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Title: To Hurt, To Heal

Email: tirel@pcnuthut.com

Site: http://www.angelfire.com/tv2/firebird_ascending/

Author: Constant Vigilance

Disclaimer: JK Rowling is God. I own nothing.

Distribution: Sure. Just lemme know where my baby’s going.

Spoilers: General, book 5 never happened.

Summary: Lost in the Forbidden Forest, a group of Gryffindors learns there is more to Draco than meets the eye. (H/D) (Hr/R) (N/Se)

 

 

Draco sat staring at the flickering remains of the letter; his father’s words burning to ash. If only he could rid himself as easily of his father’s demand. //I will be waiting tomorrow on the pitch by the broomstick shed during your Care of Magical Creatures class. When the distraction begins, immobilize Potter and bring him to me. He is needed immediately in our Lord’s presence.//

 

Draco sighed. ~Sure, father. You ask me now. Why not years, or even months ago before I realized just how much I didn’t want to turn Harry over to you?~ He slowly picked up a quill and piece of parchment. In emotional agony, he penned //As you wish, Father.// His shaking fingers could write no more and he dried the note, rolled it up and secured it to the waiting Malfoy owl’s leg.

 

As the bird flew back out of the window he dropped his head onto the table. ~I can’t do this. I can’t betray Harry. I can’t lead him to death.~ He sat up, his jaw clenched. ~ As soon as we get on the field tomorrow, I’m going to tell Harry about father’s plan and I’m going to tell him that I l-. That I lo-. That I…fuck. Maybe I’ll just tell him about father’s plan.~

 

He flung himself into bed, but knew that sleep would be hours away.

______________________________________________________________________

Draco bit his lip in frustration. Damn Harry Potter and his bloody fan club! Draco had been waiting for ten minutes to speak to Harry alone, but he continued to chat happily with half of the Gryffindor dormitory. Eventually, the crowd dwindled down to Hermione, Ron, Seamus and Neville. ~Better do it now or never.~ Draco sighed. ~I’m sure it’s not going to get any better than this.~

 

He carefully made his way to the Gryffindor’s group, avoiding the clusters of Slytherins in his path. He could tell when the Gryffs first caught sight of him, thanks to Ron’s snort and remarkably loud comment of, “What the hell does the ferret think he’s doing slinking around over here?” Draco winced and glanced to see if any Slytherins had spotted him. Not yet. He hurried his pace up and stood allowing the huddle to block him from the rest of the field’s sight.

 

Ron moved away in disgust. “What are y-”?

 

“Shh!” he hissed back. Ron jerked back in surprise, then his gaze narrowed and he opened his mouth to start up again. Draco rushed to speak before that could happen. “I need to talk to Potter alone.” He murmured. Ron snorted again but a quick elbow from Hermione shut him up quickly.

 

“Why?” she asked warily in Harry’s stead.

 

Draco sighed. Damn Gryffindors. No concept of privacy at all. What was one person’s business was everyone’s business. “I can’t tell you part of why I need to talk to him alone,” he bit out.

 

She raised an eyebrow. “So tell us the part you can.”

 

Damn Gryffindors. “During class, there will be some kind of distraction, I’m betting on an attack. I’m supposed to immobilize Potter and take him to the pitch where my father is waiting, probably to portkey them both to You-Know-Who.”

 

Jaws dropped. Harry met Draco’s eyes thoughtfully. “Why are you telling me this?”

 

Draco tried, oh how he tried, but the blush creeped in anyway. He noticed Hermione and Neville sport a sudden look of surprise. “That’s the part I can’t tell you in front of the others,” he gritted. Damn Gryffindors.

 

“So when is…” Harry was interrupted by loud pops, a hiss and then loud shrieks. He looked back to see six or so dark robed figures begin circling the groups of students on the pitch. Three more stood around a pillar of flames. To Harry’s horror, he realized it was Hagrid…on fire. He tensed and was about to race to his large friend’s side when he felt strong arms slip in around his waist, holding him stationary.

 

“No!” Draco snapped. “That’s exactly why they did it. You have to get out of here. Go!” he pushed Harry into Ron and Seamus’s arms and turned back to the field. “I’ll do what I can to help Hagrid and to stall them.” He was startled, then, when he felt a bruising grip on his arm and he was jerked around to face Harry’s sparking green eyes.

 

“I’m not leaving you to a traitor’s welcome. You couldn’t get close enough to Hagrid to help and as soon as you did, they’d kill you too. You’re coming with us.” He found himself shoved into the Forbidden Forest in front of Harry and started to run automatically. He couldn’t see five feet in front of him; he could barely make out Neville’s back, winding through trees. But that was his focus and he ran, never taking his eyes off of it.

 

They ran without direction, tree branches slapping them in the face and slipping in mud. They ran frantically, and Draco could only hope that Neville was following someone in front of him as well. Someone who knew where they were going, preferably, though he knew that probably wasn’t the case. He could hear his own breath loud in his ears and his footsteps slapping on the ground. Soon, the rest became a blur and it was just run, run, run. Rhythmic and steady.

 

His near trance was broken by a yelp, then another…a scream, then two, and then he was slipping off of the face of the earth. The ground rolled by under his body, head, then feet, then head again. He could hear rumbling from above him and caught sight of grayish masses tumbling down the hill after him. ~Dear Merlin, don’t let those be rocks,~ he pleaded silently.

 

His flight was halted abruptly as he slammed into a…tree? Rock? Pile of bodies? He felt the air whoosh out of his lungs just before blackness claimed him. Above him, the forbidden forest gently tugged its leaves and branches back over the hole left by six teenaged bodies, effectively erasing their presence. With an inaudible sigh, the forest returned to it’s peaceful quiet.

_____________________________________________________________________

 

Neville became aware of an aching pain in his head and the feeling of his nose clogged with dirt. He slitted his eyes and moaned as the late afternoon rays of sunshine threatened to blind him. Beside him, he heard an answering moan and he turned his head slightly to see who it was. Draco Malfoy, looking worse than Neville had ever seen, was pushing himself to his knees.

 

~What the…~ Then he remembered. The talk in the field, the death eaters, the insane race through the forest, falling and then…nothing. He recalled that he and Draco had not been alone and determinedly began trying to make it to his feet to check on the others.

 

“Here.” He looked up to see Draco, pain etched on his features, holding a hand out to him. Carefully, he placed his scratched and dirty hand into his enemy’s and allowed himself to be pulled upright. Almost immediately, Draco began searching him. He nearly protested, but as Draco doggedly pursued his mission, Neville realized that he was simply looking for injuries.

 

He found each scratch and bruise and poked at it experimentally, eyeing Neville to see his reaction. When that turned up nothing but small grimaces, he moved on to firmly gripping up and down Neville’s arms and legs. When he’d determined nothing was broken, he gently pressed around on the Gryffindor’s stomach, chest and back. Neville was shocked at the single-mindedness the Slytherin showed towards his health, and slightly touched.

 

“You seem to be fine,” Draco finally pronounced.

 

Neville let a tiny smile escape. “You didn’t check yourself,” he pointed out.

 

Draco shrugged. “I can tell if I’ve got a broken bone or excessive bruising. And I don’t.” Neville didn’t reply, but reminded himself to question the blonde boy at a later date on how exactly he could tell without investigting. “Let’s check on the others.”

 

Neville nodded and they turned to face the disaster for the first time. Plants were flattened. The dust had settled, everything within a twenty-foot circle was covered in dirt and rock chips. Nestled in-between were medium to large boulders looking as though a giant had haphazardly placed them. Draco and Neville began picking their way around the rocks, searching for signs of life.

 

“Draco! I found Seamus!” Neville called. Draco eased his way to the other boy’s side and looked down at the dirty mess that was Seamus Finnegan. “Looks like he broke his leg,” Neville pointed out helpfully.

 

Draco nodded and knelt beside Finnegan. He closed his eyes and began feeling his way down the other leg, then one arm, then the other. He paused at the right forearm. “He broke this too,” he stated. Gingerly, he reached beneath Finnegan’s head and began touching his neck and back.

 

“What are you doing now?” Neville asked curiously, leaning forward to peek at Draco’s hands.

 

“I’m trying to see if he broke his neck or his back. Don’t want to move him if he did.” Draco’s calm pronouncement of possible damage made Neville’s blood run cold. Draco glanced up at him and seemed to realize what he’d said. He attempted a smile, a grimace with teeth really. “He’s fine. Nothing broken back here.” Sitting up he edged down to Finnegan’s leg.

 

“We need to straighten it out and brace it up so the bone can’t slip out again,” he continued in a more cheerful tone.

 

“H-how do we do that?” Neville stammered.

 

Draco took hold of Seamus’s foot and carefully pulled straight down. The unconscious boy moaned in his sleep as the bones grated together. Neville turned white as a ghost and swayed. Draco eyed the young Gryffindor clinically and pointed to the forest with his chin. “Why don’t you find some pieces of straight wood, maybe four pieces, each about a foot long? We can use them for splints.”

 

Neville nodded gratefully and hurried off on his task. Draco turned back to his. He jiggled the lower part of Finnegan’s leg until he heard the reassuring sound of bone snapping into place. He then gently set the limb back down and moved up to his arm. This break wasn’t as bad as the leg and he was able to set it properly with little effort and no more moaning from his charge.

 

As he finished, Neville bounded back up with several small sticks. Draco smiled thankfully at him and went about ripping long strips out of his cloak. “Hold these here,” he ordered, placing the splints correctly. Neville obeyed silently and Draco wrapped the strips around them, tightly tying them off. “His arm needs some too, but mostly, he can get by with a sling,” he shared as he moved up to the said limb.

 

Neville again held the splints as Draco tied and then watched curiously as Draco sacrificed more of his cloak to create a sling to hold the arm immobile. Finished, he turned back to Neville with a satisfied smile. “He’ll be fine now. Let’s look for the others.” Neville shot one last look at Seamus before hopping up and beginning to search again.

 

Draco caught a glimpse of red twisted up in the green foliage and he plucked at Neville’s robes to get his attention. “Is that Ron?” he asked, pointing. Neville peered in that direction.

 

“I think it is,” he agreed. Together, they climbed over rocks to reach the redhead’s side. Once they were there, however, Neville turned white again and abruptly sat down on the ground. Draco looked at him sympathetically, but steeled himself to ignore the blood pooling beneath Ron’s head.

 

He knelt and gently eased Ron over onto his back, as he did so, he noticed the vines wrapped around the Gryffindor’s head. Cursing, he tried to unwrap them only to find that they had thorns. Long spiny thorns that were embedded in Ron’s flesh, in Ron’s…eyes. He, too, felt a head rush as he took in the bloody, crusted mess that made up Ron’s eye sockets, but he took a deep breath and freed a hand to dig through his own pockets.

 

Triumphantly, he held up his pocketknife and turned to Neville. “Neville? I hate to ask, but I need you to help me with this.”

 

Neville shook his head firmly and stood up. “No, it’s okay. I’ll be fine. Just a bit of a weak stomach.” He tried to smile, but then got a closer look at Ron’s face and the urge to smile disappeared. “What do you need me to do?” he whispered sickly.

 

“Hold his head steady while I cut away these vines.” Draco instructed. Neville nodded and tried to imagine the sticky warmth beneath his hands was treacle, or even something icky from potions and not his dear friend’s lifeblood. Soon, Draco had successfully unwrapped Ron’s head and plucked stray thorns from his flesh. He began wiping away the blood with another piece of his versatile cloak and Neville gagged as the ruined mass of Ron’s eyes came into view.

