Title: Don’t Call Me Back
Summary: They walked all day, skirting copses of trees, slithering up hills on their bellies, avoiding roads. Harry pushed them past a village where the glass littered the streets, sparkling in the morning light, and doorways gaped open like giant black wounds.
Disclaimer: The Harry Potter world doesn’t belong to me. Title borrowed from For Everything a Reason by Carina Round. All characters are over 18 years of age.
Warnings: blood, zombie gore and violence, death (of minor characters), and swearing.
Epilogue compliant? No
Word Count: 9,868
A/N: sugareey, I saw the zombie prompt and literally begged for it. Because of that, I couldn’t get in some of the things you asked for (mope), but I tried to get in one or two. THANK YOU for prompting this! *adores* Made my day. :D
Harry is at the Stonehaven asylum in the critical ward when the breach occurs. He becomes aware slowly: sporadic bangs, then shouting. The woman on the bed beside him opens her eyes for the first time in a week and lets out a keening wail. Harry drops the wad of bandages and jumps away from the scratch of her fingers. Her eyes are sunken, filmed over, but she’s staring right at him, reaching. Reaching.
Outside the ward, there’s a crash. A scream, a male voice, and suddenly something explodes, smashing the doors open and throwing Harry across the room into one of the beds.
Harry shakes his head, dizzy. Everything is blurry. They’re all awake now, people who haven’t so much as twitched for days, wrenching at the restraints around their wrists and ankles, scrabbling at bed sheets. Above him, something moans. Harry feels fingers in his hair.
And then the stench.
He lunges away, bangs his temple on the leg of the next bed, and falls onto his side. Wand, where is his wand? He can’t hear, there’s ringing in his ears, and then he realizes it’s not ringing at all. It’s high pitched whining from ravaged throats. The room is filled with it. Harry gags and isn’t sure if it’s the sound, the smell, or the lump on his head that makes him do it.
The screams grow louder. It sounds like everyone in the compound is crying out. Harry stares at the doors, now hanging off their hinges, smelling smoke in his nostrils, hearing the crack of gunfire, the thud of his own heart in his ears. Staving off the knowledge as long as he can.
A muted blast of magic outside galvanizes his limbs; Harry lurches up onto his knees, yanks his wand free of his robes. Beyond the doors, spell after spell sizzles, turning the room and the hallway beyond red and yellow and green. A crash to Harry’s left; he turns, find one of his patients has knocked his bed over and is inching across the floor toward him, fingernails digging into grooves in the tile, dragging the entire bed along behind with rending shrieks of metal. A patient to the right starts howling. Calling.
His gun will take too long to find. Harry aims a hex at the thing crawling toward him and misses, catches the bed instead, blasting it and its occupant back several feet. Another crash, another bed down. Beyond the doors, he can hear moaning under the screams, under the hiss of magic, a long, low drone that freezes every muscle in his body.
He can’t let himself freeze. Harry scrambles upright, fighting vertigo. The side of his face is wet and warm. He touches his forehead and sees the slick of blood on his palm. A girl across the room lets out a furious screech and goes mad, jerking and flailing, rocking her bed from side to side. All of a sudden the binding magic gives out and she tumbles free, hits the floors with a bone-crunching thud.
She gets to her feet. The side of her head is caved in and one of her shoulders is wrenched visibly out of its socket. She stares straight at Harry, mouth open, fingers twitching.
Harry blasts her backward before she can come for him. But the other patients have begun the same frenzied screech, the thrashing. Harry tries to run and falls. He can’t get his legs to work.
Something grabs his ankle. Harry kicks instinctively and gets himself loose, but the fingers are back, tearing at the leg of his trousers, twisting and squeezing. He hears an inhuman hiss just behind him, and then one of the doors crashes to the ground. Blinding white; Harry sees sparks, darkness, then Draco Malfoy, wand in one hand, a broken length of metal in the other.
This time, Harry manages to get to his feet and stay there.
Malfoy lunges for him, gets an arm around his waist and pulls him from the room. He shoots a spell at the ceiling and with a grinding groan, tons of rubble come down between them and the patients. An even bigger explosion rocks the building. Harry staggers into a wall, grunts as Malfoy slams into him.
The lights flicker, light and dark, light and dark, as if the building itself is having a seizure. The corridors seem endless, turn after turn. Blood runs into Harry’s eyes. He stumbles and the lights go out for good. He can hear the scrape of feet somewhere in the darkness. Malfoy pushes him against the wall and strikes out with the length of metal at something Harry can’t see. He can hear, though: dull, wet thwacks. Three of them.
Somehow they make the main doors, spilling out into the night. The heat is incredible: half the asylum is on fire. People are running, screaming, and not all of them are alive.
Malfoy heaves himself upright and pushes Harry. “Go. Run!”
Leave Malfoy? It makes no sense. Harry grabs Malfoy’s arm. “Come on.”
Malfoy pushes him away. Behind him, a woman goes down under a pack of things, and the thrashing begins. Malfoy shoves him again. “You have to get out of here! Potter, go!”
The pounding in Harry’s head overwhelms him. Blood slips into his mouth, and then he can’t see and he’s falling.
Harry wakes to ice blue dawn. It’s cold; whatever he’s lying on is frigid and unforgiving. Harry moves only his eyes, taking in all he can: white walls, dark fireplace to his right, a closed door across the room with a broken armoire pushed in front of it.
Draco Malfoy, sitting against the wall beside him.
Harry groans and levers himself up. There’s a cloak over him. He draws it around his upper body.
Malfoy watches silently. His cheeks look startlingly pink in the wan light.
“The asylum?” Harry asks.
Malfoy shakes his head. “Overrun.”
Harry digests. “Thank you. For getting me out.”
For a long moment, Malfoy doesn’t move. Then he nods once. The length of metal piping is across his thighs, stained dark at one end. Malfoy’s thin hand curls around the other end.
“Any guns?” Harry speaks softly. He can’t hear a sound outside.
Malfoy pulls a handgun from the floor beside his leg. He eyes it as if it is personally responsible for his weariness. “Full clip left.”
Alright, then. Alright. Harry pulls the cloak tighter, then realizes it must be Malfoy’s. “Here. You must be freezing.”
Malfoy’s gaze slides sideways and fixes on him. He opens his mouth, then shakes his head. “I’m fine.”
His skin is pale. Harry grabs his arm and feels the chill. “You aren’t fine. Put it on.”
