AN: Thanks to the reviewers! I really appreciate it.
Well, I promised a good chapter and dammit if this isn't a chapter when Stuff Happens. I sincerely hope you guys enjoy it.
Chapter Eleven: The Break Day
Thursday 2nd July, 10:00am
What Draco had already termed in his head as Break Day, important enough to earn capitalisation, dawned. When he walked out of the bedroom it was to find Harry at the bathroom mirror across the hall, already dressed and carefully performing glamours to alter his appearance. Harry turned his head to greet him and Draco was startled to see that those vivid almond-shaped green eyes had been changed into nondescript brown ones, in an effect that was...unsettling.
"Morning," Harry said. "I shouldn't be too long with these; I'll do yours once you're ready. Human transfiguration isn't covered until sixth year, so Snape wouldn't have taught you this yet." Seeing Draco's stunned expression, Harry's brow furrowed. "What's wrong?"
"I..." Potter without those eyes was like seeing someone walking around without a head. It was unnatural, and now that they were gone Draco, stupidly, missed seeing them. He shook his head. "Nothing," he said quickly. "Just...you already look so different."
"That's kind of the point, Draco," Harry said good-naturedly, turning his attention back to the mirror. "I don't want anyone to recognise us and spoil this day."
Draco remained where he was, watching as Harry lengthened his nose, and then widened his jawline. When his wand went towards his head full of inky black, messy hair though, Draco couldn't restrain himself from shouting "NO!"
Startled, Harry turned towards Draco, silently asking for an explanation for his behaviour. "It's just...you have nice hair," Draco mumbled, completely mortified, and promptly turned and fled for the refuge of the kitchen.
Harry thoughtfully watched him go, pleased at the compliment but unsure what to make of it. Before the incident Draco had always loved Harry's hair, and frequently took great pleasure in running his hands through it even when they weren't in bed together.
Don't be silly, Harry scoffed at himself, trying to crush the hope that had fluttered to life in his chest as he turned back towards the mirror. That was then, this is now. Just because you got together back in fifth year doesn't mean you will now. For all you know, the thing at Animus turned him straight.
In the kitchen, Draco was organising himself a bowl of cereal and desperately trying not to freak out. Today's meant to be a relaxing day, he told himself. A fun day. Doing something stupid like admitting to Potter that you think his hair is nice is not relaxing at all.
Ten minutes later when Harry entered the kitchen, Draco was still mentally kicking himself for saying something stupid and determinedly not examining why he'd said it. Yes, Potter's hair was nice, but that wasn't the only thing nice about Potter...
Bad road, Draco, he reprimanded himself, and then jumped to see Potter leaning against the bench. Except it didn't really look like Potter. The black mess of hair was now mouse brown, boringly styled and unremarkable in every way. It seemed like every aspect of Potter's face had been changed, from the obscuring of his scar right down to the miniscule details of his cheekbones, his mouth, his teeth even. He seemed notably shorter and while not overweight, the streamlined leanness of his build was gone.
Intellectually Draco knew it was Potter standing in the kitchen, but his eyes were telling him otherwise.
It was dismaying, but very impressive.
"Nice job there, Potter," Draco said as casually as he could, standing to deposit his bowl into the dishwasher. "You look like a completely different person."
"Thanks," Harry said evenly. "Let me know when you're dressed, and then I'll do yours."
It took some time but eventually they were fully glamoured and ready to go. Draco's short, silky blonde hair was now shoulder-length and auburn, his telltale Malfoy alabaster complexion darkened several shades, the refined, aristocratic features of his face broadened, his distinctive sharp jawline softened, his grey eyes now deep blue.
Weirdly enough, once Potter was finished with him he stood still for a moment, taking in what he had just created and looking inordinately sad and wistful.
"What's the problem, Potter?" Draco demanded.
"Huh? Oh, nothing," Harry murmured, tucking his wand away into the sleeve of his robes and avoiding Draco's eyes. "I just prefer you the way you usually look."
Draco blinked. Does he mean...?
"Anyway," Harry said, suddenly overloud and falsely jovial, "I'll have to re-apply the glamours every four hours or so, otherwise they'll disappear." He checked his watch. "We should get going." He looked back up, seeming shy all of a sudden as he offered an arm to Draco for the Apparation. "Ready?"
Draco swallowed, feeling a sudden sense of foreboding. "Yep." He slipped his arm through Harry's, and got a brief sense of the body warmth emitting from the other boy before Harry twisted away from him and Draco was being dragged along for the ride.
They arrived on the side of the roughly-hewn road which had been leading Hogwarts students to the wizarding village for generations. Draco could see the houses and chimneys and the occasional witch or wizard milling amongst the shops. It was mid morning, before the lunchtime rush, so they wouldn't have to navigate through any large crowds.