 

Draco eased the cloth over the wounds and looked up at Neville. “Could you check around for Ron and Seamus’s wands?” he asked politely. “And maybe yours and mine?” Neville nodded gratefully and staggered away. He went back to wiping what he could. Sighing, he brushed a lock of blood darkened red hair out of Ron’s eyes. “You’re going to hate this, mate, but I don’t know what else to do,” he warned.

 

Bringing a corner of the cloak piece up to his own face, he moistened it with spit and went back to work, uncovering more scratches where the blood had dried over them. He did it again and again until his mouth felt like a piece of cotton and his tongue was swollen. Finally, realizing he could do nothing more, he carefully wrapped Ron’s eyes in more of his cloak and moved on to do a broken bone test.

 

Relieved that he found nothing further, he had just begun searching for the other two, Hermione and ~dear god let him be alive~ Harry, when Neville picked his way back across to him. The Gryffindor had a downtrodden look on his face. “What’d you find?” Draco asked.

 

Neville shook his head and proffered several broken pieces of wood. “Mine is snapped in half,” he plucked it from his hand and dropped it, “Seamus’s is cracked,” he dropped it as well, “yours is…well, splintered is the best I can describe it,” he let the remains of that one fall as well and brushed his hands off. “I can’t even find Ron’s.”

 

Draco sighed and clapped Neville on the back. “It’s okay. We’ll figure something out.” They moved out again, each taking a part of the clearing so as to not miss anything. As Draco climbed up a pile of rock shards to get elevation on a large rock, his foot slipped. As he came down on his face, he was eye to cheek with what he thought was Hermione Granger.

 

“Neville!” he shouted. In his hurry to get off of Hermione he rolled backwards and landed at the bottom of the shale pile. Scuffling around in the dirt trying to get back to his feet uncovered a piece of material. He froze for a moment and then began digging through the dirt and rock like a dog, searching, searching, hoping, praying…

 

“Harry!” he whooped as he freed an arm.

 

“You found him?” Neville scooted to a halt beside him.

 

Draco nodded. “Yeah, I’ve got him. Hermione’s up there by that rock,” he jerked his head beck up the slight grade. Neville scrambled up, rocks skittering down as he went. Moments later, Draco had uncovered enough of Harry to do a bone check. Arms, fine. Legs, good. Neck, back, okay. Ches- “Oh dear fucking hell,” he breathed.

 

“Neville,” he called, hearing his voice break. “Neville, Harry’s chest is…crushed,” he bit his lip to keep the sobs from welling up. “His ribs are broken and…and I’m pretty sure there is internal bleeding.” When he heard nothing, he glanced up. Neville sat next to the rock, a smaller pile of rubble at his side where he’d dug Hermione out. He was holding onto his knees and rocking back and forth.

 

Draco panicked. He raced up to the top and reached down to touch Hermione’s neck. He found a thready pulse and sighed with relief. “She’s alive, Neville,” he said soothingly. “It’s okay.”

 

Neville shook his head and pointed. Draco followed his finger and once again, tried to keep from gagging. It looked as though Hermione had seen the large boulder coming and had thrown her arms up to deflect it. Considering the size of the rock, that was wise, it would have crushed her like ~God, like it did Harry~ like she was made of glass. Unfortunately in her salvation lay her problem.

 

The rock’s momentum had carried her back and when it landed, it had pinned her hands under it and against another rock. Hermione’s fingers were split open like ripe melons, the blood painting the rock a dust covered crimson. The white of bone that he could see was pulverized.

 

He was interrupted from his musings by a sniff and a small tug on his shirt. He looked back up at Neville. “I found this, too,” he whispered, holding Hermione’s wand…her perfect unblemished wand…up for Draco’s inspection. Draco could have kissed him. He solemnly accepted it and stood.

 

“Wingardium leviosa,” he chanted. The boulder refused to move. He tried again. “Wingardium leviosa!” Slowly, achingly slowly, the rock began to lift. Neville grasped Hermione’s feet and tugged her out from under it. As soon as she was clear, Draco let it drop again thankfully. “I can do a very little with this,” he said tiredly. “Her wand isn’t in tune with me at all. Maybe you could try it.”

 

Neville nodded and took the wand back, trying to use it while Draco checked over the rest of Hermione. When the Slytherin looked up again he could tell from Neville’s defeated face that he couldn’t make it work either. “It’s okay,” he said comfortingly. “Let’s get her down with Harry and see what we can do about fixing them both up.

 

Neville helped drag, more than carry, Hermione down to lie at Harry’s side. He gasped when he saw the extent of damage that his housemate’s chest had taken. “Is he…?”

 

Draco nodded. “He’s alive, for now. I can tell he has internal injuries, but not what kind. I don’t see any blood at the corner of his mouth, so I think his lungs are okay.”

 

Neville looked away, the thought of drowning in your own blood too much for the moment, and spied Harry’s wand sticking up out of the rubble like a flagpole. He snatched it up and grinned. “Whoo hoo! Lookit here, Draco!”

 

Draco grinned back and gestured. “Go on, see if it works.”

 

Neville looked confused. “Why me?”

 

The Slytherin blushed. “Somehow I don’t think Harry would want me touching his wand. Better to let a friend use it.” Neville rolled his eyes but tried anyway.

 

“Nope, nothing. Even more nothing than with Mione’s,” he stated. He held the wand out.

 

Draco sighed and took it. He aimed at the large rock above Hermione’s head and chanted, “Wingardium Leviosa!” The rock practically flew. Neville whooped and Draco felt something heavy lift from his chest. ~Thank Merlin, a stroke of luck for our side.~ He tore some more strips from his cloak and transfigured them into gloves. He ignored Neville’s raised eyebrow and pointed at Hermione’s hands.

 

“Raise them up. I’m going to clean them.” Neville obeyed and Draco cast a cleaning charm. The split skin glistened in the waning sunlight, making him slightly ill.

 

Draco then set the wand at his side and began working the gloves onto Hermione’s fingers. A long and arduous fifteen minutes later, the gloves were on and snug. Taking up the wand again, Draco cast a stiffen spell on the fabric, holding Hermione’s hands immobile.

 

Neville whistled. “Nice work, Draco. Brilliant idea, that.”

 

Draco smiled wanly and gestured to Harry. “Too bad I have no idea what to do for him,” he whispered.

 

Neville patted his arm. “Don’t do that, Draco. You’ve been amazing. I would never have been able to get past Seamus’s leg had I been alone.” Draco nodded and sighed.

 

“We should wake them up,” he said tiredly. “We need to find some kind of shelter before nightfall.” Neville nodded and stood.

 

Enervate!” Draco intoned at Harry.

 

Nothing.

 

Enervate!”

 

Nothing. He looked helplessly at Neville.

 

“Try Hermione,” Neville suggested. “Maybe Harry is just too out of it to come back with the spell.”

 

Draco nodded. “Enervate!” Hermione gasped and sat straight up. She looked wildly around before her eyes settled on Draco.

 

“M-Malfoy?” Her head continued to seek out her surroundings. She stopped on Neville and breathed a sigh of relief. “Neville, are you okay? Where’s Ron? Where are Harry and Seamus?”

 

Neville glanced up at Draco and they held their gaze for a long moment. Hermione looked warily between the two of them. “Mione,” Neville began, “there was a rock slide when we fell.”

 

She nodded. “I remember. There was this huge rock coming right at me and I…” she looked at Neville’s pained eyes. “What?”

 

“You managed to deflect it, Mione, but it caught your hands anyway.”

 

She looked down, for the first time recognizing that she hadn’t used her hands yet. And then the pain set in. Her mouth pinched with the agony and she looked back up. “How bad?” She asked.

 

“They’re crushed, Granger,” Draco said gently. “The skin is split and the bone is smashed. We can’t do anything else until we get you to a mediwitch.”

 

She looked back at the gloves. “Who?”

 

Neville smiled. “Draco. He’s got nerves and a stomach of steel. And the gloves were his idea too, to immobilize your fingers so you couldn’t hurt them anymore.”

 

Hermione gave Draco a measuring glance and then nodded. “Thank you.”

 

Draco shrugged and reached down to help her to her feet. She caught a look at Harry. “Oh, my god, what happened?” she breathed.

 

“We don’t know exactly,” Neville said, helping steady her. “Draco says his ribs are crushed and he is bleeding inside. We tried already to wake him up. I think he’s too far gone under to react to the spell.”

 

Tears fell down Hermione’s face, streaking the dirt that covered it and leaving tiny mud trails to her chin. She felt a tiny squeeze on her arm and looked up to see Draco just turning loose of it. ~Was he trying to comfort me?~ she thought incredulously.

 

“Come on, Mione, we need to try and wake Ron and Seamus,” Neville said softly. She nodded and followed, Neville close beside her incase she slipped. Draco made his way over to Ron and waited until Neville and Hermione were close enough to take over after Ron realized that he couldn’t see.

 

Enervate!” he walked away as soon as he saw Ron begin to stir. He could hear muffled voices and a panicked one that he knew to be Weasley, then just quiet tears, and he knew Neville was telling Ron about his eyes and his best friend. He sighed and knelt next to Seamus. “Enervate,” he whispered.

 

Seamus jerked awake and eyed Draco carefully. Draco just nodded and beckoned Neville over to his side. Hermione stayed with Ron, holding his head in her lap by her forearms and crying.

 

Draco looked up at the sky. “Nightfall is coming quickly,” he pointed out quietly. “I’ll go scout out someplace for us to spend the night safely.” He turned to Neville. “I’ll be back shortly.” Neville nodded but Ron snorted loudly.

 

“Bullshit,” he snapped. “I bet you’re just looking to run off back to daddy!”

 

Draco just turned away with a sigh. Neville, on the other hand, saw red. “What the hell, Ron?” he bellowed. “Draco is the one who warned us the attack was coming in the first place. We might not have gotten away if it hadn’t been for him! He’s also the one who took care of all of your injuries. He’s been civil, and helpful, and by Merlin, even nice! And if you plan on being right prats about it, I’ll just go with him to look for shelter so I don’t have to sit around here listening to how ungrateful you are!”

 

He stomped off, randomly choosing a direction and Draco followed, not meeting anyone’s eyes.

 

“Wow. Was that really Neville?” Seamus asked, eyes wide. “I’ve never seen him so angry.”

 

Hermione stroked Ron’s cheek with the inside of her forearm. “Well, maybe he’s right,” she said softly.

 

Ron tensed in her arms. “What the bloody hell are you talking about, Mione?” He sounded highly offended.

 

Hermione bit her lip and then shrugged. “He did do a really brilliant job on these gloves, and on cleaning up your eyes.”

 

“He did a good job on my arm and leg, too,” Seamus reluctantly added attempting to show them his arm. With a wince, he gave up and smiled painfully.

 

“He didn’t have to do any of this, Ron,” Hermione reminded him. “He could have just let the Death Eaters take us. He could have let us lay in the dirt while he ran back to his dad.”

 

Ron growled. “Fine!” he snapped, and then sighed. “I know, Mione. I’m just…frustrated! We’re lost, in the Forbidden Forest, no food or water, no idea if Hogwarts has fallen, or who’s dead.” He sucked in a hitching breath. “And I can’t see, Mione. I can’t see and I’m terrified because my survival is in the hands of my enemy.”

