Author's notes: Author's notes are at the bottom of the fic.
Animus (Part 12)
Staccato little moments; that's what this last day is made up of. Staccato little moments that wind together to make up the last 24 hours that I will ever spend with Draco.
This morning, I make the effort to go to work, only to end up staring at the four walls that surround me. I don't even bother trying to hide the fact that I'm doing nothing productive at all. What would be the point? If my boss wants to fire me, then let him fire me. I would certainly respect him a lot more if he did.
But he doesn't fire me; choosing instead to ignore what he must see as pure laziness.
I'm not sure how much time passes before I finally decide to call it quits for the day. Don't know why I even came here today anyway, I should have known that my mind wouldn't be on my work; as if it ever really is, even on my best days.
With a quick nod and a mumbled excuse about not feeling well, I leave the office as quickly as I can. My first thought is to go home, but I decide against that almost immediately. I'm not ready to face the awkwardness that comes from being around Draco Malfoy these days. It's the oddest thing - since the other night the playing field that we've always interacted on has changed so dramatically that neither one of us knows how to act around the other. We both agree that there is no longer hatred between us - but neither of us seems to know what the hatred has been replaced with. But perhaps I shouldn't speak for Draco. I can only say that I have no idea what the hatred has been replaced with. And if he knows, he's not sharing.
So instead of going home, I apparate to what I know to be a safe, deserted place, discard my robe and take a taxi down into the shopping district.
My initial plan is to grab something to eat and keep myself busy by doing some shopping for myself. Yet instead of buying for me, I keep finding things that would be great for Draco.
I think it's at this point that I realize I have lost my mind.
Yet I steadfastly refuse to actually buy anything for him . . . that is until I come across something that seems so perfectly appropriate that I just can't walk away from it.
All right, so I was wrong before. It is at this point that I lose my mind.
After making the purchase, I decide that I've stalled long enough. It is time to go home.
I step into the living room to see Draco in one of his favorite spots - curled up on the sofa, with his nose buried in a book.
He doesn't seem to notice me, so I clear my throat and say, "Another book?"
Brilliant, Harry, brilliant. I seem to have such a knack for stating the obvious.
He looks up only briefly before returning his gaze to the page. "Uh huh."
I sneak a peek at the title. "Wuthering Heights?"
"I like the classics," he says, this time without looking up. "I'm trying to read as much of it as I can before tomorrow."
I consider what he means by this, then, without really thinking, blurt out, "You can have it."
He marks his place in the book with his finger, closes it and looks up. "What?"
"You can have it . . . if you want it that is. I don't read much anyway."
His brows knit together. "Why do you have so many books in your library then, if you don't read them?"
I shrug. "They came with the house."
"I see," he says as he chuckles slightly. Then, "Yeah, that'd be nice, thanks."
Then silence descends upon us as we each take a moment to look the other over. As I watch him, I can see his gaze traveling the length of my body and stopping at the suitcase that I'm clutching in my hand. My one purchase. "What is that?" he asks curiously.
"Oh, this," I say, trying to sound casual. "It's nothing really, I just remembered that you didn't have anything to pack your clothes in."
"So you bought me a suitcase?" he asks in a bewildered tone.
"Just . . . think of it as a going away present."
"But I don't have anything to put in it," he says as he shakes his head.
"Well . . . the clothes you've been wearing all this time. They're yours."
"Oh," he says softly. "Oh. I...I didn't want to presume . . . " he says. And suddenly he sounds, not like the man he is, but like a shy, uncertain little boy. Strangely enough, I find myself fighting the creeping urge to wrap my arms around him and attempt that comforting thing again. After a moment however, he straightens a bit and his voice regains its normal quality and the feeling slides away. "That was very nice of you. Thank you," he says.
I politely tell him that he is welcome and then I stand back to watch as one of the aforementioned awkward moments descends upon us.
Mercifully, he breaks it almost immediately. "Well, since I have a suitcase now, and I don't have to speed read the book anymore, I may as well go pack," he says as he sets the book down and stands up in one quick, fluid movement.
I walk forward and hand him the suitcase. He takes it with another small 'thank you' before turning around to go up the stairs.
He makes it halfway up the stairs when I call out to him.
