Title: The Secret's In The Telling
Summary: Draco Malfoy, pureblood and Slytherin prince, suffers the unthinkable when he is attacked and bitten by Remus Lupin. How is he supposed to live any kind of life afterwards, especially when Potter continues to stick his unwanted nose into things? HPDM, SSRL (more like preslash in the case of the latter I'm beginning to realise.)
Disclaimer: I own nothing and no one
Chapter 42: The Secret's In The Telling
Remus had never really minded the hospital wing at Hogwarts back when he was a student. He'd found the pastel blues and quiet atmosphere very calming, and still did, for that matter. He sighed softly from his perch at the end of one of the beds and sipped at his tea, waiting only for Poppy to give him the final all-clear so he could go and return to his own little cottage.
The full moon had ended last night. He'd been confined to the side-ward that Draco had occupied during his first transformation. Poppy and Albus had explained they were just being careful, monitoring to see that nothing unusual was the result of his week-long captivity. They suspected that Death Eaters had left some curse on him, perhaps, that would only manifest later.
But he was fine, as far as the mediwitch had been able to determine.
Sighing again, he set down his cup and saucer and stood with a slight wince, a shock of pain going through him as he rested his weight on his left leg. Poppy had fixed the injury, but warned him that it might twinge for a few days to come. He kept forgetting.
Restless, he moved to the window to look out over the grounds. He wanted fresh air, and the cold, white quiet of winter he saw below him. Too much of his life, in the recent past, had been noise and darkness and enclosed isolation...
The sound of the door opening startled him from his thoughts. He glanced over his shoulder, expecting to see Poppy, and instead laying eyes on a certain bedraggled, bespectacled teen.
He hadn't seen the boy since that night, and couldn't stop the surprise in his voice. He'd expected Harry to avoid him for a little longer than this.
His visitor shuffled further into the room, looking intensely uncomfortable. Taking pity, Remus turned back to the view of the window, though his ears pricked for any and all small sounds the boy made, listening as he sighed and finally drew closer, closing the door behind him.
"I'm glad you're okay," came the blunt statement, toneless.
The werewolf smiled to himself briefly. "Thank you, Harry," he responded lightly. "I must say, I am too." Idly, he watched two Hufflepuff students throwing snowballs at each other down below.
The boy let out a slow breath, still tense. "You're not going again." It wasn't a question.
"No." Remus clasped his hands behind his back. "No, it would seem our plan has come to a rather disastrous end."
He turned to glance at the teen, raising an eyebrow. "Harry. Don't be like that."
He was met with an uncooperative shrug. "What do you want me to say? Didn't want you to do it, and I was right not to. Look at what happened. I'm glad you got found out." He looked defiant for a moment, before seeming to realise how he'd phrased that. "I mean... Not how you got found –"
"I know what you mean." Sighing, Remus turned back to the window, and they were quiet for a few moments longer.
"Not that I don't... appreciate the sentiment," he said at length, after a while, "but I should tell you I'm very disappointed that you'd do something as dangerous as the other night..."
Harry snorted, and seemed unable to help himself muttering, "Says you..."
The werewolf turned in a sudden surge of anger. "I have always known the risks of what I was doing! And the loss certainly wouldn't be as terrible if I was harmed, compared to –"
"Remus! That's not –"
"And I did not drag others into danger with me!"
They were silent, both slightly shocked by the accusation. Remus blinked, wondering what had happened to his resolve of patience.
"I..." Harry shook his head. "I didn't want any of them to come with me. I tried to stop them. I would have found a way on my own, if I could..."
"That's hardly the point..."
"No, you're right. I shouldn't have let them come. Shouldn't have let Draco convince me..."
Remus sighed, recognising the outlet of guilt that had probably been bothering the boy since the night of the attack. He softened his voice, regretting his sharp reprimand. "I imagine Draco put up quite a fight against you doing something so foolish," he commented mildly.
"You have no idea..."
"Well surely you must have known that no werewolf in his right mind would stay back while his mate walked blithely into battle..."
Green eyes fixed on him suddenly, pinned wide with shock. "...You know?"
Remus permitted a smile to pass across his face. "I'm aware, yes. It's quite easy to spot, really, when you know the signs..."
"I'm glad you finally realised it yourself," the werewolf added in amusement.
That earned him a rather sullen look. "You could have told me, y'know... I had to read it in black and white before it even occurred to me..."
