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such a softer sin

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I

Draco Malfoy first met him when he was eleven. All the words that were in his head had been said to him by his father first, and saying them out loud made him feel years older than the boy he was. In comparison, the stranger that came in Madam Malkin’s seemed small, and though his eyes were bright, he was really rather ignorant, and Draco thought he was quite slow. Draco liked talking to people that were less intelligent than he was, yet this was different somehow. Something about this boy made him want to impress him, to make him realize how much he knew about the world, about Hogwarts.

The meeting didn’t seem remarkable to Draco, and he thought nothing of the sharp pains on his wrists when the boy looked at him, other than to chastise the witch for stabbing him with a pin. It was only later, when he changed for bed, that he saw the words there, the colour of dried blood.  

The same name, on both wrists.

His parents had shown him their own tattoos; each of them had the other’s name written on the inside of their left wrist.

“Soul mates,” His mother had said. “Someday you’ll find yours as well,” She had continued with a smile.

They didn’t mention the other names that sometimes appeared, though Draco had found out about those at another time. One of his father’s friends had come for dinner, and had proudly rolled up the sleeve of the gown on his right arm, showing the words written there. “Alistair Moody,” He said gruffly, “My sworn enemy. He’s the reason my brother’s in Azkaban. He’s still trying to get something on me, but I’m too smart for that.” Then he’d laughed, and Draco joined in, though he wasn’t really sure what the joke was.

Since then it had always been in the back of his mind, the question of those names.

The name of his soul mate. The name of his enemy.

And here he was, eleven years old, and it took him a few seconds for the enormity of this to really sink in.

Harry Potter.

The baby who had defeated the Dark Lord, who had grown up in hiding, who was probably the most powerful wizard the world had ever known.

He thought back to that small boy in Madam Malkins, with the mess of dark hair and the glasses which were too big for him, his baggy clothes- everything about him had been ordinary, a little pitiful, but essentially normal.

Could it really have been Harry Potter?

If it was, then this meant that boy was his enemy. Eleven year olds weren’t really meant to have enemies, Draco was fairly sure of that. And there was something intimidating about having this boy’s name, a name he’d grown up hearing, associating it with power he could never understand, tattooed on his wrist, this promise that they were mortal enemies.

Even worse than this though, the knowledge this boy was his nemesis, was the unbelievable fact that Potter was supposedly his soul mate as well.

He rushed to his door and out into the hall, softly hurrying towards his parents’ room, desperate for them to give him some explanation. But his hand faltered as he reached for the door nob, suddenly thinking of what his father would say.

Boys weren’t meant to have boys as their soul mates. He was supposed to have a girl’s name, so he could marry her and they could have a family. That was just the way it was. He wasn’t sure what it meant for a boy to be his soul mate, though he was certain it would be cause for his father’s scorn.

He would think Draco had messed it up on purpose, that he was deliberately trying to harm the Malfoy name, would try and force the words to disappear. He’d be so angry. More than anything, Draco wanted to be the sort of son that his parents were proud to call their own.

So Draco lowered his hand and walked back to his own room.

 

The next day he wore a jumper even though it was warm outside, and spent the whole day terrified that someone would suggest he change into something cooler. All summer he was paranoid that someone would see, that they’d walk in by accident when he was changing, or that his sleeve would move and they’d catch a glimpse of the words there, or that his mother would just know. He was certain that he pulled at his sleeves too much, that he looked at his arms too often, and every night he lay awake imagining what his father would do if he found out. It would be worse now, after he’d hidden this from him.

Rumours were spreading about Harry Potter coming to Hogwarts, and as the topic was discussed in great deal over dinner, Draco could have sworn he felt his wrists burning.

Maybe if he ignored it, the names would disappear. Maybe it really was a mistake. He would see Potter again at Hogwarts, and it would become clear that he was neither Draco’s enemy, nor his soul mate, and his wrists would be blank again.

 

The first of September came too fast, and he was stood on the platform, about to leave home for the first time. He knew he should be excited, that ahead of him were the best years of his life, but all he could think was that he’d be sleeping in a dormitory with other boys, and he’d have to dress in front of them, and surely one of them would see the names. A few days ago he had bought a couple of thick leather bracelets, and though they were big enough to cover the writing, he still practiced what he’d say if someone noticed, tried to work out how he’d explain himself.

“You should try and befriend him,” His mother said as she flattened his hair.

Draco pulled away, embarrassed, “Befriend who?”

“Potter, of course. Or at least get to know him. We don’t know what sort of wizard he is.”

She was his mother, and he didn’t want to disappoint her, so he promised that he’d do his best. Then she smiled and kissed his forehead, and Draco wondered whether making her proud would be enough to hide the shame he concealed beneath his sleeves.

Later, after Draco had caught up with Crabbe and Goyle, which didn’t take long as neither of his friends were particularly good at holding up their side of the conversation, Draco mentioned the rumour about Harry Potter. He had heard a sixth year girl saying that she’d seen him in one of the compartments, and the knowledge that he was so close filled Draco with an excitement he wished he could smother.

“Shall we go see whether he lives up to the legend then?” He asked the other boys, trying to make his voice sound sarcastic and unbothered. His mother would want him to make the effort, to seek him out, to be one of the first students to talk to him. His father would be proud that he’d taken the initiative.

They looked through the windows of every compartment, until a boy Draco knew, the year older than them, told them where he’d heard Potter was sitting. “Looks like he needs some guidance as to who he should be talking to, if you ask me,” He said, eyes glinting with amusement.

When Draco opened the door to the compartment and looked down at the boy with the untamed mess of hair, the skin where his name was written tingled slightly, and Draco didn’t need to ask to be certain that this was Harry Potter. Yet still, he asked, “Is it true? They’re all saying down the train that Harry Potter’s in this compartment. So it’s you, is it?”

So it’s you, he thought, watching the other boy carefully. You’re the one I’m meant to hate. The one I’m meant to love. Such emotions seemed ridiculous, fanciful, to an eleven year old. Yet even then, he found a part of him wondering whether his name had appeared on Potter’s body.

He introduced his friends casually, then said his own name, waiting for something to flicker across Potter’s face, recognition, a clue that they were a pair in this secret. There was nothing.

He was so busy watching Potter that it took him a moment too long to respond to the laughter which followed his name. People didn’t laugh at the Malfoys, and Draco responded quickly to the insult, making sure Harry knew it was the Weasley family that was the laughing stock.

Yet Harry refused him, decided that he was better with the poor, foolish, Weasley boy. He thought it would be so easy, to show Harry he was exactly the sort of person he would want as a friend.

He realised now that Harry was different, that he wasn’t like all the other children that Draco had grown up knowing and befriending, that it would take some other quality to appeal to him. He just didn’t know what.

It didn’t matter anyway. Potter was his enemy.

Even if something had gone wrong with Draco Malfoy, and he’d somehow ended up with this boy as a soul mate as well, it wasn’t as though he could act on it. It would be easier to hide, to stop people asking questions, if he kept his distance.

He would write to his parents and tell them Potter was clearly a Muggle lover, and probably had no exceptional magical abilities, and that there was surely a mistake. Then he wouldn’t have to have anything more to do with Harry Potter.

Then he could force himself to believe that every law he’d ever been taught about magic and soul mates was wrong, that there were exceptions to the rules.

 

Professor Binns mentioned the history of the soul mate tattoos one lesson, a few weeks into term, just in passing, and Draco felt his stomach lurch, suddenly convinced that all eyes were on him. He lived in fear, every waking minute, of what people would say if they found out. Within his House he had friends, people respected him, and he knew that he’d become a laughing stock if they knew the truth. He was trying his best to look anywhere but at Harry.

There was no logical reason why Potter was meant to be his soul mate. Whenever he saw him, all he felt was slight irritation, not love. Weren’t soul mates meant to love each other?

Then Harry slowly raised his hand, and Draco couldn’t help but look at him. Even so early in their time at Hogwarts, the students had quickly realised that concentrating in History of Magic was a lost cause. Any deviation from the normal tedium warranted scraps of attention.

Professor Binns looked up from his notes and stared blankly at Harry for a few moments, “Do you need to be excused, Mr Parsely?”

“No, Professor,” Harry answered, “I actually had a question. About the soul mate thing.” There were a few sniggers, mostly from other Slytherins, and Draco thought it best to join in. “Why do the names appear only on the wrists of witches and wizards? Why not Muggles?”

“Well, you see, it’s part of our magic. It’s in our blood. There’s no stronger magic that that produced by love and hate. Muggles just aren’t as connected to the power of these feelings. They don’t feel with the same intensity as us.”

The Mudblood girl’s hand shot up. “The idea of a person having one person who they’re destined to be with is simply ludicrous, who does-”

“I’m not a theologian,” Professor Binns said dully, “I’m an academic. I choose not to waste my time of such questions. Now, if we could return to the structure of Goblin society in the early twelfth century…”

Draco’s heart continued to thump sickeningly for several minutes, as he thought over and over the exchange. Why would Potter ask such a question? Was he just curious, or had a name appeared on his wrist and he wanted an explanation?

Was it Draco’s name?

