Rating: NC-17 (PG-13)
Disclaimer: JKR owns. I only play. You do not sue.
Length: 20K words
Summary: This is a story about mistakes, trust, and maybe even second chances.
Beta: None besides a once-over by goneril. Read at your own risk.
Note: I wrote this just before HBP came out and waited to post it because I hoped that it wouldn't be jossed too badly. It wasn't, but there were scenes I had to delete and scenes I had to add. The title is a line from Trust by Megadeth.
Concrit: Always welcome and appreciated.
I never thought I'd find someone to be mine
Lord knows I was right
'Cause you just crossed the line.
--Eminem, Spend Some Time
Lord knows I was right
'Cause you just crossed the line.
--Eminem, Spend Some Time
Part I - Crossing the Line
Don't make any plans for tonight.
Harry sealed the parchment and tied it to Hedwig's leg. He couldn't wait to get back to London, to the relentless din of Muggle cars, to the familiar smell of exhaust fumes, to the fog, to the bustle in the streets. To Draco.
His assignment with Kingsley was over. The last of the vampires had been found and persuaded to register; now Harry could go back to his normal life, doing paperwork for the Communications Office for Magical Beasts and Creatures. The Office was opened through the efforts of Neville Longbottom and Hermione Granger. Harry had originally signed on just to get the project off the ground but he found he liked the work and ended up working there full-time. The Office's function was to liaise with all kinds of intelligent magical beings, to build more uniform relations between wizardkind and other inhabitants of the wizarding world.
Hedwig flew off and Harry stared after her, trying to picture Draco's face when he would receive the note. Would he just cock an eyebrow at the owl and go back to whatever he was doing? Would he smile? Of course he would smile, only he wouldn't let Hedwig see it. It would take Hedwig approximately two days to reach London. Harry was taking a Portkey out of Lyon on the day after tomorrow -- Kingsley had insisted on shopping and sightseeing after the assignment. The day Draco got the letter, Harry would return, and things would go back to normal.
"Hurry up, Harry, it's almost time," urged Kingsley over the miniature communicator as Harry made his way across the square in front of La Part Dieu. There were Muggles all around them but both Harry and Kingsley were Disillusioned. Harry reached him in less than a minute and grabbed the empty milk carton Kingsley was holding. He was quite used to travel by Portkey but he still felt a brief twinge of nausea as the world spun briefly in front of his eyes.
They emerged out of a small wood near Twickenham and Apparated to the Ministry of Magic Atrium. Harry waved to Eric at the front desk and hurried towards the lift. It was nearly tea time and Harry wanted to get home quickly, so he didn't stop on the seventh floor to see Ginny, who worked in the Department of Magical Games and Sports. He fidgeted impatiently all the way down to level four, wishing that the lift wouldn't keep stopping for the inter-departmental memos.
When they finally reached the fourth floor, Harry and Kingsley hurried down the narrow corridor to Hermione's office. Harry gave the door three sharp raps with his knuckles.
"Enter," came Hermione's voice from the other side. She didn't sound very happy. Harry opened the door, stuck his head in, and grinned.
"Harry!" exclaimed Hermione, her face brightening. "You're back! Come in, come in," she said, brushing her ever-bushy hair out of her face. "Hi, Kingsley," she added.
"We're just here to drop off the paperwork," said Kingsley. "I've still got to go and see my boss at Headquarters, so I'll leave Harry to it." With that, he nodded to Hermione and walked back out.
Hermione got up from behind her large oak desk and walked around to give Harry a hug. "It's so good to see you," she said, leaning back and looking at him fondly in a way vaguely reminiscent of Mrs Weasley.
"And you," said Harry. "I swear, this has been the longest four months ever."
"It hasn't been the same without you around," said Hermione. "So do you have good news for me?"
"Yes, I do," said Harry, indicating the sheaf of parchment he carried. "These are the registration forms for the last of the Lyon vampires."
Hermione took the papers from him and put them on the desk. "Great," she said. "You have no idea how much I appreciate that you were willing to take this on."
"No problem. But I still think I could have gone without the old Auror protection."
"Harry, you know better than I do that your defeat of Voldemort made you enemies you may have never even heard of."
