One night, in the early days of the war, Draco disappeared.

It was November, and the Hogwarts grounds were smothered in a thick blanket of icy fog. One moment Draco was asleep in his bed in the dungeons, most likely dreaming happily of Harry Potter’s downfall, and the next he was simply… gone.

The students were woken immediately and ushered down to the great hall in their pyjamas, bare toes curling against the icy stone floor. The buzz of confused and worried whispering only ceased when Lucius Malfoy stalked into the echoing, cold room, his bearing as autocratic and intimidating as ever.

He looked them over with his cold gaze, and spoke with a subtle quake in his voice.

“Any information,” he stressed, “is valuable. Even those of you who may, for whatever reason, wish to remain anonymous. If you know something, you do not need to reveal your name. Please,” he said, “even those facts that may seem irrelevent could help uncover the whereabouts of my son.” His voice, unthinkably, almost broke on that last word.

For a few weeks photographs of Draco Flooded the wizarding world. His sneering likeness was pasted on trees, fences, shop windows and pub doors. His face appeared on the cover of the Daily Prophet every day for a month. Lucius Malfoy’s influence ensured that even the smallest leaves were overturned in search of his son.

For Harry, it was all uncomfortably reminiscent of the hunt for Sirius. Except that instead of his godfather’s face, thin and ravaged by madness, peering out from the posters, instead it was the cold, autocratic countenance of Draco Malfoy. And every time Harry caught the eyes of the likeness in the photos, that sneer seemed just that little bit more pronounced.

Harry knew that Dumbledore was leading a Hogwarts-based search to find Malfoy as well. Snape could often be seen entering or leaving the Headmaster’s office, and all the seventh year students were thoroughly questioned at least once. Hermione even tried a little of her own detective work, trawling through the pages of every obscure locator book in the library.

“If his father’s lying and Malfoy has been taken by Voldemort’s side… well, it’s best we know what’s going on,” she explained tiredly. “And if he’s truly been kidnapped, then—Well, let’s just say that even though he is an evil ferret-face, we should still try to help.”

Ron disagreed with her about trying to help, but Harry tried to keep out of it. His studies were becoming increasingly wearing, with several extra-curricular lessons a week to prepare him for his role in the final battle. Of course, of these extra studies, the most consuming were the continued occlumency lessons. Dumbledore had begun pitting him against a variety of opponents in order to expand his ability. And although Harry had learned to block his mind with growing ease, he found the mental battles exhausting, and the moments of victory when he pushed into someone else’s mind increasingly distressing.

He had very little time, therefore, to wonder about Malfoy’s disappearance. Deep down, he only felt relief that he would, at least for a while, be free from those stressful and irritating encounters with his enemy. And he truly believed, with the air of someone in deep denial, that Malfoy would turn up.

“He’s probably hiding somewhere,” he said to Ron once, in a throwaway comment. “He always was a complete chicken… he’s probably living in a house of twigs in a forest somewhere, running away from the war.”

But as the pictures slowly faded away and the increasingly outlandish news stories stopped, the students began to talk less about Malfoy’s disappearance and more about the onset of war, of the latest gossip gleaned from relatives at the Ministry and rumours about Voldemort. Draco was all but forgotten by Harry, Ron and Hermione. It was time they fought their own battles.

***

The war dominated the wizarding world for two years. It was bloodier than the last; bodies were regularly found in the streets of wizarding London, and fewer people felt safe leaving their homes, even during the daytime.

Until on the balmy July evening of Neville’s eighteenth birthday, when a flash of brilliant green light finally and successfully ended the life of Voldemort. Harry was found lying on the last battlefield, tired and bloody, but alive, surrounded by fallen friends and enemies, and next to the body of the greatest evil the wizarding world had ever seen.

“Neville’s dead,” he muttered, when they found him. “Malfoy’s dad killed him.”

Dumbledore clasped his unhurt left shoulder said gravely: “Lucius is now incarcerated, Harry. He won’t be able to hurt anyone else ever again.”

Harry’s lips tightened. He could still taste the words of death on his tongue. “It’s not enough.”

***

And so, with Voldemort defeated and Lucius Malfoy imprisoned, Draco’s disappearance became a matter of public concern once more.

After many more months of fruitless investigations led by Dumbledore, a rumour eventually emerged that he was probably one of the anonymous bodies that had been found at the manor following the infamous siege of May 7th, when Members of the Order of the Phoenix had stormed Malfoy Manor only to find it empty save for a disturbing number of bodies. Some were clearly war casualties, others human sacrifices, others disfigured beyond recognition. It was supposed that Draco Malfoy was one of those, and even Dumbledore agreed; there was no other possible explanation.

And so those who cared at all began to accept this as fact. The Malfoys’ few friends who were still alive and free mourned him all over again, but after almost a year, everyone had moved on, wanting to put the war and all it entailed behind them.

Everyone, that is, except Harry.

***

Hermione and Ron were still living temporarily at Hogwarts, teaching part-time while they waited for a flat to open up on Diagon Alley so Ron could begin his Auror training and Hermione start research on a book she was writing called Muggles and the Modern Wizard – A Step by Step Guide to Knowing your Neighbours.

Harry had also been living there temporarily, still recovering from the worst of his wounds and deciding what to do next. He knew it was time to make some decisions about his future but he found it hard to get his mind off Malfoy. He remained convinced that his old rival was alive somewhere, that the solution to his disappearance couldn’t be that neat. And especially that Malfoy shouldn’t just be able to get away with… anything he’d done. Or anything he had planned to do. He just shouldn’t have escaped by simply… disappearing!

