Disclaimer: J.K. Rowling owns these characters. I only own the writing.
Warning: This is slash. Spoiler (sort of): Book 4.
A/N: What would have happened if Harry and Draco had not been interrupted by news of Lord Voldemort that evening in the Hall when they first kissed? Some people wondered. And I wondered, too, so I had to write this fic to find out. Apologies for the less-than-original setting. : )
Love to all who reviewed the last chapter of Side by Side in Orbit. Hope you are reading this. See separate note at the end.
"My only love sprung from my only hate!
Too early seen unknown, and known too late!
Prodigious birth of love it is to me,
That I must love a loathed enemy.
Did my heart love till now? forswear it, sight!
For I ne'er saw true beauty till this night."
William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, I.5
[In italics: Part of Chapter 4 from Dragonweed. Draco has fainted in the Hall...]
When I open my eyes I feel cold flagstones under me, but my head is softly pillowed. The room revolves slowly, sickeningly around me. The walls waver and recede, the stars in the ceiling come and go in a ghostly fashion. I close my eyes again and wait for the room to steady itself. I don't know how long I lie there, but gradually my head stops spinning and I feel confident enough to open my eyes again. I look up and in the faint moonlight I see a pair of green eyes looking down into mine. They are very wide and very concerned. I find I'm lying with my head in Harry's lap. One of his hands is resting lightly on my chest, the other gently pushing my hair from my forehead.
"What happened?" My voice is just a whisper.
"I don't know. I came down to the hall and found you lying here."
I feel strange but the room is still now, still and quiet except for our breathing. Strangely, the incident is almost gone from my mind. The terrifying blackness that made me faint has been chased into the corners by Harry's presence. His hand on my brow is warm and gentle. I'm amazed by the soft warmth of having him so close, the unexpected feeling of security.
"Malfoy… are you all right?"
His voice is so full of concern. I turn my head just to feel the warmth of his thigh under my cheek. I close my eyes again and say weakly: "I'm not sure." His hand is still on my chest, palm flat and fingers spread lightly, as if he's trying to feel my heartbeat.
"You need some chocolate," he says, very practical. "Can you sit up, do you think?"
I have no excuse to stay with my head in his lap, so I sit up gingerly, shaking my head like a dog. But it's quiet now. No more music. Only my pulse. I can't bear to lose the close warmth of him, and I inch up to him to feel his thigh along mine, his shoulder against mine. He has unwrapped a bar of chocolate and breaks off a piece, turns to me and pushes it into my mouth. For a fraction of a second, my body goes rigid with surprise. Why would he do that instead of just handing me the chocolate? It's such an intimate gesture, from a mother to her child. Or from one lover to another. His fingers brush my lip as he withdraws, and the touch goes through my body like a current.
Our eyes lock. I hear the hitch in his breath and the air vibrates between us. After a second that feels like an eternity, his eyes drop to my lips. I turn the piece of chocolate around slowly in my mouth, caress it with my tongue, my eyes still on his face. I see him almost wince, as if with pain, and a slow flush creeps up over his cheeks. I don't let him go. His eyes come up to mine again, and he lifts his hand and touches the corner of my mouth, a small, shy caress. He is so close. His hand lingers.
"You – you had some chocolate there," he says in a half-whisper.
He actually finds it necessary to give me an excuse for his touching me, although the real reason is written all over him. In spite of everything, I almost laugh. But I'm also trembling. It has to happen now. He wants it as badly as I do. I don't care if it's the stupidest thing I've ever done. I know even as I do it that some way or the other, I will be made to pay for this. But I lean forward and kiss him very softly on the lips, my mouth still full of chocolate. He starts, but as the initial surprise dies down he responds, equally softly. I feel his hand brush my cheek and then nestle against it, and I reach out to pull him closer. Our mouths open, our tongues meet. I am surrounded by gentleness. I have never been kissed like this before; the sweetness of it makes me light-headed. The liquid heat in my stomach spreads to my crotch, and my hands begin a journey all on their own. I can't think, I can't control them. They are exploring his hair, his flushed face, his neck, his back, groping to get under his robes. I hear him make a small sound, almost like a whimper, and I pull back. We both scramble to our feet and stand there staring each other, dazedly licking chocolate from our lips.
"Draco, I – " He sounds confused, almost remorseful. "I don't know why I… I'm sorry."
"I'm not," I say. I feel weak and drained from fainting and I'm tired of games. Now that the barrier has been broken down and there is a way forward, I want to stop circling. "And I know perfectly well why. So do you."
He looks taken aback, scared. He Who has Fought Evil – afraid of a kiss. I'm annoyed at his timidity, and at the same time I still have this mad wish to laugh.
"Look, do you want to play games?" I ask him. My voice is soft and almost threatening. "I think we've done that long enough. What's the point? Are you trying to be polite, Potter, or are you just plain scared? You know what you want from me, and I know it, too. You think I haven't seen it? You're so transparent, Potter. I saw you in the garden that night."
