Title: Endurance of Life
Pairing: Harry/Draco, past Harry/Ginny
Warnings: Vampires, blood-drinking, sex, some angst. This is non-linear and shifts its tenses between scenes, but hopefully won't be too hard to figure out.
Word count: 14,700
Summary: Harry was hit with a curse that the Healers were helpless to stop. Now, on Beltane evening, Harry is ready to admit that Draco was right about the treatment for his condition all along.
Disclaimer: Characters are the property of JK Rowling, et al. This was created for fun, not for profit.
Author's Note: This was written for graylor in the 2010 hds_beltane fest, but this is the first time I've posted it anywhere else. Thanks to my beta L. for her outstanding work.
Endurance of Life
Harry stands on the top of the hill, gazing down into the small meadow at its foot. The fires are already flaring there, dancing like red and orange ghosts above kindling invisible from this distance. But the shadows that shelter Harry from the gaze of the sun are becoming general, and soon his eyesight will be better than anyone's.
Than the sight of anyone still human, at least.
Harry wraps his arms around himself and shivers.
Then he rolls his eyes at himself. Really, he should be encouraging Draco to shiver. He's the one who has more to fear if Harry does carry out his plan.
Dense as the twilight is, it isn't thick enough for Harry to venture out yet without risk of burning. He settles under his tree-shelter, rests his head against the trunk, and waits.
Draco happened to be waiting around in St. Mungo's for his mother to come out from her latest Healing session when they brought Potter in. That was the only reason he ever saw what happened at all, the only reason he became involved.
Later, he would be unsure if that was a good thing or not.
A bustle of noise down the corridor. Draco whirled around, startled. This section of hospital was generally kept as silent as possible, to avoid alarming the people who suffered from the aftereffects of the Cruciatus Curse and other spells that were likely to make them jumpy. But now people were shouting, and Draco could distinctly hear someone sobbing.
That was someone yelling at him.
Draco leaped instinctively out of the way, and only thought afterwards how unworthy such quick compliance was of the dignity of a Malfoy. But at least it gave him a wonderful view of the stretcher that the Healers carried between them, and the man who lay on it.
It was Potter. His head lolled to the side, his green eyes open and as empty as though life had already fled from him. His face was pale, and the scar on his forehead had cracked open, leaking blood down his cheek. And-Draco never knew how he had time to notice this, or to be sure, but he did, he was absolutely certain-Potter wasn't breathing.
But the Healers still bundled him down the corridor and into a room, and they wouldn't have done that with someone they knew was dead.
The door slammed, and Draco stood there, blinking at it and wondering what in the world that had been about.
Harry waits. The sun sets, as steadily as it always does-he's got good at calculating the time in the past few months-and darkness floods the meadow. The fires grow brighter, surging and leaping. Harry smiles when he sees the wizards around them, encouraging them with magic. Hermione told him once that the Beltane fires didn't need encouragement like that, that the magic of the day would make them grow on their own, but Hermione is sometimes wrong.
When the shadows grow deep enough for him to venture out, it's as though someone whispers permission to relax in the back of his mind. Harry stands up and stretches his legs out; they nearly went to sleep sitting in that awkward position. He doesn't mind, though. They'll recover a lot faster than they would have before he got sick.
He waits, still, scanning the meadow with a focused gaze. He'd like to just dart out there and search from person to person until he finds the one he wants, but that would make him look mad or dangerous, and he's spent too much time since he was cursed convincing people that he's not that way. He'll only move when he spots the right person.
A glimpse of pale, brilliant blond hair shows through the dusk.
Harry smiles, and feels the slight bite of his fangs into his lip when he does.
He slips down the hill more softly than the shadows.
Draco stared at the door and waited, but no one came out, not even the sobbing person. So he went forwards and leaned his ear against it. There were no Silencing Charms or wards. The Healers had probably been too busy to cast them, and Draco might as well take advantage of that to find out information that could be important.
Or could affect him. As much as he hated to admit it, the sight of Potter's scar bleeding made him feel as if he was suffocating. If there was a chance, no matter how small, that the Dark Lord could come back...
"He's not stable," was the first thing Draco heard, snapped by someone in an agitated voice. "His heart is beating slower and slower, he isn't breathing at all-and you think this is simple?"
"We know that he was hit with a curse," said a soft, deep voice that Draco knew. That was a Healer named Morton, who was often around in this ward because he could soothe the jumpiest patients. "And we have some information about what the curse was intended to do. Yes, I do think that the fix is simple, if we can find it, though obviously the effects aren't."
The other Healer hissed and stomped away from the bed. Draco got ready to move in case she came out and found him standing there, but she leaned against the door instead and said, "You really think we can save him?"
"He will live." Morton's voice was abstracted. Draco was sure that he was moving his wand in complicated patterns, trying to learn what the fuck was wrong with Potter. "Whether he'll live as human is the question. So I reckon it depends what you mean by 'saving' him."
The soft sobbing in the back of the room suddenly turned into words. "I don't-do whatever you have to. Please."
"Of course, Miss Weasley," Morton said. Draco rolled his eyes. Just like Weasley to still be endlessly hanging around Potter, even though he's too dedicated to his job to marry the bint. "At the moment, his heartbeat is gone-"
The sobbing turned into a heartbroken wail.
"But he is manifestly still alive." There was a little pause, and Draco supposed Morton had done something to show that that was true. "And his pallor, plus the general flushing of blood through the scar, accords with the characteristics I would expect of such a curse."
"The scar?" Weasley sniffled, but got herself under control. "I don't understand. Why would he be bleeding from there? Ron-that is, my brother-said the curse hit him in the back."
Draco sneered. He knew Ron Weasley was Potter's Auror partner, and so they'd probably been together on a case when Potter was cursed. Fine job he did of saving the Savior.
"The curse scar is the remnant of old and powerful magic," Morton said, still as calm as though he were discussing the weather or gardening. "I am not surprised that the blood would come from there, despite the physical location of the curse. Mr. Potter's body is flushing his mortal magic and some of his mortal blood, in preparation for the change, and the scar is effectively the weakest point in his body, so the point where both can depart his body without hurting him."
"I don't understand," Weasley said again. Draco got the feeling she said it a lot. "Changing. What is he becoming?"
"A vampire," Morton said. "It's fascinating. I've never seen a curse that so perfectly mimicked the effect of a bite."
Draco would have sat down on the floor if it hadn't been for the need to keep silent so they wouldn't catch him.
Harry walks past people who flinch a little, as though at the touch of a cold breeze, and glance over their shoulders. But Harry is already past them and gone, and making his way towards his target.
It's probably wrong to think of him that way.
His focus, then. That sounds better.
Draco senses him coming long before Harry gets there, of course, and turns around with a calm expression on his face. He acts like he expected this, which Harry thinks is ridiculous. Seven months have gone past without him showing up. Draco would be stupid if he kept hoping, just because.
But there's the expression anyway, and Draco puts his hand out, and says, "I hope that you're not going to be afraid to jump through the fires. I hear they consume vampire flesh more easily than human." His eyes spark, and he leans close, which is only the second uncontrolled gesture Harry's ever seen him make, his nostrils flaring as if he wants to catch Harry's scent. "Go up like a torch, you would."
Harry laughs in spite of himself. Draco's always been arrogant like that, saying cruel things, ever since he insinuated himself into Harry's life after he got cursed. His friends have listened to him or read his letters and then gasped, looking at Harry, wondering how in the world he can put up with this.
Well, Harry thought he couldn't, for a long time. That was why he let Draco walk away and didn't go after him. Draco wanted certain things, encouraged certain things, and Harry couldn't deal with that. He was still hoping to get some semblance of a normal life back.
But when he finally accepted that it would never come-when Ginny finally told him, sincerely and with tears in her eyes, that she couldn't do what he needed-when Harry realized that his predatory instincts were part of him and couldn't be ignored or denied-he thought of only one person to go to.
Maybe he's the only person who's been right for me, since the curse, he thinks, and fills his eyes with the subtle light that seems to linger around Draco.
"I'll cross any fire that you cross," Harry says.
Draco picks up the nuances Harry wants him to pick up. His eyes drop almost shut, and he gives a soundless little moan. And then he turns his head to the side, exposing his neck.
Harry watches the pulse flutter in his throat. He's not afraid of it, now.
