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08 November 2004 @ 05:51 pm
 

Two hundred euro, Veronica said. That woman is a profound eejit. Two hundred euro to courier something to Dublin, apparently, according to the Book of Veronica (it's a short one, believe me).

In reality, eighty euro got my portfolio to England by tomorrow. Snh. Thank god - it turned out to be five kilo in weight, so I'm not overstepping the ten kilo limit. Small things to be grateful for. That, and the fact that I won't have to sell my liver to pay my parents back for this.

Now that it's gone I can concentrate on other important things, like painting my nails in Ravenclaw colours and writing my Art History assignment. I've decided on the Fauves, and have spent an unproductive hour trying to find commentaries on the main works by de Vlaminck, Derain and Matisse on the net. A proliferation of prints for sale, yes, but a distinct paucity of in-depth analysis of them. And further proof of what my Communications teacher calls 'prettifying history'. Any art book reads that a critic made a playful comment about 'Donatello chez (or au milieu) des fauves' and the name stuck. In fact, Louis Vauxhalles seems to have written a scathing review calling them a 'cage aux fauves', which isn't anywhere near so light-hearted. Huh. I'm supposed to be writing a factual account with conflicting facts. Oh teh fun.

henbock  as you are beta'ing this and haven't read the first part...go back an entry and read the first part. It will help, I imagine. And you ARE beta'ing...I NEED to get this up somewhere people will actually read it. Well I suppose I don't NEED to, but an unread story is pretty damn pathetic and pointless and at the moment that's what all my stories are!

‘Now - two measures of lionfish essence,’ Harry said, reaching out distractedly and not removing his eyes from the ominously bubbling cauldron. ‘Quick, Draco, I think it’s going to overflow!’

‘Here,’ Draco said breathlessly, reaching around him to slop a cupful of viscous orange liquid into the cauldron. Harry breathed a sigh of relief as the mixture gave one last burp and settled, slowly changing colour from dark green to metallic silver.

‘Now for the hard part,’ Harry muttered. Using a spatula, he scooped out some of the mixture into a shallow bowl. Clearing his throat, he touched his wand to the surface, and murmured, ‘Changous illeus sublima pysche.’

As he and Draco watched, a faint glow suffused the bowl. The liquid inside began to writhe, almost as if it were alive. Abruptly, it resolved itself into a circular shape, and with a faint tinkle, fell to the bottom of the bowl. Harry peered inside. All traces of liquid were gone; instead, a bright silver bracelet lay innocuously within.

‘It appears to have worked,’ Harry said slowly. He didn’t look at Draco. ‘So…when do you want to try it out?’

He could hear Draco swallowing behind him. ‘Morning. Tomorrow morning. Please.’

‘Very well,’ Harry said, pleased to be able to put off using an illegal slavery spell on someone else for a little while. ‘Milly can knock herself out cleaning up this place tomorrow. But for now, I feel like popcorn. Do you want some?’

‘Popcorn?’ Draco asked hesitantly, the unsaid ‘master’ hanging in the air after his words.

‘You elitists miss out on so much,’ Harry said, rolling his eyes.

Harry’s kitchen was an eclectic mixture of Muggle and magic. It boasted a fridge, oven and microwave, in addition to a row of magical cooking books, which had been Ginny’s, Hermione’s and Mrs Weasley’s housewarming present. Tonks had given him an ice-cream maker. The books sat in pristine rows while the ice-cream maker had died from over-use.

Within minutes, the sound of popping filled the small room. Harry laughed to see Draco jump the first time, but hurried to explain the noise when he noticed Draco’s terrified face. When the popcorn was ready, Harry quickly melted some butter in the microwave and drizzled it over the steaming kernels.

Draco took his first handful with a degree of sceptism on his face. Harry’s enthusiastic munching convinced him that the popcorn wasn’t dangerous, but until he tasted some it was clear he thought Harry’s gusto was over-rated to say the least. His eyes widened slightly as he swallowed. Soon Harry was hard-pressed to keep up to Draco’s speed.

‘It’s a pity the TV’s broken,’ Harry mused. ‘There’s nothing goes better with popcorn than a good football match.’

‘Football, Potter?’ Draco arched an eyebrow, and Harry almost thought he’d come back to his usual self before he realised ‘Potter’ was only another way of saying ‘master’.

‘It’s the best Muggle equivalent of Quidditch,’ Harry explained. ‘Dean took me to a West Ham-Arsenal match once and I was hooked.’

‘That is interesting,’ Draco said blandly, reaching for more popcorn. Harry bit his lip and stared out of the window. The setting sun was colouring the horizon with dusky reds and butter-flavoured oranges.

‘…How are your eyes lately?’

‘They seem perfectly well now, thank you.’

‘That’s good,’ Harry said. ‘Not that I would doubt the efficacy of one of Hermione’s potions, of course.’

‘No, nor I,’ Draco said contemplatively. Companionably, they both reached out a salty, buttery hand for the bowl at the same time, and their fingers brushed together for the merest of seconds. Harry felt slightly agitated by the contact, but Draco looked the epitome of cool, even with butter running down his chin.