Harry shook his head in frustration. "Hermione, it's been ten years since the war."
She didn't look fazed in the slightest. "One never knows. Plus, it must have been nice to have the company, no?"
"True," said Harry, "but I'd much rather have gone with Draco. Speaking of, has he been by at all?"
Hermione's smile disappeared as though it was never there in the first place. "That he has," she said in a strained tone.
Harry frowned at her. "He didn't cause trouble or anything, did he?" Though Draco no longer despised Muggle-borns outright, he continued to dislike Hermione on sheer principle.
"Oh no," said Hermione, still in that uncomfortable tone. "In fact, he's been exceedingly polite." She pinched her lips and furrowed her brow the way she always did when thinking hard about something. "I think it will be better if you sit down."
Harry made no move to obey her. "Hermione. Has something happened to Draco?"
Hermione, who had started to walk back to her chair, paused mid-way but didn't turn around. "Sit down, Harry. Ron is going to kill me for this, but I can't not tell you."
"Tell me WHAT?" demanded Harry. "What's happened to Draco?"
Hermione sat down in her leather armchair and faced Harry, her expression grim. "I said, sit down. Or I'm not going to tell you anything," she said, the steely notes in her tone reminding Harry -- not pleasantly -- of Snape.
"I hate it when you pull the boss card in private matters," said Harry as he pulled out a wingback chair and sat down.
Hermione's eyes widened. "I'm not 'pulling the boss card', what sort of nonsense is that?"
"You did the same thing you're doing now when Draco insulted Ron's mother in that article and Ron wanted to go and kill him. I was here, remember?"
Hermione gave him a beady-eyed look. "Would you rather I have let Ron go and kill that sorry excuse for -- oh, we are not having this conversation again." She pulled out a drawer with a rough movement and lifted out a small Pensieve, set it onto the dark oak surface between them and pulled out her wand, which she placed to her temple. Detaching a long, silvery strand of thought, she placed it into the Pensieve and pushed the bowl towards Harry. He glanced at her with one eyebrow raised; she nodded.
Harry leant down and a moment later found himself standing in the Ministry lift behind Hermione. She looked very pleased and her hair was pulled back in a messy bun. The lift stopped with a soft ding and Hermione exited. Harry followed. They were on level nine, near the Department of Mysteries. Hermione made her way down the still-too-familiar hallway, humming some tune under her nose. She glanced to her left and froze as she stared in the direction of the office wing. Harry rounded the corner and felt like he was punched in the solar plexus.
Draco had Blaise Zabini -- an Unspeakable and his former classmate -- pinned against the wall in an altogether non-threatening fashion. It wasn't the way Draco's lower body pressed insistently against Zabini's that struck Harry the most -- it was how utterly opposite the two of them looked. There was Zabini with his dark skin and piercing black eyes that seemed to be boring holes through Draco. Then there was Draco, fair-haired and pale, his icy grey eyes obscured from Harry's vision. Harry knew those eyes too well not to know what they looked like now. Draco leant forward and kissed Zabini with practised ease, as though he'd done it many times before.
As though he'd... surely not, thought Harry. His mind was a teeming mass of confused thoughts and barely controlled emotion -- anger mingled with disbelief as he watched the slow, sensual kiss, watched as Zabini's arms came around Draco's waist, watched as Draco broke away and murmured something that caused Zabini to smile in a private, knowing way. If Harry didn't know any better, he would have said that Draco and Zabini were a couple.
He heard the soft rustling of paper and turned around to see that Hermione had dropped the folder she had been carrying and parchment was flying all over the corridor floor. Harry looked up at Draco and Zabini, who seemed to have sprung apart, looking alarmed. Draco stalked over to Hermione, who was kneeling on the floor and trying to gather up her papers. He stepped on a piece of parchment that she was about to pick up.
"What did you see?" he asked quietly, in a way Harry hadn't heard him speak for many years now.
Hermione let go of the parchment and rose to her feet, staring Draco straight in the face. "I saw everything I needed to see, Malfoy. Now if you'll kindly step off that release form, I should like to be on my way. I don't think that Mr Carmichael will be too enthusiastic to grant you any more interviews if I tell him that you were the reason for my delay."