He stops in mid-step and turns his head. Again, I try to sound casual and offhand . . . and I am well aware that I probably fail miserably. "I thought that . . . you know . . . on our last night we could go get some dinner, maybe catch a film or something."
"Oh," he says, then pauses as if he's thinking. "Well, there is that new De Niro film that I've been wanting to see . . . "
I hear his words, I hear them loud and clear, but I can't quite seem to comprehend them. Did he just say that he likes De Niro? He must see something of my confusion on my face, because he narrows his eyes and says, "What?"
"Nothing . . . it's . . . it's just that it's still a bit disconcerting to hear that you like anything Muggle."
"Oh," he says and then a small smile spreads across his face. "Then it would really blow your mind to know that I eat Big Macs, listen to U2 and have developed quite an interest in football."
I blink hard and shake my head in amusement. "You're right. My mind is blown."
His smile grows wider. "Dinner and a movie sound great, Harry."
I can't help but smile back. Yes, dinner and a movie do sound pretty good. I'm glad I thought of it.
After the film we end up at the same restaurant where we ate three weeks ago.
At first we entertain ourselves by discussing plot points and De Niro's acting, but once the food is brought to our table we both begin to eat as if ravenously hungry and conversation all but dies away.
After a few minutes, however, Draco seems sated enough to put down his utensils and say, "Harry?"
"Yes?" I manage to respond around a mouthful of salmon.
"There are a couple of things I've been wanting to say to you."
I swallow, then put down my utensils as well. He sounds so serious and formal; my curiosity is definitely piqued. "Oh, well what are they?"
He straightens and clasps his hands together on the table, suddenly looking very much like the young aristocrat that he used to be. "I wanted to thank you properly for the other day. When you bullied me into telling you about my mother - which wasn't a very nice thing to do by the way - your reaction was not what I expected . . . " he pauses and looks down at the table briefly before looking back up. "And it was very appreciated. So . . . thank you."
This comes as a complete surprise to me. For some reason I never expected him to be grateful, much less express it. But before I can respond and tell him that he is welcome, a niggling question pops into my head and I feel forced to ask it. "What did you think my reaction was going to be, Draco?"
He unclasps his hands and resumes eating. I do not. "I guess I expected you to laugh or tell me that I deserved it or something. I don't know," he says.
That disturbs me, perhaps more than it should. "You really thought I'd do that? You thought I'd be that horrible?"
He gives a half-shrug. "I figured . . . you know . . . kick a man when he's down. That's what most people would do."
I shake my head. "No, that's not what most people would do."
"I thought you'd gotten over being naive, Harry. That is exactly what most people would do."
At least . . . I think that's what he says, because the truth is I'm no longer really listening. My mind has decided to take a stroll down memory lane and is too busy supplying me with images of Draco sobbing in my arms for me to concentrate on anything else. "I wasn't sure if I was doing it right," I say suddenly.
Now where did that come from?
"What?" he asks, now sounding thoroughly confused.
I try to wrench my eyes away from the disquieting memory playing out before me, but I can't quite manage it. "You were hurting so much and I wanted to help, but I wasn't . . . it didn't seem to be doing any good."
I know I'm not making any sense, and since I'm the one who started this by blabbering incoherently, I feel I have to make the effort to explain. "When I was younger, whenever I got hurt, my aunt and uncle would tell me not to be a crybaby and then tell me to go away. Sometimes I'd come home from school crying because someone had been especially cruel that day, and my aunt and uncle would say that I had probably brought it on myself . . . and then they'd tell me to go away." I pause and take a deep breath to steady myself against these old hurts. "But I watched them with Dudley. And I could see how they always held him when he was upset. And it always worked. So that's what I tried to do with you. But you kept on crying anyway. I figured I wasn't doing it right. Since I'd never actually experienced it first-hand, I figured I wasn't doing it right."
"Harry," he says, all but whispering my name. "You really did have a shitty childhood, didn't you?"
Thankfully, the playback of memory has ended, but some sense of shame keeps my eyes glued to my plate nonetheless. "I guess."
It is quiet save for the muted conversations of the people around us . . . then . . . "You did it right, Harry."
At this I do look up, certain that I heard wrong. "But you wouldn't stop crying . . . "
"Sometimes people just need to cry, I think. And I hadn't ever let myself mourn her . . . not really." He pauses. "You did it right, Harry. You were a natural."
