If there was a fate worse than living as a Muggle, Draco didn't yet know it. It had been his acquiescence that had led him here in the first place--either this odd, magic-less street in the middle of Surrey or another summer spent with his insufferable aunt; staying the few weeks without Potter at the Weasleys hadn't even been an option, even as it was presented, but that didn’t mean he necessarily had to like his current situation.
Potter's relatives were--in two words--woefully Muggle. The youngest, whom Draco had not bothered to remember the name of, reminded Draco fiercely of what he thought an Erumpent might look like, and as such, Draco called him Rumpy in his head, since he was more rump than anything else. He did not share this with Potter, even though he secretly thought Potter would get a kick out of it from the way he shot sidelong glances at the Muggles when they weren't looking. But his overwhelming sense of Gryffindor graciousness would bring him to the offensive, and it was not worth the fall out, not here, sequestered in this tiny house with insensibly magicless things, even if it would be highly amusing.
In any case, he was spending a lot of time doing absolutely nothing, shut in Potter’s room, paging through the books that he had in his trunk for lack of something more amusing to occupy himself with. Potter was hellbent on whatever task it was he’d taken upon himself to complete, and Draco was fine without knowing what the details, operating under the assumption that the less he knew, the better, especially as he was rapidly climbing Voldemort’s most wanted list.
When Potter wasn’t in a mood, moping about or pulling a Granger, it turned out he liked to talk. Not quite as gabby or gossipy as Pansy had been, but he filled the silence in a way that made it impossible to ignore. Stupid things at first, like comments on how Draco didn’t know how to work the ekelectricity or offhand remarks about what he’d done as a child in this house. It was weird, at first, maybe a little awkward, because whatever Potter and he had built up (and in no way, shape, or form was Draco classifying their relationship as, well, as a relationship), they’d never really had a conversation that went beyond a fight. The levity of what Potter was trying to develop between them was, in a word, mystifying, and Draco found himself answering with thinly veiled insults at first that only made Potter roll his eyes, wrinkle his nose, and go back to his books.
But things had changed between them, obviously, and it wasn’t as easy as it had once been to callously throw words about to hurt Potter, and the reciprocal was true. After all, even if Draco pretended as though he still couldn’t stand Potter as a person, the fact was he was in a Muggle house with only Potter for company, and actions, as his mum had always said, spoke louder than words.
The plan to break the enchantment keeping them both safe had been divulged to Draco with little detail, and as such, Draco was apprehensive of it. July had dawned muggy and cool, too foggy for Draco’s liking, and even though it was the height of summer, sometimes he shivered with the temperature, burrowed into Potter’s hard bed even though it was high afternoon. Sometimes Potter would climb in with him, and even though Draco hotly complained, it felt safer, in a way.
One day, Potter was off doing whatever it was that he did whenever he was in a mood, and Draco was puttering around, flicking through the Prophet for snippets of news when Rumpy decided to pay Draco an unprecedented visit.
“What do you want?” Draco asked flatly when he finally noticed Rumpy lingering in the open doorway, looking equal parts terrified and determined. His girth was huge, almost overwhelming, and for a second, Draco felt the need to go for his wand.
“Is Harry going to die?” Rumpy queried baldly, and Draco was taken aback for a second at his tone.
“I am not a prophet,” Draco responded tightly. “Divination is a useless subject anyways.”
Rumpy blinked slowly, uncomprehendingly, and Draco had to remind himself that Muggles didn’t know of such things. “I don’t know what you’re talking ‘bout,” the Muggle said brusquely, “but those other--” and here his voice dropped to a bare whisper “--people are actin’ like something’s gonna happen.”
“Well I suppose they’d be right then,” Draco snapped. “And what do you care anyway? It’s not like there’s any love lost between you. Everyone knows of Potter’s sad Muggle relatives and how they hate him.”
“I don’t hate Harry,” Rumpy protested, but it sounded very weak to Draco’s ears.
“I’m sure,” said Draco dryly. “In any case, I have no idea, so you ought not ask me. Won’t your father be angry you’re talking with me in the first place?” Draco did not like Potter’s uncle, who was ruddy-faced and snappish and most definitely thought Draco to be something beneath him, which was about the most ironic thing Draco could imagine.
“I won’t tell him,” Rumpy said sheepishly, looking at his feet.
“If you’re done then?” said Draco, somewhat meanly, after Rumpy had spent no less than two minutes looking at the carpet as though he expected it to ignite underneath his feet.
“Is Harry your boyfriend?” Rumpy asked suddenly, startling Draco again with his unprecedented questions.
“What on earth are you talking about?” Draco said, slightly scandalized. “I am not -- that!”
“Oh,” Rumpy said, looking downwards again. “I only thought...he looks at you funny sometimes.”
“You thought wrong,” Draco hissed, and even though he wished it not to be, he knew his face was bright pink at the implication.
“I’ll just be going then,” Rumpy muttered, and Draco thought that was the last of it until he said, a second later, “Look after Harry, will you? Just--look after him, okay?”
When Draco looked up again, Rumpy was gone, startlingly fast, and Draco couldn’t help but furrow his brow in confusion. Him? Look after Saint Potter? Somehow, Rumpy had gotten their roles reversed, because Potter was the one who was supposed to keep Draco from perishing, not the other way around.
And that’s how things were going to stay.
