Title: Going Down
Rating: R (for language)
Harry looked at his watch, which told him it was 11.40pm. He sighed as he stood up from his desk, deciding it was late enough for him to go home. He'd successfully avoided the Weasley's Christmas Eve get together by telling them he had some important work to finish up. Now he was free to enjoy the solitude of his flat, have a few drinks and sleep through the next day.
He grabbed his book, packed a few files into his backpack in case he ran out of alcohol and found himself in need of another distraction, turned out the lights and headed for the door.
As Draco wandered through the corridors he savoured the rare silence. With everyone on holiday or on call over Christmas, the Ministry was empty. Having nowhere better to be, he'd stayed late and immersed himself in work. He knew he'd be back tomorrow as well; with no one to spend it with Christmas was just another day to him now.
Reaching the lifts he pushed the call button and waited until one clanked into view and the doors slid open to admit him.
Nose buried in his book, Harry tapped a foot impatiently, waiting for the lift. He really wanted to get home and break open his liquor cabinet. When it finally arrived he shuffled on without taking his eyes of the words in front of him. He hated riding up and down in these bloody contraptions, but he wasn't walking up and down seven flights of stairs twice a day.
Due to his concentration on his book Harry didn't notice the other person in the lift until the doors had closed and the lift started its descent. Only then did the lift's other occupant speak up quietly.
"Malfoy." He'd know that voice anywhere and did not look up from his book as he spoke.
"Working rather late on Christmas Eve, aren't you?"
"Yes." Harry kept his reply succinct. Although he was still looking at his book, he was no longer reading it.
There was a pause.
"Must be a bloody good book."
"It is." He really didn't want to get into a conversation with Malfoy.
"Why aren't you reading it then?"
"What?" Harry's head snapped up to look at Malfoy.
"Your book. If it's that bloody good, why aren't you reading it?"
"I am," he said as he lowered he head back down.
"Then why aren't your eyes moving across the page?" The smirk could be heard in Malfoy's words.
Damn it. Harry pursed his lips and said nothing.
Draco chuckled quietly to himself. Potter was still so easy to taunt. He didn't see him much around the Ministry, mostly in crowded lifts where he had noted Potter always had his face in a book. Potter very much seemed to keep to himself these days. Why he'd be here so late on Christmas Eve was something Draco wondered about, though. Surely Potter should be awash in a sea of red-heads at this time of year?
He was looking at Potter and still pondering over this when the lift suddenly made a loud scraping noise and juddered to a halt. Draco saw Potter's eyes grow wide.
"What the fuck just happened?" Potter's whisper was barely loud enough for Draco to hear.
"It seems the lift has broken down," Draco stated matter-of-factly.
"Broken down?" Potter seemed to be staring into space.
"Yes. It's happened a few times before. Most of the time the lift started up again of its own accord after a few minutes."
"Most of the time?" Potter again repeated Draco's words, his face unmoving.
"Is there an echo in here?" Draco rolled his eyes. "Yes, most of the time. A couple of times we had to send Magical Maintenance up to the roof to fix the hydraulics, but I'm sure we'll be fine."
There was a flutter of pages and a soft thud as Potter's book slipped from his fingers and fell to the ground. Draco looked over to see Potter slowly back into the corner, his eyes suddenly alert and darting all over the lift. A frown appeared on Draco's face.
"Potter, are you okay?" Draco spoke slowly, as if he was talking to a startled deer.
"I... I need to... get out of here." Potter was panicked.
"And you can, as soon as the lift starts up again. It'll just be a minute." Draco glanced up to the ceiling of the lift thinking about the cables that were holding them up, willing them to start moving again. He really didn't want to be stuck here with Potter if he was going to freak out.
Potter started shaking his head and wringing his hands. His eyes found Draco's and all Draco could see in them was fear.
Keeping their eye contact, Draco walked over to Potter and held the man's shoulders. He was trembling.
"Keep calm and take deep breaths." Draco knew a panic attack when he saw one.
Potter's knees seemed to buckle and Draco went down with him; ending with them both kneeling on the floor.
"What's wrong, Potter? Talk to me," Draco said as his hands started absent mindedly stroking Potter's upper arms.
"It's... I'm..." Potter struggled with his words. "I don't do well... in enclosed spaces."
Claustrophobic. Wonderful. Draco really hoped the lift would get moving again soon. He saw Potter's eyes leave his and continue roaming the small space they were in. A quiet whimper escaped his lips and Draco felt his Potter's arms stiffen.