Then there was what Granger had said, about each person having that one person that fate had chosen out for them.

It was entirely possible that a name had appeared on her wrist since the start of school. Draco knew that many people met their soul mates at Hogwarts. She didn’t seem like the sort of person to listen to fate though.

Knowing one’s soul mate didn’t mean that you instantly fell in love with them, it just meant that you always knew, somewhere along the road, that they were the one. It was a complicated business really, messy and confusing and downright terrifying in Draco’s case.

He’s never heard of anyone who had two names exactly the same. Except for a character in a fairy tale, murdered by his true love.

He didn’t exactly find that reassuring.

 

Throughout his first year at Hogwarts it was easy to convince himself that Harry Potter was nothing more than a minor annoyance. Sure, it was infuriating when Potter got a place on the Quidditch team, even though he was clearly no better at flying than Draco, and everywhere he went he got attention and adoration, and he seemed to think it was his right to always be at the centre of everything, but Draco was sure his irritation was matched by everyone else’s in Slytherin.

He couldn’t help the fact that the look on Harry’s face when he followed him into the air to retrieve the Remembrall made his heart beat too fast, or that he sometimes caught himself daydreaming about the way Harry looked when he flew in games, and the look of joy on his face when he won his first match, or that sometimes he sought him out just so he could speak to him. None of that meant anything. Some ancient magic saying that Potter was his soul mate didn’t mean it was set in stone.

At times it seemed just as ludicrous that he was also his greatest enemy.

Except at least that one might make his parents a little proud.

Following Potter, that night when they snuck a dragon out of Hogwarts, filled Draco with satisfaction, a small rush of victory. He wasn’t sure why he did it, only that he was so sick of Harry thinking that he could get away with anything, that he was untouchable, that nothing could harm him. Turning him in meant that Draco could harm him, could tear him down, could make him realise that he was not unbreakable.

That was enough, he decided. That was how he could deal with this. If he despised Harry, worked to make his life difficult, to make Harry hate him too, then there was no way they could be soul mates. People couldn’t remain soul mates if they didn’t even like each other. That was just the way it worked.

 

At night sometimes, he would take the bracelets off his wrists and brush his finger over the words tattooed there, wishing that they would change or fade away, that he could stop living with this burden.

 

“Malfoy?” Harry called out one day after Potions. Granger and Weasley had been forced to stay behind to help clear up a mess Longbottom had made. Crabbe and Goyle had both been in the hospital wing since breakfast after getting into a fight with a few of the Hufflepuff students- Goyle had seen one of their soul mate tattoos and was taking the piss. Draco had hung back during the exchange, convinced that if he made a comment, something about his tone would let them know that he had secrets of his own.

It was a few weeks after the detention he and Harry had had together, when they’d found the dead unicorn and that evil thing had swept passed them, and Draco still wasn’t sure whether he was meant to forgive himself for abandoning Harry.

“What?” He asked, careful not to sound too interested, and turned slowly.

“Do you want to walk to class together?”
“Why would I want to do that?”

Harry didn’t look like he knew the answer, and it was a few moments before he spoke, his words sounding like he was making too much of an effort to make them sound convincing. “It just seems stupid for us both to walk in the same direction, with only a few steps apart.”

Draco stared at him. It seemed like a suggestion of friendship, a peace offering, and Draco just couldn’t understand it. There was no way this wasn’t a trap, that he wasn’t being set up to make a fool of himself.

“I think I’d rather walk by myself that put up with you, Potter. You should have borrowed your friend’s rat, then you’d be able to pretend you were walking with your Mudblood.”

There was an almost disappointed look in Harry’s eyes, the same kind that he often got when Draco said something. It was like he was always hoping to be given a different impression, for Draco to show himself to be something different, like he hadn’t given up on him quite yet. Draco wished he would give up. It was getting harder and harder to convince himself that pushing Harry away was the right thing.

“You know, it’s no wonder that the only friends you have only hang around you because they know your father’s rich. If it weren’t for that, no one would want anything to do with you. You’re nothing but a worm, Malfoy,” Harry said poisonously, holding Malfoy’s gaze.

Soul mate. What a joke.

“I wouldn’t talk like that if I was you, not when your only friends are a partially brain dead Weasley and that Muggleborn girl. I don’t know why you act all superior all the time, not when-”

“Oh, shove off Malfoy.”

“You were the one that wanted to walk to class together.”

“I was trying to be civil.”

“Well don’t bother next time,” Draco snapped, the turned his back to him and walked quickly towards his next class, trying to put as much distance between them as possible. Every cell in his body was screaming at him to shout, to curse him, to make him realise that Malfoys were meant to be treated with respect.

And a part of him, a tiny part that he refused to acknowledge, that he barely allowed himself the luxury of contemplating even in his dreams, wished he could take it back. Would it really hurt so much, just to walk to class with him? To stop being so set on tearing Potter down?
He pushed that thought away before it was even fully formed and kept walking.

Fantasies about talking to Harry, properly talking to him, and laughing with him and flying with him and studying with him and cheering for him in Quidditch matches… All of those ridiculous fantasies, they were dangerous, selfish, and he couldn’t indulge himself in them for even a moment. Destiny wasn’t the boss of him.

 

II

By the time Draco realised that he might have a crush on Harry, he was already in way too deep. He’d been watching him before he even knew why, had been transfixed by the crease in his brow when he was writing in class, by the way he ruffled his hair and laughed at his friends’ jokes, by the glint in his eye when he came up with a sarcastic retort, for too long. Draco had convinced himself that his admiration of Potter’s flying abilities was nothing but jealousy, and that he only went out of his way to piss him off because he didn’t like him. He’d even managed to believe that there was no particular reason why it was mostly Potter’s face that came to mind when he was jerking off, which was a pretty impressive feat, looking back.

So what if there was a twinge of guilt every time he laughed with friends when they called Thomas Meening a fag when he walked passed? So what if sometimes he would let himself imagine that Harry’s name was only on his left wrist, that they were only soul mates, that there were no complications that stood in the way of them being together?

It was only when he was at the Yule Ball, and watched Harry dancing with the Patil girl, that it properly hit him. Clear as a bell that one thought filled his mind, and he almost gasped.

It should have been him up there, dancing with Harry.

He could imagine it so easily, and there was nothing he could do to force the image out of his head, to stop feeling the sensation of Harry’s hand on the small of his back, his face just inches away, the two of them moving together to the music.

“I have to get a drink of water,” He mumbled to his date, and he moved through the crowds as everyone else started to dance, slipping out of the hall when no one was looking. She didn’t talk to him after that, but he didn’t care. He just wanted to be out of there, to not have to look at Harry and hate the fact that he wasn’t his, hating the fact that he wished he was.

“What do you think of Isabella? In the year above?” Pansy asked one evening, when it was just the two of them sitting in the common room, finishing a Charms essay that they’d both left to the last minute.

“With the curly hair?” Draco clarified, looking up from his half finished homework.

“Yeah.”

“Well, umm…” He tapped his quill, overly conscious of the tattoos that he’d been hiding for what felt like forever, “She’s not really my type.”

Pansy snorted, “I know that,” She looked down at her essay, her face becoming serious again, “What I meant was that she’s my type. Literally my only type. Fuck, that doesn’t make sense.”

“Wait, is she…” Draco cleared his throat, “Are you?”

“Gay?” Pansy smiled, “Very. This showed up on my third week at Hogwarts,” She pulled up her shirt sleeve to show him where Isabella’s name was written on her left wrist in dark red lettering, “It took me another month to figure out who she was. Until today I’d never actually had a proper conversation with her.”

Draco didn’t care much for gossip unless it was something incriminating, but there was no way he could miss out on all the information that buzzed around the Slytherin common room. “Isn’t she dating one of the Beauxbatons boys?”

“She is,” Pansy said miserably, “But I don’t know how serious it is. Loads of people date people who aren’t their soul mates. I mean, it’s not like we really know each other.”

“Why are you telling me this?” Draco asked, a little suspicious. He wasn’t particularly used to having conversations where he was meant to show sympathy or compassion. And Pansy had never struck him as the sort of girl who sought that out.

“Secret for a secret?” She waggled her eyebrows, “Don’t think I haven’t noticed those bloody bracelets on your wrists. Seems like a bit of an extreme measure, don’t you think?”

Draco’s heart felt like it dropped into his stomach. “They were a gift from my uncle.”

“Right.”

There was something though, some part of him that wanted to share this. After all, Pansy had shared her secret, had trusted him, giving him the power to ruin her. He was so sick of keeping this from everyone, of living every day wondering if he would have to hide forever, if something big and awful was going to happen, or what people would say if the truth came out somehow.

So Draco sighed, and unbuttoned his shirtsleeve, then untied the bracelet that covered his tattoo, the one for his soul mate. Harry Potter.

Pansy whistled. “Okay that’s bad.”

“You think?”

“Honestly I thought it was Blaise.”

“What?” Draco didn’t wait for an answer, “You see now why no one can know?”

“Yeah. Yikes. Shit, Draco. Your father would be so pissed,” She mostly seemed amused though. It really wasn’t very helpful. “What about your other wrist. You’ve got a name written there as well, haven’t you?”