The sight of Hogsmeade evoked a rush of school memories, and Draco almost wanted to cry with joy because here at last was something he could actually remember, something he didn't need Potter or Granger or Pansy to tell him. Memories. And he began babbling, somehow anxious to prove himself to Potter, like a child saying see, see, I do remember something!
"I remember Pansy and I tried to sneak down here at the end of fourth year. We had this elaborate plan to get Madam Rosmerta to serve us Firewhiskey, and we'd come back to Slytherin and be hailed as kings."
Harry looked over at Draco and saw with astonishment an expression of contentment on his face, his eyes lit up in joy, and he understood immediately it was from the joy of remembering. He smiled fondly at Draco and encouraged him, "And then what happened?"
They started walking towards Hogsmeade, Draco talking with relish about their harebrained scheme to get to the village and how they avoided being caught by Filch no less than three times before finally being forced to bow the inevitable.
"He dragged us back to the school to serve detention on the spot," Draco said fondly as they passed the first of the buildings of the village. "We got back to Slytherin not as heroes but as laughing stocks for actually being caught."
Harry laughed, although in truth he had heard that story before, but for the amount of joy this was bringing Draco he would rather have cut off his arm than admit to that.
They walked along in silence for a few moments, each glancing around and taking in the current-day Hogsmeade. During the War, the village had been the site of several significant clashes between the Order and the Death Eaters. Numerous homes had been severely damaged, many more completely destroyed. The village Post Office had been among the popular destinations for Hogwarts students which had suffered in the battles. In the months since the defeat of Voldemort, however, the wizarding world had been rallying behind places like Hogsmeade which had been devastated by the conflict. Slowly, the village had gotten back on its feet, and some three months later the damage to the buildings had been significantly reduced.
Maybe he would talk about that to Draco another day, Harry mused. Today was meant to be a day to forget the serious things, to think about the good and enjoy themselves and have fun.
"Where do you want to go first?" Harry asked.
"Honeydukes," Draco said immediately.
They directed their steps towards the sweet shop. Inside, the warm scent of freshly made chocolate enveloped them, the shelves groaning under the weight of every candy imaginable. Draco's face lit up like a Christmas tree, and he immediately commenced to moving from shelf to shelf exclaiming over various items.
Harry watched him affectionately for a moment before making a beeline to the Chocolate Cauldrons, which had been Draco's favourite sweet for as long as he'd known him. Waiting until Draco was at the opposite end of the store to the counter, Harry quickly purchased a bag of them and then headed to where Draco was examining the Sugar Quills.
"Midway through third year I went through three of these a day," he said to Harry as Harry approached. "They became very addictive...and very bad for my teeth. Took several weeks of dental restorative charms to get them back to normal."
Harry laughed appreciatively. "Dean Thomas from my year had a similar thing, except he went through it much later, in like sixth year or something."
"Typical Gryffindor," Draco snorted, but he was smiling.
How to do this without coming off like a total obsessed stalker, Harry wondered, reflexively gripping the bag of Chocolate Cauldrons.
"Ah, Draco?" he said nervously. When Draco turned towards him, he awkwardly stuck out his hand, holding the bag between them. "I, um, got you something."
Draco looked at the bag, cheerfully stamped with the Honeydukes logo, then at Harry, then back again. "You got me something?" he repeated. "How? When? We've only been here for like ten minutes."
"Er, I have my ways," Harry said lamely.
Draco quirked an eyebrow. "Alright then. Thanks." He accepted the bag, tugged it open and peered inside. "Chocolate Cauldrons!" he exclaimed gleefully, reaching in at once to retrieve one and commence unwrapping it. "These are my absolute favourite! How did you...?" He trailed off and looked up at Harry, realisation slowly dawning across his face.
"These were always your favourite," Harry said carefully, "I remember how much you love them, and I just thought...it would be..."
"A nice thing to do?" Draco finished quietly. He looked back at the bag, and for a moment Harry envisioned the bag being thrown in his face for his presumption, Draco storming out, and the day being ruined. Draco did look up, and he seemed almost exasperated as he said, "You just can't help yourself can you, Potter?" but then he smiled, and his eyes, deep blue from the glamour, were sparkling. "Thanks."
From Honeydukes, Harry and Draco went on to the Hogsmeade branch of Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes, which Fred and George had opened following the end of the War. The twins weren't there as they lived above the original Diagon Alley branch and personally oversaw the running of the business there, but Harry was pleasantly surprised to see Lee Jordan, still dreadlocked and the appointed Manager of the Hogsmeade branch.
Of course, with the glamours it was quite impossible to just go up to Lee and strike up a conversation as old friends, Lee wouldn't recognise him, but it was still comforting to see an old friend who had survived the war and was doing well for himself.
He and Draco didn't purchase anything from the store, having no real need for practical joke items when they weren't at school anymore. Emerging out into the sunlight, Draco eyes lighted upon the one place in Hogsmeade, besides Honeydukes, he'd always loved the best.
