Rating: eventual NC-17
Pairings: Draco/Blaise, Draco/Harry (not necessarily in that order)
Summary: Sometimes love is gentle and familiar, like the warmth of the late summer sun. And sometimes it is so much more....
Warnings: Character death (not Harry or Draco) and some Ginny bashing. 1st person (I know some people don't like first person but please give it a chance! I will try not to disappoint) Not beta'd! Apology for any mistakes.
Note: thanks for the feedback for the last chapter! *hugs all around* I hope you all like this next chapter! Cheers!
Part 2: Grief and Silence…
“My grief lies all within, And these external manners of lament Are merely shadows to the unseen grief That swells with silence in the tortured soul” ~ William Shakespear
The tiny Muggle pub was grungy, the air a thick haze that was filled with the sounds of bad, tinkering music and the low, dull rumble of voices. It was a place where people came to drink and wallow in their alcohol fumes rather than to have a good time. A place where long, haggard faces were the norm, weathered by time and pain. Where glasses were filled without question and where it was acceptable for one to stumble completely pissed out the door at three in the morning to fall asleep in a nearby gutter. But most importantly, it was the kind of place I would have avoided like Dragon Pox only a week ago and now couldn’t get enough of. It may have stank and the stool I sat upon might list to one side but it offered the best kind of solace I could find. At the bottom of a glass.
The booze might be cheap and taste like shit but after downing the second or third shot, it went down easily enough. And that was all that mattered.
I just wanted to forget.
After I had been released from St. Mungo’s, my arm healed and my heart broken, I realized I had no idea where to go. Blaize and I had a flat in London, of course, a beautiful two bedroom on the top most floor of an elegant Muggle building. It was tasteful and spacious, with many large windows and rooms that all ran together, separated by the fewest walls possible, every corner filled with light even after sunset. We had fallen in love with it instantly. It had been our haven the moment we had moved in nearly a year ago and we spent a lot of our time there.
Which was precisely the problem.
The flat was both of ours. I couldn’t go back there by myself, knowing the other person that it belonged to was never coming back. The very thought made the back of my throat burn and my chest feel as of it had been carved open and hollowed out with dozens of sloppy cutting hexes. I had gone back only once in the three days since that day and had nearly gone crazy; from the emptiness, from the grief, from being so alone and remembering over and over why. I had always thought that I would be the type to go numb in my grief, to wander through life so uselessly, little more than a wraith. Maybe the wraith part was true, for the glimpses I had caught of my reflection over the past couple days showed my skin was so pale, it was nearly translucent. But I was not numb. No, instead I felt every little rip and tear of my heart as it bled away in my chest and felt every stabbing breath that entered my lungs. Numbness would have been a blessing.
All the places that I had loved in that flat were now tainted with pain; the contentment I had felt now turned to ash. The little study off the living room converted into a breakfast nook was where we had eaten Blaise’s mouth-watering pancakes and the table where food was often known to become props for other activities that were not so kitchen friendly. I’d loved the balcony off the living room where we drank expensive wine together and watched people from their windows behind the privacy of our wards. I loved the large, plush leather couch that sat in the middle of the living room, loved the chair in the corner of the kitchen that was bathed in warm light in the afternoon, loved the huge bed that filled nearly the whole bedroom and was so comfortable, it was a chore getting out of. Every single one of those little, insignificant places inside our home held memories I was not strong enough to face. Everywhere I looked, there was Blaise,
It just hurt so much.
I saw it all in the moment I stepped into the flat after getting out of the hospital and paused in the open entryway. It was strangely dark even though it was still only midmorning, shadows clinging the walls and lingering in the corners. And quiet. I could not remember the last time our flat had been so quiet. The sound of my own heartbeat and the buzz of magic from the flat’s wards sang much too loudly in my ears.
I stood in that entryway until the sun sank below the earth and plunged everything into darkness. Just stood there and listened blankly to the nothing that surrounded me.
There was no way I could even think about sleeping in the bed with its cold, empty sheets and the engulfing size that would surely swallow my own slim frame with ease. Instead I pulled out an extra throw from the hall cabinet and curled up against an arm of the couch. It was cold and entirely too dark for comfort, even the lights from the city dampened by an incoming storm. Trapped in that darkness, I tried to pretend that I wasn’t so utterly and miserably alone and I failed completely. Who would give a second thought about me now? Even my mother didn’t write and if my father remembered my face, it was from behind the bars of his own prison cell. So easy was it, to wallow in self-pity when the knowledge that there was no one left to pull me out of it was so firmly stamped upon my mind. I’d been prone to it in school but I had been a spoiled brat then. Now I had not the strength to keep it from swallowing my mind.
