You know I told you that I wasn't scared. Well, I lied."
You told me, "Babe I only think of you."
And I said, "All I've got is a bunch of sad stories."
And I told them all before the night was through
And we cried
“How’s your mum?” Harry says, and Ron shrugs like it doesn’t matter when they both know it matters more than anything.
“Okay,” Ron says and Harry wonders when they started lying to one another. They clap each other on the back, pat, pat on the shoulders and get to work with lifting bricks and weaving complex spells through the fabric of the castle.
“You fancy a pint?” Ron wipes his palms on his jeans when they finish and Harry nods.
“Might as well.”
They drink a warm ale in Hogsmeade and talk about the Canons, Puddlemere United and Ginny’s new bloke.
Ron leaves to get back to Hermione after they drain the last of their drinks dry. He makes Harry promise to take care of himself. They part with another hug. Ron’s warm and solid and part of Harry doesn’t want to let him go, but he does because he has to.
He disappears in the Floo and a flash of green and Harry orders another drink.
He avoids the Great Hall. He can hardly remember the excitement of tables laden with food and the colours of Gryffindor house hanging proudly from the walls. Now all he sees are the people he lost; stretched out in clinical lines. Remus and Tonks; fingers stiff and unrelenting. Fred’s glassy eyes and the taste of George’s tears on his lips. The room doesn’t smell like treacle sponge or rich caramel sauce. Even on its busiest days, all Harry can smell is blood and singed wood from spells that never found purchase.
It makes him dizzy, walking past. He pretends he’s okay because he’s Harry Potter and if he’s told Kingsley once, he’s told him twice. He doesn’t need time off. He’s fine. The idea of being on a hot beach in the middle of nowhere makes Harry’s chest tight. He can’t do that. Not until he knows how people walk into the sea and still decide to come back.
Harry’s not the only one with nowhere else to go. Lucius Malfoy’s going mad in Azkaban, they say. Narcissa died from a mysterious illness nobody talks about. Something war-related. Malfoy’s all alone in a Manor that’s still littered with snakeskin and the darkness of torture and death. Nobody wanted to clean up the Manor, Draco told Harry once over scotch as they stared at the stars. He’s doing it himself – on his hands and knees – scrubbing blood off the stone. One day he vomited onto the stone and he had to clean that up too. It needs more than just a wave of a wand to get rid of blood and bile once it seeps into the stonework. Harry knows that from rebuilding Hogwarts. He’s had to scrub blood off old bricks and dusty floors before.
“I’ve been looking for you.” Draco stares at his toes, his cheeks blooming pink.
“I’ve been looking for you too,” Harry says. The tension in Draco’s shoulders seeps away and he looks up, giving Harry a slow half-smile.
“Do you want to…?”
“Alright.” Harry falls into step beside Draco and it’s like they’re back there again. Sixteen and stupid, punch-drunk desperate. Harry’s hands shake and he shifts closer to Draco like he’s everything Harry needs. In some ways he is. He sends Harry’s heart pounding in the strangest of ways. He makes Harry want to come back to shore when he’s lost at sea.
Draco’s voice is slow and soft, rich and cultured. “Sometimes I think I hate you.” His voice shifts and it’s like he’s not quite there, like Amortentia has taken hold or he’s under a spell of some sort. “Sometimes, I think I don’t hate you at all.”
“I don’t hate you.” Harry’s voice skips and falters. He reaches out a hand and slides it into Draco’s. Their hands are clammy and Harry can almost count the bones in Draco’s fingers. “Sometimes I think you’re the only thing keeping me sane.”
“You hated me once. At the start.” Draco’s lips twist and he’s an echo of the old Malfoy. He’s blond and aristocratic, scathing charm finely tuned. He slides his thumb over Harry’s hand and the dull roar in Harry’s head melts away until they’re just two hands touching. There’s just the smallest sliver of air between them and a past which feels longer than it should.
“That was ages ago.” Harry closes his eyes and tries to recall that giddy excitement when he discovered Hogwarts. It’s there, but it’s dull and flat – distant and cold. “A lot’s happened since then.”
“Yes.” Draco rubs his thumb over Harry’s hand again. “I don’t know why I think that, sometimes. I don’t hate you.”
“I know,” Harry says, because he does.
