It was a rebirth, of sorts.
His senses were dampened from Azkaban's enchanted stone.
Thoughts wound their way through his head slowly, his sense of time shattered.
People were indistinguishable from each other. Their whispers hovered in the air.
He didn't care what happened to him any more.
He knew he didn't want to go back to that place, but it was enevitable.
He had done the unforgivable, and the Unforgivables, and if there was any kind of god up there, he was well and truely damned.
And then god on earth walked into the room.
He looked like a beam of light was shining down from heaven on him as he walked in, surrounded by people he didn't care much about.
Harry didn't look at him, but sat down at the defending table.
He couldn't look away as Harry leant over to talk to an aide, pointing at a piece of paper, looking much too old and much too serious.
The Harry he had left had looked completely like a teenager, but this Harry was older. Sombre. An adult in formal robes and glasses falling down his nose. He looked tired and completely serious.
Reminding him of Dumbledore.
Something in his stomach was twisting painfully, and he hated Harry for breaking his resolution to whither and die.
Another sin, to hate god.
And then the minister was speaking, but he couldn't hear the words. He just saw Harry listening and couldn't look away from that hint of a frown as notes were took and quills chewed on.
And then Harry spoke.
Somehow, the words made sense.
"Although Mr. Malfoy has undoutably broken several wizarding rules numerious times during his time as a Death Eater, it has come from reliable sources that Mr. Malfoy was being coorced into doing these things under threat to his parents lives. I believe that this situation, along with Mr. Malfoy's age, is enough to change his sentince to that which someone under the Imperious Curse would get."
Harry nodded at the minister and finally, finally looked at Draco, who's gaze had never wavered.
Their eyes met, and then left, and Harry sat back down, shuffling papers and forcing a weak smile the the person who had leant from behind him and clapped him on the shoulder.
The hum in the room rose and buzzed around his ears.
He just wanted to get out of this room, even if he had to go back to Azkaban.
Harry was not supposed to be doing this. Not /mercy/. Not /pity/.
The chains tightened in warning around his ankles and wrists.
Someone else stood and spoke and the room hushed. The sentincing. Still, only random noises compared to Harry's voice.
But he was still watching Harry, and before even the person finished speaking he was relaxing in his chair, looking shakey and the people on his side of the room were clapping.
People were lead out, but Harry was still standing there, looking at him.
He, for the first time in months, became uncomfortable. His hair had grown out, falling around his face, he was gaunt, dressed in ragged robes...
His eyes fell when two dark forms stepped on either side of him and the chair relenquished it's hold only to be replaced by two anchoring hands on his arms.
They lead him to Harry and it took all his strength just to walk.
And then Harry was looking fustrated and kind, running his hand through his hair nerviously.
He pleaded with his eyes, tried to make Harry hate him. Kill me, kill me now.
Harry took a deep breath and put the hand not carrying the briefcase into his pocket.
"You're coming home with me. I have custody of you for three years and then you'll be put on probation for another two."
They were alone except for the two bodyguards as they walked out of the ministry. They waded through a sea of terrifying flashing lights and screaming voices as Harry gritted his teeth and paved a way through sheer will.
He was pushed into the passenger seat of a car and Harry yelled something outside for a moment before getting in the driver's seat.
"Fucking assholes, they probably haven't even been feeding you, can't believe they'd actually..." Harry muttered under his breath as he started the car up and drove off.
They'd left the bodyguards behind.
It was quiet, but not like the maddening silence of Azkaban - a natural quiet underlined by the sound of a turned-down radio and the growl of a motor.
Harry relaxed slowly, and he couldn't stop looking at him.
"Why?" he wrenched out, voice broken along with his heart. "What am I going to /do/?"
His hands tangled in his hair and he bent over, face in his knees, the vague pull of a seat belt against his weak chest almost enough to pull him back up again.
A hesitant hand rested on his back and he tensed, taunt, against this intrusion.
"Live. You can live, Draco."
The car shuddered to a hault some time later, and the hand left his back only to reappear on his arm, gently pulling him out of the car and standing, supporting him as he swayed on his feet.
He didn't know what half the things were in this apartment. He was terrified something was going to pop out and scare him. It was full of papers and random books and there was something that looked like a quaffle sitting on a chair and a snitch was buzzing around his head. There was an snowy owl in the kitchen that glared at him, introduced as Hedwig. There were two bedrooms, one messy and smelling of Harry and the other neat and clean.
"Why me?" he asked wearily, staring down a casserole, the likes of which he hadn't seen in a long, long time.
Harry was wolfing it down with a glass of milk and had to stop and swollow, smiling sheepishly, when he asked his second question of the day.
His eyes died a little.
"You've killed less people than I have."
He felt an anger rise in him and he half-stood even though he felt the world whirl around him dizzyingly.
"But you were /right/! You're the great Gryffondor, saving the world. You're not allowed to be /guilty/!"
And he started coughing uncontrollably, breath being yanked out of his chest as he half fell back into his seat, clutching his chest.
"Hey, hey, calm down."
Harry's voice was too gentle and he crouched beside him, rubbing his back a little awkwardly.