‘I think I’ll be off to bed,’ Harry said, unthinkingly wiping his greasy hand on his jeans. Draco’s eyebrows met his hairline, but he didn’t venture any further comment than ‘goodnight.’

It was a long time, however, before Harry could get to sleep.

When he awoke, he felt groggy. The bright sunlight steaming through his open curtains indicated that the morning was well-advanced. He stumbled out of bed, yawning widely as he pulled on some jeans. He left on the large T-shirt he slept in; one of Dudley’s antiques. He spared a thought for his cousin, now an Olympic-medallist boxer, and wondered if he was still as foul as Harry recalled. He hadn’t seen the Dursleys in well over four years.

He made his way to the kitchen, rubbing sleep out of his eyes, to find Draco sitting at the table, bolt upright, with the bracelet in its bowl between his hands. Harry startled for a moment; Draco’s face looked more intent than Harry could remember seeing it in a long time. Draco glanced up when Harry knocked against the doorframe; his eyes were resolute and grim.

‘Let me have something to eat first?’ Harry pleaded.

‘Of course,’ Draco said, returning his gaze to the plain circle of silver.

Harry silently fixed himself tea and toast, for once heedless of sticky crumbs scattered on the table. Draco’s gaze never wavered, and Harry felt uncomfortably aware of his jaws clicking together as he chewed. He abandoned the teapot and half his toast, too nervy to eat more.

‘We should get this over with,’ Harry said, shuddering slightly. Draco seemed only slightly less repulsed; in basic terms, he was merely exchanging one slavery for another. He doubted Draco’s current period of incarceration had made him any more trusting than he was naturally, which wasn’t very.

Harry closed his eyes, not liking what he was about to suggest any more than the rest of what was about to happen. ‘I think, for ease of - uh, removal, you should - uh - take off your clothes?’ He hadn’t intended to phrase it as a question, but his voice betrayed him at the last, scaling up several octaves. He cracked open one eye; he could see Draco obediently unzipping his jeans. Harry quickly screwed it shut again.

‘I’m ready,’ Draco said, and Harry wondered briefly if he spoke to qualify that he had obeyed or to prod Harry to open his eyes again. A bit of both, Harry thought. It was a slight improvement. Of course, if this worked out the way that it was supposed to, Draco would be improved beyond all measure.

Imagine calling his old self an ‘improvement’.

Harry circled the table and lifted the bracelet out of the bowl. At his touch, the invisible clasp fell open. Draco held out his wrist, and, not looking up, Harry fastened the cool silver around it. He could feel it pulse slightly, as if it had become one with the clearly-visible vein running beneath Draco’s translucent skin.

Harry stepped back, holding his breath. He had no idea how long it would take for his keystone to kick in, or even if it would.

All at once, Draco started blinking rapidly, as if he had a speck in his eye. The air around him glowed slightly. His bracelet shone brighter, while the three rings piercing his body dulled considerably.

When the glow faded - and Harry found his nails had gouged marks in the chair-back he was clutching - Draco shook his head. His hands rose of their own accord, unfastening the rings. One, two, three, they slid out of his skin as he grimaced, his teeth kneading his lower lip. He dropped them onto the floor. On impulse, Harry picked them up and put them in his pocket.

It came to him, as he straightened, that Draco, standing naked and vunerable before him, was now in his total power. Harry was his master in a way that not even the rings had made him. A touch to the keystone would change its instructions; he could make Draco throw himself off the cliff outside. He could make him grovel before those he had once taunted, whose lives he’d made miserable, before whom he had flaunted his wealth and bloodlines as if they were a personal achievement. He could make Draco pay.

Shivering, Harry reached out and pulled the bracelet off, shoving it into his pocket on top of the other keystones. He waited, poised.

Draco lifted his head, and Harry sucked in his breath. Animal anguish painted his features. With a roar, he swept the breakfast things from the table, in a huge clatter and tinkle of breaking crockery.

‘Well,’ Harry said stupidly, ‘I never did like that jug.’

He and Draco stared at one another for a minute, Harry cautious to an extreme, Draco red-faced and panting. Draco’s hands slowly balled themselves into fists, and he suddenly punched the wall with great force. He repeated this over and over, until Harry saw that he was leaving blood on the wall with every thrust. At last, he sunk his head against his hand and slid down the wall to huddle up, much as he had done in the bathroom that time.

Harry knelt beside him, biting his lip. ‘Draco?’

‘Don’t touch me!’ The voice was hoarse, but the threat was not an empty one. Harry back-tracked several inches.

‘I won’t,’ Harry promised fervently. ‘Anything else you’d like to throw or maim? I’ve got a lovely set of books up there if you’re interested.’

‘I wouldn’t maim books, Potter.’ Draco still sounded as if he’d screamed for hours, but the old disdain was back, and then some. ‘Go away.’

Making a face, Harry got to his feet and obeyed. He didn’t like being told to leave in his own house, but neither did he want to spend any more time in an enclosed space with Draco. He seemed to be having some sort of delayed reaction to the first spell. That, or he was just being his old self.

Harry milled around aimlessly for a while, opening books but not seeing a word. Eventually he paid a visit to his broom shed, and absorbed himself in polishing his Firebolt. He was surprised when Milly appeared before him, looking distinctly disapproving.

