Characters/Pairings: Harry/Draco, brief mentions of Harry/OMC's
Warnings: adult language, sexual content, tres dramatique
Word Count: ~33,500
Disclaimer: I make no profit from nor do I claim any ownership of the characters and situations discussed in this story; they belong to JK Rowling and Co. The title is taken from a song by Sia.
Notes: Now, when I say that this is based on Homer's Odyssey, I really mean that I've bastardized part of a literary classic and warped it horribly to suit my own needs. Oops? So if you're a purist when it comes to classics and don't want to see me mangle the story of Odysseus and Calypso, this is not the story for you!
If you don't mind watching me commit literary homicide, yay! Read on. Enjoy, and please let me know what you think.
Make a Map (And There You Are)
I. All At Sea
Halfway through going over his case notes for the umpteenth time, a merciful knock sounds at Harry's open office door, and he looks up gratefully at his savior from paperwork hell.
"Hermione. Thank God."
Hermione gives him the slightly disapproving frown that hasn't changed much with age; the only difference between her younger self and now is the faintly mischievous sparkle in her eyes as she lets them rest on Harry. "You're going over the Romanian dragon poachers case, aren't you? Harry, you've got to pay attention, the information in that file could save your life today!"
By now, he's well-versed enough in the idea that Unspeakables just know everything, and so he isn't startled by her uncanny knowledge of precisely what he's doing sometimes even before he's doing it. Nor is he startled by her continued rant on the dangers of procrastination and how it's going to cost him his job and his well-being. He just relaxes back in his chair and lets the familiar, comfortable sounds of her berating him wash over him for a minute, grinning as she realizes he's not entirely listening and starts berating him for that, too.
"You know I'll be fine, Hermione," he says easily when she stops for a breath, not a single brown curl out of place even as her face is flushed in indignation. There's another Unspeakable secret—impeccable grooming. Harry carelessly shoves a hand through his own wild hair and idly wonders, not for the first time, if he should have jumped the Auror ship and sailed the U.S.S Unspeakables for that very reason. "I've been doing this a while, y'know. I've gotten quite good at my job."
"There's no need to be cocky, though," Hermione retorts peevishly, shaking her head, eyes still sparkling. "Just because you're going through a nice streak of success doesn't mean you can be careless. And there's also the fact that you can't seem to keep a partner—"
"Which is totally not my fault," Harry says, ticked off immediately by the insinuation. The partner thing is a sore point; seven years of bouncing around between various Aurors and finding various issues with all of them, and a part of him curses the day Molly Weasley forced Ron to learn to cook and got him to spontaneously fall in love with the idea.
He snaps the file shut pointedly and looks up at her with his hard, authoritative stare that he's practiced and refined so well over the years. Hermione just purses her lips and looks even more amused. "Okay, so I know you didn't just pop in here to lecture me—or at least, that wasn't the only reason. What's up?"
Her lips stay pursed, but her whole face softens, and now she's looking at Harry with nothing but fondness and affection. It's a nice, warm feeling, as comforting as listening to her tell him off, and he smiles back at her.
"I wanted to make sure you remembered dinner later. It's Thursday, you know. Ron's making tortellini soup." Harry grins at the small note of exasperation in her voice—Hermione loves her husband, and loves his passion for food, but truly can't understand his unrivalled enthusiasm for it, or for forcing it on Harry and Hermione.
"Bring, er, Calvin," she adds in a small but carefully shrewd voice, and Harry stops listening to Ron and Hermione bicker lovingly in his head and scowls at her.
"It's Caleb. And no, that's not happening." The dark expression on his face should tell her to drop it, but those kinds of rules don't seem to apply to Unspeakables, especially ones named Hermione Granger-Weasley. She opens her mouth, most likely to make a sympathetic, mildly disapproving inquiry, and Harry slaps the case file down on his desk and speaks before she can. "Yes, I'll definitely be there. Tell Ron to make the spinach tortellini, I like those. No Caleb."
"Ah, but I've got to study, Hermione, don't I? I've only got until McLaggen comes back from filing our dispatch order before we're heading to the docks. I'll be by around 7 tonight, if all goes well—I'll send word if it looks like I'm gonna be late."
"Oh, Harry." Hermione shakes her dark hair around, throws in a fond eye roll for good measure, and backs towards his office door in surrender. "Fine, then. I'll leave you be. Just be safe, Harry—if not for Calvin, or Caleb, or whoever it is failing to meet your ridiculous standards this week, than for us."
He grins at her, bright and reassuring, and okay, cocky. But it's not a bad thing to be good at your job, and not a bad thing to be proud of it, is it? He reckons he'd be Head Auror by now if he could land a decent partner for once; that kind of record speaks for itself, doesn't it?
And she's right; he'll be safe for them, because Ron and his tortellini and Hermione and her omniscience are totally worth it. It doesn't matter that he's not just finding his work partners to be lacking right now: Ron and Hermione are more than enough over a thousand Calvins and Calebs.
"Always," he says to her, winking, and it's less of a promise and more of a passing consolation.
"Harry! Behind you!"
Cormac McLaggen has the worst instincts of anyone Harry has ever known, and that's saying something—Harry has been through quite a lot of incompetent Auror partners over the past few years. His shout is sharp, panicked, and utterly useless—before Harry can even really think about casting a defensive spell, the criminal behind him has seized his diverted attention and stopped lurking about behind the stacked barrels at the back of the ship. He has instead chosen to hex Harry thoroughly and viciously, and only Harry's own sublime instincts allow him to throw himself out of the way.
Before he's even finished rolling on the wet, creaking ship deck, Harry is on the offensive, hurling spell after spell, hoping against hope that McLaggen has the good sense to cover him defensively. He should know better, though—a wild, McLaggen-cast stupefy gets deflected by the criminal andgoes flying over Harry's head, whizzing close enough to ruffle his hair. The idiotic Auror's ridiculous cry of "Sorry!" would be funny in any other setting.
The perp behind the barrels ignores McLaggen completely, something Harry wishes he had the luxury of. There are three downed dragon poachers littering the deck, two of which are Harry's handiwork and one the result of some miracle of competence on McLaggen's part. "Cover me, for fuck's sake, Cormac!" Harry bellows, praying for another miracle as the final poacher's Slashing Hex nearly takes his wand arm off.
The man is too quick, obviously well-trained in dueling, and Harry almost takes the time to wonder what he's doing wasting his time trading illegal dragon parts. There's no real time for that, though, because McLaggen's shield is finally up and the poacher has dived back behind the barrels. Harry only takes a second to consider the irritating report he'll have to write later and blasts the barrels to pieces, hurling the man back into the ship railing and knocking him out cold.
Harry cringes as glittering green dragon scales rain down on them from the blown-up barrels, and he stands wearily and advances on the downed poacher with just enough caution to prove to anyone questioning it that he's no longer a foolhardy Gryffindor. He's standing over him, binding him matter-of-factly and trying to muster up enough goodwill to give McLaggen a compliment on his shield, when he hears those blasted, fucking useless words again: "Harry, behind you!"
He's faster this time, throwing up a shield of his own as he whirls around, but the downed poacher that McLaggen had supposedly taken care of had obviously taking some pointers from Harry and sends a Blasting Curse powerful enough to throw the shield back and hurl Harry with it. His back hits the railing but instead of knocking him out, the combined forces of the two spells topple him over it, and before he can quite figure out anything besides fucking McLaggen, he's falling through wind and salty air.
He hits the churning green sea with a crushing, aching force and his last thought before the green swallows him whole is fuck, I'm going to miss Ron's dinner.
It occurs to him that he's probably dead the next time he wakes up—or rather, regains awareness. There is nothing but green and white all around him—up above is blue, blue sky, an enormous expanse that's intimidating in its breadth. He's floating, not swimming or kicking or panicking, which feels like the instinctual reaction. So yes, probably dead, and he thinks been there, done that.
Then it occurs to Harry that if he were dead, he probably wouldn't be breathing, and he's certainly breathing. He's breathing about 70 percent salt water and 30 percent air but still, there's definitely some lung action going on here. He thinks about it for a moment, swallows some more water, and shrugs a bit.
Harry closes his eyes and drifts.
The next time he wakes up, he hopes he's dead, because the most annoying voice on the planet is ranting ceaselessly above him and being dead would probably cut that sound off.
"—and really, Potter, where the fuck do you get off taking so long to wake the fuck up, I suppose you think you're special, then, you can just take your sweet time—"
"Ungh," Harry protests weakly, keeping his eyes squeezed shut and drifting some more. It is slowly registering that he is no longer wet, no longer swallowing water, but is in fact lying in something soft and dry and warm. The voice is continuing, sharp and combative, and he drifts along the ragged edges of it and lets the waves of the voice rise over his misty head.
"Oh beautiful, ungh, how bloody charming, there you are, ladies and gentlemen, the Savior of the Wizarding World, the Exalted Chosen One—"
And the wave breaks, Harry snaps his eyes open to glare, and Draco Malfoy crosses his arms over his chest.
"About fucking time."
"Ungh," Harry insists, smacking his lips together and squinting up at Draco's blond, shiny head. "You?"
There's no longer water in his throat, but there's certainly fire, and Harry grimaces as it flares up. Draco, for some godforsaken reason, suddenly looks almost—maybe—sympathetic, and very quickly he's thrusting a vial in Harry's face, grimacing probably at his own self.
"Drink this, it will help your throat and make it easier for you to take the ten thousand other things you need to function." Harry looks at him dizzily for a few seconds; his arms still feel weighed down by water, and he can still feel the gentle rocking of the waves beneath him, even though he's ascertained by now that he's in a white, crisp bed. Draco shoves the vial further and before Harry can quite think about it, he's lifting a heavy arm, taking the vial, and downing it.
His throat is instantly better, his head gets clearer, and he squints some more at his apparent nurse and realizes that his image isn't fuzzy because of his head being out of whack—he's lost his glasses.
He drops the vial and reaches up with the same hand to touch around his eyes, confirming the lack of glasses. Draco huffs impatiently. "Don't look at me like that, I pried them off to check your pupils. Decent Sticking Charm, by the way—took me nearly 40 seconds. I'm impressed."
"Auror secret," Harry says immediately, momentarily forgetting he's in a bed being tended to by someone he hasn't seen in seven years for some reason he's completely uninformed of. Instead it's like he's back in training and that first year on the job, trading quips and comments and pseudo-maybe-flirting.
Draco smirks and it looks exactly the same. "I remember." He gives Harry back his glasses and picks up another vial pointedly.
And then it occurs to Harry that Draco looks exactly the same all over, or almost, at least. His hair seems fairer, nearly bleached white, but it's cut in the same exact way, short and straight, falling very neatly and just barely over his forehead. His skin is just as pale as ever, though the bridge of his nose is pink as if from sunburn, and his face hasn't lost any of the angular sharpness of his youth. His eyes are just as bright and sharp as when he was 19 years old, the last time Harry had seen him. He looks young, and as Harry fits his glasses back onto his face and brings Draco into sharper focus, it occurs to him that there's something quite odd about that. It sort of takes away from the blinding effect of Draco's unchanged, otherworldly presence.
I really am dead, Harry thinks, slightly awed, and he tears his eyes away from Draco's image and looks around at his alleged heaven.
For a second the view of the room seems to confirm his I'm totally dead conclusion. Everything is white, white walls drenched in sunlight from a large, white-paned window over the bed made with white linens in which Harry is slowly coming back to himself. It doesn't seem like a hospital, which seems to be the only other logical conclusion besides being dead; it rather looks like someone's vacation home, neat and impersonal, littered with knick-knacks designed for decoration as opposed to use.
"Where—" Harry starts, very reasonably, and he gets another vial shoved in his face for his trouble.
"Nope," Draco chirps. "Potions first, questions later. Go on, then."
And wordlessly, Harry does it, swallowing vial after vial of different-colored potions until he does, in fact, feel like a human being again, even if he might not actually be alive anymore. He finishes the last gloopy green potion and eyes Draco's face, caught somewhere between peevishness and incredulity. "What?"
"Make a habit of accepting unknown potions from strangers, do you?"
Harry squints at him. "You're not a stranger." He doesn't add I trust you because he's sure he'd made that clear by the end of Auror training.
"Don't be ridiculous, you haven't seen me in—well, quite some time, at least. There's no way you can be totally sure I haven't poisoned the hell out of you for my own amusement." Now Draco looks definitely peeved, as if he'd quite like to wring Harry's neck. It wouldn't be the first time, Harry realizes, and he shifts cautiously away, glancing out the window.
It's a nice thing to confirm that the sound of waves that has been rushing through his ears since his fall into the sea is not only his imagination: the room Draco has been nursing him in has a full, beautiful view of white, sandy shoreline, foamy green lapping up in gentle ebbs. He ignores Draco's continued rant about his lack of Auror diligence, something he'd gotten quite used to in the year or so they'd worked together, and looks out over the water for a second, feeling a strange sense of calm settle over him. The bed he's in is comfortable, the company strange but not entirely lacking, and for a moment it doesn't quite matter where he is, or why, or why Draco's here when he hasn't been seen by anyone Harry knows in seven years.
"—and it's a wonder it's taken you so long to wash up here—"
And the moment passes; the calm breaks with a crash of waves and awareness. "Wait," Harry says slowly, even though he's now in full possession of his faculties. "What? Where is here?"
Draco sighs heavily and looks out at the enormous window, eyes trapped upon the picturesque scene it frames. He suddenly looks exhausted and a bit older, as if he's aged the seven years he hadn't before. Then a cloud moves, and sunlight splashes in again, and Draco gets that old, mischievous twinkle in his eyes that used to make Harry think strange and unexpected and not entirely innocent thoughts.
"There's an official name for it," Draco tells him, almost dreamily, still gazing out the window. "But it's silly and Greek, and you won't get the reference. I call it L'île de Malfoy." He pronounces it ridiculous and French, looking around to grin at Harry a bit, and Harry glares back on principle.
"What are you doing here?" Harry demands when Draco doesn't offer anything else. Draco's grin falters and he rolls his eyes.
"Oh come now, you're asking the wrong questions. It doesn't matter what I'm doing here, and it's difficult to explain that. The question is, what are you doing here?" He nods firmly, as if prompting Harry, and he can't help it, really—as much as he'd grown to like Draco way back in the day, against all odds, it's still almost second nature to be contrary with him.
"Well it's my question, and I'd like you to answer it," he says in his cool Auror voice. Draco appears unfazed, and Harry curses silently as he remembers that he had helped him cultivate that voice. Damn him.
"And like I said, it's difficult to explain. But I can explain why you're here, at least, or I can try." Draco screws his face up, as if considering, and shakes his head. "Like I said, I figured it was a matter of time before you got here. Pretty sure L'île de Malfoy was created with people like you in mind."
"People like me?" Harry wonders aloud, an edge in his voice as he automatically translates that into half-bloods. He tries to figure out if seven years is long enough for Draco to get all his old prejudices back and decides yes, it definitely is, and starts wondering about those potion vials for the first time.
"Heroes," Draco says simply, and then he proceeds to tell Harry a ridiculous story about an island paradise designed as a reward for heroes who have long since paid their dues and earned a break. He tells Harry of deserted beaches and a house-elf at their beck-and-call and perfect weather all the time, except when the hero would like a little rain. He tells him of the small, white-paneled beach house on a short cliff overlooking the sea, in which Harry is to reside for his stay here, the very house in which Draco has nursed Harry back to health from his near-watery-death ("Honestly, Potter, what an attention-seeking prat you are, washing up here like a drowned Kneazle"). He tells him that the island is his to do what he pleases with, for however long he wants to stay.
"And you can stay as long as you want," Draco finishes, no longer sounding dreamy but rather bored; he's inspecting his fingernails as if he's heard this all before. Harry just continues to stare a bit dumbfounded. "And you can leave whenever you want, but you have to really want to leave. Some people freak out and run around the beach like madmen, desperate to leave, but they can't because it's not what they truly want, you know, in their hearts or whatever. I'm hoping you've gained enough sense to cut out that part, Potter, because believe me: if you're here, you want to be here. The island doesn't punish heroes." There's a strange flash to his eyes when he says that, and Harry latches onto it like a life preserver, head still swimming somewhere out in the sea.
He surfs upon gray flashes and pulls out his original question, trying it from a different angle. "So that's why you're here, then. Must've had some big Unspeakable breakthrough that you can't tell me about or else you'd have to kill me, and this is your reward?" He thinks he mostly succeeds in keeping the bitterness out of his voice when he spits the word Unspeakable out, but then he thinks of idiotic Cormac McLaggen and what the past seven years could've been like if Draco had stayed with the Aurors (with Harry) and then doesn't rightly care.
Draco sighs again, as if Harry's very existence is positively exhausting; that's something that hasn't changed in seven years, either.
"Something like that," Draco says tiredly, and the story finally catches up to Harry. He looks out at the beach, looks back at Draco's young, ever-pointy face and grins.
"I'm dead, aren't I?" Harry asks him quite seriously, honestly not too bothered about it by now.
Startled, Draco lets out a laugh. "And that would make me an angel, then?"
"Yes," Harry confirms honestly. Draco laughs again.
"My, my. I got out just in time, didn't I—the intelligence curve for Aurors has really gone downhill, hasn't it?"
The grin drops as seven years of ridiculous partners flash through Harry's head, and he scowls darkly at the blond. "Yes, well, we can't all be bloody big shot Unspeakables, can we?"
And Draco's playful expression drops, too, and he looks older again. He stands up abruptly and then reaches a hand in his hair; in full body view, Harry is startled to Draco in a lightweight linen t-shirt and jeans, of all things. It's the first time Harry has ever seen him in anything but robes, and it's jarring and not wholly unpleasant. Draco looks taller and leaner in the Muggle clothes, and inexplicably more comfortable than he had ever been in the maroon Auror robes he and Harry had trained and worked in.
"I assure you that you're alive, Potter, I wouldn't waste potions on a dead man," he snaps irritably. Harry rolls his eyes inwardly; he may look comfortable, but he is certainly just as prickly as he'd ever been seven years ago.
"I thought you had gotten to calling me Harry," is what pops out of Harry's mouth for some reason, as if seven years ago were actually yesterday, and Draco understandably looks at him oddly.
"My God, you're still truly addled, aren't you? Look, just stay here, I'm going to go through my potions stock—there must be something more I can give you. Usually you people recover faster than this, but again, I suppose you're just special—"
"I'm really not dead?" Harry asks, frowning now, and Draco nods jerkily in frustration and starts backing towards one of the wide doorways. "No, just, wait."
So he's not dead, and he's not in a hospital. He looks out at the beach for a minute, recalls the absurd story Draco had just told him about islands and heroes and other insanities, and abruptly decides that, as nice as it is to see Draco alive and well after seven years, he doesn't actually trust him that much. Really, the only two reasonable options for him here would be that he's dead or in hospital, and since neither of those options seem true, that means there's something wrong.
"So, wait. Where the fuck am I, then?"
Draco rolls his eyes, the action so familiar it almost derails Harry's rising sense of discomfort. "We just went through this, Potter—fine, Harry, if that's what you want, let me just check my stores—"
"No, you're not feeding me anything else until you give me a reasonable explanation," Harry snaps, and Draco's eyes glitter in something like hurt and triumph and pride.
"Ah, finally thinking like an Auror. And at the most inconvenient time, of course. I realize that nothing I've told you is really reasonable, but it's the truth, so you might as well just get used to it, start to accept it."
"You mean about a magical Greek island and some free holiday time? Yeah, not buying that. What am I doing here?" He frowns again as an awful thought flashes through his head. "Hey, wait a second. You're not working with the dragon poachers, are you?"
Draco grits his teeth together and wrings his hands in building anger. Everything about his body language is all the same, right down to the shape of his mouth and the set of his eyes, and it's kind of scary, how he hasn't changed at all. Another oddity to add to the growing list of this unexplainable mess, and it occurs to Harry that he's lying in bed helpless, without a wand, wondering idly about death and Draco Malfoy's looks. He sits up quickly and reaches out instinctively for his wand; Draco seems to pretend not to notice.