“You need it more than me.”
Harry touches his head. The bleeding has stopped but the bruise is incredibly tender. He watches Malfoy out of the corner of his eye and catches a shiver. “We can share.”
Malfoy doesn’t move to help, so Harry lowers part of the cloak around his shoulders and gathers the ends together across their chests. He can feel the cold radiating from Malfoy, sucking his own body heat away.
“Where are we?”
Malfoy shrugs. “Safer than we were.”
Harry thinks of fire billowing from windows, staggering figures, fingers bent like claws. He can still hear the echo of that whine in his ears. “Was it Inferi or…”
“Both.” Malfoy fidgets next to him. He looks like he’s watching something play out in front of them, something Harry can’t see. “More of them than I’ve ever seen in one place.”
And now there will be even more. Harry squeezes his eyes shut. “We should go south. Make it to Edinburgh.”
“Came from there,” Malfoy says. “It’s a mess. Too much magic.”
For the first time there’s something that might be humour in Malfoy’s expression. “Yeah.”
“Alright then.” Harry inhales and lets it out slowly. “Small towns, then. How far outside Stonehaven are we?”
“A couple miles. I think.”
Harry stares. Malfoy dragged him all this way? Malfoy’s eyes cut right again and he jerks his face away. “Don’t look at me like that.”
Malfoy laughs in a tiny burst. Harry can’t name the emotion that slides into his eyes and out again.
They need food. Harry needs to find a second cloak, and they need to get other weapons. Malfoy needs to sleep. “Get some rest,” Harry murmurs. He slides the pipe from Malfoy’s lap to his own. Malfoy’s eyes follow it. “I’ll keep watch.”
Malfoy shakes his head again, slowly like he’s underwater. “Doesn’t matter if I sleep.”
“Then humour me.” Harry tucks the cloak tighter, forcing Malfoy closer to his side. Malfoy stares at him for a long time, not moving. It’s unnerving. Then his head droops down and comes to rest on Harry’s shoulder.
It’s late afternoon when Malfoy wakes. He’s slept fitfully, twitching against Harry’s body. One hand clamped itself over Harry’s thigh around midday and for a moment, Harry thought Malfoy might rip right through the fabric of his trousers, right through his skin.
He lets Malfoy have the cloak, then leaves him blinking himself awake and rises to look out the window. Outside, everything is still. No animals, no rustling in the trees or bushes. But no other sound either, which means they’re safe enough.
“We should go while it’s still light,” Harry says, hand tight around the metal pipe. Moving the armoire will make noise, maybe enough to draw attention. They could climb out the window, or maybe there’s a—
“I’m not coming with you.”
Harry spins in place. His head swims and he reaches out to steady himself on the windowsill. “What?”
Malfoy shuts his eyes for a few seconds. When he opens them, something vital has fled, leaving nothing but fatigue behind. He pulls at the neck of his jumper, tugging until a pristine square of gauze is revealed just below his right shoulder.
Harry stares mutely until he understands and feels sick.
“When?” It’s hard to coax the word past his throat.
Malfoy gazes off into space. “Three days ago.”
Harry takes a tentative step forward. “And are you—”
“Beginnings of fever last night. Before the attack.” The lack of fire in his voice causes Harry’s body to ache. Malfoy turns a thin smile in his direction. “I’ve two days. Two and a half, maybe.”
The refugees from Edinburgh had brought casualties. Harry remembers bites, cuts, the relative banality of broken bones. Malfoy never came to triage. Harry wants to scream at the lack of information. But a bite like Malfoy’s is insignificant compared to what Harry’s been dealing with. There’s no reason he would have known.
Malfoy’s attempt to leave him at the compound gate makes a lot more sense now. But it’s still not enough.
“You are coming with me,” Harry says, grim. Malfoy finally looks him in the eye.
“Potter, that’s the stupidest thing you could do.”
“No, the stupidest thing I could do is leave you here to die alone.” Harry’s jaw hurts, he’s so tense. “What were you going to do? Find some way to kill yourself?”
The energy slumps right out of Malfoy’s frame. He sags against the wall, fingers clenched in the fabric of his trousers. He’s got mud all up the cuffs of his trouser legs, dirt or something else on his cheek. “I’ll do what I have to do. I’m not going to be like them.”
How many times has Harry heard that phrase, spoken in how many voices? This voice cuts more sharply, worse than the others. He knows Malfoy, knows that intellect, that cunning, and more recently, that strength. He’s counted on it before. He’s risked his trust, and it’s paid off more than once.
Fucking, fucking hell. He should have killed Voldemort years sooner than he did.
“I won’t let you become one of them,” Harry promises quietly. If this is all that’s left in his power, he’ll make sure he does it right. “I swear I won’t.”
Malfoy watches him from his spot on the floor. The dying sunlight gives his face back its colour. “I don’t want to die alone,” he whispers.
Harry hears it for the plea it is. He holds out his hand. “Come on.”
They reach another village while the sun’s still up. The buildings are boarded up, quiet. A tabby cat hisses when it sees them and backs into the overgrown grass of one front yard. Thank god for animal presence. Harry shoulders through a window, his shirt held over his nose just in case, but the house is empty, the air stale. Everything is in place: chairs neatly pushed in around the dining room table, doilies on the couches, battery powered clock still ticking away in the kitchen. Early evacuees, then. Lucky ones.
He finds a closet full of empty hangers upstairs, but there’s a box labeled ‘For Winter’ on the shelf. He takes it down and pulls out a rain jacket, a pea coat, two woolen monstrosities, and a pile of hats, gloves, and thick socks.
He searches the house, but whatever firearms were once present are gone now. He settles on a sturdy shovel from the shed out back and straps a stone rolling pin from the kitchen tight to his waist with his belt on his way out.
They keep Malfoy’s cloak, balled into a lump in one of the woolen coat pockets. Harry gathers as many bottles of water as his coat can hold and opens a can of beans that don’t have much taste, but he’s so hungry he loves every bite.
Malfoy doesn’t eat more than a few mouthfuls.
“Harry, when you do it,” he says suddenly, and stops. The spoon in his hand quivers.
Harry swallows. Suddenly he’s no longer hungry. Malfoy’s eyes drop.
“Don’t use the gun,” he mutters. “You need the ammo.”
Harry pushes the thought away as quickly as he can.