“What’s it like? Dying?”
Harry shrugs and he avoids Malfoy’s eyes. He told Malfoy once that he died to save the world. He dreams about it sometimes, together with Draco’s ashen face slipping closer to the Fiendfyre and a hand too slippery to hold.
“Quicker and easier than falling asleep.” Harry’s not sure that’s true, though. Not if you come back.
“Falling asleep isn’t that easy, these days.” Draco turns to Harry, his face shadows. His breath smells like pumpkin juice and autumn, his shampoo cinnamon-like and spicy. Harry wonders if Draco’s chosen Harry’s favourite season and arranged everything carefully enough to entice Harry like a Great Hall full of people with no more ghosts.
“I know.” Harry squeezes Draco’s hand. He never expected to find this here, beneath the broken bricks and walls charred with spells. He didn’t expect to find Draco underneath the sky, staring up at the stars. He definitely didn’t expect to kiss him again, pressed against the turrets.
Draco studies his hand, flicking the nail of his forefinger against his thumb. “Do you want to?”
Harry slides his hand into Draco’s hair and breathes out against his lips. “Always. What do you need?”
Draco smiles, his lips curving upwards against Harry’s. “You’ll see.”
“I want you to do something for me.” Draco’s voice brings Harry back to the present.
“Aren’t you going to tell me what it is?” Harry knows he’ll do it anyway, whatever Draco wants. He doesn’t refuse things that Draco asks of him. He didn’t refuse when they were sixteen and pressed together under the velvet sky and shattering stars. He won’t refuse now, in this dingy classroom when Draco stares at him with bright eyes and a face cast in shadows.
“In a minute.” Draco tugs at his collar and puts his wand on a table where he can’t reach it. He does that sometimes, when he’s giving in to Harry. When he doesn’t want to fight back. He’s scruffier than usual and the sight of him makes Harry’s chest tight and his breath catch. He looks young like this – back in the classroom in a rumpled white shirt, giving Harry a bright-eyed stare.
“I want you to cut me.” Draco steps into the circle of Harry’s arms and touches his lips to Harry’s neck. He mouths down Harry’s throat and unbuttons his shirt with trembling hands. “Make me bleed.”
“No,” Harry says even as his heart thuds yes. Something about Malfoy’s request makes his blood pump faster through his veins and he imagines cutting Malfoy open just to see something live – to watch something bleed. Something not dead. He unbuttons Malfoy’s shirt and strokes his fingers along the shivering stomach beneath it. Skin tight, too thin and bones defined and pushing against the palm of his hand. “You’re too skinny,” he says.
“I am not.” Malfoy presses into Harry’s hands, his breath jagged and falling from parted lips. “I’m just…not hungry.”
“Oh.” Harry knows about that. He knows about dark-framed eyes and a stomach that growls relentlessly. Treacle tart makes his stomach roll and the turkey roast at Christmas finds itself in the toilet basin as he asks for more port, please like booze ever solved anything. “Me neither.”
“Well, then.” Draco smiles at Harry and it’s brittle and uncertain. The kind of smile that breaks a face in half. The kind of smile that makes Harry’s heart stutter and stumble as Draco presses closer. “Kiss me, will you?”
Harry does. Malfoy tastes like peppermint, pumpkins and the cold night air. His lips are chapped and dry until Harry kisses them damp and pliant. Malfoy clings to him like a person holds on to a lifeboat in a storm. Harry clings back, pulling Malfoy closer and panting into his mouth as for the first time in ages he begins to feel .
“Where do you want it, then?”
Malfoy shrugs and slips his shirt off his back. It glides to the floor, soft like silk.
“Here. Just a bit. Just at first.”
“Anything?” Harry’s not sure he can do it, looking at Draco’s wrist turned up and illuminated by the waxy candlelight.
“Just a line. Right there.” Draco traces a small line on his forearm and he gives Harry a haughty look that's heavy with challenge and false bravado. “Scared, Potter?”
“Hardly.” Harry snorts and he shakes his hand to stop the tremble. Nobody wants a jagged line on their arm. He takes a breath and slides his wand in a quick motion over Draco’s pale skin. Sanguis he whispers. Sanguis, Sanguis, Sanguis.
