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One Thousand Paper Cranes

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~*~*~

Everything is white. White walls, white casket, white curtains, white lilies. Even her ornate gown is a pure winter white; her preserved skin nearly matching in its paleness. The Manor’s ballroom is entirely devoid of any colour, except for varying shades of black, as people filter in and out paying their respects. The room is nearly clinical in its starkness: clean, pure, untouched.

The sun shines brilliantly outside, glowing high in a bright, blue cloudless sky. Spring has arrived and the trees boast pale green and rich yellow foliage, little pink flowers bursting from the ground. The world outside is rich in colour but none of it penetrates the proceedings inside.

Her son makes his rounds, greeting the guests with dead eyes and a forced smile. He is nearly as pale as she but, where she is ashen, he is grey and sallow. Draco Malfoy looks more ghost than his mother and it hurts her to see him such a state. As her health deteriorated, Draco’s body reflected her pains; the shadows under his eyes darkened, the colour left his already pallid complexion, and his once slight figure is now all bones.

Draco’s tired eyes flash with a quick burst of emotion as Harry Potter enters the room, wearing black trousers and a dark burgundy button up. He starkly stands out in the crowd, the only one wearing something other than black, and Narcissa catches a few side-eyed glances in his direction. Draco stands tall though and accepts Harry’s hand and brief words of comfort with a grim face.

The letters began shortly after the war. Harry’s first letter arrived full of halted greetings and awkward gratitude for saving his life. She replied right away to assure him there were no debts between the two, she had saved his life and in return he had saved her son’s; more than once, according to Draco. Her son did not always understand or appreciate their correspondence over the years but he accepted it all the same. Who has time for petty schoolboy rivalries after everything they have all been through?

Harry moves away from Draco, fading into the sombre crowd, but his eyes, full of concern, follow Draco around the room for the rest of the afternoon.

~*~*~

Narcissa never imagined a Muggle illness would be what brought about her death. When she first received the diagnosis from the family healer, her first reaction was shock, followed swiftly by denial. As time went on and her health rapidly deteriorated, despite the many Muggle and magical treatments she tried, she knew there was no longer any point in denying the inevitable. She was going to die; not in dignity or sacrifice, but slowly and painfully.

The discomfort was constant. Draughts and potions could only do so much, but the greater pain is what awaits her now. Draco moves from room to room, slowly and without purpose, eyes glazed and faraway. He was her constant ray of light during the final months. Despite her most earnest pleas and wishes he refused to hire a live-in healer, preferring to care for her night and day himself. She could see the toll her illness took on him as time went by, but he refused to leave her side. Draco stayed positive, bright, and was ever meticulous in his care. Now, all that passion and life have fled him, and the guilt that crushes Narcissa’s heart to see her only son in such a state is nearly unbearable.

He has sent most of the house elves away and the Manor has suffered in their absence. Unwashed laundry covers the floor, dust is building on the tables and shelves, and the kitchen is littered with half drunk cups of tea. Draco has hardly eaten a full meal since the funeral and his pale skin stretches over his bones, gaunt and grey.

At times the pain is so severe, she wishes she could rush out and reveal herself, comfort Draco as she did when he was a child. And yet any attempt at contact results in failure. It appears he can neither see nor hear her, despite her very best efforts.

It pains her to see her son waste away and become a shell of what he once was but moving on is impossible. Narcissa cannot understand why she is stuck here, made to watch his pain, neither a ghost nor fully gone. Draco sighs as he runs a finger through the thin film of dust covering the sitting room table. There is nothing she can do but observe his silent suffering. Narcissa can’t help but wonder if this is how Draco had felt all along.

~*~*~

“What is that, Potter?”

Draco raises his eyebrow in disdain but his voice is hoarse and lacks the usual confident air. Harry Potter stands at the door, a rustic basket filled to the brim with a variety of bright, fresh fruit.

“I just thought it might be appropriate to bring something, you know…”

“Appropriate?”