I don't think I can even begin to describe how good those words are making me feel. Knowing that I attempted something normal and that I succeeded at it, makes my heart feel light in my chest. It is a feeling that has happened so infrequently in my life that it is almost unbearably alien. But not quite. I let myself bask in it until I remember there was something else he wanted to say to me. "What was the other thing you wanted to talk about?" I ask as I try to focus on something other than this little moment of bliss.
"Ah yes, well, I wanted to apologize for being such a complete and total bastard all during school."
"Really?" I ask, shaking off our last conversation enough to attempt a little eyebrow raising of my own.
"Really. I mean . . . I was awful, I see that now. And I was wrong."
I sit there motionless for several seconds, just looking at his face - his very earnest, very serious face. Somewhat wistfully I say, "If only you had been this way during school."
He exhales a laugh. "I know. But I didn't know any better, Harry. I never imagined how badly it hurts when someone judges you on what they think they know about you."
I'm tempted to ask aloud if this is what people do to him now, but I can see by the sadness in his eyes that it is.
Draco Malfoy has been completely humbled by what he's experienced over the past two years. I have no doubt in my mind that this is true. And I no longer have any doubt in my mind that this is not the same person that I used to know and despise.
"I accept your apology," I say quietly.
"Really?" He asks it as if he doesn't quite believe me.
"Really," I say as I nod in affirmation.
"You forgive me?"
I hold up a hand. "That I didn't say."
"Forgiveness is too much to ask for?" he asks harshly.
"Do you forgive me for what I did to you?" I shoot back.
"The beating from hell? Is that what you mean?"
I give a quick nod.
"Yes. I do."
"Because you truly regret doing it. I can see that. I can see how you've tortured yourself over it. I mean, one of us has to forgive you."
One of us has to forgive me. Both poetic and true, that statement. I still haven't truly forgiven myself for that incident. And it surprises me that he knows I haven't. And although I may want to, I can't bring myself to forgive him for the things he's done either.
"I think forgiveness is still a little beyond my reach," I finally say.
I wait for his response, looking forward to it actually, but all he says is, "Tuck in, Harry. Your food's getting cold."
In the car on the way home, I ask him what his plans are and what he'll do with the money.
He tells me that he told Pete he was only getting 10,000. That with that extra two thousand, he plans to get as far away from this place as possible. He sounds as happy as a child on Christmas when he talks about his future. Then he asks about me.
"What about me?"
"What are you going to after this?"
"Just go back to living my life. What else would I do?"
"And what a life it is."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
And so we travel the rest of the way in silence.
Back at the house, I trudge up the stairs, feeling inexplicably morose despite what was a relatively good night. I stop outside my door and turn to see that Draco is standing outside of his door and making no move to open it.
I think to myself that this would be the perfect moment for a great speech, something that will sum up all that we've been through and all that we've discovered about each other.
But all I can muster is a quiet little, "Well, goodnight then."
Draco nods, but still makes no move to open his door. "Harry, since this is our last night together, why don't we sleep in the same bed? For old times' sake?"
I can hear the smile in his voice and my own smile begins to slide slowly across my face. "My room or yours?"
"Mine," he says decisively. Then he opens the door and walks inside.
I follow and enter. He is standing at the side of the bed, already taking off his shirt. I follow suit, draping mine casually over a chair. It's only when I look up that I notice that Draco's not moving any longer. He's standing very still, staring at me with a strange expression on his face.
"What's the matter?" I whisper.
"I can't believe that this is over," he says just as quietly.
I nod, completely understanding, for I feel the same way. "You must be thrilled. That it finally is over, I mean. And that you can go on with your life."
But he doesn't sound thrilled and he doesn't look thrilled. He doesn't really sound anything at all. Then with a small intake of breath, he comes back to life and moves toward me until he is standing right in front of me.
"What?" I say fighting the urge to step back.
"Your eyes are the greenest eyes I've ever seen. I've never told you this before, but they're beautiful."
Ok, that did it. He says something like that in that smoky, sleepy voice while he's half-naked and I'm not supposed to react? I am a 19-year-old man after all. I move forward, closing the gap between us, surprising myself by how quickly I do move. One hand cups the back of his head and brings him even closer toward me while the other lands somewhere on his shoulder. When we connect, the kiss is slow and sweet, and I savor how incredibly good he tastes and how soft his hair is against the palm of my hand.
