Author's notes: This started out as a Marauders analogue and morphed into something of its own along the way. Chapters are non-chronological.
Disclaimer: Harry Potter belongs to JK Rowling. No profit is being made from this work.
Seeing him sends a physical pang shooting through Combeferre's body, a jolt of pain and longing that threatens to knock him off his feet. Only years of desperately won self-control keep him from throwing himself towards the man he once called his best friend; only hours of treating with known war criminals keep him from trying to kill him where he stands. He stares instead, one hand clenched around his wand, the other balled into a fist to keep from reaching out. Courfeyrac looks nothing like the bright young man Combeferre remembers, looks old and gaunt and exhausted. His hair falls unkempt and dirty around his shoulders, his clothes resemble little more than rags, his eyes hold nothing of their former life. It would be easy to mistake him for someone else entirely, and yet Combeferre knows him without any doubt, recognized him in an instant and without a moment's hesitation.
Courfeyrac too examines him, face a swirling maelstrom of emotions. He never could hide his feelings, Combeferre remembers, and a half-hysterical laugh bubbles up inside him. He shouldn't have come, he knows that, shouldn't have let his emotions override his reason and answered the letter, should have let the past stay dead. Yet here he stands, centimeters deep in the dust that coats the de Courfeyrac estate, unable to tear his eyes away from Courfeyrac's face.
"Ferre." Courfeyrac's voice is hoarse, worn down from screaming and misery, hesitant in a way Combeferre has never heard. He says no more than that, he who could never hold his tongue when they were young, and Combeferre's heart clenches again.
"Don't," he manages, forcing words through lips turned to lead. "Don't call me that."
Courfeyrac flinches, his whole body rippling backwards, a look of devastation flickering across his face only to be replaced by terrible resignation. He says nothing, eyes cast to the floor, and now Combeferre doesn't recognize him at all, doesn't see even a trace of his friend in this broken man, and it makes it easier to say what comes next. "How dare you?" he says, his voice trembling with an emotion he does not take the time to classify. "How dare you write to me? How dare you think I would want to see you, after…" He cannot finish that sentence, has not been able to finish that sentence for twelve years, may never be able to finish that sentence if he lives to be a hundred and twenty.
"It wasn't me." Courfeyrac raised his head again, hollow eyes boring into Combeferre, imploring him to listen, to withhold judgment, and Combeferre aches to strike the look from his face. "It wasn't me, I swear to you, I did not betray us that night, Combeferre."
Combeferre isn't listening, can't help hearing, cannot make himself speak. He cannot make himself deny either, not face to face with Courfeyrac again, not hearing the sincerity in the voice of a man who never could lie convincingly.
"Who?" he whispers, and the word is barely intelligible but Courfeyrac understands anyway, as Courfeyrac always understood, and looks away.
"I never learned," he says. "I was captured, I only heard what they accused me of doing after the fact."
Combeferre doesn't want to believe it, doesn't believe it, but he knows too much of the old regime's ways, knows too much of the new regime's ways, knows too much of war and of politics and of wizardkind to discount it. "Prove it," he says, and Courfeyrac relaxes ever so slightly because 'prove it' is not 'I don't believe you' and Courfeyrac has always known the difference, has known ever since they were eleven and swapping stories about their respective worlds and upbringings.
"We won," Courfeyrac says. "Their spy can't have known much, to only send them against our group. I'd have been able to tell them much more than that."
It's absurd, it's nowhere near convincing, it's egotistical, it's so very Courfeyrac and Combeferre can hardly breathe. Part of him wants to scream at the dismissal of that night, but a larger part, the one trained to override emotion and focus on fact as a sheer survival mechanism, that part is nodding and reexamining the situation and Combeferre still can't think the words but it all makes a sickening kind of sense.
He takes half a step forward, feet guided by impulse more than by reason, and Courfeyrac stays perfectly still, he who should always be moving. And then Combeferre can't hold back any longer and he launches himself at his friend, nearly knocking him over as he clings desperately to the rags covering Courfeyrac's back, and Courfeyrac clings back and together they shake with unbearable emotion, and in Combeferre something clicks back into place at last. He buries his face in Courfeyrac's gaunt shoulder, feels Courfeyrac's nails digging through his robes, gasps helplessly as he loses the battle against tears.
It takes a long time for them to separate, and even when they've raised their heads neither move to let go. Courfeyrac leans heavily on Combeferre, clutching at his robes as though Combeferre will vanish if he loses his grip. Combeferre, in his turn, cannot take his eyes off his friend, drinking in all the unfamiliar angles of his body and the shadows of his face that weren't there before. They slide to the floor in a tangle of limbs and clothing, Courfeyrac half on top of Combeferre as though they were still both seventeen and whole. They don't speak. Later there will be time for confessions and explanations and accusations, time to relearn their similarities and rediscover their differences and attempt to piece themselves back together in a way that can never fit quite as well as it did before. Later they will share stories and have nightmares and get very, very drunk and nothing will be all right. For now they sit on the dusty floor of Courfeyrac's family home, trembling in each others' arms, and say nothing at all.