Title: Here But For the Grace of Merlin

Author: Makoto Sagara

Series: Harry Potter

Archive: /makotosagara/, /~makotosagara, , , .com, , , ; anywhere else, please ask first

Category: angst, pre-slash, smut, romance

Pairings: Harry/Draco, Ron/Hermione

Warnings: Angst, OOC, DH spoilers (minus Epilogue), language, violence, self-harm, drinking, slash, smut, non-con, BDSM (whatever seriously fucked up things come to mind this time around)

Summary: The final battle left those with the Mark stained more than skin-deep, and the war has left its own mark on the others at the Battle of Hogwarts. However, when Harry's distancing from his friends leads to a nearly fatal accident, Draco has a chance to fulfill a lift-debt he owes to the Boy Who Lived, but he's only doing it because Narcissa is insisting.

Disclaimer: Harry Potter is owned by J.K. Rowling, Scholastic Publishing, and Warner Bros and some other stupid companies. We make nothing from this piece of fanfiction, and suing would be pointless, unless you like lint and bad skin!

Authors' Notes: This idea seized me, and I tried desperately to make it go away, until it just wouldn't. So, let's see where the hell this goes. And it should be darker than most of my other stuff, so enjoy.

Here but for the Grace of Merlin – Chapter 1 – Lauded Heroes Are for the Birds

Two hundred sixty-five days, three hours and twenty minutes since the defeat of the Wizarding world's most evil citizen… And that was still all that anyone ever talked about. That is unless, of course, they were speculating where their beloved Boy Who Lived had hidden himself after said defeat. The only contact that Harry James Potter had had with the public was when he strolled into the British Ministry of Magic two months after the 'Great Defeat of You Know Who' (as the papers called it) and requested a tutor so that he could sit his N.E.W.T.s by the end of what would have been a year after his graduation from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Minister Shacklebolt, a man of upstanding character and showing more sense than his three predecessors, approved Harry's request immediately and said that he would owl all relevant information to him as soon as possible.

That was the last anyone actually saw Harry. Occasionally, in Muggle London, a black-haired teen with glasses and green eyes could be seen jogging in a very shady part of town, but he never responded to anyone who cried out to him. Rumors began speculating, as they always did, that Mr. Potter died, left the country, changed his appearance permanently, or had been murdered for the elusive Elder Wand that was last seen at the Battle of Hogwarts. When they tried to contact his closest friends, Miss Hermione Granger, Mr. Ronald Weasley, and Miss Ginevra Weasley, they received the same message: Harry would turn up when he wanted to be found.

As such, he had yet to show himself.

But his house-elf was seen frequently. And owls delivered items to his house in London all the time. Every once in a while, owls would actually arrive for some of the Weasleys or Hermione, but no details were ever given as to what he was doing or what he was planning for the future.

One hundred days after the Battle of Hogwarts, an owl flew to Ottery St. Catchpole and went directly to the Weasley home, the Burrow, with a letter for Miss Weasley. It simply said: 'Ginny, I'm sorry. I can't foresee when things will ever be normal and I can't look back. Find someone better who deserves you. Love, Harry'

After this somewhat heartless letter arrived, Ginny Weasley, along with her brothers Ron and George went to 12 Grimmauld Place looking for their friend. It was empty, aside from a large pot of Floo powder that sat on the mantle of the fireplace in the great kitchen. In fact, all of the furniture and belongings that were supposed to be in the Venerable and Ancient House of Black were gone as well. Understandably upset, the young Weasleys returned to their parents' home and started planning to find their friend.

"He can't have gone far," Ginny said. "What's he going to do for living quarters?"

"Well, it's obvious that he's not living at Grimmauld Place, not that I blame the bloke," George replied, running a hand through his newly shortened red hair. "If it weren't for the fact that I now have to do the work for two…" His voice broke and he began sobbing. It had only been three months ago that he buried his twin brother, his other half. "I'd join him. But, as it is, I can send him business papers about his investment in the shop through the bank. The goblins told me, reluctantly, mind you, that he still contacts them from time to time about his accounts and such."

