Disclaimer: J. K. Rowling and associates own these characters. I am writing this story for fun and not profit.
Warnings: DH spoilers, epilogue-compliant. Several character deaths. Violence, gore, hints of sex, no happy ending.
Pairings:Harry/Draco hinted at, canon het couples.
Summary: Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't out to get you.
Author's Notes:This is a horrid little one-shot that was written apropos of nothing at all. Do not read if you want a happy story.
October 29, 2017
As he stood next to the corpses of his wife and daughter, covered with their blood and breathing hoarsely, Harry's main thought was that Malfoy had been right.
October 21, 2017
Harry had no idea that Malfoy was near him in the Apothecary on Diagon Alley until he heard the sharp crack of glass, and then a potion soaked through the shoulder of his robe and dripped down his arm. He hissed in annoyance and turned around.
"Watch where you're going, will you—Malfoy?" Harry cut himself off, blinking. It was not only that it seemed strange to see Malfoy again for the second time in less than two months, after not setting eyes on him for nineteen years; Malfoy himself had turned sharp and strange.
His features were hollowed, Harry thought uneasily, as if lit by a fire that had eaten him from within. Of course, everyone knew Malfoy had taken it hard when his father had died in prison. He'd collapsed in a fit of weeping over Lucius's grave, which the Daily Prophet had remarked on in tones of offended scandal. There were certain roles that former Death Eaters were expected to play in life, and that of deeply grieving son was not one of them.
But it was more than grief that made Malfoy's eyes flare like magnesium as he stared at Harry, a slight draft from the opening door of the shop stirring his hair around his face. It was fear, too, and the kind of exultant rage Harry had felt himself when he faced an enemy in the midst of battle. Malfoy was fighting, Harry thought, but he didn't intend to go down fighting.
"So sorry, Mr. Potter, I'm so clumsy, let me just clean that up for you," Malfoy said loudly. He bent towards Harry, casting several drying charms on the cloth of Harry's robes and murmuring apologetic nonsense for the benefit of their audience. His mouth a few inches away from Harry's ear, he hissed, "Sorry for that, but it was the only excuse I could think of for getting close to you. And it's absolutely imperative that they don't realize we're talking about anything important. Can you get away from this shop in the next few minutes and meet me in the alley behind it?"
Harry opened his mouth, not sure if an exclamation of outrage or disbelief was about to emerge.
As it turned out, it was a hiss of pain instead. A shard of glass from the vial had stabbed into his shoulder and drawn blood. Harry turned to take it out, but Malfoy had already gestured negligently with his wand while flicking at Harry's shoulder with one hand, and the shard vanished.
"Trust me," Malfoy whispered, with such a pleading, cracked tone to his voice that Harry was reminded of the way he had seen Malfoy look when torturing victims for Voldemort in Harry's visions. "There's no one who can help me but you, since this concerns you most personally. Please."
Harry drew a deep breath. He was the Head of the Auror Department, and he had heard stranger stories from victims, and helped people he disliked much more than he disliked Malfoy. Hearing him speak like this, one couldn't help but feel sorry for the poor bastard.
"Two minutes," he said.
"Thank you," Malfoy said, his breath sweeping along Harry's ear like a kiss, and then turned and darted out of the shop. Harry took a few minutes to compose himself and buy the headache potion he'd needed, and then followed.
"What is this about, then?" Harry tried to make his voice as gruff as possible. He thought it would contribute to his not looking like a prat when the whole thing turned out to be a joke, or one of Malfoy's paranoid delusions.
Malfoy leaned a shoulder on the wall and stared at him with eyes harsh as a plain of dust. Now that he had Harry in the place he'd wanted him to come, he seemed in no hurry to talk. Harry shifted uneasily from foot to foot and tried to convince himself that the shadows were not really growing longer around him, that it was only his imagination.
"Can't you guess?" Malfoy said suddenly, and his voice was a whipcrack, even given how soft it was. "Haven't you noticed the way people look at you? The way even your closest friends stare at you and turn away again? Haven't you had the same dreams I have?"
Harry frowned and ran a hand through his hair. "People are always staring at me, Malfoy. And I can't say that I've noticed any difference in my dreams lately. Maybe you should—"
He was about to suggest as kindly as possible that Malfoy should go to St. Mungo's, but a slashing gesture of the other man's hand shut him up. Malfoy came a few steps nearer, his motions heavy, his breathing harsh but under control. Harry put a hand on the wand at his waist, but Malfoy didn't have his own wand drawn. And he still felt it was his duty as an Auror to help this man, not hurt him, or even Stupefy him until he had some conclusive proof he'd do more than talk.
