A Wonderful Life

by clothsofheaven24

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Thank you, Oliver for being my beta and inspiring me to write this story.

Disclaimer:

This story includes quotes and ideas from Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom.

You all know that I don't own the Harry Potter characters (JKR does). But if I did, something like this would happen to them...

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We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time. – T S Elliot

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The shops and buildings of Diagon Alley were deserted. Everyone had gone home.

It did not occur to Harry to wonder whether Draco Malfoy might have also called it quits for the day.

Harry was certain without even posing the question to himself that Malfoy would be in his office, that he would find him and confront him.

He walked towards the main office of the Daily Prophet with his head down and his invisibility cloak tucked under his arm.

Under the damp and misty sky there was a slick glow of orange light oiling the street and its closed shopfronts.

The calm stillness of the evening that scented and weighted the air excluded him entirely.

He kept his head bent and walked fast enough to make himself breathless.

As he reached his destination his anger still contained him like a steel box.

It was easy to enter the locked building. He simply put on his invisibility cloak and slipped in through the front door as a reporter exited.

There was no light in the small foyer. The reporters for the Evening Prophet had just finished the issue for that night and the reporters for the Daily Prophet would not begin work for another few hours.

The air seemed to hum with desertion and silence. It was clearly a place that was only empty for a few hours each day. In the early hours of the morning to the late evening it was full of noise, commotion and frantic reporters.

The building was completely deserted now, engulfed in darkness.

Harry was used to sneaking around in the dark, from his Hogwarts years, and quickly found the stairs that lead up to the reporters' office.

The office was a small, cramped, untidy space.

Newspaper clippings, photographs and post-it notes completely covered the walls. Every desk seemed to sag under the weight of endless piles of paper and books.

The room was dark, the only light coming from several tiny oil lamps that hung from the low ceiling. Warm light bled out from them and lent the darkness a gentle glow.

It was somewhere Harry would never picture Draco Malfoy. The Draco Malfoy he knew would find the room too cluttered and impoverished. He would lift his nose in the air and make a scathing comment about its resemblance to the Weasley family's home.

But Malfoy was there, sitting at a desk in the far corner of the room. He didn't seem disgusted by the room at all.

He even seemed to fit in with the mess and the worn furniture. His hair was mused from the stress of the day and his clothes were creased and rumpled.

He was leaning back in his chair with his legs resting on his desk. His head was bent, reading a copy of the paper.

He looked tired, but comfortable and contented as he leafed through the pages of the Prophet and sipped from a small cup of tea.

He was the only one left in the office. Why he had remained, Harry could not imagine. All he could think of was the anger still thrashing inside of him.

It angered him further to see Malfoy so relaxed, so at peace with where he was and appearing not to have a care in the world.

Harry could not remember a time in which he had felt like that. He had certainly not felt like that recently.

He ripped his invisibility cloak off and stormed towards Malfoy's desk.

"I want a reprint!" he demanded. "I want you to take back everything you said about me in your article!"

Malfoy's head jerked up. His legs swung off his desk and he knocked several piles of paper over as he scrambled to stand up.

Harry felt a beat of triumph. It felt good to startle Malfoy.

"Everything you wrote about me was a lie!" he barked. "You had no right to print it!"

Malfoy's shock seemed to pass quickly. It was replaced by calm confusion.

"I showed you the first half of my article at the start of the interview," he said. "Why didn't you tell me you had a problem with it then?"

"That part, the part about you being a git, was true," Harry growled, slamming his hands on Malfoy's desk, "is true."

"What parts did you find untrue then?" Malfoy asked, appearing to be unfazed by Harry's fury.

Harry clenched his hands; they had begun to shake against Malfoy's desk.

"'He moves forward with life,'" Harry quoted angrily from the article. "'He is not tainted by his life's hardships and misfortunes.'

"I haven't moved forward. I'm stuck in the same place I've always been – fighting the Dark Arts. Only now it isn't as imperative. I'm only doing it because I don't know what else to do with my life. I've been doing it for so long."

He pounded the desk forcefully with his fists and groaned, "Too long."

Malfoy simply looked at him. He was being careful, but he was not afraid. He let Harry yell at him. It was like he had been expecting that it would happen for a long time.

"'It is a wonderful life,'"Harry quoted with obvious disgust, spitting the words out as if they were poison.

It was easy for Malfoy to say that. He came from money and affluence, and was protected by the blissful veils of ignorance for his entire childhood.

"What do you know about life?" Harry demanded, bitterness aching in his throat. "You were born with everything. You never had to struggle for a single thing you wanted, never had to worry if you'd be accepted or loved or wanted back."

Malfoy stared at him, grateful for the moment that Harry couldn't see that he'd spent nearly half of his life worrying that he, the single thing he wanted, would accept him, love him, and want him back.

Harry mistook his silence for resilience.

"Why aren't you saying anything?" he shouted. "Why aren't you doing anything? I asked for a reprint! Everything you think about me is wrong!"

