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Into the Woods

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Harry likes thinking about death.

At first, it was just a fascination with bones, his skeleton. He liked the way his ribs protruded through his skin the way they did. He worshiped the notches of his spinal chord like some worship the sun. Bruises contrasted so prettily against his knuckles, and his cheekbones.

When he got beaten down by brainless classmates, he started liking the feeling of blood in his mouth. He craved the metallic taste of it rolling around on his tongue. He liked the texture of it on his fingers, staining them to the root of his fingernails.

Eventually, blades became his pens, tearing poetry into his wrists, hips, legs. It made him dizzy, but the blood was so beautiful. His aunt found out, put him in therapy, and prescribed him pills. But that didn't change the fact that the teenagers crawling in the hallways were monsters, his teachers just standing deaf while they destroyed him.

A lot of people suffering in the way that he was said that they started losing feeling, they started losing the desire to exist. But Harry just became more aware of his own body and how many different ways he could harm himself. While he sat in class, drowning out the meaningless taunts, he started noticing the trees, and their tall branches.

After school, he walks through the small forest trail, admiring them. Thinking about how nice of an accessory a noose would make upon one of the outreaching arms. Harry loves coming here in the nighttime. The shadows of the trees were like long fingers sending shivers down his spine. But it was here in the vast open space that he truly realized how lonely he was.

He has no friends, his thoughts weren't even kind to him, and his guardian doesn't understand any of it. He cares, he pays for meds and treatments, but it never seems to get to him that it was harder than it looked to be happy. Even if pills worked, it was all fake, the happiness wasn't tangible. He wants to feel it, touch it. Happiness can't only be found in dreams.

The leaves rustle with the wind as he stares up at the stars. Suddenly, there was a movement in his peripheral vision. By the time he turns to look, whatever it was was gone.

He thought he was alone.

-

Harry keeps coming to the forest every day and night. He finds that staring at the clouds, moving slowly across the sky, distracts him from his thoughts. He knows it isn't normal to be drawn to his marks of abuse. Nothing is helping, and he feels his hope draining out of him. Alcohol only left the aftertaste of his own disappointment lingering in his mouth, and although the pain of his headache was welcomed, he always regrets it. Cigarettes could only do so much. They made him feel as dirty and polluted as he truly was; he likes the sting of the nicotine, but it just isn't enough. That's what makes him want to tear his skin at the seams. The answer had to be there, somewhere, hidden in his rib cage. He digs his nails into his palms.

Suddenly, something steps out into grass, taking cautious steps. He turns to look at the cause of the noise, and it turns out to be a person, standing frozen, looking at him. He had blonde hair, so blonde it almost looked silver, and a uke at his side. Once Harry had noticed him, the stranger slowly started to walk back through the trees.

"Wait," Harry says, unaware that his voice was so raspy and desperate. "You can come and lie here if you want," he gets up and dusts the dirt from his jeans. "I'll-I'll leave."

"No, it's fine. I can just go over here, I guess." the nameless boy says, plopping down far away from him, to provide him enough space.

So, the two go about their business alone, listening to the chirping of the birds. Harry lay down to face the sky, but he can't focus with the boy a few feet away. He just sat cross legged, trying to play his instrument, but it looked awkward in his arms. The notes were spaced, and a bit out of tune, but it was nice to have some form of company.

Harry wants to know who he is, but that would probably annoy him. He usually came here to be alone, and he was a huge bother. Oh god, who was he, trying to be friends with this guy? Who'd ever want to be friends with Harry Potter-

"Shut up," Harry mumbles to the voices in his head. "Stop."

He rises from his spot on the ground, shaking from fright, because he really could go a day without another regret. So he takes a few breaths, trying to quiet the pounding of his heart. It's okay, he can do this. He's just a person, he's just a person, he's just a-

"Hey, are you okay? Did I do something wrong?" the stranger looks up at him, beginning to stand.

Harry relaxes the fist at his side to stop him. "No, I was just-um, wondering what," he clears his throat. "Your name was?"

