The End is Nigh!

Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter, just this random plot arc.


Chapter 8

Harry wished it was not a Sunday. In fact, right now, he wholeheartedly wished it was the first day of the summer holidays, and he wouldn't have to face his friend for the next four months.

Ronald Weasley was pissed. That was the only way Harry could describe it really, he'd never seen the other boy so angry. Ron was well-known for having a short fuse, he blew his top regularly. But considering the number of things he was currently shrieking at Harry about, and the constant mentioning of terms such as 'months' and 'weeks', he'd been holding onto this one for a while. Bottling up emotions apparently did not work well for him; it seemed that the anger just simmered and fermented, becoming even more potent, until eventually the frustatious gases (frustration*noxious = frustratious) built up too much, someone nudged the cork, and he exploded. It was a pity his magic wasn't more wild; the resulting fireworks show would have been a sight to see.

It was strange to think that barely ten minutes had passed since Hermione disappeared around that corner. Ron's anger had certainly managed to build in that time, yet he still wasn't out of painfully accurate accusations to throw at Harry. Listening to the swiftly rising decibels, he was surprised to recall how quietly and 'calmly' this little discussion had begun…

o0o0o0o0o0o

"How dare you not speak to her?"

Harry flinched as Ron turned his direct and angry gaze on him, quietly seething but with clenched fists, trying to curb his full reaction.

"What is it; the great Harry Potter's too busy focussing on his own miserable self? You can't even spare a glance, put out a bit of effort to comfort your best friend?"

Harry made no response. In reality, Ron hadn't expected one – the boy rarely exerted himself to speak, and being hit with the full force of a Weasley's anger had never really done much to loosen his tongue.

But this time Ron wasn't unleashing his entire rage, he was trying to be slightly reasonable, and give Harry a chance to defend himself – but he didn't want to take it. What was the point in being careful with delicate little Potter if even that didn't get you a response?

"Answer me!"

o0o0o0o0o0o

A crowd was beginning to gather now, but they weren't the usual excited bunch of onlookers. Instead, with each foul piece of abuse Ron screamed, they flinched, apparently made uncomfortable by the sight of the loyal red-head getting stuck into his vulnerable, famous, mistreated friend.

That friend was standing quietly, folding deeper into himself with each passing moment, waiting out the storm like a punishment he felt he deserved. He made no attempts to distance himself as each accusation brought Ron a step closer, clenched his fists tighter, turned his face redder; everyone knew that violence was only a matter of time.

Then suddenly, someone was pushing through the crowd, hexes being thrown when people didn't move fast enough. Some expected a teacher, and prepared to flee in case of consequences. Some expected Hermione or Ginny, the only two students who they believed would attempt to enter the fray, and have a chance of forcing Ron to back down. However, the sight that greeted them was not something anyone would have seen coming; it was Malfoy.

Draco shoved the last two people aside, rushing immediately to Harry and laying a hand on his shoulder. Harry flinched, obviously expecting a blow – though many interpreted it as the reflexive reaction to being touched by the Malfoy heir. When no blow came, Harry glanced up, straight into Draco's eyes – and he seemed to glow. The tension and misery were gone, his face showing relief at being saved, and guilt at allowing himself to be. Some question seemed to pass between grey and green, and then the Gryffindor just barely nodded, granting the Slytherin a small smile. Many gasped; it was the first such smile they had seen on Harry's face in several months, and to be bestowed upon a Malfoy?

"OI, Malfoy! What the bloody hell do you think you're doing?"

"Just a moment Weasley, I'm a little busy right now."

Ron spluttered. "Wha—? What are you doing to Harry? Get your hands off him you filthy Death Eater!"

"Ron." Everyone froze; Harry's voice carried quietly and waveringly, but clearly, over the silent crowd. "That was unwarranted and unnecessary."

"WHAT? What in the name of Merlin's naked hairy chest are you talking about? That's Malfoy you're cosying up to! Malfoy you're defending! Or… Oh wait, I see how it is… Got a taste for darkness now do you Harry? Being empty and cold's not enough for you, you can't just settle for destroying everyone's lives, you have to go and shack up with some pathetic Slytherin loser just so you can get sympathy? Well, you aren't getting any from me! It's no wonder your parents died, who'd want to—"

His tirade was cut abruptly short when Malfoy turned, faster than lightning; his wand was pointing straight at Ron's throat. His voice came low and menacing…

"You want to shut up now, and back the fuck off. You will never speak to Harry like that again, do you understand me? You'll never understand what Harry's going through, and you should be grateful for it, because it's an isolating, solitary and portable hell. You would never survive in a place like that; but Harry's stronger than you. He's stronger, and he deserves better than a bloody prat for a friend, someone who's too blind to see when his best mate is hurting! He needed your help, and you turned on him. You're the failure Weasley, you're the coward. The only person to blame here is you."

Apparently Ron had been pushed too far, and with a cry of rage his fist swung forward, hitting Draco square in the face with a sickening crack; his nose had been broken.