Draco doesn’t bring up his odd conversation with Rumpy to Potter, half because he could never find a way to phrase it appropriately and half because it was, suffice to say, slightly crass, at least in Draco’s mind. He couldn’t help but mull it over in his head, though, turning those last words over and over until he gave himself a headache. He didn’t want to care what some Muggle had mentioned in passing, in some sort of disillusioned sense of propriety, but at the same time, it sparked a worry deep in Draco’s stomach. If even the Muggles thought Potter needed protecting--Potter, one of the most protected people Draco had ever known--then what was to become of Draco on this journey he was about to partake in?
Yes, he had spent a long time thinking about following Potter Circe-knows-where before he’d demanded it, but it had never hit home quite so hard before. The reality was becoming slightly overwhelming, and before he knew it, his odd holiday in Muggle England was coming to a swift end, and he was included in a throng of wizards that looked quite out of place in the sitting room, most of whom were giving Draco a withering stare. In turn, he ignored them, leaning against the far wall, sneering at the Weasley twins.
“The plan’s set,” Mad-Eye Moody growled, stomping to the middle of the room. He pulled something out of his side pocket, a flask not unlike the one he (or rather, fake-Moody) toted around during Draco’s fourth year, and beside him, Shacklebolt pulled his wand out decisively. “We’re splitting into teams of two,” Moody continued gravely. “One protector and one decoy.”
Draco didn’t like that word. Decoy. He very much hoped he wasn’t about to become one.
No one interrupted with a question, so Mad-Eye stumped forward a little, leaning on his walking stick, and followed up with, “Tonks, Kingsley, Remus, Arthur, Hagrid and myself will be paired up with one of the rest of you.”
Draco’s stomach dropped, and for the ninetieth time that evening, he questioned his cockamamy idea to join Potter on this damn crusade. He could be sitting comfortably in a hiding hole right now, and, if he thought he could get away with it unscathed, he had half a mind to Apparate directly to his Aunt Andromeda’s.
“Potter, you will be with Hagrid,” Moody said, gesturing, and Potter barely flickered a glance over to the oaf before squaring his attention on Moody again, obviously eager to get to the punchline of the plan. “We’re going to Disillusion you; you’ll be on the flying motorbike.”
“That doesn’t sound so bad,” Potter said, relieved. “It’s like what we did the last time you came to get me when I was in fifth year.”
“The rest of you--Hermione, Ron, Fred, George, and Draco--will take Polyjuice Potion to disguise yourselves as Potter,” Shacklebolt said in his low, forbidding voice. “We hope that the Death Eaters haven’t yet discovered our plan to abandon this house early, but if they do, we need to draw attention away from the real Harry.”
“No,” Potter said immediately, looking as furious as Draco felt. “There’s no way. I’m not letting you!”
“I am not pretending to be Potter just so someone can curse me off of a broom,” Draco snapped hotly.
Moody’s stare hardened, and for a second, Draco had to fight the urge to shrink back against the wall, sure he was about to be transfigured into a ferret again. “That’s the plan,” he said dangerously. “We’re not changing it.”
“There’s no way I’m going to fly away invisible while the rest of you pretend to be me!” Potter yelled.
Draco rather thought Potter was being fairly stupid. He was the one who had the most assured promise of safety; Draco had been now entered into a contest where the prize was death with a chance that there’d be no losers.
“There he goes,” one of the Weasley twins said. Draco could never tell them apart. “I told you.”
“Rather stupid of him, if you ask me,” the other said in counterpoint. “He should know we’re not going to let him leave without some sort of plan.”
“This isn’t funny,” Potter snapped.
“I didn’t say it was,” the first twin said, in fake surprise.
“Honestly,” Granger said, stepping forward. “Harry, we all agreed to this. It’s not the first time any of us have risked our lives for you.”
“I didn’t agree to anything,” Draco said bitterly.
“I’m not going to cooperate,” said Potter regally. “You need some of my hair for this plan to work.”
“Well now what do we do?” a twin asked sarcastically. “There’s obviously no chance of us overpowering you.”
“You’re really amusing, Fred,” Potter said, scowling.
“Enough of this,” Moody said. “If we have to force you to do it, we will. And we’re running out of time.”
“You don’t need to do this,” Potter said, backing up a little.
“No need?” Moody snarled. “No need when you’re You-Know-Who’s worst enemy and with the Ministry under his control? Potter, we can’t take the risk of him not taking the bait we fed the Auror team about you leaving. If he doesn’t, we’re going to end up with a hell of a battle on our side, and you’re not dying in it.”
“Stop being difficult, Harry,” Weasley said placatingly. Potter looked between them, all of them, before his shoulders slumped uselessly.
“Are we sure there’s no other way?” he asked.
“Yes,” Granger said briskly. She stepped forward quickly, and before anyone could react, plucked a couple of hairs from the top of his head. Potter squawked in protest, but she was giving them to Moody so he could put them in his flask before Potter could retaliate. Shacklebolt magicked several goblets out of midair, and Moody made short work of pouring a heavy swallow of Polyjuice Potion in each glass. It was gold, practically glittering, and Draco sneered; typical Potter to produce the best in everything without even properly trying.
“Ooh,” Granger said, impressed. “You look a lot tastier than Crabbe and Goyle.”
“Wait--what? Excuse me?” Draco spluttered.
“Shut up, Hermione,” Potter muttered, almost as if he was embarrassed by the attention.
“You turned into Crabbe and Goyle?” Draco exclaimed. “When was this?” Everyone ignored him, and Draco had to make a note to figure out what exactly had happened from Potter later.
Moody levitated the goblets, passing them around to their respective owners. Everyone immediately plucked theirs out of the air and took a drink; everyone, that is, except Draco, who let the glass hover there, crossing his arms over his chest.