‘You left Mr Malfoy alone!’ she admonished. ‘When he is in such a fragile state!’

‘He told me to leave!’ Harry retorted, nettled.

‘Pish,’ Milly said succinctly, and gestured with a long finger. ‘You will come now.’

Rolling his eyes, Harry followed his house elf back into the house. Draco was curled up in his bed; the curtains were closed and Draco had attempted to make the room even darker by stringing a blanket from the curtain rail. He was swaddled in bedclothes, but hadn’t made any effort to dress himself further.

Harry looked despairingly at Milly, but she made throat-slitting gestures and shut the door firmly behind her. Great. I’m getting bullied by a house-elf and a mentally unstable Death Eater.

‘Well, Draco,’ he said bracingly. ‘How are you feeling?’

‘Like shit,’ Draco said quite strongly, considering his mouth was muffled by blankets. His head reared from his nest like a blonde sea monster from the deeps. ‘I never said you could call me Draco.’

‘Oh,’ Harry said, feeling wrong-footed. It had seemed the most natural thing to do, especially to equalise their status.

‘Now if you would most kindly fuck off,’ Draco said, flashing a false smirk.

‘No,’ Harry said stoutly.

‘So what, you’re just going to sit on my feet until they go dead? That’s kind of you.’

‘Dra - Malfoy, did it work?’ Harry said in desperation. ‘My keystone -’

‘Yes, your slave stone worked,’ Draco spat, sitting up further as his cheeks flushed with anger. ‘I bet you just loved that, having power over me -’

‘It was the only thing we could think of!’ Harry shouted. ‘Considering you refused to tell us how else we could do it -’

‘Ever had red-hot needles being shoved under your fingernails, Potter?’ Draco said venomously. Harry blanched. ‘Ever had someone repeatedly shove a broom-handle into your stomach? Ever had someone pull out your eyelashes as you screamed? Ever -’

‘Shut up!’ Harry yelled in horror.

‘Thought not,’ Draco said, sounding satisfied and looking deadly pale. They stared at each other, facing an impasse.

‘I just want to sleep,’ Draco said piteously, breaking the silence first. ‘If you want to help, and I’ll assume you do because I’m in your house and you’re a Gryffindor, bring me some Dreamless Sleep potion.’

‘Fine,’ Harry grated out. ‘Milly!’

The elf appeared, bearing a tray containing a glass of cloudy liquid. Harry raised his eyebrows. Milly drew hers together.

‘Here, Mr Malfoy,’ she said gently, elbowing Harry out of the way, ‘for no bad dreams.’

‘Thank you,’ Draco said wearily. Harry got up and left.

~

The next few days fell into a pattern. Draco would wake, eat, and demand a sleeping and Dreamless Sleep potion, before falling into a stupor once again. Harry would mooch, and occasionally go and weed the garden by hand with ferocious concentration. He only visited Draco when he was asleep.

About a week after the keystone incident, the day dawned scorchingly hot. Harry, kneeling in the dirt, had a sneaking suspicion that the back of his neck was getting sunburnt. In spite of it, he went on, pulling up as many daffodil bulbs as he did nettles.

If he had envisioned it, sweaty, dirt-smeared and on the point of heatstroke was not how his next encounter with Draco was supposed to go. However, it was at this point that Draco decided to make his debut in the garden, dressed in a pair of Harry’s lined tracksuit pants, hiking boots, long-sleeved shirt, jumper and drisabone.

‘God, Malfoy, feeling the chill there, are you?’ Harry said, pivoting on one knee and using his trowel as leverage.

‘Descending to the level of handyman, I see,’ Draco sneered. ‘Always knew you wanted to follow in that oaf Hagrid’s over-sized footsteps.’

Harry subdued an urge to garrotte Draco with his trowel. Furiously, he tore at the earth with it, sending great sods of earth flying into the air.

‘Taking your anger out on soil is a little unfair,’ Draco said dryly, from behind him. ‘It can’t fight back.’

‘It was it or you,’ Harry snarled. ‘Merlin! I wish I’d left you in Mungo’s to rot.’

As soon as he’d said it, he knew it wasn’t true. He wouldn’t have left his worst enemy in there, and Draco wasn’t that. Not quite.

He stood up, dropping the trowel. Draco looked at him with a faintly amused expression; Harry was unaware that his hair was full of dirt.

‘Look, I’m sorry. That was uncalled for,’ he said tightly.

‘If you’re going to start apologising for your past actions, Potter, may I make you a list?’ Harry ground his teeth. ‘Better. You’re far too easy to rile, you know.’

Tossing his wet blonde hair - it reached the middle of his back now - he wandered off to sit on the garden bench. Not knowing quite why, Harry followed him.

‘Malfoy,’ he said, at the same time as Draco said ‘Potter.’

Harry rushed on. ‘I’m here to help you, for better or for worse. So, can you just - work with that?’

‘Help me, eh?’ Draco said musingly.

‘Yes,’ Harry said warily.

‘I don’t think you can help, Potter,’ Draco said, dismissing him.