The blood comes before Draco’s low, guttural moan. It seeps from the wound and drips onto the grey dust floor. It gathers in the open wound on Malfoy’s arm and as Draco looks away, Harry can’t stop staring. When he speaks, Draco’s voice is a low whisper. “I don’t much like blood.”
“Alright. Let me get rid of it.” Harry takes Draco’s wrist as gently as he can. It’s fragile enough to snap between his fingers. He licks along the length of the fresh cut until his mouth is copper-warm with blood. There’s still a pulse thrumming beneath his thumb and for the first time in forever there’s blood on Harry’s lips and nobody died. He heaves a breath and ducks lower, running his tongue over Draco’s arm and up, up, up. He catches Malfoy’s pulse on the tip of his tongue as it skips and jumps at Harry’s touch. He kisses down Draco’s neck back to the spot on Draco’s arm.
“Again.” Draco whispers. “Again.”
Harry makes little nicks on Draco’s torso. He opens old Sectumsempra wounds, taking care not to make them too deep. They slide to the floor together and Harry spreads Draco out. He catches the blood on his tongue and relishes the pounding of Draco’s heart. When he can’t take anymore, he pulls open Draco’s trousers and moves down his body. They haven’t done this before and Draco lets out a gasp of pleasure, his hands tangling in Harry’s hair.
“Okay?” Harry mouths at Draco’s prick through his pants, making the material wet.
“Yes. God, Harry.” Draco bucks up into Harry’s mouth. He pushes Draco’s hip back against the floor and shushes him. They’re so dusty and Harry’s tongue is coppery with Draco’s blood. He doesn’t even care. He just wants to feel Draco pulse in his mouth, to bring them both one moment of futile pleasure.
“Let me…let me make you feel good.” Harry circles his hand around the base of Draco’s cock, his voice rough and ragged. He presses his mouth around Draco’s cock and makes him slick with saliva, sucking his prick and getting used to the feel of the heavy weight against his tongue.
“Feels so good. So good, Harry.” Draco whispers Harry’s name again, like he can’t believe he’s real. Harry wonders if Draco thinks about this at night, like Harry does. He wonders if Draco slides his hand over his prick and brings himself off with Harry’s name on his lips.
He sucks Draco, in and out, hollowing his cheeks. He watches him, taking in the way he arches up and listening to the way Draco’s breathing doesn’t sound quite steady. He twines his hand with Draco’s and sucks him until his jaw aches and Draco’s coming in thick, salty pulses of pleasure in Harry’s mouth.
“Good?” Harry’s voice is gruff and he moves up, unbuckling his trousers.
“Fuck.” Draco’s voice shakes and he stares at Harry, all wide-eyes and dilated pupils. He presses close for a kiss, kissing Harry with an intensity that’s new. They snog like that while Harry brings himself off with his hand between them. When he comes it makes Draco hiss as he leaves stripes of come over Draco’s marked torso.
“It’s alright.” Draco sits and reaches for his wand. He waves it at his stomach to clean it up and he tugs his shirt on, avoiding Harry’s eyes. “Can we do that again?”
“All of it.”
“Okay.” Harry nods, throat dry. “Okay.”
“You can fuck me next time.” Draco looks mutinous, chin jutting as he stares at Harry as if challenging him to say no. “You should.”
“Yeah.” Harry reaches for Draco’s hand and pulls him close until they’re wrapped in a dusty hug. His heart feels like it’s going to pound out of his chest and he just needs Draco to stay for a moment while he catches his breath. “I can do that, if you like.”
“I said so, didn’t I?”
Draco folds himself in Harry’s arms and they stay like that well into the night, the room filled with shadows, dust and the steady beating of their hearts.
They can’t keep sneaking off to classrooms like they’re sixteen and Harry needs to breathe in the crisp, cool air of Godric’s Hollow again. He doesn’t mind going home when someone else is there. It’s only when the walls hum and the doors creak in the wind that Harry has to escape to Hogwarts or the sofa bed at the Ministry. Everywhere he goes is full of ghosts and there are some he’s not sure he’s strong enough to see. He knows he’ll want to follow them to wherever they are now. He needs a reason to stay that’s better than be brave and be strong.