Remus chuckled, unsurprised. Smiling, he returned to the window, allowing the boy a few seconds to gather himself. Moments went by in silence as Harry shuffled awkwardly, before bursting into stammering, nervous speech.
"Do you think... I mean... Sirius... Do you think he...?"
Remus turned in surprise at the mention of his own mate. He wasn't sure how to feel about the fact that he was no longer overcome with grief, even at the unexpected reminder.
He could guess what Harry was trying to ask, even if the boy couldn't quite put it into words. He gave a half-smile. "You know how Sirius was, Harry. It would have taken him... a while to come to terms with certain things. Mostly the fact that it's a Malfoy we're discussing. But you're forgetting that he was in much the same position as you now are. He would have understood."
Harry nodded. "And... what about you?"
The werewolf could have laughed, but suspected that might have been misinterpreted. Instead, he reached out and clasped the other's shoulder. "Harry, I know better than anyone what you're dealing with, what it means."
"...You don't mind?"
"Why would I?" he asked incredulously. Then, unable to resist the temptation, he added, "Besides. I'm coming to believe that we Gryffindors have a... weakness, of sorts, for Slytherins."
After Harry left him, the werewolf had sat restlessly, his own words playing on his mind. Did he really have a weakness for Severus? He thought he could answer that with a very definite yes, now. He always had, hadn't he? Even all that time ago in school...
But never before had the... the possibility seemed so close.
Yet even as he dared think that, he knew better. The small opening of opportunity was already closing, now that the Legilimency lessons had ended. They would go back to the way they had always been. Severus would forget his existence, and he... he would just have to learn to forget Severus...
That said, the insistent inner voice of determination – or perhaps that was desperation, he corrected himself wryly – would not allow him to simply give up. Not yet. Not until he had made one last stab at idiotic Gryffindor bravery, as the Potions Master himself called it...
Limping slightly from the walk down to the dungeons, Remus came to a stop in front of the bolted and spell-locked door he had hesitated in front of so many times before. This time though, he supposed, it was different. After all, he had no valid reason to be here. No excuse of Legilimency sessions to fall back on.
Severus no longer had any pressing reason to talk to him. He could finally withdraw and close himself off again, as he'd longed to do all this time.
Biting his lip, Remus knocked.
As the seconds crawled by and he waited with increasing anxiety, he reconsidered. Severus probably wasn't even in. He certainly wasn't answering the door. Maybe Remus would just leave it for now. They'd see each other at dinner. Surrounded by other Professors. Probably seats apart–
The door abruptly opened, making the werewolf start in surprise, blinking wordlessly.
The Potions Master peered out from his rooms, one dark eyebrow arched carefully in that way which never failed to make Remus feel he was doing something unforgivably stupid. He flushed and found that all pre-prepared speeches had gone from his head.
"Is there something you wanted, Lupin...?" Severus drawled at last, when he'd allowed the silence to stretch until breaking point.
"Surely you don't expect us to continue this ridiculous charade? Even you can't be suicidal to that degree..."
"No, of course not –"
"In which case, I remind you that you no longer have any obligation to call on me."
The werewolf stared, absently wondering if it was his imagination or had Severus spoken rather in a rush. It was the nearest he'd ever come to showing discomfort, Remus thought to himself, and with that perspective, felt some small shred of confidence return to him.
He held up the bottle of whiskey he'd brought with him, on a whim.
Severus regarded it blankly for a moment, before a slow, wry smirk curled the corner of his mouth, seemingly against his will. "Liquid courage, Lupin?"
"I thought it appropriate," Remus admitted, shrugging. "...And perhaps necessary."
The Potions Master rolled his eyes. "You still don't have an –"
"I'm aware I have no obligation, Severus. That's rather the point." Remus felt greatly daring, saying that. He half expected the other man to take offence, of some kind. It would be like Severus...
Dark eyes regarded him seriously, obviously catching and understanding the implication of the words. Remus could see the weight of the decision being made behind their surface, and held his breath.
He was not a brave man, he'd come to realise. This was proof of the fact, if anything was. Hadn't he faced far worse, just in the past few days alone? Yet he didn't think he'd ever felt so on edge and exposed. It was like waiting for–
Abruptly, Severus stepped back and held open the door for him, wordless and expectant.