I prepare myself to be pushed away. Then I tell myself that if I feel any hesitation from him I will simply move away and apologize and slink back to my own bed.
But he does no such thing. What he does is open his mouth to mine, kissing me with a heated fervor that causes tiny sparks of excitement to run through my skin.
And then, just when it's getting good, just when the sparks have begun to multiply in intensity so that I can no longer even think (where are my hands anyway?) he does pull away. He does it startling quickly, leaving me kissing cold air for just a moment before I realize that he is gone. I open my eyes to see that he has taken a few steps back and his hand is over his mouth. He looks completely stunned.
"Harry?" he says in wonderment.
And all I can think is that it's time to apologize because I've hurt him in some way. I pushed too much, crossed a line that I shouldn't have.
"What?" I say in a hoarse voice.
"That was . . . that was nice," he says.
Not what I was expecting to hear. Before I can even begin to think of a response he whispers, "Do it again."
So I do it again. I bring him to me, kissing him and touching him urgently, bringing back those delicious sparks.
God, I can't get enough of how he tastes, how he smells, and somehow we're on the bed now (when did that happen?) and I'm staring down at him, looking into his beautiful, strange eyes.
But only for a moment and then I continue to place sweet, lust-filled, tempered kisses against his skin, while my hands roam over his body. His hands, surprisingly strong, are in my hair, on my back, grasping, as if he can't get enough of me either.
Another minute passes, and my fingers have unfastened his trousers and are now sliding down into them and reaching under his pants. I wrap my hand around him, his soft, velvet skin, expecting to hear his moan of pleasure. But instead his body goes rigid and still, one hand frozen tightly in my hair. The other hand, which just a moment ago was pressing me close, is now against my chest as if to push me away.
"What's the matter?" I pant.
He is just as breathless as I am. "Nothing, it's just . . . " he says.
"What is it?" I ask as I withdraw my hand and move away from him.
He releases my hair, looking embarrassed. "This is too much. We're going too fast."
And without really thinking I yell out the first thing that pops into my head. "You have got to be kidding me!"
"I'm sorry, Harry . . . "
The word tease spirals in my brain, only to be replaced by the word whore. "But we've slept together before!" I say indignantly, although what I really want to say is, 'You're a prostitute. There's no such thing as too fast!'
"This is different!" he says defensively.
I just stare at him, trying to make sense of his words; trying to keep my suddenly blossoming anger in check.
"If you want it to go back to the way it was before, then fine, I can do that!" And although he doesn't so much yell the words as say them, they seem to me, thunderously loud.
Easy, Harry. Calm down. Don't get angry.
But the all-too familiar tide of anger is already here.
I push off the bed and turn around, my hands clenched into fists, and try to tell myself that this is not a big deal.
That I'm getting upset over nothing.
That I have to breathe and count to ten.
But nothing works.
I turn around to face him, to say God knows what else, when I catch sight of his eyes. His eyes tell me clearly what his words do not. They tell me that I have hurt him.
What the hell am I doing? Hadn't he told me he doesn't enjoy sex? Wasn't I just a few minutes ago worried that I was pushing too far? And now that I have, I'm angry with him? What the hell is my problem?
And the anger is gone.
Gone as quickly as it came, it becomes just another infamous Harry Potter mood swing to add to my fucked up history.
As always after one of these, I feel drained. I stagger over to the bed and hold out one hand. "I'm sorry. I'm really sorry."
He takes it and pulls me onto the bed next to him. "It's all right," he says, although the hurt in his eyes has not gone.
"I'm sorry," I say again.
"Your mood swings are downright frightening, Harry," he says.
"I know." Then he says, "I did like it . . . at first."
"I'm an idiot."
"Yes, I know that. But I said it was all right, remember?"
And then I utter words that I never thought I'd say in my life. But I mean them. I mean every syllable. "You're a good man, Draco."
"You're a good man too, Harry. Whether you want to believe it or not." He takes a deep breath and runs his hand gently through my hair. "Why don't we get some sleep?"
We move around on the bed, intertwining our bodies until we are both comfortable and then we sleep.
And I'm still an idiot.
The next morning, I awake to find that he is packed and ready to go. I insist on driving him, rather than have him take a taxi, which was his first suggestion.
