If you had only died when you were meant to, I'd have grown up in a wizarding world already ruled by the Dark Lord. I wouldn't be screaming at you in a sixth floor bathroom. I wouldn't be raising my wand, Crucio on my lips.
You're too quick for me, and I gasp as my wand flies from my fingers. This simple defeat is the thing that makes me break, and I fall to my knees. The cold stone floor seeps up through my fingertips as I wait, head bowed, hoping that you will have the courage to make everything go away.
I should have known that you would be too noble to end my shame, and when I feel a warm hand on my back the tears come again in racking sobs.
"Let me help you, Malfoy," you whisper.
You stand in the shadows, but the room is so filled with your presence that I barely notice the old man to whom I speak. "No one can help me," I mutter. Dumbledore doesn't matter, and yet I lift my eyes to him to deliver my next words. "I have to kill you." I lift my arms to expose my chest and make myself vulnerable. It's the only way out.
"You firmly believe that you must die, Draco? So you may protect your family?"
I tip my head to the side and glare. I feel your eyes on me like a prickle at the back of my neck. "Do you have any idea what the Dark Lord does to those who fail him? I'll be screaming for days. I'd rather it be quick."
Dumbledore pops a sweet into his mouth and chews. I wish I had my wand, I could do it now, I'm sure of it. I bite down hard on the sides of my tongue as anger boils my blood.
The old man swallows. "I can hardly harm a student, Draco." He glances at you. "However, it would perhaps be appropriate for Harry Potter to be the one to kill Draco Malfoy."
I hear your shocked gasp as my own escapes. Your passage disturbs the air and the hem of my robes shift as you leap forward. "You're joking, Professor. You can't be serious."
The old man has finally lost his mind, and I'm afraid, because I think you'll do anything he tells you to. I can't take my eyes off the wand clutched in your fist.
Mine sits on the desk in front of Dumbledore, and I shove past you, grabbing for it. "I'll make it easy for you," I spit as I point my wand at you, but my arm is shaking. "Do it, Potter... Or I will."
Your eyes are cold and hard, but you don't raise your wand, and it leaves me desperate. I feel tears coming again. "Do it," I growl from between clenched teeth. "You're a coward. Curse me, damn you!"
Your mouth twists into anger, but you don't raise your hand. Instead, you step forward and wrap your fingers around mine. "I'm not going to curse you, Malfoy," you whisper, and gently pull back on my wand. "I'm not going to kill you."
"But the world must believe he has, Draco. All must believe you are dead."
We both turn to stare at Dumbledore, and my wand clatters to the floor.
"Will you do it, Harry? Take the blame for Draco's murder?"
I can't allow it, and this surprises me. "He'll be hunted down, and when they find him, it'll be worse than anything I could have expected for betrayal."
"I'm already hunted," you say. "I'm not afraid. I'll do it."
My jaw drops, but I cannot speak. I don't understand why you would protect me, why you would care.
Dumbledore rises to his feet. "I have a rather dramatic deception to perform," he says. "Professor Snape will see you safely to Grimmauld Place."
You and I step forward at the same time.
"Snape? Are you mad?"
"But he's working for the Dark Lord..."
Dumbledore chuckles. "You may be surprised, Draco, how little you know your Head of House. Harry, of course, knows that I trust Severus with my life, and with yours."
I don't know how long we've been here. The days move slowly, our minders rotating in shifts. Sometimes it's the werewolf, sometimes the man I think of as Professor Moody, though I know he was never a professor at all. Hagrid. Weasley. Others I don't know, though you seem to, you talk with them as though they are friends.
I speak to no one. I open my mouth only to order the house-elf to prepare a meal, run me a bath, fetch me a drink. The house is warded. The others stay long enough to remind us to study so we don't fall behind in our classes and to make sure we're not killing each other, then they leave.
I doubt you realise how much I drink every night. It's enough to make sure that I pass out and sleep without dreams. A potion would be quicker, but I can't make one. We're both under-age, and I'm supposed to be dead. We can't risk using magic.
Hagrid brings Granger and Weasley to the house that has become my prison. I'm sickened by the gushing exclamations.
"I knew you'd never do anything like that, Harry."
"It's not like the git wouldn't have deserved it, though, you gotta admit."
They're with you in the kitchen, and I listen from the drawing room, tossing back a full glass of Firewhisky before the stupid giant can catch me at it. Voices carry down the hallway.
"Shut up, Ron," you say.
"Must be bloody awful, though, mate. Stuck in here with that miserable bastard. I bet he's been a right wanker."
I have to creep close to the door to hear your next words.
"He's not so bad. Quiet, mostly." Your voice drops so low all I hear is a mumble, but I rest my spinning head against the door frame and allow the familiar tone to work it's way into me. I imagine I can feel it, the way it seems to vibrate into my soul, calming me and making me safe.
"We have to do something." Granger's voice, after yours, makes my head hurt.
"Shhh, 'Mione," you say.
"You can't help someone like that," says the other one.
You hush them again, and all I hear is low whispers. I go back and refill my glass, swallow the burning fluid quickly when I hear Hagrid speak.
"Promised Dumbledore I wouldn't keep you out too late. Hermione, Ron, come on, then."
I listen to murmured farewells, and then: "You're mad, Hermione. You're wasting your time on that tosser."
I hear her enter the room, but I don't turn.
"For what it's worth, Malfoy, I'm glad you're not dead."
I grip the edge of the cabinet hard. "It's not worth anything coming from you, Granger," I grind out, and ignore her until she sighs and goes away.
I've memorised the rhythm of your step. "They're gone," you tell me from the doorway.
"I'm not deaf, Potter."
Your sigh almost breaks me and I can't understand why.
"We could be here for a long time, you know."
"Only until the Dark Lord wins. Then we're dead."
"Stop calling him that. His name is Volde—"
I whirl around. "Don't." I start to shake. "Don't say his name. Please," I add, dropping my eyes to the intricate pattern on the threadbare carpet.
"You're afraid of him," you say softly.
I look up and glare. "Are you impaired, Potter? Of course I'm afraid of him. You have no comprehension of what he'll do to us. We'll scream and bleed and beg for death, and he'll only give it when we don't amuse him any longer. He'll use me as a lesson to the others. He'll make my mother watch..." My voice breaks, and I can't look at you anymore. I turn back to the decanter and fill my glass, not caring that you see.
The air shifts as you come up behind me. I sense the warmth of your hand before it comes to rest tentatively on my shoulder. I should shrug you off, but I don't. I take what comfort I can from a simple touch, though I'll never let you see it.
"I'll do everything I can to make sure that never happens, Draco."
My chest contracts and I cannot help the tiny sound that comes from me. Half gasp, half moan, it feels like pain, but sweeter. I should spit at you, accuse you of being a do-gooder Gryffindor with a save-the-world superiority complex, but I find I don't care. "You'll fail," I whisper.
Two days pass before I realise the decanter of Firewhisky in the drawing room is not being refilled and by that time it's gone. I scream. I throw and break things. When you find me, I'm on my knees on the drawing room floor, bleeding, with broken crystal embedded in my palms.
I let you lead me to the kitchen, let you pick out the shards one by one and wash the wounds.
"Lupin will have to banish anything I've missed when he gets here," you say.
Tiny fragments remain beneath my skin, and I clench both fists, forcing them deeper, until my eyes water.
"Don't do that." Your hands are on mine, your fingers forcing my palms flat. "You'll make it worse."
"It should be worse."
"No, it shouldn't." You turn over my hands and your eyes flick up to the inside of my forearm, where the edge of the Mark peeks out from under my rolled up sleeve. I try to hide it, but you hold my wrists. "You don't deserve to suffer, Draco."
