Author's Note: This work comes with a TRIGGER WARNING for discussion of and references to suicide.
Why are you the only thing left in my life that makes sense?
All I ever really knew how to do was hate you, and in a world that is falling apart around me, splitting open at the seams, that hatred becomes something like a comfort.
I am hopeless, drifting, lost – at times, drowning, wasting, dying – but all that screaming fear and confusion and despondency, there is that familiar and reassuring hatred of you that puts me back in focus. I know what this is. I know what we are. And I hang onto it with both hands because it is the only thing left in my life that I do know.
"Malfoy," you say, that familiar barb, the suspicious glare. It hits me like venom and silk, and it is so easy to sneer back at you.
"Potter," I answer, and you would never know that I just spent the last few hours as an emotional wreck. That is how clear I am when you are near me. "It's all right, I've checked the area. No wayward kittens or children need rescuing."
You growl at me. I've noticed the changes in you, of course. We've never been friendly, but I've seen the way it's sharpened, darkened, intensified. I see it in every line of your face when we pass in the halls. I see it in the revulsion that now tinges your distrust and dislike.
And yes, I've seen you stalking me. It's the logical progression of a childhood rivalry in the face of a nearing war, I suppose, and though I should be surprised or angry or even offended by it, I am none of those things.
"Heard about what happened to Katie Bell?" you ask me.
At once my mind goes back and the memory is still fresh and painful in my mind. But around you, I am steady.
"Can't say I have, or that I care."
You meet my eyes. I should leave, I suppose, but I don't want to. I need this clarity so desperately, just for a little longer. I hold your gaze fiercely and tightly and desperately. I wonder if you see the desperation in me, roiling just below the surface of my skin, tearing me up.
"So you didn't have anything to do with it," you say.
"If you have something to say to me," I drawl, "just say it."
But you don't say anything. You just glare and shove past me, and the world goes out of focus again. Suddenly all I am left with is the image of Katie Bell, bloody and nearly dead. Suddenly there is only the creeping, crushing, clawing hopelessness.
And I wish you would come back, because the hatred is better than this.
Why do I even bother?
It is a vicious cycle of painful emptiness, paralyzing fear, and soul-rending hopelessness. I slave over magic I cannot perform to orchestrate a sabotage I do not want for a cause I no longer support. Failure means death. Success means death. Running means death.
On more than one occasion, I consider suicide. I weigh the options – what I would leave behind versus what I would escape. I think about it frequently, whenever the air is still enough, whenever the room is quiet and there's nothing left but my thoughts.
But this is the first time I have my wand out, pressed to my Dark Mark, the first time I am chanting to myself just cast it, just open the artery, just do it.
I do not know what is making me hesitate. Fear, maybe. Shame. Legacy. I press the tip of my wand into my skin so tightly that my hands tremble, that tears go rolling down my face, and my mind is full of do it, just do it, just do it.
"It would be faster if you used a snapping spell to the neck," Myrtle tells me. Her voice is gentle, almost maudlin. She fancies the idea of a friend in the afterlife, an idea which would be much funnier if it weren't so desperately grim.
"You know me," I say, though my voice is choked, "always a fan of symbolism."
"I suppose," Myrtle says, "if it's going to be the last thing you do, it might as well have meaning."
And I am still scared, still ashamed. I am still thinking about all that I would leave behind, still thinking of what kind of legacy it would leave in my family, but still pressing my wand into my skin and still aware, still painfully aware, that this may be the only way out—
—and, quite to my surprise, you save me.
How predictable you are, Harry Potter.
Have I been waiting for this?
Is that why being around you has afforded me those rare moments of clarity? Has there always been some part of me, some quiet, frightened part of me, that has been soothed by the possibility that you might save me, like you've saved everyone else?
"Would you have really done it?" you ask me. You are sitting stiffly on the bed next to mine. You are fussing, uncomfortable. The clarity I feel around you has not gone away.
"I don't know," I answer, which is true. "Maybe."
You hesitate a moment, then stand up and sit down on the edge of my bed. The weight of you depresses the mattress and shifts me closer.
"Was it because...?"
You look down at my arm, where the Dark Mark is hidden under the sleeve of my pajamas.
"Nothing gets past you, Potter," I say. I should muster up more venom, but I'm just so tired. A day full of cheering charms – standard procedure for people under suicide watch – has left me exhausted.
"I just didn't know..."
You trail off.
"Everything you don't know could fill the Hogwarts library a thousand times over."