Seeing Draco's face light up, Harry followed his gaze and smiled wryly when his eye fell upon the clothing store further down the street. "I thought the closet was full enough as it is," he remarked.
Draco shot him a derisive look. "How can you not know that when one closet is full, it's a sign for you to start filling up another?" he said primly. "One can never have enough clothes." But Draco was smiling, and Harry grinned as well.
"I'll take your word for it," he said amusedly. "But I can guess where we're headed next."
Once inside Gladrags, Draco began to act like a Cornish Pixie on speed, zipping around to every rack and back again, chattering animatedly with the pretty blonde shop assistant.
Harry lurked as inconspicuously as he could near a table covered in socks in the corner. Clothes shopping had always been Draco's thing, not his. For the time they were going out, Harry had always just let Draco choose his clothes, finding it far easier to trust the blonde's fashion sense. He felt warm with affection watching Draco earnestly debate the merits of silk versus satin with the shop assistant, waving his arms when he was making a particularly pressing point.
The day, Harry reflected, had been good so far. It was nice to be in an environment where there wasn't any pressure coming from who they were, or what had happened at Animus. The walls that Draco had put up after seeing his mother were weakening, and it almost felt like they'd gone back in time, to the days when they had just been together, and happy for it. Of course, there was obviously a significant difference between then and now, being that however much Harry's heart and body still ached for Draco, he knew the feeling wasn't returned.
For a good hour at least Draco gleefully shopped whilst Harry looked on. Finally it seemed to get to a point where Draco decided the massive pile of material strewn over the front counter would suffice, and he sought Harry out.
"Potter," he said quietly so that Melody the shop assistant wouldn't overhear and alert the media.
Harry glanced up from where he'd been idly examining a pile of scarves. "You done?"
"I'm done, yes." Draco's appraising eyes swept over Harry's outfit. "I don't think you are, though."
"What?" When Draco continued to frown at his clothes, Harry backed up several paces, his hands outstretched in a silent plea. "Oh no. No, no. I've got all the clothes I need, thank you, I do not need any more."
"But that cut of robe is so last season," Draco practically whined.
"And I so don't care," Harry shot back, crossing his arms defensively.
"But Potter," he hissed, "you said this would be a day of fun."
"Clothes shopping isn't fun."
"It is for me!"
Seeing the pleading expression on Draco's face, he capitulated, as he somehow knew he inevitably would. "Just a few things," he cautioned. "I don't want to go overboard."
Draco grinned sunnily, and seizing Harry's arm, tugged him towards the centre of the store and the all-too-willing attentions of Melody. "You won't regret it," he assured Harry before pushing him into a seat and commencing with another heated debate, this time over the relative pros and cons of wearing blue or green.
After another hour and a half spent inside Gladrags, Harry and Draco emerged with receipts for some twenty bags worth of purchases, all of which they'd arranged to be shrunk and delivered by owl to the apartment. The price of just one of Harry's outfits had made him slightly dizzy, let alone the thought of the five separate ensembles Draco had put together. But Draco had just handed over a satchel of Galleons like it was nothing.
Checking the time, Harry was alarmed to see that it was nearly four hours since they'd left the apartment, and thus it was high time for the glamours to be reapplied. Telling Draco as such, he hurried them both into the nearby public restrooms, which were thankfully deserted, and hastily re-did the spell work from before.
"Where to now, Potter?" Draco asked as they emerged back onto the street.
Harry's stomach was rumbling, so the answer was obvious enough. Insisting on buying lunch as a small repayment in return for the clothes, Harry led the way to Hog's Head. Still run by Aberforth Dumbledore, the pub had been cleaned up significantly following the general air of renovation that had swept the village following the war. The windows were no longer grimy, the floor no longer layered with dirt, although it was still considered inferior as a gathering spot to the Three Broomsticks, with some of the clientele being more on the seedy side for comfort. Regardless, the pair enjoyed themselves there, talking amiably while they waited for their meals.
Harry avoided the eye of the younger Dumbledore brother. He knew Aberforth wouldn't recognise him under the glamour, but the sight of those bright blue eyes so like his brothers' caused Harry a pang of sorrow for his deceased Headmaster, and Harry determinedly tried to focus his mind to more cheerful things.
By the time they'd finished lunch it was well past 3 o' clock in the afternoon, and despite the many joys of Hogsmeade, they were running out of things to do.
"Shrieking Shack?" Draco suggested half-heartedly.
Harry tensed, not wanting to let his own bad memories of the place spoil things. There wasn't much else to do in the village, and he'd wanted to stay for dinner at the Three Broomsticks at least...
"Sure," he said finally, faking a cheery smile.
They started walking, past all the cosy looking cottages and houses of the village, past the shops, heading towards the outskirts of Hogsmeade where the Shack was located. They leaned against the long fence which had been erected to keep curious locals from the supposedly haunted structure, not that any local residents needed incentive to stay away from the infamous building.
