A/N: This contains a slash relationship, namely Harry/Draco. If it's not your material of choice, you know the drill.
PG-13 will suffice, for language and general slashyness, but nothing explicit. The focus of this series is the events leading up to the relationship; quite a few fics tend to leave the backstory out, and I think how they got together is an essential part of a fic, considering that little issue about them starting out hating each other and all.
~In this chapter: 'And I do drink to thee.' Draco finds that his choice of poison can't get any worse than it does. Enjoy the fic! :)
Chapter 1: Heaven's Wine
Heaven's poisoned wine;
Unnatural love, and more unnatural hate.
Harry walked silently across the grounds of Hogwarts, heading toward the Owlery. He was alone, and kept casting wary glances over his shoulder, the soft rustling of grass under his feet amplified a dozen times in the echoing silence in his mind. The gnarled trees of the Forbidden Forest formed ominous black silhouettes against the backdrop of endless dark sky, and gave Harry a distinctive feeling of unease.
Without his Invisibility Cloak, he felt exposed, vulnerable, as if every shadow was fleeing before him and leaving him conspicuous in the rays of moonlight. He'd lent it to Sirius, who was still in hiding and needed the protection of invisibility more than Harry did. Ever since he'd been without his Cloak Harry had cut back on his late night escapades, but tonight he hadn't been able to sleep a wink and decided to send off a letter to Sirius instead. Since Ron was already fast asleep, Harry had ventured out alone.
The night air was fresh, smelling of dew and cut grass, tinged with a faintly spicy scent owing to the exotic night blossoms from the Forbidden Forest just a short distance away. Harry inhaled deeply, savouring the subtle aroma which succinctly bore the essence of the restless Forest, strangely refreshing and darkly enticing at the same time.
Suddenly a flash of shimmering silver toward his right caught his eye, vanishing as swiftly as it had appeared. Harry glanced sharply it that direction as a soft rustle confirmed his suspicions. There was a dark movement in the bushes about a stone's throw away from him, and Harry's hand closed over his wand as he cautiously approached.
As he stepped closer, the black clouds overhead slid apart, allowing a generous shaft of moonlight to shine forth, and Harry's jaw promptly dropped as his eyes settled on the sight before him.
The slender figure jerked around in response, and Harry caught the briefest glint of silver as familiar eyes turned to look at him, though they were hooded with an unusual expression of utter surprise. Harry's eyes widened as they flickered quickly down to Malfoy's body, and rendered him speechless for a moment as he gawked in undisguised astonishment.
His voice was feeble with unfaded shock when the words finally found form on his lips,
"Malfoy — what are you doing naked?"
He wanted to be invisible.
Standing on the edge of night, the hedged boundary of the Forbidden Forest snaking into the shrouded darkness on either side of him, he felt as invisible as he could ever remember. The velvet sky above bore down upon him, feeble streaks of ivory moonlight cutting faintly across the endless black canvas of night.
But of course, from another's viewpoint, such as one of the silent owls swooping overhead, he far from blended into the living night all around him. His light-blond hair shone a liquid silver in the moonlight, and his pale complexion was tinged with an unearthly sort of glow, as if radiating from within, silhouetted against the stark night. He stood out from his surroundings arrogantly and gracefully, not with the awkwardness of one ill-concealed, but with the unique air of one meant to be different.
Draco's boots plodded softly on the damp mud, and the grass rustled in welcome as he neared the Forest, radiant and seething with life in the still night. In his right hand he tightly clasped a small vial of colourless fluid, clear as crystal yet shimmering opaque under the moonlight. Draco's slender fingers gripped the little container hard, and he carefully watched the precious liquid as he stealthily approached the Forest.
He'd been working on this potion in absolute secrecy for the past few weeks, painstakingly gathering all the needed ingredients — pinching them from Snape's private store cupboard, buying them off a shady character lurking in a Hogsmeade alleyway. He never knew a potion could be so hard to concoct — why certain ingredients were added he didn't understand, but the instructions were clear enough and he just followed them as such. On more than a few occasions he'd asked himself if it was worth all the trouble and risk, but in each instance his answer had been yes.
He had few aspirations in life, and apart from those that were impelled on him, one that sprung of his own origin was the desire to be invisible. He could truthfully say that it wasn't with voyeuristic intention — he'd wanted this ever since he was a kid, and the longing for this particular ability had grown steadily stronger as he eased out of childhood, sordid purposes notwithstanding.