You laugh, and I am startled by the sound of it. It's brief, but it's real, and I am not used to hearing it, let alone eliciting it. The realization that I like your laugh is somewhere between confusing and terrifying.
"Let me help you," you say, and something deep inside me twists.
"You obviously want out," you say. "I can get you out. I can protect you."
"Your family, too. I have connections in the Order. We can protect you."
And Merlin, I realize, I have been waiting for this. I have been waiting so long for some way out of this impossible situation, some shred of hope in the hopelessness. I have been waiting for you to save me, and here you are, offering it in spite of everything.
"Why." I try to phrase it like a question, but my throat is too tight.
"Because it's the right thing to do."
I laugh, and my eyes burn. You smile crookedly at me.
"Saint Potter," I say, doing my best to pretend like I'm not on the verge of tears.
"If it makes you feel better," you tell me, "it's also a little bit because you've got intel we could use."
Strangely, it does make me feel better.
Why is this so easy?
You ask, and I answer. I tell you everything, every gory, wretched, painful detail. I do everything but pry open my chest and let you stare at my bloody, beating heart – and if you asked, I would probably do that, too.
Five-and-a-half years of mutual hatred melts away, somehow, but that blessed clarity remains. Around you, I am steady and sure. And though sometimes I am scared of what is yet to come, I never once think that I made a mistake.
"This is going to help a lot," you tell me one night, the latest of many nighttime meetings to discuss everything I know about the Dark Lord and the Death Eaters. "We really have a leg up on them now."
"Well, just don't cock it up now that you've got it."
You laugh again. I think you've discovered that once both our guards are down, my sarcasm is a lot more funny than it is rude, and that I'm very good at making you laugh.
"I've done pretty well so far," you say, and you nudge me with your elbow.
"I hardly think 'not dying' constitutes a good job. That's sort of the bare minimum, wouldn't you say?"
You laugh again, elbow me a second time. And it's so easy to get into it, to laugh with you, to sink into the much-needed joy after so much darkness. I return the gesture, then you grin and give me a light shove. I lose balance and stumble into you.
And for a moment, just a moment, my heart stops beating, and I realize – I am just a little bit into you.
And based on the way that lopsided smile of yours flickers out, the way the pupils of your too-green eyes dilate, the way you still, you're just a little bit into me, too.
And isn't that ridiculous? And is this really happening? And what the fuck is even going on?
But there it is, simple and incontrovertible and wildly inconvenient. Your hands are on my elbows, your breath is on my chin. I am hyperaware of every part of your body as it relates to mine, and I ache for more.
You withdraw. I straighten. We change the subject.
But the moment lingers.
Is it awful of me to want you to say?
Despite all the intel and all the plans, the battle still arrives. Despite all the forethought and the traps you laid, the worst still happens. Dumbledore is dead, and you are more broken up than you let on.
Maybe your friends don't see it in you, but I do. I can read it on the map of your face and it kills me, though not nearly so much as the knowing of what you'll have to do now.
"I should go with you," I say.
You should be startled – I snuck up on you in a dark hallway – but you aren't. When you turn, some of the stiffness falls out of your shoulders.
"No," you say, "you shouldn't."
"I could help."
"I don't fear Voldemort nearly so much as I fear your mother if anything happened to you."
I should smile, but I can't.
"Don't go," I tell you.
"Draco." There is a tenseness in you, a rigidity that increases with each passing second.
"We can arrange to have an uplottable house – somewhere in France, maybe, out of the Ministry's jurisdiction – you can still hunt for Horcruxes, but you'll have somewhere safe to go, somewhere—"
You could just tell me to shut up, or you could just leave, or you could glare at me, but instead you choose to grab me by both shoulders, swing me around, and push me into the wall.
All air leaves me in a rush, and at once my heart is beating in the side of my throat.
"I have to do this," you tell me. You are so close, and I feel ridiculous for caring more about the closeness than I do about what you are saying. "If there was another way, don't you think I'd do that?"
"I don't want to do this," you tell me. You are even closer now. The heat of you melts all my edges, and I unravel under your fingertips. "I don't, I don't. I have to."
I put my hands on your face. You release a long breath that ghosts over my skin and makes me shiver.
You shut your eyes and lean into my touch. Would this be happening, I wonder, if emotions weren't running so high? Would either of us be acting on this impulse if it weren't for the heat of the moment?
"We shouldn't," you say.
I see the muscles of your jaw tighten, I feel your hands grip me.
"Ginny," you say, as though it's a complete sentence or even a cogent thought.