They stay the night on the couches, eyeing the darkness beyond the window. Around four in the morning, Malfoy vomits up everything he has eaten.
This time around, the town feels too quiet.
Harry and Malfoy crouch outside the fence near a farmhouse for an hour, just watching, before creeping through the slats and making their way across the field. They walked all day, skirting copses of trees, slithering up hills on their bellies, avoiding roads. Towns are never more than a few hours apart and so far, everything has been abandoned. Harry pushed them past a village where the glass littered the streets, sparkling in the morning light, and doorways gaped open like giant black wounds. The walls were stained, splashed in brown, and the clutter was heavy there: scraps of clothing, broken dishes and a bike, a shoe, even a lady’s purse, dropped in the middle of the road by people who are long gone. There are no animals.
Malfoy’s cheeks are flushed, his eyes heavy and dull. Harry touches his arm. “Hey.”
Malfoy— Draco— turns slowly to look at him. Harry can see droplets of sweat forming at his hairline. “Yeah.”
“How’re you doing?”
Draco shrugs listlessly. “Cold.”
The skin between the edge of his glove and the sleeve of his coat is hot. Harry nods and looks away. He doesn’t like this place, would rather not stay here tonight.
When the sun starts to set, Draco sways and drops on the spot, and Harry is out of options. He gets his hands under Draco’s arms and pulls him into the shed of the house nearest them. He can feel the heat emanating through Draco’s clothing, see the cherry-red stain of his face.
The shed is sound. Harry spreads out the cloak and lowers Draco onto it. Draco chokes, heaving off the ground with every rasp, and vomits again, nothing but bile. Harry rolls him onto his side and waits for the steady, shallow breathing to return, then dribbles water over Draco’s lips.
“Don’t.” Draco’s voice is scratchy. “Don’t waste it on me.”
Even so, his tongue darts out and licks up the moisture. Harry doesn’t answer except with more water.
An hour later, Draco opens his eyes. His lips are cracked, stretched tight across his face. He reaches out as if to touch Harry, then lowers his hand. “Should tie me up.”
Harry shrugs it off. “No rope. Can’t use magic.”
Draco breathes nasally for a few seconds. “Be smart, Harry. Please.”
All Harry can think is that he’s going to let Draco die. Draco saved him, and there is nothing Harry can do to return the favor. A tear slips down his cheek. He hasn’t cried in over four months. “Shut up.”
Draco tries to sit up and fails. He thumps back down with a moan. Harry can see the shiver racing through his limbs. He scoots closer and pulls Draco into his lap. “You warm enough?”
Draco snorts. Such a weak sound. “Now you shut up.”
The fever gets worse. Harry ends up out of his cloak, sweating with the heat beating from Draco’s skin. He feels hotter than any of the others did. Harry wishes he had a thermometer or the luxury of a temperature-determining spell. Draco is down to dry heaves. Every so often, his eyes flutter open and he garbles nonsense. The room smells of sickness, sweet and cloying. Harry stares straight ahead at the wall, trying not to think.
He has to decide what to use. Has to make a decision. The gun would be quick. It would also be loud, but Harry’s mind dead-ends abruptly every time he considers the blunt instruments they have with them. No, he… No.
He checks Draco’s wound instead and finds the jaundice of infection burning away at the edges of the bite. It’s shallow, from a small mouth. Maybe a child’s. An image flickers in: Draco holding a little girl to his chest, carrying her out of harm’s way, only to be rewarded with this. Harry’s eyes sting. He wipes his face with the heel of his hand.
The moon is high and bright when Draco manages to reach up and fist Harry’s shirt, just under his collar. This time, his eyes are bright. “Put me down, Harry.”
He can’t argue. He lowers Draco gently to the floor, adjusting his head on the pile of their jackets, and bends over him. “I’m not leaving. Okay?”
Draco nods. His eyes shut, then open again. He coughs. “As soon as you know. Harry—”
Harry grabs Draco’s hand. “I will. I promise.”
The moon creeps across the sky. Draco’s twitching subsides into nothing but rasping breath. Harry checks the gun again, flicks the safety on and off. He thinks about Glasgow and other huge cities with wards, meant to protect but only serving to draw the creatures in. Closer, closer, until the first bite, the first collapse. The first one turned. All the arguments, the protestations that Inferi don’t eat people. They never have.
These Inferi do.
Harry runs his fingers over the smooth sheen of his wand where it sits beside him. It feels strange in his hand. The gun is more at home there these days, the crack, the sulfur smell, the black residue on his fingers.
He thinks about spells to kill the Inferi, spells he can no longer use, blotted out by the waves that came after them, turning and sniffing out the magic. Honing in. Claws for fingernails, rotting flesh and sunken eyes, faces he recognised, now slack. Lifeless, but still moving, mouths twisting, forming memories of smiles, reflections of emotion.
He shuts his eyes, just for a minute.
He wakes to someone shaking him, fingers clenching painfully into his arms.
Wasn’t supposed to fall asleep, oh fuck, Draco’s turned, Draco’s seconds from eating him alive, he’s dead, he’s a bloody idiot, he’s fucking dead— Harry panics, flails out with his arms, kicking and twisting— he let Draco down, he let him down and now he’s going to die for it— connecting with the wall, the floor, wrenching at those hands, screaming, screaming—
He freezes. The hands in his shirt still and everything just fucking freezes. Harry stares up into Draco’s wide eyes.
There is thought behind them. Lucidity. Reaction. Draco’s hands tighten in his shirt and Harry squeezes too hard around those wrists. Draco winces but holds on. His skin is cool beneath Harry’s grip.
“You fucking idiot, you fell asleep.” It rushes out of Draco’s mouth as a single word. Harry’s heart jumps up into his throat and for a second, he can’t breathe or move.
“I don’t know,” Draco says, still in that same whispered rush, a hiss in the silence, “I don’t know, I just woke up and this, I’m not sick, I’m just awake, Harry, please say something, please, please.”
He can’t. His hands slide down Draco’s forearms— cool skin, a pulse and cool skin— under his coat sleeves, snagging in his jumper. Draco trembles. His voice keeps going, on and on.