“I’m not drinking that,” he declared.
“You are, boy,” Moody growled, “even if I have to Imperio you to make it happen.”
“That’s illegal,” Draco spluttered, the first thing that came to mind.
“Does he really have to?” Potter asked, ever the consummate hero.
“I need to keep an eye on him,” Moody said lowly. “And since I have no intention of going to my safe house invisible, yes, he does.”
Potter sighed, thick and heavy, and turned to fully face Draco. “Just drink it, Draco,” he said wearily. “It’s not worth the fight, especially since he’ll force you in the end.”
“I hate you, Potter,” Draco said vehemently, and with one sharp movement, he snatched the glass out of midair and swallowed the potion in one gulp.
Their argument had meant that Draco had missed the rest of the group turning into Potter clones, and now that it was happening to him, he found it most unpleasant. His skin was stretching in the most awful way, his bones creaking, and for one startling second, he was sure he was about to be sick on the carpet.
And then he was fine, standing straight up, shorter than he was used to, and with blurrier vision to boot. One of the Potters pressed a pair of glasses into his hand. “These’ll help,” it said, in Granger’s voice, and he put them on, sighing dramatically as he did so. His clothes felt a little tight, straining at the chest and arms, and that was an insult, but he didn’t say anything. Potter was looking at him strangely, and Draco didn’t like it. He took the proffered clothes, again thanks to Granger, and began putting them on without hesitation. The blush on Potter’s face was almost enough for this humiliation. Almost, but not quite. Draco was going to have to think of a way to get him back later.
“Now that that’s done,” Moody said, “it’s time to go.” He started breaking them into pairs, keeping close to Draco as he did so so not as to lose him in the sea of bespectacled, messy-haired self-sacrificers. Half of the group was on thestral, but thankfully for Draco, Moody had gone with a broom. He hadn’t forgotten his last trip on one of the bloody animals, and he wasn’t in the mood to ride one to his death tonight.
Shacklebolt did the spell that made Potter disappear like a chameleon, blending in with the horrid floral wallpaper of the sitting room. Hagrid had already vanished, the only indication of his presence being the heavy creak of the floorboards as he shifted. Draco was marched outside, Moody’s grip tight on his arm, unrelenting, even as Draco tried to squirm free.
“I hope you’re a good enough flier not to fall off this damn thing,” Moody said. “I’m not rescuing you if you do.”
“Better than you, old man,” Draco muttered under his breath. Moody didn’t take notice, just mounted the broom and looked over his shoulder until Draco did the same, looping his arms around Moody’s middle in the lightest way that would make sure he wouldn’t slip off the end when they were airborne. He was half-tempted to simply start running now, but somehow, he thought that was a bad idea. Getting lost in Muggle England or being apprehended by someone on the wrong side wasn’t in his plans for the evening. Come to think of it, neither was dying in the air, but everyone said Avada Kedavra was quick, and he had the suspicion that if he became a prisoner of war, he’d become very familiar with the art of torture.
“On my mark,” Moody said. “And GO.” Immediately, he kicked off, and once they’d risen two hundred feet in the air, something around them shattered with no noise, a broken enchantment.
And then they were immediately surrounding by a swarm of Death Eaters, robed and flying their own brooms, their masks glowing ghostly-white in the moonlight. Draco made a noise that was swallowed by the rush of air around him, and then the darkness was illuminated with streaks of red and green, Stunners and Killing Curses.
Draco stayed frozen for a moment, spells whipping past him but not hitting, not yet. Moody had taken evasive flying measures, but he wouldn’t last for long, not with all the Death Eaters and with everyone still being so close. Moody had taken action as soon as their adversaries had appeared, whipping his wand out while keeping one hand on his broom. If he wasn’t so scared, Draco would almost be impressed.
“WHAT--ARE--YOU--DOING--BOY?” Moody shouted above the din of battle, each word punctuated with a different spell. It wasn’t much, but it was enough to shock Draco out of his stupor. He raised his wand hand, woodenly at first, stiltedly, but as another curse sang past his head, he began to fight. He hardly knew what he was yelling, some sort of steady stream of the most debilitating spells he knew, flying out every which way without any sort of proper aim, but it was enough. When one of his Stunning spells hit someone dead on, sending them flying off of their broom, Draco hardly had time to whoop in victory before something seared against his leg.
Draco almost toppled off of the broom with the sudden, sharp pain, throbbing and hot. In front of him, Moody fought to keep control. Their pursuers--only three now, but still enough of a threat that Draco’s heart pounded with it--swooped around them.
“Get ahold of yourself,” Moody yelled, swerving hard right, which almost sent Draco off the broom again. He was close enough to touch one of the Death Eaters, and when said wizard raised his arm to strike, that’s exactly what Draco did in a panic, seize his attackers robes and pulled. Through a stroke of pure luck, that was right when Moody decided to take a sharp turn and the Death Eater was unseated with an almighty tug. Draco probably lost most of the skin of his hands on the rough tweed of the robe, and it was only by the grace of Merlin that he kept ahold of his wand, but that was another one down.
Moody took out another of their pursuers with a well timed Avada Kedavra, just ruthless enough that Draco felt uneasy, and then their last opponent decided he’d had enough, because he suddenly shot in the other direction as though summoned by something.
Draco slumped forward, keeping one hand on the wood of the broom handle as his other kneaded the steadily-growing agony that was his left calf. He was about to snap something at Moody in the aftermath, congratulate him on an awful plan or something to that nature, when Moody sort of keeled sideways, almost falling off himself.
