Prologue - Sea Swept
He came to with a start and nearly flung himself up and away at the feel of something cold and wet beneath his cheek, but then he stilled, warned by some sort of instinct, and held himself steady. He opened his eyes.
The smell of salt assailed him and he lifted his head to see only darkness. He was sopping wet, and heard a repetitive lap lap lap sound. The slight movement of his head caused whatever he lay upon to tip and rock; as well as setting up a clamour of pain-bells in his brain.
Bloody hell, he thought, wincing. He forced his eyes open again and saw nothing but darkness, and then he made out the battered edge of a piece of wood. He seemed to be floating on a makeshift raft upon the sea. Lovely. He lay his head back upon the wood and shut his eyes. His head throbbed.
Deciding there wasn't much he could do about his predicament until daylight, he drifted back into unconsciousness.
Chapter One - Flotsam
Draco strolled along the gravel road, shoes crunching in a comforting rhythm as he walked. Morning was his favourite time of day, a blank canvas filled with promise and potential that generally revealed itself as monotony, routine, and crushing boredom, but sometimes he was pleasantly surprised and he usually awoke with a hopeful outlook.
Sunrise was just tinting the edges of the few clouds with a purple-peach glow, and the Mediterranean Sea picked up a hint of the colour as the waves gently lapped against the low rock wall that separated the gravel road from the water. Weather-wise, the day should remain just as lovely as the current beauty promised.
Draco frowned as he neared the edge of the rock wall. It had broken away long ago and turned into a jumble of scattered stones; some of them lay submerged and others had wandered out into the scrubby sea grass. A large, dark lump lay just beyond the submerged stones, something that did not belong. Draco had walked this path nearly every day for the past five years and he had never seen anything large washed ashore.
Checking that his wand was still tucked into the leather sling between his shoulder blades—it was—he walked closer to investigate.
As he approached, what first appeared to be a bundle of rags became an outstretched arm and fingers.
Merlin, all I need is a dead body popping up nearly on my doorstep. Draco thought about turning right round and marching back to his house, but he supposed the authorities would come knocking on his door anyway, due to the proximity of the corpse. Perhaps it would be less trouble in the long run to call the police himself.
He sighed heavily and walked closer. Pity, the man seemed to be in decent shape, judging by the muscular arm. Hopefully he hadn't been in the water long. Draco wasn't getting near him if he were half-eaten.
The man floated on a slab of wood, splintered, but large enough to hold his full weight. Draco wondered if he'd been shipwrecked. A dark shock of hair covered most of the man's face.
Draco knelt, grimacing as the sea water sloshed up and over his shoes. He reached out and felt the man's neck, seeking a pulse. The skin was cold, as expected, but after a moment Draco sensed a thready heartbeat fluttering beneath his fingertips. He rocked back on his heels, trying to decide whether or not he was pleased that the man lived. A corpse would have been less trouble, really.
There was no help for it. Draco stood and looked carefully up and down the beach, alert for any of his neighbours. They tended to be late risers, but with his luck one of them would decide to wander out for a morning walk today.
The coast looked clear, so Draco reached back and unsheathed his wand. As usual, it was a relief to hold it. Normally he only did so in the privacy of his home. He had grown used to living amongst Muggles, but he missed being able to utilise magic whenever he needed it.
He cast a Lightening Charm on the man and then stooped down to pick him up, hoisting him over his shoulders like a sack of grain. Not that he had ever carried a sack of grain, Merlin forbid, but he'd seen photos in the static Muggle magazines in town.
Once inside his house, Draco paused, faced with another conundrum. From the outside, he lived in a modest, two-room shack. The locals thought him an eccentric Englishman escaping from a sordid past (and possibly a jealous lover). He had done little to discourage their rumours.
He supposed it would be wisest to continue the charade. Crossing the sparse living room, Draco nudged open the bedroom door and placed the man on the rough-hewn four-poster. He looked around as he did so, hoping the place looked lived-in. In truth, Draco hadn't spent a single night in this room.
