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Bruises to the soul

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On the pier, everyone hid their faces inside warm scarfs to avoid the bite of the cold wind. It was odd to see Guernsey like this but Harry still believed the place to be a reminiscence of summer. It even had a foretaste of the next one. He was alive here, the potions in his bag didn’t exist.

He breathed in, inhaling the unpolluted air and savouring the smell of salt on it. He tried to remember how everything looked like so he could picture it in his mind if need be. He knew he might feel oppressed when he’ll arrive to the Burrow because too many people would be there, checking up on him and worrying.

“I wanted to stay a bit longer,” Harry said as he climbed on the train.

“We’ll be back soon,” Draco promised, lacing his arms around Harry from behind.

Yes, Harry thought, we’ll come back.

They would eat a piece of Blackwell tart again, take walks under the sun, tan, swim in the ocean and spend nights staring at the stars. Draco would make love to him over and over in their hotel room, rolling in the soft sheets or even in a tiny tent.

It should have made Harry feel better but these thoughts were depressing. He wanted to do that now instead of going back to London and to the reality he had left so quickly a few days ago. He wanted to stay in his safe place with Draco instead of coming back to the unknown.

“Have you eaten a Dementor?” Draco asked as they settled in a compartment, side by side.

Harry snuggled against Draco and dropped his head on his shoulder.

“Yeah, I’m even having trouble digesting it.”

Draco ran his fingers through Harry’s hair and put his other arm around him.

“Nostalgia doesn’t suit you, you should smile. You look much better when you do.”

Harry forced himself to smile. It wasn’t very pretty.

“We still have a few hours left, you should practice that smile,” Draco suggested, “this one isn’t even worth a 6 out of 20. No one will believe you’re okay if you smile like that when you’re with the Weasels.”

Harry crushed his foot.

“Weasley, Draco!”

“Leave the dead man’s shoes alone! I spent at least half an hour making them bigger, you can’t destroy them now.”

“This obsession with shoes needs to stop right now, it’s not normal.”

“If you can find anything normal in my life, I promise I’ll finally give you that massage you’ve been dreaming about. Here and now. So, nothing? Really? What a surprise. Too bad you missed your chance when you fell asleep.”

Harry punched his shoulder playfully, embarrassed that he kept bringing this shameful event back. He then settled back against him comfortably. He liked Draco’s jokes and his odd temper and had even accepted the fact that he could be insanely annoying sometimes. Most importantly, he loved being in Draco’s arms. There, he knew they both felt safe and fit together perfectly. He smiled.

“Much better,” Draco said, watching him closely. “So much better actually. You’re getting there.”

He leaned in and kissed Harry softly.

Theo was on the other side of the train, last compartment to the right. Cheek against the window, he was watching the bottom of the sea with great interest.

Harry knocked and startled him. “May I?” he asked.

Theo turned his head regretfully as if he had been distracted while watching the most important thing of his life. He didn’t ask what Harry wanted, he just nodded.

Harry sat down in front of him, nervous. “Do you have a cigarette?”

Theo frowned, puzzled.

“It’s on my list,” Harry explained.

“You have a list?”

Theo searched his pockets, found his lighter and a cigarette and gave them to Harry. He put it in his mouth and lit it, breathed in and out and coughed violently.

“Not sure you’re allowed to smoke in here,” Theo warned.

Harry shrugged. It was burning his throat and it tasted awful. He hated everything immediately, the smell, the taste and the smoke.

“It’s disgusting, why would people become addicted to this?”

“It’s because it’s only disgusting at first,” Theo answered, “you get used to it. Sometimes I wonder if I don’t like having something in my hands rather than the taste.”

Harry gave him the cigarette back.

“What’s that list of yours?” Theo asked.

“All the things I want to do before dying. It’s a bit stupid.”

“And melodramatic.”

“Perhaps, yes. Not really.”

I’m sick, you know, he wanted to say. I don’t know how long I have.

“You can cross the cigarette off, at least. Was it worth it?”

“Putting it on the list? No, absolutely not. I’ll replace it with something better.”

“Like what?”