‘I can try!’ Harry flared. ‘God knows nobody else is going to.’

‘How typically Gryffindor of you,’ Draco said snidely. ‘What would you like me to do? Tell you everything that’s happened to me?’

‘If - if you want to,’ Harry said.

‘No, thank you,’ Draco said, sniffing.

‘Who gave you those slave stones?’ Harry asked.

Draco glared at him. ‘My father, Voldemort and Bellatrix Lestrange.’

‘Three different people?’ Harry whispered. ‘Holy shit.’

‘Three holes, to be precise,’ Draco said, with grim amusement.

Harry winced. ‘Why on earth?’

‘Use your imagination, Potter. I know you came from the gutter, so you probably know as much about it as I do. Now.’

‘Oh,’ was all Harry could find to say.

‘Look, there’s no point in raking over dead leaves,’ Draco said. ‘Forget the bad things, remember the good ones, and if you can do that tell me how.’

Harry barely heard him. ‘You can’t cure what’s in the past. I can’t make you better, Malfoy.’

‘Better than a Malfoy? Does such a thing exist?’

Harry narrowed his eyes at him. ‘But we could do something about your future. Ever heard of closure, Malfoy?’

‘Its where you sign after you’ve bought land?’

‘That’s closing. No, closure. Look.’ Harry delved into his pocket and withdrew the three rings and the bracelet. ‘You need to get rid of these so you can move on. What do you want to do with them?’

Draco’s face had contorted on seeing what was in Harry’s palm. When he finally spoke, his voice sounded strained. ‘As far away as possible.’

‘I have just the thing,’ Harry said, grabbing Draco’s hand with his free one and pulling him to his feet. ‘Come on.’

‘Where are we going?’ Draco demanded, stumbling along behind Harry with his wrist in a vice-grip.

‘You’ll see.’

A few minutes’ walk brought them to the edge of the cliff.

‘Whoa,’ Draco said, looking green.

‘Vertigo,’ Harry said carelessly. ‘Keep hold of my arm. You won’t fall.’

‘Falling…is the least of my worries,’ Draco informed him, at the same time trying not to open his mouth.

‘Here.’ Harry reached for Draco’s other hand and pushed the jewellery into them. ‘Throw.’

Draco stared down at the objects in his hand before whirling his arm back and heaving them into the seething waters below.

The force of his throw sent him staggering off balance. Harry wrenched him backwards, and they ended up face-down on the grass, feet from the edge of the cliff.

Draco retrieved his arm from where it had become trapped beneath Harry’s stomach.

‘When they say live dangerously, I don’t think you’re meant to take it as a life motto,’ Draco said unsteadily.

‘You are the one who fell over,’ Harry pointed out. ‘You could’ve broken your fall here or in the sea, and I didn’t feel like fishing you out.’

To his surprise, Draco began to laugh. ‘They’re gone. They’re really gone.’

‘Yes, Malfoy, state the obvious.’ Harry got to his feet and extended a hand to Draco, hauling him up unceremoniously. ‘What do you feel like for lunch?’

~

When Harry woke, it took him a few moments to realise the fact. In his dream, Hermione had been crying because someone had stolen her copy of ‘Hogwarts; A History’. He sat up in bed when he realised her tears had translated into a real-life expression of grief, a heartbreaking sound of huge, shuddering gasps.

Harry rolled out of bed, scrubbing his eyes. Milly had never cried like that, not even when Harry had bought the microwave. So there was only one person it could be.

Harry pushed open Draco’s door and padded across the room to the bed. Draco was stretched full length along it, with the sheets tossed back; his head was buried in the pillow, which his hands were clutching, and his bare shoulder blades shook with sobs.

Deciding not to say anything and give Draco the opportunity to rebuff him, Harry sat down on the floor next to the bed. He slid a hand under the pillow and twined his fingers around Draco’s clenched fist.

Draco’s entire body stiffened, but Harry hung on resolutely. After a moment, Draco relaxed slightly. His hand allowed Harry’s to encircle it, but itself didn’t loosen its death-grip on the pillow. His sobs continued, but the gaps between them gradually became longer. Harry drifted off to sleep before Draco had completely stopped, and woke next morning with a stinging crick in his neck and wrist.

The next night, Draco curled his thumb around Harry’s, and when his breathing became particularly straitened Harry squeezed it reassuringly.

The third night, Draco was lying on his back, his face wet with tears. When Harry slipped into the room, he wordlessly held out his hand.

By the end of the week, the uncomfortable position kept Harry from sleep for a long time after Draco’s weeping had quietened. It was then he was introduced to the nightmares.

Harry could remember his own nightmares, and that they had involved a lot of thrashing around and yelling in his sleep. By contrast, Draco became as rigid as if someone had cast a Petrificus Totalus on him. His hand tightened almost painfully around Harry’s. Little shudders ran down his body, and his face became slick with sweat. His mouth worked frantically, but as Harry leant forward all he could catch was fragments of some internal dialogue.

Please…please no…Father, it hurts…please don’t…it hurts…it hurts…’

Harry felt sick. Hating himself after what he had just heard, he brought his hand back and delivered a sharp slap to Draco’s cheek. Draco’s eyes sprang open.

