Title: Hymn to Color
Disclaimer: J. K. Rowling and her associates own these characters. I am writing this for fun and not profit.
Warnings: Ignores DH; consistent with canon until the end of HBP. Profanity and briefly described violence. Varying tenses, but with reason. Overwrought descriptive language.
Summary: Months after Draco cast a curse that took Harry's eyesight, Harry is still trying to come to terms with it. Draco still wanted forgiveness, which was probably the problem.
Author's Notes: For sorringmay, who asked for a story about a blind Harry and a Draco who thinks it's his fault. Well, it is his fault.
Hymn to Color
Harry misses color the most.
It seems like such an obvious thing to miss, but nonetheless, it's not what he would have said he'd long for if someone asked. His friends' faces, the sight of a Snitch fluttering in his triumphantly closed fist, the ability to move around by himself without guidance or read easily…all of those should be more precious. But they're not, and as he sits by the open window in the hospital wing, bathing in the presence of a sun he can still feel, Harry finds himself trying to capture green.
It's his favorite color, if favorite is the word for the only color that ever made him cry. Not the dull green that's part of the Slytherin crest, and not the poison-green shade of the Killing Curse that he finally used to take down Voldemort. Living green, the green of trees, the green he saw one afternoon at Mrs. Figg's when she'd nodded off and he'd wandered to the window to stare out into her little garden. Harry had been seven years old.
One particular tree drew his eye. Harry never knew what it was, poplar or oak or something else. He doubts it would matter if he did know. Finding another tree like that would be impossible.
He looked into the leaves as they shone in the sunlight, and they enthralled him, utterly. He was falling down into some kind of green abyss as he stared. The patterns of lights and darks changed with the wind, and he couldn't predict them. They were a world away from his dull little life spent going back and forth between the Dursleys' house, the school, and Mrs. Figg's, and they were only on a tree.
Harry only realized he was crying when his sight of the tree blurred. He had to take his glasses off and wipe his eyes, and when he put them back on again, the moment had passed. He squinted and closed one eye and then the other, turned his back and spun quickly around again, but the oak—was it an oak?—was ordinary again.
Harry has never forgotten that green since, and whenever he caught a momentary glimpse of it during his years at Hogwarts, such as when he walked past the Forbidden Forest at the right time on his way to Hagrid's Care of Magical Creatures class, he was happy.
Now there will be no more chances.
Draco knew he couldn't explain what had come over him when he saw Harry Potter standing on the battlefield, fresh from killing the Dark Lord. Maybe it had to do with his father, except Draco had already seen his father—injured but alive—throwing down his wand and kneeling. So he couldn't blame Lucius Malfoy for this one.
He only knew that a blister of poison that had been building up in him for a long time, under the name Potter, swelled and burst, flooding him with foulness. He screamed Potter's name hoarsely, and like an idiot, the brand-new hero had jerked around and looked.
And Draco aimed his wand at Potter's eyes and cast the Bursting Curse.
Potter's eyeballs had exploded, a red and black spray that made his cheeks thick with fluids Draco had no name for. He screamed, clapping a hand to his face as he staggered back. And the poison was flushed out of Draco as quickly as he had come.
A hell of an excuse for destroying someone else's life, Draco thought, as he stood in the doorway of the infirmary and stared at Potter. Of course, since he'd been quiet and Potter had his head turned away anyway, the other boy had no idea he was there.
It was the only excuse he had, though. He'd flung vases at the walls in the past, and delicate little ivory knickknacks and bits of porcelain that his mother had kept from her childhood, just because he was so angry and needed to smash something. Narcissa had cried, but she'd always forgiven Draco. Besides, sometimes the treasures could be put back together with a quick Reparo spell.
Now Draco had smashed something that couldn't be put back together; there was no way to reverse the Bursting Curse, which had also destroyed the optic nerves, and Potter's eyesockets under the lids were simply empty. And no one was inclined to forgive him. Only the fact that he'd been interrogated under Veritaserum and found to have no real motive had allowed him to return to Hogwarts when it opened the next year at all.
