Hello my lovelies! I had actually written this a week ago, but I broke a finger :( do you know how hard it is to write with one hand? It's impossible! I had 500 words to go, and it took me hours to write. But here it is: hope you all enjoy!

Thank you to all my reviewers - you really make my day, I hope you realise - I cherish you all!

I don't own Harry Potter, never have, never will.

Chapter Thirty Three - Punishment

Harry groaned, stretching some of the tightness from his back. He had been bent over for about an hour now, hands pressed against cold tiles. His knees would be bruised come tomorrow, and his palms grazed. He could feel a droplet of sweat curving round his brow, hear his excessively loud pants. His hands clenched tighter as another spasm of pain raced along his spine, throbbing. He jolted forwards, barely catching himself with his exhaustion, a hand coming up tiredly to hold himself up as he…

Scrubbed.

The entire Slytherin cohort had been sentenced to menial labour; cleaning. They had to scrub the floors, polish the windows, and re-oil the hinges on any door they found on the way. And as if that wasn't degrading enough, she had ordered a house-elf to watch over each group, pointing out all their cleaning flaws. The castle was going to be spotless, or they weren't going to bed.

Across from him, Parkinson scrubbed at the closest window, a snarl on her face. She had seemed mortified that she had to clean like a muggle, almost near tears. The house-elf in charge of their particular group hadn't been swayed by her pouting, and merely pointed at the window, and the longer she refused, an indulgent smirk had stretched across its face. It was enjoying this; her humiliation.

So, if only to discount the smirking house-elf, Parkinson had reluctantly turned to the window. She had cheered up immensely since then; with her wand up her sleeve, and in frequent use.

Nott and Zabini were scrubbing like Harry, but had started from the other end of the hall. They dwindled, throwing revolted glances at one another and muttering under their breaths each time the house-elf turned its steely eye on them.

The way they were going, Harry was the only one actually cleaning, and thus, the only one partaking in the punishment. For something he didn't do. Fairs fair.

There were two second years in the first classroom, two third years in the second. It was a small corridor, hardly of any use. Harry couldn't remember setting foot here in all his Hogwarts years. It was immaculate the moment they arrived; but it didn't stop the grumpy house-elf from pointing out gleaming tiles, forcing them to re-scrub something already pristine. Even Kreacher wasn't this horrid, even in his dark years.

Harry sighed, cracking his knuckles and shuffling forwards a bit, aiming for the next patch of tiles. Soapy water sunk into his knees, icy cold. They hadn't been given anything to dry with, and Harry point blank refused to squat and hop down the corridor. This ridiculous punishment was going to give him pneumonia. As if he hadn't enough to deal with.

Zabini glanced up at him, stilling long enough to catch his attention. Then, he proceeded to mimic stabbing himself the chest. Nott had pretended to hang himself moments earlier. It seemed this game was for a variety of undesirable situations. Harry shot himself after the house-elf turned to mutter about incompetence in Nott's general direction, peeking to see how Parkinson would increase the stakes.

She shot the house-elf.

Harry snorted, quickly ducking his head as glassy orbs landed on him. This elf had no sense of humour; Winky had had more personality. It seemed as though their beloved Headmistress had selected the worst possible elf for their small group. He wouldn't put it past her.

They continued to pretend to clean.

"The things we do for you." Zabini sighed loudly, after the elf had spent a good twenty minutes telling him to re-scrub a single, immaculate tile. It had barely taken a step before it was back, standing proudly by his shoulders, glaring down its hook nose at him.

Zabini met its stare head on, if anything revolted it was standing so close. "Back away." He growled, only turning away as Harry threw in his bit. He was actually a little proud he had successfully diverted the conversation; if Draco was here, it would be virtually impossible.

"I'm sharing the load."

"Shh." It shushed them, frowning in disapproval.

"I half wish I had been suspended." Zabini replied, scrubbing at a particularly stubborn stain. "It might have been less painful."

"Your mother would have your balls in a vice." Nott snickered, barely even brushing the floor with his brush. He was imitating cleaning, the prick. "If you even considered suspension."

"Shh."

They glanced at the house-elf, who gave them a stern glare. It shuffled forwards, shaking its oversized head at them. Harry sat up on his ankles as it came closer, meeting it eye for eye. His side of the corridor was spotless, and he wasn't about to redo it.

But it bypassed him, tapping Parkinson on her leg to get her attention instead. She sneered at it as it inspected the window, shaking its head. It clicked its fingers, knowing it had everyone's attention, summoning a fresh layer of soapy water upon the window. "Again." It croaked out, raising an eyebrow as Parkinson threw her cloth to the floor.

"It was clean, you vile little thing." She sneered, "This entire corridor was already clean!"

"Again." It croaked, a horrible smile appearing on its face. "Unless you wants to be here again tomorrow night."

Harry half thought Parkinson was going to throttle it. Instead she clenched her hands, picked up the cloth, and began anew. The house-elf had barely turned around before the spelled it clean, throwing a particularily creative gesture at the elf's back.

It shuffled back into its place, giving them all a flat stare. "Keep going."

Sighing, and ignoring the slight popping of his shoulders, Harry knelt back down, and began to scrub. The other two mimicked him moments later, but without the enthusiastic cleaning. By the looks of them, they were plotting the elf's unfortunate demise. Or sacking. Whichever they thought would horrify it more.

They continued in near silence; muttering, and huffs of anger the only noise. Each one was accompanied by a loud 'shh'. It would have been comical, if Harry's arms and shoulders weren't burning.

Thankfully, though, a large bang exploded from one of the rooms; easily ignored, if not for the tendrils of smoke that began to curl under the door. They all blinked, watching with something akin to hope as the house-elf grumbled, shuffling to the door.

