Summary:At one time in my life, a time that seems so far away now, I would have been one of them. Surrounded by friends, laughing without a care in the world. But things change. People change. [Harry/Draco, Post-Hogwarts]
Author's Notes: Quite a while ago I wrote "This Side of Me". I was never satisfied with it so I went back and did a huge rewrite. Having read TSOM will not be an issue, as this is really very different. However, it is essentially the same ficlet. Technically…
Firstly, I'd like to give a huge thank you to both of my betas, Arwena [Johanna] and Phoenix Whitebirch [Evie] who have saved me from much embarrassment and let me wibble away. Also, thanks to Mel who I harassed for help while writing. Lastly, thanks to Aubrey, without whom the ending would not have been as it is, and for doing some beta'ing as well. This is dedicated to her, for her now long-ago birthday, as TSOM was for her and… as I said, this is the new version. Now my love for her is not expressed through a dismal ficlet - hurrah!
I don't want to be forgotten
I can't be alone
So don't you dare leave me
It's like coming home
It's a skin that has died
Human voices like a drum
And they're looking right through me
Scatter the ashes one more time for me, one more time for me
("Then The Clouds Will Open Up For Me", Placebo)
All around me people are talking, waving their hands around animatedly, their feet hitting the floor in a dull thudding motion as they move around the bar. The glasses make clinking noises as they hit each other, greedy fingers wrapped around their cool surfaces and circles of condensation forming below them on the table. I see their mouths open, I see them move, but I no longer hear any of it. It's all formed into one constant noise, irritating and never-ending.
At one time in my life, a time that seems so far away now, I would have been one of them. Surrounded by friends, laughing without a care in the world.
But things change. People change.
I let my head drop into my hands, elbows resting against the long table and fingers buried in my fringe. So many people are lost. Good people, people that deserved to live.
Yet here I am, wasting my life. The worst part is that I could have had something.
I had always watched him. Across the hall, my eyes met his more times than I could count. Our eyes would narrow, hold the stare, and then turn away. It was almost a ritual, complete with the usual absurdity.
Then the looks changed.
No longer did I intend for him to see them. They became skirting, a look that he was never meant to catch. Everything about him was suddenly fascinating, somehow new, and the thought made me feel guilty. It wasn't like a silly crush I would get over. It was fast becoming an obsession.
Eventually, he did notice my eyes watching him. He watched me just as much, I realized. Our game became more dangerous. It was only a matter of time before looks turned into something more.
My legs dangle freely from the barstool and my shot glass sits in front of me. Sour Whiskey. Simply put, a numbing device. I grasp it between my fingers and bring it to my lips, tilting my head back and letting the bitter liquid flow down my throat.
My face scrunches slightly at the sour taste, but I'm used to it. I call the bartender over and order another.
Before they speak I feel someone come up behind me. I hear her giggle and smell the scent of strong perfume. The fragrance is enough to make me gag, but this has become my distraction. I turn around, staring at her from behind my fringe, my smile already firmly fixed.
"Hi there," she says awkwardly, trying too hard to be sultry. "What are you doing all by yourself?"
"Just sitting," I respond in a low voice, smiling in a way that I know drives them crazy. It's full of suggestion, and a little bit of promise; the last part being a complete lie. Since him, I've made no promises.
"Mind if I join you?"
I tell her to sit and she does. Five minutes later, her hand is on my thigh.
The bartender returns with my drink, handing it to me with her fake smile. I smile back tiredly, used to this routine, and hand her the money.
The glass makes a clinking noise as I absentmindedly tap my fingertips against it, before gulping the liquid down and placing the glass back on the bar. The bartender, who is straightening the ashtrays near me, frowns, and a wary glint shines in her eyes. It says quite clearly that I'll be thrown out if I cause any trouble, which apparently I look ready to do by the way I'm guzzling down the alcohol.
Sighing, I turn back to the girl. Laura, was it?
Her mouth continues to move, forming words faster than you would have thought possible, as her hand slides higher. I'm tempted to take her somewhere right now, but she seems to like her slow seduction. Frankly, I'd rather get it over with.
I crave for the feel of flesh pressed against my own, rubbing against me, slick with sweat. Moans that fill the corners of the room. Feelings that make me forget, if only for a while.
My body lay curled into his, back flush against his chest. I could feel his heavy breathing against my neck, hot and unsteady. This wasn't the first time, far from it. But it was the first time I noticed the change.
His smile had never been easy to see, but after a while, I had seen it. True and radiant, something so rare that I knew how lucky I was to see it. I treasured it.
That smile became tight, a tautness in his lips causing it to be a fraction too false. Too much like frown, hidden under the guise of a smile. The tightness moved from his lips, to his arms as he held me, to his chest under my fingertips. Deny it as I would, I knew something was wrong.
