Title: The Art Of Telling A Lie
Pairing(s): Harry/Draco, Ron/Hermione
Summary: Harry has become very good at lying. To himself.
Disclaimer: All Harry Potter characters herein are the property of J.K. Rowling and Bloomsbury/Scholastic. No copyright infringement is intended.
Warning(s): Rimming, EWE, set during the missing 8th year
Word Count: 6,167
Author's Notes: Dear Okydoky, thank you for a wonderful prompt. I tried to do it justice as much as I could. Sorry about the lack of considerable smut! Would also like to thank the mods for being the brightest stars in the sky.
Harry’s done. He watches Ron’s face in stony silence. They’re at an impasse, having gone about three rounds of shouting and almost one and a half of weak punches. Ron, towering above him, finally sags and leans against the door of the room they’re sharing in Hogsmeade.
“Fine,” he says. But Harry knows it’s anything but fine. “I still think Hermione –”
“No!” Harry snaps and Ron frowns. Running a hand through his hair, Harry bites his lip. “No. You know her. She’d want to fix it. And we can’t…I can’t…fix it. I’m done, Ron.”
Ron juts out his chin, his eyes steely.
“Hermione deserves to know,” he says and Harry can’t argue with that. He knows she does. He also knows she’ll move heaven and earth to help him, focus all of her attention on making it better…and he doesn’t want that for her. Not now when things are finally returning to some semblance of normality.
“I know,” he says, “but I can’t do that to her. Not again. She gave up everything, you gave up everything – and bloody hell, I’m just tired, okay? I’m just…I’m just…” he trails off and to his horror, he feels that itchy feeling in his nose and eyes, like he’s about to cry. They look at each other. Neither of them knows what to do. True, usually Hermione would…could…fix it. But Harry is so tired, so done with everything.
“Hey,” he says, attempting a grin. “At least we won’t have to worry about World Cup tickets.” It falls flat. Ron’s eyes flash, but before he can start to yell, Harry flinches and contorts as his body has another spasm. It lasts a full minute and the bolts of magic running up and down his spinal cord feel like eels, winding themselves around the bone, electrocuting his every twitch.
Harry collapses forward onto the bed, fists clenched. Ron’s hands dig deep in his pockets, his shoulders hunched.
“We don’t tell her,” Harry pants out. “We don’t tell anyone. There’s no point.”
Harry’s trying to stop himself from becoming this jaded, ugly person, but as he moves through the halls of Hogwarts, making his way to yet another pointless lesson, he finds he’s sneering, ever so slightly. Like Malfoy. Or Snape. He can’t really think of Snape, yet. Doesn’t allow himself to. Ron’s been distracting Hermione, which, seeing as they’ve missed a whole year of school, isn’t as hard as he thought it would be. It does leave Harry with plenty of time on his own, and time on his own is plenty of time to think. He hates it.
After drifting through Herbology…or perhaps Charms, he can’t remember, he tries to find somewhere that isn’t crawling with other people, especially people who want to shake his hand or gawk at him or worse, give him something. Like underwear. Or marriage contracts. These are the times he wishes he and Ginny could still work out, just so he can have a buffer against Hogwarts. What’s left of Hogwarts. And everything outside of Hogwarts. What’s left of that too. But he’s too realistic for that, and Ginny’s too down-to-earth, and things…changed during that year. He hopes she’s happy with Neville. Sometimes she smiles at him and he tries his hardest to smile back, to make it okay. He thinks it will be, eventually.
After wandering around some of the more destroyed areas of the castle, and seeing no more than a handful of people, Harry finds a small room. An unused office, he thinks, likely not lived in for decades by the amount of filth coating the furniture. It has a close view of the Forbidden Forest, and he knows it would only take him a few minutes from here by broom. He hates that he’s still calculating escape routes. Harry lifts his wand to clean the room before staring at it. There are sparks along the wood and he feels them swirl around his hand. He puts the wand down again. Maybe he’ll do some old-fashioned cleaning instead, today. It will help him relax. Harry has become very good at lying to himself.