When Harry shared his troubled feelings with his friends, they just smiled reassuringly and told him not to worry.

“The war’s over now, Harry!” said Hermione over butterbeers in the Three Broomsticks. “Get a job, get a girlfriend - move on!” But Harry couldn’t stop the nagging feeling deep inside him that the war would never be over as long as was even one Death Eater was still out there, free.

Instead, Harry Flooed one afternoon to see Dumbledore, confiding his suspicions. Dumbledore smiled sadly and described all the attempts that had been made to find Malfoy; the locator spells, the bewitched compasses and maps - even sniffer dogs!

“Draco,” the headmaster confided, “was Marked. I was aware of this, but I must confess I had high hopes that the situation was not… irretrievable. However, if he was still out there somewhere, we would have been able to find him easily by that Mark. Draco Malfoy is no more, Harry.” Dumbledore assured him, emphasising the words carefully.

Harry remained unconvinced. Remembering Grimmauld Place and his parents’ secrets, he looked into Fidelius Charms and other ways to hide someone, all without any success. If it was Fidelius, the books all assured, there would be no way to break it without finding the secret keeper. And the only likely secret-keeper left was Lucius.

Eventually Harry worked up the courage to take the boat over the misty waters to Azkaban Prison – still a terrifying place, even without the Dementors’ presence. But Lucius had lost his mind in the final battle and was now a babbling, incoherent wreck, cravenly struggling against the walls of his cell and begging for mercy from imaginary tortures. Harry shivered at the sight, wrapped his arms around himself, and returned quickly to the mainland.

But he didn’t give up. The thought of Draco out there, laughing at the way he had deceived everyone, consumed him. As did his dreams of Neville crumpling to the ground in agony under Lucius Malfoy’s gaze.

One night, waking up with Draco’s mocking laughter in his ears, he thought, where would he go, were he to run away? Where would one hide a Slytherin prince?

A big city, he decided. London, he decided. Not Diagon Alley, that was too obvious and had already been searched from top to bottom. No, elsewhere in the city. The density, the anonymity, the scale. The perfect place to lose oneself. Or to lose a son.

***

And so one night he packed his bags, stuck out his wand arm and boarded the Knight Bus.

He rented a little flat off Upper Street in Islington, wanting to live away from the staring eyes of Diagon Alley and the shadowy corners of Grimmauld Place that still reminded him painfully of Sirius, and began his investigations in earnest.

He started off by visiting the posher places in London, supposing that he should start with where Malfoy was likely to be living. And if there’s one thing he knew about the Malfoys, it was that they liked luxury.

He spent a week hanging around Kensington High Street, pretending to browse in Harrods’ food hall and loitering outside the Burberry shop. Nothing. Anywhere. He started to feel defeated. His regular Floo conversations with Hermione became less certain and more desperate, and Hermione’s talks about making him come home started to seem more sensible.

Until one day, after a fruitless afternoon spent lurking in Sloane Square, he went to his local shop to buy a loaf of bread.

It was early on a Saturday night and people were out on the streets, heading to pubs and restaurants, talking and laughing about their days, enjoying the warm July air.

Harry was standing in front of shelves of bread and contemplating the difficult choice of granary or white bread, when:

“—but it’s completely impossible, because he’s not used to—”

faded in and out of his hearing. It was the voice of someone walking past outside. It was a group of strangers, talking raucously about something to do with football, but Harry would have recognised that voice anywhere.

He turned and ran out of the door still holding the bread, and the man behind the counter chased after him, shouting loudly.

He caught a glimpse of a blond head further down the road before he was grabbed round the wrist by the angry shopkeeper and forced to apologise at length, explaining, “Sorry, I thought I saw someone I knew. He’s just down there—here, take it, I don’t want it.”

And then Harry was running after Malfoy. His heart was thumping; to think, Harry’d spent two months scouring London for the bastard, and here he was, practically tripping over him on his own doorstep!

He could no longer see Draco’s distinctive white-blond hair in the crowd, and he prayed that he hadn’t got on a bus or turned down a side street. A brief locator spell was fruitless and for a second Harry questioned what he had seen… but no, that had definitely been Malfoy’s blond hair, superior posture and snotty voice. Instead, Harry searched all the shops past the point where he last saw that blond head in the crowd.

He was just starting to flag again when he got to a pub called the ‘Jorene Celeste’ that looked a bit like the hull of a pirate ship. There, through the window, he saw Draco Malfoy, sitting on a sofa at the back of the bar with a group of other guys, chatting and laughing merrily.

Harry froze in the act of opening the door, watching the group. Malfoy looked like the picture of health. Pink-cheeked, almost. Prosperous. Relaxed. Harry thought back to Ron, scarred and thin, to Hermione, pale and haunted by everything she’d seen, to Neville, sliding down onto the soft earth, and his blood boiled.

Harry’s hand moved reflexively to the wand tucked into his sleeve, but couldn’t bring himself to open the door. He continued watching the boy he’d once thought of as his nemesis - Malfoy laughing in the lamplight, the shape of his face, the fall of his hair - feeling suddenly powerless. What was he going to do? Go in there and shout at him? Arrest him? Kill him? Just whip out his wand in the middle of a Muggle pub and say those words?

Only a group of people jostling to get past him and into the pub jolted him into motion, and so he gathered all his bravado and walked into the bar.