I make the mistake of looking up into your eyes. I don't think I've ever noticed just how deep the colour is, but I've never had the need to look beyond your glasses before. I'm too drunk to think before I twist out of your grip and reach for the frames to have a closer look.
You stop me. "What are you doing?"
"I want to see what you look like." I reach for them again.
With a great screech of wood against stone, you push back your chair and stand. "You already know what I look like." Your voice shakes, you look nervous.
Something about your uncertainty boosts my confidence, and I stand and stalk around the table toward you. Backing up to the counter, you reach behind you, fumbling, but I'm not paying attention. I'm still staring at your eyes, and it is only then that I see the triumph in them and feel the prick through the front of my shirt and look down to see the knife in your hand.
"What the bloody hell are you playing at, Potter?"
"Get back, Malfoy. I might feel sorry for you, but I don't trust you as far as I can throw you."
I roll my eyes. "Take off your glasses."
You stare at me with your mouth hanging open, but I feel the blade ease away from my flesh and you let me take it from you and set it back on the counter. I reach up, remove the frames carefully and step back to take a look. "Close your mouth. You look stupid."
Your teeth snap together.
"Much better," I pronounce. "You're not too bad looking, you realise?"
Your mouth hangs open again.
"You've gone and ruined it all." With a finger beneath your chin, I force your jaw up again, but I don't take my hand back right away. Your eyes trap me, and I wonder why I've never seen them before. Even filled with alarm and confusion, they are deep and intense. I find myself moving closer, and I realise too late that I'm about to kiss Harry Potter despite the fact that you are shoving at my chest with your hands.
The ward alarm sounds and distracts me, and you twist away.
"Lupin," you gasp. "Thank bloody god."
"Are you drunk now, Draco?" the werewolf asks after you spill all my secrets.
"Bloody hope so," you say under your breath.
I ignore you. "Not drunk enough to sleep, if that's what you mean."
The man waves his wand and murmurs a detoxification spell, and my head clears. I don't like it. "Why'd you have to go and do that?" Angry, I get up from the table and leave the room.
I don't know where to go. My sanctuary, the drawing room, is devoid of alcohol and covered in debris. The only other place I can think of is the room I've been sleeping in, but I won't be able to sleep. Instead, I pace the upstairs hallway, drowning out the mutterings of the covered portraits with the sound of my leather soles against the wooden floors.
I don't know when Lupin leaves, only that when you call up the stairs to me he is gone.
"He'll send sleeping potions tomorrow," you say when I show myself.
My relief is tempered with panic. "What about tonight? What the hell am I supposed to do about tonight?" I remember the first night here, the dreams, the nightmares that woke me and made me afraid to go back to sleep. I'd found the Firewhisky the very next day. "I won't be able to sleep at all." I stare down at you for long moments before I realise that you are my only hope. I take two stairs at a time. "Please. You can ask the house-elf to get more, can't you?"
You look down to where my fingers are wrapped loosely around your forearm. "No, Draco. I can't."
My grip tightens as I get angry and you wince, but you don't push me away. Finally, I let go and walk toward the door.
I'm halfway to freedom when I hear your steps behind me and feel your hand on my arm. "You can't leave. Someone could see you."
"I don't care. When I'm awake I'm afraid, all the time. When I dream, I'm being tortured while my parents look on. There'll be no fucking relief, and I'm not doing it."
You push in front of me and block my way to the door. "You're not leaving."
"How do you propose to stop me?"
Biting down hard on your lip, you take a step back. You remove your glasses and drop your eyes to the floor. "Any way I can," you say, very softly, and look back up at me through long black eyelashes.
I snort with laughter. "You're full of yourself, aren't you, Potter?"
The shock on your face at my rebuff proves it. "But... before..."
"Enough Firewhisky will make anything look good," I lie.
A warm flush colours your face. "You mean you're not...? You don't like...? Umm."
"Oh, I do," I say, with no shame. I lean in, close enough to taste your scent, to feel your warmth, and it hurts my chest for reasons I cannot begin to understand when I whisper, "I'm not that desperate."
Mercifully, I'm alone when I approach the front door, my insult having given you ample reason to storm off. I'm glad you're not here to witness this, as I hesitate before wrapping my fingers around the handle.
"Stupid boy. The wards are there to keep you in."
"Shut up," I hiss at the portrait that hangs in the entryway. The cloth that covers it sways gently, as if in a breeze. There is none.
"A little respect for your elders, boy. Though I shouldn't expect much from a blood traitor. I hope my niece and her husband have disowned you."
"Don't say a word about my mother." I reach for the door handle, and am repelled. "Fuck."
"A dirty mouth on a filthy blood traitor. It disgusts me that you're in my house. Kreacher! Kreacher!"
I back away from the useless door as the house-elf materialises beside me.
The portrait of my Great Aunt is still screaming. "Strike the filthy blood traitor from the tapestry, Kreacher! I won't have the great name of Black associated with this scum!"
I hate that I can feel you, before you speak, before I see you. I hate that you jump to my defence so quickly.
"Don't even think about it, Kreacher," you say. "Weren't you in the middle of something?" You glare at the misshapen elf until he finishes a string of muttered insults and Disapparates.
"Order my servant about, will you, scum? Filthy half-blood, how dare you set foot in my house! You sully the very air with your dirt—"
I barely register her hate filled words because you're here, and you are close. You stand beside me and stare at a spot on the wall. "Thought you were leaving."
I take just as much care not to look directly at you. "The wards work both ways."
The air is thick, even the bile that issues from the portrait seems to slow and deaden, as the sound itself struggles through the viscous atmosphere. You look up at me through heavy lidded eyes. "We're locked in."
"Yes," I say.
"...defile my house..."
You snap. "Oh, will you shut up, you horrible, horrible bitch!" As they wrap around my wrist your fingers are warm and rough and right, and I go with you as you storm off down the hallway and the insults die away. You stop outside the kitchen door with your back to it. Something has affected you—your breathing is heavy, as if you've exerted yourself on the Quidditch pitch, there's the same flush to your cheeks that I know so well. You look down to where you grip my wrist and I follow your gaze, and neither of us moves to break the connection.
"I suppose," I say, "that since we're stuck with each other, we should at least attempt to get on."
Your eyes slowly move up my arm, and your gaze lingers somewhere to the right and below my own eyes. Your tongue slips languidly from your mouth and wets your lips. "So now you're desperate enough? Is that what you're saying?"
"Perhaps there's something to be said for desperation," I whisper. "It forces us to consider that which we wouldn't before."
Your eyes flick to mine, and there is a strange and forceful intensity to them.
I'm frightened, and I'm not ashamed to admit it, at least to myself.
Panicked, I stare at my mothers' stricken face. She's all I can see, everywhere else is blackness. I try to move, to go to her, but I'm unable. I call out to her, and tears roll down her cheeks. Still staring at me, she begins to beg. "Please, he's only a boy. He's my son, please!"
I don't know what's coming, but I'm deathly afraid, and I cry out for help as my mother begins to scream. My body thrashes, but I feel nothing, not even bonds to hold me in place, yet I cry, my tears blurring my sight until my mother is an indistinct vision of despair, and I scream for her.
"Thank you," you say, but not to me. I allow myself a smile as Kreacher fixes you with an ugly stare for insulting him with gratitude, but for once he says nothing.
You haven't noticed me watching you. You nibble on your toast and stare down at the newspaper on the table.
"I don't know why you bother," I say. "You know it's rubbish."
You look up from the headline that reads 'Latest on Hogwarts Murder'. "Everything they print is rubbish." Taking a deep breath, you push the Prophet aside. "Rough night last night?"
I cringe. "I don't want to talk about it."
