Title: Loves What Vanishes
Disclaimer: J. K. Rowling and associates own the characters in this story. I am writing this fic for fun and not profit.
Word Count: ~2400
Warnings: Profanity and sex. Heavy angst. Non-linear. (Arguably) Unhappy ending. Puzzle-fic; you may have to struggle to figure out what's going on.
Author's Notes: The title comes from a line in Yeats's poem "Nineteen Hundred and Nineteen": "Man is in love and loves what vanishes." The italicized quotes used in the story come, in order, from Hamlet, William Blake's poem "Ah! Sunflower," John Keats's poem "Ode to a Nightingale," and a source I made up.
Loves What Vanishes
Draco and Harry didn't have much. They came home each evening to a bare and undecorated flat, because that was what they could afford after Draco's parents disowned him for dating the Boy-Who-Lived. (The fortune Harry's parents had left him turned out not to be so large after all, and most of the Black fortune was tied up in Dark artifacts it would have been illegal to sell and which it was anathema to Harry to try and use). They ate a lot of meals that had soup and bread and noodles in them. They sometimes fell asleep in the middle of sex, because the touch of soft pillows on the back of one's neck was too much. Draco had never known what it was before to look forwards to sleep with a bone-deep longing.
But they had love.
Harry, toppled and laughing in the middle of a sun-drenched bed, because he'd reached absent-mindedly for his glasses on the far table, forgetting the bed was in the way, and fallen sprawling, and Draco laughing with him for sheer joy of hilarity—
Draco coming home and storming up and down the flat, yelling about the jealous rival who tried to obstruct him in his Potions mastery and threw the wrong ingredients into his cauldron, and Harry coming over and embracing him without even reminding Draco that he used to do the same things to Harry in Hogwarts—
Harry standing before his friends with a pale face, whilst he explained quietly that he was in love with Draco, had been since one moonlit twilight when he saw him walking slowly outside the Three Broomsticks and wondering if he should go in, and that if Ron and Hermione didn't like it they could leave—
Draco supporting Harry's head in his arms as Harry vomited helplessly during the recovery from a Dark Arts curse that had nearly destroyed his body and did end up destroying his Auror career—
Both of them making love, writhing around the bed like an excited pair of mating snakes until Harry stabilized them both with a push of his hands against the headboard and thrust steadily into Draco's body, his face alight with the sheer exhilaration that he wore when he was flying—
Throughout it, and all around it, and wreathing into the midst of it, was love.
And if Draco sometimes thought the memories trembled and frayed at the edges, and he couldn't grasp the exact angle of the sunlight in one image or the feel of the sheets in another, what did it matter? He always had new memories to make.
There's rosemary, that's for remembrance; pray, love, remember.
Draco never knew exactly how it happened, or why. Even Harry's explanations later didn't give him a clear picture. He had to rely on his own explanation, which went like this—
He stood outside the Three Broomsticks on a clear evening under a full moon, staring at the pub and listening to the voices and laughter that emerged from it. The earnest and simple wish of his heart at that moment was that he could simply walk into the pub, accept the nods of the people around him, and order a drink.
But Madam Rosmerta had refused to let Draco come back since she remembered, or realized, that he had used Imperius on her. And with the way Draco felt these days, he couldn't even blame her for being too harsh. He dug his nails into his palms, let out a sharp, quick breath, and started to turn away.
Harry's voice had a softness in it that Draco had never heard before, but he still looked up and took a step backwards, because the only thing he could think would inspire that softness was pity, and he didn't want that from anyone, either. Harry stood three paces from him, staring at him with big, round green eyes. And Draco faltered when it came to Harry for the first time since the war, because he had kept his growing feelings for the other man well-hidden. The brilliance in those eyes came from compassion.
"Potter," he said, anyway, because probably Harry had come from saving a half-drowned kitten or something and the compassion wasn't for him.
Harry nibbled his upper lip, which Draco learned later was a habit of his whenever he felt uncertain. Then he sucked in half the air in the vicinity for a deep breath. "Did you want to get a drink?" he asked, gesturing at the Three Broomsticks.
At least that gave Draco an outlet for the bitterness and rage he felt. He rolled his eyes and snorted. "Oh, yes, Potter," he said. "I've done a splendid job of staying out of hospital since the war—" he hadn't, actually; a curse cast by someone who had lost family to the Death Eaters had shattered all the bones in his limbs and put him in St. Mungo's for two weeks "—and now you want me to march into a place that's sure to be a shortcut to it? No, thanks." He whipped away, now sure he had to leave. He was becoming too transparent if Harry, the master of openness, could see through him.
"I meant," said Harry, and his voice chimed and rang like the steps of the unicorn Draco had once wanted to come and rescue him during his sixth year, during his lowest moments when he could believe in sentimental idiocy like that, "you could go have a drink under my protection."
Draco glanced over his shoulder and gave his best sneer. Strong attraction to Harry or not, he had his pride. "I don't need your protection."
"Yes, you do."
And that was the turning point, the moment when things pivoted around Draco and fell into a new alignment. No one had spoken simple truth to him in more than a year. His parents went around with fragile little frowns or smiles on their faces, pretending nothing was wrong. Acquaintances turned away, or hurried away. The women and then the men Draco had tried to date recoiled from a casual brush of his hand, but huddled under the shelter of his arm when he spoke of his fortune. And he had written thirty letters to Harry Potter declaring his feelings, explaining them, and begging for a chance, and ripped all of them up, furious with himself for descending to that level.
Truth. He needed help. He wanted someone else's protection. He needed someone, just then, to stand between him and the world.
He said, "Yes."
Harry stared at him in astonishment for a moment; he told Draco later that he had been absolutely sure Draco wouldn't accept. Then a smile flared across his face like a comet and he stepped forwards to extend his hand.