But Draco couldn't shed the horrible feeling of responsibility that draped over him like a cloak of spidersilk. He had to do something, atone somehow, even though there was no way to atone for this. Or he had to hear Potter's voice say he didn't blame Draco, which would be even better.
He cleared his throat and stepped into the infirmary. Potter's head swung around to orient on him at once.
"Done feeling sorry for yourself yet, Potter?" Draco asked. He hated taunting now—at least, he hated taunting someone who only had to tilt his head to the side and frown a little to make Draco feel two inches tall—but it was the only thing that brought a response from Potter.
Oh. It's Malfoy, again.
Harry doesn't mind Malfoy as much as everyone else thinks he should. Ron's voice is always red when he talks about him, and even Hermione, tones cool and silver as a knife blade, doesn't think Malfoy should have been allowed to return to school. But Harry saw the rage on his face just as he cast the curse. He's felt that kind of rage, when he destroyed Dumbledore's office.
And besides, he's too busy learning how to live again to spend a lot of time brooding on who did this to him. The what, especially the business of making sounds hold colors so he doesn't forget them completely, occupies him wholly.
"I don't know what you mean, Malfoy," he says, and turns his face back to the window. He knows that Malfoy will cough under his breath and then drag a chair from the other side of the bed towards him. For some reason, Malfoy likes to sit on his right side, almost close enough, but not quite, to see Harry's face in profile.
Losing his sight has made Harry more conscious of patterns, rather than sounds or smells or touches as objects in themselves, though those play their part in the navigation he's constantly learning. It's not so much the sound of people walking that allows him to recognize them before they're close, for example, but the rhythm of their footsteps. And he knows where they pause in their words, the way they tap their fingers on his bed, the little sigh Hermione gives right before she launches into a lecture.
"There's no reason to stay here in the infirmary unless you feel sorry for yourself," Malfoy says. "You could be attending classes like a normal wizard."
"Not in this school," Harry says, laughing a little, thinking of the moving staircases, the missing steps, the trick tunnels, the many flagstones that feel exactly like one another. "And I'm not normal."
Malfoy's voice is the harsh, ragged blue that Harry has learned to associate with his anger—the color of a stormy sunset. "You blame me for your not being normal."
"You cast the curse," Harry says, and turns to face the window again. He misses high, rhapsodic blue, too, the color he's sure the sky is right now, given the warmth and light on his face. But he misses gray just as much.
Funny. Gray was always his least favorite color, the slatey sheen of rainy skies that made him run on the way back to the Dursleys' house or kept him imprisoned in the castle on chill October afternoons when he'd rather be out and flying. He can remember whole days, as a little kid, when he barely had the strength to do the chores Aunt Petunia gave him when he couldn't see the sun. He'd huddle next to the windows and watch hopefully for a break in the clouds. Please, was one of the only prayers he ever said, just a little light. Gray was the color of his mourning for Sirius.
But now he remembers a day in their sixth year—the only year where Quidditch ever seemed halfway normal for him—when they'd had a good, hard practice, the kind that erased thought and left only pleasant warmth lingering in the muscles. Ron and Hermione were walking ahead of him, arguing in low voices about whether the history of Quidditch had anything to do with the division of wizards from Muggles, and Ginny had vanished somewhere with Dean. Harry had turned around, head lifted as he watched the clouds rolling overhead. There was rain coming already, just strong enough to make him blink behind his glasses. For the first time, it didn't depress him. Harry could see cleanliness in that color, calm and contemplation, as if the whole world were taking a rest and would get back to its tasks in a minute. Then the storm had clapped down furiously and he and the rest of the team had had to run for it, laughing all the way as warm water trickled down inside their practice robes.
"You could have stayed home with your relatives instead of coming to school and brooding," Malfoy says, his voice cutting into Harry's reverie. "Why do you want to sit here and stare out the window all day?"
