Who: Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy
Where: 12 Grimmauld Place
Summary: Draco runs into Harry in the library and unexpectedly finds out about his illness.
The buds on the trees had come out. The blossoms were going to come out soon. Harry knew this not because he could see past the thick curtains blocking the windows in the library, but because the change in the season couldn't be overlooked. The nights were getting shorter, the days brighter, and the crisp deadness of winter was slowly giving way to misty freshness of spring.
Harry wondered briefly if he'd be around to see the blossoms come out, and then realized he didn't care. He supposed he ought to; to have survived the darkest wizard in his generation and then to simply fade into nothingness seemed such an ignominious end, but Harry didn't have anything left in him to care one way or the other. He was simply marking time now.
Draco sauntered into the Grimmauld Library, unaware that the room was already occupied by the house’s owner, standing by the window lost in silent contemplation.
He’d visited the Library before, but his stays had always been brief – there was a certain feel to the structure and composition of Grimmauld Library that always reminded him of the much larger chamber back at Malfoy Manor that had housed countless thousands of thick tomes, and the longer he spent browsing the shelves of the Blacks’ personal library, the more he wished he could transport himself back inside the familiar walls of his ancestral home.
Presently, he was in need of some reading on fantastic beasts and creatures of the wizarding world, needing to brush up on some elementary knowledge as part of his role in aiding the researching of the cure for his godfather Severus’ currently fatal condition. Spotting Harry’s unmistakable figure by the window the instant he strolled in, Draco briefly considered turning around and making a hasty exit; the two of them had pretty much steered clear of each other the past couple of months, and life had been more harmonious that way. However, after a bit of careful reflection, Draco decided that alienating a potential ally, no matter how loathed, wouldn’t help his cause much and shoving other protests aside, he walked determinedly towards his old school foe and cleared his throat.
Even the shadows cast by the scones along the walls couldn't hide the sour expression that appeared when Harry turned and saw Draco standing there. While the ex-Slytherin had kept up his side of the agreement and stayed out of sight and trouble until now, Harry would have been quite content to go on without seeing him at all.
The fact that Malfoy had politely - for him, anyway - gotten his attention instead of simply marching in and making Harry feel like the unwanted houseguest made the scarred wizard wary. Malfoy wanted something, and Harry wasn't sure if he was going to like it. No, Harry was sure he wasn't. "What do you want, Malfoy?"
Draco raised an eyebrow and took Harry’s greeting of sorts as an invitation to approach the former Gryffindor closer.
“Why must I always want something with you, Potter? I rather thought it was customary for housemates to greet each other from time to time,” he replied easily, following Harry’s gaze out the window and fingering the leather bound covers of a few lingering books on a nearby shelf.
Harry sighed, using the wall by the window to push away and sink into a nearby chair. Even in the dim lighting, Malfoy looked tired, no doubt from all the work he was putting into the cure - if he were working at all. It occurred to Harry that if the miraculous were to happen and the cure was found, he'd owe his life partly to Draco Malfoy. Life was really unfair sometimes.
"Maybe because you always do want something from me," he muttered, steepling his fingers in front of his chest. "We're not exactly regular housemates."
While Harry’s words were true, Draco merely shrugged in response and repositioned himself so that he now stood fully facing the former Gryffindor. He assumed his habitual posture and casually leaned back against the windowpane, his silver eyes regarding Harry intently.
“True. But there has been -- and will continue to be -- times when I couldn’t possibly want anything from you. This is one of those times. I merely came here with the desire to do nothing more than go on about my business of digging up a bit of light reading for my potions research when I found you all by yourself, deep in thought. Since we hadn’t spoken for quite some time, I thought it’d be…nice…to drop by for a friendly chat.”
A friendly chat. There had been a time when Harry wouldn't have even entertained that phrase in association with Draco Malfoy, but now he found himself thinking that Malfoy seemed sincere and that, well, maybe he could indulge him. War had changed both of them more than anyone could have imagined.
"Right," he began, still wary. Old habits died hard. He thought for a moment of what they could talk about, but everything he came up with was either inane or a charged subject that would inevitably lead to an unfriendly fight. After a moment, he just sighed. "Holding up all right?"
Draco looked away and nonchalantly dug his hands in the pockets of his black slacks. He didn’t exactly feel like talking about the subject that kept him worried and awake at night these days, least of all with Potter, but he figured the other wizard would broach the topic sooner or later anyhow.