"Oh," he says, a blank look on his face for a few seconds. "I'm Draco." he smiles, extending his free hand to meet Harry's. Honestly, Harry hadn't really experienced friendly greetings like this, unless it was the honey-sweet tone of his therapist. He hesitantly shakes Draco's hand.

"I-I'm Harry." he looks down at his shoes just so that he wouldn't keep eye contact for too long. He looks back up again.

"Anxiety sucks, doesn't it?" Draco replies. "My close friend has it, so I recognize some of the symptoms. Do you wanna sit down?" he asks, patting the space next to him.

"Y-Yeah, sure." Harry says, a small smile on his lips. It was nice, not having someone at his throat for once.

After a moment of silence, Harry trying hard to calm his negative thoughts, he speaks. "You actually play a ukulele?"

Draco smiles. " I found it in a small music shop once. I've been trying to learn to play it, but it's not really for me." he strums the strings. "My family's full of orchestra musicians. If they saw me with this tiny thing, I'd never hear the end of it." he sighs. "I know they'd be joking, but sometimes I feel like they're shaming me for every tiny thing that I do. This is the only time I feel good enough to practice it."

Harry just nods, not sure what to say next. He has a knot in his stomach that keeps him from saying anything. He either stays quiet, or tries to say something and ruin it by vomiting, which isn't a good first impression.

Draco sets the uke aside and lays on the grass, so Harry follows.

"Why are you here?" Draco whispers. "Unless it's personal, I don't-"

"It's fine, um." he answers. "My-my mind gets a little violent sometimes, that's all."

That was the biggest understatement of his life, but he'd rather not give his-friend?-nightmares.

He swallows. "Here, it's quiet. But not the type of quiet I'm used to?" he furrows his eyebrows. "Like, not the silence after crying, or the silence of pity, or hopelessness. It's just quiet so that you can hear the wind, and the birds singing, and-it's just peaceful."

As if it was being summoned, a gust of wind blows by them, Draco's hair getting messier than it already was. Tyler grips his coat tighter to his body.

"I get it. My head gets that way too," he confesses after the wind calms. "Except I just get fucking angry," he draws a sharp breath. "And I-I can't control myself. I hurt people I love, I destroy everything in my path, over something as simple as spilling cereal or whatever,"

Draco turns away from the clouds and faces Harry. "I'm afraid of myself, and this is the only time I'm not. I'm just a guy with a cute little uke, that's all."

Harry knew that must've been scary, not being able to control his emotions, and not being able to stop himself before it was too late.

To see the debris that you yourself created while blinded by the red of your anger.

Even now, Draco's breath was compromised, his hands were shaking at his sides. He truly regrets this, he views himself as a monster. Like Harry, he just had a lot of shit left undealt with; except his anger was pointed externally, while Harry's was mostly internal. Both of them had so much they wanted to say, with destructive ways of expressing it. Harry found himself reaching for Draco's hand, and giving it a light, frightened squeeze, as if to say "I'm here."

Draco squeezes back, just as gently, as if to say "Thank you."

They spent the rest of the afternoon in silence. This time it was different. It was different to hear the sputtering of another damaged heart next to yours.

-

Okay, so maybe both boys knew it wasn't the best thing to befriend someone at a creepy looking forest. Loneliness led people to do crazy things; if Draco suddenly decides to take him to some hidden cabin and chop him up, he'd follow him with a smile.

Harry would unwillingly admit that was his main concern,but he didn't exactly know why. After what he had told Draco, about the nightmares and the worrying pull toward slicing himself open just so that he wouldn't feel so suffocated, he expected him to run the other way.

He didn't, and to this day he wonders what makes him stay. He only met Draco here, no outside connection whatsoever. If Harry was too anxious or self conscious that day, or if Draco was too ashamed of himself, they'd just talk to the clouds. After years of building up this thick skin around himself, Harry was beginning to shed it. He tried to keep his act together the first few weeks, afraid that he would disgust Draco or scare him off. But Draco knew what it was like to be so lost, constantly surrounded by your own self inflicted darkness. He knew the empty eyes, and he knew what the shaking shoulders meant. He just knew.