He's getting angry now. He doesn't like this; I'm too blunt. He really does want to play games. He thinks it's required of him, for politeness or for decency, or perhaps he's only trying to protect himself. He knows as well as I do that what we are doing now is disastrous.
"What if you did?" he growls. And we're back on old, old, familiar ground.
"You enjoyed it, didn't you, being the voyeur? You just wished I had taken the rest of my clothes off, too."
I'm crude because I want him to shut up. There are better uses for his mouth right now. We are here, alone, in the hall. We shouldn't waste this opportunity. We can't afford to let it go. He laughs unexpectedly, as if he's thinking along the same lines. His eyes flash into mine, challenging now, frank, appraising. He takes a step forward, close enough for me to feel his breath on my skin.
"Have some more chocolate, Malfoy," he says silkily. "Being speechless became you."
He thinks there are better uses for my mouth, too.He has surprised me and I love it. I can't keep my eyes away from the slender curve of his neck. I lift my hand and undo the clasp of his robes, push them off his shoulders. I lean forward the few inches that separate us and kiss his neck just where it meets his shoulder. I hear his sharp intake of breath and feel the responding heat in my body. His skin is hot and smooth and wonderfully alive under my lips. I let my mouth travel slowly up his neck to the tender spot just below his ear. I touch his earlobe with my tongue and his cheek is burning on mine. He doesn't move, doesn't breathe. I want to tell him to exhale. I brush my mouth along his jaw and very gently catch his lower lip between my teeth, touch it with the tip of my tongue, tease it, caress it. My hands slide over his shoulders and down his chest, very lightly. Oh, this gentleness. It is such a beautiful novelty. I have always known I had the capacity for it, but I have never been given the option.
I feel his hands come up into my hair, not lightly or gently at all, tangling in it, sliding down the back of my neck and gripping my shoulders, leaving a trace of small flames on my skin. My robes come off and I'm being pulled close to him in a stumbling movement. I steady myself against him as his tongue roughly explores my mouth. He makes it clear that he wants no more teasing. I respond by placing a hand at the small of his back and pressing him up against me, feeling the hardness, grinding against him. He gasps in surprise. I let go of his mouth and laugh.
"What? Isn't this what you wanted?"
"I – what – are you… I mean, is it…"
He's so furious with me for breaking the moment that he's stuttering incoherently. His confusion makes the air taste sweet. At this moment, his anger is almost as strong as his excitement.
"Eloquence, Potter. Your strong point."
He looks as if he could hit me, but I stop laughing and put my hands on his chest. Something changes between us, I don't know what it is. The surge of emotion between us is rearranging itself, revealing new patterns.
My name on his lips sends a shiver down my spine.
But he shakes his head, he doesn't know what to say.
I feel a rush of tenderness at his awkwardness. This is one of the reasons for my attraction to him – it's not the things he knows, but the things he doesn't know. It's a heady mixture; his indisputable power mingled with this disarming insecurity. I pull him to me again. He is the one closing the distances between us this time. He presses himself up against me very gently, very insistently, and my heart is skipping beats in an alarming fashion. His mouth is on mine again, his tongue insistent. I explore his mouth with eagerness, the silky wetness, the hard teeth. My hands are fumbling with his clothes, wanting to feel naked skin. As my palms meet the hot, tender skin of his bared midriff, we hear voices approaching the hall. We fly apart, flushed and guilty, snatching up our robes from the floor.
* * *
They couldn't afford to be caught kissing, but this was just too good to let go of. It couldn't stop here. Harry acted on impulse, as so often.
"Prefects' bathroom. Midnight. Password is 'conifer'," he breathed to Draco.
Draco, for once, looked stupid, frozen in mid-movement. "What – where – ?"
"Fifth floor. Fourth door to the left of the statue of Boris the Bewildered." And he was across the hall in a flash, heading for the stairs.
Draco stod still, every bit as bewildered as Boris. Bathroom…? Now, that was an odd suggestion. But not an unpleasant thought. He fastened his robes as a couple of noisy sixth-year students entered the Hall, gave them a curt nod and headed for the dungeons.
* * *
Harry sat in a deep armchair in the Gryffindor common room, staring into the fire. He listened with half an ear to Seamus and Ron trying to make sense of their Divination homework, something he knew would fail, since there was no sense in that subject to begin with. What have I done? he kept thinking. Why had he made that stupid suggestion? Malfoy hadn't even answered. But he tried not to picture himself alone in the Prefects' bathroom, waiting for the Slytherin to turn up, waiting… waiting… and then having to return to the Gryffindor tower disappointed and defeated, unable to sleep for the rest of the night, pictures of cloudy eyes and blond hair flashing through his brain…
That hair. Now he knew what it was like to feel it under his hands. Soft as a whisper. He had touched it when he sat with Malfoy's head in his lap, pushed his fingers through it gently, marvelling at the fine strands and the silky texture. He had placed his hand on the other boy's chest, feeling his heart beat like a struggling animal trapped within his ribcage, feeling the warmth of his body through the layers of clothing. He had watched the unconscious face, deathly pale; watched as the eyelids had fluttered open and the beautiful eyes had gradually returned from strange lands to recognition and reality.
