Three weeks after they got there Harry and Draco could be found standing at opposite sides of the Dursley's living room. The looks they were giving each other plainly said 'I hope you combust'. Harry was struggling to remember why he thought they could actually get along. A few months of letter writing could not whitewash five years of contempt and loathing.
They had been woken up the morning after their arrival by Snape's Patronus. Considering how early Harry and Draco normally woke up, Harry was fairly certain that it was an attempt to piss him off. The Patronus told him that everyone was in fact safe and accounted for and to not become accustomed to Snape being his errand boy. Kingsley had turned up just after nine, looking every bit the dignified muggle, to collect his aunt and uncle. Vernon had yelled some more and threatened not to come but Petunia had surprised them all by giving Harry a tight hug and urging him to be safe. Reluctantly Vernon followed his wife into the car and Drove away.
Remus came by the next day with word on Dumbledore's funeral arrangements. It was to happen in the following days, they all agreed that for the safety of Harry and the attendees that he should not attend. Harry and Draco were to just wait and lay low while the Order figured out what exactly to do next. They needed to regroup before they could even start coming up with a strategy.
This left Harry and Draco for the most part completely alone together for days at a time. It had started out relatively fine. They had picked up a sort of routine. Draco had moved into the spare bedroom, the computers in Dudley's room made him uncomfortable. They got up every morning before the sun and drank their coffee's in the back garden. Remus stopped by as often as possible but rarely being able to stay longer than an hour and Hermione's owls came almost daily. What the pair were missing was a buffer, they really needed a buffer.
It had started off as little irritations, the things that always get on your nerves when you are living in close proximity to someone. Dirty dishes left in the sink, shoes sitting on the stairs or snide unwarranted remarks. At first they would just wrinkle their noses, count back from ten and ignore it, they both were trying to not push the boundaries. That was until this morning.
All Harry had done was simply asked why it mattered that the potion Draco was brewing had to be stirred in a particular direction and all Draco did was call him a simpleton. Neither of these events were overly dramatic nor were they outside the norm but it resulted in a screaming match of epic proportions. Draco was called a 'pompous arrogant wanker' and Harry was dubbed an 'emotional idiot with a hero complex'. They yelled at each other for an hour, all of the bitten back words, all of the suppressed irritation exploding out. It culminated in Harry throwing a vase and Draco's head and Draco responding with a well-aimed stinging jinx.
Just as Harry was about to lunge at Draco, Remus' Patronus flew through the window and said, 'Be there in ten, bringing Ron and Hermione'.
The two didn't move an inch, they just continued to glower at each other, both shaking with fury. With a crack, Ron, Hermione and Remus appeared next to the stairs. The silence was deafening.
"What happened?" Remus demanded, looking between them.
"Nothing." They both spat at the same time, not breaking eye contact.
"Harry, are you, are you ok?" Hermione asked, put off by the tension in the room.
"I'm fine." Harry replied. "He's the world's biggest wanker, but I'm fine."
"Me!" Draco yelled. "You threw a vase at me you twat!"
"OK!" Remus stood between them, sensing that this was about to get violent. "How about we move this to the kitchen and take a breath."
"Fine." The two said in unison.
The five of them sat around the kitchen table, Harry and Draco were pointedly not looking at each other. Despite Ron and Remus' attempts to spark a conversation, the most they got out of Harry and Draco were grunts.
"Ok that's it." Hermione said frustrated. "Harry is there a reason you threw a vase at Draco?"
"Yes." Harry grumbled. "He's a ponce."
"Wanker." Draco grumbled.
"Ok, enough is enough." Hermione straightened herself up. "If we are all going to be living together for the foreseeable future you two have got to work out your issues."
"What do you mean living with us?" Harry asked, momentarily forgetting his anger.
"Ron and I are moving in," Hermione said with a sniff. "Today. But I will lock you both away if you do not figure out a way to get along."
Harry shot Draco a look of disgust, which was returned in earnest.
"You do realise," Remus said with caution. "That your issues have more to do with how similar you are than how different right?"
"We are nothing alike thank you very much!" Draco looked highly affronted. "I have taste. Class."
"You have a pole so far up your ass you can't walk straight." Harry shot at him.