Draco went back to the hospital room the next morning-his mother was with his father, who was really better than Draco at soothing her when she woke from a nightmare-and waited until the tearful party of Weasleys left and there were no Healers attending on Potter. Then he opened the door and walked in as though he had every right to be there.
He paused when he crossed the threshold. He hadn't realized how dim it would be with the enchanted windows covered and only a single lamp on the table next to the bed. He was still blinking, trying to adjust his eyes, when Potter growled.
Draco felt harmonics of fear awaken in his belly at the sound. This was probably the way a gazelle felt when it heard a lion, he thought absently. The more he considered the comparison, the more he liked it. Gazelles were pale and swift and graceful. And lions were heavy-footed and didn't always catch them. Yes, it would do.
"What are you doing here, Malfoy?"
Potter's voice was hoarse, as though he had spent the night screaming. Draco hadn't heard any of the Healers talking about that, though, so he thought it unlikely. Really, Healers were worse gossips than Slytherin third-years. Oh, they'd rarely mention a patient by name, but a modicum of observation was all you needed to understand who they were talking about.
"Isn't it obvious?" Draco sat down on a chair next to the bed. His eyes had adjusted now, but that didn't prevent the glow of Potter's eyes from being unnatural. He was curled up on the bed, his spine bent in a way that would have been more suited to a cat than a human being. Of course, he wasn't entirely human anymore. "Giving you a visitor of quality, since you have so few of those in your life."
Potter's laughter was brief and unamused, just a few shades above the growl. "Get out."
"No." Draco leaned forwards and sniffed. Yes, the scent of blood freshly spilled was rising from Potter. Draco had smelled it sometimes on other vampires when he got close enough. "Your transformation is proceeding rather fast, isn't it? How long until you start craving humans to drink from?"
Potter was motionless, then, and the stillness was as unnatural as the bending had been. Draco listened, and couldn't hear any heartbeat or breathing, just as Morton had said there wouldn't be. He sighed. Perfect.
"How did you know?" Potter whispered.
"Anyone could tell," Draco said, and enjoyed the panic that shone in Potter's face for a moment before he turned his head away. "Now. You didn't answer me. Have you fed already? Or do you need a little pick-me-up right now?" He touched his neck, sliding his fingernails down. He knew the sound was perfectly audible to Potter's enhanced hearing.
Potter dug his nails into the sheets, ripping them. His growl sounded again, and then he said, "For your information, Malfoy, I wouldn't touch your blood if I did need it. But the Healers say I don't. They say that I'm not exactly like a normal vampire because this is the result of a curse, and they think they can change me back. Drinking blood would hasten the transformation. I don't intend to do it."
Draco paused and tilted his head. He hadn't expected this. "Morton doesn't usually give people false hope," he murmured. "I wonder why he's doing it to you?"
Potter whipped back towards him and arched his head in a way that he probably didn't realize was odd, thrusting his neck towards Draco. Draco's palms sweated, but he didn't think rubbing them off on his trousers would help right now. It might mean distracting himself, if ever so slightly, from Potter's barely leashed power and outrage.
"It's not false," Potter said. "I'm different. They can change me back, they're sure of it."
"I've studied curses like this," Draco said quietly. "Curses that make people vampires, centaurs, sirens. They think the original werewolves were the results of such a curse, but no one's ever been able to duplicate it, if they were." He paused, then shook his head. "I don't believe that, myself. Werewolves change too radically; they're not human anymore at the full moon. You just know that some fool of a wizard imagined himself racing around happily as a fell black beast and invented the disease. And then it got out of hand. Diseases always do."
Potter stared at him in bewilderment. Draco could accept that. Potter didn't have all the facts yet. Believing Draco would be difficult until he did. Perhaps then he could get on with the business of biting.
"If they know what the curse is and where it came from," Potter said, recovering himself, "then they ought to be able to cure it."
Draco clucked his tongue impatiently. "Knowing where it came from is a long way from being able to cure it, Potter. They never have. People who are cursed to be vampires are vampires from that day forwards-though with certain interesting differences that mean the Ministry regulates them less stringently. They can spend their time railing at the heavens and declaring they're different, or they can get on with the business of life. Or unlife, if you prefer." He turned his head to the side in a way that he knew was attractive. He didn't need the flare in Potter's eyes to confirm that for him, though of course it was nice to be told.
"I won't drink blood," Potter said.
Draco rolled his eyes. "Then you won't grow your powers to their fullest extent," he said. "I told you, cursed vampires are different. You can get out during the day, as long as you don't let the sunlight touch you directly, and you won't be consumed with bloodlust if you don't get enough to eat. You have less powerful reactions to garlic, running water, and all the other ancient things that vampires fear. And you can leap higher, run faster, hear and see in ways that humans can only imagine. Of course, turned vampires have those powers, too, but they don't make the best use of them because they're so focused on the hunt for food. You're not half a mindless animal. You just became superhuman, and you should enjoy it."
Potter flinched back from him. Draco sighed. Too much a Gryffindor. It might take him a few days to take a drink, at this rate. "You sound as though you want to be cursed or turned yourself, Malfoy. Why don't you go out and get that done?"
"As a comeback, that's weak," Draco said. "Besides, you see how pale I already am. Undeath would render me too pale to be attractive."
Potter stared at him. "I almost think you believe that."
"I do," Draco said.
Potter shook his head several times, then buried it in his arms, "I'm dreaming," he moaned. Then something seemed to occur to him, and he looked up while Draco was busy shifting closer to the bed, under the theory that his scent might make Potter do what he was cursed to do. "Why do you care so much about me becoming a vampire?"
"Because there are things about you that attract me, but your annoying traits outweighed them," Draco said. Potter blinked slowly. Draco hoped hunger was drowning his morality. "Believe me, Potter, I'm not lying. I gave up lies after the war. They didn't get me anywhere, so I thought I'd try and see what honesty could do. I do think you're a berk, still, but your strength pulled me in. And you're not bad to look at. And now you're a super-powerful predator, and I like the idea of a super-powerful predator in bed with me. Can't trust an ordinary vampire, though; they're liable to let the bloodlust take them and consume too much. So now I have the chance to sleep with someone who attracts me and just became more attractive. What's not to like?"
"Why do you want a super-powerful predator in bed with you?" Potter was shuddering, his eyes fixed on Draco's neck, but his voice was still calm.
"What do you mean, why?" Draco asked, genuinely puzzled.
Potter only blinked some more. Draco reached up, intending to accelerate the process-
"What are you doing here, Malfoy? Get out!"
Weasley. Draco sighed and stood. "We'll have to continue this interesting conversation later," he told Potter, and nodded to Weasley, who was staring at him as if he were a tapeworm that had just crawled out of her mouth. No, I assure you, the parasites you carry are still firmly inside you. "I was helping your boyfriend find himself," he told Weasley.
She stared at him, mouth open but eyes ablaze with hostility.
"Get out of here, Malfoy," Potter snapped.
Draco glanced back at him and shook his head sadly. "When you're ready to accept what you've become, you'll be grateful for what I did," he said, and then slipped out the door. He would just have to try again tomorrow.
"You know what you've chosen by coming here." Draco's voice is low and intense, and his hand won't stop working its way up Harry's arm. His fingers flex and burrow into the cloth, and Harry wonders if they want to burrow into the skin the same way. He wouldn't mind if they did.
"Yes, I know," Harry says, and doesn't bother to disguise the way his teeth lengthen when he looks at Draco's neck. He draws Draco into his arms and wishes, regretfully, that they could start right there and then. But he knows that Beltane has its proprieties in the same way as any other holiday, and they need to at least take their turn at dancing and jumping over fires before they're allowed to lie together.
"What changed your mind?" Draco's breath is hot and makes Harry's head spin dizzily as he leans in to nip at Harry's ear. Harry sighs, taking in the air that he no longer needs to release unless he wants to talk, and stands more easily. It's wonderful how much tension he's dropped since he came here, he thinks absently. It's tension that he picked up in hospital all those months ago and has refused to let go ever since.
"I decided to be honest with myself," Harry says, tracing soft circles on the side of Draco's neck with one finger. "And I got tired of the lies." He hesitates, wondering if he can trust Draco with this. But hasn't he just said that he values honesty now? "And I missed you."