If anything, the fear only increased, Remus thought. But he supposed he would have to get used to it.
Pursuing Severus was hardly a task for the faint of heart, after all.
Draco Malfoy stared into the lake, watched as something from below rippled its surface, and tried to think about nothing.
Well. Not quite 'nothing' exactly, but there were a few looming issues he was keen to avoid. Unfortunately, they seemed to be the only things his mind would focus on right now.
He lifted his face to stare at the bleak sky overhead, reflected in the partially frozen expanse of water before him, and inhaled deeply. It had never occurred to him before that winter had a scent, but indeed it did. Everything smelled... crisp. And cold. Dormant.
The general atmosphere of the grounds was similar. In a strange way, he found it comforting, this frigid calm. Better by far than the danger and excitement of that night; the one that had replayed in his head every time he closed his eyes since. How close he'd come to losing his whole pack... To losing his mate.
And there was a phrase he could say freely, now. One good thing to come of the miserable adventure, he supposed. Harry was his mate. It was fact.
What's more, he had finally determined to tell him.
The epiphany that had struck him back in Hogsmeade hadn't been temporary. He understood, now, what he had to do to accept the situation, as the books advised. Before, he'd still been frantically trying to protect himself against Harry in the only way he knew how: secrecy. If his mate didn't know he was his mate, there could be no rejection, and no full, thorough connection, either. Draco could go on pretending that he still had choice in the matter, limited as it was. Even if he admitted it to himself, he didn't have to admit it to Harry, and that made all the difference.
Now he got it. Telling Harry left him open and vulnerable and it would probably end in pain for at least one of them – but it was entirely necessary.
Yes, the wolf in him might have made him vicious, and temperamental, and more powerful than he'd ever have been as a normal wizard – but in this case – in Harry's case – it had made him selfless. Exposed.
But, just like the battle at Hogsmeade, he found himself less concerned about the risk to himself if he did this. He would tell the Gryffindor the truth, simply because he deserved to know, and then he would wait for the outcome, because it wasn't his choice to make – and perhaps that was what had scared him so badly from the start.
His eyes flickered suddenly to the side as sound drifted towards him; someone approaching from behind. He immediately recognised the careless step which disturbed the snow. Harry. Sighing, he folded his arms tighter around himself, pulling closed the soft dove-grey coat he wore and fixing blank eyes on the frigid skyline.
The Gryffindor came to a stop next to him, not saying anything. The wind that came off the lake played havoc with his hair, whipping it into a mess Draco deemed tragic. Resolutely, he refrained from comment.
"So..." came the awkward introduction, after a while. "Still mad at me then?"
The Slytherin tried not to let his expression alter. "What do you think, Potter?"
Harry quirked an eyebrow wryly and dug his hands further into his pockets. He hadn't expected any other response, really, so wasn't fazed by the icy tone.
"I am sorry, you know," he said at length, after a few more moments of tense silence had passed. "I wouldn't do it again."
"Only because you can't anymore!" the Slytherin hissed scornfully, before realising his aloof persona had cracked somewhat. Annoyed, he made himself expressionless again.
Calmly, Harry followed his companion's stare out to the lake, shivering absently in the winter chill. "Yeah. Why is that, do you think...?"
Only because he was looking for it did he notice Draco go abruptly still all over – even more tense than he had previously been – and forced himself not to react. He wanted to see what the blonde would do. If he would panic.
But the Slytherin stayed silent, only the muscle working in his jaw showing he'd even heard the question. Having become sufficiently used to Draco's mannerisms, Harry knew it meant he was thinking furiously, looking either for a way of broaching the subject or avoiding it completely.
For the moment, the Gryffindor let him be, considering the other from the corner of his eye, his thoughts wandering as he noticed that not one silver hair stirred in the breeze. Probably spelled to stay in place, he thought with some amusement, like every other immaculate detail about the boy.
Harry had noticed that Draco was, for the most part, all show. Appearance was everything; a sentiment that he despaired in Harry not sharing. Everything he did was for appearance's sake – even, the Gryffindor suspected, most of the opinions he'd always spouted. The Slytherin tended to say one thing and believe something completely different.
For example, for years he'd talked about hating muggles and muggleborns, and yet it hadn't escaped Harry's notice that he kept up with muggle fashions, read muggle literature, and he was sure he'd even heard him slip into muggle slang once or twice now.