“That’s none of your business,” Draco snapped, and tried to return to his essay, but Pansy lunged for him, her fingers tight around his arm and she untied the other bracelet. “Pansy this isn’t a joke!” He said, words clipped and too loud, but the damage was already done.

“Wow, you’re fucked,” She said, then paused because continuing, “And I thought I was having a tough time.”

It felt like such a relief to here someone else say that, for someone else to admit what a ridiculous situation he was in, that he just started laughing. After a few seconds, Pansy joined in.

 

All the other contestants had been out of the water for what seemed like hours, though Draco knew it couldn’t be that long. If it had been hours, they would have sent down a search party.

Why hadn’t they sent down a search party?

“C’mon Draco, I’m bored…” Pansy whined, taking his hand and flashing him a flirtatious smile. Their friends begged them to get a room, and Pansy dragged him through the crowds, down the steps to the bottom of the stands, until they were alone in the shadows. Draco slid to the floor, pulling his knees to his chest.

“Thanks,” He mumbled. He struggled to find the air to form the word. He was trembling all over, sick with fear, unable to shake the thought of Harry’s lifeless body floating through the lake’s dark water. What a ridiculous risk, all for this game. And Draco had spent the last few months going so ridiculously out of his way to show how much he wanted Harry to fail, driven by the growing awareness of his crush and his determination to smother it, and it all seemed so petty now. Logically, he knew there was no way Dumbledore would let his precious Harry Potter die, but his body wasn’t listening to logic at the moment.

“He’ll be fine.”

Draco pulled up his sleeves and tore off his bracelets, clenching them in his fist. “The names turn white when they die. Right Pansy?”

She sat down beside him, “Yes Draco.”

“And I would know? If he was dead?”

“He’s not dead you idiot.”

Having Harry Potter being so engrained in his life, in his thoughts, was far too stressful. The guy was constantly putting his life on the line, and whenever he did Draco felt sick with fear, whilst also hoping that he would just die and let Draco live his life without having to think about him all the time. He didn’t even know why he cared so much. He barely had anything to do with Harry, other than snide remarks and Quidditch games, yet the thought of him dying was too enormous for him to properly imagine.

Maybe it was just the knowledge that if he died now, all Draco would be left with would be questions. He’d always wonder whether they could have been together, whether he was Harry’s soul mate, what it meant to have the same name on both wrists. And he’d always hate himself for not taking that risk, for not throwing concerns about his parents and his friends into insignificance and just being honest about something for once.

There was a deafening roar of cheers, and Draco breathed a sigh of relief. That meant Harry was alive.

Of course he was alive.

Later, as the crowds made their way back up to the castle, Draco hung back, waiting to talk with Harry, knowing that he was being an idiot but unable to do anything else. Harry was talking with Cedric, but asked him to go on ahead when he saw Draco. He still did things like that sometimes, like a part of him was still waiting for Draco to drop his act and show his true, kindly heart. Problem was that Draco had been forcing cruelty towards Harry for so long, suppressing his feelings, that he wasn’t really sure what the truth was anymore.

“You know, Potter, for a few minutes there I was starting to wonder if you’d drowned,” Draco said. He didn’t know why he said it, and he supposed that he’d meant it to sound mocking, but instead there was a hint of genuine, real, concern. He wished there was a way that he could subtly throw himself into the black lake.

“Why do you care?” Potter asked, curiosity barely hidden beneath his terse, aggressive question.

Draco leant back against a tree and folded his arms. This was easy, this back and forth with Potter, second nature really. “They might put an end to the competition if you were actually killed. Besides, from what I’ve heard about the final task, I’m much more interested to see how mangled you’ll be after that.”

Harry gave him a withering stare and shook his head slightly. “At least if I’d drowned, I wouldn’t have to put up with you any more.”

“Wow,” Draco said, raising his eyebrows, “That really hurt. You really wounded me. Fuck, no one’s going to believe me when I tell them about that amazing comeback.”

“Are you done?”

There was something about Harry’s tone that made Draco immediately feel very stupid, and he uncrossed his arms. Harry’s hand twitched towards his wand. “All I meant was that I was… Concerned. About you. It really would be tragic for the Boy Who Lived to be defeated by a large pond.” This was too much, he knew it was, and he wanted to take it back as soon as the words left his lips. He also wanted to keep going. “All my comments this year, well, obviously I don’t want you to die, Potter. Surely you don’t think that.”

“Is this some sort of joke?”

I really wish it was, Draco thought bitterly. How could he have been so unlucky as to fall for this self-righteous, angry, danger magnet? A danger magnet who he was pretty sure his father had tried to kill in their second year, though he had never gained conclusive proof for that one.

Draco just smiled, really hoping it looked genuine, “Hogwarts would be a quiet place without you, Harry.”

Potter narrowed his eyes, as though waiting for Draco to follow that with some sly comment. Draco felt his cheeks flush. Merlin, he hoped it wasn’t noticeable. Pansy was always teasing him about how easily he blushed. Now he was starting to wish he had said something else, then laughed at Harry and walked back to the castle, but the pause had been too long now and he was stuck with what he’d said and wished Harry would just respond. In literally any way. Telling him to piss off would be better than this silence.

“Yeah, I guess it is kind of annoying when I cause a disturbance trying to stop Voldemort,” Harry said, mostly looking at his feet. Draco hated the way the Dark Lord’s name sounded on Harry’s lips, like he was daring him to find him, to try and take him down. It reminded him that Harry was always prepared to fight, to charge into battle in the name of what was right, and when he thought of that he was all the more aware that there was nothing for him if he was to pursue a relationship with Harry. Not when Harry was a valiant soldier even at fourteen, and Draco was a pathetic loser who got scared as soon as he was outnumbered.

He really didn’t know how Harry did it sometimes, going through each day, knowing that there were people who wanted him dead, including one of the most powerful wizards who had ever lived. And Draco wasn’t stupid enough to believe Voldemort was really dead, as much as he’d like to believe he was. Voldemort would return, perhaps in the next few months, maybe in a few years, and when he did, Draco’s life would only become more complicated.

“Look, just. Don’t be an idiot, there’s no need to take unnecessary risks. It’s just a competition,” Draco shrugged, and started walking up the path. Harry caught up with him.

“Does this mean you’ll stop with those ridiculous badges?” He asked dryly.

“No chance, I worked hard on those,” Draco said with a smirk. When Harry shook his head, he seemed almost amused.

 

Draco was walking to lunch two days after the Final Task when he was pushed against the wall, Harry’s hands on the front of his robes. “Is now really the time, Potter?” He said with a grin, because it was the first thing that came to mind. Things with Harry had been a little easier since the second task, like they had an understanding of sorts. He hadn’t had a chance to see him since what happened in the maze, not that he knew what he was meant to say.

“You knew, didn’t you?” Harry snarled, “You knew that the cup was a portkey, didn’t you?”

“How could I possibly know?” Draco pushed him away and smoothed out the front of his robes, “You said yourself, the plan was Crouch’s and Pettigrew’s, my- people are staring, Potter.”

“I don’t care.”

He really wished he could explain to Harry, that he could be honest, that he could let down his guard for just a second. But he couldn’t, especially not in front of all these people. “If you go around talking like that, you’re going to find yourself being carted off to St Mungo’s crazy ward. If you’re implying that my father had something to do with this ridiculous story, then I’m sure you can take it up with the Minister of Magic.” He hated every word he was saying, but there was nothing else he could say. He couldn’t stand up for Harry, comfort him when he’d clearly been through hell, not unless he wanted to turn against his parents, his friends’ parents, to make himself appear a fool in front of his classmates.

Harry grabbed his wrist, his fingers on Draco’s bracelet, and Draco’s breath caught. Harry’s face was so close that Draco could see his eyelashes, the dark circles under his eyes, his own reflection in Harry’s glasses. His fingers were millimetres from where his name was tattooed in Draco’s skin, and maybe he questioned the need for the leather bands, because he furrowed his eyebrows a little before Draco yanked his hand away.

“I’m sorry that Cedric died,” Draco murmured, trying to find some balance, “He didn’t deserve to be caught up in your mess.”

Harry looked like he was going to punch him. He didn’t. He just walked away, and as he pushed through the crowds people whispered. Merlin only knew what they were thinking.

But if Voldemort really was back, and Draco could hardly just write to his father and ask, then it looked like the nemesis part of the tattoos might be about to make some sense. The Dark Lord might choose him to be the one to bring down Potter, to lead him straight to his doom. Draco wasn’t sure yet whether he would willingly agree to that.

Harry was everywhere, in all his thoughts. He dreamt about kissing him, about running his hands over his chest and through his hair and pressing his lips to every inch of him. He dreamt about killing him too, pushing him from the top of a tower, holding his head under water.

Both types of dreams filled with equal, lingering feelings of guilt and shame. He ached to be close to Harry, in any way, and his anger and desire and irritation and longing were all so tangled up that he couldn’t always decide what it was that he wanted.