In the interminable hours that I lay upon that couch, making friends with the ceiling and the silence, I wished it had been me walking on the outside, instead of Blaise.
People said that when their loved ones died, at first it felt like they had simply stepped away for a bit, had gone to work or to the store. They said it felt like any minute, they would turn around and that person they had lost would simply walk through the door as if they had never been gone. Perhaps because I had been there when he died, had held his broken body in my arms and had his blood still staining my clothes, it didn’t feel like that for me. Every minute that ticked by, I knew that was one minute more he would not return to my side. I knew that I would never once hear the door opening or the sound of his voice calling out for me to let me know he had returned home.
And the worst thing? The worst thing was that I hadn’t even let Blaise know just how much he had meant to me. How much he had meant to my existence. Just like those stupid pair of shoes, the ones I had binned on the way home because I couldn’t stand the sight of them anymore; I had taken him for granted. Because I had assumed he would always be there when I needed him to be, I didn’t need to understand the depth of our attachment to each other nor tell him how I felt. All I needed to say was “I love you,” three little words but they had been so impossible.
It was too late to say them now.
I didn’t close my eyes once as I lay on that couch and, sometime in the very early hours of the morning, I flung back the blanket and escaped. Escaped the shadows and the ghosts of my memories to wander through the dark streets lit only by sickly orange lamps. I wasn’t even paying attention to where I was going until I found myself in a little pub. It was easy after that, to get so drunk I could barely walk straight. When it closed for the night, I didn’t even make it back to the flat. Instead I woke up near the back entry of the building with an incredible headache and a craving for more oblivion.
Now, just thinking about going back to the flat made my stomach cramp painfully. I had not even thought about returning since I fled from it that first night and had instead stayed in a hotel that was in the complete opposite direction, finding it drunkenly when it was time for the pub to close up. It was all such a waste but I couldn’t even bring myself to care. Not when the liquor burned so wonderfully as it slid down my throat and not when the pain eased just a bit the more hazy the world around me became.
I was already into my fifth glass, staring with glazed eyes at the sticky bar surface, when something jostled me from my floating thoughts. I wasn’t quite drunk enough to fall off the stool but my drink slipped from my hand, which was already unsteady to begin with, and the amber liquid spread over the bar. There was a burst of muted laughter as I sat there and gazed stupidly at the spill and it took me a moment to register the bartender rushing over to sop it up with a rag while glaring balefully at something beside me.
“Haven’t seen you around here before,” a voice to my left sneered, “Don’t you know this bar don’t cater to your kind?” for a heart stopping minute, I thought the man was talking about absolved Death Eaters. It was the kind of thing people said to me right after the war, when I still had too much pride and refused to be driven from wizarding establishments. It took a moment for me to realize that this was indeed a Muggle bar so there was no way they could be referring to that. The bar tender gave the speaker a soft admonishment as I turned my head and peered over my shoulder.
“Come on, Dan. We don’t have rules like that here,” the bartender gave the speaker said in soft admonishment. The man standing next to my stool was leering down at me, lips crooked and twisted, showing off his uneven, discolored teeth. Dirty blond hair fell into his cold eyes that peered at me with ugly disgust. Behind him were several other men, dressed in ripped Muggle clothing and all of them already stinking of alcohol. The man that had addressed me first snarled at the bartender, who was no older than myself and had been nothing but silently sympathetic since the moment I walked into this bar.
“Shut the fuck up! No one asked you,” Somewhere in the back of my mind I knew that this situation had the potential to become dangerous but it was difficult to focus with the amount of alcohol already coursing through my system. Those cold eyes were back on me again, completely ignoring the bar keep’s sharp, “Except this is my bar and I don’t want trouble,” there was disgust and hate radiating from the grungy men that had encircled my stool. But for the life of me I could not imagine what I had done to them to make them look at me like I was dirt under their shoes. Then the man who the bar tender had called Dan leaned one hand on the bar, making it so that he was nearly eyelevel with me, “So how about it. Feel like telling us why a poufter is sitting in my seat?”
Ah. I blinked at him, unsure of how to respond. Prejudices against sexual orientation weren’t even an issue in the wizarding world. I had heard of the backwards Muggle thinking before but because Blaise and I had flitted along the edges of their society, we didn’t really feel the sting of it. Same sex relationships had been a common practice among wizards and witches for centuries. Bonding between two men or two women had been legalized for nearly as long. So I had never grown up afraid to admit I was attracted to men. That even such a world existed was alien; what did it matter how people chose to love? I could not even imagine what it must be like to grow up like that, thinking it was wrong or some kind of perversion.
