Author's Note: Initially, I wasn't too sure about the ending, but Eltea advised me not to change it, and the more I look at it, the more I like it, so I hope you do, too. Thanks for all the support and Draco-love.

And it's A for Abraxas, like his Grampie.

IX – And Truth

It's so safe to play along
Little soldiers in a row
Falling in and out of love
Something sweet to throw away
I want something good to die for
To make it beautiful to live

– "Go with the Flow" – Queens of the Stone Age –

It was Draco Malfoy's thirty-third birthday, and he was trying to kill himself.

He was going to do it this time. He was; he was; he was. He was going to stop his stubborn heart from beating and his ornery blood from flowing, and his cold, cold eyes would fall closed for the last time.

He couldn't wait, really. It was better than when the Nintendo Wii had come out.

In the year that had passed, Draco had regained his eyebrows, but he had not recovered the powerful will to live he'd had back when twenty had seemed old and beauty and truth were one and attainable.

He sat down at his desk and took out his old, old stationery, the pages of which were jaundiced and curling, the header of which read From the quill of D. A. Malfoy.

Mr. D. A. Malfoy himself considered these words for a moment. He concluded that they were exceedingly stupid. First of all "From the quill" was an abysmal way to start any letter, and, on that note, was pretentious on top of anything else. Of course it was from his quill; what else would he be writing with on stationery, a felt-tipped marker? (Admittedly, that sounded eerily like a good idea, but there wasn't time, and he didn't have any felt-tipped markers on hand, so he would have to abandon it.)

Also, he took offense a the fact that this impudent header had nonchalantly reduced him to two letters—D. and A., which could also have stood for Dumbledore's Army, or Devil's Advocate, or Diana's Actaeon, or Dead Auror.

Thinking about it, by some unprecedented feat of stupidity, he'd never realized that his initials spelled out dam. Dam indeed, built high and mighty to hold a great quantity of water, likely enough to buckle under the strain and collapse.

Maybe his mother had been smarter than he'd thought.

Meticulously, he crossed out quill and wrote heart in its stead. Then he touched the soft end of the plume to his lips, considered the empty space, and bent over it to write out his final words.

Curtain call at last
The stage has grown wearisome
God, life is a bitch

If there was anything more appropriate than ending your life with a good haiku, Draco didn't know what it was.

He tore his chosen page from the pack, set it down, put the rest away, and turned to the suitcase lying on his bed.

It gaped at him dumbly, zipper teeth lining its cavernous mouth, and he moved to sneer and then changed his mind.

The faithful case was home to a pocketknife, a length of rope, a gun and a few clinking bullets, a bottle of pills and a bottle of vodka (which might well still be good; alcohol liked to evaporate, but he didn't know that it went bad), a vial of goop that was vile indeed, a map of the city, a bit of sand, and a book of matches. He knocked back the rest of the pills, added the contents of the vial, washed them both down with some vodka (the pills still stuck on the way down, the little bastards), tucked the gun into the waistband of his pants, cut a few vindictive slashes into his wrists, and with dripping hands draped the rope around his shoulders. He was going to go hang himself from a major bridge, then set the rope on fire.

It was going to be fucking awesome.

He made it almost to the door before his vision blurred, his knees gave way, and he became intimately acquainted with the floor.

This was not as dignified as he might have hoped, but he supposed that death, by definition, never really was. Dignity was for the living, who could defend it.

It was warm, and… warm… and…

His eyelids drifted downward.

Then there was a shuffling and a faint creak, and the door whisked open and hit him in the back of the knees.

He opened his eyes fully again and memorized the nearest dust bunny.

Hello, he wanted to say. And how are you today? Living out a satisfactory dust-filled existence?

"Draco!" a voice prompted bewilderedly. "Draco, what the hell—"

He closed his eyes.

His mother laughs.

Almost in spite of himself, his father joins her.

And in that moment, Draco feels like a god.

He opened his eyes again, to the sharpening of a dim, quiet room in shades of a color that fell between dark teal and that "moss green" that doesn't really resemble moss in the slightest. He could have sworn there was a fancy word for it—celadon, or something?

Or was that a dinosaur?

There was a silhouette carved in black silk by the window. Draco almost recognized it, but there was something… missing.

Then the figure turned, and it was Harry Potter, a little older, a little softer, and sans spectacles.

"Thank you," Draco tried to say, but what came out was, "You got contact lenses?"

That was life for you. And everyone wondered why he was so eager to get rid of it.