"I am not, you prat. I don't even know what dragon poachers you're talking about. I'm telling you—you're here as a reward, a break. Surely you've heard rumors of this before, haven't you? You've got friends who've been here, you know."
"That's ridicu—" And he stops, remembering Neville Longbottom, who'd gone out on a Herbology expedition that should've lasted a fortnight and stretched to two months. He'd come back different, sort of peaceful, and when asked about his extended absence, he had told mysterious stories of a beautiful, deserted beach and some of the most tranquil, soothing days of his life. Some people had thought he'd gotten into some hallucinatory plants and waved it off, but Harry had always remembered the hint of wistfulness in Neville's voice as he'd spoken of his time away, a kind that couldn't be faked.
He remembers Austin Burgess, a senior Auror who had gone out to a mission on the shores of Cornwall and hadn't returned for six weeks. He'd spoken of islands, too, and again, most people had thought him mad. Harry had, as well, at the time, until Neville.
Until now, when he's staring at Draco, wondering if what he's saying could possibly be true.
He sits up further, hastily swinging his legs over the bed, and cautiously stands. His shoes are gone and so is his robe but he's still in his uniform shirt and trousers, and he holds out his hand with purpose. "Where is my wand?"
More emotions flash across Draco's face, and then a sense of resignation that Harry almost wants to chase away, and yet knows that's ridiculous.
"Here," the blond says, pulling it out of a dresser drawer and tossing it to Harry lightly. Simply touching his wand makes him feel more connected to reality, makes this absurd island idea seem even crazier, and he grips it tightly and looks at Draco levelly.
"Okay. I'm going to ask you again. Where am I, and why am I here?"
Draco simply stares at him. Then he backs the rest of the way to the doorway, eyes defiant and daring Harry to do something about it.
"I can see you're not going to cut out the running around mad part. Very well. You take your time with that, Potter, and I'll be around when you're done." He turns his back on Harry with all the grace and frostiness of someone personally wronged, which is just another point of ridiculousness to add to the growing pile, and Harry swears and lets him go.
It doesn't take long for him to figure out that the island is, in fact, deserted but for he and his blond companion; a quick Perimeter Charm takes care of that, so point one for Malfoy.
He's walking along the beach, casting more spells to help him figure out what's going on—not running around like a madman, thank you very much. Harry is very calm. He's watching the sunset wistfully and realizing that he's missed that tortellini soup at Ron and Hermione's place, and wondering what the fuck he's going to do to get out of this. He's tried Apparating, he's tried creating a Portkey, he's even tried testing out one of those black hole transport thingies (a working title) that Hermione had created and made him swear to secrecy about. Nothing works; the sea washes up purple and orange in the setting sun, mockingly constant and enormous.
He holds up his wand and tries to Apparate one more time, aware he looks constipated with concentration and not really caring. Nothing happens; it feels as though the sea is rushing all around him again, weighing him down onto the sand, and he sighs heavily and gives it up. Point two for Malfoy.
The blond racking up points had stayed in the white-washed beach house on the cliff, just a short stone pathway from the beach, smirking as he watched Harry stomp down the low steps of the front porch and then stumble around the sand for a bit in his bare feet. He had called something about dinner being ready in an hour and then had left Harry to his explorations.
The Auror in Harry is telling himself to storm in there, bind Draco to a chair, and interrogate him until he cracks and tells him the truth about what's going on. The pervert in Harry is stuck at the bind Draco to a chair part, and he thinks about how much less complicated this would be if he and Draco had never been partners, never gotten along, and stayed pseudo-enemies. A lot of his life would be less complicated if that had happened, he thinks, not for the first time.
At the time, befriending Malfoy—he'd still been Malfoy then—had seemed to be the easier route. Ron was prancing about in various kitchens, learning that food could actually be fun to handle without automatically shoving it in your mouth; Hermione was kicking arse and taking names in the Department of Mysteries. Malfoy was the defiant, arrogant snot that nobody wanted in Auror training, but he was also the only thing constant or familiar about Auror training, and so Harry had gravitated towards him like some sort of helpless satellite caught in his orbit.
They were reluctant and surly and uncomfortable with each other at first, bickering like an old married couple until people started to compare them to an old married couple. Then they were begrudging friends—better than the rumors of a steamy gay love affair—and then they were the best first year Auror team in DMLE history, mowing down cases and piling up criminals like no other.
Then things got complicated, because the gay rumors didn't go away, the press didn't like the rumors, and Harry started not to dislike the rumors at all. What he disliked was the press, and the way it got in the way of their fantastic dynamic—the way Draco (and he'd become Draco by then) was constantly getting shit on by coworkers and reporters alike, the way the Wizarding World was blaming him for turning their Savior gay. He disliked that they got called into three separate meetings by Kingsley Shacklebolt, who was in charge of DMLE at the time, and were asked to consider a change in partners. He liked that Draco refused as adamantly as Harry did, but he disliked that it just got worse. Most of all, he disliked that he couldn't figure out if these rumors that were causing so much trouble had any grain of truth on Draco's side.
And then, he hated the final meeting, wherein Draco was offered a spot with the Unspeakables, and he had accepted it.
It's hard not to consider that long, exhausting history, and the end of it—Draco had sailed off on the U.S.S Unspeakables with barely a backwards glance, and had gone on an assignment abroad that, as far as Harry knows, he's still working on. It's hard not to let it all come crashing back, stuck alone on a beach with his biggest what-if: what if Draco had stayed, what if Harry had asked him to, what if he could've skipped seven years of Calebs and Calvins and other people who could never meet his Draco-inspired standards.
Harry pointedly looks away from the small, white beach house, pointedly looks away from the inexplicable blond inside of it, and looks at the darkening sea, watching all those what-ifs drift by and break on the waves. It would be so easy if there were no lovesick side of Harry, the side that still trusts Draco the way it had learned to, because then it would be easy to dismiss this whole ridiculous island notion as the rubbish it must be. It would be easy to close his eyes and open them again to be drifting back into normal, back into the real life he's built for himself, the good life he has with Ron and Hermione and dinners and work.
He closes his eyes, and it's not easy—there's still a deserted island, an enormous, unforgiving sea, and a house with a man who has none of the answers Harry wants, and all of the answers he needs.
He opens his eyes, plants his feet firmly on the sand, and turns to the house.
"You were mumbling about tortellini while you were waking up, so here," Draco tells him shortly, shoving a glass pasta bowl over the scrubbed oak table. Harry tries and fails not to feel touched.
"Thanks," he mumbles, careful not to sound too grateful. Draco grunts in response and starts serving himself from a leafy salad. Harry watches him for a few moments, hoping he looks suspicious rather than ridiculous, until Draco slams the salad fork into the bowl pointedly and levels him with a stare.
"Finished freaking out yet?" he asks calmly, though he looks supremely annoyed. Harry pokes at plump pasta and purses his lips.
"I was never freaking out. I am understandably skeptical."
"Ooh. Big words."
The beach house kitchen is big and painted sunshine yellow—it makes Draco's darkly smug grin look even more evil in contrast. It's taking Harry some time to get over the fact that Draco Malfoy is eating in a kitchen, on top of all the other weirdness going on; he distinctly remembers Draco always forcing Harry to eat with him in the dining room of his London flat when they were in training, even when they were choking down toast and coffee on the run.
But then again, the Draco Malfoy of seven years ago had never even allowed Harry to see him with his shirt un-tucked, really, so he supposes people change. It would be a comfortable change if Harry weren't so tense and Draco weren't finding it so amusing.
"So, did you do this place up yourself, then?" Harry asks him casually, nodding towards the walls in question and hoping to lead Draco more into a 'where the fuck are we?' direction. He gets distracted by the continued presence of kitschy, tourist adornments: there's a clock on one wall above what looks like a minibar that says it's always 5 o'clock in Margaritaville, a reference that Harry's sure Draco mustn't understand, as well as a large assortment of seashells all over the two big windowsills. The curtains are keeping with the seashell theme, at least, and consist of long strings threaded through even more seashells dangling in front of the windowpanes.
It's tacky enough even to offend Harry, who has a bloody bearskin rug in front of his fireplace in his flat back home; he can't imagine that it doesn't send Draco into fits. It's just yet another puzzling thing about this whole situation, but is ultimately another point to Malfoy: there's a good chance this isn't actually his evil lair but really is some kind of vacation house.
Draco snorts derisively, looking around at the kitchen with enough disgust to confirm Harry's musings. "Ugh, no. Wanker. Even if I had kidnapped you and was keeping you here against your will, I would never subject you to such poor taste on purpose—I'm just not cruel enough."
"Sure you're not," Harry says, trying to sound suspicious and ending up somewhere near fond. Bugger.
"Oh yes, I'm so cruel," Draco counters, eyes rolling dramatically and stabbing at his salad with a flourish. Harry tamps down firmly on a giggle—only the worst Auror in the business could actually giggle at a suspect. "Look at the big, bad Slytherin, so brutally forcing his prisoner away from the brink of death, torturing him with fine cuisine. Cower before his vicious, terrible vengeance." He holds his fork up, eyes Harry with what he must think is ferocity but actually just looks ridiculous, and then raises an eyebrow and pointedly eats a cherry tomato.
Harry coughs, so as not to laugh.
"There are no wards up," he points out, again trying to lead the conversation. Draco continues eating his salad, almost dismissively, and it's a few more mouthfuls before he deigns to rip into Harry's line of reasoning again.
"Nope—you can Apparate anywhere your little heart desires, even off this island. Your heart just needs to desire it; I explained all this already, but I forgot, sometimes it takes a few times to sink in for you." He points his fork towards Harry's full plate. "Eat your pasta, then, the carbs will help your brain speed up."
"Isn't that a little dangerous?" Harry continues sort of hotly, ignoring his instructions, even as his hand does twitch towards the tortellini. The food smells good, starchy and cheesy, and he knows it'll probably taste good, too, because Draco would never settle for subpar house-elf cooking, even to feed to Harry. "I mean, you have no protection. Anyone could just waltz in here."
"The only people who ever come here are heroes," Draco answers without missing a beat. He grins, sort of flirtatiously, and Harry quickly shoves a forkful of pasta into his mouth to keep from reacting to it. "Don't worry, Potter, I'll protect you."
"Harry," he corrects, without thinking, and then he stuffs more food down. Sneaky bastard—the grin on Draco's face widens, and Harry knows he's doing this on purpose. The problem is that he's seen Harry interrogate people before, had even coached him on techniques, and so he knows all the tricks, knows how to get around Harry's questions. "You're not going to be straight with me at all, are you?"
"I have been," Draco answers plainly, and the playfulness drops from his face for a moment. "I'm sorry you don't trust me, and I don't blame you, but I've been perfectly honest with you since you got here. There's nothing more I can do to convince you, so hopefully you'll manage to come around on your own." He drops his fork into his salad and abruptly slides his chair back, the sound grating on the aging hardwood floor, and for fuck's sake, Harry actually feels a bit of guilt as Draco stands up stiffly.
"Draco," Harry starts, cringing at his own spectacular Auror failure. "I just—"
"I get it," Draco tells him, waving one hand dismissively, but the jerky movements of his other hand as he scoops his plate up betrays his true anxiety. Harry swears inwardly and goes to follow but stops when Draco glares a bit. "No, finish your dinner. You really do need the energy. I have some work I need to get done, so I'll leave you be. Pokey will take care of the dishes and show you to your room when you're ready. Have a nice night, Potter."
"Harry," Harry mumbles sort of dejectedly. Draco gives him one last eye roll and then turns, leaving Harry to finish his meal.
He only manages a few more bites before the strangeness of his situation starts to press into him too much and he drops his fork with a sigh. Almost instantaneously, a house-elf pops into the space beside his chair, making him jump and nearly fall out of it, and the elf peers up at him with wide, curious eyes.
"Er, hi," Harry greets him uncertainly, looking the creature up and down skeptically. "Pokey, I presume?" The elf nods, roves his eyes over Harry rather piercingly, and then starts spelling the kitchen table clean of food and dishes without another word. Harry frowns at him—the house-elf doesn't look frightened or overly humble, but rather curious and wary. "Um, I'm Harry, by the way."
The elf nods again but says nothing, quietly going about his chores until all of the mess of the kitchen has disappeared. Then he turns back to Harry and gestures idly, before stalking towards the exit of the kitchen on his skinny little legs. Harry hurries to follow, feeling a little foolish, and watches the sure, stoic movements of the elf in bemusement.
"So, uh, you don't talk, then?"
Pokey turns his head only to give Harry a blank look, before turning back. Harry nods, rolling his eyes—of course Draco would have a house-elf spelled silent in his evil lair. He's actually surprised that no other villains had thought of that before.
They pass through a short hallway that runs parallel to a spacious, airy living room full of wicker furniture and large picture windows that look out onto the beach below. On the other side of the living room is a screen door leading out to the roofed front porch, and perpendicular is another hallway with a few more doorways: two open to reveal the bedroom Harry had woken up in and a bathroom, and another two closed.
The elf points to the open bedroom sharply, eyeing Harry again with those bulbous eyes, and Harry nods jerkily and steps inside, assuming that that's the instruction. Then he realizes he's mindlessly taking direction from a mute house-elf and scowls a bit as the creature disappears with a dismissive wave.
Now really feeling as if he's being tricked, Harry looks around the white room, taking in the tacky decorations again and sighing. He pulls his wand, drums up some training, and starts thoroughly searching the room with his magic, yanking open the lone closet door and sifting through fishing equipment and beach things slowly. He lifts the covers up from the still unmade bed and casts a lumos to find nothing underneath it but some dust bunnies, which dance and scatter at the light and advance on him until he rolls away. He pulls the drawers out from a rickety dresser and finds nothing but several t-shirts, some swim trunks, pajamas, a few plain pairs of trousers and jeans, and—and this makes him blush against all instincts—a stack of folded cotton briefs in the exact brand Harry always buys. He slams the drawers closed, casts a final revelio on the room, and then moves on with a huff.
His search of the bathroom bears the same results, and after a few minutes of futilely trying to break into the two closed and apparently locked doors, Harry turns to the living room. This room is awash with moonlight from the enormous windows on either side of the screen door; the smell of salt and sea is almost overpowered by the dusty smell of books, for dozens and dozens of shelves laden with texts line the wall opposite the porch.
Harry relights his wand to peer closely at the different titles, gazing at huge sections centered on magical theory and history and some Wizarding fiction, but doesn't see anything nefarious. He even notes a section full of Muggle literature, and thinks with a painful jolt that Hermione would love a few hours with this gigantic collection. He has to take a deep breath against the sudden sucker punch of homesickness and helplessness he feels.
Beyond the bookshelves, there is not much of the living room left to search; shabby wicker furniture sits laden with fading cushions, and the only other item to note is the large, bronze cage in a corner by one of the windows. It's empty, but Harry has to assume it belongs to an owl, and he hopes that means he can send some sort of correspondence.
Dejected by his utterly fruitless search, Harry wearily heads out to the front porch, bright with moonlight reflecting off the churning waves. He looks down the stone path to the beach and feels his stomach clench for a minute when he doesn't see Draco in his immediate line of vision—he had assumed, when his search of the house hadn't turned up the blond, that he had gone down to the beach for whatever 'work' he'd had to do, but now he sees that he's wrong. And there, along with the homesickness and the utter helplessness, a terrible panic grips him as he wonders if Draco had left him here with a mute house-elf and a beach with no answers.
It only takes another few seconds of scanning the distance for him to calm and find his mysterious housemate—atop a much higher cliff than the one the beach house sits on, nearly on the other side of the beach, Draco is small and bright against the dark blue sky, bathed in starlight and peering into an instrument Harry thinks might be a telescope.
He is completely unaware of Harry's eyes on him, and doesn't look up from his work at all, even though Harry watches him for quite some time after finding him. He gets that angel idea again, watching the tall figure up above and in the distance, and he almost wishes he could go back to those moments immediately after waking, when he had felt safe and calm in that big white bed with Draco hovering over him.
He can't go back, though, and he's stuck here, still denying, still desperate. The desperation is exhausting, and soon, when Draco's hauntingly beautiful image starts to blur before his eyes, Harry sighs in resignation and retreats to bed.
The next morning, the first thing he does upon waking is raise his wand and try to Apparate home. When he fails, he kicks at one of the legs of his bed and then hops around a bit on his uninjured foot, swearing at his own stupidity. He stops when he notices Pokey the house-elf standing in his doorway peering at him with what might be a smirk, which is truly a scary sight on an elf.
"Er," he says articulately, and Pokey just blinks at him and then turns to shuffle away sedately. "Right," Harry sighs, and he pulls clothes from the dresser he had searched yesterday and dresses himself quickly.
Draco is sitting at the kitchen table when Harry reluctantly lopes in, and there's odd image number 86 since waking up on this island: the blond is eating cold cereal, of all things, and reading what looks to be a letter on parchment. To Harry's immense relief, an owl is perched on the table beside him, pecking cheerfully at a plate of toast that Draco is ignoring.
"Can I use her?" Harry asks without preamble, reaching out tentatively to pet the owl. Unsurprisingly, the bird hops back and eyes him distastefully—the flecked brown and gray feathers ruffle warily, and Harry knows if he gets his fingers near that beak he'll most likely lose the tips.
"Good morning to you too," Draco answers with fake brightness accompanied by a telling eye roll. Then he looks at the owl almost fondly and gives it a pat. "And you should probably know that she's a he if you want to exploit him for your own use. Potter, meet Hermes. Hermes, Potter."
The owl hoots a distrustful greeting and turns back to his toast breakfast.
"Will Pokey bring me a parchment and quill?" Harry continues, ignoring Draco's put-upon air. Honestly, what does he expect, a good morning cuddle? Something odd stirs in him at the thought and he tamps it down firmly.
"Why don't you ask Pokey?" Draco snaps, and then he busies himself with the rest of his soggy cornflakes. He drops his spoon and turns to the owl, poking at a piece of toast at the bottom of the stack. "Surely you don't mind, yeah?" he asks sort of pleadingly, and Hermes hoots and nips at his inquiring fingers, spreading his wings over the plate of toast. Draco pouts and puts his fingers in his mouth, and Harry forces himself to look away. "Bastarding bird."
"Pokey!" Harry calls uncertainly as Draco continues to pout at the owl and as the pout does strange things to Harry's insides. "Pokey!" he calls again, slightly strangled, and then jumps when Pokey pops in silently. "Uh, hi Pokey. Would you, um, mind bringing me something to write with and some parchment?" Pokey just blinks at him and then pops away, and Harry sighs and sits down at the table across from Draco, unsure if that was a yes blink or a no blink.
"Look, it's a bit burnt, y'know, I'm sure you don't—ow! Bloody hell," Draco snarls, now glaring at Hermes fiercely. At first Harry is relieved, because he wasn't sure if he'd have been able to stand the pouting for much longer. But then he gets a good look at the heated glare, the fired-up gray eyes and taut, even jawline and has to look away again. Bloody hell, indeed.
"Pokey," he calls out a bit desperately, and Draco pauses in his staring contest with the owl to glance at Harry and smirk.
"Rushing the poor thing, honestly. What would Granger say?"
"I'd like to find out," Harry tells him shortly. "That's why I want the parchment." Draco clucks and finally gives up on his toast-hunt, turning back to his own letter dismissively. Harry opens his mouth to call the elf again but he pops back in before he can get the chance, thrusting the parchment, quill and inkpot at him pointedly and then giving him a little glare. "Sorry for, uh, rushing you," Harry says hurriedly, and Pokey nods and then bows, almost mockingly, before popping out a final time. "So he's really mute, then?"
"No, Potter," Draco answers without looking up. "He just doesn't like you."