Harry didn't understand why Malfoy wasn't fighting back. It was how it was meant to be between them. It was how it had always been.

Malfoy would run and Harry would try to catch him.

Harry would strike and Malfoy would reciprocate.

Only Malfoy wasn't running and hiding anymore. He was holding his ground. He was stable and strong, like a tree on the bank of a wild river.

Harry felt his blood boiling, overflowing. New feelings were bubbling to the surface.

Malfoy's sudden lack of participation in the fight seemed such a terrible and random assault that it put every remaining corner of Harry's world under threat.

All the knowledge and certainty drained away, leaving a place of yawning shadows and whispers he couldn't quite hear.

"I can reprint the statements you don't agree with, Potter," Malfoy assured him. "I can even organise a meeting for you with the editor. You can read the entire article before it is rereleased."

Malfoy's cooperation startled Harry like a slap of cold water to the face.

Harry had always thought that Malfoy was weak.

He used to do cowardly things like challenge Harry to duels and never show up.

He had always been too frightened and narrow-minded to break free from his parents and what they stood for, even when he realised that he could not kill Dumbledore or turn Harry into Voldemort.

But now his silence was strength and his calmness was a new, powerful weapon.

He had found a way to beat Harry. A way that was cruel and painstakingly final.

In refusing to fight back, refusing to take part in their long-lived rivalry, Malfoy had won. It was over.

Harry was suddenly confronted by an overwhelming sense of loss.

Malfoy was standing in front of him, but it felt like he was gone, dead like Sirius and Dobby and Mad-Eye.

I want him back.

The desire for a fight was still burning inside him. He refused to let go.

He rounded the desk, pinning Malfoy with narrow eyes.

"I don't want a new article!" he bellowed. "I just want you to take back the things you said!"

He was standing in front of Malfoy now, shoulders squared and teeth clenched, but Malfoy didn't flinch or match Harry's resentment.

He met Harry's gaze with the same strong composure. "I'm sorry. I misunderstood you."

Harry took another step forward, bringing their faces close together.

His nose was millimetres away from Malfoy's and it gave him strange surge of pleasure.

He mistook the feeling for the return of power and control, and felt them grow as Malfoy held up his hands in a gesture of submission and took two steps away from him.

Harry followed him as if magnetised.

Malfoy's hands were still raised, but Harry was determined not to stop.

He continued to walk forward, filling the empty space between them until his chest connected with Malfoy's flat palms: Warm, solid and a surprised hiss of indrawn breath.

Harry couldn't be sure whether it came from himself or Malfoy.

He suddenly realised that his chest was bare. He had forgotten to put his shirt back on before he left his apartment.

Malfoy's finger tips rested lightly, almost reverently, against the oval scar left by Voldemort's Horcrux.

"I don't write what I think, Potter," Malfoy said. He didn't sound as calm as before. His breath was loud and laboured. It tickled Harry's face.

"People are always saying 'I think Harry Potter has a hippogriff tattooed to his chest' or 'I think he has issues'. Everyone is too gutless to say what they feel, which is 'I feel that I wouldn't be alive today if it weren't for Harry Potter' or 'I feel like I owe my life to him'. They press it down and then everything they say becomes a complaint or gossip or hearsay. They become all about thinking and no feeling. I wrote what I felt about you, not what I thought."

Harry saw Malfoy's eyes flash with an emotion he couldn't decipher. It wasn't anger or hostility, but Harry felt the brutal force of it crack between them.

"What do you feel about me?" Harry demanded. His voice was suddenly soft, a whisper, but his bearing was still hard.

Malfoy told him, gracelessly. "Everything."

Harry suddenly became aware of his pulse. It was beating heavily and erratically against his chest and Malfoy's hands.

Harry shifted his gaze to them as a little asterisk of light from Malfoy's watch was reflected at him.

His hands were well shaped, not roughened by the hardships of the passing years.

They felt like Harry had imagined in the dream. Soft, but firm. Strong, but gentle.

Most true is it that beauty is in the eye of the gazer...

He had no idea why that line from the article had occurred to him now. He didn't even think he understood what it meant.

But as he gazed further downwards he was reproached by the sight of his own hands, calloused and scarred from a combination of war and Quidditch.

They were still clenched, hard and angry against his sides.

They looked so ugly, the detritus of the war spread over his skin, and yet Malfoy had said they were beautiful.

It was an imposition to be young and to look back on a life which seemed stretched and lengthened by his pain.

His memories bore a patina like clouded pewter, without colours or depth. He couldn't see the beauty in them. They were pure pain, clear misery, solid agony.

They were in deep contrast to the memories Malfoy conveyed in his writing. Harry could remember what he had written word for word.

Harry Potter's life - misfortune, pain, suffering and loss – is not beautiful according to rule, but it is more than beautiful to me.