Ten strides took him over to Malfoy.

Draco didn’t notice. He was laughing at something one his companions had said, and Harry fleetingly thought he thought he’d never seen Malfoy laugh in anything other than mockery before.

“Malfoy,” he said.

Malfoy looked up. Their eyes met. The chatter around the table died down.

“Sorry?” Malfoy said, eyebrows furrowing slightly. The perfect puzzled frown.

“Malfoy, the jig is up—” The jig is up? he winced to himself. Someone in the group laughed slightly. Harry stiffened his spine. “You’re coming with me, now.”

There was a pause, and Harry waited, watching carefully for any sign of Malfoy reaching for his wand. It would be a mistake; by this point Harry was very well-versed in duelling.

“I’m sorry,” Malfoy said with another small frown. “I think you’ve got the wrong person.”

Harry blinked, amazed. “Oh, come on, Malfoy. At least own up to it! The last thing I expected was for you to take the coward’s way out.”

Malfoy just frowned more, and looked round at his friends. “I’m really sorry, mate,” he said, and Harry blinked. “I really don’t know what you’re talking about. My name’s not… Malfoy or whatever. It’s David.” He looked to his friends for confirmation, and Harry rolled his eyes when they all nodded.

“Yeah, like you couldn’t spell these people to think that—”

“Spell?! This isn’t Dungeons & Dragons, mate,” said a big beefy rugby-looking guy sitting to Malfoy’s left.

“Ok, if you aren’t Draco Malfoy, then show me your left arm.”

Malfoy laughed slightly. “You what?” he grins. “Why?!”

Harry smiled. “The guy I knew had a tattoo on his left forearm. Right here,” he pointed to halfway up his inner arm. “Show me.”

Malfoy rolled his eyes, but Harry wasn’t fooled. No one could spell that mark off, not even Voldemort. And since his second defeat, the Mark had become a deep red scar on the arm of anyone who bore it.

Malfoy unbuttoned his cuff and Harry watched the shirtsleeve roll back, over the pale skin of Malfoy’s wrist, all the way up to his elbow. Nothing.

He glared. And scratched his head. “And the other one.”

Malfoy really rolled his eyes this time, and lifted the other sleeve too. Just as bare.

Harry glared. “Look, I don’t know how you got it off—”

“Oh, for fuck’s sake, listen!” Malfoy said, dropping his smile. Harry felt a twinge of satisfaction at having provoked a reaction. “I’m not bloody whoever-Malfoy. I’m David Manning. David Paul Manning, if you must know. I attended Islington High School since I was eleven, and now I’m about to study medicine at St. Barts. I don’t have any tattoos, or otherwise distinguishing marks – save my undeniably handsome face – and I’ve never set eyes on you my whole bloody life. Okay?!”

Harry was stumped. He scowled darkly and went home to Floo Hermione and ask her if it was possible for someone to remove their mark.

“Completely impossible, Harry. Everyone’s tried it, and nothing works. Nothing at all. Are you sure you weren’t just… imagining things?” She asked tentatively.

“No!” Harry exploded. “I know a Malfoy when I see one! Just because he didn’t have the Mark and was pretending to be a muggle—”

Hermione interrupted. “Do you really think that Draco Malfoy would honestly be able to not confront you if you provoked him the way it sounds like you did?”

Harry frowned. “Well, I wouldn’t have said so, no. But—well, he seemed really different, though.” When Hermione started to interrupt, Harry continued quickly, “But definitely Malfoy!”

Hermione’s tone gentled. “Listen, Harry. I know you’re still fighting your demons, but—”

“Don’t patronise me, Hermione,” he said calmly. “That was Draco Malfoy, and it’s just… going to take some time for him to crack. But he will crack.”

He backed out of the fire without saying goodbye.

***

He went back to the Jorene Celeste the next night, but there was no sign of Malfoy. In fact, he went back every night that week, until eventually Friday rolled around, and Malfoy strolled in, dressed in a simple black jumper and jeans, with a few of the people Harry recognised from last week. Malfoy saw him sitting at the bar and gave him a cautious nod. Harry grudgingly returned it. Clearly the thing to do was go along with this pretence until Malfoy eventually cracked.

Harry was sure it wouldn’t take long.

It took two weeks for him to speak to Malfoy again. Two weeks of sitting in the pub, slowly drinking a small coke, trying not to watch Malfoy have fun with his mates. Two weeks of being aware of Malfoy watching him from underneath his lashes, then looking away when Harry looked over.

Then, one Sunday night, Malfoy strolled in, hands in his pockets, a jumper casually slung over his shoulders - irritating Harry with this cool display of self-confidence - and walked over to him at the bar.

“Hello,” he said.

Harry frowned slightly. “Hi,” he replied cautiously.

“Ever find your dragon?” Malfoy asked casually.

“Huh?”

“Draco, wasn’t it? The dragon?”

“Oh, speak Latin do you?” Harry said snarkily.

“School,” Malfoy assured him, and dragged over a stool. He perched next to Harry at the bar. “Drink?” he asked.

Harry’s eyes narrowed. “Yeah, okay.” He said. “Coke.”

There was an echo of the boy Harry once knew was Malfoy smirk. “For someone who spends a lot of time in bars, you’ve certainly got virginal tastes.”

Harry blushed, much to his chagrin.

“So, you’re studying ‘medicine’, are you?” Harry asked. Malfoy seemed calculating, kept flicking his eyes over to Harry and then looking away. Harry was sure they were playing some kind of game and he was determined to win, even if he didn’t know the rules.