We don't make any mention of what happened last night. We don't make mention of anything at all actually. What is there to say at this point, really?
When we reach the city, he directs me to a rather gray, worn-down building, not far from where I found him that night, and tells me to stop in front of it.
"This is where you live?" I say.
"Home, sweet home," he says, his sarcasm dripping from every syllable.
I give the building a last glance and then pull out the check that I wrote out yesterday morning. Twelve thousand pounds, just as we had agreed upon. It's ironic to think that this amount, which is nothing but small change to me, will be enough to change his life. "Well, this is it then," I say, handing it over to him.
He takes it without even sparing it a glance and folds it neatly, tucking it into his shirt pocket. "Yes, it is."
Again this would be a perfect time for an all-encompassing speech. But my brain refuses to supply any appropriate words, and the best I can come up with is a lame, "Well . . . take care of yourself, Draco. I hope all goes as you want it to."
"Thank you, Harry." He holds out his hand and when I grasp it, he gives it a good, firm shake. "It was . . . interesting doing business with you."
I laugh. "Likewise."
He lets go of my hand and opens the car door, putting one foot onto the pavement. Then he seems to hesitate, his body half-in, half-out of my car.
Ducking his head back in the car, he says to me quickly, "One of these days you're going to have to come out hiding and be the man you were born to be, Harry. Hero doesn't have to be a nasty word. Not anymore."
And then he slips out the door, slams it shut and is gone.
I come back to an empty, empty house. I stand in it, listening to the silence that seems to cover it like a shroud.
It's suffocating, this silence. I would rather have a silence that is awkward or uncomfortable or even angry, but this . . . this smothering, suffocating thing is almost overwhelming.
I try to turn away from the deafening stillness only to have my eyes involuntarily land on the sofa where Draco used to read.
I turn away from that as well.
As I walk into the kitchen, I tell myself that I am not missing him. I'm not. It's better this way. Draco was just a brief interlude in my life. And now my life can continue. The way it was meant to.
Except that . . .
I stop in the middle of gleaming tiles and look around.
Except that it wasn't really much of a life, now was it?
Pushing that thought aside, I take a step toward the refrigerator. Before I can reach it however, I see the place where Draco used to drink his coffee in the morning and I stop cold. Then I see the spot where he used to cook us breakfast and groan loudly. It is very dismaying to find that almost everything down here reminds me of him in some way. And if this is bad, upstairs will be a million times worse.
Which leads to me the incredible conclusion that I have nowhere to go in my own house.
I laugh out loud at this, feeling a bit unhinged when my voice breaks the stillness.
God, do I need some scotch.
And with Draco gone, I can drink all I want without feeling guilty. How great is that?
So out of the kitchen and to the bar I go.
The first glass is wonderful - like liquid, fiery heaven sliding down my throat.
The second one is even better.
And the third even better than that.
After the sixth one, I stumble up the stairs, bottle in hand, to my bedroom. I am almost to the point of passing out, yes, it's like an exact science, and I want to be in bed when I do.
Sitting down on the edge of the bed, I lift the bottle to my lips and spill more liquor down my throat.
I am not missing Draco Malfoy. Not by any means.
I like the silence. I like the fact that I can drink all I want without having to worry about anyone. I like that I am alone and that I don't have to try to make conversation with someone. I like the fact that I will have the entire bed to myself tonight, and every night from here on out.
I am not missing Draco.
My life was fine before him and it will be fine after him.
One of these days you're going to have to come out hiding and be the man you were born to be, Harry. Hero doesn't have to be a nasty word, not anymore.
And I am not hiding!
I take another deep swallow. I am now very, very drunk.
And ok, maybe I am hiding a bit.
But that doesn't mean that it's a bad thing. Draco doesn't know everything. Look at how screwed up his life is.
One of us has to forgive you.
"Get out of my head!" I shout at the voice that keeps interrupting me by repeating Draco's words to me.
Anyway, where was I? Oh yes. Draco's life is much more fucked up than mine. And yes, I am hiding but it's all right because it's my choice to do so. And so what if I'm a little hard on myself sometimes?
And I am not missing him.
Not his smile, not his sense of humor, not his eyes or his soft skin or the way he always tells me what I need to hear whether I want to hear it or not.