“Well, I mean—”

“Are you checking in on me?”

“What? No!” Harry’s flushed cheeks betray his words, “It looks like you could use some fresh fruit, some sustenance.”

“I’m doing just fine, Potter.”

Harry’s brow furrows and Narcissa can just imagine what is going through his head as he takes in Draco’s sorry state. The dark circles under Draco’s eyes are enough to warrant concern but they are very little compared to his cracked, dry lips and pale, ghastly skin. She watches Harry’s eyes roam over Draco’s thin form before they move past him, beyond the foyer and into the mess of the sitting room.

“Where are your house elves?” Harry asks lightly, stepping inside the foyer.

“I sent them away,” Draco replies, his jaw clenched.

“Malfoy,” Harry sighs, “This isn’t healthy…”

“What do you want, Potter?” Draco’s shoulders drop in defeat, his face painted with fatigue.

“I just want to help—”

“I don’t need your help, Potter,” Draco’s voice begins to rise ever so slightly.

“Malfoy, please,” Harry pleads, “I just… Your mother and I, well, we wrote to one another—”

“I know about that,” Draco retorts tightly.

“Well, I don’t think she’d be happy to see you like—”

“Well, she’s dead,” Draco interrupts bitterly.

The words are true, but they hurt, more so because Narcissa can see how much they pain her son.

“Malfoy, just let me—”

“NO, POTTER!” Draco snaps, “You can’t save everyone! Leave!”

Harry opens his mouth to reply, but must think better of it, as he simply leaves the basket on a chair and walks out the door.

Narcissa’s heart crumples along with Draco’s body as he slides against the wall and buries his face in his hands.

~*~*~

The next time Harry pays a visit, Draco hasn’t left bed in nearly twenty four hours. He sips dispassionately from a dusty glass of water by his bed and sleeps and sleeps. At times, she catches him awake, but he’s determined not to move, preferring to stare at the ceiling in silent stillness. Harry pounds on the door for several minutes until he finally caves and forces his way into the Manor. Narcissa is not very surprised to find Harry here; he’s clearly a young man full of compassion who doesn't let things go easily. She watches him rush the stairs and try several empty, abandoned rooms before locating Draco’s bedroom. Draco blinks blearily at Harry, gripping a large grocery bag and hovering near the door frame.

“How did you get inside?” Draco inquires, voice strained from disuse.

“I broke through the wards.”

Narcissa can’t help but smile to herself; Harry is rather persistent.

“Wow, you really are the most powerful wizard alive, aren’t you?” Draco scoffs.

“Are you drunk, Malfoy?”

“Hah, I wish,” Draco replies weakly.

“Okay, you need to eat!” Harry says determinedly and walks out, making his way down the stairs.

Draco stays in bed for several more minutes, but soon enough he begins to fidget and eventually throws the covers off. He haphazardly smooths the wrinkled clothes he’s worn for two days now before shrugging and following Harry into the kitchen.

“Take a seat, it shouldn’t be much longer until it’s ready,” Harry says, back facing Draco as he chops some garlic cloves and fresh herbs.

“What is this, Potter?”

“Dinner,” Harry states shortly over his shoulder, “Do you have a colander?”

“A what?” Draco furrows his brow as he sinks into a chair.

“Nevermind,” Harry sighs, “I’ll summon it.”

The two men remain quiet for the next fifteen minutes or so; Draco’s eyes follow Harry as he moves about the kitchen, adding ingredients and lighting the stove with his wand. Harry cooks with confidence and before long he’s filling two bowls with a copious amount of pasta. He takes a seat across from Draco and begins to eat with relish before he realises Draco hasn’t taken a bite.

“Well, dig in! It’s quite good, actually.”

Draco stabs a few pieces of penne onto his fork and warily places them into his mouth, chewing slowly and methodically. Harry offers him an encouraging smile before he dives back in.

“What are you doing, Potter?”