“Things are going as well as planned. There isn’t much that can be done until the cure is properly brewed,” he replied, keeping his tone succinct. “Hermione’s worked really hard with the research – it won’t be long until pays off,” he added, noticing with inner smugness the slight twitch in Harry’s expression when he spoke Hermione’s name.
Malfoy was throwing around Hermione's name much too casually for Harry's tastes, but given the time that they'd each spent with her lately, Harry oughtn't be surprised. That didn't stop it from rankling, though. "She's the cleverest witch I know," he said, unable to keep the tightness out of his voice. "If there is a cure to be found, she'll find it."
“Of course she will,” Draco blurted out in a tone of such sudden conviction that surprised both him and the wizard before him. He hadn’t meant to say that, of course; but then, he didn’t seem to mean to do a lot of things these days.
Turning away, Draco pushed himself off and began walking towards the bookshelf next to where Harry sat. For the next few minutes, he did not speak, but instead entertained his former school foe with a slightly uneasy silence as his eyes interestedly perused the titles of each tome on the shelf.
Finally, after some time, he let out a soft sigh and continued, “So Potter…ready to take on the bad guys again?”
Harry was silent for a long time while he considered the question. Remus had been very understanding about the possibility that Harry would want to stay out of the conflict this time, but everyone else seemed to think that he'd be jumping into the fray and taking on the mantle of Hero again. The title hadn't sat well with him before, and it didn't sit well with him now. Even if there were any heroics to be done, his time for them had passed. They didn't need him for this war, and if the cure weren't discovered soon he wouldn't be around for it at all. "Ask me again when the cure is found," he finally said. "The question is moot before that."
Draco raised an eyebrow in curiosity. “Is that so…and why is that? I don’t see why the cure should have anything to do with your readiness to tackle the likes of my father and his bloodthirsty cronies,” he pointed out as he crossed his arms and gazed down at Harry.
For a moment, Harry just stared. Was the ex-Slytherin being his snide self, or did he really didn't know? Harry would have thought that Hermione had told Malfoy about his condition, but evidently she didn't. Well, he didn't have to know anyway - he'd just get more smarmy or, worse yet, pity Harry.
"I don't see what your father's antics have to do with me," Harry said brusquely.
Draco regarded Harry with a suspicious eye. It was obvious by the raven-haired wizard’s choice of answer that he was hiding something from him.
Sugar: “There’s no need to redirect the subject at hand, Potter. Why is the cure so important to you? Personally, I don’t see a reason why you’d care, unless you are worried over the fate of my godfather…but then even that sounds a bit too farfetched,” he commented as he proceeded to examine the bookshelf directly behind Harry.
Damn. Malfoy had changed more than Harry had expected if he could let a dig at his lineage. Still, Harry was reluctant to reveal his vulnerability. "The fate of your godfather is linked directly to the fate of my friend," he said quietly. "If Snape dies, so does Remus."
This was, of course, no news to Draco, who’d recently only been told of the fated bond between his godfather and Remus Lupin by Severus himself. However, he hadn’t been aware that Harry would be so affected by the prospect of Remus dying that he would set aside a raging war for it.
“That I already knew,” he announced when Harry finished talking. “But it amazes me that you would put Lupin’s welfare first on your list, above the well-being of the entire wizarding British Isles.”
"Then you don't know me at all, do you?" The words came out harsher than intended, but it worked for Harry's purposes. The pain, which had settled to a dull ache for the past hour or so, was starting to make itself known again. He wasn't going to be able to keep up this conversation much longer, and the sooner he pissed off the ex-Slytherin, the sooner he could go back to his room where the Silencing Wards would confine his screams to the room.
Deciding he couldn't wait for the other man to storm out of the room, he decided to do it himself. Unfortunately, as he pushed himself out of his chair, his knees buckled as a shaft of pain sliced through him, and although he clenched his teeth tightly, he was unable to keep from crying out as he went down.
Harry’s sudden howl of pain and tumble to the floor startled Draco, and it was by pure reflex that he found himself rushing towards the fallen hero and hoisting him up. Once he realized what he had done, however, he was slightly shocked but he guessed Potter would probably be the one to be more taken aback by his actions.
“Potter…what’s wrong with you?” he asked, more curious than concerned about Harry’s health, as he secured Harry’s arm around his neck and placed his own arm around the other man’s waist to keep him from leaning towards the side and falling back down.