"Hey, look at me." Draco shook him slightly and Potter's eyes focused on him once again.
Potter opened his mouth to speak, but closed it quickly without saying a word.
"It's okay." Draco's hands slid down Potter's arms and took hold of his hands. He squeezed them slightly. "You're okay."
Potter slowly nodded, keeping his eyes fixed on Draco and lightly gripping his hands.
"It's Christmas tomorrow," Draco said, glancing at his watch. "Well, today. It's just gone midnight. Merry Christmas?" He attempted to distract Potter with light conversation.
"Maybe Santa will get us out," said Potter humourlessly.
A small smile appeared on Draco's lips. "What are your Christmas plans?"
"Get drunk." Potter was visibly starting to relax. His shoulders sagged and his breathing evened, but he didn't let go of Draco's hands or his gaze.
This time Draco laughed. "Sounds like a plan. Why were you working so late?"
Potter mumbled something about finishing some reports and dropped his eyes to Draco's chest. Draco raised an eyebrow, but said nothing.
"How long have you suffered from claustrophobia, Potter?"
Harry shrugged and lowered his gaze to look at his hands being held by Malfoy's. He was feeling a lot calmer thanks to Malfoy's quick help, but he still didn't really want to have a conversation with him. Especially a conversation about spending 11 years locked in a cupboard. Instead he looked back up and turned the tables.
"Why are you working so late?" Harry asked.
"Why wouldn't I?" Malfoy stated easily. "I have nowhere else to be."
Harry looked at him questioningly and Malfoy continued.
"With Father dead and Mother settled in France I have no family here. The Manor gets a trifle empty with only one occupant."
"So you rather be in an empty Ministry building?" Harry asked sarcastically.
"Touché, but at least I can keep busy here."
They were silent for a few minutes until Harry started thinking about where he was, how long the lift had been stationary and once again began longing to escape.
"When will we be able to leave? I need to leave," Harry said. "When will this thing start moving?"
Malfoy squeezed his hands again and Harry was grateful for the comforting gesture.
"I don't know," Malfoy said calmly. "It's been at least 10 minutes. I would have expected it to have got going again by now."
"Fuck," whispered Harry. "What am I going to do?"
"You're going to stay calm while I figure out how to get us out, okay?" Malfoy made a move to stand, but Harry held his hands tight.
"No!" Harry cringed at the desperation in his voice. "I'm sorry. I just..." He trailed off.
"It's okay. Are you still freaking out?" There was no malice in Malfoy's voice, but Harry's face screwed up in embarrassment as he nodded.
"Can you talk to me? Keep my mind occupied?" Harry looked at Malfoy and saw no hesitancy in his eyes.
"Of course," he replied quickly as they both settled cross-legged across from each other, still holding hands.
An hour later Draco had calmed Potter enough to leave him sat in the corner reading (or at least pretending to read) his book while he explored their tight surroundings and attempted to figure a way out.
Fifteen minutes later Draco gave up.
"There's nothing I can do from here," he stated as he collapsed on his back. "The main mechanics are up on the roof; we'd need someone outside to go up there and fiddle about."
"But there's no one in the whole building except us." The fact that Potter didn't take his eyes off his book as he spoke did not go unnoticed by Draco.
"Correct. And there won't be anyone else in the building for a couple of days." Draco rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "Unless we get lucky and some catastrophe occurs, that calls everyone in."
Potter looked over the top of his book at him incredulously. Draco shrugged and smiled back at him from his position on the floor.
"So what do we do?" Potter put his book down and rubbed his eyes under his glasses.
"We wait," stated Draco simply. He shuffled closer to the wall opposite the lift doors and with his back still on the floor, he kicked his legs up to rest them against the wall.
"But we'll be here for at least two days."
"You have a knack for stating the obvious, Wonder Boy." Draco stretched his arms and then folded them under his head like a pillow. "You'd better get comfy."
Potter closed his eyes and let his head fall back. Draco watched his Adam's apple move as he swallowed and decided Potter was rather cute when he was nervous and trapped in a lift.
"Let's play a game," said Potter, his eyes now on the ceiling.
"Okay," Draco replied, wanting to keep Potter in this more relaxed state. "What game?"
Potter bit his lip while he thought; another cute habit, Draco noticed.
"What if?" Potter brought his head back to look at Draco.
"What if what?" Draco asked, bemused.
"Exactly!" Potter's eyes lit up with mischief.
"Let's play 'What if?'" Potter continued, "We pose 'what if' questions to each other. For example, what would you do if you went bald?"