‘Sorry,’ Harry whispered. ‘You were having…’

‘You apologise too much, Potter,’ Draco said, his voice shaking.

‘Didn’t you take any Dreamless Sleep?’ Harry asked.

‘You’ve run out,’ Draco said, shrugging.

As Draco fell asleep once more, Harry sat in the darkness, thinking hard. On the one hand, Draco’s dream world wasn’t a very nice place. On the other, it was clear that Draco was refusing to think about his past in his waking hours, and if the only way to rid him of it was in his sleep, then so be it.

The next night, Harry came into Draco’s room when he went to bed. Instead of a glass of Dreamless Sleep potion, he brought a couple of pillows and a blanket, which he set on the floor near the head of Draco’s bed.

‘I thought you were ordering more potion for me,’ Draco said incomprehendingly. Feeling like a total bastard, Harry shook his head.

‘I - I can’t let you put it off any longer,’ he managed. ‘Dealing with this, I mean.’

Draco stared at him blankly for a few seconds. Then he turned his face to the wall.

With a sigh, Harry sat on the floor and leaned his head back against the bedpost.

He was awakened by throat-tearing screams. As he jerked himself out of sleep, he reflected grimly that this was more like it. Draco was thrashing around on the bed, bawling his head off. In between yells, Harry could make out the words ‘cold’, ‘hurts’ and ‘help’.

Harry flung himself over Draco’s heaving chest, restraining his flailing arms. Roaring over him, he called his name.

‘Draco! Malfoy! Wake up! It’s only a dream!’

Draco shuddered awake. He looked up at Harry’s face, hanging above his own, concern writ large in his features.

‘Dreamless?’ he managed. ‘Please?’

Sorrowfully, Harry shook his head.

With surprising strength, Draco thrust Harry away from him and curled his body up tightly. Harry crawled back onto the floor, massaging his nose where Draco’s elbow had slammed into it.

Draco held out for five more nights. On the sixth, his hand hit Harry in the side of the head when he reached out for him.

Harry took it anyway.

~

Harry rotated his neck, trying to soothe away the kinks. He knuckled his back and glanced down at Draco, who was still fast asleep. His face in slumber was peaceful, belying the emotional storm of the earlier part of the night.

Trotting down the hall in his nightwear of boxers and XXXXXL shirt to brew some coffee, Harry passed the living room, with its mutinously blank television, and frowned. TV programmes were an excellent distraction, and Merlin knew but Malfoy could do with some of that. He had resolved that it needed to be taken to the electrical shop in the nearest town for repairs, but in the month since Draco’s arrival he hadn’t left the borders of his own land. Perhaps it was time for Draco to mix with his fellow humans again.

By the time Draco had joined him in the kitchen, neatly dressed in jeans, an oversized lumberjack shirt and a fleecy jumper, Harry had made up his mind. Shoving a mug of coffee toward his compatriot, he announced, ‘Malfoy, we’re going into town today to get the TV fixed.’

Draco opened his eyes wide, and took a large sip of coffee instead of answering. He almost immediately coughed it back up, eyes watering. Harry noted the lavender rings under his eyes were slightly smaller than usual.

‘Potter, you nitwit, there’s not even one spoon of sugar in this!’

Harry shook his head, not interested in Draco’s sweetener-related complaints. ‘Did you hear me?’

‘I heard you,’ Draco said sourly, reaching for the sugar basin and tipping it into his mug wholesale.

‘I could get you some clothes too. Some that fit.’

‘These are fine,’ Draco said defensively.

‘That’s a turn-about for the books,’ Harry remarked. ‘Yesterday you said if I tossed them out in a skip even beggars wouldn’t wear them.’

‘Fine!’ Draco snapped, slamming his mug down on the table so that coffee slopped all over his fingers. ‘Bugger, that was hot.’

‘I thought we could go about ten,’ Harry said, ignoring Draco’s martyred expression. ‘I’ll make us a Portkey - I’ll need it for carrying the TV.’

Draco wrinkled his nose exaggeratedly, licking coffee off his fingers. ‘Watch me not caring about your stupid plans.’

‘For Merlin’s sake, Malfoy,’ Harry said mildly. ‘Did your emotional development stop at age sixteen?’

‘You could say that,’ Draco snarled, and stalked out of the room.

Heaving a sigh - Draco chucked these wobblies at least twice a day - Harry calmly made himself a bowl of cereal and toast, which he consumed at his ease. Banishing the empty plates to the sink, he arose and stretched, before rubbing his stomach and making for his bedroom.

Thinking that he should make some attempt to conciliate Draco before taking him out in public, as otherwise the results could be on the atomic side of explosive, he knocked gently at his firmly shut door and let himself in.

Draco was sitting on the bed, his hands clasped around his knees, staring at nothing. Harry was struck by how his face resembled the expression Harry had first seen on it, that day at St Mungo’s.

‘Malfoy,’ he said gently, sitting beside him and patting his hand.

Draco looked very much as if he’d like to flinch away, or hit Harry, but he did neither of those things. His fingers moved slightly beneath Harry’s, weaving themselves around Harry’s finger-joints.