And what had happened after that was almost too wonderful, too unbelievable for his conscious thoughts to touch. The closeness of their bodies. The heat radiating from them both. The way their eyes locked. His own pathetic excuse for touching Malfoy's face. No, not Malfoy… Draco. The close smell of him, spicy and unexpectedly warm. And then… his mouth… Harry closed his eyes. The memory of Draco's lips on his own, of tongues sliding wetly over and around each other… it still lingered vibrantly on his lips, inside his mouth. He could still taste the other boy and he never wanted it to go away. The long, slender hands in his hair, tugging at his robes, meeting his bare skin… Oh, god.
It had not been his first kiss, and yet – yet, in all effect, it was. He had kissed girls, quite a few, but it was something he had done because he thought he ought to more than because he really wanted to. It would be very unfair to the girls to say that he found it in any way repulsive, but there was always something lacking. He was always aware of a mild disappointment. So he kissed another girl, and another, and another, just to see if he would find that essential element that was missing. He never had. Until now.
With Draco, it was everything he had always thought and hoped a kiss would be, everything he had imagined but never experienced, and some things he had never even imagined. It had been fulfilling in a way he could not explain. Electricity, tension, an almost fierce presence in the moment… The feeling that this was just the beginning of something tremendous.
And there had been the sensation that Draco wanted him, too, needed him as much as he himself needed and wanted Draco. A genuine wish to explore, to know, to have. And to share everything there was to share. It hadn't been a selfish kiss, from either of them.
Ron and Seamus collapsed in a fit of hysterical laughter and Harry shifted uneasily in his chair, half aroused at the thought of Draco and half annoyed. So what will happen now? The Prefects' bathroom, for god's sake. Where was my brain? And he answered the question himself: In my pants, most likely.
* * *
In the dungeons, Draco sat on his bed, frowning, knees hugged to his chest. So it had happened at last. He had kissed Harry Potter. He had done what he had wanted to do for so long, and it had been both easier and more complicated than he had imagined. Easy in the sense that it had felt so right; easy because Harry had responded so sweetly. Complicated because Draco had not realised until now how much in love he really was. Physical attraction he could handle. It was more or less a bodily function, a basic human need that didn't have very much to do with his essential personality. But mental attraction, love, even – that was something else altogether. He had been aware of it, of course, and struggled with it a great deal for the past year, but still not appreciated the full extent of it. Tonight he had felt its power, and it had shaken him. The way his hands had fumbled with Harry's clothes, desperate for naked skin; the way he had lost himself completely in that kiss… He had failed to master the situation. Losing control scared him. Worse; wanting to lose control.
And now? Until it had happened, he had concentrated on fantasizing about that first encounter, letting his imagination play endless variations on the same basic theme: First touch, first kiss, the wonderful breaking down of barriers. He hadn't let his thoughts go beyond that. But what would happen now? Would they just go on with their lives, pretending even to each other that nothing had happened? No, he refused to even consider that as a possibility. Would they be… friends? No, the physical attraction was much too strong for them to be just friends. So would they be partners, boyfriends, lovers? It was bound to be a disastrous relationship. He had known that even as he leaned in for that first kiss.
And here was the real complication. He had not for a minute forgotten his father in all this. He had no illusions on that account. Because of his father, and what his father was, the mere thought of a closer relationship with Harry, anything closer than their now rare verbal wrestling in the corridors, was a very dangerous venture. A relationship like that was doomed in every direction. It would be far too interesting and far too valuable for Lucius Malfoy, and, ultimately, for the Dark Lord, to be anything less than disastrous for the parties involved. Either Draco himself or Harry would have to be sacrificed on that altar – or both of them. Draco wondered fleetingly if this thought had entered Harry's mind, but his guess was that it hadn't, at least not that clearly. Harry seemed to rely on intuition, ad-libbing as he went along, whereas Draco preferred to have at least some kind of basic plan or structure, a grid of reflection to support his actions.
Yes, a relationship with Harry would be disastrous. But he wanted it. He wanted it more than he had ever wanted anything in his life.
* * *
Harry entered the Prefects' bathroom and looked around. He hadn't been here since his fourth year, when Cedric had told him to come here to try to figure out the secret of the golden egg. Cedric. He clenched his teeth and pushed the thought firmly out of his head. The marble was still white and shiny, the golden taps were still set with different-coloured jewels, but the place looked strangely derelict, as if the prefects never used it any more. There was still a stack of fluffy white towels in the corner, but the chandelier was gone, for some reason, and the diving board, too. The curtains were gone; even the snoring mermaid in her gold frame. The room was lit only by the bluish moonlight coming in through the windows.