Malfoy took a sip from his microbrew and nodded. “Start in October. Over in the East End.” he tipped his head eastwards and Harry distractedly watched the light shift of blonde hair. “And you? About my age, aren’t you? You going to uni?”

“No,” Harry frowned. “I mean, yes, I’m your age. The… the person I thought you were… we were at school together. But, no, I’m not going to university.”

“Already got a job?” Malfoy asked, briefly checking his reflection in the mirror behind the bar.

“Does saving the world count?” Harry asked, watching closely for a reaction.

Malfoy gave an amused blink. “I won’t ask what that means,” he said eventually. “I’ll put it down to all that… coke, going to your head.”

“So,” Harry swivelled a bit further around, facing Malfoy and leant in. “You really live… here. In this world?”

Malfoy simply looked more amused. “You mean the planet Earth? Yes, it’s quite nice. You should join me.”

Harry rolled his eyes. “So what’s your favourite sport?”

“Football.”

“Who do you support?”

“Arsenal.”

“Who’s their star player?”

“Thierry Henri.”

“You could have just memorised all that stuff!” he said accusingly.

“Well, evidently,” said Malfoy, bemused, “or else how would I remember it all?”

“What’s your favourite...beer!”

“Asahi.”

“Urgh. What was your favourite toy as a kid?”

“God, I don’t know.”

“Ha!”

“My BMX?”

“Oh.”

“Or maybe my Sega. I used to play that a lot.”

“Huh, I wasn’t allowed to have one.” Harry confessed. “But my cousin Dudley had three. He sat on one and crushed it.”

Malfoy grinned, “Spoiled, eh?”

“God, yeah. Ridiculously.”

They spent the evening together, Harry continually attempting to catch Malfoy out. But his disguise was, apparently, foolproof. They didn’t leave until after last orders.

That night Harry talked to Hermione again.

“I spoke to him for ages, Hermione. It’s definitely him.”

“Oh! He admitted it?”

“Well, not exactly.”

“But he was a wizard? You talked about wizard stuff?”

“He… knew a lot about football.”

“Football? Draco Malfoy?! Harry, did he say anything that might indicate he isn’t who he claims to be?”

“Not… exactly. But—it’s really him, honestly, Hermione. Talking to him, looking at him. He’s the spitting image. It’s just like talking to Draco, only without all the unpleasant side-effects.”

“So he doesn’t act the same? He’s not the same snotty little brat we knew at school?”

“Not really. He’s quite relaxed now. At least, he’s putting on a good show of it. Not that I fell for it, or anything. But, you know. He’s quite… you can get along with him more easily. He’s okay to talk to, I suppose.”

“I see.”

“Life is just… simple here, Hermione. These guys just hang out all day, go to the pub some nights, just to hang out. They’re having an actual summer holiday, like I never had. There’s not a lot of worry. And there’s absolutely no magic and… I don’t miss it.”

“You’re not… making friends with—”

“Urgh, Hermione! It’s MALFOY!”

“Well, it doesn’t sound very much like him, Harry, and you know—”

“Look, I’m just waiting for him to forget this charade and admit who he really is. Then I’ll bring him in, we can send him to Azkaban, and…”

There was a pause before Hermione said gently, “And what then?”

“Then I can get on with my life. Forget all about evil and darkness and Voldemort and the Malfoys. Just… get a life, get a job.”

“You could do all that now, Harry.”

“Not with him still out there, I can’t.”

***

The next Friday, he joined Malfoy and his friends for drinks. And the Saturday after that, a pub quiz down the road in The Bull. The next Wednesday they went to a movie at Screen on the Green, and the week after that to an all-you-can-eat veggie Indian place where Harry couldn’t stomach the hot food. The Friday after that, they all went to a club off Charing Cross Road, somewhere really seedy and dodgy with a sticky floor.

Harry continued to watch Draco closely, but his disguise was… excellent. He didn’t slip up often, although sometimes Harry saw the old Draco Malfoy in his sarcastic comments and vanity. He also ruled the group very much like the old Draco, deciding where they went and when.

In the club with the sticky floor, he bought Harry a coke. When Harry eventually noticed it had vodka in it he’d already almost finished it, and Draco just grinned at him almost nastily, an echo of the real Draco, and dragged him onto the dance-floor. Harry shrugged; what the hell.

The dance-floor was crowded and Harry could feel the sweaty back of another man pressed against him. He finished his drink without noticing, and someone else from their group pushed another one into his hand. Slicking back his hair, he watched Draco dance. Through the alcohol haze, through the darkness and strobe lights, he saw Draco tilt his head to the side, and Harry thought that everything about him could be reduced to that one image: the curve of his neck, the fall of his hair, darkened with sweat in places.

Harry staggered off the dance-floor and sat down on the only unoccupied chair before discovering that it was only unoccupied because someone had spilled beer all over it, but he couldn’t be bothered to move. His head spun and he wanted—he wanted to go home. But not—not back to that flat. He wanted to be in his bed at Hogwarts but—well, he’d left Hogwarts now, hasn’t he? Left school and didn’t have a home, not really. Not somewhere that felt like home.

Draco walked over and put his hand on Harry’s forehead. Shying away from the touch, Harry nearly fell off his slippery stool.

“Oh dear,” said Draco, clearly amused. “I think it’s all a bit too much for you, Mr. Potter.”

