Praxis

ONE

A delicate glass chime above Harry’s head tinkled, a signal that meant someone was approaching his house via the front walk. He glanced at the chime next to that one, but it was still—no stranger, then.

He continued with his work, nipping off the hot glass with a quick flick of his wand and then Levitating the finished piece into the lehr so that it would cool down slowly.

“That one is lovely,” Luna commented as she entered his workroom and stood next to him.

Harry grinned at her and nodded. He was rather impressed with it himself. It was a red pitcher speckled with bright yellow flecks. The handle was a yellow griffon rampant. “It’s a birthday gift for Hermione,” he said.

“That is next month, isn’t it?” Luna asked in her usual dreamy tone, but then her voice changed. “Harry, someone needs your help.”

He raised a brow at her. “You know I’m out of the helping people business.”

“Really? Is that why you spend all your time making useful potions and beautiful glass vials to store them in?”

Harry frowned, but Luna’s tone was not sarcastic, as Hermione’s would have been, simply curious.

“I only do that to keep busy,” he said lamely.

She nodded. “Yes, that makes sense, seeing that you are all alone here, except for the quintacups and the gloopers. But, Harry, if you don’t help him, I’m afraid he will die. The Healers… well they think it’s a variety of the plague.”

Harry blanched. It had been years since anyone had even mentioned that word. Six years? Seven? The mere utterance of it brought back his crushing sense of loss, stealing his breath with the remembered pain.

He turned away and busied his hands cleaning up chips of coloured glass, trying to push away the memories and failing.

God, sometimes it was still so hard to accept. Ron, Ginny… Fuck, all of the Weasleys. Even Bill and his lovely young daughter, swept away in the first month of the horrific plague. The Purity Plague they called it, because the purebloods had gone first.

It hadn’t seemed dangerous at first. The symptoms were mild, nothing more than a regular influenza, except that it began to erode magical abilities. All forms of treatment only made it worse. Even a simple Pepper-Up Potion would send the patient into convulsions with their magic spiralling out of control.

Half-bloods were less susceptible and many Muggleborns never exhibited symptoms at all. Several pureblood groups claimed the plague was the result of a Muggle plot, but soon there were too few for their protests to matter. Surviving purebloods fled Britain in droves.

Most who stayed died, including the entire Weasley clan. Harry helplessly watched them sicken and die beginning, oddly enough, with Percy, and ending with Ron, who held on for weeks through what seemed sheer willpower, only to die in the arms of a sobbing Hermione.

The Healers were frantic. Nothing they did could stop the virulent plague. Magic only seemed to make it worse.

Harry was immune. Hermione speculated it was due to his unusual magical signature and possibly his return from the dead. He didn’t care, at first, and sometimes wished he had just died with Ron and Ginny, but Hermione needed him, especially when she contracted the disease.

Harry quit the Auror Division. He hadn’t been there long and training to fight evil wizards seemed pointless when an invisible entity was destroying everything he held dear.

His hands shook on the tools as he hung them on their wall pegs. Luna said nothing, patient as ever. She was also immune to the disease, although she credited it to the protective aura of the mirkwood bracelets she wore.

“Who is it?” Harry asked in dread, flitting through his painfully short list of surviving friends. “Oh god, please not Neville.”

Luna put a comforting hand on his shoulder and squeezed. “Not Neville! Don’t worry, your boyfriend is safe.”

He sighed with relief and even managed to dredge up a smile at her familiar misconception. As usual with Luna, denial was pointless and Harry had long ago stopped trying.

“It’s Draco Malfoy,” she said.

Harry felt a lurch at the name Malfoy. God, how long had it been? He hadn’t seen Malfoy since the war, not in person, at any rate, although he was often in the news. The entire Malfoy clan had survived the plague due to the lucky happenstance of their collective house arrest. Their enforced confinement had acted as quarantine, keeping them safe while much of the Wizarding World perished.

Harry left off his cleanup and looked at Luna. “Only Malfoy? Anyone else?”

Luna shook her head. “Just him, but the standard potions don’t seem to be working. It could be something other than the plague, but the symptoms are so similar… I’m frightened, Harry. We all are.”

Harry fought a sickening sense of dread. They had lost so many already. How could they bear to go through it again? Hermione had nearly died. Harry had worked tirelessly with her, studying Muggle viruses, immunity, vaccination, and every magical method of healing they could find. Eventually, they had combined them all, working with the best surviving minds in the Wizarding World and using the blood of Harry and the other immune wizards and witches to create the first vaccine.

Eventually, they had narrowed the culprit down to a virus that fed on magical DNA. The purer the blood, the better it tasted to the virus, apparently, although Hermione had insisted it had more to do with the presence of certain amino acids that were more prevalent in those with more wizards in their lineage. Muggle blood diluted the levels of amino acids.

“I’ll come,” Harry said. Without looking at Luna, he led the way from his workshop to the main house, a short distance away beneath a covered walkway bedecked with ivy. Harry’s house was a simple two bedroom affair in the dead centre of fifty pristine Scottish acres.

Luna watched from the doorway as he pulled off his sweat-soaked shirt and grabbed a clean one. Glassblowing was hot work.

Dressed once more, Harry followed her to his fireplace and from there through the Floo Network to St Mungo’s.

Harry was warmly greeted by the staff, all of whom he knew by name. Despite the cheerful hellos, he saw the worry etched on their faces and knew it mirrored his own.

Malfoy was unconscious. His resemblance to Lucius nearly took Harry’s breath away for a moment, a bizarre reminder of the decade between the boy he remembered and the grown man before him now. Despite the similarity in features, there were differences, as well. The angles of Malfoy’s face seemed smoother, less pointed and less harsh than his father’s. The white-blond hair was the same, shoulder-length and sweeping across the pillow like a gossamer veil.

There were lines in his face, etched near the corners of his eyes and, surprisingly, around his lips, as though he smiled often. Harry wondered if they had been caused by genuine smiles or perpetual sneers.

There was a scar on Malfoy’s cheek, marring the otherwise perfect features with a long-healed white line in a shape curiously reminiscent of Harry’s scar. Harry resisted the urge to reach out and trail a finger over it, curious how Malfoy had received it.

“His parents don’t know, yet,” Luna said quietly. “They are out of the country and not expected back until late next month.”

Shit. If the Malfoys returned to see their son in this state, there would be no end to their demands.

Harry sat on the edge of the bed and examined Malfoy with a more clinical eye. He cast a number of careful spells, knowing the application of magic often had disastrous results. He shook his head. “It has to be the plague. The Mirkwood Potion isn’t working?”

“No. It seems to have slowed the effects, but yesterday he did not have these.” She peeled back the sheet to expose Malfoy’s chiselled torso and abdomen. A cluster of small bruises glared from the region just beneath his navel—a typical calling card of the plague, although they often appeared in random places. The marks looked as if someone had jabbed three fingers into Malfoy’s pale flesh.

“I need to take him home,” Harry said decisively.

After much shouting, arguing, and cajoling between Harry and the St Mungo’s staff, Malfoy was finally ensconced in the tiny cottage that lay a short walk from Harry’s house. His success was largely due to fear. If the plague had mutated, it was possible no one was safe, not even Harry.

Luna, as always, appeared unafraid. She tended to Draco and held his arm while Harry nicked a vein with a sharp dagger to draw blood. A Muggle plaster sealed the wound—they had learned early on that healing magic of any sort would cause the virus to react aggressively.

Harry took the blood samples back to his lab and regretfully resurrected his old equipment—items he had hoped would never be used again. Before getting started, he made a quick Floo-call to Australia. He left a message for Hermione, who spent most of her time in the Australian outback, seeking a cure to the ravages left by her own battle with the disease. He hated to bother her, but her help was always invaluable and she would want to know that the plague had returned.

Harry worked long into the night with Luna’s help, although she eventually abandoned him to sleep in the guest room. When he finally sought his bed, nightmares claimed him for the first time in months. He awakened at an early hour to the horrific vision of Ron clutching his arms and sobbing, “Help me, Harry. Help me!”

Despite the time, he left his bed to splash water on his face with trembling hands, fighting back sobs. Even after all this time, he missed Ron so much he could hardly stand it. He missed them all.

Knowing avoidance was the best policy, he shoved the vestiges of the dream aside and dressed before making his way through the dark to the small cottage wherein they had installed Malfoy.

In the dim light of a Lumos, Harry examined the blond, who looked still as death. Harry’s heart jumped into his throat and he quickly felt for a pulse. Despite their dark history, Harry did not want Malfoy to die. He did not want anyone to die ever again.

Thankfully, a steady throb met Harry’s questing fingers and he sighed with relief.

He brushed the fine strands of Malfoy’s hair away from his forehead gently and gave in to the urge to trace the nearly-invisible scar on Malfoy’s cheek. Despite the slight imperfection, Malfoy was beautiful. His skin was like alabaster, as though his job as an Auror kept him indoors rather than out, which Harry knew was false. He wondered if Malfoy remained cloaked and hooded when outside, to protect his fair skin from the sun. Malfoy’s eyelashes were dark gold against his cheeks and Harry moved his finger upwards to draw it over the delicate hair of one eyebrow.

He pulled his hand away with a frown, knowing his actions were improper. Malfoy was a patient, not someone to be ogled while he lay unconscious. It was more than likely that Malfoy had a girlfriend, although Harry doubted he had married. That, for certain, would have been in the papers and Luna would have informed him of the fact. She seemed to find it necessary to keep him abreast of the majority of the news.

He pulled the blankets up and tucked them around Malfoy gently before dousing his wand and heading back to the house. With a renewed sense of purpose, he went straight to his laboratory and worked until dawn was long past.

TWO

Draco awakened, at first only vaguely aware that something was different. Gradually, however, his senses sharpened and shook off the vestiges of sleep; he then noticed that it was extremely quiet. In his own bed, sounds were present and familiar, such as the gentle scrape of the elm branches against his window embrasure, or the quiet hooting of his owl, or the shrieking cries of the peacocks. Here, there was nothing.

The bedclothes were also different. His fingers twitched and slid over low-quality fabric. There was a strange smell to the room, as well.

That thought caused him to open his eyes, only to immediately shut them again as pain lanced into his head. He made an involuntary groan, nearly inaudible, but it must have been loud enough to draw attention.

Footsteps sounded and a cool hand pressed against his forehead. “Are you awake?”

The voice was familiar, and female, although Draco could not quite place it. “Yes,” he replied and began to cough. His voice had been a hoarse rasp and his throat was bone-dry, tickling now with every breath.

“Here, drink some water. I’m sure you’re parched.” The bed depressed as the woman sat down and a wand tip was placed on Draco’s lower lip. He opened his mouth obediently, wondering why he didn’t suspect poison, except that her voice had seemed far too kind to wish him any ill. Water gushed from the tip, filling his mouth. He drank and she repeated the spell until he shook his head.

“Where am I?” he asked and tried to open his eyes again.

She placed her hand over his eyes, gently holding his lids shut. “Wait, let me close the curtains. You will have some light sensitivity and probably a terrible headache.”

She moved away just as Draco recognized her voice. Luna Lovegood. Was he at St Mungo’s? He frowned. The smell was different. More… herbal and pleasant. And it was too quiet to be the hospital.

The light beyond Draco’s lids darkened and he blinked again, thankful for the dimness. Even the muted brightness stung and he felt tears well into his eyes to soothe the burn. Luna returned to his bedside.

“I can’t give you a potion, but here are a couple of Muggle tablets. Trust me; it will help with the pain.”

“Why can’t I take a potion?” Draco asked in confusion. He levered himself up, surprised at how weak he felt. The simple act of rising to his elbows seemed to take immense effort. She placed two round pills into his hand and held up her wand again, obviously ready to help him wash them down with another drink.

Draco put the tablets on his tongue and drank them down obediently.

“You had the plague,” she said simply. He blinked at her, glad he had already swallowed or he might have choked. He felt a tingle of fear. The word was not even spoken aloud since the decimation of the wizarding population. Generally, it was simply referred to as It.

“Am I going to die?” he asked quietly.

She actually laughed, which would have alarmed him coming from anyone else. “No, Draco. It was a mutated version of the original plague. We seem to have caught it in time and managed to neutralize the virus. You appear to be recovering nicely.”

Recovering nicely. He felt the opposite of that. His weakened arms gave out and he collapsed back onto the pillow, wishing the Muggle medicine would kick in, because his headache began to throb in earnest. He shut his eyes.

“Where am I?” he asked again.

“It’s sort of a private healing facility,” she replied. “Rest now. I’ll bring you something to eat, later.”

The next time he awakened, it was to the feel of a warm hand touching his face. He made an unintelligible sound and tried to blink, but something was covering his eyes. He lifted a hand.

