The Spirit Room
by Gypsy Silverleaf

Rating: R

Summary: After going back to the Dursleys at the end of his fourth year and the Triwizard Tournament, Harry is abused by his uncle. He quickly falls into despondancy and despair. When he believes nothing can possibly get worse, three dark figures appear on the doorstep of 4 Privet Drive.

Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by J. K. Rowling. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended. It's just fan fiction!

Author's Note: Very happy thank-yous to my beta-reader, Savidana, who runs the wonderful slash site Dead Muse Rising. She has been so supportive of this story and way too nice to me. Love to Amanda, who hounds me about this story whenever possible.
< >This fanfiction is posted at Schnoogle and Please feel free to leave your comments at either site, or write me an E-mail (gypsy @

Warnings: This story includes ADULT CONTENT, including language, implied rape/abuse, and slash. Please return to the main page if you do not wish to view such material or are underage. There are sufficient warnings about this story and if you don't want to read very dark, emotional material which includes male/male relationships, please leave.

Chapter Four: Left of Center

< >The third man smiled bitterly at the sight before him. Through the old door, magically transparent from the hall and mostly opaque from the room, the boy who lived with the cursed name of Harry Potter was curling himself into what warmth was left over from his last sleep in the bed. It was obvious he hated the bed - the wretched bed - but this man's smile grew, as he knew it would ultimately become Potter's sanctuary. He watched the boy, silently, slowly gliding into a deep, draught-instigated slumber. Harry was alone, cold, confused, and utterly surrounded, and every one of his accomplices knew he knew it.

< >This capture was one a person dreams of only in nightmares; the ones where only despair is eminent and no matter how hard you try to convince yourself it isn't real, it very much is and there is no escape. No escape but your own mind, and Harry Potter's mind had already been fouled, polluted by thoughts that only helped increase his dissemination into hopelessness and despondency. His will was no longer strong and the said third man of this conspiring group who had whisked the midnight-haired boy from a mad life into a madhouse was well aware of this fact.

< >"He has been far more warped than I could have thought possible," he had told his friend softly, earlier that evening, worried the boy might awaken. A dreamless sleeping potion did not always work for long on those who dreamed too much, and not too far in time later that conjecture had been proven correct in this boy. "Far more than we could ever do."

< >"All the better to bring him back and work on him then."

< >"He will resist us, that is a certainty. He fought that night in June - no matter how much he believes he didn't, no matter how much the Dark Lord wants him to believe he didn't - and he will fight again, no matter how ineffectively he works to achieve his means. He will fight until there is nothing left and then there will be not a thing remaining for us."

< >"That is something we cannot have," said his friend gravely, eyes rising to the look at the small, teenage body stretched out on the bed, displaying a very vulnerable young man for the eyes of anyone to see and almost welcoming mutilation, defacement . . . "He is far too weak for any contact, with the Lord or otherwise."

< >"Harry Potter must be strong," said the first man callously, interrupting them. The third man stepped back to give him room to speak and also to begin taking his leave of the chamber cell. "His strength gives them hope and dying a weak little boy will destroy the masses." His anger was blatant upon the first man's face, nostrils flaring, but the corners of his mouth twitched with the beginnings of an indulgently sadistic grin. "It will hurt them all the more if he dies strong. A resilience . . . such as his, broken? Pandemonium and chaos are likely to follow and the Dark Lord will have what he wishes."

< >"All in good time," snapped the second man, glaring at the trespasser of the chamber cell. "The blood?"

< >"I collected enough blood to last a lifetime." A slight smile quirked on the man's lips. "Well, maybe not his."

< >"And the wounds?" The third man glanced at the bed and the other two followed his gaze, but the boy lay still in his bed.

< >"His injuries are far beyond my reach," said the first man, turning back to the conversation. "We must let the wounds heal on their own."

< >"I thought you had healed them all together," replied the second, fury slowly entering his quiet voice. "He - "

< >"The salve on his back cleaned and closed the wounds," the third man said in a mediating tone, stepping halfway through the magic barrier of the door.

