Disclaimer- Same as always.

A/N- So real life has been so crazy I barely feel like I have time to breathe, much less write. When I do have free time, I'm so tired, I end up falling asleep more often than not. I do apologize, but I'm sure most of you know how that goes. No- this and Foolish Games is NOT abandoned. It just take time for me to get things in line where I can write fluently.

I do like this chapter- has a tiny bit of Drarry moments, and a reveal. Thanks goes to Shred of Sanity who came up with the name of the curse. I would be lost without the support and ideas. The meaning behind it will be revealed in the next chapter. As always, enjoy.

23- The Nature of the Curse

Seeing a body bend in such a dangerous direction was not what something Minerva ever wanted to see. She thought she had seen plenty of horrible sights during the first war, but this... this was terrifying. Harry Potter's body was contorted in such a way, he looks like something from a freak show. His legs were twisted out to the side, his arms held tightly to his sides by Draco and Poppy, although she could see that was a losing battle. Already the two had worked up a sweat, and their grips were slipping. It wasn't hard to see why it was a necessary maneuver. Deep scratches line Harry's once pristine cheeks, trails of blood slipping down his skin and pooling hideously beneath his head.

His mouth was frozen in a silent scream, his eyes wide and bulging. He gasped in air rapidly, the muscles in his neck corded and straining against his skin. He turned his head back and forth so quickly, no one was sure how he hadn't snapped it yet.

"Why haven't you used a restraining spell on him?" Minerva asked Poppy as she approached the bed cautiously. Harry gave no indication he knew she, or anyone else was there.

"We have held off on using magic, as we are not sure how it will interact with the curse," Severus explained, taking Poppy's place and clutching Harry's thin, pale hand tightly. He gave a Draco a quick and searching look. "When did you arrive?" he asked his student.

Draco shook his head. "I haven't left since after I finished classes today."

"Stubborn young man," Poppy interjected, a hint of fondness in her voice. "I tried to get him to at least go to dinner, but he would have none of it. Oddly enough, some food appeared here just in time for dinner."

Severus gave him a speculative look, then nodded in the direction of his charge. Draco, understanding the unspoken question, nodded slowly, his eyes tired and his face showing the strain of prolonged distress from being in their situation.

For a while now, both Slytherins had suspected Harry had a helper in the castle, an elf who was keeping track of Draco's movements, and ensuring Harry wasn't caught when he was out and about after curfew. The small show of kindness only strengthen their opinions.

A strangled scream ripped through the room and Harry convulsed once... twice, before collapsing boneless back onto the bed. Both Draco and Severus held on a while longer, feeling the dangerously rapid pulse beating underneath the Gryffindor's frail skin.

"He can't go through much more of this," Draco murmured. "His body is going to give out."

No one said anything for a few moments after, each faced with the stark reality that they were watching Harry Potter, the Boy Who Lived, the Chosen One, die in front of their eyes, bit by bit. It was a stunning thought and settled around them in a heavy, hot rush of air.

"This is the curse?" Minerva asked, slowly lifting her hand and placing it gently on Harry's head. She snatched it back quickly, casting a frantic look at the rest of her companions. "His skin is freezing," she gasped.

Draco and Severus nodded, readjusting their grips on his arms. Draco's hand had slipped down to tangle with those icy fingers, now blue tinged. Severus adjusted his hand to grip Harry's shoulder, showing no indication that the dropping body temperature bothered him.

"The fit... it seems to be a side effect somehow. This, though, is the nature of the curse. We haven't any idea what is going through Harry's mind when he goes into the fits, but it is traumatic enough he feels the need to physically harm himself," Poppy explained, adjusting the blankets around Harry's cooling body. "As soon as he comes out of them, he falls into this sort of stasis like sleep, where his body temp lowers to the point of freezing. He'll stay this way for a while before regaining consciousness."

"Did he again?" Severus questioned.

""Briefly," Poppy replied. "Only enough to recognize where he was, and that he wasn't alone. Although, I'm not sure he was aware it was Mr. Malfoy here who was at his bedside. He wasn't coherent enough to talk more than a few sentences of gibberish."

"Then it appears that each fit is gaining length and intensity, while his lapses of consciousness are getting smaller," Severus surmised. Poppy simply nodded. It was clear they were quickly running out of time.

To Minerva, though, the curse and its side effects were beginning to tickle a part of her memory she had locked away years ago. She smoothed her fingers through Harry's damp hair. "I've heard of the curse.. or curses rather. Alone, they are horrible and effective. Together, it appears they are ten times more so. To combine them, however, would require the power of someone incredibly dark, someone who has given up their soul."

"Then the Dark Lord would more than qualified for such a thing, would he not?"

"If what you said about the Horcruxes is true, then yes. But to do so while still here as a student in Hogwarts..." She let the sentence drop. The implications were clear. Voldemort was just as powerful and black-hearted back then as he was now.

"And a cure?" Draco whispered, his fingers wrapped securely around Harry's and his head bowed. His eyes stayed on the closed ones of Harry for a moment before lifting, fire burning deep inside. "Is there a way to stop this?" he hissed.

Minerva silently shook her head. "Not that I am aware of." The answer seemed to suck out the last bit of hope Draco had held and his knees buckled. He collapsed onto the floor next to Harry's bed, his face a study of deep grief. It was shocking to see- and even harder to comprehend, that he could have developed such a bond with his once rival so quickly. The transfiguration Professor swiftly knelt next to the distraught blond, her shaking hand touching his shaking shoulders. He buried his head in the side of the coarse cloth covering Harry's body.

"Could we not separate the curses? Together they may unbreakable. However, if we were to deal with one at a time?" Severus asked quietly, still stunned by his charge's actions. Draco lifted his mussed head and looked imploringly at his Professors, his eyes wide and red.

The old cat pondered the idea for a few agonizing moments. "It is worth researching, which I think we should undertake quickly. I fear Potter hasn't much time, and neither do we." Her mouth was set in a firm line, her face showing her age. "Severus if you would?" she requested.

The dour man simply nodded. He brushed the hair back from Harry's frigid head and placed a strong hand on Draco's. Draco leaned his head against the bed again, closing his eyes tightly, drawing a bit of comfort from his mentor's touch, and the hope flickering in his heart.

"May I remain here?" he asked quietly. Severus glanced up at Poppy, then nodded.

"I will excuse you from classes again," he replied, and swept tiredly from the room, leaving two broken boys in the care of an equally exhausted matron.

A few hours passed without a movement from the dark haired boy on the bed. Draco had climbed from the floor and crawled into Harry's bed, holding the icy body next to his, trying to infused it with some warmth. Harry's breathing grew shallower as the minutes ticked by and Draco could almost feel his life force slipping away. His embrace tightened, his lips pressed to the soft neck of his bedmate. "Don't go, Harry. Not yet," he begged.

"Terribilis Beatitudo," hissed out from Harry's lips, and Draco hit the floor running.