It's definitely the right choice to trust Draco with this, if the way his eyes shine is any indication.
"Who did you bribe to get in here?" Potter asked. He had buried his head in his arms the moment Draco walked through the door, and showed no inclination to raise it yet.
"I'm sorry that you think I would have to resort to bribery," Draco murmured, and took his seat beside the bed. He had only sat there once, but it was already his seat, because it was closest to Potter and he would accept nothing less. "But as a matter of fact, it was Healer Monticello."
The sound of Potter's teeth grinding came clearly to him across the space that separated them. Draco clucked his tongue solicitously. "Dear, dear, Potter. Did you think the Healers were really as dedicated to their patients as they like to present themselves?"
"I expected them to keep unwanted visitors out, at least." Potter looked up, and his eyes were larger than before, with a faint, glazed sheen to them that Draco had expected. That was what vampires often looked like when they had been kept from feeding too long. Of course, Potter wouldn't snap into bloodlust, but the sight still quickened Draco's heartbeat. "Don't you realize that I'm dangerous, Malfoy? That I can hurt you?"
"Don't you realize that that's exactly what I want?" Draco asked quietly.
Potter stared at him, lips parted. Draco could see the bumps of his fangs if he squinted. He suspected that Potter had not let them rise fully to the surface yet. Doing so would be too much like acknowledging what he was now. "But why?" Potter whispered, shaking his head as if he didn't understand.
"I told you already," Draco said, and then nodded as Potter twitched his head. "Well, perhaps I didn't explain as fully as I should have. I have wanted you. I didn't think you would look twice at me. Now I think you might."
"I'm not going to drink blood," Potter said.
Draco gave this the treatment it deserved, and ignored it. "There's no one else who can accept you so completely," he said, unbuttoning the collar of his shirt and turning his head so that Potter could see his neck. "No one else who can reconcile you to your nature so fast. Imagine what would happen if you attacked an innocent victim, or if you tried to feed from your spotless fiancée. You won't find someone like me easily, Potter. Prejudices against vampires are too strong."
Potter's eyes were locked on his neck. Of course they were. The glaze deepened, and his upper lip appeared to lengthen. Draco smiled. He thought Potter was too stubborn to launch himself at Draco in a direct attack the way he wanted to, but who could resist someone freely offering himself? And Draco knew how to seduce someone with gestures and words. It shouldn't take much practice to seduce someone with his blood.
Or the moans and soft sighs I intend to give when he drinks from me.
Then Potter shook his head and held back the vampire attempting to creep out of him, much to Draco's disappointment. He was glancing aside again. If his eyes sneaked back to Draco's neck, then he managed to hide it well. "Since I don't intend to feed from anyone, that won't become an issue."
"Do you know what happens to vampires who don't drink blood?" Draco asked, loosening a few more buttons and pushing his shirt down one shoulder. He had read once that vampires found their victims the more tempting the more flesh was bared. And beyond that, he liked the sensation of being partially naked in front of Potter. It made his flesh prickle with cold and lifted him out of himself.
"No," Potter said. His voice was a croak, and his eyes had locked on the hollow of Draco's throat, where the pulse fluttered. He cleared his throat and tried again. "What?"
"I don't know, either," Draco said. "No one does. Because there aren't any." He pulled one arm free of his shirt and sat still, letting Potter get a look at what he could have, as long as he made the right choices.
"I don't want to do it," Potter whispered.
"Well, I'm sure the laws of nature and magic will bend, now," Draco said, holding up his hands in mock surrender. "If the great Harry Potter says that he doesn't want to obey them, I'm sure they're trembling in terror."
Potter gave him a narrow-eyed glance, then ran his tongue quickly along his lips, too quickly for Draco to check if the fangs were there. "It's a matter of principle," he said. "And you said that cursed vampires were different from turned vampires. I ought to have a greater chance of resisting the bloodlust."
Draco pressed a hand to the bare part of his chest and fluttered his eyelashes. "The mighty Auror is listening to me? I feel so honored."
Potter folded his arms. "You don't understand. And you're mad. No one simply walks into his-his schoolboy rival's room and offers him up to be eaten."
Draco spent some time studying Potter, and decided, reluctantly, that he would have to talk more about the truth. It was simple to him, but that was because he had lived with it for years. Apparently Potter would need more convincing.
"The fact of the matter," he said, "is that I like the thought of someone drinking from me. Eating from me, even, as long as it's not fatal." Potter's eyebrows simply climbed, and Draco sighed. "We all have our fantasies, Potter. We all have our ways of getting power and making our lives better. Yours is playing big strong Auror and rescuing people. Mine is being a necessity to someone who doesn't want to depend on me but must. I fantasized about it for a long time when I accepted that your rejection of my friendship was final. I imagined that you would come to me someday because I was the only one who could brew a potion that you needed, or get one of your Weasley friends out of prison."
Potter scowled at him. Draco magnanimously decided to keep silent about the several exploits of Weasley's that he'd heard about, which had had to be hushed up before the general public heard about them.
"But this is better," Draco whispered. "This is ever so much better. Because I knew that, if you were forced to depend on me for something that would let you walk away again, you would whinge about it the entire time. This time, you'll need me. You'll have to keep drinking from me if you drink once." He let his head fall back against the chair and shut his eyes, hoping the arch of his neck, the perfect line of his shoulder, would speak for him.
"There's no reason I should." Potter's voice had deepened, was guttural, and Draco arched his hips to show off what that did to him. Potter had to go through the throat-clearing again before he spoke, which amused Draco exceedingly. "What-what makes you sure that your blood will taste better than anyone else's?"
"It's not the taste," Draco said softly, opening his eyes. "It's that you won't want to drink from someone unwilling. I told you. All your friends are just like you. They won't want to give up that much control. They would let you feed from them if you needed to, but they would stand stiff in your arms and back away again as soon as it was done. I think that trying to feed on your fiancée would destroy your relationship.
"But I-I'm a willing lover. One of the few you'll find in a world where otherwise you'll be condemned to rape."
Potter gave a full-body shiver. Draco smiled. This was not the way he would have chosen to win Potter, with honesty and pointing out the blunt negatives of the situation rather than the subtle positives. It was so distasteful, so Gryffindor. But many a spirited horse had to be guided with a heavy rein at first, until it learned what reins were for.
"I've heard that vampires can charm their victims," Potter whispered. "That they can make it-not so bad for them."
"Ah," Draco said, shaking his head in mock sorrow. "Another widespread truth that applies to turned vampires, and not cursed ones."
Potter hissed for the first time, his lips fluttering up from the wind of his emphatic breath, his fangs showing. Draco licked his own teeth in response. Strong, pointed, deadlier than any sting or any snakebite.
If Potter wanted them to be. That was part of the attraction for Draco, knowing that he would lie beneath the jaws of a predator who could bite down and end his life if he would, but who was far too principled ever to do so. There was no vampire in the world like that whom Draco knew and would trust, but Potter.
The thrill of danger, without the insanity of it that putting his life in serious risk would have. Draco would be more than content if this came about, if he could only persuade Potter, but contentment would be a good start.
"What you're saying still doesn't make much sense," Potter said.
Draco shrugged. "It's a fantasy I've thought of over and over again. And wanked to." Potter had such a lovely blush. "That doesn't mean I ever expected it to come true. But it means that, when I saw that it could, I immediately moved to take advantage of the opportunity."
Potter shook his head in revulsion. "You'd submit to me? That's what it sounds like."
Draco laughed in spite of the situation, in spite of everything, because it was so perfectly something that he would have expected Potter to say. "Of course," he said. "You're too proud, too stubborn, for that."
"I'm not proud-" Potter began, heatedly and in such defiance of the truth that it was better that Draco ignored and interrupted him. After all, the great hero would be horrified later when he realized what a liar he was being.
"There's a power in letting go that you don't understand," Draco said. "To know that you're about to spill saliva down the sides of your mouth-or semen down the sides of your cock, as the case may be-in longing for me, when I've barely lifted a finger..." He shivered. "That's power. And you're mistaking submission in one area of life for weakness in everything, Potter. I wouldn't agree with you about what to do, who to spend time with, or even where we should go so that each of us could show off our new conquests. But I would give you my blood without complaint."
Potter said nothing. He was breathing in a peculiar pattern. Draco opened his eye and smiled a bit at him, wondering what was going through his head.