< >"You said you wanted him pristine?" the first man was sneering, eyes hooded and fixed upon the second man, disregarding the third completely. "He will not scar, I have assured that. Helping to close the cuts and clot the blood was simply all I did. I will apply an additional concoction later, but he must heal naturally; magic save a simple potion on such a butchery would have most certainly left disfigurement in its wake. The same for his blasted mind, unless you want him to be as irrational and barking mad as the Longbottoms. We must let all good things come in time . . . no one wants him marred . . . yet . . ."

< >The second man was coughing out a jagged laugh, but the third man's sharp eyes caught movement in the bed and a loud moan escaped the boy's cracked, dry lips. In very short steps, the three men were across the room and each began to pull objects from their belts. The second man produced a glass, pushing the boy back on the bed quickly thereafter, and the other two swiftly mixed ingredients together, stirring even as they brought the glass to the boy's mouth, forcing it gently against his lips once the potion was complete.

< >When he was asleep, the three man straightened and regarded him coolly.

< >"He will be discomfited with pain for some days." The one speaking raised his eyebrows in amusement as he traced a finger along the sleeping Harry Potter's spine, showing the others what he meant. Dark, furious lines in mismatched patterns completed an unruly map of unwarranted torment they could only hope to conquer before their eyes. The boy shuddered and the man slowly drew back his hand. He looked at his accomplices. "Best not to beat him anytime soon. For a while, anyway."

< >"We should bring Draco in before he wakes again," said the third man, staring down at the sleeping boy taking in deep but shuddering breaths.

< >"Give him a good mind lickin' while he's down, eh?" The first man grinned, looking wickedly pleased. "Should be interesting to watch."

< >"You aren't watching them," snapped the second man. "Not a single one of our group is going to do that."

< >"Yes," the third man replied promptly, smiling ruefully at the first man whose smirk had been replaced with an irritated scowl. "Draco works best when he doesn't have an audience. He can be much more malicious that way."

< >"Young master Malfoy is rather talented at getting under one's skin."

< >"To obtain the desired responses from Mr. Potter, the boy should have the one person who can." The speaker smirked triumphantly, self-congratulatory. "Draco is truly the son for which any father could possibly ask."

< >"I am not sure this is such a fine idea anymore," said the second man with surprising abruptness.

< >"Why not?" asked the third crossly, taken sorely aback. He narrowed his eyes, which were replete with suspicion.

< >The second man shifted his weight uncomfortably. "I -"

< >"I was about to leave, but I'm staying to hear this excuse," the third man growled dangerously. "What is it, old friend? Don't think Draco Malfoy can handle Harry Potter?"

< >There was a very long silence, before -

< >"How long will he be with the boy?"

< >"Oh, my friend," came the reply laced with deceptive rapture, "there in lies the beauty. Draco will be with him as his companion, his adversary, and his access to the outside world - his very necessity, 'til the end. Until the very end. And that, in itself, may be the thing to break him."

* * *

< >Harry's hands began to tremble on the pillow and he clenched his fingers to stop them, but Draco Malfoy took no notice of all this, perhaps was unconcerned, and regained his uncharacteristically cheerful manner. He rose gracefully from the bed, smiling with his omnipresent arrogance, and swept over to the stained, worn, and overtly pea green armchair. In a move Harry never would have believed he'd ever see, or had ever occurred, Malfoy plopped down in the large chair. He let himself sink deeply into it so that he merely appeared small and dangerous, as opposed to large and simply overpowering, shifting slightly until he was - comfortable. The boy had to raise his arms almost parallel to his ears, but he didn't seem to mind and settled his elbows on the big round arms of the chair.

< >Harry goggled at him, head lifted just above his folded hands resting on the pillow. He was unsure as of what to think and sure that this was all meant to be menacing in some twisted, callous way. Warning signals went off and blared wildly in his mind.

< >"So, Harry," said Malfoy, still smiling. "How was your summer?"

< >Silence traced its way into the walls, but the look on Malfoy's face was never deterred for even a moment. After waiting several minutes for an answer, he continued as if Harry had answered in a very long but eloquent way, or in a fashion he would only have used whilst speaking to a close friend. "Well, I'm very glad to hear that. I was worried you might not be having a good holiday, living with those Muggles and all. What has Granger been doing? Still keeping that reporter locked in a jar, is she? Well, to each his own. Father and I have been doing a great many things together. He has been taking me to his office every few days; says he wants me to get involved in the family business."