‘I always found that, when there’s something you don’t want to do, imagining how you’ll feel when its all over helps,’ Harry said, with forced jollity.

‘But will it ever be over?’ Draco asked in a ghastly voice.

‘Of course,’ Harry said, fighting to keep his voice light. ‘In two hours, max, we’ll be back here, with some nice clothes you’ve picked out on your own, and maybe a working television.’

Draco smiled humourlessly. ‘Potter. Always floating along on the surface of life. You love to pretend there’s no sharks in the water, don’t you?’

‘I don’t have a clue what you’re talking about half the time, Malfoy,’ Harry announced. ‘But if you could let yourself be happy with the small things, like new clothes, I don’t see how that could make things any worse for you.’

Draco’s fingers tightened around Harry’s hand, but his gaze didn’t waver. ‘This is silly. You may call me Draco. If you want?’

The sure voice slipped for a moment, and Harry wondered at his own haste to reassure the man who once he would have cheerfully fed to the Giant Squid.

‘It would be a little -’ Harry fumbled for a word. Friendlier? They weren’t friends. Nicer? Nothing in this surreal situation came near niceness. Comfortable? In a house of nightmares and endless mysteries, that was unlikely. ‘- Thank you, Draco.’

‘And maybe you should think about moving your bed in here or something,’ Draco said, and his lips curled slightly. ’Otherwise you’ll end up with a spine like a banana.’

‘I’ll take it under due consideration,’ Harry informed him, leaping from the bed with Draco’s hand still attached to his own like a limpet’s security blanket. Draco stumbled into his back, with a faint exclamation. Harry tipped his head back and laughed at Draco’s prissed mouth, suddenly feeling extremely giddy.

‘Market Fenworth, here we come!’ he whooped, and charged out the door, dragging Draco behind him.

~

Harry watched complacently as Draco sat on the couch and rifled through his carrier bags with a rapt expression. Harry pretended to fiddle with the remote every time Draco glanced across at him.

The day had gone off quite well, all things considered. Despite Draco’s obsession with appearances, he had rarely let go of Harry’s hand for more than a few minutes. Harry had got a replacement television while his inoperative one underwent screwdriver surgery. After dismissing ninety percent of the outfitters of Market Fenworth as selling ‘plebian muck-raker clothing’, Draco had seemed to regain something of his old aplomb, nearly clearing the limit on Harry’s credit card in purchasing bagfuls of clothing. His shock at the lack of robes had been quickly circumvented with the discovery of Levi 501s and assorted eclectic and always expensive items of Muggle wear in the town’s pricier shops.

Harry had felt light-headed all day, but the twisting feeling in his stomach whenever he saw Draco’s hard grey eyes lighting up as he spotted another outrageously-priced shirt convinced him it wasn’t an illness curable by any of Hermione’s potions. He found himself missing the shape of Draco’s sharp knuckles in his palm when they were temporarily removed, and feeling a guilty relish at squeezing them slightly whenever he needed to get Draco’s attention. Although Draco’s endless chatter was a shaky façade at best, it was to Harry what a perfectly declaimed soliloquy is to a Shakespeare buff.

He had a sinking suspicion that he was starting to feel something more than dispassionate concern over Draco’s plight. He was walking on thin ice, but the sight of Draco’s hair falling in his face set off too many pleasurable sensations for him to take heed of the warning signs.

‘Potter, you’ve been staring at me for five minutes,’ Draco said, sounding impatient but not angry. ‘What? Is there spinach in my teeth or something?’

‘Nun - No,’ Harry said, clearing his throat. ‘I was just wondering…do you want to cut your hair?’

Draco’s hand went to his locks, which fell over his shoulder now. ‘Oh, no. A few more inches and I can put it in pigtails.’

‘Oh. Fair enough,’ Harry shrugged. He wasn’t blind to the fact that Draco’s hair made him look like Sixties throwback, but if Draco liked it…

‘I love that you are so completely impervious to sarcasm,’ Draco said in a dreamy voice. Harry started and blushed at the word ‘love’. Draco shot him a sharp look, and Harry frantically tried to get a hold on himself. ‘Of course I want to cut it, but you don’t seem to have one sharp knife or pair of scissors in this entire house.’

‘Right,’ Harry said, tactfully omitting the fact that he himself had orchestrated their removal from Draco’s vicinity. He seemed fairly stable most of the time, but it didn’t do to tempt fate. ‘Milly might have one in her sewing kit - I’ll go see.’

Hurrying from the room, banging his knee off a table on the way out - Draco’s fixed, appraising look discomfiting him greatly - he thought he heard Draco mutter, ‘A scissors or a sharp knife?’

When he returned, carrying a small pointed pair of scissors he’d stashed under his bed, and his own battery-powered razor, Draco was standing in the middle of the floor half-naked. Stifling a gasp, Harry purposefully hit off the doorframe, hoping to alert Draco to his presence.

Instead, Draco leaned down to pick up a powder-blue shirt from the couch and began to put it on, smoothing down the tailored grey trousers he had changed into. His long, narrow feet were bare amongst piles of discarded clothing.

‘You could try hanging things up,’ Harry said, rather glad his faint exasperation balanced his raging hormones somewhat.