"You were yelling for—"
I shove away from the table with enough force to tip the chair. I confuse the sound of it hitting the flagstone with yours as it scrapes across the floor and I don't move fast enough.
You grab me tightly by the wrist before I get out the door. "I have dreams too, you know."
I twist, trying to get free. "Don't you dare tell me you scream for your mummy to make me feel better, Potter." I can't get free, you're holding me too tight. "You're hurting me," I whimper. My face burns and hot tears threaten and it is partly the horror that you've heard my dreams and partly the fear I felt in my sleep.
You release me with a sharp intake of breath. "You were yelling out for me."
I stare at you in disbelief. "I was not." It's impossible. I dreamt of my mother, not... Harry Potter.
You shrug, like it doesn't matter, and brush your fingertips over the wrist that still aches.
"I thought you were awake. I went in, but you were just dreaming, so..." You shrug again, and this time you circle my wrist with your fingers, holding me loosely. "D'you want me to wake you if it happens again?"
I can't meet your eyes. I don't want to say out loud how terrifying it is, and so I just nod. My wrist, my skin, burns where you touch it. You can't be that warm, it's all in my mind, but it makes me forget about my mother and the dream and the fact that you heard me screaming. I shift my body closer to yours, close enough to feel your heat. Close enough that I can feel your quick breath on my cheek. You smell of mint and butter and toast. I lift my eyes and brush away the single crumb from your lower lip without thinking.
"Desperate, Malfoy?" The way you look at me, green eyes blazing behind glass, long black lashes edging heavy lids is positively sinful.
I moan. "Merlin, yes." I realise what I've said. "I don't mean—damn it. You distract me, Potter. That's a good thing." It's a wonder I got so many coherent words out. I reach for you and wrap my free arm around your waist and press my hip against yours and lean in, so close that when I speak my lips barely touch yours. "Distract me... Harry."
A sound halfway between a grunt and a whimper comes from you. "I don't think that's a good idea."
"Of course it's a good idea." I lean back, take off your glasses, and move my lips over your cheek. "What else are we supposed to do? You do like boys, don't you?" I shift my hip and brush against you. "Yes, there's no denying that."
You bite your lip. "You and me..." Shaking your head, you pull away. "You're mad."
I get angry. "We don't have to like each other. Are you completely naive?" It's an anger borne of desperation and the bitter sting of rejection. "You're afraid, aren't you? Scared you might like it a little too much and you'll never be able to go back to pretending you're straight."
Your eyes lock onto mine. "That's not it," you growl. There's a hard gleam in your eyes, and my heart begins to beat faster. Your fingers tighten on my wrist, you pull it out, away from my body as you take a single step toward me. Backing me against the wall, your free hand locks around my other wrist. I'm too shocked to try and twist away from your grip when your lips come to rest on mine.
A kind of euphoria I've never felt before spreads through me and I surrender completely, but I'm too late.
"Bloody hell," you mutter as you walk away from me.
I stare after you as you storm off down the hallway.
I'm still holding your glasses in my hand.
"All right there, young Malfoy?"
I look up from where I sit in the drawing room, back against the book case, my knees drawn up. I grunt at the father of all those dozens of weasel children, then look back down at my hands.
"Those are Harry's, aren't they? Thought he looked a bit strange just now."
I hold your glasses out and allow them to be Accio'd from my hand. "I want out," I mutter. "I'm sick of this horrible old house."
The man takes it as an invitation to come through the doorway. He crouches beside me. "It's for your own safety, you know. It's bad luck that you have to be cooped up alone, but you're perfectly safe here. If we could spare anyone from the Order we'd see that you had company. Things are dicey out there, lad."
I drop my head to my knees. "My mother thinks I'm dead."
"Ah." He moves and the ancient settee creaks as he sinks into it. "And your father?"
I look up. "My father can kiss my arse. How do you think I got into this mess?"
"Parents can make mistakes, Draco. I'm sure your dad would take that back if he could." He glances at my arm and the Mark tingles, even though it's covered by my shirt sleeve.
"It's too bloody late." I glare at the opposite side of the room. "What are you doing here anyway? I don't need your pity."
The settee creaks again. "I'll just take these back to Harry then."
When he's gone, I lean back and inhale the ancient mildew of mouldering books. My hands are empty now, and I half turn and run my fingers over the spines, just to have something to do. I suppose if it gets too bad, if we are here for too long, I could read every book in the place. I was too busy being drunk before to get bored, but now it's an ever present threat, especially if you won't consent to distract me.
I slide one out. There's nothing on the spine, but the title on the front cover reveals it to be an instructional manual in efficient torture methods.
I quickly shove it back in.
I open my eyes. This time I know what I will find. The skin over my knuckles is broken and bleeding, my sleeves are rolled up. The Mark pulses and throbs. My face is swollen, my eyes are stinging.
Looking at you, my eyes fill again. Tears fall onto my hands and they sting, but I barely notice. I force myself to look at the ruined flesh at your wrists, your whole weight carried there on too-thin chains because your legs gave out long ago.
Your body is a mess of bruises and blood and broken skin. You're barely conscious. I look behind me, into the shadows. "Now?" I ask. "Can I do it now?"
The blade pressed into my hand is all the affirmative I need. The shining steel glints with yellow torchlight as I press it against your throat.
My lips close to your ear, I whisper to you. "I'm sorry."
You moan, and your eyes crack open. The brilliant green stabs me through the heart and I cry out.
"S'alright," you rasp. "I'm ready."
I can barely see for the tears and my ears fill with the sound of my own screams as I drag the blade across your throat.
The sleeping potions do nothing to curb the dreams and I'm still screaming when you shake me awake. It's dark, and I don't realise that it was just a dream until I hear your voice.
I gasp and reach out to make sure that you're real, you're alive, but my eyes are stinging, my face is wet. I don't know what I'm saying, all I know is that I'm so, so grateful that I haven't killed you, that I haven't hurt you and I need to feel you close to know for sure. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry," I repeat, over and over as my hands move over your chest, your shoulders, your arms. "I'm so sorry." I touch your throat, just to be sure, because I can still see the blood flowing as if it would never stop. "I didn't want to do it, he made me. I'm so sorry."
I press my face into your throat, smelling soap and Harry. I inhale in great gasps, trying to clear the residual dream-scent of sweat and dirt and blood. My lips move over your skin, it's rough, it tells me you haven't shaved in a few days. My tongue darts out to taste you.
You gently push me away. "Malfoy... Um—"
"Please," I beg. "I need... I need..." I open my eyes. I can see you now, shadowy in the dim light that comes from the hallway. Your hair is messy, more than usual. Your glasses are askew, as if you put them on hurriedly, and as I stare, you push them straight with one finger.
"I want you." My voice is harsh, thick with sleep and need. I rake my eyes over you, your threadbare T-shirt, the thin, striped pyjama bottoms that do nothing to hide the fact that you are half-hard. I flick my eyes back up to your face. I'm fully awake now, but the deep and consuming relief is not gone. "I need you, Harry."
I'm tangled in the blankets, you're kneeling on the bed, sitting on your heels. You must have climbed right on to wake me, and I reach out and wrap my arm around your neck. I can't let you leave. "I need to know that you're real. That you're all right."
Shaking your head, you speak. "No. It's just 'cause I'm the only one here."
My chest tightens. I'm afraid you're going to leave. "It's not." I realise that I'm telling the truth and I gasp. I let my hand fall from your neck. "Sorry, I..." Surely you're able to hear the thundering of my heartbeat. I'm more afraid now than I was inside the dream.
"S'alright," you say as you slip off the bed. "Go back to sleep."
"Wait," I say without thinking, only knowing that I don't want you gone, I don't want to dream again and see the blood and smell your death.