Harry pointed his wand and whispered "Kandela", and candles of all shapes and sizes lit and arranged themselves around the room. His own multiplied, distorted shadow danced grotesquely on the walls as the flames fluttered and flickered.
He was half an hour early. He had wanted some time to himself to gain equilibrium before Draco arrived. If he arrived. But now he wasn't sure whether it had been a good idea or a terrible one; a half-hour alone in here might turn him into a nervous wreck. He was skittish already.
He turned on some of the taps and smiled at the weird, foamy rivulets gushing out; icy white, turquoise, all shades of blue, and a single bright pink one. They didn't blend into one murky colour but stayed separate, marbled and curled around each other. Draco will look gorgeous in this sea of blue and turquoise; his eyes will reflect the colours. The foam will just touch the underside of his chin... He checked himself; his heart turning a somersault in his chest. His hands were trembling and he gave himself a mental shake. Get a grip, Harry Potter. You act like a smitten girl going on her first date. Well, he was smitten. And this – this was a date? He shuddered. He couldn't imagine what would happen when Draco appeared.
The swimmingpool-sized bath had filled in no time and he turned off the taps. The silence after the rush of water was deafening. Now there was only the faint, rustling sound of bubbles bursting. He even imagined he could hear what colour the individual bubbles were.
He quickly cast an Impermeability spell on all the entrances to the room except the door itself – he didn't want to see Moaning Myrtle come sliding out of a tap at some inopportune moment. He thought he could hear a faint, whining protest move off into the plumbing and disappear. She'll never forgive me for this, he thought, amused.
He slowly began to undress, uncharacteristically folding his clothes into a meticulous stack and placing them on the bench by the wall. I have to leave my boxers on. Can't be stark naked even if I'd like to. He caught his own reflection in the high, narrow mirror between the windows and stared at himself for a second. "Hmmmm!" the mirror said in an appreciative, very flirty voice. "Not bad, not bad at all!" He gave it a murderous look and lowered himself into the pool. It was deeper than last time. As a fourteen-year-old, he had just had his chin above the waterline when his feet touched the bottom. Now the water closed over his head when he touched the bottom with his toes.
The hot water was wonderfully soothing and and his tense muscles began to relax. He rested his arms along the edge of the pool, leaning his head back. He closed his eyes and breathed in the light perfume of the foam, trying to identify it – it reminded him of something and his mind fumbled among memories. It was a fresh, clean, slightly minty smell; some herb perhaps. The flickering light from the candles made dark and red shadows dance on the inside of his eyelids.
What the hell am I doing?Nearly naked in a pool, waiting for Draco Malfoy – ! A week ago I would have laughed. He wanted to laugh even now, almost hysterically, but he managed to quench the impulse. He didn't think he could stand the solitary echo of his laugh bouncing off the marble. It really wasn't funny in the least. Well, maybe just a little.
The door opened softly and his head came up with a jerk. Draco Malfoy made a smooth and soundless entrance, like a cat, starting slightly as he saw Harry in the bath. His eyes went around the room in wonder, and an amused smile flitted across his face.
"Good lord. What is this place?"
"Prefects' bathroom," Harry muttered.
"It's – odd, to say the least. Whoever designed it must have been… heavy on hallucinatory potions."
No hint of sarcasm or mockery in his voice, just a soft, delighted amusement that made Harry close his eyes for a moment and try to control his breathing. He was grateful for the dense blue and white foam. I react like this to his voice. I'm in a worse state than I thought.
"Are you going to come in?"
His own voice sounded gruff and unused, but it was only embarrassment. He felt uncomfortably hot, both from the water and from the thought of Draco Malfoy undressing in front of him.
Draco tried not to stare at Harry's naked shoulders and the tanned, wiry arms stretched out along the edge of the enormous bath. He was still trying to recover from the shock of entering into the warm, perfumed humidity and finding Harry immersed in that weird blue foam, naked for all he knew; green eyes soft and bright in the candlelight. And now Harry was asking him to come into the bath with him. It was just too bizarre. He tried to choke back his laugh but didn't quite succeed. It came out in a snort, and at the same time he felt himself blush at the thought of having to take his clothes off in front of those searching eyes. It was not that he minded, really. He was not prudish or self-conscious. It was just the feeling of Harry having the upper hand.
"What's funny?" Harry was asking.
"This." Draco was laughing out loud now and made a sweeping gesture to include the whole room, Harry, the candles, everything. "You don't think it's the least bit funny? See nothing odd about it at all?"
Harry laughed, too, in a way that made a little claw close around Draco's spine. Oh, Merlin. That laugh. I've never heard anything so sexy in my life.
"Yeah, I suppose this place is kind of bizarre," Harry said. "I like it, though. And honestly, there were no hidden motives or anything when I asked you to meet me here. I just blurted out the first thing that entered my head."