“Don’t,” said a male voice. “The eye mask needs to stay in place for fifteen more minutes. It is saturated with a healing salve and will help your eyes recover faster.” The voice was low and soothing, somewhat familiar, although Draco could not quite place it. The hand touched his face again, this time smoothing over his forehead before resting there a moment. “Your fever seems to be gone, thankfully. We were sweating over that when it didn’t seem to want to break, let me tell you.”

“Who are you?” Draco asked.

The man’s hand disappeared from Draco’s head. “I need check your torso. The lesions seem to be fading, which is a very good sign.” There was a pause and the man continued, “Luna sometimes calls me Dr Glass.” The sheet began to move away from Draco’s chest, sliding downward. The warm fingers pressed into Draco’s skin here and there in a clinical fashion. “Does this hurt?”

Draco shook his head and wished he could see the man. His voice was pleasant and he sounded young. His fingers seemed strong and sure, but perhaps that was merely wishful thinking on Draco’s part. Who didn’t hope for a youthful, handsome medi-wizard when they were ill?

“No,” he admitted and mentally combed through the list of medi-wizards at St Mungo’s. He could not remember anyone named Dr Glass.

“Good,” the man continued. “That’s a very good sign. I think you are on the broom to complete recovery.”

Draco sagged a little, not realizing how tense he had been. “I thought the plague was lethal.”

“We’ve been working on it for quite a few years, now. We can’t cure it, but we can prevent it. Although you seem to have acquired a mutated version. It was tricky, but we managed to isolate the nucleotide variant and tailor your treatment accordingly.”

Draco did not want to hear the specifics. He wanted to know how long before he could return to work. “How long have I been here?”

“Three weeks,” Dr Glass admitted.

“Three weeks!” Draco groaned. His Auror cases had likely been handed off to complete plonkers by now. Fuck.

“That really isn’t very long, considering the alternative,” the man said with a hint of amusement.

Draco supposed not, but he still was not happy. “What about my eyes?” His job would be the least of his worries if he did not regain his normal eyesight.

“They’ll be fine.” The confident sound of the medi-wizard’s voice did more to ease Draco’s fears than his words. “It’s a common side effect, but there has never been lasting damage. Just keep them covered as much as possible and continue to use the salve. You’ll be fine.”

A firm hand gripped Draco’s shoulder in a reassuring grasp. Draco absently wondered what that hand would feel like gripping something else and forced the thought away. For all he knew, the man had the face of a toad. Just because he had not been laid in months—and the fact that the bloke had a nice voice—was no reason to get carried away.

“Thank you,” Draco said.

“Rest now. The best thing you can do is sleep and let your body heal.”

Draco did not have the energy to argue. He nodded and let himself drift off.

THREE

Harry hefted the shrub manually and placed it into the waiting pit. It was easier to use Levitation Charms, but there was something about working with plants that made him want to get his hands dirty. He loved the feel of the earth as he patted it around the roots.

“You won’t have berries until next year, of course,” Neville said, munching on a red apple as he watched Harry soak the soil with water from the end of his wand.

“Yeah, I’ve already harvested more than enough of those. I just like the way these look in the winter.” He touched the red branches lightly and got to his feet before tucking his wand away and brushing the dirt from his knees.

“There you two are,” Luna said as she picked her way through the garden, avoiding the clutching tendrils of a venomous tentacula with practised ease. “I thought you might be having a lover’s tryst.”

Neville sighed heavily. “She’ll never quit, will she? Not only am I not gay, but I’ve been with Lavender for two full years now. I’m hoping to propose to her this Christmas.”

Harry chuckled. “I think she just wants me to find someone and she’s taken with the idea of the two of us.”

Neville tossed his apple core over the garden fence. “Well, it’s bloody annoying.”

“What are you two whispering about?” Luna asked. “Do you want to be alone?”

“It’s fine, Luna,” Harry said with a grin before Neville could snap at her. He found her attempts at matchmaking trying, at times, but usually it was simply amusing. “How is Draco?” He had gradually stopped thinking of the blond as ‘Malfoy’ over the past couple of weeks, seeing him sprawled so helplessly on the bed, fighting for his life. Harry had spent a lot of time talking to the unconscious man, spilling secrets he would never disclose if the man had been awake.

“Better. He is ready to leave, even though he could use another week of bed rest. Men are always so stubborn when it comes to their health. He’s been asking for you.”

Harry nodded. After Draco’s first awakening, Harry had not been back to see him, preferring to leave his care to Luna. He expected Draco would heal faster without the added stress of knowing it was Harry that had helped him. If there was anything Harry didn’t need, it was another life-debt involving a Malfoy.

It was also easier to ignore the fact that Draco was damned attractive when he was lying ill. A fully recovered Draco Malfoy walking around in that fit body would be harder to disregard.

“It’s probably best I don’t see him. I’d rather he think ‘Dr Glass’ an arrogant prat than have him discover it was me seeing him in that state. He hates me enough already without adding wood to the bonfire.”

“Draco is not the boy you knew, Harry,” Luna protested with a frown and a hint of disapproval in her voice.

Don’t I know it, Harry thought and smiled. “Yes, he’s an Auror now; the pride of the Ministry. Take him back to St Mungo’s and have them give him approval to return to work. He’ll be fine.”

“But, Harry—”

“Luna, just leave me to my peace and quiet, yeah? Besides, I’ll be busy reproducing the potions we used on him. St Mungo’s is reporting more cases every day and they’re going through the stock as quickly as I can make them. By the way, Neville, I’ll need more mirkwood.”

“I know. I’ve already harvested two trees. I’ll have the wood sent over as soon as the bark is fully stripped.”

“Thanks, Nev.”

“You two can kiss, if you like. I don’t mind,” Luna said and waited expectantly.

“Oh, for pity’s sake!” Neville burst out. “Harry, Floo me later. Luna…” He rolled his eyes and then sighed. “Never mind. Say hello to Draco for me. Bye.”

Luna watched him leave and then turned to Harry. “You know, he’s really not very affectionate. I wish you had more prospects.”

“So do I, Luna,” Harry said with a laugh. “So do I.”

FOUR

Draco was miffed, but he worked hard to hide it from Luna. It wasn’t her fault that Dr Glass was obviously a prat. Despite the fact that Draco had asked to see him several times, he was always rebuffed. The man was either busy or absent or had some other lame excuse.

“Ready, then?” Luna asked brightly as Draco looked around the small cottage that had become so familiar to him. He had examined every inch of it, looking for clues into the personality of the mysterious healer, but it was all very generic. Even the paintings on the walls were nondescript landscapes.

Draco nodded and followed Luna outside. His attempts at leaving the place had been halted by stinging wards that would not only hurt like the devil should he penetrate them, but also brought Luna running to chastise him. Draco had asked if she was in a relationship with Dr Glass and she had laughed for a full five minutes before replying, “No, certainly not!” Draco still had no idea what was so funny. Perhaps the man was disfigured, or something. Or ancient, as Draco had first suspected.

“The Floo is in the main house. I think Ha—Dr Glass is working on a potion at the moment and cannot be disturbed. I got a later start than planned, but I did tell him you were leaving this morning.”

Draco allowed himself a sneer. “And yet the man is too good to even see me off?”

Luna coughed. “Anyway! I know St Mungo’s will give you a clean bill of health. Do you have the mirkwood bracelet I gave you?”

Draco rolled his eyes, but obediently lifted his arm. The dark wood gleamed on his wrist. It had been carved into an attractive, serpentine swirl that Draco rather liked. He did, of course, plan to take the thing off and toss it into a drawer the moment he got home, despite the fact that Luna insisted it warded off some blithering imaginary creature, or perhaps because of it.

“Oh, bollocks,” she said when they reached the front portico. “I forgot the bottle I’m meant to deliver to Sandra. You wait here and I’ll be right back!” Luna turned and jogged back down the path that led to the cottage. Her blond curls bounced as she ran and Draco shook his head. She wasn’t a bad looking woman. It was too bad he didn’t swing that way.

He turned his attention to the house. The front porch was nicely laid out, with a carved wooden swing suspended by thick chains. Flowers trailed from several hanging baskets, lush with multicoloured blooms.

Draco waited until Luna reached the small cottage. She turned to wave at him and he lifted a hand with a pleasant smile. She disappeared into the cottage and Draco turned the latch on the door and stepped inside the house of Dr Glass.

He had half-expected a magically enlarged space, but the room was simple enough, small and cosy. Two open doors led from the room and an archway exposed a hint of kitchen beyond. Draco scanned the room for physical items. The sofa was a boring rust colour with several multicoloured pillows in varied patterns. Matching carpets padded most of the pale wooden floors.

Glass was everywhere. Vases of every sort, large and small, were displayed in corners and on every available surface, adorned with fresh flowers. Swirled glass bowls filled with fruit, gourds, coins, and quills rested near the vases. Delicate glass mobiles were suspended from the ceiling, artistically created of abstract spiral designs, or delicate, fantastical creatures.

“Dr Glass,” Draco said in wonder and then made a low whistle.

As if called, a man stepped from one of the doorways, snaring Draco’s attention immediately. He gaped in amazement.

“Luna? Back already?” the man asked. Draco recognized the voice immediately as the mysterious Dr Glass, but the body was beyond anything he had imagined.

Dripping wet, the man looked like a fucking Adonis. A blue towel concealed his private bits and much of his thighs, but exposed both hipbones and a tantalising trace of dark hair. Draco followed the line of hair upward, admiring the flat stomach, exquisite pectorals, and lickable nipples.

Unfortunately, the man’s face was completely concealed as he attempted to wrap a matching towel around his head, turban-fashion, but it seemed more inclined to turn him into a mummy. Strong-looking hands fought with the cloth, which drooped even more to hide one collarbone as well as his face.

The man froze. “Luna?” he asked again.

Draco started to speak, but the door opened, drawing his attention. Luna burst inside, obviously having run all the way back. She gasped and made a squeaking noise upon viewing the medi-wizard and Draco gladly turned back to admire the man once more, only to catch a glimpse of a broad back and what seemed to be a delectable arse before the door slammed shut behind him.

“Sorry!” Luna called. “Leaving now!”

She grabbed Draco’s arm and tried to tow him toward the fireplace, but he shook her off. “The man is obviously here and not as busy as he would have me believe.”

“He… doesn’t want to see you,” Luna said quietly.

The words were like a blow. Draco turned to her in surprise. “Why?”

“It’s complicated,” she replied, not meeting his eyes.

Draco’s lips thinned. “I see. Is it pureblood prejudice, or the old Death Eater thing? Did one of my fucking relatives hurt or murder one of his relatives during the war? I’m good enough to heal in the name of altruism, but not good enough to speak to face to face?”

Luna gasped. “No! That’s not it at all, Draco!”

He sneered and walked to the fireplace. A gorgeous black and white glass bowl held the Floo Powder. Draco reached in and took a handful while absently noticing the complete lack of photographs on the mantle. Apparently Dr Glass had no friends or relatives. Beautiful and cold, like his name.

“Whatever,” Draco snapped. “Let’s just go. I want out of here.”

He tossed the Powder into the flames and stepped through.

FIVE

Harry tried to put Draco Malfoy out of his mind. He made potions and blew glass and tried not to think about the blond Auror. Luna brought him updates and news articles and gossip. Draco had apparently fully recovered and returned to work. There were rumours of him possibly making Head Auror next year.

Harry kept busy in the weeks following Malfoy’s departure creating the new potions and shipping them to St Mungo’s. More cases like Draco’s had erupted, but the tonics they had developed for Draco seemed to be working to arrest the disease. Harry and Luna monitored each case carefully, watching for additional mutations. It worried him that the virus had changed—it had been virulent enough to begin with.

Harry half-expected Draco to show up on his doorstep, but as August turned into September, the possibility became less likely. He hadn’t meant to make Draco suspicious with his absence, but in hindsight he should have expected it.

He sighed wryly. It seemed he was destined for Draco Malfoy to hate him no matter his incarnation. He supposed it was for the best.

He made another cup of tea and then hurried to the fireplace. After seating himself cross-legged on a plush cushion, he stared into the flames and sipped his tea, waiting. It was a thankfully short wait.

A face appeared in the fire and Harry felt a rush of affection. “Hermione!” he cried. “It’s so good to see you!”

She laughed. “Harry! Goodness, it’s been so long! I miss you dreadfully.”

Harry nearly asked when she was coming home, but after four years he had learned to stop inquiring. “I know! How is Australia?”

“It’s lovely. Nearly spring here, you know and the evenings have been just beautiful. How have you been?”

“Fine,” Harry said blandly. “Have you found anything useful?”

As expected, Hermione launched into a long-winded explanation of various native plants, minerals, and rituals. Harry tried to focus on them, but mostly he just drank in the sound of her voice and tried not to think about how much he missed her company.

“What’s wrong, Harry?” she asked finally.

He tried to smile. “The plague has returned.” Before she could react, he added, “Sort of. It’s mutated. I managed to find a cure, but it has me worried. If it keeps mutating, it may get to a point where I can’t…”

“Do you need me to come home?” she asked quietly.

