Title: Strings of Attachment
Pairing(s): Harry/Draco, mention of Ron/Hermione and other DH pairings implied.
Summary: What if Harry Potter had gone to Godric's Hollow early in his year of searching? And what if he had met someone there he wanted to revenge himself upon?
Disclaimer: All Harry Potter characters herein are the property of J.K. Rowling and Bloomsbury/Scholastic. No copyright infringement is intended.
Deathly Hallows compliant? DH-compliant up until early in the "camping-trip". After this it's a very close parallel AU. The epilogue is unlikely to happen in this universe.
Word Count: 8619
Author's Notes: Thanks to E. for help and the beta and S for betaing too *hugs* Also thanks to SA for inspiring a certain piece of magic in here; it was a great idea and I loved what you did with it, so if you see this, consider it tribute.
Thanks to the mods for running this great exchange! It's a joy to be part of.
Most of all: morganmuffle, thanks for the prompt! I set out to write a BDSM-ish getting together story, but it didn't want to be that. Instead you got a "What if?" and I hope I've included enough of your likes to make you feel it's a worthy present. A very happy holiday to you!
I stood there the day after the funeral and looked at the white tomb and knew what I had to do. His words rang in my head: I'm not worried, Harry, I'm with you. I would have felt mocked if it wasn't because I knew he'd meant them. Now I had to live up to them. Come what may.
To begin with, that meant surviving. It meant sneaking around when the protection from my mother's blood stopped on my birthday. And it meant running blindly when Bill's wedding was interrupted. Staying alive and free. Synonymous concepts, really.
So we ran. That is, Ron, Hermione and me. Being a resistance movement sounds glamorous, right? Brave people, fighting the evil oppressors. It wasn't glamorous or romantic or anything. In reality, it sucked. We were cold and wet a lot of the time and the arguments got worse and worse - especially after we got that locket. I felt like I was Frodo if he'd tried to share the ring. It was bad and it was wearing on us.
The worst part was not making any headway at all. Despite trying to plan. It's really hard to get any help or information when you're all there is and when you can't go near anyone people would expect you to go to. Or anyone at all, really, because you might get them killed. And we felt like we had exhausted our leads.
Ron and Hermione did most of the fighting. They have always argued a lot and usually I try to ignore them. It's bloody annoying, though, and I tell you, in the middle of fucking nowhere, in a tent, in the rain, with nothing to go back to, it gets unbearable. Finally one day I had had it. I'm not really proud of the way I blew up, but I did.
'STOP IT!' They both turned and stared at me in hurt surprise, but that only made me angrier.
'And what's your problem all of a sudden?' Ron snarled. 'Do you want us to get found or something, yelling like that?'
'Ron, be quiet. He's right. We should stop,' Hermione said, in her, slightly strained, trying-to-be-responsible voice.
'Yeah? I wasn't the one who kept nagging, was I now? No wonder Harry's going mad with the way you go on about what he should do.'
'I go on? You only talk about your stomach! Food, food, food! Not a constructive thought so far!'
That was when I left. Oh, I had every intention of going back. I even said that before I Apparated out – 'I'll be back soon' – and then I left. Like we'd been doing so far, I went to the first place that came to mind, a place I should have gone to much earlier. The place where it all began.
It was mostly a village. Pretty regular. There were trees along the main road, looking nice in their reds and yellows and for a moment I wondered if my breath showed outside the Invisibility Cloak. I'd never thought of that before, but for some reason I was suddenly worried it might. A quick look in a window put me at ease.
I didn't see that many people, which was fine because crowded streets are a nightmare when you want to keep an Invisibility Cloak on and stay undetected. It's an Invisibility thing, not an Intangible thing. I wandered aimlessly, it wasn't like I was looking for anything specific.
The first surprise came when I happened across this war memorial. It knocked the breath from me when it turned into a statue of my parents and me. It even looked a lot like the photos I had of us from back then and to be honest, it was pretty freaky... There were flowers there, some undoubtedly for the memorial, but some were for us. I could tell by the names on the cards and the way the words were chosen. It was subtle, but there. I stared at it for a long time before I dared to reach out and touch my mother's hand. It was cold. Colder than the autumn air called for.
When I finally looked up I saw the graveyard. So I had to go there too, it wasn't really a choice. I was sorely tempted to steal some of the flowers from the memorial, because I knew I'd want them where I was going now.
The graveyard had a scent of earth and dead leaves about it that just fit the place. It wasn't that hard to find my parents' grave. I don't know what I expected, but I didn't expect it to hit me like that. It looked like any other grave, except the names. They meant the world to me and that world shrunk and became just me and a patch of earth and a stone.
I fell to my knees and tried very hard not to cry. The sharp pain of hitting the ground was drowned out by the one in my chest. I guess that... with them gone all my life I didn't think it'd be such a big deal. But it was. It was like being conscious of losing them all of a sudden and it hurt inside in a way that I can't even describe. I've experienced loss before, but this was far worse. It was primal.
