Silence swept over the Great Hall.
All conversations had come to a stop when just a few moments ago, a loud screech had been heard from somewhere over at the head table. All eyes were now fixed on one professor at the end of the table, his trademark mop of dark hair even more disheveled as he stood bent at the waist, his arms and legs spread widely apart. There was a patch of dark grey on his light grey robes and his fingers were dripping on his sides.
The ghost beside him was laughing. "Potter, really. That look's actually good on you. At least you have a reason for always looking so stupid," it said in between gasps of breath, laughing as hard as it was.
Harry Potter sneered and transfigured a small towel from a table napkin. "Shove off, Malfoy," he said, wiping the mess that was once his dessert. The ghost only laughed harder.
An annoyed click of tongue was heard beside Harry just as the headmistress, Minerva McGonagall, tried to settle the noise that immediately ensued after the short silence. It wasn't like it wasn't common knowledge that most days of the week, former Transfigurations and presently Defense Against the Dark Arts Professor Harry Potter constantly met "accidents" during the day. Just the other day, he was seen trying to get down from the roof of the Astronomy Tower. Nobody was exactly sure how he got there in the first place.
Hermione Granger stood up from her place beside her co-professor and pointed her wand at the wet robes. "Arefacio." She repeated the spell on the table, drying it up as well as it did the robes.
"You know, Granger, it might be nice if you wouldn't ruin my fun every once in a while," said the ghost of the late Draco Malfoy as it casually, yet elegantly, sat on the solid head table as if a ghost could actually do so. Even in his current form, Malfoy's posture screamed arrogant aristocrat.
"Oh Malfoy, will you just grow up?" said a just as annoyed Ronald Weasley, who was promptly beside his friend. Beside him, the man who was once called the Boy Who Lived stiffened and tightened his lips.
Nobody noticed, and Draco Malfoy shifted his attention from Granger to Weasley and fixed him a cold stare. "We can all only hope, Weasley," he said. He turned his back from everyone and disappeared through one of the stone walls of the Great Hall.
"Can I ask you something, sir?"
Harry looked up from the papers he was checking and regarded the second year, Tristan Kendall, in front of him. He remembered him as one of the brightest ones in Ravenclaw, a rather opinionated boy who liked to voice out his thoughts for all to hear. This usually put him at odds with most Slytherins and had consequently lost his house a fair amount of points. "Yes?"
The boy fidgeted in his place, the sudden dip on his right shoulder telling Harry that he just crossed one foot behind the other. Harry continued what he was writing. "Well, I asked my brother about the ghost that follows you around. My brother's a fifth year and he said that it was already following you even when he was in his first year in Hogwarts."
The student blinked. "What?"
Harry stopped writing once again. "He's not an 'it'. He has a name and it's Draco Malfoy. Have you not heard of him?"
The boy shrugged. "I've heard of him. He was a man who worked for Voldemort—" children can easily say his name these days, thought Harry. He remembered a time when only a handful of adult wizards had the courage to say the name in their heads, "—but he changed sides around the end of the war."
"That's basically what happened, yes," Harry put down the quill he was holding and folded his hands together to look at the boy, "but there is much more to the story than that. He…" He paused, not knowing if he really wanted to recount the events in his mind. "He helped me, most of all."
The second year looked surprised. Then again, the real story was known to only a few, so Harry didn't really expect him to know. There were a lot of things that he omitted in his war account and he noted to himself then that the more important parts were never written in the books. "He did? Does that mean you were friends during the war?"
Harry opened his mouth to respond, but realized that he really didn't know what to say to that. 'Friends' wasn't exactly the words he'd use. "We were… well, I knew him from school."
"Yeah, and I heard you were the best of friends." The sarcasm was evident in the boy's voice and Harry was briefly appalled that such a tone would be used on him by a student. "I mean, sir, you're defending him a lot when people say things against him – my brother said so, anyway – when as far as I can tell, he's been haunting you ever since you started teaching."
Haunting. So appropriate, in all senses of the term. Harry sighed. "Kendall. What exactly is the point of you asking these things?" He was just a bit tired of the topic in so many ways and he could already feel the energy draining from him. It wasn't exactly one of his most favorite things to talk about.