He still insisted he despised Ron and Hermione, but hadn't he shown himself willing to defend them against Remus only a few days ago? Hadn't he gone to them when he wasn't sure how to deal with Harry's moods? Hadn't it been him who found a way to get them to Hogsmeade, even tempting Snape's wrath to do so...?
He claimed to have no loyalty. Harry snorted. Well, that was a damn lie.
Whether he admitted it or not, Draco displayed loyalty to a number of people. Remus, for one, viewing him as a pack leader and a mentor of sorts.
Then there was Snape, who Draco would disobey in a heartbeat, but only if he thought the situation was desperate enough. There was respect there, based on the fact that the two Slytherins understood each other; understood the questionable ethics and general paranoia of another Slytherin; knew that the other cared, even if they'd never, ever admit to such a thing.
Even Dumbledore, to some extent, commanded the werewolf's deference, if not his liking.
And Harry knew, now, exactly how loyal Draco was to him. It still awed him, slightly, to contemplate such... dedication – and from Draco Malfoy, of all people! It was... something that had almost overwhelmed him in the past week or so. It was–
Abrupt movement from the blonde snapped Harry from his thoughts as Draco suddenly turned to him, lifting his chin in a manner designed to be defiant, but which Harry knew really meant he was nervous. He raised an eyebrow expectantly.
Draco blinked as he set eyes on his companion properly for the first time. His attention previously lost to a landscape of white and grey, Harry was an unexpected clash of colour, clad in his Gryffindor colours of garish red and gold and fixing him with a startlingly green stare that mesmerised Draco for a brief moment. He shook his head, attempting to rid himself of such romanticised sentiments.
"First of all," he began, adopting his best authoritative tone, "I will never forgive you if you do something like that again."
"Draco... You know I'm not always going to be able to stay where it's safe..."
The blonde sniffed haughtily. "I meant doing it alone. Next time, I'm coming with you – no exception. And not only because I catch you at the last minute. Any insane, suicidal plans you make from now on include me."
Harry blinked for a moment, trying not to show his amusement at Draco's choice of phrase, then turned to look out across the lake, nodding once. "Okay."
"...What? No argument?"
The Gryffindor shrugged. "None." He knew he was making the other suspicious with his complacency, and would probably have to reassure him that he meant it later, but for the moment he was content to enjoy Draco's dumbfounded glare. "Did you have another point?"
"I – yes. Yes, there's another point..."
And this was the crux of the matter, wasn't it? No backing out after this...
But Draco didn't know where he was supposed to begin. It wasn't exactly something to be blurted out, was it? He'd had plans of explaining the situation clearly and rationally, laying it out in such a way that the Gryffindor wouldn't panic within the first few seconds. But all of his carefully thought out speeches seemed to have abandoned him, and he was suddenly at a loss for words.
Next to him, Harry sighed gently. "Just say it, Draco."
"You're my mate."
The words were out of his mouth so quickly and easily that he didn't have a chance to consider the wisdom of such a blunt statement, and had to resist the urge to clap a hand over his mouth in horror. He froze instead, not daring to sneak so much as a glance at the other boy.
He had spent most of last night preparing himself for the various reactions his announcement could be met with, and so was braced and ready for a tirade, a stammering denial, a disbelieving laugh.
What he had not expected was the very quiet, "I know," that emerged from the Gryffindor.
At first, he felt sure he'd missed something. Or had Harry misunderstood? But no, the green eyes were fixed on him, in all their intensity, and there was no trace of uncertainty or confusion in them.
The blond gaped at him for a second, then squeezed his eyes shut in frustration "How could you possibly know already?" he demanded incredulously, unable to stop himself. He narrowed his eyes. "Did Granger tell you?"
Harry's eyebrows shot up. "Hermione knows? You're kidding... And none of you thought I might want to be told before now?"
The Slytherin huffed. "It was a little bit more delicate a situation than that, you might have realised... So how do you know?"
"You left some book on werewolves on the couch. Got bored and read it. Even I can put two and two together when it's printed in front of me."
Well. That had certainly been less melodramatic than he'd expected. But he supposed it wasn't over yet...
"Look..." he began, searching for the eloquent phrases he'd previously planned, and thoroughly failing to find any of them. "You must think I'm going to ask for the same... commitment that Lupin and... and Black had. I'm not, don't worry. It's just –"
"Don't you want that?" Harry interrupted, looking at him curiously.