All he wanted was to be able to disappear for a while, to hide away and be by himself. He wanted to be able to take a step back and observe other people without them noticing him, to slip away without anyone knowing where he was going. Of course, being invisible opened a world of other possibilities — pranks to pull, mischief to perpetrate — but those weren't his primary reasons for wanting invisibility so badly.
He'd found this spellbook in his father's vast library over the summer — it was ancient and ragged, so old that the page numbers were in Roman numerals. It was almost falling apart, held together by a brittle thread crisp with age that had promptly frayed when he tried to open the book, causing the sheets of yellowed parchment to flutter to the floor. He'd hastily gathered the loose paper and hurried them back to his room for perusal. The pages were torn and stained and generally worse for wear, and not all of them were clearly numbered as the edges of the paper had deteriorated over the years, but he'd managed to sift through the book and to his utmost delight, found a faded, half-shredded page detailing a Loss Of Substance potion — bingo.
The spell turned out to be extremely tricky — but it was supposed to be a powerful Dark Arts spell, and if it'd been simple as a wave of the wand, Draco would've doubted the authenticity of that claim. With focused determination, he'd managed to gather all the necessary elements needed in the final stage of the potion, except for one.
A wild black rose. That had proved to be the most difficult to obtain; he'd scoured the floral shops in all of Hogsmeade, looking for a wild rose that had been black from the earliest bud and not dyed or magically cultured. He even owled Calyx & Corolla (the most established owl-order florist enterprise around) for it, but they were more expensive than even he could afford, since the roses were only in season in Scotland at this time of year. He'd finally been told that his best bet would be to look in the Forbidden Forest, where all variety of growths (as well as other more savage flora and fauna) bloomed verdantly, particularly when darkness fell.
And so here he was, at slightly past midnight, approaching the Forest with no small measure of caution, praying inwardly that he'd be able to find a black rose near the fringes of the woods without having to venture further within (ever since his first year, he'd held an deeply entrenched fear of the Forest at night).
As fortune would have it, he was in luck; his heart leapt as his sharp eyes fell upon a dark blossom nestled in the shadows of a Snapping Bush. Careful not to jostle the volatile bush, Draco dropped to his knees and squinted down at the petaled outline of the rose, the colour of which was almost indistinguishable from the surrounding night.
His fingers trembled slightly as he reached for the flower, feeling the sharp thorns scraping his skin as he gingerly dislodged it from the ground, and it came free with surprising ease. Shaking the loose soil off the stem, Draco held it up at eye level for a better look — the velvet petals of pure black caught the milky moonlight, reflecting nothing.
Draco smiled in satisfaction. The most beautiful rose, painted in the colour of night.
He allowed himself a moment to admire the perfect bloom held in his hand, before he got to work. He only needed the petals, and he carefully removed them from the stalk, the texture like black satin against his fingertips, and dropped them, one by one, into the vial of potion he'd prepared with the other ingredients. The clear liquid promptly turned crimson with the fallen petals — not a trace of black from the rose, but a fresh, vibrant red, vivid and hot-blooded. It was ready — and it had to be consumed immediately. There was no turning back, not now.
Taking a deep breath, Draco closed his eyes and tossed back the entire portion in a silent gulp.
It burned. It burned like a molten fire beneath his skin, flaying his nerves with an uncommon sensation that made him gasp. His blood felt like slivers of ice under his warm skin, waves of heat upon veins of cold. He tentatively opened his eyes, then quickly shut them again as vertigo kicked in, blurring his vision. The hairs on the back of his neck prickled, and his entire body flushed with a sudden heat, like hot breath shivering down his spine, obliterating the initial chill like rising mercury in his blood.
The heat was suffocating; Draco vaguely wondered if that was a sign of the spell working, and he fumbled with the buttons of his shirt, yanking his collar apart and breathing slightly easier as the cold night air rushed against his bare, glistening skin, soothing the heat that raged from within.
In a flourish his fingers pried the rest of the buttons open, and his white shirt fell to the ground, translucent in the half-darkness. He squinted, holding his hands out before him, trying to make out whether he had become insubstantial yet, but a persistent whirring inside his head kept his focus at bay. A stinging heat still itched over the parts of his body still clothed, and he was about to undress himself from waist down when a loud rustle of dried twigs crunching underfoot made him freeze in mid-movement.
There was someone coming.
Draco spun around, coming face to face with Harry, who had a stunned expression in his dark green eyes. Harry's mouth was slack, and he stared at Draco in disbelief.