When he’s done, he sits behind the desk, staring out the window. His arms are trembling. His fingers are tapping an uncontrollable rhythm on the dark wood and he wishes he could chalk it up to exhaustion. A part of him wants to cry, but he feels he’s long outgrown that. Another part, more familiar, wants to rail at his body, at magic, at Voldemort. Wants to throw things and scream. Instead, he just does nothing. He looks out the window. He thinks of next weekend, when he gets to visit Teddy. When he has to see Andromeda, and how tired she looks, and her house, which is filled with reminders of Tonks, and of Remus by association. And Harry wonders why good always has to be followed by bad. Finally, he punches the desk. It hurts, and he feels his body spasm, but at least he can still do that. He smiles. Wide and bright and fake.
“Harry, what the hell is the matter?” Hermione pounces one morning as he makes his way to breakfast. Because of all the damage done to the castle walls, especially the towers, Gryffindor is currently housed all over the place. Most of the time, Harry sleeps in his little room, where he’s managed to Transfigure a mattress, right before even the tiniest wand movement becomes a mesh of back arching and toe curling pain. Sometimes Harry wonders if he’s punishing himself, but he just wants to be left alone. Trying to disguise the fact that his magic is not functioning properly takes more effort than he initially thought. Hermione stands in front of him, hands on hips.
He tries to look puzzled, or clueless, but travelling with someone under life-threatening circumstances puts a damper on how much you can lie to them. Ron stands in the background, and Harry knows he feels vindicated. He’s not quite sure how to say ‘I’m dying’ without sounding overly dramatic. He’s not completely certain he is dying, after all. But having lived for eighteen years with a death sentence hanging over his head, he’s more familiar with it than most.
“I…” and he stops. Rubs his face. He tries again. Fails. Hermione looks frustrated. Ron looks sad. It’s a horrible expression, Ron’s sadness. A semi-permanent fixture after Fred’s death. Harry hates causing it. Again. Hermione’s scared now, her eyes are wide, pupils dilated. “I…” he says again. Someone bumps into him from behind.
“Watch where you’re –” Malfoy starts before blinking. “Oh. Potter.”
Harry stares at him. It’s the end of October. He’s managed to avoid even seeing the Slytherin for three months, except in the distance. Malfoy looks like shit. It’s no surprise he’s still on the defensive; with a significant amount of Slytherins dead, dying, disappearing or transferred, Malfoy has to constantly watch his back around Hogwarts. Harry wonders why he bothered to come back. Maybe he’s like them. Him, Ron and Hermione. Well, not really Hermione. But Harry didn’t know what else to do as well. He thought if he returned to Hogwarts, if he allowed himself that year McGonagall offered, and got his N.E.W.T.s and started Auror training and married Ginny…yeah, something like that. Something that makes him sick, now. He’s not even sure about the Auror thing anymore. Mainly, he doesn’t think he’ll finish this year. And he’s not sure how to tell Hermione that. That it’s not because he doesn’t want to. But because he can’t.
He’s sure he’s been staring at Malfoy for ten minutes, twenty minutes, but it’s only a few seconds before Ron moves in front of him, like a shield. Malfoy holds up his hands, an instinctive gesture to pacify and Ron’s taken his place in the staring contest. He doesn’t think they’re going to fight, but just in case, he tries to signal to Hermione, tries to take out his wand. Only his magic overwhelms him, and it’s like Cruciatus, running up his spinal cord, entwining itself around the muscle.
“Harry!” Hermione yells, but it’s far away and the last thing he sees is Malfoy’s face, white and pinched, his lips a tight, pale line.
“I’m fine, I’m fine, I’m fine – I’m not sure how many times I have to say it for it to get through, but I. Am. Fine.” Harry feels like he’s talking to a brick wall for all the response Hermione’s giving him. She’s got mountains of books on his bed, shoving him to the edge in a tangle of infirmary covers. He knows Ron has told her. It was a slim hope in the first place, that Ron would be able to keep something from Hermione. And now here she is, hair in disarray, searching for something that doesn’t exist.