“I should be dead, I should be dead, what the hell is this? Harry, fucking say something—”
He lets go of Draco and grabs hold of him again the next second, yanking his coat down, pulling at his jumper. Draco flinches, fear erupting in his eyes, but Harry can see skin, healthy flesh, still pale but with more colour than it had before. He can see the pulse jumping in Draco’s throat. He can’t stop moving his hands, patting Draco down, the firm slant of his ribs, the arc of his back, the muscle shape in his legs and arms, the line of his jaw. Harry runs his hands through Draco’s hair and feels normal heat trapped there between scalp and strand. He goes for the bandage and tears it off. Draco’s bite is discoloured, the faintest tinge of yellow at the edges, but otherwise, it’s healing.
Draco stares at him, mouth open, hands raised between them. His breathing makes a rapid counterpoint to Harry’s.
Draco’s mouth moves. “I don’t… I don’t know what happened.”
Harry turns the gun over and over in his hands. Draco’s arm and thigh are a solid line of heat against his. The shed is dark. Dust tickles his nose.
“Am I immune?”
Harry doesn’t know. He just doesn’t know.
Draco’s fever was especially hot. There have been others with fevers like that; Harry has heard stories. If the fever didn’t kill them, sometimes they slipped into comas. Sometimes they woke up. He thought they were just stories, rumours of immunity. He’s heard ravings about the second coming, about cleansing, mostly from the half-mad Death Eaters who survived the first wave of Voldemort’s new Inferi, way back in the beginning. He never saw any proof past that peculiar raging heat.
“I wasn’t there long,” he murmurs. “In Stonehaven. Everyone I took care of just… turned. They turned.”
He hears Draco inhale. “I’ve heard of people who—”
“So have I.”
He wants to say that some turn quicker than others. Some languish for weeks. He wants to spout all his knowledge until the answer presents itself. He can’t think.
Draco’s alive. He’s alive, and he’s well.
“The last time I saw her, Hermione…” Harry rubs his face. “Half a year ago. This is Voldemort’s doing.”
“I think everyone’s agreed on that.”
Draco is still wan, still weak, but he’s alive. Harry has to get past this. “What exactly did he do?”
Draco hunches over. “Harry, I wasn’t there. I wasn’t part of this. Whenever he did it.”
“That’s not what I mean.” Harry reaches, grabs Draco’s left arm. Draco struggles, but Harry keeps his grip firm. He peels back the layers of clothing until the snake and skull are visible. It’s faded, the skin beneath unbothered. There’s nothing strange about the tattoo.
“In the beginning, when they were still catching Death Eaters instead of—”
“No.” Draco is shaking his head firmly. “No. It doesn’t react. Even when I was bitten, nothing happened, I would have remembered because it hasn’t hurt at all since he died. It hasn’t done a fucking thing.”
“But if he could somehow tailor the spell, single out his followers…”
“Then it would have been brilliant!” Draco snaps. “But it wasn’t. You know as well as I do. Half the Death Eaters turned. They turned, Harry. Just like the rest of us.”
Not like you. Harry can’t say it aloud. There’s a pattern here, he knows it. He can’t prove it, and it’ll just be a guess, whatever it ends up being, but he knows he’s right. There’s something here. Something they can use.
Draco’s fucking alive.
“He should have protected his followers,” Draco mutters. “If he was any kind of leader, he never would have fed them to the wolves, but he didn’t care. We were such fools, all of us. He didn’t even fit in with his own propaganda and we still followed him. We should have known.”
Propaganda. It comes to Harry suddenly and he seizes Draco’s hand. “Pure blood.”
Just a guess, just a guess. Harry feels insane. He feels right. “You’re a pureblood.”
Draco stares at him for so long it starts to hurt. “You have no proof that that’s the reason.”
“I know.” His heart thumps wildly. He can see that Draco half-believes it despite his protests.
Draco pulls his hand away. “Hypothetically—” His voice cracks and he clears his throat. “Hypothetically, if you’re right. What does that mean?”
It’s wonderful and horrible all at once. Harry can see the real question, the depth of it as well as the utter uselessness of this knowledge. How far does it go? What is the definition of pure blood? “Would I turn?”
He doesn’t mean to say it, and Draco’s eyes go wide again. Godric Almighty, they’re just going on a stupid assumption here. They know nothing.
“Your mother and your father were born with magic,” Draco says softly.
Harry stares at him. “My mother’s family were Muggles.”
Suddenly the risk seems so much heavier. He can’t get bitten. He can’t. It’s no different than before but that reasoning feels feeble. He has no idea if he’d be immune. The Weasleys would heal, like Draco. Hermione would turn. But Harry? Just how far does the pureness of magical blood flow in a megalomaniac’s twisted mind?
“Oh my god.”
Draco takes Harry’s hand again and grips it tight.
The howling jolts Harry out of his slumber. He jerks upright. Hands tighten on his body, one on his arm and one over his mouth.
Draco. Harry stills. They’re outside, the new Inferi are outside, just a wall away. He can hear them whining, then a wet tearing sound.
Harry knows that sound. Bile rises up fast and he chokes it back down, shuts his eyes and tries not to listen. Another howl— one of them, he thought— changes pitch into a scream. Draco’s fingers dig sharply into his arm.
Someone’s alive out there, but not for long.
He can hear the things outside scuttling and whimpering, snapping gutturally at each other. He should go out there, beat them off. Save that person, whoever he or she is. Why didn’t Draco wake him? Why didn’t Draco go out?
One look at Draco’s face gives him the answer: Draco’s face is white, his breathing harder than it should be. The shadows beneath his eyes and cheeks are heavy, and his hands are still shaking, not from fear but from leftover illness. There is no way Draco could fight them off in his condition. The scream cuts off outside and Harry shuts his eyes again. He tugs Draco closer and prays, lips moving, to be overlooked by the things outside.
The next night, it’s a little cottage, cold stone walls and torn lace drapes. The door still locks. Harry paces the length of the room, unable to sleep, unable to sit still. His blood is thrumming almost too fast through his veins.
“Harry,” Draco murmurs. He’s spooning cold lentil soup into two bowls that are still intact. “Eat something.”
“We could have done something.”
He doesn’t know that he’s spoken aloud until Draco responds. “About what?”
“The purebloods,” Harry grits out. “I should have known.”
They’d grouped them together in the wards, all of them. Harry slams his fist into the wall and feels his skin split. Hears Draco’s exclamation, feels the hands around his wrist, cradling his hand. All he can think of are purebloods, tied down while their bunkmates warp beside them, lined up for slaughter in nice long rows of white beds.
“Fuck, fuck, fuck!”