Grumbling to himself (because honestly, he'd walked right into that one, and he shouldn't be making it easier for Draco), Harry flattens the parchment down on the table and dips the quill in the ink. He starts scratching out a dear Hermione and, when he pauses to consider the best way to say I'm on a strange island with the prat of my dreams nightmares, HELP, he is startled to find that his words immediately start to fade away.
He tries it a few more times, addressing the letter to a few different people and even a few make believe ones, before he gives up and glances up. At the same time, he notices the table shaking and glares fiercely across, where Draco is hiding his face with his letter but is unable to hide the shaking in his chest from his silent laughter.
"Think it's funny, then, to give me trick parchment?" Harry starts hotly, face burning as embarrassment starts flooding in. "Do you think that any of this is funny? Because I certainly fucking don't."
Draco lets out a combined gasp-wheeze-laugh and shakes his head, putting down the letter to reveal a face pink with mirth. "N-no, you're right, it's not funny. Just—your face, God, you look like you're back in Potions!"
"I'm not in Potions," Harry retorts, unable to handle being laughed at by Draco, of all people. Which is slightly ridiculous, really, since Malfoy's Hogwarts mission statement had been to laugh at Harry as often as possible, when not plotting his demise, but it's still the truth. "We're not in Potions, we're not still at fucking Hogwarts, I thought we got past this!" He tries to stuff down the ridiculous hurt in his voice, but it's there, and Draco obviously hears it, because he quickly sobers and looks at Harry closely.
"You're right. I'm—fuck, I can't believe it, but I'm actually sorry. I should've—I'm not doing this very well, honestly." He shakes his head, suddenly looking pained. Harry isn't the only one to notice; Hermes the owl is eyeing him skeptically, and then gently nudging the last piece of slightly burnt toast towards the blond. Eyes wide, Draco accepts it with one hand and strokes the owl's head with the other, before turning back to Harry with a rueful smile. "You always manage to make me act half my age, don't you, Potter?"
"I'm sorry?" Harry snorts, not entirely ready to forgive, but touched enough by the display with Hermes to sort of get there. Draco sighs and nibbles slightly at his toast, before putting it down and concentrating on Harry again.
"The only person you can correspond with is Jovian Dane, from the Department of Mysteries. You can request permission to write to your friends, but I can't guarantee that he'll grant it—he's quite fickle. He generally only lets you guys write to spouses or children and such. Besides, he's probably already written your friends to tell them that you're here—your work supervisor has been notified, as well." Draco shrugs, turning back to his toast and seeming to brace himself slightly.
"What the—wait a second, I know that name. He works with Hermione!" He feels a flush of comfort at some sort of connection, just something that finally makes sense, but it ebbs away when he eyes Draco's parchment. "So, then, how come you get letters? Did you get married without inviting me?" His stomach feels squirmy and it's utterly ridiculous, of course. So is the rush of relief when Draco's whole faces cringes in disgust as he shakes his head.
"I've been here a while," Draco answers once his face has set itself back to rights. "This is part of my Unspeakables work, being here. So I get special privileges." He smirks, smug and bright in the early morning light, and very daintily eats the last of his toast. Harry rolls his eyes and looks back to his parchment, thinking for a minute. Then he writes:
Dear Jovian Dane:
I am requesting permission to write to and receive letters from Mrs. Hermione Granger-Weasley, a mutual acquaintance of ours, and her husband, Ron Weasley. If I am expected to spend any length of time on this island, I will need more companionship than a mute house-elf, a prickly owl, and an insufferable git.
Auror Harry Potter
"There," he announces, rolling the parchment up and tying it closed with a Conjured piece of string. Draco chuckles distractedly, knowingly, but Harry ignores him and instead pleadingly passes the letter to Hermes, who eyes him with a very Malfoy-ish look of disdain. They stare at each other for a few seconds, Harry with a weak smile, Hermes with wary, narrowed eyes, but before long the owl lets out a low hoot and what could almost be an owlish huff and takes the letter in a claw.
"Traitor," Draco mutters, and Harry grins brightly when Hermes just nips the blond on the ear as he flies away.
Feeling a bit better now—contact! A bridge to the outside world!—Harry helps himself to a bowl from one of the wooden cabinets and pours cornflakes of his own. Draco ignores him dutifully and Harry ignores him right back, as frustrating as the situation is, and the rest of breakfast is very nearly peaceful.
"I have some work to take care of today," Draco says once his spoon has dropped into his emptied bowl once more. "So I'll be out of your way. You can do what you want—sun bathe, swim, build houses for orphans, whatever heroes do in their spare time."
"And you'll be sacrificing virgins in the forest, then," Harry lobs back, and Draco smiles.
"Now you've got it. Try not to bust a blood vessel with your constipated Apparition act, please. I won't be far past the tree line, but I'll probably be too far away for any plausible rescue attempts if you stay on the beach."
Harry grimaces and shakes his head. "Don't worry. I can look after myself."
"Sure you can. Have a good day then. Don't forget sunblock charms." He leaves Harry at the table once again, and for some reason he feels bereft about it. He busies himself with the rest of his cereal to keep from thinking on it too hard.
There's no more of the house for him to explore, so he decides to explore the island itself, heading out through the side entrance in the kitchen and looking down at the shoreline from the back of the house. On this side they're closer to a fairly dense thicket of trees, jutting out from a dark and vast-looking tropical forest. Harry raises his wand and thinks for a minute about heading in there, perhaps finding more answers in the depths of greenery, but remembers that Draco had implied that he'd be working in there, and he hadn't sounded as if he'd like Harry to come along. He twitches with curiosity for a moment, and then forces it to pass and heads instead for the high cliff Draco had worked on the night before.
It's a bit of a hike, farther away than he had realized last night, but the sea air is crisp and salty-smelling, clearing his head in a way it hasn't been cleared since he woke up here. There are no more answers up on the cliff than there had been answers anywhere else so far; Harry finds work tables and a single wooden chair up there, as well as a telescope and an instrument he thinks might be an astrolabe. There are charts and notes that he doesn't really understand, but nothing personal, and nothing suspicious. The only magic he detects is the magic within the astronomy tools, and he sighs dejectedly and plops down in the chair.
The view from up here is even better than from the house—the sea stretches big and unending in front of him, and he can see above the trees to the other water-locked side of the island in the distance. He feels tiny and pointless up here with no evil to hunt or means to go hunt it, and he watches the sea with a detached sort of moodiness that feels entirely too familiar. He feels like he does whenever he's not working or hanging out with Ron and Hermione—useless, directionless. Adrift.
He's sure that this is why he feels a rush of relief and warmth when he hears footsteps behind him. Draco's thin shadow falls from where the sun has moved up in the sky, and Harry doesn't turn around but doesn't move away, either. "I call this Longbottom Point," Draco says quietly, and Harry lets out a short laugh and looks around.
"Why?" You've been here that long, he thinks, but has learned from his job that pointless, already-answered questions have a time and place, and this isn't the time or place.
"When he got here, he was a bit more calm about things than you were, or your average hero typically is. He thought he was dreaming—he was sure of it. I pointed out the fact that I would be unlikely to turn up in his dreams, but he said that wasn't as true as I might think, and continued on in the delusion that this was a dream. He became alarmed, though, when he couldn't wake up—he kept pinching himself, you see, saying he missed his friends and his plants. I gave up trying to convince him and left him alone." Draco smiles and shakes his head ruefully. "I found him up here, about to jump—he thought it would make him wake up."
"What did he do?"
"Well, he jumped—sodding Gryffindors. I threw down the most powerful Cushioning Charm I knew, and the moron hit it and bounced all the way down onto the beach. When I followed him he was just lying there, laughing, and he said, 'This must be a dream, you just saved my life.' I punched him, of course."
Harry laughs again, leaning back in the chair. "Of course."
"You're not going to jump, are you? Because I'll punch you too, don't think I won't."
"I'm not going to jump," Harry sighs, turning back to squint out at the empty, empty water.
"I felt bad," Draco says, sounding a bit disgusted with himself. "You looked like an abandoned dog up here, all confused and alone. You're really making this much more complicated than it has to be. Typical."
"I don't do well when I'm away from work." Harry leans his head back and notes Draco's wrinkled nose, reluctant stance, his hair shiny with sunlight. He looks at him and tries to wish he were at work and realizes that he can't. Check that, he thinks. I don't do well when I'm away from you, either.
"Rubbish." He pulls out his wand and points it at Harry's chair, mouth twitching into a smile when Harry doesn't even tense. A fizzling pop and there's another chair beside Harry's, one which Draco tosses himself into. "Don't tell me you've become one of those sad workaholic types—you're not Robards, are you?"
Harry chuckles, recalling the long rants concerning their work-obsessed supervisor Draco had gone on back in the day. "No, not quite that bad. I just feel—it's odd to do nothing, isn't it? To be expected to do nothing?" He's realizing that this is the evil he's been searching for, the demon he hasn't been able to trust. Draco shrugs and leans back.
"It's called a holiday, Harry. I'm sure they didn't teach you about them in the cupboard—"
"—but I'm certain you've become acquainted with them since."
He had gone on holiday with one of his Calebs—a Caleb named Mitchell, actually. Just a long weekend in Barcelona, wherein Mitchell had dragged him from gay club to gay club and eventually took his lack of enthusiasm as permission to sneak off in a loo with a Spaniard named Renaldo. Harry had spent the rest of the weekend touring the Gothic Quarter with an elderly Canadian couple.
"I don't do well on holiday," Harry says, and Draco groans and leans back, face tipped up to the sun.
"Wonderful, just wonderful."
"Spiffing," Harry offers cheekily, enchanted by Draco's responding glare.
"Shut it. Come on, then—let me show you how to do holiday the right way." Draco stands and then grabs him by the wrist, and Harry only has seconds to register the warmth of his fingers against his beating pulse point before he's suddenly being squeezed by Apparition.
Twenty minutes later and Draco has a pair of sunglasses perched on his head and is spreading long blue towels out on the hot, sun-baked sand, a large umbrella hovering by his shoulder and periodically bumping him eagerly. Draco turns back to scowl at it and then directs it to set itself in the middle of the towels.
Harry smiles at the blond's quiet grumblings and watches his sure wand movements, levitating a tray of cooled drinks to rest on a Conjured table between the towels. The magic is more about Draco that hasn't changed with time—he still makes it all look so completely effortless. Harry thinks about sodding Cormac McLaggen and his sloppy shields and wild hexes and feels more of that bitterness bleed into the affection he feels right now—what is Draco doing on this island that is so much more important than having Harry's back?
"It's a bit early for anything hard," Draco is telling him matter-of-factly, gently setting himself down onto one towel and reaching for a drink. "But Pokey makes a wicked mimosa—honestly, lie down, surely you're not totally clueless about this."
Awkwardly, hyperaware of Draco looking at him, Harry does as he's told. He had changed into swim trunks per the blond's instructions but kept his t-shirt, both relieved and disappointed when Draco had done the same, and as he reclines on the towel he realizes he can't remember the last time he was actually on a beach, wearing swimwear.
"Now," Draco says, waving his wand to make a flute of chilled orange juice and champagne nudge at Harry insistently until he takes it. "Drink your alcohol, lie back, and relax."
Sipping warily at the cocktail before placing it on the little table, Harry once again follows Draco's instructions. Their brief partnership had gone a bit like this, too: Draco barking orders and laying out elaborate, theoretically brilliant plans while Harry nodded along and then changed parts up on the fly. He drops his head down and blinks up at the shadowed, slanted light from the umbrella, wondering what he can change about this plan and not finding much. He squints and reaches for his wand, but before he can move too much Draco is shifting and clucking beside him.
"Let me charm your glasses." Draco has pushed his own dark glasses down over his eyes and they look big and stylish on his pointed nose. He reaches out to tap at Harry's frames with his wand and whispers an incantation, and in another blink Harry is looking through darkened, protective lenses.
"They'll change back once you're inside; I learned the concept from a Muggleborn optometrist." Draco sighs and puts his arms behind his head. He looks boneless and sated, and Harry shivers from looking at him too much and forcibly turns his gaze away. "Stop thinking."
"I can hear your brain turning, so stop it. Just relax and enjoy yourself."
"How long have you been here, Draco?"
He can feel the lithe body tense, even through the space between their towels. When he answers, though, his voice is light and airy, practiced ease. "Quite a while," he says, painting a small smile on his face and looking over at Harry. "Long enough to be an expert at this."
"You were always an expert at being lazy," Harry says, snorting, and Draco's smile widens into a grin.
"Of course I was. The art of laziness is in my blood—there is a fine and noble legacy of Malfoys lolling about, making lesser beings do their bidding."
"You're ridiculous, and you're doing this on purpose. Loll, Potter, before I knock you out and make you."
Harry huffs, craning his neck to give Draco a little glare. The blond ignores him. "Harry, remember?"
"Potter when you're annoying me. Harry when you're not so bad. Now shut the fuck up."
"Fine." He looks up at drifting clouds, closes his eyes to listen to the waves, and drums his fingers against his stomach. He tries to do as instructed, tries to turn his brain off, but it's too twisted up with questions and curiosity. Draco has been here at least two years—why? What is the work that he'd abandoned the Aurors for?
"For fuck's sake," Draco breathes out, and even in sunglasses Harry can feel that he's glaring at him.
"I can't help it. Honestly, imagine you were pulled from the middle of a job and dumped on a deserted island with no explanation or reason. You'd be a bit skeptical as well."
"Deserted?" There is a distinctive pout in Draco's voice, and Harry has to fight back a smile. "So what am I, then? And it's no wonder Pokey doesn't like you."
"I suppose he's been your only company for a while, then."
"Sort of. There's also you lot." Harry quirks his head to the side, and Draco's disdainful smirk is somehow even more effective when you can't see his eyes. "You know. Heroes." He spits the word a bit like one would say Blast-Ended Skrewts and Harry chuckles.
"Right. Like Neville."
"Exactly. Nothing between your ears but fluff and righteous indignation."
"Not entirely true," Harry says, and he doesn't think of the many, many cases he's solved using deductive reasoning and some carefully-honed investigative techniques. He thinks, instead, of the large percentage of his thoughts that are taken up by Draco Malfoy, almost at all times, and he wonders how thought-Draco likes it up there in Harry's head, with all the fluff and righteous indignation.
"Oh yes, Mr. Hi-I'm-Harry-Potter-and-my-brain-is-called-Hermione-Granger."
"Granger-Weasley," Harry corrects, and somehow he knows that Draco is rolling his eyes behind his sunglasses.
"Don't you see that that makes it worse?" He huffs in what sounds remarkably like righteous indignation, making Harry smile, and then sits up to glare at Harry with his mouth, which is quite a feat. "And really, Potter, nice try distracting me and getting out of this relaxation lesson. But we're going to shut up now, and you're going to turn your brain off—it shouldn't be hard for you, just clear out all the cobwebs and tell your inner-Granger to take a nap."
"Granger-Weasley," Harry repeats, sort of smugly. Draco groans and flops back down on the towel.
They lie in silence for a few more minutes, and Harry credits his deductive reasoning with knowing it won't last too long. He smiles to himself, looks up at the bit of sky poking in from the edge of the umbrella, and waits.
He's found three Thestral-shaped clouds before the words burst out of Draco in a messy spill. "I can't believe she married that oaf."
Harry laughs, clear and bright, but makes it fast so he can answer, and then they're off. Relaxation—this, he knows, is how he relaxes. This is what the Calebs couldn't do for him, this is why he can never fully turn off his Draco-filled brain.
He fires back the normal weapons—classist, snobbish prat—and laps up the returned barbs—delusional, uncultured swine—and thinks, for the first time since washing up into this silly situation, that he can get used to this.
The next few days pass in the same fashion as the first—they talk, they argue, they snipe and they snicker and Harry feels fire start to creep into his bones, that remembered, aching want return in full, undeniable force.
Every morning, he wakes up and tries to Apparate home. And every morning, he is a little less disappointed when it doesn't work, because after his 'constipated Apparition act', he has breakfast with Draco and fights with Hermes over toast and tries to badger Pokey into speaking to him. He watches Draco move around the kitchen with all the assuredness of Ron Weasley (and doesn't the blond just love that comparison) and feels warmth in his belly that is only partially from the food he's eaten.
On the third day, Jovian Dane deigns to write back to him. Draco spies the missive and grins big. "Oh, good, your refusal letter."
It is, indeed, a refusal letter. Harry has never actually spoken to Jovian Dane, but he can hear the airy dismissal in his written words, that condescending I'm smarter than you and also know the secrets of the universe attitude that must be included in Unspeakable training, for not even Hermione had escaped it entirely. The words are crisp, concise, and utterly to the point, and the postscript is possibly the only redeeming quality.
P.S. Draco's not so bad, for an insufferable git. He might be better company than you think.
Yes, Harry thinks, watching Draco taunt Hermes with half an English muffin and get a sharp nip to his fingers for his trouble. I'm starting to think that way, too.
In fact, the only thing wrong with Draco's company so far is that, for all the talking he does, (and chances are when he's not doing mysterious work in the forest or poring over star charts up at Longbottom Point, Draco is talking ceaselessly to Harry, and that's yet another thing that hasn't changed about him) he rarely actually reveals anything about himself. No matter how easy it is to fall back into the rapid fire exchange of words and competitive digs that made their partnership work so surprisingly well, Draco's strange silence on his heretofore favorite subject (himself) casts a rather large shadow on everything.
And it's not as though Harry doesn't try. He purposefully fits openings into their conversations, leads some fairly random lines of thought right to where he wants them to go, and then bashes into the brick wall of Draco's casual evasiveness.
"I really like ice cream," Harry mentions as Pokey lays out ingredients to make their own sundaes. "When's the last time you got to old Fortescue's, anyway? Been a while for me."
Draco pretends to think about it, though Harry can tell by the slight tightening of his mouth that his answer is going to be frostily and utterly useless. "Mother briefly dated Florean's brother, you know, back at Hogwarts. My father told me about it once when I was very young—thank God it never lasted, though, have you ever seen that Fortescue nose? Can you imagine that nose on my perfect Malfoy face? I truly can't, it keeps me up at night." He shudders and pops a spoonful of chocolate ice cream into his mouth, and Harry smirks and tips his wand up discreetly. "Agh!"
Above the spoon, Draco's nose has grown longer and more bulbous, though the far more hilarious image is the look of complete outrage on his face. "I can imagine it, actually," Harry says, eyeing the new feature and grinning widely. Very soon, Draco has grabbed a bowl of cherries and is flinging it purposefully, and Harry is too busy ducking flying toppings to realize that the question had never actually been answered.
He tries other subjects, as well, no matter how uncomfortable they are. "And then, well, we were rather stuck at that point, and he was pretty adamant about it, you know—'no way you're getting near me with that thing and just spit', and of course when I'm that into it, my magic gets all wild—you know how that is, don't you?"
Draco, who had been oddly stiff during this entire conversation, rolls his eyes. "It's called accio lube, Potter, that's fourth year stuff. The worst wild magic can do to accio is that the lube gets Summoned faster. Honestly, if you're this inept in bed it's no wonder you're single."
"I'm not inept in bed!" Harry shouts defensively, immediately regretting his forceful insistence of his own singledom in a previous conversation. Now that his sexual reputation is at stake with the one person he'd actually ever want to impress, there are suddenly more important things to do than pry into Draco's love life, and so that opening is abandoned, too.
Ironically, the parts of Draco's life that Harry had expected to be kept hidden are not nearly as mysterious as those he so desperately wants to hear about. Draco's work in the forest and up on Longbottom Point is at least addressed, unlike those more personal questions.
"It's dreadfully boring," Draco sighs rather mournfully one night up against the stars. Harry has a blanket wrapped around his shoulders to ward off the nighttime chill and is letting the little bits of Draco-centric knowledge warm his insides. "I mostly just study the plants and creatures in the forest and send whatever I find back to Supervisor Dane. The problem with this ridiculous, freakish island is that I keep finding new creatures and new plants all the time, and they all exhibit odd and never before seen behaviors, and it's like they're mocking me. It would make a naturalist like Lovegood or one of the Scamanders cream their pants, but I truly couldn't care less."