"This is shit!" Ron bellowed as he shoved his chair from the table and letting it topple to the floor. "I don't understand why he'd just disappear like this! We spent a year together, trying to find a way to kill that bastard and now that he's gone, Harry's just left? It doesn't make sense! And I don't care what Hermione says about him needing space. This is ridiculous! How's he gonna heal by himself? Tell me that!"

"Ronald Bilius Weasley!" Their mother, Molly Prewett-Weasley, appeared in the door of the kitchen, a deep scowl on her normally warm, but plain, face. "Watch your language, young man!"

"But, Mum, we were-" Ron started, but she cut across him quickly.

"I know what you were doing, Ronald, but Hermione is right that Harry needs time on his own to heal. While I don't like that he hasn't come here since then, especially with Christmas coming so soon, we can't force him to do anything."

"I never thought that he was a coward though," Ginny whispered harshly. "To send me a letter like that…"

"Gin, he…" George started before shrugging in defeat. "I don't know why he did. Did you reply?"

"Of course I did! And he never wrote back! It's like Ron said, ridiculous. This is totally unlike Harry."

"How's a bloke supposed to act when he literally had to die to save the rest of the world?" George asked. "I don't know if I'd be the same after that either." Ginny's face crumpled and she ran from the room, the sound of her sobs making her brothers uncomfortable. "Mum, I didn't mean…"

"I know you didn't, Georgie. It's going to take some time for her," Molly said sadly. "She's been in love with Harry since before she started school."

"Mum, do you think he'll ever come back?" Ron asked.

"I don't know, Ron. I just don't know."

Harry, of course, had taken everything from the Black house in London and moved it to a smaller, more manageable house near Godric's Hollow in Wales, even Kreacher. Since their change of venue, Harry had made an effort to get his studies in order so that he could pass his N.E.W.T.s, but he and his tutor conversed via Floo and owl post. He had replaced his beloved Hedwig with a regular brown owl a week after the day he died (that was how he recalled it), realizing quickly that he'd never be able to look at another snowy owl without wanting to cry or rage or find Voldemort's corpse and tear it into tiny bits and pieces. He made sure that his owl was male, and called him Prometheus.

In fact, aside from his tutor, the only company that he saw on a day-to-day basis was Kreacher and Prometheus. And still, the dead weighed in on him. Lily, James, Sirius, Remus, Tonks, Fred, Snape, Dumbledore, Moody, Hedwig, Dobby, Vincent Crabbe… These were the faces that showed up when he slept, read, ate, moved, and breathed. He'd been unable to deal with it after the battle. Even the offer of Arthur and Molly Weasley to come and stay at the Burrow for a while made his skin crawl. It reminded him too much of Fred and the relationship that Ginny wanted to rekindle. It became too much. After two days, he fled to Grimmauld, and two days after that, he'd found a new house in Godric's Hollow.

But nothing would make the faces go away. And so, he began to drink. Heavily. Regularly. He'd get so drunk that he'd pass out on his living room couch and Kreacher would have to Apparate him into his bed. If it wasn't for the little elf, he would have forgotten to eat, bathe, or even dress. Eventually, not even Kreacher's nagging and poking and prodding could make Harry leave his bed. And he stayed there, for days on end, only getting up to find a new bottle of Firewhisky or vodka or tequila, right where he knew they would be, right where he'd told the house-elf to leave them when he purchased them.

He didn't know how long it continued. The days all ran into one another. He couldn't remember the last time he'd talked to his tutor or received an owl from his so-called friends. He just didn't care anymore. All he wanted to do was to stop thinking, stop caring, stop… living… And so, when he passed out and hit his head on the porcelain of the claw foot tub, he just didn't fight the blackness. He embraced it.

It was late February, and for the last eight and a half months, Draco Malfoy had spent his time stuck at Malfoy Manor with his parents. Partially, they were hiding to avoid enemies and public scrutiny. The papers had been rather vicious to their tiny family, in regards to the fact that they were all supposed Death Eaters – even if no one counted the fact that Lucius wasn't exactly in the best frame of mind and hadn't been since his premature release from Azkaban, or that his mother, normally so cool and collected, cried and hugged her only child rather frequently, or that Draco himself almost never showed any emotions – not even anger – when he was forced to go outside anymore. However, the other reason they hadn't left was to hide Lucius' deteriorating mental capacity.