"Sir, have you tried exorcism?"
Harry tensed immediately despite his tiredness. "What?" He wasn't sure if he successfully hid his indignation when he said that, judging by the slight jump by the student.
Still, like the stubborn intellectual that he probably was, Kendall pushed on. "It's just that… I mean, he's a ghost, right? And sometimes ghosts follow people; sometimes they even possess them. Those situations call for exorcism. At least, that's what most people do."
"You may want to consider that not everyone is 'most people'."
"But sir," Kendall's tone was what one used when speaking to a stubborn person with a wrong opinion. Harry fought to hide a frown. "He's bothering you a lot, isn't he? I mean, just the other day Professor Granger had to teach your class instead because Mr. Malfoy slipped a laxative on your pumpkin juice."
Harry blushed. "Who told you that? Besides, it wasn't exactly a laxative. More like a prank potion from Weasley Wizard Wheezes."
Kendall's look was patronizing. "The point, sir, is that he's clearly troubling you a lot."
Harry frowned this time. "Still, exorcism is quite painful, isn't it?"
"Yes, it really is," came a drawl somewhere behind Harry and he promptly saw the blood drain from Kendall's face. He didn't need that, however, nor the sudden chill on his left arm, to know who the third person was. The drawl was certainly terribly familiar.
"Malfoy, hey," he greeted a bit weakly, throwing the ghost a small wave. Malfoy nodded at him once, and with that translucent chin raised up in his usual arrogant way, he observed the young boy in front of him. The Ravenclaw cowered under the sharp stare.
"Funny you should open this interesting topic, Kendall," Malfoy started, obviously amused when the boy jumped slightly when his name was said. "I was talking to the Bloody Baron the other day and apparently, he's been exorcised before. It didn't work, though, since the one who administered it was a bit afraid of him when he saw him." He then looked at Harry, grey eyes – now like everything else, and Harry thought that it was a shame that it would be less appreciated now that the color didn't stand out so much as before – sharp and piercing. "He wasn't sure if it hurt because he was being exorcized or because he was exorcized wrongly, but he said it was far worse than anyone alive can possibly imagine."
He looked at Kendall again. "You ever heard of Cruciatus?"
Harry tensed. "Malfoy, I don't think—"
"I have, sir," replied Kendall, now paler than he had been a few moments ago.
Malfoy nodded, ignoring Harry. "Very good. You know how the books describe what it's like, right?" Malfoy tapped his ghostly chin with a finger, looking up as if he's reciting from a book, "The Cruciatus curse is one of the Unforgivable Spells, one of the three which also include the Avada Kedavra and the Imperius. It is also called the Pain Curse, described by its victims as thousands of invisible needles that pierce every pore, through skin, muscle and bone. It has been known that prolonged exposure to the curse may cause madness."
Harry was shaking. He knew all that; he experienced it first-hand. He was just about to stop Malfoy from continuing when the ghost spoke once again, cutting off whatever he was supposed to say, but Malfoy had a serious expression on his face and his next words promptly horrified Harry enough to stun him to silence.
"Exorcism feels pretty much the same, except in addition to the needles, it would feel like you're being ripped apart. Every finger, every inch of intangible skin is ready to implode as incantations repeatedly scream all over your head and all you'll ever want is for it to end that you can already picture your mind melting and coming out your skin. The Blood Baron even said that his ghostly blood had splattered all over the walls when they were doing the ritual, and if he hadn't been screaming so hard he would've been surprised with the realization that ghosts can still bleed."
Silence followed Malfoy's words, followed by the sound of Kendall's shoes as he ran out of the classroom screaming.
Malfoy glanced at Harry for a moment and disappeared. Harry found that he still couldn't move.
"You need a girlfriend."
Of all things Harry imagined Malfoy to say to him after that horrific "talk" they had in his classroom, that wasn't even part of the list. The quill Harry was holding fell on the soft grass he was sitting on.
"What?" Malfoy always had this uncanny ability to always make Harry lose his mental footing. After all that Harry had been through, there was very little that could possibly surprise him. In fact, that statement, if said by one of his friends or students, wouldn't have stunned him at all. It was different somehow coming from Malfoy. "Where the fuck did that come from?"