"Kind of thing you would do."
"And then I thought – well, I wanted to talk to you, and this might not be a bad place for it. Like when you're in a sauna, all relaxed. Easier to talk about serious stuff."
So Harry felt relaxed? And he wanted to talk about "serious stuff"…? As if I could concentrate on talking, with him looking like that. Draco didn't feel even remotely relaxed, but all he said was: "I'm coming in with you."
He turned to the door and mumbled a locking spell that Harry had never heard. "Alohomora won't break that one," he said with a grin.
He went over to the bench behind Harry and started to take his clothes off. Harry closed his eyes in desperation. He wanted to turn around so badly… He could hear the soft whisper of fabric against fabric, of fabric against skin, of clasps opening and buttons sliding; he could follow the whole procedure by the sounds and he could picture every detail of it, like a movie inside his head: Shoes off, robes, socks, shirt, Draco in jeans and t-shirt, t-shirt pulled over his head… his skin as white as milk… a golden tinge instead of the chalky blue of the moonlight that night in the garden… No, he really had to look. He turned around just as Draco unbuttoned his jeans, pulled them down to reveal silk boxers and sat down on the bench to pull them off completely. And caught Harry looking. An eyebrow went up, but he didn't make any comments. Harry spun back, blushing furiously, eyes shut, mind filled with the image of satin skin.
He heard a lewd "Oooooh!" from the mirror and opened his eyes again just as Draco slid into the water next to him, saw him disappear under the surface and reappear with a shout, tossing wet blond hair out of his eyes, spluttering and laughing.
"I didn't realise it was that deep!"
Their laughter mingled and echoed dully off marble, and their eyes met.
How strange, Harry thought, to see and hear Draco laugh like that. Spontaneous, no smirk, no malicious enjoyment.
How strange, Draco thought, to see Harry without glasses; those incredible green eyes bare and unprotected, laughing into his own.
It was too intimate, all of a sudden. Draco quickly placed a hand on top of Harry's head and dunked him. He felt his legs being caught in a mean grip and he was pulled below the surface; they fought and splashed and wrestled and shouted for a good five minutes before they finally locked in a fierce, panting embrace, nothing separating their nearly naked bodies except a thin film of the blue, white, pink water and their soaked underwear. Their arms softened around each other; Draco's slid up around Harry's neck like a caress and they were not sure who leaned in to kiss who.
It was a slower kiss than the ones in the Hall, both more relaxed and more intense now that they knew no one was going to barge in on them. Their eyes closed, mouths rejoiced in renewed contact, lips moved across lips in a soft, sweet madness. Harry felt Draco's hand on his chin, guiding it upwards, tilting his head to have a better angle. He moved his body in even closer and was rewarded with an almost soundless moan in response. He was shaken by the force of his own desire, so strong it bordered on fear. His hands travelled slowly up Draco's back, skin smooth as cream to the touch, traced the spine, his fingertips counting vertebrae, outlining shoulder blades hidden beneath the skin like dormant wings. Draco's tongue played a gentle game with his own, reading unspoken words, revelling in dancing slickness. There was nothing between them to hide their physical reaction; their bodies hot and heavy from feeling each other's arousal. Harry was entranced. Before today, he hadn't known he could respond like this to kisses. Draco's desire redefined him.
They came out of the kiss like divers out of deep water, both of them breathing hard. Harry's fingers were still on Draco's cheekbone and he let them stay there while he gazed into grey eyes, into depths of shifting cloud. He wanted to say something, something to match the beauty of that look, but there were just no words to be found. His fingers slid slowly from Draco's cheekbone down his throat to touch his collarbone and shoulder, and then reluctantly withdrew.
They moved out of the pool and found that the thick white towels offered sufficient protection from the hard floor, moved out of sight of the ever-commenting mirror. They entered into an awed, trembling, panting exploration of skin and hair and hollows and creases, almost reverently touching and allowing the other to touch. Fingers slid through hair and along smoothly curved bone and muscle; tongues tasted earlobes, collarbones, nipples, and finally hot satin erections; the sound of moans caressed ears. Nothing had ever felt so good. Nothing had ever been so beautiful.
* * *
The room slowly cleared around them, the dark haze of desire dissolving and drifting away. Draco lay on his back staring up at the ceiling which was so high it was almost hidden in shadows, the candlelight not quite reaching high enough. He was aware of an emptiness inside of him, but it was not the emptiness of something missing; it was that of something foul having been cleared away. He felt light and relieved and more relaxed than he had been for a very long time. Harry's hand was on his stomach, resting in the wet and slippery evidence of their enjoyment; Harry's breath caressed his shoulder and he felt a tremor run through him at the sweet intimacy of the situation. He turned his head to look into the green eyes. They were glowing beautifully, filled with warmth and something he could only read as…. as… he didn't even allow the word to form in his mind. It was too much.
"What do you want?" Harry whispered.