This was so like the old Draco, the Draco Harry remembered and hated, that he smiled.

“Come on, let’s get you home.”

***

Harry woke up the next morning, head splitting, lying face-down on a foreign and uncomfortable sofa, drooling.

He sat up abruptly, clutching his head with one hand and wiping off his cheek with the other. Where the hell--? And what happened last night?! The last thing he remembered was watching Draco dance. Why did his trousers feel wet? Oh, God, he hoped he didn’t—

He looked up and around the room, seeing a TV and video, a bookshelf, a mantelpiece, an armchair, a coffee table. All very… normal and boring. On the mantelpiece he saw framed photos staring back at him. He stumbled over and picked one up. Draco and his mother and father. Except not Lucius and Narcissa. These were two completely different people. Relaxed, happy-looking people, sitting on a sunlounger with the sea in the background, squinting in the bright light. And boy in the photograph was Draco at eleven… only it wasn’t the Draco Harry remembered sneering at Hagrid in Flourish and Botts. This was a happy, normal, nice boy. Someone Harry could have been friends with.

He dropped the frame and the glass cracked. He stepped back. For the first time he realised that this might not be Draco. This might really be just… David. David who liked Arsenal, had appalling taste in music, drank bad beer like a fish, ate as much Thai food as humanly possible and wanted to snog Gwen Stefani before he died.

David, who Harry had been… using to fulfil some weird vengeful cravings—what the hell was wrong with him?!

Fuck.

Harry crept out of the house, wearing only one shoe, at seven in the morning.

He didn’t see Dra— David for two weeks. He avoided all the places he might be, relieved he didn’t own a mobile phone that he would have had to avoid as well, relieved he never told that… total stranger, apparently, where he lived. He also didn’t speak to Hermione, despite her increasingly worried owls.

Eventually, though, he thought about it. Was it so bad to see him? They’d made… friends now, sort of. The only friend Harry had in London. He was sort of enjoying things before he found out about— why not just… continue to hang out?

It was with this in mind that he gathered the courage to go the Jorene Celeste the next Friday. He was expecting Dra— David not to be there – after all, almost every time Harry had actually been looking for him, he hadn’t been there – but there he was, sitting at the back, looking smug and telling the group a story involving many hand gestures. Everyone was laughing.

After the punch-line he looked up, around the bar and caught Harry’s eye.

“Harry!” he yelled. “Where the hell have you been?!”

Everyone welcomed him back. “Thought you were dead in an alley somewhere,” David said with a grin. “That or finally gone back to your home planet.”

They patted him on the back; they bought him drinks; they asked him for his news; they told him theirs. He felt… accepted. Normal. Happy.

As the night continued, he and David ended up sitting together on one of the sofas, talking quietly.

“You all right?” David asked nonchalantly, checking his hair in the reflection of his beer bottle.

“Yeah,” said Harry. “I’m fine. Just had some stuff back home I needed to sort out.”

“Okay. Just… really, you need to get a mobile phone. Who doesn’t have a mobile phone nowadays?”

“Were you worried?” joked Harry.

“No!” David denied hotly. “Just, you know, I was responsible for you. You’d come back to mine. Everyone thought I’d hit on you and you’d run away!”

Harry laughed. “Hey, I’m no Gwen Stefani.”

David smiled slightly. “True, though you’re not horrible-looking.”

Harry’s smile faded as someone called to David from the other table, drawing his attention. Harry was suddenly very aware of the lengths of their legs pressed together, squashed onto the sofa as they were. He felt like he wanted to move away, but that it would be too obvious to do so now.

“Harry? Harry?!” he looked up and one of the group offered to get him a drink.

“Yeah,” he said. “Vodka and coke.” David looked at him approvingly for a second, before he turned back to his conversation.

They spent a couple of weeks in each other’s company. They hung out alone together; they watched films at David’s place, battled over David’s playstation, played one-on-one in the park. They were… friends.

One afternoon on Islington Green they’d been playing kick-about when it started to rain. They sat at the foot of an old oak with David’s coat over them, and David reached up and briefly touched Harry’s scar, brushing his hair out of the way.

“Where’d you get the scar?” he asked, a shadowed look in his eyes.

Harry shivered in a sudden cold wind and shifted away slightly. “Accident,” he replied briefly.

“It’s pretty… unusual,” said David, arching an eyebrow.

“Yeah,” said Harry, wrapping his arms round his knees.

The Saturday after that they left the pub late after a lock-in - something Harry had never had the pleasure of before. They didn’t end up leaving until after 1am, and the rest of group split off, leaving David leaning slightly against Harry, the worse for wear. Harry felt pleasantly light-headed himself.

“Is it my turn, then, to be the host?” Harry asked lightly. Or rather, he hoped lightly.

“No, I’m okay.” David pushed himself upright. “I can make my own way home from here.”

“No, it’s fine. I’m just round the corner anyway.”

“Ooh, is the precious Harry Potter inviting me to see his exclusive elusive abode?” David slurred, and Harry tried not to be reminded of Draco – as he’d tried all evening – and failed.

“Come on,” he said, and pushed his hands into his pockets, walking towards the pelican crossing.

It was only a short walk back to his place, and when they got there David almost slipped down the steps to the front door of Harry’s basement flat. Then, as Harry fumbled with his keys, David leant in, and Harry could feel a hot ruffle of breath against his neck.

“Wassat?” David asked.