"Malfoys don't go bald," Draco stated immediately.
"That's beside the point," Potter said. "What would you do if all your hair suddenly fell out?"
Draco pondered the ridiculous idea for a moment. "I'd invest in a large array of hats."
Potter actually laughed at that. Draco realised he hadn't seen Potter laugh like that since Hogwarts, and even then it was never at anything Draco had said or done. He decided he liked it.
"Your turn," Potter said, still smiling.
"All right. What would you do if Umbridge offered herself to you," Draco paused for a moment before adding, "sexually?"
"Vomit." Potter's face paled. "In fact I just threw up a little in my mouth thinking about it."
"Oh!" It seemed this game turned Potter into an excited 5 year old. "What would you do if you woke up one morning with boobs?"
"Have them removed," Draco spat, outraged. "I don't want a pair of useless flesh bags!"
That made Potter collapse in a fit of giggles and Draco looked across at him from his position on the floor. As much as he was enjoying seeing Potter holding his stomach and laughing, Draco didn't understand what was so funny.
"What!" Draco decided to just ask him.
"You," Potter attempted between giggles. "You're funny."
"Thank you?" Draco wasn't sure if that was a compliment or not. "But I wasn't trying to be funny."
Potter sat up and calmed down enough to speak again. "Anyone'd think you're gay."
"Well they'd be right, wouldn't they?" Draco frowned, his sexuality wasn't a secret. Did Potter not know?
"You are?" If anything, Potter sounded impressed with himself for guessing. Draco rolled his eyes, but smiled all the same.
"My go. What if you had one wish?"
Potter looked down at Draco with a thoughtful look on his face and took his time answering. Draco wondered what the man was thinking about.
"I don't know," Potter answered eventually. "Would I have to use it?"
"Are you saying you wouldn't want to use it?"
"I don't know, why did you ask that?" The laughing, happy Potter was suddenly gone. Draco almost felt guilty.
"Because we're playing a game. And because you're at work until midnight on Christmas Eve. And because your plan for Christmas Day was a liquid lunch. And because you, Saviour of the Wizarding world, vanquisher of the Dark Lord, freaked out when he got stuck in a lift."
Potter sighed. "So?"
"So what happened to you, Potter? Surely you're not happy like this."
Draco hated to play the therapist, but if he could spot Potter's utter miserableness while spending only two hours in his presence, how had his friends not noticed? If they had, they certainly wouldn't leave him alone to drown his sorrows at Christmas. Would they?
"I've been claustrophobic since childhood," Potter replied blandly. "The Muggle relatives I grew up with, they... well they weren't very nice, to put it mildly."
Draco could see the the hatred for the people he spoke of in Potter's eyes, even though his voice remained normal.
"I spent a lot of time alone and afraid and locked in a cupboard," Potter finished, quickly.
Draco was shocked, but he didn't shout about what cruel bastards those people must be. That was years ago and he could only assume Potter no longer had to associate with them.
"That's terrible," he stated quietly, "but that doesn't explain the rest." Draco knew Potter had shared the tale of the cupboard only in an attempt to avoid the other points Draco had made.
Potter remained quiet, suddenly taking an interest in the pattern of the carpet. Draco dropped the subject and closed his eyes.
It was a while later when Harry noticed Malfoy was asleep. Harry had been reading his book again, partly as a distraction from his surroundings and partly to avoid unwanted conversations. He finally put the book down, ready to suggest a different game to play, and looked at his lift companion.
Malfoy was still in the same peculiar position; on his back with his legs against the wall in a strange human 'L' shape. His hands rested on his chest, which was rising and falling slowly. The usually pristine blond hair was slightly mussed thanks to its time on the floor. His head was leaning sideways towards Harry, his lips slightly parted and his eyes closed. Harry thought he couldn't have looked more beautiful.
Harry sighed. Beautiful. Never a word he would have believed he could use to describe Malfoy, but there you have it.
As he watched Malfoy sleep, Harry began thinking about what had been said earlier. If he was honest with himself, then no, Harry wasn't happy like this. He'd changed a lot since the war ended. He continued to feel guilty about the fact that, against all odds, he had survived while so many others had died. He couldn't stand how much he hurt when surrounded by the family and friends of the people he had failed to save, so he spent more and more time alone. His life no longer surrounded by danger and uncertainty, he felt he could finally actually start living it, but he had no idea where to start. So he had simply fallen into a job at the Ministry and plodded on through each day. A big personal revelation he had was the knowledge that he was gay. He was terrified of the backlash this fact would generate so he hadn't told anyone yet, not even Ron and Hermione; not that he spoke to his friends much at all these days.