As soon as it entered the room, Zabini was on his feet, stretching. Nott threw down his brush with disgust, flicking his wand towards the door, locking it. Hopefully it would take the elf a moment to realise the door was shut, and another to open it.

"Vile thing." Parkinson huffed, storming over. She flung the cloth to the ground, stomping on it. "If it had shushed me one more time…!" She threatened, inspecting her hands. She shuddered at what she saw, almost wailing. "I have wrinkles on my fingers. My perfect, manicured fingers. Look!"

Harry groaned as he slowly go to his feet, stretching. He was exhausted. "Those are some magnificent wrinkles, Pansy."

She blinked at him, as if surprised. Surely, after blackmailing the Headmistress for him, they were comfortably around him by now?

"Salazar, McGonagall is a vindictive bitch." Nott cracked his neck with loud pops that even made Parkinson wince. "It's almost eleven. We've been at this for four hours."

"I think we're done." Zabini smirked, gesturing with a nod towards the staircase. He easily approached the second classroom, shoving it open with a smirk.

Harry had to withhold his eye roll; The second years were all sitting on a desk each, a pack of cards between them. Their mops hadn't been touched once. At Zabini's nod, they scrambled to their feet, hurrying to the staircase.

They had all barely taken a step before the house-elf was back, frowning.

"Shh." It growled, pointing back at the floor.

The only way Harry was going to kneel back down is if he was imperiused to do it.

"Yous are not to be going." The elf croaked, pointing back at the floor. "Yous are not finished."

The first years scurried around it, running to the opposite staircase without hesitation; it was as if they could taste the freedom.

Harry swallowed, following the others towards the staircase. There was no doubt that they would be back here the next night, scrubbing brush in hand.

"I will be telling the Headmistress!"

Nott threw a spell over his shoulder, not looking back. Harry didn't want to know whether it was a cleaning charm, or a jinx directed at the house-elf. They were, in all probability, going to get into more trouble for leaving. And funnily enough, not a single fuck was given.

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It felt odd, sleeping in the Slytherin dormitory without Draco. The eerie green glow of the lake was anything but pleasant. Thuds occasionally echoed from Nott's side of the room; Harry didn't know what he was doing over there, but the occasional flash of light brightened the gloomy room every few minutes. It reminded him of summer with the Weasley's; Fred and George's room had had a constant flow of explosions that was oddly calming.

Zabini muttered in his sleep, only some words audiable. So far, he had mentioned toast quite a few times. And the other beds were empty; Crabbe was dead, and Goyle was still indisposed. A heaviness hung over the room that was difficult to ignore.

Harry blinked as a large shape swam before the large window, floating there most ominously before dashing away again. Christ, but he could never get used to that bloody window. For all he knew, the giant squid perved on them whilst getting dressed. Not very likely, but other creatures certainly wouldn't pass up the opportunity; Merpeople, and Myrtle alike.

Harry turned away from the window, inhaling the faint scent of vanilla that lingered over the bed. He couldn't sleep.

Not because Draco wasn't there; he wasn't that dependant.

But because he had been too proud to ask one of the others to cast a silencing charm for him. Draco usually did it, without being asked, each night. Harry knew he had had bad memories of the war, too, and so it had become second nature for the blonde to cast the spells, just as a precaution.

He hadn't had one of the nightmares for weeks now, since he had moved to the Slytherin dormitory, in fact. He knew it was an irrational fear, that the nightmares were lingering just beneath the surface, awaiting a moment of weakness before striking again. It was one thing for people to know you had nightmares, another completely for them to witness it.

He had awoken one too many times mid-scream.

It was shameful enough in Gryffindor Tower; in the Slytherin dungeon, it would be mortifying.

So Harry tossed, and turned, and stared at the eerie shapes that appeared just beyond the window, and tried to stay awake.

He didn't know when he had slipped asleep, only that he had jerked his eyes open, panting, covered in sweat, tangled in the sheets, and humiliated.

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It was Monday, and he was still at Hogwarts. The thought almost made him smile.

Harry had ventured down the breakfast early that morning, wanting a seat before the others arrived. Though they had made it quite clear he was welcomed at Slytherin table, he still wanted to claim his seat early. A precaution against swaying minds.

But he needn't have worried, apparently.

The first few Slytherins to wake nodded as they passed.

A second year threw him a conspiring smirk.

A fourth year actually winked at him.

It was only somewhat horrifying.

"You're up early." Parkinson practically flew towards the bench, grinning already. Merlin, how could anyone be that energetic in the morning? "You completely ruined my plans; I was going to sneak into your bed, and make you shriek like a little girl."

"Good morning to you too, Pansy." Harry nodded, incredulous as a hint of a smile stretched across his face. God, what were the Slytherins doing to him? "And how, exactly, were you going to make me scream?"

She shrugged, unperturbed. "I just assumed when you figured out someone was spooning you, and remembered that Draco's suspended, shrieking would be a natural reaction."

"Uh-huh."

"Don't tell me he doesn't spoon!" She mocked horror, her laughter ruining the desired effect. "I'm going to have to speak to him. Teach him the ways of being the man in the relationship."

"You're never going to believe me if I say I'm not the little spoon, will you?"

"Never." She agreed, snickering. "Draco doesn't have it in him to be submissive." She poured herself a drink, winking at Harry as she caught him staring. She truly wasn't that different from any other girl; pretty eyes, longish brown hair, a mortifying but oddly satisfying sense of humour. He didn't see why the other houses should loathe her; she was nice, once you got to know her. But because of the bad persona connected with being in Slytherin house, they wouldn't give her a chance.

Maybe her vicious streak contributed to her bad popularity. Slightly.

"Now, I'm under strict orders from your boyfriend." She grinned, ignoring Harry as he denied their relationship. "Oh, come off it; it's not exactly a secret for people that actually open their bloody eyes."