 

Hermione clutched him closer and rocked him. “Shh, shh, love. I know. This is all horribly scary,” she whispered. “I can’t do anything to ease your fright, love. But I can tell you that what I’ve seen of Draco in the last few minutes…I don’t think he’s our enemy anymore.” She continued to rock her love in her arms, staring at the slowly disappearing traces of the path the other two boys had taken.

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­______________________________________________________________________

 

 

A short while later, the odd couple of companions came crashing back through the trees. “It’s a great spot, Neville,” Draco was saying. “I mean, how could you ask for more? Shelter, water, access to firewood…it’s perfect.”

 

Neville preened under Draco’s praise. Draco however, fell silent as they entered the clearing, and Neville glared at the injured Gryffindors. Hermione eased Ron up into a sitting position and levered herself off of the ground. “Draco,” she began, meeting his eyes straightforwardly. “I want to thank you for the help you gave us today. Not only the information, but also the healing and the bedside manner. I appreciate it and I know that Ron and Seamus do as well, however, they are boys and can’t seem to swallow their pride to admit it.”

 

Having said her speech, she nearly wilted. Draco dove for her before she took a header and eased her back down to a sitting position. “Thanks, Granger,” he murmured, and smiled a tiny smile. Neville beamed at her in pleasure. “Nev?” Draco called.

 

“Yep?”

 

“I’m going to need a couple of pretty large tree limbs. I’m going to try to make stretchers for Harry and Seamus.” Neville nodded and hurried back to the forest. A moment later he returned dragging a couple of limbs, each over four feet long.

 

“These do?” he huffed, dropping them to the ground.

 

Draco nodded and pulled out Harry’s wand. He transfigured the wood to stretchers and cast an engorgement charm on them to extend their length. “Who’s gonna carry who, Draco?” Neville questioned.

 

Draco bit his lip. “Well, I was thinking of that on the way back. If I put a mobilicorpus on Harry and set the spell to you, you could lead Hermione and move Harry in front of you. If we put Seamus on the second stretcher and I lead, Ron should be able to follow in my footsteps, because he has the only other workable arms and legs.” He stared at his feet, waiting to be slammed by Weasley.

 

When it didn’t come, he looked up to see them all nodding in agreement. Shocked, but not waiting around til they changed their minds, he levitated first Seamus and then Harry onto the stretchers and cast mobilicorpus. He altered the charm and handed off the wand to Neville, who took Hermione’s arm and began moving through the forest.

 

“Okay, Ron, I’m putting you into position right behind the stretcher,” he said softly, leading the redhead to his place. “If you bend down, you can feel the handles.” Ron leaned over carefully and felt the handles. He took a firm grasp on them and waited. Draco took up his position in front. “On the count of three, we lift. One. Two. Three!” They heaved Seamus up seamlessly.

 

“Nice going, Ron. Now, when we walk, I’ll tell you if something is in your path. Keep in mind that you are about four steps behind me, so you have a bit of time to react after I speak.” Ron nodded, trying to quell the terror rising in his chest. For nearly five minutes they walked, the silence broken only by Draco’s occasional directions and the sound of crunching leaves and kicked rocks.

 

“Ron, we’re here,” Draco said finally. “We’re going to be going into a cave, so don’t freak when the dirt changes to rock under your feet.” Ron nodded, refusing to say anything, but amazingly grateful that Draco seemed to know exactly what he needed to hear. In another moment, Draco called a halt and they set Seamus down. “Great work, Weasley,” Draco placed a careful hand on Ron’s shoulder. “I’m leading you to a rock that you can sit on until I get you a place to lay down, okay?”

 

Ron nodded. “Thanks,” he forced out from between clenched teeth.

 

Draco stepped to the front of the cave entrance and chose a good size rock. He called Neville over and relieved him of the wand. With another swish and flick, they had a large bucket. “You want to fill this with water at the creek while I start on the beds?” he asked.

 

“You betcha,” Neville grinned. Draco couldn’t help but grin in return and he shook his head in amusement as Neville trotted away.

 

Taking a deep breath and steeling himself for the energy drain, Draco began transfiguring in earnest. He began by forming a soft mattress and some fluffy pillows out of rocks. Once that was done, he levitated Seamus to it and then propped up his broken limbs with more pillows. Seamus whispered a thank you, to which Draco only nodded.

 

He then moved on to a larger pile and created a double mattress, complete with pillows. He led Ron to it and settled him in and then stepped aside for Hermione. She blushed, wondering how he knew they slept together, but took her place with all the grace that having no hands could muster. He smiled briefly at her sigh of comfort and moved on.

 

He made another mattress, this time a little harder so as to support Harry’s crushed chest ~and bigger because Harry was Harry and deserved the best after all~ and levitated him onto it as well. He eyed the cavern again and chose a grouping of rocks near to Harry to transfigure a bed for Neville. Nearly swaying on his feet, he took a momentary breather before stepping back up and appropriating cloaks. He transfigured them into warm, comfy quilts and moved from one bedside to another tucking his ‘patients’ in.

 

He had managed to kick some wood into a small pile, completely unable to bend over to straighten it, by the time Neville came back in. “Wow, Draco, this is amazing!” the Gryffindor gushed. Draco smiled weakly and pointed out Neville’s bed to him. He aimed the wand one last time, hand shaking badly as he did, and cast incendio on the wood. The flames began to flicker merrily, but Draco didn’t notice. That last bit of magic wiped him out and he collapsed into a boneless heap in front of the fire.

 

Neville gasped and ran to his side. “Draco? God Draco, are you okay?” He shook the blonde’s shoulder before looking up helplessly at Hermione.

 

She smiled reassuringly. “It’s okay, Neville. He’s just been casting really trying spells for the last hour and between that and the stress and the physical labor, he just wore himself out.” Neville heaved a sigh of relief and managed to heave Draco up into his arms. He looked around the room and realized that Draco had been so focused on everyone else’s comfort that he’d forgotten to make himself a spot to sleep.

 

Smiling slyly, he made his way over to the only other bed big enough to hold two people, and gently placed Draco next to Harry. After that, he quickly got into his own bed and snuggled down. Tomorrow had to be better.

________________________________________________________________

 

Draco woke, amazingly warm and content. He cracked an eye open at a noise and the first thing he saw was dark hair, a lightening scar and pale skin. Sitting up abruptly, he scanned for the reason he would be in bed with Harry Potter. ~Not that I mind in the least.~ When he saw Neville smirking at him from near the fire, yesterday came rushing back to him in a fell swoop.

 

Moving gingerly so as not to jar Harry, he climbed up off of the bed and made his way to the fire. “Neville,” he nodded, crouching down.

 

“Morning, Draco,” Neville replied cheerfully.

 

“Is there a reason I woke up next to Potter?” Draco continued, nonchalantly.

 

Neville snickered. “You mean other than the fact that I put you there after you knocked yourself unconscious last night?” Draco flushed and nodded again. “No, no other reason.” His tone made it clear that Draco was getting nothing else out of him on the subject. Draco sighed and stood again, stretching to crack his back.

 

“Um…guys?” Neville and Draco turned to see Seamus scooching onto his side to eye them pitifully. “I hate to be the bearer of bad tidings, but I gotta piss like a racehorse.”

 

“So do I,” Ron chimed in.

 

Hermione blushed and cleared her throat. “Well, I can’t say I need to go that badly, but a trip outside would be helpful to my bladder.”

 

Draco grinned as Neville blushed nearly as red as Hermione. “I…er…I’ll help Seamus,” Neville stammered, rushing to find something to do that would cover his embarrassment.

 

“I’ll take Ron,” Draco said softly.

 

“I’ll be fine on my own, gentlemen,” Hermione stated primly. Draco nodded and moved to help guide Ron to the entrance of the cave.

 

Draco led Ron out and around the corner from where Neville went with Seamus, who was giggling about Neville finally getting to get into his pants. Draco eased Ron behind a bush and stepped back. “You’re pointed at a tree trunk,” he stated quietly. “Yell when you’re done and I’ll turn back around.”

 

“A-are you leaving me here?” Ron’s voice sounded shaky.

 

“No, not at all,” Draco said soothingly, risking a hand on Ron’s arm. “I just need to go too and didn’t think you’d want me hovering around watching your bits while I manhandled my own,” he tried for a joking manner.

 

Ron rewarded him with a weak smile. “So, promise not to gander at my bits and you can stay?” Draco’s chest hurt at the pleading note in Ron’s request.

 

“Okay, Weasley,” Draco smiled, stepping to the side. “I’m right here.”

 

Once they had finished relieving themselves, Draco led Ron to the bowl of water at the cave mouth and poured a bit on his hands to wash them. “Dunno why,” Ron joked. “If the dirt and infection don’t kill me I don’t know what a bit of piss is gonna do.” Draco just laughed quietly and eased Ron back onto his bed. A moment later, Neville and Seamus came limping back in, Seamus still giggling.

 

“Hey, where’s Mione?” asked Neville. Draco looked around the cave and shrugged.

 

“I’ll go look for her,” he offered and headed back out in the direction she’d gone. He walked for a minute or two and then heard crying. Frantic, he sped up and practically burst into a small clearing housing a crying Hermione sitting on a tree stump. “Mione?” he asked. “What’s wrong?”

 

The pretty girl looked up, her eyes red and her face mud streaked again. “I-I put on pants yesterday,” she whispered, “because it was cold outside. Pants with buttons.” She held up her hands helplessly.

 

Draco sighed in relief and put his best ‘determined’ look on. “Well, we aren’t going to let that stop us from anything,” he smiled and reached down to tug her into a standing position. “Now, we’ll just tuck these robes up under your arms,” he rolled them up and demonstrated. “Then we’ll open these blasted tiny buttons.” As he worked on her pants, Hermione looked up at the sky, blushing and wondering how the hell the world got so turned upside down that her ‘enemy’ was helping to undress her to use the lav.

 

“You know,” he added conversationally as he worked on the last button, “if you sit on the very edge of this stump, it will be just like the girls’ toilet at school.” Hermione glanced down and saw readily that he was right; she wouldn’t have to have the indignity of trying to balance while squatting.

 

“Okay,” she breathed, trying not to cry.

 

“Would you like the pants and…er…underclothes off, or just pulled down?” She shot a look at him when he stumbled over his words and was relieved to see that he was blushing just as badly as it felt like she was.

 

“I should be okay with them just pushed down,” she muttered. “That way, I don’t have to have my shoes off too.”

 

Draco nodded and locked his eyes on her chin. He kept them there as he pushed her pants and knickers down to her knees and helped her scoot back to the stump. When she was seated, he turned away and walked a few paces off, deliberately kicking rocks and tromping through leaves. Hermione smiled through a sheen of tears.

 

A minute or two later and Draco was beginning to get nervous. “Everything all right back there?” he called.

 

“Um…I suppose so,” Hermione’s voice was hesitant.

 

“What’s wrong?” he asked worriedly.

 

“Well, could you maybe transfigure a leaf into toilet tissue or something?” Draco could hear the misery in her voice. He turned slightly to get an idea of where she was and then aimed Harry’s wand. He cast a cleansing spell and knew from Hermione’s surprised yip that it worked.

 

“Okay?” he asked.

 

Hermione chuckled. “Yeah, great. Thanks.”

