A/N: Feeling on a good roll with this story atm! Un-beta'd so all mistakes are mine!
I can feel your eyes in the back of my head
Burning, burning, burning
Floating through the room as the hairs on my arms are
Rising, rising, rising
I'm chemically drawn closer to you
Eyes wide, eyes wide open
Will you be my future or just an escape?
Love me, love me, love me
You never get to heaven on a night like this
~14 October 1999~
"Anything else, dearie?"
"No, thank you," Draco answered the woman. "Just the strawberries will do."
She handed him his order, which he tucked into the small basket at his side, and he counted out her payment. "Until next week then," he said, before bidding her farewell.
The market was busy for a Thursday afternoon, full with the final wave of tourists before the winter lull finally set in. Draco didn't mind though. He enjoyed the bustle of the city—the energy and movement of people navigating through their day. There was a different rhythm to it than London; a cadence that he'd grown to love over the past couple of months.
He checked his watch—it was nearly time to meet Harry for lunch. With an easy smile, Draco made his way out of the market and ducked into the side streets. He knew them well enough by now to cut his time home in half. Unlike the centralized Diagon Alley, the alleyways of Paris was where the magical community found their home. Various charms and enchantments concealed most of it from the average muggle passerby, but there was a rich culture hidden just beneath the veneer. Witches and wizards scurrying by in a flurry of robes and cigarette smoke, dancing between the shops and pubs that lined the cobbled streets.
There was an ease to the movement here; a lightness to the steps that had been untouched by war. Draco could very nearly match their steps with his own now. Harry had been right. It was easy to forget here. It was easy to let go.
Draco inhaled, and found his feet pulling to a stop as a familiar scent filled his nose. A thick, sickly sour smoke drifted from a darkened alley just past his pathway home. Draco stared at it, transfixed.
"You should be getting home." The demon's voice was so familiar to him now that he couldn't be surprised by it anymore.
A man and a woman stumbled out of the dark alley, leaning against each other and laughing hysterically. Draco held his breath as they passed by.
"Harry's waiting for you."
"I'm aware," Draco said. And he was, but for some reason home felt much farther away than it had moments ago.
In the next blink he was moving, his feet carrying him closer and closer to that horrendous, intoxicating smell. The demon was a silent presence at his side, drifting just behind him like a shadow. The alleyway was swarming with people, huddled together in small clusters and whispering under their breaths. A dense fog hung around them, and Draco felt dizzy with it.
He wasn't quite sure how it happened—how, suddenly, he was reaching into his pocket and exchanging a few galleons for a small bag of black powder. Heart thumping in his chest, Draco shoved the bag into his pocket and fled.
He ran the whole way home, the demon following in his wake.
~21 October 1999~
"So, I got the interview," Harry said, smiling over his half-eaten sandwich.
Draco stilled, the hand in his pocket ceasing its worrying at the corners of the bag that he hadn't found a place for yet. "What? At the French Ministry?"
Harry nodded, unable to contain his grin. He was awash in sunlight, the sight of him nearly blinding in the corner of their favorite cafe. "Yup! I mean, my French is still abysmal, but most of the Auror department has automated translating charms in place so it might not be as much of an issue as I'd thought."
"Harry, that's fantastic!"
Red bloomed across Harry's cheeks. "Yeah."
Draco smirked. He wasn't sure how long it would take to finally crack Harry's shell when it came to compliments, but he was determined to find out. "When's it scheduled for?"
"Next Tuesday. They said there would be a formal interview followed by a practical interview. I'd be worried about being rusty, only I've never done an interview like this before, so there's not exactly anything to rust."
"Can't be any more nerve-racking than trying out for Puddlemere," Draco said.
Harry shrugged. His nose was still a rosy shade of pink. "I never really cared about making Puddlemere—it just sort of happened. This is—I dunno—this is different. You know?"
Draco didn't know. But he smiled all the same.
Harry chanced another look at him. His eyes were iridescent in the sunlight. "I bet you could get an interview too. If you wanted."
Draco's grip on the bag in his pocket tightened. He was aware that the line of his smile had grown a touch too tight. "I don't think they interview candidates with my particular tattoo preference."
"You'll never know if you don't try," Harry said.
"Nor will I be disappointed."
Expelling a heavy breath, Harry set down his sandwich. A different shad of red was flooding his cheeks now, lower and darker than before. "What are you going to do then?"
It was like a switch had flipped. The edge in Harry's voice set Draco back on his heels and it took every ounce of willpower he had not to violently spring back. The sunlight pouring through the window rippled. "I wasn't aware that I had to do anything."
"You had a rough go of it, but you're not a ghost, Draco. And I'm not going to let you wander around the house all day like you are."
Draco lifted his chin. "Oh you're not going to let me now?"
Harry's responding hiss was more akin to a hound baring its fangs. "Don't twist what I mean. All I'm trying to say is that it's not like you to be this restless. I'm scared that if I don't start pushing you to find a purpose then you won't bother pushing yourself."
"A purpose?" Draco replied, loudly and vehemently enough for a few heads around them to turn.
"You had dreams and goals before everything happened. I know you did."
"Yeah, and I was a child once too—naive of the world and hiding behind my mother's skirts like they'd shield me from the reality of it. Dreams die hard and you hold them in your hands long after they've turned to dust. I will not be that naive again."
Harry shook his head. "Why are you spoiling for a fight with me?"
Draco's grip on the bag of powder was so tight his fingers had gone numb. "I'm not!"
"Then why are we fighting?"
"I don't know!" Draco snapped, and this time more than heads turned. Their whispers filled his ears and buzzed through his head, filling his chest with their incessant hum. In the next moment he was standing, his chair skidding back behind him and his whole body trembling. He was stuck somewhere halfway between a scream and a sob.