"It's already begun," Malfoy said. "Maybe you haven't noticed it because you're not the most observant bloke in the world, Potter." A light sneer on the name, but nothing compared to what it could have been, to what it had been, in school and on the day that Harry had gone to give him his wand back. "I doubt I would have noticed it myself, but I was startled when people started to agree with my assessment of you, or even go troublingly silent, instead of defending you. And then I heard the mutters. The things people say at parties I attend, but which you'll never even know exist. The talk will be in the Ministry by tomorrow, if it hasn't got there already." Malfoy's eyes flashed, his voice lower still, though he had halted a few feet away from Harry. "Of course, you're the last one anyone would tell. But I'm telling you. Because—" his eyes found Harry's and held them, sharp as a thorn through the cheek "—however much I may hate you for other reasons, I can't believe that of you. Not that. You'd destroy yourself before you let him come back."
Harry licked his lips as his throat went dry. Even now, ridiculously, there was only one "him" that such a set of words could mean.
"They think I'm working for the resurrection of Voldemort?" he whispered, and had the mild satisfaction of seeing Malfoy wince at the name.
"Not working for." Malfoy dropped the words from his lips as if they were insects. "Are."
Harry shook his head, speechless.
"There was talk, after you died to save us all, that you'd had a piece of the Dark Lord's soul in you," Malfoy whispered. "That's true, isn't it? And without you actually having died, then how can that piece of soul have perished?"
"Dumbledore told me—" Harry stopped. He had never told anyone else of that meeting with Dumbledore after his "death." He had decided long since that it wasn't a real conversation with a spirit, only a product of his mind searching desperately for understanding and acceptance of the old wizard's actions. That had caused a minute sense of loss to him. He was an adult by then; he acknowledged that he couldn't understand everything.
And he had long since decided that he hadn't really died, either. If he had, how could he have come back?
But he had believed the piece of Voldemort's soul was gone, forever that baby-shaped thing he'd seen in his dream of King's Cross Station, because he had never felt any indication of its presence. No ache in his scar, no visions or dreams, no whisper in the dark of the night even after the most trying days, when it would have been satisfying to curse everyone who tried to make his life more difficult to hell and back.
"They're not right," he said. "I haven't acted differently."
Malfoy inclined his head fractionally. "I've been watching you for several days now, Potter, and I think you're right. But these rumors are coming from somewhere. Perhaps 'evidence' that someone claims to have? A curse that's been cast to change the perception of you in the general public's mind? Such things can be done." He frowned deeply for a moment. "I've been looking, but I haven't found any indication of what it is or who's doing it yet."
Harry restrained his desperately crowding suspicions, and reminded himself he only had Malfoy's word for this. "If I haven't acted differently, and haven't seen anything from anyone else, then maybe it doesn't exist."
Malfoy laughed soundlessly, tossing his head back so that the line of his throat was bared. Harry stared for a moment, then glanced away. Just because his eyes weren't always one hundred percent faithful to Ginny didn't mean that his heart wasn't. Another part of being an adult, Harry had long since convinced himself, was making fantasies stay fantasies.
"You've been alerted now. Watch others' faces when you leave Diagon Alley." Malfoy's eyes narrowed abruptly, and the laughter vanished from his expression fast enough to make Harry shudder. "They think that you'll do something on Halloween."
"It's a day of significance to the Dark Lord." Malfoy shrugged. "It was the day he tried to kill you for the first time, wasn't it? Watch out. I wouldn't be surprised if there's a guard of Aurors or a set of Healers from St. Mungo's at the door on Halloween morning, or a few days before. They wouldn't want to chance that you'd vanish to have privacy for your ritual, leaving them uncertain where you went, or that you could make extra preparations."
"This is ridiculous," Harry whispered harshly.
"It's happening, Potter." Malfoy ripped a silver bracelet off his arm and held it out. Harry stared without taking it. It was in the shape of a twisting snake biting its own tail. The design looked faintly familiar to Harry, though he couldn't say where he'd seen it before. "Take this. It'll function to tell me when you're ready to talk again, and in emergencies, you can activate it as a Portkey directly to Malfoy Manor."
Harry clenched his hand shut into a fist and shook his head.
"For the sake of the life-debt I owe you," Malfoy said, with almost no voice behind the words, "I am trying to help you. Your choice, Potter."
And the bracelet plummeted from his hand to the dirty floor of the alley as he Apparated away.