"I'm not staring," Harry says, with no blame in his voice. That's one thing he's tried to do since the curse hit him: just say things that are true, stripped of the emotions that might make them hurtful to other people. It's the way he copes with the crushing of hope in him. Madam Pomfrey still searches for some spell or potion that can reverse the damage, but Harry has heard the verdict already from Hermione, whom he trusts more. No way back. He'll never see again.
He lies in his bed at night sometimes, repeating that to himself, now harshly, now gently. It's the only way he knows to face things, and yet continue to live.
Malfoy shoves his chair back abruptly and exits.
Harry cocks his head in the way he has already found enables him to listen better, and hears Malfoy start to curse the moment he gets into the corridor. Harry frowns and shifts so he can reach the stack of parchment Hermione's left for him, enchanted to start reading the homework assignments aloud at a tap of his wand. Malfoy's behavior is very strange. He's always hovering around Harry, making odd acerbic remarks and then the clumsy effort at compassion. Harry has no idea what he wants. Whenever he asks, Malfoy accuses him of playing games and trying to make him feel bad.
Draco hated this feeling. It was like knowing he had a brand on his forehead that could be scrubbed away if he just found the right countercurse.
But the countercurse lay locked in the mouth of a boy who, even after three months, still preferred to feign ignorance when Draco came and sat by him.
What else does he think I'm there for? Draco thought, as he kicked off from the ground and lifted into the air above the Quidditch Pitch. It was nearly sunset, but no one much cared if he missed dinner anymore. Snape had explained already, in small, precise words, that he'd taken all the care of Draco he intended to take, and if Draco wanted to kill himself this year, he was more than welcome to do just that.
And since Potter had won, and Draco had cursed him after that, many of his Housemates wouldn't have anything to do with him either.
Draco circled and circled in moody rings, rising on updrafts, letting himself drift down again when the wind failed. The grass beneath him was nothing remarkable, just the usual patchwork of green and brown it always looked like, but as many things these days did, it reminded Draco that Potter would never see it again.
Nothing remarkable. Just like the Gryffindor team, now.
Draco hadn't foreseen that cursing Potter would deprive him of the one Seeker who could actually compete with him.
He tried to shake off the morbid thoughts by aiming his broom at the ground and briefly relaxing all control. He plummeted, and then spent a few wonderful moments wrestling the broom back up again and skimming the grass under him with the tops of his feet. Whilst he fought for his life, he wasn't thinking about Potter.
The scraps of good mood he wrestled from his dive lasted until he went into the Great Hall at the very tail end of the meal and saw Potter seated at the Gryffindor table, picking his way carefully through his food, laughing at some ridiculous jokes his friends were telling. If you didn't know he was blind, you wouldn't guess it, not from this distance.
Draco halted, staring, feeling oddly betrayed. He hadn't seen Potter there before, maybe because he always ate early and left the room amid the pressure of stares and whispers as quickly as possible. He had thought Potter spent all his time in the hospital wing, lying pathetically under Madam Pomfrey's equally pathetic care.
He turned his back and stalked from the Hall, already feeling his teeth grind. He was eighteen years old, and apparently he still hadn't learned to tell when he was being played.
He had some questions for Harry bloody Potter when he saw him again.
Harry is trying to find a sound that will represent yellow, and call that color to mind whenever he hears it. It's surprisingly difficult, more than any other color he's wrestled with. Maybe it's because he doesn't have any clear, intense memories of yellow, the way he does for the others.
Or so he thinks, until he remembers crawling into the dragon's cave where it turned out Voldemort was hiding the Hufflepuff cup, the last of the Horcruxes. They'd had to decoy the dragon out the door first, and then block the cave entrance. Then there had been increasingly nervous moments of Seeking and Summoning Charms until Hermione noticed the crack towards the back of the cave, shining like buttercups in sunlight.
Harry had expected gold as he clambered into the narrow passageway (he'd been the only one of them skinny enough to make the journey). He'd got gold when he finally located the cup. But what he found was yellow, a soft, gentle, suffusing color, coming from threads of some odd glittering metal in the walls of the crack. Not gold; not anything like gold; the color he saw on the back of his closed eyelids sometimes, when he woke from a night without bad dreams. Harry had leaned against the wall, overcome, at least until an impatient shout from Hermione and a yelp from Ron above had made him start moving again.
