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.
Part 3: a
Part 3: (continued)
I froze upon seeing him, completely shocked by his sudden appearance that I did not even know how to react. He too, paused when he saw me staring back at him from the table, green eyes brightening with surprise.
“Oh,” he said mildly, “You’re awake,” and maybe because it was nearly two in the morning and the remnants of my nightmares were still lingering in my mind, I did not immediately bite back with some retort about stating the obvious. I was glad I did a moment later because I noticed that he looked more tried than I felt, the skin around his eyes nearly bruised and his full lips were pulled down in an unhappy frown. His hair was even more wild than usual and even as I watched, he ran a distracted hand through it, making it stick up everywhere. Oddly enough, it didn’t look bad on him, though I could not begin to imagine why. Sitting back in my seat, I fixed him with a steady stare.
“You’ve been gone awhile,” I said in greeting and he heaved a long sigh and made his way over to the table, sitting down directly across from me. He was still in his Auror robes, which meant he probably came right from work. After being alone with no company but a house elf for nearly eight days, his presence filled the room, reached for the very corners and made me feel trapped. But I could hardly tell him to piss off, seeing as it was his house and I scraped my fingernails against my cooling teacup in frustration.
“Yeah,” he said, gaze wandering aimlessly about the kitchen, “I’m sorry to dump you here and run. I had a case at work that required I leave the country for a few days,” He met my eyes quickly and a small, tired smile quirked the corner of his lips, “International Portkey is a bitch,” then his smile faded and his dark, arched eyebrows knitted, “I’m sorry I couldn’t be here for Blaise’s funeral. I wanted to be but…” I looked away and sipped my tea. It was starting to get cold.
“Why? You didn’t know him,” I couldn’t tell what he was thinking and I did not wish to look at him to see if I could read it on his face. I didn’t want to talk about this at all. It was enough that my dreams kept showing me things that had me ill and sleepless with grief and fear. I did not want to face the origin of those emotions while I was awake. Potter seemed to sense my reluctance because he shifted in his seat and quietly asked Kreacher, who was still standing beside me, to make him tea as well.
“I know. I would have gone for you, though,” I was taken back by that and I stared at him for a moment, wondering of if he was just saying things to make himself feel less guilty. But he looked back with absolute sincerity and I realized I should have known. Of course he meant it and, suddenly flustered, I looked down at the table. Why did the git always have to say things that left me at a loss? He heaved another sigh and tapped one long, knobby finger on the table. It wasn’t impatience, I knew, but something else, “I hope you don’t mind if I stay here for a bit,” he finally said and I did look at him then, a wry smile lifting my own mouth, glad for the change of subject.
“It’s your house, Potter. You can stay or not stay as you see fit,” he blinked at me for a second then snorted a short laugh. It crinkled his tried eyes and I found myself wondering for the first time about the case that had kept him away for this long. He didn’t look like he had slept much at all since he had left a week ago and the bright, uncompromising light that filled the kitchen didn’t help at all. Up close, his skin was as pale as my own, making the lines of his face even starker.
“I guess so,” he murmured as he took his glasses off so that he could drop his head onto his arms which he had crossed on top of the table, “I just thought I would let you know, since we will now be co inhabiting the place,” I raised my eyebrows at the top of his unruly head and frowned in thought. If he typically lived someplace else, why would he bother coming here?
“Another fine example of Granger’s vocabulary lessons, I assume,” I said instead, unable to help the quip. The momentary amusement it offered faded away when Potter simply barked a muffled laugh into the crook of his arm that lifted his slumped shoulders and then just continued to sit there. His face remained hidden and for some reason he seemed more vulnerable like this, slumped over the table as he was. It was a weakness that I assumed wasn’t shown much. If he appeared in the papers, he was always calm and strong. He wore that strength like armor. The rest of the world didn’t see this side, tired to the point of looking ill. His teacup sat dangerously close to his elbow and I thoughtlessly reached out and moved it out of the way.