 

III

He was so sick of this, of his whole life narrowing down to the task before him, everything being completely consumed by fear and desperation and determination. Each day passed in a blur, and he was weeks behind on homework, spending every moment when he wasn’t in class toiling away in the Room of Requirement. And all the while, when Draco was terrified of failure, and equally terrified of succeeding, Potter was watching his every movement, determined to catch him in the act, as though he thought all of this was Draco’s choice, as though he thought he was enjoying this.

Draco pushed the door to the boy’s toilets open with what was probably far too much energy. The sound of it slamming behind him was oddly satisfying, proof of his anger.

The Bell girl had nearly died because of him. Weasley too. He didn’t know why it mattered to him, Potter was the only one who was trying to accuse him, and both students had recovered. He had just never considered that he was putting anyone else in harm’s way, had never thought about the other people who would be hurt in the carrying out of his task. If he brought the Death Eaters to Hogwarts, more would be hurt, might even die, and it would be on his head.

They were people he didn’t care about though, people who were as meaningless and unimportant as he was.

And all his attempts so far had been so weak! Snape had said it himself; Draco needed to be smarter, more ruthless, stop tiptoeing around the problem. He had practically begged Draco to let him carry out the task instead, but he didn’t understand. Draco couldn’t show weakness, couldn’t give up now, not after he’d let the task consume his thoughts so completely. If he gave up, then he would have nothing. He would be nothing.

All he had become was the promise to kill Dumbledore, and the fear that he lived with every day.

And Harry went out of his way to make this harder, not knowing that every time Draco saw him, all he wanted was to tell him everything, for Harry to comfort him, to offer reassurance. Yet all he offered was hate, and anger, and Draco so fucking tired of being in love with this bastard who refused to see past the brat he had always been.

The ridiculous thing was that Draco knew they would understand each other, that they were both broken and scared and forced into a path they didn’t want to take, but Harry had given up on trying to see that years ago. He had thought, back in their fourth year, that things might change, that they could change, had started to hope that he’d be able to figure out what they meant to each other, but then Voldemort had returned and ruined everything.

Draco sighed shakily, swallowing back the sobs that threatened to break at the back of his throat, and rolled up his sleeve to reveal the evil, twisting shape of the Dark Mark on his forearm. He ran his fingers over the worn leather band that covered Harry’s name, and after a slight pause, took that off as well. It was a hateful image, those two tattoos so close together, these two separate promises that his fate was not his own, that there were feelings and allegiances he could never escape from.

Destiny was a dick, telling an eleven year old that he was meant to hate and destroy his soul mate. It had messed with his head, convincing him that the only way he could do this, the only way he could survive school and the rest of his life, was push Harry away, whilst longing to pull him closer. He had two obsessions- finding ways to irritate and torment Harry, and imagining how he would remedy all his mistakes, perhaps discovering Harry alone after class, and knowing just the right words to say so that Harry would pull him into a kiss.

When things got dark, Draco allowed himself to picture being with Harry, though he had accepted some time ago that imagining it was as close as he’d ever get.

It must be some sort of curse, he thought, looking down at the name tattooed on his skin, another punishment for his father’s weakness, or perhaps for his own feeble, cowardly nature. This was made to torment him, to drive him mad as he attempted to figure out what it meant, to wonder what it was that made fate so certain that they were meant to be together.

Any relationship Draco pictured with Harry was messy, and doomed, and would burn out fast, and then Harry would leave for some girl who would at least give him stability.

There was nothing for him to hope for, not the happiness and feeling of it finally being right, that so many others talked about.

A whimper escaped his lips, and once he’d let that out, the rest of his pain followed, and he shook with sobs and tears and his frustration at the great mess of it all.

He was struck suddenly with wondering how much it would take to scar his skin so that the tattoo was illegible. Would that help, he wondered, if he replaced his anger with something tangible? With physical pain, with a physical scar, something he could explain without feeling like his whole existence was a joke? He could burn it away, cast a fire at the end of his wand and press it to his skin, so that Harry Potter’s name was gone.

“Draco?” Myrtle crooned from somewhere else in the bathroom.

He tried to stop his crying, to slow it so that it came out in gasps. Like he was drowning and struggling for air, knowing that it was hopeless.

“Don’t… Don’t cry. Tell me what’s wrong… I can help you.”

“No one can help me,” He rubbed his hand over his face, but the tears kept coming. It felt good, in some ways, to finally allow himself to break. “I can’t… I can’t do this any more. I’m sick of it…. He says he’ll kill me… I don’t know how…” He shouldn’t talk about this out loud, he’d already confessed too much to Myrtle, and it was a miracle that she’d kept his secrets this long. Especially as she seemed to exist for gossip. “I’m so tired of keeping this hidden….” He turned to show her the tattoo, to show her how hopeless it all was, and that’s when he saw Harry.

Harry Potter, watching him from the door, watching him blubber and break down and looking like it was a victory for him. How dare he? How could he stand there, thinking he was the only one suffering, thinking Draco was uncomplicated and it was a surprise that he had any feelings at all.

He lashed out, overcome by his desire to have Harry gone from his life, but his hex was badly aimed and his hands were still shaking. Draco blocked the jinx Harry aimed at him, ignoring Myrtle’s cries for them to stop as he cast his own curse, hitting the bin. One of Harry’s spells smashed something behind Draco, and water poured everywhere.

Draco didn’t have time for this childish duel, and went to walk past harry, but slipped on the wet floor, his legs flying out from beneath him. He tried to sit up, but his head was pounding, and the room was spinning. Fingers grabbed his forearm, and he heard Harry’s pleased comment, “I knew it. I knew you were…” Then he faltered, and Draco’s vision cleared enough for him to see Harry looking down at his arm, distracted at first with the triumph of discovering the Dark Mark, before his eyes had fallen on Draco’s wrist, where his name was written. “What is this? Malfoy I…”

Draco fought past his dizziness and shoved Harry away, staggering to his feet. “Not a word of this, to anyone Potter. It’s not what you think.”

“But…” Harry shook his head and stood as well, and there was something about him that made him seem like all his defences had fallen away. “I never knew. I always thought that I… That we…”

Not a word. Or I swear, I will kill you.”

“I think we need to talk about this,” Harry pleaded. It was alright for him, he’d only found out a few seconds ago. Draco had been living with this for nearly six years. He picked up his wand from where it had fallen and held it in front of him, pointing it at Harry. If this secret got out, Draco would be ruined. He had spent too long keeping it hidden, trying not to act on feelings he knew he couldn’t deny, to let it all be ruined now.

“Draco…” His first name sounded strange when Harry said it, and it was almost enough to make him hesitate, soften, allow himself to stop spitting hate at this boy.

“No, I don’t need you to remind me how pathetic this is,” Draco hissed. He tried to leave but Harry grabbed his arm. Draco flung him off and flicked his wand, casting a stinging hex which Harry only just managed to dodge.
If he let Harry go, he would tell his friends. By the evening, the information would be all over the school, everyone would be talking about it, convinced that this was some story of star-crossed lovers or something. No doubt that Rita Skeeter would get her hands on it too. His life would become one huge, miserable joke.

He resented Harry so much for being so unattainable, for thinking so little of Draco, for being exactly the sort of person that Draco wasn’t supposed to love.

Cruci-“ He started to say, blinded with rage, and Harry cut him off before he finished the curse.

“Septumsempra!”

Sharp pain ripped across his face, his chest, everywhere, with such a force that he fell, again, to the floor. Distantly, he could hear Harry’s cries of alarm, and all he could think was the bitter awareness that he only cared because he knew how bad it would look, that there was no way he would appear innocent in this.

Myrtle was screaming too.

Harry’s hands fumbled with Draco’s shirtsleeve, pulling it down and buttoning it over his tattoos. A small mercy, some way to make up for what he’d done.

Maybe he was like the fairy tale he’d heard when he was a boy after all, about the wizard who was murdered by his true love.

 

He had hoped that Harry would at least avoid him after that. But it was worse than ever. Now he seemed all the more determined to get him alone, to talk to him, and Draco hoped it was just to apologise, though he suspected he might have other intentions.

Someone tapped his shoulder in Transfiguration, and when he turned they passed him a note. He resisted the urge to roll his eyes at how immature this was.

Wait for me after class. Please.

It was written in Harry’s untidy scrawl, still unsuited for writing with quills even after all these years. Draco supposed he didn’t have much choice, not when Harry had the ability to tear down Draco’s world if he chose. So he hung back when everyone else was packing up, and all he wanted was to go back to his dormitory and catch a few hours of sleep before dinner. He could only sleep during the day now. The night held too many fears that he could ignore when the sky was still light.

“What do you want?” He asked under his breath as Harry approached him.

“To apologise about the other day,” Harry replied. They left the room together, the rest of the class already disappearing down the corridor, “I didn’t know what the spell would do…” Apparently Harry had tried to see him when he was in the Hospital Wing, but he had been refused entry, and for good reason. The cuts on Draco’s face had mostly healed, but there were still pale pink scars across his chest and stomach, and he woke up from nightmares convinced that he was lying in a pool of his own blood. Yet Harry expected to be forgiven just because he didn’t know what he was doing.