"And what about this?" Harry asks, gesturing up at the stars and the astronomy equipment. Draco gets a slow, nearly wistful smile on his face again as he looks up at the vast blanket of bright constellations covering the sky, and Harry's insides clench at the image of his face turned up to that light.
"This is something extra." His smile turns rueful, bitter, and Harry finds it just as attractive. "Jovian has no idea I'm doing this."
"I wouldn't be so sure," Harry says skeptically, recalling that uncanny Unspeakable trait of knowing just about everything that has to do with everyone. He scans Draco's sharp, shrewd eyes and reminds himself that Draco is an Unspeakable, too, so perhaps he cancels Dane out. "So what are you doing, and why don't you want him to know about it?"
"Don't you ever do anything just for yourself, Harry?" Draco asks him. Harry sighs and thinks about it, ready to protest that of course he does, but in that moment, he can't think of anything.
I think about you, is what he can't say, and Draco smirks in triumph at his silence. "I see, you're the wrong person to ask. Longbottom understood—has he ever shown you his secret herb garden?"
Harry frowns, both at the implication that Neville understands Draco better and at the idea that Draco knows something about Neville that Harry doesn't. "No. He's shown you?"
"No, but he told me about it." Draco shrugs thoughtfully. "Perhaps it was because he thought I wouldn't be able to tell anyone else about it. Oops."
"So you guys got close, then, while he was here."
Again, Draco shrugs, though it's a bit less casual this time. "Not close, exactly. It's just, well, when there's no one else to talk to, you talk to each other. Like we're doing."
And that stings—Harry's frown deepens. "That's not why I'm talking to you." Is that why you're talking to me? he wonders, but he chokes it back and tries to rearrange his face so that it looks a little less kicked puppyish. From the way Draco's body language softens a bit, he can tell he doesn't succeed.
"Right, but if Weasley and Granger were here—"
"Weasley and Granger-Weasley," Harry corrects automatically. "And I'd talk to all three of you, come on. You're my friend. Just because you buggered off without so much as a nice knowing you—"
"I didn't do that on purpose," Draco says, and he looks contrite and surprised, as if he hadn't realized that had bothered Harry. "They told me it would be easier that way."
"Who told you? 'Cause it wasn't."
"The Unspeakables. Jovian, and a few others."
"Yeah, well, maybe Unspeakables don't know everything." He realizes he's pouting a bit from the way Draco starts to smile, half-amused and half-exasperated.
"I've discovered that they truly don't," says Draco, still smiling. Harry huffs.
"So why stay?" And there's the most important question, the question he cares most about. Why won't Draco come home? What is so important in the 'dreadfully boring' work in the forest or this enormous night sky that is just as bright over Wiltshire?
He watches Draco's face, watches it go carefully blank in the starlight, and mourns the loss of enigmatic, quick to anger Draco from seven years ago. This, at least, has changed—Draco had always been rubbish at hiding his own emotions, despite many claims to the contrary. He had always been utterly responsive, could go off at the slightest prodding, and it had been his most attractive quality, in Harry's eyes.
Harry has to wonder about these seven years, wonder about this one change that now seems to make all the difference.
"You should come home, Draco," Harry says quietly, and Draco doesn't look at him, instead looks at the stars, as if they have a sufficient answer for him.
"What, and leave all this?" Draco cracks, spreading his arms out after a beat of silence. The words are drenched in rehearsed casualness, and Harry sort of wants to grab him and shake him.
"Yes," he says insistently, and Draco smirks at him.
"Well, maybe I will," he says in a tone that suggests he'll do anything but, and he looks pointedly towards his telescope. "Let's see what the stars have to say about it."
The next morning is the first morning that Harry doesn't try and Apparate home, and he knows exactly why: he has a mission now, a purpose. The evil to fight here isn't Draco, as he had once wanted to believe. It is whatever is keeping Draco here, and Harry is determined to discover and defeat it.
It's about ten days into Harry's stay on the island when Draco first takes him into the forest. So far, they have kept most of their activities on the beach—swimming and sun bathing, cooking over dug-out fire pits and, once, a rather grueling sand castle competition, of which Pokey was the judge. One night, they had dug decade-old brooms out of one of the hall closets and kicked off from Longbottom Point, flying high over the sea and forest.
Harry had made the mistake of asking if it were possible to fly back to the mainland, wherever it was (though he had made no attempts to do so, and really had no inclination to). Draco, formerly open and bright with happiness, had snapped into himself and told Harry to try it and see what happened. The rest of the ride had been awkward and cold, though Draco rebuffed any apology attempts and then woke up the next day as if nothing had ever happened.
This particular morning, though, Draco pops into Harry's bedroom instead of meeting him in the kitchen as usual. Harry jumps and pulls the blanket over his bare chest for some reason, and Draco snorts and puts his hands on his hips.
"Honestly, Potter, you prude, I'll try to contain my rampant sexual urges while you're showing skin."
"Sorry," says Harry, feeling himself blush all over. Draco grins in delighted response.
"Don't be sorry; it's a legitimate fear. You're certainly fit enough to send anyone on a sex-crazed rampage. I'm sure it happens all the time."
Though he hadn't thought it possible, Harry blushes even deeper, and he's sure his face is about to go on fire. "What d'you want, Draco?"
"To ogle you, of course."
"Ha ha. What's up?"
"Wear boots today, sturdy. Jeans and a t-shirt, and use bug-repelling charms—we're going into the forest."
Harry grins, sitting up in excitement and letting the covers fall. "Wicked! Will we see the Snorkacks?" Harry had been amused when Draco had told him that he'd named many of the new creatures in the forest after made-up creatures Luna Lovegood believed in, but it had also made him feel another irritating jolt of homesickness. He thinks about asking Pokey for a Wizarding camera, deciding he can show Luna pictures when he goes home, and then thinks about going home and has to forcibly keep his mood from souring.
"Yes, and the Blibbering Humdingers, if you're good. Hurry up, then, we're leaving after breakfast."
Harry scrambles to dress, because one of his favorite activities is watching Draco cook. He likes to imagine him with Ron in the kitchen, the two of them bickering constantly but moving like clockwork; their contrasting styles (Ron messy but passionate, Draco efficient but eager) would complement each other perfectly, he believes, and there's more homesickness there but it's different, more vague. It's a homesickness for a home he doesn't quite have, a home he's always wanted.
He tells himself he'll make it happen; stubbornly insists that he's not leaving this island without Draco. He lets himself hope and shoves his trepidation and doubt to the very back of his mind like a true Gryffindor.
The trek into the forest is long, but Draco says that Humdingers in particular are extremely sensitive to magic, and so they leg it. The forest feels thick and heavy with magic, pulsing and buzzing with it, and the Auror in Harry can't help but twitch with the want to cast revealing charms.
"No magic yet," Draco murmurs, seeing Harry's wand move restlessly, and Harry sighs and keeps going.
Fragrant greenery hangs down from all the trees, plants he's certainly never seen before, and he realizes that, as boring as Draco finds it, there's definitely enough in here to keep him busy. "Neville must've loved this place," he muses, wondering why on Earth he feels bitter about it, and Draco looks at him oddly.
"He did," he answers after a few moments of narrow-eyed staring. "He got lost in here once, of course, and it took me a full day to track him down, but I found him in a bush full of Fairy Thistles, pleased as punch." He looks wistful and exasperated, as he usually does when he talks about Neville, and yet another question that Harry never asks rests on the tip of his tongue: how close were you and Neville?
He asks different questions, to keep his mind off that burning one, and Draco answers them all in a friendly tour guide's voice, each small anecdote about various parts of the forest lighting up his eyes with interest. Harry watches him speak and wonders if dreadfully boring was really the most truthful phrase to describe Draco's work here.
He watches Draco lose himself in facts and discoveries, cherishes more the sparkling in his eyes than the words coming out of his mouth, and is so enraptured that he nearly doesn't see the swinging, malevolent branch in time. But he does, and he reacts instinctively, wondering idly what the hell a Whomping Willow is doing in the middle of a tropical forest even as he shoves Draco out of the way and brandishes his wand.
"No!" Draco shouts, throwing his arms out, but Harry has already fired off an "Impedimenta!" and manages to knock another branch away.
"Stay down!" he yelps at Draco, who glares at him and ignores him fully to stalk over to the apparent source of the branches: a squat, knotty tree with more branches than trunk. It seems to be quivering slightly in its clearing, branches flailing wildly, but none of them connect with Draco, and Harry watches in amazement as one of them seems to pat at his fair head. Draco pats the trunk in return and smiles when the branches calm down, before turning back to glare at Harry again.
"Really, Potter, I knew your manners were appalling but I didn't think you'd resort to firing hexes in returned greetings."
"Greetings?" Harry echoes dubiously, staring at the now placid tree. Draco nods firmly.
"Yes, Phoebe was only saying hello."
"You sound quite stupid when you repeat things like that, you know, I'd think twice about it. And don't take that tone, you've scared her." He pets the tree a bit more and Harry watches, dumbfounded, as it—well, she, begins to sort of purr. "S'alright, Phoebe, he won't hurt you, he just doesn't understand. Not the sharpest twig in the forest, you know."
"Hey." Harry frowns. "Stop talking about me to a tree. What's she doing here, anyway? There's no way she's native to this forest—a gift from Neville?" He realizes he sounds a bit like a petulant five-year-old but merely frowns deeper.
Draco pretends not to notice and simply shrugs. "No, she was here before him, but not by much. Actually, she used to be a regular tree, a rather young one, and then one day she smacked me on the bum while I was walking by, cheeky little thing." He grins at the tree adoringly, and Harry is absurdly and ridiculously jealous of a tree. He decides right then and there that he needs help and resolves to request permission to write to Hermione again; this kind of situation falls right under her expertise.
"That's creepy. I'm sorry, Draco, but you are talking to a tree."
"Don't listen to him, Pheebs, like I said, not the sharpest—"
"HEY!" The tree shakes a bit, one of the branches swinging to touch her own trunk, leaves rustling musically, and Harry realizes with a sharp sense of incredulity that she's laughing at him. Draco leans against the tree and starts laughing with her, and Harry huffs and throws up his hands. "This is mental, I just want you to realize that."
"Really, Harry, you've got to stop being shocked by this stuff by now. You're a grown wizard." Draco is smiling at him, the branches folding all around him and casting shadows across his relaxed features. Harry realizes he and the tree look completely natural together, and decides he might have a point. He shuffles a bit awkwardly and then, feeling foolish, holds a hand out tentatively.
"Right, then. Erm, hello, Phoebe. I'm Harry Potter."
The tree quivers a bit, tightening her branches around Draco. Harry tries to keep from tensing, because Draco still looks totally at ease, and maybe he's imagining the proprietary way the tree is cradling him. Draco looks up and pats at one of the branches, murmuring, "Go on," and the tree gives one more shudder before extending a long, thin branch.
Harry fits the young, supple wood in one palm before letting a smile slip onto his face. "Nice to meet you, Phoebe."
The leaves rustle in merriment, and then before Harry can even blink, more branches are whipping around his body and thrusting him forward. With a startled shout, he finds his body pressing Draco's into the trunk, Phoebe's branches tight around them both.
"Phoebe!" Draco shouts, no longer looking at ease. Phoebe merely rustles her own leaves in what might be a giggle and squeezes them tighter. "For God's sake," he mutters, looking at Harry apologetically.
But Harry isn't looking for an apology—Draco is warm and firm up against him, and he is hyperaware of the fact that there are only a few layers of cotton and denim between them. He lets out a nervous laugh and watches Draco's eyes widen.
"She, uh," Draco stammers—actually stammers! Harry feels himself flush with delight. "She must like you." He swallows, and Harry can actually feel it, is close enough to feel the muscles working in Draco's throat, and he's hit with the uncontrollable urge to lick them. "She only gives hugs to the ones she likes."
"Yeah," Harry says distractedly, eyes trapped on Draco's lips. As if aware of his scrutiny, a pink tongue swipes out to lick them, and Harry feels the image shoot right to his groin.
"Yeah," Harry repeats, leaning closer until there is even less space between their mouths, so close he can feel Draco's breath, quick and short.
"Harry," Draco addresses his nose, and Harry leans closer, thinking Potter when you're annoying me, Harry when you're not so bad.
"I'm not annoying you," he whispers, and in an inch they'll be kissing. He moves fractionally closer, Phoebe is shivering around them, the forest pulsing and shifting around her. He turns his brain off the way Draco's always wanted and touches his lips just barely to Draco's—only to jump back when a thunderous sound echoes from across the clearing. "Christ! What was—"
"Oh no," Draco moans, and Harry shivers slightly in response, but Draco's turning away and setting worried eyes on where the sound had come from. "The Humdingers, your spell before must've upset them, we have to—"
He's cut off by an echoing roar and the crash of breaking foliage, and from the trees across the clearing emerges an enormous black shape that seems to be vibrating with rage. Harry jerks away from the sound and feels one of Phoebe's branches wrap around his waist. "Draco—"
"Pick him up, Phoebe," Draco orders, drawing his wand as the branches fall away from him. Harry lets out a protesting shout and reaches forward but then he's airborne, a few more of Phoebe's branches assisting in lifting him bodily from the ground. His protests are futile as more black shapes join the first, their vibrations making the rest of the trees shake around them. Draco steps towards them cautiously.
"It's okay," he says quietly, holding out a cautious hand. He stumbles slightly on the vibrating, quaking ground, and Harry jerks forward uselessly; the branches tighten around him.
"No, Draco!" he shouts, struggling, and Phoebe brings a branch to gently stroke at his hair.
"Shh, Harry, don't," Draco says, not breaking eye contact with the first black shape. From up above, Harry can make out a few more details: thick, black fur and a stubby horn in the middle of the beast's head, plus bright yellow eyes squinting in anger. It looks like an enormous, furry pig, and Harry will murder Draco if he tries to introduce them as well.
"Boris," Draco continues, and Harry groans loudly and resists the urge to bash his head against a hanging branch. "Please calm down, you're safe here, I promise."
The vibrating doesn't stop, and Boris—clearly the leader of this pack—stomps one of his hooved feet against the forest ground and snarls. Phoebe shudders and tightens her branches around Harry's waist.
"Harry," Draco murmurs softly. "In about 10 seconds I'm going to do something that seems very, very stupid, but I need you to trust me when I say it's not. Can you do that?"
"No!" Harry insists, struggling again against the branches. A branch smacks him lightly on the cheek, and he scowls.
"Yes," he counters. He still has hand out, but Harry can see it shaking slightly. "Trust me."
"You used to trust me," Draco says, and Harry can tell he wants to look over at him but is too afraid to break eye contact with Boris.
He swallows hard, trying to remind himself that sometimes, Draco's plans do work. Sometimes.
"Okay," he moans reluctantly, and Draco smiles a bit.
"Good boy. Okay, as soon as I say to, Apparate back to the beach."
"Trust me!" The slight shout is a mistake; the panic is clear in Draco's voice, and Boris and his comrades respond to it immediately with more thunderous roaring. There's another foot stomp, and Harry watches the muscles in the beast's legs tense, readying to charge. He closes his eyes and thinks, like hell.
"Okay," he repeats.
Draco raises his wand and shouts, "NOW!" followed by an incantation, just as Boris and his friends start to charge him. Harry sucks in a breath and Apparates—directly into the trees behind the rest of the Humdingers.
He can see that Boris and one of the others is knocked out with some sort of shimmering spell gently pulsing over them, but three more are still charging straight at Draco, who can't knock them out fast enough. Harry casts three quick stupefys and nearly crows in triumph when the beasts stop, but catches himself when they merely turn around and start stampeding towards him. He swears and raises his wand to cast a stronger spell, but Draco bellows "NO!" and a branch comes swinging at Harry, knocking him roughly out of the way before a Humdinger can hit him or a spell can be cast.
"Idiot!" Draco shouts, suddenly in between Harry and the Humdingers and knocking two out in quick succession with the same sort of shimmery spell. The last is still snarling and raging, butting himself up against trees as he tries to maneuver himself towards Draco and Harry, but Draco points his wand directly at his stumpy horn and clearly speaks the incantation that results in more shimmering light and the Humdinger slumping over with a soft thump. Draco sighs big and drops to his knees next to it, patting it gently, before turning back to glare at Harry.
"What was that? I told you to—"
"They could've killed you," Harry snarls, shoving branches out of the way and marching forward. "You couldn't expect me to just run while you faced those things alone!"
"I expected you to trust me the way you said you did!" Draco shouts back, standing up with his fists bunched at his sides. Harry stalks further towards him, eyes burning, seeing those beasts charge Draco over and over again in his head. Draco is too incensed to even notice his proximity, and he doesn't back down at all. "And I know about those things—they're not used to our magic, okay, they're sensitive and volatile—"
"Maybe Unspeakables work alone, but Aurors have partners, remember?" Harry says fiercely, grabbing Draco about the shoulders before he can quite stop himself. "And unlike some people, I never abandon my partner." And then he's pulling Draco to him and kissing him hard, pressing his mouth to his so hard their teeth clack together.
Draco struggles in his hold for about a split second before he's kissing angrily back, using his own sharp teeth to nip at Harry's lips before forcing his tongue past them. Harry spends some time savoring the feel of their tongues twining roughly together before Draco's wrenching backwards and glaring at him with sharp, shining eyes.
"I'm not an Auror anymore, Harry," he says hoarsely, eyes locked with Harry's own. He jerks a hand up to his wet, red mouth and wipes it roughly before stepping back.
"I'm not annoying you," Harry answers softly, hands clenching as Draco's shoulder leave their grip. Draco just shakes his head and looks down, before turning to the fallen Humdingers.
"They'll be out for a while, at least an hour. I have to carry them back to their nest—it's not far from here, but if they wake up near Phoebe I'm afraid they'll be agitated."
"Agitated? They're monsters, they tried to kill us!" Harry is wondering when Draco Malfoy became Hagrid, and knows he'll have to keep that thought to himself if he ever hopes to kiss him again. Draco looks offended anyway, glaring once more.
"I told you, it was the magic; they're very sensitive."
"This job has made you barmy, you know," Harry informs him evenly, and Draco finally starts to smile again.
"A little bit, yes. But what job doesn't?" He kneels down again and gently strokes at a Humdinger's coat. "We can cast light featherweight charms—very gentle, remember, they're sensitive—and carry them. I'm sorry they made such a bad first impression, but perhaps tomorrow we can try again."
"Perhaps," Harry lies, having no plans whatsoever to visit this forest or its creatures again, and deciding he'll make sure Draco never gets the chance, either.
"Well come on, then, we don't want them to wake up while we're carrying them."
They spend the better part of the next hour lugging the Humdingers back to their 'nest', which is a large circle of stones, twigs and leaves a small hike away from Phoebe's clearing. Apparently 'light' featherweight charms don't do much for dead weight beasts, and Harry feels neglected muscles strain under the effort. He's panting and near doubled over with exertion by the time they make it back to Phoebe's clearing, while Draco seems too concerned about his precious Boris' friends to break a sweat.
"I do hope your Stunners didn't do any damage," he muses and Harry drops down by Phoebe's trunk to take a breather. "Melvin was just getting over a chest cold."
Hagrid, Harry thinks, smiling in spite of himself. Draco catches it and blushes slightly.
"You know, when you said Humdingers, I pictured some sort of bird or insect," Harry tells him, gesturing for him to take a seat beside him. To his delight, Draco complies, though he keeps a respectful distance away, enough so that Harry knows that they're probably not going to be discussing or revisiting that kiss anytime soon. Harry feels a bit foolish about it now but knows that this is a classic Malfoy way of handling things—he'll talk when he's ready. "Something, I dunno, cute."