And most definitely not the way he makes me feel as if I've come back from the dead whenever I'm around him.
And definitely, definitely, not that stupid eyebrow arching thing.
I take two more large swallows of the scotch.
"I am going to be in so much pain tomorrow," I say to no one at all.
I lift the bottle up to take another drink, but it slips from my hand and falls onto the floor.
I'll have to clean that tomorrow.
Well, I guess the drinking is over for tonight.
I let myself flop backward onto the bed then groan as the world begins to spin around me.
"Not good," I mumble. "Not good . . . far too drunk . . . "
I lay there for a while, trying to make the world stop spinning and having absolutely no luck. Finally I just decide to enjoy the ride.
But I can't. I'm starting to feel like I'm going to throw up.
"This ride sucks," I say as I manage a small laugh.
And that is my last coherent thought before my eyes slide shut and I finally pass out.
Sometime in the night, I dream.
And it's that dream.
The one where I'm in that horrible cottage surrounded by my dead.
But something is different, I see that right away. Voldemort is not here.
Intrigued, I step forward, waiting for the evil bastard to pop out of the shadows so I can strangle him as usual.
But he does not appear.
I look to my family and friends for answers, but they seem to have none to give.
I don't know what to do now. What is the purpose of this dream if not to relive the night I killed Voldemort?
Then my father begins to walk toward me. I stiffen as his mangled body comes closer and closer to mine.
When he reaches me, he pulls me into a bone-crushing hug and whispers, "I love you."
"I love you too, dad," I say and I am no longer afraid, for I can feel how much he loves me. I can feel it in every cell in my body.
When he pulls away, he is no longer the dead thing that walked up to me a moment ago. He is whole and handsome and unblemished.
I gasp in wonder and reach out for him, but he disappears before I can touch him.
Before I have time to wonder about what just happened, I see that someone else is walking toward me. It is Sirius.
He comes to me and repeats what my father just did; holding me tightly and telling me he loves me before disappearing.
Then the rest come; one by one, they walk to me and embrace me and tell me how much they love me before changing and vanishing. But it's not just that. They let me feel their love for me. And it makes my heart ache, but in a good, good way.
And finally my mother comes to me. She hugs me silently and when she pulls away from me, I know that I am gazing upon an angel. I have never seen anyone more radiant and beautiful. It almost hurts to look at her.
"I love you, Harry."
"Mum," I choke out.
"Don't be sad anymore, Harry. Please. We're at peace now."
"But I miss you!"
"But I'm always with you."
"I can't feel you," I say brokenly.
"Because you don't allow yourself to feel me."
"Mum," I start to say, but I have to stop because I'm simply crying too hard to continue. The first time I've ever cried, and it's in a dream. Go figure.
She brushes away one of my tears with her fingers and smiles sadly before looking across the room. I follow her gaze and I see that there is still someone here. Funny, I could have sworn there was no one left.
"All I want for you is happiness and peace. Do you understand?"
I turn to tell her that I don't understand, that she needs to explain it to me, but she is gone. Gone like all the others.
Feeling utterly confused and empty and still crying like a baby, I look back across the room, hoping to see who is standing there.
"Draco?" I whisper when I finally see.
"Why are you here? You're not dead."
I wipe away the tears on my face angrily. "What? No. You're fine. You're in London. You're about to begin a new life."
"Then why am I here?" he asks calmly.
"I don't bloody know!" I shout.
He takes a few steps toward me, where I can see him more clearly.
"I'm here because I'm dying," he says.
I'm about to tell him that he's completely lost his mind when a huge red gash appears on his forearm. Blood begins to pour from it as he flinches slightly.
"What? What's wrong with you?"
"Physically, nothing," he says before gashes appear on his cheek and neck.
"What the hell is wrong with you?" I ask in alarm.
Another gash, more blood. Then another, and another. This dream gets more bizarre by the minute.
"You said that already!" I yell as I run toward him and grab his arm. It is slick from all the blood and my hand slides off it easily.
"But it's true," he says.
Oh God, there's blood coming from his ears now. What the hell?
"Soon I'll be nothing but a memory, Harry. And then I'll be dead to you."
"You don't have to die . . . I don't want you to die," I say.
But he's already falling and one eye has begun to hemorrhage and there is blood leaking from the corner of his mouth . . .