 

Draco nodded and turned back, keeping his eyes upwards until he saw Hermione’s face shoot up into his eyesight. He smiled at her and leaned down, still watching her, to pull her knickers and pants back into place. As he settled her underwear in place, she felt him run a finger under the elastic on her arse. At her jump, he flinched, “Sorry. I just figured…well, I hate spending the whole day with my boxers riding up my arsecrack, so I…”

 

“It’s okay,” she reassured him. “I appreciate the gesture.” He nodded and continued tugging her pants into place. He had to look to see if he was getting the buttons done up correctly and noticed with the back of his mind that Hermione Granger had pretty taste in knickers. He freed her robes from her arms and brushed the wrinkles out before stepping back and presenting his arm to her.

 

She smiled, linking her arm with his, and allowed him to lead her back. Of course, no Gryffindor could leave things alone, and the first thing that Neville said when he caught sight of them was, “Where have you been?”

 

Hermione opened her mouth, but snapped it shut just as quickly. She let go of Draco’s arm with a final embarrassed smile and went to bury her face in Ron’s shoulder. Neville looked back and forth between the two of them. “I er…guess I don’t need to know, huh?” he blushed too and edged toward the entrance. “I thought I saw some willow bark, maybe I can get enough to make some painkiller tea.”

 

“Yeah, you do that Neville,” Draco muttered. He looked over at Seamus who was grinning like a madman. “What?” he snapped. Seamus shook his head and held up a placating hand. He then looked at Hermione’s hands and back at Draco. When Draco’s blush became more pronounced, he started laughing. “Bloody hell,” Draco growled, “I’m going to look for some more firewood.”

 

Seamus’ laughs followed him out of the cave.

________________________________________________________________________

 

When Draco came back, he was determined to ignore Seamus. He began carefully stacking the wood, making trip after trip outside to get more armloads instead of levitating it all in like he had done from the forest. He was so resolute in pretending that Seamus didn’t exist that he didn’t notice Hermione and Ron leaning up in bed talking quietly.

 

“He’s back,” Hermione breathed into Ron’s ear.

 

“Mmmm,” Ron answered noncommittally. He listened to the sound of wood being dropped to the stone floor. “He helped you this morning, didn’t he?” he whispered. He couldn’t see Hermione blush, but he knew from the tone in her voice that that was exactly what she was doing.

 

“Yes. I couldn’t…with my hands…”

 

“Shh,” he smiled, stroking her back. “It’s okay, love. Was he polite?”

 

Hermione nodded, then realized Ron couldn’t see her. “He was astounding. He was thoughtful, and kind, and let me keep my dignity.” She smiled at the remembrance of Draco’s blushing face. “And he didn’t rub my humiliation in my face,” she finished.

 

“I noticed,” Ron smiled.

 

“Why do you think he warned us, Ron?”

 

“Dunno. Why do you think he’s taking care of us?”

 

“I have no idea.” She looked across the room at Harry, lying so still and quiet. ~All right, so I do have an idea.~

 

“Neville seems to be his number one supporter.”

 

Hermione snickered. “It seems kind of weird. Draco hasn’t insulted him once. He’s even said please and thanked him.”

 

Silence.

 

“Ron?”

 

“Yes, love?”

 

“I’m scared out of my mind.”

 

Ron sighed. “Me too, Mione.”

 

“What are we going to do?” Her voice rose slightly and she fought to drop it back down. “Only Draco and Neville and maybe me on a good day could find our way out of here to go for help. Unless we try to go the same way as we came in, but I looked up at the bushes and they’d closed around us, Ron. They’d wiped out our passage. It was strange. And even if we get back to Hogwarts, we have no idea how things are there. The death eaters could have taken over and…”

 

“Mione!” Ron interrupted. “Stop. Worrying won’t help. Let’s talk about it when Neville gets back and Draco is done with the wood.”

 

Hermione nodded reluctantly. Then she sighed. “I’ve been trying to remember the spell for internal bleeding, for Harry.”

 

“You know one?” Ron asked incredulously.

 

Hermione nodded. “I was in the infirmary one day when Madam Pomfrey used it on a Ravenclaw after quidditch practice. But I’ve forgotten it.”

 

Ron smiled. “Well, close your eyes and try to get some rest. I’m sure it will come to you soon.”

 

Hermione sighed again and snuggled down in her boyfriend’s arms, hating that she was helpless to do anything.

______________________________________________________________

 

Neville staggered into the mouth of the cave, grinning wildly and holding the hem of his robes up around his waist. Draco stood from his crouched position at the fire and raised an eyebrow. “I hit the mother lode!” Neville crowed. He clumsily knelt and began letting a plethora of fruits and berries spill out from the rucked up robe. Draco whistled approvingly and helped him pull the goodies out.

 

“Whatcha got there, Neville?” Seamus called from his seat on the bed.

 

“I found some berries,” Neville looked over at him while Draco continued to pull items out of the robe. “The frost hadn’t reached them yet, so they should be pretty good. I also found an apple tree, wild apples so they’re smaller, but apples none the less.” Draco held up a dirty root and looked questioningly at him. Neville grinned. “Oh, that’s just like a potato. Actually, a little stringier, but not too bad. And I got some willow bark for tea!”

 

Draco finished arranging the food onto the stone floor and Neville stood, rearranging his clothes. “I’ll get started on lunch if you transfigure some cookware and plates for me, Drake.”

 

Hermione could feel Ron tense under her arms at Neville’s easy going abbreviation of Draco’s name, but just as she was ready to ease him down, he snickered. “Didn’t see that coming,” he murmured, “no pun intended.” Hermione poked him in the stomach and grinned along with him.

 

“Hell, Neville, this is brilliant,” Draco praised the Gryffindor, a smile to rival Neville’s on his face. “You’re a genius!” He continued to sort fruit from tubers and willow bark. When he heard nothing else from Neville, he looked up, concerned. The bashful boy was gaping at him, looking dumbstruck. “What’s wrong, Nev?” Draco asked worriedly.

 

Neville just shook his head. “You called me brilliant,” he breathed. “And a genius.”

 

Draco’s cheeks took on a pink hue and he busied himself with the food again. “So?” he mumbled. “This is an amazing find.”

 

Neville snorted. “No, you…Draco Malfoy, Evil Prince of Slytherin…just gave me…Neville Longbottom, resident Gryffindor idiot…a compliment.” Draco glared up at him. “No, really,” Neville continued. “I don’t think you’ve ever said one nice thing to me in seven years and now you’re calling me a brilliant genius.”

 

“Do you have a problem with me complimenting you, Longbottom?” Draco intoned.

 

Neville smiled. “Hell no! It’s just weird cause, well, you’ve always thought I was as dumb as a box of rocks!”

 

Draco stood angrily. “I did not!” he snapped. Neville took a step back, his eyes widening. “You aren’t dumb. I’ve never thought that. Granted you’re not at the top of the class in potions or transfigurations but you’re bloody well amazing at Herbology. And you do exceptionally well in Care of Magical Creatures.”

 

Neville stepped back forward. He rolled his eyes and got closer to Draco’s face. “So I have a green thumb and animals like me,” he stated deprecatingly. “Wow. That’s impressive. Oh, wait…and useful.”

 

Draco shoved his face into Neville’s and growled. “Every single class is useful. Every single subject deserves to have its accords. And everyone is good at something different. Let me tell you, Nev,” he eased down a bit, “I would rather have a green thumb than the kiss of death, knowing that I could poison you alone in a room of fifty people and make it look like natural causes.”

 

His eyes widened and he jerked back. “Merlin,” he breathed. “I probably shouldn’t have mentioned that since I just got done touching the food, eh?” He was surprised when Neville burst into laughter.

 

“I think the fact that you mentioned it out loud tells us all that you aren’t planning on doing that.”

 

Draco grinned back self-consciously. “Yeah, okay. All I was trying to say is don’t be ashamed of what you’re good at. Don’t let anyone make you believe you’re worthless. You come through like a champion when it matters.”

 

Neville looked at him strangely and then clapped a hand on his shoulder. “So do you, Drake. So do you.”

 

Draco ducked his head and pulled Harry’s wand out to fulfill Neville’s request for cookware. Minutes later, the Gryffindor had water boiling merrily and was serving up stone cups of willow bark tea to Seamus, Mione and Ron while Draco checked on his patients.

 

Draco gave Seamus the okay, telling him to keep the leg and arm elevated. Hermione, he tut tutted over and looked sorrowfully at the mess her hands were. “I wish I knew what to do, Mione,” he muttered. “I just don’t know healing.” He bit his lip and looked up at her with a pained smile. “But if you ever want to submerge yourself in masochistic tendencies, give me a call.”

 

Hermione giggled and managed to keep her smile through the replacing of the stiffened gloves. “Go, sit by Seamus. He can help you drink your tea while I take care of Ron’s eyes.” She nodded and moved to the other Gryffindor’s bed.

 

Draco gathered up his wand, a bowl of water and the rest of his tattered cloak before making his way back to Weasley’s bed. He sat on the edge of the bed and leaned in close to the redhead’s ear. “Weasley, I’ve got to tell you that I’ve never tried to take care of injuries like yours before. I won’t lie to you. It’s bad.”

 

Ron nodded and his breath hitched a bit.

 

“I sent Granger over to Finnegan so she wouldn’t have to see it, but if you start screaming that won’t help in the end.”

 

Ron nodded. “I’ll try to keep quiet,” he breathed back.

 

“And I’ll try my best not to hurt you,” Draco assured him. Carefully, he began to unwrap the boy’s eyes, wincing each time that dried blood caused the material to catch. When it was freed from Ron’s flesh, he tossed it aside and began to clean the enflamed skin with a new piece of his cloak. As soon as he could see the eyelids clearly, he cast a cleansing charm on them. Ron breathed sharply through his nose but relaxed as the sticky gummy feeling left his eyelashes.

 

Draco attempted to pry open an eyelid to see the damage to the actual eye. Ron whimpered quietly and his arm flailed for a moment until it met Draco’s leg. He grasped it tightly and Draco knew that he would have a few more bruises to add to his collection tomorrow.

 

“You’re doing really well, Ron,” he said soothingly, hoping the sound of his voice would ground Ron from the pain filled darkness. “You’re a very good patient. Are you this good for your Mum?”

 

Ron gave a half whimper, half snort. “Hardly.”

 

Draco smiled and let his voice warm a bit. “Well, then I’ll have to tell her that she’s going about it all wrong. Now, what I’m doing is checking to see how bad the scratches are on the inside of your lids.” He narrowed his gaze when he saw the large cut on the white of his left eye. “Well, it’s not great, but I don’t see anything on the iris or the pupil. I’m going to flush it out now, so hang on to something.”

 

He poured a bit of water into the socket of each eye, biting his lip when Ron’s fingers threatened to pierce his skin. “Nearly done,” he whispered, “you’re doing fine, brave Gryffindor.” Ron managed a tiny smile and held his breath. Eventually, Draco was satisfied with all that he could do and he eased Ron into a sitting position. “Okay, now I’m going to wrap your eyes up again.”

 

Ron nodded, a sob escaping with his released breath. Draco smoothed a lock of fiery red hair from a freckled forehead and leaned closer. “I’m so sorry I had to hurt you.” He whispered, and then continued in a conversational tone. “You have some pretty eyes there, Weasley. Nearly as pretty as Hermione’s big puppy brown ones. And you’ll be looking into those again in no time.”

