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Once Spoken

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"Do you remember that promise I made you?"

"Promise? Do you make promises?"

"The one in the cell during the war."

"I'd forgotten."

* * *

It was only bearable when Harry was there. Otherwise the darkness, the smell of mold and unseen rot, the constant dampness soaking through Draco's clothing made him itch, and shiver, and think of doing ridiculous, maddening things like leaping up and smacking himself against the iron door. Digging his fingers into the spaces between the stones and climbing up the walls. Screaming his voice away.

If his body didn't hurt so much, he would have done all three.

When the door opened and they dumped Harry inside and then nearly cut off his feet slamming it shut again, Draco realized it was better not to think about the details. He might begin crawling up the walls unknowingly and suddenly find himself wedged into the highest window grating before he realized what he was doing. But as soon as he thought that, it became impossible not to wonder where Harry had been for two hours - if he could even be sure of the time anymore.

His ribs ached furiously as he shifted to his knees and pulled himself up the wall. He stepped gingerly over to Harry. The dark haired man was moving slowly, clutching at his head with one hand. The shattered face of his watch glittered in the dim light, scattering tiny fairy glimmers over the walls. Harry rolled over onto his hands and knees just in time for Draco to ease his hands under his arms and help him up.

"Can you walk?" Standard question. Harry always nodded, for which Draco was thankful. He didn't know if he would be able to stomach the moment when Harry answered no instead. Harry's legs were wobbly, but his steps were steady. Draco led him to the low stone bench and helped him sit, then tucked his own legs up painfully and leaned back, resting his head against the cold stones of the wall.

"Fuck," was all Harry said.

Draco nodded, slightly distracted. His own countdown had begun.

"Did they… Draco?"

"No." He shook his head slowly, eyes still closed. The moisture of the cell clung to the back of his neck. "They haven't come for me yet today."

The sound that escaped Harry made Draco open his eyes and sit up straight, wincing at the sharp jabs in his back muscles.

Harry's face was in his hands. "Why can't they just…"

"Take us at the same time?"


Draco didn't answer. They both knew why. Why else would they keep them both in the same cell? The prolonged minutes of Cruciatus - for that was what Draco had experienced thus far - were almost nothing compared to being in Harry's cell. Draco would never admit it to Harry for fear of what might happen to his resilience, but watching the other try to move after being thrown back into their cell each time was doing more to shred Draco than any torture he had yet undergone. Draco had no idea what they did to Harry when they dragged him away. He only knew what happened when they took him: agony so blinding he coughed blood from his scream-ravaged throat, paralysis of every limb that gave him just enough time to realize he could not move, could not escape, before the word was spoken again and he was stabbed through with that pain once more.

But they never took them at the same time. Draco was always at his most mentally sound - and helpless - when they dragged Harry's limp form back into the cell and flung him down into the water pooling by the door. And then Draco's own dread flickered to life again and built and built until—

Harry's hand found his in a sudden spasm of movement. Draco stiffened and groaned.

"I'm not going to let them take you this time," Harry said in a low voice.

"It's not so bad," Draco managed weakly. But the look on Harry's face hurt him so much that he had to stop talking. He watched as Harry turned and tried to scoot back along the bench, only to cry out in pain and double over, clutching his sides. Draco rested a hand on his back and waited.

Finally Harry's voice drifted up from where his head rested on his knees. "Take my mind off of it?"

Draco nodded and moved closer to Harry in slow, painful inches. He raised his eyes to the dripping ceiling and thought for a moment. "Once upon a time there was a little girl who lived at the edge of a large forest—"

"Did that one last time."

Draco blinked. "Right… Well. Back in fifth year, I had this project in—"

A slight shake of Harry's head. His body shuddered violently. Draco's mouth went dry. "What do you want to hear?"

"Tell me something you… haven't yet," Harry said weakly, the words separated by harsh gasps of air.

Draco ran one hand delicately through Harry's hair and studied the back of his neck, the flecks of grime rubbed into the collar of his once white tee-shirt. He touched the skin just behind Harry's ear and found it was still soft.

Draco smiled. "When we get out of this, I promise to shag you all night."

Harry's head shot up. His green eyes were wide. He stared at Draco for a split second before a laugh bubbled up and spilled from him. "What?"