Perhaps because of that, I could not think of one word to say in response. Of course the fact that I was pissed had quite a lot to do with it too but that was only part of it. All I could do was simply blink up at the man called Dan and then turn away, thinking with the blurred logic of a drunk that it was sad my glass was still empty. I didn’t even notice the tension that surrounded the bar, the way everyone seemed to be holding their breath as the new arrivals just got angrier.
A heavy hand dropped onto my shoulder and jerked me around, this time very nearly dislodging me from my seat. The furious dark eyes that glared back at me were probably meant to be menacing but it really just made me want to laugh.
“I asked you a question, you bloody fag,” the man snarled, face uncomfortably close to my own. The smell rolling off of him made me want to gag, something unwashed that had been poorly masked with some cheap Muggle cologne. There was a point where I would have cut this vermin to shreds with nothing but scathing words. I could have eviscerated him without even making an effort for I knew how to wield words like a sword since I was a child. Now I just didn’t care. I didn’t care about his prejudices or whether I was really sitting in his chair or not. I didn’t care that he was a Muggle or that he reeked or even that he had dared to touch me. Witty comebacks tangled uselessly in the back of my throat and I could not be arsed to unwind them.
“Another gin and tonic, please,” I said to the bar tender who was watching on with furious eyes. He blinked at me in surprise but he didn’t get a chance to reply because this time when I was shoved, I did fall off my seat, landing hard on the hard floor and hitting my head on the stool next to me. The world spun for a minute and there was a loud commotion around me that made me think of the ocean around a huge black prison. The angry, crashing waves sounded like angry, shouting voices and I could feel the cold spray on my cheek.
Then the world swirled back into hazy view and I found myself staring up at the ugly Muggle that had shoved me off my stool. Someone was still yelling angrily, probably the bar tender I thought woozily, but the looming shapes above me stole most of my attention. They were like vultures, wheeling above carrion, sneering and vile in their unfettered hate. My collarbone throbbed from the rough treatment and my head ached from where I had hit it but my sense of danger was still dulled, hibernating under the flow of booze in my veins.
“Fucking little faggot, ignoring me. Think you’re better than us, huh?” his toe jammed into my thigh and I thought about shifting but, really, who was he kidding? He would have to hit me a whole lot harder than that for it to be considered painful. I said nothing, “Is that what you think? You disgusting little cocksucker,” he kicked me again, harder and I still continued to stare up at him. It dawned on me that I had no idea how he knew I was gay but I shoved that question away when one of his cronies jerked the stool next to me away so that I was laying flat on the dirty floor, “I would have one of my boys here show you exactly what we think you’re good for but you would probably like that. Wouldn’t you?” he laughed, a nasty laugh that was echoed by his mates and I braced myself for another kick.
Instead he picked up the bar stool and lifted it over me, something hard glittering in his eyes. It was a look I had seen countless times before, when my father or another Death Eater pointed their wand at a Muggle. Right before they killed.
I don’t remember reaching for my wand or uttering the spell. One moment I was lying on the ground, about to be beaten with a bar stool and the next the ground was tearing itself apart, sending everyone in a seven foot radius around me flying into the air. The spell itself was typically soundless but the screech of uprooted wood and earth filled the bar, mirrored by the surprised shouts of those caught in its blast. It was such a stupid spell, one I had used for pranks back in school. But used in a Muggle bar, against people who knew nothing about magic or its existence, it caused pandemonium.
It lasted no more than a second, of course, but the screaming didn’t stop and I was suddenly back on that sidewalk, surrounded by flames and staring down at Blaise’s ravaged face. Silent tears slipped down my cheeks as I tried to look away but I couldn’t and the people, they just kept on screaming and screaming…
I’m not sure how long I stayed like that, caught in a frozen web with my eyes trained on the crater I had made with the image of my dead lover superimposed over reality. Panicked shouts mixed with the dry sound of fire, fire that was now inching towards him from the broken store fronts, across the floor, licking at Blaise’s beautiful black curls and tearing into his skin. I could see the damaged side of his face, muscle showing through the rips of his skin and blood dripping onto the pavement. And that blank golden eye stared at me, right through me, pinning me to where I sat.
Then…a hand, warm and steady on my shoulder.