When he told me, voice cold and emotionless, I had stared straight back, unable to accept it.
I don't want to do this anymore.
My heart had thumped against my ribcage, erratically beating as I drew shaky breaths. I don't believe you, I had told him, eyes narrowed and angry.
But as he stated, I didn't have to accept it. He had said, staring me in the eyes and as composed as ever, that it wasn't worth it to him. Nothing I said, nothing I tried, had changed his mind.
After that, we were never alone together. He made sure of it.
I take a steadying breath, nodding back at her numbly. Her lips are red and thin, her smile too easily given.
As she speaks, I let my gaze travel over her face. She notices the attention, playing it up for all she's worth. Suddenly, her eyes are blinking too often, clumped eyelashes batting together. Her makeup is smeared over her eyelids, uneven and far too glittery for my tastes.
She lets her fingers run through my hair, complimenting me with a simpering smile. I cringe, trying to hide my disgust, all the while remembering the way he used to laugh over it. Light, sending tingles down my spine, the kisses soon pressed against my throat assuring me that he liked it that way. Uncontrolled. Erratic.
Not noticing my distaste, her fingers trail across my forehead too quickly for me to stop her.
A tightening of the eyebrows, lips pursed. Her fingers clumsily sweep the fringe away.
"What's this?" she asks dumbly, tracing the jagged line with one fingertip. The condensation of her drink, still wet against her skin, sends unpleasant tingles through my body.
My hand snaps up, grabbing her wrist between my fingers.
She jumps in her chair, eyes widened in shock. I realize too late that my grip is too hard, too vicious. I've lost her, and I know it, but there will be others.
"I-I have to go," she stammers, standing on shaky legs and sinking back into the crowd.
I'm left alone again, the crowd only seeming to make it worse. It presses against me, making it hard to breathe.
Making it hard to want to live.
"Harry?" Hermione asked hesitantly, trailing her hand across my shoulders.
Staring dumbly forward at the wall, throat thick, I didn't reply. I couldn't reply.
"If something is wrong…" she began, and even though I couldn't see her I knew she was biting her lip. She always did when she was nervous. "You can tell me. I want to help you, but if you don't tell me-" She cut herself off, sighing softly.
I never told anyone the truth; they wouldn't understand. It hurt that I had to hide it from Ron and Hermione, sneaking out of the dorm room and almost constantly having my invisibility cloak on hand. A part of me wanted to tell them, to make them understand.
But I had thought it was worth it. Worth the deceit, worth their hurt when they found out. And I knew they would; it was only a matter of time.
It would have been, anyway, had that time not been cut short.
"I'm fine," I responded, knowing that my eyes were dead. My eyelids slid shut almost involuntarily at the thought, hiding it from her.
She knew I was lying to her, but was smart enough not to push it.
After two months of stoic silence on the topic, she had learnt.
Unable to calm myself I gaze around the room, fingers tapping against my thigh. I can still feel the ghost of her touch on my skin, and I smooth my palm across where her hand was, trying to rid myself of it.
One group is gathered around a pool table, egging on the players. It's oddly calming, the thud as the cue hits the white ball, the clink as the white ball hits another, and finally the sound of victory as they succeed and sink a ball. Depending on the person it's either followed by a smug smile or a shout of victory, but I don't bother to analyze the meaning.
These people come and go. Different people, different faces, yet somehow becoming a pattern of human emotion that I've seen, over and over again.
My gaze continues around the room, from the dance room to the scattered tables. There are a few others who sit by themselves, staring pensively into their glasses as though they hold some kind of an answer or keeping a near constant eye on their watch. Of course, the latter are not really alone, because someone is coming for them.
Even when I'm with someone, I can't help but feel as though I'm still the only person there, playing this stupid game. They can distract me from memories, or let me go back to them, but they can't help with my loneliness.
They will leave, and I will welcome it.
My eyes eventually fall to the person nearest to me, and the couple next to them. They seem to be having a great conversation, smiling broadly and only occasionally reaching for their glass as a conversation delaying technique.
Giving up this form of entertainment, I decide I've waited long enough and order another drink. Just an ordinary whiskey this time, something to distract me.
With a look that borders on understanding, she hands it over.
I feel my breathing steady as my fingers grip tightly around the glass. I like to imagine I can smell it from here. Perhaps I can't, but I know the smell well enough.
Fingers rigid, I swallow some of the golden brown liquid slowly. As the bitter taste fills my senses and runs down my throat, calming me in a way that I can't explain, my eyes move to the door.
A lone figure is framed in the doorway, shrouded in shadow. Something about the way they're standing, back straight and lithe form effortlessly seductive, reminds me of someone from a long time ago.