For a wild second, all Draco could think about was Longbottom’s first flying lesson, with the number of times someone’d almost fallen off of their broom in such a short amount of time, but he luckily had enough forethought to seize Moody’s arm before he could tumble off, yanking hard enough with his raw hand to steady them again. He was almost sure they were going to spiral to their death, but Moody regained some sort of equilibrium and groggily righted the broom’s steering.
It was only then that he noticed his hand was covered in blood.
Draco began to curse under his breath. “Don’t you dare die on me, you crazy lunatic,” he warned, and to his surprise, Moody only chuckled lowly.
“Don’t get your pretty head in a bunch, boy,” he croaked. “Had a lot worse than this.”
“Don’t let us crash then!” Draco yelped, seizing control of the front handle as Moody accidentally coaxed the broom into a downward dive.
“Stop distracting me and I won’t,” Moody snapped, but he sounded very weak, which wasn’t doing much for Draco’s confidence of getting out of this alive. They plodded along for nearly twenty minutes, punctuated by Draco’s attempts to keep Moody conscious by yelling in his ear. The pain in Draco’s leg was steady and all-encompassing, making him almost nauseous with it, and when they finally began a controlled descent, Draco’s stomach went weak in relief. The Polyjuice had long since worn off, and his clothes were now ill-fitting and heavy with the mist accumulated on them at the altitude they’d been flying at.
Draco felt the pop of wards being broken, and then they touched down rather hard in the front garden of a ramshackle house. Draco rolled off of the broom as soon as he could, keeping his weight off of his injured leg as he rejoiced being on the ground again. The thickets around him were almost too high to see over, but he could hear Moody moving slowly.
“What is this dump?” Draco demanded as soon as he found the strength to pull himself unsteadily to his feet. He had to lean heavily to his right to be able to stand comfortably, and his muscles were shaking with exertion and the absence of adrenaline, but at the moment, he was just happy to be alive.
“My house,” Moody said gruffly, as he began to stump towards the hut. He seemed rather more lively than he had on the broom, but Draco could see the sticky cling of Moody’s robes to his side,
“You live here?” Draco asked, aghast.
“Not all of us grew up in the lap of luxury,” Moody grunted. “Now come on, boy. We missed our Portkey, and I have to make a new one before I lose my strength.” He sounded grim, but determined, and Draco was quite ready to be out of his presence.
The door was wrenched open with an almighty creak, and Moody let out a small gasp of hurt that was quickly masked, as though he thought Draco might exploit it. Once inside, Draco made sure to keep his distance as Moody lit the candles and began rummaging through his trunk, pausing every once and again to catch his breath.
“Hurry up,” Draco said tightly.
“Shut your mouth,” Moody said, almost absently, and then he unearthed an old flowerpot.
“That’s what you were looking for?” asked Draco incredulously. “Portkeys can be made out of anything! What are we dallying for?” He was getting nervous, remembering the impostor Moody from his fourth year, and he skirted closer to the wall just in case.
“This one has a direct line to the Weasleys,” Moody said gruffly. “That sort of thing is hard to conjure up on your own. But if you’re so smart, why don’t you go ahead and activate it?”
Draco didn’t say anything as Moody glowered at him, just scowled at his feet, and sure enough, Moody gave up trying to humiliate Draco and enacted the charm himself.
“It’s leaving in a minute,” Moody said. “Or are you going to stay here?”
Draco stayed quiet, getting close enough to press one finger to the flowerpot and nothing more. It seemed like an eternity before he felt the Portkey begin to pull him away from Moody’s house, and then he slammed into the ground, his breath punched out of him in a tough exhale.
“Who is it?” someone called harshly, and then Draco looked up to see Shacklebolt and Lupin charging them, wands raised.
“It’s me, Kingsley,” Moody said, but he looked as though he’d finally used up all of his strength, unable to even pull himself up to his feet.
“What was the advice Dumbledore gave to you at our last meeting?” Kingsley boomed, pointing his wand directly at Moody’s head. Lupin had his own wand directed at Draco’s heart, as Draco’s own wand was held limply at his side. He hadn’t even gotten off of his knees yet; trust the Order of the Phoenix for such a welcome after a surprise attack.
“Trust your instincts, Alastair,” Moody intoned without inflection. “They will not lead you astray.”
Kingsley’s arm lowered slightly, enough that his wand wasn’t much of a threat any longer. “It’s him, Remus,” he assured, but Lupin didn’t relax his posture.
“Who did you tell?” he demanded.
“Excuse me?” Draco asked, flabbergasted. He was dirty and tired, and his leg was hurting so much at that point that he was almost sure it wouldn’t support his weight, and what Lupin was asking didn’t compute.
Potter stepped forward out of the clump of people that was gathered outside of the rundown house that Draco assumed to be the Weasleys’. “Stand down, Remus,” he said seriously, but it did no good.
“Who did you tell about leaving tonight?” Lupin asked again. “Who did you betray us to?”
“What the bloody hell are you talking about?” Draco snapped. He was in no mood for this tomfoolery. “I haven’t betrayed you to anyone.”
“Remus, stand down,” Potter repeated, more sternly than before. “He’s not lying.”
“You don’t know that, Harry,” Lupin said. “We can’t trust him. Think of who his family is.”
“Some people wouldn’t trust you because of what you are,” Draco parroted. “Bet you don’t like that, do you, you great werewolf.”