He thinks he's just fixed the yellow in his mind when Malfoy walks in on him again. This time, Harry starts. He was too deeply involved in the memory to pay much attention to the sounds around him.
"You can leave the hospital wing, Potter."
Malfoy doesn't speak it as a question. He sits down in the chair again. This time, Harry turns to face him, curious if that will make him draw away. It doesn't, but he does feel the air displaced as Malfoy flinches. He's sure he wasn't meant to.
Harry has felt his face, which tells him what he looks like now better than anyone else's description. Seamed lines run away from the corners of his eyes, rough scars that make his fingers twitch. Other than that, he looks almost normal unless he lifts his eyelids. There's nothing there, he knows, just pits. Harry sometimes touches them to amuse himself, knowing he's scraping skin and flesh normal people never feel.
"Of course I can, Malfoy," he says now. "I'm not confined here."
"But you don't attend classes. Or spend the night in that Tower of yours." Malfoy makes it sound as if this is a crime equivalent to his casting of the Bursting Curse in the first place.
"That would be a bit much for me at this point," Harry says, with a little shrug. "Too many traps on the way, and too many different routes for me to memorize. I want to be able to function on my own, rather than with someone leading me all the time. I know the way to the Great Hall by heart, and that's where I go for meals. But I stay here in the hospital wing otherwise."
"It's such a waste." Malfoy is folding his arms, from the sound of the cloth sliding over cloth. "Why didn't you just stay home, or in a private treating program at St. Mungo's?"
"Why should I want to?" Harry asks, genuinely curious. "Hogwarts was my first home. I want to stay here as long as I can, and catch up on schoolwork. Besides, the infirmary gives me a place to be out of the way whilst I deal with not being able to see."
"You do have to deal with it, then." Malfoy has a red edge of triumph in his voice.
Really, Malfoy has the oddest emotions ever."It's only been three months. I could see for seventeen years," Harry says, dryly, but still aiming not to offend. "Yes, I think it takes a bit of getting used to."
"But you hate me." Malfoy sounds satisfied. Harry wrinkles his brow. He would give a great deal to be able to read expressions right now, and see if that satisfaction is real.
"Er. No, I don't. What would be the point?"
Silence, except for straining breath. Harry sits still. It's a skill he's learning to perfect now, and he thinks that it might win him a clue as to why Malfoy is always hanging about, when he contributes nothing and asks for nothing; Malfoy will get impatient and talk in a moment.
"But I cast the curse." Malfoy's voice is so lost now, as if Harry has cut him adrift with no anchor. "You have to hate me. I'd hate you, if you'd cast the curse on me."
"That's the difference between us, then." Harry stretches out on the bed and focuses more intently on the yellow in his mind. He'd rather remember that than deal with Malfoy's constantly changing emotions. Another reason he's here is because it's bloody exhausting confronting people while he's still so uncertain about his own abilities. Harry wants to be grounded and centered in himself before he has to listen to hundreds of voices ripe with pity and discomfort. "Hating you would take too much energy. I need that energy for other things." He takes a few deep, soothing breaths, banishing the anger that's started to build up in him. He really doesn't have time for this now. Malfoy is just being a selfish git like always; big surprise. "If you need my forgiveness—"
A sharp shift.
"That's it, then?" Harry shakes his head, amused and disappointed, both. "You could have asked, you know. I haven't blamed you for at least a month, and I had no idea you still thought I did. Or cared," he has to add. "You have my forgiveness, or my indifference, which is closer to the truth. Go away, now."
Miraculously, Malfoy does. Harry realizes that he doesn't really have a clear memory of purple, either. For a moment, a stab of worry strikes him deep in the gut. Has he lost it?