I couldn't breathe and I didn't care if anyone saw me and tore off the cloak. I buried my hands in the ground and could draw breath again, though only in sobs that had to fight their way out through my throat, constricted and sore and in a split-second of clarity I knew that if I didn't make it through all of this it wouldn't be so bad. There are worse things than dying.
How long I was there, I don't know. It was getting dark when I got up again and I was cold and stiff all over. I looked around carefully, but no one seemed to be there, so I put on the cloak again and headed for the gate.
That was when I saw him. There was never any chance of mistaking that blond head or the way he held himself. It was a shock to see him. To have him be there, of all places, so close to my parents' grave... It felt like the deepest of insults and my wand was in my hand before I'd even thought of taking it out of my pocket.
It was only then that I realised he was at a grave too, standing quietly there and looking, well, solemn and quiet. The way you look when at a grave. I'd never seen a look like that on his face before and I wondered whose grave it might be that he would look that way in front of. So I walked nearer, very slowly and careful not to make a sound. I went close enough to hear what he was saying, even though he was speaking in a low voice and stood almost directly behind the stone he was at so he wouldn't bump into me by accident.
'I know you're not here,' he was saying. 'But this is where your family is and I can't go to you. For obvious reasons.' He sighed in a way that left me in no doubt that he truly regretted that. There was an edge to his voice that told me he was close to tears. For a moment my thoughts strayed to thinking of last I'd heard that and if he had scars from it. I shook the thought, I didn't feel sorry. Didn't want to feel sorry. Not for him.
'I just wanted to say sorry,' he continued. 'I know it wasn't really me, but it was anyway. I made it happen. I should have talked to someone. You were right, I'm no killer.'
The words froze something in me and as Malfoy turned and left, I looked at the stone. The name at the top said 'Dumbledore'. I'd known it would when he said those last words. I'd heard them so clearly on top of the Astronomy Tower a few months before.
I had to follow him. Yeah, so what if I'd eavesdropped on something! And even so what if he really did regret it – and now I even had reason to believe it – I still had to know what the hell was going on. Was he with Voldemort? Alone? Besides, it would take a good deal more than regret to get me to forgive what he'd done. I'm not Dumbledore. Never will be. I wanted to get him and get him good.
Malfoy was dressed in plain-looking Muggle clothes, something I'd never seen before or thought I'd see either. As we exited the graveyard he even pulled the hood of a shirt up over his head, which concealed him somewhat. I'd still have known him by the walk, but more casual observers would not.
There was more to notice than just his manner of dress, however: he had a nervous demeanour. Yeah, he was hiding it pretty well, but when you follow someone, you tend to watch them more closely than you would even your girlfriend. Yes, I talk from experience. So I saw the glances, the stopping to pretend to look at a window that was really about looking for people around him or behind him. Malfoy was pretty good at it, I had to hand him that. He was the perfect image of a casual teenager strolling down a street. It gave me the feeling he'd been hiding for a while. But from whom? That was really the question.
Eventually, Malfoy stopped outside a small, anonymous-looking house. The kind of place you'd hide in because no one would think to look there. I had a feeling there was an enchantment here too, one that reminded me a bit of how the Leaky Cauldron entrance felt: my eyes wanted to wander past the house without really seeing it. But Malfoy noticed it and so did I. Perhaps because I was watching him like he was the only thing in the world. In a way, he was. It was all a blur to me; losing my parents and what he'd done at Hogwarts, working with the man who killed them, it was one thing and more than anything I wanted revenge. Especially now, after standing at their grave.
When he opened the door I was ready for it. There was no way this place would be un-warded, so my best chance would be to slip in when he did. I managed it, but the cloak got caught in the door and I pressed back against the wall, hoping that he wouldn't brush against me as he took off his coat and shoes.
By some incredible stroke of luck he didn't. I heard him call out to someone in another room while I struggled to free myself. A deeper voice answered, but it was so muffled that I couldn't hear who it was, though I had a feeling it was someone I knew. I could hear them starting to talk and I was getting desperate. What if they said something vital? I had to hear! But I was stuck and I couldn't just tear myself free for fear of ruining the cloak. I had to carefully open the door - just a fraction - to get free.
The second I'd done that, the conversation stopped. I had been sure it would. The entrance was warded. I jumped through the nearest door and found myself in a cramped storage space not unlike my cupboard and waited.
The person who came to check on the door almost had me jumping out again. To kill him. It was Snape. Snape and Malfoy. In the town where my parents were killed. Together. After killing Dumbledore. I was so angry I couldn't see straight. The two people I had sworn vengeance on where here, together, adding insult to pain. It took all my willpower to keep myself from confront them – with a few well-aimed curses. But I had to wait. Had to find out if there were more Death Eaters around and why they were here. If they knew of the Horcruxes. That was, after all, more important. I bit my lip and closed my hands into fists, clenching hard on nothing and my fingernails made deep dents in my palms.