“I’m close,” she says, but he knows she’s lying. He reaches out, puts a hand on her arm.
“Hermione, stop it.”
“Stop. It.” His voice is firm, and kind. “We went through those books. All of them. Four times. We went to the Restricted Section, to Knockturn Alley, anywhere that we could think of. We tried, Herm. It’s permanent.”
She shakes her head and he loves her for it.
“Hermione, listen to me – no, listen. This is not your fault. It’s not Ron’s, or mine, or anyone’s. I can’t even rightly blame Voldemort for it, since that would mean he intended for this to happen, which I’m sure he didn’t.”
Hermione manages to laugh through her tears.
“There has to be something,” she starts and Harry holds up his hand.
“I know this is very hard for you, but I’m asking you as a friend…please. Drop it. I’m tired. I don’t want to argue. Please.” He holds her hand. The room is quiet for a long time. Finally, Hermione bites her lip. Nods. Picks up the books from his bed.
“I’m going to put these away,” she says and smiles at him. He knows she won’t. He knows she’ll just take them to the library and read through them all again, and cross-reference and study and then when Ron comes to him to complain how he hasn’t spent some quality time with his girlfriend in months, Harry will remind him that Ron was the one who told her. Not he. It’s a bit less funny when he wonders if he’ll still be around for Ron to complain to.
He manages to lie quite well and he’s getting better at it every week. He lies to Pomfrey about his collapse, blaming it on forgetting to eat. It’s happened before, and now that Voldemort isn’t around, Harry gets the same treatment as everybody else. Which works out well for him. He lies to the other professors about why he never practices in class; he doesn’t want to be a distraction for the other students. They buy that, too. He lies to Ron and Hermione when he tells them things haven’t gotten worse. Perhaps they don’t believe him, but they’re hard-pressed to prove he’s not telling the truth.
Harry realises how small his world has become. Sitting in his little room, his body constantly at war with his magic, he doesn’t know what to do. He doesn’t feel that certainty he had, back when he had a purpose. Back when being him actually meant something. He tries to remind himself that he should battle on, for Teddy, to make sure Teddy grows up with all the stories about Remus and Tonks, his parents. Something Harry wishes someone would have told him when he was little. But it’s hard to think sometimes, when all he can do is sit in his chair and wait for the spasms to pass. Sometimes he wishes Dumbledore was still alive, but then gets angry with himself for wanting things beyond his reach. He has to be realistic. He has to be.
It’s Christmas. Well, almost. He’s just had the most unpleasant conversation with McGonagall yet. It seems this is the time to start filling in application forms for Auror training, pending N.E.W.T. results, of course. He tells her he’s not sure he wants to be an Auror anymore. She purses her lips, but nods. He can see her thinking: ‘children change’. When he can’t give her a solid answer about what else he wants to do, she sighs. He knows those sighs. They sound like his own. Disappointed, she sends him away until he can come back with a clear idea of what to do with his life. Perhaps after Christmas.
He tries not to be resentful that he should have a clear idea, knowing that if it weren’t for his ‘condition’, things would be different. He’d maybe find a new purpose, maybe get involved with something he really wants to do. Maybe after he’d helped with the clean up. That was his plan, after all, after Voldemort died. Just because he’s always thought that his real life would start after he finished everything else, everything other people wanted from him. Now he realises how stupid that sounds. This is his real life. Has always been his real life.
There is a knock on the door. Harry thinks he says ‘come in’ or something to that effect but when the door opens he wishes he’d kept quiet. Malfoy is standing in the entrance.
“What?” says Harry, and he tries to curb the sharp edge, but he really doesn’t know what Malfoy wants and he really doesn’t think he can stop him if he wants anything. Better to head him off at the start.
“What’s wrong with you?” Malfoy says and Harry blinks
“Sorry?” Not because he doesn’t get what Malfoy is asking but he’s a little unclear as to why Malfoy is asking it. He doesn’t think something has changed in the last few weeks, months, years that would explain the casual tone with which the question is asked. He’s certain they’re not friends. So he’s a bit confused.