After long internal minutes of debate, Harry picked up the bracelet. Examining it, he was even more certain that the snake was familiar. He hadn't seen it biting its tail, but he'd seen it somewhere else. Where?
In the Malfoy family crest, maybe, or another like it. Plenty of pure-blood families had chosen a snake to be part of their heraldry, as Harry had learned in the past fifteen years of his Auror investigations.
In the end, reluctantly, he pushed the bracelet into one of the pockets of his robe, hoping he'd never have to touch it again. Then he strode out of the alley, hurrying along with a quick stride that did not, he told himself, tremble more than usual.
This might be a good time to take that headache potion. He paused and reached for it.
That was when he noticed a witch watching him from the doorstep of the Apothecary, her eyes wide, her face contorted in an expression of fear and mistrust. She was no one he knew, but when he tried to smile at her, she only grew more horrified. She shook her head twice, then bolted into the shop with a little wail.
Harry, shaken, Apparated back to the Ministry entrance. He tried not to let Malfoy's words accompany him.
It's happening, Potter.
They lingered around him, soft and persistent as shadows.
And there had been other shadows, too. The stares, which, now that Harry was watching for them, he saw. The whispers about his behavior, which he was never quite close enough to overhear. The looks of startlement, nerves, wariness. Roundabout questions as to whether something was wrong with him, which Harry would have taken for attempts to make him go home and rest a few days ago. Harry tried to catch hold of the questioners, to make them define what they meant, and they would back off mumbling each time. It got to the point where Harry passed through the door into his and Ginny's home with a sigh of relief, because so far Ginny had done no more than frown over the tired lines in his face.
Harry was distressed, but he made every effort in the next few days to behave like a good, upstanding Gryffindor, to show everyone that he couldn't possibly be Voldemort's last Horcrux. The stares and the questions became fewer, but Harry was certain they were only more discreet. Conversations still broke up when people saw him coming.
And then he came downstairs one sun-splashed morning eight days after his confrontation with Malfoy, and found Ginny facing him with drawn wand and pale face. Lily stood behind her, bright brown eyes full of tears. Her mother's hand gripped her shoulder. Harry had a brief moment to be thankful that Al and James were at Hogwarts, and couldn't see their mother like this, separating his child from him.
Harry held out his hands, carefully, away from his wand, and chose his words with equal care. "Gin? What is this? Why—"
"I woke last night, Harry," Ginny snapped. "And I saw what everyone had been talking about. I saw his face in yours. You were all pale, just like him, and when you turned your head to the side, I saw his expression on it. As if I could forget what that face looks like, when he hurt me so badly."
Her voice wavered, and her wand dropped. Harry, instinctively aching to comfort her, took a step forwards.
Immediately the wand was up and trained at him again. Harry set his back against the nearest wall and drew his own wand. He hadn't confronted one of his accusers face-to-face yet, and had no idea what might happen next.
"Gin," he said. "Gin, this is explicable. I know people have been saying I'm trying to resurrect a dead man, but I'm not."
Ginny's lips turned up in a mirthless smile. "Of course you're not. I've heard you moaning his name in your sleep for years, and I thought it was just nightmares. But it was fantasies, wasn't it?" Her eyes were sharp as the fangs in the mouth of the silver snake. "You've been dreaming of this almost since we first got married."
"What are you going to do?" Harry asked, thinking that particular line of conversation wasn't fruitful.
"Keep the children as far from you as possible, of course," Ginny said in a clipped tone. "I've already called St. Mungo's." She lifted her chin. Harry could barely see her face for sunlight, or tears. "They have instructions that you're paranoid and raving with delusions, and they aren't to listen to anything you say. Of course I don't know that they can stop this, but they'll try their damnedest, Harry." She had the gall to let her expression soften then. "Maybe in a few years, it'll be safe for you to see the children again."
Harry couldn't breathe. He couldn't. Being locked up at all had been one of his greatest fears, one he'd told Ginny, one that he believed was rooted in the cupboard. And Ginny had been by his side when half the school was accusing him of madness in fifth year. She knew what her support had meant to him then. She should have known it now. Where was her faith?
But it was the thought of missing his children growing up that spurred him. He aimed his wand at Ginny and said, in a voice he barely recognized, "You will step away from my daughter."
Ginny blinked at him in shock and fear, but her grip on Lily's shoulder only tightened. "No," she said softly.
"Ginny—" He still couldn't breathe. Rage and fear boiled in him, shrieking, and he wanted to know the name of the person who had done this, he had to know, he had to—
"It's for the best, Harry."
White ghosts flashed around his head, sunlight crossed his vision, tears blurred it.