"Malfoy — what are you doing naked?"
A fleeting look of alarmed surprise flitted across Draco's features, partially obscured in the darkness, and a brief silence laced with tension lapsed before Draco finally spoke.
"You— you can see me?" Draco couldn't keep the bewilderment from his voice, almost matching the dumbstruck expression on Harry's face.
Harry now looked disgusted. "Of course I can see you. What I can't see are your clothes where they should be, and that's the problem. What the hell are you doing?"
Malfoy stared down at himself, a mixed look of dismay and incomprehension, then up at Harry again.
"You can actually see me?" Draco repeated, nonplussed and rarely, looking rather flustered. He instinctively reached down to pick up his shirt, lying on the damp grass.
"You're standing naked in the wide open, it's kind of hard to miss!" Harry sounded annoyed, and resolutely turned his face away from Malfoy. "Get something on, will you?"
"I'm not naked," Draco snapped back, with as much dignity as one hastily dressing could possibly muster. "I'm half-clothed from waist down, if you didn't notice."
"No, I didn't notice, and thank goodness for that." Harry paused, and sneaked a glare at Draco, who was busy doing up the buttons of his shirt, mismatching them, and didn't notice him. "What the hell are you doing, Malfoy, prancing around the Forest topless in the middle of the night? Some tribal dance to the moon god? Have you gone insane?" Harry shook his head in mock bafflement. "I always had my suspicions about you, Malfoy, but I never thought you'd be so stark raving mad to run around Hogwarts in the buff."
"Yes, because I might just about run into Filch, won't I, and this is really sort of his thing," Draco shot back sarcastically, challenging Harry's glare as he adjusted his collar, lopsided because of the mismatched buttons down his front. "I appreciate your concern, Potter, but you can do me a big favour right now by just getting lost."
"I can report you," Harry pointed out calmly.
"Yes, and you can also explain what you were doing walking around the Forest at this time of night," Draco snapped impatiently. He was anxious to get rid of Harry as soon as he could, since he had no idea how soon after being imbibed did the Loss Of Substance potion take effect, and he'd have a lot more explaining to do if Potter saw him disappear into thin air before his eyes.
Harry's expression didn't alter one bit. "What are you doing, Malfoy?" he asked again, his tone even, his jaw set. He seemed to be a lot more composed now that Draco was fully clothed, and it was apparent that he wasn't going anywhere without the answer he demanded.
"It's none of your damn business, Potter," Draco spat, his tone menacing yet imperceptibly desperate. "Go away." A pause, then added for intimidating effect, "Or I'll hex you, and don't think I won't dare to."
"And don't think I won't retaliate." A note of anger found its way into Harry's voice, and he narrowed his eyes, trying to focus on Draco in the half-darkness, which was hard since the moon overhead had slid behind a black cloud and the meagre light lingered like mist between them.
Harry took a step forward, his fingers tightening around his wand.
Draco tensed, every muscle in his body poised for action, his nerves ostensibly proliferated by the potion filtering through his blood. It was a strangely exciting feeling; he'd partly expected the sensation to be ethereal, dreamlike, like floating on a cloud as his physical form evaporated. But the feeling that charged his body now was completely different, yet entirely new — it felt denser, as if he was more fully immersed in his present body than ever before. His senses were heightened, now sharp as the point of a blade, and the low murmur of the restive night throbbed like a deafening pulse in time with his own heartbeat.
It felt... strange. And wrong.
Draco took a step backwards, the sense of uneasiness rising inexorably within him, a wild sort of anxiety and fear overwhelming him, much like the panicked sort of realisation when you were on a flying carpet halfway to Arabia and suddenly remembered you left the shower on back home. And now uppermost in Draco's mind was getting rid of Harry before anything else happened.
"Potter, I swear, if you don't..." Draco started, his voice hard with anger, just when the clouds above suddenly shifted, revealing the moon once again, and pearly-white rays flowed through the dark night sky, falling obliquely across Harry's face and illuminating his features with an unnatural pale light, and Draco abruptly stopped dead in his tracks.
The blinding flash of lightning scorched through his mind without warning; it wasn't accompanied by pain but closely chased by another unnamed sensation that bled through his entire being, intense and undiluted, twisted discomfort and ecstasy at the same time. His vision blurred momentarily, then came into sharp focus — the background of dark trees dissolved into view, slanted by the stinging glow of incandescent moonlight, and...