No, because he can remember a geode that Professor Slughorn brought to class one time last year, a stone he cut flakes from in order to give them part of the necessary ingredients for their potions. That's the closest Harry has ever come to replicating his experience with the tree. The purple of the geode was a color he could fall into, constellations on constellations of purple, a playground of light. Harry had trouble completing his potion successfully, even with the help of Snape's book, because he kept sneaking looks at the geode from the corner of his eye, and making excuses to go back to the storage cupboards so he could pass it, and look, and linger.
He doesn't ever want to forget that. Now he just needs a sound—or a sensation; he's noticed that he does pay more attention to taste, now—to link the purple to.
Draco spent the entire night flying furious circles around the Quidditch Pitch, twice almost crashing into the stands through sheer lack of attention to where he was going. None of it helped to calm his mind, which whirled through its paces just as furiously.
He didn't know what he wanted now. Potter had said that he didn't blame Draco. That meant there was no reason for Draco to blame himself. He might as well let this go and get on with making a life for himself.
Draco pulled up at last, hovering, and tilted his head back to scream into the sky, "I hate Harry Potter!"
Someone yelled an annoyed but impeccably researched suggestion for acts Draco could perform on himself from Ravenclaw Tower.
Draco let his head drop onto his hands, where they were crossed over the broom shaft, and growled under his breath.
He couldn't get past this because nothing had changed. There was no real forgiveness, no atonement, no pause for Potter to realize what Draco had done and come to terms with it. He'd just been dismissed from Harry Potter's attention, the way he had been when Potter had decreed he wouldn't willingly be Draco's friend. The only times Potter had ever looked at him, really looked, were when Draco had done something nasty and spiteful and malicious, or when Potter thought he was up to something nasty and spiteful and malicious.
But nasty and spiteful and malicious weren't the center of Potter's life. Past the moment when he endured the trick or the trap, or figured out what Draco was up to, he dismissed him again and went back to his own business. There wasn't a place carved out for Draco in his life, the way there always had been for Potter in Draco's, willingly or not.
Draco thought he knew exactly why he'd cast that curse now. The moment when Potter had defeated the Dark Lord, Draco had seen him rising into another sphere, leaving Draco behind entirely. He'd be the toast of the country, the talk of the world. He was a savior, and he'd have no time for an old schoolmate who in the end didn't even have the distinction of carrying the Dark Mark on his arm.
Draco couldn't bear that thought. He cursed Potter to make Potter remember him forever, to leave some trace of himself behind.
And that still hadn't worked! Potter still put Draco out of his mind, because he wasn't important enough to waste energy on.
Draco was going to be part of Harry Potter's life, whether he liked it or not. And if he couldn't do it by scarring him, he'd just have to do it some other way.
Harry snaps his fingers. "Butter can stand for purple," he says aloud. He can taste butter much better now, so that the slipperiness he never cared for before lingers on his teeth and tongue long after he's swallowed.
"That curse hit your eyes, not your mind, Harry."
Harry blinks and turns his head—automatic movements, even though he has no eyes to ready. It's Malfoy's voice, he knows it's Malfoy's voice, but he's calling him Harry. That makes Harry wonder if this is a dream.
No. In my dreams, I can see.
"It's something private," he says. "Anyway, why are you back here? Need me to say again that I don't care about you?"
"I want you to care about me."
Harry has to pause and think about this. "Er," he says. "Why?"
"Because," Malfoy says, "I want you to."
If this is a specimen of Malfoy's highest level of reasoning, Harry is unsurprised he's made so many bad decisions in his life. He opens his mouth to object, but Malfoy keeps right on going, as though he's talking to himself. From the way he draws nearer the bed, though, Harry doubts he is.
"I have, most of the time. I spent so much attention on you, and you gave me so little back. It was like spending all my time caring for some plant that just refused to flourish the way I wanted it to."
"You're not very good at Herbology," is the only contribution Harry can think of to make at this point.