Turning, he fled from the cafe.
He slammed through the door and out into the street. The warmth sunlight felt like a lie on his skin. Or maybe his skin was the lie. He wasn't quite sure.
Tears filling his eyes he started running. He could hear Harry calling after him, but he didn't stop. All he could do was move—all he could control was the pace of his feet slamming into the pavement. Everything else was a blur. The people, the buildings, the streets were nothing but muddled splashes of color.
Somehow, he ended up in front of his mother's flat, wet-cheeked and panting. He stared up at it, his heart pounding so hard he could feel it in his throat.
"Merlin, you're fast."
Draco turned to see Harry, out of breath and doubled over. Sweat had beaded on his forehead and was dripping down the sharp jut of his jaw. His glasses had even fogged over.
He was the only thing still in focus.
Taking a steadying breath, he straightened. He had that look like he was about to rush into the battlefield and was unafraid of what he would find there. "Draco…you're crying."
Draco refused to wipe his face. He refused to even acknowledge that he needed to.
"Look," Harry took a tentative step forward, "I'm sorry that I pushed you. I didn't mean to get you upset like this."
Of course Harry was apologizing. He was too good—far too good. And what had Draco ever done but leech off of that goodness?
Harry chanced another step forward. "Can you tell me why you're this upset?"
Draco shook his head. He didn't know. All he knew was that the tears wouldn't stop and he had less than ten months left.
But there was something else there too—something he'd locked away and hadn't dared look at since.
"Draco." Harry closed the final distance between them, his hands a steadying force at Draco's shoulders. "Everything's going to be alright."
Everything's going to be alright. He'd lost count how many times Harry had told him that over the past couple months. He'd lost track of all the reasons why Harry had to.
~29 October 1999~
Draco awoke in a cold sweat, pain searing through his chest. It took him a second to realize that he hadn't been breathing. Opening his mouth wide, he sucked in as much air as his lungs would hold. It stagnated there quickly, leaving little relief in its wake.
Shuddering, Draco glanced over at the other side of the bed. Harry was still sleeping peacefully, his face slack and his lips parted. Moonlight always had a way of making things look just beyond the realm of reality, and Harry was no exception. He looked like something from a dream. He looked untouchable.
With a sigh, Draco threw back the comforter and grabbed his robe.
Winter's chill had already started to take hold and Draco's next breath was tinged with frost. Throwing his robe on, Draco swept across the room and padded down the stairs.
The last embers of a fire still glowed in the sitting room hearth. Stretching out his hand, Draco whispered a spell, and watched the fire reignite. He wondered if Harry would've been impressed by his improved skill at wandless magic. He wondered if Harry would've smiled at him, that lovely rare smile that was capable of rattling stars.
A warm glow settled over the room and killed off the sharpest edges of the evening's chill. Draco threw another log onto the fire for good measure.
The fire gave an angry spark, and a glint caught Draco's eye.
Tentatively, Draco made his way over to the small table tucked against the wall, his hands hovering over the ornate medicine box that sat atop. It had been his mother's—a family heirloom passed down through the generations. It was a delicate, lovely thing, made of a rich red wood and encrusted with intricate designs of gold leaf.
Draco's pulse gave a violent skip as he flipped it open.
The stack of blunts he'd rolled on his last sleepless night sat waiting, untouched since he's last seen them.
Nerves roiling, he plucked one from the box. He rolled it back and forth between his thumb and forefinger. Even just holding it settled something in the pit of his stomach. Closing the box lid, Draco retreated to the cushioned chair next to the hearth.
"Need a light?"
Draco tilted his head, admiring his handiwork—how tightly he'd made the roll, and how crisp it felt in his hand. "I haven't decided yet." And he knew that wasn't the right answer at all.
The demon kneeled in front of him, flashing two rows of razor-sharp teeth. His hair was shorter than Harry wore his now—an odd thing to notice, but Draco noticed it nevertheless. The demon lifted his hand, his index finger extend and a flue flame burning at its tip.
Pushing the blunt between his lips, Draco leaned forward and let the demon light it.
Draco inhaled, and a blanket of warmth settled over him.
"There," the demon said. "That's much better."
And it was. It really was.
~4 November 1999~
"I got it!"
Draco's attention was pulled from the kitchen sink to the doorway. Harry was poised between the masts, a wild grin cleaving his face in two.
"I got the job!" Harry said, frazzled and breathless.
Beaming, Draco dropped the dish he was cleaning and crashed into Harry's arms. Laughter passed between them, filling Draco to the brim.
"Merlin, I can't believe it." Harry squeezed him impossibly tighter. "I thought I'd bombed it for sure."
"Yet another testament to your idiocy."
Harry laughed, seemingly helpless to anything else.
Draco pressed his smile into Harry's neck. "You're going to be miraculous."
"I hope you're right." Harry breathed in. "Did you get a bit too close to the fire today?"
Draco pulled back. Harry was still smiling.
"You smell like smoke," Harry said. "Didn't hurt yourself or anything, did you?"
Draco clung to his grin, a desperate and wanton thing. "No," he said. "Everything's fine."
~11 November 1999~
Another sleepless night. Another curl of smoke dissipating in the air.
The demon was perched on the arm of Draco's chair, a cold weight at his side.
Draco pulled another drag off of his blunt. Inhaling was already beginning to lose its allure. He missed the rush in his bloodstream—the shock in his bones.
"I keep wondering if you'll end up tasting as good as you smell," the demon said softly.
"I keep wondering when you'll finally leave me alone."
The demon shifted. "If you really wanted me to leave you alone, I wouldn't be here at all."