“Draco, shut it,” Harry said, and then turned his attention back to Lupin. “I know him. He didn’t have the chance to tip anyone off. And the Malfoys are Sirius’s family too.”
Lupin’s shoulder sagged a little, enough that Draco didn’t feel like he was in imminent danger of being cursed. “Harry,” he began, a little hesitantly, but Potter cut him off.
“Think about it,” Potter said, almost urgently. “He’s a Slytherin, only out for himself. There’s no way he’d come back here if he’d given us up. He’s too smart for that.”
“Unless he was spying,” Lupin pointed out.
“There’s no way he could be a spy,” Potter said. “He’s an awful actor, and a coward to boot.”
“Bugger off, Potter,” Draco muttered.
“And he could have overpowered Moody in his state right now,” Granger piped up. She’d approached them without Draco noticing, looking shaken and pale. “He could have gotten away.”
“If Voldemort was forcing him--” Lupin started again, and Draco flinched from the name.
“When would Draco have had the chance to talk to Voldemort?” Potter asked plaintively. “It’s not as if he’s been wandering around outside of Hogwarts or Privet Drive in the last year. And, anyway, Remus, I trust him enough to know that he’s on our side right now, as long as it benefits him to be. I’ll take responsibility for that.”
Lupin finally lowered his wand fully, pointing it at the grass in a defeated sort of motion. “If you’re sure, Harry.”
“I am,” Potter said in a final sort of way.
“Now that we’re done with this idle chit-chat,” Moody growled, his voice muffled, as he was almost face-down in the dirt, “d’you think someone could help me inside before I bloody bleed to death?”
“Oh!” someone said, breaking off from the group. It turned out to be Draco’s cousin, her blue hair nearly a beacon in the moonlight. “Mad-Eye, you idiot, what did you get yourself into this time?”
“Just got on the wrong side of a severing charm,” Moody explained. “And the boy--think something mucked with his leg, though he’s too proud to admit it. And for God’s sake, will someone check to make sure he’s really who he says he is? A fine end to the evening it would be if we find out we let a Death Eater into the Burrow without explanation.
Potter rolled his eyes, a gesture that Draco could pick up even in the dim light, and asked, “What did you call my cousin behind his back, Draco?”
“Rumpy,” Draco answered promptly. He thought he had been more secretive about the nickname, but apparently not.
“And what’s his real name?” Potter continued.
“I don’t know,” Draco scoffed. “He’s a Muggle. Why should I care?”
“It’s him,” Potter said. “Or, at least, it’s the Draco I’ve known for the past year or so. I guess he could be an impostor if he’s been pretending since the beginning.”
“I haven’t, you lump,” Draco said indignantly.
“This is silly,” Granger interrupted. “We have more important things to worry about. Let’s just get them inside so we can patch them up.”
Shacklebolt and Lupin immediately moved to help Moody, leaving Draco alone in the mud and unsure if he could stand. He did his damnedest to get onto his feet though, because he wasn’t about it show unnecessary weakness in front of the people who’d just accused him of being a turncoat. Not that they were absolutely off of their mark; it was something Draco might be inclined to do given the chance, but for them to think he was stupid enough to run back to them after the plan was over and done with--that was a blow to his pride.
He had nearly staggered to a balanced position when his leg gave a throb of pain and collapsed beneath him, sending him cursing back into the mud.
“Here, let me help you,” Potter murmured, finally noticing Draco’s plight, but Draco was in a bad enough mood to slap away Potter’s proffered hand.
“I can bloody well stand on my own,” Draco snapped.
Potter just raised an eyebrow, and took a step back, waiting, and when Draco got up a second time only to lose his balance again, Potter was there, quick enough to keep Draco from splattering his robes with mud again.
“Stop being such a prick,” he admonished, but it had no heat. Draco scowled, making token protests as Potter maneuvered them into a position that allowed Draco to be able to walk without too much trouble, and they slowly limped into the hovel, Moody’s body floating several meters in front of them, buoyed by Lupin’s charm.
When they finally got inside, Potter helped Draco lower himself onto a dumpy couch but didn’t sit down himself, just stood rigidly, watching as Weasley’s mother and Draco’s half-blood travesty of a cousin work on Moody’s wound. Granger came over, delicately kneeling in front of Draco, and he glowered and looked away.
She wasn’t taking it though, too much of a stubborn Gryffindor. “How’s your leg?” she asked brusquely, brushing her fingers against the fabric of his trousers. He flinched away from her, nearly catching her in the side with his shoe as he did so.
“It’s fine,” he said sarcastically. “Never better.”
“Stop being a baby,” she chided. “Let me see.”
“Leave it alone, Granger,” he said. “I don’t your Mudblood hands touching it.”
“You watch your mouth, Malfoy,” Weasley said, trying to be threatening and failing miserably as he approached.
“Stop it,” Potter said wearily. “Both of you. Draco, let Hermione look at your leg. She’ll probably be able to help.”
“You can’t tell me what to do,” Draco said haughtily.
Potter squared his jaw, and said, “You’re being an arsehole over nothing. We have more important things to worry about right now. Just let Hermione fix you up.”
The way he said it made Draco feel like a child, which made him even madder. Part of him wanted to be contrary, to keep refusing the help until Granger gave up and went away, but at the same time, his leg had been on fire for too long now, and the pain was making him woozy.
“Get it over with then,” he told her, as if he was doing her a favor and not the other way around. She sighed, a sharp heavy sound, but began to tenderly roll his pants leg up, using a gentle severing charm when it got too tight above the knee.