It was on the tip of Harry’s tongue to say “Yes!” and beg her to return, but he knew she was happier there. He shook his head. “No, I seem to have isolated it, at the moment. I do miss you, though.”

“I miss you, too, Harry. Wait, who was it? Who was sick?” There was a spike of worry in her voice and he could sense her flipping through a mental list—a very small list—of their remaining friends.

“Draco Malfoy,” he admitted.

“Oh.” The relief was evident on her face, even with the distortion of the green flames. “How is he?”

“The same,” Harry replied, although his flippant response made him wonder. He had barely spoken to Draco, so he really had no idea what the man was like. Surely, he had to have changed in the past decade, especially if he was now in the running to become Head Auror. Not for the first time, Harry regretted not being honest with him when he’d had the chance. He sighed.

Harry changed the topic to more mundane matters and tried to forget about Draco Malfoy.

SIX

Draco survived his brush with death with only two notable consequences. The first was a disturbing quiver in his hands that appeared with thankful infrequency, although once during a battle that nearly—nearly—led to the culprits escape. The staff at St Mungo’s stated it was a known issue with plague survivors and one to which they had no solution. Draco debated consulting with Luna, but he was still somewhat miffed with her and her medi-wizard friend.

He began his own research into possible cures, but it was time-consuming and his job kept him far too busy to spend adequate time on it. He considered asking his parents to look into it for him, but knew mentioning it to his mother would cause her to worry about him.

The second consequence was more puzzling in nature. The day after returning home, he had received a package. Inside was a delicate windchime made of glass. It consisted of eight glass dragons dangling from a silvery glass cloud. Each dragon was different, obviously hand-wrought with evident skill.

It had come with a note.

Draco,

I am sorry for avoiding you while you were in my care. There are reasons, although not what you expect. My primary consideration was your recovery and I did not mean to cause you any distress. Please accept this small token as an apology.

Sincerely,

“Dr Glass”

Draco had considered throwing the thing into the trash in a fit of pique, but it was too lovely. He dared not even hang it outside where the wind might damage it. In the end, he placed it in a rather unlikely location. He hung it above his bed in the centre of the hoop that held his bed curtains. He gazed up at it each night, casting a Lumos and sending puffs of air from his wand to watch the reflections dance around the dark curtains. Once in a while he would allow his mind to drift to the sight of Dr Glass dripping in the towel.

On rare occasions, he would even imagine the towels falling away to reveal the face of a handsome stranger. For those reasons, he avoided seeking out Luna to demand the man’s identity or location.

Better to cling to the fantasy.

Draco’s calm lasted nearly five weeks and then his whole world imploded.

SEVEN

Harry felt the wards before the banging started on the door. He frowned and set aside the piece he had been working on, knowing it would be ruined if he stopped now, but the pounding sounded urgent and neither Luna nor Neville would knock.

He grabbed a hand towel on his way through the kitchen and used it to wipe the sweat from his brow. Loud hammering sounded at the door before he reached it and he flung it open with a somewhat disgruntled expression. Honestly, he couldn’t walk any fas—

He stared at Draco Malfoy, who gaped at him with an identical expression of surprise. Draco’s hand was still upraised to further torment Harry’s door.

“Potter?”

Harry forced a smile and wryly acknowledged that fate still hated him, apparently. In his myriad fantasies that involved Draco returning, none of them had involved himself in a sweat-stained t-shirt and paint-spattered jeans. He grimaced inwardly and lifted a hand to comb at the tendrils of hair that clung to his forehead.

“Hello, Draco,” he said blandly.

Draco glared. “Since when are we on a first name basis, Potter?”

“It was sometime after the fifth sponge bath for me, I believe,” Harry said dryly and wished he had more control of his tongue when Draco flushed. He stumbled on blindly in an attempt to cover it. “Would you like to come in?”

Draco didn’t move. “You? You are the mysterious Dr Glass?”

Harry nodded. “Surprised?”

He stepped aside and gestured toward the interior, half-expecting Draco to back away and depart. After a moment of hesitation, Draco moved past Harry and entered the house. Harry closed the door. He waited while Draco looked around—registering the changes since his last visit?

Draco indicated the glass that decorated much of Harry’s house. “Yours?” he asked.

Harry nodded and glanced around, trying to see his work through the eyes of an outsider. It didn’t work—all he could see were the flaws in each piece.

“My mother is sick,” Draco said quietly.

Harry inhaled sharply and took a step forward, hand outstretched in an instinctive gesture of compassion. Draco’s glare halted him.

“Did you take her to St Mungo’s?” he asked.

Draco shook his head. “No. It’s hard enough for me to go there. She would never… And Father would never allow it.”

Harry frowned. Despite the Purity Plague, hatred of former Death Eaters had not diminished much. Some even accused them of starting the plague, or suggested it was divine retribution for their crimes. Harry knew it was wrong, but more than likely the Malfoys would not get the best treatment at the hospital. Draco’s status as an Auror would tip the scales in his favour, but the same could not be said of his parents.

“Will you take me to her?” he asked.

Draco paused and looked at him critically. “You really know about this plague?”

Harry nodded. “More than anyone.”

Draco sighed and lifted a hand before dropping it helplessly. He looked suddenly very lost.

“I need to… change,” Harry said. “If you wait, I won’t be long.”

Draco sank down on the sofa without a word. Harry went to the bedroom, wishing he had time to shower, but not trusting that Draco wouldn’t flee if he waited too long. Instead, he cast a quick Cleaning Charm on himself, stifling a yelp at the painful sensation of being instantly stripped of surface grime, sweat, and quite a few skin cells.

He changed into sedate trousers, a plain, button-down shirt, and simple robes of dark blue. The comb dragged through his hair was probably a waste of time, but he had to try. He tossed it on the bureau and hurried back to find Draco holding a simple glass paperweight in his hand.

Draco set the thing on the tea table and stood up, looking almost guilty.

“How did you find me?” Harry asked.

“Luna once mentioned that this place was in Scotland. I Apparated to Hogsmeade and then visualized your porch.”

“You could have just asked Luna.”

Draco’s lips tightened. “She seemed very determined to keep your little secret. Of course, now I know why.”

Harry smiled. “Actually, she was quite upset with me. Shall we take the Floo?”

“I’ll go first. Give me two minutes to key the wards.” Draco stepped forward, took a handful of Floo Powder, and sent himself to Malfoy Manor. Harry scrawled a quick note for Luna or Neville—whichever of them might drop by—and followed.

EIGHT

Draco felt completely discombobulated. Potter. It was Potter.

He had sat on Potter’s couch and stared blindly at a glass paperweight, trying in vain to reconcile the man he had been fantasizing about for weeks into the image of Potter he had carried with him for the past decade.

It just wouldn’t fit.

Draco shook off his confusion and adjusted the wards to admit Potter without alarming everyone else in the house. He quickly consulted with a house-elf and was relieved that his father was in the library, rather than hovering over his mother’s bed. A confrontation between Potter and his father might be more than he could deal with, at the moment.

Potter stepped out of the flames, looking far too suave and professional (and fit) for Draco’s comfort. He scowled at himself and glared at Potter. “This way,” he said brusquely and led the way out of the room.

His mother’s rooms were far enough from the Floo connection that the silence became awkward. Draco kept thinking about Potter's dripping wet abs and the fact that he'd wanked to the man's memory at least a dozen times in the past month. This fact, coupled with guilt because he shouldn't be thinking of such things at all while his mother lay sick, made Draco nearly incapable of speech.

Potter made no effort to breach the silence, seeming perfectly happy to trail Draco through the silent immensity of the mansion.

It was with a sense of relief that Draco finally reached the doors to the master suite and knocked lightly before pushing them open. The sitting room was empty, so Draco continued through to his parents' bedroom.

The bed curtains were partially open. “Lucius?” his mother asked weakly.

“No, Mother, it’s me. I’ve brought someone.”

“Who is it?” she asked. Her voice was barely audible and Draco felt a twinge of fear that he tried to suppress as he pulled the curtains aside and allowed Potter to approach.

“Hello, Mrs Malfoy,” Potter said politely.

“Harry Potter?” she asked and Draco was relieved that she recognized Potter, at least. Thankfully, she wasn’t that far gone.

Potter sat on the edge of the bed. “I’m very sorry you aren’t feeling well. Draco brought me here because I have some knowledge in certain areas of healing,” he explained.

“I know what areas those are, Mr Potter. Unlike Draco, I keep abreast of the news. It’s the plague, isn’t it?”

“Now, we won’t know that until we examine you, now will we?” Potter’s tone was gentle, but not condescending and Draco was reminded of the time he had awakened in the dark to the sound of Potter’s voice. He hated to admit that it was just as comforting now.

“Very well. Draco, does your father know Mr Potter is here?”

“No,” Draco admitted.

“Then you had better go and ascertain that Mr Potter and I are not disturbed.”

“It won’t take long,” Potter said and held Draco’s gaze.

Draco nodded and returned to the sitting room, where he sprawled in a chair and waited. Luckily, his father did not make an appearance before Potter exited the bedchamber. His demeanour was serious and Draco felt his stomach clench in dread.

“We need to get her to my place as soon as possible,” Potter said briskly. “I have to run more specialized tests and I need to have my equipment to hand. I can’t be certain that what she has is identical to yours, so dosing her with the same potions is a risk I would rather not take.”

And not only because Draco’s father was not above utilizing Unforgivable Curses where his family was concerned, Draco suspected. Still, he wondered how they were going to smuggle her out of the house, because informing his father beforehand would be tantamount to waving a red flag before a Spanish bull.

Still, Potter had healed him. “I’ll bring her,” Draco decided. “Will you wait?”

Potter nodded.

A short time later, Draco had his mother bundled against his chest, carrying her easily with the aid of a Weightlessness Charm. He bypassed Potter on the way to the door, walking quickly.

“Hurry, Potter.”

Most likely due to the Gryffindor’s presence, they made it back to the Floo connection without encountering Draco’s father. Draco blessed the heavens for Potter’s luck.

“I’ll go first,” Potter said. “It’s Potter Fen. Potter Fen,” he repeated and stepped into the flames.

Draco mimicked the words and followed Potter, holding his mother like a lifeless bundle.

It was a chilly afternoon, much colder than it had been when Draco had been in residence. The path to the small cottage was gravelled and crunched beneath Draco’s feet. They both walked quickly and Potter flung open the door before stepping aside. Draco placed his mother on the bed while Potter bustled around, coaxing a fire to life in the hearth with his wand and fetching additional blankets.

“Thank you, Draco. Mr Potter,” his mother said weakly. “Will you bring Lucius?”

“Rest now,” Potter said. “I’ll stay here with you and Draco can return home for your husband.”

Potter looked at him for confirmation and Draco nodded, not at all looking forward to that confrontation. “I’ll return shortly.”

“I will leave the wards down for you,” Potter said before dismissing him by turning back to his mother.

Draco paused in the doorway, wondering if he should be concerned with leaving his mother alone at the hands of Harry Potter. He smiled ruefully as soon as the words played through his mind. Who safer?

He turned and jogged back to the house, eager to return to the Manor before his father roused half of England looking for his wife.

NINE

Harry was worried. He had hoped that the tests would prove the virus to be the same as Draco’s had been, but such was not the case. This one seemed far more invasive, closer to the original, yet more prone to severe symptoms, such as raging fever. He’d had the devil’s time trying to convince her to take Muggle medicine and only an intense whispered conversation between her and Draco had finally convinced her, despite Lucius ranting at Harry in the background.

Thankfully, Lucius had chosen to remain in the cottage with his wife, even though Narcissa had lapsed into a sleep that Harry feared was more akin to the unconscious state Draco had been in when Luna had brought him round the first time.

Thinking of Draco made Harry’s gaze slide sideways to where the blond was separating rosemary leaves from the stems and stacking the tiny leaves according to size. He seemed intently focused on his task, but Harry recognized the tension in his shoulders. Draco was worried. His mind was most likely spinning as he concentrated on the mundane chore.

“These are vital, Potter?” Draco asked absently, grabbing another sprig from the pile.

“Yeah. Nearly all the potions contain rosemary.” Harry paused. “I see you’re still wearing your bracelet.”

Draco froze and Harry saw him glance at the mirkwood bracelet on his wrist before tucking it out of sight beneath the sleeve of his robe. “Yes, I… Luna insisted I wear it and I keep forgetting to take it off.”

A quick glare from the grey eyes dared Harry to counter the claim, so he suppressed a smile, even though he knew the bracelet was far too solid to “forget”. It made him inordinately pleased to see Draco wearing it, since he had carved it himself. He supposed Draco did not need to know that.

Harry shifted his attention back to the cauldron and quickly stirred it seven times with a spoon made of birch.

Before he could think of another thing to ask Draco, Lucius Malfoy banged open the door and stormed down the wooden stairs into the basement. “Well, Potter?” he demanded. “What are you doing to help my wife?”

