Pandora's Box by xErised


"'What say you, Draco? Will you babysit the cubs?'"

Page 16, Deathly Hallows

"'Draco, give Rowle another taste of displeasure… do it, or feel my wrath yourself!'"

Page 145, Deathly Hallows

The heart-shaped scar nestled behind his hooded eyes burnt.

Draco crawled over to the other side of his bed and urgently yanked open a drawer, his hand immediately going to the very end of the compartment and clutching the corner of the drawer. His fingers moved jerkily as the blond worked the concealed nook apart. His breath speeding up, Draco ran a tongue over dry lips in appeasement and retrieved the newspaper clipping from its hiding place.

Swallowing quickly, Draco scuttled over to his door, making sure that it was locked. But it didn't seem to provide much relief, Draco thought as he let out a dry humorless laugh. Voldemort, who was downstairs in the hall of the Malfoy Manor, could blast his whole house, much less his door, apart if he wanted to.

The Slytherin slumped back to the pillows, his fingers falling over themselves as they unfolded the salvaged clipping eagerly. Hungry grey eyes were clamped mesmerizingly on the rather grainy and blurry picture of Harry Potter, his hair as unkempt and windswept as usual. His wand was gripped tightly in his hand, and green eyes fringed with wariness and distrust alternated between staring straight ahead and looking towards his back.

Draco's absorption was concentrated wholly on Harry's picture, each slide and glide of his gaze devouring the silhouette of the brunette. Draco let himself be entrapped in Harry's eyes he's nowhere to be found, I think I might break. Draco was committing the image of Harry desperately to memory, because if his parents, or worse yet, Voldemort, found the clipping their tongues bound by a thousand lashes of disappointment and expectation-

A delusional Draco had thought that if he had stared long and hard enough at the clipping, that maybe, just maybe, it could burst into life and propel the blond back to another time and place, whisk him all the way back to those borrowed nights in the Astronomy Tower. Maybe there would be some secret message in those invigorating green eyes that were meant for no one but Draco, those eyes which had found beauty in his breakdown-

Some nights, Draco could still feel Harry's tongue on his Dark Mark.

Draco sighed softly and smoothened out a wrinkle on the newspaper clipping.

Following the aftermath of Dumbledore's death, Draco found himself turning Harry's offer of salvation and hope in his mind every single day, wondering how things would have been different if he had agreed to accept Harry's offer, instead of pushing him away. Would the world around him still be the weary trudge of battleground every day?

It was strange how thumbprints of blistering regret rioted through the Slytherin whenever he thought of that.

Draco sometimes dreamt of snakeskin, looping, curling snakeskin and festering like mold on a corpse, embezzling the air in his breath and the warmth in his body. The lack of Harry's presence in every dream simply made it harder to stomach, and sometimes he would almost hear Harry in the bed with him, that coaxing, smooth, melodious voice of his engulfing his sweetest dreams and whispering "sleep, because you can't dream about me with your eyes open."

That was the only thing that kept Draco going.

Draco grasped the clipping in his hands, got up to his knees on the bed and crawled over to his bedroom window. He closed his eyes and pressed his forehead calmly against the misted panes of the window. The days were slowly decimating into dust, where each hopeless wish of his melted in the deep, dead recesses of the night.

is it over yet-

Grim ballerinas, the horrific servants of death and dark and empty places, now swung, giggled and frolicked in the Malfoy playground, the same place where a young, cheerful Draco had once spent countless hours with his toys and crayons, toddling from corner to corner and treading happily alongside with Narcissa.

can I open my eyes?

But now, the abandoned and disowned playground only served to remind Draco of the daily dosage of death that he had to endure every day.

At this thought of rude reality, Draco clenched his eyelids tighter and exhaled heavily. His fingers could only clasp rigidly at the clipping in his hands, as though it was some sort of tinkling talisman-

I just hope that wherever you are,

Draco cracked his eyes open and stared at the gloomy landscape in front of him, his eyes all faraway and lost. The Slytherin felt like he was being tossed and thrashed in the toying waves of the roiling ocean, and the only thing Draco wanted was to find the shore where Harry, and only Harry would be there alone, waiting for him to come back to him too-

Draco collapsed back to bed and began to wait for the stars that were as dark as white, twinkling with lip gloss to lead him to somewhere that was not here. High above the polished stars, the moon mercifully threw baskets of glitter down to earth, gently blowing lavender kisses to Draco's bloodshot cheeks.

you can see the moon.