“You’re…something’s wrong, Potter.” Malfoy looks very convinced of this.
“Nothing’s wrong, Malfoy.” He gives the other boy a withering stare. Malfoy fidgets before straightening up, perhaps to remind Harry that he is in fact a few inches taller. He doesn’t leave, and Harry feels drained. What on earth possessed Malfoy to come knocking on his door like this?
“Right,” says Malfoy, “your friends make it a regular habit of whispering in library corners, looking like someone’s died.”
Harry wants to argue this, but finds it rather difficult, seeing as they (especially Hermione) have definitely been prone to that sort of behaviour once or twice.
“Nobody’s died,” he says. Malfoy raises an eyebrow.
“Not yet,” the blond answers and Harry is suddenly struck by how bizarre this conversation is.
“So why should something be wrong with me?” Harry offers and Malfoy rolls his eyes.
“Because you’re not the one whispering furtively in library corners.”
Malfoy has a point. Harry swallows and decides now is the time to cut this conversation short when he spasms again, and he’s starting to hate that word. His whole body convulses like an epileptic fit, and he knows this will be the worst one yet. His arms flail, knocking the papers off his desk, and his eyes roll back and he contemplates the indignity of passing out in front of Malfoy not once, but twice.
Except he doesn’t. Malfoy catches him and lowers him onto his mattress. Harry’s certain this would feel a bit more intrusive, this face-to-face business, if he wasn’t so busy trying not to bite his own tongue off. He can tell Malfoy is panicking by the way he keeps lifting his wand and then lowering it. Harry would like to tell him ‘good move on the lowering’, but it’s a little difficult right now.
Finally the tremors subside and they’re left staring at each other in awkward silence.
“All right, Potter,” Malfoy snaps. “What the fuck is going on?”
“Erm,” says Harry, which is not saying much at all. But Malfoy doesn’t look inclined to leave and Harry can’t even sit up, let alone push him out the door. “I’m dying,” he says and Malfoy blinks.
“What?” he says but Harry doesn’t repeat it because he knows when you say something like that, everyone pretty much gets it the first time round.
Malfoy slides down next to him. It’s not completely uncomfortable, but it is increasingly odd. “How?” Malfoy finally asks and Harry decides to humour him. Malfoy did stop him from cracking his head open, after all.
“Magic overload,” he says and watches Malfoy gnaw his lip.
“That wouldn’t kill you,” Malfoy says and Harry sighs.
“No. Except if you’re me.”
Malfoy looks blank.
“Normally, we focus our magic, right? And release energy and magic through our wands, right? And if we can’t focus it we get accidental magic, right?” Harry checks to make sure Malfoy is still following. He looks like he is. “But somehow, my magic has become…it’s tied to my body. So it can’t get out. But it needs to. But it can’t. Which is why I…” flop around like a rag doll, “have these seizures. Which are getting worse.”
“You’re telling me that there’s nothing the healers can do? Nothing Granger’s come up with?”
Harry almost feels proud Malfoy’s managed to call her Granger. Obviously, he has no time for being an obnoxious prick when he’s thinking hard. Alternatively, he may have realised the amount of trouble it could get him into, in this post-Voldemort world.
“You must have been exposed to an insane amount of magic,” Malfoy muses, and Harry snorts.
“Well, we did go through this major battle.”
“This is because of Voldemort?” Malfoy looks strangely guilty, and Harry stops another sigh.
“He didn’t help. But I think it was this artefact Dumbledore gave me. A stone. And I was somewhere else for a bit…I think. I’m not sure. But it felt like I was drenched in magic.”
“Dumbledore did this?” Malfoy almost squeaks and Harry glares at him.
“Don’t be stupid. It wasn’t done to me on purpose. I’m just…a freak.” He’s smiling as he says it, but he feels low, lower than ever at the thought of this singling him out.