“I don’t know yet. Are you glad that you spoke to Draco?”

“He forgave me, that’s all that matters. Now we’ll be able to turn the page and start something new. I’m going to start a business in Diagon Alley and maybe he’ll want a job someday. We could be partners.”

“I’m sure he’ll like that.”

“And I’m sure I’ll be seeing an awful lot of you then,” Theo added, raising his eyebrows.

Harry blushed. “Didn’t see that one coming, did you?”

“Well, there was always something between you two. And I’m happy it’s you, Harry. When you’re with him, he’s different, he smiles a lot more and he’s relaxed, nothing about him is tense or hidden. You helped him throw his armour off. Take care of him, okay?”

Harry nodded and got up. They said goodbye and he left the compartment. He knew they would see each other a lot anyway. He was Draco’s best friend after all. Harry quite liked him and thought about introducing him to Luna. They’d be good friends.

Harry felt lighter when he came back to his compartment, glad that he had gotten to know Theo a little bit better.

“Where have you been?” Draco asked.

“Just took a walk, went to the toilet…”

“And talked to Theo. I take it you like him then? Even though he’s a mean Slytherin like me?”

Harry laid down on the bench, head in Draco’s lap.

“Slytherins aren’t that bad once you know them.”

Draco leaned in and kissed him briefly. It was a bit awkward because of the angle but the look on Draco’s face was worth ten kisses at least. He seemed relieved that Harry liked Theo and would be willing to give his other friends a chance.

“Did you smoke?” he frowned, getting back up quickly, “you smell terrible.”

“Yes, Draco, I smoked and it was terrible. I won’t do it again.”

Draco burst out laughing and it was infinitely warm and pleasant. Harry didn’t think he’d ever get tired of hearing it. He thought about what Theo had said about Draco being more relaxed and open when he’s with him. Harry closed his eyes, let himself relax as well.

“We should get some sleep, you kept me awake way too long last night,” Draco said.

“Well, I had to make up for the time I fell asleep, right?”

Draco laughed, still not over the surprise and rush of affection he had felt when he had come back to their room with dinner only to find Harry, dropping to his knees to welcome him. Needless to say, they had both forgotten all about food.

“Wouldn’t mind if you had to make up for it a few more times, you know?”

Harry huffed. “We’re on a train, Draco.”

“But there’s only Theo here!”

“No, anyone could walk in!”

“So what?”

Harry seemed to consider this and then shrugged, getting up to settle over Draco’s lap.

“Fine but if someone walks past, I’ll kill you.”

It was rainy and cold in London. Theo had gone off the train as soon as it had arrived and disappeared towards the Muggle side of the station without saying goodbye. They’d meet again soon anyway.

Harry and Draco got off the train as well, hand in hand, and made their way through the crowd of noisy teenagers and business men, phone stuck to their ears.

After the deafening silence in Guernsey, the tiny island’s sand deserts and endless sea, if felt like they were in another world full of noise and uproar. It seemed time had only stopped for them. Harry already wanted to go back.

“Well,” Draco sighed as they stopped near the entrance, “if you don’t hear from me tonight it’s because my mother buried me alive in the garden.”

“And if you don’t hear from me, it’s because Molly gave me too much to eat and I exploded.”

Draco smiled. “We live dangerous lives, Harry.”

“It means we can take one more risk, right?”

Draco frowned and looked at him questioningly. “What do you mean?”

“You need to kiss me before I leave.”

“You mean… here? In the daylight?”

“There are only Muggles here. Nobody knows us, nobody’s looking at us and anyway, train stations are made for this. We kiss when we separate and we kiss when we find each other again…”

Draco grabbed him by the collar of his shirt, pulled him towards him and kissed him. And their kissed had an intensity Harry hadn’t quite expected, it was a hurried and urgent kiss, one people share when they want to say things but can’t speak them out loud. It meant I love you, I’ll miss you and one whole night without you is going to be too long.