Draco sneered, but removed his foot from the parchment. "This means more to me than Carmichael ever will, Granger."
"Yes, I can see that," said Hermione after picking up the release form and stuffing it back into her folder. "I can see that this means an awful lot to you." Her eyes lingered on the spot where Zabini had stood. He had since disappeared; Harry had been too busy watching Draco and didn't see where he went.
"You mean-" Draco started to say, then stopped. "You're going to run and tell Harry, aren't you?"
Hermione gave him a look full of contempt. "No, Malfoy. You are going to tell him. You're going to take a Portkey to Lyon -- oh," she said, a malevolent gleam in her eyes. "I forgot. You're not allowed to leave the country, are you?"
"How kind of you to remind me," said Draco, cocking an eyebrow. "Once a suspected Death Eater, always a prisoner."
Harry's jaw tightened. He'd begged and pleaded with Hermione to pull some strings to let Draco come with him to Lyon but she had flatly refused.
"Well, then you are going to write him a nice, long letter," said Hermione in a too-sweet voice, which usually meant she was about to start making threats. "About everything you've been doing in his absence. Everything."
Draco shifted his weight and folded his arms across his chest. "And if I don't?"
"Then I'm going to tell him."
"And break his heart."
Harry's stomach lurched at this. He still felt as though he'd been slapped across the face and it was taking him an unusually long time to recover. Something in his mind had erected a large neon sign, a flashing WHY in all colours of the rainbow.
Hermione's face was a study in contempt. Harry shuddered involuntarily; he hadn't seen Hermione look like this since she had killed Peter Pettigrew. "Better that it happens now than he finds out years down the line. Because he will find out, Malfoy. Lies always float to the surface, much like the dung that fills your black heart."
"Aren't we poetic," remarked Draco, looking like he'd just eaten a vomit-flavoured Every Flavour Bean. "Fuck off, Granger. What goes on between me and Harry is our business. He's mine, do you understand?"
Harry's insides twisted again and he felt like he would throw up. The way Draco had said "mine" was much like the way he'd spoken it after the first time they'd had sex, when Harry had collapsed on top of Draco, spent, and Draco whispered, "mine". Harry had smiled into the pillow and rolled off him, but he never forgot that first time.
And now... Now Harry wasn't sure why it even mattered to Draco. He and Hermione were staring at each other, both standing quite still. Finally, Hermione shook her head and clutched her folder more tightly. "I warned you, Malfoy," she said between her teeth, then turned on her heel and left. Harry had no choice but to follow, but he caught a glimpse of Draco collapsing against the nearest wall and hiding his face in his hands.
"That was it," said Hermione's voice from somewhere above him, and Harry left the memory, desperately trying to steal another look at Draco as he did so. He sat up straight in his chair and looked at Hermione.
"Why didn't you say something sooner?" he asked her. His voice was hollow, like chasing an echo of itself. His mind was rifling through excuse after excuse to explain what had happened, to explain why there had been no letter from Draco aside from the usual "I miss you" and "Have you been eaten by penguins yet?" notes.
Hermione opened her mouth and promptly closed it again, looking flustered. "I- Harry, I really didn't want to show you this. I had hoped Malfoy would--"
"Tell me all about it in a long, tearful letter?" Harry interrupted. "You don't know him, Hermione. He'd never have done that. He'd never have told me at any rate. He doesn't do well when he feels he's being forced to do something, not since--"
"You're making excuses for him?" asked Hermione, her eyes widening. "After what you--"
"It was a kiss. He wasn't marrying Zabini, he wasn't--he wasn't fucking him, for fuck's sake," exploded Harry. He was rapidly losing control of his temper and the only words that were coming to mind were expletives. "Why did you have to--why couldn't you--this is all your fault!"
Hermione burst into tears, and the anger clouding Harry's mind gave way to panic. "I'm sorry," he said. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said that."
Hermione pulled out a handkerchief from her robe's pocket and blew her nose loudly. She dabbed at her eyes with an untouched corner of the handkerchief and sniffed. "I just didn't want him to get away with lying to you. I've spent all of last month worrying about whether to tell you or not. You have a right to know what he's been doing."