Outside, Snape was checking and re-checking, even going so far as to try and detect forced intrusion or magic used on the door. I was glad I'd used neither. Finally, he gave up and went back to where he'd been and I followed.
'How often do I need to tell you to close the door properly, Draco?' he said the second we could see Malfoy. Snape's tone was every bit as scathing as the one he used with Neville in Potions class.
Same Malfoy made a face at him. 'I did,' he muttered. 'It's not my fault your wards are so sensitive they pick up strong winds and stray cats.'
I could tell by the way Snape tensed that he was very close to snapping and wondered if Malfoy was too spoiled to realise or just didn't care. If it was the last I had to admit a slight, grudging respect.
'Watch your mouth, Draco. Do I need to remind you of the risks I am running? For you?'
Even I thought that was a bit much of a guilt-trip to put on, but it had the desired effect. Malfoy made an excellent imitation of a balloon losing air. He deflated visibly in his seat.
'No,' he said with a deep sigh.
'You shouldn't even go out, but I happen to approve of your visits. Dwelling on your mistakes will help you to avoid making them again.'
Snape sounded so bitter I wondered what the hell he was talking about, but I didn't have much time to find out. And it wasn't like I could ask. But I found it interesting that he'd think Malfoy's actions a mistake.
'Any news?' Malfoy asked.
Snape shook his head.
'Your parents are still safe as far as we know. They are with him, but he has not hurt them. I think it unlikely that he will at this stage. They are valuable to him.'
'When can we tell them? About me?' Malfoy's voice was almost pleading, something I'd never heard before. Malfoy didn't plead. There was something a bit satisfying about knowing that he could.
'Not yet. It's crucial that they think you are dead if the lie is to work. And that lie is the only way to keep you safe. I am quite certain the Dark Lord would not treat you kindly at all if he got near you. In fact, he'd rejoice in using you to torment your parents. As it is now, they are mourning, but they will get you back and you will be spared whatever he had in store for you. If we are lucky, perhaps this will help your parents turn away from him when the time is right.'
So Malfoy's parents thought he was dead? It struck me as being almost fitting that he'd lost them this way, it was some weird form of poetic justice. I wasn't satisfied, of course, but it was something. Also, this whole conversation had the ring of something that had been said many times before and I could vividly imagine many evenings spent here, Malfoy begging to go home and Snape refusing him. It almost made me feel sorry for both of them. Almost.
It was clear, though, that they were not Death Eaters. Apparently Snape was not working for Voldemort, but he'd still killed Dumbledore, so I wondered who the fuck he was working for instead? Himself? Why did he care? All I could do was listen and wait and hope to whatever powers there might be that they would say something revealing.
'When is the time right?' Malfoy asked. 'You haven't told me that.' I took another step forward. This one I could not miss.
Snape looked annoyed. 'Whenever Potter is ready.'
I almost gasped. I know I did one of those sharp intakes of breath. Thankfully that was masked by Malfoy.
'What? We're waiting for him? To do what?' He sounded so derisive and doubtful that I could have hit him. Bastard. He really had no clue.
'Draco, don't act like an imbecile, I know you're not. Don't you think? Read? He is the so-called Chosen One. It's up to him and his idiotic little friends to get ready and be able to finish off the Dark Lord.'
Every muscle in Snape's face told me how little he liked to be dependent on me. That old dislike flared my own, more personal, hatred, half-forgotten right now because of the intensity of the moment. It was so close I could touch Snape and I badly wanted to kick him. At the same time I couldn't help but notice that Snape hadn't told Malfoy how I was going to get ready. He was clearly trying to share as little information as possible. Probably for fear that Malfoy would get captured somehow. Or to mask that he had no idea.
Malfoy. His face was contorted by dislike – of me, the news, Snape, I didn't know which, but it was probably all – and disbelief.
'Potter.' It was all in that word too and I wanted to slap him for it. Knock him out of it. He had it fucking easy here! 'Don't tell me he was actually justified in some of that crap of his. Where is he now, then? That... Chosen one? Not doing anything, for sure!'
Apparently Snape agreed with me, judging by the frown. How ironic.
'I don't know where Potter is,' he said, 'but I imagine it's not a very nice place and he's got nowhere to turn. If he makes it... He has more of his mother in him than I thought.'
I could see my own surprise echoed on Malfoy's face, but I doubted his shock had anything to do with Snape's statement about my mother. I staggered backward because of it. I bumped into a lamp. It didn't move much, but it was enough. Snape's hand had shot out and pulled the cloak off of me before I even knew he'd seen it.