With that, Draco pushed the covers back with his feet and plopped down to his pillow, huddling himself up in a vulnerable little ball under the blankets. The gleam of grey that was held precariously between his lids slowly flickered, before vanishing altogether as Draco fell into an uneasy, furious slumber.

The clipping slipped sadly away from Draco's fingers, the fragile corners curling up slightly before it fluttered gracefully down to the grimy, dusty floor.

"Harry wondered whether they had fallen asleep holding hands. The idea made him feel strangely lonely."

Page 146, Deathly Hallows

With unblinking emeralds, Harry Potter stared unwaveringly at Ron and Hermione's interlinked hands. The couple's beds had been pushed closer together, while on the other hand, Harry's bed was rather isolated in one corner of the bedroom. They were holding hands across the small space between their beds, and Harry sat up in bed, craning his head slightly.

Ron's fingers were curled possessively around Hermione's wrist, while the witch's fingers were gently upturned, her fingertips resting contentedly on the flesh of Ron's palm.

Harry thrust a hand in his hair and tugged absentmindedly, sighing softly under his breath. He crept out of bed quietly, making sure to avoid the floorboards that creaked. The brunette wandered to the window in their room, all the while blinking rapidly to erase the sands of sleep from the cobwebs of his eyes.

Days had melded into weeks, and weeks had blurred into months, and throughout the time, the trio had been so enmeshed in the trenches of the battlefield that some days, it was difficult to even breathe. Harry dragged his eyes disconsolately at the scenery of dreary dawn beyond; the watery, run-down streaks of dull, dismembered orange of the sun's rays that shot down from the heavens like bullets. And there were clouds, clouds that were tinged with steel grey just like your eyes-, smudged and smeared in the skies, heavy with the promise of rain.

Harry remembered how the light in Draco's eyes had fizzled out at the Astronomy Tower, how realization had smashed into the blond's every nerve, imprinting the fact that there was no turning back when Draco had pointed his wand at Dumbledore. Harry had seen the Slytherin's fear, his humanity and the grime exposed and illuminated on his pale, pointed features, it was like looking at life through smeared mascara-

I'll find you in the dark-

wherever you choose to run-

Sometimes, when he was emotionally alone, especially on quiet nights like this, Harry would wish that he had kept Draco's jacket with him, instead of impulsively setting it on fire. He found himself thinking more and more of Draco these few days, reminiscing about the taper of the blond's slim wrists down to his hands, the delicate bone structure of his arms and his fingers, and the jacket that was studded with sugary sprinkles of Draco's oh-so-familiar vanilla scent wafting and hovering around Harry's shoulders like a teasing hand loving you comforts me in a strange way-

But yet, a small part of Harry knew that the both of them would never be together, simply because reality was tearing them apart you can't make it feel right when you know it's wrong-

Harry began to trace the pattern of the knotted and haloed clouds with a shaky finger as he waited patiently for the rain to fall. As though the gods above were mercifully granting Harry's wish, the sky began to bleed with clotted rain, droplets of rain like faint, tiny, translucent needles that pitter-pattered harmoniously and sweetly against the windows of 12 Grimmauld Place.

because if it doesn't rain-

then everything will die.

"'I can't – I can't be sure,' said Draco. He seemed as scared of looking at Harry as Harry was of looking at him."

Page 371, Deathly Hallows

It was his worst nightmare that Draco had kept fiercely at bay, but somehow, somewhere, by a mocking, morbid warp of fate, it had exploded onto the scene with all the suddenness and vileness of a kidnapper's cloak.

Draco Malfoy stood, his eyes peeled as wide as they could go and the back of his knees trembling as he clamped his stare at a captured Ron, Hermione and Harry at Malfoy Manor. The blond's head shook imperceptibly from side to side, the situation presented in front of him shaking him like a meteor blasting down to earth. Draco's hand twitched, like he had to grab onto something for support. A deluge of pouring horror was flooding his system, bathing and suffusing every nerve ending in popping bubbles of liquid adrenaline. His heart was hammering and quivering in his chest, as though it was suffering some sort of seizure-

Harry was forced roughly under the chandelier of the hall, harsh facets of stabbing crystal yellow light illuminating him. A malevolent Fenrir Greyback stood careful guard behind the trio, surrounded by Snatchers that were ready to attack at a drop of a hat. Lucius and Narcissa Malfoy flanked Draco, their hands fastened around their own wands. Fenrir licked his lips hungrily, the point of his tongue slashing across the inside of his upper lip as he let out an impatient snarl. The atmosphere was balanced perilously on a dagger's edge, and Draco knew that with a slip of my tongue, it would be so easy to get all of you killed-

The Gryffindors were now in Death Eater territory, and they had absolutely nowhere to run.

