- I -
It was just a matter of shutting down from everything.
It wasn't even that hard anymore. He was so used to this that it wasn't as straining as it had been the first few times.
The very first time, he had tried to fight it. He would laugh today at how naive he was then if there was ever anything positive like laughter left in him. A surge of misplaced pride, some kind of arrogance probably and Draco had fought, defended himself. Life had been quite merciful up till then for him, so there was no reason it shouldn't continue. He had escaped death, he had escaped prison, he would escape this as well.
Only he didn't.
In here he had learned patience. In here he had learned submission. In here he had learned to forget. He had learned to shut his mind and focus on mindless little details. The noise a droplet somewhere in another corner of the room made every time it hit the cold stone floor. The slit in the opposite wall that brought the only source of light in the room when he was left alone in it for hours. He had learned to see in the dark, to make out every single detail of the small room. He had learned to not let his mind wander to dangerous places. Like his previous life. His family. The people he had loved. The people he had been scared of. The people he had despised even. He didn't let any of that enter his mind. Ever. This was no place for lively things. This was a place for fear, for humiliation, for filth and for blood. He would never associate this place with anything alive.
This was a place of death.
And so he shut his mind. He became really good at it. Nothing that He did to him could ever touch him now. It couldn't. Every time He tried to reach him, He failed. And it would have made Draco happy had he still had room left for this kind of feeling deep inside. But no. Nothing left there either. He was dead inside.
There had been the problem of the body. Especially at the beginning. The body had not been as easy to shut up as the mind, curiously. It refused the pain inflicted. It refused to comply and rebelled, fighting the aggressions. But it was a losing battle. The mind tried to tell the body: You cannot win. In the end, the body had surrendered as well. It became completely insensitive. It couldn't feel anymore. It just lay there. It enraged Him to no end. He had liked it very much when the body had been responding.
But no matter how hard He slapped, kicked, cut, hurt, violated, the body wouldn't react anymore.
There was a void in his stomach. It was empty. Draco was used to being empty in this way. He knew his body had learned to survive - at a very slow pace - on almost no food. The pain had been fierce at first. He had spent days bent in two just from the pain his empty stomach sent all over his body. And then he had got used to it. Like everything else, he had learned. He had learned to not rely on food. To not expect anything of it. He realised that he could live on a piece of bread twice a day. He could. He had done it up till then. But now, things were getting tense down there. And that's when Draco realised he had not seen Him today. Nor the day before. There was no emotion behind this fact.
So when he heard noise upstairs, and voices (yes, voices, plural), he did as he always did. He curled up tighter in his corner and waited.
Somehow the animation around him, the loud voices, the many people standing there, talking to him and staring at him upset him. It was too much. He had been on his own for so long - except for His daily visits - that it was overwhelming. Too loud, too bright, too much at the same time. He felt himself go. His body shut down once more, taking his mind with it this time, and soon it all went black.
When he regained consciousness, he wasn't in his corner anymore.
He wasn't dead.
That fact neither made him happy nor sad. It was just that, a fact. He wasn't dead yet and he wasn't in his corner anymore.
The room had nothing special. It had bare white walls except for the cheap painting hung slightly askew on the wall facing him, depicting a blond woman reading a bedtime story to her similarly blond son. There was a chair on the left of the bed on which he was lying and some potions on his bedside table.
He was in a hospital room.
And he smelled weird. He had been so used to the smell of blood and filth down in his corner that he had forgotten any other smell existed. They probably had cleaned him while he was still out. Why they had bothered, he didn't know. Because no matter how much they scrubbed him, the smell of Down There remained in his nostrils, like a constant reminder of what he truly was, his entire being reduced to that ever present stink. But he didn't care. Nothing mattered anymore, really. No deep cleansing of his body, no healing of his wounds, no care of any kind, nothing would erase what had been done to his body and soul. There was no hope left for him. Hope was for the living. He was not part of them. He just waited for everything to stop at once. For his body to stop functioning. He had been close Down There, he knew it. But close wasn't enough. He wanted it all to be over and done with at once.
And then, maybe, he would be free.
They tried. They insisted. They healed his wounds. They forced the potions down his throat. He spat them out with as much strength as he had left, which wasn't much, but he spat nevertheless. He didn't want their food, he didn't want their potions, he didn't want any of this. He didn't want to feel better. He just wanted to be empty. He needed to be empty. He revelled on being empty. Empty meant freedom. Empty meant the end of it all. Empty meant it would be all over and he could just remain the bad memory of a pathetic Death Eater who only got what he deserved. Scum like him didn't deserve to live, they didn't deserve second chances.
He should have known that someone would think differently.
And he should have known it would be him.
It had always been about him.
From the very beginning.
He knew it was him the second he entered the room. He did not see him, he did not hear his voice, no, it wasn't any of that that told him who had entered the room.
It was his magic.
It's his magic Draco recognised. Potter's unique, incredibly potent magic engulfed the room and encircled him like a hurricane for a fraction of a second. The moment it took Potter to rein it in and take control of it again. Potter's magic had always touched him like no other. Unsettled him. Irked him. He didn't know why, but Draco had always been incredibly responsive to it, attracted to it even. Potter's magic lured him like a Siren's chant.
But not today.
Today he didn't fall for Potter's magic. Today it didn't reach him. Nothing could anymore. Draco just lay there, immobile, eyes fixated on a spot of the ceiling and once again shut his mind. He raised the invisible walls that prevented him from being touched by anything from the outside. Even Potter.
Potter stayed by his side for Merlin knows how long. And then, a nurse came and sent him away. When it happened, the sun had long gone.
They tried to feed him again that night. Like the first few times, he rejected their attempts. He was very weak though, so it wasn't as easy. But still he managed to remain mostly empty.
He was so tired and hungry he couldn't think straight anymore. The thoughts seemed to pass through his mind at a very slow pace. He started to feel the first effects of his starvation. The dizziness, for example, made things awkward. It was as if he were floating constantly, navigating through different worlds, his vision troubled and his thoughts scarce and irrational.
He sensed agitation around him but it didn't touch him. He felt hands on his body, light in his eyes, voices blurting incoherent words, but he watched all that from far away. Very far away. He was barely a spectator of whatever was happening around him, because of him. His soul was slowly going away and he felt better than he had been in months. He thought that was it, that it was soon going to be all over at last. He closed his eyes, allowing himself a little bit of hope as he let himself drift away.
He woke up confused. It took a while for his mind to remember where he was. His vision was blurred. Was he dead yet? He blinked a couple of times and his eyes grew accustomed to the light in the room. Things slowly got into focus and he started making out details.
White walls. Cheap painting.
He wasn't dead yet. Nope. Not a chance.
He was in his hospital room again and his stomach didn't hurt so much. They must have found a way of feeding him while he was out.
He sighed and closed his eyes again.
Focus. The droplet. Count. Focus. Don't lose it. Count.
A door slammed somewhere upstairs. Another opened swiftly. The atmosphere in the room changed at once.
The sound of heavy steps on the stairs. Seventeen.
A clinking noise. Chains. His favourite tool. He was in a good mood then.
"Ready to get what you deserve, you filthy son of a whore?"
Draco woke up abruptly, his chest heaving, his body hurting and sweat running down his forehead. He closed his eyes and waited for his heartbeat to return to normal. This hadn't been real. He was not in his corner anymore. Breathe. It was just a nightmare. He turned to the window; it was still dark outside.
He couldn't go on like that. This was no life. Draco's life had ended a long time ago and he just couldn't take it anymore.
It had to stop.
He had to go.
Down There, the thought never ever passed through his brain. The first few days because he resisted and refused to let go, the days that had followed because he had accepted his fate and wasn't questioning it anymore.
But now... He had to find a way. It wouldn't be easy; trying to end things in a hospital full of healers would be tricky. But he didn't care. He had time. That's all he had left, time. He had nothing else to do after all. And he had learned patience Down There. Better start using it then.
He knew he could make it all stop if he really wanted. He smiled feebly. Even then, after all that had happened, he felt slightly thrilled at the thought of a new challenge. He knew he was a powerful enough wizard to end things if he really wanted to. He could, he kept repeating himself. He could do it. He could end it all. He had no wand but it didn't matter; he had been good at wandless magic, very good even.
He tried to think, but it was hard with his fogged, slow brain. He knew he could technically do it. There must be a spell he could use to-
There was. He had it. It was dead easy. He chuckled at his own poor joke.
It was possible. He could. Now. And it would finally be all over.
What was there left for him here anyway? For the first time in weeks, he thought back on what his life had been like those last few months: the war, the loss of his parents, the slow descent into hell, the things that had happened Down There. And what was awaiting him outside? He had no place to live, no one to go back to, no one who would even approach him.
He had nothing. He had no one.
Nothing left. Nothing to lose. Just the promise of an end to the ever present pain.
It was worth it, he decided.
He fixated on the ceiling once again and tried to focus. He had no idea if it would work because he was merely modifying an existing spell to use it differently. He closed his eyes and murmured the spell.
At first there was nothing.
And then he felt a tingle in his throat. It was almost imperceptible but Draco felt its effects rather quickly. The difficulty in breathing, the pressure, the pulse beating louder as a warning. Slowly, but surely, he felt his body let go, his soul let go, hell, he even felt his magic let go. All vital energy was now leaking from him in a gentle, constant flow and it felt amazing. It wasn't even as painful as he would have thought.
And then he started seeing things.
His mother's peaceful face, smiling at him, urging him to join her. He wanted to. Badly. He wanted nothing more than to set himself free and run to her open arms and stay there forever, comforted by her words of pure, undying love. The craving for her was so intense, so deep, so powerful that he gave in. He detached himself from his damaged body, from the pain, from his past, from every single thread that still linked him to what he had once been. He gently walked to her, serene, guided by her beautiful smile, her melodious voice, and-
The top of his body violently jerked as he took a huge gulp of air and opened his eyes before crumbling back down on his pillow. At the same time, he felt a prodigious pressure on his chest and realised someone was pressing their hands on it. He had no time to ponder what was going on though, as something incredibly powerful, a whirling amalgam of energy and strength and puissant magic entered him through the person's fingers, right into his lungs. It soon spread all over his aching body, running through every single vein, every single artery, down to each extremity, and then rushed back up to his heart, making him shiver violently.
As suddenly as it had started, it all stopped.
He then heard a loud thump and the pressure disappeared instantly. He was still trembling and breathing hard when people stormed into his room and rushed to the person lying unconscious on the floor.
Draco propped himself on his elbows, feeling amazingly well, all sensation of pain, dizziness, emptiness gone at once. And that's when he realised what had just happened.
Potter had, once again, saved his life.
- II -
Tell me, Malfoy.
Tell you what, Potter?
Why you did it.
Why would I tell you?
Because I saved your life. Again.
Yeah well, why did you? I never asked for you to come and play the hero again.
I just want to understand.
There's nothing to understand.
You wanted to die. I want to know why.
This is none of your business, Potter.
It is. We are linked now, whether you like it or not. Everything that affects you affects me now.
I have no idea what you're talking about, Potter.
Really? Well, think hard, Malfoy, think hard.
Draco awoke covered in sweat again. It was the middle of the night and everything around him was eerily silent. There was a slow murmur coming from beyond the door, probably from the healers' office.
But no Potter.
It must have been a dream.
In the morning, the nurse was back to try and feed him as if nothing had happened the night before.
As if he had not tried to kill himself.
As if Potter storming into some random patient's room to save his life was routine.
Here she was, preparing the potions for him, humming all along for crying out loud, knowing perfectly well he would fight her and not caring one bit. Why they would still insist on feeding him was beyond him. He would have given up after the second attempt in their place. You don't want it? Well, then, just fucking die, I don't care. Good thing he wasn't a healer.
He sighed. He had failed. He had been right, Down There. Draco was worth nothing. He couldn't even kill himself properly. It was pathetic.
The nurse was still fiddling with the potions on his bedside table. Why wouldn't they leave him alone? Why would everybody try to keep him alive against his own will? He had done nothing, absolutely nothing to deserve all that attention. He hadn't done a positive thing in his life. His family had blood on their hands. He was still wearing the fucking Dark Mark on his left forearm. Why would they even bother? Didn't they have other patients to take care of? More important ones? What about Potter?
Yes, what about Potter? Draco frowned.
He remembered how Potter had collapsed after whatever it was he had done to him and they had taken him away. Potter was alive, of that Draco was sure. He could feel it. But he had no idea what had happened to him since then.
Not that Draco cared. Potter could just rot and die, he didn't care for one second. Nothing mattered anymore. He turned his back to the nurse and closed his eyes.
The day passed agonisingly slowly. He refused to communicate with anybody and did a pretty good job rehashing dark thoughts, staring out the window all day. He didn't even know the date, he realised. Although by the look of the Sycamore outside the window, he could tell Spring wasn't far. Was it March already?
He roused himself for letting such inane considerations enter his mind. That's not what he wanted. He wanted to be miserable and feel nothing. He wanted to be empty. It was the best way to never get hurt again.
But despite his best efforts, he couldn't do it. He couldn't help the thoughts that were slowly but surely coming back into his mind. It was as if the whole thing with Potter had opened a door into Draco's brain and let everything he had kept carefully locked away flood back into his head.
The good, the bad, the ugly.
Shutting his mind down there had been an instinctive act of survival, a desperate attempt to keep him alive no matter what. And now, despite all that had happened, despite his refusal to ingest anything they gave him, his body was getting slightly better and was forcing his mind to follow the same road.
He tried, many times during the day, to push back those annoying thoughts. But he couldn't, he just couldn't. They kept invading his head.
When the night fell again, he felt exhausted.
You never answered me, Malfoy.
Fuck you, Potter.
Tell me what happened.
Not saying it won't make it go away.
Oh yeah? How would you know anyway?
I saw you there. I saw what he did to you.
You saw nothing and you know nothing.
Fine. Have it your way. But you need to eat.
And why would you care about that?
I told you Malfoy. We're linked. You die, I die.
And I'm supposed to believe that?
Believe all that you want. But I won't l ast two more days.
Like the night before, he woke up abruptly in his bed, the words still very present in his mind. But this time, he couldn't fall back asleep.
It had felt too bloody real for it to be just a dream.
The nurse was back again in the morning.
She was insistent, he could give her that. It was her job anyway.
It didn't prevent him from fighting her once again. He did a great job spitting the yellow potion on the floor. She didn't even flinch as she cast a quick "Scourgify". She was getting used to it. Pathetic. After all, they didn't really have means to make him take them although Draco suspected they were feeding him one way or another. While he was asleep perhaps. Because there was no way he would be getting better otherwise.
The pain had diminished considerably and wasn't as fierce now. Draco could feel his body relax a little. He sighed. He knew that after his little stunt of the other night, they would keep an eye on him. They would have lost him had it not been for Potter playing the goddamn hero again and Draco knew that the hospital couldn't afford anything like that happening another time.
But it didn't mean he wouldn't try again.
Soon Draco was left alone with his thoughts. Strangely, they took him to Potter again. Draco couldn't help wondering if he had regained consciousness, if he was recovering. It annoyed him to the highest degree, but he was somehow pretty curious to know what had happened to the Saviour-of-the-Wizarding-World. After having shut his body and mind down in such a powerful way for weeks, it was odd to think that one of the first feelings to ever resurface inside him was curiosity. Bloody Potter. Even when he wasn't saving his life he managed to get to him.
As the day went by, Draco started obsessing about him.
He tried to rationalise things: when you're stuck 24/7 in a hospital room with no distraction at all, it was bound to happen.
The vision of Potter lying on the floor unconscious preyed on his mind. The weird conversations he'd had with Potter at night as well. Yes, it made him think a lot, more than he would have liked. And before long, he realised it had taken over the whole of his head.