Harry blinked. "What do you mean?"
Hermione sniffed loudly and gave her eyes one last swipe with the handkerchief. "I mean that since I saw that -- a month ago -- I've asked a few discreet questions here and there. And--" she stopped talking abruptly and took a deep breath.
Harry gripped the armrests of his chair and leant forward. "What?"
She shut her eyes for a moment. "It's been going on for years, Harry."
Hermione nodded without another word and looked away. "I'm sorry."
"How did you--Who told you--" Harry paused. The implications of what he'd just heard were still eluding him. He began to feel as though he was in one of the Weasley twins' Patented Nightmare Charms (Make Your Enemy's Life Hell Without Really Trying!). It made absolutely no sense.
Hermione leant forward and placed her wand into the Pensieve, retrieving the memory and replacing it inside her head. She removed the Pensieve back to its drawer and leant on the desk, gazing in front of her but not at Harry. Harry felt like he was watching everything through a sort of invisible thick fog that made everything slow down. Must have been the long-distance Portkey. He released the armrests of his chair and slumped back against it, wishing that he hadn't come here, that he hadn't brought up Draco, that he hadn't gone to Lyon in the first place...
"Harry," said Hermione, her voice hesitant.
"So you're saying that Draco and Zabini have been snogging in dark corners for years now," said Harry in a flat voice that didn't belong to him.
A faint flush spread across Hermione's cheeks. "Look, I don't know much. I just called in a favour with Zacharias Smith. He told me that Malfoy and Zabini are having it off, have been ever since Hogwarts. Said he didn't know much else and he was risking enough by talking to me--"
"Fucking pathetic cowardly pest," spat Harry. He sprang out of his chair, pushed it aside and began to pace the floor in front of Hermione's desk. "So -- since Hogwarts? But why, Hermione? Why?"
"I don't know," said Hermione, her shoulders sagging a little. "I'm not on speaking terms with any of the Slytherins in our year and--"
"No, I mean, why's he doing this to me? Why's he need me when he's got Zabini, I mean--"
Hermione sighed deeply and squared her shoulders. "That is something you're going to have to talk to Malfoy about. I have no idea why anyone would ever do something like that to you. Especially after what you did for his mother."
Harry waved his hand impatiently. "Never mind Narcissa. He fucking wrecked everything I had with Ginny. We were happy. Then he comes along and--"
"And what?" asked Hermione, sitting up even straighter. "You never did explain to any of us why you'd left Ginny, why after four months of seeing Malfoy you were living with him and biting the head off anyone who dared say a word against him. What did he do to you, Harry?"
Harry shook his head, half to her, half to himself. "First of all, Ginny left me."
Hermione looked disapproving. "You know very well she was just being dramatic. She had no idea you'd move Malfoy in the day after she was gone."
Harry clenched and unclenched his jaw. "We're not going to have this conversation now, Hermione. I'm going home."
She pursed her lips and gave a little resigned sigh. "Don't do anything stupid," she said. "I expect you at your desk tomorrow morning. I'll bring tea."
Harry gave her a half-hearted grin. "Right then. Bye, Hermione." He set off towards the door but turned as he prepared to turn the handle. "And thank you."
"I hope this will be for the best," she said. Harry nodded and hurried out. He reached the Atrium without incident; as the workday was winding down, the Ministry was half-empty.
He took a handful of Floo powder from a chalice next to one of the right-hand side fireplaces and tossed it into the flames. He stepped in after it and said, "Number twelve, Grimmauld Place." Tucking in his elbows, he closed his eyes and concentrated on fighting the sick, roiling feeling in his stomach that wasn't helped by his already agitated state. There really were no means of wizarding travel superior to brooms, as far as Harry was concerned.
Moments later, he stepped out of the fireplace in the basement. The room was deserted save for Kreacher, who was sitting on one of the chairs and stabbing at a tapestry with a knitting needle. He pretended not to notice Harry's arrival, which suited Harry just fine. He walked up the stairs to the ground floor, tiptoed past Mrs Black's portrait, noticing an unfamiliar plum-coloured cloak hanging from the rack near the front door. His stomach wasn't going to take much more of this. The last thing he needed right now was to find Draco in bed with Zabini. Harry tore his gaze from the cloak and ascended quietly past the elf-heads. He heard voices from the drawing room -- Draco's and a woman's.