"Just eat something."
He knew Harry had felt his bones through the loose shirt he had put on and obediantly ate, too tired to argue any more.
When Harry put him to bed he swollowed the urge to ask him to stay and instead wrapped the woollen blanket around his shoulders and sat against the headboard, unable to sleep.
He dozed off at around dawn and was jolted awake by the feeling of eyes watching him.
Harry was in his doorway, blowing on a mug of something steamy, glasses lopsided. Harry didn't look at all awake.
Draco hesitantly tried stretching his legs out and then got up out of the bed after sitting to catch his breath and steady himself for a moment.
Once he started eating, he had a hard time stopping, but starting wasn't that easy. Harry sat at home with him constantly for the next month, only going out on errands when he was sleeping or reading.
He convinced himself that it was because Harry didn't trust him, but he could see the aching tearing need to care in Harry's eyes.
He knew, even if Harry didn't, that Harry was seeking salvation for his sins in him.
He didn't feel any shame any more. Once you've killed someone, he thought bitterly to himself, it doesn't matter if someone sees you naked.
He let himself be bathed by an awkward Harry and felt the dirt settle under his legs when Harry refilled the bath over and over again.
He flinched when Harry touched his shoulder, phantom pain streaking through his nerves.
"Don't," he hissed between clenched teeth. "Don't, Harry."
He got used to seeing himself with long hair in the mirror, with hollows under his eyes and in his cheeks, bones that were slowly coushined again by pounds regained. He got used to not being able to stand the cold in the way that he had gotten used to being guilty. He got used to Harry's self-depricating sort of humor, he got used to sleeping and he got used to muggle technology.
He got used to the simple parts of life again.
Harry started going out during the day every now and then, meeting with people, rebuilding the real world, while he took care of their sanctuary. He developed an intrest in technology and took apart nearly everything in the apartment at least once. Harry ventured into the muggle library for what he swore was the first time ever and took out books on everything from electromagnetism to Aristotle and from Napster to the desiel engine.
He got his voice back and would explain things to Harry while he cooked supper, the science behind all the objects he used and didn't understand. He learnt how to laugh again.
He still couldn't help staring at Harry wherever he went, couldn't take his eyes off him for more than a minute or two. He soaked up everything he could find about Harry and identified his different moods and personas.
He met people, and learnt how to speak again, how to act when people other than Harry were watching, how to mesure his movements and nod and smile and make up the petty lies that kept the world turning. How to gloss over the deep truths for sanity's sake.
They had a small anniversary party at the home of the dreaded Weasleys. He almost locked himself in the bathroom to keep from going, but eventually guilted himself into getting out before Harry even got home. He examined himself carefully, testing his smile in the mirror, frowning at the purple smudges under his eyes that refused to go away.
Harry smiled at him and gave him an awkward hug before they stepped inside.
Everything was so loud that he flinched at first, but quickly forced himself out of the discomfort. He needed to make this work, even if only for Harry's sake.
He owed Harry his entire life.
So he shook hands that maybe gripped a little too hard and encouraged smiles that looked too brittle. He tried proffered tarts and punch, he made quiet jokes that didn't insult anyone when Harry was around to encourage him. He even made animated conversation for nearly an hour about jet planes with Mr. Weasley.
And when there were people that didn't know, who were too young to know who he was, he was introduced as Harry's friend.
He snuck out at one point onto a nearly deserted back porch, revelling in the quiet of the nature. A presence made him turn and almost leave, but it was only the werewolf teacher from third year.
He rememebered that Harry reffered to him as an uncle.
"It's good to see Harry so relaxed," Lupin said quietly, leaning on a cane and watching the trees wave in the breeze.
He frowned a little.
"He wasn't like this normally?"
A quiet, rhumey laugh.
"He's been very worried for you."
He tucked a stray hair behind his ear.
"I owe a lot to Harry."
One hand clapped him on the shoulder as the door opened and the noise from inside became louder.
"Take care of him. He's more fragile than many think."
Lupin left and Harry arrived at his shoulder, touching his arm in the way that he usually did, catching his attention. Before, it had been because he had a habit of staring into space when thinking, now it was just for the sake of touching.
He turned obediently back into the party and towards another quiet corner. His stomach clenched when he saw who was there.
"Harry, don't, I can't," he rushed, grabbing hold of Harry's arm, breath coming fast, feet halting. "Not after..."
Harry looked at him for a long time and then sighed and looked away. "Fine. It's up to you."
He stood and fretted for a while watching Harry take a few more steps without him... and then grabbed his arm and leant into his shoulder.
When Harry looked startled he smiled weakly and they kept walking towards what he was sure would be his doom. Even if he had changed enough for these other people, for these particular two he would never change. He saw it in their eyes as they approached and as they sat down in opposite flower-printed chairs.
They were two people that Harry always took care to not invite home.
Hermione was smiling nerviously, holding Ron's hand tightly as if to keep him from lashing out.
"Hullo, Draco," she said nerviously. "It's, ah, good to see that you're well."
He forced the half-smile onto his face, pleading mentally that it didn't look like a smirk, wishing he could grab hold of Harry and run right out.
