Thank you again for all the reviews! This is the last part. Thanks for reading; a new one-shot starts next week.
Harry found himself in a place that looked like Hogwarts's dungeons, if the dungeons were strung with cobwebs and death-traps that resembled nets studded with razors. Harry fell a cautious step back and reached for his wand.
His hand closed on smoke. Harry swallowed back panic and cast a Summoning Charm as hard as he could with willpower. This was a dream. If he could lose his wand in it, if he could be in a place that looked like Hogwarts but was changed, then he ought to be able to call the wand if he concentrated hard enough.
That didn't happen. Instead, the corridor around him began to ripple with strong, cold wind. Harry turned in a cautious circle, wanting to press his back against a wall so he could get a solid look at the coming threat without it sneaking up on him, but unable to find a place that wasn't already crowded with strung traps and nets.
The wind kept blowing. Harry wondered for a minute, and then walked in the direction it was coming from. If he was here to seek out and defeat Malfoy's monsters, presumably he had to confront the source of the danger.
The corridors spun around him in crazed, disjointed angles. Harry was sure he had already walked past the same trap three times now, but he tried his best to keep his eyes focused straight ahead and attribute the craziness to it being a dream. Yes, he would probably hate to be in this situation in the real world; he would step back and call for Ron instead of continuing.
But Malfoy had been facing dreams like this for months, and Harry was the only hope he had.
Harry relaxed his back as he thought about that. This was the best thing he could do, at the moment. The Aurors had trained him to be a rescuer, someone who helped people, and Malfoy was the one who needed help, far more than Harry did. At least Harry's insomnia hadn't made him lose his kids—not that he'd had any—or actually inflicted health problems on him other than some grumpiness.
It might have cost you your marriage.
Harry brushed the clinging cobwebs of his thoughts away from him impatiently, disregarding them as more bothersome than the traps. He had to focus his thoughts on Malfoy and saving him right now. Other things could wait.
Draco didn't know how long he had been running, but it was long enough to make his lungs burn and his legs ache. He stumbled, and Potter cast another Arrow Curse over his shoulder, close enough to sting his earlobe and make his heart and chest vibrate with pain. Potter's cruel laughter came from behind him. Draco shuddered. He knew what he would see if he looked back: Potter with burning eyes as red as the Dark Lord's, and a silver bow in his hands.
The bow was just to show off. He didn't need it to cast the Arrow Curse. But it made Draco think all the more about being shot through the heart with an actual steel point, and of course Potter would take advantage of that, the sadistic bastard.
Draco made it around a corner that seemed big enough he thought it might contain an outside door, and then fell sprawling on a sudden patch of ice. He struggled back to his feet, head buzzing and spine aching, and looked up. There was no door. No exit. No escape.
Potter had somehow got in front of him, and Draco felt he might cry with the unfairness of it all.
Or, no, he'd duplicated himself. Draco could hear the taunting hunting cries of Potter still echoing from behind him, while the one in front of him just stood and stared at him with big eyes. Draco dropped his face down until it rested against his arms and braced himself, resigned himself, for death.
"I never thought it would be this bad," breathed the Potter in front of him.
Draco had no idea what that meant, and frankly, he was tired of trying to think. He stretched out a hand that Potter could ignore or not, and spoke the words he wanted to speak. "Will you kill me already? I've had enough."
Potter crouched down in front of him and looked at Draco carefully. When he spoke, his voice was urgent for some reason, humming like a harp. "Don't you remember? The Twin Knives curse? An Auror named Algernon Sithicus put you under it because he thought I got too much attention from the public for my cases, and he could use you to dispose of me when you snapped from the dreams and tried to kill me."
Draco blinked, and blinked again. The words sounded familiar, even the name sounded familiar, even though he'd never heard it in his life, but he knew Potter must be wrong about something. "You're here to kill me," he finally pointed out. "Not be killed."
"That's where you're wrong," said Potter, and stood up and stepped over Draco's body. Draco turned over slowly, but even that didn't dislodge Potter. He just stood in between Draco and the version of himself coming down the corridor, his eyes hard.