"Uh-huh." Harry repeated, thinking of her and Zabini. They dodged around one another, throwing glances when the other wasn't looking, subtle actions each day to indicate their attraction to one another. And yet, neither had made a move. Hypocrite.

"Whatever." She sneered, but her eyes were shining with amusement. "I've been told you're self-conscious about your weight."

What?

"That you have an issue with food. That, to put it delicately, you're borderline anorexic."

Harry could only stare at her. Draco had told her what?

His mouth had gaped open; he didn't know what to say to that. If he denied it, she would be more convinced. "Uh…I think the facts you've been given have been tweaked-"

"Potty," A smirk flittered across her face again. "Oh, it feels good saying that without being hexed into oblivion. Potty," She practically purred, "You're not leaving the table until you eat something."

He blinked.

He felt…oddly content. It was nice knowing someone actually gave a shit, or at least pretended to, about his health. However misguided they were.

"Pansy, sometimes I don't eat, because I'm nauseas. I'm working on it, but I'm not anorexic."

"Whatever helps." She shrugged, pushing his empty plate closer to him. "Eat."

Oh, this was ridiculous! They were making up more ailments for him, because apparently being diseased wasn't bad enough.

Grumbling, Harry jerked his plate away from her, piling it up high. Bloody hell, she had seen him eat before. Why would she think he was starving himself, now, after a lie from Draco?

Slowly the hall began to fill, the chatter becoming deafening rather quickly. The rest of the student body didn't seem too impressed that Slytherin had made a triumphant return, unscathed. And triumphant they were; heads held high, the occasional smirk flittering into place as they made eye contact. Slytherin could teach Voldy a thing or two about manipulating power.

They could certainly teach McGonagall about controlling her emotions; she sat at the head table, sullen, muttering under her breath. If anything, the angrier she became, the happier the Slytherins.

Harry ate as much as he could on the plate, little snippets of food. He didn't know why he was trying to prove anything to Parkinson, but it certainly wasn't helping his nausea. He had to push it away, else run to the bathroom. Maybe she would believe him if he demonstrated his weakened stomach?

Breakfast was quite pleasant, overall.

A little annoying, but a nice affair. Laughter, the odd joke about Harry, the common insult thrown amongst them. Harry would have been very happy to leave it at that.

But no. God, and the Universe, and every little aspect of a deity up wherever, hated his guts. He couldn't have a day without something absolutely mortifying happening to him. The nightmare wasn't public enough; they needed to up the ante.

And they worked, through the insufferable little prick named Draco, and his awful sense of humour.

Hell, they had probably sent the wind behind the eagle, just so it would arrive in time for breakfast.

A package. Seemingly harmless.

But since post had finished, it caught the eye of the majority of the hall. Merely curiosity; no one really cared.

Until the Slytherin table had exploded with laughter.

Harry couldn't even defend himself; he simply hid behind his hands, waiting for the laughter to die down.

It didn't.

Draco had sent him multiple magazines, which were now being passed quite quickly up and down the green table. He could hear pages ripping as only god-knows-who decided on a page for keepsake; others fell against the table, losing their Slytherin decorum in favour of Harry's distress. Parkinson was practically drooling at the mouth.

Harry didn't want to know how many there were, he didn't want to know what they contained, he didn't want them thought of with him in the same room again. Merlin, he was going to let Draco give Dudley his well-deserved tail, after this.

He had caught the glimpse of the first cover, and that had been enough.

A fairly graphic photograph of two men doing only Merlindidn't want to know what! With the fascinatingly horrific title: 'Save a Broom; Ride a Quidditch Player!'

And trust Zabini to find the small note that fluttered from the box, and raise that bloody suggestive eyebrow.

"To add to your collection?" He read, trying to unsuccessfully pry Harry's hands from his mortified, red face. "Harry James, you kinky bastard!"

Oh dear god, kill him now.

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.

"I don't like any of you." Harry muttered, definitely not pouting as he stared at his cauldron. It was getting increasingly difficult not to curse them; Parkinson couldn't stop giggling. She would stop, they would all saftely fall under false pretenses that they were saved from her high-pitched squealing…and it would start up again. Zabini wasn't helping, of course. He just had to catch her eye, and they were off again.

Hell, even Neville looked amused, sitting quietly on the opposite side of the classroom. The rest of the Gryffindors had no comment; if it was making the Slytherins laugh, it had to be presumed bad. Of that, Harry was fervently thankful.

They giggled, again.

"Oh, come off it! It wasn't that funny." Harry snapped, rolling their eyes as it set them off again. Zabini was probably just happy he was bonding with her.

"Your face!" Parkinson laughed, running a hand through her hair to mess it up. "Your face was priceless! I have to get a bloody camera!"

The thought of Parkinson with a camera was a disturbing one.

Harry would have to live in his invisibility cloak.

He had never been so thankful to start a potions lesson.

Slughorn entered the room with his usually puffing, waddling up to the desk and getting his books propped up for the lesson. Not a practical today; another plus in Harry's books. There was a shuffle around the room as everyone got out their books, and quills. No one liked theory lessons, not NEWT standard. Only Harry, apparently.

But Slughorn didn't begin the lesson.

The class exchanged puzzled glances as their professor stood before his desk, hands clasped together and a slight smile on his face. No one could remember him looking so content; not in one of his Slug Club parties, not when bragging about famous people that owed him favours. He just stood there, smiling at the ground.

After a few awkward moments and plenty of shuffling uncomfortably in their seat, Slughorn looked up. He turned to the Slytherin side of the room, just…staring.

This was the first time they had seen the Head of Slytherin since their disappearance. Harry could practically feel the challenge rising up in the air; if anything, the Slytherins around him sat up straighter, their heads held high. They regret nothing.

Slughorn's gaze landed on Harry.