"I need to think," Potter said.
That is not a refusal. Of course, Draco was aware that Potter would probably need a lot more persuasion still, and he rose to his feet and bowed his head respectfully.
"Take your time," he said. "And use those enhanced senses of yours and sniff your friends when they come to visit you tomorrow."
But Draco had already slipped out of the room. Best to leave a hint of mystery lingering behind him. No good lover revealed all his secrets on the first date.
Music is lifting from all around them.
Harry doesn't think he would have been able to identify the instruments before his transformation-or even a month ago, before he gave up on trying to pretend that he was human and couldn't hear things beyond a normal person's range of hearing. But he can make them out now.
Drum, flute, fiddle. A higher, shriller noise that's either a piccolo or a smaller flute; Harry isn't good enough to sort every single sound he hears yet. A horn, of all things, ringing like a call to the hunt.
Harry's arms tighten around Draco, and he licks his lips with such relish that Draco laughs at him, reaching up to slide a hand across his face. He seems to be tracing the subtle changes to the jaw shape that Harry's mouth has had to make to accommodate his fangs. Harry doesn't know if he can actually feel them, or even if he knows they're there, but if any human would know about the changes a vampire's body goes through, it's Draco.
"Ready to begin?" Draco breathes into his ear.
"More than you can imagine," Harry whispers back, and then the dance starts.
The line of springing, stamping, whirling couples spills between the fires and around in a pattern that Harry's sure is ritually significant. If he had looked at it from his original position on the hill, he might even know how. But he didn't, and now he doesn't care about anything except the way Draco dances with him.
Draco's eyes are bright, and he forces himself into leaps and spinning twirls that Harry is sure aren't natural for him. They're too-enthusiastic, unrestrained. Draco has light in his hair and fire in his face, and he laughs as he comes down with a stagger, turning the stagger into a swift prancing circle in the next moment.
It takes some time for Harry to realize that Draco is doing it to keep up with him, because of course with a vampire's lightness and control of his muscles, he can leap as high as he wishes and drift in circles that would make others dizzy without effort. When Harry realizes that, he smiles at Draco and begins to dance in such a way that Draco will have to appreciate it and not mimic it.
This dance is made of rings, with Draco at the center. Harry spins around, drawing the eyes of other dancers, and then gestures with one hand towards Draco, who is standing in place, only stamping a foot in time to the music now. Good. That means he knows what Harry's doing.
Harry drops into a crouch and bows to Draco, then flips himself up into an impossible somersault and lands in the branches of a tree just as a shrill blast from the horn sounds. That lets him lock eyes with Draco and smile. Draco stands still, shivering, eyes so brilliant that Harry has to fight not to go down and drink from him immediately.
Yes. This is the way it should be. Draco is right. Harry has spent weeks denying the craving in his stomach, mouthing at food he can no longer taste and liquid that keeps his throat wet but doesn't do anything for him, because he couldn't find someone who would willingly, without fear, give him his blood. Even his best friends were constrained. Even Ginny, although she would have let him drink from her if he asked, saw no reason to offer it on her own as long as he could keep the thirst under control.
And Harry wants someone willing. Someone who doesn't stink of terror.
He flips down from the tree again and takes Draco's hand, leading him this time in a ring dance that he can keep up with. They dance down the center aisle of the other couples, all of whom whistle at them in appreciation and clap their hands in time to the rhythm. Draco is laughing breathlessly now, light spilling from the corners of his eyes, blood beating under his skin.
Harry, no longer artificially deaf, no longer pretending, can hear his heart.
Draco was in time the next morning to hear an argument.
"Is this going to work?" That was Potter's voice, and he had a suspicious edge to his words. Draco smiled and leaned his ear against the door. They were too involved in their row to notice him, he thought, and he had bribed the Healers for this corridor to stay clear of wandering trainees for at least an hour.
"They don't know." Weasley's voice was edged, too, but with nothing more complicated than anger. Draco heard a flat, sharp sound that was most likely her hitting the chair or bed with the flat of her palm. "Since when do you need to know so much before you began a treatment, Harry? They think this might return you to normal. Isn't that enough?"
Draco grinned. Even if Potter still believed there was a special spell or potion that might help cursed vampires, he had at least taken Draco's words into consideration, or there would have been no reason for him to struggle so against people who believed they were helping him.
"I don't know," Potter said. His voice was deeper than normal, and Draco shifted and put a hand down to caress his cock, hoping that he wouldn't simply stain the inside of his pants before he had a chance to speak to Potter. He didn't want to go in there reeking of sex and languid with an orgasm. "When I've talked to them about it, most of them smell like fear and act like I'll attack them before they get out the door. Healer Morton is the only one I trust."
"Well, he's the one in charge of this experiment," Weasley said, and her voice was a little softer, Draco hoped she was thinking about the way she probably smelled to Potter, and then hoped she wasn't. The more thoughtless she was, the more careless, the more likely that Potter would end up leaving her. "In fact, he'll be casting the spell, and brewing the potion before they give it to you. Does that help?"
Potter sighed deeply. "It does. I think-it's this stupid sense of smell, Ginny. They all stink when they're around me. Reek of terror, and hatred, some of them. As if I'm no different than any vampire who might have attacked their patients in the past, even with all the differences in how I was made."
"You don't need to pay attention to your sense of smell," Weasley whispered. Draco heard more soft sounds that were probably her leaning across and kissing Potter, or running her hands up and down his skin. Draco rolled his eyes. He would have been jealous, except a Potter who let her still do that was not a Potter he wanted for himself. "You could ignore it. It's simple."
"Not anymore," Potter said. "It's pervasive, Ginny. It's like the way you read words the minute your eyes land on them. You can't just ignore what the letters are saying. You've read the word whether you want to or not. You know?"
There was silence that Draco presumed was baffled. Then the noise of a kiss, and Weasley's footsteps coming towards the door. "Just try, Harry. That's all I ask. They'll be here in an hour, so you might want to get some rest."
Draco ducked neatly out of sight before she could open the door, and noticed the way that she peered carefully up and down the corridor before she hurried away. Perhaps she had already learned to be wary of autograph-seekers. He chuckled and stepped into the room in her place, shutting the door behind him.
Potter whirled around, his hands digging into the bed and his mouth opening in a snarl. Draco stopped and stood where he was, giving Potter's vampire senses a chance to work on him and see what threat he offered or didn't offer. His heart was pounding in his chest, but that was more from excitement than fear, and his scent would tell Potter as much.
"Malfoy. I should have known." Potter sagged to a stop, rocking back on his elbows and giving Draco a disgusted look. "What do you want?"
"I've made it clear by now," Draco said calmly, and walked over to take his usual seat. "Unless you want to hear more about my desires? I wouldn't be averse to telling you."
"If you were hanging around outside the door," Potter said, sitting back and covering his fangs with his lips again, "then you must have heard about the experiment they're going to try. Concentrated vampire blood in the potion, and a spell adapted from a ritual. They're hopeful that it will change me back to human."
Draco let his level stare and his silence speak for him.
"You're not an expert on vampires," Potter said at him, letting his mouth flare open and his eyes blaze before he remembered. He glanced away and busied himself with smoothing the bedsheets back into place. Pathetic, Draco thought with a snort. He's still pretending to be human for the good of Weasley and nothing else. If he followed his instincts, he would be happier by now. "You don't know it won't work."
"I've read enough about them to know that no cursed vampire has ever been made human again," Draco said quietly. "And some of them have gone mad trying all the spells and potions and rituals that the Healers have promised would help. Literally mad, Potter. They can't accept what they are, and so they kill themselves."
"What?" Potter shot him a startled glance, and then laughed, though Draco knew his own face was perfectly serious. "That's ridiculous."
"It's not," Draco said. He leaned forwards, placing his hands on his knees, and spoke quietly, trying to fill his scent with seriousness, so that Potter would have to listen to him. "It's one thing if you're half-Muggle, perhaps, or half-Veela. Those traits don't manifest at all times, or they can be hidden. You can pretend that you're a whole being with only one kind of heritage if that's what you want. For that matter, if you're half-wizard and don't want to be, you can refuse formal training for your magic. It always calms down eventually, though it might give you a few years of misery first."