The movement, however, was not unnoticed and by the time I was sitting back in my seat, one green eye was studying me from under the mop of Potter’s wild hair. The look was sober and intent. Uncomfortable, I looked away, crossing my own arms over my chest, “Might I inquire as to why you are staying here all of a sudden? I thought you lived somewhere else,” it sounded snooty when I said it and that single visible eye continued to stare at me. I wanted it to stop looking and tried not to shift uncomfortably in my seat, “I will leave, of course, if my presence here will be troubling. I was merely curious,” there was another moment of silence before he closed his eyes again.
“Bloody hell, you talk like a stuck up prig sometimes,” he huffed, words half buried in his arm and I started to bristle, remembering the indecent in the bar I had to be rescued from not too long ago when he continued talking as if he had not said anything offensive, “No, I don’t mind if you stay. I would actually prefer it,” he paused and then slowly sat back up again. When he looked at me, it was with such an open, vulnerable expression on his face, I felt embarrassed, “I don’t like being alone,” It was my turn to stare. Did he even know what he had just handed me? To be that honest about himself with someone he barely knew; it was strange and I knew I could never do that. In fact, I had never been that way with anyone, regardless of how well I knew them.
Then I wondered. Perhaps he didn’t have anyone else to say such things to. The thought didn’t make me feel any less agitated but it lessened my embarrassment some. Feeling strange, I drained the rest of my tea, which had long since gone cold and gave him the smallest of smiles.
“Does this make me like a stray that you picked up off the street?” I asked and some of the weariness left Potter’s face. It was nice to have someone else to talk to, I realized in that moment, even if it was Harry Potter. In fact, he was very different then the boy he had in school and I found myself not minding his company at all. It was better than the silence and the nightmares, anyway, which was all I had to look forward to before he stepped into the kitchen. Those bottle green eyes, so wide and expressive without the defense of his glasses, studied me carefully.
“Hardly. You’re much too stuck up and pretty to be a stray,” he teased and had I been drinking, I would have sputtered it across the table in surprise. Surely the man was just teasing. I really, really hoped he was teasing because I had no idea what to think if Potter actually thought I was pretty. It was disturbing and strange and I told myself to quickly forget it had ever been said. Because under the disturbing and the strange there was something else that I had no wish to be forced to investigate. By the time I had regained my bearings, Potter was staring to flush, as if just realizing what he had said could have been taken…well, the way it had been taken. In a desperate attempt to diffuse the suddenly awkward atmosphere, I scrambled for a comeback, anything even remotely witty. Yet before I could, the other man suddenly jerked his head around to stare at the doorway, as if someone had called his name so that I couldn’t hear. Then he uttered the most pitiful groan I had ever heard and dropped his forehead to the table with a thunk, smashing his nose into its surface.
“How could I forget to close the fucking Floo?” I blinked at the strange change in subject, as I had heard nothing but as I opened my mouth to question him, the answer appeared a moment later. Or, more appropriately, slammed into the kitchen like some kind of tempest and screeched at the top of its lungs so that I first I was sure a Banshee had gotten into the house somehow.
“Harry James Potter!” The woman that had appeared at the bottom of the stairs was a blur of fiery haired fury and in my shock, I didn’t even recognize her at first. But there was only one person who owned that ugly hair and the matching set of hideous freckles that could make such a noise. I suddenly felt very bad for Potter as an angry Ginerva Weasley advanced on the table where we sat like a storm, “How dare you run away from me before we settle out argument!! When did you turn into such a bloody coward?!” she was practically snapping her jaws like a dog who had been thwarted its dinner and I would have snickered at how accurate that analogy was if I wasn’t so afraid of that screeching being turned on me. Intrigued, I glanced at Potter who was now watching the she-banshee warily, like she was a short fuse about to blow. His mouth had tightened at the insult but if he was angry, it didn’t show.