"Fifty points to Slytherin." He nodded, bouncing on his feet.

Harry blinked in shock, glancing towards the other side of the room. The Gryffindors looked confused, and angry. Well, that was ordinary behaviour, by now. The Slytherins looked just as bewildered as him.

"Now, who knows the properties of a Class D love potion?"

He had to be Slytherin, somehow. He was…proud of their blackmail?

The entire lesson continued the same way. He would ask questions, made them scribble down their answers on the board behind him, ensured they were all copying the correct notes. But his proud demeanour didn't alter in the slightest. Nott and Zabini were blatantly chatting the entire class, and he didn't bat an eye. Ron coughed, and he was deducted five points for disturbing the quiet!

It was bizarre; almost like having Snape back in the classroom. Neville must have agreed, because he didn't look up from his book once.

Not even when Zabini, curse him, sent a piece of paper fluttering to the front of the room. Slughorn had snatched it up immediately, eyebrows rising high into his hair. He gaped, turning beet red, and spluttered before everyone, turning the picture for all to see. It was from the bloody magazine this morning; nothing was censored.

"W-who owns this…this filth?" He yelped, eyes widening as Nott snickered.

"That's Potters."

Slughorn had dropped it face up on his desk, frowning at him, but leaving it at that. No points deducted at all.

Gryffindor radiated fury.

As they travelled up to lunch they past a humming Trelawney, who smiled brightly at them all. The Slytherins almost died in shock as she bared their way, eyes shining brightly.

"Lovely morning, isn't it?" She said, voice not eerie in the slightest. She wasn't putting on any airs, and that was more terrifying than if she predicted their gruesome deaths.

Zabini was the first to recover, frowning slightly. "Uh…yes, it is, Professor."

"Oh, what lovely manners! Ten points each." And she drifted off, ignoring their bewildered expressions. Apparently, some of the teachers didn't agree with McGonagall's decision. More than some, as they entered the hall and gaped at the Slytherin hourglass; it shimmered with emeralds, towering over the other houses.

They mutineed against the Headmistress, and their punishment was to win the house cup.

"We should try this caring shit more often." Nott laughed, leading the way to the table.

Harry blinked, shaking his head softly. They shouldn't be going out of their ways, for him. He wasn't going to be here much longer, after all. Why would they all risk their Headmistress's anger for someone that wouldn't exist come next year?

He glanced at the head table, taking in the Professors' conspiring smiles, and McGonagall's frosty demeanour. Slughorn was boasting about his house to all that would listen, and, incredibly, more than a few were nodding in agreement.

It felt nice, to have people care.

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The happiness couldn't last.

Harry's sighed for the twelfth time that minute, running another hand through his hair. He didn't want to do it; his feet were heavy with each step, a small reminder to simply not go. They tried to return him to the Slytherin dormitory constantly; he had actually reached the opening before realising he had returned.

It was a constant battle to climb the school, and his feet were winning.

If he didn't go, he couldn't stay at Hogwarts. Simple as that.

If he didn't go, he was giving up prematurely.

Even so, he didn't want to go.

He slowly climbed the steps to McGonagall's office, one step every ten or so seconds. Anything to prolong the inevitable. His hands froze before he was able to knock, willing him to spin around and escape to the dungeon. His heart rose up to his throat, making it impossible to speak, or swallow.

This fear was irrational.

He was going to get a diagnosis; it wasn't as if he was ascending into hell. Despite the torture.

Harry sighed again, opening the mahogany door.

McGonagall didn't berate him for not knocking. She simply nodded, her anger still radiating around her, joined now by disappointment. She studied him standing by the door, gesturing towards the fireplace when he made no effort to move.

Another exhausted sigh escaped, before Harry conjured the effort to stop it. He shuffled into the room, ignoring the pointed stare from his Headmistress. She was frowning at him, as if she was about to make a comment. Harry didn't let her.

"What office?" He asked, numbly, keeping his eyes on the fireplace. He grabbed a handful of the powder, ready to go, and successfully preventing any conversation. Even so, there was a moment's hesitation before she answered.

"Healer Brown, seventh floor. Listen, Harry-"

Harry quickly stepped into the fire. "Healer Brown's Office, Seventh Floor, St Mungo's Hospital." It was a bit much to say, and for a moment it didn't seem to work, but his crude wording registered within the floo network. One moment he was avoiding McGonagall's hesitating voice, the next he was spinning through the fireplace.

Harry had always hated the floo, but today he relished in it. It was magical. He could still travel by the magical means.

And though it was making him nauseas, all too soon he was thrown from a fireplace, tumbling heavily to the floor.

Well.

He groaned, spitting out the copious amount of soot that somehow managed to find lodgings in his mouth. He couldn't have hoped for a more graceful landing.

"That was magnificent."

Harry blinked at the amused voice, hoisting himself off of the floor. His legs trembled a bit; another urge to return to the castle.

"Really, I don't think I've ever seen a better failure. You're winning by a mile."

"Miss Harris," A sterner voice broke in. "Do you think your behaviour is appropriate?"

Harry wiped soot from his eyes, frowning. He could only see two blurred outlines; where had his glasses gone? "Uh…do you mind..?" He asked, blinking as one of the two immediately cleaned him up of soot. His glasses were pressed into his hands a moment later, so he hurried to get them on. Better to see who his torturers were.

Two women stood before him, both in those horrible lime green uniforms.

The elder had flecks of grey in her black hair, pulled back into a tight bun. She was somewhat stocky, with permanent frown wrinkles across her face. She didn't look like one who knew how to smile.

The other was a younger girl, wearing a broad smile. She had pretty auburn hair, pulled up messily into a distorted bun. A trainee. Great.