Malfoy clicked his tongue, and Harry wondered how angry he would be if he told him he sounded a lot like Hermione when he did that. He decided to pass on the comment. "Language, Potter. And what do you mean, What?" the ghost asked haughtily, raising an eyebrow at the professor. "You heard what I said. You need a girlfriend."
Harry frowned. "I do not!" He really shouldn't be bothered this much. "And where do you go off saying that anyway? Besides, it's not much fun having a girlfriend when you're being followed by a ghost."
"I promise to get out of the room when you're…well, you know," Malfoy said this with a sneer, as if the very thought disgusted him. "As if I want to watch anyway."
"Well, I wouldn't be surprised," snapped Harry, who really didn't like this topic. "Why girlfriend anyway? You know I'm not particularly fond of that field." Harry wasn't exactly sure how well-known his sexuality was since he never really hid it, but Malfoy knew. It would be impossible for him not to know, the right git that he was.
"Don't give me that I'm gay shit, Potter, I don't buy it," he said, hovering down to directly in front of Harry. Harry could see the lake through Malfoy's body and he flinched; he would never get used to that. "You, Potter, are bisexual. You had two girlfriends before."
Harry rolled his eyes. "Yes, and what wonderful relationships they've been."
"How many times have I told you that sarcasm sounds awful on you? Anyway, I'd rather you have a girlfriend." Malfoy shrugged, as if what he said made perfect sense. He looked at Harry and smiled innocently, pulling it off with ease, to Harry's chagrin. "Besides, we both know how terribly jealous I get, so no boys, all right?"
Malfoy laughed at Harry's blush. Harry ducked down to avoid the other's eyes, telling himself over and over that he really should learn how to ignore him better.
Malfoy was still laughing for quite a while. "Come on, Potter," he chided, still laughing. "I was just teasing."
Harry looked at him pointedly.
"Yeah, okay. Maybe not completely, but you get the idea."
Harry sighed, shifting to lift one leg up, clasping his fingers together on his knee as he leaned back on the tree behind him. They were quiet for a while, the wind from the lake stirring hair, leaves and paper.
"Those things you said," Harry's voice was hesitant, "with the…exorcism and stuff."
"What about it?" Malfoy asked, looking out at the lake beside Harry.
Harry swallowed audibly, his throat suddenly dry at the memory of the images Malfoy's words conjured in his head. "Did you really talk to the Bloody Baron? Were they true?"
Malfoy looked at him then, expression serious. "Yes," he said after a few moments. "I was curious. I suppose all ghosts that haunt a person or a place would eventually ask what it's like. You know, just in case." He shrugged, as if it was nothing, but there was a tightness in the line of his mouth.
Harry opened his mouth to speak, but closed it eventually. Did he really think Harry would… as if Harry could do something so cruel? Even before all the things he said, it never crossed Harry's mind at all. Something caught in Harry's throat and he thought of the images again, and he could almost hear him screaming, see him writhing in the air as if he was being pulled apart. Harry wasn't surprised when his eyes began to sting. "Draco, I would never…"
Malfoy was looking at him. He was so close that the hairs on Harry's arms began to rise from the cold, but something in those grey eyes made Harry not want to move. "I know, Potter," he said, voice soft. "Just shut up about that."
He knew the boggart was a bad idea.
Every year, during the time when he was still teaching Transfigurations, the headmistress would ask him if he wanted to teach Defense Against the Dark Arts. Harry would always refuse, saying that Hermione was already doing a fair job at teaching the subject. He wasn't sure when the subject stopped being his favorite, but he supposed that there were far too much things about the Dark Arts that he didn't want to face again. It had gone on for about seven years now, starting from the first year he taught at 22, just a year after the war. Somehow, people still expected him to cave one of those years, and he did, just to get them off his back.
So far, he had been doing pretty well. He had always been good at Defense and during the later years of the war he was taught how to cast the dark spells he was supposed to defend himself from. If there was one wizard who had the most expertise in defending against the Dark Arts, it would be Harry Potter himself. He was also doing the job very well so far that he was already a popular favorite professor among his students.