What the hell was going on? How come he couldn't stop thinking about Potter, no matter how hard he tried? Did it have anything to do with this link Potter kept talking about? It made sense in a way: this sudden interest - for lack of a better word - in the boy had started at the same time as his night time discussions with him, Draco realised, right after Potter had done whatever he had to save his life. So, yes, there could be something there.
When the nurse - a young, rather pretty girl - returned at the end of the afternoon to try and feed him again, he had made up his mind. He would ask her about Potter. This way, maybe he would stop obsessing about him. He just hoped the nurse wouldn't take advantage of his open mouth to feed him the restoring potion.
He cleared his throat. "Potter?" he asked in a hoarse voice he barely recognised. His vocal cords had been strained from shouting Down There on the first days. And then he guessed, from the lack of speech for the days, or rather weeks that had followed.
"What did you just say?" the nurse asked bewildered, completely forgetting the vial containing the yellowish potion for a moment.
"Potter… How is he?" Draco managed, his breath short, feeling like he was eighty rather than barely nineteen.
She considered him for a while and wore an odd smile.
"I could tell you about that, only…" she raised an eyebrow and lifted the hand holding the vial.
Oh. That was his luck. Of all the nurses here at St Mungo's he had to get a Slytherin. Great.
He narrowed his eyes in defiance. He didn't want to give in. No, he wouldn't.
"Fine," he said grabbing the vial, uncorking it swiftly and emptying it in one gulp before he could stop himself. "How is he, then?" He handed it back to her.
The nurse tried hard to hide her satisfaction. "He's fine, but he's not awake yet. He's still recovering."
"Is he going to be all right?"
She smiled slyly again. "I'll answer that in a couple of hours when I come back with another potion. In the meantime, you just rest. You at least owe him that."
"In a couple of hours," she said leaving the room and closing the door behind her.
He spent the next couple of hours planning his refusal to drink the potion again.
To prove his point.
To show her he was above the whole thing.
To show her he couldn't care less about Potter's fate.
Because he didn't. He didn't care about what had happened to Potter. He wasn't supposed to anyway. No, he didn't. It wasn't any of his business if Potter lived or died, was happy or sad, was hurting or in heavenly bliss. Nothing was important anymore, he reminded himself. He didn't care one second. Potter could very well go and fuck himself.
But the second the nurse - Cecilia her name tag read - had entered the room with his potion again, his resolve had melted.
Because he wanted to know. He really did. Fucking link.
So when she approached him with the vial, he sighed and took it from her without a word. He started bringing it to his lips and observed how she was holding her breath. He paused and put his hand down.
He too was a Slytherin after all.
"I want an extension," he said without preamble.
"What do you mean?"
"I want you to answer more than just one question."
He hadn't expected her to give in so easily. He had to think fast. "Five."
She laughed, as if highly amused by his demand. "No way."
"Three?" he tried to hide his desperate tone pathetically.
"I'll answer two if you drink this now. And two more tonight if you agree to eat a proper meal."
She was incredibly cunning and persevering, he could give her that. He thought hard. He couldn't deny his curiosity was piqued.
But then it all came back to him. What did the whole thing mean anyway? What the hell was he doing here? He didn't want bloody answers! He didn't care about Potter! He wanted to be left alone, he wanted to forget about every ugly thing, to erase the fucking pain from what had happened in the corner Down There, the humiliations, the fear, the void, everything! He wanted to disappear from the face of the planet, he didn't want a cheap attempt to keep him alive!
He felt anger creep inside him incredibly quickly and on an impulse he threw the vial with all his might against the wall where it shattered and covered the cream-coloured wall with hundreds of yellowish droplets rapidly dripping to the floor.
He then turned his back to her and closed his eyes.
It was all back.
The helplessness, the emptiness, the self-hatred, all back. Consequently, Draco had spent the rest of the day trying to find another way to end things and thinking about Potter. Bizarrely, the two things were linked in his mind.
He couldn't sleep. He kept thinking about what the nurse had told him. He's fine, but he's not awake yet. Fuck being fine. It had been three days now. How could Potter still not be awake?
The link, the dreams, the discussions... the whole thing didn't make sense. Draco had tried to kill himself and Potter had saved him - again. And somehow, in the middle of his saving poor Draco Malfoy's soul, something had happened.
He sighed. If only the goddamn nurse would answer his questions instead of playing her stupid games to feed him!
Wait a minute.
He didn't need the bloody nurse to get his answers. He could go and get them himself. He could go and visit Potter, and see if somehow he could learn more about the whole thing. Yes, that was it!
He took a deep breath, closing his eyes for a second. He didn't really know if his body still had enough strength to support his weight, even if he had never been skinnier in his life.
He first tried to sit. It was okay so he slowly moved one leg to the side of the bed, letting it dangle. Why were hospital beds always so fucking high? He moved his second leg, his whole body now facing the door. Good.
He put one foot down, then the other one and tried to stand up. He swayed a little bit, but managed to remain standing. It felt weird. He hadn't been in this upright position for a long time. Lately he had either been curled up on himself, or lying on his stomach, or bent over something, but never fully standing up. He could feel it had been a long time. His legs were shaking badly from the exertion.
He took a tentative step, holding himself to the wall. It seemed to work at first. He tried another one and it held, so he let go of the wall. But then, his legs wobbled dangerously and he felt himself fall on the floor in slow motion.
His head hit something, and it all went black again.
Why on earth did you do that? Are you mental?
I wanted to see you.
I needed to check.
That I was telling the truth? Well, you nearly killed us both!
So we really are, linked?
Yes, Malfoy, we really are.
But how? How does it work?
I don't know, okay? Do you think I spend my time saving gits' lives and getting connected to them as a hobby?
I don't know. Maybe?
Fuck you, Malfoy.
I'm just trying to understand what is going on.
Well, I have no idea. All I know is that the other night, when you- when you were leaving us, I felt it.
Yes, I felt you slip away and I knew what it meant. I …
What? What were you about to say, Potter?
I know exactly what it feels like. I died once. In the Forbidden Forest.
No, you didn't. My mother checked on you.
When she checked on me I was alive. But right before that I was dead.
You're not making any sense, Potter.
It doesn't matter. Voldemort killed me and I saw the place.
You saw it?
What was it for you?
King's Cross Station.
Dumbledore said the same.
Dumbledore was there? At King's Cross?
He was. What was it for you?
The Manor. Although a lighter, whiter version of it.
Who was there for you?
Yes. So what hap-
He didn't want to wake up! He didn't! He wanted to carry on the conversation with Potter! Bloody hell! He tried hard to go against the spell but to no avail. He opened his eyes. He was back on his hospital bed, Cecilia by his side, and his head hurt like hell. Great.
"You've sure made a mess of yourself! I will have you tied to your bed if you don't start behaving yourself! We can't leave you alone for five minutes without you doing something to attract our attention. What is wrong with you, Mr Malfoy?" the nurse asked, an exasperated look on her face.
She was unbelievable. Weren't healers supposed to be compassionate and sympathetic towards their patients? Why on earth had he got the only one who wouldn't just leave him alone and worse, tell him off like he were still a child? He sent her a dark look as an answer.
She dismissed it at once and focused on his head. She flicked her wand and murmured, "episkey" and he felt a sting for a fraction of a second on his head and then the pain had gone. Thank Merlin for that, at least.
"You're welcome!" Cecilia said sarcastically.
He decided to ignore her and turned his back to her. He took a look out the window. It was still dark outside. Maybe he could get some more sleep and get to talk to Potter again? He closed his eyes and vaguely heard the door close behind the nurse as he was slowly dozing off again.
Were you afraid? In the forest?
When I walked to meet Voldemort?
Of course, I was! I was terrified!
I didn' t think you were capable of feeling fear.
What do you take me for, Malfoy? I'm not a robot!
So you were scared?
I was scared shitless.
Right. But still you went.
And then what happened?
Your mother didn't tell you?
Well yes, but-
You'd like to hear it from me.
I walked to the clearing where Voldemort and his well, friends were, and then I closed my eyes.
What were you thinking at that moment?
I thought about my parents.
Yep. What about you?
"Good morning, Mr Malfoy!" a short, stocky middle-aged nurse said enthusiastically.
"Where's Cecilia?" he snapped.
"She's on a break. She can't work 24/7, Mr Malfoy."
He groaned. He had hoped to get more answers from the young nurse after his other conversations with Potter last night. Where was the fricking nurse when he needed her?
But then... Maybe it wasn't such a bad thing that Cecilia was not there, because she was a clever tough bird which probably wasn't the case for this one. If Draco were lucky, this other nurse would be much easier to convince than Cecilia. She could give him his answers.
It was worth the try anyway.
He turned to the older nurse and gave her his most charming smile, the one he used only to get what he wanted. The one he knew worked pretty well with the ladies. Although he wasn't sure what he looked like these days. With what his body had suffered Down There, it might look awful. But he had to try.
"Would you be so kind as to tell me about Mr Potter's state today?" he asked in the politest of tones.
She smiled back at him. "Of course, Mr Malfoy. Although Cecilia specified that I should not answer any of your questions before you either have something to eat or take a feeding potion. So, which one would you like?"
Fuck Cecilia and fuck those cunning nurses. Bloody fucking hell, were they really having fun torturing him like that?
And then he realised it was a pretty desperate attempt in the end. This was the only way they had to make him get better and heal. There wasn't much they could do if he refused to eat or take his healing potions. They couldn't Imperio him after all. And keeping the patient alive was their job.
So once again, he had a choice. He could, like he had done up till then, ignore them, keep on refusing feeding and let himself die. It was really, really tempting. Because that's what he wanted badly. He had not given up on that, the thought was still very present and rooted deep inside him. He was determined to go and it was not because he had failed once that he wouldn't succeed the next time. But now, there was something else as well. And this something, this little something was somehow keeping him on this side of life for now.
It was Potter's bloody fault. He blamed Potter for piquing his curiosity like he blamed Potter for saving his life, for playing the goddamn perfect hero once again and saving the bad guy nobody would have regretted losing.
He smiled again. "I'll have something to eat then."
There wasn't much in the end. All that fuss for a mug of light soup. Really it wasn't much. But Draco knew it was because his stomach needed time to recover before he could eat large quantities and more solid food. He had been starved for weeks, so having a normal meal now would probably kill him. Which wasn't what the healers were aiming for right now, obviously.
He emptied the mug and let the hot liquid warm his insides. He then put it down triumphantly on the bedside table.
"So, tell me…" he leaned forward a little to read the name tag on the lime-green uniform. "Laura. I've done what you wanted, so you shall answer my questions now."
"I suppose I can now, Mr Malfoy. Go ahead."
"Is Potter awake now?"
"Not yet, no."
"Isn't it weird? I mean, what is wrong with him exactly?"
She hesitated. She was probably afraid to say too much. "They don't know, that's the problem. Everything seems to be functioning pretty normally. His body doesn't appear to have any problem whatsoever and he is in a rather good physical condition. The only thing is that he just won't wake up despite all they've tried to bring him back to consciousness. And nobody knows why right now."
That was weird. Because what was happening while Draco was asleep definitely seemed real. The voice in his head did sound like the real Potter. But maybe Draco had been deluding himself. Maybe he wasn't talking to Potter at all after all. Maybe he was just making it all up in his head and was just imagining Potter's answers.
The nurse was about to leave the room when Draco blurted: "Could I go and see him?"
Suddenly he felt that if he could come physically closer to Potter, like he had tried to do the other night, that he would have more answers and it would allow him to end things without anything else in the way.
She seemed to hesitate. "I don't really know about that. You're still very weak."
"I think-" he had to try. "I think I could maybe help him wake up."
She frowned. "And how would you do that?"
"I don't know. But it may be worth giving it a shot, don't you think?"
She considered him for a moment. "I guess taking you to see him wouldn't do him any harm. I'll ask if it's possible."
"I would really appreciate that, Laura, thank you," he did the charming smile thing again.
"I can't promise you anything, though."
She left the room and closed the door behind her.
He wasn't left alone for long though, because after only five minutes, the nurse came back to tell him he had visitors. Draco was really surprised because he literally had no one from his old life left. He rapidly roused himself for being so naive. Of course the visitors weren't coming to see him! They were here for Potter.
"How are you feeling, Malfoy?" Granger said as a greeting.
"I'm feeling wonderful, thank you. This place is charming and they serve the most refined meals. An improvement from my previous accommodations, no doubt about that."
"Malfoy…" Granger silenced the Weasel by gently putting her hand on his arm. Draco had no idea why, but the gesture made his heart clench a little. "We're really sorry about what has happened to you, Malfoy, we really are."
"Yeah, and about that, we have some… news." Oh. Draco braced himself and tried not to appear too expectant. "Robards asked me to tell you that… Rowle is dead," the Weasel said.
Draco swallowed hard and closed his eyes for a short while.
He was dead.
He wouldn't hurt Draco anymore.
Draco didn't feel relief, he didn't feel anger at the thought He would never have to answer for his actions, he felt nothing. He opened his eyes again and stared blankly at the two of them, quickly putting his Malfoy mask of indifference back on.
"Happy birthday to me," he sneered.
"It means that there obviously won't be a trial now, and that you won't have to go through interrogation or that kind of stuff."
"Great. Where's the champagne, then?"
"Malfoy…" Granger started.
"Stop. Stop doing this. I don't need your pity," he spat and changed the subject swiftly. He wasn't going down this road with these two. "Have you been to see Potter yet?" Of course they had, did he really think they would rush to his bedside first?
"Yeah, we have."
"So, what is the news?"
"Nothing that you don't already know I suppose," Granger stated. "He's fine, he's in good shape, he has not been hurt in any way apparently and yet he won't wake up." There was a tiny bit of despair in her voice.
"But nobody knows what's happened then? When he did whatever it was he did to me?"
"No. You see…" Granger started, "There seems to be some kind of a magical bond between Harry and you, for some reason," Draco felt himself blush slightly at Granger's words and fuck, she seemed to notice that. "Not- not of the romantic kind, no, not like when two people are bonded in love, but one of a different kind."
"Well, obviously," Draco pointed.
"I've done some research," Granger went on, "and I've also talked with the healer in charge of Harry's case and what Harry did the other night, well, not only did it save your life, but it apparently mixed your magic together. You got a bit of his, and he got a bit of yours."
Draco raised an eyebrow. He had never heard of such a thing.
"To what extent, we don't know. All we know is that it allowed you to avoid death, but coincidently, it plunged him in this kind of very deep sleep."
Draco frowned. "So you have no idea if, or when he will wake up?"
"We don't," the Weasel stepped in. "But we thought that maybe…" he cast a sideward glance at Granger who nodded her approval. "Maybe you would feel something, or know something because of your magic having been mixed and all."
Draco narrowed his eyes. The Weasel had no idea how right he was. He did know something they didn't, something only Potter and he knew. He vaguely pondered telling them but for some reason, he didn't want to. He realised he somehow liked the idea of Potter and him communicating in such a way without anyone else knowing about it, and as selfish as it sounded, he quite liked the idea of not sharing this thing they had with anyone. He knew that it wasn't making a difference to Potter's state anyway.
He realised he had been silent for a tiny bit too long. "I don't. I don't know anything."
"Okay," Granger exhaled, looking disappointed.
"Although I did ask to go and see him, to see if being next to him would make any difference to his state."
"Oh? And what did they say?"
"The nurse said she didn't know if it were going to be possible, but that she'd ask. Do you think it could work?"
"I don't know," Granger replied. "Probably not. But it's worth a try, I guess."
Draco felt bizarrely disappointed. "Right."
"Okay, we won't bother you any longer."
"Yes. Just, please let us know if you're feeling anything different towards Harry," Granger added.
"Goodbye, Malfoy," and with that they quickly left the room.
Draco sighed and stared at the ceiling for a while, thinking about the whole conversation. The very first civil conversation he's had with the two of them ever. Hell, he even managed to have civil conversations with Potter too. It was really high time for him to leave here. Things were really getting weird.