Harry let his rucksack fall off his shoulder and the vials of potion banged together as the bag hit the ground. Harry didn’t care, he could forget a great number of things when Draco kissed him like that. His hands were now free to touch him, hold him closer and ruffle his hair. Finally, they stopped kissing and rested their foreheads together. Harry’s cold nose brushed against Draco’s softly.

“Now I really need to go,” Draco whispered even though he hadn’t moved yet. “Don’t forget your potions and take care of yourself, okay?”

Harry nodded distractedly, dazed by their kiss.

“And don’t wear any hand-knitted jumpers, okay? Even if there’s an H or a Snitch on it.”

“I promise,” Harry said but he was only thinking of kissing him again.

“And if you really can’t bear to be there anymore, if they make you mad or ginger, send me an owl, I’ll dig the earth with my bare hands and come out of my grave. Hopefully Mother won’t be too mad.”

“Aren’t we supposed to see each other tomorrow?” Harry asked, pushing a lock of Draco’s hair behind his ear.

“Yes, why do you ask?”

“Then stop worrying, I’ll be fine. It’s only one night.”

Harry shook his head with amusement and took Draco’s face between his hands, leaving one last small kiss on his lips. Way too small to his taste but they both needed to go.

“Oh no,” Draco said darkly when he raised his head.

“What’s wrong?”

“Please, don’t turn around okay? Never. Let’s leave the station backwards.”

So obviously, Harry turned around.

His stomach jolted. A few meters away from them were Ron and Hermione, visibly out of breath and shocked. Ron, who didn’t know anything yet. His mouth was hanging open, eyes staring blankly at Harry.

Who are you? his wide-open eyes screamed. What have you done with my best friend? The one who hated that Malfoy bloke and who never ever thought about kissing another boy? 

“How long do you think they’ve been here?” Harry asked, frozen and scared.

“Long enough to have seen everything, I suppose. Do you… Do you want me stay? Because I could, if you needed me. Really. You’re white as a sheet, Harry.”

Harry pressed his hand. He honestly didn’t know what he had done to deserve a boyfriend like him.

“Go home, Draco. Your mother is probably worried sick about you. I’ll be fine, I swear.”

Draco sighed, bit his lip and brought Harry’s hand to his lips, kissing it softly.

“Okay,” he answered, “but don’t forget to send an owl if you need me. One word from you and I’ll come right away.”

Harry kissed him again. After all, Ron and Hermione had already seen everything and he needed to thank Draco but he was afraid it wouldn't be good enough with words. 

Hermione ran towards Harry and hugged him, effectively choking him.

“We wanted to surprise you,” she explained, panicked. “Professor McGonagall let us miss this afternoon’s classes. It wasn’t important anyway. Of course, all courses are important but we didn’t miss anything too important. You know, for the N.EW.T.S. We just had History of Magic at three o’clock and Hannah said she’d give us her notes and… anyway, the Headmistress allowed us to come and pick you up and bring you all the things you left at school. By the way, I still can’t believe you’re not coming back. We were late, I told Ron we were going to miss you so we ran and I thought we’d never find you, especially on the Muggle side of the train station and…”

“And finally it would have been quite difficult to miss me,” Harry finished gently. “Please Hermione, calm down. I’m out of breath just listening to you.”

With regret, she took a step back. She was obviously trying to keep herself from crying, eyes all red and puffy, begging him to do something, explain to Ron before he said something stupid.

“You look healthy,” she said. “The potions, how are the side effects? I’ve done some research and the components of these potions are really strong. But you can handle it, right?”

“Yeah, I can for now. I’m okay.”

“All good then.”

All this time, Ron had stayed quiet, in retreat, hands shoved in his pocket. He was kicking the pavement angrily as they walked.

“Ron,” Hermione said, “you haven’t said hello to Harry yet.”

Ron barely lifted his eyes from the pavement.

“Sorry, I must’ve forgotten how to speak. You know, it probably happened when Malfoy had his tongue down Harry’s throat and he kissed him back.”

“Please, let me explain…” Harry tried.

“My mother is waiting for us. She prepared a big party for you, so we can celebrate your return from the hospital. Everyone will be there, Bill, Fleur, Charlie, George. Even Ginny. You know, my sister. The one you dated. So, what do you think of that?”