Just the thought of his once proud and imposing father simpering and then screaming at the feet of that creature that called itself the Dark Lord made his skin crawl. Yes, Malfoys were cruel and vicious, but there was always a point behind it. Voldemort had been insane, and did whatever he wanted because he wanted it. Including, killing Severus in cold blood, his mind reminded him wearily. Although, thoughts of his godfather made him rather torn. To think that someone who had been such a crucial part of his life had actually been Dumbledore's man, and then killed that man to protect himself, made his heart hurt.

He missed Severus. It had been a cold summer, fall, and winter without the man's snappy wit and snarky remarks.

Part of him wanted to blame Potter, but, truthfully, he understood that it was Voldemort's own stupid ambition and madness that had stolen Draco's last beacon of hope.

Although, blaming Potter made him feel better. And reading about how the Boy Who Wouldn't Die had abandoned his surrogate family of blood traitors and their token Mudblood sent a shiver of glee down his spine. Except, it didn't make up for anything that he, Draco, had lost. And part of him wanted the whole world to pay for his fucked up life.

He'd already contacted the Ministry about possibly finishing his education so that he could continue on the path of actually getting his life together, with or without his parents, but Shacklebolt plainly told him that unless someone of "good standing" spoke up for him, he would be denied. And he knew that the only person that that pathetic boot licker would respect and trust enough to give him what he wanted was Potter.

Yet another reason for his hatred of the bloody Boy Who Lived.

"Draco, darling, where are you?" his mother called, effectively dragging him away from his unproductive, self-pitying thoughts.

"In the library, Mother," he called, getting up from the window-seat he'd been at for the last hour while lost in thought. "What's wrong?"

"There's nothing wrong, per se, my dear," Narcissa said, enveloping her only child in a flower-scented embrace. "I thought it would be nice if you, Father and I had lunch in the sun room."

"Wouldn't it be a little chilly for that, Mother? It is February, after all." He frowned. Lucius was supposed to be the one suffering ill effects of the war, not Narcissa.

"Oh, I know, Draco," she replied airily. "However, it is bright and sunny and I'm sure that keeping the actual room warm wouldn't be that difficult."

"As you wish, Mother," he said, looking around. "Have you seen today's Prophet?"

"Yes, I believe that Father left it on the breakfast table this morning. Shall I have one of the elves fetch it for you?"

"No, I'll get it myself, Mother." He placed a soft kiss to her cheek, part of him worried about how doting she'd become since the Battle of Hogwarts. Slowly, he walked through Malfoy Manor, staying away from the parlor where he'd lied about the captives Greyback had brought being Potter and his pathetic friends. He sighed. 'Not so pathetic, are they, considering they defeated the Dark Lord and helped clean up the mess at Hogwarts after his death? And what about yourself? What have you done since then, Lord Malfoy?' That thought left a foul taste in his mouth and he sneered.

And in the breakfast room, on the cozy table, near his father's spot, sat the day's copy of the Daily Prophet. He stopped and blinked as he took in the headline: Boy Who Lived Found Unconscious. Quickly, he scanned the article for news of his boyhood rival. It was the first time in months that anyone had seen Potter, but all the paper, for all its sensationalism, could tell him was that Potter had been found unconscious in the bathroom of one of the smaller Black houses, one that looked as if he'd been living there since his disappearance, with a head wound and in a pool of his own blood. The article tried to argue that it was an attempt by former Death Eaters that were still on the run to take out their saviour, but there was no tangible proof of that. Even odder, there was no mention of Potter's Weasel or Mudblood friend being with him.

'Trouble in paradise then,' he thought viciously, until he took a look at the picture of the Gryffindor hero being rushed into St. Mungo's, blood everywhere and breathing shallowly. 'Something is majorly wrong then… I'm just curious enough to ask around.'