“Who the fuck casts a curse when they don’t know its affects?” Draco asked, not expecting an answer, “You’re more of an idiot than I thought, if you expect me to believe that lie. You could have killed me.”

“Yeah, and I’m sure the world would really miss-“ Harry stopped himself, and pursed his lips like it was a great effort to say something genuinely kind, “If I’d known, I would never have cast it. And it’s not like you can be all judgemental, Malfoy, you were going to use the Cruciatus curse on me!”

“Are you finished with your apology?”

Harry looked around the now empty corridor. Everyone was probably on their way to dinner. “That’s not all I wanted to talk about.”

“You want to blackmail me?” Draco’s hand twitched towards his wand, “I thought I’d made it clear-”

Just listen, alright?” Harry took a steadying breath, and rolled up his own sleeve. “I spent all these years thinking it was a mistake, that it was part of Voldemort’s curse. When I asked Hagrid about it he said it would be best if I never told anyone, that your family was bad news and you were no different. All these years I was waiting for something to change, for some proof that I wasn’t broken…”

On the underside of Harry’s left wrist was written Draco’s name.

Draco’s name.

He took Harry’s hand, staring down at those words in disbelief, brushing his fingers over Harry’s soft, smooth skin. He could feel his heart thudding absurdly fast, his pulse in his fingers, his shaky breathing.

“Does anyone know?” Draco asked, always afraid, always watching his back.

“Just Hagrid. I didn’t know what it was when it first appeared, and I’ve had Voldemort’s name on my wrist since I was a baby, but my aunt and uncle never gave me an explanation, and Hagrid tried to explain but he also said your father was a dark wizard- I’d started to think that you had someone else’s name,” He was rambling, words he’d always been so afraid so say out loud spilling from him without control.

Draco had thought about it over and over, what he would do if this happened, what he would say. Usually it involved pushing him against a wall and kissing him roughly, hands pulling him so close that there was nothing between them, so that they were pressed so tightly against each other that they couldn’t breathe.

Here he was, with the reality, and it was Harry that kissed him. It was hesitant, chaste, nothing more that a brief brush of their lips, yet when Draco pulled away he still felt like the world was spinning beneath him.

There was a look on Harry’s face like he still hadn’t figured out what he was meant to think. “Why did you do that?” Draco asked, immediately regretting his question when all he wanted to do was keep on kissing Harry.

“I thought…”

“You thought that was what you’re meant to do, right?” Draco was overwhelmed by the reminder of how bloody infuriating Potter could be sometimes. This was just one more mess in Draco’s far too stressful life, and Harry thought it was as simple as fixing it all with a kiss.

“No,” Harry insisted, and cupped the side of Draco’s face with his hand, his brow furrowed, “Do you know how much I’ve wanted this, wanted you, and I always thought you hated me, but you were just…”

Draco jerked away from Harry’s touch, feeling suddenly like he’d let go of a lifeline, “I do hate you. This changes nothing.” That wasn’t completely a lie. When it came to Potter, the line between love and hate had always seemed rather blurred.

“Draco, please, just-”

“What do you want? To go on dates to Hogsmead? Make daisy chains? Win this war with the power of love?” Draco scoffed. Words of hate always came easily to him. “Leave me alone. I already have enough to deal with.”

“Like the task Voldemort has asked you to carry out?”
Draco was frozen then, in his hated, his resentment. “So that’s what you want, Potter? For me to confess to whatever ridiculous crime that you’ve invented?” Harry started to protest, but Draco didn’t care, snatching at any opportunity to destroy what they almost had, “I’m not planning anything, so you can stop stalking me and get on with your life.”

“You’re lying.”
“What makes you think that? Some soul mate bond?” Draco forced a mocking laugh. He wished he could stop talking like this, but he had no idea how to explain to Harry that his name was on Draco’s other wrist too. He could never be with Harry, not whilst Voldemort was still alive, not whilst his family had to be perfect if they didn’t want to be murdered.

Fuck this. If it was just a crush, he might have been able to deal with it, either let it pass or drag Harry into an empty classroom and kiss him until they were both breathless, sneak him into the Slytherin dormitory and fuck him so he could stop imagining what it would be like to have Potter moaning beneath his touch. This was more than a crush though. Soul mates didn’t go away once he found a way to resolve the tension. The way he felt about Harry was in his blood, in his bones, engrained into every thought.

If he let himself have even a little of what he hoped for, he knew that he’d never be able to tear himself away from Harry.

“Look,” He said, needing all the strength he had not to grab Harry and never let go, “You’re the Chosen One. Surely you know that it wouldn’t exactly look good to be associated with someone like me?”

“I don’t care.”

“You should,” Draco said, then turned and walked away. Harry didn’t follow him.

 

The weeks passed by and that conversation started to feel unreal. Harry had stopped trailing his every movement, had stopped looking at him in class, and gave no indication that he thought about their conversation. All those years, wondering whether he and Harry were in this together, only for him to throw it all away out of fear. What he’d said gnawed away at him, but he was too proud to apologise.

At least he thought he was. But then the letter arrived from his mother, and something crumbled.

… We’re running out of time Draco. You have to act soon, or he’ll… Draco screwed up the parchment in his fist and tossed it into the fire. Pansy’s only reaction was to raise her eyebrows at him from where she sat, half in her girlfriend’s lap.

“Trouble at home?” Blaise asked.

Draco hadn’t told them anything. He couldn’t. But there was no way they could have ignored the state Draco had been in over the past year.

“Mum’s just nagging me. It’s nothing.”

She was worried. And she only reminded him because she was so scared for him, because their lives were dominated by trying to please the Dark Lord. No doubt his aunt had been round as well, asking why Draco hadn’t acted yet, asking whether he was weak, making some comment about him being too much like Andromeda (which Draco had never seen, personally.)

He didn’t want to die. He was so close now, and all that kept him going was the thought that it would nearly be over, that there might be a life beyond all this fear.

But all he could think was about how much he had done for the family name. He had spent years hiding his soul mate, hiding the truth about himself, because he didn’t want to let down his parents. Yet his father had been the one to let him down in the end, being so weak that it was Draco who had to take the blame. It was his father who had been so drawn in by Voldemort that there was no other path for Draco but to continue that loyalty.

“Do you still have that stash of Firewhisky, Goyle?” Draco asked, looking up at the other boy, and glad that he didn’t care enough about Draco to worry about him drinking when he was in a miserable mood.

The rest of the group went to bed after a couple of glasses, worried about what teachers might say if they were caught, but Draco was way passed caring about such things. He welcomed the numbness, the simplicity of thought, all confusion and doubt simply fading away. After Goyle had passed out on the couch, Draco left the Slytherin common room and stepped into the dark, cold corridor outside. He would go to Harry, talk to him, make him understand. Draco had made a dreadful mess of things, and there was a good chance that he’d be dead in a few weeks, so what was the use of denying himself this any more?

He clung to the shadows when figures passed, slowly making his way towards the Gryffindor tower. It had to be nearly midnight. Only once he was close did he begin to worry about the process of actually getting inside.

He needn’t have worried. After a few minutes of standing and begging the Fat Lady to let him in, the portrait swung open and Harry stepped out.

“I was under the impression that you didn’t to see me,” Harry said, a little blearily. He was wearing pyjamas, like he’d been in bed just moments ago.

“How did you know I was out here?” Draco asked. Maybe Potter was psychic. He was amazing at everything else, so it wouldn’t be surprising.

“I have my ways. What do you want? Are you drunk?”

Draco felt himself stumble into Harry’s arms, something in his brain letting him forget that he wasn’t meant to do this, because all he wanted was to stop thinking about all the damage that he’d caused and all the threats he was trying to live with. He expected Harry to pull away, but instead he wrapped his arms around him, and Draco buried his head in his shoulder, not caring at all that he’d promised not to do this. It just felt safe to have Harry close like this, to feel the warmth of his body against him, around him, making everything else just fade away.

Harry made some excuse about not wanting to stick around in the corridor, and went back into the common room, returning a few minutes later with a cloak and wearing a pair of shoes. Draco wasn’t really that shocked to discover that Harry had an invisibility cloak. Of course he had a fucking invisibility cloak.

They walked up to the top of the tower in silence, and sat in the open air beneath the stars. The night was remarkably warm for early June. They sat with their backs to the low wall, tipping their heads to look up at the dark sky, splattered with light. And, slightly tipsy from the Firewhisky and the elation of being so close to Harry, Draco started talking. He told him that, when he was a boy, his mother had told him that his name came from the stars, like so many of his family.

Harry smiled softly, a little sadly. Perhaps he wished he knew where his parents had found his name.

“Why did you decide to stop ignoring me?” Draco asked, voice hushed, afraid the stars might over hear his vulnerability.

“I was curious,” Harry said, just as soft, “Then when I saw you, there was something about your expression… I thought it would be better if you weren’t alone.”

They sat quietly for a while, it was hard to tell for how long when they were alone in the night. “Harry?”

“Hmm?”

“Can I kiss you?”

Harry chuckled gently, “If you like.”