“Huh? Oh, it’s nothing,” Harry replied, covering the ‘Chudley Cannons’ broomstick keyring that Colin Creevey had given him for Christmas.

He pushed open the door and flicked on the light, pulling David into his room.

“Wow,” said David, sitting on the corner of Harry’s bed. “This place is… a mess.” He poked at the nearest pile of clothes on the floor with his foot before toeing off his shoes.

“Oh, shut up. I’ve never lived alone before! I like the freedom.”

“Just moved out of home?”

Harry paused. “Boarding school.”

“Posh,” said David. “Where?”

“Scotland,” Harry said eventually. “Hey, do you want to watch a movie?”

“God no,” David said, pulling his jumper over his head. “I want to go to sleep.” He began to pull the sheets over him, still half-dressed.

“Hey, you can’t sleep there, that’s my bed!” Harry protested.

David looked more like Draco than ever when he sniffily examined the rest of the room. “And where else is there to sleep, exactly?”

Harry pointed to his small sofa. “Here.”

David didn’t even reply, just gave it a disdainful look and rolled over.

“Oi, don’t go to sleep on—” Harry walked over to the bed and shook David’s shoulder. “Draco! I—” his voice dropped off as he realised what he said.

David’s shoulder pulled out from under his hand as he rolled onto his back. Harry looked down into his eyes, so grey and so like Draco’s.

“I’m David,” he enunciated slowly. “Remember?”

Harry was still. He looked down and saw white-blond hair on his pillow. Without thinking about it, he leant down and kissed him.

David immediately pulled back, digging his head deeper into the pillow. “Hey, wha—Harry—”

“It’s okay,” Harry said, kissing him again.

“I—”

“David. David, I’ve got it. I know. David.”

Eventually, David relaxed against the bed, his hands rising to Harry’s shoulders, kissing back. Things heated up, clothes were removed. Harry kissed him, licked into his mouth, and listened to their breathing quicken. Hearing the slam of a door overhead, a car sliding past outside, a low moan.

Skin against skin, they lay together on the bed, tangled. Harry revelled in the pale bare arms around him. He slid a thigh between David’s and pulled their bodies together, cocks sliding against each other. David gasped.

They touched each other, made each other come. And Harry didn’t say ‘Draco’ again. Out loud.

***

Harry knew he should be regretting what had happened.

He woke up with a dull headache, very instantly aware of David’s breath sliding between his shoulder blades, a hand on his waist, the sunlight pressing against the windows, telling him to get up.

Suddenly David’s hand slid from his waist, and Harry couldn’t prevent himself from tensing. But the hand simply slid onto his back, pressed into his spine, sliding up to cup his shoulder.

“Hey,” David said quietly.

He left after a shower and a slice of toast, and they kissed goodbye slowly in the small shady courtyard. David made him promise to call and Harry said he would.

He then Flooed Hermione.

“You were right,” he told her. He felt relaxed. Happy. “It isn’t Draco.”

Hermione looked surprised and pleased. “Oh, Harry, I’m so pleased to hear you say that. You sound like yourself again. And it wouldn’t hurt you to owl an old friend every once in a while, you know!”

Harry winced. “Yeah, sorry about that, Hermione. I’ve been a bit distracted.”

“So when are you coming back? Because Ron and I were thinking of having some friends over tonight and—”

“Er, actually Hermione, I don’t think I’m going to come back.”

Hermione paused. “What?”

“Well, I’m happy here, you know. Really happy. David and me—I mean we’ve been getting along really well, and—”

“Harry, you can’t honestly tell me that you’re thinking of staying down there and remaining… friends or whatever to the spitting image of the most hated person in your life?!”

“Well he doesn’t look exactly—”

“Harry, seriously! I’m really worried. You’re clearly—I mean, I think I need to talk to Dumbledore about all this—”

“No! Hermione, there’s really no need for that. I swear. I’m fine, I’m happy! You said it yourself!”

“But this preoccupation with Draco—”

“I’ve told you, he’s not--”

“When you could always have found out—”

“It’s only a vague—what do you mean, always have found out?”

“Oh, come on, Harry.”

“No, seriously, Hermione. What are you saying?”

She arched her eyebrows. “Legilimency, Harry. Did you never think of that?”

“Legilimency…” Harry echoed. “Of course. Why hadn’t it even… I mean, I’m a bit… Voldemort used to… but I suppose. No! Hermione, this isn’t about Draco anymore. This is about… David. And me. I’ve—I’ve got to go.”

***

He firmly pushed out of his mind what Hermione had said and went about his day. But there it was at the back of his head, all the time. One look, one meeting of the eyes, and he could know David’s innermost thoughts. The temptation, the ease of it ate away at him, and he recognised the thoughts and feelings of Voldemort in it. And that scared him more than anything.

Still, that night he took David out to dinner at La Porchetta.

David was clearly nervous, and shy, and eager, and it made Harry smile. For a while he forgot the outer shell that was Draco and instead they talked properly.

Until David said something which made Harry pause.

“Harry, oi! Stick to your own dessert,” David laughed and pushed Harry’s hand away from his plate. Harry was trying to steal a bite of chocolate cake. It was a hot night, and their skin slid together for a moment, warmth and sweat and the memory of last night rich and heady between them. Before Harry attempted to dive in and steal more cake.

“Harry James Potter, you ordered fruit salad so you can bloody well—what?”

Harry smile had left his face abruptly. “How did you know my middle name was James?”

David frowned slightly. “I don’t know, I suppose you told me?”