"Is that Potter and his friends, Draco? Identify him for us! Don't you understand, Draco, if we're the ones that hand Potter to the Dark Lord on a silver platter, everything will be forgiven!" Lucius hissed insistently in his son's ear, a skeletal hand gripping Draco's elbow urgently. A thin, reedy sliver of a laugh that threatened to rob Draco of his common sense tore from his throat. He knew that Voldemort's mood swings had taken on a more deranged level altogether. The Dark Lord would disappear for days on end, his temperament varying in between grotesque glee and reckless depression when he returned. A sense of danger hung in the air like shards of glass whenever Voldemort was around, because no one knew whether they would live to see another day.

And the Malfoys were always his first choice for a punching bag.

Voldemort's howls of rage and shrieks of anger would be directed towards his parents, and to him in a lesser extent. Draco knew that it wouldn't be long, oh no, it wouldn't be long before the Killing Curse would come into play.

Fear was climbing up Draco's spine like juicy spiders, but he still managed to school his expression into one of mere reluctance, with terror flittering at the borders, when the only thing he wanted to do was to run towards Harry and wail "take me away from here, Harry, please, please, I'll go wherever you are, just don't leave me!"

"Is that him, Draco? Tell us!" Narcissa had stumbled closer towards her son, her hand clutching pressingly onto Draco's other elbow.

Of course it was Harry.

Even with the Stinging Jinx in place, Draco could easily recognize the design of Harry's glasses pushed lopsidedly onto the brunette's puffed-out cheeks. Draco could see the scar on Harry's forehead because I've kissed it before. Even with Draco's eyes darting skittishly from side to side, refusing to make eye contact with Harry, the blond could never mistake the Gryffindor in front of him for someone else how could you, Draco, when he's held you through all your nightmares, Salazar, I can smell him from here, I, I can't-

And it was only then that their eyes hooked onto each other, frightened pools of grey colliding with swollen slits of pleading, incapacitated, green touch me where it hurts- , the world was tilting on its axis and freezing on Draco's ankles, and time, time was ticking rippling, pounding crashing in Draco's ears, simply because Harry's fervently blinking eyes were speaking in a language iloveyouithinkido, iloveyouithinkido- that only Draco could comprehend-

do you understand how-

the ice is getting thinner under me and you-

"After the war, I'll come and find you, Draco, I'll find you and we'll be together!"

"I'm not sure," Draco said finally, dropping his head and his voice hitching at the end. With that proclamation, he could feel the shoulders of his parents sag in defeat, feel their hearts dropping like a boulder all the way down to their shoes, a stitch from falling apart-

The blond dragged his feet away to the fireplace and stared blankly at the leaping tendrils of fire, the long-cherished memories that he protected so strongly slinking from shadow to shadow-

because this is-

where platinum boys sit with their hands tied-

and heroes wait for their brides until the day they die.

"Malfoy was screaming and holding Harry so tightly-"

Page 509, Deathly Hallows

Branches of tears dripped and drizzled their way down Draco's heated cheeks as he held onto the unconscious body of Goyle with a manacle-like grip. The tower of desks were teetering and flailing uncontrollably beneath the soles of their feet, and it wouldn't be long before they would collapse altogether, and their bodies would forever be exhumed and trapped in this hellhole of a Room. Draco could only let out a piteous scream that was lost in the cavernous, gleeful depths of the Fiendfyre-

will you be there when the fire is closing in-

"Get on. Hurry!"

when my breaths are getting shorter-

It only took a blink of an eye before Draco felt Goyle being yanked roughly from his hands and carted away on Ron's broomstick. What little hesitant resistance we might die here, but I'm only going to let you kill me once- in Harry's eyes crumbled and toppled like dominoes when he took in the horror and shock etched on the blond's features. Harry snarled at nothing in particular when a chimera of flame licked playfully at the end of his broomstick. His face steeped with concentration, Harry flattened his body against the broom, swooped closer down and grabbed Draco's hand, his heart thudding like a trapped bird when his fingers brushed across the blond's wrist.

when the fear is in my eyes-

"Hold onto me. Come on!"

will you be there to wave me goodbye when I die?