< >If it was possible, Malfoy's smile grew even larger and he paused a moment to revel in this thought. "Mother and I traveled to France two weeks ago, and we stayed in Lyon for a while. And Paris! The City of Lights! Of Love! Le Rivre Seine! We're old friends, now, I think. The Louvre, the magic part, of course, was spectacular, as usual. Muggles don't know what they're missing; you could spend a week underneath the Pyramide du Louvre and still only be in the exhibits on David le Dingue. Speak French, Harry? Comment allez-vous, Monsieur Potier? Ça va? Où est toi tête ce matin? N'es-tu pas intelligent? Parlez-vous anglais?"

< >Harry couldn't drag his eyes away from the evil incarnate child in front of him rattling off words of perfect nonsense - most of them anyway; he at least perfectly understood that he was being mocked. Harry blinked and swallowed, also not able make himself speak or understand.

< >"What, Potter?" The smile disappeared into a slight, bemused frown. "Didn't learn anything from those Beauxbatons last year? I'd have thought you would, at least a little! Being around that Delacour girl all the time. She was part-Veela, right?" Draco didn't even wait for an answer. "I thought she was, but I couldn't be sure. Hopefully she won't be back next year for 'further studies' . . . Had half the male population and several of the girls lolly-gaggling after her half the time. Don't know how our year will pass their O.W.L.'s; all the better for me, I suppose, if everyone is too blind with adulation. Your friend Weasley sure seemed to fancy her, maybe he'll . . ." Malfoy's frown turned into a smile again when he saw Harry wince at the mention of his best friend.

< >"Don't worry, Potter, it's not like they're dead or anything."

< >"Bastard," Harry croaked, concealing his face in his arms, unable to think coherent thoughts anymore as the jovial, giddy face of Ron Weasley and the clever, secretive smile of Hermione Granger appeared in his mind. The thought of blood spilled from either one of them - his friends, his family - made him sick with guilt. He felt his stomach flip inside out and the bile begin to eat him slowly, painfully from within.

< >"What was that, Potter? You've got something in front of your face."

< >"You bastard!" Harry ripped the pillow from in front of him and threw it at Malfoy, who caught it effortlessly. His breathing was suddenly more irregular and he felt colour rising in his cheeks, willing back the tears welling in his eyes for the sole purpose that they would keep him from seeing Malfoy as he went to strangle him. "You bloody bastard! You - "

< >"One more move off that bed, Potter," said Malfoy in a very dangerous tone, throwing the pillow at Harry who, half off the bed, caught it at waist level. The flaxen-haired boy brandished his wand, waving it at him in warning. The wand emitted Satan-red sparks from the tip and showered over the floor, licking it with tiny balls of fire - extremely bright in the darkness of the room. "And you'll wish you hadn't."

< >The blonde hair and pointed pale face bobbing in the black was strangely menacing, and Harry looked away. His eyes widened, mortified; he realized he had uncovered himself in the attempt to pitch himself off the bed at Malfoy. He threw the blanket over his knees, which he drew in and held close to his chest.

< >Malfoy smirked at him knowingly. "That's what I thought," he said. His face contorted in thought for a moment, then brightened. "Oh, I almost forgot." He pulled another wand from his robes, his own wand vanishing from sight in a quick sleight of hand. "This is yours, if I'm not mistaken?"

< >Harry caught the wand - his wand - with one hand, then looked down at it incredulously. He'd been given back his wand before, once before, and the results had been at best . . . interesting. He clutched it in his fist in bitter memory, closing his eyes as he felt the magic coercing through it, and tossed it aside the next moment.

< >Regarding him calmly, Draco pushed himself up from the chair and walked to the end of the bed where the wand was hanging precariously. "You'll want this eventually," he said, picking it up and holding it out to Harry.

< >"Why are you giving it back to me?" Harry spat angrily, not looking at him. "I don't want it."