Can you believe how ironic life is sometimes, Malfoy? I mean, you wanted to die and yet you couldn't because of me. I want to live and yet I can't wake up.
Because of me.
Well, we don't know about that.
What do you mean I can't die because of you?
I think this link prevents you from dying.
No, I mean, you are not immortal or anything like that, it's just that I think I can prevent it from happening.
That's a scary thought.
Why? You still want to die?
Why would that have changed?
I don't know. I thought that maybe it'd been something you had done on impulse and that you didn't want to die anymore.
Well, you were wrong, I'm afraid. And you won't always be there to prevent me from doing it.
I don't want you to die.
Potter, I don't have anything holding me here anymore. I just want everything to stop.
I would miss you.
Yeah, of course I would! You've always been a part of my life.
How touching. You in love with me now, Potter?
Git. Of course not.
Of course not.
The news arrived in the morning of the next day. Draco had been staring out the window for a while. It was raining lightly now but the buds on the branches of the huge Sycamore on the outside of the hospital were growing fast.
The discussion he'd had with Potter last night kept coming back and Draco couldn't stop thinking about it. I don't want you to die. Well, obviously. Potter had already saved Draco's life three times.
Three fucking times.
Crazy when you thought about it. I would miss you. You've always been a part of my life. Draco didn't know if it was a Gryffindor trait to expose one's feelings to other people so openly, but he realised that it was somehow mutual. No matter how they had treated each other in the past, how complicated and twisted their relationship had been, Potter had indeed always been a part of Draco's life one way or another.
Sure, they were very different, had absolutely nothing in common, had been raised differently and evolved in different crowds believing in different things altogether. Oh, and of course, they hated each other. But Draco had lost so many people over the last months that knowing Potter was still around was somehow comforting. Yes, it was, despite everything.
He was snapped out of his daydreaming when Cecilia came to check on him.
"So," she started flicking her wand on him in rather complicated patterns all along his thin body, checking each and every wound and making sure it was healing properly. "I heard that you've finally come to your senses and had something to eat yesterday?"
"Oh yes, it was wonderful, I was spoilt rotten."
"Why, isn't the hospital food decent enough for you delicate palate?"
"It wasn't too bad."
"Good. The good news is, since you were willing to make an effort, I was able to speak to the Head Healer this morning who agreed to grant you your request."
Draco's heart jumped in his chest and started beating faster. They were letting him see Potter. He remained composed though. Eighteen years of learning how to hide your emotions to your father certainly helped in moments like those, even if at extreme times, it had not been enough.
"Aren't you happy about that?"
"Why would I be happy?" he shrugged.
She frowned. "I thought you wanted to go and check on Mr Potter?"
"Well, all I need is a little bit of exercise, really. It doesn't matter much where I go."
She narrowed her eyes. "I see. If this is all you need, I can cancel today's visit to him and simply take you down the corridor then."
He looked at her with admiration in his eyes. She was clever and really knew how to deal with him.
"Nah, if I really have to get out of this room, I should go and check on Potter. I wouldn't want to waste your time just hanging around the corridors."
"Okay. So that's settled then. I'll come back right after your lunch."
And with that she left the room.
He was restless after Cecilia's morning visit. He kept wondering if his legs would really be able to carry him to Potter's room. He didn't even know where it was, if it was on the same floor or in another part of the hospital altogether. He got to eat another soup for lunch and was terribly impatient after that. He felt strangely excited. He didn't know why. He was just going to see Potter sleeping basically, which in itself wasn't an exciting prospect but still.
Cecilia finally arrived around three.
"You certainly took your time!" he snapped as soon as she entered the room.
"As unbelievable as it may seem to you, Mr Malfoy, I have other patients to take care of."
Draco shut up. He wasn't in for an argument. Not now anyway. The excitement in his stomach was still there and it bugged him big time. He felt like he was some fourth year girl waiting for her beau to take her to Yule Ball. Shit, he felt like Pansy Parkinson. Pansy. He hadn't thought of her for a while. He wondered how she had done after the war.
"If you are to remain lost in your thoughts like that, I'm going to go and see my other patients!"
He rolled his eyes. "Fine, I'm ready."
"Right, so you haven't walked for a while, since we wanted to make sure all of your wounds had healed properly. We didn't want to take the risk of them opening again."
"Because that's a possibility?"
"Well, no, that's what I'm telling you and why you got the all clear today," she looked at him oddly and for one short moment, Draco thought there had been compassion, or even pity in her eyes. "But you certainly had pretty bad wounds that wouldn't have healed simply with the Dittany, so we had to apply more powerful unguents on some parts of your skin."
"Right, on with it, now." He didn't care much about his wounds that only delayed the moment he would get up. "So, am I just supposed to get up and walk, and pray that it's going to be all right, then?"
"No, Mr Malfoy. I brought you something to help you." And she flicked her wand and produced a long wooden object.
A walking stick.
Draco paled at the sight of it.
"There is no way I'm using this," he murmured, his gaze steady on the object. "Absolutely no way."
"Oh, stop being difficult, Mr Malfoy!"
"I'm not being difficult!" he shouted. "I won't use this! And stop calling me Mr Malfoy at once! Mr Malfoy was my father and he's long gone, is that clear?"
He didn't really know why he had taken it out on her. She didn't have anything to do with Draco freaking out at the sight of a fucking walking stick. But it brought too many memories. Especially bad ones. And it made him think of his father, which he was trying hard not to do lately. Although it tended to be more and more difficult these days not to think of the past. And speaking with Potter, or whatever it was they were doing together, certainly didn't help. He couldn't go down this road. He just couldn't. He had to remain strong enough and focus on his goal.
Cecilia looked at him for a while, not seeming in the least impressed with the way he had yelled at her, and never lowering her gaze from his. He felt ashamed of his behaviour all a sudden, and almost wanted to apologise.
"So what do you want me to call you then?" she said in a tone that was surprisingly soft, but still very assured.
"Draco, just, Draco, that's enough," he mumbled.
"Fine, Draco, so no walking stick, then," and she vanished it at once.
He stood up and took a moment to adjust to the standing position, his light-blue hospital robe falling almost all the way to his ankles and his ugly hospital slippers. He probably looked like a dork, but looking fashionable was the last thing on his mind right now.
"Is Potter's room far?"
"No, it's two rooms down the corridor. We wouldn't have allowed you to walk there otherwise."
Draco took an experimental step forward and it felt okay. It didn't hurt like the other night and he felt stronger, more assured on his legs as well. He took another step and gained confidence when he realised he hadn't so much as stumbled yet and even if his legs were slightly trembling, they weren't showing any sign they would betray him just yet.
Walking was easier than he would have expected in the end. He went very slowly, Cecilia by his side, wand in hand, ready to cast a cushioning spell were Draco to trip and fall. She held out her arm for him to take but he declined. He wanted to do this on his own.
"You're doing great, Draco, go on," Cecilia encouraged him with a smile and it felt strange but he didn't comment, wishing to remain focused on his task.
He was walking faster now, the sensations completely back in his limbs. It was true that walking wasn't something you could forget how to do, so it made sense that it would come back pretty quickly. He finally reached the door of his room. He was about to see what laid beyond, what he was only able to catch glimpses of every time someone opened it and he bothered looking. There was a world beyond that door. It suddenly hit him that all his life he had been confined in some place or another: first the Manor, then Hogwarts, then the Manor again, the corner Down There and finally this room.
"Ready?" Cecilia asked him and he nodded.
She opened the door and stepped into the corridor. He was instantly disappointed: it was a simple corridor with more deep blue doors. He realised his room was at one end and that somewhere in the middle, on the left hand side, was a larger place that held a desk and a small open space. This was probably where the healers and nurses met and discussed their patients. He wouldn't have to go this far though. Potter's door was only a few feet away on his right.
He resumed his walking, realising that he was moving faster as they approached the door. He felt excitement rise in his chest again and tried to calm himself down. There was nothing there but Potter sleeping, he reminded himself.
They finally arrived at the door to Potter's room. Cecilia opened it and turned to him.
"Are you going to be okay in there? You can sit on the chair by the bed. I'll be at the desk over there, so if you need anything, just shout out for me and I'll be there in no time."
"You're not coming in with me? What if I fall?"
"You don't need me in there, Draco. You've managed to come this far so a few more steps shouldn't be a problem. Now go, I'm right here anyway."
"Okay," and she turned away in the direction of the desk. Draco followed her with his eyes and turned back to Potter's room.
It was identical to Draco's, from the bed to the cheap painting on the wall, to the bedside table where Potter's glasses rested. It made sense of course. It's not as if someone had decided to give the place a bit of soul and make all the rooms different.
He made his way in and closed the door behind him.
Draco didn't know what he had really expected by coming here. Deep inside of him, he had thought that maybe, by coming closer to Potter, something would happen, that Potter's magic and his would do something wild again like the last time and that Potter would wake up.
Or something like that.
But nothing happened and he couldn't help feeling disappointed.
His eyes caught Potter on his bed. He was slightly surprised at how peaceful he looked. Potter was deeply asleep and it felt incredibly intimate, watching him like that. He had seen Potter's face bearing all kinds of different expressions over the years - anger and contempt mostly when he was looking at Draco - but never had he seen him asleep obviously. And he never had the occasion to take a good look at him either.
He walked slowly closer until his legs hit the side of the bed and he sat on the wooden chair. He then leaned forward to take a closer look at Potter's face. It was fascinating really. Potter's hair was a mess as usual and Draco refrained from running his fingers through it to make it look better. His eyes then dragged down Potter's forehead and stopped on his lightning bolt scar. The scar that had changed Potter's life forever and decided of his fate. The scar that had shaped him into whatever he was now.
Draco's eyes then went slowly down Potter's face. They roamed over his closed eyes, his straight nose and his thin lips. There was a tiny hint of stubble on his chin but he didn't linger on that and rather let his gaze wander below, down on to Potter's throat and Adam's apple to the top of his chest where a few dark hairs appeared above the neckline of Potter's nightshirt.
He looked at Potter's body, all the way down his arms. Potter's hands were very different from Draco's. Draco had delicate hands - even after all that had happened Down There, ironically - with long, pale fingers. Potter's hands looked larger and stronger. For some reason, Draco was fascinated by them. He fleetingly wondered what it would feel like to touch them.
He looked back at Potter's restful face. It was weird to see him without his ugly glasses. He looked oddly vulnerable.
So this was The-Boy-Who-Lived, The-Saviour-of-the-Wizarding-World, the defeater of the Dark Lord; How ordinary he looked!
Just a boy, really. A boy Draco had hated with all his might. A boy Draco had despised, taunted, mocked, laughed at restlessly. A boy who could get under Draco's skin like no other. A boy capable of bringing out the worst of him. But also a boy who had saved him many times at his own risk.
Draco took a deep breath. "Potter, you have to wake up. I know you have a taste for drama, but it's gone on for far too long. Granger and the Weasel miss you. Hell, the rest of the Wizarding World is probably holding its breath right now. They need their hero back."
It was weird to talk to someone who couldn't answer back, but still, Draco went on. "Really, Potter, I don't know what's gone through that thick skull of yours that night but you shouldn't have bothered," he murmured. "And no matter what happens to me now, I don't want you to come and rescue me again. I don't deserve it. I don't deserve you sacrificing yourself for my sake. You have more important things to do with your life."
He sighed, looking at Potter's still face again. "You don't get it, do you? I want to go. I want it all to stop. Badly. I just can't stand it anymore. It's just... too much. I can't stand the pain, I can't stand the shame, I can't stand the guilt of all the terrible things my family has done, of all the terrible things I have done. Or haven't." Draco swallowed hard as pictures of Charity Burbage being devoured by this atrocious snake in his own fucking house passed through his mind. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath before opening them again. "Believe me, Potter, the world will be much better off without someone like me in it."
His voice was slightly trembling now and he felt a tingling in his eyes. He closed them swiftly. He was not going down this road. It was over. He swallowed hard and opened his eyes again, standing up swiftly.
He held onto the nearest wall to keep his balance.
As soon as he felt capable of doing so, he walked slowly back to the door. Once there, he reached for the handle and turned around to look at Potter one last time.
"Goodbye, Potter," he whispered before heading back to his room without looking back.
"Bend over. I said, BEND OVER!"
Don't think. Black. Empty. Don't feel. Focus. The droplet. Shit. Can't hear it.
Chains. Oh no. Not the chains again.
Pain. Don't react. DO NOT REACT.
And don't think. Don't fucking think.
Draco opened his eyes and slowly came back to the present. He took a look out the window. It was still dark outside. And it was all so quiet. So very quiet.
He realised he was shaking. Shit. Another reminder of Down There. He sighed. It would never go away. Not as long as he lived. It was right there. He could feel it all again, see it all again, hell he could smell it all again. The stink of Down There was back in his nostrils.
Draco knew it had not been real: that it was a nightmare. He was dead. Granger and Weasley had told him so. He wouldn't hurt him anymore. Everything was well and truly over, at least for the physical part.
Inside Draco's head, it was a different story.
He took another look outside. It was time.
This time he wouldn't fail. He made this promise to himself. This time, Potter wouldn't be here to save him again. He would succeed, he was sure of it. They had done all they could to protect him from himself. Draco was under close observation, he knew it.
But it didn't matter. That wouldn't stop him. He was determined to succeed.
He hoped that it would be like the last time. That he would see his mother again. That he would be able to run into her arms and let her envelop him and make him forget everything. He was still a scared child in the end.
He closed his eyes and tried to focus. It was much easier than last time, because for once, he had already done it before so he knew what to expect. But he had to be very quiet. And very fast. He wouldn't have much time. As soon as they would realise what he was up to, they would try to stop him. But he wouldn't let them.
He took a deep breath and murmured, "colloportus," locking the door to his room. He heard the tiny click and could feel the magic at work. Right. Only one left. Quick. He murmured the second spell, concentrating hard to put as much as he could in it. It had to work.
He felt the slight tingle in his throat, his trachea slowly swelling, preventing the oxygen from going in his body as the spell started to work. It felt amazingly good to know it would soon be all over. Draco was at peace with himself for the first time. It felt right. He heard some noise outside of his door but he ignored it. A few more seconds and he was barely aware of what was happening around him now.
They wouldn't make it in time.
They would be too late.
He was leaving for good.
The last thing he felt before it all went black were the two silent tears running from his already dead eyes.
- III -
It was all white and clean again.
It was all white and clean again, and Draco was not cold, although he was completely naked. He was lying on some hard surface, definitely harder than a bed. He slowly opened his eyes and lifted his head to make out his surroundings. The rest of the room was enveloped in a white mist and seemed to appear, to form into existence at the precise moment he laid his eyes on it.
He was feeling incredibly good. All the physical pain from what had happened over the last few months was gone, as if erased from him. He slowly sat and took a look at his body. All the scars, all the most recent wounds, all the last traces of his bruises were gone. His body was as smooth as it had been once, before his life had spiralled out of control. His eyes trailed down his left forearm and met nothing but a couple of visible veins through the almost translucent skin. His Dark Mark was gone as well, which sent a thrill down his spine.
He could see, he could feel.
He focused on the hard surface under him. It was a bench. A simple wooden bench with four metal legs. He slowly got to his feet and more things appeared in his field of vision. There was a similar bench next to his and on this other bench were some clothes. A pair of charcoal trousers and a light-grey shirt. They fitted him perfectly.
He looked around again. It was all white and clean, and yet, it felt different than the last time, when he had seen his mother.
His mother. He couldn't wait to see her again. He wanted to see her, badly, hell, he needed to. That thought warmed his insides as he took a few tentative steps. All he had to do now was go and look for her. She shouldn't be far. His surroundings got more precise and soon some white cabinets appeared on either side of him, all around the benches, occupying almost all the space between the floor and the ceiling.
He was in some room somewhere. It looked familiar, even if he couldn't quite place it yet. It was all soft and fuzzy and so quiet! It was a bit like what he imagined being on a cloud would feel like, except the ground was hard. As everything got clearer, there were no more doubts.