"I wonder if it's really haunted," Draco mused.
Harry stared across to the Shack and thought of Lupin, which, inevitably, lead him to think of Sirius.
"It isn't," he said flatly after a few quiet moments. "Remus Lupin used it every full moon for his transformations when he was at school. There was a tunnel beneath the Whomping Willow which leads straight to it. He was escorted there and back each time, so he wouldn't be a danger to anyone else."
"Oh yeah, the werewolf," Draco said vaguely. "Whatever happened to him?"
"He married your cousin, Nymphadora Tonks, the last year of school. They're expecting their first child by the end of the year."
'Huh." Draco seemed to digest this.
Harry forcibly pulled his thoughts away from the direction they were heading. Lupin and Tonks' wedding, just before graduation, with he and Sirius as best men. Just months later, Sirius was dead, killed in a skirmish battle between the Order and the Death Eaters before the real War began in earnest, and Tonks and Lupin separated in the chaos, forced into hiding for a month, not knowing if the other was okay or not.
That's in the past, Harry said sternly to himself. Nothing you can do to change it now. But it kept coming, the trauma of the actual war itself, the endless battles, the curses, the screams, the wails of the bereaved, the bravery, the cowardice, the violence...
Then the memory that Harry was sure Draco had gone to Animus with, had suffered with for months in stubborn refusal to reach out for help even from his boyfriend. Draco raising his wand to his father to save Harry. Irrational guilt swept through him like a wave, crashing against his insides and gnawing at his brain. If only, if only, if only. If only he could've fought Lucius off himself, if only he had seen how much pain Draco had been in...
Seeing Harry's suddenly slumped posture and miserable expression, Draco turned to him questioningly. "Potter? You alright?"
"Y..." Harry cut himself off and reconsidered. "Not really," he said quietly, so quietly Draco could barely hear him.
"What's the matter?" Draco was truly facing him now, all concern.
"Just..." Harry sucked in a breath, feeling both stupid and angry with himself for ruining the peace of the day. "Just thinking about the War."
And Animus. It was the inevitable addition to every thought, dominating their interactions even now when they'd fled to Scotland to escape the memory.
Draco stayed still for several moments, and then surprisingly turned took Harry by the shoulders, forcing him to meet his eye. "Hey," he said, in as gentle a tone as he'd ever used. "I am sorry, Potter, if you miss...if you miss the me I was before. What I was to you. Really, I am. I wish I could..." he paused, thinking. "Well, I don't really wish I could be the exact same Draco as that. But I wish I could be someone who has those memories...of the things that happened at school, in the War."
"It's okay," Harry said quickly, but Draco was shaking his head, his expression solemn as he looked earnestly at Harry.
"It's not," he insisted. "Whatever was wrong with me that made me go to Animus, I just want to apologise for going there in the first place."
Harry felt punch-drunk. The warmth of Draco's palms on his shoulders, the proximity of him, the scent, the sincerity shining in his eyes...Harry longed to lean forward and kiss him, and found himself unable to respond to what Draco was actually saying.
"I'm sorry," Draco said.
Kiss him, kiss him, kiss him...
Harry swallowed hard and stepped back, turning to look at the Shrieking Shack in the distance, trying to cool the rapid heating of his blood and concentrate on what had just happened. He knew Draco had been resenting the idea of pre-Animus Draco, could easily guess that Harry's desperate sadness at no longer having his lover must've created some feelings of inadequacy in Draco. And here he was, apologising for what pre-Animus Draco had done, apologising for not being pre-Animus Draco.
For the first time, it seemed like something was salvageable between them. If not the romantic aspect, then at least perhaps a kind of friendship. It wasn't all that Harry wanted, but for now, he decided, it was enough.
"You didn't have to apologise," Harry said softly, glancing away from the Shack to Draco, who had been watching Harry and waiting anxiously for a response. Harry smiled. "Who you are...you're different to the Draco I knew. But I'm starting to realise...that isn't a bad thing."
Draco smiled shakily back, feeling almost like he wanted to gag on the sheer sweetness and sincerity of it all. He had meant what he'd said, of course, but when Harry came back with something like that...
Well, it was all very well and good to try and keep in mind what Pansy had said about them 'needing' each other, and 'if Potter being so nice to you freaks you out, get over it,' but it seemed like every time Draco turned around Potter would outdo himself, randomly presenting him with his favourite candy, laughing at Draco's jokes over lunch, getting nicer and nicer. For crying out loud, his body said nineteen year old, mature adult, but there was a part of his head that said fifteen year old adolescent who hates Potter. Admittedly yes, that part was getting less and less dominant with the more time he spent with Potter, but it was still there.