< >Draco raised his eyebrows slightly, watching the other boy's emerald eyes flash with fury. "Because you cannot use it anyway, and what is it of use to me? You'll take better care of it than anyone else can and no, I don't have any inclination that you'll snap it. At least, I hope not." He tucked the wand back in his pocket when Harry glared at him, daring him to hand the wand over to see what he'd do.

< >"Be careful what you wish for," Harry replied, the coldness of his words rumbling in his chest.

< >"I'd be careful for what you wish for, Potter," Draco snapped, the familiar malevolence returning to his face with quick succession. "Stop your foolishness now. It will help you in the long run."

< >"You keep speaking of the future." Harry didn't believe he had much of one.

< >Draco's eyes instantly turned a silver black and the black-haired boy gaped as the young Malfoy leaned toward him, stopping only when their faces just inches apart. "Ah, Harry, that is the most magnificent part of this ordeal . . . besides the fact that you are here, of course. The future, I mean to say. In fact, we are in the future at this exact moment and you are mixed, intermingled so deeply into it that your life has been predetermined by forces severely unknown and known to you."

< >"Whoever the hell these 'forces' are, they're not going to get me, because I don't even have a future to deal with in the present time," Harry replied, stilling his quaking hands by clasping them around his kneecaps. His head was spinning.

< >"The future is now and you will deal with it now." Malfoy paused for a moment, collecting himself into a more diplomatic attitude. "I am going to ask you some questions, Harry, and I expect you to answer me truthfully and without hesitation." He straightened and folded his arms over his chest, staring down at Harry unsympathetically. "Do you understand?"

< >Under the circumstances, Harry nodded, but truly had no comprehension. He felt the weight of his life on his shoulders and wished dearly - and in vain - for his arms, his body, his mind to collapse under the burden. He had no reason to live and these people would help him sing that song with a vivacity Harry would not have even contemplated still remained in his body. Why did the world have to be so abominably cruel? There was no point to life and yet it clearly went on, torturing him at every corner and burning him with every step.

< >"I understand," said Harry miserably. "I understand."

< >"Excellent. Have you finished your homework?"

< >Harry blinked at him. "What?"

< >"Answer yes or no to every question and explain if I ask you to, Harry. It's as simple as that. Your homework for Hogwarts - is it done?"

< >"N - no."

< >"Any of it?"

< >"No."

< >"Why not?"

< >"Uncle Vernon . . ." Harry shifted uncomfortably, lowering his gaze.

< >"I see," Draco mused, raising his pale eyebrows. "Have you spoken with any of your friends?"

< >"No."

< >"Seen anyone outside your immediate family?"

< >"Yes . . ."

< >"Who?"

< >"Random passersby," Harry said slowly, unsure what to make of these inquiries.

< >"Splendid. Been out of the house much?"

< >"No."

< >"Heard any good music?"

< >"Yes."

< >"Written many letters?"

< >"Yes."

< >"To whom?"

< >"Hermione and you."

< >Draco was silent for a moment. "I see. Just the two?"

< >"Yes."

< >"Received any mail?"

< >"No."

< >"Planted a flower?"

< >". . . No."

< >"Caught a butterfly?"

< >"No. . . ."

< >The questioning went on like this for over twenty minutes. Malfoy stood there in the same position, never once wavering, asking questions that seemed haphazard and unsystematic but were probably not, when Harry reflected upon the conversation several weeks later. He asked Harry about the weather ("Did it snow while I was in Bordeaux? Any shooting stars?"), wondered about the blooming time of nightshade under black oak trees at the half-moon (of which Harry certainly had no idea), and other peculiar or casual topics. Malfoy also demanded to know what books he'd read and received a short list of Muggle classics that had been stored under his bed from Dudley's last birthday, and if he'd done any magic, to which Harry had no explanation when asked why he hadn't, besides the obvious fact of it being illegal. Malfoy simply went on when he was not supplied an answer.

< >Harry was replying to the questions so monotonously they almost became a second nature. Part of his mind registered the questions and could remember their responses, but the rest and majority of him was running things over in his head. He could try getting past the door, perhaps valiantly fighting to his death instead of letting people like Malfoy pick him apart as he was right then. He was so blind to the words of the boy that he only half-heard himself listlessly say yes to a particularly vicious question, which was the cause of the fracture in his stupor.