When Harry walked into the drawing room, Draco looked up and Harry's heart sank to see his face light up like that. Like Draco was delighted to see him. What had Harry done to deserve such mockery? Draco was sitting beside Pansy Parkinson, who was holding a glass filled with a dark red liquid. A coy smile Harry definitely did not like was playing across Pansy's lips.
"Hello," he said, but the greeting came out hoarse. Harry cleared his throat and stared at Draco, who looked taken aback by his obvious lack of enthusiasm.
"Hello, Harry," said Pansy with a smirk. "Long time no see. How was Lyon?"
"Okay," said Harry, feeling numb. He couldn't stop looking at Draco -- the just-starting-to-form frown on his pale face, his white-blond hair tucked behind his ears and flaring out just a little, his suddenly-rigid back. Draco knew Harry knew, that much was obvious.
Pansy looked unimpressed. She set down her glass, rose and squeezed Draco's arm, which was draped across the back of the sofa. "I'd better get going, then, I can see you two can't wait to be alone," she said in a fake cheery voice.
"Kreacher!" called Draco, rising as well.
The house-elf came scurrying in not a moment later. "Young master?"
"Miss Parkinson is leaving. See her out, and mind that Mrs Black doesn't awaken."
"Yes, young master," said Kreacher, bowing deeply.
Pansy gave Draco a kiss on the cheek and stalked out, walking past Harry as though he wasn't even there. Kreacher followed her in much the same fashion, and Harry and Draco were alone.
Harry swallowed, watching as Draco approached him slowly. Why did he have to find out? Why couldn't he have just gone on not knowing? Here was Draco, acting as though he had eyes only for Harry, just like he always did. So he didn't realise Harry knew, then. All Harry wanted right now was to not know what he'd just learned. Draco was next to him now, smiling in that way Harry had thought was only for him but it probably wasn't. Harry glanced at him and Draco's smile faded.
"What's wrong? Did something happen in Lyon? You look as miserable as you did on the day they buried Dumbledore."
Harry's head snapped up. "How the hell would you know about that? You were--"
"Oh please, it's not like it was hard to lose myself in all the commotion. Half of wizarding Britain was there."
"But why would you--"
"To see you," said Draco, his voice low and husky. He reached for Harry and pulled him close. "Just to see you."
Harry sighed and pushed him away. "You're not serious."
Draco chuckled. "No. It would have been rather foolish of me to show up at Dumbledore's funeral, wouldn't it? I was just trying to cheer you up."
"By reminding me of what was possibly one of the most horrible days in my life? The day I said goodbye to Dumbledore, the day I broke up with Ginny for the first time, the day--"
Draco turned his back to him. "So the She-Weasel was so important to you, was she?"
"Look, Draco, I'm tired of your fucking games," said Harry. His voice sounded weary even to him. He was so drained that he didn't even have the energy to be angry at the irony in Draco's pretending to be jealous over Ginny when he knew full well he had no reason to be. Unlike Draco, Harry didn't sleep around with other men or women.
Draco turned around as though stung. "What's with you? You're--not yourself."
"I think it's more the other way around," said Harry after a short pause, trying to keep the bitterness out of his voice.
Draco's eyes narrowed and he folded his arms across his chest in a protective gesture. "You--What are you talking about?"
"Tell me, Mister Malfoy," said Harry, dropping his travelling case on the floor and beginning to pace the length of the drawing room. "Been to the Department of Mysteries lately?"
Draco froze. "She told you."
Harry stopped pacing and turned around. "She showed me."
"Fuck," said Draco. "Listen, Harry, I--"
Something about his tone set off the fine balance in Harry, the balance he hadn't realised he'd been keeping, and he lost the plot. "What the hell do you want from me, Malfoy?" he spat. "Tell me, what do you want? You can have anything -- anything. You've obviously kept up this charade for some good reason all these years. So go on, tell me. I'll give it to you and you can be on your merry way, you fucking tosser."