However, facing this particular creature after almost a decade wasn't something Harry wanted his students to witness. He remembered what Remus Lupin said about boggarts long ago: The students are taught how to defend against it at the youngest possible age. As we mature, Harry, our fears become greater, far darker than any child's mind could ever fathom. And that was exactly what Harry was afraid of.
He now remembered himself in third year, feeling as he did then, and he wondered if it would once again surprise him. He wished it would this time, for if it took the shape of what he feared it would look like... he tried to get Hermione to substitute for him for this particular lesson, but Professor Mcgonagall said it would be fine. Hermione herself said that it would be about time (Harry, you are approaching 30 years old. You can't keep letting these things bother you!) Though he meekly nodded to her then, he knew in himself that he firmly disagreed.
He opened the chest but refrained from facing the creature inside. He quickly stepped aside when the wisp of smoke searched for its first victim. He watched as one by one, the students cast the spell he taught them to cast, smiling and nodding and wondering if there would be one who would need his help. Fortunately, none of the students' fears posed much of a danger and he was saved some more time to wonder how he could get rid of it without having to face what he feared was his current nightmare.
However, it took but a few minutes and the line was growing shorter and the room was filled with so much laughter that he knew it wouldn't be long until he had to take over. The students' spirits were high. He could see the boggart getting more and more confused, searching frantically for somebody it could actually scare.
Finally, everyone had his or her turn. He smiled indulgently at his students, although a bit half-heartedly, before taking a deep breath and stepping up. He knew he had to wait, to at least let the creature take its form before he could change it and get rid of it. If his guess was right, he told himself that he really should think of grass and sunshine, of smiles and teases and insults that never really had any bite. That always made him laugh back then.
A quick wisp of what looked like tendrils of smoke whirled around the area where the snake with elf-ears - Merlin, a fucking snake - once was. It grew and grew until it was about his height and he just knew that his guess was right. That was when he felt his whole body tense and god, he couldn't do this. Smoke turned to shocks of silver and gold at the crown, death-pale skin and dried blood with hands curled and clawing—
And bloodshot grey eyes that glare with the fury of the world.
That voice rang through the whole room, bouncing off the four walls. The room had gone deathly quiet that the echoes of those words rang in his ears like it would never go away and he couldn't take it, couldn't take how that voice pierced through the silence, shot through his ears and straight to the open wounds in his heart.
"I gave up everything for you!"
This was it, what he was afraid of. He knew that it was nothing, that it was just an illusion and that is not how he thinks of me, he's here, we're fine—god, except he's dead and fuck, I'm alive when I'm not even supposed to be, I should've gone with him because that was how it was planned, I wasn't supposed to live, he shouldn't have died alone and he covered his ears as if it would help.
"I should've known you would give empty promises. Words are nothing to you. Words are for casting your spells; words are there for you to kill!"
Maybe he should be worried about the stinging in his eyes, but he just couldn't bring himself to care. Somehow, the students just faded in the background and he couldn't see them. He could see nothing and hear nothing but this, the image of the one thing he wished he still had and yet there he was, desperately shying away. Just stop it, stop it, I'm sorry, I had to keep going, but you know that if they had let me choose I would've chosen you over the world, please please please, just stop it.
But the screaming and the accusations continued to assault him and he just couldn't move. The pain in his chest that used to break him every single day from years and years ago was back and he was clutching his wand as though he didn't know what to do with it. Flashes of blue-grey eyes, of gentle kisses and trust, of blood and pain and war filled his mind to the brink and they didn't make sense at all, never did, but somehow he could see, he did understand and if only he could bring it back, he knew nothing will change but he'd continue to wish, continue to plead, just to bring it all back and please just let time stop just right here.
Perhaps if not for that distant whisper, he would've lost himself again that day. "Harry," flashes slowing down, and that voice that was so familiar, so near and yet so distant all the same, pulled him back and held him close, held him steady. "Stop being stupid, Harry. You know that that isn't what I'm really like."
Yes. Because he was not like this and he would never say things like this, never to truly hurt him. He was the same as he had been before and the past still remained true. This wasn't him at all because he was hope and relief and sunshine.
