Disclaimer: No matter how much I wish I owned these characters, they still belong to J. K. Rowling. Damn.

Warning: This is male slash. If you don't approve, please disapparate out of the grounds.

A/N: This is a sequel to Dragonweed, set a few years later. Draco has left Harry, and this fic is mainly Draco's, and eventually Harry's, thoughts about love – and its opposites, about the whys and hows, about the truth and lies in their relationship. So, will they get back together…?

(This story was removed due to FF.net disallowing NC-17 rated stories. It has been edited and is now rated R. No new chapters added. Thanks to everyone who has reviewed this story earlier; I was really sorry to lose your reviews.)

Title: SIDE BY SIDE IN ORBIT

"…what if there were two,
side by side in orbit…"

R.E.M., "Nightswimming"

---------------------------------------------------------

CHAPTER 1 – Home Truths

The rain is pouring down, making the world outside melt and slide down the window panes in streams of dissolved lights and bleeding colours, gushing wetly onto the soaked, dark street where it is swallowed. My own reflection in the glass is half transparent, as if I'm about to dissolve, too. I try to look my mirror self in the eyes but they are just dark smudges, streaked with red lights from shop signs and blurred with rain. My world is made up of liquids at the moment, inside and out. I've been in this place for the best part of the evening, a quite nice muggle place, sitting at a table by the window trying to avoid meeting the eyes of women at the bar. I started out drinking wine but it didn't get me drunk quickly enough, so I moved on to brandy. I don't know why I bother to try to get drunk in some sort of style. I could have just ordered the cheapest thing there was, but oh no, not Draco Malfoy. When he gets drunk he does it with a flourish, on Chablis and the finest brandy available. Sometimes I'm not sure whether things like this are genuine or a pose.

So many uncertainties in my life these days. Things I have taken for granted have started to reel under me. And I'd like to see some of them go altogether. I look at my mirror face again. For a moment I imagine all my failings are written on me for all to see. Misconceptions I want to dispose of for good. Facts I can't change, which means I will have to accept them. Facts I can change, which means I will have to take action. Questions I want to have answers to and questions I don't want to have to ask. Banalities I don't want to acknowledge.

Misconceptions: Harry is an innocent person. I am cold.
Indisputable fact: I'm here, alone, without him. And I'm very drunk.
Questions, so simple, so hard to ask and so hard to answer: Do I love him? Does he love me? Will I ever go back to him?
Banality: I do love him.
Definition of banalities: Banalities are truths that have been repeated so often they have become a commonplace; washed-out and uninteresting.

Having to admit that they influence your life makes you ashamed. Having to admit they are central to your life is disaster. We all want to be special, original, not part of the grey masses. But here I am now, trapped in a situation that is not original in the least.

I'm here because I've run off. I'm here because I've left him.

I've run from the greatest misconception of them all, one so enormous I couldn't put it on my list: That we were happy. It seems that this misconception was entirely mine. I thought our relationship was built on genuine love, which might not be the most solid of foundations if you think about it, but at least an honest one. But when something much less beautiful than love showed its face, the ugly stepsister of love, I ran. From her. And from Harry.

I never ran from the Death Eaters; I stayed with them and looked them unflinchingly in the eyes. I didn't run from the Dark Lord on the battlefield; I stayed to fight him. We fought him; I felt Harry's power in me. And our combined power became something more than the sum of its parts; the love between us created something so blindingly powerful that darkness did not have the weapons to destroy it. It couldn't have happened if there hadn't been genuine love, so I know for a certainty that love was there – then. But where did it go? What happened to it? Did it destroy itself out there in the mud and just took a while over dying, or did the darkness really have the weapons to destroy it after all; weapons so subtle and deceptive that we never suspected?

I faced death, but I run from this.

Of course I was the one who ran. Harry would never do something like that. Noble Harry Potter, he doesn't just run off. So noble he is willing to share his life with someone for the sake of gratitude alone. So many times when we have argued, when I've thrown insults at him that come out like ridiculous echoes from our verbal duels in the school corridors, and when he has consistently refused to argue on my level, I've thought oh, come on, Harry, be an arse just once so I can hate you. Well, I had my wish granted. Only to find I can't hate him even then.

I leave the restaurant, having some trouble getting to the door, bumping into tables and muttering slurred apologies. I can't stand the look in people's eyes; half-amused, half-disgusted pity. The rain is still pouring down and splashing up around my feet. I feel really sick now. Better to get it all out, alcohol, sadness, anger, the lot.

I actually have to stop to be sick in the gutter. That's a first. Never been so drunk I had to throw up before. It's a first I could have lived without. Malfoys don't puke in public. I straighten up and lean against the wall, a vile taste in my mouth, rain soaking me and sobering me, enough for me to haul myself back to Zabini's flat that he's been nice enough to let me use. My only bit of luck; that he'll be away for another couple of weeks.

I brush my teeth unsteadily in front of the bathroom mirror. I look awful, hair rat-tailed from the rain, eyes slow and glazed with drink. Just look at you. He won't want you back even if you beg him. Ha. I didn't even know I wanted to go back. Some things really do become clearer when alcohol blurs everything else. This home truth is sharp and clean like the minty toothpaste. What a little rat you are, Draco. Homesick now? Is that what it is? Or is it something even more humiliating?