Eventually, Harry did open up, and he found himself able to breathe for the first time in a while. He always said that coming here and breathing in the fresh air helped, but he thinks that maybe he was just convincing himself.

It was summertime now, which meant Harry had to resort to wearing short sleeves. His guardian looked at his marks of self mutilation with well hidden disappointment; in him or himself, he didn't know.

Now that he had no school, he comes to the forest in the night more than ever. Some nights, a nice, warm breeze overtook his surroundings, making him feel warm and...nice.

But this night feels different. The shadows are standing tall and vigilant, the trees are swaying violently. The breeze turns cold, and he wraps his arms around himself self consciously.

Unfamiliar stomping feet could be heard coming closer. Harry bites his lip, drawing blood.

It's Draco, but not the Draco he'd grown to love. Not the Draco he calls a friend. This is his demon showing through.

"Harry..." he was trying to breathe, to let loose, but he was as red, a furious red. Every limb of his was shaking. "Get out."

Harry was afraid, extremely afraid. "N-no, I can help, please let me help. I-"

"No! You can't help! Nothing ever fucking helps, not drugs, not the uke, not-" he releases a breath. "Not hopeless boys with scars, not my family, no one! I'm a monster, Harry. I am the bull and you are just a tiny, meaningless bullfighter. I'll tear you to shreds with my bare hands if you don't get out of my way."

Harry was shaking too, now, but he stood his ground. "You don't mean it, Draco. I know you don't. We can talk about it, like always, we can- I don't know.
Draco! But I know you're better than this."

"You of all people know I'm a monster, Harry. Right now, I'm thinking about strangling you until you turn purple. Right now I'm thinking about my bloody knuckles against your bruised face, right now I'm thinking about the smell of blood on the grass." He was stepping closer and closer now, slowly. He grips Draco's wrist with a nearly bone cracking grasp.

It was late June, but their breaths could be seen clear as day. Draco's eyes looked black, cold, and monotonous. "The only thing that's stopping me is this small, voice. Annoying as hell, insisting that I should let you go,"

Harry swallows, but made no moves.

"I'm a monster, and I'm going home, in the trees where I belong."

And with that, Draco was gone. Tyler stands, wide eyed in his place, shaking. But he doesn't run away.

Draco never ran away from him, so why would Harry?

-

The moonlight works with Harry's rather lame flashlight as he runs blindly through the woods. Twigs cracked, wind blew and tree roots trip Harry as he goes. Gashes litter Harry's legs, stinging painfully.

His lungs are burning, his throat is dry from pointlessly screaming name, but he kept trying.

Screaming breaks out through the trees, stopping him in his tracks.

It shakes Tyler from his very core, it sends shivers down his spine. It was horrible, raspy, and desperate. It keeps happening, little bursts of shouts that echo all around him.

"Draco!" Harry screams, running faster than he's ever done in his life. His legs hurt from the wounds and the endless walking, but he keeps going. "Draco! Answer me!"

Harry was coughing; he has to stop for a second or he's going to be sick. He comes to a stop on the ground, trying to move forward as he chokes.

He keeps running towards the noise, he's crying, but he doesn't stop.

"Draco!"

"Draco!"

At last, he finds him curled up, rocking from side to side, defending himself from the cold.

He screams, but it just turns into an ugly sob.

"Leave," he cries. "Leave before I wreck you like everything else!"

Harry crouches next to Draco, trying to console him. Draco pushes him away violently. "I said go, Harry! You think you can fix me, but you fucking can't! You're shattered, you're dying, you're-you're not strong. You can't fight fire with fire, you-"

"Stop," Harry whispers. "Fucking stop, Draco. Nothing you can say will scare me off. Nothing you can do will make me run away." he hugs him, trying to warm him up somehow.

Draco just cries. Cries, and cries into Harry's shoulder. Harry could do this for a million years, if he had to. He just wants Draco to smile.

"Our demons were guiding us in the wrong direction," Harry spoke up. "But if they led me to you, maybe I'm not lost after all."

And Draco smiles, hugging Tyler tightly in the darkness.