"Let's head back," he said loudly, resolutely turning his back on the Shack and the strange exchange that had just taken place. "This place still gives me the creeps."
Harry fell into step beside Draco as they began to head back towards the village. He wasn't sure exactly what was going through Draco's head now, but he felt like the moment needed a subject change. Desperately. So he resorted to one of the few things he'd seen make post-Animus Draco happy. Remembering.
"Remember in third year," He said, "when you stumbled upon Ron and Hermione here, and I was throwing things at you and you tripped over my Cloak and all you could see was my head?"
Draco shot him a look from the corner of his eye, but he was smiling slightly. "I'll have you know I had nightmares for several weeks afterwards about that," he said haughtily. "It wasn't something to be laughed at, the trauma that came from seeing your floating head appear out of nowhere."
"Oh but it was," Harry grinned. "I will treasure the expression on your face until the day I die."
Their footsteps echoed on the ground as they continued walking towards the village, bantering playfully, the serious mood they'd so recently been in the thralls of momentarily forgotten.
The Department representative sent by Ridgeworth came hurrying out from the cell ward Lucia was imprisoned within, far too pale, a spooked expression on his face.
The Ministry of Magic official who had accompanied him on the mission was standing and waiting for him. Taking in his appearance, she quirked an eyebrow silently in question. "Well?" she probed. "Did she make any statement?"
"No," the representative said unsteadily. "She's..." he seemed to hesitate. "She's going steadily downhill, I think. I recorded the whole...exchange, because it wasn't really a conversation."
"I did what Ridgeworth instructed, introduced myself, said it was my duty to inform her that an official date had been set for her trial, that she would be trialled by the Wizengamot, that most unfortunately since the withdrawal of Joseph Valorius from the case she has no legal representation although the Ministry will provide one if she so requests it, et cetera..."
He swallowed thickly, recalling her emaciated state, the crazed look in her eyes, the way her gaze had drifted off to the side every now and then as he had spoken, as though she was listening intently to something he couldn't hear. "I said every bit of the statement Ridgeworth dictated. And when I was done, do you know what she did?"
"Looked me right in the eye, and laughed."
The Three Broomsticks, 6:00pm
By that evening, Harry and Draco were crowded together in a small booth for dinner in Hogsmeade's favourite pub, sharing the contents of a sizeable bowl of pasta and cheerfully reminiscing about the school years and incidents Draco could remember.
"It wasn't my idea to dress up as a Dementor, you know," Draco insisted, waving a forkful of pasta to emphasise his point. "It was that idiot Marcus Flint, he was thick enough to believe it would work. I went along with it because I was desperate to embarrass you."
Harry laughed delightedly. "Ended up having the opposite effect though," he pointed out. "As I recall you were on the ground, struggling to get out of those robes."
Draco merely rolled his eyes, although his cheeks did tinge slightly pink from the memory. "Well, I guess I should've known better than to try and cross the great Harry Potter," he drawled, but his eyes were shining.
Harry laughed again and took a bite of his pasta. Chewing slowly, he looked around the teeming pub, feeling a warm glow of happiness flaring in his chest. To be back in this familiar, beloved place, joking around with Draco as though the War, Animus, hadn't even happened...this day was a fantastic idea, he decided, looking across to Draco and smiling again.
"Oui, bonjour, I had a six o'clock reservation for Evander Mauvais, s'il vous plait."
Their booth was right near the door, and Harry barely thought anything at first of the quiet, heavily accented voice coming from the counter metres away as two more patrons entered the pub.
The waitress whose duty it was to greet guests and guide them to their tables murmured, "Ah yes, Evander Mauvais, a table over by the window. Right this way, Monsieur Mauvais."
I've heard that name before, Harry pondered, idly watching the man whom the waitress had addressed gesture to someone behind him. He was tall and broad shouldered, dressed suavely in colours which subtly highlighted the chestnut shade of his long hair, which tumbled over his shoulders and shone in the light of the candles scattered around the room. There was a certain hard quality to his facial features which rendered them sharp and unyielding and took away any of the handsomeness that could've existed in his face.
The person with him was another man, by contrast almost paralysing in his handsomeness, even taller than the first. He reminded Harry strongly of a conventionally attractive male model – chiselled features, square jaw, hair messed up just so.
He watched the pair as they moved past the booth where he and Draco sat, heading towards a table perpendicular to them, beside a window as promised by the waitress.
And then it hit him.
"Evander Mauvais," Harry said aloud, perhaps a touch too noisily because the chestnut-haired man looked around sharply, just once for a tense moment, before his shoulders relaxed and he continued on his way.
"What's that, Potter?" Draco said.
"Evander Mauvais," Harry repeated, albeit more softly this time. "The waitress said his name when he came in and it seemed familiar. I think I remember now. He owns Animus, he was the founder of the company, and there was a statement or something from him in Saturday's Prophet in an article about Lucia's arrest." Harry frowned absently. "He spoke with an accent, I didn't realise he was French."