"I can live with a few years of misery." Potter was giving him that noble, tormented look Draco had expected of him. He had never met someone so determined to become a martyr. Perhaps it had helped him when the Dark Lord was still hunting him, but Draco thought he would find it a grave hindrance to a normal life.
"But vampirism is different," Draco continued. "That's the whole point I was trying to make, Potter. You display visible signs of difference, and you're reminded, by your senses and your thirst if nothing else, of what you are. No one else will be completely comfortable around you. You can't relax, because blood is on your mind from the minute you open your eyes, and you can't walk freely in the sunlight, so you're forced towards a nocturnal existence.
"Now. You're going to live longer than a normal wizard, too, and your body isn't going to age in the same way. Imagine eternity of ignoring something that stares you in the face every day." Draco sat back and spread his hands. "Now tell me that you still think it's ridiculous some cursed vampires kill themselves."
Potter stared at him, his lips slightly parted, though not enough so that he would have looked anything but human to someone coming upon him unexpectedly. With a bit of pity, Draco wondered if that was how he'd been living with it so far. I can hide it, he might say to himself, looking in a mirror. Someone close to me in a dim room wouldn't notice the pallor, or that I wasn't breathing.
But the too-bright eyes, the way he used his nose, the flexible movements, the fangs, and the inability to enter sunlight...
"You're only doing this to benefit yourself," Potter accused in a low voice.
"I'm doing it because I want you," Draco said, unabashed. "I think the world would be a better place if more people acknowledged their desires and worked to meet them in ethical ways."
"I wasn't the one who turned you into a vampire, was I?" Draco challenged with one eyebrow lifted. "Even though I wanted you. Even though I dreamed of something like this happening. And I'm not doing anything like cutting a vein and dangling the blood in front of you, either. Only telling you the truth as I understand it, and offering you the choice."
Potter shook his head. "I can't give up and become a monster because you'd like it, or because my body wants it. I have to strive to be-" He paused, then, and a frown wrinkled itself across his face.
Draco chuckled, knowing the problem he'd run into. "You can't find any words for what you are that don't sound stupid, can you? 'Good' is such a shallow word, and you know that Aurors aren't on the side of good all the time. You don't want to strive to be a Ministry flunkey." He lowered his voice and leaned in. "And if you say that you're striving to be human for the sake of your friends and your fiancée, then you're proving my point. You'll give up your desires for anyone else who wants to impose rules on you, for the sake of an ideal that won't benefit you even if you achieve it."
Potter pushed an open palm at him, and sat looking away. "A hero," he said, voice low and ugly. "I was going to say that I have to strive to be a hero, Malfoy."
Draco laughed again. "You still want to be one after the end of the war?"
Another steady glare from Potter, and Draco knew the answer. Potter didn't like admitting it, but being a hero was addictive. Perhaps he didn't want the praise and attention as much as some people would have, but they were pleasant, and at least this way he could be sure he was doing the right thing-which had always seemed important to him.
This needed more gravity. Draco leaned in again. "Being a hero only matters if the struggle you're in matters," he said quietly. "And the one you're in doesn't."
Potter jerked as if slapped.
Before he could start raging, Draco continued, trying to sound both as honest and as intense as possible. "Think about it. There's no one and nothing to conquer, no evil to fight. You won't become a monster if you only take the blood that you need. You won't be overcome by bloodlust, so there's no fear of you ravishing someone because your animal instincts tell you to. If you remain chaste of blood, on the other hand, there's no reward. All you're denying yourself is something you badly need."
"And helping other people," Potter said. His hands slowly massaged the sheets in front of him, wrinkling them up and pulling them down again.
Draco slapped his left hand against the right. "How? How, exactly? You make them a bit more comfortable, but they aren't ever going to forget that you're a vampire just because you don't drink blood. You can't take away your capability to do so, and that's what they're worried about."
"My friends won't abandon me." Potter took on that martyr's look again.
"They can do plenty of things that hurt you short of that," Draco said shortly. "Tell me how you like living with the scent of fear all the time."
Potter shook his head, an infuriatingly calm expression on his face. "They'll be better than that. I know them."
"Really? They've had three days now to get used to it. And I know that you haven't drunk any blood in that time, or made a single threatening gesture towards them. You would have been sleek and sated if the former was true, and been still wailing your angst loudly if the second was." Draco tilted his head slowly, not blinking, never letting Potter retreat or recover from the full force of his stare. "Has it made a difference to them? Or do they still stare at you sidelong and whisper about how they need to get you back to normal? Can they ever accept you as you are? Or will they hold out the promise of just one more potion, just one more spell, for as long as they can?"
Potter crossed his arms. "You don't know them at all. They care about me. They're determined. I'm more likely to give up before they do."
Draco nodded. "Exactly."
Potter stared at him, eyes bright with flames of guilt, but before he could say anything, the door opened and Weasley came in.
"Healer Morton will be here in a minute, Harry," she said soothingly. Then her eyes focused on Draco, and she jerked to a stop, gripping her wand. "What the fuck are you doing here?"
"Think about what I said," Draco told Potter, not deigning to answer Weasley's question. He walked to the door.
Glancing back, he saw Potter looking at Weasley, his nostrils flaring out delicately.
They finish the dance with everyone staring at them, and Harry knows that most of the people there know who he is by now.
And what he is.
It's a surprise how comfortable he is with that, after two seasons of hiding at home and pretending nothing is wrong and that he can't hear the breathing or smell the emotions of absolutely every person who approaches him.
There were a lot of interviews, Harry thinks as he leads Draco towards the first of the fires, Draco's hand clenched tight in his, his eyes so expectant that Harry feels commanded to jump simply by looking into them. Interviews with the Hero who had managed to avoid becoming a monster, interviews where the reporters were congratulated for emerging from the house alive.
Maybe it was a consequence of his past, when so many people seemed to see him as an avatar for their fears no matter what he actually did. They'd been happier to believe he was lying and mad-despite what it would have meant if he was their Savior-when they didn't want to believe Voldemort had come back. And they had used him as a sign that things were going well since the war whenever he arrested a criminal.
Or maybe, as Draco said, their prejudice was simply so strong that it didn't matter what he did, if he lived the rest of his life in spotless purity and married Ginny and appeared at Ministry ceremonies and very publically drank wine instead of blood. They would still be watching him, because all the good marks in the world cannot stand up to one slip.
How much better, Harry thinks as he and Draco run towards the first fire, to live my life the way I choose to, in accordance with my instincts.
When the last moment comes that their feet can remain on the ground, Harry sweeps Draco into his arms and leaps, spinning through the air, driving them both faster and further than they could go on their own-Draco because he's mortal, Harry because he doesn't see the point of showing off his skills if he has no one to show off for.
Draco clutches him around the neck, mouth falling open as he stares at Harry in almost drunken desire. Harry laughs and holds him tightly.
Then they come down, and they're settling to the ground beyond the fire, and Harry's whirling to take the momentum, and Draco laughs in a way that no one has laughed around Harry since he was cursed.
Harry lets Draco to have a moment to catch his breath. Then they trot towards the second fire.
Draco opened the door and chuckled when he realized the room was still dim and Potter lay on the bed with his legs folded up to his chest and no signs of discomfort showing. "The potion and spell didn't work, I take it?" he asked, shutting the door behind himself and taking up a delicate perch on the edge of the chair.
"Shut up," Potter snarled, turning his head.
Draco bowed his head in mock humility and opened his shirt collar to bare his throat again. The heaviness of Potter's anger haunted the room like the rushing edge of a storm. Draco didn't need to speak. He could wait.
"I don't understand what you get out of this," Potter said suddenly. Draco looked up and saw that had twisted his head back towards Draco, his eyes glowing with their unnatural sheen as well as the glaze of blood-hunger in the night. "A lover, yes, you can say that, but is that really enough for the amount of time you've spent talking to me?"
"Less than an hour altogether?" Draco chuckled. "Yes, I think so."
"You can't know that you'd want it forever," Potter continued stubbornly. "You can't know that you wouldn't get tired of me. You can't know that you wouldn't hate it when I drank from you. I'm a new vampire. I'd mess it up."
Draco licked his lips. He would never have spoken like this if he wasn't considering it. He would just retreat behind a wall of silence and glare at me until I left. "I can't know that about anyone," he answered. "For all I know, staying in here means that the love of my life walks past me and I never meet him, or I could walk away and give up and miss something even more wonderful. But I'm willing to take the risk and chance. I told you. Long years of fantasies and desires have sharpened my perceptions of what I want and what I'd be willing to settle for."