“Some sort of Blistering hex,” she said, mostly to herself. Draco was having enough trouble as it was to not get sick at the sight of the mottled purple skin, burned and scarred.
“Ron, does your mother have any burn cream in the cupboard?” she asked. “Something strong?”
“I’ll check,” Weasley said shortly, stalking off into the kitchen.
“I don’t think there’s anything we can do without Madame Pomfrey besides put some salve on it, and maybe Murtlap essence,” she explained. “Burn healing is notoriously difficult.”
“Glad to see you’re of such great help, Granger,” Draco spat.
Weasley came back, his mum in tow, holding a chipped purple bowl that was emitting a medicinal smell strong enough that it stuck in Draco’s nose. “I’ll put it on, dear,” Weasley’s mother said, gesturing Granger out of the way, and Draco felt his lip curl involuntarily. He could see Potter giving him a warning look out of the corner of his eye though, so he didn’t say anything even though he desperately wanted to.
Her hands were cool, a shock as they began to rub cream into his skin. Draco almost told her he could do it on his own, if only for the relief of her not touching him, but the pain was too great, and he didn’t think he could manage. He sat there stiffly for several long minutes as the pain slowly ebbed away into a dull throb. When the job was done, she sat back on her haunches and looked at him, her eyes so startlingly bleak for a second that Draco couldn’t help but feel the tiniest bit sorry for her.
“Did you see what happened to my husband and Fred?” she asked steadily. “They haven’t been back yet.”
Draco was about to say something snide about how he wasn’t surprised, how Weasleys are useless in a fight, about how she should be happy that the world was free of two more Blood Traitors, but the words stuck in his throat at her expression. Instead, he thought back to the battle, to the bodies around him, flying and attacking and defending, of the countless Potters and their Protectors, but he wasn’t able to conjure up anything that would console her. He managed only a short jerk of the head no, and her mouth tightened before she stood up again, all business.
“You and Harry will be staying in Ron’s room,” she said, without emotion. “Harry, you should get him up there. You both look dead on your feet, and there’s nothing more you can do tonight.”
Potter looked at the floor a little to the right of Draco’s feet for a long moment. “I’ll take him up, Mrs. Weasley,” he said softly, like Draco was an invalid that needed looking after. She nodded curtly and swept away into the kitchen, as though being in the room was causing her pain.
“C’mon,” Potter said softly, offering a hand that Draco refused as he gingerly got to his feet. The pain wasn’t so awful now, a little muted, and he’d shown enough weakness in front of these Gryffindors to last him a while.
“We’re staying done here,” Granger informed them, her hand resting on Weasley’s forearm. “For a little while. We’ll let you know if there’s any news.”
“Thanks,” said Potter gratefully, and then to Draco, “It’s this way.”
Draco followed silently until they were on the third floor landing and out of earshot. “What, does she think I’m going to murder them all in her sleep if I stay in her drawing room?” he asked crossly. She might have thought she was being subtle, but Draco had seen the mistrustful look flash his way when she’d been dressing his wounds.
“Her husband and son have disappeared,” Potter snapped harshly. “I think she’s allowed to act however she wants to.” The towards you was unspoken but implied, and Draco was surprised to find that it hurt a little.
“I’ll leave then,” he snarled. “If I’m such a hardship.”
He turned, faltering only a little as he braced himself for the trip back down the stairs, and only Potter’s hand on his shoulder, heavy and implacable, stopped him from going further. “That’s not what I meant,” Potter sighed.
“Could’ve fooled me,” Draco sniffed, shrugging off Potter’s touch.
“She’s been through a lot tonight,” Potter said, “and your family hasn’t exactly been good to her in the past.”
“Nice of her to judge me,” Draco said.
“You’ve brought on yourself enough times before,” Potter reminded him, almost gently. “She’s letting you stay here because I told her it was safe. Don’t make me regret it.”
“I’m not going to attack everyone in their sleep,” Draco protested.
Potter’s laugh is maudlin, lacking humor. “I know,” he said. “You’re much too cunning for that.”
“I don’t know how many times I have to tell you that I have nothing planned,” Draco said heatedly.
“It’s not me you have to convince,” replied Potter. “Now are you coming or not?”
“I guess,” Draco said grudgingly. He followed Potter up two more rickety flights until they shouldered their way into a tiny room that was so orange, it practically made Draco’s eyes burn.
“Of course he supports the Cannons,” Draco muttered, earning another hard glare from Potter. Potter gestured towards one of the camp beds set up haphazardly in the corner, sagging and stained with a couple mothballed blankets folded on top.
“You can take that one,” Potter said. “I’ve got this one.” He’d claimed the one closest to the bed Draco assumed to be Weasley’s, but it still didn’t rankle less.
“I’m not sleeping on that,” said Draco haughtily. “It’s filthy. Not that I was expecting much else.”
“It’s either that or the floor,” Potter said blandly. “I can tell you right now that no one in this house is going to give up their bed for you.”
Draco considered making a stand for it, demanding that he be allowed to sleep in Weasley’s bed, but then again, it was Weasley’s bed, and if Draco was going to make any headway in getting what he wanted over the course of however long he was stuck like this, he knew he needed to pick and choose his battles.
“Fine,” Draco said shortly, plopping down heavily on his cot and wrinkling his nose and a cloud of dust rose into the air around him. “If I end up diseased, I’m blaming you.”
