Author: Annie (_pinkchocolate)
Warnings: Non-DH compliant, but still contains some DH spoilers
Disclaimer: I just take JK Rowling's world and make it slashy.
Summary: Draco is determined to live the last nine months of his life with no regrets. But when a series of unfortunate events exposes a list of his innermost wishes, ambitions, and desires to Harry Potter’s eyes, he might find that facing his imminent death is not so easy after all.
Word Count: ~2,400
Notes: Thanks to Vana for betaing.
20 19 18 17 16 15 14 13 12 11 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 P
“Outside, the world I had watched for so long was living and breathing on the same earth I now was. But I knew I would not go out. I had taken this time to fall in love instead—in love with the sort of helplessness I had not felt in death—the helplessness of being alive, the dark bright pity of being human—feeling as you went, groping in corners and opening your arms to light—all of it part of navigating the unknown.”
- The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
March arrived in the blink of an eye, and with it came unending sunshine. In spite of the clear skies, however, the temperatures continued to hover near the freezing point.
Harry grew increasingly frustrated with the deceptive weather. He wanted to go out and play Quidditch without having to wear so many layers he could barely lift off the ground. He was tired of being cooped up inside all the time, especially since he had no desire whatsoever to study.
It didn’t help that Hermione’s stress level was climbing at such an alarming rate that she had stopped communicating with everyone, including Ron. This, in turn, put Ron in a bad mood, which he chose to handle by venting his frustrations in loud, obnoxious tones every time someone came within hearing distance. As for Ginny, the only time Harry saw her these days was when she came to wake him up in the morning. Even then, she always acted distant and hardly ever stayed longer than a few minutes. In truth, Harry didn’t see the point in her visits anymore, but he refrained from telling her this; their relationship was still too fragile to be treated with anything but delicacy.
Worst of all – and it no longer surprised Harry that this was the “worst of all” – he couldn’t see Draco. They had agreed to not contact each other unless their reasons for doing so were related to the list. It wouldn’t be a good idea, Draco had pointed out, to foster the growth of whatever the duel life debt had done to them. Though Harry could hardly argue this, he couldn’t help secretly wishing at times that he’d never showed Draco the book.
Still, the wait for an excuse to meet with Draco would not have been as torturous as it was if it weren’t for the earring. Draco had somehow obtained a gold stud, which he had put in his newly pierced ear. It glinted like a tiny Snitch every time Harry saw him in the hallways, bringing back to mind the intimacy of the moment when he had pierced Draco’s ear: the feel of Draco’s skin beneath his fingertips, the flush that had rose up Draco’s neck when Harry’s fingers had accidentally grazed the underside of his jaw. Eventually Harry gave up trying to focus during his classes and fell to staring shamelessly at the tantalising gleam of gold from across the room. Luckily, everyone was too wound up over N.E.W.T.s to notice, though Harry did catch Hermione shooting him knowing sidelong glances every once in a while.
When the first wave of warm weather struck in late March, the first thing Harry did was contact Draco.
Meet me behind Hagrid’s cabin tomorrow at noon, he wrote, and then went to send it immediately.
Harry arrived at Hagrid’s cabin ten minutes early the next morning, but Draco was already there, arms and ankles crossed as he leaned against the wall of the cabin, out of sight from anyone who might be looking from the castle. Harry’s eyes were instantly drawn to the gold stud, which glinted in the sunlight.
“Nice... earring,” he choked out, shielding his eyes as he approached Draco.
“You like it?” Draco asked carelessly. He uncrossed his arms and straightened up. “What are we doing today?”
Harry ran his hand along the rough outer wall of Hagrid’s cabin, his throat tightening as he remembered all the times he had come here, sometimes with Ron and Hermione, sometimes alone. The safe haven he had known then was a different place now. It was dark and silent, and it exuded a depressing air of negligence. The curtains had been pulled over the windows, and the hinges on the front door were starting to rust. Harry wondered what had happened to Fang. Had he been taken in by a kind family? Did he know he would never see his owner again?
“Potter, stop daydreaming.”