With one last pull and turn, Draco was tucked snugly behind Harry as the pair zoomed their way out of the Room. With a soft sob, Draco held tightly onto the Gryffindor, burying his head into the crook of his shoulder, just like what he used to do a year before. The endless in between was separating Harry and Draco from the rest of the world, and it didn't matter, it never mattered at all because if you're lucky enough, it's just youandhim youandhim-

The tears on his eyelids were blurring into a squall, and Draco could only paw desperately at Harry's clothes, his stomach, his shoulders, because Harry was there for him, holding him up above the swirling, dizzying spitfires of the maelstrom raging beneath them. Draco's mind was spinning, reeling with imploding, star-burst images and gasps and feelings and, and, oh God, Harry, wrap me up in your arms just like you used to, kiss me and breathe life into me, hold me like you'll never let go, make me warm all over, touch me again, unfold melove me-

There was this… necessity to swallow and gulp every molecule of air around Draco, even if the overpowering stench of burnt artifacts was choking him, because the very scent of Harry was more than enough to chase his scars away-

And finally they were out of the Room, but Draco refused to relinquish his rigor mortis grip on Harry, because he was so scared, so scared that this might be the last time he might seetouchfeelhear- Harry ever again-

"Wait for me. I'll come back for you," Harry promised solemnly, his eyes true and serious. Draco nodded mutely, speechless and breathless from that harrowing experience. The brunette's gaze lingered, tangling over Draco's trusting grey eyes and singed hair and flame-tinged skin. With that, Harry turned away decisively and sprinted off, with Ron and Hermione in his wake.

Those words, that inevitable vow of hope and commitment, were the only scab that kept Draco from a complete breakdown.

"He spotted the three Malfoys, huddled together-"

Page 597, Deathly Hallows

The dust had only just begun to settle.

Thanks to Luna's timely distraction "Look, a Blibbering Humdinger!", Harry could weave through the crowds of the Hall without interruption, thanks to his trusty Cloak. There were countless things to do; grieve for the families of the dead, partake in the clutter of celebrations and parties that were certain to happen later, but there was only one thing in his mind right now that demanded his immediate urgency and attention. The brunette strained his way through the ruckus that was the Great Hall, easily dodging knots of people clustered around each other. His eyes were only intent on one person only-

And then he saw them, a trio of blond heads that were bowed at one lone corner of the Hall. Lucius Malfoy had his arms wrapped possessively around his wife and his son, while Narcissa was sobbing with complete disregard, their usual layer of Malfoy reserve stomped, crumpled and thrown to the ground. Draco was being embraced fiercely by his parents, but yet, Harry could see the way the Slytherin's head rose by just a fraction, his grey eyes seeking out the throng as though he was looking for someone-

Harry speedily darted to his line of vision, whisked the Cloak off just for a split-second and nodded his head at the blond. That action was slow enough for Draco to notice him, but fast enough for Harry to be undisturbed. Draco reared back in surprise when he spotted a swift glimpse of the brunette, but gently dislodged himself from his parents' grasp. Harry could see that Draco was making some sort of excuse for a quick getaway. Narcissa was hesitant at first, but after a bit of wheedling from her son, both Narcissa and Lucius acquiesced, but not before an authoritative Lucius whispered something sternly in Draco's ear.

With his head bent low, Draco sieved through the flocks in the Hall. Without a second's hesitation, the blond continued towards the Astronomy Tower, his tread certain and brisk. With sunbeams tugging at his heart, spurring him on, Harry licked his lips and followed the other boy, but still keeping his Cloak on.