I catch him before he hits the floor and cradle him close to me.
"Don't die," I whisper to him.
"Don't let me," he whispers.
"What do I have to do?" I ask frantically.
But it's too late. I feel his body slump against mine. I look to see that his eyes are closed and that his chest does not rise and fall.
I bring him close to me and press his head against my chest.
He's growing cold already.
I think I have begun to cry again.
I struggle to pull myself out of the dream and its final, bloody images. It takes a while, this coming up through different layers of consciousness, but finally I open my eyes to the comforting darkness of my bedroom.
I instinctively rub my hands together, expecting them to feel sticky with gore. But they feel normal. There is nothing on them.
It's at this moment that I notice a strange noise coming from deep within my throat. Some keening, awful sound that I've never made before. Not only that, but I can't quite seem to catch my breath and my chest feels as a huge weight is atop it, crushing it mercilessly.
What the hell is wrong with me? I reach up with a shaking hand and place it on my throat, feeling the vibrations made by the strange noises. Then I rub my hand over my face - and that's when I feel it.
I feel it on my face at the same time that I taste it on my lips.
Oh dear God.
Don't let me be too late.
Just please don't let me be too late.
I've lost track of how many doors I've knocked on and how many strangers have opened them up to me. A sense of desperation has already started to creep up on me as I knock on yet another door and force myself to wait patiently.
This time when it opens, it is Draco's face that stares back at me.
Finally I've found him.
After driving like a speed demon to London and then like a madman through its streets, after knocking on so many doors that my knuckles are already starting to bruise . . . I have found him. The relief is so strong that it almost drives me to my knees.
His eyes are wide with disbelief. "Harry? What are you . . . "
"I need to talk to you," I interrupt quickly.
"You came all the way down here to talk to me?"
"Please. It's important. Can I come in?"
He steps back and makes a sweeping gesture with one arm. "By all means."
I walk inside his flat and take a quick look around. It is small and as shabby on the inside as the building is on the outside.
"Please excuse the mess. I had to fire the maid."
But there really is no mess. It is quite tidy, actually. I turn around to tell him so and am met by his mischievous smile.
I smile back.
"Would you like to sit down?" he asks as he gestures toward a brown well-worn armchair. I sit down, while he takes a chair opposite me.
"How did you find me?" he asks.
"I knocked on every door until you opened this one," I reply honestly.
He looks as if he doesn't quite believe me. "What you have to say must be really important, then."
"I think so."
He nods and leans forward, waiting for me to begin. But the words stick in my throat.
"Well?" he says.
I take a deep breath. Ok. Here goes everything. Make the words come out, Harry. Come on.
"I quit my job at the Ministry this morning," I say.
He raises an eyebrow. "Really?"
"Yes, and I've decided to take a long holiday. I'm going to travel. See the world."
"This is all very interesting, Harry. Truly. But what does this have to do with me?"
"I bought two tickets. We leave day after tomorrow for Ireland. If you'll agree to go with me."
There is a pause where there is nothing but stunned silence on his part and patient silence on mine. "Are you serious?" he finally asks.
I lean back in the chair. "Perfectly."
"Then you've lost your bloody mind."
"No, I don't think so."
"Why? Why now? Why this?"
"I'd like you to come with me, Draco."
In mere seconds, I see confusion, understanding and pity travel cross his face, one after the other. "Oh God, Harry . . . I don't love you," he says softly.
"I don't love you either, Draco," I say at once. "God, I just recently started to like you."
Draco gives a minute shake of his head, and I can see the pity is gone, and that it has once again been replaced by confusion. "Well, why then?"
"It's hard to explain."
He gives an incredulous laugh. "Well, you're going to have to give it a go."
"I had a dream, Draco."
"I thought that was Martin Luther King's line," he says.
I take a deep breath and roll my eyes, but there is no rancor in it. "Anyway, this dream helped me to realize something. It helped me to realize that we have something, Draco. I don't know what it is exactly, but there's something here. I think we could be good for each other. At least, I know you can be good for me. You already have been. And I think, in time and with a little patience, I could be good for you also."
He looks dubious, like he thinks that any moment I will laugh and tell him this has all been a big joke.
I lean forward and speak earnestly. "Look, I'm not asking for a huge commitment here. I just want us to spend some more time together, see what comes from it."