And then he turned around, walked towards an alley and Apparated without them. Without letting Harry explain.

“There really couldn’t have been a worst way for him to find out,” Hermione sighed.

“This party is going to be a disaster,” Harry added.

At first, there were a few awkward and long hugs. In the hearth, the fire was burning bright and candles were floating around the big table Molly had set. Conversations were highlighted with bursts of laugh and noises of knives and forks happily banging together. There was so much food they could almost believe it was a fest worthy of the evenings at Hogwarts.

Harry, stomach in knots, could barely eat anything and played with his food. He waited for the moment Ron would explode and tell everything. It was bound to happen anytime now. He was sat as far away from Harry as possible between Bill and Hermione at the end of the table, eyes locked to his full plate.

Ever since they had arrived at the Burrow an hour ago, Harry had tried to speak with him, again and again but every time he tried to say something, Ron walked away.

“You’re too old to play with your food, Ron,” Mr Weasley said. “Eat.”

The conversation suddenly drifted towards George’s shop and Molly added that she still couldn’t believe Harry wasn’t going back to Hogwarts and chose to help George instead.

“Leave him be, mum,” George protested, “it’s the best decision he’s taken in a while and I’m not just saying that because he’s going to help me. N.E.W.T.S. honestly aren’t that essential to a wizard’s life and becoming an Auror… That’s a scary life. You’d spend every day worrying about dying and chasing Death Eaters or who knows what kind of dark wizard…”

“But Harry likes catching Death Eaters, he might even have one to himself already,” Ron said in the middle of the conversation - no one noticed.

“…Oh by the way Harry, I need to show you something!”

On these words, George rushed to his bedroom to grab the sketches of new products he had made during the three weeks Harry had spent at the hospital.

“I don’t know what you’ve done to him,” Molly said, amazed, “but I haven’t seen him that excited about something in months. He’s like that ever since he came to see you at the hospital: full of energy and ideas, it’s miraculous!”

Ron laughed loudly and all heads turned to him.

“Let’s just hope he didn’t do to George what he does with Malfoy. I’m not sure you’d appreciate it if he became your son-in-law that way, mum.”

And here we go, Harry thought darkly.

The moment was there, palpable. Nobody spoke anymore, they all stared at each other blankly, without understanding. Fleur seemed to whisper in Bill’s ear but he shrugged and didn’t answer; he had no idea what was going on just like everybody else.

“What did you say about Malfoy?” Ginny asked, suddenly very pale and frowning.

“Ron, please, don’t say anything,” Hermione whispered, hands tense on his arm.

George came back at that moment, dozens of rolls of parchment in his arms. He let them fall on his chair, puzzled by the silence and tension in the air.

“Did I miss something?”

“Harry’s coming out of the closet,” Ron answered.

Hermione sighed and buried her face in her hands. Harry felt the eyes of everybody present on him, it was like a sunburn. Molly, Arthur, Charlie, Fleur, Bill, George, Ginny. The silence was so thick and heavy that Harry prayed someone would say something, anything at all. His cheeks were bright red and for the first time, he suddenly felt different, isolated and judged. For the first time he realised he was in love with someone he wasn’t supposed to have romantic feelings for and that everybody would always question it. No one would kindly wish him happiness and pat his back, at least not so soon after the war.

“We’re all waiting for your explanations,” Ron continued.

“Why, is this a trial?” Harry answered, voice shaking. “And will you look at me when you speak, please?”

“I’d rather not.”

Molly got up and her chair scraped the floor loudly. She stared at her husband, a bit desperate and looking for help.

“Well, I’ll just… go get the cake,” she said too happily, wiping her hands on her apron. “I made two pies, I don’t know what kind of food they serve at the hospital but you’re too thin, Harry, you need to eat more.”

She put a hand on his shoulder and pressed it lightly, walking around the table to go to the kitchen.

“What were you insinuating exactly, Ron?” Ginny asked again, suspicious. “Harry? What does he mean? Why does no one say anything?”