< >"Did your uncle mistreat you?"

< >He looked up suddenly, tearing away his eyes from where they'd settled on some imperceptible point on the far wall.

< >Draco's face was set in a hard expression, scrutinizing Harry's reaction - face turning paler than usual, eyes dark and hooded, fearful of the answer he'd just given and the consequences behind doing so - with the utmost detail. "What else did your uncle do to you?"

< >"Why do you want to know?" Harry hissed through gritted teeth, feeling exponentially more vulnerable than before. He turned his face away. "It was nothing."

< >"Nothing?" Malfoy bellowed. He snatched Harry's wrists, and, shoving most of the blankets to the wayside, twisted his arms around so they could both clearly see the insides of Harry's bony arms. Instead of pale flesh, they could both see long, red and angry scratches leading from just above the crooks of his elbows to the skin just below Malfoy's hands gripping his wrists. "This is nothing!" He shoved Harry away from him in disgust.

< >Harry cowered, but was too used to screaming to do much more than await a blow.

< >"You sick, twisted fool! What the hell is the matter with you? Letting a Muggle do that - all that - to you! Aren't you a wizard? Don't you have at least some magical abilities?" Draco's face was flushed and he was raving furiously, pacing back and forth in front of Harry. "It's not like the Ministry would have said anything to you - being you, of course, and for the fact that he would have deserved death for fouling up a wizard, even if it happens to be the infamous Harry Potter!"

< >Not saying anything, Harry absently traced one of the slowly fading lines with a finger, trying to clear his blurring vision.

< >"You let him do that to you, did you?" Malfoy snarled, stopping in front of his captive and glowering down at him. "Did you like it? Did it make you feel resilient? Less involved? Less responsible for your own actions? You must be more insane than ever. Beat you like you were a dog - a mongrel - I can't believe you - "

< >"Nothing more than what Lord Voldemort will do to me!" Harry shouted, jumping to his feet and nearly knocking a very surprised Malfoy over in the process. "Less, even! But I thought I might as well prepare for it all the same!"

< >Draco's astonishment quickly left his face. "Touché." Although he was somewhat shorter than his rival, he seemed to breathe stature and importance, and towered over the boy blessed with eyes made of precious emeralds and hair kin of the night. His own evening sky eyes flickered down Harry's body, which was not a foot away from him, stopping below his waist. "Might want to cover yourself up, Potter, can't have a breeze and a conversation at the same time comfortably."

< >His eyes sparkled as Harry's eyes widened but he couldn't budge, riveted to the spot. "In fact, why don't you just get dressed? I don't need to see that again for a while." He leered nastily at Harry, then brushed past him and walked to the end of the bed. Harry seized the bed sheets at this moment and draped them around his waist.

< >Malfoy picked up a pile of folded clothing Harry had failed to notice was there and tossed the parcel, tied loosely together with string, into his hands. "The lavatory. Five minutes, or I'll get someone to help you." He smirked as he watched Harry hurry across the room and into the bathroom, slamming the door shut behind him.

< >When Harry emerged from the toiletry a few minutes later he appeared slightly less ill, water droplets glistening in his starry-sky hair from washing his face, but he was obviously very embarrassed. Harry was dressed in loose, expensive slacks of crushed ebony velvet with black silk socks and a virgin-white silken blouse with several missing buttons from the collar down. He wrapped his arms around his middle and tried not to meet the other boy's gaze, finding it impossible.

< >Malfoy looked impressed, appraising him from head to toe leisurely. "Well, Potter, if this wasn't such an interesting and difficult situation, I'd probably jump on you right now." His eyes glittered like sapphires and Harry felt he could see every inch of them, down to the deepest dark of his scrutinizing pupils, despite standing twenty feet away from the other boy.

< >Reddening, and probably more self-conscious than he had been even naked, Harry glared back at him. "Where are my robes?" he asked quietly.

< >"Oh, those?" said Draco, waving a hand impatiently. "We threw those tatters away."

< >"What?"