Ron chuckled. "Remus could be onto something you know." Harry shot Ron a glare, but Ron continued all the same. "Think about it though. You're both incredibly stubborn, you're both a touch on the arrogant side and on the less cheery of notes you're both essentially orphans."
"We also both think that you're both talking out of your asses." Draco said dryly.
Everyone laughed at this, even Harry. With the mood significantly lighter and sensing a reprieve Hermione dove right in. She filled them in on what was happening and the plan for what happens next. It turned out to be a very good thing that Harry and Draco were not at Dumbledore's funeral, reporters were everywhere, and Tonks had to stun two of Voldemort's supporters. Everyone was still waiting to see what Voldemort's next move was going to be.
The plan now was for the four of them to go into hiding the day before Harry's seventeenth. From there they would launch into a training program designed by Remus and Snape. They were to have no contact from the outside world, their previous professors being the only exception. The thought was that it was better for the world and Voldemort to think that Harry had abandoned it rather than be hunted down.
That left them two weeks. Two weeks to pack and plan. Harry was to teach them what he had learnt during the year and Snape and Remus would be there every other day to train them further and harder. This was not going to be pleasant, it will be gruelling and messy, but it was the only option left to them. The hardest part to accept, at least for Harry, was knowing that at least for the moment, they needed to let Voldemort win. The Order needed to play a delicate game. They needed to play the defeated party and yet still try and protect as many innocent people as possible. Harry couldn't help but think of the old muggle saying, 'the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few'. Dumbledore had once said that war is never just about good and evil, it's about making the hard decisions and trusting that you are fighting for what's right.
The day before his birthday, Harry had woken from dreams of starvation, torture and murder. A world ruled by Voldemort. The guilt he felt was real and raw, he knew that he wasn't ready for the fight. Any unqualified wizard wouldn't stand a chance against Voldemort but the thought of leaving everyone behind, at his mercy, was making him physically ill.
"You can't save everyone you know." Draco's voice said from behind him. Harry wasn't surprised to see him standing at his bedroom door. Normally Harry would be downstairs with him by now, drinking coffee and watching the sun dawn.
"I know." Harry said weekly. "That doesn't make it taste better though."
"No." Draco agreed. "I suppose it doesn't. Take what you're feeling now and focus on it. People will die but you will be able to avenge them."
"You sound so sure." Harry looked into Draco's eyes.
"I don't have a choice." Draco shrugged. "The way I see it, every drop of blood is on the Malfoy name. I have to either wash it clean or die in the process. I'm prepared to do both."
The immature school boy inside of Harry was irked that Malfoy could be so calm and confident while Harry wasn't. The ever-present desire to not let Malfoy see him weak is what drove him to finally get up, shower and dress for the day. As he walked downstairs, he was drawn to the door of a cupboard, his cupboard. Opening it he had to crouch to get in. How long would the Dursleys have left him in here if his letter never came? Harry wouldn't have been able to lie down in here.
"Why is there a bed in here?" Draco asked peering in.
Harry had to smile. "You know there's this old saying that goes 'tomorrow never comes', I think that is rather fitting for right now." Draco cocked his head in confusion. "The first night here, you asked about it, and I said we would talk about it tomorrow. Tomorrow never came."
"Well it's here now." Draco held out a mug of coffee.
Harry exhaled taking the cup. "I'm going to need this."
Harry was silent, hugging his coffee, they were sitting in the back garden, the sun was just starting to show through the trees. Once he did start talking though, he found it difficult to stop. Ron and Hermione knew but they had found out in bits and bobs over years of friendship, he'd never actually talked about it all as a linear progression of events before. He talked about his cupboard, about being locked away when he had bursts of uncontrolled magic. About being called a freak and never having friends before Ron. About Aunt Marge and her bulldogs. About the elation of getting into Hogwarts. About getting cold soup pushed through a cat flap and Ron and the twins' daring rescue. About saving Dudley and the sense of relief he felt at the thought of finally leaving for good.
By the time he was finished Ron and Hermione were up and the sun was high. Not a word was spoken but Hermione's eyes were bright with unshed tears and both Ron and Draco had the same look of protective rage. Harry actually felt quite light as he cooked breakfast, he didn't realise how much he was holding onto by not talking about it for so long.