This wasn't the Manor.
Shit. Where was he? All there was here were a couple of benches and some funny-looking cabinets. He stopped at once as some more details appeared and he realised what it was.
Of course he knew the place. He had been there hundreds of times in his life. How had he not recognised it before?
He looked around again, and there was no possible doubt left. The benches, the cabinets all around - they were lockers, not cabinets.
He was in the Quidditch locker room of Hogwarts.
Why on earth would he find himself in the Quidditch locker room of Hogwarts? What was the meaning of all this?
He walked to where he knew the showers were supposed to be, and right enough, here they were. Like the rest, they didn't look like the real ones, these looked way cleaner and newer than he had ever known them and seemed to appear at the same time as Draco was laying his eyes on them, although they didn't disappear as soon as he looked away.
It must have been some kind of a joke. Draco had died and found himself in the Quidditch locker room of Hogwarts. What was he going to do?
But then Potter's words came back to him vividly. Potter's place had been King's Cross Station. It could have been worse.
All in all the Quidditch locker room wasn't that stupid. It was a place Draco had loved despite everything. His team had known many victories and the locker room had often resonated with victorious chants. But this had also been a place of heavy silence, when Draco had failed to catch the Snitch against bloody Potter.
It was always about him in the end. Everything led back to him.
Not this time though. There was no Potter in sight.
Draco didn't quite know what he was meant to do now. He supposed he was dead, but curiously enough, he didn't know what to do with that fact. He had never really thought about it, because he had always seen Death as something final, not in the shape of a Quidditch locker room. He had always thought that with Death came the darkness, the end of the pain, of the suffering, the end of everything, really. He had not expected that. Because he didn't feel any different from when he was alive. His senses seemed to be working properly - he could see, he could feel, he could touch, he could smell, and he could hear - although to be honest, the latter was harder to check. It was all so silent in here!
He slowly wandered around, discovering some more, searching inside the lockers but they were empty. He then went to the new broomshed - it had been moved inside during their fifth year to avoid bad weather conditions - but it was empty as well. He didn't know what he was looking for precisely. Answers, probably.
He walked some more and the double-doors leading to the Quidditch pitch materialised in front of him.
He hesitated. What was there going to be outside? He laughed nervously. What did it matter anyway? He was dead!
He walked to the double-doors and opened them in one swift movement.
A white, vivid light assailed him and he had to blink a couple of times to allow his vision to adjust to the brightness. In front of him was nothing but the Quidditch pitch as he remembered it although like the rest, it was colourless and seemed to form as it went, still shrouded in this cloudy vapour that seemed to be everywhere.
He walked through the doors and his bare feet met the white-looking grass.
The feeling of the grass under his feet was incredibly soothing. Everything here was quiet and relaxing. Draco himself felt light as a feather. All that had happened to him while he was alive was still there in his head of course, it was a part of him after all, but it was different. As if it couldn't affect him quite in the same way it had when he had been alive. He was surprised to see that although he could breathe, no particular smell caught his nostrils. There was no wind either. Nothing. It was all so quiet. Oddly quiet.
He took a couple of steps on the Quidditch pitch. The goal-posts and the scoring area at either end materialised before him. He paused to look around. The more he looked, the more details were emerging. He could now see the stands more clearly and he realised that every other stand was decorated as if a match was about to take place here. Although the banners were pale versions of the original ones, as if they had stayed in the sunshine for too long, there was no doubt possible as to the houses represented on them: a silver snake on a dark-green blazon and a golden lion on a red one.
Slytherin vs. Gryffindor.
Draco smiled. It all came down to it, even there.
Something at the other end of the pitch suddenly attracted his attention. At first it was merely a dot in the distance, but as it came closer - yes, it was definitely moving - Draco started making out the outline of it. It wasn't easy because as the shape approached, it made the rest around it move as well, as if his surroundings were in constant movement, affected by what was going on in it. Draco squinted and blinked a couple of times. The whiteness of the whole thing made it hard for him to see, but there was no mistake anymore. Something - someone? - was walking to him. Pretty fast. Draco paled, or at least, it felt like it. Should he run away and hide? That would definitely be the safest thing to do. He really wanted to.
But then it came closer and Draco got a good look at what it was. Of who it was. Because it was definitely someone. A very pissed off someone apparently.
Draco whimpered and braced himself for what he knew was about to happen.
He should have known.
"You selfish bastard!" Potter bellowed as he shoved Draco hard, nearly knocking him out in the process. "You fucking arrogant prick!" Potter was now poking on Draco's chest with his finger. "What the hell were you thinking?"
Draco walked backwards slowly, unconsciously looking for the protection of the locker room, as fear gradually rose up his body - his supposedly dead body he reminded himself. Potter looked beyond himself and unlike his old self, Draco hated an angry Potter. Especially when the anger was so visibly directed at him. And when Draco had no one else by his side.
"Well? I suppose you're happy now?" Potter said again, panting hard, his face very close to Draco's. Draco couldn't move anymore. He was fascinated by Potter's sudden apparition. But was it really Potter or a figment of his imagination again? He stared at him. Potter was dressed in these ugly Muggle clothes. There was something odd about him, something different from the Potter he knew.
"You have no glasses?" Draco finally said, bewildered. Potter's eyes were incredibly green, scrutinising him without shame, piercing right through him, furious. Draco felt a cold sweat running down his back.
"That's all you fucking have to say, Malfoy? That I'm not wearing glasses? Really?" Potter passed by him, hitting him hard in the shoulder, and went inside the locker room. He frantically searched the lockers. The sound of the metal doors being slammed one after the other echoed in the small room, making Draco jump every time.
He turned around slowly to look at Potter.
"What are… why are you here?"
Potter stopped in his tracks, a dangerous look on his face. "Are you fucking kidding me? Are you so thick that you really don't understand what this is all about?" Potter looked at him in disbelief and something else made its way inside Draco's body. Something he was very familiar with. Shame, mingled with fear.
But Draco shut up when Potter invaded his personal space again and said in a low voice. "I'm here because you decided to kill yourself again, you stupid moron, without thinking of the consequences and despite all my warnings!"
"I-" Draco said again and then it all became clear.
The conversations he'd had with Potter over the last few nights came back to him at once. We are linked now whether you like it or not. Everything that affects you affects me. Draco felt a thrill running down his spine. I told you, Malfoy. We're linked. You die, I die.
Fuck fuck fuck.
By committing suicide, he had not only killed himself.
He had also killed Potter.
Draco sat on the edge of the nearest bench and took his head in his hands. He had fucked up, big time.
After a while, he lifted his head and looked sheepishly at Potter.
"Look, I- I'm sorry, okay?"
"SORRY? You're fucking sorry? Are you-?" Potter paused and the look he sent Draco made him want to run and hide far, far away once again. "You know what? Fuck you, Malfoy."
And with that, Potter stormed outside to the white Quidditch pitch and disappeared from his sight, leaving him bizarrely empty and lonely.
Shit. What was he supposed to do now? This was absolutely not what he had expected, not one minute. His mother wasn't there and instead he had an angry Potter to deal with. Draco hated the way Potter had talked to him, he hated how the boy always managed to make him feel like he was worth nothing. But he didn't want to stay here on his own. The whole place was slightly creepy with its overwhelming silence.
He decided to go and look for Potter. After all, Potter had already been in a similar situation - if what he had told him in his dreams was true - and probably had answers for him.
Draco went out again and put his hand on his forehead to avoid the bright and warm, white light to blind him as he was looking for Potter. The light almost gave an impression of sunshine and it made it hard to look around. Draco ran his eyes over the stands again.
He finally caught sight of Potter seating in one of the Gryffindor areas, elbows resting on his knees, staring at something down on the pitch, as if expecting a match to begin any time. As Draco was wondering how he would reach the stands, a flight of stairs appeared on his left. He grabbed the banister and the wood felt good under his palms, warm and oddly reassuring. He went up the stairs but there wasn't the usual creaking of the steps under his weight, which rather disconcerted him. Potter was a few feet away on his right and Draco hesitantly moved towards him.
As he took a seat right next to Potter's, he hoped the boy had calmed down a little and that they would be able to figure out the next step to take. Potter didn't move an inch though, didn't even acknowledge his presence. He was acting as if Draco didn't exist, which was ironically the probable truth. Draco couldn't really blame Potter though. He was sure he would have freaked out too in his place.
After a while, he gathered his courage and broke the silence. "Is any of this real? Are we- what are we?"
"Well, you tell me. You're the one who put us here, so you must have the answers." Potter muttered, still staring at the pitch.
"I don't- It's not what I had expected," and Draco realised what an understatement that was.
"Oh yeah? And what had you expected exactly, Malfoy? That you would find yourself in some high-standing comfortable place, all your family welcoming you with a huge smile on their face and that you'd be able to run into your mummy's waiting arms?" Potter sniggered.
Draco remained silent. Potter didn't know how close to the truth it all was. And it hurt quite a bit.
"Sorry," Potter finally said. "I just-"
"No, that's okay. I would be seriously pissed off too."
They remained silent for a while, staring at the empty pitch down there. It wasn't uncomfortable though. It felt oddly reassuring to have Potter at his side, Draco realised. He could have done worse, not that he would admit that out loud.
"Are we dead then?" he murmured after a while.
"To be honest, Malfoy, I have no idea," Potter paused. "I think, as weird as it sounds, that it's up to you, really."
"To me? You mean, I'm the one to decide if we live or die?"
"Something like that, yes," Potter replied. "I suppose it's your call since you're the one who decided to go in the first place. I'm just collateral damage here."
"I never meant to take you with me, Potter, I swear I had no idea."
Potter's eyes diverted from the pitch and their eyes met for the first time since Draco had arrived. Potter's gaze was intense, as if he were trying to read his mind. Draco felt the hairs on his arms stand on end.
"I know," Potter finally said in a soft voice. "I know you didn't mean it, and I know that you were desperate. For all it's worth, I'm really sorry about what's happened to you. You didn't deserve any of it."
"I-" There were a million things Draco wanted to say right then. He wanted to say that he didn't need Potter's pity, that Potter had no idea what Draco had been through and that, deep inside, Draco couldn't help thinking he had deserved at least some of what had happened to him. Payback. But he didn't say any of those things. "Thank you, Potter."
They resumed their staring at the pitch. Potter suddenly chuckled and the sound of it - the only sound in this otherwise silent place - made Draco's skin tingle slightly again. He turned to Potter, a puzzled look on his face.
"Can you believe that we had to wait to be kind of dead to be civil to each other?" Potter's smile was warm and sincere. Draco realised it was the first time he ever saw Potter's smile directed at him. It felt odd.
"Well, better late than never, I guess."
"But seriously, Malfoy, the Quidditch pitch?" Potter smiled again.
Draco shrugged. "I don't know what to say."
"Maybe you thought it was your last opportunity to beat me to the Snitch," Potter smirked, but his eyes held no malice in them. He was just playing with Draco and it unsettled him. Was that the real Potter?
"Yeah, well, I guess we'll never know. I couldn't find any brooms in the shed."
"Too bad, I would've loved kicking your butt in this kind of afterlife as well!"
Draco narrowed his eyes. "You wish, Potter. Like I would have let you."
"I guess we'll never know."
"I guess we won't, no." It was all silent again. Draco sighed. "I don't want to go back," he said after a while. As he said it, he realised how selfish it was. It was not fair to Potter, really. He had nothing to do with Draco's decision and yet here he was, his destiny in Draco's hands.
Potter leaned forward on his seat, edging closer to him, and asked in a soft voice. "Why don't you?"
There was something about the way Potter looked at him, as if he were discovering him for the first time, that unsettled Draco. He looked away. "I- I have nothing left there, absolutely nothing. And I just- I can't live with all that's happened to me in the past few months."
Potter leaned back in his seat, folding his arms across his chest. "I don't understand that, to be honest," and Draco tensed instantly. Potter's surprisingly nice attitude towards him until then had suddenly morphed into something harder, making him uncomfortable. Potter wasn't smiling anymore and his look was sharp as he leaned forward again. Their physical proximity affected Draco more than he would have thought. "So many people died during the war, so many innocents killed when they had still so much to live for! I'm sorry but it seems to me like you're behaving like a spoilt child being picky over something other people hadn't had a chance to."
Draco had nothing to answer to that so he kept quiet. There was no stopping Potter though, and Draco regretted having shared this with him. Of course he wouldn't understand, how could he?
"Malfoy, people die everyday. People who had a whole future ahead of themselves. Remember Lavender Brown? No, you probably don't even know who she was," Potter sneered and Draco swallowed hard. He vaguely remembered the girl but had never spoken to her, never ever given her a single thought. Potter's face was flushed now. "She was eighteen for fuck's sake, and the life she envisioned probably included meeting the man of her dreams, having children and a job she would love. Instead, she ended up eaten alive by a bloodthirsty werewolf on the cold stone floor of Hogwarts."
Draco felt a chill run all the way down his back. Potter's voice softened as suddenly as it had hardened earlier on though, and the abrupt change unsettled him once again. Potter's bright green eyes searched his and it felt as if Potter was trying to reach deep inside him.
"I know you've been through hell, Malfoy. Like I told you, I was there when they found you, but-"
"No." Draco simply said in a low voice. "No, Potter, you don't know anything." Draco could feel something rise inside him, from deep inside - anger mixed with terror - as flashes of Down There started resurfacing before his eyes. He closed them, wishing them away. And oddly enough, they did.
Draco opened his eyes again. "I know people died during the war, I know how hard and unfair it is, Potter, do you really think I don't know that? But I, for one, am weak and selfish, and a coward as you very well know, and I just can't stand the idea of having to live with what happened there for the rest of my life. I just- can't. Not without the support of the people I love, not when the disgusted look in people's face will always remind me what kind of a filthy rotten Death Eater scum I am and tell me this is all that I deserved."
"You are no coward, Malfoy." Of all the things Draco had said, Potter had to pick this. He would never cease to surprise him. "At least not anymore. You've proved yourself at important times. What you did at the Manor saved our lives. I would always be thankful to you for that."
Draco chortled nervously. "You're unbelievable. I've mocked you, taunted you, despised you, killed you, and yet, you're being thankful!" But Potter didn't laugh. He once again looked deep into Draco's eyes. Potter's gaze made him so uncomfortable that he had to look away once again.
"You have to live, Malfoy. If you die, you let him win. If you die, it will mean he managed to get to you. If you die, he wins, and you lose. You have to fight."
Draco opened his mouth to reply but Potter didn't let him. "Yes, what he did to you was barbaric, inhuman, but there's hope, there's always hope!" Draco was fascinated by the passion in Potter's words. "You cannot give up! By giving up, you let him win and it's just not fair, because the bad guy should never win in the end."
So Gryffindor, Draco thought. "It doesn't matter anymore. He's dead."
"Yeah, Weasley came to tell me."
"Ron? Ron came to tell you?"
"Yes, Potter, are you going to stop repeating everything I say?" Draco snapped. He sighed. "It doesn't matter that He's dead, not one minute. It doesn't change what He did to me. And I'm not strong enough to fight, to be honest, especially since there's absolutely nothing left to fight for."
Potter considered him for a moment. "It will be hard, really hard, and there will be moments when you will feel miserable and useless and desperate, moments when you will want to give it all up, like over the last few days." Potter's face was alight with some kind of renewed passion now. "But if you choose life, there will also be beautiful moments, moments worth living for. I promise it will eventually get better, Malfoy, even if it takes time."
Draco couldn't deny Potter's words struck a chord. He almost wanted to believe them. He looked again at the pitch. The edges of the whole thing, high up in the 'sky' kept moving and morphing into various shapes.
"You came to see me." Potter stated and Draco was grateful for the change of subject.
Draco turned to look at him. "Yeah, I did. How do you know?"
"I sensed your presence."