“You do that,” Potter replied, sitting down on his own bed, and as Draco readied himself, feeling more tired than normal, aching for a shower but lacking the energy to actually attempt one. He lied down, careful to pull the cleanest blanket over him, but as he turned to try and get comfortable, he noticed that Potter was still sitting in the same position, looking forlorn and plaintive.
“Get over yourself,” Draco found himself saying without really meaning it.
Potter’s head snapped up, as if he’d forgotten Draco was in the room. “What?” he asked, disbelief coloring his tone.
“Get over yourself,” Draco repeated. “It’s not your fault, so you can just go and stop feeling all that stupid self-pity.”
That got a reaction, and Potter was on his feet before Draco could register the flash of fury across his face. “One,” Potter said, ticking off the number on his finger, “it most certainly is my fault. Two, it’s not me I’m feeling sorry for. And three, that’s rich, coming from you, telling me to get over myself.”
“Correct me if I’m wrong,” Draco said, over-enunciating in this sort of condescending way he’d perfected when he was twelve, “but they volunteered for it, didn’t they? They were of age, and they knew it would be dangerous, but they wanted to do it. You didn’t come up with the plan, you didn’t force them to go through with it, you didn’t know there’d be an attack...so how, exactly, is it your fault?”
“They died protecting me,” Potter yelled, throwing his hands over his head.
“They’re not dead yet,” Draco reasoned. “Now you’re just speculating. And you’re feeling sorry for yourself. Poor Harry Potter--everyone dies for you because they want to make you miserable. Not because they think you have some good to do. No. It’s a personal vendetta.”
Potter’s cheeks were Weasley red. “You don’t get what you’re talking about, Malfoy,” he spat, hunching his shoulders.
“You need to get your head out of your arse and think of a way to stop this,” Draco shot back. “Or else more people will die, and knowing you, you’ll think it’s your fault for every last one of them.”
“That’s what I’m trying to do!” Potter shouted, waving his hands.
“From where I’m sitting, it looks like you’re brooding,” Draco said primly. “But far be it from me to question your processes, I guess.”
Potter was quiet for a moment, blinking owlishly behind his big glasses, and then he said, “He’s my best friend. And that’s his dad and his brother, and they might be dead. They might be dead because I sat with him on the train. How am I supposed to face him?”
“Come off it,” Draco scoffed. “Weasley isn’t going to blame you for this. Wasn’t he one of the people trying to talk you into that fool plan in the first place? You didn’t come up with it. And Merlin knows that you would’ve sacrificed yourself, stupid prat that you are, if it had come down to it. Don’t be so dramatic, and either go to bed, or go console the redheads. It doesn’t matter to me. Just don’t be loud about it. Some of us have actual injuries to heal from.”
Draco slumped down, pulling the blanket about him, ready to yell at Potter should he speak again, spouting off more tosh, but nothing came. Instead, several minutes later, Potter extinguished the light and left the room, and Draco fell asleep soon after.
When morning came, Draco found himself awaking to the unpleasant feeling of being too warm, and it took him a second to figure out why. Instead of kipping in his own camp bed, as he should’ve, Potter was smashed up against Draco, nearly overbalancing the whole thing. His face was buried in the nape of Draco’s neck, and from the way he was breathing, Draco could tell he was still asleep, which only made things incrementally better.
“Potter, what are you doing in my bed?” he demanded loudly, as if this was the first time they’d ever shared sleeping quarters. Potter started awake and nearly upended himself onto the floor.
“Wha’?” Potter mumbled.
“What are you doing?” Draco asked again, crossly. He’d ascertained that the bedroom was empty--thank Circe--but it didn’t mean that Potter had the right to act like a limpet and molest Draco in his sleep.
Potter extricated himself from the blanket in a flail of limbs, ripping the warmth of it away as he took a couple of strides towards the window. His face was clear of sleep confusion, hard and set, and he doesn’t have to say anything for Draco to understand that it’s bad news.
“Mr. Weasley came back early this morning,” he said tonelessly, his gaze listing over the scenery outside rather than anywhere inside the room.
“Alive?” Draco asked.
“Yes,” Potter said shortly. “But Fred. He.”
“Oh,” Draco said.
“He just came in, holding Fred’s body,” Potter said quietly. “Everyone broke down. Spare Killing Curse.”
Draco didn’t have anything to say to that, so he didn’t speak. Anything that might come from his mouth would either be a tasteless taunt or insincere, and he didn’t want to deepen that look on Potter’s face.
“There’s going to be a funeral. Another one.” His hands were shaking, white where he’d grabbed hold of the windowsill. Draco sat up, ran a hand through his hair, and thought very carefully before he spoke again.
“It’s still not your fault,” he said brusquely. It wasn’t exactly in a comforting way, but something told him it was what Potter needed to hear.
“It feels like it is,” Potter said, and good Merlin, his eyes were watering slightly, although his voice betrayed none of it. Draco wasn’t entirely sure he could deal with that this morning, not after everything.
“It’s war, Potter,” said Draco. “They signed up for the Order. They had more of a choice than you did, I expect. It’s always been a threat, dying.”
“Guess everyone should act more like you,” Potter said, but it wasn’t mocking. “We’d all live longer.”
“Probably good advice,” agreed Draco. “But you Gryffindors would never go for it. Too self-serving.”
“I should probably go downstairs,” Potter said, but he looked like there wasn’t much he’d rather not do than venture outside of Weasley’s room.
“Am I stuck in here?” Draco asked. “Are they going to throw a fit if I show my face?”
Potter turned then, just a little, the light from outside reflecting in his glasses. “No,” he said. “Just. Don’t be a prat.”