"Ginny, you've got to listen to me, I love you—"
"Not as much as you love your fantasy, that's certain." Years of congealed bitterness in Ginny's voice.
"Ginny—" Harry decided abruptly it was a waste of time talking to her. He tried to gentle his tone when he spoke to Lily, but it didn't work. "Lily, sweetheart, come to Daddy. Mum's gone a bit mad and needs to talk to the people at St. Mungo's herself, but I—"
"Daddy?" Lily's voice, whimpering, terrified.
"Harry, don't you dare—"
White. White. Circling white, white as rage, white as torture, white as pain.
Harry couldn't remember just what they said afterwards. He only knew their voices climbed, and they screamed at each other, calling up old unresolved arguments, the injures they'd each suffered during the war, his "mental illness" and her lack of trust in him, what right they each had to the children, whether this would result in divorce, and all the time Lily cried silently and steadily between them.
He didn't remember casting the spell. It came to his voice, to his fingers, to his magic's call, but he wouldn't actually have used it. He knew what it did now, unlike that time years ago when he'd cast it at Draco. He just had a fleeting idea of how satisfying it would be to see Ginny back away from him with real fear, instead of this delusion she'd conceived that he would ever want to resurrect Voldemort.
The thought was the deed, it seemed later. His wand moved like a stranger's in his hand, and his voice called out the word, cold and clear, though still not Voldemort's voice. He was certain of that. Not Voldemort's. He could not be becoming him.
And there was a shriek, two shrieks, and silence.
The white haze cleared from Harry's vision, and he found himself shaking. He fell to his knees, and looked. On the floor lay Ginny, her chest slashed open and her eyes already blank.
In front of her lay Lily, his daughter, caught as she stood in front of her mother, dead likewise.
Harry knelt there. The sunlight was still brilliant, pressing like a warm hand against his closed eyelids. His hand rose, fumbling, first casting a simple Summoning Charm on a basin so he could vomit, and so that no one casting Prior Incantato on his wand would know he'd used a Dark spell.
Then his hand dipped towards the robe pocket in which he'd concealed Malfoy's silver snake bracelet. He wanted to grip it and make it into a Portkey, or just hold it and tremble until Malfoy realized he was in trouble. The other wizard hadn't actually told him how that worked, after all.
But Harry took a deep breath, and forced his hand away, and opened his eyes. No. He wasn't Voldemort. He was Harry Potter, and he still had some sense of justice left. He wouldn't go to St. Mungo's, but he'd go—
To the Minister, yes. That was the best plan. Harry would explain what had happened, calmly, patiently, taking the blame for all his actions, and he would hope that Kingsley would understand.
He paused to look into a mirror on the way out. His scar looked no brighter than it had for the past nineteen years.
Harry had expected to have to wait several hours in order to see the Minister. Even though he was the Head of the Auror Department, he was, after all, only here on a personal matter, and the importance of the Boy-Who-Lived to the defense of the wizarding world had dimmed considerably in the years that followed the war against Voldemort. But he had just settled in the small room outside the Minister's office typically used to contain overly insistent petitioners and rule-breaking Aurors when the inner door opened.
"Harry. Come in."
Nineteen years hadn't changed the impression of strength and confidence Harry got from looking at Kingsley Shacklebolt, but they had made him more cautious, prone to restrain the strength instead of using it all at once, and stamped lines of weariness on his face that would never vanish. It was the caution Harry saw as he pushed his way into the office.
"Minister," he said at once, inclining his head and trying to look as though he did this every day. "How are you?"
"Well enough." Kingsley had sat down behind his desk, and his stare was uncomfortably fixed. "How are you, Harry?"
Harry frowned and resisted the urge to reach up and check that his hair was still in place over his scar. He knew it wasn't inflamed. He just had to keep calm, and not give in to the powerful emotions, grief and rage among them, that he could feel hammering just beyond the barriers of his control. He clasped his hands in front of him and practiced breathing for a few moments before he answered Kingsley's question. The Minister didn't stir, and didn't look elsewhere in the room, either. Harry was fairly certain he hadn't blinked.
"I have some bad news," he said. "I—something happened at home. There was a magical attack of some kind, and both Ginny and Lily are dead."
Kingsley sat up at once, his face losing all expression. Harry stared hard at him.Shouldn't he be showing grief and remorse?
"Really," Kingsley said. "Do you have anyone you suspect of having done this? Any new personal enemies? Is it in connection with an Auror case?"