"Mister Potter." He assumed the elder was Healer Brown. She held out a firm hand, which he reluctantly shook. "It's good to have you back with us. If you'll follow us, we'll lead you to your room."

Right down to business.

Harry nodded, forcing his hesitant feet to follow them.

He felt as if he was a young boy, being led to detention. They stormed before him, almost barging everyone out of the way as they twisted through a maze of corridors. Thankfully they didn't come across another patient, only their Healers.

Even so, each one turned as they passed, eyebrows raising or jaws gaping. It was true; Harry Potter was in the hospital. Most avoided his gaze, only a few brave ones nodding to him as he passed. As if that nod was going to make everything alright, and give him strength for the torture to come.

Harry sighed again, glancing away as the trainee turned to stare at him.

Was it too late to turn back?

Apparently, as they opened a door and waited for him to shuffle inside before following. To ensure he didn't escape, in all probability.

It was just as awful as he remembered. There was a bed in the centre of the room, surrounded by multitudes of equipment that he didn't want to know their uses. A single painting sat on the wall; a picture of some sunflowers in a vase. There were no windows.

Dim lights flickered to life, extracting another sigh.

It was only after he entered this room, that he actually felt sick.

"Now, the diagnosis will begin at nine. That gives you some time to get used to your room, and get comfortable. I will return then. Your robes are by the bed-"

"Robes?" Harry turned, and felt like vomiting. He had to wear hospital robes? "I'm not wearing them."

"It's standard procedure." As if that was going to change his mind.

"I'm not wearing them."

She gave him a flat stare, unimpressed. "Mister Potter, you're about to undertake an excruciating painful, intense procedure. If anything unexpected happens, do you want to prohibit us from helping you, all because you chose to wear jeans?"

"Don't let anything unexpected happen." He replied, wanting to roll his eyes. What could possibly happen that was life threatening because he was wearing jeans instead of a robe?

"I won't start the procedure, unless you're in that robe." She ended the conversation. "I will be back at nine."

Harry threw a glare at her back, turning back to the bed. He stopped short, blinking at the trainee. She was sitting cross-legged on his bed, smirking up at him.

"You shouldn't try to fight her; she's a bitch." She grinned, shuffling off of the bed to toss him the robe. "If you wear the robe, I'll get you some ice cream to sooth that incredible ego I'm sensing you're hiding."

Harry didn't know if she was doing her job, or trying to cheer him up, or plain insult him. "I…what?"

She grinned again, as if she knew his internal debate. "Look, I was on your side a few weeks ago. Why bother wear the robe? It's a piece of bloody clothing." She crossed to one of the dressers along a wall, plopping herself on top of it to continue smirking at Harry. "But last week this guy point blank refused to wear the robe, and a piece of equipment blew up, and he almost lost his leg because we couldn't get him out of his skinny jeans. True story."

"That just makes me worried that you're equipment is faulty." Harry replied, watching as her grin stretched across her face, and she laughed.

"Still; wear the robe. Appease the beast. She grows on you; like a parasite. I mean, if I can pull off this ghastly thing," She twirled, showing off the pure lime of her uniform. "Then you can pull off a very revealing robe."

Harry blinked at her. She wasn't what he was expecting. "Okay, Healer Harris. I'll wear the robe."

"Jeez, don't call me that. I'm not a Healer yet, just an apprentice. Healer Harris, makes me sound so old. I'm Kelly. Kell."

"Alright, Kelly." He shrugged out of his Weasley sweater, setting it down on the bed. "Get out so I can get changed?"

"Aw, shy, are you?" She laughed, eyes shining with amusement. "What happened to the ego?"

"You weren't Slytherin by chance, were you?"

"Damn right I was."

Harry pointed to the door. "Go get me my ice cream."

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Harry sat awkwardly on the bed, atop of the covers. In the hospital robe, that made him feel as diseased as he was. At least he had shrugged the sweater back on, hiding his skinny arms, and his tattoo. He had left the tattoo covered, but didn't know how much longer that would last; it seemed the two Healers assigned to him got whatever they wanted; together, they were unbeatable. It didn't seem like fair odds at all. And if they wanted to see what was underneath his bandage, Harry was betting they would.

The trainee had come back, true to her word, with a tub of icecream. Sea-salt ice cream. Harry had been a bit reluctant, with the dodgy name, but he had been prodded into tasting it. It wasn't half bad.

Anyway, it was just to appease him while they got information. Positive enforcement, or something.

"So, any reactions to any of the treatments, as of yet?" Kelly asked, clipboard on her knee, sitting on the bed again. Harry didn't mind her; at least she met his eyes, and didn't seem to care who the hell he was. Her weird mannerisms would make her a damn good Healer. Harry shook his head, taking another bite of the salty ice cream. It would make him throw up later, but for now, he was enjoying it. Why shouldn't he?

"You've been taking the right potions, at the allocated times?" He nodded.

"The magic stabilizing potions dosage has been doubled?"

"Yes."

"Do you have anyone you want me to call to sit in for your treatment?"

Harry blinked, glancing up at her. "You just slipped that one in, didn't you?"

"Can you blame me?" She grinned, raising her eyebrows. "Well? Want me to call someone in? You don't have to be by yourself, you know."

"No." Harry didn't clarify which statement he was referring to; she was a Slytherin, she would be used to that. "No one's coming."

"But they can come-"

"Don't call anyone." Harry repeated, nodding to the paper. "Come on, I'm sure there are more actual questions." She stared at him for a moment, before huffing to herself, turning back to the paper. Harry didn't see why it was any of her business. He was here, in secrecy. No one would turn up for the torture, because no one knew of the torture. Draco was suspended; he was half way across the country. Harry wasn't so pathetic that he would beg him to come to every bloody treatment.

"Has your magic reacted badly, since you've last been here?" She asked, pen at the ready.

