A long wait I know, things have been hectic here – hope you like it!
Will be HPDM, will contain violence, strong language, and various other adult themes. I would recommend that you be of age in your resident country to read this story.
I don't own these characters or this world. These ramblings make me no profit. I am prone to bribery in the form of reviews and sleep.
Draco padded along the corridors of his father's house in the dark. In truth, the sun was already halfway above the horizon, but there were no windows to light his way; it didn't occur to him to make use of the sconces lining the old stone walls. This part of the house was practically medieval, Draco thought. He let his fingertips brush along the gothic carvings etched into the walls as he made his way, taking care to step around the bronzed suits of armour that stood sentry every twelve or so feet.
A week had passed since the opening of the Briar. Harry and Lucius had been oddly subdued, each in their own way, but Astrid was full of life; things in the manor had begun to settle at least.
Draco stood now before a heavy set of double doors. He tried the ornate brass handles but found them stuck in place. He tried more forcefully, and then even with magic, but they wouldn't budge. He scowled at them – though more out of annoyance than surprise - and huffed out a breath before marching away in protest. Some way further along the corridor he stopped in front of a mottled old mirror. He stroked the frame in an odd sort of way – using the back of his ring finger in a sideways motion. The mirror creaked open like a forgotten door; a few wooden steps led the way down into a narrow passageway. Draco followed it along, shuddering on Ron's behalf as his face broke an ancient spider web.
Draco found his destination with the ease of a child who had long roamed these corridors. The child had relished this secret world, emboldened by knowledge – vindicated, terrified, and enthralled by the secret theory that this world cast hope on: Lucius Malfoy was fallible.
From this theory crept dangerous dreams: Lucius Malfoy was weak. He could be opposed, if only the moment were ripe for it – though it never seemed to be, not to the child, not just yet. One day, he'd tell himself, one day.
Draco smiled and chewed his lip softly as he remembered. He pushed open the back door – the servant's door – and picked his way across a room lined with leather-bound magical texts. The large, empty, gilded frame hanging on the back wall was just as he remembered it.
He placed his hand on the uniformly black canvass, "Are you there?" he whispered.
Harry scrubbed at his fingernails. Flecks of soap and nauseous tears burned and soothed his eyes in turn. Dried blood turned wet and warm slipped down the sinkhole even as its metallic taste once again flooded the sides of his mouth. Harry turned and stumbled just in time to catch the cold porcelain of the toilet bowl before another round of bile launched itself from the pit of his stomach.
He rested his forehead against the cool rim and shuddered a few heavy breaths.
He emerged from the bathroom to find Draco gone; he squinted at the rumpled sheets on the bed dumbly until the bedroom door opened and caused his bones to jump about a foot in the air, leaving the rest of his body safely rooted to the floor.
"Twitchy this morning aren't you?" Draco said, arching an amused eyebrow that quickly morphed into a frown: "Are you alright?"
Harry shook himself and worked at a smile, "You just surprised me is all."
Draco crossed to him and put the back of his hand to Harry's cheek and then to his forehead. He gently smoothed the heavy bags under Harry's eyes with his thumbs.
"You look like you've been hit by a truck."
"Look, I just didn't sleep well."
Draco paused , fighting the sneer that wanted to take hold of his upper lip. He looked Harry up and down and clucked his tongue once. "I'm a bad influence on you apparently," he said in the end, "Get back into bed."
Draco shrugged in the face of Harry's indignation, "There's nothing wrong with you but surprise and a touch of sleep deprivation, fine, good for you, but you're going to get your arse back into bed and eat something before you go anywhere today."
"Why should I?"
Draco floundered. He and Richard had had this argument countless times over the years – the usual way for either of them to answer that question was to pull an impressive 'because otherwise I'm going to smack you one' scowl. Somehow Draco doubted that would help here.
"Let me take care of you," he tried instead, refusing to acknowledge to himself how much of a pansy it made him sound.
Harry held his guard, valiantly ignoring the ripple that dropped through his belly for a whole six seconds before he sighed and gave in. He turned his head back to Draco when he reached the edge of the bed. Draco gave a smile of encouragement and came forward to tuck the duvet around him.
He perched beside him and tucked a lock of wayward hair behind Harry's ear, letting his hand linger on the pillow.
"Where were you anyway?" Harry whispered.