Draco flinched, as though Harry had struck him. There were bright pink spots blossoming on his cheeks, just like when he--no, Harry couldn't think about that now. Aside from his obvious embarrassment, Draco looked... confused. He glanced at Harry, frowning. "What do you mean, years? Are you on about another one of your conspiracy theories? Have you forgotten--"
"Oh, don't give me that shit, I'm not in the mood. I know all about your little thing with Zabini, ever since Hogwarts, even before you and me--"
Draco's mouth fell open. "WHAT? And you believed her? She invented some rubbish story and you believed her? Just like that, without even--"
"Hermione didn't invent anything. Someone told her about it."
Draco gave a nervous, short laugh, and Harry was fleetingly reminded of Sirius. "What is this, Chinese Whispers? Someone feeds her a load of crap and she runs right to you and you believe her? Haven't I taught you anything about investigating your sources? Who did she talk to, I wonder, Zacharias Smith?"
Harry blinked. "How did you--"
Draco threw his hands up in the air. "Oh, fucking great. This little piggy went to the market, this little piggy ran to Zacharias bloody Smith. Did you, perhaps, forget that Zacharias Smith hates you? He's hated you since fifth year and especially after I ran that story about his fat old slut of a grandmother, the one who everyone thought got killed by a deranged house-elf? Do you remember that interview or not?"
"It was when we met again," said Harry, his chest tightening at the memory.
"You were wearing a stupid monkey suit and pretending to be a Muggle," said Draco with a wistful expression on his face. "I'll never forget the look on your face when you saw me."
Harry shook his head furiously. "Don't change the subject. Fine, I get your point, Smith lied to Hermione, though why he would, I'm not sure. She can bury him if she finds out. But whatever. Even if we suppose for a moment that I do believe you, I still saw you. I saw you with--" he broke off, trying to will the image of Draco and Zabini away from his mind.
Draco crossed the distance between them in several long strides, and seized both of Harry's hands. "Harry, listen to me. He's nothing to me. Nothing. It was just a spot of fun, a distraction. It didn't mean anything. Not like you. Not like this." He pressed his forehead against Harry's and pulled him closer.
But all Harry could see was Draco kissing Zabini. He turned his head to the side and pushed Draco away. "Did he fuck you?" he asked. "Did you like it?" he continued without waiting for a response.
Draco's features clouded over and he folded his arms across his chest again. "No, he didn't fuck me."
Harry stared at him. It was there in Draco's tone, unmistakable. "But?" Harry asked.
Draco sighed and let his arms drop to his sides. "I fucked him."
"What? You--Him? But you're a--"
"Only for you," said Draco quietly.
Harry desperately fought off the intruding images of Zabini and Draco in the bed upstairs, darkness and light, shadows and moonlight playing across their bodies. He looked up at Draco. "Why, Draco? I mean, you -- we talked about this. I told you I didn't -- I wouldn't be okay with -- with trolling."
Draco bit his bottom lip. "I--Harry, I was bored and lonely and you were gone. And I wasn't trolling. It was only Blaise."
Harry felt his stomach lurch unpleasantly again. "Oh, so you had a bit on the side with Zabini while I had an affair with my right hand?"
Draco's eyes widened. "You didn't--"
"No. I didn't. Unlike you, I keep my promises," said Harry. He was sick of this, sick of the talking, sick of looking at Draco, sick of the stupid WHY sign flashing in his mind, of the images flitting across his consciousness, pictures in which there was no more room for Harry. He felt sick to his stomach and he didn't want to look at Draco. He felt ridiculous, like a scorned woman, and it just wasn't right. None of it was. "Listen, Draco. I think you should just leave."
Draco, who had been at the sofa helping himself to some wine, froze mid-pour. After a moment, he set the bottle carefully back on the table and sat down, glass in hand. "What did you just say?" he asked.
Harry could see his fingers around the glass stem; they were strangely paler than the rest of him. The glass trembled slightly as Draco raised it to his lips and took a sip. Harry brushed his fringe out of his face and stared down at him. "You heard me. I think you should leave."
