Title: Burn, Burn
Summary: The tireless dance of the flame, random and hypnotic, burned Draco’s retinas but he refused to look away. Closer, closer he reached until his palm hovered above the tiny flame. Three, two, then one inch away.
Warnings (if any): Disturbing imagery, self-mutilation, light bondage
Total word count: 9,800
Original prompt request number: 98
Disclaimer: This story/artwork is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books, Raincoat Books, and Warner Bros. Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
Author's notes: Special thanks to romaine24 for talking me through my fear of writing bondage and helping me figure out how I wanted to tie (snicker) it all together.
Beta(s): Thank you so much to my amazing betas, norton_gale, the_flic and vaysh. I continued to play after you ladies were done, all mistakes are mine.
Burn, burn the life, that you can choose
Burn, burn the hate, that gets, you through
Burn, burn for us, for them, for you
Burn, Burn by Lostprophets
I am writing as promised to confirm I have arrived safely and without incident. After all we have been through, being back at Hogwarts is surreal. The castle is beautiful in peacetime. Words cannot express how grateful I am to be here.
All is well, finally.
Draco rolled the parchment, grabbed his sealing wax and pulled the nearest candle closer. The dorm room was cold; he leaned into the heat, losing himself in the flame as it flickered silently amid the constant draft of the dungeon.
Finally, he raised the stick of red wax and warmed it, watching the tip morph into a glistening liquid. One large drop slipped from the end and landed on his hand, looking like blood a split second before it hardened.
Draco hissed at the sharp sensation. Smearing the thick red over the parchment, he pressed in his family’s seal, then pushed the parchment and sealing wax to the side.
The dorm room was rather too quiet. Not a single other boy from Draco’s year had returned. Zabini had managed to pass the NEWTs exams offered by the Ministry mid-summer. Nott had been killed during a raid sometime during seventh year, according to the statement that his father had given to Aurors. Draco had read it in the Prophet weeks ago.
He'd heard nothing about Goyle. Neither he nor his father had been heard from since the final battle. Their faces appeared on the Wanted posters throughout Wizarding Britain. They likely would have been better off if they'd stood trial, his mother had said. Those who pled guilty were treated well enough. Draco had received three months house arrest with the condition that he return to Hogwarts. His father was given twenty-seven weeks in Azkaban and five years house arrest following that.
He should be grateful, he'd been told.
The tireless dance of the flame, random and hypnotic, burned Draco’s retinas but he refused to look away. Flicker, flicker, dance, the flame trembled with each exhale, but never extinguished.
His right hand tentatively rose, palm out, fingers spread wide. Closer, closer it crept. The heat gathered around it, a sentinel to the danger. Close enough, his instinct screamed. Closer, closer he reached until his palm hovered above the tiny flame. Three, two, then one inch away.
Draco stopped, waited and watched. It wasn’t until he detected the putrid scent of burning flesh that he pulled back.
Harry watched the first light of the morning creep through the dirty glass of his dorm room window. In the bed next to his, Ron woke with a contented sigh. “It’s like we never left, eh?” Without waiting for a reply, he got up and padded towards the showers.
Ron was right. Everything was disgustingly familiar, the sheets, the curtains, the walls. The sunshine stretched across the room, illuminating the dance of the otherwise invisible dust particles in the air. It was all as if the war never happened.
Harry pressed his eyes shut, wishing the constant pounding in his head would dissipate. It had been over three months since he’d had a decent night’s sleep, and his headache showed no sign of fading any time soon.
Ron inhaled and wrinkled his nose. “Did the house-elves burn the sausages this morning?” he asked in horror.
Harry sniffed as he followed Ron into the Great Hall. He had to agree: the stale smell of smoke masked the usually appetizing smell of breakfast.
Hermione – who was likely on her third cup of tea already – shuffled over to make room at their usual spot. Harry swallowed his annoyance at the continuity, another reminder that he was the only one not enamoured with returning to the pre-war norm.
“McGonagall said there’d been a fire in the kitchen last night. We're to suffer with toast and marmalade this morning" – she raised her hand – “and no grumbling from you, Ron.”
Ron grimaced at his plate, but said nothing.
Harry picked up a slice of toast and sniffed it, then nibbled a corner. His stomach protested and he returned it to the plate. He looked up just in time to see Ginny passing behind Ron, giving him a shove as she walked by. Innocent as you please, her hand entwined with Neville’s. Ron’s eyes narrowed, but he turned his head back to the table, and his breakfast. When Harry gave her a nod, she winked in reply. He really was happy for her; Neville made her smile more than he ever could.
“So, did they think it was arson?” Harry asked, returning his attention to his companions.
“Arson?” Ron looked shocked that Harry would even consider such a thing. As though Hogwarts was neutral territory that didn’t see the nasty realities of life, despite the obvious evidence to the contrary.
Hermione just looked at him sympathetically. “Oh, Harry. It was a kitchen fire. These things happen.”
Harry bit his cheek to quell the urge to snarl at her.
“Don’t look at me like that, Harry,” Hermione reprimanded. “We’ve not been back at school for twenty-four hours and you're already playing Sherlock Holmes.”
Harry’s “What? I am not,” and Ron’s “Who?” tumbled over each other.
“Every year it’s the same, Harry.”
Hermione shook her head, jumping to explain. “We all know that you had reason to be paranoid before. But this year you're free. Voldemort’s gone; you need to get back to living a normal life.”
Harry wanted to argue with her. He’d never had a normal life, he still had a lot of reasons to be paranoid, and Hermione knew all that already. But the more he argued, the more likely he was to get (yet another!) "You should get therapy"- lecture. So he shut up, bit a corner off his toast and decided to ask Kreacher about the fire later.
He is flying far above the flames, racing his broom to the safety that lies beyond the door. The fire burns his feet, his hands. It makes him remember he is alive. Shapes begin to form in the endless inferno, snakes and dragons, rearing up at him, nipping his heels. He leans forward, pushing his broom to the limit.
“Don’t leave me here,” a voice calls to him from the flames. “Don’t leave me."
It's Crabbe, he knows. But if he turns back – if he reaches out his hand – he will be pulled down. Devoured.
He doesn’t look back and yet he still sees Crabbe swallowed by the flames, screaming as his blackened skin begins to melt off his body, leaving a corpse of muscle and bone and wails that echo endlessly in Draco’s ears.
When he finally reaches the door and his lungs are shocked with clean air, the wailing only gets louder.
He falls to the floor in tears, the image of Crabbe’s mutilated body branded behind his eyelids. For the hundredth time, he wishes that he’d turned back and let the flames steal him, too.
Draco woke with a start, his eyes wet and cheeks puffy. The dream had left him shaken. They always did.
He blinked and shook his head, letting reality stream back to him at its own pace. With some confusion, he realised he wasn't in his bed. He was lying on the floor outside the Slytherin common room, his pyjamas smeared with soot, and damp with sweat.
The Hogwarts beds had not improved Harry’s sleeping problems; if anything, they'd made his insomnia worse. Hermione called it Survivor’s Guilt, but Harry hadn’t bothered to read anything more than the titles of the many books he'd been given on the topic.
Whatever was troubling Harry, no one else seemed to be affected. As far as he could tell, everyone else slept, ate, and thought about the future. They didn’t dread each dawn that brought a tedious new day.
Only twice so far this year had Harry felt something other than nothingness. The first was the mystery of the kitchen fire, but that had quickly dissipated. Kreacher had confirmed that it was likely nothing more than a containment spell on the oven fire failing, certainly 'nothing for Good Master Harry to worry about.’
And the second was just the day before in Potions. He and Ron had arrived late. The lesson was well underway, Draught of Living Death bubbling away throughout the class.
Malfoy’s station was at the back, by the door. It was a rare moment when Malfoy was unaware he was being watched, Harry knew. Harry’s memories flooded forth of tears and water and blood. But there were no tears this time. Malfoy’s face was blank and cold, as empty as Harry felt. Then Malfoy touched the cauldron edge and let it burn him and the emptiness was gone, replaced with something else entirely.
“I just think it’s weird, that’s all,” Harry said. He pushed past some gawking first years rushing to get to History of Magic on time.
“I’m sure you saw wrong,” Hermione said, jogging to keep up with Harry’s quick stride.
“I did not,” Harry grumbled through a clenched jaw. No matter what he seemed to say these days, everyone thought him obsessed with intrigue. “He burned his hand on the side of a cauldron. On purpose. Ron, you saw it.”
Ron frowned. “I’m sorry, mate. All I saw was him pulling away and putting his hand in his pocket. Maybe he touched the cauldron by mistake and he was embarrassed. Bloody stupid thing to do, studying NEWTs potions and not knowing to keep your hands off.”
“Maybe he needs a Butterbeer cork necklace?” suggested Luna.
Harry shut his eyes tightly. Luna had been popping in and out of their conversations, since the beginning of September.
“No, really,” Luna explained. “The corks keep away Worfledorts, which can sneak around you when someone important to you dies. I bet Draco had one on his hands and tried to burn it off. Of course that doesn’t work nearly as well as Butterbeer corks. Elf-wine corks work, too.”
“Er… I don’t think that’s Malfoy’s problem, Luna, but thanks.”
Luna shrugged as she always did when someone discounted her theories. But she added, “I still think it’s Worfledorts. After Mum died, they got pretty bad. I even cut myself once, until I got this of course.“ – she ran a hand along her necklace tenderly – “I hope he hasn’t been hurting himself. He’s been wearing that bandage for weeks.”
That part was true at least, not the Worfledorts, but the bandage – Draco had been walking with a white cotton wrap around his left hand since the beginning of school. Harry’d forgotten about it until now. A sharp jolt of pity twisted in his stomach at the thought of Malfoy grief-stricken enough to burn himself.
Of course, it was possible that Harry was losing his mind. Perhaps all he needed were some Butterbeer corks.
But Harry clearly remembered Malfoy’s hand reaching out, gently grazing the side of the cauldron. Malfoy’s eyes fell shut, and his expression became intense. The hand was not retracted immediately, as one would having suffered an accidental touch. Instead, it remained on the painfully hot metal, Draco's once-stony face filled with raw emotion, as though he were indulging in a guilty pleasure. Harry’s face had flushed at the pure intimacy of the moment, almost as though he’d witnessed something indecent.
Harry was pulled from his thoughts as the crowd around began to thicken and slow. There was some sort of commotion ahead, students had started to gather at the entrance to the History of Magic classroom, but no one was entering.
The chatter around him grew louder with nervous excitement. There had been another fire.
Harry pushed his way through the crowd and it separated for him as easily as it would the Headmistress.
The fire had been doused not long before. The classroom was still thick with smoke. A dozen house-elves were working throughout the room, clearing the air with some sort of vacuum type suction (though without the actual vacuum as the conduit). Others seemed to be soaking the classroom through with an Aguamenti, ensuring not a spark remained.
The entire classroom was a blackened mess: slimy, dirty water and stinking, unbreathable air.
Destruction, was all Harry could think. Useless, pointless destruction.
The Headmistress arrived, followed by a flurry of other professors shouting for everyone to return to their dorms. Harry ignored them.
Immediately, one elf ran to her to report. The damage to the classroom was significant but not structurally relevant – though a magical building expert would need to confirm this. Nothing was worth salvaging; the burnt desks and chairs and books had all been rendered worthless.
In the far corner of the room, a young elf picked up a thin length of material. Harry’s heart pounded in his chest as he watched the inspection. He took a step forward, arm outstretched to snatch the evidence, but the elf waved his tiny hand and the familiar white cloth disappeared.
So much for the sanctity of an investigation site, Harry thought.
Throughout it all, Binns stood at the soot-covered blackboard, scribbling notes and mumbling his lesson to the non-existent class.
Draco stood under the harsh spray of the hot shower. The disgusting smell still haunted him, clinging to his skin.
The foul air invaded his nose and burned his eyes. He hissed as the stream of water caught his left hand vulnerable and sensitive without its bandages.
History, it seemed, was doomed to repeat itself – if Harry Potter had a personal motto, that would be it.
Harry knew better than to approach Hermione and Ron with his suspicions. They were as stubborn now as they had been in sixth year. Accusing anyone of incriminating behaviour – let alone Draco Malfoy – was futile.
Unfortunately, McGonagall was no better. “That is not evidence, Mr. Potter. That is a pure coincidence. Your proof is circumstantial at best,” she said.
She continued, her stern eyes willing Harry to understand, “Harry, now is the time for healing and mending bridges. Perhaps it is hardest just after the war, but that's when it is most important. The Wizengamot thought long and hard about the fate of Mr. Malfoy. It was not a whimsical decision to insist he return here. He needs to find his place in the Wizarding world again. It is best for all that he do so in a safe environment, surrounded by positive influences. I stand by the Wizengamot’s decision. Draco Malfoy is a student here and will be treated with the same respect as everyone else.”
She stood to leave, and Harry followed her cue. Before opening the door, she added, “I will pass on the information you provided to the Aurors investigating the fire. Any talk of this among other students will be considered rumour-spreading and will be dealt with swiftly.”
Before he could shake off his disbelief and defend himself, the door was opened and he was shooed out.
It is my fifth week at Hogwarts and my tenth letter to you. I am beginning to feel like a first-year writing so frequently, but if my letters reassure you, it's worth my time twenty-fold.
I am finding endless pleasure in my studies. There are so few distractions this year that I am aiming for seven NEWTs. It is a wondrous freedom to be allowed to think of and to strive toward one’s future.
I have much to be thankful for, and I hope to never forget that fact.
Draco rolled the parchment with trembling fingers. He reached for his sealing wax and bit his lip until he tasted blood.
Harry waved at a portrait of Fingal the Fearless before he remembered he was under his Invisibility Cloak. For weeks now, Harry had wandered the halls of Hogwarts during the wee hours of the morning.
He told himself he was keeping watch, keeping everyone safe, trying to prevent another fire or something else. But when he was honest with himself, he knew he was jumping at his suspicions, drawing conclusions that suited his needs.
His headaches were impossible to deal with, his insomnia was progressing at an alarming rate. The monotony of his everyday life drove him to near hysterics, and the thought of another day pretending to be fine was worst of all. He was desperate for a distraction.
Malfoy had been anything but suspicious lately, unless you counted his unusually quiet and polite behaviour. He was endlessly courteous, but rarely made eye contact. He avoided most students, Harry most of all, but these were hardly things to warrant another lecture from McGonagall.
Yet each time Harry saw that bandage, Luna’s words echoed in his mind. He couldn’t help but think there was much going on behind those empty eyes and toneless voice. Malfoy was falling apart. Harry felt it and he hated that there was nothing he could do to prove it or stop it.
He was tempted to give up his ‘theory’ as McGonagall called it (better than ‘obsession’ which would be Hermione’s word of choice, if she knew). But tonight, he would keep his vigil once again. It was better than the mockery of lying in his bed, dreading the endless hours until sunrise.
Draco tucked a Knut into the satchel carried by the tawny owl and retrieved his morning Prophet, carefully using only his right hand.
Weeks of constant abuse had begun to deteriorate the functioning of his left hand. It was still raw from two nights ago and the tingle of healing skin made him itch. He longed to unwind the bandage and gently run his nails along the soft tissue pulled tight in a newly forming scar.
With practiced ease, he single-handedly unfurled the paper, placing it beside his croissant and tea. Every movement was careful and deliberate, as it had been since he'd returned to Hogwarts. He blew gently on his tea and took a tentative sip, glancing at the front page for the first time.
His cup dropped with a loud shatter, sloshing tea onto the table and his lap. He jumped to his feet, vanishing the mess with the wave of his wand. Clenching his teeth, he forced himself not to meet the gazes throughout the Hall that were surely turned to him.
With impeccable grace he sat down again and poured a fresh cup. His right hand, with only the slightest of tremors, reached out and flipped over the morning paper – hiding the bloodied body and dead eyes of Gregory Goyle.
I am fine. Thank you for your concern. The Goyles made their choice and we made ours. Clearly, the Malfoys chose the better path. Going into hiding was a foolish decision.
Do not concern yourself with me. Our family is on the road to redemption. We are far removed from the disgrace of our former acquaintances.
He could barely calm himself enough to roll and seal the parchment properly. Too tight or too loose, a crumpled edge or smeared wax and his mother would become suspicious, as if she wasn’t already.
He focused on breathing – in, hold, slowly out – until the trembling had subsided enough to complete the chore of reassuring his mother. He counted to thirty as the seal hardened before placing it delicately aside.
He ripped at his bandages, cursing the intricately entwined wrap. It had been torture waiting since breakfast. Sitting and listening and nodding and smiling while his head pounded for the one thing that would give him a moment’s reprieve from the guilt that corroded him hollow.
His eyes ached as he stared unblinking at the flames burning their mark on him once again. Adrenaline and relief flooded him in equal measure, like the greeting of a favourite friend. Finally, the pain became unbearable, and he snapped his hand away.
With the utmost of care he replaced his wrapping, snuffed the candle and crawled into his bed. Cradling his hand too tightly, he hoped the nightmares would pass him over tonight.
At breakfast that morning, Luna had handed him a bracelet made of Butterbeer corks.
She didn’t provide any explanation but tied to the bracelet was a note. “For Draco Malfoy.” Harry looked at her in confusion for a moment, but she walked away with a sad, preoccupied smile before he could ask why she didn’t give Malfoy the bracelet herself.
Just then a clatter across the Hall caught everyone’s attention. The look on Malfoy’s face as he stared at the spilled tea that morning would haunt him for years, he was sure. Malfoy looked shattered for an instant, and yet within a blink he’d recovered, stiff-backed and stony-faced.
But Harry had kept watching: watching the shaking hand casually flipping the Prophet over, the slight grey turn of his complexion, the slow sips of tea and the untouched breakfast that said his mind was elsewhere and just biding his time until he could walk out without anyone noticing. Harry hadn’t understood until Hermione silently slipped the morning paper under his nose.
He was disgusted. The Prophet’s front page articles were always pure gore to sell papers. A teenager who leapt to his death while running from Aurors was news; the close-up photograph of the same was uncalled for.
There was no love lost between Harry and Gregory Goyle, but he still felt empathy for Malfoy, who had been willing to die in the Room of Requirement rather than leave his friend. For Goyle to then take his own life must be devastating.
In his gut, he knew that the next fire would be tonight. If Malfoy was involved in any way with the fires, that Prophet article would be a catalyst for another incident. His only hope was stopping him before he hurt anyone.
The Marauders' Map said Malfoy was in his Slytherin dorm room. He’d been in there since classes ended. Harry sat in a corridor outside the Slytherin dungeons, waiting.
He stuck his hand in his pocket and discovered Luna’s bracelet. Suddenly, another thought crossed his mind.
Harry jumped to his feet and shouted, “Kreacher!”
His broom is too slow; he isn’t going to make it to the door in time. The oxygen in the air is quickly being consumed by the blaze. Soon his lungs will fill with nothing but black smoke, and he will pass out, fall off him broom and plummet to the fire below.
Draco looks behind him to see what is hindering his broom.
He didn’t know how he recognized them – blackened and mutilated as they were – but Goyle and Crabbe are behind him, each with a hand on the bristles of his broom. Their identical manic laughs pierce through the roar of the fire. A large hand, seemingly made of fire, grabs a hold of his shin and holds tight.
He is being pulled in, consumed. The flames scorch his skin, in another moment he will be as inhuman as his old friends, another creature of the Fiendfyre.
Finally, it is over.
Harry paced impatiently through the maze of corridors outside the Slytherin dungeons. Kreacher had promised to be back in an instant once he’d checked on Malfoy.
A Tempus charm showed ten minutes had passed. Harry kicked the stone wall and cursed when pain shot through his leg. Something had to be wrong.
Just then Kreacher appeared, with a whimper. The grey hairs in his ears shook as his little body convulsed.
“Master Harry, sir – ” he gasped ” – you must help Kreacher.”
“Is there another fire? Is someone in danger?”
“Young Malfoy,” Kreacher wheezed. Harry hadn’t seen the elf this upset since he’d told him the story of Regulus Black’s death. “Master Harry must help!”
It took all Harry’s effort to speak calmly to Kreacher and not demand more information. “I'll help. I promise,” he reassured. Grasping the small hand, he added, “Tell me where he is.”
Kreacher nodded, and after a quick Apparition, he and Harry were inside the Slytherin common room. Harry looked around in confusion; the room was deserted.
“Kreacher cannot take you to Master Draco. House-elf magic protects Master and castle. Kreacher knows Master Draco is in great danger,” Kreacher pointed to a door at the far end of the room. “Kreacher could not help Master Draco. House-elf magic tells Kreacher to get a wizard.”
Harry ran for the door, perplexed. If a house-elf’s magic prevented it from Apparating directly or even entering the room, the conditions inside had to be dire. “Wake McGonagall! Get more help,” he shouted back to Kreacher.
Harry cast a Shield Charm before testing the door. It was hot. Only then did he realise why Kreacher had been unable to open the door.
Once the door was opened, the fire inside could explode into the oxygen-filled common room.
Harry cast a Blocking Charm behind himself, warding the rest of the room from what lay beyond the door. He hoped it would be enough.
Fire everywhere was all Harry could see. Flames reached from floor to ceiling, engulfing half the beds and rising up the bed curtains. Harry recalled in an instant that Malfoy was alone in the room this year, as no other Slytherin boy of his year had returned. At this moment, he was very grateful for that.
The bed nearest the door was occupied, but had yet to be touched by the fire. It was only a matter of minutes before it too was ablaze.
Harry stepped into the room. The heat was overwhelming. He flashed back to another fire, one where he’d saved Malfoy once before. He would do it again. Then he’d stop the bastard from ever casting another Incendio.
Instinctively, he used an Aguamenti and an Impervius on his clothes and covered his mouth with his wet sleeve. Harry crawled over to the occupied bed, keeping low to the ground.
He didn’t know what he expected to find – Malfoy curled up in a panic? Malfoy grinning at his handiwork? – but it certainly wasn’t this.
Malfoy was asleep. It hit Harry like a slap in the face.
Answers would come later. Right now he needed to get out of there. He blinked hard against the dry, smoky air. His lungs had begun to revolt against the limited oxygen. “Malfoy!” he shouted. Surely he would wake. Every ounce of self preservation in Harry’s body screamed at him to retreat.
“Malfoy!” he shouted again, desperation making his voice crack. He reached down and half dragged, half carried the body off the bed.
Still no reaction.
He was either unconscious or dead; Harry didn’t stop to feel for a pulse.
He pulled the dead weight of the taller boy, lifting him under his arms. Malfoy’s heels dragged along the carpet as Harry stumbled his way to the door.
Harry's shoulder slammed into something, but he couldn’t stop to look behind himself. He knew the door was the only way out.
A few more feet and his vision began to blur, the ache in his chest reminding him of that time in the lake – almost drowning in the Triwizard tournament, his lungs burning with the desperate need for oxygen.
He needed to get to the door. Nothing else mattered. He had to survive. And Malfoy was going with him.
Finally, he heard shouts. Help had arrived. They were working to get through his wards.
Only a few more steps. They were there – voices – he could rest, he could breathe – just a few more steps.
His shoulder slammed into something again. This time he knew what it was: the door frame.
With one last step he fell backwards through the door to safety, pulling the unconscious body of Draco Malfoy through with him.
The familiar bustling sounds of Madam Pomfrey scurrying about the hospital wing told Harry he’d escaped safely. The room was dimly lit, and he could hear the low chatter of voices.
“His mother will need to be contacted, immediately.”
“Mr. Malfoy is eighteen,” – Harry gratefully noted use of the present tense – “We have to be careful. Next of kin should not be contacted without his consent. We can give him a few hours to recover, then discuss the matter with him.”
“Minerva, what about the authorities?” asked Madam Pomfrey.
“A team of Aurors are investigating. Mr. Malfoy’s wand was destroyed in the fire, as were all his belongings. There is no proof he committed any crime or that he was intending to hurt anyone, with the possible exception of himself.”
Madam Pomfrey humphed her disbelief. She moved across the room to the bed adjacent to Harry’s. Harry sensed the gentle rustle of movement. Then Madam Pomfrey said, “I need to show you this,” and was greeted with a sharp intake of breath by the Headmistress.
“Those aren’t fresh wounds," Pomfrey continued. "His left hand has been burned repeatedly for months now, as far as I can tell.”
“Thank you, Poppy,” McGonagall said in a sombre tone. “But he is still a student of this school, and unless he has committed a crime, he will remain under our protection.” More gently, she added, “He needs our help. Whatever is happening here, he is a deeply troubled young man, but I don’t believe he is intentionally hurting anyone else.”
“You know, it could be Accidental Magic acting up. It’s been known to happen to fully-trained wizards in times of extreme distress,” Poppy said sympathetically.
“He will need to be watched carefully, regardless. But if it is Accidental Magic that is doing this, then he needs to solve some bigger issues than a few scars on his hand.”
McGonagall looked up just then, noticing Harry. “I see our hero is awake. Perfect timing. I have some things I need to discuss with you, Mr Potter.”
“Minerva! He’s suffering from severe smoke inhalation. You mustn’t stress him.”
“I won’t. I promise, Poppy. Five minutes and I will leave you both in peace.”
“So, you think I started that fire, then?”
Draco shook his head and said, “Don’t know, do I? As far as I know, I was asleep.” He wrinkled his nose at the dorm room’s décor. “What makes you think I won’t torch this place?” He didn’t bother to add that the flames might go unnoticed amidst the garish red and gold.
“Well, all candles and torches have been removed from the room.” Potter lifted his wand to the fading daylight. “Just Lumos will have to get us through for now. Beside each bed and each desk there’s a ball of light that will disappear with a Nox and reappear at next nightfall.”
Draco eyed his old hawthorn wand, that Potter had left unceremoniously on his nightstand in the hospital wing. It was now one of the only things he owned at Hogwarts.
“It’s been altered,” Harry said, nodding to the wand. “No fire-creating spells can be cast – Incendio, Fiendfyre – nothing that makes a flame.” Then Harry added almost in apology, “I think warming charms, too.”
Potter motioned to the end of the bed. “Your new trunk. There are new books and some clothes in there. Kreacher, the house-elf that saved your life,” Harry said pointedly, “volunteered to go to Diagon Alley and replace your stuff.”
“A house-elf saved me? I thought St. Potter pulled me from Death’s grasp.”
“Kreacher Apparated me to your door. House-elf magic prevented him from entering and likely killing himself and you. So he came to me.”
Draco remained silent.
“Maybe someday you can thank him. He’s an old elf from the House of Black. He did this for you personally, and for your mother, I guess.”
Suddenly, the walls seemed to be closing in on him. “My mother?”
Potter’s frown deepened. “She hasn’t been told, nor your father, obviously. You are eighteen. If you tell McGonagall not to inform your parents, she won’t, and I related that to Kreacher. He used the Black family vault for this stuff. It seemed appropriate.”
Draco was rescued from this mortifying litany of generosity and from the gratitude traitorously building inside him by the door to the dorm room slamming open. Weasley burst through and stopped immediately at the sight of Draco. His eyes narrowed and his mouth opened, but closed as Potter shook his head slightly.
With a grunt, Weasley turned back towards the door. “We’ll be in the common room when you're done with the arsonist.”
The door rattled on its hinges as it slammed behind him. All was not sunshine and flowers in hero land, obviously.
“Anyway – Hermione’s been quick-copying her notes for you. I reckon you’ll find most of them on your nightstand. Check them over and let her know if you have any questions about her colour coding or… whatever. And that Butterbeer cork bracelet's from Luna.” Draco looked at him in horror. “Don’t ask.”
Potter shifted his weight from foot to foot. “So, that’s it then.” He fidgeted further. “I’ll just be over here. “ He tumbled into the bed next to Draco’s and pulled out a book from under the pillows.
Draco opened his trunk and began to sort through what Potter’s house-elf had deemed clothing. He raised an eyebrow at the cashmere and silks. He was a Black elf after all, but he clearly didn’t do Potter’s shopping. Draco snorted.
Potter looked up. “Everything okay?”
“Fine,” Draco responded through clenched teeth. If Potter expected a ‘thank you’ he could get stuffed. The elf would get an appropriate nod should Draco see him, and maybe Granger if the notes were worth it (colour coding, Merlin help him!). But Potter could kiss his perky pale arse.
It was time to write his mother; it had been a few days and she’d be in a panic by now. As he reached for a quill, his pulse raced and his throat closed. Even if he could manage a letter, he had no candle to warm the sealing wax and… he looked at his unbandaged left hand, badly scarred but completely healed over. He had nothing. No way of finding reprieve. The nightmares would devour him tonight.
Draco slammed the trunk shut and lay on the bed. He glanced at the huge pile of parchment on his nightstand. More grateful for the distraction than the actual content, he grabbed the top one and let his eyes blur the methodically written notes. Anything to avoid sleep.
Hours passed as Draco worked his way through Granger’s overly-complicated but effective note-taking system.
Potter was still flipping through the pages of his book. At that speed, he likely wasn’t reading a word.
“Isn’t the Weasel waiting for you?” Draco asked, finally. He didn’t want to seem anxious to be alone – that might seem suspicious, considering – but Potter didn’t look to be leaving.
“No, that’s okay. I’m… I’m fine here.”
Draco scowled. “I don’t need a babysitter.”
Potter looked guilty. Draco’s scowl deepened.
“What is it, Potter? You’re turning as red as your disgusting Gryffindor décor.”
“I told McGonagall that I’d keep an eye on you,” Potter mumbled.
Malfoy shot up in bed. “An eye on me! Like what, a guard? To protect me from myself?”
Potter was angry now. “Yes! And to protect everyone else from you, too. Look, we don’t know if you started the fires. It seems that you don’t know either.”
“I didn’t.” Draco could tell he didn't sound very convincing. There were those times, waking with ripped and burned clothes, outside of his dorm. He was certain of nothing.
“You don’t know that for sure. I’m just keeping an eye on you. If McGonagall thought you were doing it intentionally you’d be with the Aurors right now.” Potter took a calming breath. “We’ll just make the best of this, yeah?”
“And what are you going to do? Sit up and watch me all night?”
“I’ll cast an alarm to notify me if you leave the room. But I don’t sleep anymore, anyway.”
“What do you mean you don’t sleep?”
“I just… don’t.”
Draco watched as Potter rubbed his neck nervously. There was more to this than late night study sessions. “And when, Potter, was the last time you slept?”
“Why should you care?”
“I just don’t want you losing your marbles from chronic insomnia and murdering me in my sleep.”
“Shut the fuck up and go to sleep.”
Draco shut up. He grabbed his new green silk pyjama bottoms from his trunk, stripped and changed with a well-practiced lack of humility.
As he closed the curtain, the palm of his left hand itched.
Harry listened intently as Draco pulled his bed curtains closed, shut his eyes and pressed his thumb and index finger to the bridge of his nose. It had been a very long day, already. Malfoy’s bare arse a few feet from his face wasn’t helping his headache.
He got up and cast a few wards. In the slim chance he managed to fall asleep, a bell would sound to alert him if Malfoy left the room.
None of his dorm mates were back yet, likely playing Exploding Snap until they were too tired to care that a Slytherin was in their room. Malfoy couldn’t be left alone, McGonagall had said. So she had asked and Harry had agreed (He was mostly spending his time thinking about Malfoy these days anyway.). When she thanked him, her eyes had twinkled, eerily reminiscent of Dumbledore.
Anyway, they’d figured it out. It wasn’t going to be forever. Malfoy would do something soon that would help Harry understand how he was starting the fires and then he wouldn’t be Harry’s responsibility any longer. For now Harry would sit and watch and maybe even read a few of the therapy books Hermione had given him. Given the corks she'd offered Draco, Luna seemed to think what was happening was related to the deaths of Crabbe and Goyle – at least that's what he gathered.
So he’d read up on Survivor’s Guilt to see if Malfoy’s behaviour fit that pattern. He flipped open Living is the Hard Part and settled in for the evening.
His dorm mates tumbled into bed around midnight. Harry nodded to them and reached for another book. He was bored. At least wandering the halls of a drafty castle had kept his mind occupied.
At about two in the morning, he heard a low whimper, almost like the cry of a cat but far too human. It was not a pleasant sound. He stood and padded over to Malfoy’s bed. The whimper-whine came again. Harry pulled back the curtain.
Malfoy was asleep. But differently from his death-like unconsciousness the night of the fire. He was tossing his head on the pillow, muscles taut, mouth open in a silent scream.
His bare chest was covered in long red scratches. Dribbles of blood mixed with sweat and fine sparse hair. Harry stared at the fresh marks in confusion, just as Malfoy’s hand came up and dug his short nails into his chest, clawing and scraping at it.
Now Malfoy’s eyes were open, wild and lost. The scratching didn’t stop.
Harry grasped both Malfoy’s hands with his own, crawling partly onto the bed and using his weight for leverage. He pinned Malfoy’s wrists to the bed.
“Malfoy,” he whispered. There was no way Malfoy would want the entire dorm waking up. “Malfoy! Snap out of it, damn it.” Harry squeezed hard on the wrists.
Malfoy’s eyes cleared slightly, and he blinked slowly at Harry’s for a second. Then he bucked, and Harry landed on the floor with a thud.
“What the bloody hell do you think you're doing?” Malfoy all but yelled.
Harry got up slowly, giving Malfoy a moment to come back to himself. “Shhhh! Everyone’s asleep.” He ran a nervous hand through his own hair. “I reckon you were having a nightmare or something.”
He didn’t know what was going on, but he was pretty sure Malfoy hadn’t been asleep. He hurt himself intentionally, like with the hot cauldron so many weeks ago.
“So you decided to climb ON TOP OF ME?”
“You were seriously hurting yourself. I got on top of you to pin your arms down before you made it worse.”
Malfoy studied his chest, then his bloodied nails. There was no surprise, just a wrinkling of his forehead, making him look sad.
Then he turned onto his side and curled up. “Go back to bed, Potter.”
“What the hell, Malfoy!” Harry exclaimed before he could stop himself. “I thought you were having a nightmare.”
“Well, I wasn’t,” Malfoy whispered into the pillow.
“Are you going to keep tearing at your chest? Hurting yourself over and over? Like you did with your hand?”
“Fuck off, Potter. It’s none of your business,” Malfoy snarled.
Harry felt grateful. Malfoy sounded far less broken when he was angry. “Well, I’m not going to let you,” he said, determined. “I’ll tie you up or something.”
Harry could not see his expression, but Malfoy’s back went rigid.
“To stop you from hurting yourself,” Harry explained, wishing he’d never opened his stupid mouth. He blamed it all on those therapy books. He’d been reading all about needing to feel safe and one even mentioned ropes and his face was so hot now. Malfoy must think him a pervert.
“I know what you meant, idiot.”
Harry wondered if he did.
Neither spoke for a while, just Ron’s snores interrupting the silence. Harry certainly wasn’t going to say anything further. There was no way he wanted to look eager. Even if he was maybe a little curious what it would be like to pin Malfoy to the bed and bind him.
“I’ve got rope,” Harry burst out, then wanted to slap himself.
“You’ve got rope?”
Harry’s face bloomed in colour. “Or an Incarcerous would work.” It was like he couldn’t stop talking. “But it’s only two o’clock and I’m not sure I could cast it to last the rest of the night. Well, I could maybe set an alarm and cast again at five…”
Draco, thankfully, cut off his rambling. He turned his head towards Harry, staring over his own left shoulder. “And what if I let you tie me up – with rope – and you call all your Gryffindorks to come have a laugh.”
Even in half profile Harry could see Malfoy’s eyes, wide and nervous but not hard with anger. He wanted, needed Harry to deny the accusation.
Harry eyed Malfoy’s back, that pale skin rising over the sharp bone of his shoulder blade and the hard bumps of his vertebrae. He was too thin, the hunch of his shoulders too exaggerated. There was really nothing funny about any of this.
“I don’t think there’s anything funny about this. Believe it or not I’m trying to help you because I think we’ve all been through enough.”
“Fine,” Malfoy said in a flat, unreadable tone. He rolled onto his back, bringing his bare chest again into view. Trying to avoid staring at the scratches, Harry noticed the spattering of fine, nearly invisible hair that thickened and darkened slightly before dipping below his waistband.
Malfoy cleared his throat and Harry’s gaze sprang back from its exploration, only to find a glint of amusement in Malfoy’s eyes. Harry was shocked at his own audacity. He’d never checked a guy out before, never mind how inappropriate his timing was.
“You mentioned rope?”
Before Harry could say anything stupid like ‘Are you sure?’ or – Merlin forbid – ‘Thank you’, he ducked into his trunk, where he found an old rope he’d once used to bundle his books.
Malfoy snatched the rope and ran it along his hands. “Not exactly silk scarves.”
This time, Harry refused to blush. “Shut up and lay back, Malfoy.”
To Harry’s surprise, Malfoy did, raising his hands above his head, wrists together. Harry’s cock twitched. He tried to ignore it.
He sat on the bed and closed the bed curtains. There was no way his friends were going to catch him in bed with a tied-up Malfoy, even though there was nothing improper happening here. Really.
Harry couldn’t meet Malfoy’s eyes. He didn’t want to see what was there: surprise, anger, fear, confusion. Whatever Malfoy was feeling, it was personal. This situation was already far more intimate than Harry felt comfortable with.
He worked quickly, wrapping the rope first around one wrist, knotting and looping around the bar of the headboard, then knotting the other wrist. He was leaning gently over Malfoy’s bare chest, not touching him, his nightshirt falling loosely in Malfoy’s face.
Malfoy drew a sharp breath as Harry pulled the knots tight, but did not complain. Harry knew nothing of tying ropes, but he wanted to bind him firmly: Malfoy needed to know he was secure and safe. Repeating the tie, he retraced his earlier action. He pulled tighter, twisting around both wrists. Malfoy whimpered and Harry loosened his grip.
“No,” Malfoy whispered, his voice a breathless gasp. “Keep it tight.”
Harry’s cock infuriatingly responded to the desperate sound. Harry pulled hard, winding the rope around and looping it through. There was something so basic, so instinctively satisfying in creating this binding. In the freedom and trust given to him.
Malfoy’s breath was hot and quick against his chest as he made the final loop and pull.
Another stifled gasp beneath him. Harry bit his lip hard. He spent a moment longer than necessary inspecting the rope and the knots. The skin of Malfoy’s wrists was slightly pinched and already red from Malfoy’s fidgeting. It looked like it hurt, but not badly.
“I think that’s it.” Harry tried to keep the pride out of his voice. The bed curtains were closed, Malfoy was half-naked and Harry was practically lying on top of him.
“Fine. Great,” Malfoy said, chopping out the words. His voice was strange, a mixture of frustration and annoyance.
“Are you okay? If it’s too tight, I’ll fix it.” Harry leaned further forward to loosen the ropes.
“Potter!” Malfoy practically shouted, but continued in a gentler tone, “Leave it. The ropes are fine. Go to sleep.”
Malfoy’s voice was strangled this time, like he was fighting for control.
Stung by the dismissal, Harry snapped his hands away from the ropes and moved to leave. There was something perverted about how much he was enjoying this. Malfoy was seriously unstable and needed his help. He needed to focus on that.
He cleared his throat and hoped he sounded normal. “I’ll come back around daybreak and untie you, all right?”
“Fine. Yeah.” Malfoy's words sounded clipped, too quick to be casual.
Harry stole a glance at Malfoy before leaving. The scratch marks appeared less pronounced than earlier; long slashes of reddish pink disrupted the otherwise unmarked chest. His arms were pulled tight over his head, his back slightly curved. Sweat shimmered on his naked torso, the shallow dip and sparse hair of his underarms on intimate display.
Wisps of blond stuck to his damp forehead. His eyes were shut tight, as if in intense concentration.
Harry was about to ask again if it was too tight. Perhaps Malfoy was too proud to say. Harry opened his mouth but then Malfoy whimpered softly. And it did not sound like he was in pain. Quite the opposite, actually.
Harry’s eyes immediately fell to Malfoy’s crotch. The bold outline of his erection was clearly visible beneath the silk pyjamas.
Suddenly the bed seemed too small, being cocooned in behind the bed-curtains, too suffocating. Harry stumbled back to his own bed. His mind was full of ropes and sweat and scratches and hard cocks. It was going to be a long night.
Sleep was unlikely, but amazingly his headache had finally disappeared.
Draco was entirely surprised that he’d slept at all. Fortunately, a good length of rope separated him from the headboard and he could flip himself over. A half-dozen hard thrusts into the mattress had been enough to send him over the edge.
The second that rope touched the tender skin of his wrist, the second he felt the burn, he had been lost.
It was an entirely unique experience; he had no words or comparisons to use to describe the feeling. Potter’s earthy scent as he leaned so close, the rough buttons of Potter’s too-big pyjama top swaying over his face and his chest, setting Draco’s senses ablaze. The gentle tickle of his breath in Draco’s hair was in complete opposition to the forceful tug of the rope imprisoning him. It wasn’t just a hot body pressed close to him, it was being taken care of. It was shelter, sanctuary, relief.
Not only was it the first time his cock had shown any interest for months, it was the first peaceful sleep he’d has since the fire. The first fire.
Potter hadn’t met his eyes when he’d untied him this morning, but Draco practically hummed with pleasure regardless. He knew Potter likely had seen his wood last night (if not heard him humping the mattress) and maybe he should be mortified, but he felt the best he had since… he wasn’t sure that he’d ever felt this good, even with the dull ache of his abused muscles.
Besides, Potter’s blush said enough and Draco was pretty sure that when Potter leaned across him, he’d felt a half-mast, at least. Kinky bastard, Draco thought fondly.
Draco whistled on the way to the shower.
Malfoy sat at the desk and set down the quill and parchment and ink. His hand trembled. Harry watched intently. This was the sixth time today Malfoy had started this process, each time he would get this far, push away the parchment and grab for a book to pretend to read for awhile.
This time was no different, except instead of picking up the book, Malfoy just tossed everything into his trunk, threw on his pyjamas and flopped on his bed. He closed his eyes for long enough that Harry began to think he’d fallen asleep.
Harry frowned as he watched Malfoy’s steady breathing and the slow rise and fall of the naked chest, the faint bulge of the soft cock, hanging slightly left.
Perhaps he shouldn’t be staring.
He’d nearly given up the staring as slightly creepy, when Malfoy raised his hands above his head. Without opening his eyes, Malfoy drawled, “Any time you're ready, Potter.” As if Harry was about to drop the ball on a long standing tradition. He bit the inside of his cheek to stop his grin.
He seized the ropes from his trunk, sat and drew the curtains on Malfoy’s bed before he realized quite how eager he must be.
He wiped his palms on his pyjamas.
“Nervous, Potter?” Malfoy cracked an eye open.
“You wish,” Harry replied with a wide smile.
