Disclaimer: Harry Potter is owned by J.K. Rowling and Warner Brothers. No copyright infringement intended.
Author: Faith Wood
Word Count: 1200
Summary: "History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again." — Maya Angelou
Warnings: Flangst, a bit of a meta!fic, thoughts on cowardice and bravery, Draco Malfoy's character study.
Note: No humour. Not really my usual style.
Fire burns in his dreams, threatening to swallow him whole as he lies immobile; a dead weight pressing him down, the ground shaking beneath him. Not even ground, but desks, stacked haphazardly into a shuddering mountain, and Draco can only wait for it to fall apart. And he knows — he knows, as the heat becomes unbearable and the body he's clutching tries to slip away from him, he knows that he'll be saved. Knows that a hand will come from up above — from nowhere — to pull him to safety. He knows that this has happened so he waits and waits, until the flames lick his clothes and he can feel his flesh burning.
But no one comes to save him. Not from his dreams. And Draco wakes up screaming, drenched in sweat; body on fire though he feels nothing but cold fear.
His mother writhes in pain as red eyes look on with malice. Draco wants to help her; wants to take his wand and curse the man who casts one cruel curse after the other; wants to step forward and take the pain away from her — instead of her; wants to run and hide and not be a part of this.
He does neither.
He just stands there hating himself for not doing anything, hating his father for not doing anything, hating Dumbledore for dying and Potter for disappearing. He closes his eyes and pretends he's somewhere else; pretends he doesn't know who's screaming on the ground before him.
But the mark on his arm hurts, shattering illusions, reminding him constantly whom he belongs to, making him realize he has nowhere to run.
The pain doesn't stop even after he wakes up. His hand throbs and Draco rubs the place where the mark used to be. It's not there anymore; it's been removed with charms and spells, but Draco can still feel it; sometimes he can still see it. And he wonders why he's not allowed to forget.
He has different dreams too. Dreams that ought to be pleasant, but they're anything but. Those are perhaps the most painful of them all, because it hurts to look at green eyes watching him in a way Draco knows they never will; hands caressing him with tenderness their owner will never feel; lips moving against his with familiar passion that has always captivated him, but has never been used for something so pleasant.
Draco knows it's not real; he's aware that it's a dream, and he tries hard to memorize and touch every part of skin he can reach; tries to trail his hands over muscle and flesh; tries to taste and feel and see, but he can't tear his gaze from the face that looks at him with understanding and forgiveness.
So he just stares, wanting, not daring to touch, not daring to move, because he knows that the image will soon dissolve, and Draco will be left staring at the ceiling.
He lies on sticky sheets, trying and failing to summon hope. Trying and failing to summon courage to go after what he wants. Wondering, not knowing what he needs.
He sees that face in the daylight too. Sees Potter crossing the street, hears him laughing with his friends, forgets to move away when Potter walks by him. He's only vaguely aware of the potion ingredients that fall out of his hands and spill over the sidewalk, but he's acutely aware of Potter picking them up and handing them to Draco.
"Sorry," Potter apologizes even though it's Draco's fault they've collided. Even smiles at him as though Draco is a kind stranger. Not someone who's tried to deliver him to the Dark Lord.
Something snaps inside Draco. And he feels like he's just opened his eyes for the first time; feels like he's just seen Potter for who he really is, realized that Potter will always come to pull him out of the fire and Draco hasn't been waiting in vain. And suddenly, Draco knows what he needs to do.
Potter turns and Draco's mouth react before his brain even formulates the thought.
"Thank you!" he says loudly. People around them turn to look just as Potter has.
Potter looks puzzled as he replies with a shrug and a soft "Sure. No problem."
Draco's mind fights to control the movements of his lips, but it's too late. Words stumble out of his mouth before he manages to stop them. "Not for ... I mean —" Draco's voice lowers, but he knows everyone can hear him. "For my life."
Everything quietens except for the loud buzzing in Draco's ears, and for a moment he thinks this is another dream, because Potter's expression changes from shock into something warmer.
"You're very welcome." Potter is smiling and Draco can't stop himself anymore.
"I'm sorry. For ..." The words stop coming. Draco is sorry for so much, but he doesn't know how to say it.
Potter nods, eying the crowd of onlookers as he runs his hand through his hair in a nervous gesture. "I'm sorry too," Potter says. Draco doesn't know for what, but he doesn't dare to ask. Potter's hand is suddenly stretched out, reaching towards Draco, offering a handshake.
Draco blinks and tries to shake the proffered hand only to realize it's already in his grasp. Potter's hand is warm and strong and Draco grips hard; doesn't want to let go. This hand has saved him, and Draco thinks it can save him again.
The dreams are easier to handle after that. Draco no longer feels helpless and paralyzed with fear and guilt, and slowly, the dreams twist from nightmares into bad memories.
He still dreams about Potter, but now he dares to touch him, dares to explore and caress as he grabs Potter's hand knowing how it feels to have it in his; letting himself remember how it felt when that hand pulled him away from certain death. He's still weighed down by painful yearning and sadness after he wakes up, but the desperation that plagued him before is gone. Instead, he spends hours thinking, and planning, and hoping.
And he knows he will act and he knows that Potter might reject him. But it doesn't matter. Now that he's seen Potter; realized Potter has forgiven him even before Draco's apology — he has to try.
Harry thinks Draco is brave.
He has never thought that before, never had the reason to think it. And if he's to be truthful with himself, he needs — wants — someone who's courageous. Someone who acts and someone who does, someone who's not afraid to look, really look at their past and face their mistakes.
Harry doesn't need gratitude; doesn't want it. He wants someone who's able to admit they were wrong. It's something Harry admires because it's something he can't really manage himself.
Harry knows it's not likely that this will work. Knows it the minute Draco comes to him and makes suggestions in a careless voice with a wide smile and a calm expression; his pale hands clasped together, knuckles white from the effort it takes not to show his hands are shaking.
But Harry sees it. Sees the wide, scared look of Draco's eyes, and the twitch in his jaw as he waits for Harry's answer.
And it's only then that Harry sees Draco; sees the man he's become. And he can't help but admire the fact that Draco is terrified but still here; hopeless but still trying.
Draco surely thinks that Harry has fallen for his suave words and smiles; doesn't know Harry is fascinated by the undercurrent of feelings Draco tries to mask but fails.
And Harry knows it's a gamble and he knows that things might not work out between them. But it doesn't matter. Now that he's seen Draco; seen the possibilities that lie beneath — he has to try.
When Draco's eyes fill with shock at Harry's acceptance and then determination as he casually promises Harry a good time, Harry knows Draco will try too.
And really, that's all Harry needs.