“Stop. You arse, stop! You didn’t know. You don’t know!”
“I killed them. I helped a hundred people die!”
“No one knew!” Draco wrenches him back from the wall. Harry can see a splotch of his blood on the cracking paint. Draco wraps his arms around him, and Harry gets irritated— why the fuck is Draco doing this?— and then realizes he’s shaking. There are tears streaming down his cheeks. Fuck, he’s crying.
“We don’t even know if we’re right,” Draco whispers in his ear. He’s holding Harry tight, holding him still. “We have no idea.”
Harry knows that. He knows. He breathes hard and says the words over and over in his head. It doesn’t help.
“I should never have let that sonofabitch live so long,” he whispers. Suddenly he’s tired, worn right to the bone. He hangs his head, wanting to drop where he stands and just sleep till it’s all over and the world has taken care of itself in some catastrophic way. “My fault.”
“It is not, you utter idiot,” Draco snaps. He shakes Harry, pulls him upright and jerks him around to meet his eyes. “It is not your fault. It’s his fault, and he went and died before he had to face what he did. But if he hadn’t died, you can bet he would have done something worse!”
“Worse than this?” Harry’s voice cracks. He looks into Draco’s eyes and sees the wild light soften, expand.
“We’re alive,” Draco says. “Harry, we’re still alive.”
We can still do something.
Draco heaves a sigh. “Come on,” he mutters. “Come on and eat.”
The next day is bright and clear. Harry takes off his coat and winds it round his waist while Draco keeps his eyes on the surrounding hills. The sunlight floods warmth over his shoulders and into his hair.
“Don’t like walking in this valley,” Draco murmurs.
“We should get up top,” Harry says, taking the gun from Draco’s outstretched hand. “Have a look around.”
Draco lifts his chin and the light reveals the healthy colour of his skin. He’s stronger today, though he keeps his coat and gloves on.
Near the top of the hill, he tugs Harry gently to the ground, and they inch their way to the summit. The land spills out beneath them, verdant and rolling. It drops off into blue swells about three miles off, and on the horizon, a mass of grey is building, darkness roiling in its depths. Harry catches the flicker of lightning.
“There.” Draco points. Harry can see movement, the scuttling of insects, almost. These insects drag too much, though, their paths too aimless.
“Should head to that town,” Harry murmurs, gesturing along the ridge. Draco eyes the cluster of buildings— houses and barns, perhaps the roof of a pub by a deserted road.
“Looks alright,” he says after a moment.
They inch back down, not rising until they are well under the cusp of sight. Draco’s shoes slide in the mud and Harry grabs his hand to keep him upright.
The town is more a village, and quiet as a churchyard. They choose a street on the outskirts and creep along the road until they find cottages with doors intact, windows unbroken. There are birds in the woods; Harry can hear them, muted as if they know not to make too much noise.
Draco enters the house first, metal pipe held in both hands like a bat. They make a thorough sweep of the ground floor, then head up the stairs. Harry finds a passel of maps in a dusty study and spreads them out on the floor, trying to determine where they are.
“I’ll see if I can find some food,” Draco says quietly. Harry nods, intent on the spidery roads and boundary lines before him.
He wants a shower. The thought makes him smile. He feels sweaty and sunburnt; hell, a water trough would do well enough. Harry traces his finger along the arc of the motorway. If he’s right, they’re closer than he thought, but he’s still not sure which village this is. He grabs another map, larger scale, and overlays the two, memorizing the shape of the area, comparing lines of hills and webs of roads.
At some point, he realizes he’s squinting: the light has dimmed. Harry looks up. It’s awfully quiet and Draco’s been gone awhile. The sun is setting, casting a pink glow over the walls of the room. Harry gets to his feet and pulls on his coat. The water bottles slosh inside as he heads downstairs.
There’s no sign of Draco in the sitting room, nor in the kitchen. Harry slips out the front door and paces around the side of the house, rolling pin in hand. There’s a small wooded area beyond the backyard. Harry hears a creak and whirls: the back door of the next house over swings slowly in and out on the breeze. Wide open. Harry crosses the lawn and hops the fence, hefting the rolling pin into a better grip. There’s no sound from inside the house. Harry pauses on the stoop and pushes the door all the way open with his elbow. “Draco?”
A clank from somewhere inside. Harry raises the pin, and then hears what can only be muttering. A human voice. He steps inside, leaving the door open behind, and moves down the hallway. The entire house is filled with the vibrancy of twilight.
The first doorway leads to the kitchen. It’s large and cupboards stand open along the walls, as if someone were in the middle of cooking. Harry can see tins inside, boxes of cereal, canned tuna fish—
Something clubs Harry hard on the back of the head.
He comes to with a nauseating headache. For a moment, he can’t get his eyes to focus. He pushes up on his arms and falls back down, nearly sicking up. Harry reaches, gingerly touches the back of his head. There’s a lump, but he can’t feel blood, dried or otherwise.
He’s in a small room with a single window, boarded up. The door is shut. Harry blinks at it to clear his eyes. A thump sounds beyond the door somewhere and suddenly Harry remembers Draco’s voice, panicked around the sound of his name.
This time when he gets to his feet, he keeps himself up by force of will. The door isn’t locked, but there’s something pushed up against the other side. Harry bends, peers through the keyhole. Just darkness. He feels along his belt but the gun is gone. His coat is still on, all the pockets empty, and there’s no sign of the rolling pin.
“Shit.” He shoulders into the door and wavers when his head spins. The sun is nearly down; there’s barely any light to see by inside. Harry grits his teeth and shoves his way through. There’s a scraping sound and the door gives way enough to get out. Only then does he think of what might be on the other side. He looks around, heart hammering, but there’s nothing to use as a weapon, not even a fire poker.
Another thump, a raised voice, decides it for him. Harry squeezes through the door and around the couch blocking it, then creeps down the hallway toward the sounds, eyes out for anything he can use. The back door is open, the floorboards lit by the last of the weak sunlight. Harry flattens himself to the wall and peers out.
Four people are by the tree line, one of them hunched on the ground. It takes Harry too long to realize he’s looking at Draco’s fair hair. As he watches, one of the others kicks Draco hard in the area of his abdomen. Harry’s throat cinches shut. They’re not Inferi, new or old.
A spark of light catches off metal. The man on the outskirts of the group has the gun.