And then, Harry was mounting the winding staircase of the Tower, just like he had done so for so many times the previous year, but this time, it was different, because Draco was waiting for him, had been waiting for him for the past year-

With a shaky hand, Harry slid the Cloak off his body, the silvery fabric pooling at his feet, laying neglected, as he greedily drank in the sight of the other boy that he had only seen in his dreams, in his thoughts, his eyes roving madly over Draco, knowing that this was real, it wasn't a joke, that Draco was there, just right over there, close enough to… touch, and Harry felt the ending of joy wishes that had complicated the stars-, exhilaration, and this discerning feeling that it had all been worth it-

And it seemed as though Draco was doing the same thing, the distance between them remaining constant as both boys simply gazed at each other, because this was the epitome of uncomplicated closeness and warmth. There were no words to describe the feeling that both boys shared right at that very moment, it was as though their wishes were finally being granted and blended together to form this surreal, sliding, shifting, smoothing bloom of calmness and tranquility. There was no Fiendfyre disconnecting them from their emotions, no Stinging Jinxes, no Death Eaters, no Dark Lord, and they could just spend the whole day together, right here, in their secret hide-out at the Tower, just holding each other, and it wouldn't even matter-

Harry moved towards Draco, absorbing the slightly red and peeling arms of the blond from the Fiendfyre. A few scraps of Draco's hair were snarled into angry, tangled gnarls. The sides of Draco's face were smudged with black marks, and his raspberry lips were cut, with smears of dried blood like dewdrops, thanks to Ron's punch earlier. Harry frowned to himself I don't want my Draco to be hurt- and stepped closer to Draco. The Slytherin's breath hitched sharply, but he stayed still and silent, his eyes holding Harry's raw gaze-

Harry cradled Draco's face in his hands lovingly, using his thumbs to rub delicately at the bloodstains on Draco's chin and the top of his neck. With the tired and calloused fingers on his other hand, the Gryffindor smiled and began to patiently fix the snags in Draco's hair. The graceful ellipses of Draco's snowy lashes fluttered and flicked closed as he leant in to Harry's embrace, his dehydrated heart suddenly juddering to life as though Harry had cast some sort of spell over it.

"It's fine," Draco said quietly, his voice raspy and hoarse while he reached up and lightly pushed Harry's hands down. Harry responded by encircling Draco's frail body with his arms and squeezing him so hard and with so much longing that Draco could only hold onto Harry in turn, his head burrowed in Harry's shoulder and his own arms twined around Harry's neck. Their war-ravaged souls were finally put to peace, and their touches to each other were like sweet dreams that couldn't be stopped, an oasis of well-deserved security and sanctuary.

There was no need for frivolous conversation, no need for "I missed you so much, I was so worried about you, so worried, I couldn't stop thinking of you, couldn't, couldn't-", because there seemed to be a strange sense of understanding shared between both boys. The only thing that they wanted was to slam this particular chapter in their life closed and move on-

His emeralds bright and iridescent, and his breathing fast with undisguised excitement, Harry chuckled quietly to himself and began to speak, his voice rich with ambition and promise.

"A house, maybe in the countryside, but well, it'll be nice if it was near Ron and Hermione. It'll be bright with lots of sun all day round, and when night falls, the view's going to be brilliant, there'll be stars scattered in the sky, and the moon will be perfect. It doesn't matter if it's near a small town or a big city, I just want it to be comfortable."

With that, Harry paused and waited expectantly for Draco to comment on the future that he had molded for the both of them, a dream that Harry had fantasized about during the War, a dream that was suddenly so reachable now-

It was peculiar how Draco wriggled his way out of Harry's hug, those grey eyes dilating with an escalating well of pain and disappointment, his heart dancing to a song of heartbreak and hope, and then Draco was retreating from the confused brunette, the cold, mercurial breeze dividing and plunging them into a chasm of splintered dreams-

because I shouldn't mind breaking your heart-

"I'm sure… I'm sure the Weaslette would like it," Draco murmured, looking down to the floor and rubbing the tops of his arms defensively.

That lone sentence threw Harry in a mesh of full-stops and exclamation marks. He managed a truncated laugh and shook his head vigorously, advancing towards Draco.

"No, it's not for her. It's for the both of us, it's for me and you. If you don't like the countryside, we could always figure out something else. As long as I'm with you-"

"My family's moving to France."

Echoing, frittering shock clogged Harry's every pore.