He opened his eyes to a picture he never thought he would ever see again. The blood had disappeared, and everything was perfect as eyes of blue-grey glinted and laughed and looked at him without contempt
He had always believed as a child that a thought had to be funny to get rid of a boggart. He supposed this kind of thing worked just as well, if not for the slight bitterness it left behind. The room was still silent except for his slightly ragged breathing. He turned around, locking eyes with the translucent image of what looked like his boggart, except he knew the boggart was safely back inside the chest. Those eyes, usually filled with spite and sarcasm and dislike, now looked distant and empty and he just knew that he had to get out of there.
Without breaking the eye-contact, he addressed the students behind him, his voice low and flat. "You've all done well. You're dismissed."
The students watched their professor and the ghost that haunted him leave without looking back. They turned to each other and whispered, made things up, and whether or not they grinned or they frowned was beyond the professor's concern.
The next day, Defense Against the Dark Arts was given back to Hermione Granger and Transfiguration will be taught once again by Harry Potter.
"You can't keep letting this stop you, Harry. You have to learn to let go."
"Just leave it, Ron. I told you I don't want to talk about it."
"You can be stubborn about many things, but I can be, too. You can't keep living like this, you know? It's destroying you."
His headache was not abating at all and he still had three classes to teach. Harry ran a hand through his hair and shut his eyes, feeling grateful that the day's lesson would be spent with the students doing practical exercises. He just had to seat on his chair and look approachable, just in case there were questions and clarifications about the spell.
There was a sudden hush that swept the entire class. Harry opened his eyes to see what was wrong, only to see Malfoy sitting on one corner of his desk, facing the class.
Harry saw a pale eyebrow rise as the ghost looked at the students. "Strange lot, aren't you? Carry on," he said imperiously.
Most of the students – Hufflepuffs, Harry noted – ducked their heads and mumbled to themselves; some raised their wands to practice the spell once again. The Slytherin side, however, had fewer of the obedient sort. One girl in particular even raised her chin and looked at Malfoy.
"We heard that the professor was the one who killed you." Everyone was silent yet again. The way she said it wasn't especially loud, but Harry heard it as if she had screamed. He looked at Malfoy for a second, catching his scowl, before looking away.
"Bravo. Ten points to Slytherin for your guts, Ms. Slay. You'll do well in Gryffindor," said the ghost, and Harry didn't have to look to know that the girl was glaring at Malfoy. "However, I'm afraid I'll have to take 50 points from Slytherin for your lack of tact. Another 10, I think, because you annoy me."
"Ghosts can't take away points. You're not even a house ghost!"
"I would give you points for knowing the rules, but I really don't like you." Malfoy may have the appearance of someone who died at 21, but he still had the reasoning of a child. Harry found himself amused despite the situation. "Besides, Potter will take the points."
Harry looked at him this time. Malfoy gave him a pointed look. Harry then looked at his student and found that she was looking at him incredulously. "He does have a point," he said, keeping his lips from twitching when the Slytherin girl's eyes widened even more. "Detention on Friday as well, Ms. Slay. I don't appreciate being insulted in my own class." Harry was relieved when the girl wisely kept her mouth shut. He looked at the other students pointedly and they jumped, turning to their partners and practicing once again.
Malfoy scoffed – at least, that was what it sounded like to Harry – and slid off the desk to glide to the other side, facing Harry this time. He leaned in and said in a low voice, "Your students have the biggest mouths I have ever had the misfortune to come across from my last lifetime up to now. Just so you know."
Harry glanced at the class from the corner of his eyes and when he was sure no one was looking, he looked up and grinned at Malfoy. "Never as big as yours, though," he said in an equally low voice, but his amusement was evident.
Malfoy rolled his eyes and smirked. "Of course, you would know," he said, eyes flashing.
Harry just smiled but didn't respond. He felt better already.
He never really got used to sleeping alone.
He was drifting somewhere between sleep and wakefulness, the effects of his dream still lingering in his head, his body still in that state of tension that was caused by waking before it could finish. The frequency of his dreams had waned over the years. Years ago he dreamt almost everyday, and it was only in the past three years that they would come to him only a few times a month. Harry wasn't sure if he welcomed those dreams; he was sure that they were better than his nightmares, but a part of him kept pulling at the feeling that the emptiness he was left with once he was awake was worse than the feelings left after his dreams of the war.