Most of all though, Harry was lonely. He had closed everyone close to him out of his life to avoid the pain of the aftermath of the war. Instead he had gone through it alone, and found that he really was just that. Alone.
Just a few hours trapped in a lift with Malfoy was enough for Harry to see that this man had changed, as well. He was still as snarky as ever, but he was kind. He had helped Harry the instant he began to panic and had sat with him for ages to make sure he stayed calm. He was also funny, who knew? And gay. Since when was Malfoy gay? That was quite an interesting revelation. But what Harry had most obviously noticed was that just like him, Malfoy was lonely. He was spending his Christmas at work because he had nowhere to be and no one to spend it with. This fact had made Harry's heart ache with empathy.
He briefly wondered if spending Christmas trapped in a lift together automatically made two ex-rivals friends, and found himself hoping that it did.
Draco woke with a stiff back and aching legs. He stretched out and silently cursed himself for falling asleep in such an ungainly position. When he opened his eyes it was to see an uneasy looking Potter peering down at him.
"Are you okay?" Draco sat up quickly, fearing Potter had started to freak out again while he was asleep.
"I'm fine," replied Potter quietly as he turned his face away.
That's when Draco noticed Potter's cheeks were wet.
"What's wrong?" He asked gently as he shuffled closer across the floor.
Potter shook his head and closed his eyes, but this made fresh tears fall and Draco couldn't stop his hand as it reached up to wipe them away.
"How do you do it?" Potter asked, looking Draco in the eye.
"How do you carry on? How can you be so alone, but be so okay? How do you not cry yourself to sleep every night?" Potter's green eyes burnt into Draco's grey ones.
Was it really that obvious how lonely Draco was? He thought he did an excellent job of hiding that fact from himself, as well as the rest of the world. Trust Potter to be the exception.
"How can you be so sure I'm okay?" Draco responded while never looking away from those green eyes. "How do you know I don't cry myself to sleep every night?"
"Because you're a Malfoy?"
Draco smiled. "Now who's the funny one?"
"I'm so lonely, Malfoy. All the shit I've gone through in my life and loneliness is the thing that breaks me. I can't stand it." Potter put his head in his hands as his shoulders shook with silent sobs.
Not knowing what to say Draco simply gathered the crying man in his arms and hugged him.
"You don't have to be alone," Draco said quietly. "Surely there are enough Weasleys in the world for you to constantly have a red-headed companion?"
Potter shook his head against Draco's chest.
"I don't see them much any more, not since Fred..." he trailed off.
"Do they not want to see you, or do you not want to see them?"
Potter looked up at Draco, confused.
"Well, neither. I just think since I... that it would..." Potter shrugged as he stammered through his words.
"You're stupid," Draco stated firmly. "Give up on your misplaced guilt and go see the ginger tribe. I bet they miss their noble, self-sacrificing, speccy git."
Releasing Potter, Draco stood up to stretch his legs and to avoid the look of complete shock and undeniable gratitude that Potter was currently giving him.
The next moments went by quite fast. Suddenly Harry was on his feet, pushing Draco against the opposite wall of the lift. He had time to register wide grey eyes and the beginning of speech on Draco's lips, but all that came out was a soft 'oof' as Harry's own lips pressed against them.
For a second Draco thought Harry was resorting to physical violence after his last comment, but he was surprised to find himself being kissed by the speccy git, instead. At first he didn't know what to do, but as Harry lips continued to massage his own he soon found himself eagerly responding.
"Thank you," Harry murmured against Draco's lips.
"What for?" Draco broke the kiss and looked at Harry's face, his green eyes clear and no longer full of sadness.
Harry just smiled and returned his mouth for another kiss.
Feeling Harry's hands working at the buttons of Draco's shirt and Harry's lips slowly kissing their way down his neck, Draco let out a soft hum of appreciation. His shirt was pulled away as Harry's kisses continued to descend across his chest, ghosting his nipples and occasionally licking his bare skin.
Harry knelt down and paused to look up at Draco's flushed face. Harry smiled.
"As we're going to be stuck in this tiny space for a while, I'll need to come up with some other ways to keep myself distracted."
His smile turned into a smirk as he slowly began undoing Draco's trousers while Draco leaned his head back and ran a hand through Harry's hair.
Neither of them noticed when the lift started moving again.