"And that's the only reason why I met you here, to tell you this. We're taking the Portkey this evening. So we're done here. It was nice seeing you again, Potter," Draco mumbled dejectedly, before turning away and-

"No! I'm not letting you go like this! Not after all we've been through!" Harry shouted, clutching Draco around the wrist with a vice-like grip. "Fine. If you want to go to France, I'll go with you. Let me run away with you-"

"Do you know what you're talking about? You have to stay here and bask in your well-deserved glory! It's everything that you've worked for, bled for, suffered for for the past seven years! You can't just leave! Don't you know what's going to happen to you? You're going to be rich, Harry, you're going to have interviews, endorsements, there'll be other people… other people… more… suited for you that's willing to queue around the block for your heart-"

"I don't care, I don't care a bit for that rubbish because I want you, I only want you, Draco-"

"The Malfoy name has been dragged through the mud, my family has been disgraced beyond repair! And when the Ministry gets its act together, the Malfoys are the ones that are going to be hunted down and prosecuted first-"

"I'll vouch for all three of you, I'll protect you, just don't leave like this, please-"

"It'll be all over the papers, the tabloids, Malfoy and Potter! The media backlash, everyone's expecting Potter and Weasley- no, no, Harry, let go, it'll never work out, we'll never work out-" Draco raged, because how was it possible, how was it plausible to fashion a proper, genuine relationship with bits and pieces of borrowed touch and too little words, and as blazing grey landed on wounded green-

"I don't give a damn what the press thinks! I'm done with them! I think I deserve to do something that makes me happy for a change! Does it matter, Draco, because we might still be together next month, next year, for the next ten years, only if you gave me, gave us a chance! I don't care about forever, I don't care about everyone else because, because-" Harry's voice, sounding rough and tortured, suddenly dropped to a mere whisper- "Because all I need in this life is just you needing me."

Each world was stinging like a bloodied kiss to Draco, and there was pain, this awful, shrieking pain scything across his skin that penetrated, wounded him so much more than the burns on his arms when Draco saw the hurt that he had inflicted carved into Harry's eyes-

"I will do anything for my family. The Malfoys can't stay here, we've got to lie low! My parents will never leave here without me, and I can't endanger their lives once more! You've seen what lengths I was willing to go through last year to keep their lives. I will never choose you over my family. That's a fact, and no matter what you do or what you say, that will never change!" Draco blustered, an air of finality to his words, just like how you would break a child-

It was almost like being in a catatonic state of mind, there was the world crashing around his ears, and Harry streaked his hands desperately through his mass of black locks, part of him refusing to believe that this was happening, that everything was going to be snatched away after all the heartbroken hope, after all the misplaced misery, after all the… the stars-

"I will always love you, I will always be thinking about you, I will always be dreaming about you, even if it means having my heart crushed by you a hundred times into a million little pieces."

he was heartache the moment you met him-

Harry's declaration hung and shimmered in the air like the echoes after a gunshot, and Draco's fingers curled and clenched, feeling the hurt and grief ripping through him. The wind blew and caressed both boys, scribbles of Draco's blond tendrils being stirred and rearranged by the empty fingers of the wind, undoing Harry's previous maneuvers on Draco's hair-

"Just one kiss. Before you go. Our first, and our last," Harry said dully, his sentences broken up into stilted chunks and emerging from his mouth as though a ventriloquist was speaking through him-

like a bone, like a bone, I'm so breakable-

A shatter of hope and a squirm of terror twisted Draco's heart, and it was so tempting, so tempting to press his lips onto Harry's, to convince himself that this was actually… actually goodbye, and he could see Harry's eyes, eyes that were embroidered with vanishing, fading snapshots of suns, moons and stars-

I don't want to feel anything.

But I do.

But Draco knew that if he let himself surrender to Harry's kisses, he would never be able to leave-

The doves high above twirled and pirouetted amongst the clouds, painting their curves in the precious opal sky. A soft fog coiled and curled around their ankles, dissipating beneath their toes, reminding Draco that it was time to go-

This was rejection the second time.

"Forget me," Draco whispered, his eyes sweeping if only I could meet you again, in a different life, different situation, different time- over Harry's wild hair, his numb hands.

Come back to me.

"I can't," Harry said, dazed. His heart was breaking all over again, this screeching, agonizing sensation at the middle of his chest-

I was never yours to begin with.