He can see Draco’s metal pipe lying at the foot of the stairs, just on the edge of the yard. Draco cries out, and Harry jerks his eyes back in time to witness another kick, this time to Draco’s back. He edges out the door and grabs the pipe, praying they’ll be too involved in their attack to notice him.
Draco’s on the ground, curled up. His face is bloody. One of them slams his boot into Draco’s stomach and Draco’s cry breaks down the middle. Harry’s eyes film red. He darts up, runs as fast as he can, raising the pipe. He swings it, slams it into the back of the one holding the gun and knocks him aside. Harry hears footsteps, yanks the gun out of the man’s hand and spins, flicking off the safety and aiming in one sweep. He finds a second man frozen right at the other end of the barrel
“Back up,” Harry grits out. The man slowly puts a body’s length between himself and the gun.
On the ground, Draco wheezes.
The man looking down the gun barrel raises his hands as if giving himself up. “Mate, just giving a Death Eater his due.”
“I said, get back,” Harry snaps.
The two still standing stare at him, expressions twisting in confusion. Harry’s not close enough. Not close enough to Draco to stop them from killing him. He can see recognition in their eyes, the dart of their gazes to his forehead. It’s almost funny.
“Get away from him.” Harry enunciates each word. He can see bruises darkening Draco’s throat, his face. Draco stares up at him mutely, eyes wide. On the ground, the downed man gasps for breath.
The man closest to Draco watches Harry. Watches the gun. “You shoot that, you’ll draw them.”
“Then you’d better let him go.” Just a squeeze of his finger. One little pull.
“He’s fucking scum.” It’s scary that it comes out so tonelessly. Like it’s an everyday truth. The man turns to his compatriot. “He won’t shoot.”
Heat flares, wild in Harry’s chest. The man above Draco laughs and raises his arms. Grins at Harry. “He’ll help us. He’s come to us to help.”
The third man smiles weirdly and Harry sees a flicker in his eyes that turns his stomach. He steps closer, palm sweating against warm metal. “Get off of him now.”
“But he’s a Death Eater. See?” The leader bends and jerks Draco’s sleeve back. “We’ll fix this.”
They’re insane, or nearly there. Could be wizards or Muggles. There’s little sense in the third man’s eyes, just heady delight and… and hope. He’s looking at Harry like he’s some kind of messiah. Draco’s nose drips blood into the earth, and Harry can see bloodied knuckles where Draco’s fingers curl in the grass. Harry’s insides jolt as if he’s been turned on his side, and suddenly all he can see is Draco dead on the ground.
The crazy one kicks Draco hard in the temple. The ribs. He laughs and it sounds gleeful.
Harry aims for his head and fires.
The blast is deafening and the place immediately goes quiet. Draco stares at the body stretched across his own.
The man Harry knocked over scrambles away, gasping in and out. He gains his feet, falls past the tree line and disappears. Harry trains his gun on the leader. On the breeze, he hears the faintest of moans.
“You fucker,” the man heaves. “You fucker, do you know what you’ve done?” He lunges at Harry and Harry puts a bullet in his hip, dropping him in a heap. He tucks the gun into his coat and hauls Draco off the ground.
“We have to go.”
“You can’t leave me here!” the leader cries. “You… you can’t leave me here!”
Draco coughs against Harry’s shoulder and spits out a tooth. He clutches his side, staggers along. Harry pulls his weight against him and quickens their pace. He can feel them coming.
“No! Please, come back! Please!”
Draco’s fingers clench in his coat. The moaning, the keening, grows louder. Harry tightens his arms around Draco, judges the direction of the sound, and makes for the trees as fast as he can.
The new Inferi catch up with them anyway.
One slams into them and knocks Draco and the pipe out of Harry’s grip. Harry whirls and fires two rounds into its face, blowing out the back of its skull. Draco hunches under the spatter, heaving hard, one hand pressed to his chest. Harry bends to roll the body away from them. Footsteps, and two more rush out of the woods.
Harry grabs Draco’s wrist, pulling him out of the way, but then it’s too late and they’re on him, shoving him down to the ground, reeking of rot and hissing foul air into his face. Harry beats at their heads with the butt of the gun, hears the crack of bone. Something slides out of one open maw, slippery and wet against his cheek. Harry gags, kicks and shoves. Their bony fingers dig into his shoulders, heads lurching forward against his raised arms, snapping at his throat. His hands are slick with gore, sweat— blood, maybe his own. At the thought of broken skin so near their infected, putrid flesh, terror snaps through him like a cord pulled too taut, and Harry screams, thrashing madly, their weight bearing down, the stench overwhelming his senses.
One of them jerks and thumps down across his chest, teeth scraping over his collar bone. Harry smacks it away, unable to think. When his hand connects, the thing rolls off. Harry looks up just in time to see Draco swing the pipe downward. It hammers into the second creature’s skull and red explodes outward. Harry whips his face to the side and feels cold, sticky filth rain onto his skin. He gags again and this time he can’t stop the bile from coming up. A second later, the weight on top of him is gone. Harry rolls, chokes helplessly into the dirt.
Someone thumps down beside him. “Harry.” Draco’s voice is hoarse. His hands clamp tight onto Harry’s shoulders. “Get up.”
It’s the moan that follows which jolts through him, forces him to his feet. He’s covered in— oh god, he can’t think about that. He somehow gains his feet, grips Draco’s wrist, and drags him further into the woods.
The moon is high and full when they reach the lake. It glints off the water like a silver shroud flung over the surface.
The water is cool and clear. Harry wrenches his coat off and splashes in, shoes skidding on mossy stones. The chill bites at his flesh for the first second only. Harry slips, whips out a hand to stop his fall, and pushes himself upright once more.
He’s filthy, oh god, what has he done? Congealed blood and ichor and pus— he douses his shirt, his hair and face. Scrubs frantically. He has to get it off.
Never killed someone before like that. Voldemort… not even entirely human, but those people, those people are.
Harry tightens every muscle and holds as still as he can; something’s wrong, something’s off. He shivers there, up to his waist and soaking wet, and hears Draco’s slower step, the slosh of water as he wades closer.
Had to save him, had to. No other choice. The justification feels redundant.
Harry ducks beneath the surface and scrubs again with both hands, every patch of skin and fabric he can reach. He’ll never feel clean, he’ll never—
His lungs burn. He bursts up out of the water, terrified, whirling to catch Draco’s shoulder, certain he’ll see them on the shore, rotting and keening and floundering in.