Harry threw a helpless look at Draco, who smoothly stood up from his seat and moved to waylay the elder Malfoy. “Father, let Potter work. Mother has only been here for one afternoon. Would you rather see her in St Mungo’s?”

There was a tense silence as two sets of similar eyes stared one another down. Finally, Lucius dropped his gaze and nodded. “Very well.”

“Perhaps you should go home and—”

“No!” Lucius burst out and then softened his tone. “No. I want to be here, in case she… needs anything.”

“You can stay with her in the cottage, Lucius,” Potter said softly. “I’ll make sure you have everything you need.”

A loud bang startled them all and Luna’s voice called from upstairs, “Sorry! Just dropped a pot! Carry on!”

“Well, Luna will make sure you have everything,” Harry corrected, knowing she would be amenable to the task of making Lucius feel comfortable.

“I’ll take him back and check on Mother,” Draco said quietly and then led his father up the stairs.

By the time Draco returned, Luna had provided plates of food for all of them. Harry had barely touched his; completely consumed by the potion he was working on. The bloody thing was delicate and required precisely timed additions and mixing techniques.

Malfoy sat on the stool and watched him add the carefully measured sea anemone. Harry allowed the powered bits to sink into the mixture and then counted to twenty before giving it a single stir with a glass rod.

He set the rod aside and turned over the hourglass that sat near the cauldron. He sighed and brushed the hair out of his eyes.

“How much longer will it take?” Draco asked, sounding almost concerned.

“An hour and a half,” Harry replied, although it was not completely true. The second phase would begin after that, and Harry would likely be awake most of the night.

“Can I help?” he asked.

Harry blinked at him, knowing how hard it must have been for the proud Auror to spit out the words. “No, but thank you. Tomorrow, I’ll begin a different batch and I would love some help with that one.”

Draco nodded. “Very well. I suppose I shall go home, then.”

He started for the stairs and Harry was suddenly not ready for him to leave. “Um… You can stay with me, if you like.”

Draco turned and his eyebrows seemed to disappear into his hairline. Harry gaped at him and then realized how his statement had sounded.

“I mean in the guest bedroom!” he added hastily.

Draco’s shoulders seemed to sag—with relief?—and then he paused for a moment before nodding. “I should like to be closer to Mother. Thank you, Potter.”

Harry almost left his stool to show Malfoy the spare room, but it suddenly seemed like a very bad idea to be in a small bedroom with the attractive blond. “It’s just down the hall from the living room. The door on the left.”

Malfoy lifted a hand. “Goodnight, Potter.”

“Goodnight, Draco.”

TEN

Draco lay in the unfamiliar bed and stared up at the ceiling. He was still having difficulty wrapping his mind around that fact that Dr Glass was actually Harry James Potter. It certainly put a new perspective on his wank fantasies for the past few weeks.

He shifted uncomfortably at the memory and then reluctantly admitted that Potter was even more handsome than the mystery man conjured up by his dreams. Draco had pictured dark hair, but Potter’s eyes were beyond a vision. His black lashes were intensely thick and long, framing the brilliant green eyes that had been the subject of love poems for the past decade.

Draco frowned at that, wondering why someone as delectable, rich, and famous as Potter lived in a tiny house in Scotland in the centre of nowhere. Had he been that broken up over the death of his girlfriend that he had sworn off relationships forever?

Then again, Potter had lost far more than a girlfriend. His best friend had been one of those taken, as well as the remainder of Potter’s surrogate family. Draco could only consider himself lucky to still have both his parents.

At least, so far.

He sighed, realizing that Potter had no one left. Even Hermione Granger had fled to Australia, by all accounts. Draco frowned. Potter must be terribly lonely. Did he ever have company? Of the romantic sort? Draco doubted many girls would be willing to live so far from the hustle and bustle of society, even for the Savior. Especially since Potter’s long absence had largely taken him from the limelight. Draco had heard nothing about Potter’s love life, not since the days of Ginny Weasley.

He turned over and stared at the sliver of open curtain where the moonlight spilled through. He debated getting up and shutting the curtain, knowing the shaft of light would annoy him and likely keep him from drifting off, but the bed was warm and he didn’t want to put his feet on the cool floor.

He remembered the last time he was in this house, staring at a vision dripping water, flexing muscular arms as he tugged at the towel around his head. This time, in Draco’s mind, the towel fell away to reveal Harry Potter’s face, his hair tousled and wet, and his green eyes shining. Potter reached out a hand to Draco, who snarled and rolled away from the sliver of light.

There was a disturbing hardness between his legs, but he refused to acknowledge it. He would not wank in Potter’s guest bedroom, and he especially would not wank to fantasies of the man, himself.

ELEVEN

Harry decided he had been spared the ravages of the plague only to endure an even more long-suffering and horrific demise—death by Malfoy.

He blew into the blowtube while spinning the molten glass, feeling some of his tension ebb at the familiar movement. It was very therapeutic, watching the blob of glass elongate and enlarge.

Harry carefully picked up a water soaked paddle and held it to the bottom of the glass while spinning it in order to flatten the bottom. He wasn’t quite sure what this piece was destined to be; it hadn’t spoken to him, yet.

After reheating it for a bit, he used a large pad of waterlogged paper to shape the sides, smoothing it into a long oval. A vase, then?

Harry was considering shortening it and adding some aqua-green glass for colour when Draco slammed into the room with a shouted, “Potter!” Harry jumped and the metal rod bounced before banging against the bar. The molten glass elongated and warped, collapsing on one side and destroying its potential as a vase.

Harry snarled wordlessly and turned to throw Draco a glare. He carried the useless blob of glass back to the furnace, knowing he would have to start from scratch. The calm he had located for a brief moment was gone.

“Potter, what are you doing here? I’ve been looking for you for twenty minutes! Should you not be in the lab?” Draco demanded.

Harry felt a headache blossom behind one eye. If it wasn’t Draco, it was his father, breathing down his neck, demanding a cure, making suggestions, arguing over every step, and generally making Harry’s life hell. It had only been six days since the Malfoys’ arrival, but it felt like a month.

Harry was half a step away from throwing them all out and putting up anti-Malfoy wards on his property.

Only the fact that Narcissa was now in a coma, unable to be revived—well, that and the worry hidden in the depths of the angry gazes of both Draco and his father—kept Harry from giving in to his own selfish impulse.

“The potions have to process, Draco,” he said mildly and congratulated himself on his calm tone. “They need to rest for at least an hour.”

“Those do,” Draco countered. “But what about the others? The experimental ones you keep talking about. We need to keep working on this! I brought some more research books and some articles on silverweed, since I don’t think you explored the potential of that one quite as well as—”

“Enough!” Harry yelled.

Draco stared at him in surprise for a moment and the unusual expression made Harry look at him closely for the first time in days. Draco looked more exhausted than Harry felt. He still left for work each day and fulfilled his Auror duties prior to returning in the evening and staying awake long into the night, poring over manuals, chopping ingredients, or mixing potions. Frankly, Harry didn’t know how much longer the man could go on.

Harry tugged at his hair, wishing pity would stop drowning his anger. It was damnably frustrating. Thankfully, Draco was more than up to the challenge.

“Are you trying to let her die?” he demanded.

Harry’s eyes flashed as his ire returned. “I refuse to dignify that with a response. I came here so that I could think! Between you and your father I no longer have a moment of peace!”

Draco sneered and opened his mouth, but Luna appeared next to the blond and put a hand on his arm. “Hello, Draco. Harry, I’m sorry to interrupt your argument, but your boyfriend is here. I daresay, he is probably feeling neglected. You’ve barely spoken to him in days. He brought the elcampane you requested.”

Harry flushed to his roots as Luna patted Draco’s arm and went out. For once, Draco seemed to have been rendered speechless. Harry thought about explaining, but he was too irritated to try and hold a rational conversation with the world’s biggest prat.

He stalked by Draco, cursing fickle Fate that had allowed him to survive Voldemort and a deadly plague only to be rewarded with Draco Malfoy. He shook his head and went to find Neville.

TWELVE

Boyfriend?

Draco turned to watch Potter stalk down the path that connected the glassblowing shop from the house.

Had Luna really said boyfriend? Judging from the colour that had flooded Potter’s cheeks, not only had she said it, but there had been some sort of truth to the statement. Draco thought back over his interactions with Potter in the past few days. Had there been signs?

He frowned. Other than Potter’s artistic endeavours, everything he did was frighteningly heterosexual. It was likely that Luna was seeing things that didn’t exist. Again. Still, she had been right on rare occasions and Draco was curious.

Potter wasn’t in the house, so Draco continued on through the front door. Potter stood next to another man while he examined a large crate filled with yellow-petalled flowering plants.

Draco examined Potter’s alleged boyfriend, although he could only see the man’s backside. It wasn’t a bad backside, albeit not half as nice as Potter’s, damn it all, especially when they conveniently stood side-by-side for comparison. Draco dragged his eyes away from Potter’s bum with effort. The other fellow had brown hair, curling a bit around the collar. He wore what looked to be wool trousers and a tan corduroy shirt. He looked fit enough, although not Quidditch-fit or model-hot, as he would expect. After all, Potter was still the Champion of Good, he should still be able to pull the best.

The man turned his head to speak to Potter and caught sight of Draco. He swung round fully with a smile and said, “Draco Malfoy!”

Neville Longbottom?

Longbottom continued, “It’s nice to see you up and moving around. It was touch and go for a bit, yeah?”

Draco nodded, looking from Longbottom to Potter. It couldn’t be true. Could it?

Potter threw him a glare and then nonchalantly Levitated the crate. He started around the side of the house with the plants in tow, heading for the garden that Draco had previously noticed, but never visited. Neville grinned sheepishly at Draco for a moment and then hurried after Potter. Draco pursed his lips and followed.

The garden was huge and very much like Potter. Draco found himself smiling in amusement when he viewed the almost haphazard layout of the garden. The plants looked well-tended, but seemed to grow wild. The gardens at Malfoy Manor were very carefully tended, trimmed, and in perfect order. Potter’s garden looked as though he had walked out and thrown seeds at random.

He did have some very fine specimens, though, Draco had to admit. Potter and Longbottom halted midway through the garden and began to transplant the elcampane. Draco wandered the rows, keeping the men in sight. He avoided a tiny venomous tentacula and paused to drink in the scent of a late-blooming blood rose.

He watched Potter and Longbottom from the corner of his eye. If they were involved, there was no sign of it. Draco saw no casual touches, longing glances, or shared laughter. It all seemed to be routine and businesslike, with Potter nodding as Longbottom expounded on the proper care of the plants.

Boyfriend. Draco snorted. Luna had obviously been yanking Potter’s chain.

Draco hadn't seen Longbottom in years, possibly not since Hogwarts. Aurors and Herbologists seldom travelled in the same circles, although it was apparent that Longbottom had seen plenty of Potter in the intervening decade, if the current level of comradery was any indication. Potter laughed at something Longbottom said, throwing his head back without reservation and laughing loudly as Longbottom chuckled and Levitated one of the plants into a hole in the ground.

Potter knelt next to him and their hands nearly touched as they wrestled the stalks into position and freed tangled leaves. Draco watched them with a frown, half-revising his earlier opinion. Perhaps they were so familiar with one another that casual romantic gestures were no longer needed. Or perhaps Draco's presence was curtailing their behaviour? The two bent their heads together, murmuring in tones too low for Draco to hear, not that he had been paying attention to their boring conversation, anyway.

Potter looked at Draco as if he had suddenly become the topic of conversation. Draco decided he had best nip that in the bud, so he left off pretending to examine the spiny restharrow and walked over to join the two men. Potter straightened, but Longbottom remained on his knees in the dirt, patting at the ground around the newly-planted flowers.

"Potter," Draco said. "If you have quite finished indulging in your hobbies, I suggest we get back to finding a cure for my mother."

Potter rolled his eyes. Neville got to his feet, brushing the dirt from his trousers before straightening. "If not for my gardening hobby," he snapped, "there would be no potions at all and you would no longer be with us."

That stung, despite Draco being well aware of how Potter felt about him.

He opened his mouth to deliver a sharp retort, but Potter said, "Never mind! Fine! You go back to the bloody lab and I'll be right there."

Draco glared at him, but spun on a heel and left the garden. He looked back once under the pretext of opening the gate, freezing when he saw Potter and Neville embracing. Potter stepped back, laughed, and lifted a hand. Longbottom Disapparated.

Draco turned away and kept walking, feeling curiously bereft. There had been no kissing between Potter and Longbottom, but even if there was nothing between them but friendship, it was still more than Draco had. When was the last time he had hugged anyone with affection, other than his mother? A sense of loss nearly overwhelmed him for a moment, something he had not felt in ages.