 

He tied off the bandage and made to stand. Ron squeezed his leg again, a gentle pressure this time. “Thank you, mate.” He murmured.

 

Draco stood and walked over to Harry. Looking down at him, Draco was reminded of a fragile child. He sighed in frustration. “I wish I knew what to do for him.”

 

Hermione cleared her throat. “I remembered a part of the internal injury spell,” she called. “I just can’t remember all of it.”

 

Draco looked up quickly. “What part?”

 

Hermione frowned. “Interior something sanare.”

 

Draco looked flabbergasted. “Interior fragminis sanare,” he breathed.

 

Hermione’s face brightened. “That’s it!” Then her smile fell. “How did you know that?”

 

Draco looked sick. “I didn’t know, actually. That’s a spell to heal internal injuries. I only figured it out because it’s so similar to the one that causes them.”

 

Hermione stared wide-eyed. “How do y-…never mind,” she caught herself. “I don’t care. I’m only thankful that something your bastard father taught you came to some good.”

 

Draco looked startled at Hermione’s bluntness, but just smirked. “I’m sure he’ll be delighted to know what I used it for.” Hermione grinned back. “Interior fragminis sanare!” He cast. The purple bruising began to fade immediately and the swelling also started to go down. As sure as Draco was certain that the spell had had sufficient time to work, he called Neville over to hold Harry upright while he wrapped his ribs.

 

After easing Harry back down, he decided to see how well the spell had worked. “Enervate!” For a long moment, nothing. Then…Harry’s eyes began to flutter and he moaned. A second later, his eyelashes fluttered open and Draco was staring into the mesmerizing green he’d longed to see again.

 

“Draco?” Harry asked groggily.

 

“Yes, Harry,” Draco was trying to hold back tears. “It’s me. We got into a bit of an accident and you were hurt. We just now got you to wake up.”

 

“You alright?” Harry’s eyes seemed to get a concerned spark. Draco’s heart soared. ~He asked about me. He honestly seems worried.~

 

“Yes, Harry. I’m fine. So is Neville. Ron and Hermione and Seamus are a bit worse for the wear, but Nev and I are working on getting you all back to Hogwarts so that Madam Pomfrey can look at you.”

 

“Whass wrong wi’ em?” Harry started to slur.

 

“Don’t worry about that, now,” Draco gave in to impulse and cupped Harry’s cheek. “You just rest. Next time you wake up, Neville will give you some tea for the pain and I want you to drink it all, okay?”

 

Harry whined, a tiny mewl of a sound, and rubbed his cheek against Draco’s hand. “Don’ wanna. Wanna stay ‘wake wi’ you.”

 

Draco brushed the hair from Harry’s forehead and leaned down to kiss his scar. “You’re with me even when you sleep. No one will hurt you here, Harry. You or your friends. I promise you that. Now go back to sleep.”

 

Harry’s eyes fluttered shut. “Mmkay Dra…co.” Draco smiled and tucked him back into the bed, smoothing the wrinkles out of the covers. He stood up and chanced a glance at Hermione. She was watching him, smile on her face and tears in her eyes.

 

“Thank you,” she mouthed. He blushed and moved back to the fire to help Neville with lunch.

 

~You’re welcome…Mione.~

______________________________________________________________

 

Neville shyly handed the steaming bowl to Draco after having passed out lunch to the other three conscious Gryffindors. “I won’t be offended if you want to transfigure it into something that tastes better.

 

Draco looked up at him in confusion. “Why would I want to do that?” Neville beamed and sat down to enjoy his own bowl of berry flavored mashed tubers and slices of apple.

 

After lunch dishes were cleaned and put away, Seamus, Ron and Hermione decided to take a nap and Neville and Draco sat up to discuss plans on what to do next.

 

“We have to find out if Hogwarts is even safe to go back to,” began Draco.

 

“And we have to figure out how to get there,” added Neville.

 

“Should one of us go scouting?”

 

Neville shook his head. “It’s too dangerous to split up in the Forbidden Forest. Just because nothing has attacked up in the last day and a half doesn’t mean nothing is making its way here as we speak.”

 

Draco sighed. “Yes, but is it more dangerous to stay here, hoping we’ll figure something out while those four over there die from no medical attention?”

 

“Good point,” Neville said glumly. “Well, you have Harry’s wand. Why not use it as a direction finder? Use point me like we learned in fifth year.”

 

“Great, except for I’ll have Harry’s wand, wandering out and around in the forest and you all will be stuck here with no protection at all.”

 

Neville grimaced and thought. “You could seal us up in here until you get back! Nothing could get in to hurt us.”

 

Draco looked wryly at the eager Gryffindor. “And if I’m killed out there, you all die as well because no one knows where you are.”

 

Neville sighed. “Another good point. Well, we could do point me just the once and you could follow that in a straight line?” Even in his suggestion, he sounded doubtful.

 

Draco smiled. “You know as well as I do that I’d be lost the first time I spun around, freaking out over some weird noise.”

 

Neville growled and Draco bit his lip to keep from smirking. “Besides, the damn forest is against us. You saw how it closed off the path where we fell down.”

 

“Yeah, I did,” Draco said, impressed. “But I didn’t think you’d noticed.”

 

Neville smiled wryly. “We’re Gryffindors. We’re brave and true and loyal. Not stupid.”

 

“I never thought you were stupid,” came the quiet answer. “I have often wondered what it would be like to be in a house like yours.”

 

“Why?” Neville asked curiously. “I thought Slytherin was ‘perfect’?”

 

“Everyone gets along in your house. Everyone supports each other. In Slytherin, it’s eat or be eaten. You never show who you are because someone will use it against you,” Draco stated tonelessly.

 

“That’s a crappy way to live,” Neville pointed out.

 

Draco shrugged. “That’s Slytherin. And every death eater household. If we’re not afraid of the dark lord, we’re afraid of our parents, or our neighbors.”

 

Neville frowned. “So who do you trust in a life like that?”

 

“You don’t,” Draco laughed. “You never trust. You never open yourself up. You never love. You never get attached.”

 

Neville cocked his head. “But you did.”

 

Draco snorted. “And that’s why I might as well go roaming about the Forbidden Forest. Because if something doesn’t kill me out there, then my housemates or my family will when we get back to school.”

 

“It won’t be the same when we get back to school,” Neville said confidently.

 

“It will be exactly the same, Neville. Except that my father will bring me home to teach me a lesson about betrayal. If I live through that, everyone in Slytherin will be keeping an eye on every breath I take from now until graduation when my father has me safely at home under his thumb again.”

 

Neville shook his head. “It doesn’t have to be like that.”

 

“What else can it be like, Nev?” Draco asked gently.

 

“You have friends now, Drake. Friends who will protect you. Friends you can run to when it gets to be too much. Friends who will try to understand and if they can’t will love you anyway.”

 

Draco sat silently for long moments. “It won’t last, this happy fluffy feeling you have towards me,” he stated kindly. “As soon as we’re all out of here, Weasley will go back to blaming all of this on me. Seamus will start making jokes about how sad my…feelings are for H-Harry. Hermione will thank me politely and then scurry away, afraid I’ll taint her with my darkness and you-“

 

“Yes?” Neville snapped. “What about me, Draco? What the hell do you know about me that makes you so sure you can predict what I will do?”

 

Draco reared back slightly. “I didn’t mean to-“

 

“Yes, you did.” Neville cut him off. “You may know us in the sense that you’ve lived in the same castle as we have for seven years, but you don’t know who we are. You don’t know what makes us tick, what makes us loyal.” He sighed. “Draco, you saved our lives.”

 

“So you owe me a wizard’s debt,” Draco shrugged. “I’ll consider it repaid if you talk to Dumbledore and try to keep me out of Azkaban.”

 

Neville snatched at the front of Draco’s robes and roughly shook him. “No! Fuck the bloody wizard’s debt! You sacrificed your life for us, Draco. If not your physical life, then definitely any chance you had of a home life. Have you even been watching yourself for the last two days? Have you seen what you’ve done?”

 

Silence met his demand.

 

Neville released him and sat back. “Seamus is my dear friend. He is also the vainest bloke I know. Can you imagine what his life would be like if he were to go through it limping and clutching his twisted arm to his side? And what about Hermione? She would still be trapped under that rock, Draco. I couldn’t move it.”

 

“But what if she can never use her hands again?” Draco asked softly.

 

“Then she’ll figure something out. Hermione is the most resourceful girl on the planet. Knowing her, she’ll look forward to the challenge of figuring out how to work magic again. The point is, you gave her that chance.”

 

Draco put his face in his hands.

 

“And what about Ron? Draco you saved his eyes.”

 

“No, I didn’t!” came the angry reply. “I can’t heal him. What if his eyes get infected? What if they don’t heal correctly? What if-“

 

“What if he were still laying out there in the bushes, thorns stabbing into his eyes?” Neville cut him off again. “What if he were still out there when he woke up, unable to move for them impaling him, unable to see, all alone? What about that?”

 

Draco refused to answer.

 

“Draco, you only see this glass as half empty. I see a brave, trustworthy, loyal person who deserves our respect and our friendship. I see someone I’d like to get to know better. Someone I’d like to be friends with.”

 

Draco looked up, a bright sheen in his eyes. “I don’t know how to be a friend, Neville. I’ve never had one.”

 

Neville smiled. “You’re doing fine, Drake. And we’re here anytime you need us.”

 

Draco smiled wanly and sniffed. “So, help me figure out how to get us the hell out of here.”

 

Neville allowed the topic change, seeing that the blonde boy’s emotions were too close to the surface for comfort.

 

“I have an idea,” Seamus’ voice broke the silence.

 

Draco stiffened, wondering how much Finnegan had heard. Neville just turned to the other Gryffindor and smiled. “What’s that?”

 

“Well, Hogwarts is huge, right?”

 

Neville nodded.

 

“And we ran for a while, but I’m pretty sure that we didn’t get far enough that we couldn’t see it anymore. So, if we were high enough above the trees, we might be able to see it. That would tell us the exact direction if we use point me. We head that way and when we get close enough, me, Harry, Ron and Hermione could hide in the edge of the forest and you two can scout ahead and check on the death eater situation.”

 

Draco cleared his throat. “But what if it is far away? Then we run into the problem that Neville and I were discussing a bit ago.”

 

Seamus grinned. “No, actually, what you and Nev were discussing a bit ago included sending you off alone and sealing us up in here.”

 

~So much for hoping he didn’t hear anything damning.~

 

“And I agree with you on that,” Seamus continued. “However, I think that it’s a good idea provided that we go together.”

 

“I can’t ask you to go out into the Forbidden Forest vainly searching for Hogwarts while you’re hurt,” Draco refused.

 

A raised eyebrow and then, “You aren’t asking us, Malfoy. We’re telling you. This isn’t a Slytherin dictatorship. This is a Gryffindor democracy. And I think that you’ll find the Gryffindors in this cave are willing to do what we need to do in order to get everyone of us…including you…back safely home.”

 

Draco opened his mouth to argue.

 

“I’m game,” called Ron.

 

“Me too,” Hermione added. Draco gaped at them for a long moment and then threw his hands up and stomped out of the cave. Hermione looked at Neville. “Should we go after him?”

 

Neville shook his head. “No. He needs to process what we told him. He’ll be back in a bit.”

 

About fifteen minutes later, a much calmer Draco re-entered the cave. “So, who’s going up? We need to do it now so that we can calculate how many supplies we need to take with us.”