Harry stood before him, looking increasingly nervous at Draco's strange behaviour, and all Draco could do was stare at him, helpless as the aching sensation rushed through his veins and engulfed him. It left his mind shaken but disturbingly clear as it flooded his body, as every fibre yielded to this terrifying new sensation which possessed him whole.
The horror sparkled in Draco's shocked grey eyes still unswervingly fixated on Harry, with the moonlight flowing down on his shoulders like liquid pearl.
"Malfoy?" Harry began uncertainly, and raised his right hand to brush his dark fringe out his eyes, but to Draco it was as if Harry had reached out his fist and snatched into his chest, dragging him closer, and he staggered forward out of his own volition, completely unprovoked.
Before Draco knew what was happening, he had breached the distance that lay between them in quick, silent strides. His hands moved up to hold Harry's startled face, and in the space of a next heartbeat he was kissing Harry, hard and full on the lips, his manner deeply passionate, hopelessly desperate.
Harry barely had time to react, and his muffled protest was drowned by Draco's lips closing over his mouth, and the sheer shock paralysed him for a few moments, rendering him incapable of movement. Draco's lips burned feverishly against his, kissing him with all the fervour of someone drunk on a dangerous addiction, and it took several instants to melt by before the thought fragment Malfoy is kissing you! pried its way through the confused astonishment and catalysed Harry to action.
Harry shoved Draco away from him, violently, and stumbled backwards, gasping softly, covering his mouth with his hands as the sweetly stinging sensation still lingered on his lips.
"Malfoy!" Harry sputtered, utterly stunned, breathless from the forcefulness of Draco's kiss. "What the fuck do you think you're doing?!" Harry seldom swore unless absolutely necessary, and this situation without a doubt qualified.
When he lifted his eyes to meet Draco's, he found that the horror in them far surpassed his own.
The look of pure dismay and revulsion on Draco's face arrested any further words from Harry. Draco looked positively wretched, and the choked expression spoke more eloquently than he could ever articulate. He stared at Harry, disgust mingling with complete disbelief.
"What— what just happened?" His voice quavered, and faltered a notch.
"You tell me," Harry responded furiously, the initial shock fading and giving way to outrage. "What in living hell are you trying to do, Malfoy!?"
"Did I— did I just kiss you?" The same traumatized voice.
"Yes you bloody well did." Harry's breathing was still quick and shallow as he tried to regain composure, and he braced himself against the trunk of a nearby tree, feeling none too steady. "What was that about?!"
Draco didn't seem to hear Harry's question. "That is disgusting."
Draco's voice was still toneless, almost hollow. He closed his eyes, feeling strangely detached despite the frenetic rise of horror within him. He knew what just happened, and he didn't want to think about it, didn't even want to remember it.
Rage flushed Harry's cheeks. "Disgusting? You grab me and force yourself on me, and you say it's disgusting?" Harry appeared to want nothing more than to reach over and choke the life out of Draco, but given what happened the last time they had bodily contact just moments before, he seemed to think better of it. He angrily wiped the back of his hand over his mouth "You're revolting, Malfoy."
Draco was about to shoot back a long rant coloured with expletives when Harry's words stabbed through him, evoking an unfamiliar aching twinge inside him, much like the sensation that had thrilled through him before what he didn't want to remember happened.
What is going on? What's happening to me?
Those questions demanded answers, but they would have to wait till later. For the present he had to contend with a very livid Harry who looked as if he was ready to beat the crap out of him any moment now, and considering his current dazed state Draco wasn't too sure he was in for a fight like that.
He raised his eyes to Harry's; and it happened again, like an electric jolt through his body, only more intense and penetrating, lancing through flesh and marrow right into his soul. Draco started, and a soft involuntary gasp escaped his lips; he remembered the same burning feeling, and it threatened to...
He could feel himself falling into those cold emerald eyes, the colour of jade flashing through his mind, the colour of desire and passion and hate and want and horror all twisted into one cord that bound itself around his heart, drawing him closer to Harry, or Harry closer to him, he didn't know which...
Get out of here. Now.
With a muffled exclamation that sounded a lot like "Oh god", Draco frantically wrenched his gaze from Harry's, feeling the dull pain rip through him as he did so, and before he forgot what he had to do, Draco whirled around and tore away in the opposite direction. He didn't bother to disguise the sound of his running footsteps, and he raced across the grounds without a backward glance, as fast as his legs could carry him.
