He waited urgently on their doorstep, the rain lashing at his hastily flung-on coat, his hair uncombed and toes curling in damp shoes, socks forgotten in his haste. His fingers tapped along the timber frame in an odd, sporadic manner as though he was playing an invisible piano.
There was a click. His fingers paused in their soundless song.
The light spilled out into the darkness, lighting him up and outlining his rough hair, illuminating his wild eyes.
"Draco?" Hermione said sleepily, drawing her dressing gown around herself.
"I'm sorry, I know it's late but I didn't know who else to turn to -" Draco began, his throat painful with suppressed fear.
The confusion and sleepiness stole away from Hermione's face. An odd and unreadable expression flickered, then settled.
"Harry?" she asked tiredly. Draco gave her a startled look.
"Yes," he said, his voice taut with barely-masked emotion. Hermione must've seen it in his eyes, in the way he was holding himself. He hated being so easy to read, so predictable. He managed a tight smile, feeling his hair curling at the nape of his neck, the rain making it damp and untamed.
"Hermione? Who is it?"
Draco looked over Hermione's shoulder. At the top of the stairs, Ron sleepily rubbed at his eyes, his pyjama sleeves covering his face for a moment and hiding his expression in creased folds and shadows. Hermione looked over her shoulder, her hand still on the doorknob.
"Draco," she said reluctantly. "It's about Harry." The way she said it made Draco suddenly rethink his assessment of her. There was distance in her voice and coolness in her eyes. Perhaps he had interrupted something. Perhaps he wasn't as welcome as he thought.
To his surprise Ron came down the stairs, looking at Draco searchingly. His clear blue eyes seemed to scan Draco's face, a search for emotion. Draco felt nothing but fear and worry and something worse, something shadowy and ominous.
"Had another lover's tiff, hey mate," Ron said at last, coming to stand by Hermione. "Do you want to come inside, have a cup of tea?" Hermione nudged him with a sharp elbow, apparently displeased with the offer.
"No," Draco said. "No, we have to look for him, he -"
"It's just another silly argument," Hermione said a little unkindly. "Have a Calming Drought, go to bed. He'll be back tomorrow morning. He always is."
"I'm worried about him," Draco cut in urgently. "He's never left like this before, without a word or warning, and I'm worried about where he'll go -"
"He's somewhere safe," Ron said. Draco glanced at Hermione's closed face.
"He's with you, isn't he?" Draco demanded, furious as Hermione shook her head jerkily, her face cold. "Please, let me see him! I don't care what he's been saying about me, as long as he's alright, please, I need to know -"
"He's not here, mate," Ron said quietly.
"Is he -"
"He's with friends."
"You're his closest friends!" Draco argued.
"He's with a couple of old friends," Ron said softly. "He's fine. He's not mad at you."
"Then you've seen him? He stopped by? Did he say anything about me? About us?"
"Go to bed," Hermione snapped. "You're just over-reacting."
"Hermione," Ron said quietly, "he cares about Harry too -"
"Well, I'm tired and my patience is wearing thin. I'm sick of this."
Draco looked at her in disbelief. Very few times had he called on Ron and Hermione, distraught after an argument with Harry. Was there still a shade of school-day dislike in those cool brown eyes, in the impatient hand drumming on the doorframe? Her hand still rested on the doorknob, a determined resistance to any welcome.
Rain trickled down Draco's collar.
"I'll just go then," he said, his voice barely audible above the rain. "Please tell me if Harry turns up. I just want to know he's okay. That we're okay."
With that, he turned and Disapparated into the cold night.
He took off his soaking coat and draped it over the kitchen bench. The dishes were half done in the sink, a tea-towel lying haphazardly on the floor. Exactly where it had lain two hours previously when Draco and Harry had argued. Draco had turned to say something cold and acerbic but had found himself looking at nothing. Harry had gone. He'd never left so abruptly before without warning, without threats or annoyed farewells. Draco leaned on the kitchen counter, his face in his hands. He just wanted to reach out and touch Harry again, kiss his calloused palm, tell him he was sorry, he didn't mean it, please come home...
There was a faint pop. Somebody had Apparated onto the front porch.
Draco wavered for a moment, uncertain, wanting to appear cold and uncaring. But worry and love won over and he hurried to the front door, opening it.