The questions were so patently false that the rage broke through the barriers of Harry's control. Control was overrated, he decided fiercely, and so was lying. They both knew what was happening here, or Kingsley believed he knew and Harry knew about his mistaken perceptions, so they might as well give up the deceptions.
"I know about the suspicions you have concerning me, Minister," he began, unable to keep the edge out of his voice. "And it is true that I, strange as it seems, might have had something to do with the attack. Ginny accused me of something so fantastic today that I couldn't believe it. She accused me of turning into a different person!"
He tried to laugh. The sound died into the silence of the Minister's office. Kingsley leaned slightly back in his chair, eyes narrowed, and shook one sleeve in a gesture Harry knew was meant to bring his wand into his hand.
"It's true," Kingsley said, in exactly the same mincing matter that he might have approached the handling of a wild animal, "that some people have looked into your face in the past week and seen—a resemblance to a certain dead man whose hooks we've had to dig out of the Ministry more than once." He put up a palm when Harry angrily opened his mouth to retort. "Let me finish, please. I wasn't saying I believed this. Just that we had to pay attention to the rumors once more than ten people reported it. And some of what our Aurors felt around you was…disturbing." Again came the stare, and those moments of silence that were making Harry's fingers itch. "Have you been playing with necromancy, Harry? For any reason at all? Or been around necromantic artifacts or objects you might have received from a case you were working on? I just want to know. I'm not saying that you've done anything wrong. We just have to know."
"I have no idea what you're talking about." Harry could feel his vision blurring again, just as it had when he was confronting Ginny. "Why would I want to resurrect him? I rejoiced when he died! I suffered when he was alive more than anyone else in the wizarding world!"
Kingsley blinked slowly, like a lizard chased off its warm rock in the sun. "That's true, I suppose," he said.
"You suppose?" Harry had surged forwards, but this time Kingsley didn't merely threaten to cast, like Ginny; he cast. Trained reflexes enabled Harry to dodge the Stunner. He shook his head at Kingsley. "So you tried to knock me unconscious for no greater offense than raising my voice," he whispered.
"Your face looked like his, in that moment," Kingsley said, and rose to his feet. "Listen, Harry. We only want to know the truth. Quite clearly, something is happening—something that resulted in the deaths of your wife and daughter. I know that sometimes people are caught by Dark artifacts through no fault of their own." He added a coaxing tone to his voice, no doubt trying to remind Harry of the time he'd got pissed with his boss and told Kingsley all about the locket Horcrux trying to possess Ron. "Has anyone shown you a necromantic artifact in the last week, even if it was by accident? I trust you to know what they look like. Did anyone ask you to keep something for them? Was there an unexpected intrusion into your office when you were away?"
"You really believe that I'm trying to resurrect Voldemort," Harry said.
Blank surprise washed over Kingsley's face. But he must simply have been shocked by the open naming of the problem, because his response was to raise his wand and shoot off another spell, locking the door this time.
What followed was a duel, no clearer in Harry's mind than the argument with Ginny. This time, though, he was fighting to defend his life and freedom. He had been a fool to come here, he thought grimly. The Minister was obviously under the influence of the same spell or rumor or evidence that Draco had told him about, and he had allies here, allies who could break through the locking spell on the door and strike Harry in the back.
He had to end the battle quickly.
He saw Kingsley enter the perfect position for that ending, a half-crouch that enabled him to get some spells under Harry's guard, but also left most of his left side unprotected. No doubt he hadn't envisioned that lasting long enough to matter.
It did matter, though, when Harry's Blasting Curse caught him in the center of the chest and knocked him sideways. And it mattered even more when his head caught the side of his desk, shattering his skull like the potions vial Draco had spilled on Harry as an excuse for getting close to him in the Apothecary.
Kingsley's eyes were senseless as he lay there, limp as Ginny. Harry hugged himself, shivering. He hadn't meant to, he hadn't meant to with any of them, but he had done it, and the grief was blending with the rage and the desperation, and they were dead, damn it, and what was he going to do?
Someone pounded on the locked door.
Briefly, he thought of visiting Hogwarts, trying to collect Al and James before they could find out about the trouble from anyone else, and telling them the truth as well as removing them to safety.
But then he remembered Lily and Ginny's motionless bodies. And it truly struck him for the first time that they were dead, that he had killed them.
His eyes bright with stinging tears, he did what he should have done from the first, and pulled the silver snake bracelet from his pocket, and converted it into a Portkey with a tap of his wand. He heard a spell tear through the center of the Minister's door, but he was already gone, being sucked into a whirl of soft dim light and warmth in the center of Malfoy Manor.