< >"These are some of my - old - clothes," Draco was saying, ignoring Harry's incredulity. "Couldn't have you wandering around in school dress or those Muggle rags, Harry, I would have thought you'd have known that. Too rough for that back of yours, anyway. You'd never heal. I think they suit you nicely."

< >"Can't have anyone looking bad in your clothes, eh, Malfoy?"

< >Draco's eyes narrowed coldly. "Call me by my first name, or you'll be out of those clothes faster than you got in them and living out of a sheet. Interested in that, Potter? I have no interest in biding my time with you and being called 'Malfoy' for the rest of my goddamned life."

< >Harry said nothing. "Well, now that that's settled," said Draco loudly, clapping his hands together, "we can get down to business. Are you hungry?"

< >Harry's stomach gave a loud lurch when it abruptly remembered food and Draco chuckled softly. He pulled out his wand and pointed it at the trunk set in front of the bed. "I think that answered my question. Ouverte. Wingardium Leviosa." The trunk popped open and a long black dressing gown Harry knew he definitely didn't own unfurled itself from within, floating over to him. He plucked it out of the air before it could be dropped on his head.

< >"I would ever so hate Professor Dumbledore trying to get a mute to learn magic," Draco told Harry smugly as he watched the black-haired boy shrug on the robe, tying it securely to his body. Harry was secretly thankful that he'd been given such light, smooth clothing; his wounds would have truly felt much worse than they did if he'd been subjected to something else. "I'll be back; make yourself at home." With that, Draco swept from the room, disappearing right through the wooden door.

< >Taking a moment to gawk at the sight of Draco slipping between several panes of wood, shimmering gently as he passed, Harry threw his trunk closed and sank onto it, burying his pounding head in his hands. He stayed in that position until Draco came back.

< >"So innocent," Draco murmured, startling Harry out of his despondent musings as he cupped Harry's chin with his free hand, the other holding a bed tray out of reach above his shoulder. He ran a long finger along Harry's jaw and Harry held his gaze, challenging the one in charge with such audacity he was surprised nothing came of it. Draco pulled his hand away slowly and held the tray in front of him. "Now, I'm not sure what you can call this - early tea? Supper, perhaps? Maybe breakfast."

< >"What time is it?"

< >"Half past noon in the real world," Draco replied offhandedly, giving Harry the tray consisting of several tuna fish sandwiches and a tumbler filled to the brim with milk. "Lunch, then. I'll bring a clock next time I stop by to see you." He gestured at Harry, encouraging him. "Eat. I don't want to see what'll happen if you try to starve yourself."

< >Harry ignored these last statements. "What day?"

< >"Saturday. The thirtieth of the great month of July in the last fifth year of a decade before the second millennium," said Draco in a self-aggrandizing way, shrugging. "If you forgot. You slept quite a while, but that may have been in part due to the potions we administered every few hours."

< >Not encouraged by this intelligence, Harry set the tray on the trunk beside and picked up one of the sandwiches. His eating was slow and deliberate, somewhat nauseous from jumping out of the bed so quickly. He'd strained his back even more and it hurt to move.

< >Draco sat in one of the high-backed chairs and took up an old book from the coffee table. He seemed rather engrossed by whatever it was, glancing only occasionally at Harry as he little by little finished off the three sandwiches and gulped down the milk.

< >Harry sighed as he placed the now-empty glass back on the tray. His stomach had a dull but comforting pain in it, telling him he was full for the first time in more than a few days, though probably could have done with more. He saw Draco raising an eyebrow at him.

< >"Finished, are you?" Draco asked. Harry nodded hesitantly and Draco pointed at the couch in front of him. "Then come sit down and join me."

< >When Harry sat down on the edge of the couch directly in front of the blond boy, Draco closed the book carefully and let it stay in his lap. He had curled his legs under his knees like a child, but he regarded Harry in such a way that Harry thought his soul might be exposed to the universe.