 

Neville leaped up and wrapped his arms around the blonde boy. Draco tensed and looked wildly down at the top of Neville’s head. When Neville turned him loose and volunteered to go up, however, he tentatively offered an arm around Neville’s shoulders and a brief squeeze.

 

Shortly, Neville was waiting patiently in the clearing outside of the cave. “Wingardium leviosa!” Draco chanted. Neville began to rise slowly. Draco kept every iota of concentration on the spell, making sure that Neville didn’t tip or sway, that he went up at a steady pace. After 25 feet, Draco began to feel the strain. He’d never so carefully levitated anything as heavy as a person before. The boulder had been different, as he’d just thrown it aside.

 

Fifty feet and he was sweating, yet Neville kept waving him higher. Gritting his teeth, he complied. Seventy-five feet and Neville shouted, “Yes! I see it!”

 

“Thank bloody Merlin,” Draco gritted. He glanced up in the direction of Neville’s pointing finger and made a scuffmark on the ground just in case Neville got turned around as he came down. He then began the arduous task of bringing the boy down as carefully as he had sent him up. Fifty feet to go and he started a slight tremble. Twenty-five and he was all out shaking.

 

By the time he had set Neville on the ground, he was bracing his wand arm with his other arm and sweat was pouring off of him in torrents. When he released the spell, Neville plopped down gently on both feet mere feet away from Draco. And Draco dropped to all fours, his head hanging as he panted for breath. Neville raced into the cave.

 

“How’d it go?” Seamus asked.

 

Neville grinned. “Found it. But Draco practically killed himself trying to keep me in the lap of luxury on the trips up and down. I’m going to put him down for a rest while I gather things together for tomorrow.” Nods answered him as he hastily poured a cup of water and charged back into the clearing. Draco was kneeling now and his panting had eased into hard breathing.

 

“Here, drink this,” he held the cup to Draco’s mouth. Draco was still shaking enough that the rock clattered against his teeth as he opened his lips. “You did really wonderful, Drake.” He praised. Draco grinned up at him wearily. He then took Harry’s wand up again and held it in the shaking palm of his hand.

 

Point me,” he rasped. The wand spun and came to a stop. “We go northwest,” he said, and let his hand fall. And then for the second time in two days, he let darkness overtake him. This time, however, he knew that there would be someone to catch him.

______________________________________________________________________

 

Harry was warm. And comfortable. And a feeling of complete happiness pervaded his consciousness. This was odd for several reasons. The first, that he couldn’t remember being this happy…ever. Oh, not that he’d never been happy, it was just…he’d never been this happy. He sighed. ~Way to make absolutely no sense at all.~ he chided himself. And then realized that his sigh had brought to mind the second reason he shouldn’t be this happy.

 

His chest felt like a two-ton press was sitting on it and little lightening bursts of pain radiated out to every extremity with each breath. Which, of course brought him to his third reason for the odd happiness…the fact that said extremities were currently wrapped around another body. Another body that Harry knew by smell, by sense alone.

 

He was lying next to Draco Malfoy. He pulled his thoughts away from the contented delight that being near Draco gave him and tried to remember exactly why he was here, hurting, with Draco. He remembered the blonde telling him, moments ago it seemed, that Lucius Malfoy was waiting for him on the pitch. Waiting for Draco to lead the infamous Harry Potter into his grasp.

 

He remembered Draco’s eyes…pretty eyes…fill with terror as the darkly clad figures began appearing on the field. He remembered the determination that settled on that face…soft, touchable face…as Draco told him to run, just run. That he would take care of Hagrid and delay the death eaters.

 

A jolt of pain ran through his heart at the picture of the gentle giant cloaked in flames. He hoped Hagrid had been saved or had died quickly. He couldn’t stand the thought of his first friend suffering.

 

He vaguely remembered making a split second decision that he knew would change the course of his life forever; he took Draco with him. He grabbed the Slytherin’s hand and dragged him willy-nilly on an insane dash through the Forbidden Forest. He recalled thrusting Draco in front of him so that the blonde couldn’t change his mind and run back to the field. He remembered staring at that black-clad back, praying that Draco had some clue of where they were going.

 

He recalled the gut-wrenching panic he felt when Draco dropped out of sight right in front of him, and how he threw himself after the boy, only to begin tumbling downwards. The last thing he could recall was a horrible pressure on his chest ~not too unlike the one I’m feeling now~ and the sound of twigs? cracking. He opened his eyes to see a boulder the size of his Hogwarts trunk bouncing off of him and then he knew no more.

 

The next time he awoke, the burning, crushing pain was still there, but lessoned. He’d seen blonde hair and a sweet smile and knew he must be dead. There was no way that Draco Malfoy would ever look at him like that, no matter how he longed for it. Then Draco had spoken to him. He had told him of the accident and confirmed the searing agony of the rock, and he remembered his panic.

 

He needed to know if Draco was all right.

 

Reassured, he none-the-less ached for the injuries of his friends. He tried to go to them, but Draco’s cool hand on his flushed cheek held him in place. But he didn’t want to go to sleep. He wanted…needed…to stay awake. To spend as much time as he could with this new, kind, loving Draco. Because he knew, when he next awoke, it would all be a dream. But the siren’s call of sleep beckoned to him and he couldn’t resist.

 

And now, he was coherent again. And Draco was still here.

 

He drank in the gentle curve of the blonde’s cheek, smiling at the dusty streaks and the sweat marks. His Draco would have a conniption if he could see a mirror. Or maybe this was his Draco and the other Draco…the harsh one who broke his heart with every insult, every cruel smirk…that was the one who would have cared. Maybe this one was different. Maybe this one could be his.

 

He tried to turn onto his side to get a better look and then realized that the ‘searing pain’ hadn’t been a dream either. He hissed in pain and Draco’s eyes popped open. The blonde blinked rapidly and sat up.

 

“Harry? Are you okay? Did I hurt you?”

 

Harry shook his head. “No, I just tried to turn over.”

 

Draco tsked at him. “You can’t do that, ducks. You’ve got crushed ribs. We healed the internal bleeding, but I don’t know the first thing about broken bones.”

 

Harry smiled. “I’ll be alright. Were you hurt?”

 

Draco ducked his head shyly. “Just a few scratches and some bruises. Nothing I can complain about.”

 

“And the others?”

 

Draco’s smile faded. “Neville’s fine. Seamus broke a leg and an arm. Hermione’s hands are in worse shape than your ribs and Ron…Ron’s eyes were punctured by a thorny vine.” Harry turned his head instinctively to see the rest of the room. It was all too blurry and made his head swim so he turned back to the cool relaxing gaze of the boy next to him.

 

“Where are we?”

 

“In a cave. I’m not sure how far we are from Hogwarts. Neville knows. We’re going to head out, probably tomorrow morning and try to get back.”

 

“My glasses?’

 

Draco shook his head. “Gone. But Neville found your wand.” He blushed. “I’ve been using it to do things around the camp. I hope you don’t mind.”

 

Harry smiled. “Of course not. I’m just sorry you can’t find yours.”

 

A wry grin. “Oh, we found mine, all right. It’s in splinters. But that’s okay. I don’t think it’s in tune with me anymore anyway. My father bought it for me when I was his little protégé. That’s not really the case anymore.”

 

Harry just looked at him.

 

Draco blushed again. “I’m sorry for all of the hurtful things I’ve done to you, Harry. To you and all of your friends. I was a real arse. But I’d like to make amends. If you’re still willing.”

 

Harry smiled softly. “I’ll forgive you on one condition.”

 

“What?” Draco asked eagerly.

 

“You lay back down here and keep me warm.”

 

Another blush. Then, a nod. “I’d be honored to, Harry.” He snuggled back down cuddling the Boy Who Lived like precious china in his arms.

 

**************

 

Across the room, Hermione let a tear fall from her eye and Ron grinned. “You’re crying, aren’t you?”

 

She sniffed indignantly. “No.”

 

*Sniff*

 

“Sure you’re not.” He snorted, but pulled her closer into his arms.

 

“Ron, how long do you think we’ve been missing how Harry feels?”

 

Ron sighed. “I dunno, Mione. But somehow, finding out now doesn’t bother me as much as I thought it would.”

 

“Me neither.” She lay back down in her love’s arms and closed her eyes.

 

**************

Neville grinned down at Seamus from his perch on the edge of the bed. “I knew it,” he whispered.

 

“Knew that Harry wanted to shag Malfoy?” Seamus drawled. “Who didn’t?”

 

Neville gaped at him in shock. “How did you know?”

 

Seamus shrugged. “I’m a slut. I can tell sexual tension. It’s a gift.”

 

Neville blushed. “You aren’t a slut, Seamus.”

 

“Do you know how many people I’ve slept with, Neville?” Seamus cocked an eyebrow.

 

“No, and I don’t want to know.”

 

“Why?” Seamus grinned. “Don’t want to be added to the harem?”

 

Neville glared. “No, I just don’t like thinking of you with other people.” His eyes widened as he realized what he’d just given away. “I-I mean that I-I don’t like thinking about sex…and you…I mean you and, er…” he stammered to a stop.

 

Seamus reached up with his free hand and caught Neville’s chin. He stared into the other boy’s eyes with a penetrating gaze. “Neville, do you have a crush on me?”

 

“Er, no?” Neville squeaked.

 

“We might die tomorrow, Nev,” Seamus pointed out. “The least you can do is be honest with me.”

 

Neville blushed and hid his face in his hands. “Okay, fine. Yes, I have a slight crush on you. But if we weren’t going to die tomorrow, I never would have said anything.”

 

Seamus chuckled. “So, you wanna have a go?”

 

Neville jerked away from him, glaring daggers. “No. I do not.”

 

Seamus looked confused. “But, you just said—“

 

“No, Seamus. I didn’t just say I wanted to shag you. I said I had a crush on you, i.e. I’m in love with you. I have absolutely no intention of shagging you and watching you walk away after adding my name to your bedpost.” His face took on a mask of hurt. “I do have some feelings you know. I’m not just good old Neville, kick him while he’s down.”

 

“I-I never meant to imply that, Nev.” Seamus protested. “I respect you. Truly, I do. I’ve just never had anyone be…i-in love with me before. It’s always been just fucking.”

 

Neville sighed. “Seamus. It’s never just fucking. Every act makes you lose a little more of yourself. I’ve seen it happening. You feel a little more dirty each time, a little less worthy.”

 

Seamus blinked and turned away. “Well, how’s a bloke supposed to find Mr. or Ms. Right if he never looks around for ‘em?” He pouted.

 

“Seamus, you aren’t looking. You’re hiding behind your lecherousness, behind your cock.”

 

Seamus smiled blearily. “Well, I’ve heard tell that it’s pretty impressive.”

 

Neville grinned. “It is. I’ve peeked in the showers.” Seamus’s turn to blush. “But you’ll never find the right person if you just have sex.”

 

Seamus looked oddly at Neville. “So, are you this right person?”

 

Neville looked a little sad. “I’d love to be that person, Seamus. But I can’t make that decision. Only you can, and only after you admit to yourself what you really want. Now. You’re tired. I can tell. And I need to get busy collecting supplies. So, go to sleep and I’ll see you when you wake.” He gave into temptation and dropped a kiss on Seamus’ forehead.

 

It was just a tiny brush of lips, but Seamus felt it tingle all the way to his toes.