“I didn’t run away, Gin,” his voice sounded thin from weariness next to her towering volume and he fiddled with the frames of his glasses, “I thought the argument was finished,” her eyes narrowed at him and she crossed her arms over her chest as if that would make her more impressive.
“No, Harry, it’s not over until you agree to go to the Annual Ball and you know that! I already accepted! We can’t not go!” the words sounded like they had been said many, many time before, especially when combined with the dead look on Potter’s face. More things were probably about to be said but the she-banshee seemed to take notice of more than just the target for her anger at that precise moment when her eyes fell on me. This time I couldn’t hide my amusement at her reaction; her mouth fell open in surprise and her brown eyes nearly bugged out of her head. It was such an ugly expression, I felt the sneer curling on the corners of my lips before I realized it. Merlin, she was ugly. Her anger threw a blotchy flush across her skin, clashing with the wild, horrid color of her hair. It took her a minute, eyes darting between me and the dark haired man across from me, before her face darkened and her jaw closed sharply with a click, “Oh, that’s just rich, Harry. Is that why you ran away here? What the bloody fuck is he doing here?!” when her voice hit an unbearable octave, I winced but her jealous, ridiculously inaccurate accusation had laughter bubbling up in the back of my throat. Potter looked like he had no idea what to do with it, either, sitting there with wide, shocked eyes. I held my hand out to her, sneer twisting into a grin.
“It’s nice to see you too, Ms. Weasley. It has certainly been a while,” I kept my voice completely cordial but one would have to be an infant to not hear the sarcasm in the words themselves. It slammed against her own screeching anger and made her flush deepen into a color that resembled puce. Then she balled her hands into fists and uttered a little scream from behind clenched teeth.
“Harry, what are you thinking? You know he is nothing but a little rat,” the words were hissed through her teeth, as if that would make it so that I couldn’t hear her. At least I could be assured that some things never changed, I thought calmly. Her words at last seemed to jar Potter from his tired exasperation as he placed his hands down sharply upon the table and his eyes darkened with anger. It had been some years since I had seen that expression and I was almost reassured by its familiarity.
“Ginny, he is my guest and I don’t have to explain my guests to you,” his voice was still soft but it was rougher now. The weariness had been replaced with steel, the likes of which I had never heard before and it sent an icy chill through me. Where had Potter learned how to hone his anger like this? The she-weasel had been caught off guard but now she had regained her bearings and was glowering so hard, her eyes were nearly shut. It made her look like she was half asleep rather than furious.
“As your girlfriend,” she snarled hotly, “I beg to differ. And Malfoy, Harry? Really? Have you lost your senses? Or did he use a curse on you?” she shot me a look and I plastered a sharp smile onto my lips, “I wouldn’t put it past him,” I nearly laughed out loud and wished for more tea so that I could hide behind the cup. It only made the dark haired man angrier. He stood from his seat and lifted his chin, green eyes cold. All at once my amusement faded. Those eyes fairly glowed, so frozen they were and it was such a stunning expression, I had to look away in order to breathe.
“Regardless of what the past was, he is still my guest and he will remain so until he wishes to leave,” even the she-banshee paused at the ice in his voice, “Now, we will go to another room since you seem to be so eager to repeat the same argument over and over again,” and with that, he caught hold of one of her gawky elbows and marched her from the room. I had the satisfaction of seeing her white, shocked face peering warily at the man pulling her along before they were up the steps and out the room.
In the stark stillness of the kitchen that followed their exit, I stared thoughtfully at the door that had just slammed closed. He hadn’t gotten angry at Ginny when she was attacking him but as soon as she had rounded on me, he had become like a lion poked with a sharp stick. I wondered if it was that he felt he had to defend me because I was his guest or if there was another reason he had gotten so upset. What it could be, though, I couldn’t fathom.