All of his friends were gone. Pansy, Blaise, Greg... Theo Nott had survived, but his family had abandoned Europe for somewhere far away, India or Sri Lanka. He and Draco had never been close, anyway. Draco had acquaintances at the Ministry, mostly other Aurors, and he had even accompanied them to lunch or an after-work drink, but he would classify none of them as true friends. He would certainly never give any of them a hug.

A hand touched his shoulder and he started, looking into Potter's green eyes with surprise. He hadn't realized he had stopped walking; Potter had caught up.

"Are you all right?" Potter asked. Damn it all, there was even concern there. Bloody Gryffindor.

Draco shrugged him off and kept walking. "Fine," he lied. "Just fine."

He needed to find a cure for his mother and get the fuck away from Potter for good.

Several hours later, Draco was exhausted and almost sorry he had forced Potter back into the laboratory. In true heroic fashion, Potter returned to brewing with gusto and had not slowed down a jot. Draco suppressed a yawn and glared at the man.

Draco had worked a full week and spent every spare moment Apparating from the Ministry to Scotland to be with his parents and to (annoy) help out Potter. Despite his earlier complaining, Draco admitted—if only to himself—that Potter was like something inhuman. Even now he scanned handwritten notes while adding ingredients to a cauldron. His gaze was intent and unwavering. Draco’s eyes felt like dry stones rolling in a mortar.

He wanted to suggest going to bed, but he did not dare after the fit he had thrown earlier. Instead he watched Potter. The man had definitely grown up nicely. His profile was gorgeous. It was rather disturbing, thinking of Harry Potter as gorgeous, but it didn’t change the fact. His arms and shoulders flexed as he stirred and Draco’s eyes caressed the muscles of his back that tapered down to a narrow waist.

“You can go to bed, if you like,” Potter said without pausing his movements. “I’m nearly finished.”

Draco sighed as Potter stopped stirring and reached for a rack of potion vials. They were almost too beautiful to be used for such a mundane purpose. Potter kept each set of potions in nearly-identical vials of hand blown glass. The one he currently held was a spiral swirl of green. Using his wand, he spelled some of the potion into the vial and set it on the rack before reaching for another. He had filled three when Draco stood up, jostling his own rack of blue-vialed potions.

The sound seemed to startle Potter, who twitched. The vial in his hands shattered, sending the pale potion splattering onto the countertop.

Potter swore and began to pick at the glass pieces. Draco walked over and plucked an empty green vial from the rack. “Honestly, Potter,” he said and spelled the potion into the glass.

As expected, Potter hissed and frowned at his finger, which oozed a drop of blood. “I must not have tempered that one properly,” he muttered. “I hope the others hold up.”

Draco rolled his eyes and Vanished the broken pieces before grabbing Potter’s hand and examining the wound. “You’re like a child sometimes, you know that?”

Potter glared at him, childlike, and Draco nearly smiled. He cast a quick Healing Charm and then wiped the blood away with his thumb, suppressing the urge to place Potter’s finger into his mouth. Not because he was a fan of the taste of blood, but because the thought of tasting Potter was far more tantalising than expected.

Potter’s eyes went wide and locked with his. “Thanks,” he whispered.

Draco held his hand for a moment longer than was prudent. Potter dropped his eyes, giving Draco a view of his jet-black lashes. Draco released him quickly and stepped back. Potter turned and filled the final vial before spelling the cauldron clean.

Draco turned and headed up the stairs, followed by Potter. They walked down the hallway in silence, but Draco paused with his hand on the door to the guest room. He glanced at Potter.

“Good night,” he said, wanting to say more, but uncertain as to what.

“Night, Malfoy.”

Potter opened the door, went inside, and closed the portal behind him.

THIRTEEN

Harry was at his wit’s end. He had tried everything he could think of and Narcissa Malfoy was not getting any better. On the plus side, he seldom had to fear his growing attraction to Draco, because Lucius Malfoy was constantly in attendance, haranguing him and demanding results.

“If you have some useful suggestions, perhaps you would be willing to disclose them!” Harry finally yelled after Lucius stormed into the kitchen to complain.

The elder Malfoy glared at him stiffly. “I merely find it ridiculous that you are the foremost authority on this matter,” he said. “Is there no one else?”

Harry gnashed his teeth and turned the sausages in the pan. “You have already spoken to everyone possible. They all told you the same thing. I spent four years of my life developing the vaccine. Now that the virus is mutating, you expect immediate results. We have only been working on it for three weeks.”

“During which my wife has been lying in an unresponsive state!” Lucius yelled.

Harry slammed the spatula down on the counter, more annoyed by the words than he should have been—he knew his anger was induced by guilt.

“Father,” a quiet voice said and Harry looked up to see Draco in the doorway, looking fair enough that Harry had to return his gaze to the cooking sausages before something untoward shone in his eyes.

Whatever passed between the two Malfoys was unspoken, and yet it caused Lucius to stalk out with a muttered, “I will be with your mother.”

Harry sighed heavily when the front door slammed. “Thanks,” he mumbled. “I understand how he feels, honestly.”

“You are doing your best,” Draco said, startling Harry. He stiffened when he felt two hands on his shoulders, squeezing in a comradely fashion. Draco leaned over his shoulders to peer at the pan. “Is that breakfast?”

It took Harry a moment to gather his thoughts enough to speak. Besides last night, when Harry had cut his finger, Draco had never touched him before, other than in anger. It was disconcerting. “Yes. Would you… Do you like eggs?”

“As long as they are fully cooked without any of that nasty white stuff,” Draco said without taking his hands from Harry’s shoulders.

“Well blended, no white stuff. Toast? Wait a minute; you said I am doing my best! That’s not what you suggested yesterday!”

“Yes to toast. I was upset yesterday.” Draco’s tone was matter of fact as his face moved out of Harry’s vision, but his hands began to knead at Harry’s shoulders. “You are really tense, Potter.”

Harry nearly groaned aloud as Draco’s thumbs found hard knots between his shoulder blades and pushed at them. He braced one hand on the stove and fought to keep his legs from buckling. How long had it been since anyone had touched him in such a manner?

“Fuck,” Harry said. “You’ve got a career to fall back on if you ever decide to quit the Auror Department.”

“Are you suggesting I have talented hands, Potter?” Draco asked in an almost teasing tone. His fingers pushed at the flesh near the base of Harry’s neck. God, he could think of a dozen other places he would like Draco to put those hands.

“As much as I hate to compliment you,” Harry replied, “Yeah. You really do.”

To his surprise, Draco continued his massage until the sausages were done, and then he made the toast and retrieved several jars of jam from the pantry that served as a refrigerator.

They sat down to a companionable breakfast and Draco related several Auror stories that made Harry feel pensive as he thought about what his life might have been like if the plague had never come. Would he have married Ginny, as expected? He had been in Auror Training at the time. Most likely, he would have been in the same position Draco was in.

“Do you like it?” Harry asked, toying with his glass of pumpkin juice.

“Surprisingly, I do,” Draco admitted. “I did not, at first, because of the stigma. It took years to prove my worth. Even now, some cannot see beyond the Dark Mark…” Draco trailed away.

“It’s been ten years,” Harry said vehemently. “There are better things to do than hold grudges.”

Draco looked at him in amusement and Harry snorted.

“All right, point taken. Grudges buried?” he asked and held out his hand.

Draco looked at it in surprise and left Harry’s hand in midair so long that he began to fear the blond would ignore it. Just as he was about to withdraw, Draco reached up and took it.

“Grudges buried,” he said quietly.

Harry smiled. It felt like a new start.

FOURTEEN

Harry was frustrated to the point he wanted to tear his own hair out. Narcissa had stopped responding to any treatment. She was getting no worse, but neither was she getting any better. Lucius had stopped demanding action and merely sat quietly, holding Narcissa’s hand, until Harry entered the room. At that point, Lucius would leave without a word. The silence was, perhaps, more damning than any shouting would have been.

Harry spent every waking moment in the lab. Draco was no longer accusatory and angry, which was almost worse. It made Harry feel panicky and slightly sick to his stomach.

One day in late November, Draco walked into the lab and Harry knew instantly that something was wrong.

“What’s happened?” he demanded, leaving off the potion he was brewing, since the damned thing would be ineffectual, anyway.

“Nothing, Potter,” Draco said, waving him off to collapse on his usual stool. His face was paler than normal.

Harry got up and walked over to stare at him wordlessly, waiting.

Draco scowled. “There was a fight today and I stupidly got hit with a Cruciatus. I’m fine.”

“A Cruciatus?” Harry burst out. “Let me see.”

“I said I’m fine!”

“Do you want me to knock you out and then examine you?”

“That’s pretty kinky, Potter,” Draco said with a smirk.

Harry flushed. “Just come on. I have a thousand potions that can help.” He reached out and took Draco’s arm to pull him to his feet. Draco resisted for only a moment.

“All right,” he said grumpily. “But only because I’m tired.”

Harry took him by the wrist and led him upstairs to the room he now thought of as “Draco’s room”. The Auror disrobed down to his trousers and sprawled on the bed. Harry frowned when he saw the huge discolouration on Draco’s ribs.

“That was not caused by a Cruciatus,” Harry admonished.

“It’s possible I hit something when I landed.”

Harry sighed. “Are they broken?” he asked.

“I don’t think so. Fractured, maybe. I refuse to drink Skele-grow, so forget it.”

“Any other injuries?” Harry made a mental list of the potions he would need. An altered, less painful version of Skele-grow, something for the bruising, definitely something for pain, and a supplement to counter possible nerve damage from the Cruciatus Curse.

“Just wounded pride for letting the bastard get the jump on me,” Draco said.

Harry grinned. “That happens to the best of us. In your case, humility can only be an improvement.”

“Prat,” Draco said, but there was no animosity in the word.

Harry put a hand on Draco’s shoulder and let it rest there for a moment. “I’ll be right back with your potions. Pumpkin juice to wash it down?”

“I prefer Firewhiskey.”

Harry shook his head. “Not with the potions. It’s juice or water.”

Draco made a petulant moue. “Water, then.”

Harry went out and returned shortly with an assortment of potions in multicoloured vials. A mug of water Levitated beside him.

Draco obediently drank the liquid down, not even asking if any were poisoned. Harry marvelled inwardly at the change in their status. They were almost becoming friends.

Draco lay back against the pillow with a sigh. Harry sent the empty vials winging down the hall to the kitchen. He pulled the blankets up over Draco and tried to pretend he was just an average patient.

“Potter?”

“Hmmm?”

“My mother is going to get well, isn’t she? You healed me in a matter of weeks, yet she has already been here for nearly a month. When will she start to improve?”

Harry blanched. He wanted to explain that it was complicated, that Draco’s immune system was younger and stronger, that the virus seemed to be mutating as fast as Harry could throw potions at it, that he hadn’t touched some of his research in years and had actually forgotten some of it… But it all sounded like excuses.

“She will get well,” he said and wished it didn’t sound like a promise.

Draco nodded and closed his eyes. “I trust you.”

The words felt like a blow. Harry dimmed the lights and went out.

FIFTEEN

Draco’s growing attraction to Potter was disturbing. He found himself thinking about the man at odd times and even once caught himself doodling little shaggy-haired stickmen on a piece of parchment during an uninteresting briefing.

He wouldn’t go so far as to say he was smitten, because other than a few casual touches, Potter had shown no interest in him whatsoever. Draco meant to question Luna several times as to Potter’s relationship with Longbottom, but she never seemed to be around without Potter lurking nearby.

Draco was almost at the point of making a move on the man. He wasn’t even sure if Potter preferred men; there was no easy way to bring that topic into normal conversation. In the laboratory, they were generally too focussed on their tasks to even speak. Draco nearly always retired before Potter and during their rare moments out of the lab, they were often too tired to do more than snap at each other in a parody of their school days.

He shook off musing about Potter and picked up the potted plant from his desk. He had stumbled across it during a mission, growing wild in an untended field. He was certain it was fen violet, an extremely rare and magical plant. Perhaps Potter could make some use of it in his garden.

Draco left the Ministry and Apparated to Potter’s house. He appeared near the garden with half a mind to put the thing into the ground. It should be safe enough from frost and the skiff of snow that had fallen over the past week—most of Potter’s garden was protected by a variety of charms and spells. Only the plants that thrived on exposure to the weather were allowed to grow unprotected. Draco frowned at the haphazard display that was Potter’s garden. In truth, there seemed to be no logic to the place.

He decided to put the damned violet in the kitchen and let Potter deal with it. So thinking, he turned and went to the house, entering through the back door before setting the potted plant on one edge of the counter. Voices carried from the living room and Draco perked his ears up curiously. Did Potter have company?

Draco snagged a ripe strawberry from a bowl on the table and sauntered toward the other room, wondering if Potter grew his own fruit out of season or had it special-ordered like his parents.

Potter was on his knees in front of the fire. Not a visitor, then, but a Floo-call. Draco leaned against the doorjamb to eavesdrop.