Draco whipped his head around, decorum forgotten in his curiosity. "Where is he?"
"By the window," Harry said. "With the bloke who looks like a model."
Draco's eyes lit upon the figure almost immediately. He was leaning forward, his eyes heavily lidded as he spoke to the model boy. As he watched, Evander reached out and stroked the back of his hand slowly down his companion's cheek.
"That guy owns the business that hired, and paid, the bitch who tried to kill me," Draco said thoughtfully, somehow unable to look away as Evander and Model Boy seemed to move closer and closer together. "I should go over there and threaten to sue his arse off."
"No, no," Harry said quickly, reaching out to lay a warning hand on Draco's arm. "Remember, you're in glamours, he won't know who you are. And besides," and now his voice took on a pleading tone, "today's been such a good day, let's not spoil it. I'm not saying you shouldn't sue him for something, or at least threaten to, but just...not now, Draco, please?"
Draco dragged his gaze away from the man to look at Harry, who had his eyebrows raised, his expression silently pleading. In any other world Draco would've told Harry to go to hell, but this was a strange world, the one he'd woken up to, and loath as he was to admit it, he had had a good day in Hogsmeade with Potter. A day away from everything had been exactly what he'd needed. He felt very tired all of a sudden, melancholic at the thought that he could go to a different country and still have reminders of bleeding Animus, even if it was just the owner of the place.
"Fine," Draco sighed dramatically, taking up his fork once more. "Just because it's Break Day, Potter."
They finished the rest of their meal, their conversation resuming its nostalgic tone. But Draco couldn't help glancing over at the pair by the window. By the time it was nearing half past six and almost time to leave, Draco looked over once more only to see Evander now engaging in a full out snog with Model Boy.
Draco watched them for a moment, feeling a strange twinge in his stomach at the sight. Huh. It seemed...odd, that the Animus owner seemed to be gay. And very into that kind of thing, by the looks of it.
He heard a small sigh beside him, and looked up to see that Harry was watching the couple too, looking almost wistful. "He seems to be coping," Harry said, his wry tone at complete odds with his expression. He coughed and glanced down at his watch. "We have to go in a few minutes. You wait near the door, I just need to duck to the bathroom and then settle the bill. We'll Apparate home outside."
They stood up, Harry disappearing in the crowd, heading for the bathroom, Draco taking the few steps necessary to stand beside the counter near the front door to the pub. He idly drummed his fingers against the wood, humming a random tune, his gaze drawn like a magnet back to the pair by the window. They were still making out over the tabletop, and there was something definitely indecent about the way Evander was touching Model Boy.
Draco felt a twinge, the slightest twinge, of arousal and hurriedly tore his gaze away. You are still a teenage boy, he told himself, it's perfectly normal, it's been awhile, you're just a little sexually frustrated, you may feel fifteen sometimes and that's why the slightest thing can turn you on...but he couldn't shake the hollow, empty feeling of longing in his chest the sight had evoked in him. Evander's connection to Animus seemed to pale into insignificance now in the sudden wave of yearning he found himself enveloped in.
Desperate to distract himself, Draco made a show of studying the Daily Prophets lined up on the counter, awaiting any customers' perusal if so desired. His eyes, still a deep blue under the glamour, flicked carelessly across the pile, skimming the front pages. He wasn't really paying attention to what he was seeing, until his eyes caught upon a headline which made his blood run cold.
'DRACO MALFOY SPOTTED AT ST MUNGO'S, ACCOMPANIED BY 'BOYFRIEND-WHO-LIVED'
His gaze flicked disbelievingly to the date of the paper. Monday June 29th. He frantically read the front page article beneath the screaming headline. Then again. Once more for good measure. He felt shaky, unsteady on his feet, his stomach churning as certain phrases seemed to jump off the page at him.
'...his long-term partner Mr Harry Potter... Eyewitnesses attest to the 'cosy' and 'intimate' manner between them...' And then there was a picture, Harry seizing Draco's hand, murmuring something into his ear. And Draco in the picture, tilting his head towards Harry, leaning into him, following obediently after him into the sea of reporters.
Draco's hands gripped the edge of the bench, his teeth clenching as memories since the murder attempt flashed through his mind's eye in quick succession. He felt his heart clench in the memory of the single bed in the apartment, the horrified expressions on everyone's faces. Potter's bizarre reaction the first night in the apartment when Draco had said he hated him. Severus, the night he'd come to visit. 'Draco doesn't know about you, it seems.'
And then the Thursday before, when Harry had insisted upon going to work in the morning and they'd had the big blow up argument. '...we were just friends, you big drama queen, stop pretending like me not wanting to be best friends with you anymore is killing you inside!'
And Potter had retorted, 'It is, and we were more than...'
The slow, intimate gesture before he left for work, his hand gently stroking Draco's cheek.