He fucks Draco in his bed after a meager dinner of tuna sandwiches on thick granary bread and piping hot mugs of Yorkshire tea. It’s the first time, and Harry doesn’t have a clue what he’s doing. Malfoy talks him through it, slathering Harry’s fingers with lube and giving him an mmm, yes when Harry does something clever with his fingers.
“It’s okay?” Harry’s head is damp with beads of perspiration and he wonders if he might drown looking into Draco’s eyes. It’s hard to breathe and his heart jumps in his too-tight chest. He brushes Draco’s hair from his eyes and his words catch in his throat.
“Don’t, Potter.” Draco’s half smiling, half not. He’s got a stricken sort of look about him. “Don’t say it. Just move.”
Harry doesn’t even know what might spill from his lips if he’s allowed to speak. He wonders what Draco’s privy to that Harry isn’t – what Harry’s face says and how they got to a point where Draco’s the only one who can read it.
“Okay. Like this?” Harry moves and each slick slide sends sparks through his body and a familiar rush of arousal tugs at his belly. Draco’s so tight and his slim lips part, his cheeks flushed a light pink. He’s gorgeous. He’s slender beneath Harry’s hands and Harry wants to kiss him all over. He wants to run his tongue over marks he’s made and bruises left by his eager fingers clutching onto Draco’s hips as he kissed him over and over.
“Can we play again tonight?” Draco’s voice is low and breathless.
“If you want.” Harry slides out and then pushes back in, hard. It makes them both groan and Draco shudders with pleasure beneath Harry.
“Demanding.” Harry nips at Draco’s throat. He does it again, and again. Draco’s fingers twist in the sheets and Harry carries on, relentless in his desire to bring Draco over the edge. In the end it’s pushing Draco’s leg against his chest and fucking him until they both hurt that brings Draco to climax. Harry’s orgasm pounds through him shortly after, with Draco still clenching around Harry’s cock.
“You want to play?” Harry rolls off Draco and tries to catch his breath. He catches Draco’s hand and squeezes it. “Anything special?”
Draco slips under the duvets next to Harry and brushes his fingers along Harry’s side. He pushes close, nibbling at Harry’s neck. “Do a letter on my chest. A H. Go deep, this time.”
“No.” Harry’s heart stutters and he tips his head to face Draco, whose cheeks are hot red. “I’m not branding you. Christ, Malfoy.”
“It’s not branding. Just a cut, like before.” Draco traces his fingers over Harry’s chest and whispers against his skin. Harry Potter. The name sounds like it belongs to somebody else. A man that knows how to be brave; a boy who would grow up to be a hero.
“Something else,” Harry says. It has to be something else. He has to push back the way his body heats and his cock twitches at the thought of making Draco his. What the fuck’s wrong with him? Is this what gets him off? Possessing someone? He wonders how much they both need to hurt before everything around them stops feeling hard and cold.
“Fine.” Draco sounds put out. He rolls onto his back and runs slim fingers along his chest. “Okay, then. Do something here. Right above my heart.”
“Okay.” Harry kisses Draco then and it’s like drowning. He finally pulls up for air and presses his wand to Draco’s skin.
“Don’t leave me after.” Draco’s eyes flutter shut. His breath is sure and steady, his slim fingers twisting with Harry’s free hand. “Just…let’s have toast and marmalade in the morning. Read the paper. Do what normal people do.”
“Yeah, sounds good.” Harry kisses Draco so softly it almost hurts.
“Don’t,” Draco says, his voice barely a whisper. “Don’t do that.”
“Kiss me like I matter.” Draco arches under Harry’s wand and he grips Harry’s hand tighter. “Kiss me like you used to, do you remember?”
Hot, hard and relentless. Kisses that said I hate you, I want you, I don’t know how to be this person anymore. Those were the kisses before battle. They were the kisses of a soldier going to war. The kisses of false bravado, hiding a trembling, shaking heart. Those were the kisses of a boy who thought he was going to die.
Harry shakes his head. “I can’t.”
“Why?” Draco turns his head, blinking in the dim light.
“Because I knew I was going to die, then. I don’t think I’m going to die, anymore.” The words sound thick and unfamiliar and there’s something dishonest about them, but I don’t want to die is more the truth than not. If he repeats them every day, Harry wonders if they might carry more conviction with each new sunrise.