He rolled on his side, kicking at the blanket twisted in his legs, taking out the top two buttons on his collared pajama top before pulling it off completely and tossing it on the floor. He pulled his legs up, bending them slightly at the knees as he tried to catch his breath, watching the fingers on his hands curling and uncurling, loose fists whose fingernails scratching at his palms.
He stilled immediately at the sudden chill on his back.
Harry squeezed his eyes shut as he felt the cold run up to the back of his neck, contrasting greatly with the heat he was trying to save his body from. Ironically, the cold didn't abate his state at all. He rolled again on his back and when he opened his eyes to piercing grey he couldn't stop the moan that came deep in his throat. He arched off the bed, and his hands slid down to pull off his trousers and everything else, leaving him bare and desperate for anything that could be touched.
He kept his eyes open as he wrapped his hand around himself, biting his lip at that expected rush in his senses. He watched as the other sat back on his heals, still straddling him, a figure of grey mist watching him in the darkness of his room. His hand moved slowly, long, drawn-out strokes that drove him close to madness. He always wondered why the coldness never seemed to bother him, only increasing his arousal ten-fold, and he thought that he would've cried then, realizing how pathetic it was to yearn for something so desperately that his body could make do with whatever that was given.
His strokes were beginning to increase in pace, his breath trying to keep up. He paused to squeeze himself once and he gasped. The last thing he saw was that the one on top of him was shifting, leaning down to rest a hand on each side of Harry's head, leaning so close that when Harry shut his eyes and came, it almost felt like they could kiss.
"Do you remember," was the whisper against his lips as he tried to catch his breath. It was disconcerting still, to feel that chill, to know that the sound came from a place so close, yet there was no breath to feel against his skin when they were said. "Do you remember that time when we saw each other again? When you came to teach and found me roaming around the school?"
The breath caught in his throat and he choked as his body demanded for more air. How could it be possible that the other left his body and mind in shambles and yet have him feel that nothing is right in the world if he was not around?
"You should've seen yourself. All shocked and guilt-stricken and you couldn't even look me in the eyes. At first I thought it was because you kept seeing through them and it weirded you out-" Harry choked back a laugh that also strangely sounded like a sob, "but we both know that it wasn't the case, right?"
Harry nodded, eyes still tightly shut. Draco…
"You know I'm not doing this for revenge, right?"
Green eyes snapped open as he was ready to deny the idea, but as they locked into grey eyes that somehow shone in the moonlight, he remembered how things were like during the war, how, despite the way things had been, they would find times just like this.
A pale, shaking hand moved, desperate yet hesitant. Just please let me touch him, just once, he begged with all his heart.
But his hand went through air, and he couldn't bear it. Green eyes shut tight once again as the Boy Who Lived cried.
You're what! Living where?
Harry, be reasonable. You can't throw your life away like this. You're young, you're a good professor. You have a future for you here at Hogwarts, so please reconsider. Do you realize that you're leaving everything behind?
Mate, if this is about, you know… nobody really minds as long as you stay.
And Harry, you can still meet people. He doesn't have to be the only one.
"They're right, you know."
The wind was cold against his face and he could feel the coming winter on the skin of his hands. He left his gloves inside the cottage – it wasn't like he wasn't used to the cold. He was beginning to like it, actually.
"Potter, are you listening to me? Go back."
He looked at the view from his porch. A mountain in the distance, trees and greenery all around like an unkempt garden, a dark grey sky above – this was his world. It would be his home.
"It's not so bad," he said, a wistful smile on his face. "The cottage just needs to be repainted and the yard needs a bit of clean up, that's all." And it did. He'll need to replace the floorboards as well, as he noted bits where the wood seemed to be coming off. The yard would be easy; what he lacked in knowledge of Herbology, Draco can make up for it. Harry's pretty good at taking instructions if he set his mind to it.
His companion didn't seem convinced, however. In fact, he was on the receiving end of a full-blown Malfoy glare, which was pretty intimidating in all fairness. "That's not what I meant and you know it," was the cold response.