A voice, pulling me back, calling my name. Reality began to swirl in front of me, the sight of blood seeping into concrete slowly dissipating and I lifted my eyes because…
Because that voice is familiar.
Green eyes stared back into my own, shaded by thin glasses and black hair and for a second the déjà vu is so strong, I nearly vomited. But he said my name, not telling me to let go and the bar snaps back into place around me, so suddenly its like a slap in the face. I jerked against the hand gently squeezing my shoulder and take a great, shuddering breath, only just realizing I had not been breathing. There is no fire and the screams had been replaced with dull murmurs. Most of all, though, there was no body lying in front of me. Just a shattered wooden floor and an upturned table that had gotten caught up in the spell.
The only thing that was the same was that Harry Potter was crouched next to me, looking at me with such compassion in his eyes, it was nearly painful.
“You alright there, Malfoy?” he asked as I tried to pull my sense of “now” more firmly around myself. He wasn’t smiling but nor was he grim, like he had been four days ago when I had last seen him. He just looked mildly inquiring, waiting for me to come back to myself with no trace of impatience. Behind him, I could see the dark blue robes of the Obliviators talking calmly with the Muggle crowd, most of whom only looked mildly shaken. Potter seemed to be the only Auror present, for which I found myself oddly grateful. It was embarrassing to be seen like this, spaced out and drunk with my face wet with tears but I found myself thinking it was better Potter than someone else.
Why, I couldn’t say.
“What’s going on?’ I asked, voice cracked and rough, eyeing the crater in the middle of the room askance. I knew what happened of course, but I had used magic in the middle of a Muggle space. I was lucky it was only one Auror and a handful of Obiviators at the scene. Especially with my history. Potter sat back on his heels, hand dropping from my shoulder and gave the broken floor a meaningful glance.
“I think that’s my question,” he said lightly, a tiny smile curling at the corner of his full lips. It was an expression I had never seen before on his face and through my slow, drunken haze, I found myself perversely fascinated by it. Had Potter always had the ability to look like that? Then he was looking back at me again and I had to turn away from the vibrant color of his eyes, “I was about to leave the office when I got the call. A blasting curse in a Muggle bar. I would never have suspected that of you, Malfoy,” I got the distinct impression that he was laughing at me but I seemed to have swallowed my sneer along with all that alcohol. I could still glower though, which I did promptly. It didn’t seem to have much affect, since the idiot was smiling at me again. I had the sudden urge to punch it off his stupid face.
“I’ll have you know that they attacked me first,” I returned and was proud of myself that I kept the slurring to the minimum. Odd, that. I didn’t seem to have been too terribly drunk before but now that the adrenaline had burned itself out, I felt even more out of control than I had been before. He tipped his head to the side and shot a look to his left.
“I figured as much,” he said, sighing softly. I nodded wisely then made myself stop when I realized what he had said didn’t merit such an action. All my thoughts were coming to me so slowly that it was difficult to pick the right actions, “Why a blasting curse though? Nothing more subtle in your repertoire?” he grinned at his own joke and I huffed at him.
“Granger teach you that word?” I managed to make it sound rather blithe but instead of getting angry, Potter just tossed that dark, wild head back and laughed. Shocked nearly sober, I stared. Stared at the long line of his neck and the way his eyes crinkled at the corners. Stared at the way his teeth gleamed white and sharp and at the dimple that appeared at the corner of his mouth. It was such a rich sound, too, full and deep. Blaise, I thought with a pang, would have been falling all over himself. When Potter returned his attention to me, his eyes danced.
“She might have,” he allowed, shocking me further, “That didn’t answer my question,” Once, Harry Potter had been dangerous because of his whiplash temper and the sheer magical power that he carried are him like some leashed wolf. Now, he was deadly and all he needed to do was smile. It made me despise myself. Blaise was only dead for four days and I was admiring another man.
This time I very nearly did throw up.
“I—” I turned my head away, swallowed hard against the bile stinging my throat and refused to look at him because I only wanted to think of a blank gold eye, not Harry fucking Potter’s laugh, “They wanted me to leave because I’m gay,” I croaked, wrapping my arms around myself, “So I didn’t,” this time Potter didn’t laugh. He just nodded and stood. I thought for a second he would walk away but then there was a hand in my face, a strong hand, with long, knobby fingers and bitten nails. Surprised, I met his eyes but they gave nothing away. I didn’t want to take it. I wanted to close my eyes and pass out right where I sat. I was already so tired.
In the end I took it anyway.