I kiss you lightly. You kiss me back ferociously, like you're trying to devour me whole, like you're trying to draw my soul out through my mouth, and it nearly works. I feel your hands around my waist, your teeth gnashing on my lower lip, your hipbone digging into my pelvis.
To my aggravation, kissing you is an incredible rush, because of course it is. It couldn't just be a shit kiss that totally ruins the bourgeoning attracting between us. It has to be fantastic, mind-melting, world-ending. It has to set me on fire and make me believe in God again. Figures.
But as soon as it starts, it's over. You pull back – stagger back – and stare at me like you can't believe what just happened. You flee the corridor as though pursued by demons.
You leave Hogwarts that same day before I can find you again, talk to you, ask what happened.
Is evil action any worse than inaction in the face of evil?
I would like to convince myself that it is, but after everything, I can't, I just can't.
The worst part is that I know this will destroy Mother. We were finally safe, tucked away in the unplottable house under the Fidelius, out of the reach of the Dark Lord. All we have to do is wait it out, and I can't even do that.
I leave a note and depart in the night, bound for London.
Because I can't rationalize inaction any longer.
Because you saved me and I feel some obligation to return the favor.
Because I miss you.
Because you've made me into a better person, damn you.
But mostly because I know where Hufflepuff's goblet is and I know how to get it.
Why am I so nervous?
Not three days ago, I single-handedly broke into Gringott's, disarmed dangerous curses, commandeered an out-of-control mine car, fought a dragon, and nearly drowned in the Thames. But somehow seeing you again makes me more apprehensive than any of that had.
I hear the crack of the Portkey I sent you and release a breath I did not realize I had been holding.
I see you standing in a pool of moonlight that comes streaming in through the window. The first thing that occurs to me is—
"You look like shit."
You move forward. Your limbs are stiff, and as you get closer I discover that my initial assessment hadn't been wrong. You're dirty, rough, battered.
I am overcome with the desire to kiss you, regardless.
"Been on the lam," you say, stopping when you're a few feet away from me. "What's your excuse?"
"Dragon. Also the Thames."
You frown at me. Your fingers twitch at your sides.
"It's good to see you," I hazard.
"What the fuck are you doing out of the safehouse," you say. "You can't just be out and about, the Death Eaters are looking for you."
"They're looking for you, too."
You throw both hands up in an exasperated, why-do-I-even-bother sort of gesture. The movement sends plumes of dust curling through the moonlight that lights the room. The house I arranged for us to meet in is, of course, abandoned and off the map – safe, in other words – though what it has in security it lacks in homeyness.
"Just – just go back," you say. "Go back to the safehouse."
"Thought you might want this first."
I set the sack down on the nearby table. I let it fall open, and the goblet glints brightly in the moonlight. I see you still, hear you take in a breath.
"Thank you, Draco. Oh, you're welcome, Harry, my pleasure."
"How on earth—?"
"By being extremely clever, mostly."
You walk forward slowly and your footsteps make the floorboards sigh. Your fingertips reach out and brush the cup's rim, but withdraw immediately.
"That's definitely a Horcrux," you say.
I nod. I am caught up in the way the moonlight highlights your dark hair with silver, flashes on the rim of your glasses. War has hardened you, made you more severe and callused and deadly-looking.
You glance up at me just in time to read the attraction all over my face. The lines of your throat roll as you swallow.
"Because it was the right thing to do."
The answer seems to soften you, weaken you. You take another few steps forward, until I can feel the heat of you.
"Thank you," you say, and it is sincere, "but you should go."
I set my face. "Pass."
"It's not safe with me."
"We're in a war, Potter. It's not safe anywhere."
"It's safe with your family."
"I'm not going to hide!"
The sudden change in volume startles you. You stumble back a few steps, stare at me in surprise.
"You're the one who taught me the value in doing the right thing!" I say. "You saved my life, you made me a better person – I'm not giving up on that and I'm not going back to the safehouse!"
Silence follows, deafening after the outburst. My heart is pounding and my hands are trembling.
"I won't say I'm not scared," I say when you don't answer, "because I'm scared as hell. But I'm not going to let that stop me."
Another lapse of silence. I can see the tenseness in you still, the anxiety. Your hand tightens at your side.
"I don't want you to get hurt."
The vulnerability in your voice melts away whatever remains of my anger. I deflate.
"I don't want you to get hurt either, prat."
You make a small, strangled sound, and then you're launching yourself at me, tangling your fingers in my hair and kissing me – really kissing me, kissing me till I'm dizzy and forgetting my name. It's a hurricane of a kiss, and all I can do is hold onto you with both hands so I don't get blown away in the torrent.