"Hunting for a bathroom, since someone was hogging ours..." Draco chided him playfully. "Nah, not really, wanted to catch up with some of the portraits."
'Ask me again,' Harry thought. 'Ask me what's wrong. Maybe this you would listen, would understand...'
Draco leaned down and kissed Harry's temple. He wouldn't push the subject – it would make him a hypocrite for one thing. Harry would talk when and if he wanted to.
'Stop asking me to hurt you...' Harry swallowed, hard – part of him praying that Draco had heard his thoughts and the other part dreading the same.
"Do you have a sore throat?" Concern creased Draco's eyes.
"No," Harry half-croaked. "How's your back?"
Draco's eyes darkened, his lips parted just slightly, "It's... going to remind me of you all day."
Harry turned his face away but Draco's fingers softly gripped his chin and pulled his gaze back.
"Do you have any idea how perfect you are Harry? What did I ever do to deserve you?"
Harry started to protest but those same fingers of Draco's moved to still his mouth.
"What do you want for breakfast?"
"I'm not hungry. Honestly – I don't think I could eat."
"Not pregnant are you?" Draco joked.
Harry winced, "How could I be?"
Draco felt a wave of unexpected anguish and realised it was Harry's.
"Hey," he soothed, but had no idea what to say to reassure Harry further. Did Harry want to be? Was that it?
"No, that's not it," Harry sighed, rolling onto his side and hating the sheer dumb luck of their bond telepathy, or whatever it was that occasionally granted them access to each other's thoughts.
Draco wrinkled his brow and waited for Harry to elaborate. When he didn't, Draco tried instead: "How about just some toast and an egg?"
Harry groaned and dug his fingers through his hair.
Draco had had a fairly frustrating morning at work. So far, he'd ruined his favourite tie – or rather a hopeless waitress had, crashed his computer, and reduced three people to tears. He leaned back against a rough wall and tried not to think about nicotine as he waited for Harry.
"Jesus H Christ Harry!"
Harry had the decency to look at least a little guilty, "Sorry, couldn't resist – payback for this morning."
Draco puzzled over this explanation for a moment before he remembered, "Oh. Well, you're looking a little less peaky now."
"Come on then, I'm half bloody starved."
They walked in comfortable silence; Draco felt the tension drift off his shoulders with Harry by his side. Harry stepped in behind him to give another pedestrian room to pass; Draco stopped dead in his tracks. His gaze followed the older man as he walked by, hunched over with eyes that sought the ground on instinct. He wore a faded green sweatshirt and a pair of blue jeans that looked like they'd ceased being fashionable in the early nineties; one of this trainers was coming loose from its sole.
"Scott, is that you?"
The man jerked around and squinted from under the rim of his baseball cap, "Matt?"
His face was pallid, scabby, and smudged with dirt. Draco took in a deep breath and grinned, "I knew it was you!" he said as he pulled the slightly stunned man into a friendly hug, "It's been, what, 6 years?"
Scott pulled back and smiled, "Nearly 7."
Harry looked between them as they stared at each other, bemused. A child ran headlong into the back of Harry's legs then and stumbled. Scott reached out a hand to keep him from cowping backwards just as the boy's mother caught up.
"Oh, thank y-" she stopped short as she looked up and took in Scott's appearance. She snatched her son into her arms as though confronted with a monster.
"What!?" Draco spat at her; she recoiled further but didn't move or speak.
Draco audibly snarled at her, "Well!?"
Harry took a step back, shocked at the volatile swing in Draco's mood.
"Matt..." Scott said in a soothing tone, "Leave it. Please. You're upsetting the kid."
Draco glanced at him and then back to the mother, who still hadn't moved. "Well get going then!" he dismissed her.
Scott sighed, "That wasn't necessary you know."
"Fucking was," Draco crossed his arms in front of his chest and watched her scurry off up the street with her wailing son in tow.
"Whole world's full of people like her Matt, you gonna take them all on?"
Scott shook his head and looked at Harry for the first time, but didn't seem to expect an introduction.
Harry blinked, bewildered, "Sorry about him," he extended his hand to Scott and introduced himself.
"Uh, Scott McQuarrie," he replied, taking the hand but barely gripping it. Harry noticed a painful looking sore on the back of it and assumed this was why.