"Yeah, I could- I could feel my body react to you being in the same room." Draco was surprised to see there was a hint of a blush on Potter's cheeks. Had Potter heard what he had told him there?
"Yeah, well, I thought that maybe- maybe with what was going on between us - the link thing I mean - me being in the same room would do something to you and maybe help you wake up." As he was saying it out loud he realised how ridiculous the whole idea sounded.
"But it didn't," Potter said flatly, looking away.
"No, it didn't."
"And yet, it made sense. I mean, after all I did feel you were in danger when you tried to- you know, the first time."
"And that's how you came to the rescue," Draco said mostly to himself.
Potter turned to him and looked deep into his eyes. "I couldn't let you, Malfoy, I'm sorry, I just couldn't let you go and do nothing about it."
"Fucking saviour complex," Draco muttered. Potter raised an eyebrow but said nothing. Draco looked distractingly at the three goal posts on the left of the pitch. The light wasn't so bright as earlier and it made it easier to look afar.
They were silent for a while again. Draco jumped when Potter suddenly burst out laughing. He raised an eyebrow, although there was something about this laugh, this deep and sincere laugh that made his stomach flutter. For some reason, he was starting to enjoy Potter's company, more than he would have thought possible anyway.
"It's just- of all people, it had to be you! I mean, I could've been linked to anyone: Ron, Hermione, Ginny, anyone really, but no, it had to be my greatest rival! Surely this is some joke from the universe!"
"Yeah, well, sorry about that, Potter, I didn't exactly ask for it either," something about the way Potter had said the word 'rival' bothered him but he didn't dwell on it. "And I'm sure the experience would have been much more pleasurable had you been stuck somewhere with your girlfriend rather than me," he added, although he didn't know why he had said the whole thing out loud. What did he care?
Potter had an undecipherable look on his face. "Well, I probably wouldn't be dead for sure! But it doesn't change anything, and I don't have a girlfriend anyway. And I like talking with you. You're not as much as a git as you used to be."
"Well, spending weeks in a filthy place with a madman probably helps improve one's personality I guess," Draco said nonchalantly, stretching his long legs on the seat in front of him.
"Are you ready to talk about it yet?" Potter asked softly.
Draco narrowed his eyes. "No. Not now, not ever."
"So no girlfriend, Potter?"
Something weird passed in Potter's eyes. "Nope."
"What about girl Weasley?"
"Ginny? No, we never got back together after the war. I mean, we're still friends, but just that, friends."
"Yep." Potter suddenly stood up. "I'm out of here. I need to move a little, I just can't stand staying like that doing nothing. You coming?"
"I-" What was Draco supposed to do now? It's not as if there were tons of things to do up here anyway. And he realised he didn't want to stay on his own. Fuck it, then. "Yeah, I'm coming."
They went down the wooden stairs and found themselves on the white grass again. Draco lifted his head up and took a look around. The edges of the pitch were still moving slowly, but it was definitely darker than it had been earlier, as if the 'weather' - or whatever it was - was turning cloudy. It was still bright though, just not as much as before.
They were both quiet, lost in their thoughts. The ever present silence was oppressing. It really was dead calm. Draco had not realised it until then, because his conversations with Potter had covered that fact, but now that they weren't speaking anymore, it disturbed him. He wished there was at least a bird twitting on a branch somewhere. As a coincidence, a robin started to sing afar and this simple sound helped him relax. But all in all, this lack of natural noise helped him remember why they were there in the first place. There was nothing real in everything that surrounded them. This wasn't real life, it was… something else. And Draco knew he would have to make a decision. Probably very soon.
"So, what do you want to do now?" Potter asked as they entered the locker room again.
"I don't know, there's not much we can do, right?" Draco went to sit on one of the benches as Potter started frantically searching the lockers again.
"Nope, I guess there isn't," he sighed as, unsurprisingly, he found nothing in there and let himself fall down on the floor, bringing his knees closer to his chest as his back rested on the lockers.
"I wonder what are the limits of this whole thing," Draco said after a while. "I mean, is this only the pitch or is there something beyond? Could we see Hogwarts from up there you think?"
"I don't know. I am no specialist on all things after-death, Malfoy."
"Right, well, I guess we'll never know," he sighed. "Pity I couldn't find any brooms, we could've checked."
As soon as he had pronounced the words, there was a huge bang coming from the broomshed that made them both jump.
Potter opened his eyes wide and whispered. "What the hell was that?"
"I don't know."
"Let's go and have a look." Potter got to his feet and patted Draco's knee to make him follow suit.
Potter rushed to the broomshed - unafraid as usual - and opened it. The shed was empty but for two brand-new Firebolts, a small box and two Quidditch uniforms - one Gryffindor red and the other one Slytherin green.
Draco gaped. "What the-"
"I don't know." Potter walked inside and grabbed one of the two broomsticks and started to examine it. He looked up at Draco. "You said you'd checked the broomshed earlier on?"
"I did, and I can guarantee you it was completely empty. I don't understand, this doesn't make any sense."
"Well, maybe the whole thing knew that's what we wanted?"
"Never mind. This is brilliant! Look at that!" And Potter slightly opened the small box and showed its content to Draco. A small, golden ball was inside. "I am going to be able to kick your arse in this afterlife in the end!" Potter smirked.
Draco raised an eyebrow. "In your dreams, Potter."
"Well, I guess we'll soon find out about that!" And without a warning, Potter started removing his t-shirt, unashamedly exposing his now bare chest before unbuckling his belt and pulling his trousers down. Draco felt the familiar pink tinge forming on his cheeks at the sight. Fuck. He had seen many naked boys in the locker room over the years, but never Potter. Somehow, it felt strange, intimate to see him like that as they were alone and Potter was now in his underpants. So that's what the Saviour-of-the-Wizarding-World looks like under his ugly clothes, Draco thought. He had to admit he looked much better than he had imagined it. Not that he had really thought about Potter's body before but the boy was rather fit and-
"Malfoy?" Shit. He had been caught staring. "Are you not getting changed?" Potter asked nonchalantly.
"Er, yes, yes, I am, I just-" Draco did his best to act casual, but he was failing remarkably. "I'll go in the locker room."
"Yes, well I-"
"That's fine, I'll meet you there in a moment." And with that, he threw the green package in his direction. Draco caught it before he headed hurriedly for the locker room.
The whole equipment was like it had been the last time Draco had ever played Quidditch with the Slytherin team in fifth year: fingerless gloves, shin and arm guards, Quidditch robes along with matching trousers, shirt and shoes. He felt a pinch at the thought that so many things had changed since then. The Draco Malfoy he was today was completely different from the Draco Malfoy from then on. Had his former self been aware at how drastically his life was about to change the last time he had ridden a broom for his team? he thought as he was lacing his shoes.
Draco looked up and gasped. It felt odd to see Potter dressed like that again, ready for a game, as memories of the many times they had spent fighting for the Snitch came back at once in his mind.
"Well, yes, I just hope I will still know how to ride a broom. Haven't done that since-" Draco froze. The last time he had ever been on a broom had been-
"Oh." Potter came and sat next to him on the bench. "Do you want to talk about it?"
Draco closed his eyes. A faint smell of smoke and sweat filled his nostrils as pictures of a raging Fiendfyre chasing them in the Room of Requirement passed in front of his eyes. He could feel the unbearable heat all over again, and then, there were the screams. Crabbe's screams as he was being devoured by the-
Draco opened his eyes and looked at Potter. "Do you- do you ever think about it?" he asked in a low voice.
Potter's eyes locked with his as he nodded slowly. "Of course," he murmured. "How could I ever forget?"
Draco swallowed hard. It was weird to speak about it with Potter of all people. He had never talked about it with anyone after. Never ever. The first time Potter had saved his life. The moment Draco had finally understood what Potter was all about. His incredible selflessness mixed with huge foolishness. That despite the way he had treated him over the years, the boy had come back to save his and Goyle's life at his own risk.
"That was incredibly stupid of you to do that," Draco said in a low voice.
"I would do it again in a heartbeat and you know it." Potter's gaze was so intense then that it sent a prickle of unease down his spine.
"But why? Why on earth do you keep saving me? Why, Potter? What is it that makes you save me over and over again? Why can't you just leave me alone and die in peace? You hate me for fuck's sake, have for years!"
"You know I don't, not anymore," and this admission did odd things to Draco's stomach again. Of course he did, but it felt good to hear it nevertheless. "Come on," Potter said abruptly as he stood and the moment passed. "Ready to get your arse kicked again?"
They rushed outside, their broom in hand. It was still 'sunny' on the pitch, but definitely not as much as before.
"Right, let's just have a look around first, and see how far it goes up there," Potter said as he kicked the ground and took off.
Draco followed him and his earlier apprehensions melted with the pure joy he felt at flying like that again. It was simply amazing. How could he have forgotten how utterly brilliant it was to be high up in the air as he felt so free, as if the huge weight of what had happened over the last few years had vanished at once. Potter had stopped over the goal posts and Draco joined him there.
"There's nothing else," Potter said looking around.
And indeed there wasn't. Or if there was, it was hidden by the same cloudy vapour that surrounded everything here.
"Do you think we could go beyond the edges?"
"I don't know. Why don't we check?" And with that, Potter started again and went as far as above the stands, Draco on his heels. Potter tried to go over the stands and further on but he bounced back inside the vicinities of the Quidditch pitch instead. Draco tried as well and felt an invisible force push him back inside.
"We can't," he said, stating the obvious. "It won't let us."
"Well, that's all right. We still have the whole pitch to have our fun!" And with that, Potter put his hand in his robe's pocket and took out the Snitch. "Ready to play?"
"You bet, Potter!"
Potter threw the Snitch high up in the air and the two boys went after it. They were moving fast, Draco's reflexes completely back now as they chased the golden Snitch over and over again, sometimes flying incredibly close, fighting like mad to be the first one to close his fingers on the small ball. It felt like they were twelve all over again, although much better. It was exhilarating to be playing like that, even without the cheers from the crowd below them, because there wasn't the pressure there had been on his shoulders at the time. The fear of losing to Potter. The fear of being ridiculed. The fear to disappoint. The fear not to meet Father's expectations.
For the first time, Draco was flying freely, not trying to impress anyone but just fly. And he felt happier than he had been in years. More than happy. Elated. He had forgotten how great a feeling that was.
They played several rounds and Potter beat him many times to the Snitch, but Draco, as rusted as he was - even if thankfully, his body here was in much better shape than in real life - managed to catch it a few times too.
When they finally called it quits, Draco was all sweaty, his clothes and robes sticking to his skin but he felt amazingly well. Potter was in the same state, sporting a huge grin on his red cheeks, a look of pure joy on his face and Draco's heart jumped at the fact that he had contributed to make someone this happy.
"Fuck, that was awesome!" Potter said as he slumped on the bench of the locker room, throwing his broom in a corner and removing his gloves and arm guards.
"It was not too bad," Draco said casually. It had been brilliant.
"And I won again," Potter smirked.
"Yeah, well, I hadn't played in years."
"Hey, me neither, what do you think?" Potter said as he was now removing his robes, discarding them thoughtlessly on the ground. What a slob Potter was!
"You're training to be an Auror, of course you would be in much better physical condition than me!"
"Yeah, you tell yourself that, Malfoy, and anyway I don't care, I won!" Potter said again teasingly and the look he gave him made him all warm inside again. "Right, showers now!"
"Showers?" Draco cooled down immediately. There was no way he was taking a shower with Potter.
"Of course! That's what people do after intense physical activity," Potter said with a smirk. "Don't you?"
"Er, yes, of course, but we don't even have towels, or soap, or clean clothes-" He stopped dead as two piles of neatly folded clothes, a towel and a bar of soap appeared out of thin air on the bench next to them.
"Well that's settled then!" Potter said with a huge grin.
What the hell was this place? Could it grant any of his wishes? He was almost tempted to test his theory when he realised that Potter had resumed his undressing - again, not giving a flying fuck that Draco was standing there in front of him.
"What- what are you doing?"
"I'm taking my clothes off, why? Do you usually take showers with your clothes on?" and Potter removed his shirt and trousers, along with his socks and - Merlin - his underpants.
Draco forced himself to look away. "Er, no but…" A completely naked Potter brushed past Draco - who was still fully dressed - as he grabbed the towel and the soap before jumping into the shower. Draco stood frozen in place, unable to move as he stared at Potter's naked body as the first drops of water started running down the boy's muscled back, down to his arse and to the floor.
"Now I know it's not the real locker room! The water is just perfect!" Potter called from the showers, turning slightly to look at him as his hands were scrubbing his body, running all over his chest, to his armpits, down to his stomach to his-
Fucking hell! Draco swiftly turned around to block Potter from his sight. What was wrong with him all of a sudden? He had never, ever been so intimidated by anyone's body before! And having spent six years in a boarding school, he's had his lot of nakedness! Draco leaned his forehead on the closest locker and closed his eyes. He was horrified to realise that in the confusion of feelings that were rushing through him, his body was behaving in a totally inappropriate manner. He opened his eyes again, shocked at the realisation that Potter of all people could make him react in such a way.
He heard the water stop and slowly turned around. Potter stepped out of the stalls, a towel around his hips, walking casually to him as he grabbed the clean clothes on the bench. "Shower's yours, Malfoy."
"Right, okay." What could he do? He started undressing slowly, casting anxious glances at Potter but the boy didn't seem to pay much attention to him as he was dressing again. Draco took his time to remove first his gloves and arm guards, then his robes that he folded neatly on the bench, and finally his shin guards.
"I'm going to put the brooms back in the shed," Potter said and Draco relaxed instantly before removing the rest of his clothes hurriedly in the absence of Potter.
He then jumped into the shower and soon felt better with the warm water spraying all over his sweaty body. He tried to forget about Potter's probable presence back in the room and tried not to feel too self-conscious. He stood facing the wall and quickly cleaned himself, before turning the water off and grabbing his towel. Potter was nowhere in sight and he felt utterly thankful for that. He put the clean clothes back on - they were oddly the same as the previous set - and picked the rest of his clothes from the floor before folding them neatly and putting them away in one of the lockers.
Potter came back as he was thinking about looking for him. Draco sat back on the bench, utterly relaxed and content, as Potter resumed his previous position on the floor.
"Do you think it's true?" he asked after a while. "That I get to make the decision to go back? Do you really think it's the way it works?"
"I have no idea, Malfoy, I'm just supposing that it's the way it is, because it's been like that for me, but to be honest, I don't really know how the whole thing works, hell, I don't really know what all of this is," he said, showing the room with his hand.
"But when you were at King's Cross Station with, er, Dumbledore, how did you come back?"
"Well, when I asked him if I had to go back, he told me it was up to me, that I had a choice, that I could decide. I think," he looked deep into Draco's eyes at that point. "I think that I went back the moment I had made up my mind to."
"So it means that as soon as I make the decision to go back, we will be?"
"I don't know for sure. Like I said, I don't really know how the whole thing works especially since there are two of us. I mean, hopefully, we could both go back."
"What do you mean 'hopefully'?"
"I mean that when it happened to me, I was with somebody else - Dumbledore - but he was already dead and in the end, I was the only one to go back, Dumbledore didn't."
"You mean- you mean that one of us could be already dead, that it could be too late for either you or me?"
Potter shrugged. "I mean it's a possibility and it would make sense. I'm pretty sure you're still alive though, because this is 'your party' like Dumbledore told me. I haven't decided on coming here, or on 'creating' the Quidditch pitch, so you're definitely the one who brought us here. But then, when you tried to kill yourself again tonight, maybe it did kill me first because of the link and all, and well, maybe I'm only here to guide you like Dumbledore had done with me."
Draco paled at the words and was impressed with Potter's calm. How was he not shouting and beating the crap out of him at this very moment? How could he say something like that so matter-of-factly, without losing it completely? And was it really too late for Potter? Panic started rising alarmingly fast inside his body at the idea.