Harry groaned at that question, running a hand through his hair. "How many incidents do you want?"

"As many as you can give me."

"Alright…uh, I went blind, for a week or two. I used a lumos charm for that one. Uh…I locked a door and my wounds started reopening."

"How many wounds?" Her voice had turned indifferent, into the Healer persona.

"All…All of them." He pretended he didn't see her wince.

"All previous wounds? As in cuts, or bruises?"

"Both. I had splinched my hand once before, so it happened again. My arm and nose re-broke. Everything."

"Anything else?"

"And…uh, what else? I've been getting bruises that just pop up randomly now, with or without magic. My arm broke itself…Oh, my systems shut down once."

"What system?"

"Uh, it started with my nerves, I couldn't feel anything, then my limbs just stopped working. I couldn't lift my arms, I remember. I just flopped everywhere. I think that one was the worst."

"You forgot when you almost drowned in your own blood." Harry snapped his head up at the drawl, heart rising to his throat. "I think that was the worst."

How could that insufferable git manage to sneak in here?

Wasn't he suspended? And in trouble with his parole?

But there he was, bloody mask in place as he stared around the room, lip curling with disgust. He utterly ignored Trainee Kelly, snapping the door shut behind him. "Well, your room is absolutely horrendous. Christ, they seem to want to give the impression of impending doom, don't they?"

"Are you allowed to be here?" Harry asked, ignoring the eye roll directed at him. "You kind of have a broken parole to deal with."

"It was a slap on the wrist, at most." He shrugged. "I've worn out my last chance. No threats of Azkaban yet, though, so nothing worth worrying about." He approached the bed with his head cocked to one side. "You never told me that your entire fucking body shut down."

"Ages ago." Harry couldn't help the grin as Draco took his spoon, helping himself to some ice cream. Trainee Kelly's face was priceless; she was torn between bewildered and irritated. "Nothing worth worrying about." He mimicked, shuffling over on his bed to make room for Draco.

A hint of a smirk appeared on his face, as he scooted next to Harry, eating his ice cream. "Always a pleasure to see you, too." He drawled, "Such enthusiasm you summon for me. Really, it's not as if I broke my parole for you."

"You broke your parole because you hate McGonagall." Harry scoffed, "Which, by the way, has led to winning Slytherin the house cup. We have over seven hundred points at the moment; Nott sneezed, and gained points."

Draco snickered, gesturing with a hand for the gobsmacked Kelly to continue. "Well, go on. Question." He drawled shifting against the pillow.

Harry couldn't help the grin that stretched over his face. Draco just made everything better.

Kelly regained her composure fairly quickly. "Right. Alright. Uh, how about I start with the common who the hell are you?"

Draco merely raised a single eyebrow, before continuing to eat. "Draco Malfoy. Charmed." He sounded anything but, as he finally caught sight of the robe Harry was in. He flicked it with distaste. "What's this? Makes you look sickly."

"Acute observation." Harry turned back to the trainee, nodding at her. "Ignore him. Anymore questions?"

She blinked at him, then at Harry; he could slowly see the gears flicking into place. "I just need to know if you have anything else to declare, and we can get this show on the road."

Great.

"Nothing else."

"Fantastic. You want another bowl of ice cream, since your boy toy ate all yours?" She grinned as Draco glared. "Oh, relax. Don't you remember me? You were a first year my last year."

"Not in the slightest." Draco remarked, "You obviously weren't worth the time."

Harry nudged him to shut up, but it didn't seem to perturb the Healer. She shrugged, turning back to Harry. "Do you want anything brought up? We have a muggle television we stole from the research department; al l the latest chick flicks. Something to keep your mind off it."

"I'm fine." And he would be, despite her disbelieving stare. Draco was here.

"I'll go get Healer Brown, then."

"I don't like the bint." Draco stated, before she had even left the room. Her hand hesitated on the door a moment, before she left, snapping it a tad too hard. "Too chatty."

"You're just annoyed she called you a boy toy." Harry shrugged, swallowing as Draco turned to him, silvery eyes tracing over his poorly covered body.

"That's because you'remy boy toy, not the other way around." He murmured, a cold hand reaching out to curl up around Harry's ankle. "I don't like this place. It's portraying you as sick."

"…I am sick." Harry muttered, shifting deeper into the pillow, rolling his eyes when Draco summoned quite a large plush one instead.

"You're so much more."

Harry swallowed tightly, wishing he had the television or something to divert his attention. This conversation was getting too heavy, he needed something to lighten the-

"Oi! Why the hell did you tell Parkinson I'm fucking anorexic!" He successfully ruined the mood, pointing a finger at Draco. "No, get that innocent lie off of your face! She's been bloody hounding me, shoving meals at me, following me around after I eat so I don't throw it up! It's been a nightmare!"

"I did no such thing." Draco sniffed, settling in against a second summoned pillow. "I'm offended."

"She said you were the one that told her. What reason would Parkinson have to lie?"

"What reason would I?" Draco replied, easily. Almost too easily. "Listen, you daft prick; Pansy likes you. She considers you a Slytherin. And in Slytherin, we take care of our own. If she's forcing you to eat, she probably thinks you eat too little. Maybe she caught a glimpse of your skinny arse in the shower. I don't know. I don't care. If it gets you to eat properly, not the shitty little spoonfuls you pretend to consume when I'm around, I'm going to give her a fucking kiss when I get back."

Harry's jaw dropped open, something akin to rage settling in his stomach. "Don't you dare!" He snapped. "If you kiss Parkinson, I'm never kissing you again! And don't even think about sex!"

"A-hem."

Oh, dear god.

Harry snapped his head up to the door, groaning as he saw it filled with several staff members. Healer Brown was at the front, eyebrows raised as she stared at him. Trainee Kelly made a single catcall, before pushing her way into the room, wriggling her eyebrows suggestively.