You bite your lip and look at me. One hand still rests on the bed, and you pick at the piping on the bedspread. "Want me to hang about? In case you have another nightmare?"
"Yes." It hurts to say it, and my voice breaks, but if I hesitate too long you'll leave.
So you stay, folding your glasses, setting them on the nightstand, lying on top of the covers beside me. You seem nervous, but it doesn't matter because I'm terrified and yet with you beside me I feel safe enough to close my eyes.
There's blood everywhere, the old T-shirt you wear, once a faded grey, is soaked with it. I touch your destroyed face with my mangled hands, and you're cold.
You're dead, and I killed you with my hands, up close, with none of the distance afforded by a wand and a Curse.
I cry over your body and hold you in my arms as if I can protect you, but it's too late. The bloody knife lies beside you on the bed, the wound it made thick with congealed gore.
I killed you with that knife because he told me to.
When I wake this time you are holding me, hushing me with quiet, soothing words. You are warm, and you are alive, and your shirt is dry and your throat, when I touch you, is intact.
I can't think past my relief, and I press my hands and mouth against any part of you I can reach, and you don't fight me, in fact you brush warm fingers over my hands and face and hair, all the time making comforting noises and soothing me with your closeness.
It's pitch dark, but I find your lips easily with mine. I wet your face with my tears and tangle my fingers in your hair and with hardly any effort I lie back and take you with me. The weight of your body pressing the length of mine reassures me that you are real, and yet this all still feels like a dream.
My eyes adjust to the darkness.
"Shh," you whisper to me, between soft presses of your lips against mine. "It was just a dream." With your thumbs, you wipe tears from my cheeks and you hover above me.
I pull you down again. "Make me forget it."
You moan softly, but I won't let you go. I hold you tightly, kiss you fiercely, and when I feel your tongue on mine a thrill goes through me and I need you.
With one hand, I shove at the thick blankets covering me, and we both kick at them until they bunch around our feet and all that is left between us is your threadbare T-shirt and two pair of pyjama pants, one silk, one cotton. You are hard. My cock twitches in response to the hot pressure against my hip, and fills quickly as my fear flows away, and all that is left is a sudden and shocking desire.
Your hands move over my bare skin and it feeds my courage. I push my hands up underneath your shirt. With my hands low on your waist I pull you down onto me and twist, and we both moan as we rub against the other's hip.
We're erratic at first, messy kisses and jerking hips, until I grab your arse and force you into a rhythm.
"Ah, like that," I rasp, my throat hurting. I arch into you, pressing my head back into the pillow as you bury your face in my shoulder and grunt softly with each rock of your hips. Frantic rubbing and desperate hands work elastic waistbands down, and I feel your bare cock against mine and you cry out, shaking, groan against my shoulder and stiffen, your arse clenching hard beneath my fingers as warm wetness spreads over my stomach.
I don't make any attempt to hold back, I come hard, biting down on my lip yet failing to hold in the anguished cry that bubbles up. I don't know what to do with this emotion, this release and relief and gratitude and it comes out in a fresh flood of salt that mingles with the sweat.
The house is deathly quiet except for our harsh pants as we catch our breath. My chest contracts as I fight against the sobs that threaten to rip through me. I cling to you, balling your T-shirt in my fists, but you roll off me anyway.
I search for the shine of your eyes, but you're not looking at me. I whisper your name, but it's lost in the sound of fabric against skin as you pull off your soiled T-shirt and use it to wipe yourself clean. "Fuck," you rasp, your voice deeper than I've ever heard it, thick with sleep and post orgasm breathlessness and something else. "I... Sorry." Your feet hit the floor and you sit on the edge of the bed.
I reach out to press my palm against your bare back, needing contact, but I'm too late. You stand, your fingers tugging at your hair. "Sorry... Fuck."
Then you leave.
Despite your abrupt departure in the night, I sleep without dreaming, and go down for breakfast with high spirits.
It's been a long time since I've felt this hopeful.
My heart beats faster as I enter the kitchen and see you there, bent over another newspaper, an empty plate beside you scattered with greasy crumbs. The door closes behind me with a soft thud and your head twitches up, but you don't turn. You don't look at me until I sit down, and then you do it slowly, your teeth pressed into your lip, the flesh around the point of pressure turning white, your eyes finally meeting mine. You look tired.
You look away, down at the newspaper. The headline reads 'Search for Draco's Killer Continues'. "Your mother talked to them," you whisper.
I grab for the Prophet, and devour her few quoted words. I hear her voice in my mind, soft, impassioned, pleading, and then filled with the hate that comes from grief and the inability to enact anything to change your situation. "I'm sorry," I say, sliding it back toward you. Then, as if I have to make some excuse for her, "She thinks you killed me in cold blood. If she knew the truth—"
"I've had Death Eaters want me dead before, you know. I'm used to it."
"My mother is not a Death Eater," I tell you, defensive.
Lifting your head, you stare at me. "She might as well be. She stood by and let you take the Mark."
I feel the weight of it on my arm. I'm ashamed of it now, what it stands for, what it's done to me, what it's done to my family. Most of all, what it has done to my mother. "She didn't know."
You don't move at first. Your expression doesn't change. Eventually you sigh and look away. "My mother died protecting me. I guess I would have expected the same of yours."
My voice is low and menacing when I speak. "You know nothing about my mother, Potter."
You shove your chair back and get up from the table. "I know this much. You're bloody lucky to have her. The evil bastard you got that Mark for killed mine."
The kitchen door slams behind you.
I shouldn't care about your mother. I never knew her. She was a Muggle-born witch of no consequence yet your accusation cuts deep. I care what you think of me. I've never regretted the Mark more, not even when I was in that bathroom, kneeling before you and hoping for a quick death.
I end up in the drawing room again, staring at the bookcase as if an answer will appear before me. Dark Mark removal instructions, perhaps.
I snort. Even if such a thing existed, I would hardly find it here. I let my fingers trail across the spines, reading nothing, but when my fingers stop on the ancient worn leather of another book with an unlabelled spine, I slide it out.
Nothing on the cover, either. I hesitate. Some books can be dangerous. I open it anyway. The heft of it is strange as I lift the cover, and I hold the volume out at arm's length as it falls open.
I gasp in shock. Then I laugh and lift out the flagon that lies inside the hollowed out book.
I don't care how it got there, who put it there, how many years it's been hidden away in the bookcase, in only seconds I have the stopper out of the bottle and hot, burning Firewhisky flows into my mouth and down my throat.
I swallow a third of it straight from the bottle before I stop. I wonder if surely I haven't stooped so low as to forget my breeding, and look around for a glass.
Then I stopper the bottle and place it back inside the book and slide it back into the shelf. It won't do to drink it all at once. Besides, I should save it for the evening, to stave off the nightmares.
Regardless, I've drunk enough to alter my mood significantly. It's different now. Before, there was a numbness that was the only result possible. Now, my emotion is not only fear and despair. I want to know when the certainty that this would end in my own horrible death faded.
Now, I can't stop thinking about you. About your weight on me in the night, your kisses, just as desperate as mine, the sound of your voice when you came. There's almost no hesitation when I leave my haven to search for you.
Surprisingly, you're in the hallway as if you were waiting for me. I spare a brief moment to be concerned, wondering if you'd seen me with the contents of the book, but it doesn't last. You lean against the wall, between two covered, softly snoring portraits, your eyes on the moth-eaten carpet. You don't look up when I step close enough to take in the smell of you.
I inhale deeply, savouring the faint trace of mint along with something woody and warm.
Your breathing quickens and you shrink back against the wall. "About last night," you begin, after clearing your throat, and I smile, remembering.
"That should never have happened, I'm sorry."