“No, really, David. I didn’t tell you that.”

David laughed uncertainly. “Well you must have. How else would I know it?”

“I—I don’t know.” Would Draco even know what his middle name was?

“Oh for fuck’s—this is about Draco again, isn’t it?”

Harry looked up. “No, I swear—”

“I’m leaving.”

“David!”

He stood up and puts his napkin on the plate. “I can’t deal with fucked-up men still going on about their public schoolboy exes.”

Harry stood up too. “Wait, I—You’re being defensive. This is a diversion. Isn’t it? Draco?”

“For God’s sake!” David whispered, trying not to cause a scene. “I’m not Draco!”

Harry looked him in the eye… and pushed.

“What—?” David asked.

Harry concentrated and tried to see into David’s mind, eyes boring into his. He had to know, one way other the other.

“Harry,” David clutching his head, unable to look away. The restaurant was falling silent around them. The lights flickered.

“Who are you?” Harry asked between clenched teeth, pushing with all his might. There was a barrier there; Harry could feel it now. He worried at it with his mind, pouring magic at David, who had gone a sickly green colour.

And then, pop, he was through.

David screamed and knives and forks clattered from the hands of diners all over the restaurant. But Harry wasn’t aware of that, he was only aware of what was happening inside his head, awash with images and memories, but not his own; Malfoy’s were pouring into him…

Dinner as a small child, sitting alone at a huge, cold, empty table. Then flickering and morphing into a busy Muggle house, a family eating together, before flickering back to the original. A ticking grandfather clock, the smell of polish, warring with the warmth of a fire at Christmas, decorating the Christmas tree. Being tutored alone by a scary tall man reminiscent of Snape, or sitting in a noisy classroom drawing cartoons. Greeting relatives at a family party with cold kisses on the cheek, versus sneaking downstairs during a dinner party and being given a small glass of watered-down wine. Then the alternate memories began to be less frequent. In Flourish and Botts, meeting for the first time, seeing Draco smirk again at Hagrid through the window, Ron vomiting slugs, the school memories became less and less, and the Hogwarts ones appeared more and more frequently until, with a shout, Harry pulled back and slumped dizzily into the chair behind him.

Malfoy fell to the floor. The entire restaurant was still. Harry, completely spent, gathered himself enough to slide down to the floor, crawling around the table. There Draco lay, unconscious, the Dark Mark on his forearm livid and bleeding.

As Harry faded into unconsciousness, he heard a voice behind him.

“You were indeed correct, Hermione. There was something to worry about.”

***

Harry woke up feeling submerged. Weighted down and trapped. As he slowly surfaced, he opened his eyes to the familiar sight of the Hogwarts infirmary, golden in the early evening light. Dumbledore was staring down at him. Harry turned his head – Hermione was holding his hand.

“Hello, mate,” said Ron quietly from his other side.

Harry blinked a few times and sat up, head spinning.

“Careful, Harry,” Hermione reproached gently.

“Yes, Mr. Potter, it would be wise to take it easy for a few days,” said Dumbledore, looking at Harry over his spectacles. “You put both yourself, and Mr. Malfoy, through the proverbial wringer.” He gestured to one side, and Harry saw Malfoy lying there, pale and still.

“Is he—I mean—what happened?”

“Incunabulorum,” Dumbledore said, wandering over to Draco’s bed and taking his limp hand.

“Incan-what?” Harry looked at that pale forearm, relieved that the marked side of Draco’s body wasn’t visible to him.

“It’s a spell to regenerate someone, Harry,” Hermione said, squeezing his hand. “Well, sort of.”

“It’s a spell that gives… well, it gives a fresh start, Harry.” Dumbledore pulled out a crumpled bag of sweets and popped one into his mouth. “Not dark magic by any means, simply an old and rare magic that changes one, according to the parameters set by the spell-caster. You become… well, in Draco’s case a well-adjusted member of society, apparently. In someone else’s case, something else. Nicole Kidman, for instance, became an Oscar-winning actress after performance of this spell.”

“So Draco isn’t… Draco.”

“He wasn’t the Draco you had known, no. Which was why the locator spells couldn’t find him. They work best when performed with items close to the lost person - hair, a beloved object – and none of these things were close to the Draco you came to know. So he really was no more. But his spirit… his spirit remained the same; that we can’t change, only the material. But now…”

Harry felt his stomach clench. “Now what? I felt him—I felt… his life. When it came back to him.”

“Yes. By rather dangerously choosing to perform legilimens on Mr. Malfoy, you caused the spell to unravel. You caused him to unravel. He at once stopped being what he was, and was unable to be what he used to be. Hence his current state. You tore apart the spell that had been performed on him, a very risky manoeuvre, and one which I’m afraid I can’t be sure I’ve managed to fix. Now… we simply don’t quite know what he is. Until he wakes up, that is.”

Hermione interjected, “Will he remember who he was?”

Dumbledore polished his spectacles. “I really don’t know, Miss Granger. He may be the old Draco, he may still be whoever he was when you found him, Harry – although considering the return of his Mark, I doubt that. He may be neither. He may be… nobody. And lost to us forever.”

“Does that mean he won’t be arrested, then?” Ron asked, crossing his arms.

“Arrested, Ronald? What on earth for?”

“For… for being evil! And a Death Eater!”

“But when Mr. Malfoy was taken, he had done nothing wrong, save the rather unwise decision of taking Voldemort’s mark. He had performed no crimes, betrayed no one. At least, he hadn’t yet. This spell saved him from that, at least.”