"Scott's an old friend of mine," Draco explained, "Harry's my husband."
"Wow," Scott looked impressed, "Little Matty's all grown up."
"Aw weesht you," Draco said, shoving his shoulder lightly.
An awkward pause settled between the three of them.
"So," Scott started at last, "That flicker finally turned into a flame, huh?"
Draco ducked his head, "Yeah," he said in a small voice. Harry wondered why he sounded so ashamed. "How are you doing?"
"Better," Scott nodded, "Well, not better obviously... Just taking each day as it comes really, I reckon today's a good one."
Draco finally looked up, "Where are you staying?"
"I've got a good place, down near the docks. Its quiet, not too much trouble, you know?"
"Yeah, I know," Draco bit his lip and looked around, "It's bloody freezing huh?"
"Typical Scottish winter alright - is it just me or are they getting colder?"
Draco slipped his long wool overcoat from his shoulders.
"What are you-"
"I owe you a jacket, remember?"
Scott's head jerked backwards and his eyes rolled up as if he were trying to remember, "No, I... Hey, I'd forgotten all about that."
Draco pursed his lips, "Well, I hadn't. I'd give you back your own but it got nicked. Hopefully this will do."
Stubbornness had set into Draco's face, "I'll be offended if you don't take it."
"Always were high maintenance," Scott said in the end, catching Harry's eye for a moment.
"He really is," Harry joined in, though he had no idea what on earth was going on.
"Oi! I'll knock the pair of yer heads together in a minute!"
Scott laughed in spite of himself, "Oh Matt..." he said, thinking privately of the quiet, timid, frightened little runt he'd somehow collected on the streets all those years ago.
Draco lowered his eyes again, "Well, I guess we'd better get going."
"Yeah, me too, got a man to see about a dog and all that."
"Take care of yourself, yeah?"
Scott nodded and started to walk away, "You deserved it Matt."
Scott did walk away then; he pulled on Draco's coat as he went and didn't look back. Draco watched him go and then started moving again - with purpose - in the direction of the Coffee Shop. Harry practically had to jog to keep up.
"Draco, you're crying,"
The dead colour of Draco's voice concerned Harry almost as much as his tears.
"Your friend back there, his face - he didn't look well."
Harry hesitated, "Shouldn't he be in the hospital or something?"
"There's no cure, not even wizards have a cure - he's dying."
"Drop it. Please. You couldn't possibly understand - I don't ever want you to have to understand. No amount of words can make it better so don't waste your breath on them."
Draco said nothing further on route to the Coffee Shop, nor when they sat down at the table with Richard and Asha.
"Ground control to Major Draco?" Asha joked, kissing his cheek and mussing his hair, but Draco paid no attention.
"What a bunch of assholes!" Scott cursed.
Draco's whole frame was slumped as he trailed along at his side, "This is hopeless."
"Hey, there's always hope kiddo, even if it's just a flicker."
Draco simply shrugged and kicked a clump of newspaper into the road.
"Look here," Scott grabbed his hand and tugged him down an alleyway cut with shadows. They stopped in front of a battered doorway; the windows either side were boarded up. Scott took a screwdriver out of his back pocket and got to work on the lock while Draco kept watch.
They snuck inside; the building was a tomb of rotten wood and mould. The piles of rubbish here and there were reassuring: this place had been violated before; the owners may have recently bothered to patch up their security breaches but it was unlikely from the mess that they did so on a regular basis.
"Come on," Scott urged, "Let's try upstairs."
Draco jumped, "Huh?"
"Alright?" Richard asked.
"Mmm," Draco nodded, staring down into the mug of tea Asha had handed him. "We uh, bumped into Scott on the way over."
"Poor bastard," Asha murmured.
Draco chewed absently on his lower lip, "He was so thin... Not long now I reckon," his eyes glazed over.
Draco dug around in their carrier bag of spoils and came up with the other half of his sausage roll from that morning. He toed the bag over to Scott as he began to munch.
"D'you 'hink," he started through a mouthful of cold pastry, "That, like, if elephants could talk-"
Scott tensed and held up a hand to stop him.
"Did you hear somethin' kid?"
Draco shook his head slowly and tried to listen. Nothing stirred except the wind outside.
"Never mind," Scott shrugged. "What're'ye natterin' on about elephants?"