“I can play nice,” Draco said, his lip curling a little. “But only if they return the favor.”
“For me, Draco? Please?” Potter wasn’t pleading, but his brow was furrowed in this innocent, little-boy way.
“I’ll think about it,” said Draco, and that was the closest he’d come to obeying. “Not that I owe you anything.”
“Of course you don’t,” Potter sighed. “I know. Are you coming?”
“Might as well, Draco said, standing gingerly.
The atmosphere for the next couple of days was, in a word, tense. Half of the Weasleys kept glowering at him, even though Draco was careful to keep out of their way, and sometimes not even Potter could stop them from sniping about something, although it luckily never degenerated into spellwork.
They held the funeral in the back yard, the sun beating down on everyone’s black formal attire. Draco stayed in the very back, hidden by Hagrid’s girth, and halfway through, Potter slipped beside him and sort of grabbed Draco’s hand, something he’d never done as obviously before. Draco meant to pull away, but Potter’s face was streaked with tears, and he looked so utterly pathetic that Draco couldn’t bring himself to do it.
Afterwards, when Weasley’s mum had shut herself in her bedroom, Potter broke away from the brood of wet-faced Weasleys, found Draco, and pulled him outside.
“What are you doing, Potter?” Draco sighed, letting himself be pulled along. Potter’s grip was tight on his wrist, and he was stumbling over the knots in the ground trying to keep up, but he didn’t have the energy to pull away.
“Stop talking,” said Potter shortly, skirting the perimeter of what Draco assumed to be the wards until the Weasleys’ lopsided house was no longer in view. It was cool, unseasonably so, and the mist blowing over the ground made Draco think uncomfortably of Dementors skulking about the countryside. He shivered a little, both from the mental picture and the breeze, and leaned against the trunk of the tree Potter had led them too.
“What did you bring me out here for?” he asked, crossing his arms over his chest. Potter looked dejected, a little red-eyed, and his hair was mussed, but he seemed determined to do whatever it was that he’d planned when he dragged Draco away from the house.
At first, Draco thought Potter was going to say something, go into a diatribe about how things were his fault and boo-hoo about it, but instead Potter just stepped in closed and slotted his mouth against Draco’s, wet heat.
It felt--nice, even through the slight shock of it, because this wasn’t what Draco had been expecting. It had been a while since the last time they’d done anything like...this, what with the Muggles and Dumbledore dying, and Potter’s secret plot.
The strange newness that Draco had felt when they first started this quasi-dysfunctional-relationship-thing had disappeared into familiarity. When Potter brushed his hand against the side of Draco’s neck, he arched into it instead of backing away, letting it raise goosebumps on his flesh. The kiss was hard, almost desperate, and it felt good to let go like that.
Potter broke away gently without stepping back, just looked at Draco cross-eyed through his glasses like he wanted to say something but couldn’t find the words for it.
“What are you doing?” Draco asked, and even though it was an opening for a badly timed joked, Potter just shrugged one shoulder and moved a tiny bit closer, near enough that Draco could practically feel the Potter’s body heat.
“I don’t want to think,” he explained. “This is the best way I know how to stop.”
There wasn’t anything to say to that, even if Draco wasn’t sure if he should be insulted that Potter was using him as a distraction to forget that they’d buried someone that morning. Potter didn’t give him the chance for a rebuttal as he slid his lips over Draco’s again, kissing him until Draco could feel his chest tightening with it.
He didn’t know how long they stood there, Potter bracketing him against the tree, but too soon, Potter’s hand twitched and he pulled back to look behind them. Distantly Draco could hear someone crashing through the undergrowth, unnecessarily loud, which was almost comforting--if this was supposed to be a surprise attack, their assailant was doing a piss-poor job of it.
Sure enough, Granger broke through the hedge and spotted them. There was something caught in her hair, and she looked even more harried than usual, her brow furrowed.
“Granger,” Draco said smoothly, noting how Potter didn’t step away as she approached them.
“What’s wrong, Hermione?” Potter asked instantly, like his disappearance had caused the earth to implode or some such nonsense.
“Nothing’s wrong,” she hedged, but she kept looking back in the direction towards the Weasleys’ house. “It’s just--the Minister of Magic is here. He’s looking for you.”
“Seriously?” Draco said before Potter could respond. “You’re so important that the Rufus Scrimgeour himself makes a house call to visit you?”
Potter just looked surprised, arching an eyebrow. “What does he want?” he asked. “If it’s anything like the last time, I hope you told him to shove it.”
“He’s come before?” Draco asked before he could stop himself.
“I don’t know,” she responded. “He won’t say anything without you there.”
“He’s so tactless,” Potter complained. “Why did he come today? Of all days?”
“I don’t know,” she said tiredly. “Are you coming or should I make an excuse? Only, Harry, I think it’s important we listen to what he has to say.”
“Fine, fine, let’s go,” sighed Potter.
“Stop ignoring me,” Draco said crossly. “What does the Minister of Magic want to do with you?”
Potter started off slowly, as if he was dreading the confrontation. “He’s a prat,” he said. “After everything happened with Fudge, he wanted my support and he was mad that I wouldn’t give it to him.”
“He wanted your support?” Draco asked flatly.
“Long story,” Potter said. “He thought it would help him last longer in office. But I wasn’t going to help him, not when he was being so stupid about Voldemort.”
“Of course,” Draco said. “You and your morals, Potter.”
“Someone has to keep you in line,” Potter said, and there was the tiniest quirk of a smile on his face.
“I resent that,” Draco said.
Link Part Two