“…and the bergamot infusion seemed to be working, but then nothing! I’m at my bloody wits end and everything is turning to shite!” Potter’s voice was strange, desperate-sounding and near to tears.

“Surely, it’s not that bad, Harry. Your research was as good as mine—”

With a start, Draco recognized the voice as belonging to Hermione Granger. Potter had barely mentioned her name and Draco had begun to think of her as one of the ghosts that inhabited Potter’s past.

Potter cut her off. “That’s not true and you know it! You were here last time! I can’t do this without you. Draco thinks I’m going to heal his mum and I keep lying and telling him I will, but I fucking can’t and—”

Draco tried not to, but he must have made a sound. Either that or the sheer power of his surprise caused Potter to turn and see him. The colour drained from Potter’s face and he turned back to the fire. “I have to go, Hermione.”

“Wait, Harry—”

“I’ll call you later,” he said and stood up. He remained where he was for a moment, clenching and unclenching his fists. His voice was low when he finally spoke. “So, now you know.”

“You lied to me?” Draco asked quietly, more shaken by what Potter’s words meant than by the words themselves. Potter couldn’t heal his mother. She was getting worse, not better. None of Potter’s cures were working. It had all been a complete waste.

And Potter had lied.

“I didn’t…” Potter turned and looked at him with a despairing stare. He spun and walked toward Draco, who considered fleeing. He needed to think and he did not want to hear any of Potter’s excuses. “Draco, I didn’t mean to—”

“You didn’t mean to? You didn’t mean to lie or you didn’t mean to string me on until it was too late to even look for alternatives?”

“I’ve looked for alternatives!” Potter protested.

Draco sneered. “I’ll bet you have.” He told himself he should have expected it. They were not friends, after all. Potter had no need to save his mother, no reason at all beyond pride and his desire to uphold his status as Saviour. No one would care if a Malfoy died. He turned to leave, but Potter’s hand caught his shoulder.

“Draco, wait.”

“Fuck you, Potter,” he snapped and shrugged off the touch.

But Potter snagged his arm. “No, wait, Draco, you need to understand.”

Draco turned and shoved him. Potter staggered back and nearly fell, grabbing onto the back of the sofa to right himself. “I do understand, Potter! I understand perfectly. I’m taking my mother and getting the fuck away from you, as I should have done the moment I discovered it was you that healed me.”

Before he could exit, Potter yelled, “Incarcerous!”

Draco was nearly—nearly—caught. Only his training and reflexes allowed him to alter his stance enough to release his wand from his wrist-sheath and fire a spell.

Potter, damn the bastard, was still quick as a cat. He dodged the Stunner as Draco cast a counterspell to dissolve the ropes. Potter tried a Jelly-legs Jinx next, causing Draco to roll his eyes and wonder if the prat still thought he was in school. Draco’s next spell should have taken Potter down, but a hastily cast Protego shielded him, glowing almost white with the energy needed to counter Draco’s hex.

“Damn it, Potter, I’m an Auror! You can’t win, so just let me be.”

“You need to listen to me!”

“I don’t need to do anything other than leave here and never see your bloody face again!”

Expelliarmus!” Potter yelled.

It should not have worked. Draco had been trained never to lose his wand. It was the first thing they stressed. They had monthly drills to maintain their edge. Of course, nothing ever made sense when it came to Harry Potter. Not in Draco’s life, at any rate.

Draco’s wand tore from his fingers and sailed into Potter’s hand. Draco took one look at Potter’s smug expression and then launched himself at the man. He had a moment of satisfaction at Potter’s gasp of surprise and then they were both slamming onto the hard wooden floor. Thankfully, Potter cushioned Draco from all but a bruised kneecap.

Draco reached for his wand, but Potter held them both high over his head like a child.

“Give me that!” Draco growled.

“No,” Potter said petulantly.

Draco clawed at Potter’s arm and tried to push himself forward, stretching. “You are going to be so fucking sorry when I get my hand on that wand,” he snarled.

Potter arched his back and jerked, trying to free his sleeve from Draco’s grip and extend his reach. Instead, the movement made Draco abruptly aware of their positions. He froze, realizing he was sprawled between Potter’s legs. His torso was pressed tightly against Potter’s and an undeniable bulge lay beneath his cock. Draco’s eyes widened and locked onto Potter’s. Their faces were inches apart, breath rasping with exertion.

Time seemed to stand still around them. Draco could hear nothing but their mingled breathing and feel nothing but Potter’s body beneath his.

“Draco,” Potter said softly and Draco closed his eyes to shut out the emotion he read there. Stupid Potter and his stupid pretences.

Potter’s hand reached up and touched Draco’s face lightly. Draco kept his eyes tightly closed and fought to keep from leaning into the caress.

“I hate you, Potter,” he whispered, wishing it were true.

“I know,” Potter replied. “I’m sorry.”

And then Potter’s lips brushed against his, lightly enough that Draco would have believed it imagined, except that he did it again, sucking gently on Draco’s lower lip, urging a response. Draco knew he would probably regret giving in to impulse; he should grab his wand and hex him before taking his leave, but he had wanted Potter for so long…

Draco crushed his lips against Potter’s, banging his dark head back to the floor with the force of it. Potter’s only response was to slide his hand from Draco’s face into his hair to pull him even closer.

Draco kissed him like he’d never kissed anyone before. In truth, Draco had never paid much attention to kissing—it was simply a means to an end. A few quick pecks and then right along to the main course had been the way to go. Now, however, he knew he would probably never have this chance again.

Draco deepened the kiss, lapping at places in Potter’s mouth that he doubted Potter even knew about. It was definitely not one-sided, however. The prat seemed determined to give as well as he received. Draco’s hand left Potter’s sleeve to travel down his side. His wand rolled away from Potter’s slack grip and the freed hand joined its twin in Draco’s hair.

Draco thought about snatching his wand, but then Potter angled his hips and his obvious erection dragged over Draco’s groin. No trick, then, Potter was serious. The idea was astounding. He tore at Potter’s shirt, wrenching it from the waistband before pushing his hands beneath the material and touching Potter’s bare skin for the first time. It was surprisingly intense, especially when Potter moaned into his mouth and bucked his hips again.

Draco dragged his lips away, struggling to breathe. “We shouldn’t—”

“Please,” Potter said. “Please, Draco.”

Fuck. The desperate plea wrenched at him, despite his intent to stop this madness before it went too far. Potter’s skin was warm and smooth and—

Draco’s hands moved down and fumbled with Potter’s jeans. The buttons fell out of their holes easily, giving Draco access to the tightly stretched pants covering Potter’s bulge. Draco shoved them down unceremoniously. Potter gasped when Draco wrapped his fingers tightly around Potter’s cock—possibly too tightly.

“Still want this, Potter?” he asked roughly.

“I want you,” Potter said quietly and moved his hands over Draco’s shoulders and then downward, caressing his chest and abdomen before groping at Draco’s crotch, where the evidence of his shame was revealed. Potter seemed to sigh in relief at finding Draco just as hard. He caressed Draco through the material and then pulled at the trouser fastenings until he could slip his hands inside.

The first touch of Potter’s hand was even more brilliant than the kiss. It was tentative and yet not—even in uncertainty there was something about Potter that seemed to deny doubt, as though a path through certain danger was always better than lurking back in safety. Perhaps he had the right of it, Draco thought as Potter began to stroke him, moving his fingers in time with Draco’s.

Draco was no stranger to handjobs. His first sexual encounter was a quick fumbling in the dark, followed by so many over the years that he had lost count. None of them had been like this, however. Maybe it was simply because it was Harry Potter, the man who had always fascinated him, sprawled on his own living room floor staring at Draco through wide green eyes, biting his lower lip with concentration, shirt bunched up to reveal taut abdominal muscles, breathing heavily and arching into Draco’s touch with reckless abandon.

The sight alone nearly brought Draco to the edge. Watching Harry Potter come undone was the most erotic thing he had ever seen. He slowed his movements, suddenly wanting it to last longer. He bit his lip when Potter increased the pace of his strokes on Draco’s cock, probably hoping to encourage him back into stepping it up again.

It was too late, anyway. Potter arched once more and tossed his head back, exposing his throat to Draco, who could not resist placing a kiss there. Potter’s hand faltered as he shuddered. Hot fluid splashed onto Draco’s wrist and hand as he kept up his motion, coaxing every drop from his shivering partner.

Potter’s fingers left his cock, only to return an instant later slicked with what was obviously his own come. He smeared it over Draco’s prick and squeezed, sliding his digits deliciously over the head as his face returned to its usual intensity.

Draco bit down on a sharp cry and came. His release mingled with Potter’s, dampening their clothing. Potter kept pulling until it was almost too much, and then he let go and wrapped his arms around Draco, holding him in place as Draco sagged over him.

Draco indulged in long moments of blissful peace, breathing in the scent of Potter and feeling the warmth of him even through their clothing. A strange melancholy stole over him and his lips twisted bitterly against Potter’s throat. Their groping should have been dirty and shameful—they were on the hard floor in Potter’s living room, for fuck’s sake!—but instead it had been borderline amazing. Draco knew without thinking about it too hard that real sex would probably be mind-blowing.

Too bad he would never find out.

One of Potter’s hands toyed with the hair at the nape of Draco’s neck in a gesture that threatened to choke him with tenderness. He did not want tenderness from Potter, not right now and perhaps not ever. It goaded him into action.

He pushed himself up and away, schooling his features into familiar disdain. As usual, it had no visible effect on Potter, whose hands snatched at and twisted into Draco’s robes, holding him in place.

“Draco. I won’t let her die.” Potter’s voice was steady and sure, the voice of a Saviour, heedless of his partial nudity and the spent seed drying on his clothing. Draco hated himself for admiring the bastard even now.

He Summoned his wand without a word, cast several Cleaning Charms and adjusted his clothing. Potter did the same and said nothing more when Draco turned and went out.

SIXTEEN

Draco had not returned. Surprisingly, he had not followed through on his threat to remove Narcissa. A dozen times, it had been on Harry’s lips to ask Lucius if he knew where Draco had gone, but the elder Malfoy’s icy presence was not conducive to conversation at the best of times. He would hardly welcome questions about the whereabouts of his son.

He had no such qualms about asking Luna.

“I haven’t seen him at all, Harry. Why? Did something happen?” She glanced up from the cut flowers she was arranging in a vase that sat on Harry’s kitchen table. Luna had done most of the decorating in Harry’s house. She loved to drop by and sort through the piles of finished glass that Harry kept in haphazard stacks in his storeroom.

“No,” Harry lied. In truth, he regretted the whole situation. Well, perhaps not the whole situation, because touching Draco had been incredible. Unfortunately, the timing could not have been worse, and Harry feared he would never have another chance. He mostly regretted letting Draco leave without explaining.

He sighed.

“Something did happen,” Luna said decisively. “Is it Neville? Frankly, I am starting to think you and Draco would make a much better couple.”

Harry snorted. “Tell that to Draco,” he muttered.

“I think he likes you more than he lets on,” she said, primping the blooms one last time.

Harry did not bother to refute that statement. It might have been true before he had bollocked everything up so badly. He wished it had never happened, or at least, not happened in that fashion. He hadn’t even said anything. He had not explained; he had not indicated anything about how he felt; he had simply attacked Draco and then shown an inexcusable lack of control in allowing his lust to take over.

And now Draco was gone, ignoring every owl Harry had sent and blocking each Floo-call he had attempted for the past week.

Harry had considered travelling to Malfoy Manor and confronting him, but what purpose would it serve?

“You want him, don’t you, Harry?” Luna asked sagely. For all her oddness, Harry found her to be extremely perceptive at times.

He nodded. “Much good that it does me.” Harry’s hands slid over the vase Luna had handed to him. One finger traced a line of white threaded through the fiery red glass. “If Narcissa dies, Draco will hate me forever. I would be stupid to ask for a relationship now.”

“But that is when he would need you the most, Harry.”

He swallowed hard and shook his head, recalling Draco’s angry words. Draco would accuse him of not trying hard enough. It would always be between them. Narcissa had to survive. At any cost.

“I need to get back to work. There has to be something I haven’t tried—something I missed.”

A roar from the fireplace announced the arrival of a visitor. Harry turned and nearly jogged down the hall while trying to suppress the foolish leap of his heart, in case it was Draco.

Instead, Harry’s jaw gaped as his gaze fixed on the last person he expected to see. Hermione Granger.

After a round of happy hugs and the tossing of Hermione’s baggage into the room formerly occupied by Draco, the three of them gathered around the kitchen table with mugs of steaming tea that Luna had prepared.

Hermione drank, holding the cup with her left hand. Her right still trembled visibly, but not the way it had when she had fled Britain in search of a cure.

Her hair was barely shoulder-length and her skin was tanned. There were lines around her eyes, either from squinting into the sun or laughing, or both. She seemed like a stranger until she began to speak.