Granger and Pansy. 'You need each other.'
And every single bloody time, countless times it seemed, when someone had hesitated over, 'you were...extremely good friends with Harry.'
The clues piled up and up and until Draco felt like he was drowning in them where he stood, and he wanted to Avada Kedavra himself for being such an imbecile and not realising before. Yes, he had been suspicious, yes Potter had been acting strangely, but this...?
Fury unlike anything Draco had ever known boiled in his stomach, hot and uncontrollable. They had...Potter had...everyone had been lying to him, to his face, for a month? Not once had they thought he should bloody know that before Animus, he and Harry had been LOVERS?!
Oh, Potter was in for a world of pain.
His emotions churned, too complicated for him to want to examine them closely just yet. Shakily, he looked back over at Evander and Model Boy and imagined himself and Potter in that position, kissing passionately...
His stomach heaved and his heart constricted and he groaned aloud, burying his head into his hands on the counter. No. Best not to think about that. He seized like a drowning man upon a rope to the fury in his stomach, in his chest, and held on for dear life. They lied. Potter lied. He had been in an apartment with Potter for weeks now and no one thought to mention that before Animus they'd been sharing the apartment as partners!
He saw Potter now, threading through the tables and booths to the front door. Draco wanted to charge and tackle him, beat the snot out of him, make him comprehend what was going on inside him.
But it was a public place...Draco glanced around at the multitudes of people enjoying their dinner. His head cleared slightly, and an eerie calm settled over him. At home...no, not home anymore, Potter's apartment, because he was damned if he'd be sharing that place with Potter any longer.
Potter smiled at him, his eyes shining, and Draco saw it now, saw the emotion he'd been struggling to figure out in those eyes. Love beamed at him, and he wanted to shield himself. A fresh tidal wave of anger washed over him. How he could presume...how he dared...
Harry's brow furrowed as he took in Draco's appearance. He had gone deathly pale, and there was a wild quality in his eyes, a perceptible tension and pressure in his posture, the tightness of his shoulders. Something was wrong.
"Draco?" he said gently as he reached the front counter, his eyes full of concern. "You okay?"
Draco spoke through gritted teeth. "Just pay the bill and let's go, Potter."
Heart hammering, wondering what he'd done wrong, Harry did so, paying the waitress at the cash register with a generous tip. The pair exited outside and Harry cautiously offered his arm to Draco for the Disapparation. Draco stared at him coldly for a moment before reaching out and seizing his arm, holding it uncomfortably hard in a vice-like grip.
They turned and span into the rubber tube sensation now familiar to Draco, and in moments found themselves standing beside their building. They went up to the apartment in silence, Draco fuming, turning everything over in his head and getting angrier and angrier, Harry following, bewildered, in his wake.
Once they were inside, the second the door was closed and locked, Draco rounded on Harry.
"Potter!" he screamed, quite beyond himself. He jabbed Harry in the chest with a finger.
"W-what, Draco?" Harry stammered, taken aback.
"DON'T...CALL...ME...DRACO, YOU BLOODY LIAR!" Draco shrieked. "How long did you think you could keep it a secret from me, huh? Tell me! How much longer would it have been until you told me?"
"Told you what?" Harry said weakly, but he already knew.
"That you...that we..." Draco was gesturing between them, his face contorted with rage. "That we were fucking lovers before I went to Animus! Boyfriends! Long-term partners! I saw that fucking Prophet article from Monday, our status splashed across the front page as casual as could be, and no-one bothered to tell me?"
It was past the time for their glamours, and the appearances they had adapted for Hogsmeade were rapidly shaping into their usual features. Draco saw Harry's eyes shift, become almond-shaped and bright emerald green once more, the scar slowly reappear on his forehead, his hair lengthening, darkening, getting messier. Knew his own skin was growing paler, his hair returning to ice-blonde, his eyes resuming their usual shade of grey.
Well, good. They should have this argument as themselves, not some glamoured strangers.
"Draco," Harry pleaded now, earnestly, "We were going to tell you, I swear. Honestly! I wanted you to know more than anything else, but when you woke up and you hated me all over again, I couldn't do it. Having you back with me, even hating me, was and still is better than being apart from you. I love you so much, and..."
"Shut UP, Potter!" Draco roared, wanting to throttle Potter for saying that, wanting to throttle himself for his heart skipping a beat. He turned away, clenching his fists and breathing heavily through his nose, before whirling back around. "The bed!" he yelled. "Bullshit that you were sleeping on the lounge, we slept together in there, didn't we? And all that crap about becoming 'extremely good friends' after my mother was tortured! We started going out in school, didn't we?" When Potter said nothing, he stepped closer. "I said, DIDN'T WE?"
"Yes, yes," Harry cried, "towards the end of fifth year, but we did become friends first, it just developed into something more!"