They sit next to each other in silence. Harry’s mainly waiting for Malfoy to realise he’s sitting next to Harry Potter, and get up and stalk out, but he doesn’t. Instead, he seems deep in thought, and Harry feels his eyelids closing.
“Couldn’t you…” Malfoy frowns as he tries to verbalise his idea. “Couldn’t you somehow get rid of your magic?” He looks a bit sickened by the fact, but ploughs on. “I mean, I can’t imagine…a Squib…but…it could save your life. And it’s not like you don’t know how to deal with Muggles.” It amuses Harry that Malfoy is saying it like he’s trying to cheer himself up. Although he thinks it’s touching the way Malfoy seems so concerned about his health. Or a little creepy.
“It’s a good idea,” he says, looking out the window. “But the magic has already fused itself to my body completely. Trying to drain the magic would likely be similar to ripping out my spinal cord. Which would probably happen as well, so in the great scheme of things I’d probably like to die a little less violently.” He thinks it’s a pretty funny joke, but Malfoy looks angry.
“What the fuck, Potter? Don’t you care?”
Now Harry wants to lash out, but his arms feel heavy.
“Question is, Malfoy, why do you?” He watches as Malfoy blanches before the fight leaves his body.
“Because everybody hates me. Except you at least saved my life.” It’s a valid point. They sit in silence. It’s still awkward. But not that much anymore.
The problem with not lashing out at Malfoy is that Malfoy seems to think he has some type of…pass to enter Harry’s room whenever he wants. Whether he’s come in with books (that Harry’s already read), cures (that Harry’s already tried), or ideas (that Harry’s already thought of), Malfoy won’t leave him alone.
“Can’t I just die in peace?!” Harry finally snaps one afternoon. Malfoy’s been going off on a tangent and breaks off and looks at him.
“No, you can’t. Because you’re not dying.” Malfoy seems calm. Too calm.
“Right, yes, of course, so sorry, I forgot the part where you’re a qualified healer and this is obviously your body that you know so much about.”
“This is good,” Malfoy tells him, “you’re getting angry. You’re feeling something.”
Harry sees red.
“Feel this,” he says, and punches Malfoy in the face. It feels brilliant. It catches him on the side of his pointy nose, and Harry knows a deep-seated feeling of content for about a second before Malfoy is on him and he's trying to stop the Slytherin from mutilating his face.
It takes about half a minute before they both realise the other isn’t really trying. Panting, they stare at each other. Harry thinks he might have to fake a seizure if Malfoy doesn’t get off him.
“Don’t think about it,” he warns but it comes out less firm and more… husky… than he intends. Malfoy smirks.
“Wouldn’t dream of it,” he says and leans forward. Harry’s stomach clenches and he closes his eyes. Malfoy lifts himself off of Harry, and Harry isn’t disappointed. He isn’t. Malfoy raises an eyebrow, and Harry groans at the very Slytherin expression.
“Let’s go outside,” Malfoy suggests and even though Harry protests, he knows he’s going to give in in about half an hour, anyway.
It’s March. He’s getting worse. McGonagall moves him to a different room, bigger, with more light. The windows are large, and the view is stretched out and he thinks it wouldn’t be a bad room to die in. Nicer than at the Dursleys, in any case. They try to convince him to go to St. Mungo’s. They plead. They shout. Harry shouts back. Malfoy hangs at the side, not quite accepted, but a known quantity. Ron’s face is resigned, but he still comes up every other day to play chess. He even lets Harry win sometimes. Hermione is pale and frustrated and he thinks he may have to Obliviate her so that she forgets he exists and can get on with her life. He shares this with Malfoy, who gets angry for the first time in ages.
“You can’t stop her from caring about you, Harry! People care. You can’t just take that away from them.”
Harry doesn’t mention he knows Malfoy is really saying ‘me’. He tries to explain to him, again. But Malfoy doesn’t listen. He never listens. This should come as no surprise, but Harry figures that if he’s all mature and grown-up about the whole thing…he snorts. Who is he kidding?