Harry fell back into the old habit of listening without really listening, unable to keep the smile from his face. He supposed he had convinced himself that he didn’t miss her half as much as he really did. Something in his world seemed to right itself with her return.

“…and it’s summer there now, you know! It was almost a relief to feel the rain in London, but this! Harry, there is a foot of snow out there!”

He nodded happily. The snow had fallen steadily since Draco’s departure. It seemed fitting.

“If I don’t freeze, it will be a miracle. Thank goodness I thought to stop and pull some jumpers out of storage.” Her countenance turned serious. “All right, Harry, enough pleasantries. Show me what you’ve done.”

Harry nodded, relieved at the chance to unburden himself.

SEVENTEEN

Draco scowled morosely into his glass of melting ice cubes. He wanted to destroy something, but the only thing worth destroying currently resided in northern Scotland, and should Draco succeed in destroying that, it would mean the loss of his career as well as his permanent relocation to a cell in Azkaban.

He debated the idea of refilling his glass or throwing it into the fireplace in a fit of pique. The more adult thing to do would be to down a few more Firewhiskeys and crawl into bed to sleep it off, but lately being an adult had been extremely unsatisfying.

Draco had spent a week searching for alternatives to Potter. Not in a physical sense, although that idea had merit (except that he feared there was no alternative to Potter in that area, which was singularly depressing) only to find that Potter had been right. He was the foremost authority on the Pureblood Plague. Even the healers at St Mungo’s had confirmed it.

Basically, Draco was fucked. He had no choice but to leave his mother to the dubious care of Harry Potter, who had as much as admitted that he could not cure her. Draco knew he should go back and offer his assistance, but he was well aware it would take years to reach the level of Potter’s knowledge. Even Draco’s ability with potions had fallen by the wayside in recent years, except for yearly refresher training. Defensive and offensive spellwork had taken priority.

A house-elf popped up next to him, making Draco’s decision for him, at least the one regarding his alcohol consumption. He handed the glass to the elf.

“Master Draco is having a visitor.”

Draco rolled his eyes. “Master Draco is not having a visitor. Tell them to go away, especially if it is Harry Potter.” He doubted Potter would have the nerve to show up after so long. Draco had half-expected him during the first two days after he fled Potter’s house, but the Saviour had never appeared.

Draco convinced himself he was not disappointed.

“Master Draco’s visitor is saying his name is being Seamus Finnegan.”

Draco sat up. Seamus Finnegan? Wasn’t he dead? Or living in Ireland, which amounted to the same thing, according to the British Wizarding society. Draco had no idea what the former Gryffindor would want with him.

“Scaley will be telling Mister Finnegan to be leaving,” the house-elf said, bowing low.

“Never mind. Just refill my glass and leave it here. I will see off Finnegan, myself.” Draco got to his feet—only slightly unsteadily—and set off down the hall to see if it was some ploy of Potter’s to trick him into accepting a message. The owls had been sent away bearing their original letters. Potter’s human messenger would fare no better.

Seamus Finnegan stood near the fireplace with one hand on the mantel, as though trying to look casual, but failing. Draco looked at him for a moment and frowned. There was something odd about Finnegan that he couldn’t quite place. He looked… young. Perhaps there was something to be said for fleeing the country to live in Ireland. Fresh, clean air and all that?

“Finnegan. What are you doing here?” Draco asked without preamble.

The man’s head snapped up and his wide eyes stared at Draco. He seemed inordinately nervous and Draco flexed his wrist in preparation to snap his wand into his hand. His Auror instincts kicked in and he sobered a bit as he waited for the man to make a move.

“Draco,” Finnegan said haltingly and put a hand out. He pulled it back and then raised it to tug at his short hair in a gesture that was disturbingly familiar. “Look, Draco, I’m sorry I had to do this, but I couldn’t think of anything else. You refused to see me and you kept sending back my owls…”

Draco gaped at him, cluing in immediately, although it was probably his suspicion that had worked it out rather than reason.

Potter?” he asked in a disbelieving tone.

Finnegan—no, Potter—nodded. He flashed Draco a grin that was disturbing on several levels and then Draco realized why. “Oh, Merlin, Finnegan is dead, isn’t he?”

The grin disappeared and Potter nodded. “The plague. He was one of the first to go. Those of us in Auror Training got drunk one night and gave each other a couple of hairs to use in case of emergency. I still have Lee Jordan’s… and Ron’s.” Potter swallowed and added, “And Anthony Goldstein’s, but you know him.”

Draco waited without acknowledging Potter’s words. He thought Anthony would have been a better choice, except… except that Potter had gathered the hairs a decade ago. It explained the youth of his current likeness. Finnegan had been only twenty years old when he died.

“Pretty sick joke, Potter.”

“It isn’t a joke! I told you, this is the only way I could see you. I had to tell you that Hermione is back. She’s going through all of my notes, plus her old journals, and she’s brought back some research from Australia. We could use your help.”

Draco glared at him. Finnegan’s face was unfamiliar—he could read no truth or lie in the guileless eyes. He almost refused outright, but the knowledge that his mother’s life hung in the balance kept him from such blatant stupidity.

“That’s it?” he asked curtly.

Potter hesitated and then nodded. So, that’s how it was to be, then. Potter intended to pretend it had never happened. Draco set his jaw. That was fine with him.

“Fine. I’ll be along later.”

Relief flooded the freckled features and for a moment he looked more Potter than Finnegan. Potter nodded.

“Thanks,” he said and then turned, tossed Floo powder into the flames, and was gone.

EIGHTEEN

By the time Draco deigned to arrive, the Polyjuice had worn off and Harry was a bundle of nerves. He wondered if he had made yet another mistake, but at least the Polyjuice had served its purpose—he had made it into the Manor to speak to Draco. He threw himself on the couch and sent a prayer of thanks to Seamus and the luck of the Irish.

When the flames flared, Harry shot to his feet and tried to school his features into something other than pathetic need.

Draco stepped from the hearth and stopped in surprise. His eyes travelled around the room slowly and his mouth opened just enough to show a hint of white teeth. Harry suppressed a smile, but he was suddenly glad of Luna’s attack of holiday spirit. She had dropped by the previous day and spent several hours draping Harry’s house with evergreen garland, bright red ribbons, fairy lights, and hundreds of Harry’s glass baubles. Only one large space was devoid of decoration—the corner had been cleared in preparation for the tree they still needed to fetch.

“Happy Holidays,” Harry said somewhat lamely.

Draco recovered his aplomb and sneered. “For some of us.”

Harry flushed, but was spared the need to reply by Hermione breezing into the room. “Draco!” she cried. To the surprise of Harry and Draco both, she hurried forward and enveloped him in a massive hug.

Draco met Harry’s eyes in obvious distress and he patted her awkwardly on the back while Harry restrained an amused smile.

“I’m so sorry about your mum,” she said. “But I may have had a breakthrough.” She released Draco and turned to Harry. “It’s the mirkwood, Harry. As much as I hate to admit it, Luna was right. We need to gather as much of it as possible.”

Harry’s eyes went immediately to Draco’s arm, where the he still wore the twist of mirkwood that Harry had painstakingly fashioned into a bracelet. Draco’s long fingers caressed the wood for a moment.

Harry nodded. “I’ll call Neville and see if he can bring some. I have a store of it in the back, as well.”

“I brought some items from home that I thought we might need. I will prepare them. Draco, do you think you can occupy your father for a few hours? I would like to have you present for the ceremony, but I think Lucius’ energy might be disruptive, rather than helpful. When I went to examine your mother he told me to ‘take my repugnant Mudblood healing methods and shove them—’ Well, no need to repeat that, I suppose.” She smiled wanly and Draco nodded.

“I should be able to send him for some questionable potion ingredients. It will give him something to do and it is possible we might need them at a later date, anyway.”

No one said anything about the “questionable” bit, since Draco was the Auror, after all. Hermione did not even purse her lips. Without further adieu, they all headed for different stations—Draco went out the front door, making for the cottage, while Hermione went to her room and Harry knelt at the fire to call Neville.

Harry watched with interest as Hermione piled stacks of mirkwood around Narcissa on the bed while her voice echoed in the small room. “The mirkwood actually enhances the body’s natural magic and fights the virus as it attempts to destroy the genes that contain it. Rather like an antibody, but on a magical level, rather than a physical. The herbs will assist on the physical plane.”

They had given Narcissa a tea made with several natural plants such as thistle, yellow dock, and wild sarsaparilla, and applied a poultice of ground ivy and tea tree oil to the visible lesions. Draco had watched wordlessly as they worked; his face had been taut and pale while Harry and Hermione had manoeuvred his mother’s limp body. She had grown painfully thin over the past few weeks, making Harry even more terrified for her life. Feeding an unconscious person was difficult, made even harder by Lucius Malfoy’s refusal to allow Muggle intravenous methods.

Next Hermione took several small censors and stuffed them with a variety of ingredients—tea tree and eucalyptus barks, red clover, and powdered dragon scales topped with mirkwood shavings. She set them alight and then filled small metal bowls with oil-infused water, placing them atop the burning ingredients and waiting for them to boil. Steam rose eventually to mingle with the smoke, thickening the air and making it difficult to breathe.

“Now we wait,” Hermione said, sinking into a chair. “It might sound foolish, but it won’t hurt to link hands and send healing thoughts her way. It has been proven to work in many cultures.”

Harry immediately took Hermione’s hand and frowned when Draco dragged his chair to the other side of Hermione’s, pointedly ignoring Harry’s outstretched hand in favour of taking Hermione’s. Harry’s jaw clenched in annoyance when she glanced at him curiously, obviously wondering why Draco would prefer the touch of a “Mudblood” to gripping Harry’s hand, but she said nothing. Harry had not bothered to explain the issues between him and Draco. The latest issues, at any rate.

They remained where they were, in silence, until the water had completely boiled away. Hermione then rose and extinguished the embers of the fire. To Harry’s amazement, Narcissa seemed to be breathing easier, but he admitted that it might only be wishful thinking. They left the mirkwood where it was, shoved a bit more of it beneath the bed, and left the cottage to return to the house.

Luna was waiting for them, along with Neville and Lavender Brown, Neville’s fiancé. Harry gave her a welcoming hug; it had been months since he had last seen her.

“Time to fetch the tree!” Luna announced. “Everyone bundle up.”

Draco and Hermione were far from enthusiastic about trudging out into the cold wilderness to locate a suitable evergreen. Nonstop coaxing from Luna and Lavender finally persuaded them to don heavy outerwear and join the rest of them in the trek.

It took thirty minutes to locate a tree that met with Luna’s satisfaction. Draco felled it with a single spell and Harry Levitated it back to the house. Once the tree was properly ensconced in the corner, Lavender prepared eggnog with Hermione while Luna directed the placement of decorations, arguing with Neville as if they were the engaged couple.

Draco sat in a chair in the farthest corner from the tree, watching the proceedings with an air of detached boredom. Harry lurked near the kitchen, pretending to help while doing nothing but watch Draco Malfoy, who ignored him completely.

Luna disappeared for a short time, only to return with the radio from Harry’s bedchamber, which she tuned to the Wizarding Wireless Network’s endless stream of holiday music. Harry had to admit the gathering was rather festive, even though he couldn’t shake his own maudlin depression.

Draco stood abruptly. “I think I’ll go home,” he said to no one in particular.

“Oh, but you can’t!” Luna cried. She lifted a small box and carried it over to him. “Not without opening this, at least. I believe they were made especially for you.”

Draco frowned, but he accepted the package that Luna thrust at him, holding it as though it contained live vipers.

Luna laughed. “Just open it.”

Draco sighed and did so. Harry held his breath, nervously awaiting Draco’s reaction. It was anticlimactic. Draco’s face showed no expression at all as he opened the lid and lifted out one of the tiny glass ornaments by its silver thread.

The miniature glass dragon spun for a moment and then unfurled its wings and yawned, as if waking up. Draco’s eyes widened, finally disclosing something other than bored disinterest. He glanced at Harry, who smiled.

“I had Flitwick Charm them for me,” he said quietly.

Draco swallowed and looked away. “Thank you,” he said. “You can hang them on your tree, if you like. We won’t have one at the Manor this year.” He practically thrust the box back at Luna.

Harry nodded and his throat closed up with sympathy. He could not help but feel somewhat responsible for the lack of traditional Christmas at Malfoy Manor. He quickly excused himself and went to join Lavender in the kitchen, fighting an onslaught of melancholy.

NINETEEN

Draco watched as Luna and Lavender hung the dragon ornaments. Some of them flew in lazy circles at the ends of their tethers while other alighted on branches and flexed their wings. Potter had fled to the kitchen and not returned. The man was a paradox, to be sure. More and more Draco had begun to wonder what Potter had thought of their single encounter. Did he regret it? Had it meant nothing? Or had it meant something that Draco couldn’t fathom?

Why had Potter made the dragon ornaments and taken the effort of seeking out Flitwick at Hogwarts just to have them charmed? Was it nothing more than an elaborate apology?