After they ate, the four of them shuffled around, trying to avoid the inevitable. They were going into the unknown and rather than feeling like heroes, they felt every bit the naive teen. With their tent packed inside of Hermione's impossible bag with the rest of their belongings, Harry took one last look at a house he was meant to call a home before Hermione disapparated them away.
They were standing in a clearing of a dense forest, Hermione and Draco immediately set about putting up defensive wards and Ron, with a flick of his wand, set up the tent. Harry felt utterly useless. They couldn't risk him doing even a simple Lumos, unsure how deeply Voldemort had penetrated the Ministry. Harry set about unpacking the kitchen while the others claimed beds. The tent had two bunks in the corner, a rather large kitchen, a bathroom, sitting area with a double sofa, two armchairs, a small bookshelf and a dining room table. Nothing grand, but better than a swag under the stars.
"So," Harry said when they were all standing around awkwardly. "What now?"
"Well I really do think we should get started." Hermione said as if this was the most obvious thing in the world. She had already started pulling out books from the small shelf in the corner.
"Hermione," Ron groaned. "We have an extremely painful few months ahead of us, let us have one night off? I have actually volunteered to spend time with Snape away from class, I need it!"
"As much as it pains me to admit it," Draco said. "The Weasel's right."
"Thanks ferret." Ron said with a grin. "Actually I have a brilliant idea! Harry I was going to wait until tomorrow. But," he reached into a rucksack and pulled out a bottle of Firewhiskey. "Happy Birthday."
Harry smirked. "So you got yourself a present for my birthday?"
Ron conjured four glasses. "Well if you don't want any you can sit all alone and sober."
Harry dropped down next to Ron on the sofa and they all toasted to Harry's birthday. They toasted to Dumbledore, then Hogwarts, then Ogden, then Dobby. Three quarters of the bottle was gone, and they were more than a little happy.
"Granger!" Draco said sitting up suddenly. "I've been meaning to say something to you. I'm sorry for, well you know, being horrible."
Hermione's eyes grew wide. "Thank you Malfoy, that's um, sweet of you?"
"Oi!" Ron said indignantly. "What about me?"
"You Weasel can go fuck yourself." Draco said, nose in the air and taking another swallow. Ron glared at him but there was no malice behind it. Sometimes friendship is instantaneous, sometimes it takes a near death experience at the hands of a troll and sometimes it is found at the bottom of a bottle of Ogden's finest.
Hours later, the bottle empty and forgotten, Ron and Hermione were cleaning up after dinner and Harry was staring into the small fire he made outside of the tent. Draco dropped down next to him.
"You know," Draco said looking up at the stars. "I'm quite glad you didn't lock them in a cupboard. It would have made this whole experience quite awkward."
Harry laughed. "Don't get too comfortable. I'm still expecting to walk in on them."
"Harry?" Draco said quietly
"I wanted to say sorry to you as well." Draco said softly, Harry turned his head in surprise. "I was a right prat and all you ever did was be yourself."
"You don't need to apologise to me." Harry said honestly. "Hermione, yes. But not me. I've seen the real you and everything that happened before that doesn't matter."
Harry was looking into Draco's eyes, in that moment he couldn't think of a single other person with grey iris. He only tore away when he felt his hand move to Draco's, their fingers automatically entwining. Harry's mouth was dry, and Draco was moving closer.
"Harry?" Hermione yelled.
Both boys flew apart, blushing profusely.
Hermione poked her head out of the tent. "Remus said he'd be here early tomorrow, we should all try and get some sleep."
"Right!" Draco quickly got to his feet and refused to look at Harry. "I'm going to go shower, sober up a little."
Harry was very glad that it was so dark outside, he'd never felt more mortified and he knew his face would be bright red. Hermione raised an eyebrow at him but didn't question it. Harry rushed inside quickly, got changed and climbed into one of the two top bunks. He feigned sleep when Hermione, Ron and eventually Draco found their own beds. When he heard Ron's snores he looked down through the space of the beds and saw that Ron and Hermione had fallen asleep holding hands. He glanced a look at the other top bunk and saw that he wasn't the only one awake.