Harry stood uncomprehending, staring amazedly after Draco as the other boy abruptly turned on his heel and fled. Bizarre, he thought, confounded, absently dropping to his knees on the soft grass and picking up an object that glinted in the moonlight. It was a clear glass vial, completely empty except for traces of vivid red, which looked to Harry suspiciously like blood, although he didn't think it was.
The tingling sensation still touched his lips, the remnant heat of Draco's kiss, and Harry shook his head, completely baffled. Of all the people he'd expected to kiss in his life, Draco Malfoy was one of the last.
Harry frowned. Oh, how absolutely sickening. Malfoy, of all people.
He decided to head back to Gryffindor Tower, having had enough unpleasant surprises for the night, before another strange occurrence which might not leave him quite so unscathed stormed into his path. But for all I know, if I go insane or develop some chronic illness in a few years time, Harry thought grimly, it might be traceable to this.
Slipping the glass vial into his pocket, the letter to Sirius completely forgotten, Harry slowly walked back to Gryffindor Tower, where he quietly crept up into the dorm and went to his bed. But it was only long after he lay down did sleep finally come upon him.
Oh god. What just happened? Oh god.
The words ran through his mind like a feverish mantra, and Draco closed his eyes as he stumbled into the bathroom and slammed the door shut, not quite caring if he woke anyone. The oddest part was that his mind was clear and unhazed through it all, so he couldn't blame it on a foggy head, although his body was in anguish — a strange, unreal sort of agony, like the memory of a terrifying nightmare haunting waking hours.
He brushed his teeth five times running, to clear his mouth of the taste of Harry, until his gums were sore and started to bleed. The metallic taste of blood on his tongue awakened his senses, drawing out the sense of panic once again.
What just happened?
He knew bloody well what just happened. He just kissed Harry Potter, that's what happened. The thought of it made him nauseated, even though at the very same time an entrenched part of him yearned for the perverse, forbidden pleasure of it all over again.
What went wrong? Why didn't the potion work like it was supposed to?
With his tongue raw and tingling from the minty aftertaste of toothpaste, Draco made his way back to his dorm, retrieved the tattered book of spells and brought it down with him to the Slytherin common room. It was dark and cold, much like the way he was feeling right now, and Draco pointed his wand at the bare fireplace. It burst forth with a crackle of orange flames, and the warmth diffused through him like a calming wave, although it didn't dispel the persistent pang that still troubled him; the ache of emptiness.
Settling down on the floor, leaning against one side of the sofa, Draco opened the book, absently fingering the stubby knot where he had re-tied the binding thread. He flipped open to the page that detailed the Loss Of Substance potion, and found himself staring at the list of familiar ingredients. He carefully ran a finger down the list, mentally checking off each element he had used, going through the procedure again in his mind, exactly as the book had instructed. The potion had been perfectly concocted.
His sharp eyes followed his forefinger to the end of the page, and picked up a sentence he had not noticed before, which he was sure hadn't been there the last time he looked, but was now written in faded, dark blue ink.
Draco leaned forward earnestly, squinting; the writing was slightly smudged and rather cursive, but the Latin phrase it spelled out could be read clearly enough:
Traicit et fati litora magnus amor.
Draco stared at it, and blinked. Disbelieving, he snatched up the book and checked the pages frantically; but due to extensive handling, the page numbers were by now blurred beyond recognition. His entire body went rigid with cold fear as a sense of deep, horrendous dread filled him, and comprehension of the phrase filtered into his conscious mind, which translated:
A great love can cross the bounds of fate.
He looked down at the book, the his fingers trembling. One page said 'Loss Of Substance potion' together with a brief description; flipping over, the subsequent few pages detailed the procedure. But something was definitely, undeniably wrong.
The Latin quote. The strange sensation wrecking havoc in his body. That— that feeling.
Then all of a sudden he knew, and frantic realisation splintered like glass shards through his mind: No. No, it can't be.
It wasn't a Loss Of Substance potion — he must have somehow mixed up the pages when he reattached the book — instead, he'd concocted a... a...
And at this moment, even swear words failed him, as the full impact of what he'd just inflicted upon himself rushed through him, howling like the icy desert wind...
"What have I done?" Draco asked in a horrified whisper; and he was too afraid of the answer.
Not exactly a bed of black roses for Draco now, is it? What's he going to do about it? The prospect of 'Til death do us part' doesn't exactly sound too optimistic at the moment, either. More in Chapter 2!
Do review and let me know what you think. Good feedback accelerates rate of writing exponentially :)