“But, why would he do that to himself?” Ron asked. “Live amongst Muggles, I mean? He hated them!”

“I don’t believe he performed this spell on himself, Ron. I believe this was something that was done to Draco, without his knowledge or consent.”

“By his father?”

“Possibly?” Dumbledore looked away and Harry frowned. “Unfortunately, with the current state of Lucius Malfoy, nothing is certain. We may never know. Whoever it was, they certainly saved him from becoming another of Voldemort’s victims.”

“Until now,” Harry said, palely.

Dumbledore sighed. “You used extremely dangerous and advanced magic, Harry. Magic which had been taught to you to use in defence of your person, not to attack those around you. I cannot condone that. But I do believe that you are a good person. I’m sure you would never have done something like that without due cause.”

“But I did, Professor!” Harry cried, only lowering his voice when he remembered Draco on the bed next to his – even though there was no response to his shout. “It was pointless, I shouldn’t have—”

“Harry, you caught a Death Eater!” Ron said fervently. “That’s a good thing, remember? Followers of the Dark Lord, drinkers of the blood of the pure, or whatever?”

“I don’t believe,” said the headmaster slowly, “That Mr. Malfoy will find things quite as black and white as that any more. If he ever comes back to himself, that is.”

Harry swallowed.

“Why not, Professor?” asked Hermione.

“He has lived amongst Muggles now, Hermione. Has, in fact, been one himself. If it was Lucius who performed this spell, and if he did it with the intention of safeguarding his son against Voldemort’s imminent defeat, he may find that his plan has backfired. Pure blood can not, in fact, triumph over the memories Mr. Malfoy will have. Happy memories, hopefully, of being cared for and loved. By Muggles.” Dumbledore got slowly to his feet. “Well, this school doesn’t run itself. I’d better get back to my office. Keep in touch, Mr. Potter.” He cast a sorrowful look at Draco’s sleeping form and walked over to the door.

“Sir! One more thing,” Hermione asked quickly. “If you don’t believe that Lucius Malfoy did this to Draco, then… who do you think did?”

Dumbledore looked at her over his spectacles. “Well as to that, I really couldn’t say, Miss Granger. Goodnight.”

The door slammed behind him, and Hermione frowned, but Harry wasn’t paying attention.

“Draco was happy,” Harry said quietly. “Until I ruined it.”

“Oh, Harry. What he was living wasn’t the truth,” Hermione protested.

There was a pause.

“Is that really so important?” Harry asked.

***

Harry was well enough to leave the infirmary that evening, but couldn’t face his flat in Islington, so accepted Ron and Hermione’s invitation to see their new home on Diagon Alley.

Hermione made him up a bed on their sofa, and he fell asleep almost immediately, still sitting up, with Hermione guiltily insisting that she should have visited him, tried to help more, had more faith in him.

When he woke up, he was alone in the flat, Crookshanks purring loudly on his chest.

“Hello,” he said to the cat. He blinked back at him in a stately fashion. Harry lay there for a while, listening to the tick-tick-tick of a bizarre carriage clock that cuckooed from time to time, seemingly at random. A house-warming present from Mr. Weasley.

He thought about the night before, standing in front of Draco/David and purposely wanting to hurt him, to finalise things, one way or the other. Of the popping feeling as he pushed through the spell. He had taken Draco away from the happiest life he’d lived; Harry knew that now. He’d seen those two lives in parallel, and they couldn’t be compared.

Will Draco still be… Malfoy, or will he be more like David? Harry wondered, scratching Crookshanks behind the ears, making his purr rise a notch. He’ll probably still be the irritating little bastard I grew up with, he told himself. But somehow, that was no consolation.

Harry picked the cat up off his chest and deposited him on the floor, idly picking up the paper as he did. The headline was something about rising fines for speeding whilst on a broomstick, and when Harry checked the date he saw it was a few days old. Nothing in there about the Boy Who Lived almost killing his previously-thought-to-be-dead-or-at-leas t-missing Arch Enemy.

He turned to the job pages.

***

Harry settled back into his old life. Or rather, a cross between the two. He got a job behind a bar in a firmly Muggle pub, and a small flat nowhere near Islington.

He communicated regularly with Dumbledore, sometimes by Floo, sometimes via owl, but he didn’t dare ask about Draco’s progress, and the headmaster didn’t offer any information. All Harry knew was that it had been two months since he’d last seen Draco.

Then, one day, as he was serving a couple who insisted on continually kissing right in front of him at the bar, he heard someone to his left shout, “Asahi, please!”

And there, as simple as that, was Draco.

He looked like, well, he had always looked like Draco. But as David he had had a lightness to his expression that Draco had never had. And this person… he seemed older. More sombre. Harry couldn’t stand that he’d made that happen.

Draco raised his eyebrows. “Hello? Asahi? Please? I have money.”

Harry sprang into action. “Oh, sure, sorry,” he mumbled, dropping the kissing couple’s change on the bar. A few coins bounced to the floor but he didn’t notice.

He got Malfoy’s beer and handed it to him. “Three seventy-five please.”

Malfoy smiled slightly. “This one’s on you, Potter.”

“Oh,” said Harry, wiping his hands on his trousers. “Er, okay.”

Malfoy tipped his head to the back of the room. “I’ll be over there. When you’re ready.”

“Oh, I don’t get a break for—”

“That’s fine,” Draco said. “I’ll wait.”