He had possibly killed Potter.
Up till then, he had entertained the fantasy that they could, if Draco really wanted to, go back together, but now… Draco thought it was another very good reason not to go back. He could never forgive himself for killing Potter. He had never been a killer, like Dumbledore had stated on that fateful night, but just the idea of having so directly caused the death of someone - and not anyone, Harry Potter for fuck's sake - made him sick to the core.
"Malfoy?" Potter frowned. "Malfoy, are you okay?"
But Draco couldn't speak. And no, he wasn't okay, far from it. A knot had suddenly formed in his stomach and Draco pressed his hands on it to make it go.
Wanting to die was one thing, a rather selfish act in a way, but taking someone else's life in the process? That was awful. He forced himself to look at Potter again. Could he have killed this man who had sacrificed himself and had fought restlessly to save them all? Could he have killed such a young, healthy man, who had a whole life before him, who had been about to finally live for himself after years of putting his life to the side in the only aim of killing the most dangerous Dark Wizard of all times? Could he have killed Harry Potter?
"Mal- Draco!" Potter using his given name for the first time brought him back to the present. Draco knew he had been staring into the void for a while, bending over a little to try and erase the pain from his stomach. Potter was sitting next to him now, one arm on his shoulder, shaking him hard. Draco forced himself to look into his eyes. "Draco, are you okay?"
"I'm- I'm sorry, Potter, I just-"
Potter pulled back suddenly, an air of surprise on his face. "Who are you?"
"You can't be Draco Malfoy. The real Draco Malfoy would never have said sorry, twice," Potter said very seriously.
And inexplicably, that made Draco chuckle and helped release the tension in his belly. Potter smiled at him and again, this amazingly pure, sincere smile stirred at his insides but in a good way this time. They remained like that for a while before Potter removed his arm from his shoulder and went back to sit on the floor, leaving a weird impression of emptiness in his body.
"I really hope I haven't killed you," Draco finally said.
"Well, I hope so too. I have a life to live, and for the first time in seventeen years, I can do absolutely what I want without fear of imminent death. Well, I mean I could, before you came along. Fuck, Malfoy, how come you're always the one making my life hell?"
Draco had no answer to that. Why had he always taken pleasure in torturing Potter? He didn't know really. At first there had been the rejection from the boy - nobody until then had dared rejecting Draco Malfoy in such a blatant way - and then, there had been something else. Jealousy probably. Which was weird in a way, because Draco had absolutely everything he could dream of: his family was ridiculously rich, they had a name, they had power, and what did Potter have? He had nothing and yet, here he was, being loved and respected by everyone.
"Draco, relax, I was joking."
But Draco was once again lost in his thoughts. "Do you have any idea how different things would be for me if I decided to go back?"
"Malfoy…" Shit, Draco had got used to Potter saying his first name.
"No, I mean, everything I have ever known until then, my whole world - my family, my name, my house, my beliefs - everything has been crushed to pieces and there is nothing left. How would you feel about that?" It was a real question, there was no defiance in it.
"Well, I never had what you had obviously, or not in the same way anyway. But the important thing is not the past, Draco," there it was again, and it felt strangely good. "The important thing is everything that awaits us now. I mean, take me, for example. I haven't chosen anything that's happened to me. The life that I could've had ended when I was a year and a half when Voldemort killed my parents and failed to kill me. From then on, everything has been different. I grew up among Muggles, without knowing I was a wizard, then I received my letter for Hogwarts and my life took a sharp turn again. But as soon as I had set foot in this whole new world I learned that I would have to fight Voldemort. I never really had the time over the years to really consider what to do with my life because to be honest, I wasn't even sure that I would make it to see my eighteenth birthday. But now that it's all over at last, I can - well, that is, if I get the chance to anyway - I can finally live the life I will choose for myself, fully, without anything or anyone interfering."
Draco was listening to Potter and was fascinated, he really was. He had never, ever had a chance to talk with him before and realised what a shame it had been. Potter was so much more interesting than Draco had ever thought, it was almost scary. The boy sitting on the floor had nothing to do with the image Draco had drawn of him in his head to fit his resentment over the years. It was as if Draco was talking to someone different altogether. The more Potter talked, the more Draco realised how mature, how deep Potter truly was.
And then, it hit him. He finally understood what the fuss about Potter was all about and why everybody loved him, worshipped him even. Sure the man had terrible temper - but Draco could hardly say anything about that - he was sometimes arrogant - and once again, Draco couldn't talk - but he was so much more! And these little things, added to what Draco already knew about Potter, made this man - this boy really - different from everybody Draco had ever known.
Guilt gripped him again as he realised the extent of the damage he had possibly done. He lowered his gaze and fiddled with his fingers nervously.
"It's okay, Draco, we've already talked about this." Draco felt suddenly humbled by him, as if by discovering who the real Potter was, he was learning about himself as well. "What is important here, is that no matter what your life has been until now, everything is in your hands." Draco sighed. "I know that you've lost your parents, and everything you had known and that it's awful, but as horrible as it may sound, it also gives you an incredible freedom. Because if you decide to go back, you will be the only master of your life." Draco swallowed hard. "Think about what your life would have been if the war had not happened. What would you be doing right now? What would be your prospects for the future?"
Draco knew perfectly well what he would be doing. He would be dragged from social event to social event, introduced formally into Society by Father as soon as he had passed his NEWTs, trying to make his way in the complicated maze of pure-blood politics. His future would have been a life of opulence at the Manor, with a wife his father would have chosen for him, and with the pressure of producing an heir quickly to ensure the continuity of the Malfoy bloodline, which wouldn't have been the easiest part. It would have been a comfortable life, really, not only because it would have been a rather easy one, but also because it would have been familiar. Draco had been raised in this environment, and that's why the loss of his parents had destabilised him so much; with their death, it was all he had always known, all that had defined who he was, the predictable life he had ahead of him that had been abruptly taken away from him. He had no perspective like that anymore, and that was, in the end, a truly scary thought.
"Would you have liked such a life?" Potter snapped him out of his reverie and Draco finally looked up to meet his gaze.
"I-, well, I never questioned it to be honest. It had always been planned this way, so I guess that well, I would have liked it, yes." It was an honest answer.
"But do you think you could lead a different one now? I mean, what would you do if you could really choose, Draco?" Potter's gaze on him was insistent. Draco felt like Potter could read him like a book, that he somehow already knew the answers to all his questions.
"I don't know. I've never really got a chance to think about it."
"You would have had to marry a woman you didn't necessarily love, wouldn't you?"
"I-, well, it's a little bit more complicated than that, Potter-"
"Draco, we're virtually dead, and having a surprisingly deep conversation, and I've been calling you Draco for a while now, so I think you can start calling me Harry without things getting much more surreal than they already are."
Draco narrowed his eyes slightly. Could he really fill the gap from Potter to Harry? He tried to say it a couple of times in his head and it didn't sound that weird. It felt almost natural, even.
"Right, it's a bit more complicated, er, Harry." Draco was rewarded with Potter's - shit, Harry's - stunning smile again.
"Because it is true that I would've had to marry a witch my father would have chosen for me, but they would have done their best to find someone I liked and that they thought I could fall in love with, especially my mother."
"Oh." Harry looked surprised.
"Yes, they were not as cold-hearted as people thought they were you know, they loved me - in their own way I can give you that - but they did, they really did."
"Of course they did, Draco, it showed. What your mother did in the Forbidden Forest, she did for you, because she loved you and you were the most important thing to her."
Draco felt something form in his throat that had nothing to do with a poorly modified spell aiming at stopping his life. He felt the tears slowly come up to his eyes and run silently on his cheeks. The loss of his mother was easily the hardest thing that had happened to him. He had loved his father, very much so, despite the man's obvious flaws, but the connection he had with his mother had been unique and Draco knew he would miss her as long as he would live.
"Oh God, I'm sorry," Harry stood up and came to sit next to him on the bench again, his strong arm immediately encircling Draco's shoulder again, their bodies comfortably pressed together. Without thinking, Draco rested his head on Harry's shoulder and closed his eyes, letting himself go completely for the first time since his parents' death. The tears were falling in a continuous silent flow on his cheeks and he felt Harry's hand in his hair, caressing him gently, bringing him comfort like he had never had from anyone before - except his mother. He grabbed Harry's waist with his hand, sliding his arm around the hard lines of his back in the process, bringing him closer, Harry's other arm resting on his shoulder, locking Draco in his embrace. Draco's face was now buried in Harry's neck, his nostrils filling with his deep masculine scent. He closed his eyes. Not one moment did it feel awkward to be clinging to Potter - Harry - like that. It was what Draco needed, and it just felt right.
They remained like that for a long time, in comfortable silence. Draco had stopped crying at some point, and he could feel the last tears dry on his cheeks. He lifted his head and looked up at Harry, who didn't pull out but kept holding him tight, their faces close. Harry's hand came to cup Draco's cheek and he ran his thumb on his skin. They locked eyes, trying to make sense of what was happening, to grab the moment everything had changed between them, their faces getting unconsciously closer with every breath, every heartbeat, every stroke of Harry's thumb. Draco closed his eyes and felt Harry's warm breath on him and their lips brushed tentatively, sending an amazing thrill down his spine. Their mouths met as they finally kissed and it all fitted into place.
Draco was suddenly assailed with a multitude of different emotions rushing through his body: lust, want, need, and some others he didn't even know were there. They were overwhelming him but he didn't seem to be able to stop himself. He wanted more.
Harry's hand moved to his hair, cupping the back of his head and holding him in place as the kiss got more intense. His tongue came to map Draco's bottom lip, seeking entry. Draco parted his lips and their tongues met for the first time. They kissed slowly, gently, savouring each other as if they were both afraid of breaking the moment. Draco's hands were caressing Harry's back and he revelled in the sensation of the hard muscles under his fingers, in Harry's taste, in Harry's scent, in Harry's touch on his skin and in Harry's incredibly soft lips.
They finally parted but kept each other close in their arms, both panting, Harry's hair messier than ever, his eyes brighter too and looking thoroughly flushed as he gave Draco the most beautiful smile he had ever seen. Draco couldn't keep his eyes off him.
Fuck, he was gorgeous.
How long they remained like that, holding together close, kissing and caressing? Draco wouldn't know. Everything that was happening here, in this undefined place between life and death, seemed to defy every known law of nature. There was no indication of time, or space, nothing Draco was familiar with. But he didn't care. This whole moment with Harry, in this strange place, was theirs and only theirs.
Draco reached for a strand of hair on Harry's forehead and pushed it away, gently placing a kiss on the soft skin there. As he pulled back, he realised something was missing. Harry Potter didn't have his famous lightning-bolt scar anymore.
Harry looked at him, a puzzled look on his face. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing. It's just… your scar, it's not there."
Harry unconsciously reached for it. "You're right, I can't feel it. But it doesn't surprise me. It was the same with Dumbledore. What about you?"
"I- I don't have any scar either. Not even…" he rolled his sleeve up to his elbow on his left forearm. "… this one."
"Oh." Harry grabbed it in his hand and ran the tip of his fingers on the soft skin, raising goose bumps on Draco's arm instantly.
"Yeah." Draco rolled his sleeve back down swiftly and leaned forward to kiss Harry again. God, he was rapidly becoming addicted to Harry's taste.
A wicked grin suddenly formed on his lips.
"What?" Harry frowned.
"Nothing, it's just- I was right the other night. You are in love with me, after all."
Harry raised an eyebrow. "Really, Malfoy? Well I rather think it's the other way round."
Draco smiled. "I didn't even know you were, you know-"
Draco nodded. This simple word had always scared him. Or rather, what it implied had. Every time it had crossed his mind in the past, he had done everything he could to push it away and forget all about it. Most of the time it worked, but a few times, Draco had agonised over it. Because he knew there would be no future down this road for him. He simply wasn't allowed to, couldn't afford to. But now…
"Well, to be honest, I haven't really had time to explore the fact, what with chasing Dark Wizards and all that," Harry said again.
"Makes sense," Draco chuckled as he leaned forward to catch Harry's lips in another kiss.
"Let's go outside," Harry said after a while, standing up and tugging at Draco's hand.
"Right," Draco followed him and it felt odd to hold hands with someone like that. Draco had never really dated people before, or not in a long time anyway, and the whole thing felt surreal, as if he were in a dream, really, which was probably not very far from the truth.
As they stepped outside, he immediately sensed that something had changed there, even if he couldn't quite put his finger on it just yet. The Quidditch pitch was the same, the stands as well, but the overall atmosphere was… different, there was no other word for it. The Quidditch pitch didn't feel as new as it had been earlier on, it looked almost worn, like it had aged since the last time they had been there. And the 'sky' was definitely darker now, the edges of it moving more rapidly as if there was wind up there, or so it seemed.
"Would you remove it?" Harry suddenly said as they were strolling about the white grass. "Your Dark Mark? If you could, would you remove it?"
It was a good question, and Draco took his time to answer it. "I- I think- I don't know, I think no, probably not."
"Well, it is awful, really, and encompasses many ugly, terrifying things but it's also a reminder of every dark deed I have done, as if all the bad in me was contained in this one place, there on my forearm, and by looking at it, I would know not to repeat the same mistakes." Draco felt something in his hair and realised that there was a soft breeze now, that had been oddly missing up till then.
"It's a part of your personal history."
"Well yes, like every scar I guess," and Draco's eyes unconsciously drifted on Harry's forehead. "This one, this ugly Dark Mark, it symbolises the bad in me."
"But you're not reduced to it, you know that? Death Eater is not your whole identity, I mean, it's a part of your life, but it doesn't define who you are, not in any way."
Draco looked around and noticed that the flags at the top of the towers were now flapping ragingly. The wind had definitely got up.
Harry had stopped walking and was looking at him, waiting for him to answer. "I know. And that's what I have to try and remember. Because I know that for most people, I am reduced to that: just a Death Eater whose family has blood on its hands and who has to pay for it. And that's also what makes going back difficult."
"Yeah, but like I said, it's part of your personal history and people would see that in you anyway, even if you managed to make it go somehow. The only way to change people's views on you - if their views really matter in the first place, that is - would be to show your other side, the one that I got a glimpse at before and that has been fully revealed to me here. The real Draco Malfoy." The robin from earlier on twitted somewhere on Draco's left but it wasn't as charming as before, it sounded almost sad, desperate.
"The real Draco Malfoy," Draco repeated in a murmur. "I'm not sure to know what he is precisely myself."
"Well, you'll find out. If you give him a chance," Harry smiled at him and squeezed his hand. "Which I admit, I would very much like."
Draco let go of Harry's hand and cupped his head before kissing him hard again. He felt Harry's hands on his waist and it was bloody brilliant. Would there be more of that if he decided to go back? Or would it have been just a dream? There were so many questions, Draco felt, so many unknown factors if he chose to go back!
Would Harry be alive? Would they be conscious of everything that had happened here? Did they really have a chance out there? Was it really conceivable for the Saviour-of-the-Wizarding-World to date an ex-Death Eater who had absolutely nothing left?
The truth was, Draco felt amazing in here. In here, he didn't suffer, in here, it didn't really matter who he was, or who he had been, or what he had done. In here, everything was possible, like kissing Harry Potter and holding his hand, and having these amazing, incredibly natural conversations with him. In here he had no scars, no wounds, not a single trace of all the ugly things that had happened to him Down There. In here, he felt incredibly free and it was exhilarating. In here, he was alive, more alive than he had been in his whole entire life. Funny how he had had to kill himself to feel that much alive!
And what would he have if he went back?
If he went back, it would all be dark and gloomy again. The truth was, he was scared. He was scared of losing what he never thought he could have one day. That's why he didn't want to go back. He couldn't lose what he had here, it was too good, too pure, too beautiful. And who cared if this wasn't real after all?
"Draco?" Harry was looking at him with a slight frown on his face, the soft wind making his hair move slightly. "Are you all right?"