Draco snorts and rolls his eyes. "Well, they hum, don't they? That's what Lovegood always said Humdingers did."
"That's humming to you? That vibrating thing that shook the whole forest?"
"Shut up, Potter, really. I won't have you slandering my friends—Boris is 10 times the company Weasley is on his best day, I'll have you know."
"Yes, I got that from the murderous rampaging he was doing, definitely." Friends, he thinks incredulously, and wonders yet again how long Draco has been here. Obviously long enough to seek companionship from dangerous magical creatures. He resolves once more to make sure that Draco never has to feel that alone again.
"Well, the Crumple-Horned Snorkacks are pretty cute," Draco says thoughtfully. "Perhaps they'll be more suited to your delicate disposition. Let's head over to their cave." He stands and jumps a little when Harry grabs his wrist.
"Er, I think I've had enough of the forest for today," Harry tells him, grinning ruefully. Draco huffs and rolls his eyes but doesn't pull his wrist away. "Can we just go back to the house?"
"Fine." Harry can tell there are about a dozen or so taunts swirling about behind Draco's eyes, but for some reason he pushes them down and instead turns to his beloved tree. "Bye, Phoebe dear. Thanks for helping with the Humdingers."
Phoebe pulls him against her trunk in a hug, making Draco smile wide, and then she does the same to Harry when he stands up. "Uh, yeah, thanks Phoebe. See you." He pats her trunk a bit awkwardly and rolls his eyes at Draco's smirk.
"You know, it's a good thing that Phoebe likes you, or I would've punched you for that kiss," Draco tells him casually as they start the trek back to the beach. Harry grimaces in discomfort but stubbornly meets his eyes.
"I'm not going to apologize."
"Of course you're not. You're a Gryffindor—rushing in and kissing people without permission is standard practice."
Harry raises an eyebrow. "So it's not the kiss you object to, but rather the fact that I didn't ask your permission?"
"Exactly. It's very rude, you know, to kiss unsuspecting innocents without asking permission."
"So if I were to ask permission—"
"How do you feel about brisket for dinner? Pokey showed me a recipe for a cumin-based rub that I've been itching to try."
Harry grins big at Draco's flushing cheeks and thinks briefly about pushing it. Instead, he slips his hand into Draco's and cheers his choice of silence when Draco doesn't flinch away.
"Brisket sounds great," he says simply, and he squeezes Draco's hand until he squeezes back.
V. Setting Sail
"So, the gay thing," says Draco, sipping a bit at his margarita and then setting it down on the table next to him. "Tell me about that."
They're on the front porch, watching the last bits of orange and purple fade from the streaky horizon. Harry leans back in his deck chair and eyes Draco warily. It's been several days of surreptitious touches and rather nonsensical flirting—though, really, there's no true difference in their rapid exchanges, which tells Harry just how long they actually have been indulging in verbal foreplay without realizing it fully. This is the first time, though, that anything seems to be addressed directly, and Harry knows he has to proceed with caution.
He decides to play dumb, because that gives Draco an opening to insult him, and insulting Harry always cheers him up. "Well, Draco, sometimes, boys like other boys—"
"Shut it," Draco snaps, glaring a little. "You know what I mean. After all that bother we dealt with when everyone thought we were together, you came out anyway. I want to know about it."
Harry cringes, thinking about that awful and wonderful time as Draco's partner. They had been harassed ceaselessly by Rita Skeeter and her cronies, constantly stalked from place to place even while doing completely innocent things together. Every day, there was some sort of inflammatory article about them in the Daily Prophet, usually about how the evil ex-Death Eater had corrupted the sainted Boy Who Lived.
"Well, I mostly did it because of you," Harry explains slowly. Draco snorts.
"Yeah, that's what they always believed, but—"
"No, I mean, I wasn't gay because of you," he corrects, silently adding not really. "But I was sort of angry that you left. Angry that they drove you away. I blurted it out kind of spitefully, then; drove them all nutters for months. Kingsley had kittens. But then everyone got over it, basically." He looks at Draco pointedly. "They would've gotten over you and me, too, you know."
Draco snorts again, shaking his head. "Doubtful. They were so obsessed with their own delusions—"
"—and everybody had their opinions about it, none of them good—"
"And none of them mattered." Harry leans forward in his seat, tries to get Draco to meet his eyes, and fails at it. "Draco," he repeats, and Draco shakes his head again.
"How did the Weasleys take it?"
"They were fine. Supportive. Ginny made me go shopping with her, though I told her liking cock didn't make me any less of a fashion disaster."
"They weren't delusions," Harry says quietly. Draco finally jerks his head to meet his eyes, his own widening. "At least, I didn't want them to be. I don't want them to be."
"If I were to ask permission—"
"Please, don't." The tremor in his voice is almost drowned out by the crashing of the sea, but Harry knows this is the most straightforward thing Draco has said on this island, and he knows it's important. He sighs and sits back, looking out over the water, letting the silence bob along the waves around them.
It is a long while before Draco speaks again. "You haven't tried to Apparate home in a while."
"I can't imagine wanting to go home enough," he answers without even having to think about it. Draco's obviously thinking about it, though, and he's staring at Harry again, wistful and exasperated.
"There are a lot of factors. Variables. I have to think of everything, because you won't. Always awful at seeing the bigger picture."
"So you need a plan, then?" It's typical, really—Draco has never taken a risk that wasn't carefully calculated or well thought out. As an Auror, Harry had needed that in a partner, since all he had done was take uncalculated risks. But as a man sort of hopelessly in love with someone who's always been on the other side of possible, all he wants is a risk, another chance.
"I'd like a plan."
"I don't think it works that way." And your plans never work out the way you expect, he doesn't say, but from the way Draco's eyes are burning he thinks he hears it anyway.
"I think you're right." And Draco laughs, sharp and brittle; Harry winces in response. "And I'll never repeat that again, so don't get used to it."
"If you were to ask permission, I would say yes," Draco tells him, clear and firm, and Harry stares, happy air filling his lungs and making him feel a bit like a balloon. He feels like he could float to the roof of the porch like Aunt Marge, could grab Draco and drag him to the waxing moon.
"Can I kiss you?" Harry asks without a second thought, and Draco laughs again, this time soft and hopeful, a little wistful and exasperated. He nods, and Harry swoops in and knocks their heads together in his haste. "Ah! Sorry," he says, and Draco laughs one more time and then kisses him gently and sweetly.
It's a practically virginal kiss—hints of swiping tongues but nothing forceful, just lips puckered and nudging together hesitantly. Harry wants to deepen it, wants to devour Draco, but he wants this, too. It feels like learning, like starting over with new, chaste, baby steps. It ends too soon—though he thinks any ending would be too soon for him—and when Draco pulls away he is blinking and wistful and exasperated again.
"You'll regret this," he whispers, glancing out at the sea briefly. Harry knows he's thinking of England, of home, and of Harry leaving him, and understands immediately. But what Draco doesn't understand is that Harry isn't leaving this island without him, especially not now.
"Never," he breathes out, and he kisses away another protest.
And so kisses are added to the surreptitious touches, the biting verbal foreplay. Now when they swim they hold onto wet, salty skin and jump into waves together. When they sunbathe they enlarge a towel and share it, limbs tangled and sweaty, toes flicking sand at each other's ankles.
"This is a terrible way to tan," Draco remarks into Harry's shoulder. "You'll have a Draco-shaped tan line."
"Worth it," Harry mutters, groaning when Draco bites at the spot he'd been speaking to. "So worth it."
Pokey takes the situation in stride—they break an oil lamp falling off the living room sofa, laughing and groping like teenagers, and the elf simply shuffles into the room and starts spelling the pieces away. His pointed silence is somehow much funnier in that context, and it sets them off laughing even harder.
The laughing is somewhat new, actually. They had always expressed amusement with each other in smirks or sarcasm, and any laughter had usually been at the expense of the other. But now Harry prides himself on drawing out genuine laughs from Draco, and he loves that Draco seems to want to make him laugh in return, as if he doesn't want to be outmatched in emitting warm, fuzzy feelings.
Every once in a while, he catches Draco looking out at the sea, brows drawn pensively, and Harry kisses the spot just above his nose lightly to reassure him. He takes his hands and pulls him into arms and every smile, every laugh feels like a victory—Draco wants Harry, and Malfoys don't let the things they want get away.
He's been on the island for a month on the night Draco has Pokey pack a picnic basket and coaxes Harry back into the forest. They loop around the tree line to get farther away from the Humdingers' nest so that they can light their wands on the considerably longer trek through the trees. Harry extracts a promise from Draco that they're not going to meet the Snorkacks or any other kind of possibly dangerous forest 'friend'; Draco smiles and lovingly calls him a Gryffindor pussy.
"I want to show you something," he says, switching rather quickly to serious and taking Harry's hand. Harry nods reverently and follows with no more protest.
Their destination turns out to be a cave a few miles west of Phoebe's clearing, past the thickest outcrop of trees to a rocky hillside nearly on the other side of the island. It's nearly impossible to see into the cave, even in the fading light of the sun, but Draco spreads a picnic blanket on the ground at the mouth of the cave and sits down on it, gesturing for Harry to follow.
They eat through the humming twilight, the magic of the forest buzzing over the waves in the distance. Draco looks pale in the dying light, and still so young, so much so that Harry can't help but keep touching him as if unable to convince himself he's real. He remembers waking up on this island believing he was dead, and he understands mistaking Draco for an angel, even if the blond keeps making fun of him for it.
When they've packed up the basket again, Draco stands and drags the blanket into the cave, despite the fact that it's still incredibly dark inside. Harry starts to ask him what he's doing but stops when Draco takes his hand and pulls him back down again.
"Wait for the moonlight," he says, and Harry kisses him just because he looks so earnest about it.
When the fat, full moon does break out of a wispy patch of clouds, the effect on the cave is slow but staggering. All around the blanket, blue flowers flicker into view, petals unfolding in the face of the light. Harry sucks in a breath and squeezes Draco hard as the cave gradually becomes bright with glowing blue light, painting the walls and Draco's fair skin a soft periwinkle color. The light moves as a gentle breeze rustles the flowers, and it almost looks like the reflection of the churning sea up against the side of the house.
It's stunningly beautiful, and Harry feels humbled sitting here, watching Draco smile tentatively at their surroundings. "It only happens at a full moon," he tells Harry in a hushed voice, as if speaking loudly will scare the flowers away. "I was glad you got to be here for a full moon—you're the only one who's ever seen this, besides me."
Harry feels his heart squeeze strangely, and he can't tear his eyes away from Draco's lit-up face. "This is brilliant," Harry whispers, reaching out to cup Draco's cheek in one hand. "It's—thank you."
Draco shrugs nonchalantly, though Harry can tell he's pleased with his reaction. His hair and eyelashes are stained silver-blue, and he looks unearthly; Harry just has to touch him some more, for more reassurance.
The touches grow bolder, fingertips pressing into soft skin, and he is assertive but ready for the quick, nimble fingers of Draco's own hands to reach and stop him from getting too close. Draco, he has learned, is a skittish lover—hesitant and sort of embarrassed about it, if the near-constant pinking of his cheeks is anything to go by. Now, though, it's impossible to see any color but blue in his face, and his eyes are lightened to the color of a robin's egg. It's almost alien, the effect this light has on the fairly monochromatic Draco, but Harry can't find it anything less than thoroughly attractive, because Draco will never be anything less than thoroughly attractive to him, he is sure.
Draco isn't sure, that much he can tell—he is already shifting sort of tensely against Harry's probing hands. It is one thing to touch limbs and bodies together, to tangle up the way friends could. Harry is not touching Draco like he would a friend; he is touching him the way he's only ever allowed himself to dream of.
"Can I kiss you?" he whispers, as he's gotten in the habit of asking, and Draco smiles and answers in the way he usually does: he kisses him abruptly, gaining confidence slowly and shifting up on his knees to hover slightly above Harry's lap. Harry moves his hands to spread them against the small of Draco's back, rubbing gently at the flexing flesh there until Draco's moaning slightly into his mouth.
Harry trails his hands upwards, touching skin he's touched before but never so purposefully. He has an idea of why Draco's brought him here and though he's aching for it, been aching for it weeks (years) he's ready to be wrong if Draco needs that. He breaks the kiss to gasp and mouth gently at Draco's neck, and a slender hand reaches up to first remove his glasses and then cup his face and bring it back to Draco's mouth.
And they kiss. They keep kissing languidly but urgently, and it's Draco's hands reaching between them for belt buckles and zips. Harry fits his hands around Draco's hips and shifts him just so—he will push, not shove, and Draco appreciates it, Draco gasps for more and starts his incoherent whispered babble of encouragement that they've only gotten far enough for Harry to have heard once before.
Brilliant, he thinks, and he takes the initiative to finish the undressing Draco had started.
They had skinny-dipped once, and Harry had nearly come just from the sight of that long, narrow body prancing into the water. Now he sees it on top of him, feels it pressed up against him, washed up in pale blue and shy about it. He swallows hard at the feel of a velvety penis poking into his thigh, and a part of him wants to rip Draco off him and throw him up against the wall of the cave so he can stare. He wants him out in the sun, wants him spread out on the beach, but really he wants him everywhere, and he'll take him here if it's what's being offered.
Draco is searching his face, and Harry has to wonder and marvel at the intelligence curve for the Unspeakables if Draco is expecting to find anything other than pure worship there. He'd make a comment to that effect if he were able to utter anything other than "Gurgh."
Draco chuckles, ducking his head so that Harry knows he's pleased, and resumes kissing him senseless, as if there's any sense left in him to drive away. He shifts his lower half again, the cock Harry wants to ogle thrusting insistently against his own groin, and then is, for some reason, pressing a wand in Harry's hand.
"I know you said you were having trouble with this," Draco tells him, grinning cheekily. "I'm giving you a chance to prove yourself—say it with me, Harry. Accio—"
"Accio lube," Harry growls into a bony shoulder, and Draco shudders against him while a bottle whizzes from the picnic basket into his hand.
"I told Pokey to put that in there," Draco says, and Harry growls again and nibbles the aforementioned bony shoulder until it's shuddering again. He reaches a hand to grasp the hand holding the lube and nudges Harry's face with his nose until they're locking eyes. "It's been a while so, um, be generous with that."
Harry wants to say something like always, would never hurt you never never but is overwhelmed for the moment by the trust in Draco's eyes. He nods and swallows and kisses him again, promising and thanking with his tongue and teeth. He tries to shift Draco down from his lap but he stiffens and shakes his head.
"No, like this—mm, yeah. I want this, I'm doing this, let me—"
"Yeah," Harry says, uncapping the lube so he can trail wet fingers between Draco's legs as he pops up on his knees.
"Oh," says Draco as fingers rub and probe gently, carefully slipping into soft heat. "Oh, God."
Harry silently agrees, twisting his fingers and whimpering at the amazing sensation of Draco all around him. It feels precious, the touch achingly intimate, and he strokes more firmly when Draco begins rocking up and down ever so slightly.
"More," Draco murmurs, leaning forward and biting his own bottom lip. Harry bites at it too, unable to resist the plump and swollen temptation, and adds a third, slicked finger so that the answering moan vibrates against his teeth. "Yes," Draco says, sighing a bit, squirming around, and Harry has to close his eyes and clench his own teeth from his sudden overwhelming arousal.
"Hey," comes a whisper, and Draco kisses his furrowed brow very gently, then kisses his closed eyelids. Harry opens his eyes to search Draco's, finding nothing but affection and lust swimming in the pale depths. "I'm ready," Draco tells him, rocking a bit more insistently now, and Harry chokes back a lustful groan.
"Are you—" sure, he wants to ask, but Draco kisses him and he tastes sure, his tongue is begging but demanding at the same time. Lust-clumsy fingers fumble for the lube still clenched in Harry's free hand, and then it's being dropped and a slick, wonderful palm is stroking up and down Harry's cock.
"God," Harry says through his teeth, hips pumping up, and Draco takes his lips again as sure as the hand on his cock. Harry pulls his fingers out of that lovely heat and Draco whimpers brokenly into his mouth. Then he's pushing even further up again, guiding Harry's erection, and Harry grips his hips for encouragement and reassurance and to tell himself ohGodyes this is really happening and then the heat of Draco's hand is being slowly replaced by the tighter heat of his hole. He's bracing his hands on Harry's arms, shuddering slightly and bracing himself against the intrusion, and Harry strokes the hips under his hands and kisses his tensed face.
"Just—sorry, just give me a second—"
"Shh," Harry says shakily, reaching his hand around to stroke at the rounded backside now cradled in his thighs. "S'okay, you're—you're amazing, Draco, you're—"
"Ah," Draco sighs, and he shifts, and Harry feels the hot pleasure roiling under his skin spike a bit, and he nearly cries with relief when Draco starts rocking tentatively. He clenches his hands in an effort to keep himself under control but the heat inside of him is building, spurred by his lover's bolder movements. Draco grunts and then starts riding Harry in earnest, making little sounds that are just about designed to force an orgasm from Harry and he wants it to last, wants to make this is as brilliant as possible but it's all too much.
"I'm—Draco, you're too—just—ohGodDraco!" And he releases with a shout, spattering between Draco's legs with pearly jets, and Draco gives out a yelp of shock and squeezes his eyes shut on an upward thrust. Harry moans and shakes and grabs at Draco's cock, giving it rough, apologetic squeezes until it's spurting release all over Harry's chest and abdomen.
"Harry." Draco slumps onto Harry's quivering, semen-smeared torso and seems too blissed out to even make a face about it. He buries his head into Harry's neck and seems to be getting shy again, and Harry has to bring his arms up around him in an almost involuntary movement.
"Sorry," he breathes out, and Draco chuckles and shakes his head. "I wanted—I wanted to make it last, but you're so—God, Draco, I've waited too long for that."
"Don't be ridiculous," Draco mutters, emphasizing his words with feather-soft kisses to the skin of Harry's neck. "That was brilliant."
Harry hums in contentment, leaning back and cradling Draco against him and savoring the sticky, sweaty mess of him in his arms. He's relaxed and sated and relishing the still-soft kisses, but just a few squirms of Draco's seed-slick bum against him and he can feel the heat inside of him start roiling under his skin again.
"Mm," he moans into Draco's ear, and he nibbles at an earlobe when he feels Draco's cock filling against his hip again. His own is following suit, rocking slightly in the cleft of Draco's arse, and he tightens his hold on him almost roughly. "Can I take you again?" Harry asks, trying to sound as polite as he can be while rutting a bit between Draco's open legs, and he smiles when Draco shudders and whimpers in the affirmative.
"I'll make it last longer this time," he promises, laying Draco down on his back and pressing his fingers into him again. He fingers him with purpose, grinning when he finds Draco's prostate and relishes the sharp jerk and croaked out shout Draco gives him in return. Harry strokes the spot firmly, not letting up even when Draco is turning into a writhing, mewling mess underneath him. When Draco's eyes blow open and he's trembling in warning, Harry backs off, fitting his hand around the base of Draco's cock tightly and shushing his whining protests. "Shh, it'll be so good, promise."
He leans down and kisses Draco hard, still holding onto his penis like he's never planning to let it go. Still kissing him, he uses his other hand to guide himself into Draco's fluttering hole, groaning appreciatively as he slides right home.
Draco cries out and clenches around him, making Harry bite his lip and pinch him lightly in warning. "Don't, let me—" And he starts sliding in and out, slow and steady at first and picking up speed as Draco wraps long legs around and tugs him in deeper.
And he keeps on like this, releasing Draco's cock and periodically batting his hand away from it, settling them into a pounding rhythm that keeps driving them both near to the edge and then backing them away from it. Draco is panting and moaning beneath him, cursing and begging in turn and this is all Harry had ever imagined having sex with Draco Malfoy would be, and more. He smiles when Draco starts snarling out, "Potter, please, oh Merlin please," and twists his hips, battering Draco's prostate at just the right moment and making his mouth form a delicious O.