The lakeside is peaceful and vacant, just the dark shards of trees and the wave of grass. The ground is bathed in white and every shadow is deep. He wants to laugh, and cry: it’s beautiful. It’s so lovely, in spite of everything.
Harry becomes aware of heat engulfing his hand. Draco’s fingers wrap tight, and Harry follows up his arm, along stained and sodden sleeve to the grime washing in rivulets down the curve of his throat. Draco’s face is clean, his hair dark with the water. He blinks and his eyelashes seem longer, thick with shadow.
“Draco—” Harry clutches at his shirt, fisting and releasing, unable to explain the gaping emptiness, to apologize and justify. He should apologize and justify. He should feel like he has to. There was no other choice, not for me. He’s panicking, blood pumping too fast, heat shooting up within.
Draco takes hold of his face and gives him a shake. “Thank you. Harry, for fuck’s sake, thank you.” His eyes dart, wild and dark with fear, for Harry, not those men, not for their lives. Harry chokes and looks down.
“No, look at me, you didn’t do anything wrong! You did what you had to do and that’s all!”
He’s desperate, voice high, hands in constant motion over Harry’s chin, his throat, shoulder, jaw, cheeks. Harry rocks under the assault and suddenly realizes what he’s missing.
He doesn’t care about dead people. Doesn’t care about leading the hordes to the living. Draco would have died at his feet and he was seconds away from failing to prevent it. He nearly lost Draco.
The pain bursts afresh. He can so easily see it, and he feels the first tear fall, sliding hot down his cheek. Draco’s eyes go wide and Harry yanks him close, shooting wide and kissing the edge of his mouth instead of the center. Draco’s skin is hot and Harry breathes in the smell of grit and water, old blood and icy air. Draco’s fingers twist into his hair; he surges up, kissing Harry roughly enough to bruise, yanking at his shirt with an aimless fist.
“You hurt? Har— Harry—”
He doesn’t know. He has no fucking idea and he could care less. Draco’s not hurt, not enough to stop him from kissing back, attacking Harry’s mouth with teeth and lips and tongue. His fingers press against Harry’s skull, hands shaking, tilting his head and plunging deep into his mouth. Draco’s skin is whiter than snow, sparkling with the water. Harry drags him up, feels Draco gasp for air, feels it when Draco wraps a leg around his thigh and hauls them together.
“Draco,” he manages around seeking lips, the hot rush of shared air. Draco’s hard, he can feel it, just like the adrenaline zinging through his own veins, the need to just be alive. Firm muscle and shivering skin and a body not under his control, but still in his arms, under his hands and against his lips.
Draco tears his mouth away. His hips roll up and Harry staggers under the flood of feeling, the tremble he can’t stop.
“They’ll come,” Draco hisses, “they—”
He knows. Fuck, he knows. Has no clue what they’re doing and knows they have to stop. But it’s so difficult and Draco’s hips continue that jerky thrust, up and back.
“I know, okay, I—” It’s a supreme effort but he does it: he gets his hands on Draco’s hips and holds him still. Only then does the water catch up, chilling him to the bone. They’re soaking. They have to get inside, somewhere dry. Somewhere safe.
Draco swallows. His throat ripples under the moonlight, water droplets making their way downward. Harry can see the bruises, dark purple. He pushes him back a little roughly, and Draco helps him splash water over his skin, helps rub away the last traces of blood.
“Come on.” They wade out of the water and retrieve their coats. Harry knows this lake, remembers a little blue blotch on a map. Somewhere nearby, there’s a little hamlet, within walking distance of the sea.
They find their way into a tiny one-room cottage, stumbling around in the dark. Harry tugs off his shoes with numb fingers. The blood on his hands wasn’t his. He’s unharmed; no breaks in the skin.
Draco curses somewhere in the dark. Harry can hear his teeth chattering. They have to get warm, but they sure as fuck can’t light a fire. Somewhere there’s bound to be a bed and blankets.
He bumbles into it a moment later, a mattress under a soft duvet that puffs dust up into his face. Harry coughs, waving the stale air away. “Dra— Draco. Draco?”
“Here.” Something skids across the floor and Draco grunts. A second later, the mattress jolts and Draco’s chilled fingers skitter over Harry’s arm.
“Get these off.” Harry pulls at Draco’s shirt, shivering too hard to be of much use. He wrenches at his own clothes, yanking his belt free and kicking out of his trousers. Some dazed bit of his brain reminds him that he’ll need them later, dry and whole, and he bends, scooping them off the floor. His eyes are adjusting to the filtered light. He finds a chair and throws his trousers over the back, then tears off his shirt. He’s nothing but gooseflesh, freezing to his marrow. Harry makes his way back to the bed.
Draco’s skin is visibly pebbled. He’s shaking so hard Harry can see it. He splays his hands over the bare skin of Draco’s back and rubs warmth back in. Draco spins into the circle of his arms and returns the favor, chafing Harry’s chest, his upper arms, his hips. And then he just moans, grabs hold of Harry, and drags them together, mouths meeting, sucking at Harry’s lip, still rubbing with his hands, sliding up and down his back, his sides, his buttocks, gripping his thighs. He flinches as Harry’s hand skids too hard over his ribs.
Draco cuts him off with a kiss, folding into Harry, snugging them together until Harry can feel every inch of him. Naked skin. It’s fire, tingling blood back into the numb areas. Harry gasps, reaches around Draco, and fumbles the duvet back.
“Get—” Harry starts, but Draco bites his lips, then plunges his tongue deep. “Get in,” he finishes on a breath.
Draco tumbles backward, pulling Harry down on top of him. More dust flies up and Harry squeezes his eyes shut. He feels Draco suppress a cough, a full-body judder that clacks their teeth together. Harry jerks back, hissing in pain, but Draco arches against him and he forgets the swollen heat of his lip and buries his face in Draco’s throat. Draco’s pulse hammers against his mouth, out of time with the beat of Harry’s own blood.
He gets the duvet over his back, struggling with what feels like miles of thick cloth. He can smell Draco, sweet under the lake water, humid and heady in his lungs. Harry sucks at his throat, wanting to fold his senses into that smell, taste it down to his toes, as if Draco’s heartbeat actually has a flavour. Draco’s hand snakes down over his back and hitches him forward, up, into his groin. Harry cries out, strangled.