Malfoy ignores him entirely. He has a habit of that, too. "Everything I've tried hasn't worked. So I've decided that I'll help you recover. Because other people are doing that, and it's obvious you pay attention to and care about them." Malfoy's voice drops and acquires a note of outrage. "But it has to be in a different way. I have to give you something that no one else can. So you'll pay more attention to me than you do them, or at least a different kind of attention."
Harry has an odd temptation to laugh. No doubt Ron would storm at him about how this is Malfoy's fault and Harry should throw him out immediately, but what Harry said to Malfoy is true: he's moved on from blame. It won't do any good, and the last thing he wants to do is withdraw from the world because he's so bitter about what happened to him. "Well," he says in a thoughtful voice, pretending to consider the proposition, "Hermione makes sure that I'm caught up on all my homework, and casts little spells that make it easier for me to go through the corridors when I have to. Ron tells me honestly how other people outside the school are reacting to their 'martyred savior' and prepares me for the worst of the world I'll be a part of. Because I still am going to be a part of it," he adds. "Voldemort tried to take away my life, and my happiness, and my freedom. Well, he's dead now, and he doesn't get to have any of them."
Malfoy is silent. Harry would think he's left, if he couldn't hear his breathing.
"And Ginny and Dean and Neville and my other friends treat me as normally as they can, so that I'll always have that behind me when I face people who won't." Harry folds his arms. "What can you offer that they don't already have covered, Malfoy?"
"You're not going out with the girl-Weasel?"
Harry shrugs. "No. She asked about it, but I told her I needed time. And she seems happier with Dean, anyway. Not as much pressure to act like the perfect couple."
And then Malfoy kisses him.
Harry is virtually sure there's been a mistake, somewhere along the line. For example, Malfoy was beside his bed, and now he's leaning over it, his lips fastened on Harry's and his tongue somewhat inexpertly stroking Harry's own. No, make that very inexpertly, as Harry nearly gags. He turns his head to the side, and shivers a little as Malfoy ends up kissing his cheek instead.
"What the fuck," he says eloquently.
"I want to give you what no one else can," Malfoy whispers into his ear, and apparently Harry's ears are sensitive to touches as well as sounds. "I want you to pay attention to me. You're not dating the girl-Weasel. You figure out why I'm doing this."
"But that's not a good basis for a relationship," Harry says, still too stunned to think of anything else to say.
"Why not?" Malfoy asks. "I get everything I want, and you get something I think you need."
"Just because you think I need it doesn't mean I do."
"Do you hate this?" Malfoy kisses him again, on the corner of his lips this time. "Or are you indifferent?"
Harry, forced to pay attention solely to Malfoy's voice, hears the pain not far from the surface on that last word, and realizes with some astonishment that everything Malfoy has told him is the truth. For whatever reason, he does want this, and Harry—
Harry hasn't thought enough about it to determine if he wants it or not.
He decides to find out by stroking Malfoy's hair, which causes small sparks to go off under the skin of his fingers; by kissing Malfoy again, which teaches him exactly how warm someone's mouth other than Ginny's can be; and by stroking the tender skin of Malfoy's cheeks and neck, which makes him shiver in a most satisfying way. Then he breathes, "Draco," and it seems that Malfoy's ears are more sensitive than his own, which reassures Harry a little about the balance of power.
"I reckon," he says at last, when he pulls his mouth back from Malfoy's, "that we can try it for at least a little while. Until one of us gets bored, which will probably happen."
Malfoy chuckles, and Harry realizes that his laughter is intensely yellow.
For the first time since he cast the Bursting Curse, Draco's mind has calmed down and stopped chattering condemnation of him and irritation at Potter. He doesn't feel the need of forgiveness anymore, because he has something better.
For a little while, anyway. Potter seems to think that they'll become bored with each other. Or maybe he thinks that Draco will become bored with helping a blind person in the small tasks he needs help with.
That's excusable. Potter doesn't know Draco very well yet.
Draco tightens his arms around Potter's chest. Potter leans cautiously against him, then more firmly when Draco doesn't play him a trick and dump him on the floor.
For the first time since he cast the Bursting Curse, Draco thinks that things might be different.