________________________________________________________________

 

“Draco,” Neville called, “what do you think about hooking these transfigured water and food pouches onto Seamus’ stretcher? That way, we don’t have to sacrifice any more hands to carry them.”

 

Draco eyed the stretcher and nodded at Neville. “Once again, I think you’re a genius, Mr. Longbottom,” the blonde grinned. Neville blushed, but proudly began tying the pouches to the poles.

 

They moved out to Hogwarts in much the same way that they had moved to the cave. This time, however, Neville took the lead, carrying Seamus with Draco. Harry refused to be carried and so he was placed between Draco and Ron, with Hermione bringing up the back to make sure the blind Ron and barely walking Harry didn’t stray off course.

 

Draco had given Harry back his wand, warning him against casting any spells unless they were absolutely necessary. Harry rolled his eyes and nodded agreeably, and spent the next few hours staring at Draco’s ass as they forced a trail back through the forest. Soon, staring at Draco’s ass became less of a pleasure and more of a needed distraction.

 

When his very heartbeat caused his chest to hurt and his wheezing was becoming loud enough that he couldn’t hide it any further, he began concentrating on the play of muscles in Draco’s back and the curve of his hip as he prowled through the foliage ahead of Harry. So entranced by Draco’s form was he, that he didn’t hear Neville call a halt. He walked straight into Draco’s back and yelped as the movement jarred his ribs.

 

Draco turned, worriedly, to see what had happened and all hell broke loose. A blurry form rocketed out of the underbrush and slammed into Neville. The boy went down, screaming, and dropping his end of the stretcher. The stretcher fell back onto Draco, who was watching Harry and wasn’t prepared for it, and smashed him backwards…right into Harry.

 

Harry dropped like a rock, screaming in pain and Hermione pushed past Ron, dropping to her knees at Harry’s side. Ron reached his hands out, terror filling his blood. “Harry? Mione? Neville?” The snarling and screaming drowned out his panicked voice and he’d never felt more alone in his life. “Please, what’s happening?” he begged.

 

Draco straightened himself and glanced over at Neville. The Gryffindor was flat on his back, pinned by a sparsely haired body larger than a Great Dane. If only size were an issue, Draco wouldn’t have been so scared. However, the “Great Dane” also had teeth. Large ones. Large, sharp ones. Ones that were snapping closed mere centimeters from Neville’s terrified face.

 

Realizing in an instant that he no longer had Harry’s wand, he took a deep breath and launched himself at the creature. He hit it with his full body weight and knocked it off of Neville, rolling through the bushes with it. He grappled the beast around the neck, hoping it was as similarly jointed as a Great Dane and wouldn’t somehow twist it’s head completely around and take off Draco’s face with a well-placed bite.

 

As he rode the animal’s thrashings out, he understood that he needed to deal with it immediately. Flopping around, holding its teeth away was great for now, but he could already feel himself tiring…and the creature seemed to be doing just fine. He took a risk and freed one arm. The bucking increased and a rush of adrenaline coursed through his body.

 

He reached out, desperately groping for something that would inflict more damage than his fist. Long seconds crawled by during his futile attempt and then…blessed Merlin. Success! His fingers closed around a fist-sized rock and he pulled it back to him. He didn’t hear his own blood-curdling yell. He didn’t feel the teeth sink into his side as he released the beast. He was totally focused on bringing the rock down over and over and over again on the monster’s skull.

 

He pounded as it growled. He pounded as it yelped and slid to the ground. He pounded as it lay motionless beneath him. He pounded until the bloody rock broke in his hand and he was forced to take stock of the situation. The beast lay dead, and he rolled off of it, gasping.

 

The snarling had stopped, but the screaming continued. Seamus flopped off of the stretcher and dragged his hurting body to Neville’s side. He curled up around the shrieking boy and began whispering soothing words and making comforting noises. Eventually, the howls died away and Neville sat shaking in Seamus’ arms.

 

Harry finally caught his breath and waved Hermione away. She crawled backwards a few paces to where Ron was sobbing in a fetal position, begging, “Please, please, please” as a litany. She too took the hysterical boy into her arms and comforted him.

 

“It’s alright, baby. Shh…it’s okay. There was a…a thing, a beast. It attacked Neville, but Draco killed it.”

 

“Is Neville okay? Is Draco?” he hiccupped.

 

“I don’t know, Ron.” She looked worriedly at the tangled pile of limbs in front of her.

 

Seamus nodded. “Neville’s fine. He’s just shook up.”

 

Harry made his way to his feet and crashed through the underbrush to Draco’s side. He tripped over the carcass and fell to his knees in front of the blonde. Tears blotting out Draco’s visage, he none-the-less began ripping at the other boy’s clothes to get to the horrible, life threatening wounds he just knew Draco had sustained.

 

“It’s okay, Harry,” Draco gasped. “It’s just a scratch. It didn’t get anything vital.”

 

Harry slapped Draco’s hands away and continued his task, sobs escaping his chest, adding to the throbbing of his ribs.

 

Draco grabbed Harry’s hands. “What is it? Did it get you? Did you get hurt when you fell? Damn it, Harry answer me! Why are you crying?” Draco demanded.

 

Harry’s breath started hitching. “N-no, I w-was…s-so s-scared, Draco…so s-scared. Thought you w-were…thought he’d…” he stopped trying to talk through his tears and grasped Draco’s face between his hands. He sealed his lips to Draco’s letting his terror and relief shine through in a trembling kiss. When he finally pulled away for more air, the sobs over took him and he collapsed into Draco’s arms.

 

Draco wrapped himself around the frightened boy and pulled him onto his lap. “Shh…it’s okay love. He didn’t hurt me. I’m fine. I’m here.”

 

When Harry’s sobs tapered off, and he was able to function without holding onto Draco to make sure he was real, Neville padded up to them. He quietly began bandaging Draco’s scratches, swabbing out the shallow cuts with water before wrapping the Slytherin up in pieces of his own cloak.

 

“Thank you, Dray,” smiled. “For saving me.”

 

Draco grinned. “I thought it looked like something a friend might do.”

 

Neville laughed. “I guess it was at that.”

________________________________________________________________

 

Around dusk, Neville pushed through the final vestiges of the Forbidden Forest and stared at Hogwarts, lit up with fire and candlelight and magic. “You four stay here,” he pointedly looked at the Gryffindors. “Draco and I are going to see if it’s safe.”

 

The two boys left their companions hidden in a copse of trees and ventured out through the Care of Magical Creatures field. Keeping low to the ground, they eventually arrived at the entrance hall and carefully, one at a time, snuck in, hiding in the shadows.

 

Draco pointed downstairs towards the dungeons. Neville looked at him as though he were crazy, but rolled his eyes and complied. They met no one, teacher or student, on their way down, and Draco eased them into an alcove near the Potions classroom.

 

“If everything is all right, everyone should still be in classes,” he whispered. “Let’s go down and see if Potions is in session. Even if the school has been taken, Snape will more than likely be down here and he’ll help us.”

 

“Are you insane?” Neville decided that a simple look wasn’t enough. “Snape is a bastard. He’ll never help us.”

 

Draco smiled. “There’s a lot more to him than he shows to any of his students. Trust me, Nev. He’ll help us.”

 

Neville sighed, but nodded. “Fine. Go ahead. If he sees me, he’s likely to start throwing things.”

 

Draco smothered a chuckle and peeked out. “I’ll leave the door open so you can hear. If there are any problems, you run to the infirmary and take Madam Pomfrey to the others.”

 

Neville surprised him by flinging his arms around him in a brief hug. “Good luck.”

 

Silently, Draco eased into the corridor and up to the Potions door. Steeling himself, he abruptly shoved it open and stood broadly in the doorway. Every eye in the classroom was fixed on him, from the nearly two dozen Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws to the black gaze of their teacher. Snape stared for only a moment before dropping the ingredients he was holding and stalking across the room.

 

He grasped Draco by the shoulder. “Are you alright, boy?” he asked lowly.

 

Draco raised an eyebrow and looked around. “That depends, sir. Are things…well here?”

 

Snape raised a matching eyebrow and turned back to the class. “I am stepping out in the hallway for a moment. If I hear one word from any one of you, you will be serving detention with me for a month.” He pushed Draco out the door and shut it firmly behind him.

 

Neville didn’t have time to run. He was caught out in the open as Snape shut the door and the professor’s eagle eye landed on him as he made a frightened meep. Snape narrowed his gaze. “Longbottom. Where are the others? Draco. Why are you with Longbottom?”

 

Draco placed himself between the professor and Neville. “Sir, are the death eaters gone?”

 

Snape snapped his gaze back to Draco. “Yes. The faculty fought them off. We spent most of yesterday searching for you, hoping they hadn’t taken you away. No one seemed to remember seeing what happened to the lot of you. Are you all together?”

 

Draco smiled. “Yes sir. Together and accounted for. Injured however. And we’d really like some baths,” his mouth twisted. “But we’re alive.”

 

Snape glanced distrustfully at Neville, and then snorted. He pulled Draco into a hug, not unlike the one Neville had just given him. “I’m grateful to see you, boy. Let’s get you and Longbottom to Poppy and then we can retrieve the others.”

 

As they walked into the infirmary, Madam Pomfrey gave a startled yip and descended like an avenging angel on the two of them. “What in the world happened to you two? Are the others with you? Are they hurt?”

 

Snape cleared his throat. “Poppy. The others are here. I’m taking Draco with me to fetch them. Please tend to Longbottom.”

 

Pomfrey nodded and Neville stepped into the room. He gasped at the figure on the bed in the corner. “Is that….”

 

Poppy nodded. “Yes, dear. They brought him to me quickly enough that I was able to heal him.” She smiled at the huge lump Hagrid made in the tiny hospital bed. “I’ve healed most of his burns and he should be fine in a few more days.” Draco grinned, knowing how torn up Harry had been at having to leave his friend behind, and grateful that he could stop that bit of pain for him.

 

Poppy stepped to the hearth in the infirmary and fire called Dumbledore. Minutes later, both the headmaster and the deputy headmistress were flanking Snape and Draco on their way through the field. Dumbledore was positively delighted and conjured up stretchers to hold each one of the students, Draco included. He chattered away at them as they floated towards the castle and safety.


But, really, none of the young teens were listening. Draco looked over at Harry, floating next to him, and smiled. “We’re safe, ducks,” he whispered. Harry reached out across the expanse and captured Draco’s hand. Neither boy noticed nor cared about the pause in Dumbledore’s chatter, or the sudden intake of breath from Minerva, or even the groan from Snape. They were content to hold each other’s hands…and know they had tomorrow to look forward to.

___________________________________________________________________________

 

Epilogue—2 weeks later

 

 

“Mione,” Ron called. Hermione looked up and smiled hugely at her boyfriend. She trotted down the hall and pushed up on tiptoe to plant a kiss on the lanky redhead’s lips. Ron smiled down at her. “I have a surprise for you, my sweet.”

 

Hermione practically bounced. “I love surprises!”

 

Ron rolled his eyes, thinking as he did that he was grateful for the ability to perform that small action. “Yes, dear. I know. Now close your eyes.” Obediently, Hermione shut her eyes and allowed Ron to lead her down the hall and to her own chambers. She heard him mutter her password and heard the sound of the stone grinding against itself.

 

Gently, he led her into the room and the stone ground shut. “Incendio,” he whispered. She heard a whooshing noise and then Ron stepped away from her. “Open your eyes love.”