I don't realize that I've been staring until their head lifts and a pair of grey eyes, their colour visible even from here, locks onto mine. The next breath, usually a senseless and unthinking intake and exhale of air, catches in my throat. Through the flashing lights I can see the sharp features of their face, and the way the strands of blond hair hang just below their eyebrows. Even if the rest has changed and matured somehow, I could never forget those eyes.
Without thinking I find myself walking to them, feet leaden and eyes locked straight ahead. My mind is racing, screaming one word again and again.
On the day of graduation, I had hunted for him. Surely there was more to say, some way to stop myself from thinking it wasn't over. I needed a conclusion.
I sped around a corner, skidding to a stop as I saw him at the end of the corridor.
"Dra-" I called out, snapping my mouth shut and cutting myself short when Crabbe and Goyle rounded the corner behind him.
"Yes, Potter?" he asked, a cruel smirk on his lips.
Gone was the smile, replaced by an icy exterior that I wouldn't be able to crack. I opened my mouth, trying to think of words to say.
"What, nothing to say to me?" His tone is mocking, his hands placed on his hips.
I rolled my lower lip into my mouth, grinding it between my teeth. The placement of his hands only served as a reminder.
With a grin he rolled me over, pushing my back against the mattress. Ignoring my sounds of protest he pressed his lips against my neck, trailing a lingering path down to my collarbone. When he got there he swept his tongue inside the hollow, having memorized the way my mouth would fall open, a ragged moan escaping. I didn't bother to stop myself, too lost in the heat of his mouth.
"We-" I tried to start, slightly breathless as he pushed a knee between my thighs.
He looked up at me, grey eyes mischievous, before ducking his head back down again. His hair tickled against my chest as he moved down, fingertips running over my nipples. It soon became an exploration, with him running his mouth, teeth, tongue and fingers over my skin. My breath came out in ragged gasps, bringing a satisfied smirk to his lips. With a growl I forced him onto his back, then rolled over and straddled his thighs.
Smiling triumphantly, I brought my hands down, trailing my fingers over his hips. Pale. Smooth.Mine.
I turned away, avoiding his eyes.
"Nothing," I said, and he didn't respond.
His eyes widen, visible for only a moment before he turns back, heading out of the door. Out of my life, again.
Only this time, I won't let him leave without answers.
I push people out of my way, ignoring their protests, feet pounding into the ground. The numbness of the alcohol is all but forgotten in my desperate dash.
Running out of the door, I spot him ahead.
He leans against the wall, a cigarette between his lips and his cheeks hollowed. His lips part as he pulls it away, smoke billowing between us. Staring at his hands, I notice the way they tremble slightly.
"You smoke," I state dumbly, instantly wishing I had said something more. Perhaps asked why he hadn't kept running.
He looks at me, grey eyes shaded, holding his cigarette between two fingers. "Very observant," he offers with a small smirk. His voice is huskier than it used to be, perhaps because of the smoking. Strangely enough, it suits him. "Look, I'm busy, but I wasn't in the mood for avoiding you. You always have been stubborn. Say whatever it is that's pissing you off and let it be done with."
"Pissing me off?" I respond, laughing hollowly. "You think that's what this is about?"
He shrugs. "What else?"
"Unbelievable," I mutter under my breath.
"Well, if you have nothing to say, I have to get going." He turns to leave, but stops when my hand closes over his forearm. With a growl he turns back, scowling. "Just fucking say it, then!"
His face is twisted in a snarl, but his hands are still shaking. I slide my hand down his arm, fingers stroking down his palm before he snatches it away.
He takes a deep breath, looking as though he's trying to compose himself. But aside from his hands, you would have thought we'd never had anything. For years I have been clinging to the idea that maybe he did care about me, beyond what I gave him physically, but if he never wanted anything more than sex then it's time for me to move on. I know that, and as harsh as his answer might be, it feels like my life stopped the moment we ended.
I mightn't be able to get him back, but maybe I can get my life back.
"Why did you end it?" I ask, figuring that he's not going to stick around for too much longer if I don't say something.
"I told you," he drawls, suddenly every part an arrogant Malfoy. "I didn't think it was worth it."
Forcing my eyes to meet his, I take a step closer. "Do you still think that?"
He raises a hand to his lips, inhaling heavily on his cigarette. His fingers are rigid, obviously trying to stay still.
"I deserve an answer," I grind out, my voice hard and unrelenting.
Ever since that day, I've isolated myself. I've pushed friends away, lost every opportunity for a relationship and slowly let my life be ruined. Now that he's here, he's not leaving without telling me.
The sound is soft, as though drawn out from a part of himself that he tries to forget, but I hear him. I feel frozen in place, unable to speak, yet full of questions.