"You as well, Hermione. Harry tells me you've been studying at a muggle university?"
He saw Ron's jaw drop and Hermione's tense form relax a little. It was a start.
By the time that Harry was done talking to his old friends he was exausted. He said his goodbyes to the other guests while Ron and Hermione ranted about him to Harry for a few brief moments. He tried not to look at them, but his eyes always flickered there when he heard Harry's laughter.
"You should invite them over more often," he said finally, after steeling himself the entire way home.
"What are you talking about, you looked like a terrified rabbit the entire time!"
Harry started pulling off clothes and heading for the shower, and he habitually picked them up behind him, trying to keep his resolve steady.
"Well, you obviously don't see them enough - they miss you..."
Harry took off his glasses and looked tiredly at him.
"What is this about, Draco?"
He took a deep breath.
"You look happier with them, and you laugh more. I shouldn't be keeping from that you."
Harry rolled his eyes and pulled off his shirt, twisting his glasses.
"Stop sulking. Everything's fine the way it is. I'm the one who decided to keep you, remember?"
Harry stripped to his boxers while talking, while he was standing in the doorway holding a bundle of discarded robes. When he realized it, he dumped them on the floor.
"How could I forget," he said quietly, fustrated beyond comprehension. He turned and left the room, but had no where to go. He wasn't allowed to leave the apartment without Harry, and he couldn't just run away.
"/Fuck!/" he yelled, slamming a fist against wall, feeling the bruse spread, a change from the painful confusion inside himself.
He threw some leftovers in the microwave and ate them at the kitchen table, in silence except for the sounds of Harry in the shower. He wasn't really hungry, it was just something to do.
Harry went from the shower to his room and then came into the kitchen, rubbing his hair with a towel and trying to see through fogged glasses. He sighed, exasperated, and pulled them off Harry's ears to dry them on a napkin.
"Draco, you know you're not the same to me as they are, but you're not /less/."
He didn't look up when he placed the glasses on the table. He couldn't accept that explination. Of course he was less. How could Harry not know a debt when it was owed to him?
Harry saw that look on his face and frowned.
Harry's hand dropped onto his and he froze, stomach churning, like he did every single time Harry touched him. He didn't know what kind of magic it was, but it couldn't be normal.
"You're different. You're not who you were back at school, and you're not a demon, and you're not Hermione and Ron either."
"Forget it, Harry," he grunted, pulling himself away with a massive force of will. "Do what you want."
He was almost in the bathroom when Harry froze him again, touching him just in the small of his back. He stared straight ahead, breathed deeply, trying to ease the twisting in his stomach.
"Draco, stop doing this to yourself..."
And Harry's hand slid from his back his his waist and up his arm to hold him there. His stomach clenched as he felt Harry lean closer. He knew he was shorter than Harry, but know he felt it in the presence behind his eyes and then Harry was way too close, close enough for his glasses to be brushing his cheek. Close enough to kiss him, impossible to pull away. He tasted of mint toothpaste and something that filled the apartment, except distilleld.
His stomach jerked and Harry pulled away, looking half-smiling, a little bewildered and a little apprehensive. He looked down. Different, was what Harry had said. That different.
"You've... you've been around even longer than Ron and Hermione, you know. You remember that time in Madam Malkin's? And I realized at some point that you only wanted to make friends with me, that you were as alone as I was, maybe even more, because I had Hermione and Ron."
"I was a real bastard back then," he said quietly, licking his lips and looking at Harry's throat to avoid his lips and eyes. "No wonder you didn't join me."
"You didn't know how to treat yourself or anyone else," Harry said quietly, arm hesitantly reaching around his back to pull him into a half-hug. "You've started over."
He sighed and touched Harry's loose t-shirt, pressing at the flesh underneath. But when he looked up at Harry, he saw this hidden need that perhaps Harry didn't even know was there. Lupin's words came back at him, and he felt Harry's hesitancy, the many months he had deliberated before daring to introduce one half of his world to the other, the many more months spent wanting to kiss him and not knowing if he could.
"You are so daft," he mumbled finally, pulling off Harry's re-fogged glasses again. "For someone so goddamn cocky, you sure have a huge insecurity complex..."
He leant up a little and kissed him gently on the lips, and it was different from kissing a girl because here was stubble, and a firm grip on his waist, and he had never been the kind of guy to accept a girl taller then him...
It seemed to open up an entire new world between them. Harry brought home a cake that lasted an entire week's worth of deserts for his birthday. He started thinking of going to a muggle university of science, and Harry worked longer hours at the ministry.
Soon their third year together was up and they threw a small party in the apartment, at which Harry got sad drunk and wouldn't stop moping untill he was kissed by Draco and convinced that no one was going anywhere.
They started going out in public, in quiet muggle restaurants where Harry wasn't being stalked by the tabloid media. He felt himself start falling into a comfortable pattern, found a confidence gently backed up by Harry in his work, and became capable of ignoring his past.
He still owed Harry for dragging him out of his slow death in Azkaban. He still took care with Harry's heart. He was someone different and yet he was more himself than he had ever been.