'Ah.' Snape's voice was dryer than plywood and to my surprise there was a touch of relief in his eyes along with the usual disapproval. The same could hardly be said for Malfoy; his look of stunned surprise turned to one of intense malice and hatred within seconds.
'I was wrong, it seems. Potter is in a far nicer place than I had imagined. Sit.' He pushed me into a chair and landing in it and I landed so hard I had to gasp for air. 'Explain.'
'Did you follow me?' Malfoy inserted, his voice shrill, both angry and nervous. 'For how long?' He had to be worried that I'd seen him at the grave. Had the roles been reversed and I suspected he'd seen me with my parents, I would have tried to kill him.
'I don't have to explain anything,' I told them with as much dignity as I could muster after being caught with my proverbial pants down. 'You have to explain. Both of you. What the hell are you doing here?' I was trying to work up some of my former indignation and it was Snape's casual mention of my mother earlier that gave me the strength to do that. 'You killed him. The two of you. Don't you know how much that fucked up?!? What this means! It's nearly impossible now!' My voice rose a bit with every sentence and I was on my feet again when I yelled the last part in Snape's direction.
'I said "sit".' Snape shoved me back down again and when I struggled to get to my feet, he held me in place, pushing on my shoulders, leaning all his weight on me. 'You stupid little boy,' he growled. 'To think I compared you to Lily. You are nowhere near her in terms of intelligence and understanding or compassion.'
Somewhere behind Snape, Malfoy was still glaring, his arms crossed in front of him. But he wasn't getting involved. I wondered if his imagined shame at being seen stopped him or he was just too afraid of Snape.
'What do you know?' I argued, still trying to get his hands off me; the mere thought of him touching me made me feel filthy. 'You called her Mudblood and she was only trying to defend you! You don't deserve to use her name!'
The second I said that, Snape let go of me as if he had burned his hands. 'Don't ever mention that to me,' he said, his voice nothing but a low breath, almost a whisper and so cold it cut. A shiver ran down my spine and I had no desire to repeat what I had just said, despite my anger. This was so different from what I had expected. 'Lily was good and beautiful and perfect. I never forgave myself for ending our friendship and I will never forgive your father for causing it.'
After that, I listened. I felt I owed him that chance. Not that he told me much, but he did explain that Dumbledore had been dying ever since he had tried to destroy Gaunt's ring. That he had begged for death. That it had been something he had made Snape promise so they could keep him under-cover and give Draco a shot at life. I glanced over at Malfoy when he said that, only to see cold eyes, glazed over, trying to disassociate himself. I ground my teeth. Had I not heard him apologise to Dumbledore an hour earlier I would still have tried to strangle him there and then.
'So what do you want me to do, then?' I asked Snape when he was done talking.
'Do? I expect you to succeed, Potter. For your mother's sake. For Dumbledore's. For all of us, if that matter.' He gave me a look that clearly showed he still doubted my ability. 'And I expect you to make my task easier. Even you must understand, by now, that I need to be at the Dark Lord's side as much as possible, not stuck here babysitting. Draco!' The last word was snapped, an order if I'd ever heard one – he didn't even look at Malfoy when he spoke - and Malfoy jumped to his side so quickly that it seemed an in-grown reflex. 'You are going with Potter.'
For once, Malfoy and I agreed. We even spoke at the same time, glaring at each other rather than at the man who was decreeing this.
'You have no choice,' Snape said. 'It is the only way this will have a remote chance of succeeding. I assume you are with your friends, Potter?'
I nodded and Snape grabbed Malfoy's wrist in a way I could see was painful; I imagined the bones in his wrist grinding together and winced.
'You need all the resources you can get, Potter,' Snape said. I knew he was right about that, but as opposed to him, I didn't see Malfoy as a resource. 'With the right motivation, Draco can be one.'
Before I knew what was coming he'd pushed Malfoy closer to me and in a move swifter than my sight, he had both our wrists in one hand and circled them with his wand, mumbling something. I could feel the magic tingling in the air, making the hairs on the back of my hand stand on end. As I glanced up I saw Malfoy's terrified expression and hoped I looked more dignified. Then, as easily as he'd grasped us, he let go and Malfoy and I pulled apart as if burned. I jumped to my feet again, scrambling away from them.
'What did you do?' I asked. Snape gave me an exhausted look. 'What did you DO!' I was yelling now.
'Make sure you do what's best.' Snape ran a tired hand over his brow. 'You will see. Take Draco with you, Potter. He will help you.'
'What makes you think I'll do that?' Malfoy asked, sounding as contrite as I would in his position.
'Because you have no choice. You and Potter are now bound to each other. You are forced to stay within a relatively close distance of each other. I don't know how close. You will find out, I suppose. It all depends on you.' He sounded truly exhausted now and I wondered if that spell had drained him somehow. It had been powerful, I'd felt that, but if it had been that powerful I felt I had a right to be very worried.