Malfoy’s eyes both opened and he took a moment to appraise Harry.
“So it helped then?” Harry lifted the ropes.
“I slept well, yes.”
“Must be nice,” Harry muttered.
“Well worth the humiliation of having you tie me up again.”
Harry started a bit at the choice of words. “You didn’t look particularly humiliated last night.”
Malfoy rolled his eyes then closed them tight. “Shut up and tie me up, Potter. Never thought you were such a gabber.”
Harry snorted but was more than happy to focus on his task without the chatter.
Malfoy hissed at the first touch of rope. His back arched and brushed against Harry’s chest ever so slightly.
Harry said nothing. He knew he could move further away. But he didn’t.
He was at an awkward angle, kneeling on the bed at Malfoy’s side. His body stretched across Malfoy's torso as he did his best to only touch where necessary – hands and wrists. But unlike last night, Malfoy wasn’t holding still. He was endlessly fidgeting.
“Make me,” Malfoy challenged.
Harry probably should have thought a moment. Probably should have paid attention to the mischievous tone of Malfoy’s voice and realized he was being played. But he didn’t. Instead he swung a leg over and sat on Malfoy’s chest.
The new position had plenty of advantages. It surprised Malfoy enough to wipe the smirk off his face, but more importantly Harry could easily lean forward and press his weight on Malfoy’s wrists, keeping them still.
Malfoy stopped struggling entirely. Harry got to work. He focused intently on wrapping and knotting, tightening until Malfoy made some sound, usually a heavy nasal whimper to indicate Harry had gotten the right tension. The looping and tying was hypnotic. He knew he was doing a better job than he had yesterday, and was already cataloguing what he would do differently next time.
There was something purposeful about doing this. He knew it was helping; it was protecting Malfoy. Harry felt it in every whimper and twitch beneath him. It was intoxicating to be in such close contact with another body, feeling the heat between his thighs.
“There,” Harry said as he looped and pulled the final knot. “Finished.”
Malfoy arched, gasping at Harry’s weight. Harry slid back further to stop inhibiting Malfoy’s breathing.
“Oh, fuck,” Malfoy cried out as Harry shifted his weight and felt a distinctive hardness pressing against the thin material covering his arse.
Harry’s apology was caught in his throat. All that mattered at the moment was Malfoy's firm length against his arse cheeks. And the total panic he felt at his own body’s reaction.
“Fuck, Potter.” Malfoy’s whole face was pinched and intense. Harry felt frozen in place. “Damn it, either move or go back to your own bed. I don’t care.”
He didn’t sound like he didn’t care, but Harry was in no position to start an argument. He would just go back to his bed and pretend nothing happened.
So when Harry lifted his leg to swing it over and instead slid it between Malfoy’s, they were both stunned into silence.
But then Malfoy shifted a bit and Harry thought he might see stars from that slight rub of hip against cock. It wasn’t like wanking or snogging Ginny. It was hard and hot and just a little painful.
He rocked back. Malfoy cried out.
They traded thrusts for a while before finally gaining a frantic rhythm. Panting and gasping like they were fighting, sweating like they were fucking. With a grunt and a shudder Malfoy came, and Harry remembered listening last night to Malfoy thrusting into his bed with his arms tied above his head and thinking, ‘I did that to him.’ And now he’d done this, too. He felt the wetness of Malfoy’s come seeping into the fabric of his own pyjamas. He bit his lip to keep from crying out as he exploded, his nose buried in the sparse hair that lined Malfoy’s chest.
Without a thought of cleaning up, he shifted his weight partly off Malfoy, collapsed and fell asleep.
He isn’t on a broom. He is standing on a pile of teetering desks and chairs and Merlin knows what, trying to stay above the blaze. More importantly, he is not alone. His arms are wrapped around the hulking shoulders of Goyle, stopping the unconscious boy from tumbling to his death. He cries for help, but it is futile. They have left him and Goyle to burn. The Boy Who Lived is his judge, jury and executioner. It is strangely poetic.
He cries out again, his voice screeching over the climbing inferno. A wosh of air breaks through the crackle of the Fiendfyre.
A hand reaches out to him.
He grasps it, hard, but his hands are sweaty, and Goyle is impossibly heavy.
“If we die for them, I’ll kill you!” And Goyle is lifted out of his arms in a flash of red and bushy brown hair.
“I’ll save you, Malfoy.”
His heart is in his throat. What about Crabbe? I need to save him. But his breath is eaten by the smoke and the broom is moving.
He isn’t the one flying. He can only hold tight. Crabbe is already dead, he knows. There is nothing he can do.
He lets himself be rescued, grateful to be alive.
Draco nudged Potter with his knee. Potter’s weight on his thigh was giving him a cramp that bordered on excruciating. “Wake up.”
“Untie me. It’s nearly morning.”
“Ghmph?” Potter said, again. But he opened his eyes this time. He looked at where he was and rolled off Draco, still half asleep. “Sorry.”
Draco shook his head. “Just untie me, idiot. Then you can go back to sleep.”
Potter looked fairly surprised, perhaps that Draco hadn't kicked him out of bed, but shrugged. Quickly he untied Draco and then, after a moment’s thought, cast a cleaning charm on both of them. He pulled the covers up over him, already nearly asleep again.
Draco smiled to himself; he felt good enough to indulge in such an act. Then it occurred to him that he felt good enough for something else as well.
My apologies for not having written. I have been unable to pick up a quill knowing that my intention is to pour more insincere platitudes into your ears. You deserve better than that.
I have been struggling, Mother. There are moments I feel such intense hatred that I am sure I will be consumed by it. I detest being here. I detest the mere thought of the future. There are moments I detest being a Malfoy, being alive.
I am not well.
But I believe I have found –
Draco searched to find the word to describe how he felt at the moment. His gaze fell to the sleeping form on his bed and it came to him. Before he could change his mind, he scribbled it down and magically sealed the letter.
He went to stand by the bed. Potter began to stir. He blinked sleepily up at Draco. “Whassit?”
Answering a different question, Draco replied, “Solace.”
Draco smiled at Potter’s confusion and crawled into bed, shoving him to make enough room to tuck in safely beside him.
Within minutes, Potter was back to sleep, his hand wrapped tightly around the red, tender skin of Draco’s wrist. Draco closed his eyes and focused on that possessive grasp.