Harry was gazing at his hands and as clearly as he saw the scratchy marks of his scars and the bumpy lines of his calluses he realised that his worldview was askew. There was beauty to be found amongst the ugliness.

For many years he had made his judgements and interpreted his place as Malfoy's enemy. Now he understood that each of those daily measurements was wrongly calibrated and therefore worthless, because he had no hate left for Malfoy.

He knew that Malfoy had no hate left for him either. He even said that he had no hate left for anyone.

Holding anger and regret is like a poison.

It eats you from inside. We think that hating is a weapon that attacks the person who harmed us, but hatred is a curved blade, and the harm we do, we do to ourselves.

Harry didn't hate Malfoy. He never had.

All the pressure to beat Voldemort, all of the bitterness and anger and violence that blossomed between him and Malfoy, had been intensified and expanded throughout the years in total disregard to this one truth.

He hadn't enjoyed beating Malfoy at Quidditch because of house points.

He hadn't kept tabs on Malfoy because of Voldemort.

Gryffindor versus Slytherin had been an excuse.

Voldemort had been a diversion.

Hatred and spite had been a bandage for a mortal wound.

Love.

What a wide sea that one word conjures up, all the currents and tides and storms and oily swells of it.

There are so many ways it can hit someone. It can make them happy or miserable. It can make them sick in the belly or hurt in the heart. It can make everything brighter and sharper, or it can blur all the edges. It can make you feel like a king or a fool.

Every way love can hit, it hit Harry when it came to Malfoy, and it hit Malfoy when it came to Harry.

Out of the box in which he had kept it jumped the undeniable truth. Suddenly and without warning it was there, and Harry knew what it meant and was amazed by its sharp completeness.

The light of challenge gone from his eyes, he looked back up to Malfoy's face.

It was very still, his gaze like a lance.

He was still staring at Harry and he knew what Harry knew, and now Harry knew that he knew too.

Harry was suddenly moving forward.

It seemed easy and natural now.

This was what he wanted. This was what he had needed all along.

Malfoy was moving forward too.

They moved forward together, dipping into the small amount of space that was left between them, until their lips met.

The kiss was surprisingly soft and slow, like a feather landing on still water.

It might have been a dream, so light and weightless did it make Harry feel.

The pressure of his previous confusion and dissatisfaction was lifted and his anger flooded away from him.

He felt the long stroke of Malfoy's hands, the quick scrape of gentle fingers.

They caressed Harry's chest lightly, like a breeze.

They made him ache.

Harry's own hands found their way to Malfoy's hips.

He could feel a small section of skin as Malfoy's shirt lifted a little at his touch.

He knew, in one movement, he could remove the shirt and bring their bare chests together. He could Apparate them away from this place. He could take Malfoy to his bed and be on it with him. Then nothing would matter but that he had Malfoy – a man. But it wasn't any man he wanted.

He was afraid – and he feared little – that it had always been Malfoy.

Malfoy's hands moved from Harry's chest to his neck and the kiss deepened.

On a whimper, Harry fretted against him as if he were struggling to wake from a dream. But Malfoy drew him closer and their embrace tightened.

It had been Malfoy since the first time he had challenged him on the Hogwarts Express.

It had been Malfoy since the first time those clear, grey eyes had dared him.

How could he have made such a gross miscalculation? How could he have wasted so much of his life feeling hatred, resentment and distain for him?

He had been unhappy for so long and it was his own fault, not Voldemort's.

He denied his feelings and refused to look beneath the surface for too many years.

He didn't realise that he did have the luxury of choices and control in the plodding discomfort of his daily existence.

Malfoy's article was wrong, but it could be made right.

With a soft oath, he pulled away from the kiss, keeping his grip firm on Malfoy's hips.

"I don't want a reprint," he decided. His voice was rough and unsteady, but he didn't seem to notice.

Malfoy didn't seem to notice either. He smiled at Harry and touched his check to his palm, letting his thumb trace over the relaxed jaw. "Are you sure?"

His eyes were half-closed in infatuation, but the clear, mystical grey pulled Harry in. No struggle, no force would drag him out again.

He checked the urge to kiss Malfoy for a second time and answered calmly. "I'm sure it will be a wonderful life after all," he said, "as long as you stay with me."

Malfoy's smile grew. "It will be," he agreed, before pulling Harry's mouth back to his.

Harry kissed him back eagerly. He no longer cared for tomorrows. Now, this moment, he had Malfoy. It was enough. It was wonderful.

The End

Author's Notes:

Dearest reader,

I know that my stories are not perfect. I'm not perfect. Nobody is perfect.

This little piece of fluff was simply written to escape the woes of real life (where we don't have Felix Felicis, Hippogriffs and Diagon Alley) for a small while.

If you enjoyed reading it, please review!

This will most likely be my last contribution to the world of Harry Potter fanfiction. However, I will still continue to read and review the stories that I find and like on this fantastic site.

Much love,

Lucy