Someone was watching him. It didn’t take much for him to figure out it was Malfoy, even from this far of a distance. He didn’t think he had meant to watch him, he’d probably just stumbled upon Harry, who was standing at the edge of the forest.
This wasn’t the first time he’d come here, and now that he knew Malfoy was watching, he knew it wouldn’t be the last. Whatever Harry felt he needed to do, he knew he wouldn’t be able to do it with Malfoy’s eyes on him. Yet, he was unwilling to turn away, he couldn’t give Malfoy the satisfaction of thinking he was the reason Harry couldn’t enter the forest. No, Harry was having a hard time all on his own.
Finally, Malfoy turned away and Harry let himself breathe again. When he was sure he was alone, Harry turned away, trying to ignore the way his legs shook as he walked.
Harry was at the edge of the forest again. He hadn’t meant to come but last night he had had sort of an odd interaction with Malfoy. Malfoy had gotten plastered before bed as usual. Not that Harry blamed him. He knew it helped him sleep, and if Harry could take the pain of a hangover he’d do the same.
But in the middle of the night Malfoy had awoken, still drunk, and had turned to look at Harry across the space between their beds. “I’ve always envied you,” Malfoy had slurred.
“Why?” Harry replied.
“You’re never afraid.”
Harry had wanted to tell him no. Had wanted to get up from the bed and grab Malfoy by the front of his pajamas and shake him. Of course he’d been afraid he wanted to shout. He was afraid right now. He had no idea what he was doing or where he was going or who he was without a fight. For what was the point of Harry Potter without Voldemort?
And now he was standing on the edge of this forest again. He wanted to pretend that if he could just make it past the first tree line he could figure this out, that he could figure all of this out. But he couldn’t move.
Last night Draco had pressed his lips against Harry’s skin like it was spun silk. He had been so gentle, kissing each of Harry’s scars like he was afraid his lips might hurt. Harry hadn’t known whether to cry or laugh, so he had done both. And Draco had seemed to understand because he went right on kissing Harry’s scars and letting him run his fingers through his hair.
But even so Harry found himself at the edge of the forest again. This time he couldn’t pretend like he didn’t know why he was hesitating. But that didn’t mean he would go inside.
Harry had been lying for so long it was sometimes hard for him to remember the truth. The truth was when he had asked Draco to sleep together, he wasn’t doing it for Draco. He let Draco think that he was doing him a favour, but Harry knew that he was getting by just fine with his medicine. It was Harry that needed the comfort of a warm body, a reminder that he was here.
When he had kissed Draco, he let him think it was because they both needed to blow off steam. Mutually beneficial. It didn’t have to mean anything, just two people reminding each other that they were alive. The truth was Harry had wanted to lose himself in Draco. He had wanted to forget for ten minutes, an hour, a night, that he had died. To convince himself he wasn’t still dead. If Draco’s hands, and lips, and mouth, and eyes, and cock could spark like that, just at Harry’s touch, then surely he had to be alive.
He realised he wasn’t as great of a liar as he thought he was. All this time, he thought Draco saw it as comforting. In reality, he had seen it as a compassion. He didn’t want to lie to Draco anymore, couldn’t lie to himself anymore. So he had led Draco to the edge of the forest and taken his hand in his.
He knew that Draco was probably remembering when he had seen Harry here earlier in the summer. He didn’t speak though, he was looking at Harry, waiting.
“I died in this place. For a few hours. Or minutes. Time flows differently when it happens. I walked through the trees looking for them…for him. And when I found him, I allowed him to kill me. I closed my eyes and my ears were ringing so much, and my legs were shaking from the desire to run. I wanted to run. I didn’t want to die. I don’t want to die…and I got so scared I could only hear the beating of my heart and their voices and…” Harry hadn’t expected to say so much at once, but once he had opened his mouth the words hadn’t stopped.
Draco didn’t say anything but his name, so Harry continued. “I was afraid,” he whispered.
“Of what?” Draco squeezed his hand.
“That I didn’t really come back out. That if I went back inside I’d realise that I wasn’t really here. I died and I’m still afraid of death,” Harry admitted.
He looked at Draco and found him crying, not even trying to hide it. “You’re here, though.”
“I know that now,” Harry said with a watery smile, unable to hold back his own tears. “But it still hurts. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to do this—” he nodded at the forest, “again.”
“You don’t have to,” Draco told him, pulling him close.
“You think I can forget you now?” Harry asked shakily into Draco’s neck. He felt Draco shake his head and press a kiss into his hair.
Harry pulled back a little, looked Draco in the eye, and kissed him. Kisses felt so much better when they were honest, Harry noted.
“Are you still afraid to go inside?” Draco asked when they broke apart.
Harry looked into the trees, looked for an answer he knew wasn’t there, and turned back to Draco. “No…but I don’t think I need to.”
Draco smiled and tugged Harry away from the edge.