“Kreacher,” I needed to call it as the wrinkled old elf had disappeared as soon as Weasley had first stormed into the kitchen. Smart house elf, I mused as he appeared at my elbow, looking contrite and wringing his hands fretfully, “I would like more tea,” he scrambled to comply, almost as if he was grateful to be given a task. From past experience, I knew that house elves were very conscientious of their master’s moods if the emotions were strong enough. I know that the elves at the Manor when I was young would give my father’s tempers wide berths unless they had no other choice and were agitated until the bad moods passed. It seemed Harry’s frustration with his girlfriend was troubling Kreacher. It was reinforced when the little elf shot a harsh glare at the door as two angry voices began to filter into the kitchen.
I felt another wave of pity for Potter then. Something wasn’t right in paradise if he was running away from the girl he was dating. Not that I blamed him at all. On the contrary, I didn’t know why he was even dating her in the first place. She was demanding and rude and said things that were designed to hurt but also designed to get her way. Her shrill screaming had hit a strident pitch and I suddenly hated her for making me feel sorry for her boyfriend, “In fact, make another cup of tea for Potter,” I murmured to Kreacher who was banging more than was strictly necessary as he put on the second pot. It sounded as if Potter would appreciate the tea.
Their row lasted for nearly twenty minutes and it was all I could do not to get up and slip down the hall in order to eavesdrop. Their words were never completely audible with the door to the hall closed and they rose and fell in weaving patterns that made me curious. It was a bad habit, to listen in on conversations that had nothing to do with me. It was what we did in Slytherin, what we had to do if we didn’t want to get eaten alive and I had never really been able to shake the habit. After all, you never knew what you might learn when people thought no one else was listening.
“Are they always like this?” I asked suddenly, wondering if I really cared all that much about my host. The apathy born from grief I had been feeling for a week had given way under my inquisitiveness and I wasn’t sure how to feel about that. I wanted to continue on with the uncaring pall, wanted it to consume me so that I didn’t have to forget, so that the pain of my lover’s death would always remain imprinted upon me. At the same time, however, it seemed that once my interest was piqued, I needed to stick my nose where it didn’t belong. Like an inquisitive kitten, my father had once said in exasperation when I had been found for the third time snooping in his study. Kreacher floated the two teacups to the table, the one lightened with milk in front of me.
“The nasty blood traitor girl, she manipulates and yells at Master Harry all the time. Kreacher does not know why Master Harry puts up with it,” I smirked into my tea. I didn’t know why he puts up with it either, and I’m a bit unnerved that I wanted to find out. The yelling had stopped by now, the snap of Disapperation having echoed through the house only a moment ago and, before I could think about what I was doing, I had picked up both teacups and started out of the kitchen.
The house was eerily quite after the racket that had just filled it and I peeked into each room as I walked by, the earthy scent of hot tea filling my nose. I didn’t even know what I wanted to say to him, or even if I wanted to say anything at all. And it surely wasn’t like I was going to comfort him. I was just tried of no one else’s company but my own and an old, grouchy house elf.
Potter was in the sitting room, seated sloppily in a cushy looking leather chair, his face turned away from the doorway as he stared broodingly into the fireplace. He looked tense despite his sprawling posture and shook my head. That this man allowed himself to be so worked up by a red headed little shrew of a witch was baffling, especially since he could have just about anyone he wanted. Why did he stay with the she-weasel? Because of who her brother was? The questions crowded the back of my throat and I swallowed them quickly as I stepped into the room.
So caught up in his brooding, Potter didn’t even notice me until I was standing next to his chair and holding the steaming teacup under his nose. He blinked at it in bewilderment before glancing at me. Surprise painted his gaze a light, vivid emerald for the split second it met my own before he dropped it in order to take the cup from my hand. A small, weary smile curled at the corner of his lips.
“Thanks,” he rumbled and I nodded shortly before seating myself on the couch across from where he sat, sipping at my own tea. He held his cup between his hands like it was an anchor and his eyes were far away as he stared into the dark liquid. The way his eyebrows knitted on his forehead made him look angry but I didn’t think he was. Not now that the she-banshee was gone. No, I thought perhaps he was instead sad and hoped he would not start blubbing. I didn’t think I could handle that. Instead of crying, though, he took a long sip from his cup and lifted his eyes again to look at me, as if just remembering I was there, “Pity tea?” he asked and I couldn’t help a smile of my own.