I was put in a booth and Potter sat down across from me, looking oddly ordinary as he did. He wasn’t wearing his Auror robes; just a pair of jeans, a t-shirt and a grey coat that looked surprisingly warm. The floor was being repaired by one of the Obliviators, a young woman who kept shooting dark looks in my direction that I knew enough to ignore. Some of the Muggles had been hustled away but the ones that remained looked blank, as was typical of memory spells. No one else looked our way.
“I just need to hear what happened, so I can write my report,” he said, suddenly all business. A pad and pen were discreetly conjured and then he fixed his steady gaze upon my face, clearly giving me a chance to start. I blinked at him, my mind fuzzy and then rubbed the heel of my hand over my forehead, pushing back my hair.
“I’m sure you’ve noticed, Potter, but I’m rather drunk,” my voice sounded weary but at least my words came out clear this time. He hummed quietly then placed his wand on the table between us, his hand still clutching the handle.
“If you would like, I can cast a sobriety spell,” the words hung in the air like a question. For a second I almost told him to go to hell. I wanted to. It was right on the tip of my tongue. I was tried and my stomach kept twisting angrily, informing me that I would be hanging over the edge of a toilet soon. But then I clamped my mouth shut with a click of my teeth and closed my eyes.
“Yeah,” the sobriety spell was gentle when it rolled over me, not like the cold, sharp slap that I was expecting. Surprised, I turned a wondering gaze, now clear and steady to the man on the other side of the booth. He was slipping his wand back into his sleeve and when he caught my eye, he shrugged apologetically.
“Ron was complaining about how my sobriety spells always felt like a punch in the gut so I practiced making them smoother,” it was said so nonchalantly, like everyone’s spells should be like that (which I knew for a fact they weren’t). Sobriety spells were meant to feel like a sharp awakening; that was sort of the point. Figures Potter would be different. Now that I was sober, I wasn’t quite sure how to feel about that. Then the dark haired man gestured to the little notebook in front of him, “So, you up to explaining now?” and because I had nothing better to do, I did.
It didn’t take long, just enough for the bar to be set to rights and the Obiviators to slip away like smoke. By then I felt rather foolish to have been caught by a bunch of Muggles only to use the spell I did in order to save myself. Potter was trying not to smile when he slipped the pad into a pocket in his jacket.
“Really, Malfoy. Even for you, a blasting curse was rather extravagant,” like he had any place to talk. I just shrugged and slipped from the booth, though I really had no idea where I would go. I could just come back here after Potter left. The men who had ganged up on me had been the ones to be rounded out and taken elsewhere so it wasn’t like I would be bothered.
“Had I been sober, it wouldn’t have been,” I said as I followed him to the door. His back was broad, shoulders shifting under his clothing as he walked. Bile rose to the back of my throat again and I looked away, “Lique amini would have done nicely,” he held the door for me as we exited and I nodded my thanks, shivering when the cool night air slipped under my collar. He did that head-tilting thing again and knotted his eyebrows in question.
“I’ve never heard of that one before,” he said and I wanted to laugh. All grown up but he was still a naive little lion at heart. I stepped away from the door and turned back to face him where he had paused on the walkway.
“You wouldn’t have,” I stated calmly, “It’s Dark,” he stared at me for a long moment then, green eyes boring into mine and I simply gazed back. If he wanted me to apologize for it, he would be disappointed. I would not apologize for who I was, though I suspected he knew as much. It was the first time in several days I didn’t have alcohol clouding my mind and while it was easier to focus, I wished for it, if only to escape the intensity of his gaze. Then he sighed and looked away, shoving his hands in his pockets.
“I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised,” he said, sounding resigned, though I don’t know why he would be. I watched him as he started to walk away, dark head bowed and thought to myself this man had certainly changed. If not for the hair and the eyes, he could almost have been a different person. After a few steps, though, he must have realized that I wasn’t following and he turned back around. The darkness swallowed the color of his eyes, “Do you have a flat close by?” he asked. The question left a gaping hole in my chest and I tipped my head back to look at the sky. What was it about this man that he was able to inflict so much pain with such simple questions.
“I can’t go back there,” I whispered, thinking of the ghosts that would be waiting for me there should I return. For a moment I was sure he hadn’t heard for the silence that followed seemed eternal. But when I dropped my gaze again, his expression wasn’t questioning but understanding.
“I have someplace you can stay, if you would like,” he said it so quietly, completely unassuming. It was just an offer; there was no expectations attached. We weren’t friends and neither of us was particularly fond of each other. I knew at once I would say no.
I ended up following him anyway.