So Draco leant forwards and pressed his lips to Harry’s, hand reaching up to brush his fingers through Harry’s hair. There was something about the night that felt endless, infinite, and they kissed slowly, mouths opening cautiously as their hands tentatively explored the other. When Harry’s touch moved over the scars on Draco’s torso, still raised and showing no signs of healing completely, he froze.

“Don’t worry,” Draco murmured, caressing Harry’s cheek, “We’ve both given each other our fair share of scars,” Then he brought their lips together again, unable to get enough of the taste of Harry’s mouth, the warmth of his tongue, his shaky sigh when Draco’s hands rested on his thigh. If tonight was the only night they had, if tomorrow Draco was too scared to let this happen again, if he died before the month was over, he wanted to memorise every inch of Harry. He wanted to know him, better than anyone else.

He didn’t care that night about anything else. It was enough to finally have this, to know that if nothing else ever happened, at least there was this. There would always be this.

 

When the next morning came, Draco didn’t feel the rush of shame he had expected. Instead he spent the whole day going over everything, though alcohol made it all seem rather fuzzy, distant, when he remembered it.

Everyone else spent the weekend studying out on the grounds in the sun, but Draco snuck Harry into his dormitory, kissing him hungrily, desperately, nothing like the tender kisses of that night. Daytime felt like a timer to Draco, another day of failing, the threat of the Dark Lord looming over his head, and he longed to forget it, to lose himself in Harry’s touch.

“What if someone walks in?” Harry asked when Draco pushed him back onto the bed, his hand resting on Draco’s chest so that he paused for a moment, eyes on Harry’s lips.

“They won’t.”

“Malfoy.”

“Right, do you want to stop?” Draco asked with teasing smirk, hand skimming over Harry’s thigh. “Believe me, my friends know to knock first.” If Harry realised the implications of this, he didn’t seem to care, and pulled Draco down to kiss him again.

They fell into a pattern, snatching moments when they could, hooked on the feeling of being together. Neither of them was really certain whether they wanted other people to know, so they kept it secret. It was best that way, the thrill of sneaking around, of every moment being precious.

Draco justified it by telling himself that this way Harry didn’t care about discovering his secrets any more. He didn’t know how Harry justified it.

Sometimes, they would find a concealed spot on the grounds, and Draco would lie with his head in Harry’s lap, half reading a book, half talking to Harry about inane, meaningless crap like school and exams, and it would have been perfect if Draco wasn’t acutely aware that every word he said was just trying to deflect from questions about Voldemort.

“What are hiding under this one?” Harry asked one morning, the two of them taking advantage of Draco’s access to the empty prefect bathroom, finger brushing over Draco’s bracelet. “Who’s you nemesis?” They were sat on a small ledge in the bathtub; Draco straddling Harry’s lap, and it seemed ridiculous to waste time on answering that question.

Draco forced himself not to pull his hand away too fast, not to show too much fear on his face. “It’s nothing, it doesn’t matter,” He said, and pressed kisses to Harry’s neck, gently easing his hand away from Harry’s grip to move it down his waist, beneath the water, deciding that hand would be far more suited to grasp Harry’s cock. And perhaps he should have felt guilty, when Harry’s question was forgotten in his sighs of pleasure, but Draco really couldn’t bring himself to spoil what they had with the truth, not yet.

 

“Well, at least now you know that you were right,” Draco said bitterly a few weeks later, when they stood again at the top of the Gryffindor tower on a gloriously warm day. Draco had been hiding there a lot when classes were meant to be taking place, sneaking up when everyone else was busy.

He couldn’t bring himself to care about the end of year exams.

That was where Harry had found him.

And he looked at him like he had too much to say, and yet could find no words. Draco knew the feeling.

“With Dumbledore gone, this school won’t be safe for me next year,” He said, filled with hate unlike anything he’d ever used when talking to Draco before. “I’ve tried saying that it was you, and Snape, but… Guess you think this makes you untouchable?”

It was hard, trying to feel bad. Most of the school was grieving, but Draco felt free, elated, and even though he knew it wouldn’t last he was revelling for now in the knowledge that he was safe for a little while, that nothing else was expected of him, that he had survived.

“He threatened to kill me.”
“I know. I was there.”
Draco stood with his elbows resting on the parapet, looking out over the castle’s grounds. “Surely you know what it’s like? To not have a choice? And it wasn’t as though I ever really cared for the guy.”

“You disgust me,” Harry said. For a moment, Draco thought he was going to leave, but apparently he wasn’t done yet. “I hope I never see you again. I don’t care what happens to you, if you die or not. If I could carve these damn words from my skin I would.”

“I’ve tried that,” Draco admitted, trying not to linger on the dark days that had followed Harry’s confession about his own tattoos. “It doesn’t work.”

“I can’t believe that all the times we were together, you were planning… Were you really so desperate to be with me that you thought all the rest didn’t matter?”

Draco almost laughed, and he turned back to look at Harry. Glorious Harry, his bare arms tanned, eyes filled with vengeful fury, hand clenched around his wand and ready to march into war. Slowly, Draco untied both of his bracelets, pushing them into his pockets. He took a step towards Harry, and held out his hands to him, palms up, like a plea.

Then he smiled cruelly, because that was really all he knew how to do. It was easy to hurt, to wound, to hit back. “Do you really think I want to be with you, Harry? Did you actually think the nights we spent together were anything more than a distraction from everything else? At least when we were fucking you stopped caring about what I was planning.”

Once Harry was gone, Draco held his hand out into the air, fingers clasping the bracelets that he’d bought when he had so much less to fear, yet the terror felt as big as the others he’d had to live with since then. He opened his fist, and they were whipped away by the wind.

Harry Potter.

Soul mate.

Enemy.

Maybe he’d never figure out what it meant for him to be both.

 

IV

“Well Draco? Is it? Is it Harry Potter?”
It had been months since he’d last seen him. Every night, Draco checked the tattoos by wand light to make sure that they were still the colour of dried blood, that they hadn’t turned to the ghostly, pale white of the dead. Even after all that time, he knew Harry’s face better than he knew anyone’s. He had dreamt of it since he was eleven, watched him with unfading fascination and adoration, memorised every shift in his expression when he talked to friends, to teachers, to Draco. The boy that stood before him was virtually unrecognisable.

There was something about his stance though, about the way he held himself… Draco had been watching his every move for as long as he’d known him. Maybe he was just imagining it. Maybe the suggestion placed in his mind was making him imagine similarities when there were none.

He prayed that it wasn’t Harry, that he hadn’t been stupid enough to be caught by Snatchers.

Draco tore his eyes away, “I can’t- I can’t be sure.” He could feel Harry’s gaze on him, felt like it was him who was being examined.

“But look at him carefully, look!” His father said excitedly, a sort of madness lighting up his features, “Come closer! Draco, if we are the ones who hand Potter over to the Dark Lord, everything will be forgiv-”

“Now,” Greyback warned, “We won’t be forgetting who actually caught him, I hope, Mr Malfoy?”

“Of course not, of course not!” Lucius stepped closer to Harry, talking with the werewolf, saying something about a stinging jinx. If Draco said right now that it was Harry, that he was certain (and the more he looked at him, the more he was sure) then his father was right, they could drag themselves out of the mud again. If that meant condemning Harry, then maybe that was a sacrifice he should be willing to make.

“Draco, come here, look properly!” Lucius ordered, “What do you think?”

Draco had no choice but to obey. Walking towards Harry seemed to take an age, and once he was stood in front of him, he was caught in the gaze of his eyes, like a deer transfixed by the bright light of a curse shooting towards it.

He knew those eyes, knew with complete certainty that it was Harry.

Fingers brushed against his wrist, and although Harry’s expression didn’t change, there was no way that it could be an accident.

Soul mate.

“I don’t know,” Draco said, stepping away. “I don’t think it’s him.” He stood at his mother’s side, and she squeezed his hand.

“We can’t call him here if we’re not certain, Lucius,” Narcissa called out, “They say this is his wand, but it doesn’t resemble Olivander’s description. If we call the Dark Lord here for nothing…” She stood, hands reaching out to her husband, but he was too caught up in dreams of redemption to notice her plea, “Remember what he did to Rowle and Dolohov?” It was hell, fearing for his family’s safety, for his own safety, yet also being consumed by the sickening horror that came with considering Harry’s death. Draco didn’t know where to stand any more. He wished he didn’t have to choose at all, that his parents had been different people, that he wasn’t living through a war when he should be finishing off his studies, preparing for what came after school. Now his whole life had become getting through every day, praying that Harry had survived the day as well.

“What about the Mudblood then?” Greyback growled, swivelling the prisoners so that it was Granger facing the room.

“Wait,” Narcissa turned to look at Draco, eyes wide with relief and excitement, the same glee that he had seen in his father’s face. They were both so desperate to not live in fear and disgrace anymore. “Yes- yes, she was in Madam Malkin’s with Potter! I saw her picture in the Prophet! Look, Draco, isn’t it the Granger girl?”
Draco felt Harry’s eyes on him again, felt the lingering sensation of his touch, and shook his head, turning away. “I… Maybe. I never knew her that well.”