Draco tensed and frowned at the unexpected question, tried to gather his thoughts together, wondering what would be a truthful answer. What did he want? He had just been given some of what he wanted, but there was so much more, an entire world waiting to be discovered. How could he explain the extent of what he wanted?
"I want you," he said. He felt Harry wince slightly, a wrinkle appearing between his eyebrows. "I'm not just talking about sex, Harry," he said softly. "I want you."
A cold shiver ran down his spine, a shiver of excitement and no small amount of fear. It was one of the most sincere things he had ever said, one he felt could change his life forever.
Harry had heard people say they wanted him before, and it was usually a somewhat hazy truth. It meant they wanted his scar, his fame, his name, even though the person who said it might not always be aware of this. He wasn't sure why he was prepared to believe that Draco Malfoy, of all people, was more truthful. But he did believe him. Yes. I think he really does want me for me. I've felt it before he said it, even long before tonight. I think that has been a key reason for my obsession with him. He doesn't equate me with my scar. He understands that I'm both more and less than my scar.
Perhaps it was because Draco must have a similar problem. He was not The Boy Who Lived, but he was someone. Old family, pure bloodline, a name that was respected and feared. Power and wealth. He must be used to people wanting him for all the wrong reasons, too. And what about me? Why do I want him? Intelligence, beauty, that wonderful body…? Are those the right reasons? What better reasons could there be than the way he had just made Harry respond and go beyond himself; the way he defined him simply by being?
He said in a low voice: "You already have me."
Green eyes held grey for a moment, and then Draco smiled and said softly: "Let's go back into the pool."
They slipped into the still hot water side by side, arms along the cool marble edge. There was complete stillness in the room. There was only the faint music of tiny bubbles bursting, transforming their own colours into sounds. Blue a deeper note than turqouise, pink a clearer note than both. Not even the candle flames moved. The two boys listened quietly to the brittle, whispering music and the sound of their own breathing.
The moment was almost perfect, but Harry felt there was something missing; he wanted something more, a symbol, something to seal what had just happened between them.
"Nymphaëa," he whispered.
White, fragrant water lilies appeared on the surface of the pool, floating serenely on their green pads, shimmering softly. Draco winced, shocked out of the meditative stillness. The dark water… the white lilies surrounding him… each contains a drop of pearly substance… a human soul…
"No!" The word was out before he could stop it. "Take them away."
"Just… just take them away. Please."
A dragonfly appeared, hovering over the open flowers, its colours glimmering and shifting metallically from blue to green, wings frail and transparent. Harry followed it with his eyes. He had never heard Draco make any sort of plea before, and this was probably as close as he would get. "Finite Incantatem," he said, and the water lilies disappeared with an airy sound like a chord from a distant harp. Only the dragonfly remained. He looked at Draco, puzzled by the horrified expression in the grey eyes.
"What was that about?" he asked softly.
Draco shuddered and looked away.
"Nothing, really. Just reminded me of a dream I had. Why did you choose white water lilies, of all things?"
"Why not? Sentimental reasons, I suppose. My mother's name was Lily. And I like them. The way they float on water. The contradiction – roots deep in the mud, producing those white petals on the surface… They seemed to fit the situation, somehow." He didn't add that the white, stylized beauty of the flowers made him associate them with Draco himself. "What was your dream about?"
"A nightmare, really." Draco stared straight ahead, shoulders tense, fingers gripping the marble edge of the bath. "I've had it several times."
Draco's eyes met his own fleetingly. He seemed to brace himself and started talking in a monotone.
"I'm swimming in a lake. Suddenly I'm about to drown; I can't keep my head above the surface. And there are white water lilies around me. Everywhere." His voice sank to a whisper. "And they carry… human souls. Souls of people I know I have killed, even if I can't remember why or how. And then… the water turns to blood."
It was Harry's turn to shudder. He stared at Draco, whose face suddenly looked drawn, grey eyes darkened with the memory of the dream.
"And I sink," he whispered. "When the blood starts getting into my mouth I wake up screaming."
Harry almost held his breath. He felt that he had just received a vital clue to who Draco really was, but he didn't know how to interpret it. It was a key to a lock he had not yet found. Draco turned his head, the pain in his eyes so intense Harry could feel it like heat.
"What does it mean?" he asked. "What do you think it means?"
"I think…" Draco turned his face away again. "I think it shows me… the kind of life I may have. The kind of life I probably will have. And how I really feel about that prospect."
Harry didn't quite understand. He opened his mouth to say something, but Draco heaved himself up out of the pool and went to fetch a towel, water sloshing and dripping around him. He rubbed at his wet hair furiously and wrapped the towel around his waist, ignoring the whistles and slippery comments from the mirror. For some reason he felt humiliated; angry and ashamed. Harry was coming out of the pool, too; came up to him and grabbed a towel, gave him a very concerned look and touched his shoulder. He shook off the tentative hand. The mirror was having a field day.