'We're what..?' I asked, still not believing my own ears.
'You will need to stay close. Neither of you would be stupid enough to risk the other getting abducted or killed when you feel the consequence of separation. Now go. Remember to side-along or you will lose your hands.'
'What?!?' This time it was Malfoy and he was, for once, expressing my feelings perfectly.
'Your wrists are bound. Go into the hall.' He pointed and Malfoy, as the well-trained puppy-dog, went. He'd only barely crossed the threshold when I felt a noose tighten around my left wrist. I looked down and saw nothing, not even a mark, but the feeling was there.
'Come back, Draco.' Again, he did almost instantly. 'I suppose you understand now?' We nodded, both of us, giving each other suspicious looks. 'Go, then,' Snape repeated. 'Potter, you know how to take someone side-along?'
I nodded, remembering Dumbledore. It hurt to think that the second person I would do that with would be the one who caused his death.
'Go.' He nudged Malfoy in my direction and handed me my cloak. I stared from one to the other, still in disbelief. 'You wont be safe here, Potter. Not for long. He expects you to come here at some point. Officially, that is why I am here. So go. There's no escaping this.'
I knew he was right and I knew Hermione and Ron would already be worried. I really did have to go. So however little I liked it, I grabbed Malfoy's arm. He held on to mine, however reluctantly.
'Don't you dare let go, Potter,' he muttered.
'Why? Did he get your wanking-hand?' I asked. I didn't give him time to answer before I Disapparated, taking him with me.
I was hardly surprised when Malfoy's appearance caused a fresh uproar and fight back at our camp. Ron wanted to skip our search in favour of getting the binding-spell dissolved while Hermione was torn between wanting to give Malfoy a chance and wanting to kick his arse for all the times he'd hurt her feelings. Not to mention that she fretted over how to feed one more when we couldn't find food for ourselves.
In the end, Ron left. He had been wearing the locket that day and it was a case of really bad timing – for some reason it was always harder on Ron than the rest of us. He wasn't back the day after when we broke camp and moved on as usual. We were one down and there was no way Malfoy could make up for it. We made some headway, some discoveries, and Hermione saved us all when I tried to find more leads back in Godric's Hollow. But all in all it was far from enough and the frustration was even greater than when it had been Ron, Hermione and I.
While Hermione grieved, Malfoy and I took over the fighting and our arguments were so similar in subject to Ron and Hermione's that it wasn't even funny. They would be about what to do, where to go and how to survive and we'd drag up past transgressions and hurtful details going back the full six and a half years of our acquaintance. More than once, we were cut off by a tearful Hermione who screamed at us to shut up. The worst thing was that it was impossible to storm out and cool off alone. We both tried several times, only with a mutual and sharp pain as result.
The noose seemed to react to our mood too and it was bloody annoying! If things were calm, Malfoy and I could go fairly far apart and not feel a thing and then just the faintest of tugs when we got too far. But when we argued and badly wanted to not be near each other it would restrict us, forcing us to stay close together and I couldn't for the life of me think why it would do something like that. We finally did find out, though, and we did so in the middle of another break-through.
One night, after the frost had taken a proper hold up north, I woke up, suddenly wide awake, and knew I had to go out. I needed air. Badly. I felt like I was suffocating – in the tent, in the situation, like the whole damned world was pressing down on me. As I sat up, I looked around and checked on the other two: Hermione was sleeping, turning restlessly, and Malfoy was sprawled on his back, his breathing so heavy it came close to snoring. I made a mental note of it; he wouldn't like to be told he snored.
It was a cold night, clear and lit by a large moon and lots of stars. I had only just adjusted to the dark when I saw it. A pale, bright form of a doe, slowly prancing through the woods, past me. The snow on the ground reflected the light from it and it was all blueish and frosty to look at and perhaps the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen. I followed it, forgetting all about Malfoy and the noose around my wrist and it led me into the woods and to a pond, frozen over by a thick layer of ice. Unrealistically thick, even for a frosty night like this. The doe went closer, nudged the ice with its nose and for once stood perfectly still. That was when I saw it. The sword of Gryffindor, locked down there like Excalibur before the Lady lifted it out of the lake.
I knew, then, why I was there. It was meant for me, that sword, and I had to earn it. A sword like that is not something you can simply take. And as I tested the ice by stomping on it I knew I wouldn't break through it in a million years. Not with magic either. There was no Dumbledore to be loyal to so all I could do was to be a true Gryffindor. It was his sword and it would adhere to his values. That was as clear to me as the night. The bravest thing I could think of would be to be willing to sacrifice everything to get it and show it how much it mattered to me.
This was no time to think, so instead of doing that I undressed, save for the locket - because even now I wasn't leaving it for someone to find - and then I stood on the ice, shivering. It hurt like knives cutting my feet and I closed my eyes and wanted to be brave, to deserve that sword, to use it to end Voldemort's reign of terror.