Draco clasped and shook it in a friendly manner, and they turned towards the door of the Three Broomsticks, towards the smell of butterbeer and Firewhisky and friendship.
Sometimes he thought he smelled the odor of burning paper instead; sometimes the memory coiled weirdly in his head, and associated itself with a despair he had no reason to feel at that moment. But then he recalled the way Harry pulled him in his wake, and the paper fell to ashes in the fire.
Ah Sun-flower weary of time.
Who countest the steps of the Sun:
Seeking after that sweet golden clime
Where the traveller's journey is done…
The first time they made love, Harry topped.
It wasn't something Draco had ever thought he would let someone else do. His first experience on the receiving end of sex with a man had been disastrous. Sweat and haste and stubbornness and blood, and he had been left nursing a torn arse and a bruised heart. No reason to risk that again, he thought, especially not with a man he really desired. In some ways, the passion he had conceived for Harry seemed safe. After all, he wouldn't get the chance to fulfill it, so he could let it play out in his mind any way he liked.
But now Harry nipped his neck and thrust against him, and used a spell that conjured a lubricant that smelled like musk-roses. Draco laughed and accused him of experience; Harry rolled his hips and answered:
"It was a practice for this time with you."
That shut Draco up long enough for Harry to get a few fingers into him, and then he discovered something unexpected about himself—he really, really liked being penetrated, when it was being done slowly enough to discover his prostate and when his lover murmured and chuckled and gasped above him in enjoyment. Draco managed to open his eyes, with a great effort, and found Harry's own eyes fastened reverently on his face, greedily devouring every expression Draco cared to show him.
It was everything he had dreamed, everything he had desired.
Harry made love the way he fought Dark Lords: with determination and a use of his body and his being so concentrated that Draco shuddered and spasmed under him from the look on his face, more than from the sheer force of his thrusts. And he moved at various angles Draco didn't know were possible, until Draco clutched at him and gabbled wildly and came with a tightening leap of his inner muscles, as if struck by lightning.
Harry came like an afterthought, more involved with lathering kisses on Draco's neck than with his own body. Draco only knew about his orgasm because Harry paused for one moment, and his breath hitched in a warm rush over Draco's throat.
Then he sprawled over Draco and went back to the kissing.
And it was the fulfillment of desire, and it was the fulfillment of dreams, and it was so much perfection that certain small disappointments faded into insignificance before it.
My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains
My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,
Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains
One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk…
"But why are you leaving?"
"Why do you think?"
And this wasn't right, wasn't right, because Harry was speaking with a clenched jaw, his head bent over the trunk he was filling, his dark hair slashing across his face like knife-shadows. Draco stepped towards him and clutched his arm. At least that made Harry pay attention to him, his head swinging up and his breath exploding in a hungry snarl of rage.
"Because," Harry said, "you told me that you needed your parents' love more than you needed mine, and that if they wouldn't compromise and accept me in your life, you wanted me to leave. You wanted us to date from a distance and pretend to ignore each other during daily life. Because I couldn't support you in the style to which you were accustomed." His voice flicked like a whip, and Draco flinched from the lash. "I'm not having that, Draco. I'm no one's dirty little secret. I'll date you and I'll love you, but only in the open, in the sunlight."
Draco leaned forwards until his weight dragged at Harry's arm. Harry sighed and turned to face him, trying to pull the arm free so that he could fold it across his chest. But Draco held on and knelt on the floor, gazing up at him, feeling his eyes tear.
God, it was like the moment when he had written Harry, and Harry had written back to say that he couldn't, and Draco had flung—
But that memory was gone, was not real, couldn't be real, because Draco hadn't ever sent any of the letters he'd written to Harry, and their life together was perfect, unmarred by any misunderstandings or anxieties until this. He stared up at Harry pleadingly until Harry's face softened, and he muttered, half against his will, "What do you want?"
"I don't remember saying those things," Draco declared promptly. "I didn't say them. Or else I murmured them in my sleep and I was talking out a nightmare, a nightmarish version of myself. I love you, Harry. I always have. Even the hatred I felt for you during school was only love, disguised." He stroked his hands anxiously up to Harry's elbow, feeling the warm, living skin under them, as warm as dreams. "Please, you have to stay with me. You have to understand I didn't mean it. You have to."
"You were asleep at the time," Harry muttered, and now a frown lit his face.
"Yes, yes, I was," Draco said. "I'm asleep all the time, or I was until you entered my life." He leaned his head caressingly against Harry's knee. "Please, this was all I ever wanted. I want this more than I want to be a Potions master. You have to stay with me."
Harry touched his head for a moment, running a hand through Draco's hair, and then fell to his knees and touched his lips to Draco's. It was like a draught of cool water after a near-death of thirst. Draco gasped into his mouth and grabbed his shoulders, and Harry's tongue slid out and painted slick and gleaming reassurances across his teeth.
"Yes," Harry whispered. "I remember now. I forgot. I was the one who dreamed those words, and not you. Your dreams wouldn't disrupt your life that way." He slid comforting hands up Draco's arms to his shoulders and held him. "I'm right here, Draco, and I'll take care of you in case you have any more bad dreams."
Draco smiled at him. "No matter how bad they get?"
"No matter how bad they get." Harry dipped his head and kissed him again. "I'll always take care of you, Draco. Why else do I exist?"
…known properties of rosemary, sunflowers, and hemlock. Combined, they make a potion that 'gives the dreamer to the dream.' What this means we cannot be certain, as no one has made the potion in some years, and it is regularly left out of most books used to train casual students in the art. Even Potions masters, other notes on the brewing process say, would be hard-pressed to master the potion and use it the way it was meant to be used instead of dying at once—and if their wills were strong enough to do so, they "might not return to the lands of the waking"…