“But then, that’s the Weasley boy! It’s them, Potter’s friends- Draco look at him, isn’t it Arthur Weasley’s son, what’s his name…”

“They all look the same to me. I just don’t know.” He sounded weak, pathetic, unconvincing. Try harder. “Father, maybe we should wait until the jinx wears off,” Draco suggested, carefully, not wanting to embarrass Lucius, “There’s so much to lose if it isn’t him.”

“Scared, Draco?” Greyback asked mockingly, and Lucius span, hands gripping the front of the werewolf’s jacket.

“You would be too if you had any common sense,” He threatened, so far from the measured tone he usually used, and the affect was only further diminished without a wand. His threats seemed empty these days, too ambitious, a madman still clinging to the power he knew he had lost. “Don’t talk to my son that way.” Would he still defend Draco if he knew that he was deliberately stalling for time, that all he could think of was the fucking name tattooed on his wrists?

The door to the drawing room swung open and Draco’s aunt stepped in. Lucius relaxed his hold of Greyback. Bellatrix swept towards her sister, but her eyes were on the prisoners. “What is this? What’s happened Cissy?” She demanded, like she owned the place now. She looked over at Granger and Weasley and the others, quietly delighted. “But surely, this is the Mudblood girl? This is Granger?”

“Draco isn’t sure,” Lucius said without looking at his son.

“Don’t be ridiculous. Of course it’s Granger.”
“It’s Potter too, we think,” Greyback said, taking advantage of Lucius’ uncertainty.

“Really? Potter”

There was a pause. Draco hoped with every fibre of his being that Bellatrix wouldn’t question him, wouldn’t force him to admit that he knew Potter. His aunt scared him.

“It’s him,” Lucius said forcefully, clearly deciding that it was better to appear like he knew what he was doing and to risk everything than to continue to seem weak in front of Bellatrix.

“Well, then we must summon the Dark Lord!” She announced, all ready to take control. There was some argument about who should take credit for Potter’s capture, then it was discovered that the Snatchers had found more than the country’s top undesirables, and that they had found themselves some gold as well. Gold that Potter and his friends shouldn’t have had.

Granger was forced to stay behind so she could be interrogated. Harry and the others were dragged off, and Draco tried to catch his eye, to try and convey how sorry he was. Really though, he knew there was no apology he could make that would fix where he’d placed his loyalties.

When they tortured Granger he counted to one hundred in his head over and over, focussing on the numbers and not her screams. Perhaps this was what it meant to be Potter’s enemy, he thought numbly, that he loved him yet sat their whilst one of his best friends was tortured, sat by as people were hurt and killed and Draco did nothing because he was so afraid.

Bellatrix gleefully found Weasley’s name tattooed on Hermione’s wrist, crooning to her about how her boyfriend would be next, that it was wrong, a Pure Blood being so tied to a Mudblood like her.

They brought in the goblin at some point to get answers about the sword, to find out whether Granger was telling the truth.

“Well? Is it the true sword?”

Draco really wished he understood what was going on, that people told him about these things, so he could know which answer to hope for. Another part of him honestly just couldn’t bring himself to care.

“No. It is a fake,” The Goblin answered, voice even and steady.

“Are you sure? Quite sure?”

“Yes.”

Bellatrix visibly relaxed, but Draco stayed tense, fists clenched where they rested at his sides, “And now, we call the Dark Lord,” She said, pushing back her sleeve and touching her finger to the Dark Mark. “And I think, we can dispose of the Mudblood. Greyback, take her if you want her.”

Weasley lunged into the room shouting, disarming Bellatrix. Potter followed close behind, unmistakably Harry now that the jinx had worn off. Draco cast a harmless jinx, deliberately aiming badly so that It hit the wall, not wanting to arouse suspicion by not attacking.

“Stop or she dies!” Bellatrix shouted, and in the confusion she had pulled Hermione from the floor and was holding a knife to her throat. “Drop your wands. Drop them, or we’ll see exactly how filthy her blood is.”

All the times the word ‘Mudblood’ had fallen off Draco’s tongue, all the times he’d thought it without question… Had he ever really wanted this? Did Harry think of that too, of all of Draco’s hatred? Did he know that, in that moment, he wished he could take it all back?

“I said, drop them!”

“Alright!” Harry shouted, and he and Weasley both dropped their wands. There was something different about them, Draco thought, something that made them seem older than they were. What had they been through, he wondered, for them to seem more like war hardened soldiers than teenagers with a tendency to always be stuck right in the middle of danger? All this time, Draco had just presumed that they’d been hiding out somewhere, waiting for it all to blow over. Or, at least, that’s what he’d hoped for, believing that perhaps it would be better if Harry just disappeared. Now, looking at them, it was clear that they’d been up to something else.

Bellatrix ordered Draco to pick up their wands, and he didn’t know how to refuse so obeyed quietly, avoiding looking at Harry and seeing his loathing. His aunt began to give out orders, but was interrupted by a grinding noise from above. They all looked up, to the great, beautiful chandelier, just in time to see it quiver slightly, before it came crashing down.

Crystal shards flew everywhere, stinging across Draco’s face and hands, and it was a wonder that he wasn’t blinded. When he looked up, Harry was standing before him.

He nodded, almost imperceptibly at Draco, to ask if he was okay. Draco nodded back, then he stumbled past Harry, pushing all three wands into his hands, not caring at all that one of them was his.

 

Draco should have learnt after all those years that it was usually best to just stay away from Harry. Yet he still found himself in the midst of the Battle of Hogwarts, desperately searching for him.

“There!” He grabbed Goyle’s arm, seeing Harry figure up ahead, turning down the end of the corridor. It was a corridor Draco knew all too well. “He’s headed for the Room of Requirement.”
“Well then, let’s go,” Crabbe said darkly, a gleeful spark in his eyes. Draco had done his best to shake them off, but that had only convinced them that he wanted the glory of finding Potter for himself, and they’d insisted on coming with him.

They caught up just in time and slipped inside the door seconds before it disappeared, and were fortunately unnoticed by Potter and his friends as they moved amongst the stacks. Draco pressed a finger to his lips, gesturing for Crabbe and Goyle to move in opposite directions, so they could circle Potter. Begrudgingly, they did as he asked. Draco followed Potter carefully, almost losing him a few times in this maze, and hoping that Crabbe and Goyle had lost their way as well, that it might buy him a few seconds.

Harry was stood alone when Draco finally caught up with him, reaching out for what looked like a tiara perched on top of an old stone statue.

“Seems like a bad time to be looking for fashion accessories,” Draco quipped, smiling to himself when Harry whirled around.

“So what’s your stance today then?” Harry asked wearily, “Are you on my side or not? Or are you still making up your mind?”

This moment felt like it should be bigger than it was. He thought there should be something more than Harry’s tired irritation and disappointment, that there was something about there relationship that felt like more than a dream. “I think-”

“Drop the wand Malfoy,” A voice said behind him. Granger. Weasley appeared too, wand outstretched. So Potter still hadn’t explained to them. Or perhaps he had, and even so, they rightly didn’t trust him.

“I want to help,” He replied, desperate to sound sincere.

“You expect us to believe you?” Weasley asked scornfully, “Why would you help us?”

Draco sighed, not really giving a shit about secrets any more, as they seemed rather unimportant in the midst of this battle, “Look, if you’re so desperate for an explanation, Harry’s my-”

Crabbe and Goyle chose that moment to find them all. “What are you playing at, Malfoy?”

“I thought you’d have gone to Voldemort,” Harry said, not looking past Draco.

“Well, Malfoy said he wanted to find you. We thought we’d find ourselves a bit of glory.”

“Is that right?” Harry asked, eyes only on Draco, “So when you said you wanted to help…”

This was a choice again, Draco thought, somehow bigger than the one presented to him at the manor. He could lie, and they could bring Harry back to Voldemort and all would be well, and it would be Draco that had finally fixed the problems his father had made, and Harry would be finally gone from his life. Or he could be honest. He could choose, now, to stand with Harry.

He was bound to make the right choice eventually, after so many years of choosing badly and foolishly.

“I couldn’t shake these two off my back, I made up some lie about wanting to bring you to You Know Who. But I’m here to fight with you, Potter. Unless you have a problem with that.”

Harry didn’t have a chance to respond, because a curse flew in Draco’s direction and if he didn’t know Goyle’s techniques so well he wouldn’t have been able to block it, and after that jets of light, sparks, were flying everywhere. Crabbe and Goyle were outnumbered though, and weren’t especially skilled in the first place, and it soon became clear that they didn’t have any chance of winning this. A spell hit one of the piles of objects and it toppled, everyone diving out of the way to avoid being crushed. More debris fell around them as the duelling intensified, and Draco swore he saw flashes of green light.

“Blood traitor scum!” Crabbe snarled. They’d been separated from the others. “You in love with the Mudblood, is that it?”

Draco just stared at him in disbelief. Though, he reminded himself, this was the same guy who didn’t realise Pansy and Isabelle were dating despite the fact they spent every spare moment snogging each other senseless. What a fucking idiot.

“Nope, that’s not it,” Draco said calmly, “It’s actually Potter I’m in love with. Now why don’t you run back to the fight and tell your father.”

“What?”