Harry nodded slowly, and Draco nodded reflectively in reply—to have something to reply. "Took long enough," he decided.

"For the kids," Harry said quietly. He had his arms folded, and on anyone else, it would have been a closed gesture, a dismissive one, but somehow he made it welcoming.

Or perhaps that was just the attempted suicide talking.

"How are you feeling?" Harry inquired, his unmitigated eyes on something to the left of the hospital bed. For the first time, Draco looked down and around him. He was connected, by wires and tubes and God knew what else, to a series of machines the functions and purposes of which he couldn't even hazard, let alone fathom. He blinked a bit, and the EKG beeped placidly, as if in response. Like a bass beat underlining his continued life. As if the rhythm to it gave it a reason.

"Alive," he said, which was just about as accurate as answers came.

A ghost (ha) of a smile crossed Harry's face. "I should hope so," he remarked.

Draco's fingers worried (and ha again) the edge of the blanket, his eyes wandering. "I shouldn't," he replied.

There was a pause, and then Harry leapt into it. Of course, when Harry the Savior of the Known World jumped into pauses, he performed a graceful swan dive the likes of which might earn him an Olympic medal.

Draco did belly-flops.

And sometimes clipped the diving board on the way down.

And usually smashed the breath right out of his chest.

Harry pirouetted on the board and then somersaulted into the air. "Draco," he said, "do you know how we got here?"

"Evolution from monkeys," Draco said.

"I mean this room," Harry clarified.

Draco thought a moment. "Well, I presume you walked, and I presume I was carried."

"Ron told me."

Draco paused and then went splashing into the water, where he abruptly commenced flailing all available limbs. "Told you what?"

Harry looked at him, head tilted slightly to one side, eyes dark and wide and encompassing. "About last time. And then Hermione remembered a few summers before."

Draco didn't really know what to say to that, so he didn't say anything.

His forehead throbbed and then itched, and as he raised a hand, all the tubes and wires and paraphernalia shifted and resisted. He felt like Frankenstein's monster. His probing fingertips found a layer of gauze.

"You split your head open on the floor," Harry explained.

"It figures," Draco observed placidly.

"Eighteen stitches," Harry noted.

"Lovely," Draco concluded.

Harry's eyes took on another layer of verdure yet. "Why'd you do it?" he asked.

Draco hesitated. The others—if they had bothered to ask at all—had wanted to know what was wrong with him. What his defect was, so that they could avoid it. Never why.

He licked dry lips and raised a bound hand to touch his collarbones, his chin, his lips. To reassure himself that it was all still there, deliberately marred as it might have been.

"Because every time I opened my eyes," he responded softly, "I saw a world of nothing but hate. Because people killed, and people died, and nobody gave a shit if what they did left someone else crying. Because no one cared."

"I care," Harry said quietly.

"I believe," Draco replied, Death Valley acrid, "that you hate me. As does this pathetic, miserable world we live in, which joys in propagating more hatred."

"Love is instinctual," Harry countered calmly. "Hate you have to learn."

"That's comforting," Draco decided. "Do you write fortune cookies?"

One of Harry's eyebrows flicked up and disappeared behind the fringe of his hair. "It's called 'the truth,' Draco."

"No need to get offended," Draco told him, waving a peaceable hand, the tubes and wires undulating. "I think that writing fortune cookies is a noble profession."

"So," Harry retorted, "is living."

Draco stared at him. "Potter," he asked slowly, "did you just make a joke?"

"No," Harry said.

But his mouth twitched.

Three years later to the day, there was a brisk knock on the door of Draco's apartment. Grumbling aimlessly, he pushed his calculations away, shoved his chair back, stood, and went to answer.

The first thing he saw was a very large chocolate cake rather too close to his face.

The second thing he saw was the lettering, which read Happy Birthday Draco.

"You forgot a comma," he said.

"Fuck you," Ron responded affably.

"Fuck yourself," Draco returned cheerfully.

"Boys," Hermione warned.

"The same guy did the icing," Luna reported, smiling to herself, or perhaps to all of them. "Who thought our names were odd."

"Can't imagine why he'd think that," Draco mused.

Harry clapped him off the shoulder. Coming from anyone else, it would have been unbearably cheesy, but Harry Potter had powers that the mind could not even begin to comprehend.

"Happy birthday, Draco," he said, even going so far as to pause for the comma.

And it kind of was.

No, it definitely was.

To die, to sleep—
To sleep, perchance to dream. Aye, there's the rub,
For in that sleep of death, what dreams may come?

The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, Act 3, Scene 1