Harry’s hand dropped back to his side. “Sorry. I thought we could do number three – ride a Thestral.”
Draco’s face paled a little. “Right now?”
“Don’t tell me you’re scared.”
“Why would I be scared?” Draco snapped. He squared his shoulders and marched into the Forbidden Forest. “Come on, I don’t have all day, Potter.”
Harry hurried to catch up with him. “Hold on, we don’t have to go that far in. It might be a better idea if we don’t.” He reached into his bag, pulled out a Quaffle-sized slab of meat he had got from Dobby earlier, and peeled off the bloodstained paper around it. “This should do the trick of luring them out.”
He dropped the meat onto the ground, stepped back, and motioned for Draco to do the same.
“Where’d you get the earring?” Harry asked while they waited.
“It was my mother’s,” Draco said, his sun-dappled cheeks turning slightly pink. “I snuck home and stole some of her jewellery before the Hit Wizards caught me. Most of it was valuable, and I knew she wouldn’t want it falling into the Ministry’s paws.”
“I see.” Harry was touched by Draco’s dedication to his mother. He had never thought of the Malfoys as a close-knit family, but now he realised that it must have taken a considerable amount of love and courage for them to stick together through the war.
“Have you talked to Granger about the curse yet?”
“It’s not – never mind. No, I haven’t talked to her about it yet. I don’t want to bother her. She’s panicking over N.E.W.T.s right now.”
“So you’re saying she won’t be able to fix this until after N.E.W.T.s are over?” Draco demanded.
Harry sighed. Did Draco really hate the civility between them that much? It didn’t look like he still believed himself to be in love, so it couldn’t be that bad. “I’ll try to figure something out. Would it kill you to be patient? It’s not like this thing is harming you.”
“On the contrary, Potter, it’s causing me a considerable amount of unnecessary misery. I don’t want to die pining after you. You wouldn’t understand, seeing as you were lucky enough to escape the unfortunate effects of this life debt thing.”
“I don’t know about that,” Harry mumbled under his breath.
“Nothing. Look, here they come.”
Draco looked paralysed as three full-grown Thestrals emerged from the shadows, their large, unseeing eyes trained on the hunk of meat lying on the ground. Harry unconsciously shifted closer to him.
“You never answered my question,” he said as he watched two of the Thestrals sniff suspiciously at the meat. “When did you first start seeing them? You couldn’t when Hagrid showed us in fifth year.”
“The summer between fifth and sixth year,” Draco said without taking his eyes off the Thestral that had torn off a chunk of meat. “Before the Dark Lord let me join him, he... tested me. To see what I was capable of. One of the first things he did was kill a Muggle in front of me.”
Harry sucked in a breath. So that explained why Draco had changed so much between fifth and sixth year. Harry knew he had been inducted into Voldemort’s circle that summer, but he had never even considered what Draco might’ve had to do for that acceptance.
“It’s fine,” Draco said shortly. He took a step towards one of the Thestrals and, wincing, laid a hand on its flank. It turned its head towards him, a piece of meat dangling between its teeth. “Let’s go.”
After much difficulty, Draco managed to climb onto the Thestral and settle himself between its wings. He stared down at the silky black mane and tentatively twined his fingers in it. It continued to chew on the chunk of meat it had torn off, seemingly unaware that there was a human sitting on top of it.
“Ready?” Potter asked. He was sitting on top of his Thestral, looking for all the world like he rode undead beasts every day. Draco wondered when and how he had got so accustomed to this. “Malfoy?” Potter prompted when Draco didn’t answer.
Gritting his teeth, Draco dug his heels into his Thestral’s fleshless sides. It let out a high-pitched whinny and bolted forwards. Draco bit back a shriek and clung on tight with his hands and knees as they raced past bushes and tree trunks. The forest was a blur around him, and before he knew it, he was lifting off the ground and bursting through the treetops into the blinding open air above.
“Don’t be so reckless!” he heard Potter shout behind him, but he couldn’t turn around or even free a hand to give Potter the finger. The force of the wind against him was both frightening and exhilarating at once. He could scarcely draw air into his lungs, but his body was breathing, his heart was pounding, and he felt so fucking alive. It was even better than flying on a broom. He didn’t have to constantly worry about when to turn or whether to dive – it was almost as if the Thestral knew where he wanted to go.