When the ice gave under me I was all but knocked unconscious by the cold. I felt the sword in my hand and then the locket tried to strangle me, to pull me under. I fought it, not willing to let go of the sword to do so and I had precious little time. My limbs were lead and getting slower and my vision was blacking out. I knew this was it; I was dying.
Just then I was pulled out. At the last possible moment. My lungs hurt and I gasped for breath, I was shuddering uncontrollably, despite someone wrapping me in my cloak and then another on top of it, my muscles were cramping and I couldn't see for the pain in my head. I felt hands rubbing my arms and legs and it hurt like hell. I might have cried out, but I'm not sure I could unclench my jaw. It might have been seconds or several minutes before I opened my eyes and saw, through the blurry field of my bad sight, Malfoy.
'Moron,' he muttered. 'Are you trying to kill yourself? What would we do then?' He was angry, sounded like it too, and to my surprise he gave off that feeling of someone worrying.
'N-n-not,' I tried, my teeth chattering so hard I came very close to biting my tongue. 'Sssword. I-im-p-p-portant.'
'I repeat: moron! You should have gone for help. What the hell do you think you have us for?'
Through the heavy feeling of the cold pressing on my mind I still felt the surprise at hearing that "us". He'd never said that before, not even when we had actually managed to be remotely constructive.
'Had to. The sword. It's Gryffindor's,' I said as if that explained everything. Perhaps because it did. To me at least. Meanwhile, Malfoy's hard work was starting to pay off and I was not shivering as much any more. He stopped rubbing me and pulled out his wand and started to warm me with what felt remarkably much like a hair-dryer, only the hot air came from his wand.
'And Godric Gryffindor just loves to see naked people killing themselves?' he said. The worry was starting to disappear, but the anger wasn't. 'I should have known. That explains so much.'
'What's that supposed to mean?' I asked, immediately getting defensive. He might have just saved my arse, but that didn't mean I was going to let him try to insult me again.
'That you are all idiots, clearly,' Malfoy said. 'Why the hell would getting naked embody your precious Gryffindor values, eh Harry?'
'Well, Draco,' I said, making his name into as much of a slur as I could, 'it's commonly known as bravery and self-sacrifice, but I suppose you haven't even heard of that!'
He slapped me. It stung more on my cold skin than it would otherwise have done and tears sprung to my eyes. I was surprised when the moonlight reflected one running down his cheek.
'Do you think I did it for fun then, huh?' He glared at me and I had no idea what he was talking about. It must have shown in my expression because he slapped me again. This time I wasn't stunned by it and I started to struggle against the cloaks he'd wrapped me in. I wanted to hit him back. At the very least!
'I hated it!' he continued, his voice rising. 'I never wanted to kill anyone! But my parents! I had to! For them! So don't tell me I don't know!'
I'd almost freed myself by then, but I stopped when I finally understood. He was right, of course. He did know a good deal about self-sacrifice and had I been him I would likely have done the same. My visit to my parents' grave had told me that. I would have given anything to have them with me. Anything.
'I'm sorry, Draco,' I said, this time using his given name as part of the apology. 'I didn't think. I do understand, you know. Why you had to.'
His glare had lost some of its intensity when he met my eyes. He didn't answer, but he moved back enough to become a complete blur and then he pressed my glasses into my hand. I put them on and as he handed me my clothes I dressed slowly.
'Does it hurt?' he said after several minutes of silence while I slowly put on more and more of my clothes with my numb, stiff fingers. I noticed he was looking straight at me after having been turned halfway towards the trees in some weird semblance of giving me privacy. As if he hadn't just seen everything and touched most of it.
'Does what hurt?' Everything did. The air was biting me, making me slow, my muscles ached from cramping in the cold water and I wondered if I had serious frostbite anywhere and if I did were they on parts I'd miss?
'That.' He pointed to something and I shook my head to indicate I didn't understand.
'That,' he said again. This time he touched his finger very lightly to something on my neck. I gasped, not so much because it hurt but because it felt practically electric when he touched me. 'The locket. It cut you.'
My hand flew to where his was and for a brief second it covered his before he moved it. I felt what he had mentioned, the cut where the locket had tried to strangle me. 'It doesn't right now,' I said. 'Guess I'm numb. And I hurt everywhere else so...' I shrugged.
But his words had reminded me of something. The locket. 'We need to destroy it,' I said and tried to stand up on shaky legs. 'The locket. The sword can. It's powerful enough. And if the basilisk tooth can destroy a Horcrux then this can too. There's poison on it as well.'
I took the locket off and threw it on the ground between us, looking at Malfoy for approval. He nodded, looking grim. 'You are right. The sooner the better.' He looked up at me, expectantly. 'Do it, then.'