Draco rose from a chair across the room. His face was still spare, burned out by the ordeal he must have walked through since his father's death, but he looked more at home in this setting—a room lit only by the fire on the hearth, with flashes of color from the corners giving off the impression of luxury and grandeur.
"I knew you'd come," he said, and his breath trailed off into a hiccough as he raced across the distance between them to clasp Harry in his arms. "Da-damn, Harry, I knew you'd come!"
Harry clung to him, and his eyes slid shut of their own accord, and he heard his voice trying to babble out the truth at the same time that he was sobbing so hard the tale broke in the middle.
Draco, to his utter relief, treated that the way it should be treated, not listening to the babble and putting him straight to bed. Harry was still sobbing when he fell asleep, but there was a strong hand in his and a voice whispering endearments.
And maybe Ginny was right. Maybe he had had more fantastic dreams through the years than nightmares after all.
October 30, 2017
Harry flinched when he opened his eyes the next morning and the first thing that greeted him was the sight of his own face, a flicker-eyed figure who kept trying to edge out of the photograph, on the front page of the Daily Prophet. He groaned softly and rolled away, blinking at the dim, fire-lit room, which looked to be the same one he'd arrived in the day before.
Draco put the paper down on his lap in the next moment, and blushed a little when he realized what Harry's reaction had been. "Sorry," he whispered, reaching out and brushing the back of his hand across Harry's cheek. Harry closed his eyes and drew in a deep breath. He could let the touch spark across his senses, couldn't he? Ginny was dead, and—
That does not somehow justify it.
No, it didn't, but Harry's life had turned into a freefall since yesterday, and he had no idea what was right or wrong or normal anymore. He opened his eyes again, and found Draco smiling timidly at him. He rose in the next moment and crossed the room to fetch a tray from an unseen table, carrying it back.
"Does anyone know I'm here?" Harry asked, concern abruptly spiking through him. Since Hermione had started working in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, one of her pet projects had been breaking the ancient legal protections that said house-elves could not be made to testify against their masters. She had done it in the name of allowing house-elves to mention improper treatment, of course, but the Auror Department had more than once used it to collect clues on the whereabouts of fugitives or Dark artifacts that the elves would never willingly have given away before.
"No," Draco whispered, putting the tray down on his lap. "My wife, Astoria, is off in the Azores, a holiday she takes quite often. And I've told the house-elves that I left as well, and enchanted this wing of the Manor to make them believe it. I prepared this food with my own two hands." Again, that shy smile. Harry thought he could grow used to seeing it. In a way, it was familiar to him, as if all along Draco should have been smiling at him like that instead of sneering or giving him curt nods across the train platform that were not enough, damn it. "I hope you like it."
Harry looked down at the tray, and felt his stomach growl in delight, even though he was astonished at the array of fresh fruit. Peaches and oranges and bananas and delicate red berries trembling with ripeness…and all in the middle of October. Harry supposed the Malfoys must have protected gardens and greenhouses. The fruit came with a glass of orange juice (of course) and a bowl of clotted cream.
"I don't have a spoon or a fork," he mumbled, to cover his confusion.
"Your fingers should do just as well." And now the smile Draco gave him was brilliant, with just a hint of the familiar slyness, as if this were a joke they were sharing together.
Harry smiled back at him, and picked up one of the unfamiliar berries, dipping it into the cream. When he rolled it between his lips, he had to groan in appreciation. The sweetness of the cream was complemented by the tart taste of the berry itself, the two seeming to alternate in bursting on his tongue. When Harry swallowed the very last piece of the fruit, it was with regret, and he could feel freshness seeded in his mouth from the contrast.
He looked up to find Draco watching him with an enthralled expression. His eyes glittered like precious stones with the light of the fire falling on him from the side, though Harry knew no jewels that were that exact shade of gold-flecked gray. Or did the gold only come from the fire?
It was surreal, to be sitting here in a bedroom in Malfoy Manor eating fruit and contemplating the changing colors of Draco Malfoy's eyes. But Harry's life had been pretty damn surreal for the last week or so, and this was the only kind of puzzle he felt up to contemplating at the moment. He ate, and he stared, and it was as if the world outside the room had paused in abeyance, just for that one hour.
Or not just for that one hour, as Harry soon found. The sense of timelessness remained when Draco sat in the bed beside him, and held his hand, and whispered, voice hardly louder than the crackling of the fire, of how he had lost his father.