“Let me do something for you,” Malfoy says, and Harry thinks back to when they went outside, and Malfoy flew them up on his broom. It’s not that he can’t fly, or walk, or be normal, it’s just that he can’t do any of those things for very long without the risk of, say, plummeting back down if he blacks out or seizes in mid-air. So Harry stays in his room. It’s not very inspiring, and perhaps it’s a little self-indulgent, but damn it, he’s allowed to be for once.
“I don’t want to go outside,” he says and Malfoy rolls his eyes.
“Oh shut up, Potter. For once let me do something to take your mind off the fact that you’ve become boring.”
Harry winces before groaning. Fine. Let Malfoy do what he wants.
“You have to trust me,” says Malfoy, but he’s smiling and Harry knows Malfoy knows Harry would be the last person to trust him right now, with that smirk. Well. Maybe not the last. “On your stomach,” Malfoy says and Harry wants to copy the eyebrow raise but he knows he’ll just fail miserably. He dawdles long enough that Malfoy gets impatient and simply flips him over the edge of the desk. His glasses fall onto the carpet but he’s still all right until Malfoy pulls down his trousers and pants.
“MALFOY!” Harry shrieks, torn between horror and amusement but quickly sliding into incomprehension as Malfoy digs his fingers into his hips. “What are you…?”
“Ssh,” says Malfoy, “let me do this.”
“Let you do what?” Harry tries to swing his arms but Malfoy’s got him pinned and there’s this curl of excitement in his stomach.
“Don’t kick me,” Malfoy warns as his breath ghosts over Harry’s bare arse. Harry stills. Completely. Malfoy pulls his cheeks apart and Harry’s never been more embarrassed in his life. He hopes today is not a chess day. He hopes he’s not going to kick Malfoy although he’s still slightly unclear on why he shouldn’t. Why he shouldn’t be screaming bloody murder. At the first touch of Malfoy’s tongue against his hole, a wail tears from his mouth and he realises the blond might be good for something after all.
Draco – and when someone has their tongue in your arse, you really ought to call them by their first name – starts off slow, hesitant, like it’s his first time too. But the licks become longer, until Harry is keening with need and Draco is still just tracing the outside of his hole. He shoves backwards impatiently, then yowls when Draco bites his skin for his trouble.
“Please,” Harry says, and he can feel Draco smile. Finally, FINALLY, Malfoy plunges his tongue in and Harry thinks he sees stars. He clenches his fist so hard he almost drives his nails through his flesh. In out, in out and Harry can’t breathe, he’s writhing against the cool wood of the desk, feels Draco’s nails in his thighs, relishes the marks that will be there, after, maybe till tomorrow, maybe longer and Draco flexes his tongue, tightens the muscle and impales Harry again and again until he thinks he’s going to pass out from delirious pleasure. It’s then that he realises he’s actually coming, all over the desk, and he’s shaking, because his magic obviously doesn’t approve and when he bangs his head, hard, on the desk in front of him, he has a few seconds left to bemoan the fact that he can’t even enjoy his first rimming without drama. And that Draco is either going to be traumatised or unbearably smug. Shit.
Harry wakes up feeling like he should be feeling embarrassed. But what he actually feels is lazy and languid and lots of other L-words. He wouldn’t mind feeling like this every day. It might be nice, having someone…but then he remembers that he doesn’t have very many days and suddenly things aren’t so much fun.
“Harry,” Draco says as he comes in carrying a tray of food – serving food! Malfoy! At the sight of him, something in Harry snaps.
“What the fuck were you doing?” he yells and has the pleasure of seeing Draco’s face go all…ferrety…for lack of a better description. But Malfoy crawls back fast.
“Didn’t hear you complain at the time,” Draco hisses and Harry is furious, furious that after months of careful isolation, of shutting himself down, of saying ‘fuck it’ to the world, here bloody Draco Malfoy thinks he can put him back together.
“You can’t fix me!” he yells.