Draco smiled at him tiredly and nodded. Harry's lips spread into a slow, lopsided grin. "But… we don't even have sex at all yet. You want our first time to be an all-nighter?"

Draco's grin was widening. "Sure. Call it an IOU."

"Are you mad?"

"Well, it worked, didn't it?"

Harry blinked, then looked down at his own body and began to laugh. Draco joined him, feeling rather hysterical. He pulled Harry gently toward him on the bench until the other man was leaning against his chest, and began to massage his shoulders.

They were still sitting like that when the footsteps began echoing far down the corridor. Harry lurched to his feet, his entire body stiff. He glanced at Draco. "Oh no."

Draco fought the urge to scrunch into the corner. "Harry, I'm going to shag you all night when we get out of this."

"Stop it."

"I'm going to start with your chest and work my way down."

"Draco, shut up, plea—"

"I'm going to lick you all over," Draco said in a low voice. The footsteps stopped just outside their cell. Draco rose slowly to his feet.

"Draco, I'm not going to let them take you!" Harry's eyes were wild, shoulders quivering. Draco shook his head. He felt the wards go down around the cell doors. His stomach was churning.

"Harry, don't move."


He shook his head. He could taste bile in his throat, feel the twinges of ghost pain all over again. The door swung open behind him and a hand grabbed his arm. Harry jerked forward but Draco slashed his free hand through the air. "Don't."

He let himself be pulled from the cell, watching Harry's hands clenching until even his forearms were white, praying he would not move. Because there was one thing that was worse than seeing Harry return from the torture: watching them torture him right before Draco's eyes.

The door slammed shut, blocking his view of Harry, and the wards hummed up. He thought he heard something slam against the door, but he couldn't be sure.

* * *

Draco's body was a mass of fire. He sat rigidly on the bench, not touching anything. His skin felt like it was being punched through with tiny needles every time he moved. Draco passed a hand in front of his eyes, wincing at the prickly sting. Everything looked gray, the shadows too dark. He didn't know what they'd used this time, but Cruciatus had long been abandoned. The sessions themselves were no longer the worst of it; no, the reasoning behind these milder curses came after, in the hours between. Then what they had done to him snuck up and washed over him in nauseating waves.

Harry's warmth burned him, even from the careful distance he kept. Draco could feel every chilly breeze, every vibration of water dripping to the stone floor. Harry's ragged, shattered voice came in soft tones, but it still hurt his ears.

"Draco, tell me again."

He forced the words out, lips barely moving. "I'm going to… shag you all night long… when we…"

"When we get out of this."


"In my bed or yours?"


"What kind of sheets?"

"Sky blue. C-cotton."

"Where do I want to be touched?"

"You'll tell me."

Harry nodded. Draco's tongue burned the roof of his mouth and he let his jaw fall open.

"I can't see very well, Harry."

"I know." Harry sighed. "They did that to me last week. It'll pass."

Draco swallowed and it felt like shards of glass down his throat. Harry settled back and Draco tried not to think about how hard it was becoming for the other man to move.

* * *

Harry's body jerked and shuddered on the floor, and Draco didn't know whether or not touching him would make it worse. He could hear laughter from out in the hall, high pitched. Draco's knees were a dull mass of orange pain, his trousers soaked through, hands fluttering over Harry.

"Shh… shh, Harry…"

The other man thrashed, eyes rolling back into his head. Draco grabbed his shoulder before he could think and the scream that tore from Harry's mouth sliced a bloody swath through his mind. Draco jerked his hands away, overbalanced, and fell onto the floor. Sharp agony wracked his body, but his anger was greater. He stumbled to his feet and launched himself at the door, grabbing the bars, flinging curses at the echoing, rolling laughter. It died away long before his own words did.

He slumped to the floor and bent over Harry's still twitching form. One thing had been clear for days: they hurt Draco, surely, left him unable to walk steadily, voiceless from crying out. But Harry's returns were much worse, filled with seizures and sudden blossoming injuries. It made Draco want to scream and scream and scream.

And when they took him away before Harry had recovered, he felt like tearing his own eyes out.

Draco lowered his mouth to within an inch of Harry's ear. The other man had quieted for now, but his breathing was harsh, desperate. "Harry… can you hear me?"