“Shhhh,” Draco manages, a shuddery breath over Harry’s ear. He clenches his fingers against Harry’s skin, pulls him in again. Harry turns, finds his mouth and silences both of them. The bed creaks, the same sound again and again. It sounds cacophonous in Harry’s ears, but Draco’s gasps override it, partial words, fragmented curses. Harry wants him so badly his ears ring but he can still hear each and every stilted sound that rushes from between Draco’s lips.
Draco spreads his legs and hauls Harry between them, biting and sucking at his throat. His tongue leaves wet trails that freeze Harry’s skin when the air hits them. Harry rolls his hips hard into Draco’s and Draco goes silent, rigid on an interrupted breath. Then he’s breathing again, fast and sharp, “Harry, come on, come on—” hissing words against Harry’s skin, panting them into his mouth. Harry can’t stop the rhythm he’s started.
He wants to fuck Draco. He wants inside him, wants to feel every clutch and shudder when he comes. Draco’s legs wrap tight around his waist, his heels cold against Harry’s back. He pushes down, twists his hips until Harry slides against him. He sees flashes of white and his body just freezes up: he’ll come, he’s so close, nearly in Draco already and Draco keeps moving.
“Do it, Harry,” Draco breathes, “just…”
It’s going to hurt. Harry slicks his hand through Draco’s damp hair and his own, sucks his fingers into his mouth, and tries his best to ease the way. Draco’s fingers tighten down on his arms like vises when Harry pushes his first finger in. He muffles Draco’s groan with his mouth, stroking him through it, trying to distract him as much as he can. Draco tucks a foot over Harry’s calf, winding around him, and thrusts up into it, moving with Harry as he opens him up.
It’s somehow loud and quiet at the same time, choked breaths from Draco, the squeaking of the bed, the rapid thump of Harry’s heart. Second finger, then a third. Draco’s face tightens, then he opens his eyes and looks right up into Harry’s. Breathes in once. Twice.
“Harry, do it, just, now—”
He doesn’t give himself time to reconsider. Draco grips him hard just below the waist, pressing him in, up. The first inch and Draco’s fingers go slack against Harry’s skin. His legs tremble. Harry kisses him deeply, needing to know he’s not hurting him, that he’s—
Draco rolls his hips, a sudden lurch, and Harry slides all the way into heat and the constant, miniscule movement of muscle. Draco pants over his lips, into his mouth. A single word: it’s Harry’s name. Harry slips his arms under Draco’s shoulders, tugs him closer, and pulls out. Thrusts in.
“Oh fuck,” Draco gasps, “fuck—”
Harry drives into him, again, again. He can see Draco biting his lip, pressing his teeth closed against the sounds he’s trying not to make. Harry licks into his mouth, dizzy with the speed, too warm. Draco’s legs are a tight heat around his hips, clenching hard enough to bruise. The nerves down Harry’s spine spear heat into his belly, down through the backs of his thighs and up into his chest. Draco kisses him, wet and dirty, half-missing his mouth and then finding it, claiming it, making Harry forget what he’s doing.
“Harder,” Draco whispers. Harry hitches him bodily up on the mattress and gives up on control. He can feel Draco’s hand clutching at his nape, Draco’s body contracting around him, drawing the frenzy in his nerves up and up. Their rhythm is off, Harry can’t fix it, but it doesn’t matter, he’s fucking gone, riding the most intense orgasm he’s had in years. Draco’s head drops back, mouth slack, eyes squeezed shut as he comes on the tail of Harry’s climax. A single sound makes it through the self-imposed veil of silence: Draco says half of Harry’s name. The rest slips away into a sob.
The aftershocks are intense. Harry bends over Draco, mouthing his shoulder, trying to get his body back under his control. He wants to laugh, to cry and scream all at once, just let it out. They shouldn’t have to be silent, he doesn’t want Draco to be silent. He wants to hear him and just… hear.
Draco drags him into another messy kiss, sucking on his lip, tonguing into his mouth, pressing them together with his come between. Harry wants more, over and over, he just wants this again, as many times as Draco will let him.
“Fuck,” Draco whispers, centimeters from Harry’s lips. Harry doesn’t know where it comes from, but the kiss he presses to Draco’s mouth then is tender and soft. Full.
Finally, he pulls out of Draco, careful to keep it slow. Draco’s hands are in constant, lazy motion: over his chest, down his arms, up his throat and into his hair. Harry sees bruises littering Draco’s torso, the amorphous shape of boots and fists. Draco looks as exhausted as Harry feels.
One of them should stay up, keep watch.
“Fuck it,” Harry grunts and yanks the duvet tight around them both.
It feels like waking up felt before everything went to hell. The sunlight lances through the curtains, striping the duvet over Harry’s chest. He can hear the steady inhale-exhale beside him, feel the heat of Draco’s fingers entwined with his between their bodies.
“Don’t you ever fucking do that again,” Draco says softly.
Harry turns his head, uncertain. Draco’s fingers tighten until it hurts, but it’s when he turns to meet Harry’s gaze that Harry feels the weight fully.
“You let them have me. Next time. You let them have me and you stay the fuck away.”
Harry recalls the rotten stink, the clammy sensation of decayed body parts, fingers tearing at his clothing. His skin. Still, he has to make sure. “Those people.”
Draco makes a sound like a snort. He scowls up at the ceiling. “Salazar, no. Good fucking riddance. No, in the woods.”
Harry nods. He replays the struggle with the new Inferi in his mind. Purses his lips. “You can’t be serious, Draco.”
“I am.” Draco whips his gaze to Harry again. “I’m immune, Harry. Let them fucking bite me. If it’s a question of you or me—”
Draco cannot have any idea what he’s asking, how hard it would be for Harry to stand just that little bit further back, be just that little bit safer. How hard it would be to watch Draco sicken again, fight it off, always wondering if this time the infection would prove too much for him.
But the worst part is that he knows Draco’s right. He knows Draco’s right and he hates it.
He lifts his hand and caresses Draco’s cheek with his pinky. “Don’t know if I can do that.”
Draco watches him silently for a few moments, and then he nods. He takes Harry’s hand in his and kisses his palm. “Please.”
Harry decides then and there that he will not guarantee anything. He can’t. But he can try, because Draco asked, because Draco can take care of himself, and of Harry as well. Because he’ll kill to keep Draco alive and now he knows it.
He will damn well try.