. Draco's saint like patience continued to astound Harry, as he sat at his table, silent, watching Ron yell and carry on. When Ron was finished, Draco would stand up and leave.
One evening, Harry decided to follow him.
Draco was standing out on the edge of a cliff that overlooked the English Channel. They were high and the altitude made wind whip through his hair and his robes billow. Harry stopped a few feet behind Draco, silent and unsure what to say.
"I'm fine," Draco said.
"You heard me."
Harry was silent for a while longer, and then he took a few more steps forward, standing astride him. The view was beautiful.
"You say that," Harry said, "but I'm not sure I believe you."
Draco's head turned. He watched Harry through the strands of white-blonde hair that blew in front of his eyes.
"All of this – it can't just not be getting to you," he said. "With Ron especially. He hated the idea of letting you come along even before we started trading off the Horcrux."
He watched as Draco wetted his lips and turned back to face the Channel.
"It's okay if it is," Harry said hastily. "I mean, you're not a robot."
"Sometimes I wish I were," Draco said tonelessly, lifting a hand to his forehead and massaging his temples. "It would make everything infinitely simpler."
Harry frowned. "Headache?" he guessed.
"Always," Draco answered.
A comfortable silence passed. Draco eventually let his hand drop, and he turned his head in time to catch Harry staring at him.
"Are you going to tell Ginny that you think you might be gay?" he asked, deadpan.
Harry gave a violent start. "What?"
"Oh, don't be so daft," Draco said. "It was staggeringly simple to work out."
"How did you–?"
"I've seen you staring at me."
Another silence fell over the conversation. It wasn't so comfortable this time. Draco kept watching the Channel, and Harry rumpled his hair.
"It– uh–" he began, nervously, "it isn't– I mean, it's not so much boys."
"It's me, specifically, then," Draco said, as if it was a casual a comment as could be. "Why?"
"Blimey, Draco," Harry muttered, coloring.
"I forget sometimes that people don't think like me," said Draco, pushing his hands into the pockets of his robe. "I suppose it could be considered impressive, from the outside looking in – but impressive enough for you to completely change your opinion of me in a few short months?"
"No," he said awkwardly. "I mean, that's not all of it."
"Give us a minute," moaned Harry, covering his face with a hand.
Draco's eyes trailed downwards. After a moment, he said, "I've been staring at you, too." Harry looked up from his hand. "Although to my credit, I've been at least fifty times subtler."
"Gay? I'm beginning to think so, yes. Up till now, I think I've been too stupid to realize it."
"You're dating Pansy," Harry offered uneasily.
"A stupider version of myself is dating a wretched Pureblood girl in defiance of his sexual orientation to make his overbearing parents happy," he said, voice rife with sarcasm. "It's nauseating and a little bit obnoxious, but not really surprising."
Yet another silence fell over the conversation. It was, if possible, even more awkward than the one preceding. It was also much longer – for close to three minutes, the roaring, crashing waves far below them and the screeching cries of seagulls were all to be heard. Eventually, they sat down on the edge of the cliff, legs let to dangle.
"So," Harry said, slowly, "maybe we should – you know – go out or something. You know, once all this is over."
"I don't think so," Draco answered as he leaned back on his palms.
Harry smothered his disappointment. "Ah. Er – why not?"
"Several reasons. Primarily because I don't think I'd be too good with that whole relationship thing. I wasn't even good with it when I was stupid."
Harry laughed nervously. "And you think I'd be Casanova?"
"A poor example, Harry, as Casanova was famous for courting several women at once."
"Whatever. That's not even the point."
"What is the point, then?"
"Because avoiding things based simply on the fact that you'd think you'd be bad at it is rubbish thinking, that's why," Harry said. "And what's more, I – well – I really like you."
Draco was staring at him with great intensity. Behind the slate gray eyes, Harry could almost see the mental acrobatics.
"I like you because – well, I mean, yes, the fact that you're smart has a bit to do with it," he admitted, capping his hands on his knees. "You're the smartest person I've ever met. And all those Sherlock Holmes-style deductions – I don't know, I find them kind of charming."
"Sherlock Holmes?" asked Draco blithely. "Really?"
"Well, honestly, I didn't think of it till you did that trick in Sussex. Remember, with the blue paint on the ground around Hermione's wards, to check if anyone was walking around?"