"I didn't know he was dead, Harry. They usually tell the families of Azkaban prisoners about that the moment it happens, but the Malfoys weren't important enough." A flash of bitterness in his voice so deep that Harry knew it would be useless attempting to ask, or listening to an explanation. Better to try to learn the truth through the osmosis of Draco's soothing, hypnotic voice and fever-soft skin. "I arrived there with a gift for him. Fresh fruit, like I gave you." The smile lit Draco's face again. "His favorite."
The smile darted away. "And then I walked up the corridor to his cell, and I found it empty. I whirled around, daring to hope, for just one moment, that he had been freed and was waiting for me at the front of the prison. It was close to the end of his sentence. I think that's the cruelest thing they did, allowing me to hope, even crueler than not telling me in the first place.
"Then one of the guards following me laughed, and pretended to clap his hand to his forehead as if he'd forgotten, and said that was right, Lucius Malfoy was dead.
"There was so much silence in my head just then, Harry. I can't even describe it to you. I fell down in the middle of it, and it's like something just—broke. That was the cause of my behavior at the funeral. Sometimes something's too much to take, and you just need to break down and wail the pain out, you know?"
"I know," Harry whispered, thinking of the way he had felt after the spell that had somehow slain Ginny and Lily.
Draco gave him yet another new smile. This was one of piercing sweetness, sharp as the shine of light through shattered glass.
"Yes. I think you do." His hand tightened until Harry felt his fingers would break. "But this will pass soon. When Halloween comes and goes, they'll see that you don't really mean to resurrect Voldemort, and they'll be more tolerant and understanding."
"Do you really think so?" Harry asked wistfully. He couldn't think, even though he had a sense of muffled reality trying to break through the cotton he'd wrapped about himself and scream the truth at him. He could just lie here and let Draco do the thinking for him, or whisper tender reassurances that really meant nothing. It was all he was capable of for right now.
"Yes." Again, the tight squeeze of his hand, too tight, Harry dared to hope, from someone who only wanted to fulfill a life-debt or believed in his inherent goodness when everyone else despised him. "You'll have a whole new life waiting for you."
Harry woke in the late afternoon, and wondered for a moment what was so different that he had had to wake up to it. He would have been quite content to continue dozing through this day and into the next, while Draco talked softly beside him, reading from a book Harry had no interest in listening to. It was the flow of Draco's words that mattered to him, the voice he was now half-convinced he'd dreamed of for years, shaping the vowels carefully, dragging out the nasals—
And that was the difference, the cause of his waking, he realized. Draco's voice was silent. He had fallen asleep, leaning from the chair beside the bed onto the bed itself, his mouth hanging open, his hands respectively curled under his cheek and dangling over the fallen book, his breaths so soft Harry couldn't bring himself to call them snores.
Harry rested a hand on his forehead. No scar there. Draco was beautifully unmarked—and Harry thought that even seeing the faded Dark Mark on his left forearm, where Draco's sleeve had slid back. He'd never been sure, before. Harry traced it lightly with the tip of a forefinger, convinced he wouldn't wake Draco up. His sleep was too deep.
Draco shifted towards him, exhaling. Harry considered bending and pressing his lips against Draco's, but the angle was too far, and he didn't want to. He just wanted to sit here, stroking Draco's hair and Dark Mark, and thinking about nothing at all.
He had one more day to do that. Then, he knew, there would be consequences. But here, he seemed to have staged a quite beautiful escape from them all, and Malfoy Manor, and the man asleep on the bed next to him, were the center of the whirling universe.
October 31, 2017
Harry knew he would preserve flashes of this final day he could spend with Draco beyond the reach of the law in memory forever, but only flashes. It was too perfect to endure whole.
There had been the breakfast of fresh fruit, when Harry had stunned himself by grabbing Draco's fingers and bringing them to his mouth to feed him slices of orange and more of those succulent red berries. Draco had closed his eyes as he fed Harry, and tears slid slowly from beneath the shut lids. Harry thought some of the tears nearly as large as the berries. He wondered if they would be as sweet.
There had been Draco reading from the book again, in a whisper, his words snaking past Harry's ears and into his brain without the effort necessary for understanding. Harry took pleasure both in them and in the fine bones he could feel under Draco's skin as he explored his hands. Draco didn't object to the activity, though he didn't really participate in it, either, remaining as passive as he had been when Harry used him to eat his breakfast.
There had been the moments when they rested together on the bed, arms wrapped around each other, not asleep but breathing. Harry thought vaguely at the time that he should have made the effort to do something more, to have memories to cling to, but he didn't want to. He lay still and memorized the cadence of Draco's lungs and the movements of his chest and felt as he had when he lay in his bed on a perfect, sunny Saturday morning at Hogwarts, with all of life awaiting.