“Oh.” Draco shifts closer to Harry and he runs his fingers over the marks on his chest, just bare skin and a restless heartbeat. “You don’t think you’re going to?”
“I can’t do better than that. Ask me again tomorrow.”
“Okay, then.” Draco pulls a face, displeased. He stares at Harry, unblinking and licks his lips until they shine in the soft moonlight. “It doesn’t have to be big, you know. Just a small line or two, perhaps. A cross over my heart. Like a kiss on a letter.”
“Like this?” Harry uses his wand to make two light lines, crossing over one another in a small X. The slim lines are barely there, but when Draco shifts the droplets of blood begin to appear as the tears in the skin stretch open like paper cuts. “A kiss. A kiss that matters.”
“If you say so. Deeper.” Draco’s breathless and Harry’s hand works over Draco’s skin until he knows it’s enough for them both. Enough to mark. He’s hard and Draco’s too-slim fingers work over his cock.
Harry runs his tongue over the mark he’s left on Draco he can’t help but wonder if he really knows himself anymore, or if he’s ever really known himself at all.
It’s Draco’s face that Harry sees. He looks so young; all brittle smiles and fragile bones. He’s got loose white trousers on and the legs are streaked with blood. His torso is bare and his ribs push against his skin. He stretches his hands out, palms tilted up. His wrists are slick with blood and with the too-bright light behind him he’s like some kind of Muggle redeemer. He’s pale to the point of translucency and his life fades with every puff, puff of ragged air.
“Did you like it, Harry?” His eyes are bright and they shine like stars. The colour slowly leaves his cheeks and he stumbles closer. Harry brings his fingers to the glass but finds only chilled metal and cracked mirror. Draco no longer feels warm.
“I didn’t mean to hurt you.”
“No.” Draco’s smile falters and he strokes Harry’s fingers with his own, leaving bloody smears against the mirror’s surface. “You never did. But you liked it, didn’t you? It made your heart race. Sometimes you wanted to go too far.”
Harry stumbles to his knees and his vision clouds, blood red. Bright and vivid, spots of burgundy behind his eyes. It’s so dark and vicious, the scarlet kiss etched on Draco’s chest. When did he become the kind of man to brand things? When did he become the kind of man to get hard from blood-soaked kisses and desperate cries for help?
“Don’t…” Don’t come any closer. Don’t let me hurt you again.
“Harry?” Draco’s next to Harry now, spindly arms around his shoulders. He’s shaking and he’s staring in the mirror. “What’s…what’s this?”
“Do you see it too?” Bloodied hands, faltering heart-beat and Harry’s every last ounce of goodness seeping scarlet red onto the ground at Draco’s feet.
“See what?” Draco’s fingers reach for Harry’s chin and he turns him until they’re looking at each other. Dark shadows circle Draco’s eyes and the pulse on his bony wrist beat, beats against Harry’s too-hot skin.
“What I did to you.”
“No.” Draco’s voice is firmer now, steady in a sea of colliding thoughts. “Don’t die, Harry. Christ, please don’t die.” He looks wild now, his eyes flashing and his hair untamed as he works a shaking hand through it. “I don’t…I don’t want that. You don’t have to do the things I ask you to.”
Harry breathes, in and out. He touches his hand to Draco’s jumper so his palm sits above the X he put there in a moment of madness. “What?”
“It’s what that mirror seems to think.” Draco nods towards the mirror but pointedly doesn’t look at it, keeping his eyes on Harry. “Want to know how you do it?”
“Yeah.” Harry nods, throat dry.
“With a tie.” Draco looks at his hands and shrugs, as if it’s just a discussion about the weather. “I think it’s mine. I think you do it because of me, in the end. I think that’s what’s going to happen.”
“No.” Harry’s voice doesn’t falter, doesn’t shake. “It’s not me that dies. It’s you. Because of me. because we take it too far and you let me…” Harry stops. “Why do you let me do that to you?”
Draco looks at Harry, eyes cold and steely grey. “Because I need it. Because I think you do too. Does it matter?”