He flicked on the bedside lamp and cast a quick Drying Charm on the man, not wanting to ruin the bedcovers. He might not have slept in the bed, but he still owned the duvet and he wanted to keep it decent.
As the lamp light brightened the room, Draco glanced at the man... And froze.
His features looked bloody familiar. A memory niggled at the corner of his mind, bringing back images long-buried. It couldn't be.
Shaking, Draco reached out a hand and brushed the damp strands of black hair away from the man's forehead, to reveal a scar in the shape of a lightning bolt.
Draco sat down on the edge of the bed, staring. It couldn't be. It couldn't. But it was.
Harry Potter had found him.
Draco paced. And then he made a cup of tea and paced some more. And then he went back into the bedroom to verify that Harry Potterwas still in his bed (he was) and that he was still breathing (he was).
Despite the fact that it was utterly insane, Draco had to assume that it was real. That Potter was real. And unconscious. That last thing was important. If Draco didn't do something, then Potter might quickly become not-alive and then Draco would be responsible (sort of) for the death of the wizarding world's greatest champion. Or, at least, Britain's greatest champion. Draco wasn't sure if anyone in Spain had even heard of him. He hadn't bothered to ask; Draco didn't spend much time amongst Spanish wizards. And when he did he went disguised with... Polyjuice Potion. Of course.
Smiling a little, Draco entered the bathroom, depressed the tile with the snake motif, and walked through the wall when it shifted aside to reveal the secret passage. The room he entered was nothing like the shack he had left; his real living room was large and ornate, complete with provincial cherry wood furnishings, lush carpets, a huge fireplace, and a number of doors leading to, respectively, his kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, library, and potion's lab.
It was to the last that he headed. Recognition had been a worry ever since he had fled the U.K. for warmer, friendlier climes. Therefore he had made certain to keep a large stockpile of Polyjuice Potion on hand, along with a selection of hairs to provide a solid number of disguises.
Draco pulled out a tiny wooden drawer and lifted a blondish hair from a designated tray. Blond Muggle Number Six. Draco's favourite. He tucked the hair into a bottle of Polyjuice and then tucked the bottle into his pocket. If Potter so much as twitched, Draco would be gone; replaced by a nondescript Muggle that no wizard would recognise.
As it turned out, Potter didn't twitch. He didn't so much as blink while Draco disrobed him, cleaned and bandaged his wounds, and applied healing salves. Potter had quite an array of injuries, including broken ribs, a nasty, infected gash on his right thigh, multiple bruises and contusions, and a large lump on his forehead, just above the famous scar. The last was probably responsible for Potter's unconsciousness.
Draco had found Potter's wand inside of his shirt. It seemed a miracle that it hadn't fallen out during whatever sea voyage Potter had taken. Draco placed it atop the bookshelf on the far side of the small bedroom. He considered snapping it in half and throwing it into the sea, to tell Potter that it had been lost, but he pictured Potter flying through clawing, searing flames to rescue him and then put the idea aside. Potter carried only one other item: a decent-sized bag filled with Galleons and Sickles, and a sodden piece of parchment wrapped around a Gringotts key. Draco opened it to find writing unmarred by the seawater. Charmed, for certain.
The contents might be useful to you. I dare not send it to you directly and hopefully this key won't be intercepted. Good luck.
The note was unsigned. Draco folded it, replaced the key, and set it next to Potter's wand.
In spite of his injuries, Potter looked good. He looked very good, in fact. Draco let his gaze drift over the unconscious man. Potter's youthful lankiness had fled, replaced with defined muscles and sculpted curves that were not bulky, but suggested strength and robust health.
Potter's black hair was much longer, hanging well over his eyes and curling onto the pillow. A dark shadow covered his chin; another day and it would turn into a proper beard. It looked strange on him, as did the lack of glasses. He'd probably lost them at sea.
Rather than spend another moment admiring his old nemesis, Draco covered Potter with a blanket, cast a number of warding and alarm charms, and went to bed. He would hopefully discover what Potter was up to in the morning.