“Well, you already had a hard time accepting Harry might be friends with Malfoy, Gin? Well, you’re going to have to get used to the fact that he now exchanges saliva with the bloke. Well, let’s just hope that’s the only thing they exchange!”

“RON!” Hermione yelled.

Harry wanted to hit him. Perhaps, if his brothers hadn’t been around, he would’ve done so. He would’ve hit him again and again until he didn’t feel the pain of that awful betrayal.

He wanted to scream, get up and cry because he felt naked and deprived. Tarnished. What he felt for Draco had always seemed so unique, precious, pure even and now, in Ron’s mouth, in his eyes full of disgust, his love was nothing but vulgar and obscene. Harry couldn’t bear it, couldn’t see it anymore.

He got up, shaky, legs in cotton as if struck by lightning.

“I’m tired, I’ll just…”

He gestured towards the stairs, didn’t finish his sentence and didn’t turn back as he walked away, everyone’s eyes still burning him.

Harry was staring at the ceiling, trying to avoid the many orange posters of the Chudley Canons because it reminded him of Ron. He was holding back tears of humiliation and anger. He was thinking about running away.

Ron had crossed a line and there was no turning back now. He had destroyed everything and Harry wondered if this time their friendship was even reparable. It hurt when Harry thought about the ten years of brotherly friendship they had shared, from the moment they had met in the train and instantly became friends. They had had ups and downs but they had never been that low. They had always found a way back to each other but this time, it would be hard to forgive him. What if the Weasley family never wanted to see him again? What if Ron made him an orphan for the second time?

Harry heard someone knocking. It was light and yet in his mind it was like a drum, like thunder announcing a storm. Harry would have gladly closed his eyes and pretended to be asleep but the door opened. Molly entered, carrying Harry’s folded and clean clothes. She put them at the foot of the bed and sat down.

“I can leave, if that’s what you want,” Harry muttered.

"Why would I want you to leave?”

“You heard what Ron said earlier. The coming out, the saliva and everything. It was very clear, very crude but also very true. All of it. I don’t know how it happened but it did and I don’t intend to make it stop. So I… I’d understand if you want me to go.”

Molly crossed her arms on her chest, frowning.

“And what kind of mother would want that, Harry?”

“That’s where things get complicated.”

Molly shook her head, skeptical. “Really?”

“You always welcomed me in your family like a son. But I’m not your son. And you’re probably wondering what’s wrong with me… but I love him. Draco. I don’t know how it happened or why but it’s there and…”

“And it isn’t easy.”

“No, it’s not,” Harry huffed, passing a hand over his face.

“Then don’t expect me to make things even more complicated,” she said as she took his hand. “I’m sure there are lots of things to say in this kind of situation. "It’ll never change anything" or "we’ll love you no matter what" and so on but I don’t know if any of these will make feel you better. But there’s one thing you need to know: after all you’ve been through and after that awful war, Arthur and I only want one thing for you. We want you to find happiness and if Draco makes you happy, then it’s enough for us.”

“But his family has always been extremely unfair and disrespectful to yours and…”

“People change. And Draco’s not his father, never has been”

“You’re just saying that to make me feel better, aren’t you?”

She smiled. “No, Harry. I always pitied that boy. Lucius really made a poor job of raising him. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to speak to Ron. This time, he went too far and that’s not how I raised him.” Softly, she added: “He’s just shocked, Harry. Disappointed that you didn’t tell him sooner. I wouldn’t worry about it.”

Harry nodded stiffly and they both got up as one. Suddenly, his throat stung and he felt like crying with relief so he hugged Molly. He knew he didn’t do it nearly as often as he should. An entire childhood deprived from these kind words or gestures tend to do that. Molly seemed small in his arms but in her hug was all the strength and comfort he needed.

“Thank you,” he whispered.

She smiled, walked to the door and made sure he got back into bed.

Molly was barely gone when another knock startled Harry. He jumped, frowned and got up, walking carefully towards the window. He opened the curtains and saw Draco’s face.

“You… flew?” Harry shouted as he noticed the broom he was on. “From the Manor?”