"Not me," Potter muttered, and moved restlessly, flipping over on his side with a swiftness that would have made most people at least grunt. Potter didn't so much as look uncomfortable. He was already getting used to being able to move like a vampire, Draco thought, whether or not he wanted to.
"Since when have you ever paid attention to your own desires and fantasies?" Draco asked, raising an eyebrow, and had the satisfaction of seeing Potter flush. He clucked his tongue. "Poor little Potter, thinking he doesn't have the right to his own happiness."
"You're asking me to do something mad," Potter said. "To embrace this-this thing which has happened to me, and which they might still reverse, and leave the woman I love, and join a-Malfoy, I still hate you, and I've never been with a man. Your ideas are stupid."
"Are they?" Draco asked calmly. "Wouldn't you make a commitment to reorganizing your life if you suddenly had an incurable illness, or a disability that made it impossible for you to work? Or if your Weasley decided to leave you, or you fell in love with someone else?"
Potter stared at him, a little frown between his brows, and said, "This isn't like that. They'll cure it." And before Draco could berate him for having fantasies that were too strong, he added, "Besides, it's not as though I'd fall out of love with Ginny, or her with me."
"Good God," Draco said, when he could find his voice. "You really believe it, don't you? I thought it was just a stereotype about heroes, not something you would actually believe, but you do." He shook his head, stunned.
"What?" Potter demanded.
"You think you've paid your debt," Draco said, and made a sweeping gesture with one arm. He knew he wasn't graceful or restrained, but he doubted that Potter would notice, and no one who would was in the room with him. "That everything you've gone through in your war has somehow freed you from grief, and that you can live happily now, without anything ever happening to you. That you'll have the fairy tale ending and the perfect marriage." He leaned forwards. "See if Weasley goes through with the marriage now that you're a vampire and can't have children."
Potter shut his eyes.
Draco sighed. "Didn't they tell you that, either?" No, they probably hadn't; Morton was decent, but he had other patients to attend to, and there were protective Healers on this ward who would try to keep distressing information from their patients as long as possible. It had taken weeks for them to admit to Draco's mother that she would probably never gain full feeling back in her hands from the Cruciatus Curses that she'd suffered during the war. "If Weasley wants children, she'll have to find someone else."
"If they can't cure it," Potter whispered.
"What do you want?" Draco snapped. "An insane hope, which you're always going to defer, or something more complicated and real, something that you'll have to deal with as it comes? You were always saying to the papers that you wanted a normal life, weren't you? Well, here's something that hurts and is inevitable for you, just like everyone else. Welcome to normality."
Potter snarled, and his lips parted this time enough to allow Draco to see a flash of white, a glimpse of tearing tooth stronger than steel...
Draco said nothing, and sat still, and he knew that nothing gave away his interest or his emotions but his scent and his quickening heartbeat.
Potter grabbed a book off the table next to the bed and threw it at him. Draco ducked easily, but never took his eyes from Potter's.
"You're not human anymore," he whispered. "Isn't it time that you accepted it?"
"Get out!" Potter shrieked.
There was already noise in the corridors outside, the sound of rapid footsteps and someone demanding to be told who was with Potter. Draco sighed and slipped out.
They approach the second fire. It's bigger than the first, leaping into the sky in thin tongues of flame that turn blue at the edges and lift a glorious halo against the darkness. For the first time, Harry feels his shoulders tense. Beltane is a festival of light, of summer, of fertility-all things that are supposedly anathema to a creature like him. It's not impossible that the fire could destroy him.
Then Draco laughs beside him, and clasps his arm, and spins him around, and Harry finds himself watching eyes that dazzle him as much as his own eyes did when he first looked into a mirror after his transformation.
"Why should you be afraid?" Draco whispers. "When you have me, when you will always have me?"
Harry can't speak his reaction to that promise, so he briefly pulls Draco against him and nuzzles him with fang and erection before they run towards the fire.
Harry doesn't even use much of his immortal strength this time, and yet he and Draco still leap the fire as if they have wings.
"I'm sorry, Mr. Malfoy." Healer Morton's eyes were calm and looked genuinely regretful. If it had been up to him, Draco thought, Draco would still have had access to Potter. "But I can't permit bribery in my hospital."
Draco gave a sharp little nod. "But he isn't getting better, is he?" he asked when the Healer started to turn away. "Potter, I mean. You've tried spells and potions, and neither one has benefited him."
Morton turned his head back, but his gaze had sharpened in a way that indicated Draco's words had found their target, though how well they had done that, Draco didn't know. "Not yet," Morton said. "But it's early days yet. It's entirely possible that we will find something to help him with just a bit more experimentation."
"If you don't?" Draco took a step closer. "You were the one who had the courage to tell me what my mother would have to endure to heal. Are you going to tell Potter the same thing? That no one has ever successfully cured a cursed vampire?"
Morton smiled slightly. "I can tell him that, but that doesn't preclude us coming up with something in the future, as you ought to know. I have thoughts on experiments we could perform to ease your mother's lingering pain."
Draco shook his head. "But it hasn't happened so far, despite all the research that anyone has ever done in the history of Healing. Are you going to tell him that? Or is he going to go on believing that hope is enough?"
"Hope is what he needs most right now," Morton replied in a calm, inflexible voice, before he hurried down the corridor that contained Potter's room.
Draco went home, because he didn't want to be seen lingering around St. Mungo's as if he had nothing else to do. But when he reached his room, he sat down and wrote the kind of letter that he knew Potter needed to receive, the kind of letter that no one else would show him. And how was Potter going to move on and really recover if someone didn't let him know that he couldn't depend on other people forever? He needed to do his own acceptance and his own recovery, or it would fall on him all at once, in a noiseless waterfall.
It had fallen on Draco like that, when he realized that the Malfoys would never again be what they had been before the war, because it would take them years to gain back that power and reputation, and when they did, it would be a different kind of power and reputation. He would have done much better if he had had the time to think about it and grow into the thoughts over time.
Potter, he wrote, and the words tore themselves smoothly from his quill, and not just because it felt as if Potter was the answer to his fantasies. He was thinking about Potter lying alone in a dim room, staring at the ceiling and feeling the bloodthirst pulse in him like a second heart. Was he thinking of the years ahead? Was he thinking about being immortal and always fighting his desire for blood, always trying to fit in as a human when he was fundamentally different from them in one important way?
The Healers have tried for centuries to change this curse, or even make the consequences of being a cursed vampire less severe-making you able to eat food as well as drink blood, for instance. Nothing has worked.
I understand if you need to refuse to believe this for right now, if you need some kind of hope to keep you going. That's what Morton said you needed, and I can accept that, because he's one of the wisest Healers I know. But there's a difference between having hope and being outright ignorant, like pretending that your thirst will go away.
I can give you the titles of books that deal with the curse that changed you and which I found helpful when I was trying to understand vampires and the sort of person that I wanted to be with. The Silence and the Thirst. Vampire Curses from the Founding of Hogwarts until Now. The Differences Between Vampires and Werewolves. Those are the ones that I found most intriguing or informative.
I know that you'll think I'm only doing this because I want to sleep with you. But I swear it's more than that. You could choose someone else as a lover and a donor, after all. I have no way of forcing you to be with me. But I can hope that you won't torment yourself with useless delusions for years.
The letter came back unopened.
The third fire is the tallest, sending so many flames writhing up towards the trees that Harry doesn't see how the branches can avoid catching fire. But he reckons he'll trust the fact that there are leaves hanging within a few inches of the heat and they haven't crisped to death yet.
Draco smiles at him and turns sideways, hanging onto Harry's hands. It's clear to Harry that he wants to lead this leap. He swallows and nods, despite the fate he can all too easily envision Draco burning if he doesn't jump in time.
Draco crouches, staring upwards, the cords in his neck bulging as the muscles in his legs flex. Harry has never been so grateful for the sharpness of vampire eyes. They allow him to watch every movement before it begins, to see the swallow that bends Draco's throat, and to catch glimpses of the firelight reflecting in the tiny beads of sweat on Draco's forehead.
And then he is leaping, and Harry's eyes greedily absorb all they can of that straight, smooth, swift movement before he has to join it.