"Don't be ridiculous." I realised I've been carefully avoiding using your name, either of them. "Harry," I whisper, leaning closer, letting my fingers caress the back of your hand as it clenches at your hip. "You wanted that as much as I did. It's a little late for denial."
Your head snaps up. "You were upset. I was simply... I went too far."
Something tears inside me. "You felt sorry for me." Of course. It makes perfect sense. Harry Potter, rescuer, hero. I affect nonchalance. "While I'm mortified that you had to witness my weak moment, I'll have you know that no apologies are necessary. It's just sex, after all."
"It bloody well was not," you splutter, and despite the sore place inside me, I laugh.
"There's that denial again, Potter." The name comes easily to my lips. "We got off together. If that's not sex..."
"It won't happen again," you say quickly.
"Don't be ridiculous," I repeat. I don't want it to never happen again. I can't stop staring at your lips, slightly parted, your chest, rising and falling rapidly. "I know what you sound like when you come, Potter." I slip my hand between your legs and slide it up and over your stiffening cock. "This time I want to watch you." With my free hand, I take off your glasses. "You have lovely eyes, Harry," I whisper as I wrap my fingers around the denim encased hardness, and with firm pressure, stroke slowly.
Your heavy eyelids fall and obscure the green. "Oh god."
I allow myself a smile as I press my lips against yours, teasing them open with my tongue. Your moan is a weak protest, and your fingers clutch at the fabric of my shirt, even as you push at me.
Soft denim gives way easily, the button, the zip, I push aside soft elastic and enclose your cock in my hand in a series of gestures much more confident than I know I possess experience for. You grunt against my lips as I stroke from base to tip and sweep my thumb over.
You shake your head, muttering words that sound like no and yes all at the same time. "Half asleep," I catch, and "you were frightened, I wanted to..." By then your arms are around my neck and your lips are on my throat.
"You don't have to do this," you hiss clearly.
I turn my head and kiss your earlobe. "I want to do this," I whisper. "I want you, Harry. I want you to come in my hand. I want to hear you. I want to look into your eyes. I want to kiss you afterwards. I want you."
You tense, and your teeth press into my flesh as you moan desperately.
"Look at me," I beg. "I want to see you."
You groan and lift your head and let it fall back against the wall.
"Open your eyes."
Your eyelashes lift slowly, you fight to look at me, but you do, and then at the final moment I can't help but kiss your lips, swallow the long, drawn out moan that pours from you into me as the cock in my hand twitches and spills out over my fingers.
This time as I sit alone in the drawing room and listen to the muted voices coming down the hallway I don't feel quite so alone and scared and angry. I can tune out those of the groundskeeper and the mudblood and the weasel and focus on yours, and the recent memory of it, satiated, as you lean against me and mutter "Where'd you find the Firewhisky?"
There is a vague sense of annoyance, however. I want you to myself again, I want them out of the house and gone so we can—
I turn at the sound of your voice. You are framed in the doorway, and you're alone, and when I step forward you flush red. "You're getting out," you say, but I don't absorb the words. "The Order is going to get you out of the country. Snape's going to try and get your mother out, too."
I stop, frozen as the words sink in. I'm not thinking clearly at all. "What about you?" I ask as I reach out.
My fingers close on nothing as you step back. "Me?" Your eyes narrow and you shake your head. "I'll be here. Helping Dumbledore and The Order fight Voldemort."
I flinch at your casual use of the Dark Lord's name. "You can't," I say lamely. "You'll end up dead." I can't bear the thought. "Besides, my mother will never leave with my father still in prison..." I grab at you again and lock my fingers tight around your wrist. "You and me, we could go where he'll never find us—"
"Get your greasy mitts off him, Malfoy."
"Leave it alone, Ron," you say as you shake off my grip and turn to face your friends as they and the lumbering Hagrid approach us.
"We'll be off then, Harry," the groundskeeper says, and I shrink back into my sanctuary as you make your farewells.
I inch closer to the bookcase.
I wake when I feel the bottle lifted from my fingers. I open one eye and try hard to focus, but I cannot.
However, I know it's you. I know the cadence of your breath, your earthy scent. "Harry." I reach out, take hold of the loose denim at your knee.
You kneel beside me. "You're drunk."
"Very observant, Potter." I moan and roll toward you, but I misjudge and fall off the couch and onto the floor. I linger on my hands and knees for a moment, giggling as I try not to throw up, before I feel your hands on me, under my arms.
You succeed only in dragging me to my knees. I wrap my arms around you, around your neck, and I fall against you heavily, searching for your lips with my own.
"Draco, god," you mutter, and you push me away and get to your feet. So I wrap my arms around your hips and press my cheek against the front of your jeans.
"Don't make me go, Harry," I plead, brushing my lips over the bulge in your jeans. "I'll do anything."
Your fingers twist in my hair and pull my head back. "Stop it." But your breath quickens and you don't step away. "Please, Draco."
You're wavering. My head clears a little, and I slide my hands around to the front of your jeans. "Anything, Harry." I rub my hand over your stiffening cock.
Your fingers tighten in my hair. "It's not my decision."
I flick open the button of your jeans. "They'll listen to you." I slip my hand inside and wrap my fingers around your cock, pull it out of your jeans and try to take it in my mouth.
You stumble backwards, but instead of getting away you fall back onto another couch. Quickly I scramble over on hands and knees and press myself between your spread legs. "Let me," I beg, my cheek on your stomach, your cock hard against my throat. "Let me suck your cock."
Slowly, I drag my lips down your stomach and graze them against the head of your cock. You let me, though you're gasping for air and have your fingers tangled in my hair.
My head swims. Elation rises up in me, and I take your cock deep into my throat.
Your fingers tug at my hair. "Oh, god," you whisper, over and over and over again. Your hips twitch, your thighs clench up. "Shouldn't be doing this," you moan, and yet your hand holds my head, your fingers in my hair, and you guide me. Drunk as I am, I can push aside the terror, the fear, and I can throw myself headlong into this one thing and I can make it good. I can make it so good that you'll want to keep me.
I need you to keep me close.
"Stop. Gonna come."
I don't stop. I want to taste you, I want to take you inside me, to take and keep a piece of you, and I work my tongue over your length, I gently stroke your balls, and you cry out my name one more time.
I taste you, bitter and salt, on the back of my tongue. Thick and slippery, and I swallow you down, taking you right inside me where no one can wrench you away from me.
Your cock slips from between my lips and I lay my head down on your still quivering thigh. You stroke my hair, tentatively, as if I might not care for it, but I do. I savour your touch. "Please don't make me go," I beg.
You hunch over me and you hold me, shielding me with your body.
Each step I take pounds inside my head. The bottom of the stairs seems very far away, but I hear your voice, and I follow the sound of it, one step at a time. Each one makes my head throb, but if I can only get to you I will be all right.
There is another voice coming from the kitchen. It is calm, deep, reassuring, but I shut it out, focusing only on you.
"I don't think I should leave him... He's having terrible nightmares... He's been drinking a lot... I don't want to leave him, Professor... All right... Yes... I promise..."
Your voice fades away, and so does the other. There's the sharp crack of Disapparation. I pause at the kitchen door, waiting for something else, anything, but there's only silence.
I push open the door. On the table is a potion vial. It's a common hangover remedy, and I lift it to my lips and drain it. Then I turn around, checking each corner of the room as my head clears. When I realise you're gone, the empty vial falls from my fingers and shatters on the floor.
I search all the rooms in a panic, calling for you, screaming for you, in the end, crying for you. The house-elf is unconcerned and refuses to find you for me. Finally I go to the drawing room. I swallow the finger of Firewhisky I left in the bottle and I pull all of the books out of the bookcase as I search for more.
There are horrors in this house. Books fall open and scream at me, snap at my fingers and toes, vile smells rise up out of them.