Draco faltered. It was difficult enough trying to find the words, without the Gryffindor's inane questions. "Well. Yes. I suppose... But I'm trying to tell you I won't ask you for something you can't give..."
"You've decided I'm incapable of commitment?"
The Slytherin privately marvelled at the absurdity of this conversation. "I'm trying to be considerate. Stop sounding like I'm insulting you! The fact of the matter is... there are better things you could do than tie yourself to a werewolf... or a Malfoy."
"Isn't that my decision?" Harry asked, for all the world sounding perfectly reasonable, which was perhaps the most galling thing of all, Draco thought.
"What are you trying to say?" he snapped, abandoning any intentions of diplomacy. "That you want this? Potter, you're you. Maybe it was okay for a fling, when nobody knew. But people would find out... In the long run, I very much doubt it would work."
"I – How – What do you mean, why? Do you think the Wizarding World would look kindly on it, for one? Do you think it would be easy? Do you think... do you think you wouldn't just get bored? Want something else? ...You can have anything – anyone – Harry. It's only me that's stuck..."
Green eyes passed over him, darting away from his direct stare almost shyly. "And... what if I want to be stuck with you? I could think of worse things..."
Draco threw up his hands in exasperation. "How can you be so calm? Do you even get what I'm telling you Potter? This is where most people freak out!" It wasn't fair! he felt the childish urge to shout. Harry wasn't following the script!
The Gryffindor shrugged. "I'm not exactly most people..."
Draco stopped, struck by sudden realisation. That, he realised, was what made the Boy Who Lived the person he was. It was what made him so likely to triumph against the odds: a teenager, fighting against the power of the Dark Lord, which terrified grown men.
Harry didn't understand the rules. He didn't even acknowledge them. And consequently, he obliviously forced his way past the barriers that caused others to stop in their tracks or turn back.
According to the rules, social icon that the Gryffindor was, symbol of the Light and all that hype, Harry should never be associating so closely with the clearly Dark wizard that Draco was, and certainly not entertaining ideas of the sort he was proposing...
It broke all social rules and expectations. It broke convention. Harry was designed to emerge the conquering hero in his shimmer of golden glow. He was supposed to grow up and marry some respectable, impressive woman and produce half a dozen little Potter brats, with never a hint of scandal touching his good name...
He was not meant to stand there so calmly as if he didn't give a damn that none of that would happen if he continued along this path he'd so blithely allowed Draco to start him on...!
It was so tempting... To just take the other at his word and pretend, at least for a little while, that everything would be fine...
He shook his head, turning away from the Gryffindor and pulling his coat tighter around him. "You haven't thought about it properly. You don't know what it involves..."
Hearing the despondent tone, Harry stepped up behind the other, hesitating to touch him. "I've thought about it..." he admitted. "Honestly, I have."
"...How long have you known?" Draco finally asked after a few moments.
"It was the night Remus left."
"Is that why you were so snappy with me afterwards?"
"...Partly. I wasn't sure why you weren't telling me. I thought maybe you hated the idea." He paused as Draco turned sharply to face him and glare. "And then that night... I didn't want you to come with me at all. I thought... if anything happened to you, it would be my fault, because you wouldn't even have a choice in trying to protect me..."
"And then I think I made it worse, using the compulsion on you. But it was the only thing I could think of to do that would mean you wouldn't have to come with me if you didn't want to." He supposed, in a twisted way, it had even worked. Shaking his head, he sighed and gave a wry smile. "And I'm sure I had a point when I started speaking..."
The Slytherin was silent, regarding the other from the corner of his eye. Once again, they both made the pretence of staring at the distant skyline, although racing thoughts obscured their vision too much to see the beauty.
After a while, Draco felt the brush of fingertips against his own. Barely a touch, but insistent enough. Automatically, he reached out and accepted the hold, relaxing minutely with the linking of fingers.
He supposed, if he took the chance of believing the Gryffindor's word, he ran a greater risk than ever. But then, what was the alternative...?
Bleak, he silently answered himself.
"You realise," the Slytherin said at length, striving for casual, "if you agree to this, I'm going to become possessive, jealous, insecure, ridiculously demanding – oh my God..." he muttered, as if just realising it for the first time. "I'm going to become my own worst nightmare..."
Harry laughed, and decided he could live with that.