< >He was vaguely aware something was sailing through the air at him and he caught it the second before it would have smashed on the floor, now smoothed, polished wood again. It was a bar of Honeydukes chocolate, the wrapper half peeled back invitingly. He tested its weight in his hand a little, wondering what he should do with it. Finally, he allowed himself a small bite and a familiar warmth soared down his throat like a falcon rising upon a great thermal - chocolate must be a magical creation, he decided - flapping its wings through the exhilarating clouds of a perfect world.

< >But Harry was nowhere near a perfect world. Very much closer to hell than ever to utopia. And he knew it much too well.

< >He opened his eyes and looked at Draco as passively as he could. "Am I supposed to thank you?"

< >"What did I tell you about speaking out of turn?" Draco asked with an icy tone. He rolled his eyes, turning back to the volume to find his page. "Yes, to answer your question, if you must. I do not expect it."

< >Harry was silent for a moment as he watched Malfoy begin his reading of the old text again, then rolled lengthwise onto the couch and closed his eyes. He allowed his back to relax against the cushions, pushing away the throb of the healing scars and roughness of angered skin. Folding his hands on top of his stomach, he sighed.

< >There was something serene about being in the presence of his greatest enemy. The boy did not seem to want to talk anymore and Vernon Dursley was nowhere near him, which he forced himself to admit was good. Harry thanked his lucky stars - all of which he could not see - for this small mercy surrounded by horrors impossible yet to fathom. He willed himself to sleep, to float away from himself; his carcass was tired and dead to the world, and he sensed the pull of dreamland at his pounding, pulsing brain.

< >A cool, damp cloth dropped onto his forehead and Harry's eyes flew open with a start of not unwelcome surprise. Draco was not looking at him, replacing his wand in a pocket within his druid-like robes. He returned to his book, never once glancing Harry's way. He'd obviously summoned it from the bathroom.

< >"Don't fall asleep," said Draco, still not looking at Harry, obviously more interested in the book. "You need to get back on schedule. I am not coming here to find you asleep everyday because you stayed awake all night. I have my own life to deal with, much less your own dreary one, and I am going to make sure our interaction is beneficial."

< >Damn it, Harry cursed silently to himself. This was going to be more difficult than he thought. They were going to pry him apart and thus kill him slowly. Can't anyone be merciful anymore?

< >"I don't know anything - " Harry began.

< >"Well, that is certainly obvious," Draco said, snapping his book shut. His eyes, sharp and dark, were now fixated on Harry. "That is why my duty for the next few weeks is to teach you all you need to know."

< >"I can't -"

< >"Can't what, Potter?" Malfoy rose from his seat and tucked the book under his arm. "Can't learn? You can't relearn all that was taught to you in the last four years at Hogwarts? You should at least have some memory for some of it, or this will be very interesting for the both of us."

< >"But I -"

< >"You are going to know everything by the time I get through with you. Understand? For shit's sake, you don't know anything. One can only imagine why you think that. You should know everything!"

< >"Wait one second, I don't -"

< >Malfoy's face contorted in anger. "What do you really want to say to me?"

< >Harry stared at him from the couch. "I don't know what you're talking about."

< >"It's not obvious? I'm your tutor," Draco sneered. He sounded disgustingly pleased with himself. "I'm going to teach you magic again, revive you. Don't be such a Squib, Harry. It's really not becoming. At the end of this, you will be as strong as you ever were and you'll lick my bloody toes for it."

< >". . . What?" Harry asked, dumbfounded. He couldn't believe his ears.

< >The smirk on Draco's face remained as he spoke. "We can't have you do nothing while you're with us, Harry. That would completely defeat the point of this exercise. You seemed to have pushed away everything and I'm going bring it all back. I will be tutoring you until such time you have returned to a satisfactory stage of wizarding potential. Do you understand?"

< >"No," said Harry, half-lying. "Not at all."

< >"You'll be a wizard again, Harry, you see? You've turned Muggle, trying to forget. You can't tell me it's not true, for you know it all too well." Malfoy probably would have waited hours for his nemesis to speak; it was a long time before he did.

< >"I don't want to fight," said Harry softly.

< >"Then don't," Draco replied simply.

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For the Français impaired: Draco says mockingly to Harry in French: "How are you doing, Mr. Potter. How are you? Where is your head this morning? Are you not intelligent? Do you speak English?"

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