Draco, to Harry's surprise and delight, laughed. "Right," he said, "and I called it a study in cerulean. I'm surprised you actually read Doyle. And being compared to Holmes, himself – that's quite flattering."
Harry smiled. "I really do like you, Draco," he said. "I like you for your mind, your wit, and how you're doing all this to help the world. You could have been scared by the idea of being a turncoat of the Death Eaters, but instead you put the fate of everyone else in front of your own. That's admirable."
Incrementally, the soft, sweet smile on Draco's face faded away into sullenness. "I can't," he said after a few moments of silence.
"Because after all this is over, I'm having Snape help me remove my genius again."
Something in Harry's chest twisted painfully. "What?"
"You think I've changed, but I haven't," Draco explained, looking sad. "Not all that much, anyway; I'm still Draco Malfoy. Sure, I put the world's fate over mine, but that doesn't mean I'm not still a coward who's only doing this because of how much guilt he's feeling over past mistakes. And I'm still just as arrogant as I always was, now I just hate myself for it."
Harry was desperate and, somewhere in the pit of his gut, frightened. "Draco, you can't do that. Not after all this."
"I don't want this," Draco said, leaning forward and knotting his hands in his hair. "I don't want this damned intellect. Merlin, it's so isolating. The world around me is going in slow motion, and everything – everything – is just so boring. Even you."
Stung, Harry said nothing.
"I'm sorry, Harry, but it's true," he said weakly. "To me, you're boring. Everything's boring. My life is a perpetual stream of ennui and the only way to stop it is to do what I did when I was five. I need to go back to how I was."
"But..." Harry began
For the last time, they fell silent. They stared for a while at the English Channel as it crashed against the cliff. Eventually, Harry went back into the tent.
o :: o :: o
"Draco? Draco! Where's Draco?"
Harry pushed his way through the crowd. The last thing he remembered was seeing a blonde head of hair get struck from behind with a red blast of magic. Voldemort's corpse could wait.
He rushed through the castle, searching through the dead and the injured. His stomach lurched every time he saw a blonde, and when it wasn't Draco, the churning only settled slightly.
He was tangentially aware of the fact that he was being followed. He'd just killed Voldemort, and no one was content until he was. And he, of course, wouldn't be content until he found–
He was stooped over a woman, the tip of his wand pressed to an open gash on her side. He sealed it with a spell and lifted his head in Harry's direction.
Harry catapulted himself at Draco and caught him in a ferocious, desperate, passionate kiss.
The crowd that had been following him quieted significantly.
Harry's hands knotted in the blonde hair and Draco's – after some hesitance – came to rest on Harry's shoulders. He held the kiss until his hindbrain forced him to pull back and drag in ragged scraps of air.
"Don't," Harry begged. "Please don't. We've lost so much. I've lost so much," he said, thinking of Snape and Dumbledore and Cedric and all the dead around them, "and I can't lose you, too. Don't do it. Please don't do it."
"Harry–" he began.
"I know," he said, "I know. You'll still be Draco with or without. And maybe that's true, but Draco, you're a better person as you are now. Please don't sacrifice that; don't even risk it. We'll find a way to quell the headaches."
Harry pressed his lips to Draco's forehead and clutched his body tightly against his own.
"Please," he whispered, over and over. "Please, please, please."
He could hear Draco swallowing. Harry looked down at him pleadingly.
"I, uh," Draco said, clearing his throat. "I wasn't told that you'd come back from the dead."
He was struck with the absurdity of the situation. He knew he should be telling Draco how it was all right and he was back for good and the Dark Lord was gone forever and they should probably be organizing a party.
Instead, he started to laugh. Draco joined in. Soon it spread to the rest of the castle, and it didn't stop for almost an hour.
o :: o :: o
Harry flung open the curtains, and sunlight poured into his bedroom. Draco squinted against it and rolled over, burying his head under a pillow.
"Come on, gorgeous," Harry said, rolling his back in a stretch. "I promised Ron and 'Mione we'd meet them at 9 ¾ to see Rose off."
"Bugger that," he mumbled, though it was muffled beneath the pillow.
Harry smiled and walked to his bedside, peeling the pillow off Draco's head and leaning down, kissing him lightly on the temple. Despite his earlier protestations, he saw Draco smile.
"Sure you don't just want to stay in and shag?" he asked.
"You do look very sexy with bedhead," Harry admitted as he rumpled a handful of blonde hair.
Smirking, Draco leaned up so he could whisper against Harry's lips: