Draco Malfoy was a drunk.

It was quite the shock to his system, not to mention his pureblood pride, to admit this to himself. And he didn’t even want to imagine what his father might have said. Or worse, what punishment Lucius Malfoy might have dealt his errant child. It was one of the few times that Draco was relieved that his father was dead, so that he couldn’t see just how far his heir had allowed the Malfoy name to fall.

Not that Father did the Malfoy name any favors himself by sniveling at the feet of a madman, Draco thought to himself, only a little bitterly. It made him feel somewhat less ashamed of that pesky alcoholic thing, anyway.

To make matters worse, he was addicted to – he almost hesitated to even think the word, although he absolutely didn’t hesitate to drink it – Muggle alcohol. Looking back on things, Draco still wasn’t sure exactly how he’d ended up where he was now.

It had been a little more than four years since Harry Potter had killed the Dark Lord in one tremendous, brutal, bloody final battle. Draco had managed to avoid taking the Dark Mark; at the same time, he’d also managed to avoid committing himself to Dumbledore and the Light. No, Draco Malfoy had been perfectly content to sit back and let those idiots do all the fighting they wanted to.

Of course, the only way he’d been able to do such a thing was the fact that Lucius Malfoy had died in Azkaban the summer after his fifth year and Narcissa Malfoy had immediately fled to France. And when Draco turned sixteen the following June, these two facts combined to put Draco in charge of his own destiny, not to mention the vast Malfoy vaults in Gringott’s.

This blissful state of affairs had lasted just a little over a year, when Harry Potter had defeated the Dark Lord towards the end of their seventh year, and suddenly the war was over. The Ministry of Magic hadn’t wasted much time in seizing all the money in the Malfoy vaults as ‘restitution’ for all of Lucius Malfoy’s crimes.

Oh, Draco had fought them, of course, but the Ministry was very determined and he was only a seventeen-year-old wizard who’d been abandoned by both his parents. To make matters worse, the war had claimed the life of just about everyone who might have been willing to help him, including Severus Snape, Albus Dumbledore, and the entire Parkinson family.

Thus, Draco had been forced to…ugh…find a job. And from there, his troubles only got worse. There wasn’t a single person in the wizarding world who would hire on the son of one of the most notorious Death Eaters there had ever been. In frustration, and not a little desperation, Draco had been forced into the world of Muggles.

Thankfully, Draco had actually paid a little bit of attention in Muggle Studies during his years at Hogwarts because, although he would have denied this vehemently if called on it, he thought the ways Muggles got around their lack of magic were quite interesting. So, while it certainly had not been easy, he had managed to make his way through the non-magical world and find employment in a tea shop.

It was a huge blow to his pureblood ego to have to serve Muggles, but Draco was pragmatic about the whole affair. He had to eat, did he not? And he did well at first. He was able to save enough to rent a room in a boarding house, which was an enormous step up over the shelters he’d been forced to make use of. The room wasn’t much, but at least it was private.

Or at least it would have been private if he could have gotten rid of Ellie. She was the daughter of the owner of the house, and looked after it and all the tenants for her mother. For some reason, even though she was only a few years older than he was, Ellie Smithson had decided to ‘adopt’ Draco. Therefore, she spent all of her time hovering over him, nagging at him to eat well, to be careful, to watch how he spent his money.

To his annoyance, Draco found that he couldn’t stay mad at her for very long, as she was quite possibly the most fiercely optimistic person he’d ever met. And he’d known Luna Lovegood before she was killed in the war. No matter how viciously he insulted her, Ellie never took offence or left him alone. In fact, the nastier he got, the more insistently friendly she became. Finally, in an effort to prevent himself from either losing his mind or snapping and shooting an Avada Kedavra at her, Draco gave up and let her mother to her heart’s content. It wasn’t as though Narcissa was ever going to care about him again, anyway.

So he allowed Ellie her maternal meddling, even if it was somewhat grudgingly still, and things were all right, for a while.

Then, the tea shop he worked at was robbed one evening by a couple of thugs with the biggest guns Draco had ever seen. The sight of those weapons had startled and frightened him so much that he’d completely forgotten the fact that he was a wizard and that he had a wand and that he could have hexed the two of them within an inch of their lives.

Fortunately, the two thieves had been more interested in the cash than in hurting anyone, although they did shoot a couple of times at the ceiling and the noise was so loud that Draco swore he could still hear the echoes of it hours later. Marty, the other clerk, had realized how upset his coworker was with what had happened, and had reached into his backpack and handed Draco a beer. Having no idea what it was, Draco still took it and gulped down a huge swallow, then almost gagged at the bitter taste.

Accusing Marty of trying to poison him with ‘vile swill’, Draco huffed in annoyance when Marty just laughed and told him it started tasting better after a while. Draco did enjoy that nice warm feeling in the pit of his belly, and so he decided to give Marty the benefit of the doubt. He was probably in a slight state of shock, which is why Draco figured that he didn’t protest when Marty offered to take him out ‘for a few more drinks’ just to get his mind off what had happened.

Several beers and various alcoholic concoctions later, Draco was definitely not in control of himself. But he liked it, because for the first time since his father went to Azkaban, he didn’t have to think about what a mess his life had become. It also didn’t hurt that Marty was a rather nice-looking bloke and Draco had ended up spending the night in his bed.

He briefly regretted his impulsiveness the next morning when he woke with the worst hangover in the history of the world. But, he finally did remember that he was a wizard at that point and quickly headed to Diagon Alley for some hangover potions. After the wizard in the apothecary only reluctantly sold it to him, Draco decided that he would simply brew his own potions at home from then on.

It was a bit of work keeping that from Ellie, nosy as she was, but he managed it. And from then on, Draco was drinking to forget his troubles every night. It wasn’t until a couple of years had passed and he had just gotten fired from his fourth job for not showing up to work often enough, that Draco began to think that the drinking itself might have become a bit problematic.

It was when he decided to stop drinking that Draco realized he did indeed have a bigger problem. He couldn’t stop. His newfound resolve to no longer imbibe any sort of alcohol had lasted approximately seven hours. Even as he lost himself in the blurred haze that was his drunkenness, Draco was appalled when he imagined what Lucius might have had to say about his lack of willpower.

He struggled and fought and failed for months on his own, trying to beat this demon that he had foolishly allowed to flourish within his soul, without success. Ellie was nearly beside herself with worry for him, and while Draco again resented her intrusion into his private hell, he also realized that any other landlord would have kicked him out long ago. She kept babbling on about something called Alcoholics Anonymous or AA as she called it, or some such rot.

When he finally acknowledged, as much as it pained his Malfoy sensibilities, that he could not do this on his own, Draco agreed to attend one of the meetings. He was still skeptical, but he was determined to regain his sense of control over his own life.

He read over this twelve step thing and decided that this was something he could do. It was a Muggle organization, of course, and so they talked about God quite a bit. Draco wasn’t sure how he personally felt about the idea of a supreme being in the universe, but knowing that this was his best chance to conquer his problem, he figured he could just go with it for a while.

He was okay with most of it until he got to step number eight.

Make a list of all persons you have harmed, and be willing to make amends to all of them.

Well, hell…

That would be an impressively long list, wouldn’t it? Draco admitted that he might have been a little bit of a prat while he was at Hogwarts. He briefly thought about confining the definition of ‘persons he had harmed’ to mean those that had been directly affected by his drinking. But had reluctantly admitted to himself that some of his actions while in school had contributed to his being shunned by the wizarding world, thus his exile, thus his drinking.

No, if a Malfoy was going to do something, they were going to do it right, whether it was becoming a drunk, or figuring out how to stop being one. So he went to the meetings and talked about himself a lot, which had never been much of a difficulty for him, although all the details were carefully edited, of course. He had managed to put off step number eight for a while, but his sponsor had started to gently remind him that he wouldn’t get very far if he didn’t embrace the whole program.

He had made his list, and it ended up being a little shorter than he’d originally thought it might be. Draco wished he could ignore the fact that it was shorter because several people on the list had to be crossed off since they were dead. He tried to avoid thinking about the war itself, as that was part of what had caused him to seek out the numbness of alcohol in the first place.

Thinking that he should get the most difficult ones out of the way first, Draco tried to find out what had become of the Golden Trio. Reports of Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley weren’t difficult to find if one picked up back issues of the Daily Prophet, as they both worked for the Ministry of Magic, and were mentioned with annoying regularity.

When Draco attempted to find any notice of the Boy Who Lived, however, it was not as easy. Potter had simply dropped completely out of sight after the final battle. He hadn’t even made an appearance at any of the numerous awards ceremonies or parties or celebrations in his honor. The Daily Prophet went mad with this frustrating bit of news at first, printing wild stories ranging from Potter’s death to his turn to the Dark to his emigration to America. Eventually, though, with nothing to go on, articles about Harry Potter had dwindled to zero, until this year, he’d only been mentioned in the issue on the anniversary of the final battle.

Realizing that he couldn’t put it off any longer if he hoped to continue to make progress in his sobriety, Draco made his way to the home of Ron and Hermione Weasley. The two of them had married only a few short months after the war, and Potter hadn’t even been there for that, which made Draco wonder if he really was dead, after all.

The Weasley home was warded strongly, of course, so Draco made his presence known at the edge of them, and waited. He was certain that only Granger…er, Granger-Weasley was home because she was on maternity leave from the Ministry, having given birth to her second child only four weeks ago. Draco tried not to shudder at the thought of the Weasel and the Know-It-All not only mating, but reproducing. He only hoped that she would listen to him before she started throwing hexes, something he was fairly sure her husband would not be able to do.

"Malfoy." His name was uttered in a flat mixture of disbelief and contempt, and Draco was only barely able to conceal his start of surprise. He’d been lost in thought for a moment and hadn’t heard her approach.

He could grudgingly admit that she’d grown up better than he’d thought she might have. She’d never be considered beautiful, but she had a strong confidence about her that brought its own sense of beauty to it.

"Gra-…er, I mean, Mrs. Weasley. Nice to see you."

She raised one mocking eyebrow at that, and didn’t say anything. He forged on, determined to do this, and do it with all the grace that came with being a Malfoy.

"May we talk inside?"

"And just why should I allow you into my home, Malfoy?"

"I only want to talk, Gra-…um, Hermione. I promise." Fuck, so much for grace. He was bumbling like he was still a third-year.

Her eyes widened a bit at the use of her given name and she gave him an intense stare. Draco wondered if she knew Legilimency, and fervently hoped not. He realized he was here to tell her about his problems with drinking, but he’d rather tell her than have her pull it from his head. He didn’t feel the tell-tale pressure in his skull that signaled someone mucking about in his memories, though, and so he thought she was just attempting to read his body language.

"Very well. You can come in, but I warn you, Malfoy, if you try anything…" she let the threat dangle.

Draco knew that she was very much capable of hexing him into unconsciousness, so he reached into his jacket and very slowly pulled out his wand, making certain that he was holding it in a non-threatening way.

Her gaze narrowed as she watched and her body tensed as though she was ready for action. Draco carefully held it out towards her, balanced across his palm.

"If you don’t trust me, you can hold my wand until I’m ready to leave," he said, and tried not to hold his breath. Even though he hadn’t actually done anything for the Dark Lord’s side during the war, she could probably hex him with his own wand and the wizarding world would cheer her on.

But he counted on her being intrigued in spite of herself, and he could tell that she was from the interested gleam in her eye. She reached out and took his wand, at the same time bringing her hand from behind the back of her leg where she’d been hiding the fact that she was holding her own wand at the ready the entire time they’d been talking.

"Very well then, Malfoy. You can come inside," she said with a little smirk at the redness of embarrassment on his cheeks.

When they walked inside the house, Malfoy was impressed, reluctant though he might have been to admit it. The place was nowhere near the grand luxury of Malfoy Manor, naturally, but few places were. Still, it was large enough to be comfortable for a growing family of four, and tastefully decorated. He thought, somewhat spitefully, that the Weasel had no doubt left the matter of décor up to his wife.

"Who is dat, Mama?" a voice from somewhere around his knees asked.

"That, Jilly, is Mr. Malfoy. He and mummy are going to talk for a bit, so why don’t you go watch the telly, hmm?" Hermione said with a smile as she looked down at the child who’d appeared out of nowhere.

"Okay," the toddler said and then wandered back in the direction she must have come from.

She was a lovely child, with hair that was a softer red than the violent shade most of the Weasley clan had. Draco glanced back up at Granger and was a bit taken aback to see that she looked amazingly tender when she was gazing at her daughter.

"That was Jillian, my oldest. Jillian somehow got shortened to Jilly, and now she won’t answer to anything else," Hermione said with a grin. "Wait here, I have to go get Matthew. It’s time for him to eat."

Draco made a little coughing noise in his throat and looked at Granger a bit anxiously. She looked back questioningly, one foot on the first stair, ready to go fetch her child.

"You’re not, er…feeding him…ah, naturally, are you?"

"What?" she said, a confused frown crossing her face.

"You know…" Draco said and made a vague gesture in the region of her chest.

She looked at him for a long moment and then she burst into laughter. "No, Malfoy, you don’t have to worry about me offending your delicate sensibilities. He’s on the bottle, because I have to go back to work in a couple of weeks."

She was still chuckling as she went up the stairs and he cursed the fact that a Muggle-born could keep him so off balance. Of course, he’d never been quite able to understand, or best, Granger. Maybe he should have tried to figure her out while they were still in school. But that would have been impossible at the time, so he could only do his best to rectify the situation now.

A few minutes later, they were sitting in the family room ready to talk. Jilly was watching a television a few feet away, and Hermione had cast a gentle silencing spell around her and Malfoy, so that she could keep an eye on her daughter, but the little girl would be unable to hear what the adults were talking about. She was feeding a bottle to the baby as she looked up at Draco and raised an eyebrow as if to say ‘well, get on with it’.

He began rather awkwardly, still mortified that he was sharing weakness with a Muggle-born, and one that he’d hated for quite some time, at that. But she was a fantastic listener, letting him talk without interrupting, and he wondered if she’d learned that skill as a mother, or if she’d always been that way. Draco seemed to recall several arguments between the Golden Trio, where shouts of ‘know-it-all’ had been thrown at her from her two best friends. Either way, she’d definitely gotten better at keeping her opinion to herself.

Draco became so comfortable talking to her, he told her a few things he hadn’t intended to let her know, such as the fact that he was gay. He got a little flustered after he’d let that slip, because it certainly didn’t have anything to do with the alcoholism, but she simply smiled and nodded at him to continue.

"…and so, I just wanted to say that I deeply apologize for anything I said that hurt you, or any actions I took that hurt you. If you decide not to forgive me, I understand, but I promise you that I will never say or do anything in the future that would cause you pain or discomfort."

At the end of this speech, the two of them stared at one another for a long while, and Draco began to think uncomfortably that she was not going to find it within herself to forgive him his actions. Well, that was all right. Her forgiveness wasn’t necessary to his own atonement. He’d made the effort, now he could only wait to see what she would do.

"Malfoy…" she began and then paused. "Draco. I just want to say that I am incredibly impressed by your bravery. I know how difficult it was for many people during and after the war, and so many of them would not have had the courage to face the wrongs they committed. I forgive you."

Draco found himself perilously close to tears and fiercely fought them back. Some things were just completely beyond the pale, and crying in front of someone outside the family was definitely one of those.

"Thank you…Hermione." He cleared his throat, and looked down so that she wouldn’t see him blinking furiously to get rid of those tears, the ones that were absolutely not there.

"Somehow I doubt this will be as easy with your husband," he said ruefully.

"No, probably not," Hermione said, with a wry grin.

"And Potter will probably make that look like a walk in the park."

He was startled at the way Hermione’s face immediately lost all expression and her eyes filled with tears. She looked away from him with a little sniff. The baby in her arms whimpered, obviously sensing his mother’s mood. Hermione lifted the child to her shoulder and began to comfort him quietly.

"Hermione? Were those rumors true? Is Potter…" he hesitated, for some reason unable to say the word floating in his brain. The Boy Who Lived had been such a huge part of Draco’s life for so long – and that was something that he didn’t care to examine too closely – that Draco couldn’t imagine him being gone.

"No, Draco. He’s not dead. But he might as well be," Hermione said.

The sadness in her voice was so complete that it made Draco’s heart wrench a little. Who would have thought he’d be feeling sympathy for the witch he’d scathingly called a Mudblood for most of their school years? And yet, he did.

He didn’t say anything, waiting for her to gather her composure enough to continue. Finally, she looked up at him with a fierce gaze.

"I understand that you’ve changed, Draco, and I’m willing to trust you with this information. But I swear on everything that is precious to me, if I ever find out that you’ve abused my trust, I will hunt you down and hex you until you wish you were dead."

"You have my word that whatever you are about to tell me will never leave my lips," Draco said solemnly.

Hermione pierced him with her stare for a moment more and then heaved a great, weary-sounding sigh. "You weren’t there on the day of the final battle, Draco. But I was. And no words I could say to you could ever describe the utter horror of it all. People on both sides, Light and Dark, dropping dead from curses. The werewolves and Inferi that Voldemort recruited were ripping people to pieces. Literally. On our side, we had the centaurs and a few giants who were doing equal damage to the Death Eaters. It was vicious, bloody, cruel. And absolutely frightening. Ron, Harry, and I were fighting together, apart from the other members of the Order, because we knew he had to get to Voldemort."

She paused to take another deep breath, and Draco almost told her to stop, because he could see how painful this was for her, reliving that day. But he wanted, needed, to know what had happened to Potter.

"Remus and Tonks fell right beside us, just as we looked up and saw him. At the top of a hill, his robes billowing out like some dark cloud, acting for all the world as if he were at a celebration of some sort. He was laughing! Laughing at all the people dying around him, his own followers and those who were opposing him. It was the most disgusting sight I saw that day."

She shook her head, her lip curling in disdain at the mere memory.

"Then he saw Harry. He called to him, tossed out a few insults at Lily and James Potter and Dumbledore and challenged Harry to face him one-on-one. Harry never could resist an outright challenge like that, as you should well remember," Hermione said, with a pointed look at Draco.

He ducked his head in just a little shame as he recalled all the many times he’d taunted Potter while they were in school. Again, he wondered how different things would have been if he’d defied his father and gotten to know the stubborn Gryffindor who’d intrigued him from day one.

"That was the beginning of it. The final battle really was just leading up to the confrontation between the two of them. I suppose you’ve heard of the prophecy by now?" she asked, and continued when Draco briefly nodded his head. "It said that neither could live while the other survived. Those words haunted Harry for so long, but he knew his duty, and he never backed down from it. They fought and nearly every other battle ceased to watch this one. We all, Death Eaters and Order members alike, knew this was the important one, the one that would decide which side triumphed."

Again, she paused, and Draco knew the retelling of this tale was so difficult, he marveled at the fact that she was able to remain relatively calm as she told it.

"So many curses flew back and forth between them that it was impossible to tell who was casting what. I just remember being in awe at Harry’s magical strength. We all knew he was powerful, of course, but this was the first time we’d all really seen it, and it was magnificent and beautiful and so, so scary. It seemed to last forever, but finally, there was one last massive burst of magic from Harry and Voldemort just…disintegrated. I’m not even sure what spell he cast to do that, but it was done. The Dark Lord was dead, and with him went every single person who carried the Dark Mark. Even Snape, who’d been a spy for our side all along. And I think he knew what would happen because I swear he was smiling right before he died."

Draco didn’t even try to hold the tears back this time, but it didn’t matter because Hermione was crying along with him. It was the first time he’d heard what exactly had happened to his godfather and Draco hadn’t realized just how much he missed the man until that moment.

"Ron and I were the closest to Harry after everything settled. It was so quiet then, that I could hear my own breathing and it sounded like a storm inside my own head. Harry fell to his knees and we rushed forward, thinking he was injured. He looked up at us, and the emptiness in his eyes…it was just heartbreaking. But I remember thinking that I, Ron and I and all of his friends, we’d help him through this. It was over, the war was over and we were all alive. Harry was still looking at us and he said…" she broke off here as she was almost literally sobbing now, and the baby in her arms was fussing at the emotions flowing around them.

"Shh. Shh, darling, it’s all right. Mummy’s here, Matty, everything’s all right," she comforted the child.

She raised her eyes back to Draco once the baby had calmed a little. "Then Harry said, ‘It’s done.’ And he fell face forward into the dirt, unconscious. We rushed him to St. Mungo’s, of course, and every top healer in the building was immediately on his case. They did every scanning and diagnostic spell they could think of on him and they could find nothing wrong. So we thought, well, he’s just exhausted, isn’t he? He’ll wake up in a bit and everything will be fine. We’ll take care of him and everything will be fine."

She shook her head despondently. "But it wasn’t fine. The next time he opened his eyes was two days later, and it was so obvious that his body was there, but Harry wasn’t. There was no life in his eyes, he wouldn’t talk, he wouldn’t move on his own. If you helped him to his feet and led him, he would move, but nothing on his own. If you fed him, he’d eat, but never on his own. It was like he was nothing more than a living doll."

Draco stared at her in horror. "But why? Did Vol…did the Dark Lord do it?"

She gave him a half-hearted glare at his reluctance to speak Voldemort’s name, but didn’t call him on it. "The healers eventually came up with the theory that since Voldemort had accidentally given Harry some of his own magic when he was a baby, when Harry killed him, he took that power back as he died. They believe that he basically took Harry’s soul, leaving his body a living husk, rather like a Dementor would have."

Draco was speechless for a long time after that, having no clue what to say to Harry’s best friend. He wondered how they’d managed to keep all of this out of the papers, but then he remembered how fiercely protective the Weasleys and Granger were of Potter. He sat there quietly thinking as Hermione went upstairs to put the baby down for a nap and prepared a quick lunch for Jilly. He listened to that little voice telling her mother all about the silly show she’d been watching on the telly, and knew a moment of incredible sadness that Potter would never know the child that would have undoubtedly been his goddaughter.

When Hermione came back in, Draco looked at her and said, "Would it be all right if I visited him at St. Mungo’s? Even if he can’t hear me, I’d like to at least say my apologies to him. And my thanks, I guess."

"He’s not at St. Mungo’s," Hermione said, and now she appeared a little uncomfortable.

"Then where is he?" Draco asked.

"He’s with his aunt, in Little Whinging."

"Hold on a moment. Didn’t I read in one of Rita Skeeter’s articles that Potter was practically abused by his Muggle relatives? Why in the hell would you let them take him?" Draco asked in disbelief.

Hermione glared at him. "Don’t criticize things you don’t understand, Malfoy. We couldn’t leave him at St. Mungo’s. There would have been people constantly trying to get in to gawk at him, and neither Ron nor I would ever stand for that. We would have brought him to live with us, but I’d found out that I was pregnant only a couple of months before the final battle. I knew there was no way that I could take care of a new baby and Harry as well," she said huffily.

"What about your in-laws, then?" Draco demanded. "Weren’t they practically like his second family? They didn’t want the burden either?"

"You shut up, Malfoy! You’ve been too busy drowning yourself in drink to understand the horrors the war visited on the Weasley family!" Hermione shouted.

Draco was ready to give right back to her, when a bewildered little voice said from the doorway, "Mummy, why are you and Mr. Malfoy yelling so loudly?"

"Oh! Jilly, I’m sorry, I…" Hermione said and visibly tried to rein in her temper. "Mr. Malfoy and I were just disagreeing on something, sweetheart. I’m sorry if we frightened you."

"I’m fine, Mummy, but you shouldn’t yell. It’s not nice. You neither, Mr. Malfoy," Jilly scolded.

"You’re right, of course, Miss Jilly. I apologize for my rudeness," Draco said and smiled when Jilly giggled at his overly formal tone.

"Silly grown-ups," she said, and turned back into the kitchen to finish her lunch.

Draco looked over at Hermione. "Well, my vow never to offend you certainly didn’t last long. I apologize again," he said, a little stiffly as he was extremely disappointed in himself.

"It’s fine, Draco. I shouldn’t have lost my temper and I apologize as well for the crack about your drinking," Hermione said with a wave of her hand. "But you should understand that the Weasley family was hit hard by the war. We lost Arthur, Fred, and Ginny. Molly hasn’t been the same since, and she’s just not capable of taking care of Harry. She lives with Bill and Fleur because we don’t like to leave her by herself for too long."

"I didn’t realize that. But still, wouldn’t anyone have done over the Muggles that made him live in a cupboard?" Draco asked as his nose wrinkled in disgust.

"Harry’s Uncle Vernon died right around the time of the final battle from a heart attack. He was the one who really hated Harry and all of his magic. I contacted Mrs. Dursley as a last grasp sort of thing, and found that she regretted all that Harry had been through when he lived with them all those years. She leapt at the opportunity to make up for it a bit, and now he lives with her and she takes care of him. Ron and I try to visit as much as we can, but it’s not easy when you have young children."

Their visit lasted a little longer, but eventually Draco had to leave. He didn’t think he was ready to face Ron Weasley yet and he’d let Hermione decide whether she wanted to tell her husband of her visitor that day. But along with his returned wand, he had the address of Petunia Dursley in his hand before he went. He’d been somewhat surprised that Hermione was willing to give it to him, but he was reminded of the gravity of the situation at her last words.

"I don’t think even you will be able to look at him, Malfoy, and remain unmoved. I’m not really worried that you’ll do anything to harm him."

*~*~*

The pureblood snobbish part of him that still existed couldn’t help being appalled at the tackiness of the neighborhood that Potter had grown up in, but he forced himself to continue until he got to Number four, Privet Drive. To his astonishment, Potter was sitting in a chair on the front lawn.

Cautiously, Draco walked up to him, wondering if Granger had been jerking him around after all. Potter appeared as though he were enjoying the afternoon sun, and then Draco looked closer.

He was slumped unnaturally in the chair, and his eyes were vacant, staring at nothing. Still, Draco couldn’t resist the impulse to call out to him, as though Harry were going to answer him.

"Potter?"

Nothing. Not even a twitch of an eyelid.

"He likes to sit in the sun. Sometimes he’ll even turn his face towards it," a voice said from the front stoop, causing Draco to jump in shock.

"Ah, you must be Mrs. Dursley. I’m-"

"I know who you are, Mr. Malfoy. Hermione rang me only a few moments after you left and told me that you would probably be coming round."

"Right," Draco muttered. "So you don’t mind if I sit and talk with Pot-…erm, I mean Harry, for a while?"

"I’m not in favor of the idea, no, but Hermione said she’d promised to curse you into oblivion if you tried anything, so I’m not particularly concerned."

"Thanks for that," he said, unable to hold back a twinge of sarcasm.

Mrs. Dursley glared at him, oddly reminding him of Hermione Granger-Weasley. "I may not have been there for Harry while he was under my care the first time, but I am now. I’m attempting to atone for my sins, Mr. Malfoy. Are you really doing the same, or have you just come to gloat at the poor fortune that’s befallen your schoolboy rival?" she said sharply.

"My motives may be selfish, but I assure you they are free from any wish to harm or make light of Harry’s condition," Draco said, and again he couldn’t hold back the slightest touch of haughtiness in his tone. Something about Muggles, or certain ones of them anyway, just seemed to bring that out in him.

"Fine. But I’ll be keeping my eye on you," she said, and with a sniff, she turned back into the house.

Draco ignored the urge to make another retort, but only barely, and turned around to look at Harry. Seeing another lawn chair propped against the side of the house, he grabbed it and set it up next to Potter. He stared hard at the boy whom he’d both hated and been obsessed with for years. A part of him wondered if maybe Hermione and Mrs. Dursley weren’t right about him. Had he come here just to see his rival fallen?

But no, he didn’t think so. Because Hermione was right about one other thing. He couldn’t look at Potter without feeling sad and frustrated and angry about the unfairness of it all. The boy had done everything the wizarding world had asked him to do, and this half-existence was his reward for it? Draco wondered if it might not have been better if Potter really had died on the battlefield.

Pushing such morbid thoughts away, Draco spoke up.

"So, Potter, suppose you’re wondering why I’m here. Well, that’s quite a story, that is…"

*~*~*

In the following weeks, Draco became a regular visitor at the Dursley household. Mrs. Dursley eventually got over her wariness and asked him to call her Petunia. Draco didn’t hesitate to allow her to return the favor, and it was only after she’d actually called him by his name the first time that he realized it was the first he’d ever heard his name coming from a Muggle’s lips.

Draco wasn’t exactly sure why he kept going back to see Potter, but it did keep him from dwelling on his drinking, to the point where he hadn’t had alcohol in over two months before he thought about it. He wondered if he was merely trading in one addiction for another, but chose not to think on that one too hard.

During that time, Ron Weasley had found out about Draco’s visits to his best friend’s house, and surprisingly, the explosion was brief and not nearly as violent as Draco had feared it would be. Ron had grudgingly accepted Malfoy’s apology to him, although it was only after yelling for a bit and throwing one vicious punch to Draco’s jaw, which Draco had decided to let go, all things considered. He also gave plenty of warnings about the terrible things that would happen if Draco ever betrayed their trust and Draco wondered if Ron and Hermione wrote their threats together as a married couple. Those that slay together, stay together? Ew, no, that reminded Draco far too much of his Aunt Bellatrix and her husband Rodolphus.

Hermione and Ron came to visit Harry a couple of times while Draco was there, but they didn’t stay long. Draco could tell just from looking at the two of them, that seeing their friend like this was entirely too painful for them. So, Draco did his best to make up for their absence – and the absence of any other visitors from the wizarding world, really – by becoming as much of a caretaker to Harry as Petunia was.

She grew to appreciate this because it gave Petunia the opportunity to get a break now and then, to get out and visit her son, daughter-in-law and baby granddaughter.

He read to Harry, talked to Harry, helped to feed Harry, dressed him and had even given him a sponge bath a few times. Draco had worried that Hermione might not approve of that last bit, since she knew that Draco was gay, but he certainly didn’t want to have sex with Potter right now. It would be like sleeping with a child and the very idea was abhorrent to Draco. No, he wasn’t sure what it was that kept drawing him back into Potter’s world, but he couldn’t deny that the draw was there.

Petunia was over at Dudley’s for the evening and Draco had just finished reading to Potter the play-by-play of the latest Quidditch match between the Cannons and the Falcons. He was a little hungry so he decided to fix himself a snack in Petunia’s kitchen before moving on to another article in the Daily Prophet. As he walked towards the door, something smacked him in the back of the head. Startled, Draco turned and saw a doll lying on the floor behind him.

He recognized it as the doll that normally stayed tightly gripped in Potter’s hand. It was just a little ragdoll, so it certainly hadn’t hurt Draco but he was wondering how it had ended up hitting him when Potter usually wouldn’t let go of it. Draco had asked about that and Petunia had told him that her granddaughter had left it here one day and, while looking for it, Dudley had discovered that Harry was holding it.

When they tried to take it from him, he refused to let go of it. Puzzled, but a little excited at the same time, at this tiny bit of animation in Potter, they’d let him keep it. Draco thought that Petunia, Ron, and Hermione were hopeful that this was a sign of Harry waking up. But it never happened. He’d been holding onto the doll for over a year and had never made any other sign that he was aware of what went on around him.

Draco bent down and picked up the doll, placing it back on Potter’s lap before once more turning towards the kitchen.

Whap!

He whirled around so fast that he actually saw the doll hit the floor after it struck him in the back of the head. A little weirded out, Draco picked up the doll again and walked slowly back over to where Potter was sitting on the couch. Draco squatted in front of the man and studied his face carefully. To his shock, Harry’s eyes shifted suddenly and he looked directly at Draco.

He was falling forward, almost as if into a Pensieve, and all around him was a misty grayish-green fog. Draco stumbled, falling onto his knees, and looked around, frightened beyond anything he’d ever known. The mist slowly began to part in front of him, letting him see that he was in what looked like a dungeon, and Draco could see a dark form crouching on the floor a few yards ahead. It was a man, and Draco felt his breath quicken as the man raised his head. Draco realized the man’s hands were chained together, and the manacles were attached to the floor, preventing him from moving.

His mouth fell open in a gasp as he realized the chained man was Harry.

Harry’s mouth moved but Draco could hear no sound coming from him. Frustrated, Draco shook his head and motioned to his ear, indicating that he couldn’t hear. Potter’s jaw clenched in anger and he tried again, and Draco thought it looked like he was yelling.

Finally, Draco could barely make out Potter’s words, almost as though they were whispers instead of angry shouts.

"The cursed doll, Draco."

It sent an odd thrill through Draco’s belly to hear Harry call him by his given name, but he was still confused as to what Potter was trying to tell him.

"I don’t understand, Potter! What does that mean?!" Draco yelled back at him.

But Potter would only repeat, "The cursed doll, Draco," over and over again. And then he just started shouting Draco’s name repeatedly.

"Draco."

"Draco!"

"Draco!"

He started and looked up into Petunia’s bemused face. Then he realized that it had been her calling his name and that for some reason, he was lying on the floor.

"What are you doing down there? Did you fall?" she asked.

"What? No, I didn’t. I was…I was going to the kitchen and then Harry…I mean, the doll…" he looked around for the doll and realized that it was back in Harry’s hand where it always was. "That was so odd," he whispered.

"What happened?" Petunia asked and she was looking at him as though she was wondering whether he’d lost his mind.

"He dropped his doll," Draco said, deciding that sounded better than admitting that something or someone had thrown it at him, "and when I went to give it back to him, he looked at me, and I had the oddest…well, I guess it must have been a dream."

"He looked at you?" Petunia said, with a strange look on her face.

"Yeah," Draco shrugged.

"You must have dreamed the entire thing, Draco, because Harry does not look at people. He never does."

"What do you mean, he never looks at people? Obviously, I know he can’t communicate, but-"

"I mean, he will not make eye contact with anyone, Mr. Malfoy," Petunia said. She walked over to Harry and knelt in front of him. "Harry. Look at me, Harry," she said, but Potter continued to stare off to the left of her. So Petunia took his chin in her hand and tried to make him look at her. "Harry, look at me!"

Draco watched in a daze as Harry’s eyes determinedly avoided Petunia’s. Even though she was making him hold still, and putting her face right in front of his, his eyes were rolling around, back and forth and then up as much as he could to avoid making eye contact with her.

Satisfied that she’d made her point, Petunia dropped her hand from his chin and stood up and away from her nephew. "If you push it too hard, he’ll actually make himself pass out so that he doesn’t have to look at you. Hermione thinks that it’s connected to the fact that his soul is gone," Petunia said in a monotone.

"I see," Draco whispered, and wondered if it all had been just a dream.

"You’re tired, Draco. I think it’s time for you to go home for today."

"You’re probably right," he said quietly. "I’ll see you tomorrow."

"Of course."

But he couldn’t help thinking of Potter, in chains, trapped in a dark dungeon, for the rest of the night. It had seemed so real…

*~*~*

The next couple of weeks passed uneventfully. Draco was doing very well on staying sober, and Ellie was so proud of him that she gave him a month’s free rent as a reward. Draco appreciated that, because it was taking him some time to find another job. He had to find just the right one, one that would allow him enough time with his new addiction…taking care of Harry Potter. He consoled himself with the fact that at least this habit was less expensive than alcohol.

He finally obtained a position in a used book store and it was perfect, since the shop closed at five, and that meant he could spend every evening with Harry. Petunia had taken to shooting him speculative glances when she thought he wasn’t looking, but he ignored her. And the image of Harry trapped, unable to break free, wouldn’t leave his mind. Almost before he was aware that he was thinking it, the idea that Harry’s soul wasn’t gone, merely captured somewhere, began to filter through his thoughts.

Draco decided not to mention this gleam of an idea to Ron or Hermione. They’d been through enough heartache and he didn’t want them to get their hopes up if he was wrong. He chuckled at the notion of a Malfoy protecting the tender feelings of a Weasley, but that seemed to be his life now, and oddly enough, he was mostly happy with it. If he could free Harry, everything would be perfect.

Wait, perfect?

Draco paused in the middle of feeding Harry his lunch as the realization hit him. He abruptly understood what was drawing him here, to be with Harry, to take care of Harry.

Draco Malfoy was in love with Harry Potter.

Well, fuck

Still, if that was what it was, then that was what it was. It only made him more determined to break Harry free of whatever spell or curse was holding him. Because it had to be a curse, had to be something the Dark Lord had done before Harry killed him. Gritting his teeth against the anger that surged through him at the thought of that bastard getting one last blow in before he died, Draco finished feeding Harry his lunch and then moved him into the living room, so he could see the telly. Draco wondered if Harry really could see the telly and just couldn’t let them know that he could.

Seeing Harry’s doll at his feet, Draco reached down and grabbed it, placing it in Harry’s hand absently, his mind still working around the fact that maybe Harry was aware of what went on around him, but he just couldn’t let anyone know that he was. Harry’s hand opened and the doll fell to the floor. Draco bent and picked it up, placing it in Potter’s hand again.

Again, Harry’s hand opened and the doll fell to the floor. Frustrated, because this was distracting him from his musings, Draco picked up the doll yet again and glanced up to glare at Harry.

And found that Harry was staring right at him once more.

This time, Draco was more prepared for the ‘falling into a Pensieve’ feeling and as soon as he landed, he looked around, wondering where Harry was. There was no figure in chains this time, and indeed, he wasn’t even in a dungeon. Instead, it felt like he was back at Hogwarts, in the middle of the Forbidden Forest. Carefully, Draco moved forward, wondering what the hell Potter was trying to tell him this time.

He came to a clearing, and in the middle of that clearing was a large wooden box. Hesitantly, unsure if this was a message from Harry or a trap left by the Dark Lord, Draco walked up to the box. Just as he got within a few feet of it, something inside the box thumped, causing both it and Draco to jump.

There was a muffled scream from inside the box and Draco took a step back, uncertain what he should do. Suddenly, a fist exploded through the top of the box, and Draco fell backwards with a startled cry. The lone fist was quickly joined by a second and the top of the box splintered into pieces as the person trapped inside fought their way out.

Somehow, Draco wasn’t surprised to see Harry sit up and step out of the box. He stopped a few feet away from the box and turned around to give it a baleful stare. When he turned back around, Draco thought he’d never seen someone look so tired.

"I’ve been trying so hard to break out of there. Sometimes I can make it and sometimes I can’t. But only with you, Malfoy. Why is that?" Harry asked, as he tilted his head and gazed at Draco curiously.

"I…I’m not sure, Harry. Is there a spell on you? Is it a curse that’s keeping you trapped?" Draco asked.

Harry didn’t answer him, turning his head to one side as though he was listening to something.

"Do you hear that? He’s coming again. Every time I get close to getting out, he comes back and shoves me back into the box, or he chains me up again. It’s annoying, frankly."

"Who is it, Potter? Is it Vol-"

"Don’t say his name here!" Harry shouted as he whipped his head back around to stare at Draco.

A low rumble threaded through the trees of the forest and Harry began to shiver. "Oh, he heard you that time, yes, he did. You have to go, Malfoy, or you might end up getting trapped here, too. And then neither of us would ever get out."

"Why can’t I just take you with me now? Come with me now, Harry!"

Harry shook his head sadly. "Don’t you know that it’s never that simple, Draco?" The rumble grew louder and Harry suddenly screamed, his body twisting as though he were in pain. Draco cried out in anger and shock and tried to move forward to get to Harry, but something was holding him back.

Potter fell to the ground, continuing to writhe in pain and Draco was shouting angrily at whatever was doing this to the man he loved, telling them to leave him the fuck alone, but it was no use.

Harry looked up at him once more and whispered harshly, "It’s the cursed doll, Draco."

And then he vanished, and Draco was suddenly back in Petunia’s living room, falling onto his backside, Harry’s doll still clutched in his hand. He gasped, feeling like he’d just awakened from a nightmare, and he was so irritated that Harry was trapped in that nightmare, unable to escape it as Draco could.

He scrambled to his feet and rested his hands on Harry’s knees, staring into that blank face.

"I’ll get you back, Harry, I swear I will," Draco said, and he thought that he saw the hint of a smile at the corner of Potter’s mouth.

There was no time to waste. He had some research to do.

*~*~*

Two weeks later, Draco was about ready to pull his hair out. He’d been to every wizarding library and bookstore in London and had found absolutely nothing that matched the symptoms of whatever the curse was on Harry. That damned doll had to be important somehow, or Harry wouldn’t keep mentioning it, but whatever it was, Draco was having no luck in finding it.

He pondered for a moment if he could get in touch with McGonagall, who was now Headmistress of Hogwarts, to see if he could get into the library there. But he had no clue what he would tell her, and he didn’t intend to tell anyone what he was trying to do for fear they would stop him somehow.

Then Draco felt like smacking himself in the head for his stupidity as it finally dawned on him exactly where he needed to look. Dark curse cast by a Dark Lord? No better place to find it than Lucius Malfoy’s private library at Malfoy Manor.

So the following evening found Draco standing outside the gates to the estate where he’d grown up, the site of some of his happiest memories, as well as some of his most frightening. Lucius had introduced him to the Dark Lord once, not long after Voldemort’s return in Draco’s fourth year. It had been a defining moment, and one of the primary reasons Draco had vowed to stay completely out of the conflict between the Dark and the Light. Voldemort was certifiably insane and Draco didn’t understand how his father could not see that.

He shook those morbid thoughts away with a shudder, and braced himself to enter the house. It still belonged to him, thanks to inheritance laws that dated back centuries, but that hadn’t stopped the Ministry from looting every item of value that had once been inside. Oh, yes, he still owned it, but he couldn’t afford to live there, nor did he really want to. Still, he knew those idiots at the Ministry couldn’t possibly have discovered all the many secrets Malfoy Manor held. Even Lucius himself didn’t know everything about the estate that had been in their family for hundreds of years.

But what secrets Lucius did know, he had passed down to his only son and heir. Even if the Ministry had discovered the secret rooms Malfoy Manor hid, they wouldn’t have been able to gain access to them. You needed Malfoy blood running through your veins for that.

There was a potions lab, a torture chamber, several rooms filled with dangerous dark artifacts, but what Draco was interested in right now was the library. It contained numerous ancient tomes, some written in long dead languages that could never be translated.

He scanned the titles, feeling that he’d know what he was looking for when he found it. One in particular caught his eye, and Draco reached up to pull it from the shelf. Dust and the remnants of Dark magic twirled through the air as he opened it and got to work.

Several hours later, he decided to give up for the night, as his vision was beginning to blur, not to mention the fact that he feared he was going to have nightmares thinking about some of the curses he’d read in the book. Draco hadn’t thought this was going to be easy, but he was bound and determined not to give up.

He spent the next month researching the books in the Malfoy library, but nothing that he could find seemed to fit the curse that Harry was under. Draco also spent as much time as he could with Harry himself, trying to get back into that in-between world that Harry was trapped in, with no luck there either. A couple of times, he tried too hard to force Harry to meet his eyes and Potter went comatose on him. Thankfully, both of these occurred when Petunia wasn’t home, as Draco feared she might ban him from visiting if she found out what he was doing.

Another month went by and Draco thought he might be going mad. Perhaps he had imagined the whole thing and Harry really was beyond help, soulless and destined to stay that way forever. Sometimes he wondered if he’d really never stopped drinking and this was all just an alcoholic vision and he was about to wake up with another ghastly hangover.

He sat on the couch beside Harry, bemoaning the fact that he was useless, worse than useless even.

"I don’t know what to do, Harry. I’ve looked and looked and I just can’t find it, but my gut tells me that it’s at Malfoy Manor. But hell, what if there are vaults that my father didn’t tell me about? I’ll never find them on my own. I fear that it’s hopeless," he said with a sad sigh.

Harry’s hand brushed gently against his own and Draco looked down at it in surprise, before jerking his gaze back up to Harry’s face to see those green eyes staring into his.

When he fell into the Pensieve world this time, it looked suspiciously like the torture room at the Manor, which somehow gave him hope that he was at least looking in the right place. He turned around, looking for Harry and gasped when he saw him in chains again, bound to one of the stone walls that made up the torture chamber.

His feet and arms were shackled, stretching him in a painful spread eagle position and there was another chain strapped tightly across his throat. Draco gave a little cry of horror and tried to move forward, but as usual, found that he could not touch Harry.

"Don’t…give…up…Malfoy. I’m…counting on…you…to fix…this…you little…bastard," Harry gritted through clenched teeth.

"Nice. Insult the man who’s trying to save your sorry ass, Potter," Draco retorted automatically.

A wheezing sound came from Potter that Draco thought might have been an attempt at laughter, before he sobered once more. "You’ve…got to…find it soon…Draco. Not…much time…left…"

His words were cut off as a garbled sound of pain was wrenched from him and Draco could see the chain across his throat tightening incrementally, cutting off his air and digging into his skin.

"Fuck, Potter! I’ve got to get you out of this!" He tried to move forward, but still couldn’t get any closer to Harry.

"No kidding…that’s…what I’ve…been trying…to tell you!" Harry gasped. "It’s the fucking doll, Draco! The cursed-" And then he could say no more because he was screaming as all of the chains began to tighten, practically ripping his body apart. Draco screamed his name as he could see blood beginning to spurt from Harry’s arms and legs and neck.

"HARRY!" he cried again and pushed forward with all his might-

-and once again found himself falling to the floor in front of Petunia’s couch.

He jerked over onto his back and stared at Potter in horror. He was once again his usual self, sitting there silently like a doll…

Like a living doll!

Harry had been talking about himself, not that stupid doll that he wouldn’t let go of. That was what he’d been trying to tell them all along! Hermione had even used the actual words and he couldn’t believe he’d been so dense. Draco cursed his own stupidity and was ashamed to think that maybe the Sorting Hat should have put him into Hufflepuff instead of Slytherin. He leapt up off the floor and impulsively hugged Harry tightly to him.

"I’m going to save you, I swear. If only so I can smack you for calling me a little bastard."

Harry, of course, didn’t say anything in reply.

*~*~*

Draco dove into his research with renewed fervor, now that he knew what sort of spell he was looking for. Still, he almost couldn’t believe it the day he finally found it.

"Partum Victus Forma," he said softly, his finger tracing the faded words in the ancient book. "The Curse of the Living Doll." He found himself shaking, with relief, and a little fear that the curse wouldn’t have a counter curse.

And of course, it couldn’t be as simple as a Finite Incantatum, could it? The Curse of the Living Doll was originally used centuries ago on reluctant brides in arranged marriages. Greedy fathers who wanted their daughters to make a suitable match would cast the spell when the young women proved difficult to convince and might have harbored thoughts of running away to escape an unwanted wedding.

The proposed husband would then have to brew a complicated potion, which took nearly three months to complete, and rub it over their bride’s body on the wedding night…right before they effectively raped her, since you had to have sex to activate the potion.

Draco groaned and dropped his head into his hands. This was unimaginable! He was basically going to have to sexually assault Potter in order to break the curse! While he didn’t think he would mind having sex with Potter – Draco was in love with the prat, after all – he didn’t think Potter would be too happy with the situation once he awoke. That is, if it even worked in the first place! It was too cliché for words, reminding Draco of those horrible Muggle romance novels that Ellie liked to read, which he had never once looked at, of course.

Reading further, Draco realized he didn’t have much time to make up his mind whether to attempt this or not. Some of those ancient fathers must have kept their poor daughters under this spell for long periods of time, because the book warned that if the curse wasn’t broken within five years, it was permanent and nothing could be done. The fifth anniversary of Potter killing the Dark Lord was only five months away, which meant he had one, and only one, shot at getting this right.

With a grim smile, Draco started writing down the list of ingredients he would need for the potion.

*~*~*

The next three months, while nerve wracking from one perspective, were also comforting in a way. Draco hadn’t felt such a sense of purpose in…well, ever, actually. He’d been too busy spouting out his father’s rhetoric when he was in school to ever do anything meaningful, and the few years after that had been spent moping or drunk. It was pathetic how empty his life had been.

But that was before. He was going to save the Boy Who Lived and that was more important than anything he’d ever done in his entire worthless life. Hopefully, Harry would be able to forgive him his methods.

Draco tried not to think about the day he would break the curse, because it simply made him too nervous. Instead, he focused his entire being on brewing the most perfect potion he’d ever made. He imagined sometimes that he could sense the spirit of Severus Snape watching proudly over his shoulder. Although, Snape would probably have called him ten kinds of idiot for going to so much trouble to save Harry Potter’s life.

He chuckled at the memory of his godfather’s sneer as he dropped in the seven rose petals that were the final ingredient and stirred exactly seventeen times counter-clockwise. Draco sat back and held his breath, studying the potion closely while he checked his watch. Exactly twenty-seven minutes later, it bubbled slightly and then turned from a pale red color to a milky white. He let out a little laugh as he breathed a sigh of relief. He’d done it! Or at least he hoped he had. The potion had turned the right color anyway and that was always a good sign.

Carefully, he poured the potion out into three vials and tucked them into the pocket of his robes, patting them tenderly as though they were galleons. Indeed, he wouldn’t have taken a million galleons for what he had created. No, he was going to have a far greater reward if this worked.

No ifs. It will work! he told himself sternly. Best to think positive, even if that was more of a Gryffindor trait.

Draco was literally sweating by the time the Friday night he’d chosen for the curse-breaking rolled around. Petunia trusted him so implicitly by this time that she was leaving for the weekend to visit Dudley and his family, leaving Draco to care for Harry and the house on his own. He’d casually asked the Weasleys if they planned to visit that weekend and learned that, thankfully, they were going on a mini-vacation with their children and wouldn’t return until the following Tuesday.

Draco waved good-bye to Petunia as she pulled out of the driveway on her way to see her son and granddaughter, trying to resist the urge to run after her and tell her to come back, so he wouldn’t have to do this. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to save Harry; it was that he was petrified it wasn’t going to work and he was quite sure that he would have a nervous breakdown if it didn’t. Not to mention the fact that if it didn’t work, and Petunia or the Weasleys ever found out what he’d done, they would no doubt never let him see Harry again.

Petunia’s car disappeared around the corner and Draco let his arm fall back to his side. Releasing one long breath, he mentally shook himself, pulling on the Slytherin cloak of confidence he’d worn so often while in school.

This was going to work, he would make sure of it.

He started to eat dinner and then decided against it, as he feared it would just all come back up once he began the ritual. Draco wondered if he should feed Harry, and then he boldly decided that he’d let Harry take him out to dinner in gratitude after the curse was broken.

See? There was that confident Slytherin! Hufflepuff indeed, he thought to himself with a disdainful sniff.

Draco waited until eight o’clock, just to be sure that Petunia wasn’t going to change her mind and return unexpectedly. He even made up an excuse to call her, claiming he couldn’t find the red jumper that had been Harry’s favorite. She told him where it was and he asked how the granddaughter was doing. Then, of course, it took him twenty minutes to get off the phone as she rhapsodized about the wonders of her son’s child. Personally, Draco thought Jilly was much more adorable, but he would never tell Petunia that. He’d probably never tell the Weasel that either, when it came down to it.

When he hung up the phone, Draco knew it was time. He’d stalled long enough and the sooner he got started, the sooner Harry would be awake again.

He led Harry up the stairs to his bedroom. It was the same one that Harry had used after the Dursleys let him out of the cupboard, but Draco knew it was much nicer now than it had been then. He and Petunia had had many long talks about the wrongs each of them had done to Harry and how very sorry they were for them now.

Well, Draco was about to make up for every nasty name he’d ever called Potter, every fight he’d ever instigated, and every potion he’d ever destroyed just to see Potter get detention. With shaking fingers, Draco unbuttoned Harry’s shirt and pulled it off him. They rarely put shoes on him while he was inside, so at least Draco didn’t have to fumble with shoelaces, but he thought his hands would never be still as he popped the snap on Harry’s jeans. They slid far too easily down Potter’s legs for Draco’s peace of mind.

Finally, Harry was standing silently before him in nothing but his pants and Draco thought maybe those could wait just a few minutes more until he was ready for the ritual to begin. For someone who’d been basically comatose for more than four years, Harry was still in excellent shape.

Draco wondered if the Living Doll curse put some sort of stasis on its victim, so that they stayed exactly as they were when it was cast. Now that he thought about it, that made sense, as those fathers wouldn’t have wanted their daughters wasting away before they could get them married off, now would they? Draco was glad, as not only did Harry’s very attractive body make the thought of what he was going to have to do easier, hopefully it would mean that Harry’s recovery would be swift and easy as well.

Gently, he directed Harry to lay down on the narrow bed. Draco would have preferred a bigger bed for this, but he just couldn’t picture himself having sex with Potter in Petunia’s bed. And Dudley’s room had been converted to her sewing room, no bed available there. Still trembling with nerves, Draco quickly stripped his own clothes off, after having carefully placed the potion vials on the nightstand.

"Oh, this is so wrong. So very, very wrong," he muttered as he gingerly crawled onto the bed and straddled Harry’s legs. Taking a deep breath, he reached for the first vial and popped the lid off. He poured a generous amount into his palm and then began to rub it into Harry’s chest.

There was no reaction from Harry, but Draco felt his own cock growing hard as he ran his hands over and over the smooth planes of Potter’s chest and the length of his arms. When he had used up the first vial, Draco retrieved the second one and used it on Harry’s legs. Draco’s breathing quickened and he felt a little lightheaded as he stroked down the length of Harry’s legs. Potter never had grown very tall, but he was very nicely proportioned for his size, and Draco had a particular weakness for a good-looking pair of legs.

He carefully rolled Potter over onto his stomach, tugging Harry’s pants off when he did, and used half of the third vial to coat his back and his buttocks with the potion. The other half needed to be saved for the final part of this act, which Draco was really trying not to think about right now. Because, fuck, Potter had the sweetest looking ass he’d ever seen! Normally, Draco preferred to bottom, but he had topped on occasion, and the sight of Potter’s ass definitely brought out the top in him. Which was a good thing, since this ritual required that Harry be penetrated by Draco.

Oh, trying not to think on that just yet! Draco groaned inwardly as he flipped Potter back over. Maybe it would be easier to perform the act from behind, but Draco needed to watch Potter’s eyes, to make sure that the ritual worked. He swallowed a huge lump in his throat as he gazed at Potter’s cock for the first time. It wasn’t much to look at now, as Potter was nowhere near aroused, but Draco hoped that would change.

All right, this was it. Time to finish this and wake Potter up, while thumbing his nose at the Dark Lord and his stupid curses. He leaned forward and pressed his lips against Potter’s slack ones, trying to push aside the fact that he felt as though he were about to have sex with a dead person. Forcefully, he imagined what it would be like when Harry awakened. He could see Harry smiling at him, his eyes sparkling with life, and envisioned the two of them wrapped around each other, Harry so deep inside him that they were like one body.

"Oh, fuck, I can’t wait for that moment, Harry. It’s going to be perfect," Draco whispered as he kissed and nuzzled Harry’s neck.

He sat back up on his heels between Harry’s legs and pushed Potter’s knees up and apart until he could see his goal. A shiver fluttered through his belly as Draco reached for the last of the potion in the third vial. He coated the fingers of one hand with the potion, intending to prepare Harry thoroughly for what was about to happen. He didn’t know too much about the life of the wizarding world’s saviour before all this had happened and whether he’d ever had gay sex, but Draco was determined that this be as painless as possible for Harry.

Draco’s erection had wilted a bit as he went about methodically stretching and lubing Harry to get him ready. Closing his eyes, Draco brought back that fantasy of Harry fucking him hard and deep as he used the last of the potion to cover his own cock, and it slowly hardened once again.

Draco looked down at Harry’s still body, and silently apologized to him if this didn’t work. He prayed that it did, because Draco didn’t think he’d ever be able to face Harry or look Petunia, Ron and Hermione in the eye ever again if it didn’t.

Releasing a slow breath, and trying to banish his apprehension along with it, Draco lowered himself between Harry’s legs, bracing his weight on one hand beside Harry’s chest and using the other to guide his cock towards Potter’s ass. Sweet ass, Draco thought as he slowly pushed the head of his cock inside.

"Oh, god," Draco gasped as he inched in a little further. He looked up to Harry’s face and saw a tiny frown line appear between Harry’s eyes. That had to be a good sign, didn’t it? It meant that he was responding, even if it didn’t appear to be very pleasurable for him at the moment.

"I am so sorry, Harry," Draco said, as he closed his eyes and then pushed hard all the way into Harry’s body, whimpering just a little as he felt his bollocks smack against Harry’s ass.

"Oh my god, oh my god!" Draco muttered because fuck! So tight, and oh, it felt so good. There was a tiny murmur of sound that Draco knew had not come from him and his eyes flew open to look at the man lying beneath him.

The potion he had smeared all over Harry’s body was gleaming in the moonlight that filtered in the window, giving Potter an unearthly glow, and Draco saw that his hands were twitching. He watched Potter’s eyes intently, wanting desperately to see them flare back into life.

Suddenly, Potter’s back arched as he drew in a loud, shuddering gasp, nearly knocking Draco off him, but he gripped Harry’s shoulders, holding on with all his might. Harry’s eyes snapped to Draco’s and he stared at him with a stunned look on his face for what seemed an eternity. Draco could feel his hard-on withering away as he was sure he was about to be vilified by the Boy Who Lived.

"Draco," Harry breathed his name right before he reached up to yank Draco’s head down into a fierce, bruising kiss. Draco nearly sobbed in relief as he returned the kiss with all the passion he could muster.

Harry’s lips found their way to Draco’s ear and the blond shivered in delight as Harry whispered intently, "Fuck me, Draco. Fuck me hard!"

"Oh, god, yessss," Draco hissed and he proceeded to do just that.

What a difference it was having Harry as a willing participant to this act! Harry was a loud, aggressive lover, pinching Draco’s ass, nipping and biting at his neck as he screamed at Draco to pound him harder, faster, deeper. Draco’s orgasm was without doubt the most powerful sensation he’d ever experienced in his life, and he thought he might have blacked out for a few moments, because he struggled back to awareness to the realization that Harry was stroking his back and gently kissing his ear.

"You saved me, Draco. Thank you," Harry whispered to him.

"You saved me first, Harry. I’m just sorry it took me so long to figure it out," Draco replied, and turned his head so that he could properly kiss his lover.

"Doesn’t matter how long it took. You’re my hero, Draco," Harry said with a teasing grin.

"I’m the farthest thing from a hero, Harry. That’s your job," Draco said.

"You are one to me. I can’t believe that I’m finally here with you now. I’ve been wanting to touch you for so long, Draco. I could see you and hear you, but I couldn’t touch you." As he spoke, Harry’s hands were wandering over Draco’s body, as though he was trying to make up for every moment of lost time all in just a few minutes.

"We have all the time in the world now, love, and you know something else?" Draco asked with a wicked glint in his eyes.

"What?" Harry said, his lips curving into an indulgent smile.

"Your aunt is not going to be back for the entire weekend, so we have the place all to ourselves. Whatever shall we do?" Draco teased.

"I think we can come up with something," Harry laughed and nudged his cock, already hardening again, against Draco’s hip.

They spent the rest of that weekend just making love, eating, and sleeping. There was a little bit of conversation about the curse and the Dark Lord and Draco’s struggle with drinking, but not much. All of that could wait until another time as they just celebrated being alive, young and beautiful, and in love. Harry laughed a lot and Draco just fell deeper with every chuckle as he realized he’d never before heard Harry laugh. It was a beautiful sound.

Draco was right beside him as Petunia came home and got the shock of her life. Harry graciously accepted her sobbing apologies for the first seventeen years of his life and thanked her for taking such good care of him the last few years.

He was also right there when Harry went to see Ron and Hermione and was smothered with even more sobbing hugs. Hermione even hugged Draco, which was a bit of a shock, but he found that he rather liked the pleasant warm feeling that being hugged by a friend brought to his chest. Draco and Ron mutually decided to just stick with shaking hands, though.

Hermione, naturally, wanted to know all the details about the curse, how Draco had figured it out, how it had been broken. They had decided to keep the method of activating the potion to themselves, but Draco thought she suspected something as she kept looking at them with a sharp gleam in her eye. Draco could almost see the moment she decided to let it go, however, as her gaze softened while she watched Harry play with his goddaughter for the first time. She looked back towards Draco and he knew that tender gaze now included him, as well.

Draco was part of a family, a real family for the first time in his life.

Several months later, when Draco and Harry were married in a quiet, simple ceremony with all their friends and family present, Harry had insisted on no alcohol. Not even for the guests, as he didn’t want Draco to have to face that temptation.

What Draco didn’t say, but he was certain that most everyone already knew, was that he no longer needed alcohol to get him through.

He had Harry.

And that was more than enough.

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