"You—Potter—just—please—!" and Harry grunts and thrusts and does the twisting thing so Draco screams. "POTTER!"
And Harry keeps going, determined to keep his promise, gripping Draco's thin wrists tightly to keep from bringing himself off. He kisses him sloppily and lets the languid movements of Draco's tongue twisting against his heighten his own arousal, but he holds himself back and hikes Draco's legs up and groans when his heels dig hard into Harry's backside.
He leans down further, forcing more kisses, swallowing up Draco's whines of frustration, and whispers throatily, "When I'm Harry again, you can come." Draco swears but Harry can see the desperate, wild look in his eyes and he loves it completely.
"Ha—Harry oh please let me—HARRY!" Harry rams into Draco's prostate, feels his balls start to tighten up and his stomach start to burn, and he thrusts his tongue into Draco's mouth at the same time he grabs his cock. Draco's final scream is into Harry's mouth and as he releases between them, Harry grinds into Draco's arse and comes hard, feeling it explode down to the tips of his toes.
Draco has been reduced to sputtering wheezes beneath him, and Harry collapses forward breathing just as hard. He weakly manages to curl himself against Draco's sweaty side but keeps his hand stubbornly on Draco's cock until he starts twitching in overly sensitized discomfort. He moves his hand up to smear through the mess all over Draco's abdomen, making him moan and bat at his arm weakly. Chuckling wearily, he stops and simply leaves his arm draped across Draco, smiling when he feels a hand come up to clasp it tightly.
"Brilliant," Draco says again once his breathing has slowed down, and Harry looks up at him in suddenly drowsy satisfaction. He tightens his arm about Draco's stomach and shuffles closer, dimly aware of Draco Summoning his wand and casting tingling cleaning charms over them, whispering a soft, sweet, "Thank you," and dropping a kiss into his hair.
Harry smiles into Draco's chest, feeling exhaustion and contentment wash over him, and falls asleep rocking gently in the waves of shimmering blue light and a sense of finally being exactly where he belongs.
He wakes up alone, on a blanket surrounded by a bed of flowers with closed up petals, morning sunlight shining just into the mouth of the cave. Harry stretches, yawning, and notes a hunched, thin silhouette sitting in front of the cave, dressed and periodically sipping from a thermos he keeps replacing at the ground at his side. He smiles, fumbles for his glasses and the nearest articles of clothing he can grab, and stumbles to his feet.
Draco doesn't turn as he approaches, but he does pat the spot beside him opposite the thermos. Harry sits and registers Draco squinting in the sun and the slight frown on his face before he decides to lean over and kiss it thoroughly away.
The blond melts into the kiss; he tastes warm and of coffee and sunshine, as though he's been sitting out here for a while. But he pulls away much too quickly, and Harry shifts to block the light and allow himself to look into blinking, doubtful eyes.
"Stop thinking," Harry tells him, and Draco bites his bottom lip to hide a smile but still looks unsettled. "I can hear your brain turning." He tries to kiss Draco again but feels his stomach clench when Draco turns his head. "Draco, please."
"Last night—it was—"
"Amazing," Harry offers, and there's another smiling twitch of lips but Draco keeps his face slightly turned away, eyes downcast.
"Unwise," he finishes, and Harry groans, realizing he should've expected this, prepared for it. "You—you don't know everything, if you knew it wouldn't—and besides, you're going to—you don't—you're going home."
"Not right now I'm not," Harry growls out, and Draco sighs and looks up, opening his mouth again. "No, really, I told you, I can't imagine wanting to go home enough while you're here. So—so honestly, if you think I'm taking even a step off this island without you, you're mental."
"Oh God," Draco says, putting his head in his hand. "Harry, no—"
"Yes." Harry shifts closer, jaw set in determination, posture tensed for arguing. "Was last night supposed to convince me otherwise? Because if it was, I'll have to add that to the pile of evidence suggesting you're mental."
"No, it—that's why I said it was unwise." Draco finally meets his eyes, his own swirling with regret and despondency. "Look, I—I can't go back with you. I'm sorry."
"Don't be ridiculous, you don't even like this job, and you're all alone here, and you—you belong with me, Draco, and you know it, so don't even—"
"That all may be true, Harry, but the fact remains that I can't go back with you." Draco doesn't seem doubtful or unsettled anymore—he looks resigned and apologetic, and Harry wants to shake him and bring back the spitting, angry Draco that calls him Potter and idiot in equal turns, who has never really looked apologetic before. He makes a frustrated sound low in his throat and stands up, bringing Draco roughly with him.
"You're not going to make me regret last night, you know. You can't. You're not going to make me stop wanting this."
"And you're not listening—"
"The only thing I regret is that we didn't do this seven years ago, that I let you…get away…Draco?"
Draco is suddenly bone white, stiff and looking at Harry with wide eyes. "Draco, what is it?"
"What—what did you just say?" He wheezes the words out, suddenly trembling slightly in Harry's tight grip, and Harry searches his face frantically for answers.
"I—I only regret that we—that we didn't do this sooner—"
"How long ago?" Draco demands harshly, and Harry stares at him, a terrible, foreboding ache starting to settle in his stomach.
"I don't underst—"
"How long ago did I leave? God, just answer me!" He's nearly shrieking, voice high with something like shock and panic, and the force of it spreads through Harry's bones and evaporates just about any hope he'd woken up.
"Seven years ago," he answers in an uncharacteristically small voice, and Draco lets out a strangled gasp and seems to sag away from, slipping from his fingers like mist.
"Oh God," Draco chokes out, eyes fluttering closed. "It's—seven years? How—how old are you?"
Harry's head spins, and he wants to reach out and grab Draco back in his arms but is suddenly unsure if he'd be able to. Everything feels tilted sideways, and the edge of the forest seems to be bouncing around the waves of Draco's panic, permeating the air around the cave thoroughly.
"I'm—I'm 26," Harry says when he can't figure out what else to say. He'll be 27 soon, he realizes, his birthday creeping in from the back of his mind almost at random. He hasn't thought of anything so trivial as time in quite a while, actually—possibly since the first minute he kissed Draco.
He'll be 27 soon, like Draco is now. But as he looks at Draco's frightened young face, his trembling lips and quivering eyelashes, he wonders if that's entirely true.
"Seven years," Draco whispers, and he opens his eyes to look at Harry with such devastation that it makes his heart wrench painfully.
"Draco," he whispers back, but the blond is shaking his head and backing away, kicking the thermos he'd been sipping from over as he moves fully out of Harry's reach.
"I—fuck, I can't—"
"I don't understand," Harry repeats, though a tiny, horrified part of him is starting to, a bit. Another part of him can't believe it, finds it just as absurd as the idea of islands for heroes. But nothing going on inside of his head really matters right now, because Draco is further and further from his reach, and every part of his body is crying out in protest over that.
"I have to—" Draco says, but he never finishes, instead raises the wand Harry hadn't noticed and Apparates away with a crack that echoes terribly. Harry cries out audibly and, numb with burgeoning fear, Summons the rest of clothes, shoves his shoes on, and Apparates after him.
He first tries the house, slamming through room after room and bellowing for Draco hoarsely. When the only occupants of the house turn out to be a curious Pokey and a bemused Hermes, he throws himself out onto the porch and swears loudly when he sees Draco up on Longbottom Point, hugging himself and staring out at the sunny, churning sea. Harry swallows hard at the sight of him, head spinning, and tries to drum up some calm before Apparating once again.
Draco doesn't even flinch when Harry appears a few feet behind him, moving forward cautiously. Harry takes this as a good sign but still goes slow, forces his voice to remain steady and light when he finally speaks again.
"You're—you're not going to jump, are you?" Draco's shoulders tighten but it's the only sign he'd heard him, until he answers after a beat.
"Wouldn't do any good yet, anyway," he says in a shaky voice, and Harry's blood runs cold.
"I would punch you, if you jumped. Don't think I wouldn't."
"I know." His shoulders slump again, and he doesn't turn. Harry moves closer, close enough to touch, but can't quite drum up the courage to, even as his body screams for it. Instead he waits, and it is a long, silent while of nothing but waves and breeze before Draco speaks again.
"I asked them to stop dating the letters about three years in," Draco tells him lowly, and Harry closes his eyes and takes a steadying breath, suddenly terrified by the truth. He soldiers on anyway, teeth gritted against the fear.
"My parents. Pansy, Greg. They're the only ones I'm allowed to write to, and I can't—I can't tell them anything. But the dates—watching the years pass by started to hurt too much. So I lost count." He waves his hand around aimlessly and turns, his smile small and rueful. "I'm sorry for being so dramatic, I was just a bit—"
"Shocked," Harry finishes for him gently, locking his eyes with Draco's. In the morning sun he looks even more monochromatic, washed out but still striking, and Harry feels the fear battle with the absolute need to know Draco as well as he can. The need wins, it always will, and Harry decides this is one of those moments when asking an obvious question that he already knows the answer to will fit.
"How long have you been here, Draco?"
And Draco's smile is now hard, cutting. "Seven years, of course."
Harry lasts about twenty more minutes before he stops fighting the urge to touch and grabs Draco gently to him. They're sitting on Longbottom Point, backs to the waves because the sun is too bright, leaning against the legs of Draco's worktable. Draco has tried to start talking three times now, and Harry won't push him, but he can't keep his hands to himself.
Draco seems to find a bit of strength in Harry's touch, though, because he musters up a smile again and meets his eyes hesitantly. "I'm surprised you're not trying to Apparate home again."
"I think we went through that already," Harry answers, gentle but firm, refusing to break away from Draco's gaze. Draco swallows and nods slowly, ducking his head.
"Yes, but that was before you found out you were a cradle robber," he says in a strained voice, staring fixedly at his knees. Harry's heart pounds at the new sliver of confirmation.
"You haven't aged," he says quietly, once again stating the obvious, needing it to be out there and concrete. Draco nods again, not looking up.
"I haven't. I won't. I'll be 19 forever, and I'll be here forever."
No, Harry's stubborn mind insists. That can't be true. But when he speaks, his voice is tight and pained, as if he truly does believe it. "P-Please tell me," he whispers, and Draco shudders against him.
"When—when they offered me the job, they explained it as—that they needed someone here for the heroes. To explain things, to watch out for them, to keep them from doing foolish hero things while on holiday. It sounded wonderful, you know? A chance to work in paradise, without anyone around to judge me or—or remind me of the things I've done." Harry closes his eyes and thinks of nasty headlines, Rita Skeeter dogging them and jumping on any flinch or grimace. He thinks of locker room pranks, distrustful, hateful glances at work, the Howlers he could never protect Draco from.
He understands, as he understood then, why Draco had left. He just doesn't understand the rest of it.
"So I accepted—of course I accepted. Everyone wanted me to accept it but you. My—my mother said it was a—a wonderful opportunity, though she didn't know all the details." Draco has to pause at that, mouth twisting. Then he keeps on. "They told me I would have to—to bond with the island, because I wasn't destined for it the way heroes are. We had to take measures to ensure the island wouldn't reject me. I was fine with it—I didn't know any better, you know? I thought it was like getting your magical signature registered with Magical Law Enforcement, just another prerequisite. I was stupid and arrogant and naïve—"
"You were 19," Harry interrupts, rage starting to bubble into the fear roiling in his gut. "You can't—you mustn't blame yourself for believing them. Please don't."
"I was stupid and arrogant and naïve, just as I've always been," Draco insists hotly, eyes flashing in certainty. "And they knew it, too, so why not use that? Don't get me wrong, I blame the Unspeakables, too, and I blame other—other people, but it's no one's fault but my own that I was so stupid to get into this."
Harry wants to argue, the way he had always argued whenever anyone said anything deliberately hurtful about Draco once they'd partnered up. But it's hard to argue with Draco himself, who is obviously not going to be convinced. He swallows down his protests and pushes the more important parts to the front of his mind. "What did they do, Draco? Why—" He can't properly voice the question because it makes him too angry.
"The bond—I didn't realize until about a year in, but I noticed little things. My hair wasn't growing. I had been using standard grooming charms, but they weren't doing anything, and I thought it was magical interference. I shrugged it off. But my hair never grew, and I kept looking at myself and seeing no changes, nothing but sunburn. I started to get suspicious. I wrote to Jovian—my only contact at work, the only Unspeakable I'm allowed to write to—and he shrugged it off, too. Told me I was imagining it. And then I met Boris."
A chill runs through Harry's bones, and he knows he's going to hate this story. "The Humdinger."
"I was bored, wandering through the forest, and Boris—he was just a baby then, you know. I had never seen creatures like him, I was fascinated, and I stupidly got between Boris and his mum and, well, you can imagine what happened."
A thousand awful, bloody scenarios are running rampant in Harry's head, and he clutches Draco tighter as he continues. "I should've died. There was so much blood, I couldn't move, I was a mess. I closed my eyes, I stopped breathing, I know I did. And then I woke up." He takes in a shuddering breath, eyes dreamy and vacant, and Harry feels that chill again and resists the urge to shake him. "I was lying in the forest, fully healed. Good as new. Boris' family was gone, I was completely alone, completely unharmed, and I—well, I freaked. I attempted to Apparate home immediately. When that didn't work, I tried to create a Portkey—nothing. I got a broom out of the closet and flew until I hit the worst storm I've ever seen. The winds knocked me off the broom—I should've drowned, I should've been lost forever, but I closed my eyes and I—I woke up."
His breathing is starting to hitch now, and he looks at Harry still with that wide, vacant stare. "I'll be 19 forever, and Jovian Dane says it's because I'm a part of the island now. That it was an 'unforeseen consequence' of the bonding. He says they're 'working on it'. And now you've told me that it's been seven years and—and I know I'm staying here forever. That's why—" Draco breaks off into harsh breaths, clenching his hands together, anger and pain warring visibly on his face. Then he shifts it down, hiding it, and when he looks up he's calm again. "That's why last night was so unwise. You—you're, we shouldn't get attached. I should've told you before—"
"Don't," Harry says tightly, shifting in discomfort, not letting go even though Draco seems to be expecting it. "It's—no. There has to be—you said they're working on it—"
Draco snorts, and Harry is almost grateful for the sound. It sounds like real Draco again, like snarly, prickly Draco who would never just tell this story—he would rail against it, he would find a way, he would never take it lying down. Draco Malfoy has never just let something so awful as this just happen to him—he'd run as far as he could in the opposite direction, he'd weasel his way out of it. But his eyes are still flat and defeated, and when he talks he sounds bitter but not bitter enough. "I suppose I'm not the only naïve one, am I? If you really think they're lifting a finger—and maybe I've gotten paranoid in my old age, or the lack thereof, but a large part of me thinks this was the plan all along."
The sea crashes thunderously behind them, and it's simply white noise in the buzzing of Harry's rage. "Why? Why would they—"
"Think about it," Draco says. "There are lots of people who didn't think the Malfoys got what they deserved after the war. My father's out of prison already, isn't he? And Mum and I—slaps on the wrist and a hefty fine that didn't even make a dent in our wealth. It's not hard to imagine that made people bitter and vengeful—actually, I don't have to imagine it. I lived it, I'm still living it." His fingers press against his own knees hard enough to leave bruises, and Harry clasps his hands because he doesn't want to see that. "Take away the heir, and you take the family's power. The Malfoy line will die out with my parents now, and I'll—I'll be here."
"No." And Harry still won't accept that, can't. "No, I won't—there has to be a way. Even if the Unspeakables aren't working on it, I—Hermione—"
"—is an Unspeakable, she most likely knows all about this," Draco tells him evenly. "Well, she might not know about that it's me here, not that that would matter—"
"No, she doesn't—if she knew it was you she would do something about it. She would never just stand by while—she knows how I am about you."
"Whatever. It doesn't matter what she knows or doesn't know; there's nothing she can do anyway. There's nothing anyone can do."
"That's bollocks, I don't believe that. There's always something. I refuse to just accept this the way you have—you don't know me at all if you think I will."
Draco blinks at him, and his eyes flash warm for a moment, affectionate. Then he turns his head and he's devoid of expression once again. "You know, you're not the first to promise that. A few others promised me, too, that'd they figure something out. After a while, Jovian wrote to me and told me to stop telling the heroes, that it was useless. It's ironic, sort of—I'm trapped on an island of useless heroes." He chuckles, the sound awful and grating, and Harry grits his teeth.
"I can't believe you. There's—no. I won't accept this like you have. I don't care what the bloody Unspeakables say; I'm not leaving this island without you. I won't."
"Did you know that Lavender Brown is a Seer?"
Harry starts at the sharp change of topic, and he stares at the top of Draco's bowed head. "I—yeah. I did hear that."
"She was here, you know. Not too long ago, though you can probably guess I have no real idea of when. But she was here—she's done wonderful things for werewolves, actually, I was quite fascinated by her work—"
"What does it matter—" He doesn't want to hear about Lavender Brown, not when Draco's trapped here and totally resigned to it.
"Well, I'm getting to it, aren't I?" Harry relishes the sharpness in his voice, savors it, because it's the fight in Draco, the part of him he loves the most. "So she's a Seer, and she knew of my predicament without me even mentioning it. And one morning, we were eating breakfast on the porch and she—well, you've seen someone prophesize before, right? It was bloody scary. And she didn't remember any of it—I'm sure the Unspeakables don't know, because it was never recorded, I'm the only one who—"
"What did she say?"
"When the Morning Star turns backward, the prisoner of paradise will be freed by the ultimate sacrifice." His voice sounds deadened and wistful, as if he's the one prophesizing it right now. The last two words send an awful pain through Harry's gut, and he clutches Draco tighter as the blond regains his edge."Snappy, isn't it? It took me ages to figure it out—I was never much for astronomy until then, but I eventually found the window of time I have to ever leave this stupid place: when Venus is in retrograde motion, all I'd have to do is, well, kill myself, I'd imagine, and—"
And Harry stands up, letting Draco go so abruptly he starts and looks up. "No."
"You keep saying that, you know, and it's not making any—"
"That is not what that means. It can't be."
"Of course it does—it makes sense, actually, with the nature of this island; it's magic's boon for heroes, for sacrifices, and so my sacrifice would make the bond legitimate—"
"Don't you dare, don't you talk about it like you'd even consider it!"
"Well, I'm not going to do it tomorrow, for God's sake, calm down." Draco stands up, holding his hands out, and Harry jerks back like a wounded animal, breathing hard.
"I will not calm down, you're talking about suicide!"
"I'm just explaining it to you, so you know all the facts. I'm not saying I've made that kind of decision either way—"
"There's no decision, that's not an option for you, never. So stop—" And Harry's eyes widen as he realizes where they are, what they're standing in front of. He eyes the telescope behind Draco, the charts and maps all over the worktable, and feels a vital part of himself snap.
Draco seems to realize what's going to happen about half a second before it does, and he's not fast enough to stop Harry lunging forward and knocking the telescope off the cliff. "POTTER, what the fuck!" He grabs at Harry's shoulders and tries to pull him back, but Harry pushes him aside and turns the worktable upside down, flinging it after the telescope. "Are you out of your mind?"
"You don't need that stuff. That's—why would you need to look at the stars if you weren't considering—how could you even think—" Harry tries to throw the astrolabe but Draco grabs it out of his hands and drops it aside. He squeezes Harry's wrists in one hand and uses the other to direct his face to look him in the eye.
"I'm not—I'm not suicidal, my God. Though a few minutes with you and your drama queen arse and I'm starting to reconsider."
"That's not funny. Why were you studying Venus? That's—if you believe in the prophecy, if you choose it, you make it real, you help it get fulfilled. It'll come true if you choose it, if you decide that's what it means, and it can't come true, Draco, I won't let it." He shudders, unable to stand the thought of it, and tries to feel better when Draco pulls him closer. "When is it?"
"When is what?"
"When is Venus in retrograde?"
"I—I don't know—"
"Don't lie to me," Harry says harshly. Draco sighs and drops his head onto Harry's shoulder.