"Not who you were expecting, eh?" Ron glanced up at Draco's expression. "Listen, I'm sorry about Hermione. She just – she gets a little impatient sometimes." Ron watched as Draco raked a hand through wild hair, the strands catching on his silver ring. The same ring Harry had given him so many years ago, a token of love and forgiveness. "I thought I should see if you were alright. Well, obviously you're not alright, but -"
Draco managed a tense laugh. "Thanks. I'm fine."
"I'll make some coffee," Ron offered. "You should go get changed. If Harry could see you right now he'd be muttering disapprovingly about pneumonia and stupid Slytherin boys."
Draco's lips twitched despite himself and he set off upstairs. Two minutes later, there was a dull thump.
Ron dropped his coffee cup, the delicately shaded liquid spilling in beaded droplets. It made a strangely pretty picture, Draco's finest imported roast all over the kitchen tiles.
But Ron was already racing upstairs.
Draco was slumped against his and Harry's bed, his eyes staring at a patch of carpet.
"Everything alright?" Ron said cautiously.
"His things," Draco said, and Ron politely ignored the way Draco's voice broke halfway through the sentence. "Harry – he – it's all gone."
Ron glanced at the open wardrobe. Sure enough, Harry's side was completely empty. Cleaned out. Ron crossed over to the dresser and Draco shook his head mutely. "All of it," he said. "Socks, underwear, everything."
But Ron opened the third drawer down and pulled out something. Harry's favourite shirt. Dark green, Slytherin green.
"That's not true," Ron said quietly. "Harry would never leave this behind."
Draco glanced up. Ron held it out, the material light in his hand. Harry's scent was embedded permanently in the soft cotton.
After a moment Draco stretched out his hand and took it. A heartbeat later his face was buried in the material, breathing in the scent of the man he loved so much. Ron turned away, staring out through the open curtains at the clear sky, the cold stars.
"He'll be back tomorrow," Ron said. "You two will be fine. A love like yours is destined to last forever."
When Ron crawled back into bed, Hermione shifted away from him, shrugging off the warm arm that tried to cover her shoulders.
There was a long silence. Ron gave up trying to spoon her and lay on his back, staring at the ceiling. He glanced over at Hermione and saw her eyes open too, catching the thin light of the moon through their curtains.
"Mad at me again?" he asked quietly. Hermione stiffly folded the bedcovers around herself.
"It happens every night," she said coldly. "It needs to stop. He has to face the truth sometimes."
"He felt it more then any of us," Ron began, but Hermione cut across him.
"He didn't feel anything, that's the whole problem. Whereas we – we -"
There was another long silence. Ron waited patiently, his heart suddenly catching as he realised Hermione's shoulders were shaking.
"Oh, Merlin. Come here," he said and she scooted closer, letting him surround her with warmth.
When her violent sobs had subsided into softer tears, Ron let her draw away from him and spoke.
"See, it's alright for us, we've got each other. But him, he's got no-one."
"I know. I'm sorry," Hermione said, drying her eyes on the pillowcase. "Do – d'you want to visit Harry's grave tomorrow? It's been nearly a year since the accident."
"Definitely," Ron assured her, kissing her lightly on the forehead. "We'll bring daffodils."
"Harry's favourite," Hermione said, a shaky smile on her face.
Ron held her til she fell asleep.
Draco methodically washed and dried the rest of the dishes, wiping away the spilt coffee. His head was filled with a mindless hum. He stared at each droplet before wiping it away, watching his hand as though the actions belonged to somebody else.
He turned round slowly.
Harry stood there, smiling at him. Draco straightened up.
"I thought you'd left me."
"Don't be stupid," Harry said. "A love like ours is destined to last forever."
The words were strangely familiar but Draco let them go. Harry was here again. Everything would be alright.
Harry was everywhere now, free at last. He was in the skies and in the earth, in the stars and in the air. He was waiting, waiting for his lover. Sirius was with him, and his parents, and Remus and Tonks, and if he could still feel pain it would hurt him to see Draco talking to himself in the kitchen, touching thin air, his mind conjuring up comfort. But Harry couldn't feel pain and he didn't hurt. He just waited. He had all eternity to wait.
And in the third drawer down, dust settled over Harry's scent.