Together, they rise, and it seems as if they will never stop. Harry could believe that Draco is taking him flying to the stars. They ascend, and ascend, and then Draco twitches, half-steps in the air, faces the fire.
Harry's hands twitch with longing, with need, to take hold of Draco's body and guide him. But he holds them back with an effort. For whatever reason, this is something Draco needs to do, and Harry wants him to do it because of that.
As it turns out, the half-step is not a mistake, or Draco losing his confidence and misjudging the landing. He swings forwards correctly, and Harry feels himself pulled over the fire. He seems to weigh much less than he does, and his laughter bubbles out of his chest and runs past his ears like cool water.
Draco smiles at him over his shoulder.
And then they are on the cool grass again, and Draco is laughing hard enough to make Harry's mouth hurt in sympathy, and they are turning, and they are under the shadows of the trees, and Draco bares his throat, and Harry leans forwards to taste human blood for the first time.
Draco sent two more letters, and they both came back with their seals still in place. So next he sent a Howler. He figured out that would get a response, because if nothing else the Weasleys would come to scold him, and that meant he would get a chance to question them on Potter's condition without their noticing.
His Floo connection went mad less than an hour after he sent the Howler. Draco lowered his book and turned around in pleasant surprise. If they responded that quickly, the Weasleys must be very angry.
"What the fuck do you think you're doing?"
Except it wasn't one of the Weasleys in his fireplace at all, but Potter. And Draco could only stare, because the short time since he had last seen Potter had wrought changes in his body and face.
He was as pale as any turned vampire now, and Draco could see the flash of fangs when he spoke. Of course they would be extended if he was hungry all the time and smelling the scent of blood from the people around him, Draco reminded himself, but his heart still flared with excitement as if this was a compliment to him specifically. Potter's eyes had lost their glaze and acquired a brilliant sheen instead-many times more beautiful on him than on other cursed vampires because of that stunning green color.
Draco had never seen him looking more glorious, or more desirable.
Or more desperate, and that was what reassured him he was getting through. Despite all Potter's faith and hope, the Healers and his friends hadn't managed to help him or cure him or calm his bloodthirst. Surely he must realize that the best thing to do would be to accept the inevitable, and do it in such a way that he wouldn't violate his own principles or make himself suffer. Such as by accepting Draco as a donor, for example.
But I can accept it if he won't, Draco thought, clasping his hands in front of him and staring into Potter's eyes. I must accept it. In the end, whatever I want and whatever I've worked for, he's the one who has to make the decision.
Once, that acknowledgment would have cost Draco such pain that he probably would have lashed out at Potter before he opened his mouth, attempting to force him to choose what Draco wanted. But since the war, he had learned lesson after lesson about what he could have and what he could compel. The lessons were written in the headlines of the Daily Prophet, in the wrinkles around his father's mouth, in the shaking of his mother's hands. Draco had learned to act when he could and wait for the rest.
"What do you want?" Potter spat. A green flame flickered around his tongue, making him look like a roaring dragon for an instant.
Draco smiled in spite of himself. "That's the one thing I didn't expect you to ask, Potter," he said. "I thought I'd made it perfectly clear what I wanted."
Potter shook his head. "That can't be it. That wouldn't be enough for you to send me multiple letters and keep bothering Ginny."
"Who said anything about bothering Weasley?" Draco shook his head. "I addressed the letters to you. Surely they should bother you more than your fiancée."
"She wanted to know what they were doing there," Potter said, his voice so fierce and so quiet that Draco felt sweat gather on the palms of his hands. He had to wonder what he was about to attain that he had-and hadn't-dreamed of. "She asked me questions that I couldn't answer."
"I don't see why not," Draco said, still puzzled. Potter was taking an odd line of argument. Draco had expected more cursing, among other things. "You could tell her the truth, and you would still come out of it looking heroic and doing what she wanted you to. I'm the one who's being evil and urging you to abandon the line of research and hope that she wants you to follow."
Potter clenched his jaw. The way his fangs ground against his lower teeth made Draco lick his lips. "That isn't what I mean, Malfoy, and you bloody well know it," he said, spacing his words now as if he thought that Draco was stupid and needed things spoken slowly. "She knew about a few visits you made to me. She didn't know about the rest. And so it looked like I was encouraging you, because I never told her about them."
"That's not my fault," Draco said, still puzzled but also beginning to be amused. "The letters weren't opened, and anyway, I barely said anything in them about the visits. You were still free to tell her about them, or not, as you saw fit."
"If you hadn't come stalking into my life and brought these things up in the first place," Potter said, his voice a bark now that actually did make Draco jump, "then she wouldn't have been thinking I thought about them, and I wouldn't have been thinking about them, damn you!"
Draco let a small space of time pass so that, among other things, he could slow his heartbeat, before he laughed. Potter stiffened, though Draco doubted someone who had spent less time observing him would have been able to see that slight movement through the flames of the Floo connection.
"So," Draco said. "That's the reason for this firecall. The words are spinning around your head, and you want someone to blame for them. You're rowing with Weasley, and you want to make me the major cause, instead of a minor cause, as I suspect I am." He leaned nearer and lowered his voice to a confidential murmur. "You want to make me into a villain for speaking the truth to you. Watch out, Potter, or soon you'll be blaming me for the curse that turned you into a vampire as well."
Potter watched him, and panted, and said nothing.
"I understand how you feel," Draco said, when he had let some moments pass in silence. "It was hard for me, as well, to understand how my life had changed after the war. I sat alone for hour after hour making lists of who to blame for it, and plotting ways to take revenge on them. Your name was at the top of the list."
"Then you really might have cast this curse," Potter said, his face brightening with the satisfaction of an easy solution. "And that means-"
"Your name was at the top of the list," Draco cut him off quietly. "It's not now. I changed, Potter. I grew up. I threw away my list and decided that my best revenge would be finding out how to survive in this world and then prosper in spite of all the enemies who might wish me ill. It was a better way of fooling the mass of people I thought hated me, rather than a few small-minded individuals."
"But you still might have cast the curse," Potter repeated stubbornly. "You implied that you wanted me transformed into some vile supernatural thing-"
"What a set of words to speak about yourself," Draco said, with gentle mockery, and that silenced Potter, as he had thought it might. "No. I was in hospital, watching my mother receive treatment for her nerve damage, when you were cursed. I have multiple witnesses who can prove it, including the witnesses who were with you."
Potter clamped his mouth shut hard, and then shut his eyes. He remained motionless for so long that Draco dared to lean in again.
"I know it's hard," he murmured. "Beyond hard. This sudden change has come over your life, and you wish you could get rid of it. But it's here to stay. This is what I went through, Potter, and my parents. I can at least help you bear the burden, if you'll let me, and I won't even press you to sleep with me or drink my blood, as long as I know that you're not making the same mistakes I did for a little while."
"Why would you care if I was?" Potter breathed, opening his eyes. There was a glaze over them again, but Draco didn't think it was the vampire hunger; Potter was fighting to hold back tears.
"Because it's wasteful, that mourning to no purpose," Draco said quietly. "And I'd prefer that people not be wasteful."
"I'm never going to be like you, Malfoy," Potter spat suddenly, pulling back and lifting a hand in front of his face as if he could block the sight of Draco out. "Never."
"You already are," Draco said, but he was talking to an empty fireplace.
After that, he sat and thought about what he should do for a long time, before he went to write another letter.
Harry's fangs slice through Draco's skin.
There's a moment when Draco goes stiff in his arms, and Harry worries that's hurting him.
But then Draco moans, the sound of someone given a gift beyond price, and he begins to pant in pleasure at the same time that the blood floods Harry's mouth.
Oh, Harry thinks, half-dazed, then wholly dazed, incoherent, as the blood dances and sparks on his tongue like the words of a new language, like the light of new stars, like the sight of new colors. Oh.
Draco told him what he would be missing, told him that he would never be whole without this, and that by denying it he was denying his own nature. Harry has heard the words again and again, from Draco and in his mind since Draco last parted from him. But he didn't know.
There's warmth in his mouth and salt on his lips, but the physical sensations are the merest part of it. There's also the way the blood seems to sink straight to his stomach, and the sharp fireworks as his brain races, and the heightening of his senses, and the soundless chant in his mind of blood, blood, blood.