“Are you joking? Hypothermia is your thing, Harry, not mine. I Apparated to the nearest village like any sane person would and flew to your window. May I come in now or do you really want me to freeze to death?”

Harry stepped aside and opened the window as wide as he could. Draco climbed in gracefully and dropped his broom on the floor.

“You’re alive, that’s good news.”

“I also have bad news though. I’m not allowed to leave the Manor. For a week. I’m not even supposed to take a walk in the park. Can you believe that? How old does my mother think I am? Ten? I know it was a bit irresponsible to leave Hogwarts on my own without saying anything to anyone but… Merlin, my eyes are bleeding, I have never seen so many shades of orange.”

Harry frowned, puzzled.

“But obviously you left the Manor because you’re here.”

Draco smiled at him and took off his jacket. “Nice deduction as always, Harry.”

He had changed his clothes and was now wearing an elegant black suit.

“I left a note on my pillow just in case,” Draco continued. “But if Mother decides to check if I’m asleep like the well-behaved child I’m not, then she’ll probably never let me out of the Manor ever again.”

“But then… Why did you come?”

They heard steps in the hallway. Draco put a finger on Harry’s lips and pulled him towards the bed where they both fell, legs intertwined. Harry settled comfortably against Draco, head on his chest and arms wrapped around him. They hid beneath the covers so that if anyone came to check on Harry, he could pretend he was alone. Draco kissed his forehead, temples and closed eyelids.

“He behaved like a complete prick, didn’t he?” he whispered.

“Mmh. He just said it like that, in the middle of dinner. You know what? Harry’s gay! He even kissed the Ferret!”

“Still calls me the Ferret?” Draco said, outraged and already trying to get up.

Harry made him lie down again so he could rest his head on his chest. He liked hearing his steady heartbeat.

“You still call him the Weasel!”

“Yeah, you have a point,” Draco said, relaxing against Harry.

“You know… for the first time, I actually realised I was gay. Different to their eyes and that there was a word for it. Gay. Before… Before I was just so obsessed by you and by this annoying habit we have, we get together and then something happens and we make a stupid decision and it tears us apart and… anyway. I hadn’t yet imagined what it would be like when we told everyone. I hadn't thought that it could get ugly or make our love sound so terribly wrong… And tonight, for a minute, I wondered if it was worth it.”

Harry sensed it when Draco stopped breathing abruptly and tensed. To reassure him, Harry slipped a hand under his shirt and touched his warm skin and scars softly as if he wanted to apologise again.

“And?” Draco asked nervously.

“And… After than damned minute of doubt passed, I would have gladly hit myself in the face. Of course it’s worth it. It’s worth the risks and the fights. I don’t care if my life becomes incredibly complicated starting from today, as long as you’re in it.”

Draco rolled on top of him, holding Harry’s hands firmly above his head.

“Can I fuck you in his bed?”

“You realise I was in the middle of a beautiful declaration, right?” Harry sulked. “And no, you can’t fuck me in his bed.”

“On the floor then? Or against the wall?”

Harry shook his head, laughing.

“You’re right,” Draco sighed. “With all these posters on the wall, it’d be like making love to you in public. I’m not really into that. And anyway, I can’t stay long. I just wanted to make sure you were okay.”

“How nice of you but I know you just couldn’t spend a night without me.”

“I might regret coming here so don’t say anything more. You steal all the covers Harry, why wouldn’t I want to spend the night somewhere else?”

Harry smiled as Draco got back on his side of the bed and they started cuddling again.

“Love you, you know?”

Draco held him strongly and kissed his forehead.

“Of course I know, how could you not love me, I’m irresistible.”

Harry smiled and kissed Draco. It was a small one that wouldn’t lead to anything passionate (they were both too tired for that tonight) but that was more than alright with Harry. He knew they had the time to have sex any other night because they had a lifetime ahead of them.

“Don’t let me fall asleep okay? I just want to spend a couple more minutes with you and then I really need to get back home.”

“Okay, as long as you don’t let me fall asleep either,” Harry yawned and settled comfortably in Draco’s arms.