Blood spraying from his face, Draco made a sudden lunge of his own, and within moments Ron had been thrown to the ground, Malfoy sitting atop him to prevent any escape. The top of his shirt was already soaked with blood, the dark stain spreading at an alarming rate, but he made no move to stop the bleeding. There were more important things to do right now.

"Consider yourself incredibly lucky that Harry would be angry if I hurt you; because I could, so very easily… You keep that in mind the next time you even consider raising your voice at him; I'll be watching."

Casually casting a full body-bind charm, Draco stood, immediately turning to check on Harry. If his parents had taught him anything about love, it would have been about now that Draco recognised his feelings for what they were. After all, what is love but the impulse to place someone else's well-being and happiness before your own, preserving it even at great cost to yourself? But they hadn't, and he didn't – though the crowd certainly had some idea, if their shell-shocked faces were anything to go by.

"Are you ok? Did he—?"

"Draco!" Harry cut him off with an exasperated yell.

He frowned, concerned. "What? Shouldn't I have done that?"

Harry sighed. "Your nose?" A blank look, another sigh. "It's just a little bit broken right now. Can't we have this discussion later? You need to get to the hospital wing."

"Oh! Oh right, sure. I just need to do one more thing…"

Draco turned back to Ron, crouching beside him with wand aimed casually right between his eyes.

"Harry doesn't need you, not when you're being like this. When you come to your senses, and manage to pull your head out of your own ass, we can talk. Until then, you are to stay away from him. If you don't, I will know, that I promise you; and next time, I may not be so forgiving."

The calm smile, the first Ron had ever received from a Malfoy, was even more unsettling than it would otherwise have been, considering the lips which gave it were covered in blood. If he could have, Ron would've nodded, but the fear in his eyes told Draco all he needed to know; he'd made himself clear – inescapably.

With a satisfied nod, he got to his feet once more, gesturing in some random direction with an elegant hand; strangely enough, a path cleared in the crowd instantly.

"Well Potter, the hospital wing you say? Shall we?"

With an eye-roll and some muttering, the most lively reaction those gathered had seen from him for some time, Harry led the way.

o0o0o0o0o0o

This walk through the halls of Hogwarts was perhaps the most unusual the two had shared. Unlike in the past, one boy's injury had not been caused by the other, and unlike recent times, there was no steady flow of speech from Draco. His head was actually starting to really hurt, and he was feeling a little faint now…

Once Harry was absolutely sure they weren't being followed, he grabbed Draco's arm and pulled him into some small alcove housing a random statue. He then had to haul him upright when the sudden movement caused the blonde to very nearly collapse. By the time Malfoy's mind had caught up with the chain of events, he was propped up against the stone, held in place by one strong arm pinned across his chest; this did not help matters.

Still, some part of his mind rallied, and he managed to make some confused enquiry. "Weren't we just… err… Hospital Wing?"

Harry frowned at Draco's apparent inability to form a coherent sentence (though he couldn't know it had less to do with blood loss and more to do with proximity), and gave an absent-minded reply while hunting for something in the pockets of his robe.

"No, that was just an excuse. Damn it, where did I put…" He glanced up, sensing confusion. "Oh! Right, yeah. I know how to fix a broken nose."

Draco considered this, blinking, but before he could respond he was facing the business end of a holly wand. He tried to stare at its point for a moment, but that just made his eyes cross and his head pound harder, so he settled for giving Harry a nervous look.

He returned it, smiling grimly. "You know your cleaning spells, I know my healing. It shouldn't hurt, but then, I've never actually tried this on more than a split lip," he fretted.

"S'alright. Trust you."

Going by the wide startled eyes and the pink-tinged cheeks, this was an odd bit of information to be receiving, but Harry just ducked his head, before looking up again with a serious expression and narrowed eyes.

"Episkey, tergeo."

The rush of heat and cold seemed to stop the blood flow, and Draco faintly heard the bones clicking back into place while the dried blood disappeared. However, the swift change in temperature also served to make him dizzier, and he stumbled, before being bodily hauled back into place once more. Now both Harry's arms were pressed into his chest, one hand resting on this shoulder, the other still pointing the wand up into his face.

"Here, restituo cruorem."

Oh, that was helpful. The world wasn't insisting he fall over anymore, and the second and third Harry's had disappeared in a rush. Strange, though, he was still having difficulty thinking straight...

Draco knew he needed to ask what made the Weasel explode, needed to consider what was going to happen now the entire school knew he was protective of Potter (or would within the hour), needed to discuss where the two would go from here, and what his meant for their friendship – but hey, Harry's eyelashes were really dark and perfect, and there was a smear of Draco's own blood across his pale cheek, and his really pink lips were just beginning to curl up into that smile that made Draco's heart flip-flop, and his belly tighten, and his breath hitch…

His heart stuttering, Draco grinned back. "Hey."

Harry laughed, "Hey yourself." His eyes flicked down to the blood-soaked shirt, and he frowned. "Draco, you're a mess. What were you thinking?"

His arms made to leave their place on Draco's chest, but the Slytherin found he couldn't let that happen just yet. His own hand drifted up to rest on one, the slight touch effectively halting all movement, and bringing Harry's surprised eyes back to his.

"He was hurting you—"

"I was fine!"