And the easing, for the first time since the curse, of the hunger in his belly.
Harry pulls back his fangs slowly. He doesn't think he would drain Draco dry by accident in the first feeding, but he's heard of such things happening, and he doesn't dare risk it. It's more than not wanting to kill someone, too.
He could never bear to kill someone who gave him this, willingly.
When he looks into Draco's face, he finds it flushed and blissful, his eyes half-shut, his head lolling back so that his hair drapes across Harry's shoulder. There's still a trickle of blood coming from the bites in his throat, but it doesn't look as violent or unnatural against Draco's skin as Harry assumed it would. His lips are parted, as if he drank in air while Harry drank in life, and his breath is tiny puffs of air against Harry's fingers when he reaches down to check.
His eyes snap open. They are bluer than Harry's ever seen them. After a moment, he realizes that's because they're dark, with pleasure and arousal.
"Fuck me," Draco whispers, and Harry comes to him without another word.
It wasn't Draco's best letter; it had rambling sentences and lines that he crossed out entirely and words that he knew weren't spelled correctly. But it was the best letter he could have written to Potter at the time, and it contained an honest offer of all the words that Potter wouldn't have let him speak in any conversation they had, even if Draco spelled him to silence.
There's a holiday called Beltane. It's on the first of May. It's a holiday of fertility, the beginning of summer and the quickening blood. Some old traditions say that children conceived on Beltane are especially blessed. But men can come together on that holiday, as well as men and women.
Some wizards celebrate it, usually in a hollow at the foot of the Brecon Beacons. Ask anyone who has official connections and they can tell you where. The Ministry probably has someone keeping an eye on it, for that matter, ensuring the pure-bloods don't rise again.
That's the place I'd like to meet you, if you're ever able to turn your back on your denial and come to me. We'll do the dance sand leap over the fires together, and you'll drink my blood and lie down with me if you want to, and I won't ask you any questions. We'll begin anew, in the summer light.
I won't wait you for any other time of the year. I have my own life to lead, and my own duties and pleasures to pursue, and I'm not going to enslave myself to anyone else's expectations again.
But I'll wait for you on Beltane.
Draco didn't bother signing it, the same way he hadn't bothered writing Potter's name at the top. He figured that Potter would either know what it meant sure enough, or he would pretend not to know, and in that case, nothing could help him. Either way, Draco wanted Potter to make a bit of an intellectual effort for once.
He sent the letter off.
There was no response to that, but Draco cherished a bit of hope, because the letter didn't return unopened, either.
Soon after that, he heard that Harry Potter had left hospital and moved in with his fiancée while he tried to figure out how to reorganize his life. Draco put aside hopes too intense to be borne for the moment and moved on.
He told himself he wasn't counting the days until May.
It's surprisingly simple, when you get right down to it.
Draco has the lube. Harry doesn't know what's in the pale blue liquid, but at least it's nothing that smells offensive to his singing senses, and Draco makes a contented moan when Harry pushes one finger into him. That's good enough for Harry.
They're on the grass in a sheltered part of the valley with a tree drooping over them and Harry's robe beneath Draco. He wanted to go somewhere more private, but Draco gave him a direct glance and said, "It's Beltane," and that was enough to explain to Harry.
Really, he thinks dazedly as he kneels down for the first time to watch his fingers gliding in and out of Draco, everything is enough for me, right now. I wonder what I'll feel like once I get down from the high of his blood.
But whatever it is, he doesn't think he'll regret this, anymore than Draco will regret letting Harry drink from him in the first place. He's watching now, his cock so swollen that Harry finds it painful to look at, his lips still parted the way they were when Harry first finished feeding.
He licks them when Harry rises up to position his cock near Draco's entrance. Yes, Draco licks his lips and spreads his legs wide in welcome, and Harry groans as he sinks home, shivering, his skin tightening all over his body.
"What-why did you choose me?" he whispers to Draco. "Like this, you could have had anyone."
"Do you think I'm like this with everyone?" Draco asks, his voice soft and echoing, as if the words have to travel a long way to get there.
Again, it makes sense for right now, and that's enough.
Harry moves slowly at first, his thrusts thick, muffled noises leaking out of Draco's mouth and his arse, where the lube eases their movements. Draco opens and closes his eyes in random patterns. A pink flush runs over his chest and his neck, spreading both up and down. He touches his cock once or twice, but gently, with idle strokes, as if he knows that he doesn't need that much stimulation to come.
Harry's going to make sure that he doesn't need more.
He throws his back into the thrusting, his chest heaving with breath for the first time since his transformation. Draco smiles lazily, as if surprised, and stretches out one arm that seems impossibly long to caress Harry's hair. Sweat falls from Harry's face to mingle with the precome on Draco's belly, and Draco trails one finger through the mingled liquids.
"Harry," he says finally, and it's the wonder in his voice, more than anything else, that makes Harry begin to come.
He hasn't had an orgasm this powerful since he transformed, either, and knows it must be the effect of the blood. He feels as if he's among the living again, his body surging with strength, his delight ripping him from the inside like claws. He throws his head back with a silent howl and strokes Draco with the very last of his erection, sharing the pleasure as much as he can, sending it home.
Draco closes his eyes and exhales through shaky lips. When he comes, it's a soundless arch of perfection, except for the sob at the very end, and the soft sizzle and splatter of his come landing where it will, and the creaking of his tendons. Harry can hear all of that, and he marvels at it for the first time.
This is a night for firsts.
When Draco has finished, they lie down among the golden lights and shifting shadows of Beltane, and Harry leans his head on Draco's shoulder, and links their hands, and wonders, for a moment, what the morning will bring.
He doubts that it will be anything too terribly bad. Even if this turns out to be a mistake, they've both lived through worse.
Draco turns his head and kisses him, and Harry is reminded that morning isn't here yet.
It wasn't Ginny's fault.
Harry knew she had tried as hard as she could. She was the one who looked for jobs in the Daily Prophet where he could work at night, and wrote angry letters to the Ministry protesting their decision not to let him come back as an Auror, and sat holding his hand when Harry shook with rage and hunger denied. She talked to him into going out and trying all sorts of different foods when he would have given up and sat sulking at home, dreaming of the one thing he could never have. Through her, and Ron and Hermione, he kept in contact with the rest of the Weasleys, and he thought they finally accepted that he wasn't a ravaging monster.
But she never lost the smell of fear.
Drinking from her was impossible, even the few times that she offered. She stood with her head turned, stiff and still, bowing her neck in a submissive fashion that Harry hated. He broke away each time and stalked away to the far side of the room, shaking his head. And he heard the sigh of relief she gave each time she could cover up her unmarred neck.
No, Ginny always tried. In the end, Harry was the one who couldn't bear it.
He was the one who sat there with Malfoy's words turning over in his head, and looked at the letter sometimes, and wondered if death would be better than this thirst.
He was the one who grew towards a dark sun as the months turned past and Beltane came closer. He was the one who learned to enjoy the way he could smell a dozen subtle scents beneath a bouquet of flowers, and who began to turn his head when he heard nuances in others' voices they might have tried to conceal from him. He was the one who found himself on the roof one day, crouching in shadows away from the sunlight and baring his fangs in defiance.
It was stupid to deny who and what he was. The Dursleys couldn't make Harry stop being a wizard, and he couldn't make himself stop being a vampire.
In the end, he accepted it, and he set Ginny free, because she deserved better than this. She went with backwards glances and tears, but she went.
And then Harry waited for Beltane-not sure of what he was doing, still half-doubting Malfoy's reasons, but sure that he should try.
Draco draws Harry's head onto his chest and lifts his own head to look up at the stars. Still hours yet before they'll need to move to make sure that Harry's out of reach of light when the sun rises.
Contentment makes him languid, makes him golden. He strokes Harry's shoulders where he lies naked on Draco's chest, traces his jawline and the edges of his nose, and learns his throat and his muscles with kisses.
It's everything he ever wanted.
And now, Draco thinks in satisfaction as he tightens his arms and clenches down to enjoy the burn in his arse, we'll teach each other new things to want.
A stir of limbs, accompanied by no stir of breath, and then a flash of eyes makes him smile. Harry is awake and alert again.
Draco winks at Harry, and gives himself up entirely to their own, private celebration of summer, and change, and the endurance of life. Even beyond death.