'No.' I handed him the sword. 'You do it. You saved me, you've earned the right.' For once he didn't argue, but took the sword from me with a solemn expression on his face. The moment his hand closed around the handle, a high-pitched scream started. Not from the sword, but from the locket.
Images sprang at us fast and intense, showing a dark lady taking Malfoy away, leaving both of us hurting, hands severed. It felt so real it was hard to fight the effect, even knowing it was an illusion, and I was grasping my wrist hard, but the pain that bothered me wasn't there. It got worse when it showed us torture and grim death, showed us how we would die in agony after the other had betrayed us. The very concept of separation was what truly hurt and I wondered that the hell Snape had done to us.
'Do it, Draco!' I cried, trying to drown out images and sounds, seeing the stricken look on Malfoy's face. 'It's trying to stun us into leaving it alone. You have to do it!'
Another image of me kissing Ginny sprung up and I thought the damned thing was finally at its wits end if it pulled up something I was bound to like. And then Malfoy drove the sword down, cleaving the locket and silence hit us like a wall. It was gone.
We looked at each other across the sword in complete silence. Those images. It was hard to shake them and the feeling of separation even more so; there was a lingering pain in my heart that I couldn't explain and didn't want. I stuffed the broken locket into the pouch I carried around my neck and Malfoy handed me the sword and we started back towards the tent with him leading the way. I couldn't remember which way I'd come. Neither of us spoke before we reached the tent.
'How did you find me?' I asked before we went inside again. 'And how come the noose never tightened?' I'd forgotten about it until the locket showed us those visions.
'I woke up just as you left. I followed.' He was just about to go inside, but I held him back with a hand on his arm, trying hard to ignore the electric shock I felt at touching him.
'Why? Why not just stop me?'
'I knew I was supposed to follow,' he said and flushed faintly in the moonlight. 'It felt right. It was like... like I missed you and the only thing that worked was following. I knew that if I spoke I'd lose you.' He disappeared under the flap before I could ask him again and when I tried to whisper to him inside the tent, he ignored me and pretended to be asleep. I had far too much to think about to be able to sleep; it was like I had a whole new puzzle and had the pieces thrown at me and now they were making sense. A kind of sense I didn't want but had to react to.
Ron returned the next day, which caused one hell of an uproar. Our tent was invisible, or almost, so he stumbled around outside and Hermione was the first to see him. We, Malfoy and I, followed the shouts, and when we found them, she was throwing things at him, just random stuff she picked up from the ground, and I hurried to Shield him.
'Stay out of this, Harry!' she shouted.
'At least let him explain,' I tried, but she didn't seem to want to listen.
'No. At least go inside first,' Malfoy said with an edge of fear to his voice that was impossible to ignore, and to my surprise he took Hermione's arm and steered her back towards the tent. No matter his methods, he had a good point and Ron and I followed.
Malfoy had a strange effect on Hermione; he was somehow able to comfort her and she cooled off long enough for Ron to tell us how he'd found his way back and that he'd looked for us for ages. I couldn't stop looking at Malfoy while he spoke and the way he held Hermione. Apart from wondering why he seemed to care about her feelings all of a sudden, it bothered me to see him like that and the noose around my hand throbbed softly, as if echoing a heartbeat or pulse that wasn't mine.
After a while, Malfoy let go. She seemed calmer now and went to talk to Ron. I couldn't take my eyes off Malfoy. Some things were starting to come together for me now and I didn't like them. Malfoy noticed it, of course, and gave me a questioning look. I would have shrugged it off if it hadn't been for the fact that Ron and Hermione were starting to get wound up in something again. And this time it didn't look like fighting. They'd been exchanging soft-spoken words I hadn't heard, but now it was replaced by, well, intense snogging.
Malfoy and I left quietly. It was awkward beyond belief that they'd forgotten we were there and it was best to just get out. Not that it bothered me that much; I was a lot more absorbed in finding out what the fuck Snape had done to Malfoy and me. These feelings were no coincidence and neither were the electric shocks or the pulse.
'Can we talk?' I asked him, deciding that I at least had to try and find an explanation. Malfoy followed with nothing but a shrug.
We'd barely taken two steps before the noises from the tent grew to an intensity where I blushed. I tried to muffle the sound with a spell before I led Malfoy further away. If they stopped whatever they were doing in there, I didn't want to be overheard.
Five minutes later we were still walking. 'Can we stop walking any time soon?' Malfoy asked, impatient as ever.
'All right.' I realised, with his words, that I'd just been stalling by making us walk further than necessary. I turned towards him. 'Why did you destroy the locket?' I asked, facing him with crossed arms.
He gave me a dumbfounded look, then turned it into his usual superior glare. 'Because we had to. In case you don't remember it tried to kill you and caused the Weasel back there to freak out and leave his girlfriend. Of course, that might just have been a ploy to get to the make-up shagging...'