There is no more alcohol. I take up the empty bottle and dash it against the bookcase. It shatters into sharp shards, long and thin, unlike the minuscule splinters of crystal you once picked out of my flesh.
You're not coming back. You've gone to die. They'll find you, and you'll be captured, and you'll be tortured.
If they find me, too, they'll make me watch. Perhaps they'll make me kill you myself.
I can't let that happen.
I study the lethal shards of glass, and I shudder. I'm afraid. What I wouldn't give for a potion or a wand or a Death Eater and a murmured Curse. I have none of those. All I have is this broken piece of glass.
It's sharper than any knife. It'll bite into my flesh clean, with little pain. Blood will flow out before I feel anything. I hold the shard over my wrist. My hand shakes, but I'm more afraid of your blood than I am of mine.
I do it fast and a perfect line appears on the inside of my wrist.
I was wrong, the pain is blinding. I drop the glass and realise it has cut into the palm of my other hand. Already my fingers are tingling as my life pours out onto the floor.
My blood is thin. It will be fast.
I fall to the floor, into sticky pools of red, and everything goes black.
Through a fog or a dream, I hear your voice, soft, muffled, indistinct. "Don't you dare fucking die on me, too, Draco."
I try to open my eyes, but it is as if they are Spelled shut.
"Not you, too. I can't lose you both. Wake up, damn you!"
One of my hands works. Only one. I flail around and grab hold of something warm and sticky.
"Thank god. Open your eyes, Draco."
The spell is lifted and my eyelids open. They are scratchy and sore. I have hold of you. You're wet. I focus my hurting eyes.
You're covered in blood and filth.
I moan and fall into blackness again.
This time when I wake, I am alone. I'm not dead, and I'm not dreaming. I'm in the bed I've been using since we've been here, and I am clean, and I am warm.
I don't know if I'm safe.
I don't dare speak your name, because what if you don't come? What if my vision of you, dirty, bloody, was part of my dream? What if it was the one where I kill you? What if you weren't real?
I hear movement below. Voices, indistinct. I can't pick out one from another. The voices are sharp, raised.
None of the voices are yours.
I pull myself into a sitting position. My left wrist is stiff, but not sore. I glance at it, and it appears to have been healed, and healed well. A faint white line runs down the inside of my wrist.
I slip out of bed and pull on my neatly folded clothes from the chest at the foot, and I venture out into the hall.
The voices grow louder, more distinct. I hear Weasley Senior and the werewolf. They are shouting now. Moody, too. And a woman's voice.
Then I hear yours.
I begin to run, almost tripping on the stairs in my haste to see your face, to assure myself that you have not abandoned me. I reach the foot of the stairs and Granger steps out to block my path.
"You're awake," she says.
"State the bloody obvious." I try to push past, but she steps backwards, her hands held out before her.
"Don't go in there."
They're in the kitchen. Lots of people are in the kitchen, but you are there too and I must see you.
"You can't go in there, Draco."
I shove her out of my way and push open the door. The rumble of voices hits me.
"We can't trust him. We have to think of Harry's safety."
"It's not just Harry we have to think about."
My eyes find you standing against the wall, where all others are gathered around the table. There are dark circles beneath your eyes. You look as though you haven't slept in a week. I inhale, sharp and loud.
All eyes are suddenly on me. You see me, your lips move in the shape of my name and your eyes flick down to my wrist and up again. You take a step toward me.
A hand on your arm stops you. I don't pay any attention to the owner of that hand until she leans into my field of view. I know her by sight, but we've never spoken. Nymphadora Tonks whispers into your ear, urgent and hushed, and then she releases you.
You stride across the room as whispers rise in the air. I ignore them, having eyes only for you, and when you reach me and place one hand in the centre of my back I let you push me out the door.
I follow you all the way to the drawing room. It looks as it always has. The books are back in the shelves, there are no sticky pools of blood on the floor.
"Shut the door," you say. Your voice is flat, without inflection, as if you could not care less whether I obey or not.
It closes with a satisfying click.
You turn on me. Behind your glasses, your eyes are brilliantly, blindingly green and wet. Tears fall and run down your cheeks. You reach out for me and grasp my left wrist in your hand so tightly that it hurts. "How could you?" you hiss. "I thought you were dead. You were cold."
"You're hurting me," I whine.
You drop my wrists and grip both my forearms, harder than you held me before. You shake me and your face contorts with anger. "You fucking coward, Malfoy." Your voice is harsh, broken. "Fight, dammit! What if that had been the night they got your mother out? Did you want her to see that? How could you let me see that, Draco? After... after..." Fresh tears run down your face. I don't know what to do. It can't be because of me.
"What happened? My mother? What's happened to my mother?"
You seem to slump. Your shoulders drop and your grip on me loosens. "Dumbledore's dead," you breathe, then you dig your fingernails into my flesh. "It's all been for nothing. You and me, stuck here in this house. For nothing, Draco, you hear me? For nothing!"
I shake my head. It can't be true. I can easily believe that the old man is dead, the Death Eaters were going to get into Hogwarts with or without me, but that no good has come of us trapped here I cannot believe. My chest is tight. I can hardly breathe. I wrench my arms free of your grip and take your face between my hands. "Would you have had me do it?" I ask. "You think it would have been better if I'd been the one to kill him? Harry, please. This is better. I didn't want that on my conscience. If it was Voldemort, a Death Eater, it's just another death. There's no blood on my hands. I didn't want that. If he did anything for me ever, Harry, Dumbledore did that for me."
"It was Snape," you say. "Snape killed Dumbledore. He knows where we are, Draco. He knows that you're alive. It's only a matter of time."
Something lodges in my throat and chokes me. My death is imminent. "You should have let me bleed out on the floor," I spit. "You should have fucking cursed me back at Hogwarts." I attack you with my fists, pushing you back, shoving you. I taste the salt of my own tears.
You raise your arms to your face to fend off my attack. "I won't let them touch you, Draco. I swear. As soon as your mother is out the Order will take you out of the country. You'll be safe."
"How the fuck are they going to get her out now? How?"
"It's already been organised. She's to meet Tonks and Lupin tomorrow. If she doesn't, we'll know Snape's with Voldemort and they'll take you alone."
I refuse to think about what may happen to my mother if Voldemort finds out she's running with me and focus on that which I may have some control over. "Come with me. Please, Harry. They don't need you. Let them fight the Dark Lord. Come with me."
"I can't. I have to find... It has to be me."
I can't go alone. I know the moment we're separated I'll be dead. "I'll die without you."
You stare at me, incredulous. "Don't be so melodramatic."
"I'm deadly serious. The moment I'm not with you no one will care, Harry. They'll go to the ends of the earth to protect Harry Potter—but not me. Never me."
"Have you forgotten the whole reason we've been locked up in here? It's because of you. It's to keep you safe."
"Whose idea was that? Dumbledore is dead. You told me yourself. No one else gives a rat's arse what happens to a Death Eater. Not your bloody Order, no one." I sit down heavily on a couch and resist the urge to put my head between my knees. I feel light-headed, as if I might pass out.
You sit down beside me. "You're not a Death Eater," you say softly. Then you push up the sleeve of my shirt and place your hand over the mark. "This doesn't mean anything," you whisper. "It doesn't mean anything."
But it does. It means that none of the people in the kitchen will ever trust me, but somehow the fact that you think it means nothing eases the crippling fear. "I still want you to come with me," I whisper, and I drop my eyes away because I don't want you to see how much you affect me.
Your hand slides down my arm and you link your fingers with mine. "I wish I could."
The dreams come again, your blood on my hands and my mother's screams as I'm taken apart, piece by tiny piece. I wake, crying, sweating, and I can't bear to close my eyes again.