Draco grinned, "Well, d'you reckon they'd be all-"
An obvious thump echoed through the building from downstairs.
"Shit," they both muttered under their breath. Draco hid the bag of food beneath an upturned cardboard box in the corner as quietly as he could.
Footsteps crept up the stairs, they both tried to look as underfed and miserable as they could and prayed for some other worthless sod that wouldn't give them any trouble.
"What 'ave we 'ere then!? Oi, Briggsy, in 'ere!"
The man hanging off the doorframe smirked at them. He was tall and beady eyed – so was his friend when he came. Neither were particularly muscular or broad in the shoulders but they both oozed a misplaced - chemical - sense of righteousness. This was far more dangerous.
Scott made the standard offering of: "Don't want no bother mate," but both he and Draco knew that it wouldn't be enough: They'd just become a thing of sport, and not for the first time that night.
"We'll see abou' that," the first man said, "See, me an' ma mate were lookin' fir a party..."
The men were closing in.
"Uh, great," Scott stalled, moving over to the other side of the room. The men followed. "We've uh, got some booze stashed. Kid go get the booze, we're havin' a party."
There was no booze, Draco knew this. Just as he knew that 'party' did not mean they were about to don little paper hats. Scott was giving him an out.
"Nah, blondie's stayin'."
"Matt, go," Scott said quietly out of the corner of his mouth.
Draco was shut down with fear, frozen to the spot.
"Matt, run for fuck sake!"
Something in Draco's head clicked back into place. He made a dash for the door and slipped under the second man's arm just as he lunged to block his way.
"You little shit!"
Draco reached the top of the stairs just as the man caught up with him again. He felt a hand grab the back of his jumper just as he started to descend, but then, somehow, his foot hit the bottom step. The man cursed in confusion as Draco escaped out into the alleyway.
Richard studied Draco; he pursed his lips then took a swig of coffee.
"Fucked up way to die that," he said eventually; Draco flinched but stayed silent and vacant.
"What?" Harry asked.
"AIDS," Asha said quietly.
Harry gave her a blank look; Draco caught it out of the corner of his eye, "God," he laughed bitterly, putting his forehead in his hands.
Draco crouched behind a dumpster a little way down the alley. The smell of his own vomit reeked into his nostrils from the puddle in front of him but he didn't dare move away. He gripped his hands to his knees to try to stop them from shaking; his eyes were trained on the doorway.
The men slipped out some time later, heads down, not interested in running into him or anyone else for that matter. They headed back out to the street and were gone, as though nothing had happened.
Draco let go of the breath he didn't know he'd been holding. He darted back inside before anyone could see.
"Scott?" he whispered as he reached the room where they'd been.
A groan was the only response.
"To have your body shut down piece by piece like that," Richard continued, "Crumbling under the weight of... god only knows what next."
Harry felt sickened for the second time that day.
"Stop it," Asha snapped.
"And all the while, the whole world cowers from you. Like your very skin is laced with evil. Like if they touched you, comforted you, they'd be condemned to share your fate. Condemned to die alone, unloved, a parasite on a society that would rather-"
""Enough!" Harry intervened at last.
Scott was curled on his side. His clothes were torn and covered in his own blood; he struggled to cover himself. Draco stumbled over to him and landed on his knees.
"Fuck!" was all he could say as he helped Scott onto his back, gingerly pulling his shirt closed and his trousers back up.
Scott let out a yelp as Draco placed a hand on his chest, "Think they've done in a few ribs," he explained in a shaky voice.
Draco's heart was spinning, "Fuck fuck fuck!"
"Draco, you don't even know if-" Asha cut herself off and started again, "He was on the streets long before you knew him."
Richard added, "He got his lot in life and you got yours, its shit, I'm not saying its not-"
"-but there's fuck all I can do to change it, so drink my damn tea and snap out of it?" Draco finished for him sardonically.
Draco narrowed his eyes at Richard, picked up his cup of tea, and drained it in one. "Happy?" he bit.
"Draco," Harry said gently, opening up his arms, "Come here."
Draco looked as though he wanted to resist, mindful that they were surrounded by his staff and customers. In the end he dismissed his pride and leaned his side against Harry's chest. He closed his eyes and tried to bury once more all of the memories that had become unearthed.
Let me know whatcha think?
x X x