"You don't even have a wand," Draco noted dreamily. "Why is it that my mind can't come up with a savior who even has a wand? But it can come up with an enemy who does." He looked down the corridor again, and saw that that version of Potter had at least hesitated. "That probably says something deep and profound about me." He sighed and dropped his head back, barely feeling interested in what was going to happen next.
"You're right," said Potter suddenly, which was the first time Draco could remember that voice saying those words, and made his eyes pop open. But Potter wasn't watching him; he was nodding. "I don't have a wand, and I need to fight him a different way. The dreams are visions of hatred."
He turned around and crouched down in front of Draco. His face was uncertain, but there was something hard and shining behind it, something Draco didn't understand. "The dreams are visions of hatred," he repeated, as if Draco might not have been listening the first time. "So I need—what's the opposite of hatred?"
"Love?" Draco offered after a long moment of silence. He had to wonder if this was a trick question.
"That's right." Potter's voice was low and soothing. He reached out and took Draco slowly in his arms. Draco let himself be drawn, because why not? "Now it just remains how I'm going to show it. I mean, when I'm awake I don't love you. I don't know if I even love my ex-wife. It's like I forgot how to do it."
"That would be a side-effect of the curse," Draco said knowingly, and then blinked. He hadn't even realized he knew that. He put one hand over his mouth and blinked at Potter, who laughed a little and nodded.
"See? You do know some things. It probably isn't at the forefront of your mind when you're dreaming like this, but it's there." Potter's smile was warm.
And it occurred to Draco now that the Potter chasing him hadn't attacked them yet, and that was a little odd. He sat up slowly, blinking for a moment before he managed to get his eyes fastened on the one who had been chasing him.
That Potter was standing in the middle of the corridor, glaring at Draco with eyes as hard as jade. He put his hands on his hips and shook his head. "Do you have to hold him like that?" he said harshly. "It's disgusting."
Draco flinched a little, even though it wasn't perfectly clear who that Potter was talking to, him or the new Potter. The Potter holding him said simply, "Wow, you're an unpleasant bastard," and then turned and faced Draco. He had a complex expression working at the edges of his lips and eyes.
"I'm going to do this the best I can," he told Draco plainly. "I'm going to try. Okay? And I want you to tell me if I hurt you or anything like that."
"I have no idea what you mean," Draco said with dignity. He knew that Potter's presence was somehow keeping his dream-enemy at bay. And he did remember about this being a dream now, and Sithicus, and his own hope that they could end this curse if Potter came into his dreams. But he had thought it would result in some sort of duel between the two Potters. If Potter was apologizing for being about to hurt him, maybe he planned to join his twin and cut Draco apart instead.
"You don't know what he's done," the Potter who held the bow said in a soft growl that seemed to resonate inside Draco's bones. "You wouldn't be comforting him this way if you knew."
The Potter kneeling in front of Draco didn't turn a hair. He only watched Draco and nodded when Draco stared at him again. "Ready?"
"Ready," Draco echoed, though he had no idea what was about to happen. But what else could he say besides that?
The Potter in front of him leaned forwards. His hands came up, fluttering delicately in front of Draco's face for a moment before they settled on his cheeks and jaw. Draco tensed and arched his back, ready for Potter to squeeze his face in. Crush his skull. Draco thought that perhaps the opposite of hatred meant something different to Potter than it did to Draco.
But instead, Potter leaned near enough to him to see, it seemed, through Draco's eyes into the back of his head, and he whispered, "You didn't betray me when the Snatchers brought me to Malfoy Manor," and kissed Draco on the mouth.
Draco fell back with a gasp. Potter tumbled clumsily with him. The apparition behind them roared wordlessly. Potter was gasping himself, with something that sounded like shock, and that appalled Draco, a little. Potter was the one who had chosen to do this crazy thing. How could it have surprised him the way it did Draco?
"You were young and stupid and got the Mark," Potter said, his head bowed and his voice rushing between his parted lips as if he was trying to hurry up and whisper a secret to Draco in class before a professor came back and caught them at it. "But you started to regret it. A lot of the Death Eaters didn't. They only regretted that they got caught."