“I don’t want to fix you,” Draco bites back, “I just want you to fucking care whether you live or die. To stop pretending that everything is fine, and oh, yes, my magic is corrupting my body or vice versa and after eighteen years of servitude to the light, I don’t get to live my own life but have to suffer from spasms and seizures which keep getting worse and –”
“ALL RIGHT. All right. I get it,” Harry says, sulking. Draco moves forward, onto the bed.
“If you really have the limited time you think you do, what’re you doing in bed, Potter? Why aren’t you enjoying it?”
Harry knows. But he doesn’t want to tell Draco. He couldn’t tell Ron, or Hermione, or McGonagall or anyone else who would’ve seen him in battle. Because they wouldn’t have believed it. Malfoy reaches out a hand and it’s not silly or stupid that he’s comforted by the extra pressure.
“I’m scared,” he says. He doesn’t whisper it, or try and tough it out. He just says it. It’s there.
Malfoy doesn’t laugh, doesn’t nod with understanding, or pity or whatever. He squeezes Harry’s hand once before withdrawing.
“You’re allowed,” is all he says and Harry realises that yes, he is. But he’s still dying. Each attack forces his body into new contortions and the pain is getting worse. Sometimes, it’s not that easy to enjoy yourself when you know what’s coming. But he smiles at Draco and doesn’t mention this, because he’s sort of hoping they’ll have sex again and he doesn’t want to bring down the mood.
It’s June. Harry hates the way his friends stare at his body. It’s more fun when he can shock them with scratches down his back, from Draco’s eager fingernails as they grasp to hold onto something, anything of Harry’s as Draco lifts him up against the wall of the locker room showers. They don’t do that anymore, it’s too strenuous, and these days, Harry is lucky if he doesn’t seize up during a blowjob. It’s boring and not fun and Harry is ready for things to be over. He doesn’t say this to Ron or Hermione or Draco. He puts on a brave face, because he is, after all, a Gryffindor. He ignores the articles that proclaim his death (he’s not quite there yet, thank you), and the steady stream of mail, which thankfully gets blocked by the wards around his room. He pretends things are fine.
Which is a lie, obviously. And he’s furious again at Draco, for making him live, or really, cherishing that he lives. And it’s not like he’s afraid of death. Him, of all people. He’s done it before after all. It’s old hat by now. Piece of cake. Nothing to it. When he says he’s scared he doesn’t mean he’s actually scared. Harry has become very good at lying.
Mostly, there are things he hates now. He hates how the days are longer and the sun is out and he’s inside. He hates how Ron doesn’t know what to say to him now that he’s dying slowly instead of ‘oh god oh god’ on the battlefield. He hates how pale Hermione is, and how betrayed she looks at the books that should’ve given her an answer. And he hates, absolutely hates whatever it is that makes Draco stay. Makes him come around, every day, and just…exist, next to Harry. With every tremor, Draco’s face freezes. He becomes the haughty, closed-off Slytherin Prince and Harry knows inside Draco will be asking himself: ‘Is this it? Is this the day it stops?’ because Harry is asking himself the same questions.
“There’s…” Draco starts and Harry knows he isn’t going to like this. “There’s unicorn blood.”
“No,” Harry is revolted Draco even suggests it. But deeply, deeply touched in a twisted way.
“It could help!” Draco says, “It could stall.”
“I don’t want to live like that,” Harry says and Draco subsides, too easy, like he knows Harry would’ve never gone for it anyway. Harry mentions it to Ron, just in case. Ron promises to keep an eye out, but Harry can tell Ron wishes they were all Slytherins for a moment.
Just like that, it’s over. Granger sidles into the room, nervously clutching a single piece of parchment. She’s ripped it from a book, and if that isn’t enough to alert Draco to the utter weirdness of the whole thing, it’s when she shoots him a smile that he definitely knows the world is ending.
Harry is sleeping, he sleeps a lot these days. He’s lost a lot of muscle thanks to his magic gorging itself on his organs and bones. Draco never expected to hate magic quite so much as he does now.