Harry turned to Draco for support…

The prick was smirking, as smug as he ever could be. He had no shame. He wasn't embarrassed. But damn it, he was enjoying Harry's mortification.

Harry groaned, hiding behind his hands as they entered the room, face hot.

"Jealous of Pansy, are we?"

"Shut it." Harry growled, sinking deeper into the pillow. It was so large, perhaps another dimension was hidden in there.

"It's good to see you've heeded my advice with the robes." Healer Brown remarked, turning her flat stare to Draco. "And it's good to see you've brought company. If you would remove your jumper, we can begin."

Harry sighed, shrugging from the jumper, feeling awfully exposed with his skinny little arms uncovered. He was knobbly, and probably looked terrible from Draco's point of view. He sighed again, as they began their spells. He angled his head so his fringe covered his eyes; at least he wouldn't have to partake in the humiliation.

There was about twenty different people in the room, all clambering over devices, pulling the machines out, running simple diagnostic spells on him.

"Eight percent." One of the Healers said, flicking his wand again. "Negative. Negative. Sixty one Kilograms."

"Sixty one?" Healer brown turned her stare back to Harry. "That's underweight for your age, and height. Do you think there are any contributing factors involved with your weight loss?"

It was Harry's turn to stare at her until she felt uncomfortable. "Stress, perhaps." He growled. Was she serious? He was fucking dying! Maybe that's why he couldn't eat a damn thing!

"He's also anorexic."

"Shut it, Draco."

"What's that?" She ignored the remark, pointing to Harry's forearm. "Do you have an injury that may inhibit the procedure?"

"It's my tattoo." He replied evenly.

"Is it infected?"

"No."

"Why do you have it under a bandage?"

"Tattoo's aren't allowed at Hogwarts." Harry shrugged. "Why would I put it on display, when I could get expelled because of it?"

There was an agonising few minutes whilst they prepared the room, the majority of the Healers leaving. Only a handful remained, checking the equipment, applying heat packs to Harry's forearms to circulate the blood.

Draco remained silent the entire time.

It almost made Harry cringe.

He was seeing, firsthand, how sick he was.

How pathetic.

"Okay, Harry," Trainee Kelly returned, her smile somewhat diminished now. She still tried, however. "Do you want your hands restrained, or free? We have a selection of restraints available; don't worry, they're all soft on your skin, and won't let a mark. I've got a few kinky handcuffs, if you want to spice this party up a little."

Harry could only frown, unsure. "I…uh…have a choice?"

"Of course." She faltered slightly. "You're not an animal, you're our patient. So, free, or restrained?"

Harry hated himself sometimes. He really did.

He wanted nothing more than to have his hands free during a diagnostic, but…the time he had had them free, he had clawed at his chest until it was raw and bloody. He wasn't about to do that again, not in front of Draco.

"…I'll take the rest-"

"No, he doesn't need them." Draco spoke over him, eyes icy.

"Draco, I-"

"Harry."

Damn him and his cheating ways! Why did he only have to say his name and Harry would concede? What did Harry have to do to get the upper hand here?

"Do you want the restraints?" Trainee Kelly utterly ignored Draco, staring only at Harry. Damn it, they had begun connecting his left arm already.

"…no."

They hooked him up to the machines all too efficiently for Harry's liking; albeit, with a little trouble from Draco's side.

He point blank refused to shift on the bed, making the poor trainee a shaking mess when he had to lean over him to attach the needle. When Harry winced at the prick, Draco's killer glare only intensified; the poor trainee actually squeaked.

Harry swallowed, shifting over on the bed, jaw clenching as the awful hum indicated the machines were turned on. Any moment now…

"Aren't you leaving?" Harry blinked at Draco's question, glancing around the room. Healer brown was sitting in a chair by one machine, pen at the ready. Trainee Kelly, and two more, were hovering over her shoulder, taking notes or shifting awkwardly. Why hadn't they left yet?

"It's our job to observe." Healer Brown answered, sharp eyes focussed on the machine. "How can we do that if we're not in the room?"

Harry's arm jerked as the potion finally slithered its way into his viens, burning the first few nerves it could find. It took more strength than Harry thought he had to simply clench his wrist, and not yank the horrible tubing from his arm. Christ, no one could get used to this.

It squirmed through his hand, tossing aside muscle and bone alike as it mades its procession to his fingertips. Once there it held on, squeezing, trying to burn a hole through Harry's nail and, once it failed at that, viciously drew its claws along the underside of his skin. Harry's hand jerked again, fingers twitching as though he had just had a crucio cast on him. It was agony; like holding a hand over open flame.

Thirty seconds in, and he was already hesitating over asking the Healers to stop.

They all stared at him, calculating. They scribbled down his reactions, as if he was nothing more than a test subject. Their eyes drilled into him, noticing any minuscule sign of discomfort, or pain. He hadn't felt this ashamed, even with the restraints.

Draco shifted besides him, pulling out his wand in deliberately slow movements, as if he was trying to catch Harry's attention. He immediately succeeded; anything to focus on, other than the pain, and those indifferent stares. Christ, Harry had thought Draco was unresponsive; he practically radiated with emotions, compared to the stoicism of the Healers.

"Silenco." He pointed his wand at the various Healers in the room, utterly ignoring their indignant expressions. "There. At least we can't hear their irritating puffing."

"Puffing?" Harry managed to ask without mumbling, voice clear for once. Miracle. "What puffing?"

"I'll allow you to be distracted, since you're currently being tortured. The puffing; the huffing, and tremendously infuriating noises that idiot with pimples over his face is spewing in our general direction."

"You're angry at him…" Harry winced as the potion curled around his elbow, digging into his cartilage. He couldn't move his arm if he wanted to, right now. "For breathing?"