"By traveling the world together?"
"I thought it would be fun. To see things I've only ever heard about. I thought you might enjoy it as well."
He looks down at the floor and grows silent. I know him well enough to know that he is doing some serious thinking.
Finally he looks back up and says, "It . . . it can't be the way it was before, Harry . . . with you snapping your fingers, and me running to your bed. I can't be your whore again."
"No! God, no Draco, that's not what I want."
With exasperation in his voice he asks, "What do you want then?"
"I just want you there. To be with me. Nothing is expected of you. We can sleep in different beds if you want. Hell, we can sleep in different rooms if you want!"
Draco temples his fingers together and frowns. "Let me see if I've got this. You want me there, because you think there might possibly be something between us?"
"But you're not expecting anything. You just want to travel together?"
I nod again. Redundant I know, but I seem to have run out of words.
"And if I decide that I no longer want to be your traveling companion, then what?"
"Then I pay for your way back. Or wherever you want to go. It's that simple."
"Nothing with you is ever simple, Harry."
"I don't know . . . "
"Come on, Draco. You feel it too, don't you? Tell me you do and that I'm not mad."
But he gives me no answer at all. I stand up. "Or tell me that you don't and I'll walk out of your life right now."
God, talk about tension. The air is thrumming with it. Waiting for him to decide which path my life is going to take is harder than killing Death Eaters.
He sighs deeply and says, "You're not crazy."
A thrill of excitement and relief rush through me, making me shiver just slightly. "So then . . . "
It's now his turn to roll his eyes. "Yes, there is something between us . . . and no, I don't know what it is either."
"We could figure it out together, Draco."
"I suppose we could. Or we could run from each other screaming."
I step directly in front of him and hold out my hand. When he takes it, I pull him up gently until we are eye to eye.
"Is that a yes or a no?"
He looks away from me, muttering, "This is insane."
I use my free hand to cup his chin and turn his face back to me. "I'm tired of hiding, Draco."
"Harry . . . "
"Yes or no?"
"Yes," he exhales.
I laugh, then wrap my arms around him and hold him close and tight. "I am so glad you said that," I say softly in his ear.
He hugs me back, hard, before he pulls away slightly. His face is terribly serious. "I had a dream about you last night. You were dying, right in front of me. I...I didn't like it."
His words bring my dream to mind and for a moment I feel sick remembering how he bled to death in front of me. "I should hope not," I manage to say through a suddenly dry throat.
"What do you suppose it means, Harry?"
I shake my head to dispel the image. The last part of the dream was gruesome and horrible, but it served a purpose. Hopefully it turns out to be a good one. "Nothing. It means nothing. It was just a dream."
"Harry, I . . . " he begins to say, but goes no further. His mouth continues to move, but no sound is coming from it, as if he wants to speak but doesn't know what to say.
I nod and say, "I know . . . I feel the same way, Draco."
And then I kiss him.
And he wraps his arms around me and kisses me back.
I've always thought that happily ever after was a load of rubbish. Something only found in books and childish fairy tales. But when we pull away from each other, and Draco looks at me and gives me a shy smile, I start to believe in happily ever after.
But that's not the best part. That's now what brings a smile to my face. The best part is that I start to believe in happily ever after for me.
Author's notes: Wow! OMG, I feel like I've just given birth! This fic has been hard, and the longer it went the harder it got. So this last chapter was like walking on hot coals, man. (Anyone who writes angst will know what I'm talking about). But anyway, it is finally done. Finally.
I really want to thank everyone who has read and/or reviewed. I want to thank everyone who has been patient enough to stay with this story - I know the chapters were too far spaced out, but it was the best I could do.
When I started this fic, my goal was to write a fairly realistic Harry/Draco romance. I soon realized that I wasn't going to make them fall in love with each other in the time I had allotted myself. So this is the next best thing. If anyone is wondering; in my mind, they do stay together and they do fall in love. But let's face it - Harry is way too fucked up to be a good partner right away. And I'm not talking about my Harry. I mean Rowling's Harry. That boy needs some serious counseling.
Anyway, whether I succeeded in my goal I can't really say. That's up to you as the reader to decide. But I am proud of this story and how it has turned out. And I'm so very grateful to everyone that has joined me on this twisted, little ride.