‘Oh, you’re back,’ Draco said, turning to face him with his shirt still undone to the waist. Harry grimaced; his few unaffected brain cells were under deep threat from the majority of his brain, which was suffocating with lust.

‘This doesn’t work?’ Draco said, sounding concerned, and lifting his hands to undo the few tied buttons. ‘I could try the green -’

‘No, no, that one’s perfect. Leave it on!’ Harry barked. Draco lifted his eyebrows, but complied.

‘That vehement, it must be good,’ he muttered, and Harry busied himself with the scissors to hide a rising blush. He gestured for Draco to sit on a low stool, and he complied.

Bringing a comb out of nowhere, Draco started dragging it through his long, buttery hair. Harry left his wand to one side - he wasn’t a trained HairWizard, and he was afraid his Severing Charm might take off Draco’s head, as well as his hair. Taking the comb from Draco’s fingers, he slowly dragged it down through his hair till it reached the nape of his neck. Biting his lip in concentration, he lifted the trapped strands and snipped below the comb with the scissors. The feathery off-cuts floated away, light as a dandelion clock. Some fell down the collar of Draco’s shirt, and he shivered. Harry swallowed.

Almost hypnotically, he continued to comb and snip, lifting the pale tresses and running his fingers through the cut strands to loosen any stray hairs. When he had got them all to a uniform length around Draco’s ears, he turned on the razor and carefully shaved around the nape of his neck. Draco wiggled.

‘That tickles,’ he complained loudly.

‘It’ll do more than tickle if you don’t stop moving,’ Harry threatened. ‘It’ll cut your bloody ear off.’

Draco subsided with a ‘humph’ and held his neck taut for Harry. The urge to stroke the stretched muscles made Harry finish up quickly, nearly bounding back from Draco with the razor still whirring. Shutting it off, he gestured for Draco to stand up.

‘Well, I think it’s an improvement,’ Harry said, after a quick glance.

‘Now its your turn,’ Draco said, smiling evilly.

‘I don’t need a haircut!’ Harry bleated.

‘Don’t you own a mirror, Potter?’ Draco shook his head. ‘You always need a haircut.’

Protesting all the way, Harry was shoved onto Draco’s seat. Wielding the scissors with a manic glint in his eye, Draco attacked his head with the comb, making Harry cry ‘Ouch!’ repeatedly.

‘You have more tangles than…than a very tangled thing,’ Draco told him, yanking his head back as the comb caught on a particularly stubborn knot. Harry swallowed another exclamation of pain, wondering if this was some obscure way of punishing him for his guilty pleasure in cutting Draco’s hair.

This was put to the lie when Draco finished combing and efficiently began trimming his hair. His long fingers moved with skill through Harry’s hair, dividing and lifting the hair and occasionally massaging his scalp. Harry swallowed repeatedly, hoping Draco wouldn’t notice.

‘There!’ Draco said, tugging hard on a single strand and making Harry gasp. ‘I knew it couldn’t be hard if you could do it.’

‘Thanks,’ Harry managed, scooping up the scissors and glancing frantically around for his wand. His circumnavigation of the room ended up back with Draco, who was balancing his wand on the tips of his fingers, looking faintly amused.

‘Thanks,’ Harry muttered again, and directed a Vanishing charm towards the clumps of hair littering the carpet. He could feel air on his ears, no longer hidden by tufts of hair, and the sensation made him feel cold and strangely naked. He left with the excuse of putting away the scissors and razor. Behind him, he could hear Draco humming as he turned his attention back to the wickedly expensive items now strewn across the floor.

Harry lingered in his bedroom, lying on his unused bed for a time and staring unseeing up at the ceiling. His mind was in turmoil and his insides twisted whenever his though-path hove near Draco. The exquisite pain the memory of him produced was at once exciting and alarming. Even if he disregarded the long and painful history between them, a history littered with insults, cruelty and bad blood, it would not be wise, not wise at all, to fall for someone under his care, who had, moreover, been brutally abused in the recent past. What with all this angst clogging up his neurons, Harry barely had a worry to spare for the fact that Draco was male.

He nearly jumped out of his skin when said recipient of all his recent hormone-damage plopped down beside him, very nearly giving him a dead arm in the process.

‘Nice place you’ve got here,’ Draco said, grinning, resting his head on his palms and using his hip to nudge Harry over. ‘I think the Cannons poster must be a real lady-killer, huh?’

‘Ron gave it to me,’ Harry said, turning bright pink for no particular reason. He had a sudden urge to tear up the poster and offer its tattered remains to Draco on a silver platter.

Draco rolled over onto his stomach. Harry’s entire left side was now pressed up against him, and Harry thought he might pass out from respiratory failure. Either Draco was utterly oblivious, or he was aware of the situation and working it to his own malicious ends. Harry couldn’t decide which was the more unbearable prospect.

‘So, are you going to tell me how to turn on this famous tee-vee anytime soon?’ Draco asked, propping his chin in his hand.

‘Oh, sure, shall we go now?’ Harry said in relief. Draco frowned at him.

‘Hold your horses, Potter, we need to put away my clothes first.’