'You know that wasn't what I meant!' I said. I definitely didn't have the patience for his games just now. 'Why just then?'
'Because I could. You yelled at me, remember? Made me ignore those visions long enough do it.'
He made sense so far, but something in the way he held himself told me it wasn't the whole truth. That and a cold sensation travelling along the invisible line between us. I rubbed my wrist.
'It showed me kissing Ginny,' I reminded him and he made a disgusted face. 'Why would it show that to try and throw us?'
'It's an object imbibed with the soul of a maniac. What do I know?' He was avoiding the subject, not even looking at me now and that made me press on.
'Draco. Do you feel that line between us?'
'Of course I do!' He rolled his eyes. 'Every time one of us moves it pulls.'
'I think you know that's not what I'm talking about. I feel you. Through this!' I held up my hand as if showing him the line I felt so keenly. 'It got worse after last night. Much more. Now it's there all the time! Why?!?'
'I don't know,' he said, giving me a defiant glare. There was something about his posture that made me want to slap him. I didn't. Instead I grabbed his shoulders and shook him.
'Why did the image of Ginny make you kill it?' I demanded. I knew the answer and I still don't know why I was so desperate to force him to say it. I just was. Perhaps I needed to know it was real, despite the fact that it both scared me and made me feel like a hoard of butterflies were loose in my stomach. 'It was focusing on you! You were the threat! What did it want from you?"
'It wanted me to kill you!' he yelled, the sudden force of his reaction making me stagger a step backwards and let go of him. 'Because I can't have you! You... you and that... that... blood-traitor. It's always been you! So why not help the Dark Lord and get back in his good graces and live like a king ever after. I could have anyone I wanted, you know!'
'If you could,' I said, forcing myself to keep calm, despite shaking with anger, 'then why did you destroy it and not me?' I was as tense as the string on a bow. I wanted that answer. Right. Now.
'Because I don't want them.' He turned and took a step away from me, but the string pulled so hard I gasped and I heard his moan as well. It wasn't letting him go, not even the usual few yards.
'What's with this thing?' he asked, sounding desperate and hurt and scared. 'Did he do this to me?'
'That was what I wanted to know,' I said. 'I thought you knew.'
'Of course not!' He rounded on me again. 'If I knew don't you think I would have stopped it?'
'Oh, is it that bad to have feelings for me?' It hurt a lot more than I cared to admit and hated myself for actually saying it before he had. Feelings. For me. Him. Us.
'If you know, why drag me through all of this?' He was angry now.
'I thought you did this somehow! Or... or knew how it happened!' I tried to defend myself but deep down I knew he was right, at least justified in his anger.
'Bastard,' he murmured. He was still angry but it was less volatile.
It was a dead-lock. Neither of us willing to let the other know more and neither of us ready to take another step in any direction. We could only stand there and look at each other and the tiniest of steps further away cut us as sharp as a knife. The string between us was throbbing and I could see his hand move subtly in the rhythm it dictated. As did my own.
The problem was that I knew what I had to do to break this and I was sure he did too. But he wasn't going to do anything, he didn't want to admit it, not even to himself. It was up to me. I had to earn that sword all over again and I had to win it from him. Risk everything, especially myself.
When I reached for his hand, the one with the noose around, with my own I steeled myself for the shock of touch, but it was much stronger than I had anticipated and it made me shiver and all the hairs on my neck stood on end. He tried to pull away, clearly feeling the same, but I held on and slowly reeled him in, imagining the string. Not to our hands but to where I felt the emotions it conveyed: in my heart.
It was only two steps but they took so long to take. Seconds were hours and I wished he'd look at me. He never did. When I kissed him the electricity dissipated, flowed away from our hands and warmed me as I imagined it did to him as well. And he kissed back. Reluctant at first, then more and more and when I let go of his hand it was him who had his arms around me in an instant.
I don't know how long we stayed that way, but when we parted the noose was gone. We no longer needed it. I made him test it as we walked home and I was right: nothing tugged at us, not even a faint pinch. Since then we have agreed that the spell knew it was no longer needed – it had been designed to keep us together and get us to cooperate, but why force us when we'd do it voluntarily?
We walked hand in hand, back to the tent. As we entered I don't know if he or I were the most relieved to find that they were dressed, even though an over-turned table showed that their love was as passionate as their arguments. How both of us managed to keep a straight face when they, blushing and giggling, confessed that they were now a couple, I don't know. At least we did a lot better than they did later on when the roles were reversed.
They say that all is fair in war and love, but they never tell you that war is easier when it's tangible what you fight for. You know the story of that war, I think. We were captured, freed, fought, died and lived. We also kept shouting at each other and occasionally knocking over the furniture. But somehow it just worked. It always had for Ron and Hermione. Now I knew why.