“What is it?” he asks quietly. Granger gives him a look, like she doesn’t recognise him without the sneer in his voice. He gives a mental shrug, he’s had months to assimilate at least somewhat of a Gryffindor attitude. She looks at his hands, and he doesn’t realise he’s been fiddling with Potter’s glasses. He puts them back on the table.
“I’ve found something,” she says and he almost asks her to repeat it, because it seems so unreal, so unexpected that he’s having trouble adjusting. It’s not like it’s the last hour of Harry’s life, or anything quite so dramatic. Maybe he could’ve gone a few more weeks, even a few more months. They could celebrate his birthday, perhaps. But Draco knows Harry is tired, and especially the inability to eat normally – Draco has to force him seven times before Harry adjusts to being fed – is dragging Potter down. So Draco knows he can be excused if he doesn’t quite grasp it.
“What have you found?” He feels resentful that she doesn’t just say everything at once. But he takes another look at her face and realises that whatever she’s found, there’s a price. He snorts. This is magic. There always is.
“I’ve found a way to drain the magic without damaging his body. Well. Much.” She’s hesitant and Draco swallows. Loudly.
“Explain it to me.”
“I…can try. But it relies mostly on Muggle machines that I’ve…tweaked. They’re used to treat for a Muggle disease called cancer. They send out radiation that destroys…” She can tell she’s already lost him. “Anyway,” she says, “I can make it focus on Harry’s magical signature. It might work.”
“Might work?” Draco says, a sharp glare shooting her way.
“Yes, well, it’s never been tested. Obviously. So I don’t know if it’ll work.”
Draco wants to ask what sort of person takes that kind of risk with the life of their best friend, but he looks at the crumpled parchment and the way her lips are dry and cracked and he realises Granger doesn’t want to do this. But it might be their only chance.
“Malfoy…if it works, he may lose his magic. He may be a Squib.”
Oh good, Draco thinks. It could possibly kill him, or just destroy his magic, or do absolutely nothing. Well. That’s heaps better than what they’ve got now.
“Are you sure your ‘tweaking’ will work?” He doesn’t want to doubt her, but he doesn’t know her and he’s not sure he trusts her.
“She wouldn’t have come here if she didn’t think it would work on some level,” Harry croaks from the bed. Draco has to stop himself from rushing over. “Do it, Mione.”
“Harry!” Draco says, pleading with his eyes. Harry looks past him.
“Do it,” he repeats.
Granger waits, though. Turns to Draco.
“Can you still love him if he has no magic?” She throws it out like a challenge and Draco rolls his eyes.
“What a ridiculously female question,” he snipes before turning to wink at Harry. “He doesn’t need magic for me to fuck him, right?”
Granger blushes and Harry snorts. He knows she’s getting angry, but he looks at Harry and knows Harry knows. He doesn’t have to answer to anyone else.
“It’ll work,” Harry says, and he looks a bit better. He practically reeks of Gryffindor stubbornness, but Draco won’t hold it against him. This time.
“I know,” he says instead, climbing on the bed next to Harry. Granger leaves, probably to sort out last minute details. He’s not too worried about her.
“You’re a lousy liar,” he says to Harry, who looks surprised.
Poor sod. He obviously thought he was fooling everybody. Draco leans over and kisses him, more gently than normal.
“I wasn’t lying, though,” Harry says, “I have a feeling. This will work.”
Draco nods, although he doesn’t have the heart to tell Harry it has nothing to do with lying, and more so about belief.
“I believe you,” he says. And he does. “I would like to take this opportunity to say that when you’re better, I am no longer flying your heavy arse up on my broom. You can ride your own for once.”
“But I like riding yours,” Harry smirks, something that tells Draco they’ve been spending entirely too much time together. If all it costs him is a facial expression, he finds he doesn’t mind so much. He pinches Harry, watching in fascination as the skin turns red.
“Bully,” Harry smiles.
“You love it,” Draco smiles back. Harry opens his mouth to lie, Draco can tell. Instead he gives a soft laugh.
“Yeah,” he says as Draco pins him down. “You got me.”