"You're so sick," Draco snarled at it and went over to sit down on the bench.
Harry followed him over and sat down next to him. His eyes rested uneasily on the expanse of white satin skin, shimmering in the soft light, the tousled wet hair and the face tight with anger. It was obvious that Draco felt he had given too much away, made himself vulnerable, and Harry didn't know what to do or say to make it better. He was slightly disheartened by Draco shrugging his hand off like that.
"Draco… I know you probably feel you've said too much, but…" The grey eyes came up to his, aflame with anger, all defences up. "…I'm not out to get you." Draco didn't reply. "I've wanted this for a long time. I mean, not just… what we just did, but I've wanted talk to you. You and me talking to each other like civilised human beings instead of insulting each other. I knew we could talk, really talk, if we wanted to. If we dared. I somehow felt that you… that you would understand."
A glimmer of something came into the grey eyes, like a hint of sunshine on snow. He was so beautiful, Harry thought, even with his face flushed and shiny from the bath and his hair in a mess.
Draco felt strangely empty, all the anger gone. He didn't need to ask what it was he was supposed to understand. He did understand. And he felt as íf he had been given a gift, the most precious one he had ever had.
"I've felt the same way," he said quietly. "I've known from the first time we met that we could be friends. That together we would be something very special, something very powerful. If you just hadn't turned me down that time."
"I'm sorry I did that. Now. But I still can't see how I could have acted differently given the circumstances. We'll just have to try and make up for it."
"We haven't got much time, Harry."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean the war. There will be a war soon."
Harry closed his eyes. This wasn't something he wanted to think about right now, but he knew Draco was right to bring up the subject.
"Yes. There will be a war. And we… will be on opposite sides?"
Draco was quiet for so long that Harry had to open his eyes and look at him. He was looking down at his hands, his face impossible to read.
Draco looked up.
"Are you scared?"
It was a matter-of-fact question, not sneering or contemptuous. Draco simply asked because he wanted to know.
"Yes. Yes, I am. Voldemort wants me dead. Of course I'm scared. Wouldn't you be?"
Draco blanched. The question might not be as hypothetical as Harry thought. Draco hesitated for a moment, not sure what to answer. But something about the entire situation, about the soft flickering light and about what had just happened between them, something about Harry's very direct gaze, made it impossible to be anything less than truthful. The perfect moment to hand each other neat little pieces of information that could prove lethal for both of us, handled in the wrong way or revealed to the wrong people. But since Harry so unceremoniously had admitted to being scared, why shouldn't Draco? The thought of how wonderful it would be to say yes, the relief of telling Harry the plain, unglamorous truth, made him feel faint. But he felt the restraint of the rules of honour he had been fed all through his childhood. Admitting to fear was not something you did if you were a Malfoy. But then again, he had done so many things lately that were not worthy of a Malfoy, and he had avoided doing so many things that were expected of a Malfoy. He had avoided fights, avoided taking up challenges. He had given a helpful word in passing to a flustered Neville in Potions class. He had defended a crying Millicent when she was bullied by Crabbe. He had thought of his father with repulsion, questioned his motives, even questioned his sanity.
And he had fallen in love with Harry Potter, which had, at least initially, made him question his own sanity.
"Yes," Draco said in a low voice. The word was like a drop of honey on his tongue, sweetly melting. "I would be. And I am. I know my father is planning things for me that will be worse than dying."
He hadn't meant to sound so dramatic, but Harry's eyes suddenly burned with green fire, and Draco again had the feeling, like every night when he woke up from a nightmare screaming, that Harry could help him. If that green fire couldn't cleanse him, heal him, nothing in the world could. He had a sudden, blinding vision of what his life would be like without Harry in it. The bleak emptiness, the utter meaninglessness of it made him shudder violently. Please don't ask me what I meant. Not now. I will tell you later, but not yet. And don't pity me. I can't stand being pitied.
Harry didn't ask. He had never thought he would hear Draco admit to being frightened. But he just had, and Harry felt strangely awed by the admission; by the courage it must have taken for someone like Draco to make it.
"Has it ever occurred to you that Voldemort may not want you dead?" Draco said. "At least not yet?"
Harry stared blankly at him, shook his head.
"All the times you've slipped away from him, right out of his hands, escaped by a hair's breadth… What if it hasn't been either your power or sheer fantastic luck that has saved you? What if he has let you slip away? After all, you must be the most exciting, intriguing person he has ever encountered. His world would be lacking without you. You give him purpose. If there was no resistance, where would his fun be? You're much more valuable to him alive right now, Harry. He wants you there as a toy, a powerful, dangerous toy with a mind of its own. He enjoys the hunt. You provide his excitement – at least for the time being."
"Have you met him?" Harry asked quietly.