The tiniest of nods.

"Harry, don't think about it. Listen to my voice. Listen to me, I promise to shag you all night long when we get out of this. Remember? All night. Imagine it."

Harry shivered fitfully and clutched at his arms with shaking fingers. His skin was pale and clammy. He turned hollow eyes to Draco. "I do. Every moment I'm conscious."

Draco nodded, too forcefully. But Harry's body relaxed visibly, so he kept on nodding.

* * *

They opened the door and dropped Harry into the pool of stagnant water like a limp sack of bones. Draco squinted, trying to see. "Harry?"

No answer. Draco rolled from the bench and landed on the floor with a bone-jarring thud. His mind whirled at the shards of pain that spiked through him and he struggled against the dizziness. Slowly, he crawled across the floor to where Harry lay. "Harry."

He was face down, mouth partially open, half submerged in the murky water. His matted hair was slicked against his forehead with sweat, and dirt had dried in rivulets on his cheek. Draco touched him hesitantly with his fingertips. Harry's face was dead white, deep shadows staining the skin under his half-closed eyelids.

"Harry." Draco shook him, tried to pull him out of the water, but his arms shook and threatened to give out. He closed his eyes tightly, inhaled, and exerted everything he had. Nausea floated through him like an opaque cloud, but this time Harry's body came up in his arms. Draco fell back against the door, cradling the other man half in his lap. Harry's eyelids fluttered.

"Harry?" Draco whispered. The man in his arms coughed hoarsely and blood flecked his lips. Draco's hands began to tremble.

"Draco?" So soft, almost a question. Glassy eyes opened, red rimmed and watery. Draco nodded, trying to focus with eyes that barely saw more than shadows. Harry's parched lips cracked and he shuddered.

"Don't try to speak."

Harry's head shifted, a tiny shake. "Sorry…"

"No." Draco ran his fingers over Harry's face, down his throat. Harry's skin was whiter than his own. Bluish. Draco choked on his own breath for a moment.

Harry swallowed. His voice dropped like shattered glass on the stones. "What… do they want?"

Draco fought the tears, fought his constricted chest. He pulled Harry closer, rubbing at his skin, his wet clothing. The heaviness of the body in his arms was frightening, the slack face, and Draco struggled not to break apart and fall into the mindless screaming that haunted his dreams.

"Harry… when we get out, I promise… I promise to make love to you all night."

Harry's lips tried for a smile. "That's new," he croaked out.

And Draco let the tears take him.

* * *

It was not so much a question of promises kept or broken; it was much more about learning to live once more. Learning that the world held heat again instead of the ice of that cell, embedded into one's bones… Learning to speak again through a torn, sand-rankled throat. The hardest was learning that not all visions of rescue ended with waking up to dripping stones and slimy black moss, to matted hair and grime soaked straight into the skin, to one's own screams echoing off of cold, solid granite, and a shivering body in one's arms.

But Draco found that once, just once, when that dream ended, he was suddenly alone, and he didn't know where he was.

The light seared his eyes. He couldn't see anything. Even something as simple as breathing rattled his body and left him coughing, shaking. He was warm, surrounded by something soft. But he was alone, and for an infinite moment, that was worse.

Sleep would not let him be; it tugged him down again and again, loosing its hold on him only long enough to reveal what he remembered as dawn light, soft and rosy, or the blue blanket of night. As dark as they were, the shadows were still warmer than the dank, slate-colored light of the cell. But every time, he awoke alone. That fact jerked constantly at his failing body. Twice he was held by unseen hands, kept from thrashing, from rolling about. He intended to cast himself from the warm grip of wherever he was, to crawl, to use his nails and pull himself across the ground if he had to, to find Harry. But he was not strong enough to throw off those hands, and then… then sleep inevitably snatched his senses away.

And then once he awoke and heard Harry's voice. And it was much worse because that voice was screaming.

So Draco did it again, he thrashed, and made wretched sounds of his own that did not quite remember how to be words. But he couldn't see Harry. The light was still too bright; there were too many dark shapes, too much movement. His head spun and he retched. Hands on his shoulders again, the whispering of nonsense words, and he drifted back into the darkness, crying out against it all the way.