Harry shakes his head. It wouldn’t be silk. The mirror’s wrong about that, even if he thought about it once before, climbing close to the rafters and checking their strength. It’s really more likely to be something that looks like an accident. A reckless bout of heroism in the field of battle. Something that doesn’t look pre-determined. No one would think anything of it. No one would know how Harry’s sometimes so tired and so alone. Ron would look solemn and serious, Hermione would give a speech and Harry would miss them so, so much. But just them. Them, and Draco.
Draco frowns and he shifts closer to Harry until they’re a tangle of limbs and dust, hidden by the shadows. “Are you going to give up on me after all of this? Is that what the mirror’s trying to tell me?”
Harry stares at Draco and he brushes his thumb over Draco’s lip. He loves him. He loves him so fucking much it makes his heart hurt and it tries to beat out of his chest for Draco. He can still taste Draco’s blood on his tongue and feel soft strands of white-blond hair beneath his fingers. If he floated weightless on the salty sea he’d let the waves carry him back to shore. He’s got something, hard and warm beneath his fingers. He’s got peaty scotch and star-struck skies and kisses under the cloak of night. He’s got blood on his hands and a pulse point beneath his tongue. He’s got Draco with Harry’s kiss above his heart, making him feel alive.
“Not tomorrow, either.” Draco’s eyebrows furrow, cross lines etched onto his forehead.
“We should eat.” Harry brushes his fingers over Draco’s stomach and he presses his lips to Draco’s cheek. “Let’s get out of here.”
“Okay.” Draco sounds hesitant, but he follows Harry anyway.
The mirror stays where it is, shadows moving across its surface.
Harry breathes in once and the scent of battle makes him feel faint.
Draco’s hand slides into his own and he breathes again.
Charred wood and salt-water tears mix with the soft scent of sticky toffee pudding. There’s chicken and gravy. Sage and onion stuffing. Pumpkin juice and thick, rich mead. Coffee, catching on the air. Freshly baked bread, infused with rosemary.
They put a modest amount of food on their plates and sit wherever they can find, grabbing a quiet spot at the Ravenclaw table.
“Do you think we still can?” Draco keeps his voice low and pushes some peas around his plate with his fork. “I like the way it hurts.”
“That’s okay.” Harry takes a bite of potato and his stomach doesn’t roll. He’s not going to pretend that it doesn’t do something to him watching Draco bleed underneath the sharp Sanguis and the tip of his wand. “We can. If you want.”
“I do.” Draco eats a small mouthful of peas and chews, slowly and deliberately. “What was that mirror, do you think?”
“Something that shows us our fears, I reckon. Like the opposite of the Mirror of Erised.”
“Oh.” Draco’s lips twist into a smile that doesn’t meet his eyes. “So the thing we’re most scared of is ourselves? No wonder we get on so well these days.”
An icy hand grips Harry’s heart and he pushes his plate away. He thought he was scared of Draco dying. He thought Draco was scared of losing him. He didn’t for one moment think the mirror was showing Harry his own reflection.
He thinks of the boy who swooped through the clouds on a broom and the way his laughter would catch on the air and disappear into the clouds. He remembers teasing Malfoy when he was sixteen and Malfoy teasing back; irresistibly posh and perfectly groomed. He thinks of how he fought until he didn’t have anything left to give and even then still kept going until his throat was hoarse and his fingers numb.
Where did it go? His fight. His soul. When did he become the thing he feared the most?
Harry rubs the pale scar on his forehead and the bodies stretch out in the hall, the pleasant scent of the food fading away. Himself and Malfoy join them this time, too-thin and dark-eyed, arms outstretched and hands entwined. The images are so stark they could be real and not just a figment of his imagination.
Harry closes his eyes against the images, vaguely hearing Draco murmuring his name. He reaches for Draco’s hand and grips it, the memory of the taste of blood filling his mouth and making his heart thump. He circles his fingers around Draco’s slim wrist, searching for his pulse with his thumb. It beats. Faint, but resolute. Alive, alive, alive.
They’re not dead yet and if Harry tries perhaps he can muster up the strength to rebuild them, brick by brick. Just like the castle. Just like the shattered stones. Draco can get on his hands and knees and scrub the blood from their surface, the bile from their skin. Harry can infuse them with magic, atom by atom, kiss by kiss.
If he has to fight to save just two more people, he chooses them.
The boys he couldn’t save in the war.
The ones whose deaths went unnoticed.