It was like a failed, carelessly abandoned love story that had never been completed, its happilyeverafter torn away and thrown into the wind that never took flight, because of sacrifice, and because these were the skeletons in the closet that would never see the judgmental light of day, simply because-

With his own sobs tearing from his throat, Draco fled I'll always be right here with a single sole regret- the scene, and he wondered, oh, how he wondered, why the world was suddenly out of color-


"Draco caught sight of Harry... nodded curtly and turned away again."

Page 605, Deathly Hallows

"Now, remember to smile as much as possible, eat your three square meals a day, and don't talk with your mouth full, take care of your owl, always, always, listen to your professors, don't forget to write back home, and oh, don't forget to change your underwear daily-"

"Mother! Don't embarrass me!" Scorpius squeaked, scandalized as he looked furtively around the train station. It was the usual affair of organized chaos, with parents and children bidding tearful goodbyes, the raucous laughter and cheerful shrieks of Hogwarts students who were exchanging greetings at the start of a fresh school term. There were already some pets on the loose, and a surprised Scorpius jumped back as a big, fat toad hopped in between him and Astoria.

"Oh, don't forget to write to Grand-pere and Grand-mere back in Lille! They've promised to send you your favorite pastries from France," Astoria trilled, to which Scorpius rolled his eyes good-naturedly and grinned up at his parents.

"Tell us the results of your Sorting when you receive it," Draco Malfoy mentioned, much to Scorpius' slight unease.

"Father, what if… what if I get into… Gryffindor?" Scorpius whispered incredulously, his nose wrinkling as though he had caught a whiff of something putrid.

Draco sighed and uttered that particular refrain once again, "It doesn't matter to us, Scorpius. I've already told Grand-pere that he should stop bringing up the events of the war. Besides, not all Gryffindors are that intolerable," Draco finished, his voice petering off when his eyes latched onto a certain Harry Potter bending down to speak to Albus. Astonished green and evasive grey clashed, and Draco hurriedly turned away.

"Isn't that Harry Potter, Father?" Scorpius said, tugging on his father's sleeve in a flurry. "Isn't he the Golden Boy and your enemy when the both of you were in Hogwarts? And that's his son, isn't it?"

"Now, I won't have you provoking the boy simply because he's a Potter, you hear," Draco said firmly, his face cracking into a smile when Scorpius blinked at his father with the finesse of an innocent.

"It's time to go, darling. Remember your manners, especially when you're meeting new people!" Astoria reminded. Scorpius beamed at his parents, said his goodbyes and scurried off to the train. The Malfoys stayed there for a while, waving contentedly at their only son while the train hooted chirpily and pulled away from the station.

"He's all grown up now, isn't he?" Astoria sniffed, fishing out a lacy handkerchief and dabbing at her eyes with it. "Anyway, I'm off to the shops now. Do you need me to buy anything for you? A new suit, perhaps?"

"It's alright. I'll see you at home after the meeting in the afternoon," Draco replied.

"Don't come home too late. I'll have Binky cook your favorites for dinner," Astoria smiled, leant up and pecked her husband fondly on his cheek before tottering off. But Draco still remained rooted to the spot for some reason or another, until the crowds parted and dissolved into the mist and revealed a lone Harry Potter, standing directly in front of Draco.

Each regarded the other with eyes that refused to blink.

And Draco wondered why he had broken his own heart.

The blond had piled on the sharp, syrupy bittersweetness in an attempt to dull his guilt and regret, and for the past years, maybe when he was sitting down to dinner with his family, penning a proposal for his work, from out of the blue, he would wonder what would have happened if he had agreed to leave with Harry, agreed to their little imaginary home in the countryside. It had been a fatal secret, gnawing and nipping away at Draco, and he knew beyond doubt that the other man had felt the same way too, squirreling it away like some… disease-

"-bright with lots of sun all day round-"

Some nights, when reality seemed to be getting to Draco, he would simply sit outside their manor in France and gaze up dreamily at the sky. There was no need for the regularity and clockwork of the world, it was only him, the stars, a coquettish glimpse of the half-moon, and if Draco strained really, really hard, he might just hear the non-existent whispers of Harry-

"-stars scattered across the sky-"

Up to this day, Astoria still didn't know why Draco did that. She only knew that Draco was not to be disturbed, and at moments, she might catch a flitter of pain slice across Draco's features-

"-the moon will be perfect-"

Draco had waited for the memories to get blurry, oh he had waited for this love to have run its course, had hoped that his feelings for Harry was something like hot breaths on frosted glass, like pencil marks fading away on paper with each tick of the clock, something that would pale and vanish when the mornings of his life came around.