"Liars," Draco hissed, "you and your little friends, Merlin, even my fucking friends! Blaise and Pansy! All liars! And I thought you not telling me about my mother was bad, Potter..." his eyes sharpened. "That first day, when you said you had a girlfriend, you lied then too didn't you? Your fucking 'girlfriend' was me all along!"
"Have you wanted me back all this time, Potter?" Draco sneered. "Have you been crying yourself to sleep, wishing I hadn't gone to Animus and woken up to myself? Hell, I'm glad Lucia Hevelle wanted to kill me! She gave me another chance, a chance at a life as something other than Harry fucking Potter's boyfriend!"
Harry was crying, tears streaming slowly down his cheeks. "You were writing our story," he shouted. "That novel I said you were in the middle of writing, it was about us! You wanted to write our story down for the world, you told me you wanted to share our love with everyone! You were in LOVE with me, Draco, we were so happy, of course you wouldn't believe it, how could I have told you that? Don't go saying you didn't enjoying it, you don't remember, you can't know what it was like! You loved me every bit as much as I loved and adored you!"
Draco attempted to sneer but the tidal wave of feelings which had been building steadily inside him was threatening to drown him, he just wanted to scream and scream at Potter until it all went away. The idea of him and Potter, in love...
"I still do, Merlin help me!" Potter burst out, moving swiftly forward so they were inches apart. "I love you Draco, love you, love you so much, I still want you, still need you..."
The word made him stiffen, made him think of Pansy and Granger. 'You need each other.'
"Well, I don't need you!" Draco roared into Potter's face. "I don't need you, I don't love you, I don't want you and guess what, Potter? I NEVER WILL! So you can just let go right now of any ideas you were entertaining that I would ever fall back in love with you...!"
Each shouted word was like a tiny knife drilling into his heart. Harry felt himself slowly collapsing, his wasted heart still pounding for this boy, this man he loved, who hated him so much. Beyond words, Harry did the only thing left to him he could do to try and convey something to the blonde.
He roughly reached out, grabbed the back of Draco's head and slammed his mouth down against his, his hands curling into the silky blonde strands, his mouth working desperately against Draco's lips, pouring every bit of himself into the kiss, his guilt, his frustration, his longing, his desire, his love. Draco was protesting, wildly attempting to disengage himself, but Harry was damned if he was going to let go now. His arms wrapped firmly around Draco, crushing him against his chest, and Harry moaned despite himself into Draco's mouth, dizzy with the sensations he'd missed so terribly since Animus.
Draco, meanwhile, was now drowning not only in the sheer volume of his own emotions but in the fiery heat of Potter's kiss. He felt lightheaded with the raw passion emanating from the dark-haired wizard, felt like he would suffocate in the intensity of Potter's grip. Merlin, Potter could kiss. Mortifyingly, he could feel his body responding to Potter, his blood rapidly heating, his muscles going obediently limp in response to Potter's demanding arms, and despite himself, when Potter moaned, he moaned, just a little bit, in response.
The tiny part of his brain still capable of rational thought wouldn't lie down, though. He lied to you, it reminded him. Remember? Remember the fury, the anger? He was practically grooming you to become his fuckbuddy all over again, when you had a chance at a new life, a different life. One where you don't 'need' each other.
Fury swelled in his gut once more and his eyes snapped open, his hands coming up to rest on Potter's chest before he pushed with all his might. He was slightly shorter than Potter, it was true, but his slighter frame still held strength enough when he needed it, and the gesture successfully dislodged Potter's mouth from his own and freed him from the grip of his arms. He took several steps back for good measure.
Potter's chest was heaving, his eyes darkened with desire, his expression first surprised and then pleading when he was the resolute spark of anger in Draco's eyes. "Don't," he beseeched, "please don't go..."
Draco spun around before his body could betray him and fly back to that delicious embrace. Still clinging to the thought that had reignited his fury, he lied to you...Draco practically sprinted into the lounge room, straight to the fireplace, wildly pointing his wand into the hearth as he went.
"Incendio!" he yelled, and flames flared up in the fireplace. He seized the little pot of Floo powder kept on the mantelpiece and flung the glittering powder into the flames, haphazardly tossing it aside in his haste to Floo away from the apartment. He flung a look over his shoulder and saw Potter coming for him, hand outstretched, a panicked expression on his face.
Draco stepped into the bright green fire and called out the address of Pansy and Blaise's home. Potter's face, with his eyes still dark with desire, was the last thing he saw before he began to spin away, away from the apartment he'd been sharing with Potter when they were in love.
AN: Oh...dear...god. Longest. Chapter. Ever.
...well! There doesn't seem to be much I can say after that. The shit's hit the fan now for Harry and Draco. Le gasp! Lovers?
I'm not going to make this thing any longer than it already is, so...please, please review and let me know what you thought? I'd be much obliged.
Until next time,