I slip out of bed and find my way to your room. I must be silent, now, though why I care about what the others think is beyond me.
I expect to find you sleeping, but you're awake. A candle flickers, and you hide a battered potions textbook under your pillow.
"What are you doing?" you ask.
I flatten myself against the closed door, my hands splayed out upon the wooden panels. "Dreams," I whisper. "I don't want to go back to sleep."
You stare at me for long moments, and I think you're going to send me away, but then you move, flicking back one corner of the blankets and shifting over in your bed to make space.
I move slowly across the room. I'm unsure as to how you intend this gesture, and I feel as if it might be yanked away at any moment. "Why aren't you sleeping?" I ask as I sit upon the edge of the bed.
"Dreams." You smile. "Every time I close my eyes I see him die."
With my back to you it's easier to say the words. "Every time I close my eyes I watch you die."
You reach out and take my hand, and pull me around to face you. "I'll distract you," you whisper, so low I barely hear it. "Let me." You run your fingers up my arm and with your free hand you take off your glasses and set them beneath the flickering candle.
Your eyes are closed, but as I watch, you open them, and I am again struck by the intensity of your gaze. The first touch of your lips to mine is soft. You're careful, uncertain, but I reach up my arms and wrap them around your neck, pressing my body against yours.
The dreams still linger in my mind, the pain, the fear, the desperation, and I cling to you as if you are the thing that can save me from death. I know now that you can't and you will take another path not because you won't save _me,_but because you choose to save them.
Still, here in your arms I feel safer than I have felt in longer than I can remember, and I voluntarily drop the walls that are so natural to me now. Without those barriers, each touch, each press of your fingers to my skin is fully available to me and I process and catalogue every sensation in order to recall it when all I have is the memory of you.
Your fingers slide down my spine, skirt the waist of my pyjama bottoms, and unravel the cord that holds them closed. You lie me back and slide down my body. I imprint the feeling of your warm mouth as it takes me inside, every lick, every suck, filed away to be brought to mind when they capture me so I can stand tall and push away the fear. And when I come down your throat I stand before the Dark Lord, smile, and imagine the moment that you will kill him.
There is pain when your slick fingers stretch me open, but it makes me able to withstand the Cruciatus Curse cast over and over until my mind is gone. When I beg for you to fill me with your cock I beg for death. And the burn so intense I cannot stand it as you enter me is the Killing Curse, a bright flash of green light behind my eyelids that brings tears to my eyes and a cry of anguish to my lips.
But all the while, you soothe me with soft touches, and words that mean so much more than I deserve. And when you still, deep inside me, filling me with warmth that makes everything that much slicker, I feel a rush of magic, unintentional, spontaneous, and the constant burn of the Mark on my arm that I barely notice anymore because it's part of the constant dread that surrounds me, seems to fade to nothing. The thought passes quickly as you continue to thrust into me and your fist slides over my cock, and you beg me to, "Come, Draco. Please come."
It's like death and life all at once when my orgasm hits. Despair and hope and hate and... Something I still can't find a word for because nothing, nothing, comes close.
I don't want to wake. I fight waking, knowing that when I do it will be the day when I will be dragged from your side. It will be the day my mother comes, or does not come. It will be the day I stop hiding and start running.
I drift in and out of a sound sleep. I am warm and safe where I am and it is only the incongruent sound of the wrong voice intruding that wakes me.
"Harry, aren't you awake yet?" The door bangs against the wall. "Oh my god." There are the shuffling sounds of a hasty exit, followed by the knocking that should have come before.
I open my eyes. You moan and stir behind me. "Bloody Hermione," you whisper, and then you shiver and your hands slide around my waist, your palms move over my chest. "Are you awake?"
"Yes." I reach for your hand and link my fingers with yours.
"Coming," you call loudly, and then you pull back and climb out of bed. "Draco," you say softly. "They're bringing your mother today."
"They're sending me away today."
"You'll be safe."
"We'll never be safe. None of us will."
"Dumbledore thought I could beat Voldemort. Maybe I can."
"He was crazy. The only way you'll stay alive is to run."
You crawl back onto the bed and wrap your arms around me. "When it's over, I'll come find you." You hesitate. "If that's what you want?"
I close my eyes. "Yes," I whisper, so low it's no more than a breath.
You inhale, and then you breathe out. It sounds like relief. Then you're gone. I wait until you've closed the door behind you before I drag myself out of your bed.
Again I follow the sound of voices from the kitchen. They are raised again, as though a panic is near. This time, when I push open the door, I'm expected.
Immediately I'm accosted by a bustling woman. Weasley's mother. "Draco, come, sit," she says, her hands on me, guiding me. She pushes me into a seat at the table, and there are faces all around but the only one I see is yours. You sit across from me, and my fingers itch to reach across the table, but I resist.
Then a shoe touches the toe of mine, and I know it's you.
"Lupin and Tonks have gone to get your mum," you say.
Moody slaps his hand on the table. "Soon as they're back we have to clear out of here for good. I've got Portkeys. One for the Malfoys, and one for Harry, Miss Granger, and the Weasleys. The rest of us will scatter."
"Where will you go?" I ask, looking only at you.
"To The Burrow. Ron's place."
"Where will I be going?"
"No one knows."
"No one except for me," Moody says gruffly. Then he rummages in his robes and pulls out our wands. He slides them across the table, one to me, one to you. "You'll likely be needing these where you're going, lads."
I look at the man, or at least I try to. That eye distracts me. I don't trust him. Wherever we go, we'll have to move on as soon as we can. Any one of these people could pass on the knowledge to the Dark Lord, and then we'll be dead.
So I nod my head, then I sit back in my chair and I watch you. You stare back at me, and around us, plans are made, but I don't care about any of that. I wish only to see you, to memorise your face as it is now, and hope that this is the face I see in my dreams instead of one broken, bleeding, dead.
Everything happens at once. We hear the crack of Apparation out in the hall. There's a crash and my mother's scream and I am the first onto my feet and out the door.
My mother is terrified, reaching out for me, but it is not her voice I hear.
Instead, it is the sibilant hiss of my aunt that fills the hall. "Draco," she says, and I swing my head to the left where she stands, eyes wide. "Alive? Wait until the Dark Lord hears of this. Did you know, Sissy?"
Only then do I see the bodies of Lupin and Tonks on the floor. Stunned, not dead. I breathe a sigh of relief, though I don't know why I care. Because they can protect you, I tell myself, and you are all that matters, bar my own and my mother's lives.
I raise my wand and I point it at my aunt, and she laughs. Her own is raised, but it points at Mother, and then others are around me, pushing me out of the way. I feel you beside me, more than seeing, more than hearing, more than smelling. I feel you.
So does Bellatrix. "Harry Potter," she whispers. "Infamous killer, hiding with his victim all along." Then she cackles, high pitched, manic, and she points her wand and utters two words.
I see the killing curse on her lips, and with a burst of courage that comes from nowhere, I throw myself in its path. The momentum carries us both to the floor and the curse misses, blasting a hole in the wall above us.
Bellatrix screams. "Protecting him, Draco? Naughty boy." She points her wand at me.
The curse forms on her lips, but I don't hear it. Instead I hear a familiar voice, yours, uttering an unfamiliar word.
The blood. Bellatrix falls to the floor, twitching and gasping, and there is so much blood. It flows out of her and a dark pool spreads outward. I lift my eyes to you and there is my shock, mirrored on your face, and on all the faces of those around us. My mother falls to her knees beside my aunt, and the blood soaks into her pale blue robes.
You step forward, and you watch as my aunt breathes her last breaths. "I didn't know," you rasp. "I didn't know what it would do."