"In a few days, give or take. But it doesn't matter."
"No, it doesn't," Harry tells him. He reaches up and grasps Draco's shoulders, pulls away to look at him directly. "It doesn't matter, because it's not happening."
"Right," Draco agrees, and something conflicted and unsure flashes across his face, before he leans in and kisses Harry gently. When he speaks again, he whispers into Harry's cheek, his breath soft and hesitant. "I thought last night would be closure. The inevitable conclusion to this…whatever we've always had."
Harry closes his eyes. "And was it?"
He can feel Draco's smile against his skin. "No. It just made it worse. Typical Potter, mucking up my plans."
The next few days pass on as if someone had hit a reset button: Draco dodges each and every comment made about his predicament, and instead seems to be back to teaching Harry how to enjoy his holiday. It's frustrating, and it makes Harry wish he could smash another telescope against the rocks, but there is little he can do besides argue uselessly and then receive the silent treatment. A terrible little voice inside his head tells him he can't waste any time he has with Draco not speaking to him, and he stubbornly tells that voice to shut up but listens to it anyway.
So he reluctantly exchanges comments for kisses, arguments and denials and don't you dare look at those stars, Draco for intimate touches and embraces.
He is allowed into Draco's bedroom for the first time since he'd come to the island, and after they make love in it he never returns to his own bed. Instead he clutches sweaty, soft skin and thumbs at the bumps of Draco's spine, listens to soft, snuffing breaths in sleep and thinks I can't leave this. I can't.
Draco begs Harry to tell him when July 31st is, and when he refuses, he writes to Jovian Dane (whose death Harry plots nightly) and asks him. Then he insists on making a big deal out of Harry's birthday, making entirely too much of Harry's favorite foods and having Pokey bartend for them until they're full of rich food and buzzing with fruity drinks and grabbing at each other in the kitchen.
They fall into Draco's bed as if it's inevitable, and Draco grins at Harry big and bright and mischievous, fumbling with Harry's clothes until he has a bare path to kiss his way down his torso. Harry bucks up, unable to stop himself, and bites on his fist when Draco tugs his pants down with his trousers and eyes his cock hungrily. He looks up and, with a sharp, beautiful glint in his eyes, dives back and licks at Harry in long, languid strokes.
Harry's teeth press a dent into his knuckles as Draco licks him all over, flicking his tongue out to taste his balls and nosing behind them briefly. He lets out a loud, strangled groan and chokes out a weak "Draco", the alcohol and the arousal rushing through him and making him feel fuzzy and wonderful. Draco hums but continues his licking, teasing assault until Harry thrusts his hips insistently. Then he smiles sweetly up at him, those wicked eyes piercing right through Harry, and dips down to finally suck at him sloppily.
"Christ," Harry whimpers, bucking up sharply and groaning when Draco pinches his thigh. He forces himself to settle down, breathing deep and harsh, his entire body humming under Draco's skillful mouth, his entire world narrowing down to the slick heat surrounding his cock and the stuttering bob of Draco's blond head.
The barest scrape of teeth has him tensing and yelping, staring down and shuddering again at the sight of Draco smiling cheekily around his mouthful. He sighs when he feels a tongue follow the teeth and then wonderful suction that stops at the leaking, soaked head of his cock, and he looks when Draco pinches him again. He watches as Draco's head remains still but his hand reaches under Harry's hip and pushes, and he takes the hint and starts gently thrusting up into the lovely O of Draco's lips.
Draco groans around him, eyes fluttering shut, and God, Harry loves him. Harry can't close his eyes, can't rip his gaze away from the sight of his own purpled, sticky erection disappearing again and again past those plump, stretched lips. He watches Draco's normally nimble fingers fumble into his own pants and lets the sight of him wanking himself in jerky, clumsy movements tip his arousal just over the edge of manageable. His hips pick up their own uncoordinated thrusts, and he cries out when he bumps a bit too far and instead of gagging Draco swallows around him without missing a beat. Draco's breaths are ragged and muffled and desperate by his crotch, and the musky smell of his arousal is working to overload all of Harry's senses—his balls draw up and he comes in a sudden rush that Draco swallows down as well.
Draco keeps his head between Harry's thighs, keeps the cock in his mouth as it softens against his tongue, and when it slips out he comes with a gasp all over his hand and the sheets underneath him. He drops his cheek against Harry's right thigh, panting heavily, and Harry sits up to pet at his head in his lap.
"God," Harry croaks out sort of wondrously, staring down at the smug, satisfied expression on Draco's slackened face.
"Mm," Draco answers, eyes rolling up to meet Harry's and a smile twitching across his face. He leans over slightly to nuzzle gently at Harry's soft penis and Harry groans disbelievingly. "Birthday blowjobs are lovely, aren't they? And you said you didn't want any gifts. You can fuck me in a few, if you're up for it."
And without thinking, Harry says, "If I'm up for it; I'm slowing down in my old age." The warm, happy fuzzies that had been filling him evaporate as if burnt up, and he winces and looks down at Draco's still, 19-year-old face.
It takes Draco just a second to gloss over it. "Not to worry. One of the perks to being eternally in my teens is that my refractory time is next to nothing; I'll just fuck you, then."
"Oh, don't be stingy with your arse, Potter, I've been more than generous with mine."
"Though I suppose it is your birthday, so you should get to choose what does or doesn't go in your arse on today of all days—"
"I would love for you to fuck me, and that's not what this is about," Harry says very firmly, and Draco finally, finally looks up at him with something other than glib evasiveness in his eyes. He sighs and sits up, looking totally debauched, half-dressed and hair mussed, mouth still swollen, and Harry feels himself soften as he gathers Draco to him carefully, pressing his back into his own chest, cradling his hips in his thighs.
"I can't leave you," he says, burying his face in Draco's neck. Draco makes a soft, chastising sound in the back of his throat.
"Of course you'd say that. I just let you fuck my mouth."
"Be serious, for once. I can't stand pretending like this. What are we going to do?"
"You know my options. I never—I never wanted to make it this difficult. That night in the cave, I just thought—well, you know what I thought."
"I know." He concentrates on the feel of Draco's chest rising and falling beneath his hands, letting it reassure him only a bit. "Was—was that your first time?"
Draco leans his head back so that Harry can see his eyes are closed. "No. In school, I—well, we weren't playing Exploding Snap all night in Slytherin. And after, there were a few—but that was my first since, well. Seven years, apparently. I haven't done anything like that on this island." He smirks, and with his eyes closed it looks slightly ridiculous, so much so that Harry wants to kiss it away. "And no, Harry, I didn't sleep with Neville. He was my—my friend."
The friend who left you here, Harry thinks. The friend who did nothing to help free you. "Did he know?"
"Yes, I told him. Right after he went home, Jovian wrote me to stop telling the heroes about my situation." The smirk turns into a soft smile. "I like to picture him storming the Department of Mysteries and throwing a giant Gryffindor tantrum. I don't blame Jovian for telling me to keep my mouth shut."
"I do," Harry says darkly, thinking of all the things he'd do to just about the entire Department of Mysteries given half the chance. Draco opens his eyes, looking up at Harry with that same soft smile, and then he shifts up and cranes his neck to kiss him.
"Aww." He pats at Harry's arms against his chest. "My very own useless Super Auror."
"Thanks," Harry says, wounded, feeling the useless part like a punch. It occurs to him that he has no answers to that what are we going to do? question and it's quite possibly the worst feeling in the world. There really is nothing he can do, at least not on this island, and for the first time in weeks, he suddenly wants to go home, if only to find a way for Draco to get out of this.
"Will you really let me fuck you?" Draco asks him, squirming around between Harry's thighs and sparking flames of distracting arousal in his gut.
"Of course," Harry says, and he twists Draco's face around again to kiss him hungrily. "I want you to."
"Brilliant," Draco whispers, and he turns all the way around to face Harry and pounces on him, knocking him flat on his back on the bed. The rest of their clothes come all the way off, and at the first touch of Draco's slick fingers to Harry's most private place, Harry comes to a firm decision: there is no more denying Draco's situation, and there's no more ignoring the fact that the only possible way for Harry to get him out of it is for him to go home, at least temporarily.
It's a terrible plan, he knows, with too many unknown factors to bluster through, almost a Draco-worthy plan, but as Draco thrusts into him, as they rock against each other frantically and desperately, as Draco calls out his name and floods him with his orgasm, and as Harry follows, lost in love and ecstasy, he knows for certain that there is nothing he won't do to free Draco.
Even if it means leaving him.
VII. True North
Of course, resolving to leave Draco and actually leaving him are two entirely different things. When he wakes up the morning after his birthday with a thin, pale body wrapped all around him, smelling of salt and fundamental Draco-ness, Harry has to gulp a bit and rethink ever leaving this bed, never mind the island. He clings a little desperately, knows he's doing it and doesn't care.
It is later, after a leisurely good morning shag and a shared shower, when he's watching Draco cook naked and has to sit on his hands to keep from launching himself at him, that he decides he's not even going to think about leaving the island for at least a week.
And a week later, Draco lets him into the room besides his bedroom, the other door that's always been locked. He shows him the mini-potions lab in there but, more importantly, pulls out a small trunk and shows him the different-sized dildos that have been his only sexual companions in seven years until Harry.
He doesn't think about leaving then, either.
It's Draco who eventually brings it up, as if he's been waiting for the conversation for too long and can't stand thinking about it any longer. The middle of August is wonderful for swimming on a tropical island (though according to Draco, every month is), and so Draco drags him out every afternoon. They cool off in the water and then heat up on towels in the sand, and they're still panting from one such heating up session when Draco starts talking about it.
"D'you miss them?"
"Who?" Harry asks, truly unable to think of anything other than Draco Malfoy's cock at the moment.
"Weasley and Granger."
"Weasley and Granger-Weasley," Harry corrects automatically, and then he starts when he realizes what Draco's asking. "Um."
"And you must miss your job. I know how obsessed you are." Draco is very carefully not looking at him, even though he's admitted before that it's right impossible for him to look anywhere else when Harry is naked.
"What is this about?"
"It's just—you've been here for nearly two months," Draco continues, staring straight up at the sky even though the sun is making him squint. "That's the far end of how long people generally stay here, and I'm not kicking you out or anything—couldn't if I wanted to, and I don't, but—I think if you tried to Apparate, you probably could, by now."
Harry thinks of his own determination, his stubborn conviction that when he gets off this island, he is going to figure out a way to free Draco. He imagines Thursday night dinners with Draco sitting next to him, telling Ron how he could improve the meal and telling Hermione she works with a bunch of wankers, and decides Draco's probably right: if he thought of all that, he could Apparate home right now. There's nothing else in the world he wants more than to have Draco home with him.
He chooses his words carefully, though, because to agree would be hurtful to Draco, whether he'd admit it or not. "I—yeah, I do miss them. 'Course I do. But I—don't want to leave yet."
Draco finally looks at him, giving him a smile that doesn't quite ring true, and Harry can tell that Draco can sense the omission of total truth. He sits up, though, and leans down to peck Harry on the mouth, before standing and starting hurriedly for the water, kicking sand everywhere. "Good. I need shark bait for when I'm out in the water; come on, then, what else are you here for?"
Laughing, Harry follows, but he knows he'll have to explain it all to Draco at some point. Seeing Draco worry about it makes him realize that putting it off like this is only going to make things worse in the long run.
He cautiously brings the topic back up at dinner that night, watching Draco carefully the whole while. "If—when I go home," Harry stumbles, and Draco stiffens, fingers gripping his fork tightly. "I'm going to find you a way out of this. I swear I will."
Draco doesn't look up from his food, very precisely spearing a piece of salmon on his fork. "It's sweet that you want to try, but—"
"Don't do that," Harry snaps. "Don't say that it's sweet like I'm doing you a favor or something. Like there's even a choice for me."
"Of course you have a choice—"
"No I don't. I could never just leave you here without doing anything. I—I couldn't leave you when you were my enemy, how could I leave you now?" Harry pushes his own salmon away, frustrated beyond belief.
Draco simply raises an eyebrow and spreads his hands to indicate the yellow kitchen. "This isn't exactly Fiendfyre, Harry."
"It might as well be," Harry spits out. "Especially with a prophecy like Lavender's hanging over your head. No, I won't—and it doesn't matter. All that matters is that I'm going to do everything I can, and I'm going to get you out of here."
"Others have said that, others have tried—"
"And they weren't me." Draco rolls his eyes.
"Ah, yes, the Chosen One—"
"They weren't in love with you." The very air in the kitchen seems to go still as Draco freezes, staring at Harry in something like shock.
"Of course I am," Harry says, and he stands up and moves around the table in one quick motion, dragging Draco out of his chair roughly. He's tired of Draco's disbelief, tired of him unable to see any other outcome but the absolute worst, the one Harry refuses to acknowledge.
Draco blinks at him, turning slightly pink in his grasp, and then he looks down at his feet and goes pinker. "Um. Me too," he says, and when he looks up his nose is wrinkled and Harry laughs slightly hysterically.
"Of course you are," he says softly, and when Draco starts to look affronted Harry kisses him to shut him up.
Then he strips them both and hoists Draco up onto the counter to fuck him, ties his wrists up in the seashell stringed curtains the way he's wanted to for weeks, so he's cursing and fighting him but undeniably turned on.
"I'm in love with a nutter," Draco says after they come all over the countertop, arms hanging from where they're tied to the curtain rods. Harry beams like an idiot and unties him and carries him to bed as a reward, and when they're lying down and rutting against each other to ready for another go, he makes the promise he'd kept in the back of his mind for a while now.
"And if I fail," Harry whispers, kissing Draco quickly when his eyes dim a bit. "I'll come back."
"Huh? I don't think you—"
"Yes, I can. I'll find a way. I won't leave you alone."
Draco turns his head to the side, and Harry finds out why when the light from the moon captures the wetness in his eyes. "You—you won't, you shouldn't."
"Shh," Harry says, and he ends it there, because he won't argue about it. It's settled, firm, and he knows that if he can't bring Draco home, there won't be any other choice but to return.
Leaving is every bit as hard as he'd thought it would be. They don't speak of it, really—one morning they just wake up and look at each other and they know it's time. Draco studies Harry long and hard before taking his hand.
"Come on," he says. "Breakfast, and then you're going to say goodbye to Phoebe."
The farewell to the tree winds up being more bittersweet than he could've predicted. Her long branches hug him to her fiercely, drawing Draco in as well for another group hug, and Harry pats her trunk a bit less awkwardly than before.
"You're a good tree," says Harry. "Thank for being Draco's friend. Look after him while I'm gone, yeah?"
Behind him, there's a slight sniffle, but by the time Harry has whirled around in shock, Draco has composed himself and spelled away any signs of tears. "D'you want to say goodbye to Boris as well?" he asks, smiling cheekily, and Harry swears and grabs him to start dragging him away.
"No treks into the forest while I'm gone," Harry tells Draco firmly as they head back to the beach. "I'm going to ask Pokey to keep an eye on you."
"Don't be ridiculous," Draco answers loftily. "I'm a grown man, plus it's not like he can run and tell you if I've fallen down a well."
That gives Harry pause. "Pokey can't leave the island?"
"Well, yes, he can leave, but he doesn't speak, does he? Doesn't write or use hand signals or anything. Besides, he serves the island, not you. He won't come if you call him once you've left."
But Harry isn't so sure about that—Harry knows that house-elves have far more free will than purebloods like Draco like to believe. Especially a spirited elf like Pokey, who made his displeasure over the sexy mess they'd left in the kitchen quite known by Banishing all of their bed linens into the sea.
He tells Draco to give him a minute alone with Pokey and, rolling his eyes, he leaves Harry and the elf outside on the porch. "Pokey, would you be able to do me a favor while I'm away?"
Pokey just blinks at him for a few seconds, so that Harry's about to concede the point. But then he bows ever so slightly, and Harry feels a rush of success. "Right. I need you to keep an eye on Draco. Don't let him go into the forest. Not just—I mean, if he seems overly sad or—don't let him up on Longbottom Point either, under any circumstances. If you see him up there, I need you to come get me. Can you do that? Can you bring me to Draco, like I'm food or something?"
Pokey seems to think about it. Then he nods, looking bored but affirmative. Harry's heart swells as he realizes he knows now how to get back on the island. "Thank you, Pokey. You're terrific."
When he returns to the kitchen to share the good news, Draco simply shrugs. "It wouldn't matter if Boris mauled me, unless I went in there with the intent to be mauled."
That gets Harry's back up immediately. "Is Venus still—"
"Yes. A few more weeks."
"I don't want you to—"
"I won't," Draco says firmly, looking Harry in the eye for much too short a time. Fear claws at Harry's insides but he shoves it aside to pull Draco close.
"I'll come back," he whispers into Draco's hair. "I'll come back and I'll either bring you home or I'll stay here forever. I promise. So don't you dare—"
"I know," Draco answers, and his voice sounds thick and muffled.
"Don't you dare," Harry repeats, and when Draco kisses him it doesn't taste reassuring enough.
He kisses him for a long, long time, and when he tries to pull away Draco doesn't let him go, proving that this feels more final for Draco. He hates that, he bites at Draco's lips to punish him for that, and when they finally separate Draco's mouth is red and raw.
"I'll come back," Harry says, and Draco nods stiffly.
"I know," says Draco, but Harry can see in his eyes that he doesn't. It's probably the only reason Draco continues, "I love you."
It sounds too much like a real goodbye, so Harry simply steps back, eyes hard. He raises his wand, conjures the image of that Thursday night dinner with all of the most important people, and he Apparates.
It's a bit depressing that he lands in his office at DMLE without really thinking about it, but he decides it's just more convenient. He stalks purposefully out into the hallway, ignoring all of the shocked gasps and shouted greetings of the various coworkers milling about, and heads for the lifts.
Before Harry gets on, he Conjures his Patronus and instructs it to find Hermione and have her meet him in the Entrance Chamber in the Department of Mysteries. The stag has barely ridden off before he's barging onto a lift and following it down.
Hermione is there, though, waiting at level 9, pink-cheeked with happiness but eyes sharp with questions. "Harry, you're back!" she cries when Harry nears her, and her hug suddenly brings him crashing down from his march of purposeful adrenaline. It feels wonderful in her arms, like he's truly home, and he feels very weary with how much he's missed her.
"Yeah," Harry says, and he hugs her back and manages a smile when she leans back to look over his face. She sees something there—of course she does—and she brings him right back to his mission.
"What's this about, Harry? Are you only just back—wouldn't you rather stop at home, check on things? You'll have to come over for dinner tonight, Ron will be ecstatic—"
"I need you to take me to see Jovian Dane; I don't have clearance," Harry interrupts before Hermione can get truly started. She stops and looks at him, eyes narrowed.
"You know about the man on the island, right? The one who helps the heroes?" he asks her, and she nods slowly. "It's Draco, Hermione, and I have to bring him home."
Her eyes widen, and in that moment he feels a strange, surprising relief—he'd thought he had been sure that Hermione didn't know about Draco, but as she confirms it with genuine surprise, he suddenly feels grateful.
A thousand questions flash across Hermione's face, and emotions ranging from anger to exasperation follow, but in the next second she proves why she's Harry's best friend. "Right then, let's go."
"That's my girl," he says, and she blushes and leads him swiftly through one of the revolving doors.
"Don't let Malfoy hear you say that; he seems like he'd be a horrid jealous type," says Hermione, just proving it one more time for good measure.
She takes him through the Time Chamber to a row of office doors with nameplates that seem to change constantly. They stop in front of one and she holds out her wand to tap it twice, until the nameplate reads Jovian Dane. Harry clenches a fist and tells himself he'll use his words. Try to use his words, at least.
Hermione knocks firmly the door, rolling her eyes at the answering silence. A few beats later and Harry's ready to start pounding on the door when a low, deep voice calls out for them to come in. Hermione opens the door and leads Harry inside.