Draco smiled at him. "Yes, I am, it's just-" he bit his lips and sighed. "I don't want to go back."
"Draco, we can't stay here and you know it! Look all around you, don't you notice anything?"
Draco lifted his head and realised that Harry was right. They were in the middle of the Quidditch pitch now and the edges of the sky were moving faster and everything was darker, almost menacing. Huge clouds had formed above them and the soft breeze was rapidly turning into a much stronger wind. The Slytherin and Gryffindor banners on the stands were moving fast with it, waving hard and Draco could see the goal posts stagger dangerously now.
"Well…" he started, but the wind picked up again and soon made it harder for him to breathe.
Harry had to speak up for Draco to get to hear him now. "You don't have much time left here, you have to make a decision. This is not real life, Draco, hell, this isn't even life at all, look!"
The wind had increased again and was now raging. Draco and Harry could barely stay upright anymore. A Slytherin banner suddenly detached itself from one of the stands and was taken away with incredible strength. Soon another one followed and the wind picked up again and all the banners started flying about. The wind was rolling around them now, their clothes flattening on them and Draco knew they wouldn't hold on much longer.
"Come!" Harry shouted, grabbing his hand and taking him away to the locker room. "We have to take cover now, quick!"
And as they were fighting their way against the wind that was getting stronger by the minute, Draco's hair was constantly in his face and he could barely see anything anymore. Huge chunks of woods from the stands were now flying all around them along with pieces of fabric coming from the now completely naked stands, sending silver snakes and golden lions high up in the air as Draco and Harry desperately tried to make their way back, one arm on their head in a feeble attempt to protect themselves from the bits and pieces scattered in the air all around them. The noise the wind was making in their ears was deafening, and every other time, something hit the ground or the stands with a loud clunk.
The sky was almost black now, and the wind had turned into some kind of a hurricane that nothing could stop. Draco knew that despite Harry's strong hold on his hand, there was no way they could make it to the locker room in time. It was too far and they could barely move anymore, and Draco felt fear gripping him so tightly he thought he would throw up.
He was desperately holding on Harry's hand with both hands now but Harry's fingers were inevitably sliding away from his grip and Draco knew they wouldn't hold on any longer.
"NO!" he cried helplessly. He had to do something, he couldn't lose Harry, not now, not after everything he had been through!
Harry turned to him, black hair all over his face, clouding his eyes. "YOU HAVE TO MAKE A DECISION NOW, DRACO, YOU HAVE TO GO BACK!" Harry was shouting at him. "YOU CANNOT DIE, DRACO, YOU HAVE TO LIVE! GO BACK NOW!" and with those last few words, Draco felt Harry let go of his hand.
"NOOOOO!" he shouted desperately but without anything to hold him back anymore, Draco was lifted up in the air at an amazing speed, blown away into the strong wind like he was a mere leaf, whirling around out of control. It was now or never, everything was in his hands. He barely had time to register that fact that a huge wooden post was aiming alarmingly fast at him before it hit him hard on the head and everything went black again.
- IV -
Harry, are you here?
Harry, where are you?
Harry, answer me!
Draco couldn't tell precisely at what moment he regained consciousness. All he knew is that he drifted in and out of it for a while, as if his subconscious was hesitating on the next course of action. After a long time that could have lasted minutes as well as hours, he finally seemed to be ready to face whatever was awaiting him on the other side.
His eyes fluttered under his eyelids for a couple of seconds before he finally found it in itself to open them.
The room was dark, but not completely so; outside the window, the moonlight was shining bright, reflecting on the tiny burgeoning leaves of the huge sycamore outside. As he turned his head, Draco could make out the shape of the cheap painting on the wall facing him.
He had done it; he had come back. He had made up his mind in the very last seconds of the storm and hadn't known until then if it had really worked.
He was lying in his hospital bed again, as if nothing had happened. He was still wearing his ugly light-blue hospital gown and as he lifted his left arm a little, he easily made out the outline of his well and truly present Dark Mark. He sighed. No need to check for the rest of his wounds and scars, they were no doubt back too. The tension in his body was here as well. He felt bruised and battered all over again.
"Harry," he murmured and he felt his heart beat faster. Where was he? Had he made it back here too? Draco paled as he remembered the discussion with Harry in the Quidditch locker room. When you tried to kill yourself again tonight, maybe it did kill me first. Fuck. Despite his greatest fear of having maybe lost Harry, Draco had to know. Now.
He hastily sat on his bed. Shit, he wasn't as physically well as he had been on the Quidditch pitch and his body - his real body - was still incredibly weak and he got slightly dizzy for a couple of seconds. But he didn't care. He had to go and see Harry, had to know if he had made it, if he was still alive. Draco slowly got up and put on his ugly slippers. He walked slowly to the door of his room.
He refused to believe Harry could not have made it: he rejected the whole idea with all his might. It simply wasn't possible. He needed Harry. He needed to see him, to touch him, to feel him, to taste him again. He needed to talk with him again and to be pressed against his warm body. He needed to let his powerful scent engulf him all. He needed to hear his heartfelt laugh, to drown himself in those amazingly expressive bright green eyes. He needed all of that and then some.
He opened the door of his room. Everything was eerily quiet in the corridor. A small light by the nurses' desk indicated that someone was on duty but there was no one in sight. Draco carefully made his way to Harry's room.
He braced himself before silently opening the door and slipping inside.
Like in Draco's room, the moonlight was very bright. It fell directly on Harry's bed, allowing Draco to make out his features immediately. Harry's face was as peaceful and relaxed as it had been the last time Draco had visited him. He felt an unexpected rush of love for the beautiful man lying there in front of him, rapidly tempered by the thought that there was still the possibility Harry had not made it. Once again, Draco felt fear grip his body as he swiftly came closer to the bed, expecting the worse. He searched for a sign, any sign that would tell him that Harry was still alive.
There was nothing for a few agonising seconds, and then there it was, and there was no mistake about it. It wasn't much, but Draco had felt it anyway: a faint albeit definitely present tingling of magic gradually surrounding him before fading away. Draco felt his heart beat faster as an incredible relief flooded over him.
Harry had made it. He was alive!
Draco sagged down on the nearby chair and ran his fingers through his hair. It had worked. They had made it. He hadn't killed Harry in the end. How incredible it was that after all that had happened, they had both managed to come back! Draco stood up and took a good look at Harry's beautiful face again. Now, if he would only wake up…
On an impulse, he reached for Harry's hand.
As soon as his fingers touched Harry's, he felt the boy's magic at work again, but this time, it wasn't the timid undercurrent of a couple of minutes ago.
Draco was immediately immersed in the same intense whirlwind of magic he had felt the first night when Harry had saved his life in the hospital. It was incredibly powerful and strong and enveloped him all at once, making every single part of his body wonderfully aware of it. It turned around Draco, encircling him over and over again, setting his body alight. He had never felt so good and alive in his whole life. This incredible force surrounded him for a while, making him completely light-headed, before it finally entered him through his toes and rushed through every single part of his body, from his feet to his legs, to his stomach to his arms, hands and fingers to his heart where it paused for a while before heading north to his head. He closed his eyes and let it settle in every inch of his body, soothing him completely before it slowly evaporated.
When Draco opened his eyes again, he was still holding Harry's hand, his touch warm and comforting.
And that's when he realised he wasn't alone anymore.
Harry had opened his eyes.
"Hey," Draco said shyly, smiling as he sat on the side of the bed, caressing Harry's hand gently with his thumb. He felt amazingly relaxed and not quite down from his high yet.
Harry opened his eyes wide and gaped at him, before swiftly removing his hand from Draco's as if he had been burnt. He propped himself on his elbows, reaching for his glasses on the bedside table. Once he had put them on, he looked at Draco in disbelief, the same weird expression on his face.
Draco frowned slightly at Harry's odd reaction but didn't dwell on it. "Yes, Harry. Oh Merlin, I am so, so relieved to see you here, I just- I'm so happy to see you back!" He leaned forward to reach Harry's mouth and closed his eyes, dying to feel the soft lips against his, to drown into Harry's dizzying scent and taste him again.
He never got to meet Harry's lips though. Instead, he felt two hands shoving him back hard, making him stumble before he crumbled back onto the chair.
"What the fuck, Malfoy?" Harry had a horrified expression on his face that hurt Draco more than anything else could have. "What the hell are you doing? Are you out of your fucking mind?"
Draco paled. "What? But I-"
"Were you really trying to kiss me?" Harry said again, a look of utter disbelief on his face.
Reality suddenly dawned on him as he realised Harry had absolutely no memory of what had happened on the Quidditch pitch. He started trembling a little. Shit, how was it possible? Had he been dreaming the whole time, fantasising over his own time in this form of afterlife? Fuck, how embarrassing the whole thing was!
"I- Oh God, I- sorry, Har- er, Potter." He abruptly stood up and the chair fell on the floor with a loud noise that would probably wake the whole floor of the building. Sure enough, he heard rapid steps coming their way. Fuck.
He turned around hastily, his heart still pounding way too fast in his chest, a sick feeling in his gut as he walked out of the room and down the corridor as fast as his legs allowed him.
He went straight for his bed and tried to calm his body as much as he could but he was shaking so hard it was impossible for him to get a coherent thought through his mind for a while.
He tried to close his eyes, but images of Harry kissing him passionately in the changing-rooms were mingled with the look of sheer horror he had sported a few minutes ago when Draco had tried to kiss him again.
Draco knew he should be grateful. After all, Harry was alive and awake, which was what really mattered. But the rejection? Fuck, it hurt. It hurt badly. It hurt because Draco had had a glimpse of something beautiful, something pure and fucking perfect and just as he was starting to allow himself a tiny bit of hope in his otherwise utterly miserable life, it had been snatched from him in the most brutal way.
He should have known, though and he cursed himself for being so naive. How could he have let himself believe for one second that someone like Harry, fuck, Potter could ever fall for someone like him? That someone, anyone really, could enjoy his company, would want to spend time with him and even more kiss him? No one in his own true mind could ever wish to do any of these things with someone like him. What on earth had he been thinking? The more he thought about it, the more the whole Quidditch thing felt like a dream that was well and truly fading away as time passed until it all became a blur.
Draco had been brought back to reality harshly.
Welcome back to fucking real life.
He closed his eyes and tried to get rid of all the feelings that clang to him desperately. He wanted to go back to the beginning, to when Potter and he had not started talking during their sleep like that, had not had deep conversations and intense kissing sessions that had made Draco feel like he mattered. He wanted to go back to when things were simple and all he wished for was to lie there and die.
But it was like he had opened Pandora's Box and it was so hard now for him to erase everything from this achingly needy brain of his. He had had a taste of what could be, or could have been, and it seemed impossible for him to forget about it when everything was so fucking present in every pore of his skin. He absentmindedly started to scratch his left forearm and before soon, he realised the gesture was soothing him somehow. He looked down to see his nails were leaving angry red marks on the symbol of everything that had gone wrong in his life. This Dark Mark had been the beginning of the end for him. Soon, droplets of his own blood found their way out of his skin, and it felt strangely good as he continued scratching the now sensitive skin.
Without this Dark Mark, he would never have been sent to kill Dumbledore.
Without this Dark Mark, he wouldn't have lost his parents.
Without this fucking Dark Mark, he wouldn't have been forced to crucio Rowle under the Dark Lord's orders leading the Death Eater to seek revenge in the most atrocious way a few months after, leaving Draco's body and soul marked forever.
When the skin was finally raw and Draco's blood was pearling and covering several parts of this ugly Mark, Draco turned to the window and closed his eyes, too exhausted to even think of anything anymore.
"What in Salazar's name happened in here? Draco, are you all right?" Cecilia's high-pitched voice tore him from his weirdly dreamless sleep a couple of hours later.
She was by his side by the second and took in the scene. Draco's bedsheets were sprayed with dry blood from his little session earlier on.
Cecilia flicked her wand and murmured a quick, "tergeo", removing all traces of blood on his forearm and bedsheets, allowing her to see the extent of what he had done. For once, she did not taunt him, she just looked in his eyes with something akin to pity that he hated more than anything and murmured, "Oh, Draco, what did you do to yourself?" shaking her head in disbelief. He didn't say anything and kept his eyes on the ceiling as she applied the Dittany on the somewhat superficial wounds on his forearm.
She then stood next to him for a while, as if looking for her words. "You know, you should seek help and talk to someone, you cannot stay like that, Draco."
He could hear her all right, but he didn't care one second about what she was saying. What was the point anyway? He turned his back to her and closed his eyes again. He just wanted to be left alone.
"Oh, and I thought you would want to know that Mr Potter is awake now," she added.
Draco's heart jumped in his chest at the mention of Harry.
"Great. Now could you just leave? I'd like to rest," he replied moodily before closing his eyes again. It wasn't fair to take it on her, he knew it, but he couldn't care less.
He spent the day sleeping on and off. A procession of healers of all kinds came and tried to talk to him but he wouldn't listen to any of them. They tried to feed him again, but like the first few days, he rejected everything. He was surprised nobody mentioned the fact he had tried to kill himself again, but then he realised they had no way of knowing about it: they had left him alive last night and found him alive this morning so they really had no reason to suspect anything after all.
Occasionally, Harry's name was pronounced during the day, the healers commenting on his sudden recovery after several days being unconscious. It made Draco's heart clench every time. It reminded him of the only thing he really wanted now, and couldn't have. He tried hard, very hard not to think about anything that had happened on the Quidditch pitch, but no matter how hard he tried, he failed miserably.
By the time evening had arrived though, the need to see Harry was so intense that Draco gave in.
He needed to see him, he needed to talk to him and to be near him, even if he couldn't get what he wanted back. He made up his mind. He would go and see Harry one last time tonight. After all, he never had the opportunity to thank him properly for saving his life and apologise for what had happened to him. It was the least Draco could do. It wasn't Harry's fault if he couldn't remember what had happened between them. Draco himself wasn't quite so sure it really had anyway. It had felt bloody real, but it might as well just have been a dream.
A goddamn good one.
When the night had fallen and everything was quiet again, he slipped back into Harry's room for the last time. He felt Harry's potent magic at work as soon as he entered the room. Harry was not asleep. The tip of his wand was alight with a lumos and he was holding what looked like a framed picture in his other hand, scrutinising it. Draco realised by glancing at the empty wall that it was the cheap painting from the room. Harry was so focused on it that he did not notice he was in the room.
Draco came closer and cleared his throat to announce his presence. "Har- Potter," he said hesitantly.
Harry jumped and the light on his wand flickered a little. He turned to Draco and once again, Draco felt Harry's magic encircling him, although it was way calmer than the last time, almost peaceful. Harry was looking at him, mesmerised, as if he was seeing him for the very first time. Draco felt slightly uneasy under his sharp gaze but Harry turned to the picture he was holding and then back to him again.
"Draco?" he finally said after a while, his voice sounding almost fragile.
Draco took a deep breath. "Potter, I came to thank you for what you did for me and also apologise for the inconvenience that resulted in you saving my life again. I am glad you are awake and will do my best to stay away from you in the future."
Harry looked at him with an amused grin on his face. "Are you the real Draco Malfoy?"
There was a strong sense of déjà-vu in this exchange. Was it a coincidence? Or could it mean- No. Draco fought with all his might against the feeling that wanted so bad to emerge from deep inside him. He couldn't afford to feel hope. Not anymore.
"Why did you kiss me last night?" Harry said softly.
Fuck. "I wasn't kissing you, Potter. What do you think?"
"Really?" He raised an eyebrow.
"Yes, I was-" Draco desperately tried to find something, anything that could explain his behaviour. "I wanted to check on your pupils," he blurted. What? Was he out of his fucking mind? Checking on his pupils, really? "To see if there was something weird about them," he added hastily. In for a knut and all that.
Harry put the picture on the nearby chair and folded his arms on his chest, a highly amused smile on his face. "Checking on my pupils, Malfoy, really?"