Draco cursed himself for allowing his mind to run amok with unanswerable questions. He took a drink of eggnog and wrinkled his nose. He could not abide the stuff, but Lavender had been particularly generous with the brandy, so he kept sipping at it, thinking if he drank enough of it, he might stop thinking about Harry Potter.

The bane of his existence finally drifted back into the fray, although he lurked in the archway to the kitchen, no doubt ready to make another quick escape, if necessary. Granger, already on her third mug of eggnog, walked over and draped an arm over Potter’s shoulders.

“Mistletoe, Harry,” she said with a giggle and pointed to the cluster of leaves and berried hanging over Potter’s head.

Potter smiled wryly and Granger planted a kiss on the corner of his mouth before enveloping him in a hug. He held her for a long time and Draco stared fixedly at the tree, admittedly envious that he had never had such a strong friendship. Even if his friends from school had survived, it was doubtful any of them would have retained such a bond with Draco. For perhaps the first time, he admitted to himself that he had always been jealous of Granger’s friendship with Potter.

“My turn!” Luna said and skipped over to Potter. Granger stepped back with a grin and Luna practically knocked Potter into the wall with the force of her embrace. She planted a not-so-chaste kiss on Potter’s lips that sent Draco’s eyebrows lifting in surprise.

She stepped back with a giggle, leaving Potter looking slightly dazed. “Sorry, Neville,” Luna said, “But you and Harry seem to have broken up, so he’s eligible now, yes?”

Draco’s jaw clenched.

Lavender put her hands on her hips with an exasperated sound. “Luna! Neville and I have been going out for two years. We have been living together for three months! He was never going out with Harry! Never! Merlin, how thick can you be?”

Luna’s brow wrinkled for a moment, but then she shrugged her shoulders and winked at Harry conspiratorially. “It’s all right, Harry. I won’t say anything about your affair,” she said in a stage whisper.

Lavender growled and flounced over to curl up on the sofa next to Neville.

“Who’s next?” Luna called merrily. “Draco?”

For a moment, pure panic crossed Potter’s features. Draco set the mug aside and got to his feet. Silence descended on the room for a moment, but for the quiet notes of a random Christmas song.

“I’m going to check on Mother,” Draco said flatly. He walked to the front door, wrenched at the handle, and escaped.

TWENTY

Harry watched him go as Luna sighed. “Sorry, Harry. I tried.”

He smiled at her sadly and then caught Hermione looking at him with a puzzled expression that slowly cleared.

“Draco?” she asked. “Honestly?”

Harry shrugged helplessly and nodded. She burst out laughing.

“What?” Harry demanded.

Hermione shook her head. “Nothing. It’s just… Well, we should have seen it coming years ago.”

Harry glared at her. “Really? Tell that to Draco, then, because he doesn’t seem to be getting it.” Suddenly, Harry was angry. Not at Hermione, or even at Draco, but mostly at himself for being so stupid as to fall for someone so completely anguish-inducing as Draco sodding Malfoy.

The sympathetic looks he received added fuel to the fire. “Bloody hell. I’m going for a walk.” He shoved away from the wall, crossed through the kitchen and went out the back door. He slammed it petulantly, just to make himself feel better. It didn’t help.

Harry entered his workshop and stoked the fire on the furnace, even though it was kept burning at all times through magical means. He thought about fashioning something, but it was generally impossible to work glass when he was in an irritated frame of mind. He tended to break things.

In fact, breaking things seemed like a fine idea, at the moment. Harry picked up an opaque bowl that he had recently been working on. He had planned to attach handles and a decorative edge. He hefted the bowl in his hand and then hurled it at the wall behind the furnace. It shattered with a satisfying crash and tinkled to the floor.

“Evil bowl?” asked a sardonic voice behind him.

Harry whirled to see Draco standing in the doorway.

Instantly nonplussed, he searched for a witty rejoinder, but nothing came to mind, as usual. He turned away and looked for another fragile target. The brown vase was a likely subject—what had possessed him to use brown, anyway?

“Did you come to humiliate me?” Harry asked bitterly. “I can do that well enough on my own, it seems.”

“Not this time,” Draco said, moving closer and taking the brown vase from Harry’s hands. He studied it and held it up to the light glowing from the furnace. It gleamed more red than brown when held in that fashion. “Nice,” Draco commented. “I like the yellow veins. Interesting how it looks so plain at first glance.”

Harry wondered if the statement was some sort of jibe, but he decided he would rather not know. He took the vase from Draco’s hands, no longer willing to smash it now that it had met with Draco’s approval. “I doubt you came here to discuss my colour selections.”

“Perhaps not,” Draco agreed.

Harry set the vase aside and waited.

“I may have committed a faux pas,” Draco said finally.

Harry couldn’t help it. He snorted a laugh. “You? Surely not.”

Draco nodded. “Indeed. It happens to the best of us.”

“What heinous crime did you commit? Forget to use a napkin?”

“Of course not. What do you know about Norse mythology?”

Harry blinked at him and wondered if Draco had gone mad, or if Luna had been nipping at Harry’s Polyjuice potion. “You mean Odin and Thor and such?”

Draco nodded. “Specifically, Baldur.”

“Baldur,” Harry repeated, confused. “Well… nothing, actually.”

“Baldur was a Norse god that was known to be beautiful and bright, and fair and perfect, and loved by all. Rather like you.”

Harry clenched his teeth and refrained from snapping a retort, wondering if Draco had a point or if he was only talking to annoy him.

Draco smiled and continued his tale. “Baldur’s mother was Frigga, and she adored her son, as mother’s do, and was worried about a prophetic dream in which gracious Baldur died. So she went about the earth and had every living creature, plants included, promise never to harm him. They all swore, of course. All except mistletoe.”

Harry’s head jerked around and he stared at Draco, who was idly examining the bottles stacked on a nearby table.

“Accounts vary as to whether mistletoe was forgotten, or simply thought to be too unimportant to bother with. A grave oversight, as it turns out.”

“What happened?” Harry asked, more curious about where Draco was going with his tale than with the story itself.

“Loki, the trickster god, used the fact to his advantage. The other gods were having a grand time hurling missiles at Baldur in order to watch them bounce harmlessly off. Loki fashioned a spear out of mistletoe and surreptitiously gave it to one of the hapless javelin throwers. Of course, the mistletoe spear did not bounce off. It killed Baldur.”

“Charming,” Harry said dryly.

“That is not the end of it, of course. Frigga was extremely upset and brought winter to the world in her grief. Rather than punish mistletoe, she announced it to be sacred and declared that it should henceforth bring love to the world rather than death.”

Harry smiled. “So that is where the kissing tradition comes from?”

“Indeed. Any two people passing under the mistletoe were required to put down their weapons and kiss in order to celebrate Baldur’s resurrection.”

“What is the punishment for refusing such a decree?” Harry asked quietly.

“I don’t know,” Draco replied. “I am certain it is something terrible.”

“Yet, you are willing to risk it?”

“Perhaps not. I found this lonely sprig on your front stoop. It must have fallen from the larger bunch.” Draco pulled a dull green twig from his robe pocket. It was adorned with a few rounded leaves and three tiny white berries. He turned toward Harry and lifted the mistletoe toward Harry’s forehead, dangling it over his hair. “Are you willing to risk the consequences of ignoring the command of an ancient goddess?”

“Certainly not,” Harry breathed and let his eyes fall shut as he leaned forward.

Draco’s lips pressed into his, soft and pleasantly sweet. His breath was flavoured with alcohol, which Harry might have blamed for his astonishing behaviour, except that he had not even finished a full mug of eggnog.

Harry’s hands rose to splay gently over Draco’s breast, wanting desperately to curl into the fabric and drag him closer, but terrified that Draco would pull away and leave him clinging foolishly.

Instead, Draco’s hands curved around Harry’s back and tugged him forward, plastering Harry against his length as he deepened the kiss, pushing his tongue past Harry’s willing lips and tasting him fully.

Harry wrapped his hands around Draco’s neck, but lightly, still not daring to request anything more than Draco chose to give.

They kissed for long, very long, extremely long minutes, until neither could breathe steadily and the edge of the table dug into Harry’s arse from where Draco had pushed him against it, rattling the glass. One small bottle had toppled, rolled to the edge, and dropped to smash on the floor below. Harry had barely noticed. His hands were tangled in Draco’s hair.

“Do you think…?” Harry panted. “Do you think Frigga is appeased?”

“She’s a goddess. Best not take any chances,” Draco said in the same breathless tone and dove back in.

Harry could only agree.

TWENTY ONE

Draco stroked Potter’s back and revelled in the sensation of kissing him. The mistletoe had fallen to the floor, forgotten, its purpose served.

Draco had been on his way to see his mother when his eye had caught sight of the sprig, making him feel like a coward. He supposed he should have kissed Potter and embarrassed the prat in front of his friends.

He had picked up the mistletoe and then walked back to the door, intending to fling it open and carry out the scenario he had envisioned. He had paused with his hand on the latch, hearing first Granger’s voice and then Potter’s.

…we should have seen it coming years ago.”

“Really? Tell that to Draco, then, because he doesn’t seem to be getting it.

Potter had stormed out and slammed the door. Draco had released the latch and backed away, thinking hard. The words seemed to echo in his head and he realized he had been an oblivious idiot, which was ironic, since he had always ascribed that quality to Potter.

Draco had started for the cottage once more and then turned abruptly and made his way to Potter’s workshop.

Now Potter pulled back to stare at him through slightly glazed eyes. “Why?” he asked and then winced as if asking the question had been the height of stupidity.

“I acknowledge that I may have overreacted,” Draco said magnanimously.

Potter’s eyes widened. “You?”

Draco nodded. “I assumed that you were not doing your best to help Mother, but in hindsight I believe I was mistaken.”

“What changed your mind?” Potter asked curiously. His hands were still tangled in Draco’s hair and his fingers twitched in a near-caress.

In truth, it had been Granger. Her presence alone was testament to Potter’s strength of conviction. He had persuaded her to travel halfway around the world; if she could not help Potter save his mother, no one could.

“You did,” Draco replied and kissed him again.

A soft sound from the doorway drew Draco’s reluctant attention and he turned to see Hermione Granger lurking there. An amused smirk twisted her lips. “Well, Harry, it looks like Draco finally got it, yes?”

“I am not as stupid as you like to think,” Draco said without malice. It was hard to be annoyed with Harry Potter wrapped around him. Even with Granger’s presence he made no move to let go.

“Apparently not,” she replied. “Head Auror, if the Daily Prophet is to be believed.”

Potter gasped. “You made Head Auror?”

Draco frowned. “Three days ago. Don’t you read?”

“Not the Prophet. And no one told me.” Potter’s lips pushed out in a bit of a pout that Draco did not find attractive in the least. Well, perhaps he found it slightly attractive. Possibly more than slightly.

“It’s not important,” Draco said. He drew an experimental palm upward, bumping his fingers over the ridges of Potter’s spine. Potter drew in a breath and shifted closer to Draco. A promising response, Draco decided.

“I just checked in on your mother,” Granger said. “Her fever has broken. I think the worst of it has passed.”

Draco reluctantly loosened his grip. “I want to see her.”

Potter’s hands left his hair, but one slipped down to link his fingers with Draco’s. “Let’s go.”

It was true. Draco thought he could detect a visible change; he could feel it, also, as though his mother’s magic was stronger and fighting back.

The door opened to admit his father. “What is it?” Lucius asked stridently upon viewing Draco’s face and the tears glistening on his lashes.

Draco explained quickly and watched as his father seemed to crumble before his eyes. Voldemort had not broken him, not really, but this nearly had. He embraced Draco and held on tightly, body taut with emotion.

His father regained his composure with difficulty; he released Draco and then stepped close to Potter.

“Thank you,” his father said thickly. To the amazement of them all, Lucius put his arms around Harry Potter and pulled him into an awkward embrace. The surprise on Potter’s face nearly made Draco laugh out loud. He choked it back with difficulty, not wanting his father to destroy him with a glance.

Potter stood stiffly, hands dangling helplessly, until his father let go and moved away. He ignored them all to sit at his wife’s bedside, taking up her pale hand.

Thus dismissed, they left the cottage and headed back toward the brightly lit house. Fairy lights glittered through the windows and reflected off the snow. “He could have thanked Hermione,” Potter grumbled.

Granger laughed and it seemed a magical sound in the still, cold night. “That might have heralded the end of the world.”

Draco agreed. “One miracle at a time.”

Potter’s fingers found his once more and his shining eyes met Draco’s. “Two miracles,” he corrected. “Two.”

Draco smiled, feeling a rush of warmth. He shook off Potter’s fingers only to drape an arm around his shoulders and pull him closer before grabbing his hand and pressing a kiss onto each knuckle before towing him along in Granger’s wake.

For the first time in a long while, the future was looking bright.

~*~

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