I have to get some sleep.

* * *

I cure my hangover the next morning with a handy little spell. I don't need Madam Pomfrey's help any more. I stay in bed for a while, my eyes going round the room, looking at Zabini's surprisingly bland and random collection of art. If you are to buy art your heart should be in it. Zabini's heart obviously hasn't been, so I don't know why he's bothered at all. He could just as well have put printed muggle art posters on his walls. I doubt if he would even know the difference.

Harry, I miss you. If you had been here we would have laughed, tried to figure out what kind of posters Zabini would buy, refurbished the entire room for him. You'd have laughed the way you always do on weekend mornings, a little sleepily even hours after you wake up, a little huskily. I feel that laugh like a shiver. I've never told you how insanely sexy I think it is, afraid it would lose that quality if you knew.

I start thinking about my list from yesterday again. Questions and misconceptions. And that less than dignified truth that hit me when I brushed my teeth.

Truths are difficult. They usually require action or reaction. I don't know what to do about this one yet. Truths are also devious; they are so volatile. If you say you love me, it's only valid now, this very moment. What's true now can be a lie tonight, tomorrow, next year.

Except you've never said you loved me. Because you didn't want to lie to me?

Lies. Truths. But if there is no truth, how can there be misconceptions?

I still think this is a misconception: that Harry is innocent.

He may appear to be, and the fact that he sometimes gets painfully confused and has a tendency to blush makes people think he is, but he's the least innocent person I have ever met. Whatever innocence he had, he lost that day in our fourth year. He has deeper knowledge of the nature of evil than anyone I know, myself included. The Death Eaters may have shown me some of the more spectacular sides of evil; ceremonies and rituals that would look good in a horrible sort of way on the muggle movie screen. But Harry's knowledge runs deeper than mine. His runs into every fibre of him, while mine stays a palpable, defined unit. The amazing thing about him is that he has not lost his faith. He has seen evil, felt it, understood it, but he still believes in truth and right and goodness and sanity. He believes in these things in himself and in other people, and this is his strength, the force in him I can't help but admire. My own darkness is raw and rugged and slices into my core. But Harry encases his darkness in a smooth hard shell to keep it from hurting him; like a dark pearl inside an oyster. If you interpret that as innocence you're unbelievably imperceptive.

As for sexual innocence, it's been a long time since he had that, either. I've seen to that personally.

Which takes me to the next misconception: People perceive me as cold. Maybe they just choose their words unwisely; maybe they really do misunderstand. Reserve should not be mistaken for coldness. Few people would guess at my intensity of feeling, but look into my eyes and you will see the anger, the hatred, the love I'm capable of. I don't flaunt emotions and I rarely act on impulse, and a self-contained person always runs the risk of being seen as cold. I think my colouring deceives people, too. The pale, blond, silver-shot colours make them associate me with cold things; snow or chilled cream. But my flesh is as warm as yours. Touch me and I'll burn your fingers.

Even Harry, who knows me better than anyone, makes that connection between me and ice. On my twenty-first birthday he threw a surprise party for me. I really hate surprise parties, but he had put so much effort into it that I was moved. Our flat looked amazing. An enchanted Hogwarts style ceiling showing a velvety dark, starry sky; minimalist décor of silver and ice – even the cocktail glasses were made out of ice; all with Freezing spells on them to protect them from the heat of candle flames and hands. I couldn't bring myself to tell him that he had misunderstood. After all, he knows me so well that his perception of me is a truth in its own right.

Truths. Again. We have reached the Difficult Questions part of my list. If I stop now it will only prove I'm a coward, so I'll have to go on.

Do I love him?

Honesty tastes like cold poison but I swallow it. I do love him, even when I hate him. And most of all I love him in the morning. My pillow-sharer, my full-body hugger, my breakfast companion. Buttery, unhealthy, wonderful three-hour Sunday breakfasts in bed where we lazily move from sweet to salty, from honey to flesh, from smooth to slick.

He makes me become more than myself. He pushes me beyond myself and makes me forget my own limitations.

He showed me that love doesn't have to be a battleground; it can be something that energizes you instead of draining you. He showed me that weakness can be strength, strength weakness. He showed me the protective side of me. I lie awake at night chasing shadows away to stop them from entering his dreams. I need him to need me. He showed me that love doesn't have two sides; it has a thousand: The peacefulness of mutual trust. The breathless exploration of the intricate landscape that is another human being. My reflection in his eye. The hand that gently cups a shoulder blade. The way he makes me believe I can walk on water. The way we crash onto each other's shores like waves.

Does he love me?

Two weeks ago I thought I knew the answer to that question. Now I can only say that he did love me.

One night I woke up in the small hours, surfacing into the dark warmth of the room from depths of soft, black sleep. He lay against my back, our bodies a perfect fit, his arm resting protectively over my ribs and across my chest. I could hear from his breathing that he was awake. I didn't let him know I was. His palm was centered over my heart as if he wanted to hold it. And he did, without knowing; the way he has always held my heart. I heard him say my name three times in a whisper, felt it against the back of my neck. I didn't answer; I didn't smile. I knew I wasn't meant to hear it.

Will I ever go back to him?

I'm beginning to think that I must. I just don't know how to do it.