Jovian Dane is nothing like Harry had pictured him—he'd sort of pictured devil horns and a cape towards the end there, but really he'd pictured a dark, intellectual sort with a permanent sneer. The man behind the desk in the rather cramped office is big and brawny, and he looks too large for the space. His slightly graying hair was once a sandy brown, and his eyes are big and kind as he takes in Harry and Hermione stuffing themselves into his tiny work area.
"Jovian," Hermione says tightly, and Jovian inclines his head towards her but keeps his eyes on Harry. And there's the sharp glint that designates him as an Unspeakable—he looks as if he'd been expecting Harry.
"Hello, Hermione. Mr. Potter—you work faster than your friend, Neville. He did some of his own research before he came to me."
Harry's fist twitches, as does his wand, but he forces down the violent urges and feels Hermione touch his back lightly, as if she knows exactly what he's thinking. "It's Auror Potter, thanks. And I don't work like Neville does—once I have a perpetrator, I pursue him before anything else."
Jovian's eyes sparkle, and he leans back in his chair. "It's interesting that you look at this as though a crime has been committed."
"Mr. Malfoy is doing his job—"
"Mr. Malfoy has been imprisoned for crimes that he was already acquitted of," Harry snaps stiffly, and he feels Hermione tense next to him. "Mr. Malfoy has been 19 years old for seven years, something he didn't sign up for. He has given up his entire life because he was manipulated into thinking he had to. If that's not a crime, Mr. Dane, then I don't know what is."
"I don't think it's common knowledge that the Island Supervisor is being held against his will, Jovian," Hermione says, and Jovian's whole face tightens.
"He's not. Draco signed a contract, took part in the bonding ritual—"
"He didn't know you were condemning him to eternal imprisonment!" Harry shouts, startling Hermione. Jovian just levels him with a cold stare.
"I think 'condemning' is a bit of a stretch, isn't it? We've gifted him with eternal youth, eternal life, if he chooses it—"
"Oh great, so you know that his only other option is suicide, then?"
Genuine remorse flickers across Jovian's face, something that catches Harry off guard. "That was an unforeseen development, one we didn't take into account. Draco seems determined to hide it from us, but of course we know about it. We can't stop him from doing anything he wants to do while Venus is in retrograde." His eyes flicker across Harry's face. "And neither can you."
Harry starts forward, stopped only by Hermione's hand on his elbow. "The hell I can't!"
"You can do as much as I can while you're here, Auror Potter. Go ahead and launch a full investigation into my department. Research bonding all you want—I can even give you my research notes. There are no avenues we haven't looked at it, and there is no way to break a bonding of this magnitude besides the way you know about already. I know you've found a way back onto the island—good for you. You should be aware, however, that if you do go back, you'll become bound to the island the way Draco is—you're not meant to be on the island again. Your destiny is here. His is there. It is prophesized, and we all know that there's no getting around prophecies, is there?"
Rage bubbles through Harry's veins until Jovian Dane is nothing but a red haze. Hermione squeezes in between Harry and the desk, which is suddenly a lot closer to him, and shoves him backward.
"Yes, well, we'll take your research notes and be on our way, then. Expect a few more visits from the Auror Department, and I would confer with your colleagues and start listing names of people involved in this. We're not letting this go, and you can be damned sure we're going to fix it." Hermione's chin is in the air and she's staring Jovian down with such steely determination Harry has to wonder that he hasn't melted into a frightened puddle yet. The man merely waves his hand in casual dismissal; it makes Harry want to grab the hand and crush it in his fist.
"Certainly, Hermione. I would tell you not to waste your time, but I can see that will be useless." He locks eyes with Harry, who's struggling to get his breathing under control. There is something goading and challenging in his face, and Harry hears Scared, Potter? as if it's echoing through the room. "Remember, Auror Potter, that if you choose Draco and the island, there's no turning back. You know everything now, more than Draco did when he chose. I don't think that he would want you to knowingly make the same mistake he did. And I think we all know what a mistake it would be."
Hermione cries out but not in time to stop Harry from cursing Jovian Dane with boils, which is the very least of what he wants to do to him. It's not satisfying enough, but he holds on to his anger and rides it to his inevitable conclusion: if he does have to go back to the island, he knows that there would be no turning back anyway, regardless of the bonding. He could never leave Draco again; the first time was hard enough.
Hermione heads home with Jovian's research notes and a promise from Harry to meet her there later for dinner and to confer about the research. While she leaves, he takes Head Auror Robards up to Minister Shacklebolt's office and demands that they launch a full investigation into Jovian and the rest of the Unspeakables.
"This is a bit dicey, Harry," Robards says once he finishes his full explanation. "Investigating supposed criminal activity in other departments is one thing, but the Department of Mysteries is a different kind of beast. We can search until our faces turn blue, but we still might not be able to understand what exactly they've done, or who all was involved. It's definitely not just this Dane fellow, you know."
Kingsley is strangely stoic and silent about this, and Harry remembers seven years ago, when he had said nothing as Draco was recruited and bustled away from the Aurors. "I agree," he finally says, avoiding Harry's eyes. "It's a fishing expedition—I'm not even sure we can call this a crime."
"Of course we can!" Harry protests. "Kidnapping, false imprisonment—they took one of your Aurors, Kingsley, and trapped him on a deserted island. How does that not seem like a crime?"
"He signed a contract," Kingsley says reasonably, and if Harry never hears that sentence again, it will be too soon.
"A misleading contract, one that didn't have all the facts."
"Well, we'd need a copy of the contract to confirm that, wouldn't we?"
"So we'll find one." Harry turns away from Kingsley, frustrated beyond belief by his stony dismissal. "Are you seeing what's so wrong with this? Would you just let them get away with this if they took one of yours?"
Robards crosses his arms over his chest and shakes his head. "You know I wouldn't. I see what you're saying; I'll get a few men down to interview them, and you can oversee it. As long as I have the green light from the Minister, of course." He tips his head to Kingsley, who frowns even in the face of Harry's stormy expression.
"You have it, Gawain. Do what you must."
"Right. Be seeing you, Harry; I'll push the order through." He leaves, and before Harry follows, he looks at Kingsley closely.
"You knew, didn't you?"
Kingsley looks at him with sad eyes. "It seemed like the best course of action at the time. The press—"
"The press was nothing. We could've handled the press, they would've moved on eventually." He feels more betrayed than angry or shocked—a part of him had known from the start that Kingsley had a hand in this. No Head Auror would give up one of his own like that unless he thought he had a good reason.
"They were tearing you apart, Harry. I thought you deserved better."
"No. No, God, please don't say that, don't make it be my fault." It's a fear that he hasn't wanted to speak until now, that a part of this was less about making Draco pay for the crimes of the Malfoys during the war and more about getting him away from Harry. But Kingsley's face is all confirmation, and it sends Harry reeling.
"I'm sorry that I caused you pain, I never meant—"
"Save it," Harry bites out. "Just help me make this right."
And Kingsley nods firmly. "I will. I promise."
Days slip by with a constant ticking of time in the background—he knows he's on a clock that's winding down, knows that he can't really trust Draco to trust him completely, and he's terrified of what could happen if Harry doesn't return soon enough. He has no visits from Pokey, and that's reassuring, but the worry never really goes away, even in the face of all he has to do.
He leads the investigation into the Department of Mysteries by day, interviewing Unspeakables who are entirely too skilled at talking around him and his colleagues. Harry is relentless, though, and badgers Robards into allowing the use of Veritaserum.
Knowing he's getting perfectly truthful information makes it all the more frustrating when nothing substantial comes up. He has a list of names now, people to charge with false imprisonment and conspiracy to kidnapping, and he knows it goes deep into the Department of Mysteries—Jovian Dane is simply a face to put on a whole bunch of people who are involved. But none of that is conducive to him bringing Draco home, only bringing those who imprisoned to justice. Justice means fuck all to Harry when Draco is still alone on that island. Realizing that makes his future as an Auror seem a bit dicey—it's then that he knows that there was never really a contest between his job and Draco. Draco had won long ago.
At night, Harry and Hermione research bonds of immortality, bonds with magical places. Ron makes them snacks and refrains from making ferret comments because Harry is too keyed up for them. But every solution they come across always has something to do with an 'ultimate sacrifice', something that Hermione refuses to let Harry consider.
The days bleed into each other, full of false leads and brick walls, and Harry begins to lose hope. He can't figure this out by sheer will of determination, and it's frustrating because of how he can feel time running out.
"I can't stay here too much longer," Harry says wearily one night, and Hermione snaps her gaze up from a yellowing text to stare at him.
"What do you mean? You're not considering going back, are you? Jovian wasn't lying, Harry—if you go back to the island, you have to go back forever."
Harry doesn't even flinch. "I know that. It doesn't matter."
Ron, returning from a coffee refill and catching the tail end of the conversation, pipes in, "What doesn't matter?"
Hermione answers shrilly before Harry gets the chance. "He's—he wants to go back to the island! He won't be able to come back!" She sounds panicked and disbelieving, as if she hadn't considered this before. Harry has to wonder why; he thought it had been a foregone conclusion.
Ron seems to echo this sentiment; he just shrugs and sips at his coffee. "I figured that. It's Malfoy; he's always been a bit nutters about Malfoy."
"But—to give up his entire life here—to never be able to grow old, to be cut off from the world—"
"He loves him," Ron says flatly, and Harry feels relief so sweet and great he flushes with it. "That's the least of what I'd do for you, Hermione."
"Thanks, Ron," says Harry, and Ron tips his mug to him and gives him a warm smile.
"It's not the same," Hermione insists hotly, and her eyes are shining with tears.
"It really is, though," Harry tells her, and that just makes it worse.
"You'd—you'd leave us?" she asks him, and as he looks at them—Hermione and her books, Ron and his steadfast loyalty—and thinks about leaving them. It feels a bit as though his heart is being squeezed in his chest, and he doesn't want to—he hadn't fully registered that choosing Draco means leaving them completely behind.
And he loves them—they've been his life since he was 11. He can't really imagine himself without them.
But he can't imagine himself without Draco, either. And Ron seems to know that, Harry can tell just by the way he's looking at him. He's glad he understands, and he knows Hermione will too, eventually.
Not now, though. Now, she shoves the text out of her lap and stands up stiffly. "Well, I won't help you, then. It's one thing to help bring the love of your life home for you, but it's another thing entirely to help imprison you with him. I won't do it."
"I already know how to get back on the island, Hermione," Harry says gently. She stares at him, and he can hear Ron counting softly under his breath. He reaches one just as she bursts into messy tears and flings herself at Harry.
"I'm sorry," Harry croaks, and he really is. He is sorry to leave them, sorry to hurt them, but it really isn't even a question. Ron nods to him, still understanding, and Hermione doesn't manage anything more coherent after that, so he just lets her cry it out against his shoulder.
He's only willing to risk a few more days of fruitless research before he decides it's time to start his goodbyes. The investigation is winding down—trial dates are being set, and Harry is satisfied but can't bring himself to be too excited about it. He doesn't expect any consequences to be that grave—at most, some Unspeakables will probably be out of a job or facing fines. He can tell that the only reason anyone cares about the case is because Harry Potter does.
He doesn't tell anyone besides Ron and Hermione that he's leaving for good; he doubts Molly Weasley would let him clear the front door if she knew. Harry tells everyone he's going to do some traveling, take some time to himself, and he promises to write—he's already made Jovian Dane adjust the magic of the island to allow him to write to whomever he wishes.
The Unspeakable still under investigation is strangely accepting as he grants the request. "You surprise me, Auror Potter," he says, and Harry's lip curls.
There is a strange look in Dane's eyes; it's something like triumph, but it doesn't make much sense to Harry, so he lets it go and concentrates on tying up loose ends.
He leaves Ron and Hermione in charge of his finances and estate, something Hermione balks at but Ron promises to take care of. He meets his friends for one last night out at the pub, hugs Ginny extra hard when she leaves, and clasps Neville's hand.
"Tell him hello from me," Neville says, apropos of nothing, and Harry understands immediately and agrees without question.
Harry readies himself to call for Pokey on a balmy September evening. He packs a bag pull of his most precious possessions—pictures, mostly, of his parents and the Weasleys and Ron and Hermione and of his life here, and it's hard to decide what to keep with you for eternity—and sucks in his last lungful of English autumn air on Ron and Hermione's front porch, before stepping inside to say his final goodbye.
"Well," he says, feeling horribly choked up. "It's been fun."
"You wanker," Ron barks out, and he grabs Harry into a rough hug. They sniffle manfully for a few minutes, before breaking apart and turning their faces so that the other won't see. "Enjoy eternal youth, mate," he tells Harry hoarsely. "Old Voldy's seething with jealousy somewhere."
"God," Harry laughs, shaking his head and sniffling again. He turns to Hermione, who seems determined not to look at him, and he opens his arms. She twitches for two whole minutes before breaking and rushing him, hugging him nearly tight enough to break a rib.
"I hate you," she whispers. "I hate that you're doing this. I'll miss you, and I understand."
Harry smiles weakly. "I love you too, Hermione."
"Be happy," Hermione tells him, and he squeezes her hard.
"I will," he promises, and he means it completely.
Goodbyes done, unable to look at them for too much longer, Harry steps away and purposefully calls out, "Pokey!"
For one bone-chilling moment, nothing happens, and Harry opens his mouth to call for him again. Then he hears Draco in his head saying Rushing him, Potter? and smiles a bit and waits.
And Pokey pops in, looking typically bored and unamused. He eyes Harry up and down as if judging his fashion choices, and then holds out a small, skinny hand.
Harry grins big and takes it. "Take me home, Pokey," he instructs him firmly, and the last thing he hears before he is whisked away is Hermione's disapproving huff.
Pokey leaves him in his bedroom, the bedroom he'd abandoned for Draco's for half of his stay. Harry sets his bag down and, chilled by the stillness of the house, heads slowly out into the hallway.
He finds Draco in his little potions and dildo room, standing over a small, steaming cauldron.
"You'd better not be brewing poison," Harry says, only half-joking, and Draco stiffens but doesn't turn around.
There is a heavy silence, and then Draco lets out a breathless laugh. "Venus is at its direct station in Leo now," he says carefully, and his body is so still. "Now would be a good time for poison."
"It's Dreamless Sleep," Draco says in a rush, and when he turns around Harry has to bite back a choked gasp at his red-rimmed eyes and gaunt face. "Turns out I'm rubbish at sleeping without you." He's trembling slightly, and Harry crosses the room in two swift steps and has him in his arms in one movement. He only moves again to swipe the cauldron off the counter, just in case, and he swallows Draco's yelp of protest with a bruising, forceful kiss.
"Well, now you don't need that, you'll never need that," Harry insists, and he kisses him again to back up his point, licking into Draco's mouth, where his tongue feels most at home.
"We're going to have to talk about you destroying my equipment, Potter," Draco mutters, but he's beaming so bright that it only confirms that there was never any other choice for Harry to make.
"Harry," he whispers, and Draco fits his mouth once again to his, whispering "HarryHarryHarry" against his teeth.
"I'm not going to lie and say I didn't think of it," Draco admits much later, as they lie together in sated, sweaty comfort in their bed. Harry runs his teeth gently along Draco's collarbone, grinning when he feels him sigh. "I was going a bit mad with lack of sleep, and I really—I wasn't sure if you'd come back. I didn't want to hope for it."
"So what kept you?" Harry asks, tonguing the teeth marks he's left. Draco looks at him, eyes soft and shining.
"I—I kept thinking, what if you did come back? And what if you found me?" He shakes his head, swallowing hard. "I could never do that to you, could never be that selfish."
"I'm especially glad now, because—you really can't go back?"
"I wouldn't have anyway."
"I know, but…" He swallows again, staring up at the ceiling as if in awe. "Eternity, huh? Sure you won't get sick of me?"
"Never," Harry vows, completely truthful.
"I didn't want you to do this, you know. Give up that much."
"That's what Jovian Dane said. He said he didn't think I could do it."
Draco snorts. "Well, that's rather obvious. It's like waving a red flag in your face." His expression turns thoughtful, contemplative, illuminated by soft moonlight. "Maybe he wanted you to come back here."
Harry chuckles, remembering Jovian's utter lack of helpfulness. "Why would he want me to—" And then he freezes.
"Harry?" Draco mumbles, looking down at him. "What is it?"
"Draco…how ultimate a sacrifice do you think that 'ultimate sacrifice' has to be?" His head is spinning, and he's sure it can't be that easy—but he pictures Hermione's tears and Ron's sniffles and wonders what was easy about it.
Draco frowns. "Well, I always interpreted it as my death—sacrificing my life—"
"Right. Your life. But there's more than one way to give up your life besides physically expiring. For example, you can—"
"Leave the life you know behind completely and willingly," Draco whispers, and then they're both shooting up at the same time, so that Harry's head cracks into Draco's chin. "OW. Bloody hell—"
"We can Apparate," Harry says excitedly, grabbing frantically for his pants as Draco leans against the headboard and rubs at his sore chin. "No—we can take the brooms. Or—fuck, we can swim, Draco, it doesn't matter, I think you're free!"
"You think," Draco says warily, but his eyes have sparks of hope in them, and they thrill Harry to no end. "This is all speculation—"
"But we can try," Harry argues, and grabs Draco's hand in his and squeezes tightly. "If the worst thing to happen if we fail is that I get to spend eternity with you in paradise, then I really don't see the harm in trying. If the wind knocks us out—"
"—we'll just wake up," Draco finishes, squeezing Harry's hand back.
They say cautious goodbyes to Phoebe and the creatures of the forest, and they tell Pokey to follow them if they don't return right away. Pokey eyes them both as if they are supremely stupid, and then they both jump a mile high when he speaks in a croaky, high voice.
"Why would Masters come back if Masters are freed?" Harry gapes at the elf in disbelief, but Draco lets out a delighted shout and lunges at him, much to the creature's displeasure.
"Pokey, you're brilliant, and you'd better follow us," Draco commands. "There's an elf of my father's I want to introduce you to—she's a quiet sort, but I know you'll get along wonderfully, and you'll love the Manor—"
"You can talk?" Harry asks incredulously. Pokey eyes him disdainfully, sniffing and not even bothering to answer.
"I told you he could talk," Draco tells him pointedly, matching Pokey's disdainful look perfectly, though there's no denying that he'd jumped when Pokey first spoke, too. "He just didn't like you. You've obviously won him over, though. Good on you."
Draco insists that they fly off the island, now that Pokey has all but confirmed their freedom. He releases Hermes into the air and tells him that they'll meet him at Malfoy Manor—eventually.
"There are so many places I've always wanted to see," Draco gushes, and even though there are a dozen practical reasons not to fly—including the winds picking up the sand on the island and the ominous clouds gathering overhead—Harry can't deny Draco anything when he looks that excited. "You're not in any rush to get back to England, are you? I mean, you just left."
"There's no rush," Harry agrees, already digging out the broomsticks.
They make a final sweep of the house, grabbing items and stuffing them into Harry's bag at random, but there's really nothing Draco truly wants to keep with him. He squeezes Harry's hand and tells him, "I don't need anything, Harry, not now." He does, however, grab his Margaritaville clock as well as the seashell curtains, blushing madly the whole time.
The winds keep picking up even as they shrink Harry's bag and kick off from the sand on the brooms, keeping close to each other and soaring high above the churning sea. For a moment, Harry feels anxious, and he wonders if it's even going to work—if they're going to simply wake up on the sand after getting tossed around the air for a while.
But suddenly Draco surges up ahead, shouting in something like glee, and Harry keeps his eyes on the back of his bright hair, lets the brightness guide him past the gray clouds and into clear, spectacular blue. The sea still churns beneath them but in the misty distance there is land, and Harry realizes with a shouting laugh that the feeling thrumming through him is freedom.
Harry doesn't know what land they've spotted, and he doesn't care—he hopes they get lost over and over again, because he knows that he only ever has to look at Draco to know he's found his way home.