“Perhaps,” I allowed, placing my cup on the table beside the couch and settling back on the cushions, “Might I inquire as to what that was all about?” my voice was slow and rather bland, like I didn’t care but was asking out of curtsey. And it was mostly that, I admit. I didn’t want to know Potter’s problems but at the same time, I found that I did, which was incredibly confusing. He gave a long sigh, much like the one he had back in the kitchen and rubbed his eyes with his long fingers.
“The Anniversary of Voldemort’s death is coming up and there is always an official party and an unofficial party. I cannot conceivably get out of the Gala the Ministry puts on, it is a given that I will attend. But…I don’t like being the center of everyone’s attention,” he squirmed uncomfortably in his seat and stared at a spot on the rug near my feet. Interesting. I had always just assumed that Potter ate that attention up; the papers, the pictures, the witches and wizards undoubtedly throwing themselves at him. It appeared, however, I had been mistaken and found that I was pleasantly surprised by being wrong.
“You must get an awful lot of invitations, then, as everyone who’s anyone throws a party for that date,” I observed and watched as his mobile mouth twisted downwards in a grimace. He nodded a moment later and drained his cup. It made a little chiming sound as he placed it on the glass table in front of him.
“I do but I never attend them. I didn’t do anything spectacular. It was kill or be killed. I did what I had to do to survive but these people think I’m some kind of…” he cut off, anger beginning to filter into his voice and looked back into the fire. His eyes were nearly black from my angle, “The one that everyone attends is the one held at Carn Brea Castle. The one where they can let their hair down, really celebrate rather than have to sit through a million speeches like at the Ministry’s Gala,” his face was dark with remembering, “I attended once and promised I would never go again,” I laid one arm over the back of the couch and pushed my feet closer to the crackling fire, watching the light play on the sharp angle’s of the dark haired man’s face.
“That bad?” I finally ventured when he didn’t speak up again and his nose was flared with emotion when he looked at me again. He looked wild in that moment, composed of dark, angry shadows and outlined by the flickering light of the fire.
“Yes,” he answered shortly, crossing his arms over his chest, “That bad. It would only have been worse if they had put me in a cage so that everyone could ogle me and tell me I’m a National Treasure or some such rot. They all wanted a piece of me and there was no restraints so it was like a mob. I am very lucky to have made it out on one piece and most of my clothes in tact,” he shook his head and I couldn’t help it. I snorted with laughter. That was something I would have liked to see, if only to witness Potter being practically stripped and smothered by his adoring public. He rolled his eyes at me but his face did relax some.
“Oh dear,” I managed when I finally stopped laughing, “That’s…wow. But what does that have to do with the she-weasel…excuse me, your girlfriend,” I corrected myself at his half hearted glare and just about managed not to gag on the last word. He grunted and ran his fingers through his hair.
“She accepted the invitation and told them I would be attending,” his voice was low and stark as he said it and suddenly it was not so funny anymore, “After I told her how I felt about it,” he looked completely miserable and I wondered what he was going to do. Surely he wouldn’t attend the party, even if Weasley had accepted the invitation in his name.
“Well,” I said before reaching out and picking up my cup to finish the rest of my tea, “Rather manipulative and underhanded of her. I would say she would have done my old House proud but that would be an insult to Slytherin,” I realized after the words were out that they probably should have remained unsaid and snapped my mouth closed before anything else could spill out uncensored. The deep green gaze swung to study my face then and I suddenly wanted to move my cup in front of my face like a shield. Those eyes, they seemed to see so much and I wasn’t sure I would like what they unearthed. For a moment I was sure he would rise up in defense of the red headed she-weasel but instead he blinked once and looked back at the fire.
As we sat there in silence, the night waning around us, I realized that the expression in his face was thoughtful.