“Eating,” Harry answers cheekily.

“You know what I mean,” Draco sighs, setting down his fork loudly.

“You need help,” Harry’s expression turns serious, “I don’t care what you say.”

“I don’t need pity,” Draco’s fingers tighten around his fork.

“It’s not pity...” Harry sighs and runs a hand through his hair, “Look, I know what it’s like… To lose someone, to struggle with their loss… The suffering that follows. I get it, Malfoy. You’re not alone.”

Draco stares at Harry for a few moments before picking up his fork again and eating. He already has a bit more colour to his face, his lips are pink and shiny as he continues to consume the food, the first real meal he’s had in a week. They finish eating in silence and Harry takes their plates and begins to wash them.

“You need to eat,” Harry finally breaks the silence, “If you’re not up for cooking I can come—”

“What? Come over and cook for me,” Draco scoffs, “Harry Potter: Saviour of the Wizarding World and personal chef to former Death Eater, Draco Malfoy.”

“I’m just trying to help,” Harry says tightly, drying the plates and putting them away.

“Well, I don’t need your help.”

“Malfoy,” Harry sighs, “You’re living in a mess, you’re not eating. You need to take care of yourself.”

“And is that why you’re volunteering to take care of me instead?”

“Just for now… I— I did a little research.”

“You did?” Draco raises his eyebrow.

“Okay, Hermione did,” Harry admits, “What you’re going through, it’s normal! It might help to get a hobby, something to distract yourself with, something to do now…”

“Now that my mother is dead?” Draco asks coldly.

“I just meant—”

“You should probably go,” Draco states softly, staring at his hands folded in his lap.

“Okay,” Harry replies resignedly, grabbing his cloak from where it lays over the chair and moving towards the door.

“Potter?” Draco calls out looking up.

“Yes,” Harry turns to look over his shoulder.

“Thank you for the food.”

Narcissa watches Harry nod in return before making his way out of the Manor. Draco sleeps soundly that night, his cheeks flushed the loveliest shade of pink Narcissa has ever seen.

~*~*~

Much to Narcissa’s delight and Draco’s discomfort, Harry comes every other day after that. He brings takeaway, cleans up a bit, sometimes he’ll even bring groceries and cook for the two of them. The conversation was stilted at first, awkward and unfamiliar, but, as the weeks pass by, they talk less and simply exist more. The silences are comfortable, serene and peaceful. This afternoon, along with the usual food, Harry brings colourful little squares of paper, some kind of craft for Draco.

“It’s supposed to be soothing,” Harry explains as he lays out the papers.

“Folding paper?” Draco asks skeptically.

“Yes! It’s called Origami, it’s a Japanese Muggle art of some kind… Hermione told me about it.”

“Of course she did,” Draco mutters under his breath.

“Anyway,” Harry says rolling his eyes, “it takes a lot of concentration—”

“Muggle arts and crafts, Potter?”

“It’s more than that!” Harry protests, “Folding cranes is supposed to very therapeutic and bring comfort to those in need. Apparently if you fold one thousand cranes in one year you get to have a wish come true.”

“Really?” Draco raises his eyebrow.

“Come on, give it a try, you might actually like it.”

“Well, I suppose I’ll try anything once,” Draco replies, voice low and deep.

Goodness, has her son always been so terrible at flirting? Harry doesn’t seem to notice. Well, the blush staining his cheeks suggest otherwise, but he certainly doesn’t seem to mind.

Harry stays longer than usual that evening, their heads close together in front of the fire, as they fold paper cranes late into the night.

~*~*~

The once drab sitting room has slowly morphed into a place of light, life, and colour. Bright yellow, deep magenta, and fiery red paper cranes litter the table and chairs, all different sizes and some in various shapes. The neatest of the bunch, crisp and patterned, are strung on a thin wire attached along the top of the windowsills.

