DISCLAIMER: Warning! I make no claim to any property of J.K. Rowling's, and am in no way profiting by this. I do offer her my sincerest thanks for allowing us this garden of the mind in which we play. Further Warning! This story...and likely any I ever write...are dominated by gay themes and characters. That's how it is, if this in any way makes you uncomfortable...do not read further.

Epilogue: Dignity….by Samayel

The year was almost over, and Harry scarcely remembered most of it. It had drifted past him in a peaceful haze, and Draco Malfoy was the reason why.

One conversation. One fateful intervention. One sudden choice and Harry's world had changed overnight. All for the better.

Draco had promptly courted Harry with the grace and skill of a panther, quickly bringing down his chosen prey. Harry hadn't put up much of a fight, to be sure, but going from constant tension between them to sudden and complete intimacy had been a shock to his system.

To the rest of the world, Draco was still a wizard not to be trifled with. He was as deadly as an adder, ruthless, and thoroughly Slytherin to the core. But with Harry, behind closed doors, he was a different person altogether.

Draco watched Harry like a hawk, anticipating every need, memorizing every tiny want or fondness, and filing them away for future kindness. He was sweet, patient, thoughtful, and labored constantly to make Harry's life easier in dozens of tiny little ways.

When Harry was upset, Draco soothed him. If he lacked something he required, Draco produced it before Harry could think to ask for it. Draco's private fidelity and complete devotion to Harry's every need was slowly becoming legendary.

Then there was the sex! Harry had been a blushing virgin when this had started. Draco had taken him firmly in hand and solved that niggling problem within days of their encounter. The days and nights since then had been an uninterrupted blur of satiation. Harry's classmates became supremely jealous, even the straight ones, when they realized just how much sex Harry was getting on a regular basis.

Harry's only lingering concern was hard to put into words. Draco was a dream come true, but how could he ever match up to the way Draco treated him? He tried to do small things for Draco, but it never seemed like more than a fraction of what was done for Harry. Harry never asked for all those things, but Draco brushed off any nervous questions with smiles that melted Harry's resolve and kisses that emptied his mind.

At the heart of it, Harry felt like he was taking advantage of his boyfriend, and that just didn't sit right with him. A relationship ought to be one of equals, and no matter how much Draco may have been normal in public, around Harry he conducted himself almost like a servant or a worshipper. Draco seemed happy, but Harry still thought there was something vaguely unhealthy in his boyfriend's behavior.

He didn't want to hurt Draco, intentionally or otherwise, but they needed to talk about this. The year was almost done with, and their lives would change very quickly after Hogwarts. This needed to be dealt with now.

Harry waited until Draco got finished in the potions lab, meeting him in the hallway as soon as he was done. With no one in the hall around them, Draco instantly slid into Harry's arms and smothered him with kisses. Harry was used to the way this sapped his mind of any other thoughts, but he kept his plans in the forefront of his mind all the way to their suite.

Dinner passed with happy conversation, and gave way to the sating of an entirely different hunger, but Harry did not forget his too long unspoken concerns (except for perhaps a few minutes while his mind was utterly afire with the ecstasy of orgasm).

In the cool dark of their bedroom, they chatted quietly in the aftermath of love-making. Harry saw his chance, and took it.


"Mmm?" Draco was curled contentedly in the crook of Harry's arm, idly stroking his fingers down Harry's chest.

"I love you…and before you answer that, just hear me out."

Draco's hand stopped moving, and Harry could feel the faint tension in Draco's body.

"You do so much for me. More than I think I could ever do for you. You say you want to, and that it's okay, and you tell me to stop worrying about you and let you take care of things, but it's just not right.

I just don't understand why you go so far. I don't need you to do all those things for me. Really. You don't owe me anything, and I'd be with you no matter what. You don't have anything to prove to me, love. I don't want to insult you, because I appreciate it all…I really do, but just this once answer me straight. Why? Why do you think you have to do these things?"

There was a long and pregnant pause. Draco sighed heavily, turned and laid his chin on Harry's chest, and looked into Harry's eyes.

"It's…it's hard to explain, Harry. I wish you hadn't asked, but I'll try to tell you how I feel. I don't have to prove anything to you. I have to prove something to me. That's what really matters, isn't it? You say I don't owe you anything, but you're wrong. I owe you everything. Every minute I draw breath, everything I do with my day, every word I speak…I owe them to you. I wouldn't be here if it hadn't been for you. If I put aside a little of each day to say thank you the way I feel comfortable saying it, I hope you'll let me.

When I had nothing to give you, and nothing you wanted, you still gave me a gift that no one else would have. You gave me back my dignity, Harry. I let them all take it away, and you gave it back to me. Every time I leave this room, I stand as tall as I can and I remind every one of them that they can't touch me, they can't hurt me, and they can't ever take my dignity or my pride away from me again.

But in here it's different…with you. This is the only place I don't need those things. Out there, I wear the gift you gave me for the world to see, but here, with you, I know that I can let those things go, because you would never abuse them and I know you'd guard them as carefully as if they were your own. Here is where I remember why I still have them.

I love you, Harry. Maybe someday the way I show it will change, but don't ask me to change now. I won't, I'm not even sure I could. Everything I do is the way I express how I feel. I don't like to use words, because words are hollow next to deeds. So let me say what I feel the way I need to say it. Can you do that, Harry?"

Harry couldn't speak. His face was burning. There were many layers to Draco, and one of them had peeled away just for him. The window into his lover's thoughts left Harry in silent awe. Blinking back tears, all he could do was nod his assent and manage a smile.

Draco said no more, and kissed his lover goodnight. Draco's soft and even breaths danced across Harry's chest, signaling that sleep had come. An hour later, Harry was still awake, tears of joy still slowly trickling down his cheeks.