"-my heart crushed by you!"

But it never did.

It had lain dormant, concealed at the trapdoor at the back of Draco's mind, teasing him whenever he saw someone that might look like Harry wandering the cobbled streets, whenever he woke up, his dreams of the brunette sizzling and spluttering behind his eyes, and Draco would try as hard as he could to claw it back, but it had already dissolved into the heavens where they sold wishes-

Draco had tried to fend it off, sidestep it every single time whenever he was reminded of his sixth and seventh year, but to no avail, because no matter how many times he tried to push it away, it kept scudding back to him, until Draco taught himself how to cripple himself with his own lies and denial. A small part of him had never healed fully, and it didn't matter because when the blond tried to bandage it all up, it would start to hurt yet again, the red seeping through the white, opening like a fresh wound all over again-

And Harry was moving towards him now, and Draco recognized the oh-so-familiar hunch in his back, the awkward little rhythm that Harry brought with each step, until Harry was there, just, right, there, close enough to touch, the space between them was where the ghost of a thousand unfulfilled kisses were lolling like all the unclaimed stars in the night skies-

It was mandatory to sweep over the silence raging within them, break it with rude noise, plain words and conversation and meaningless questions, to ignore how their fates had been embroiled and gotten lost with each other's, because if not, Draco might just-

you and I will always be unfinished business-

It was impossible to stare in each other's eyes and pretend that nothing had ever happened.

"Hey," Harry said. His voice still appeared to be the same, low, comforting, yet soft, but now it contained a smidgeon of weariness of the world-

"Good morning," Draco replied formally. "Your son… looks very much like you."

"Yours too," the ex-Gryffindor said pointlessly. "You look… just as good as ever," Harry managed, his words gone quieter and tripping a bit.

"You too," Draco answered awkwardly, and then there was this stifling need to get away from the scene, because suddenly, everything had taken a dangerous turn, Harry was shifting closer, the look in his eyes what we could have been if you'd only let me-

"I need to… I need to go. It was nice seeing you again," Draco mumbled inanely, turning away-

you're the knot in my heart that I'm still trying to untangle-

"Draco, wait! Look, I know this little café around the corner, they make really nice cakes, would you… would you… I mean, it's okay if you're busy or you've got to rush off somewhere, but… won't you just… spend a little time with me?"

we're not even close to the lovers kissing in the ballroom-

If Draco refused, this would be rejection the third time.

There were alarm bells clanging in Draco's head, and he looked at the spot beside him where Astoria had occupied merely minutes ago, and at the tracks, where Scorpius had boarded the train-

"Don't get me wrong, it's just a meal, you know, to catch up…" Harry trailed off, but Draco could see the way the fingers of the other man twitched, as though he was itching to reach over and take Draco's hand in his own, the way Harry's tongue darted out and ran over his lower lip, as though he wanted to… wanted to kiss Draco-

the most exciting attractions are between two opposites that never meet-

"I-" Draco started, jerking his head to one side, but stumbled as he took in the plaintive plea in Harry's eyes, the soft downturn of his lips, the dismayed curve of his fingers. Their feelings for each other had been unspoken for and unexplored for the past few years, the stolen breaths, every ricochet of heartbeat, the hands that had failed to hold each other, the lips unkissed, the love story that was the greatest never heard-

Draco swallowed shakily, and gradually, he released the tension in his arms that had been folded ineptly across his chest, leaving them hanging from his sides hopelessly. His mind was already replaying this scene, hoarding it away in the little bejeweled treasure box in his heart-

The ex-Slytherin dredged up a smile, his eyes crinkling at the sides, and now, he was the one that took an encouraging step towards Harry, that single word that he muttered only having a heartbeat of hesitation at the beginning, but Draco felt his heart lift dangerously when he saw the emboldened hope in Harry's sparkling eyes-


Pandora's Box: -but it is said, that at the very bottom of the box, there lay… hope.


The real ending is for the reader's personal interpretation.

So, I think I've finally got all the angst out of my system, which means that the next fic would probably be something ridiculously sweet and endearing, but certainly not too frilly or mushy.

Hardly Rational will be released next Friday, 11 June. Thanks for wading through this two-shot!