Draco caught his breath. He leaned back against the wall and shut his eyes. The red eyes, the slits for nostrils. The cold, horrifying glow of pleasure on his face at the sight of pain and humiliation, at the smell of human fear. Evil radiated from him like a rotten stench. "Yes," he said. Another piece of information that could kill not only me but my entire family. "It's not as if he mortally fears you," he went on in a low voice. "You can't kill him because he can't be killed. What he fears is the power you may have over others, the courage you can instill in them, the strength you can give them to fight him, the love they have for you."
He could feel Harry's eyes on him but he didn't move.
"You're making this much too simple if you think people will fight because of me," Harry said. "This is something bigger altogether. This is about much more than me. I'm just a pawn."
Draco laughed, a shadow of a laugh.
"No, Harry, I never make things too simple. It's not in my nature. If you think you're just a pawn, it's you who are making things too simple. You must know you are infinitely more than a pawn. You are one of the protagonists in this evil game. You are a power in your own right. I'm not saying that people will fight only because of you, but don't underestimate your own… symbolic value. You are The Boy Who Lived, after all. You are the symbol of Voldemort's defeat, a powerful symbol to both sides, not just to your own. It makes you loved by one side and hated by the other. The fact that you are there will give a lot of people courage who might not have gathered up the strength otherwise. You will spur them to action just by being there. They love you enough to rally around you."
Harry was looking hard at him, and he finally opened his eyes. Their eyes met and they held the gaze for a long moment. Then Harry said quietly:
"But you don't love me enough to stand by my side?"
Draco almost flinched.
"Now you're taking this to a very… personal level, aren't you?"
"How can love not be personal?"
Draco didn't know how to answer that, so he said nothing. He's wrong, all wrong. I have already taken sides. He should have known that when I told him about my dream. But he's never been very good at interpreting symbols or signs or patterns. Maybe something to do with his muggle upbringing.
"This isn't about love," he said. "Not about personal love. If I was to join you because I loved you, that wouldn't be a very solid base for anything. No one should join a movement for a very private reason like that. I would need to be convinced of the cause."
"And you mean to tell me you're not? What about the water lilies? What about your dream?"
Clearly, he had underestimated Harry. His heart leapt.
And Harry felt the key had finally fitted in the lock.
"I want you there," he said. "We need you. I need you." There; it was out now. Draco was looking at him in a strangely tender way, incredulous as if he had just found a flower in the snow. "I'm not the only one who has power. I know you do, too. I can feel it. It's just a question of what you want to use that power for."
He looked at the damp blond hair that was drying now and curling softly, the sharp, angelic face tinged pink with emotion, and felt that he had never really seen him before. He had looked at him the wrong way. He continued:
"Like you said before, together we will be something very special. Something very powerful."
"Yes. I've known it from the beginning. I've always been able to feel your presence. And I've watched you very closely to try to understand myself. Diamond cuts diamond, Harry."
The last sentence hung in the air between them, and they both inspected it for truth and implications. Then Harry stretched out a hand and lightly touched Draco's bare shoulder. The boy started and blushed hotly, and Harry's eyes wandered down to the rapidly beating pulse that was visible at the base of his throat, fascinated by the small rhythmical movement, like a fluttering wing trapped under the skin. His fingers slid from Draco's shoulder and up along his neck, into the damp silky hair. Draco's eyes were wide and radiant and simply the most beautiful thing Harry had ever seen.
"There was always you," Draco whispered. "There will always be you."
Harry wasn't sure he understood, but it didn't really matter.
"Don't be scared of that dream again," he said gently. "It's served its purpose. I don't think it will come back."
He held out a hand towards the pool. "Nymphaëa," he said.
The water lilies appeared as serenely as before, floating among glossy green pads on the surface. The golden stamens in the centre of the spiral of white petals were powdery and dry, holding no pearly liquid, holding nothing but their own beauty. Draco turned his head and looked at them for a long time without saying anything.
The dragonfly came back, hovered for a moment above the largest lily and then settled on it, its colours shifting from green to blue, its wings transparent.
---- FIN ----
White Water-lily, Nymphaea alba
An aquatic perennial with horizontal, submerged stems. Leaves 100-300 mm, from base of plant, circular with deep cleft, floating, dark glossy green above, usually reddish below. Flowers 50-200 mm, hermaphrodite, cup-shaped, floating, scented, white, 4 sepals spear-shaped, white inside; 20-25 petals spirally arranged, with many stamens and stigmas. Fruit spongy, oval to nearly globular, splitting underwater to release many floating seeds.
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Thanks to those who reviewed the last chapter of Side by Side in Orbit; Cat Samwise, dramaqueen, Girlie-O, ailszau (yes, that was the end), chrisseee667, megan. princess-bard, thank you so much for that poetry comment! Love your Valentine fic. And darklites, I love you, a review like that makes it all worthwhile! No, I don't mind smut either * grins * but others write it so much better.
Plug: If you want to read a well-written, hilarious piece of smut, go read Altricial's "Limp Biscuit" if you haven't already! But do it before you've had dinner. Eww!