There had been the moment when Draco smiled tentatively at him, pushed Harry's hair behind his ear, and leaned in to kiss his cheek.
Harry had no idea what any of it meant. He was still falling.
But there had been this day.
As if he recognized the same thing Harry did, that their time had nearly ended and with it their enclosed little world, Draco opened the shutters of the room so they could watch the moonrise. They sat together in chairs near the window, leaning on each other; Harry thought it might have been Draco and not just him who had been through the trials of losing loved ones in the past few days, and at his own hands. He rather liked the image, an invalid caring for an invalid.
He didn't know why.
He breathed, and looked at the moon.
White radiance poured down from it and across the subdued expanse of the garden in front of him. Harry had never realized how large and clear the moon would look, this far from a Muggle city and its lights. He hadn't been in the habit of looking out the window much at Hogwarts. Or maybe this was just a special night, the last night before he surrendered and the night thirty-six years to the day when Voldemort had stormed down the path into Godric's Hollow, demanding that Harry's mother and father surrender their son.
They hadn't done it. The whole world was the better for that decision.
Harry smiled drowsily. He could say that, on the whole, he was satisfied with his life. He couldn't regret one thing that he had done, save the events of two days ago, and those were curiously flattened and distant from him, pushed into a corner of his mind that simply held and didn't consider or feel.
He closed his eyes. He'd feel later.
Draco kissed him on the temple, and then slipped out of the chair and knelt in front of Harry. Harry looked at him, mazed and deeply serene. He had the unusual idea that Draco was about to give him a blowjob.
Instead, Draco took Harry's hands between both of his, and looked up at Harry with brilliant eyes, and whispered, "I had to work so hard…"
"What did you have to work so hard at, Draco?" Harry's voice was tolerant, amused, clear, and cold. He hadn't meant to sound so cold, but it was like the moonlight, he thought, and therefore it fit.
Draco turned his right palm to one side and kissed the middle of it, with a rapturous expression on his face. "So hard at developing a potion that could do what I wanted it to," he whispered. "It had to have suggestion properties and properties that exaggerated emotions—especially fear—and it had to sink into his body and pull you back." He beamed at Harry. His eyes swam with tears, making them look blank in the moonlight. "But that was easier once I got some of his blood. Blood's so potent, you know? But of course you know that." His voice was full of affection. "You were the one who taught me how to use blood magic."
Another distant, flattened memory, Harry recalled the glass shard coated with his blood that Draco had made vanish when they were in the Apothecary. The glass shard from the vial of the potion that Draco had smashed on him.
Alarm tried to snarl in him, but it fell powerless at his feet before the spell of the white—the white light through the window, the transparent radiance in Draco's face, the glassy glow singing in his head.
"Never except in the most vital extremes, you said," Draco murmured, and gave Harry the abashed smile of a child doing something he shouldn't have. "But it was necessary. And doing it on Halloween, and being able to read from that book of necromancy all the time to him, chanting spells he didn't even hear because the potion encouraged him to trust me so much, and giving him that bracelet I sculpted from your cane to act as a Portkey—" Draco giggled soundlessly. "I fulfilled all the requirements. I did everything I was supposed to. I had to." His voice shifted again, a sudden veer into grief. "I'm sorry, I am, and you'll probably yell at me, but I missed you so much."
White light was everywhere, mounting over Harry like the waves of the sea. He felt the urge to run, a burning pain along his bones, but his mind was occupied with thoughts of the things he had heard other people say to him, and his emotions were no longer his own—pride, mild exasperation, and such love for Draco.
"That he turned out to have an unsuspected attraction to me," Draco was whispering, gasping, like a long-distance runner, "just made it all the easier."
Harry's body might have been sitting on a glass throne. Writhing, the thoughts sank, grew thin and mist-like, vanished, lingering long enough for him to grasp that Ginny and Kingsley had never clarified just which dead man they believed Harry was trying to resurrect, and that their words could have applied to more than one. The emotions grew powerful, and spilled over him like the moonlight.
There came a moment when Harry Potter was running, in the midst of Dark magic and the magic of moonlight and Halloween—the night when barriers between the living and the dead were thinnest—and then, in a soundless thunder of necromancy and blood magic and one boy's love, he ceased to run anymore, anywhere.
Lucius Malfoy, pulled back to life in a new body by that boy's love, rested his hand on Draco's forehead and whispered, "You have done well."
And as Draco mumbled and gasped and panted out thanks and cries of, "Daddy," Lucius lifted his head to face the moon, and smiled.