"We shouldn't," you say against my mouth as you claw at my robes.
But you don't stop. You rip at my clothes and I tug off your shirt and you kiss me and taste me and fuck me on that dusty table, and it is ridiculous and passionate and clumsy and perfect. You fuck me and all of time and space narrows down to just us, just this, just you and I in a moment of raw and ecstatic beauty, connection.
And in the morning when I wake up on that table, you are gone and so is the Horcrux.
Why am I surprised that you are magnificent?
Sparks fly, spells burn, time warps, and you win. Harry, Harry, you win the war, you slay the Dark Lord, you bring peace to the country and the world. All I want to do is run up to you, even in the middle of this fresh battlefield, and kiss you until our lips bruise, kiss you until you can't see straight.
Such a shame that Ginny Weasley beats me to it.
Was it always going to end like this?
"Surely you aren't that surprised," you say, and maybe I shouldn't be, but I am. I'm surprised, and I'm upset, and it hurts. It hurts more than I ever thought it might.
When I don't answer, when I don't even look at you, you sigh.
"How would it even work between us, anyway?" you ask. "Famous and infamous don't usually pair well together."
I hate that you're right. I hate that you're applying logic to it. But most of all, I hate that, for the first time in your life, you're not saying fuck the odds. Is it because, I wonder, the odds aren't worth fucking? Am I not worth the risk to you?
"Draco, say something."
I look sideways at you. I can see the Weaselette over your shoulder, waiting for you, down the corridor, hugging one of her friends. I study your face. I can see remorse there, guilt, but it does nothing to comfort me.
You sigh. "I knew from the start that it wasn't going to work out."
The admission grabs my attention. It would have been less painful if you'd ripped me open with a spell.
"You knew it wouldn't work out," I say, "and you fucked me anyway."
You flinch. "It was during a war," you say. "The heat of the moment, the threat of death, it was just..."
"You were always going to pick Weasley," I say, "you knew this, you knew, and you fucked me anyway."
"I was falling in love with you, you absolute bastard." I want to sound angrier, but this conversation has leeched all the heat from me. I am cold throughout and so is my voice. "And I let myself, because I thought – silly me – that maybe something good could come of it."
"Draco, in another situation, something good would have come of it." You sound desperate, but I wonder who it is you're trying to convince – me or yourself. "But Ginny and I – and you – it never would have worked."
I laugh, but there's no humor in it. The worst part is that I know you're wrong.
Because it could have worked. You made me into a better person; you saved my life. And I was ready to put my own life on the line to help you. Harry, Harry, you bastard, you saint, you liar, we could have been wonderful. We so very nearly were.
"I suppose we'll never know now," I say, and I leave abruptly, away from you, hoping to outrun the pain spreading outwards through my chest.
Am I back where I started?
The war is over, the battle won, and here I am in front of my bedroom mirror, staring down at the Dark Mark on my arm and debating whether or not I should split it open down my brachial artery.
I managed to go months without you during the war. Somehow these months after have been so much worse, knowing as I know now that I was never going to be your choice.
Have you ruined me? Have you broken me? Did I ruin myself, the moment I let myself start to fall in love with you? Does any of it matter anymore?
A knock from the door. I look up and see Mother in the mirror, leaning against the doorjamb and smiling gently.
"Draco," she says, "come down to dinner."
I nod, just once, and lower my eyes, but I don't need to see her face to know she's frowning – I can feel it boring into my back.
"Are you all right, dear?"
What a question. A few words that demanded a novel-length response.
Still, I dare not tell her about where my mind is. I dare not say what I'm thinking, or how badly I hurt, or how desperately broken I feel.
When I remain silent, I hear Mother cross the room, then lay her hands gingerly on my shoulders.
"Trauma leaves scars on us all," she says. "But you are more than the sum of your scars, my dear. We all are."
I know she's referring to the war. She doesn't know the trauma that's really haunting me. Still, her words give me pause, and I look up to study her gentle, smiling face in the mirror.
"Come down for dinner," she says again.
Am I more than the sum of my scars?
Am I more than my trauma, my sins, my mistakes?
Am I more than what you left behind the day you broke me?
These scars are yours as much as mine, but I'm the only one who has to wear them. They changed me. You changed me. And now I have to live the rest of my life, knowing that I owe so much of who I am to you, you who ruined me, you who made me better than I was.
And I want to hate you, but I know I never will.
Author's Note: Thank you so much for reading! If you liked it, leave a review! I love me some reviews. :)