Days passed, or perhaps weeks. He didn't know how to keep time anymore, not even with the changing light through the windows. Finally he could blink and actually see again, but it wasn't for ages that he finally saw Harry.

He awoke to near-silence this time, but still alone. All he could hear was breathing somewhere to his right. Draco rolled, rasped air into his lungs, and nearly bit through his tongue when he saw him. A dark splotch in the over-bright light, lying out of reach. But Draco knew it was Harry. Perhaps it was because he looked like he belonged in the dark, not in this piercing glow and warmth. Draco reached until his arm went numb from the pain.

Harry's eyes were open, and he was staring at him, a dull haze leaching the color from his irises. His face was hollow, smudged with an age that did not fit. He blinked slowly. Draco stretched his fingers toward him, parting dry, dry lips to speak.

Harry, I promise to… I promise…

The words did not come. He swallowed and tried again, and again. But Harry just looked at him, body curled tightly into itself, and Draco could only hear his voice in his mind.

* * *

There was a point when Draco's voice came back, when Harry's eyes lost their filmy gloss. But it wasn't for nearly a year.

* * *

"Do you remember that promise I made you?"

They were lying on their bed in the still darkness of a summer night. The window was open and the air was muggy, stifling. Draco propped himself on one elbow and ran his fingers lazily through Harry's hair. The other man turned narrowed green eyes on him.

"Promise? Do you make promises?" It was teasing, delivered with a half smile and an amused spark in one eye. But Draco just let his hand card through Harry's hair, feeling the texture.

"That promise. The one in the cell during the war."

Harry's brow creased. They didn't talk about it, ever. Draco continued.

"I said if we got out of there, I'd shag you all night."

Harry nodded, eyes widening in understanding. "I'd forgotten."

Draco stroked the soft skin of Harry's chin with his thumb. He could whisper now, and shout, and laugh, and that was a relief he had not yet learned to take for granted again. But now he just spoke. "They hurt you so badly."

Harry's face darkened and he turned away. "I… Do we have to talk about that?"

"I don't want to shag you all night, Harry."

Green eyes met his, weighted with almosts and uncertainties. What are you saying, exactly? Harry licked his lips. Draco kissed him. He pulled back and touched their noses, listening to the soft shallow breathing from the open mouth beneath his. "But that other thing I said… If you'll let me…"

The sob burst from Harry before he could stop it and Draco raised himself so he could see his lover more clearly. The other man clapped a hand over his own mouth and shut his eyes tightly, shaking his head. "I'm sorry," he said, voice muffled. "I'm so sorry, I don't know why I'm…"

Tears slid down his cheeks and he began to laugh in short frenzied bursts. "Draco, you— Oh god…"

Draco ran a hand down Harry's chest, seeking the warmth of his body, his strong, steady heartbeat. "Shh, I love you."

* * *

When all was said and done that night, they'd made love four times. But when is all ever really said and done?


When Draco thrust into Harry the first time, Harry gasped and blinked rapidly. "I wanted to die that night, Draco."

Draco nodded, sucking in a breath. "I know. I know you did."


The second time they made love Harry leaned his head back over Draco's shoulder and hissed in his ear, "Not our first time."

"I don't think I could have managed it then," Draco whispered back. "And you didn't… want to be touched."

He wrapped his arm around Harry's body, stroking down over his chest, and Harry fell back against him and kissed him hard, breathlessly.




The third time, Harry entered him, an odd look in his eyes. "I love you."

Draco nodded, threading his fingers through Harry's, and tried to close his eyes. But Harry leaned over and said in a frightened voice, "No, you don't know how much, you couldn't possibly—"

And then he bit his lip and shut his eyes, and stroked Draco until he arched off the bed.


The fourth time Harry's sweaty skin shone in the blue morning light. Draco trailed his tongue down his chest and guided the movement of Harry's hips with one hand, and first noticed how sore his muscles were. But Harry's head fell back on the pillow, mouth opening, and Draco kissed him as deeply as he had breath for, and forgot all the little aches. Harry's hands found his shoulders and he stared up with luminous eyes. Draco touched his cheek, fingers trembling.

"Don't cry."

Harry shook his head. "I won't if you don't."