"You weren't smiling."

Whatever Harry's next words may be, they were frozen in his throat. Green eyes searched grey as the silence stretched between them, Draco's words echoing in both their minds. Harry wanted to ask what he was saying, but he couldn't make his mouth work. It seemed he didn't need to, however, as the calm grey eyes were open, and clear, and full of such depth of emotion… Harry marvelled at that, wondering if he'd ever reach the point where he could feel anything as strongly as he felt grief. But whenever that time may come, he could be sure he wouldn't be facing it alone.

For now, though, they were tucked into the freezing stone walls of an old castle, and Draco's shirt was soaked with blood that Harry's best friend had put there. The Great Hall would be buzzing with talk and rumour, if Hermione and Ginny hadn't yet broken the conversation to kill Ron. Life was about to get a lot more difficult; but things were looking up.

"Thank you." And just like Draco's 'Don't over think this', Harry's words spoke straight to the other boy's heart, and he knew exactly what he meant. Thank you for defending me; thank you for sharing your story; thank you for helping me with Potions, for asking me to teach you poker, for arguing with me on the wood of a table; thank you for bringing me out of the darkness; thank you for showing me the light; thank you for making me laugh; thank you for every moment.

Draco just smiled, and squeezed Harry's arm, finally searching his own robes for a wand; he'd considered just borrowing Harry's for a moment, but the spell he wanted to cast was a little complicated, and he felt safer with his familiar blackwood and unicorn hair. Besides, he needed something to occupy his wandering mind and hands… He was in danger of becoming too comfortable in this little corner, pressed against a wall by a boy whose words lit up his heart; he was in danger of doing something he'd regret.

When Draco did find his own wand, he set about cleaning the bloodstains from his rumpled shirt, performing each movement slowly, and enunciating each syllable carefully to allow Harry to study the actions. He bit back a smirk at the awed look on the smaller Gryffindor's face.

"There; impeccable, as always."

But Harry didn't seem to hear; instead, his brows were drawn together in contemplation, and a hand once again rose, seemingly of its own accord, to brush over Draco's chest, feeling the softness of the fabric, like freshly-washed linen.

It came to a rest over the Slytherin's heart, and as Harry pressed his palm down firmly, he felt the steady pulse skip a beat, his own heart giving a tug in response.

"Tightly and inextricably knotted…" he murmured.

Now it was Draco whose eyebrows were furrowing, as he wondered if perhaps it was Harry who should be visiting the hospital wing, or if Ron had done more damage than he realised.

"Harry?" he asked tentatively. "What is it, what's wrong?"

Green eyes darted up to meet his, framed by those ridiculous round lenses, and suddenly Draco was aware that he'd been missing something in that gaze, something that had been there a long time…

Harry stared into those stormy grey eyes, curious and confused and concerned as they were that first day in the hall. He remembers trying to count the different colours; remembers watching the corners crinkle up as Draco laughed; remembers them glancing at him with pride as they passed each other in the corridors; remembers seeing them empty, and full of pain.

Harry remembers how natural it felt to speak to Draco that first night; how natural it felt to sit just-too-close beside him in the library. He considers how natural it feels to stare at Draco as if the world and the sky and the moon and the stars are wrapped up in being; he considers how natural it feels to say,

"I love you."

Draco's eyes widen, becoming unbelievably round; he is motionless for a moment, not frozen, just out of phase. Then a moan escapes him, and suddenly Harry is suddenly against the opposite wall, being thoroughly kissed by the Malfoy heir. He lifts his hands to Draco's face, and suddenly he can feel those delicate cheekbones beneath his fingers, the soft skin everything he never dreamed it would be. And when Draco's tongue flicks against his, he can taste the tiniest hint of blood; it tastes like life.

The blonde pulls back for a moment, and as Harry's mind pulls up for air, the voice finds it. It narrows its eyes, lips pulling up into a smirk, and draws breath to begin its critical dissection of Draco's response; it's ready to work its power over the most magic of moments, and Harry isn't sure yet how to stop it.

But before the sickening voice can begin, Harry feels lips quirk up into a sweet smile, lips that are still pressed against his own. A sweet, lilting voice whispers, "I love you," and Draco's lips are forming the words…

As his mind scrambles to pull these pieces together, the other boy leans in, enthusiastic, for another kiss.

As lips brush his own, the world tips upright on its axis.

Harry is bathed in light.


AN: And so it ends.

Sooo first of all, I think that was my best chapter. I LOVE threatening!Draco. He is fierce.

Secondly, I apologise a million times for the late update – I hadn't written the chapter yet, then I was miserable and had no inspiration, then I had parties and open days and super angsty fics which both updated three times, then school and homework and… Tonight I have had a tantrum and discipline, so here it is, very late.

It's just a little bit exciting, I got the best response ever so far to the last chapter. You are all amazing. So many reviews!

For those of you who have stuck with my clumsy, unexciting piece of writing until the end, thank you :)
For those who have alerted, you rule. For those who favourited… There are just no words for you insane individuals.
For those who have reviewed, thank you a million.

Farewell readers! And may all your worlds be bathed in light.