"For incredibly annoying breathing." A smirk appeared, however, across his pointy face. That never boded well. "And speaking of huffing and puffing, did you like my parcel?"

That's right; this bastard had humiliated him before the entire table!

"Oi, prick!" Harry nudged him, rolling his eyes as he batted the hand easily away. "Do you have any idea how mortifying that was!?" He was acutely aware of the potion sliding to his shoulders, nudging apart the muscle, tearing into bone.

"I do have some idea, yes. That was the general idea."

"For your smutty porn to be delivered at breakfast?"

"I had aimed for potions." Draco smirked, scooting closer so their shoulders brushed. He casually landed a hand on Harry's thigh, resting it there. And suddenly, Harry didn't care where the hell the potion was. He vaguely felt it slithering around his throat, but his heart was beating so hard in his chest he could barely focus on it. "And anyway, it was your porn. To add to your collection."

"I'm returning them."

"Can't return used goods." He laughed at Harry's grimace, his thumb beginning that utterly magical stroking against his leg. Draco should look into being a masusse. "And like you can talk. No sex if I kiss Pansy, indeed." He scoffed, smirk in his voice, humour in his eyes. "You can't take something off the table, without putting it on the table, first."

Harry's face was red, as he recalled his public outburst. "I don't know why I said that. Erase it from your memory. And, before we leave, the Healers, if you will indulge me."

"You're sexually frustrated." Draco drawled, inching his hand a little higher. It only shifted about a centimetre, barely noticeable. Harry's eyes snapped to it immediately. "Understandable."

"Erase it. From. Your. Memory."

"I'm afraid I just can't do that." He shifted again, lifting Harry's arm and ducking under it, so he was sitting just behind his shoulder. What on earth was he doing? "The anticipation is feeding me. Who knew you were such as tease?"

"Ha-fucking-ha." Harry turned his head to raise his eyebrows at his blonde, who was still manuvoring himself. "What the hell are you doing? Get back here so I can see your pointy face."

Draco shifted again, moving one of his legs so he was sitting directly behind Harry, his legs either side of his. He leant his chin on Harry's shoulder, and grabbed both of his wrists, folding them to his chest in one of the most awkward hug-like things Harry had ever experienced. Draco was wrapped around him, trapping his hands, as if unaware of the eight eyes drilling into them.

"What are you doing?"

"You don't have to be so tense. It's not as if I'm strangling you."

"You easily could, from your position." Harry replied, shifting against his chest. He wanted to see Draco, not talk to the incredulous trainee opposite. "You're a much better cuddler in bed."

"Technically, we're on a bed." Draco murmured back, his voice sending tingles down Harry's spine. He leant back on the bed, drawing Harry closer, if that was at all possible. He could feel the warmth of his chest, radiating into his back. Feel every heartbeat, that contradicted the rumour that Malfoy's were unfeeling. "It usually takes a few minutes." He spoke even quieter, so only Harry could hear him. "For the worst."

He drew him closer still, and Harry understood.

The horrific potion was digging around his throat, inching its way downwards, inwards.

Harry let his eyes slide shut, bracing himself the best he could. He leant his head back, so he could subtly inhale that gorgous vanilla to distract-

It crawled its way into his heart, into his magic, and squeezed.

Harry didn't know if he had gasped, groaned, or shrieked. He didn't know if he was jerking, headbutting Draco, or thrashing on the bed. He didn't know if the disgusting thing played its cruel game with his heart for a minute, or five, or ten.

He knew it hurt, more than anything should.

And Draco's arms tightened around his, unflinching.

.

.

.

Harry winced as unsure hands removed the needles, guaranteeing his eyes were covered by his hair. He wanted to scurry back to the castle, as quickly as he could, and delve into the ignorance of those around him. He couldn't take much more of the gaping, or the hastily avoiding stares. Of this bloody robe, that labelled him as sick! He wanted to rip the stupid thing off; he would risk his magic's wrath, if it allowed him to burn it.

He didn't want to be sick anymore; he just wanted to be Harry. Just Harry. Hell, he would take muggle Harry, or the eleven year old shoved in a cupboard, strangled by his uncle Harry. He would happily take the Harry stranded in a tree, with the horrible Ripper trying to shred his feet. Anything than the pathetic, weak, humiliated person he was steadily becoming.

He knew the Healer was speaking to him, telling him of the results. He couldn't hear. It was dulled into an annoying hum; not nearly as important as feeling Draco's heartbeat against his back.

Oh, god. Draco.

Had he finally realised just how ill he was becoming? How futile prolonging his life was-?

The thumb began stroking his thigh again, the small movement catching his attention. They had said something important, probably.

Sighing inwardly, he shifted to glance up.

Healer Brown was holding out a potion for him to take.

He glanced at the word 'kidney' on the vile, and snapped his eyes away, downing the potion in a disinterested gulp. He didn't want to know.

Her voice hummed on, dull, emotionless. She was a Healer, that was all. She wasn't invested in his case. She didn't care as long as it didn't mar her record.

Wait.

"What was that?" Harry asked, staring at her clipboard rather than her face. He couldn't. He didn't even dare glance in Kelly's direction. "I…what did you just say?"

She probably huffed at him, straightening with importance. "I asked what your plans were for returning to Hogwarts. Were you returning tonight, or in the morning? We can set up a bed, if you're tired." Draco stilled behind him, his thoughts blatantly clear.

"…I'd like to return tomorrow morning. Am I… allowed to stay at home for tonight, though? I don't like hospitals that much."

"That's fine. I'll get Healer Kelly to get the discharge papers."

Harry sat in silence as they shuffled around the room. They had just given him freedom.

Draco leaned forwards, resting his head on Harry's shoulder, a smirk in his voice.

"Want to stay at mine, tonight?"

.

.

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