They soared over the Forbidden Forest and circled the castle, the Thestral’s skeletal wings beating a persistent rhythm against Draco’s legs. As they passed the Gryffindor tower, Draco glanced over at Potter, who had pulled level with him. Potter grinned at him, and Draco grinned back before he could stop himself.
Ahead of them the lake glittered under the sun like a vast spiderweb. Draco half-expected to see diamonds gleaming below the surface of the water as they flew over it, but the only thing he saw was his own reflection, distorted by ripples. Before Draco had time to marvel over the unfamiliar look of elation on his face, they were past the lake and on their way back
By the time they hit the ground of the Forbidden Forest again, Draco was shivering and panting from a mixture of cold and exhilaration. “That was...”
“Incredible,” Potter finished as he came up from behind Draco. His cheeks were flushed and his eyes were glowing; in short, he looked just as animate as Draco felt. He dismounted his Thestral and held out an arm to Draco. “Here, grab my hand.”
“I can get off fine,” Draco said, but as he looked down at the ground and tried to calculate how far it was, he wasn’t so sure. Grabbing a handful of his Thestral’s mane, he swung one leg over to join the other and jumped off. He stumbled once he hit the ground, and Potter immediately grabbed his forearms, steadying him.
“You all right?”
“Calm down, Potter, I’m not fragile.” Though Draco had regained his balance, Potter didn’t release him. He was staring at Draco, lower lip caught between his teeth. “What’s wrong with you?” Draco demanded, trying to sound annoyed, but there was a tremble in his voice. He knew what was coming, and he was helpless to stop it.
One of Potter’s hands slid up his arm and curled around the back of his neck. The other gripped Draco’s wrist tightly as Potter took a step closer and brushed their lips together. It was tentative and uncertain, a question of sorts, and Draco didn’t have to think twice about his answer. He grabbed the front of Potter’s robes and pulled him into a real kiss. He ran his tongue along Potter’s lower lip, waiting for the moment when Potter would come back to his senses and push him away, but Potter didn’t resist; he merely released a soft sigh and buried his fingers in Draco’s wind tousled hair. Warmth spread through Draco, chasing away the chill that lingered from the ride.
All too soon, Draco felt the pressure of Potter’s hands on his chest, gentle but firm. He drew back, and as he did, dismay settled in the pit of his stomach, heavy and cold. He had let the bloody curse take over again.
Potter, however, didn’t appear to be angry. The look in his eyes was almost awe, but not quite, because it was muddled by confusion. “I’m sorry. Maybe I’m feeling the effects of the life debt, too.”
“M-maybe.” Draco’s heart pounded furiously against his rib cage. Surely it wasn’t normal to be so affected by a simple kiss. “Potter, this doesn’t –”
“Mean anything, I know.” Potter’s voice dropped as he ran his hands down Draco’s chest, his touch burning Draco’s skin through the layers of Draco’s school robes. “It’s just the magic. The curse.”
“Exactly,” Draco said, capturing Potter’s gaze with his own. Please.
Potter tilted his head, lips parting slightly; Draco closed the remaining distance between them. They kissed, slowly and deeply, an innocent exploration of unfamiliar realms of attraction. It was beautiful, and yet Draco’s heart hurt as Potter’s arms wound around his waist, drawing him closer, it seemed, than physically possible. With every desperate clutch, every awkward nose bump, the aching sensation expanded, until Draco’s chest and throat were so tight that he could scarcely breathe – but he didn’t care anymore, because he would gladly die like this: feeling, needing, wanting without restraints.
Somewhere in the back of his mind, Draco knew he had gone one step too far in testing the waters. A part of him recognised that he had crossed the line between daring and danger once again, but that there was still time to correct his blunder should he choose to. But he didn’t. Wrapped up in the moment, in the vulnerability of being human, in Harry, Draco turned a blind eye to the warning signs and let himself fall.