My eyes flutter shut, hands clenching the material of my pants. "Why didn't you tell me?"
"I convinced myself that I didn't want it." I open my eyes at that, eyeing him warily. "I can be very persuasive," he finishes, smiling slightly. It isn't a happy smile, though, but a smile of regret. My eyes follow his hands as he flicks the cigarette with one finger, scattering ashes over the pavement.
Thinking over what he said, I realise that it isn't enough. "That's bullshit."
His eyes snap up, fiery once more, but I won't hold back.
"That doesn't explain why you thought it - we - weren't worth it. It says nothing."
"It's not any of your business," he spits back.
Before he can blink I've stepped closer, forcing him against the wall, hands on each side of his head.
"Not my business? I've wasted four years of my life. I think that makes it my fucking business."
From this distance, I can see his adam's apple bounce slightly in his throat.
When he speaks, his voice is low and sinister. "You want to know why I ended it?"
I simply nod, breath caught in my throat.
"I was fucking scared." He spits the words out, as though hating every moment of this. I know that he would, as he never admitted to any weakness so blatantly. He shakes his head at my confused look. "You don't get it, do you? I loved my Father. To me, he wasn't a bastard. He wasn't a Death Eater. He was my fucking Father. I didn't want him to hate me."
The past tense he uses doesn't go unnoticed and I tilt my head slightly, peering at him quizzically, face only centimetres away from his.
"Things change," he drawls, meeting my eyes defiantly. "I realized that he wasn't who I thought he was. We were different people with different ideas. We wanted different things."
"You could have found me," I respond, a part of me still angry for everything.
"What, you think that's it? That's the only reason?"
I bite my lip, before realising what I'm doing and forcing myself to stop it. If I don't stay calm, I may never find out everything.
"If it's not, then tell me the rest."
He ducks out from under my arm, leaning his shoulder against the wall and looking perfectly comfortable. Looking down at his empty hand he grimaces faintly, then stares at the cigarette he'd dropped on the floor. He fumbles in his pockets for a moment before pulling a pack out.
"You were the first person I had a relationship with." He rolls his eyes at my indignant look and continues. "I'm not talking about sex. I'm talking about being with someone for more than a fuck, about caring whether they get hurt."
I laugh at that, throwing my head up to watch the stars. It's too painful to keep looking at him, remembering everything he said. When I look back, he has another cigarette in his mouth.
"What does that make you, a sadist? You hurt me, yet you stand there claiming you cared. Am I supposed to believe that?"
"You don't have to, but it's the truth. I'm not saying it wasn't selfish, because I realise now that it was. It was just going too far, too fast." He pauses for a moment, raising an unsteady hand to his mouth and taking another drag. "So I ended it."
"That's fucking brilliant," I spit back. "You say that, all these years later. What do you expect me to say?"
He just shrugs. "I don't expect you to say anything. You're the one that wanted to do this. I'm aware that what I did was wrong. It's not just your life that's ruined, you know. Just by being with you mine changed. Things between my Father and I… they couldn't go back to how they were."
Taking a deep breath I step closer to him, running my fingertips down his cheek and remembering the countless times I'd done it in the past. "So where does that leave us?"
His eyes, a stormy grey, lock onto mine, his uneven breath ghosting over my palm. "That's up to you."
I snap my hand back, eyes meeting his in a ferocious snarl. "Don't you dare fucking leave this up to me! How am I supposed to know what you-"
Hot lips, pressing against my own, cut me off.
Well, I suppose that answers one of my questions.
His lips move against mine in a gentle caress as he backs me against the wall, effectively shutting me up. Slender fingers stroke my hair, become tangled in it, and suddenly his tongue is inside my mouth, running against my own, hot, demanding and familiar. I can taste the cigarettes.
I feel skin against my fingers as I wrap my arms around his waist, shifting his shirt to caress the bare patch of smooth flesh with my fingertips. He makes a low sound in his throat, almost like a purr, and pushes his body flush against my own. Heat. Delicious and demanding.
We break away, both gasping for breath. His lips are parted slightly, his eyes hooded.
I ache to watch those eyes close over, hiding the huge black pupils, almost taking over the grey. To feel all of his skin, slick against my own.
"Does that answer your question?" he manages between breaths, smiling cheekily.
But it's a real smile, genuine, and just for me.
I know that things aren't back to how they were, that I can't forget what happened. It may take a while to accept everything, but I also know that we've both changed.
Perhaps, after all of these years, we're finally ready for each other.
Come up to meet you, tell you I'm sorry
You don't know how lovely you are
I had to find you, tell you I need you
Tell you I set you apart
Tell me your secrets and ask me your questions
Oh let's go back to the start
Running in circles, coming up tails
Heads on a silence apart
("The Scientist", Coldplay)