Before Draco could say that regret had come too late and cost him a lot, Potter kneeled up and kissed him again.
This time, he did it furiously, as if he had recovered the blazing passion that the Twin Knives curse had locked away from him. His hands were so fiercely knotted in Draco's hair that Draco wondered for a second if he would have to cut his hair to get them loose—a thought he revolted away from. He opened his mouth to protest.
And found it filled with Potter's tongue.
Draco choked, and this time, at least Potter didn't act all surprised and shocked and join him in the gasps that he had no right to feel. He moved nearer, on his knees, and murmured something Draco couldn't hear because their mouths were still too close together. Then he kissed Draco again, and Draco felt a swirl and swell of warmth grow in his chest. Sure, he hadn't kissed another man since before he got married to Astoria, but Potter was attractive—or could be, when he wasn't trying to kill him—and he knew that Potter, when he was awake, still didn't like Draco much.
That made it mean more, rather than less, that he would try something like this to save Draco.
Even if he's calling on the life-debts and acting like he really has to work to do it, Draco thought dizzily, and arched his head back, watching as stars reeled on the ceiling. He blinked. There hadn't been stars on the ceiling a moment before, but now there were, as if they had moved magically from the corridor where Potter had been chasing him to the middle of Hogwarts's Great Hall.
Draco felt his face flush from the notion, but in a way, it was an attractive one. He stretched his legs out and drew Potter down on top of him, distantly hearing the one who had been chasing him roar again in anger.
But not attack. Potter had been right. The visions of hatred caused by the Twin Knives curse could be driven away by love.
A strange love, a manufactured love, Draco thought, but honestly, he was all right with most things that would save him. He kissed Potter on the cheek and on the nose, and Potter answered with soft laughter, chuckles that soothed Draco as much as aroused him, and drew back so he could look at him.
"You were an innocent kid, once," Potter whispered. "You were unpleasant, but you didn't know that. You thought it would be brilliant to have Harry Potter as a friend. That was it. That was all."
Draco blinked. "You find it harder to forgive me for that than for some of the things he did during the war?" He thought that was what this had been about, anyway, Potter reciting a list of Draco's sins so he could forgive them.
"Part of me did," said Potter, and he picked up Draco's wrist and kissed the underside of it. "I think it's working."
Draco had to nod. The walls of the trapped and warped version of Hogwarts had faded away, and he and Potter were floating in the midst of stars instead, a shining void of them, with their colors varying from silver to blue to red to gold.
"Do you want me," said Potter, in such a low voice that Draco felt the vibration of the words in his chest, "to stop kissing you?" He turned around and rested his warm cheek against the same place on Draco's wrist he had brushed with his lips. "I mean, this is kind of—you have to admit you didn't think—you didn't ask—I didn't know—"
Draco hesitated, but although he didn't feel the grey walls of the dream fading back in around them, he knew his own reluctance to stop was there, and the source wasn't an issue right now. "I think you should keep thinking about loving me," he said. "Just in case, you know, the curse isn't broken and the dreams come back. I mean, we're not awake yet, either."
Potter's smile was a warm and wonderful thing, and he leaned back down and gave Draco another lazy kiss. Draco smiled into the kiss and let his hands wander. Maybe it was a long time since he had done this, but he still thought he had probably had experiences that Potter, good little Gryffindor and shy faithful husband that he'd been, wouldn't.
Potter gasped when Draco touched his cock, arching his neck back and then bowing it as if he was trying to look between his own legs and see what Draco had found. Draco pressed his lips together so he wouldn't laugh, which would honestly be disastrous, and hooked his own leg up and around the back of Potter's, holding him down, holding him there.
"All right?" Draco whispered, letting his own voice drift and curl around Potter like smoke. He knew how to be seductive in his dreams, if not awake, even if it had mostly been his own parents and Astoria's who had arranged their marriage. This wasn't marriage. This wasn't awake.