Draco was looking at him, almost searching, for what, Harry didn't know, but he couldn't look away. They lay there on their sides just staring, eventually Draco fell into a peaceful slumber. There were no dreams that night.
The next morning when Harry woke, he felt rested but confused. What was that last night? By the sounds of it he was the last one up, he gathered up some clean clothes and had a shower. He wished he could go for a run to clear his thoughts, but he didn't know when Remus would turn up, so he couldn't risk it. By the time he was done he was convinced that it was the all just he had spent so much time with Draco mixed with far too much alcohol. By the swift nod Draco gave him when he walked out of the bathroom, they were on the same page at least.
Remus turned up an hour later looking like a birthday elf. He had presents for him from everyone. Molly and Arthur had sent him a giant bag of sweets and a care package of food to stock the kitchen (with promises of more to come). Fred and George gave him a selection of their Defence Against the Dark Arts products. Ginny, Tonks and Hagrid had each given him a bottle of Firewhiskey, Harry was pretty sure that after the night before they wouldn't be touched for a while. Bill and Fleur sent him a book called Magical Survival – Camping for Wizards and Remus gave him a solid gold watch.
Lupin offered to let them have the day off to celebrate, but the four teens all agreed that they had wasted enough time. So together they worked out a military style training regime. Their mornings were to be spent working on agility, if a duel were to last more than five minutes at their current fitness levels, they would have no chance at survival. After lunch they were to work on practical magic, using each other as sparring partners. After dinner they would study new charms and ancient magic, anything that might prove useful. Snape or Remus would join them every few days to monitor their progress and give them updates of the outside world. They were to communicate only via Patronus' and were to change camp location every 7 days.
The first day was hell, the second day was torture, the third days was murder and on the fourth day Ron had refused to get out of bed until Snape grabbed his ear and dragged him outside. They were doing push ups in the mud, running upwards of ten kilometres daily and they all wore bruises from their sparring matches. All four of them were miserable and all of them had the guilty thought of giving up. It was on day sixteen that the guilty thought was driven away, never to return.
Remus turned up a lot later than usual. The four had already done the majority of their agility work out when he walked through the wards and straight into the tent. They exchanged concerned looks and followed him in, training forgotten.
Lupin was sitting in an armchair, head in his hands. They all sat cautiously around him, waiting for him to talk. After a deep breath he said, "He's taken the ministry, Scrimgeour was killed last night and the interim minister is without a doubt under the Imperius curse. The Aurors tried to fight it, but they lost. Moody and Tonks," Remus took in a shuddering breath. "They're dead."
Harry was at Remus' side immediately pulling him in for a tight hug. Lupin was crying, and Harry only just heard him say 'She was pregnant'. That's when he started to cry as well and by the sound of the room, the others weren't faring much better. Unable to sit still, Remus left without word shortly after.
They all sat there dumbfounded after Remus' departure. Harry knew how hard Remus fought his feelings for Tonks. Scared about the age difference, what people would say and the danger he would put her in every month. Never once though did he say that he didn't care about her just as much as she did him. Lupin would have been excited, terrified, but thrilled to be a dad and in one night the woman he loved, and their unborn child were stolen away from him.
Harry stood and began pacing the tent. How many more people were going to die? How many lives would be ruined? How many orphans would be left behind? How many more times would he have to ask himself these questions? There was no more time to waste. He needed to be ready, hard, controlled. He needed to push himself to his absolute limits and then push further still. He needed to be prepared.
It had started to rain when Harry walked outside. Not heavy, just a slow and steady stream, almost as though the world was weeping for its loss. Harry looked up and let the rain wash over his face. Determination filled him, he was driven, Moody and Tonks were two deaths too many. He walked up to their makeshift obstacle course and began to climb. He fell hard a few times, he hands were burnt from the rope and his legs were screaming but he didn't care. He got up, brushed himself off and started again.
At some point, Harry had no idea when, the other joined him. They ran, pushed, pulled and climbed. No one had a single word of complaint, they were united with one goal. End Lord Voldemort's reign and try to make the deaths, the pain, mean something.