‘We?’ Harry asked incredulously, not sure if the sudden deepening in his voice was due to amusement or the way Draco’s freshly-cut hair fell across his cheek as he gazed winningly up at Harry.

‘Oh, Harry, you will help me, won’t you?’ he said, pursing his lips and batting his eyelashes like an over-enthusiastic houri. ‘Please, please, say you will! Oh, do!’ He clutched frantically at Harry’s shirt. Harry almost passed out, and strong-armed him away with indelicate haste.

‘Fine!’ he growled, rolling away from Draco and ending up with most of his body on the floor. Draco promptly sat on his legs, leering down at him.

‘I knew you’d see sense, in the end,’ Draco said smugly, drumming his bare heels against Harry’s hip as Harry snarled impotently. ‘But before we leave, we need to talk about the bed situation.’

‘What bed situation?’ Harry asked weakly, letting his head flop back onto the shag-pile in despair.

‘Look at your door,’ Draco instructed. ‘We’ll never get this bed through it. So, how did you get it in?’

‘I don’t know,’ Harry said, rather impatiently, ‘I bought the house fully-furnished.’

‘Where will you sleep, then?’

‘What do you mean, where will I sleep? Until you go, on the floor beside you, I imagine.’

Draco leaned forward to study Harry’s face quizzically. Harry felt a blush rising for about the hundredth time that evening. ‘Until I go?’ Draco repeated quietly.

‘When you feel well enough,’ Harry amended, wondering why he felt so cold inside at the prospect. ‘You’ll go back and find your friends and a home of your own. However long it takes,’ he added.

‘Yes,’ Draco nodded. ‘It could be months.’

‘It could,’ Harry said, and thinking hopefully, years while a part of him quivered in fear for his state of mind. ‘But until you are, you’ll be here. Which brings us back to your sleeping query, I think.’

‘I don’t think you should have to sleep on the floor in your own house,’ Draco said, and ‘How magnanimous of you,’ Harry muttered. Draco ignored him, but his heels became that much more pointed. ‘So we need to put another bed in my room.’

‘Easy - I’ll conjure one,’ Harry said, and discovering that shrugging while practically horizontal was a rather friction-filled process.

‘I don’t think one would fit,’ Draco said, wrinkling his nose.

‘Then why did you start this pointless conversation in the first place?’ Harry said in exasperation.

‘Because,’ Draco said, suddenly sliding down Harry’s legs to sit down hard on his lap, ‘I reckon you should just make mine bigger, and sleep in it with me.’

While Harry was still reeling from the double sensation caused by Draco’s words and his presence in Harry’s lap, Draco had hopped to his feet and headed for the door. He turned back, frowning, to glare at the gaping-like-a-beached-whale Harry.

‘Come on, get up,’ he said, snapping his fingers. ‘You have a helluva lot of folding to get through.’

LAST PART TOMORROW

 
 
Current Mood: aggravatedaggravated
Current Music: 'Cursed', Robbie Williams
 
 
 
henbock on November 8th, 2004 12:49 pm (UTC)
Ends too soon!!!
OK I love it ut why did you have to use masticating instead of chewing!!!
Its brilliant as you have written intelligently,humurously and with style what can i say why did you have to stop it before it got to the good part. Im beginning to like Harry/Draco fanfiction!!!!
every Starbucks should have a polar bearscoradh on November 8th, 2004 01:40 pm (UTC)
Re: Ends too soon!!!
You got me onto that word, you can't complain now!!
Thanks - you did read the first part, I hopes...next one up tomorrow!
OH YAY!!! A convert. My life! It has meaning and joy and I'm gonna keep doing this with every fic I have, hehe you poor child. (You are so not going to like the ending...)
The Light Snarktasticsnarkophagus on November 9th, 2004 03:31 am (UTC)

EEE! Nano and Abuse and spotty internet connections and no attention span make me a horrible correspondent! I'm so not ignoring you, and I'm sorry it looked that way.

Muses just won't shut up, and the plot bunnies are growing, nevermind that I seem to be completely unable to do anything with them. Mrf.

Also, I can't claim credit for most of the words I use. I'm a thief. :)
every Starbucks should have a polar bearscoradh on November 9th, 2004 08:31 am (UTC)
Oh, now I understand, as someone in Jane Austen said...I got the months for that wrong, and wrote 20,000 words in OCTOBER...I am dumb! Had to give up then because of portfolios and other nasty things...so glad I didn't give some unmeaning offence, neways! Stay cool, bro!
henbock on November 9th, 2004 04:11 am (UTC)
Time is of the essence!!!
Ok put up the third part soon some of us coliege students have nothing to do during the day!!! I have to say that your writing is more tastefull this time round and you have built up a good relationship between the characters and you dont go off on a tangent which is good!!! Hurry on and put it up for fecksake ive nothing to do
every Starbucks should have a polar bearscoradh on November 9th, 2004 08:29 am (UTC)
Re: Time is of the essence!!!
Going up now! I mean, as soon as I get home, that is. Don't worry...I'll be doing this for WEEKS just to get up the stuff I've already written, not to mind what I've already written! Oh, and the first chapter of A City should up up on Fic Alley so you must review!