"Yeah," said Potter, and bore down on Draco's hand so suddenly that Draco was the one who squeaked and scrubbed his fingers back and forth, trapped and startled. Potter grinned at him, lazy, unlike his motion, and then reached down and rooted around until he got his hand firmly on Draco. "All right?"
"Yeah," Draco whispered back, and then they were rocking together, in parallel, their hands and their bodies doing equal amounts of work.
Or so it seemed to Draco. In reality, it was a little hard to tell.
They could maybe have woken up then and gone back to normal, Draco thought hazily. Maybe Potter was only doing this to break the curse. Maybe this was nothing more than an impulse of the moment.
But it was a dream, and he would go along with it, because that was what he wanted to.
And there was also the immense, the titanic, pleasure of seeing Potter arch his head back and hiss, his cheeks flushing and all traces of the apathetic expression Draco had first noticed in his office washed away. There was the shock of seeing Potter bite his lip the way Draco also did when he began to shudder. There was the unexpectedly intimate way that Potter fell down, face-forwards, on his shoulder when he came, and the way he whimpered a second later, sweetly.
Then he curved his hand and rubbed with his thumb, and Draco was also gone, as suddenly, as sweetly, spiraling and leaping into nothing, his heart racing with utter glory.
Harry woke so suddenly that it made him gasp. And then he reached out, and touched his temple with one hand and the slowly-stirring Malfoy's arm with the other.
He'd slept. He'd had a dream. And he could feel—he could feel again.
All the colors that seemed to have drained out of the world about the time of his divorce were back. He breathed in deep, aching regret for the fact that he hadn't realized before now there were other things in the world than his Auror job. He mourned for the loss of his marriage and the near-loss of his friendship with Ron. He thought of waking up in the morning and going in to work, and there was nothing more than a minor swell of pleasant anticipation, not the all-consuming obsession it had once been.
This was—this was something he could actually picture himself doing. A way that he could actually picture himself living.
And when he rolled over and met Malfoy's thoughtful, carefully-sheltered grey eyes, there was something else he wanted to say.
"I know it was a dream," Harry said, carefully. "And I did what I had to do."
Malfoy blinked once. Harry thought that ordinarily he would have already retreated in defensiveness, but his sleep was just leaving him, and the dream of the pleasure they'd shared.
"But I think—I think that I'm going to live differently from now on," Harry said. "New goals. Different thoughts." He hesitated once. "Different desires. Not going back to what was already done." He reached out and hesitated again before he cupped Malfoy's fingers. "Could you come with me? Maybe?"
Before Malfoy could answer, a glowing dog bounded through the wall. Ron's Patronus, Harry realized with a smile. They had probably caught Algernon.
And that was what the Patronus said, tilting its head to the side. "Sithicus is under control, mate. He'll be up in front of the Wizengamot for certain, casting that curse. And I'll be glad to have you back to normal." The Patronus hesitated, too, and then added, "Talk to me," before dissipating into wisps of mist like steam.
Harry smiled and looked back down at Malfoy, who was looking at him. "What do you say?" Harry asked him.
"You don't want to go back to your wife?" Malfoy's voice was a little hoarse.
"No," said Harry. "It—the curse made things bad, but I think—it wouldn't have led to divorce so quickly if things weren't already wrong between us. What makes me wince—" He paused again, wondering if he should bare a secret this deep, and then reminded himself that he knew what Malfoy looked like when he came. "Is not doing more to stop it. But I think I want to be friends with her, and something else." He looked down and met Malfoy's gaze again, reminding himself that "No" wasn't the worst word to hear in the world, and at least they were free of the curse now, and Malfoy was safe. "With you."
Malfoy blinked again, and then got a small, careful smile on his face. "Well, I do intend to challenge Astoria again for custody of Scorpius, and an Auror's knowledge of laws could come in very useful. Or you might at least have the pull to find me a good lawyer."
Harry smiled and squeezed Malfoy's hand, hard. Those words stood for all sorts of other things that Malfoy couldn't say right now, he knew.
Well. Those words would come in time.
And for now, with the way that Malfoy reached out to lay a hand along Harry's lips, for a fleeting second, Harry could think of plenty of things they would do with the time in between.