The late Spring air was warm and moist, folding around Draco like a lost lover's gentle caress as he stepped out into the night. Twenty years ago, a night like this would have been full of innocent promise, brimming with love pulled from the jaws of death, all the more exuberant for being fragile and new. Ten years ago, it would have been heavy with regret but still ripe, full of love tempered with the compromises of age, of touches no less sweet for having a tinge of the bitter in them. Now the beauty of the night flickered in Draco's mind, flashing from a vicious cruelty to a small spark of comfort. He always had loved Springtime.
Everything was ready. There was no need to check again, and Draco didn't bother. The preparations were burned into him, flesh, heart, and soul. Ten years of experimenting with potions, poisons, spells, and the fruits of it all wrapped around him until he glowed with black magic. And the last, desperate measure - blacker than any magic Draco had ever done, Darker than any Draco had ever seen, seared into him so that he would never, ever feel anything but the horror of it again, not as long as he drew breath. Which, fortunately, wasn't likely to be very long. At least Eliot was safe. Draco hadn't loved him enough to make him a candidate for the sacrifice.
Sev had been willing, noble to the last heartbeat.
Something happened ten years ago in May, something that had changed everything but Draco never did find out exactly what it was. There had been some great crisis, yet another Potter heroism averting the deaths of some dozens of Aurors. The newspaper accounts didn't mention it, of course, but Harry had done something awful to pull that off, perhaps not Exanimus, but something Dark and treacherous. The lives of the Aurors were saved, but Harry's own soul was yanked off its precarious balance. And Draco dreamed of it that night, what Harry would become because Liz was too wrapped up in her research to see what was happening. She wasn't Draco. She wouldn't speak the necessary cruelties, wouldn't strike Harry's most vulnerable points over and over and over again until Harry couldn't deny the logic of it anymore. She couldn't take pleasure in Harry's pain, and she couldn't See ten years down the line to what was waiting for them all.
He crept out of bed that morning and went to the Ministry building, asked to see Harry, waited patiently and asked repeatedly until someone found the Hero of the Hour and let him know that Draco was waiting.
Harry's eyes were greener than ever, his hair still as black as pitch without so much as a silver glint in it. He looked no older, but there was a slight aura of menace around him, the faint, ethereal stench of Dark magic clinging to him. Draco wanted nothing more than to throw himself into Harry's arms and weep for sorrow and pain.
But he only said, "You made a mistake tonight."
"They're still alive. They're alive because of me."
"For now." Draco ran a hand through his hair. "Your balance is off, Potter. You reek of Darkness. It's not going to end well. I'm not guessing about this."
Harry's eyes widened a bit. He wasn't yet so far gone that a warning from Draco meant nothing to him. But Draco could literally see him blink and shake it off. "Maybe I'm a bit wobbly right now, but I'll get my balance back. I've done it before. I'll be all right."
"No. You won't." They stared at one another. "Come back to the Manor with me. I'll make you tea, and we'll talk about it."
His smile was all mixed together with memory and longing and bitterness. "You'll feed me cakes? I understood that someone else was still sharing cake with you at the Manor."
"He doesn't matter, Harry. He never did. This does. This is important, more important than you and I or anything we could ever do to hurt each other."
"Is this a Malfoy's idea of martyrdom?" Harry laughed. "Are you going to fuck me back into balance, then? Suck my dick until I turn from the Dark Side of the Force? God, is everything about sex to you?"
"You know it's not." Even to his own ears Draco's voice was foreboding and low and black, shattering in the air like glass. "And you know that I've seen more true martyrdom than anyone should have to see in a thousand lifetimes. I martyred myself to spy to end your fucking War, and I martyred myself to save Severus, and I martyred myself to save your fucking life even if you wouldn't accept the gift in the end. I've seen oceans of innocent, brave, young blood spilled, and I've martyred the saints that it came from myself. I've Seen the horrors that never came to be because of the martyrs of this age. And I've Seen the horrors that will come to be, because you are out of balance, Harry Potter, and you have far more power waiting in you than even you could dream."
Harry shivered and pulled his robes closer around him. He looked at Draco for a long time, and Draco watched and waited. But the Darkness pooled around Harry and shifted, seeping into him, burrowing into his bones, and his eyes grew hard and cold. "You made your choice," Harry said at last. "You chose Eliot over me."
It was hard to keep from rolling his eyes and making a smart remark, but Draco managed. And he pulled every bit of energy and hope and goodness that he could find inside himself, and he lied. "I was wrong. I'd change it if I could, Harry. If you'd have me back, I'd wait in the shadows happily. I wouldn't press you. I never stopped loving you."
And that last, at least, was the truth. For it may have been Harry who chose the world's opinion over their love, but even with Eliot in his bed every night, Draco had never stopped loving Harry.
That old, familiar gleam sparked in Harry's eyes for a moment, and suddenly he was the reckless, adorable, courageous twenty-year-old who ate cakes and loved and forgave Draco everything. And just as suddenly, it was gone. "It's too late." And Harry turned and began to walk into the building, then stopped and turned back. "I can handle this, Malfoy. I don't need you anymore." And with that he marched back through the Ministry doorway, his black Auror's robes billowing, and Draco sank to the ground where he stood and wept.
And then he'd gone home and started making his plans. And of course he hoped against hope that Harry was right, that Harry could handle it, that Harry didn't need him, that Harry wasn't being slowly eaten alive by the Darkness. But the dead of night told him differently. And he kept planning.
Finally there was no question that it was time. Every moment Draco tried to close his eyes, the dreams would come, horrors as bad as anything Tom Riddle could have thought to perpetrate, horrors not yet arrived, but coming, coming. Whispers were riding the wind, and rumours flying of Harry's power within the Ministry growing unchecked, of sudden fits of temper and uncharacteristic unreasonableness increasing slowly year by year. Draco could only wait so long, and then even with all his preparations it would be impossible to stop. He'd waited almost too long as it was; stopping it now would take every ounce of genius he and Severus had managed to distil over the last ten years, and a Darkness greater than Harry would ever suspect of them. A Darkness and a martyrdom far beyond anything that should be asked.
Draco dissolved the wards around the Manor, having no use for them anymore, and Apparated directly to the house in Godric's Hollow. The wards around Harry's newly-built estate were formidable, but they melted away like wisps of smoke before Draco's borrowed power. And despite its being created from Darkness, death, and unbearable pain, Draco felt Sev's love in that power, somehow. The magic wrapped around him felt warm, like Sev's fatherly embrace, like Sev's ancient ministrations to a skinned, skinny knee. It comforted him as he turned down the wooded path and found Harry suddenly standing in the road.
Their eyes met, and knowledge passed between them. Harry held out his arms and Draco walked into his embrace. He placed his hands over Harry's chest, and looked into Harry's green, green eyes. And just before the twin flashes of light that would flatten all the trees for a mile around, Draco saw some bits of the old Harry there, some love, some compassion, some happiness that they were together at last, even as the green light lit Harry's face and everything grew dark.