Despite the pain in his chest at being treated so harshly, Harry smiled. After all, "You're here, though." That's why it's all perfect now, was what he didn't say out loud.
If ghosts could sigh, that would probably what Draco would do. "Normally, when people die, those left alive would mourn them and move on. They don't drop everything so they can live in the dead's grave."
"People move on when they still have lives they wish to live. I sacrificed my life to win the war." Here, he looked at the ghost pointedly, as if that look conveyed all that he wished the other would understand. "Now that I have it back, I'm going to live it right." I'm going to spend it with you.
"And distancing yourself from the world is 'living it right'?"
It would be a peaceful life, just you and me. That's what makes it right. "I guess you could say that."
It's been almost a year. The grass was cold on his back. The sky was clear, stars scattered around like a canopy of gems, the waning moon casting light on what would have been a dark, remote place.
"Can Granger and Weasley get any more paranoid? Honestly, you catch a cold and they'd think you're terminally ill." A rush of wind signals the other's presence, and Harry smiled in what felt like relief. He wasn't sure what Draco was doing inside their cottage, but Harry was just glad he finally decided to join him. It felt strange, things being too quiet without him.
Harry was silent for a while, thinking over the words and wondering what it would sound like if he said it. He made up his mind, however, as he watched the other lift a ghostly hand to push a stray lock of grey-blond hair. It was amusing, watching how even ghosts move as if they were still in their bodies.
He turned serious then, and pulled himself to sit across the other. He lifted a hand and moved it to where Draco's hand would have been, had they been able to touch. "I've been thinking," he said when he got the other's attention. "You will stay with me, right?"
The other frowned in confusion. "What do you mean?"
"I mean… well, I've been reading. About ghosts, mostly. I was worried that you would… you know, that I'll just wake up and you'd be… I mean, will you stay?"
His difficulty in speech seemed to amuse the other in a way, judging by the light sparkle in his eyes. Harry supposed that was a good thing, although he was still a bit nervous. "You look like you're going to be sick saying that," said Draco with a bit of his cruel laugh that Harry knew so well.
The dark-haired man blushed, but pushed on. "Just answer the question, Malfoy."
"Yes, I guess." Draco shrugged.
"What exactly have you read? What are you worried about?"
"Well…" He was afraid, but he didn't know how to tell the other without having him laugh at how silly it was. It's just the kind of thing Draco would do. "I guess there are a lot of theories about ghosts. There are cases when they haunt a person for years, even 'til death. I just…want to make sure."
The blond stared at the other man, and unreadable expression on his face. A bit like pity, but not. Almost sympathetic, but not that either. It was soon washed out, however, as Draco regarded his host in a different angle, a more positive one it looks like to Harry, judging by the slight smirk on his lips. "I promise that you wouldn't have a quiet day in your remaining years, Potter."
And while it seemed to be a threat, Harry's face brightened like sunrise. "Okay," he whispered, voice strangled like he was filled to the brim, the feeling overwhelming and too much that it seemed to come out of his eyes. He blinked it back, nodding. "Right. And there's something else I'd like to say." He took a deep breath. "You know how the story never really was told properly? You always said the book was appalling."
"It is appalling. You have butchered history so much it should be a crime."
He smiled. "I know. So, if it's okay with you, I'd write it again. I mean, I'd… like it if you helped. I could say we both did it."
"Written by the Boy Who Lived and the One That Died? It would scare the children." Draco returned the smile with a grin. "I love it already."
Finally, Harry laughed. It had become a common occurrence these past months. He laughed more in this cottage than he ever had in his years teaching in Hogwarts. Somehow it felt like he had nothing to hide, and it felt like here, he was forgiven.
It might not be perfect, and somehow there would still be people who would find it all sad, or pitiful, romantic, or pathetic. Some would say that living with a ghost would be an inability to let go of the past, and maybe they would be right. But during the war, when Draco cast the spell that would sustain Harry's life enough to defeat the Dark Lord at the expense of his own, Harry realized what he wanted for himself had it all never happened.
He dreamed of a cottage, of peace, of sunrise.