The room feels brighter, more homely, than it has in years. Draco, himself, has regained much of the colour back in his face; he’s actually eating full meals once again, and often tidies the Manor up in anticipation of Harry’s arrival.

It fills Narcissa with such joy to see Draco slowly healing and yet it worries her just the same. How healthy can it truly be to transfer one obsession to another? She feels he must find a way to become content with himself and on his own, not by striving for his father’s approval, not as a care-taker to his ailing mother, and certainly not as someone who has, at last, obtained Harry Potter’s attentions.

Still, the small smile which creeps over Draco’s face when Harry enters through the door is lovely and gives her hope for the future.

~*~*~

It all had to come crashing down eventually.

Harry arrives this evening with a bottle of wine and Narcissa doesn’t miss the different air between the two, the charged energy. Draco had showered earlier in the day, taking time to pick out fresh clothing and fix his hair. She watches fondly as he clears his throat nervously, smoothing imaginary wrinkles from his shirt, before taking the bottle from Harry and going in search of wine glasses.

After dinner, Harry plops himself onto the floor, grabbing the nearly empty bottle of wine and gesturing for Draco to join him. Draco must have had a bit too much to drink because, to Narcissa’s surprise, he merely shrugs in response and takes a seat next to Harry. They are sitting on the floor, finishing the wine, when Harry pulls out an ornate box. Harry has brought dessert this evening, a large box of Teuscher champagne truffles that cause Draco’s eyes to light up when Harry opens the package. It’s been so long since Draco has showed any keen interest in food and Narcissa delights in watching him savour the first truffle before eagerly diving in the for the next. Draco’s fingers are soon coated in cocoa powder and when he pushes a loose lock of hair behind his ear the chocolate smears across his temple.

Harry’s face breaks into a warm smile as he his eyes roam over Draco’s face.

“What? Why are you looking at me like that?”

“No reason,” Harry laughs softly, “Well, actually you have some chocolate on your face…”

“I do?” Draco asks, mildly embarrassed as he reaches to rub it off, only resulting in spreading it further.

“Here, let me,” Harry murmurs, leaning over and rubbing his thumb against Draco’s temple.

Draco sucks in a breath, but remains still, as Harry slowly and carefully removes the chocolate from his face.

“There, all better,” Harry all but whispers, his face merely a few inches from Draco’s.

It’s difficult to tell who leans in first but their lips meet somewhere in the middle and a small noise escapes Draco’s throat in response. Harry leans forward to deepen the kiss, hands tangling in Draco’s hair, knees spreading to straddle Draco’s lap. Draco’s hands reach forward and land on Harry’s hips, gripping tightly and bringing him closer. It seems a good time as any to give the two men some privacy when Draco suddenly pulls away and pushes Harry off him.

“Draco…” Harry says softly, eyes filling with confusion.

“Don’t,” Draco warns, leaning back and breathing heavily.

“I just thought—”

“I don’t need your pity,” Draco growls.

“I thought we’ve been through this, it’s not pity!” Harry retorts angrily.

“Is that so? Then what do you call all of this, exactly?” Draco jumps to his feet, gesturing around the empty take away boxes, bottle of wine and forgotten chocolates.

Harry follows suit and stands as well, chest heaving and face flushed with anger. “I would have thought you were smart enough to figure it out, Malfoy.”

“I see what you’re doing, Potter and I don’t like it,” Draco starts to pace, “I don’t need any of this, I don’t need your help and I don’t need you! Leave!”

Harry clenches his jaw, looking equal parts frustrated and hurt. He opens his mouth to say something but must think better of it, as he grabs his things and storms out the door. Draco stares at the closed door for several moments, all the rage draining from his face, before his shoulders slump and he makes his way upstairs and into his bed.

~*~*~

Draco begins to fade away again. He stops eating actual meals, no longer cleans up after himself, and certainly gives a wide berth to the forgotten origami strewn across the sitting room table. Narcissa’s concern grows as Draco sinks back into despair, the dark circles reappearing under his eyes.