Later, when he had the presence of mind to do so, Harry would be mortified that he'd tumbled down in such a humiliating manner and that it would be Malfoy of all people who'd caught him and held him up. At the moment, though, it was all he could do to simply keep from letting himself fall into incoherent screams. The pain had returned hard and fast this time, giving him no opportunity to prepare himself for it.
Arms tightening around the other man's shoulders, Harry sucked in a breath as another wave lanced through him. He forced his attention on Malfoy's words, trying : to concentrate on replying rather than dwelling on his aching body. "What...do you think...is wrong with me?" he asked through gritted teeth.
Draco did not miss how each word that passed Harry’s lips seemed to do so laboriously, and it did not take a fool to guess that Harry was in much pain. It might have been because he hadn’t been around Grimmauld Place lately, and whenever he was he had steered clear of Potter’s way, but he had never been aware that Potter too was suffering from some ill condition or malady. He briefly wondered why
Hermione had failed to mention this to him, but then he decided that she probably thought he wouldn’t really care, and for the most part, she might’ve been right. “How should I know?” Draco shot back, allowing the other wizard to add more weight to him as he trudged the both of them towards the library door. “Look Potter…d’you want to go to St. Mungo’s? You can barely walk…good Merlin…we can Floo there…”
Each step was a fiery knife through him; each step was a stumble that had him sagging more and more against Draco. Harry's feet wouldn't step down properly; he'd land on the outside edge or his ankle and slip before the other man managed to catch him and hoist him back up.
He barely registered Malfoy's words, but at the mention of St. Mungo's, he squeezed the blond man's shoulder harder. "No...use. Need...cure."
“Cure? What cure? Potter…I don’t know what you mean…which cure, have you got it?” Draco pressed further, completely at a loss of what to do. He considered ignoring Harry’s words and heading off for the fireplace to Floo them to St. Mungo’s anyway, but if Potter had some sort of medicine already inside the house, going all the way to the hospital would be a waste of time.
Struggling to keep his balance with Potter leaning fully into his side, Draco tried to get some more sense out of his former foe once more. “Potter, you’ve got to tell me more…what cure are you talking about?”
Either he wasn't making much sense or Malfoy was thicker than expected. Harry preferred to believe in the latter. He also would have preferred to give the question a scathing retort, but his mind was otherwise preoccupied at the moment. With great effort, he bit out, "Cruc...cruciatus."
Draco froze as he heard the dreaded word escape Harry’s lips. He’d had a hunch that Harry was referring to that particular cure, but to think that everyone surrounding him was involved in that horrible condition sickened him. It was killing his godfather, for Merlin’s sake, and while he wasn’t sure how disappointed he would be if it did kill Harry, he had so much loathing for it that even the mention of its cure brought bile to rise up his throat.
“There’s no cure yet, Potter, you know that. We’re still working on it, perfecting it. Hermione needs to crack the code…until then, we haven’t got a cure. Potter you need to lie in, if you’re this bad, you shouldn’t be walking around…Merlin I can’t believe I didn’t know…” Draco said, shifting directions from the living room towards the staircase. “I’ll need to get you up the stairs now, Potter…hold on to the railing while I lift you up.”
Truth be told, he wasn’t exactly certain why he was being so helpful to his former enemy, who even now barely showed him the light of day. Thinking in his own favor, he attributed his current bout of kindness to Hermione’s influence and the hidden inner Samaritan in him.
Getting up the stairs was an agonizingly long trip. It took three tries for Harry to find the rail and hang onto it and going up each step seemed to take eternity. Harry's breaths were fast and shallow now; perspiration dotted his forehead and upper lip. Hanging on to consciousness by sheer will, he could only hope that he managed to get to his room before he collapsed completely.
It was easy to see that Potter would not last much longer. Each step he took made him weaker, and Draco dreaded the thought of heaving an unconscious Potter to the man’s bedroom and into his bed.
“Hang on, Potter…just a few more steps…” he coaxed, pulling his housemate harder up the steps.
Eventually, after nearly ten strenuous minutes, they both successfully arrived at the second floor corridor, and Draco began dragging Harry across once more.
Harry wasn't sure how long the walk down the hallway took; he'd lost sense of time by then. Finally, he was half-heaved, half-dropped onto the bed and he looked up through hazy vision to see Malfoy's pale head standing out starkly against the darkness of his room. He knew he ought to say something, some sort of reassurance or at the very least a thanks, but such words were beyond him at the moment.
"Go," he whispered, just before he teetered and fell into the yawning chasm of unconsciousness.