Oh God, how was he supposed to get out of this one? "Of course, that's what healers do all the time!" It was true. Healers were always doing this funny thing, blinding him with their lumos right in his eyes. Although he didn't really know what they were looking for exactly.
"Oh I see. And do healers check on their patients' pupils with their eyes closed as well?"
Draco felt all the blood leaving his face at once. "I- I-"
"Come over here, Malfoy," Harry patted his bed and Draco walked hesitantly to him. "Please sit."
And Draco did, being very careful to keep his hands buried in his lap and avoiding Harry's gaze at all costs.
"Look at me," Harry said and he complied. Harry leaned forward a little and searched his face before suddenly grabbing his collar with both hands, bringing his face dangerously close to his own. Draco gasped and shivered at Harry's proximity.
"What- what are you doing?" he whispered as Harry's face was so close now he could feel his warm breath on him.
"I need to check on your pupils," Harry replied with a smile before closing his eyes and kissing Draco hard on the lips. Draco whimpered and it took him a couple of seconds to realise that yes, this was happening, and enjoin his brain and body to react. It was a slow and lazy kiss at first but then Draco felt Harry's tongue on his lips, and he opened them slightly, and when their tongues touched, he couldn't hold out a moan at the amazing sensation that was finally back.
He broke the kiss and looked up at Harry. "How- Do you- Do you-?"
"I remember everything, Draco," Harry whispered against his lips, caressing his cheeks with his thumbs.
"Yes, every single moment of it."
"But- but, how? Yesterday you-"
"I didn't know. But then at some point today, there were healers running all kinds of tests on me and I was bored, so I took a look at the picture on the wall and it all came back to me at once."
"Yeah, you know the one-"
"The one you were looking at when I arrived tonight?"
"Yes." And with that, they simultaneously turned to look at the painting still resting on the chair nearby. Draco took it with slightly trembling hands and froze.
It was a watercolour picture of the Hogwarts Quidditch pitch, decorated in the Slytherin and Gryffindor colours.
The stands were completely empty, except for two tiny figures seating next to one another: one with dark hair, the other with white-blond hair.
Draco looked at the picture for so long that he had almost forgotten where he was and jumped when Harry spoke again.
"Weird, isn't it?"
Weird didn't even begin to cover it. How on earth could the Quidditch pitch of his form of afterlife find itself on a cheap painting of a random hospital room? With what clearly looked like the two of them?
"I- I don't understand, it's-"
"Probably some kind of magic we don't know about. We can ask the nurse tomorrow morning though. Now if we could just forget about that painting for a while…"
Draco nodded and put the framed picture back on the chair next to the bed and Harry brought him closer. He saw the lust mirrored in Harry's eyes and the atmosphere changed at once. They kissed again and this time, there was no hesitation, no innocence to it. Draco cupped Harry's face, holding him in place as he kissed him harder. The little noises coming from Harry's lips set him on fire. God, it felt so good to be in Harry's arms again, to feel him, to taste him, to be so close to him!
Things were rapidly heating up and it unsettled him a little.
Because what he was feeling right now, the heat in his groin as he was unconsciously moving against Harry while they were simply kissing was scaring the shit out of him.
Because he didn't know if he would be able to do something about it.
Because he had never been with anyone before.
And because he didn't quite know how to properly handle emotions, especially emotions related to his body and he felt overwhelmed even though he couldn't bring himself to stop right now and he kept kissing Harry, touching him, feeling him.
But was it right for his body to behave like this? It certainly felt right, Merlin it did, but was it really? And then another thought crossed his mind. What would happen next? What would be the next step?
An irrational fear started gripping him. The fear of having to be naked in front of Harry at some point. Or more specifically, the fear of showing him his damaged body. The fear that Harry would find him ugly and be repulsed by him and would reject him. Especially after what had happened Down There. Because Draco had never been naked with anyone before that and it scared him shitless. Because being naked Down There had meant pain.
It had meant humiliation.
It had meant disgust.
And while Draco had managed to blank his mind most of the time Down There, he didn't know if he would be able to be intimate with someone without being vividly reminded of what he had been through, without acting weird or shutting down or freaking out. He didn't know. And he didn't know if Harry could handle it either. What if Harry was disappointed? What if Harry didn't understand? Was if Harry wanted things that Draco couldn't give him for now? What if-
"Draco?" Harry's voice abruptly brought him back to the present. "Are you all right?"
Draco pulled back and looked at him for a while.
"Draco, talk to me," Harry's deep and calm voice helped release the tension and he relaxed a little.
"Do you- do you want this?" he asked softly, although the question he really wanted to ask was: Do you want me?
Harry frowned. "What do you mean?"
"This, us, do you- are you sure this is what you want?"
Harry propped himself in a sitting position and looked deep into Draco's eyes. "Yes, this is what I want. I want you, Draco Malfoy, I want all of you."
"All of me?" Even the bad and the ugly?
"All of you." Harry brought him closer and made him rest his head on his chest, wrapping him in his arms, while Draco folded his legs on the bed, curling up in a foetal position. He could feel Harry's heartbeat and he felt safe. Harry started threading his fingers in his hair and this simple gesture soothed him further.
"I have scars," Draco murmured after a while.
Harry's fingers stopped for a fraction of a second before resuming their pattern on his head. "I know."
"I have wounds."
"And they won't heal soon."
"I know," and they both knew that Draco wasn't only speaking of his physical wounds.
"I'm damaged," he went on.
"And yet you're willing to try?" he asked in a breath.
"And yet I'm more than willing to try," and he felt the soft caress of Harry's lips against his forehead and the gesture was so sweet, so gentle, so respectful that it made him shiver.
"What about you? What do you want?" Harry murmured.
Draco sighed. "I- I'm not sure."
"Well, maybe we could try and figure it out together if you want?"
Draco lifted his head and his gaze locked with Harry's. "I want to kiss you."
Harry smiled. "Well, I certainly have no objection to that!"
But Draco didn't smile back and looked down again. He braced himself for what he wanted to say, and he didn't really know how to say it.
"But?" Harry prompted gently, placing a soft kiss on the top of his head.
"I'm not- I'm not sure I want more for now." There. He had said it.
"Of course, that's perfectly fine. We won't do anything you don't feel like doing, ever. I will never pressure you in any way, you have to know that."
"Even if it takes weeks, or even months before I'm able to-"
"Even that. I don't care, Draco, I want to be with you. We can deal with the rest later on."
Draco swallowed hard. He didn't know what to say. He had expected Harry to say something along those lines, but hearing it made it real and he let out a deep breath of relief. He suddenly felt exhausted again.
"Can I- can I stay with you tonight?" Just holding tight and nothing more? But he knew he didn't have to say it out loud for Harry to understand it.
"Of course, Draco, here." And Harry scooted over to allow him to lie down next to him. Harry then took him in his arms and Draco closed his eyes, feeling incredibly relaxed and content.
"There you are!" Cecilia's voice quickly brought him back to reality, even if it took him a moment to remember where he was and who he was with. "For Merlin's sake, Draco, do you have any idea how worried I have been when I didn't see you in your bed?" But Draco was barely listening to her. He was looking at Harry who was still asleep. Or so he hoped. An immense worry suddenly surfaced as he wondered if he had once again sent Harry into another deep sleep.
Oh dear God no. Please, not that!
But then Harry slowly opened his eyes and looked up at him, ignoring Cecilia completely.
"Morning," he grinned at Draco, kissing him hard on the lips.
"Morning," Draco smiled back.
Cecilia cleared her throat. "I'm sorry to interrupt this highly touching moment, but the Head Healer is on his way to see you, Mr Potter."
"Er, Cecilia? Would it be possible maybe to give us a little bit of time to, er, arrange ourselves before anybody else comes in?" Draco stepped in.
"You have five minutes," she said sternly as she reached for the doorknob.
"Great, thanks," Draco replied with a smile.
She turned around swiftly and looked at him suspiciously. "Who are you? You're not the real Draco Malfoy, are you? Merlin, if I had known what it took to get a thanks from you, I would have put you in his bed sooner!" And with that, she left the room.
"So," Cecilia said with a little smile as she brought him his soup in his room at noon, "I didn't know Mr Potter and you…"
Draco narrowed his eyes. "This is absolutely none of your business. What kind of a nurse are you anyway?"
"The kind that has to bear with you on a daily basis and looks forward to seeing you go! So any hope I have of this happening anytime soon is bound to raise my interest, if you must know."
Bloody hell, what a mouth she had! But he had to admit he liked it. Not that he would say that out loud.
"About that, do you have any idea when I'm going to be discharged?"
"Well… The Head Healer will come and visit you sometime today, so I'm sure he'll talk to you about that."
"What do you think he'll say?"
"I don't know. You're undeniably much better than when you arrived a few days ago. I mean your body is healing properly so if you stop with the drama and keep eating properly and taking your potions, you should be good to go in a few days. Although I do hope you realise you'll still have to be followed medically and that it won't mean it's all over once you leave here. You'll need more time than that."
"Yeah, I know."
There was a knock and Harry's head appeared through the half-open door.
"Am I interrupting something?"
"No, Cecilia was about to go anyway, right Cecilia?"
"That's all right," Harry said, smiling as he made his way in. "We wanted to ask you something anyway."
"We did?" Draco frowned. "Oh, right, the painting," and he instinctively looked at it. He had not even thought about it and he gasped when he realised the previous picture of the mother reading to her child had been replaced by a picture of two young men - a blond and a brunet - lying together in a bed, snogging the daylights out of one another.
"The paint-? Oh yes, that!" Cecilia chuckled. "I take it that you're not actually seeing colourful abstract shapes?"
Draco felt a blush form slightly on his cheeks and at the sight of Harry's similar colouring on his face, Draco deduced it was the same for him. "Er, I'm not. You?"
"The picture I see is far from abstract to me," Harry replied.
Cecilia shook her head. "I don't want to know."
"So, what is it?
"Every room has a painting that has been magically altered by a spell called 'Felicis Memoriam.' It's meant to adapt to the patient's needs and help them recover by showing them their happiest moments." she explained, and Draco was sure he was blushing again. So that's why the painting had changed after what had happened on the Quidditch pitch! "Of course the picture can only be seen by the people involved in the memory. To anybody else's eyes it's a simple painting by Muggle artist Wassily Kandinsky."
Draco felt relieved at that. He had no desire for everybody to see what his happiest memory was.
The new leaves on the huge Sycamore outside had now all emerged and the picture it made in the bright afternoon sun was stunning. Spring was well and truly there and it seemed to wish to celebrate the new chapter in Draco's life.
Harry was sitting on the chair next to him and they were listening to Head Healer Johnson, a stern blond man in his mid-forties. The way Cecilia behaved around him - oddly serious and silent for once - told Draco that the man was probably one not to mess with. Draco focused his attention back on him.
"We believe that by saving you that night and mixing your magic in such a way, Mr Potter has prevented you, Mr Malfoy, from dying, maintaining your life through this newly created bond," Head Healer Johnson explained, and Draco was fascinated by the way his huge moustache was eating half of his face as he was speaking.
"So Granger was right in the end," he said.
Harry smiled at him. "Isn't she always?" and Draco rolled his eyes.
"The thing is, Mr Potter," Head Healer Johnson went on, unruffled, "Saving Mr Malfoy's life had drained you of all vital energy - magic included - which is why you immediately fell deeply asleep."
"So the reason I woke up is because all my energy had been restored?" Harry said again.
"Not exactly, although that is part of the answer." He paused. "We believe that you woke up when Mr Malfoy didn't need your own energy to stay alive anymore."
"What do you mean by that?" Harry frowned.
"When I decided I no longer wanted to die," Draco murmured.
"In other words, yes."
"Oh, I hadn't realised." Draco turned to him and their eyes locked.
Head Healer Johnson cleared his throat, breaking the moment, and they looked at him again. "Any other questions?"
"Yes," Draco started. "Is this kind of bonding usual? Because, well, Harry had already saved my life before and it certainly didn't have the same effects."
"No, it's not. I must admit that I had heard about it, but it is the first time I am to witness it first-hand."
"So why us and why now?"
"You said Mr Potter had already saved your life before?"
"Well, that's the reason. It's already quite rare for someone to save somebody else once so three times is exceptional. No wonder it linked you strongly."
"But the bond is broken now?" Harry asked.
"It is. It only activates in case of extreme, dire emergency."
"So when will we be able to leave?" Draco asked.
"I think Mr Potter will be able to go as early as tomorrow. We have tested him thoroughly and everything is in order." Harry had indeed had to undergo a series of tests to make sure every single hair on the precious Saviour-of-the-Wizarding-World's head was well in place and that no bit was missing. Draco could have spared them the worry, having checked Harry himself the night before.
"What about me?"
"We'll have to wait a few more days for you, Mr Malfoy, although if you keep on eating proper meals and taking your potions, you should be able to go at the beginning of next week."
Draco held back a chuckle as Cecilia was mouthing 'What did I tell you?' behind the man.
"Thank you, Head Healer Johnson."
They were both soon released from hospital. Draco thanked Cecilia warmly mainly for bearing with him and taking such great care of him. She retorted very seriously that she wished to never see him ever again, but there was tenderness in her eyes as she said so.
Draco had nowhere to go so Harry invited him over to his house in 12, Grimmauld Place, just for the time for him to settle down, find a place to live and start a new life. He was supposed to stay only briefly at Harry's, but soon days turned into weeks and into months.
In the end, Draco never left.
Harry's announcement that yes, he was gay and yes, he was in a relationship with former Death Eater Draco Malfoy took the Wizarding World by surprise to say the least, and it made the Prophet's headlines for weeks, to Harry's utter annoyance.
Before that, Harry had told Granger and Weasley. The former had been oddly quiet at the news while the latter predictably made his dissatisfaction known rather loudly. Harry and the Weasel were soon shouting at each other, while Granger desperately tried to calm things down.
No one had noticed Draco had retreated to the bedroom, hurt more than he would have guessed by the exchange and scared shitless that Harry would give in to his best friend and throw him out. He was packing the few belongings he had in a small bag when he felt Harry encircle him from behind and hold him close, cradling him in his arms and telling him how ridiculous he was and how he had absolutely no intention to throw him out at all. Draco had pathetically crumbled in Harry's arms at his words and sobbed like a child.
After that, the first few times the two couples had spent time together had been rather tense, but after a while, things started to improve slowly, even if Weasley and he would probably never become the best of friends and were only tolerating each other's presence for Harry's sake.
Draco was finally happy even if he wasn't naive; he knew what he had lived through Down There would haunt him for a long time and that he was still very fragile. Harry was incredibly patient, bearing with him despite his numerous mood swings, his weird reactions when Harry touched him or the fact the tiniest detail would trigger something in him and freak the hell out of him. His nights were punctuated by violent nightmares from Down There but every time, Harry was there to hold him tight and help him through them. Draco sometimes missed their night-time inner conversations but he was glad they had found other ways of communicating. His recovery would take years but he felt rather hopeful and as each day passed, he marvelled at the fact that Harry had miraculously not given up on him.
On the day that marked their first anniversary, Harry surprised him with the most amazing gift he could have asked for. His heart beat faster when he removed the wrapping paper and discovered a beautiful framed picture of the two of them on the Quidditch pitch. Like the painting at the hospital, Harry had it magically altered so that only the two of them could see it. They had agreed right from the beginning never to mention what had happened on the Quidditch pitch to anyone. It was their secret place only they knew about and they liked reminiscing about it. They hung the picture in their bedroom and Draco could spend hours on the bed just looking at it and reliving memories of that blessed time they had spent just the two of them in this form of afterlife.
He didn't know what life had in store for him, but he didn't want to think about that right now. For now, he was just savouring the unpredictable turn his life had taken at the most unexpected moment and place.
Even when you were at your lowest and thought there was no hope left, there could still be light at the end of the tunnel after all.
~ The End. ~