Harry does not visit again and his absence is felt vividly throughout the Manor. She feels helpless to Draco’s pain and wishes there were a way to pull him through this hazy fog he has entered once again.

It’s been over a week since Harry’s departure when Draco glumly passes through the sitting room and in his haze knocks his hip into the table. A few paper cranes flutter and fall to the ground, landing innocently next to his feet. Draco pauses, bending over to retrieve them and place them back onto the table, when his fingers brush against a vibrant scarlet crane; one of the first he ever folded. His hand hovers over the crane before he picks it up and studies it closely, staring intently at the folded paper. With a sigh he sets the crane back down before exiting the room, climbing the stairs, and curling himself back into bed.

The next morning, however, Draco wakes on the earlier side and makes himself a pot of tea. He has that determined look in his eye, the one Narcissa has missed so much, and he sits down at the table of half finished origami. He spends most of the day carefully and meticulously folding paper until the table is brimming with colourful cranes of all sizes. The next day is much the same, as is the next until eventually the entire room is littered with cranes. After the fourth day, Draco ends his folding with a satisfied sigh and makes his way into the kitchen, chopping up some root vegetables and making a simple stew. He finishes the entire bowl and sleeps soundly through the night.

~*~*~

After two weeks, Harry finally appears on the doorstep, looking heart-sick and worried. His hair is wilder than ever and the lines under his eyes seem deeper than usual. Narcissa’s first reaction is concern; Draco is finally starting to heal, and all on his own. Who can predict what sort of effect Harry’s presence will have on her fragile son? However, when Draco answers the door wearing clean clothes and a confident expression, her worries begin to melt away. Her son is much stronger than that, she is certain of this. He may have inherited some of his father’s weakness but he is half Black, after all.

“Come in, Potter,” Draco calmly states and gestures Harry inside.

Harry looks surprised but attempts to hide it as he makes his way inside and into the sitting room. Narcissa watches apprehensively as Harry’s eyes scan the room and take in all the cranes. No longer strewn about haphazardly, they are set purposely on the mantelpiece, along the table and hanging from the ceiling. Harry looks lost in thought and starts slightly when Draco clears his throat.

“Would you like some tea?” Draco asks politely.

“Oh, um. Sure. Would you like me to make it?” Harry offers.

“I think I can handle making some tea,” Draco teases but not unkindly.

Harry takes a seat and when Draco returns with the tea, the two drink in silence for some time. The air feels heavy once more, but the tension is bright and no longer dangerous and explosive. Harry sets down his teacup loudly before standing up suddenly.

“I don’t pity you, Draco! I admire you. You’re bright and brave, and much stronger than you think. In fact I—”

“Would you like to stay for dinner?” Draco interrupts with a smile.

“Yes,” Harry replies immediately taking a step closer to Draco, “Are you cooking that as well?”

“Don’t push your luck!” Draco smirks, “You’ll be cooking tonight… but I’ll help.”

Harry grins in response and in a few more steps, closes the distance between the two. He leans down, pulls Draco’s face towards him and captures his lips in a kiss. Draco surges forward and returns the kiss, open mouthed and eager, allowing Harry to pull him up and off the chair.

“Well,” Draco pants, forehead resting against Harry’s, “Maybe dinner can wait.”

Harry laughs joyfully as Draco pulls on his wrist and drags him upstairs and towards the bedroom, the tea half drunk and forgotten on the table.

The sun begins to set outside. The light spills through the glass and illuminates the colourful paper cranes, creating bright and vibrant reflections against the stark, white room. It’s not a perfect, happy ending, not yet, but it’s close enough. Her son will be okay.

Narcissa’s vision begins to fade and warmth invades her being, the constant chill being chased away.

She can feel herself slipping away, moving on. There is no more pain nor fear anchoring her to this once lonely place. Draco is moving on and thus so is she. All will be well.

The world is alive and full of colour.


fin

~*~*~