 

Hermione slowly opened her eyes and gasped. Hundreds of candles, all burning merrily, sat on every flat surface in her room. Tall, short, colored, plain…each one letting off a flickering light and a warming glow to illuminate the thousands of creamy rose petals strewn over her bed and the floor. “Oh,” she breathed. “Oh, Ron…what is this?”

 

Ron pulled her into his arms and sweetly traced her lips with the tip of his tongue before releasing her. “I nearly lost my eyes, Mione,” he began. “I wouldn’t have been able to see your pretty face, your gorgeous smile. I’m never taking that for granted again.” Hermione melted against him. “In the past, we’ve hidden like children in the dark while we made love; pretending that if we couldn’t see each other then maybe no one else knew.”

 

He grasped her upper arms and squeezed gently. “I hate that. I want everyone to know how much I love you, that I want to be with you forever. And I’m never letting an opportunity to see how beautiful you are pass me by again.”

 

Hermione had tears in her eyes when she reached up to cup his face. “I love you, Ronald Weasley.”

 

He smiled and dropped to his knees. “I also wanted to have a perfectly romantic setting for something else.” Hermione’s eyes widened and she held her breath. Ron reached into his pocket and pulled out a tiny box. “Hermione Granger,” he intoned. “I love you more than life itself. Would you do me the honor of becoming my wife?” Keeping his eyes locked on her face, he opened the box, allowing the candlelight to glint off of the golden band and sparkling diamond within.

 

Hermione covered her mouth with her hand, blocking the path of the tears that ran down her cheeks. She ignored the box, ignored the ring. She had eyes only for the man kneeling in front of her. “Yes, Ron,” she choked, nodding. “Oh, yes yes yes.”

___________________________________________________________________________

 

Seamus eyed the empty room; Ron was obviously with Hermione, Dean was with his Ravenclaw girlfriend and Harry was…well, no one had a clue where Harry was, but knowing the dark haired teen, he wouldn’t be back until the early hours of the morning. ~No one to interrupt.~ he thought with satisfaction. Quietly, carefully, he made his way over to Neville’s bed and sat on the edge, just watching the other boy sleep.

 

He memorized the lines of Neville’s face, marveling at the baby soft look of his lips, the curve of his jaw, the shadow of his hair as it fell over his forehead. He sighed, smiling sadly.

 

“What’s wrong, Seamus?” Neville asked, opening his eyes. Seamus started, and then grinned wryly.

 

“I was just thinking that you’ve spoiled me.”

 

Neville looked inquisitively at him. “Spoiled you for what?”

 

“Sex,” came the straightforward answer.

 

“How did I do that?” Neville blushed. “We’ve never even had…er, it.”

 

Seamus chuckled. “And that is the problem.”

 

Neville frowned. “I told you, Seamus. I—“

 

“I know,” Seamus interrupted. “I know and that’s what I mean. If you’d given in, if we’d just had sex, then I wouldn’t feel this way.

 

“What way?” Neville asked softly.

 

“Confused. Uncertain. In the past, when I’ve been attracted to someone, I’ve seduced them. I’ve fucked them and put them out of my system. After that, I move on.” He sighed. “But you. You told me no. That was odd to say the least. I don’t think anyone had ever told me no. And then you proceeded to dissect my emotions and make me think about what I was doing…to you, to myself. Then, to top it off, you continue to be my friend. You hung around. You forced me to see you, Neville. To see the real you. And now, I’m confused as hell.”

 

“Why?” Neville breathed wonderingly.

 

“Because when I get to know someone, I’m done. I have no desire to have sex with them. I’m the nameless stranger kind of guy. But I got to know you, Nev. I wanted you, got to know you, and fuck all if I don’t still want to be with you.”

 

Neville smiled. “So, are you going to start the seduction?”

 

Seamus shook his head. “I don’t want to seduce you. I don’t want to just fuck you. I want you to come to me. I want you to want me. Merlin, Nev…I want you to…to love me.”

 

“So what happens if I love you, Seamus?” Neville sat up. “Do I get more than a one night stand? Do I get to be a repeat customer?”

 

Seamus flinched and flushed a deep red. “I suppose I deserved that. But, Nev, I’ve never wanted anyone to love me before.”

 

“Why do you want me to love you now?”

 

Seamus turned away and dropped his head. “I guess I just want to be loved back.”

 

Neville turned Seamus’s head back with a single finger under the Irishman’s chin. “You love me?” he asked carefully. “But what about the sex?”

 

“I love you.” Seamus’s eyes were pained. “I don’t even care about the sex anymore, Nev. I just want you to love me back. I promise, Neville. I’ll never touch you like that…never ask you to have sex, if you’d just love me back.”

 

Neville shook his head and clucked his tongue. “Now, that wouldn’t be very smart of me to turn down something I’ve wanted forever, now would it?” Seamus looked at Neville in confusion causing the boy to smile softly. “I love you too, Seamus. I’ve been waiting for years to hear you say it to me. And if you don’t come into this bed right this second and make love to me, I’m going to go insane.”

 

Seamus’s eye lit up and he grinned. “You won’t regret this, Nev.”

 

“I know, love. Nor will you.” And Neville took Seamus into his arms and pulled him under the covers.

__________________________________________________________________________________

 

Harry closed his Charms book, sighed and gathered up the remainder of his papers. He heard a shoe scuff on the squeaky library floor and turned to see whom else was sentenced to studying so late in the day. Draco stood with his hands wringing the hems of his robe sleeves. Harry’s exhaustion melted away. He smiled brightly at the Slytherin. “Hi.”

 

Draco nodded. “Hi, Harry. What are you doing?” he gestured to the papers.

 

“Finishing up Flitwick’s Charms essay,” he sighed. “Finally.” Draco nodded again and watched as Harry packed everything up into his bag. When he lifted the bag up to his shoulder, Harry flinched at the strain on his newly healed muscles. Draco reached out and grabbed the bag from his shoulder.

 

“Here, let me carry that for you,” he ordered. “You shouldn’t put too much strain on your healing.” Harry looked at him curiously, but Draco just flushed and shouldered the bag. “So, where are you headed to?” ~Amazingly inane icebreaker, Malfoy.~ he chided himself.

 

“I figured I’d take a stroll around the lake before bed,” Harry smiled. “Try to work off some of the cobwebs gathered from that essay.”

 

“Er…do you…I mean…would you like some…er, company?” Draco stumbled over his words.

 

Harry just smiled. “Yes, I would.”

 

Draco made sure to walk slowly as not to tire Harry out. Harry made sure to walk slowly as not to lose a precious second of time spent with Draco. As they neared the lake, Harry veered off to the left and entered a copse of trees, hidden from the prying eyes of the school and yet not detracting from the beauty of the lake and the sky.

 

He sat gingerly and waited for Draco to ease down next to him. As soon as Draco was resting comfortably up against a tree trunk, Harry laid down, placing his head on Draco’s lap and staring up into startled grey eyes. Draco caught his breath and raised a hand to stroke Harry’s hair before realizing what he was doing. Abruptly, he dropped his hand.

 

“How have you been?” Harry asked quietly. “I heard you got out of the infirmary after just a couple of days.”

 

Draco nodded. “Yeah. I wasn’t too badly off. Nothing to regrow like you or Mione.” He looked embarrassed. “I mean Hermione.”

 

Harry smiled up at him. “I’m pretty sure that she would like you calling her Mione. Don’t worry about it.”

 

Draco smiled shyly. “I went back to classes after that.”

 

“How was that?” Harry looked worried.

 

“I’m coping,” Draco shrugged. “There are some who aren’t happy that I changed sides with no notice. Others, I guess, knew it all along and weren’t surprised at all.”

 

“What about your father? Does he know?”

 

Draco shuddered, making Harry want to hug him. “Yes. Let’s just say, I won’t be going home. Ever.”

 

“I’m so sorry, Dray,” Harry whispered.

 

Draco smiled down at him. “Well, it’s not like I’m totally cut off. Mother still claims me. And is planning on sticking by me no matter what. Personally, I think she was just itching for an excuse to get out of the whole Malfoy Mess.”

 

“So what are you planning on doing now?”

 

A shrug. “I never thought about it before. My future was planned. I have no idea which way to turn to now. Who to turn to.”

 

Harry reached up and cupped Draco’s cheek. “You can always turn to me.”

 

Draco stared down at him for the longest time, and then looked away across the lake. “Please, Harry. Don’t say it if you don’t mean it.”

 

Harry frowned and sat up. He swung a leg over Draco’s lap and sat facing him. “I don’t just say crap to make people feel better, Draco. If that were the case, I’d have let everyone live happily ever after, never knowing that Voldemort had risen.” Draco looked back down and Harry caught a sheen of tears in his eyes. Harry leaned in and kissed Draco’s forehead. “I mean it, Draco,” he said softly.

 

“Harry, I…”

 

“Draco, do you know when I fell in love with you?”

 

Draco stopped breathing. He froze, terrified to move, to break the spell. Harry traced patterns across Draco’s cheeks. “Because I don’t. I didn’t just wake up one day and say, ‘hey, I’m in love with Draco Malfoy.’ I woke up everyday and thought, ‘I wonder what Malfoy is planning today.’ Then I went to breakfast and watched you, wondering what you were thinking to make that sad little crease form between your brows.”

 

He traced where the crease would have lain, watching as Draco’s eyes fell shut. “Then I went to class and thought, ‘what is Malfoy going to get Goyle to do to us today?’ And I’d sit at lunch and question ‘how can he look so angelic doing such mundane things like eating or drinking?’ All through classes, I’d look forward to the next time Snape took points from me or gave me a detention, because you’d turn around and smile at me, even if it were just a smirk.”

 

Harry ran a finger over Draco’s lips and felt the puff of air as Draco gasped. “Then, I’d head off to dinner where I’d wonder what your favorite food is, or what it’d be like to, just once, have you give me a real smile. After that, I’d do homework, wishing you were helping me instead of Hermione.”

 

He leaned in and ghosted his cheek against Draco’s. “Then I would go to my bed and cast a silencing spell on my drapes so Ron couldn’t hear me whimpering your name as I touched myself and dreamed of you.” A tiny moan escaped Draco’s lips and Harry felt him harden against him. “You see, Draco. I spent every second of every day thinking about you. Dwelling obsessively on you. After a while, I realized that I couldn’t call it anger, or hatred any longer.”

 

He ground his hips into Draco’s thrilling at the whimper falling from perfect lips. “I realized that I was in love with you. I realized I wanted to be with you, to be there for you, forever.”

 

“Harry…”

 

“Shh, love,” Harry teased Draco’s lips with his tongue. “I know you care for me. I know you’re scared. I just want to love you, Draco. That’s all. Just let me love you.” With a sigh, Draco surrendered to Harry’s will, relaxing under sure hands and loving lips.

 

“I promise you, Dray,” Harry breathed into Draco’s mouth, “I promise you that you’ll never be alone again. That you’ll never feel unloved again.” His tongue slipped in to taste the sweetness of the blonde’s mouth. “I promise to make it worth everything you’ve given up.”

 

Draco opened his eyes as Harry pulled away, love shining in them brighter than the moonlight. “Harry,” he choked, with a watery smile. “You were already worth everything I’ve given up. And the only promise I want from you is that you’ll love me as much as I love you.”

 

The dark haired boy smiled as he took his blonde lover into his arms. “Done,” he whispered.