We are pulled away, back into the kitchen, away from the blood. You pull me into a corner where it's dark and you clutch at my clothes, tugging, pulling. "I didn't know," you whisper. "I'm sorry. I didn't know."
"We can assume Voldemort knew nothing of Dumbledore's deception," Lupin says. He and Nymphadora were revived soon after Bellatrix died. I felt only relief at her death, and grateful to those who brought my mother here, though they were not quick enough to stop my Aunt from latching on at the final moment.
"Severus Snape," he continues, "despite appearances, can surely be trusted, or Death Eaters would be upon us by now. Bellatrix knew nothing of the boy—she believed him dead."
"But he killed Dumbledore," you cry. You're still shaking, shivering, though I doubt any of them can tell. I'm the only one touching you. I'm the one who hasn't taken my hands off you since it happened.
I say nothing. I don't know what to think. Severus is too close to the Dark Lord, yet all this time we've been here, no one has come for us. We've been safe here, protected, while all the world has believed me dead and you on the run for my murder.
Including my mother.
While you cling to my right arm, she clings to my left. Sitting beside me, face blotched and streaked with tears, wearing borrowed robes, she looks nothing like the strong witch I know her to be. Her sister is dead, killed by the boy she hated for killing her son. She watches you and you are in shock with tears on your own cheeks.
But I am alive. "Thank Merlin," she whispers to me as she drops salty kisses on my face and hair.
It is decided that we—as if I or my mother have any say in this gathering—should not take the chance of trusting Snape. Moody gives my mother a package wrapped in brown paper and secured with string, and tells her to open it when we arrive at our destination, wherever that may be.
Then he tosses a pepper grinder onto the table in front of my mother and me.
It's all happened too fast. One by one, you unlink your fingers from mine and turn your head toward me.
Is it only a few days since I had convinced myself that you were nothing but a distraction?
"This is terribly inconvenient," I whisper.
You remove your glasses, fold them and place them upon the table. Softly, so that I must read your lips to decipher your words, you speak. "I'll find you."
I want to kiss you. "Don't die."
I stare into your eyes for what seems only a fraction of a second but I know it is longer. Hours, days even.
"Draco," my mother says.
I drag my eyes from yours and fix my gaze on the pepper grinder.
"Goodbye," you whisper.
"Find me," I murmur, and then as one, my mother and I reach out and take hold of the Portkey.
We find ourselves in Zurich, and from there, with the help of the documents and currency provided to us in the paper wrapped parcel, we pass into France and we are free.
I thought the Dark Lord would find me as soon as I left the protection of Dumbledore's wards, I thought he would use the Mark and track me down, but it's inert, innocuous now. None know of us here, not the Dark Lord and his Death Eaters. Not the Order of the Phoenix. Not Severus Snape, who could be one or the other.
And not you.
I get your owl, however. One letter comes from you in the summer. One letter that tells me almost nothing. One letter that tells me that you have attended the wedding of Bill and Fleur, whoever they are, and that it was very nice but broke up early after there were some uninvited guests.
There are no more letters. Word comes that the war rages on. Hundreds are missing, presumed dead. I never hear your name mentioned, though I listen for it constantly.
My mother despairs of my habits. I make potions to keep the dreams at bay—but I drink to fill the empty waking hours.
The tiniest glimmer of hope remains that when it is all over, you will find me.
Even that is taken from me. The war ends. The Dark Lord is gone forever. I wait for news of you. Nothing comes until one day an owl arrives.
No doubt you've heard the war is over. Harry disappeared in the final battle at Hogwarts. We think he must be dead, or surely he would have come back. I'm sorry, Draco. The way Harry spoke of you I thought you would like to know.
The parchment slips from my fingers and slides from side to side through the air in little arcs until it comes to rest on the floor.
I sink to my knees upon the cold marble, and I am reminded of a bathroom long ago and the moment when I lost all hope once before.
Now you are not here to return it to me.
Before, I would eat when Mother put food before me. I would take care with my grooming. I had hope that one day you would come, or send some word. Now all that hope is gone. The food tastes of ash. I haven't combed my hair in days.
"You look more like your father with each passing day, Draco," my mother says, and it is not a compliment.
I lift my eyes and look across the table. By contrast, she looks beautiful. Freedom suits her. She doesn't pine for my father as I thought she would. It is good that she is rid of him.
I sigh and look down at the food upon my plate. I force myself to eat a bite, for her, for what else do I have now?
"Perhaps we can return to England soon, Draco."
I sigh again. When I lift my eyes this time I stare past her. Out over the edge of the balcony, straight into the rising sun. It's bright and it hurts my eyes, makes my head throb. "I thought you liked it here."
"Oh, I do. But don't you want to know what has become of the Manor?"
"I don't care."
Mother purses her lips, but she says nothing more. A gentle touch on the back of my hand is the only acknowledgement she gives my despair.
I don't bother to look away from the sun that burns my eyes when the balcony doors give an almost imperceptible creak as they open.
"Vous avez un visiteur, M. Draco," the house-elf says. The little thing speaks only French.
"Dis-lui de s'en aller."
My mother pats my hand. "Je me charge de la porte, Amie. Eat your breakfast, darling." She gets up and slips through the doors and into the house.
When I look back down at my plate, I see only white. I don't care that the sun has burned my eyes. I pick at my food, tasting nothing.
"Draco!" my mother shrieks, and my head jerks up. My wand is immediately in my hand, I am on my feet, through the door, through the house, springing to the defence of the only loved one I have left, though I can see nothing.
I point my wand at the shadowy figure framed in the open doorway. My mother tugs at my arm, pulling it down, taking the wand from my fingers. Slowly, my vision returns.
No longer are you the boy I knew. It has been more than a year, and you are different. Your hair is longer, and it frames your face like a mane. Your face is scarred. A jagged line cuts your left eyebrow in two, leaves your eye unscathed, but continues over your left cheek and through the corner of your mouth. When you take a step, you favour your right leg and I wonder what scars hide behind the worn Muggle denim.
"Harry Potter," Amie chatters. "Le fameux Harry Potter est chez vous, Maîtresse."
My mother drags the excited little elf away.
I continue to stare.
"Can I come in, Draco?"
Your voice is deeper now. Tired. Broken, as if from screaming.
"Of course." I step back, an invitation, and you step across the threshold, pulling the heavy door closed behind you.
I think perhaps my eyes deceive me. "Harry?" I ask, as if to make sure that it is really you.
You seem to know exactly what I ask. "Yeah." You smile, and the scarred corner of your mouth twists strangely.
"How?" The letter, the one that removed all hope... "Your friends think you are dead."
Your eyes widen and your face reddens. "I know."
"Why? What did you do?" I still cannot believe you are real. So I move forward, and I stroke the back of your hand with the very tips of my fingers. You are warm, but your skin is rough.
"Have I finally gone mad?" I ask, perfectly serious.
"You don't look your best. Have you?"
I laugh. "You've had better days yourself, Potter."
With one finger you trace the line of your scar. "Your father gave me this."
I can't breathe.
"He's dead, Draco."
I feel only relief.
"You were supposed to be in Switzerland. That's why it took me so long to find you."
"We didn't trust Moody."
"So many people are." Something breaks within me. Relief, perhaps, the flood of hope that rushes through me. Tears prickle my eyes and I cannot hold them back.
Your arms wrap around me. You give me your familiar warmth and strength and I feel safe for the first time since I touched that pepper grinder.
"As soon as I knew it was over, I started looking for you, Draco. You're the only thing that kept me going. The desperate need to see you again is what kept me alive. It's what brought me back."
Through the tears, I feel your lips on mine, and I feel the scar against the corner of my lips, tight, hard. I don't care. You are perfect. Perhaps I have gone mad, but I think you might be a little mad too. That makes it all right somehow.