“I’m in love with Potter, that’s why I wanted to help him,” He repeated, slowly, ensuring that he sounded sincere because Crabbe’s shock and clear refusal to believe him was sort of hilarious.

“All these years, I’ve been taking orders from you- from a- a queer.” Draco flicked his wand, and Crabbe went flying backwards. He hoped he’d hit his head and died.

Draco started to run back through the stacks, following the sounds of shouts and explosions. Then he began to feel heat behind him, hear the roaring, billowing noise and turned back to see vast flames swallowing up the stacks. Dammit Crabbe. Some friend he was.

Before he knew it, he was surrounded. The fire was everywhere, shifting into dragons and snakes, filling his path at every turn. It swallowed up centuries of hidden objects, of memories, and Draco couldn’t help but feel a huge sadness that everything here had been important to someone, at some point, and they had placed things here for safe keeping, and here they were, all turning to dust.

A tendril of flame caught up with him, the wing of a phoenix brushing against his arm, and he screamed in pain but kept running. There was no sign of the others, of Harry and his friends. Maybe they’d already got out. Maybe they’d left him here.

He found a stack of objects that had been mostly untouched by the fire so far, and didn’t think. He just started to climb. His injured armed cried out in protest but he kept moving, his stomach lurching with terror when objects wobbled beneath him, when he struggled to find a hold.

He perched close to the top as the fire began to consume the base of the pile, realising sickeningly that he’d trapped himself, that he was doomed to die here.

Doomed to die because he’d followed Potter, because he’d wanted to help him. All he could do was swear quietly, having accepted the joke that was his life a long time ago, and no longer surprised when things worked out this way.

Through the smoke he saw figures, on broomsticks. One swept towards him and he held up his arm, but the other hand couldn’t get a good grip on his. The fire was just a few feet below him now, and he climbed further, the stack weak and likely to crumble beneath him at any moment.

The figure swooped again and this time caught his arm, pulling him up onto the broomstick. It was Harry.

Draco wrapped his arms around his middle and breathed a sigh of relief, clinging on tight to Harry, determined not to let go this time.

“What are you doing?” He shouted when Harry flew away from the exit, sweeping above the stacks, “I know you have a thing about martyrdom, but I’d rather not be involved.”

“Shut up!” He dived, expertly, towards one pile of objects, snatching up the tiara he had been reaching for earlier, though now it was blackened with soot.

Then they flew towards the door, avoiding the reaches of the Fiendfyre and rushing out into the corridor beyond, where the air was clear and cold.

Draco collapsed on the ground, leaning against the wall, gasping for smoke free air. Goyle was sat a few feet away. There was no sign of Crabbe.

“Where’s Ginny? She was here. She was supposed to be going back into the Room of Requirement,” Draco could hear the worry in Harry’s voice, and for one stupid moment felt a swoop of jealousy. Had he ever worried about Draco like that? There had been rumours that Harry and Ginny were an item, and Draco had always been to afraid of the answer to ask Harry, even during those weeks at the end of sixth year.

Weasley was talking, suggesting that they go look for each other, and Draco noticed that there wasn’t really any difference between the anxiety in his voice and in Harry’s.

“So what did you risk our lives for then, Harry?” Draco asked, eyes on the tiara.

“What? Oh, yeah…” But as Harry lifted the object, looking at it carefully, and dark, black substance began leaking from it, like ink but thicker. It broke apart in his hands, and Draco thought he heard a scream, quiet, distant.

“It must have been Fiendfyre!” Granger exclaimed, “One of the substance which can destroy Horcruxes, but I never would have dared to use it… There’s only one left now!” She said elatedly.

“Well,” Draco said, getting to his feet, “At least Crabbe’s stupidity was useful for something.”

Harry looked at him, properly, and there was something in his eyes Draco couldn’t quite name. Forgiveness, maybe. Understanding. Relief. Something else, perhaps.

“I really wish you hadn’t tried to help us,” Harry said, but it wasn’t cruel. Even Draco had to admit that it had made everything very messy and complicated, and they had all nearly died in a fire cast by Draco’s friend.

“I won’t bother next time, then.”

“Perhaps stick to what you’re best at,” This comment was a little more critical. It was deserved though.

“I’m done with being a coward.”

He meant it.

He was done with running, hiding, just doing what he had to do to stay alive.

And he was done with pretending he wasn’t completely in love with Harry, done with trying to push him away because he was so scared of what people would say, so afraid that it would just end in a mess.

Draco held out his hand, “I’m with you, I promise.”

He was expecting Harry to shake his hand, because Ron and Hermione were standing there, watching. Instead he stepped forwards and embraced him, holding tightly to the material of Draco’s shirt, holding him like he was scared Draco was going to pull away.

“It’s not safe to be here, with me,” Harry said suddenly, pulling back, holding Draco at arm’s length. “You should leave the castle. Or go back to your parents. People close to me get hurt.”

“What about your friends?” Draco asked angrily, “They’re still here, despite the dangers.”
“That’s not…”

“They love you, and they want to stay by your side,” Draco lifted his hand to brush his fingers across Harry’s face, dirtied by the grime and soot of the fire.

Harry shook his head, “What do you think Voldemort would do to your parents? You want to fight with me now, but I’m sure you’ll change your mind in a few hours.”

“Fine,” Draco said, aware he sounded a little like he was sulking, “I’ll see you after the battle.”

“Yeah.”

They both knew it might not be a promise they could keep.

Draco started to move away but Harry stopped him, pulling him back to kiss him. Draco let himself melt into him, to let his hands fall into place at his waist, trying to make it last forever. It couldn’t, not in the frenzy of this battle, when every second was precious.

Weasley made a noise like he was being strangled, and Harry moved away from the kiss. Draco wondered whether he felt the same sensation as he did, like he stopped feeling whole as soon as he lost Harry’s touch.

“Wait,” Goyle scrambled to his feet, “You’ve been working with him, all this time, because-”

“Oh, Merlin,” Draco rolled his eyes, and flicked a stunning curse at him. Potter’s friends were staring at him.

“I’ll explain some other time,” Harry said dismissively, and began walking down the corridor, away from Draco. How many times would they have to walk away from each other?

He just hoped that, like every other time, Harry would come back.

 

Just a few hours later, Draco was watching Hagrid carry the body like he was in a dream.

He had known this would happen, as soon as he heard Voldemort’s demand. ‘I shall wait for one hour in the Forbidden Forest. If, at the end of that hour, you have not come to me, have not given yourself up, then battle recommences.’

Of course Harry would give himself up, would willingly die to save his friends, to save innocent lives.

How Draco hated him for doing this, for leaving him, for being the Chosen One.

He also knew that he would never have loved him half as much as he did if he had been anything less, if he had been ordinary. Draco had fallen in love with a boy destined for war and sacrifice and who was prepared to keep fighting, always, and he’d known that.

Someone as weak and uncertain as Draco could never fall in love with anyone else.

Yet, as he looked at Harry’s body, limp, unmoving, heard Voldemort’s victory speech, he wished more than anything that he could have loved someone ordinary.

He wished he could have loved someone who wasn’t designed to destroy him.

 

V

After the battle, after Voldemort was dead and Harry victorious, a part of Draco wanted to leave and never come back. But his parents insisted that they stayed. They said it was time to face the consequences, to stop running.

They were right for once, he realised. Manipulating the truth to shift their alliances as they pleased had ruined them. Maybe it was time for a more honourable task.

Survivors sat around in the Great Hall, and Draco’s eyes were on Harry. He was stood alone, people walking past and speaking to him, but his smiles were vacant, tired.

“I have to talk to him,” Draco announced suddenly, and his parents seemed shocked to hear the urgency in his voice. “Potter. I need to talk to him. I’ll be right back.”

“Draco?” His mother looked at him like she couldn’t bear for him to leave her sight.

“I just have to talk to him about something.”

Then he walked over, pushing through the crowds of people who paid him no attention, his eyes on Harry.

“Hey.”

A faint smile tugged at Harry’s lips. “Hey.”

“Look, umm,” Draco ran his fingers through his hair, “I don’t think we have to be enemies. I know what my tattoo says, but I’ve never been able to really figure out what it means… I think we could have been enemies, maybe we nearly were a few times, but we don’t have to be. Perhaps all this means,” He rubbed his wrist absentmindedly, glaring down at it for a moment, “Is that… The way I feel for you. It tore me up inside. Or maybe we were meant to do more harm to each other than we did, or maybe there’s hurt and pain still to come. Either way, I don’t want to be obsessed with destiny and fate and all of this. Not any more. I don’t want us to be enemies, Potter.”

Harry nodded slowly. “And what about the other part? What about the soul mate thing? Do you want to ignore that as well?”

Draco thought, carefully, and all that came to mind was that feeling of overwhelming regret when Harry’s body was carried back, when he thought he had lost him, when he thought they’d never have a chance to be really together.

“No,” He took Harry’s hands, gently, aware that everything that had happened over the past few days must have pushed him close to breaking point, “No, I want to be with you, Harry. We don’t have to be, not if you don’t want to, but I think I’d like to try.”

“Yeah,” Harry smiled and squeezed his hand, “I think I’d like that too.”