"Are we breaking up?"
Harry locked his hands behind his head and pressed his lower forearms against his ears, trying to bring his elbows together in a vain attempt to drown out the sick silence. "I don't know," he said, keeping his head down.
There was a small cracking noise, then the sound of glass breaking on the hardwood floor, then the telltale pop of Disapparition. Harry looked up at the empty sofa and sighed. He took out his wand and muttered a cleaning charm, pointing at the broken wineglass and the small puddle of blood-red wine next to it. He walked over to the sofa and sank down into it, realising with disquiet that he didn't feel any better with Draco gone.
They were sitting in a pub on Dartmouth street, nursing their pints as Draco's Deluxe Quick Quote Quill danced across the notebook in his lap.
"I still don't understand why we have to do this here in this Muggle place," complained Draco after casting a glance around to make sure no one had noticed his Quill.
Harry gave him an incredulous stare. He was talking as though they were old school mates getting together to reminisce about old times. He decided to humour Draco anyway. "I told you, I can't afford to be seen talking to you, not with that thing taking notes. Scrimgeour would have my head if he found out ahead of time that I'd talked to the press."
"Come off it," said Draco with a slight scoff. "Scrimgeour is your number one fan. You're the reason he's still in office."
Harry squinted at a framed photo on the opposite wall, mostly to avoid Draco's eyes. What did he know about Harry's deal with Scrimgeour? "No comment," he said after a brief pause, stealing a glance at Draco.
Draco rolled his eyes. "It's been eight years since the war ended, it's about time we had some first-hand accounts and some real history."
Harry looked at him with a measure of surprise. "Since when are you interested in truth and justice, Malfoy?"
"Since Snape," said Draco curtly and toasted the air with his pint. "To Snape."
"Sorry, you're on your own," muttered Harry. No matter how many times he heard the story of Snape's heroic sacrifice, he would never forgive the man for what he'd done to him. It was Snape's fault that his parents had died, that Harry was marked for murder at the age of one. Snape was the dark stain on his past, the lurking shadow across his Hogwarts years. They said it wasn't proper to speak ill of the dead. Harry didn't speak ill of Snape; he loathed him silently.
"Anything else you'd like, gents?" asked a gruff voice behind Harry.
Harry started to answer, but a loud screeching noise interrupted him. He blinked several times and sat up in his bed, reaching to his left for Draco. Only Draco wasn't there.
Slowly remembering the events of the previous evening, Harry rubbed his eyes and looked around. What had been the noise that had startled him out of his dream? A moment later, the noise repeated itself. It was coming from the direction of the window but the curtains were drawn shut. Harry got out of bed and padded over there. He pulled the curtains open and saw Hedwig perched on the windowsill outside.
Sighing, Harry opened the window and let her in. She gave him a reproachful glare as she flew across the room and disappeared. Her cage was in the next room, along with Pandora's. Judging from the twin hoots from next door, Draco's eagle owl was still here. Harry's stomach started to churn again. All of Draco's things were still here, and the owl besides. Draco would probably come to collect them at some point, wouldn't he? Harry flung himself back on the bed.
Why had he dreamt of that day? Why the day that he and Draco had met again for the first time in ten years? They were both men by then, both considerably matured. Draco didn't seem to want to talk about school; he'd only mentioned that he had completed his education at Durmstrang shortly after the war had ended. He'd always been sketchy on the details of where he'd gone and what he'd done. All Harry had managed to find out was that Draco had replaced Rita Skeeter at the Prophet some three years after the war. Two years after that, he had had his own headline news column. At the time he had come to interview Harry three years later, Draco was, for all intents and purposes, editor Barnabas Cuffe's right hand.
Harry had been surprised -- pleasantly -- by Draco during that first meeting. Gone was the self-satisfied smirk of their school days, gone was the haughty glare and the uppity manner of speaking. At twenty-six, Draco was self-confident, a bit glib, and had an unusually sunny disposition. He talked loud and fast, wore smart dress robes with a certain aplomb and walked with unusual grace. He reminded Harry of their old Potions master, Slughorn, with his sly winks at the right moments and tales of the people he knew. Unlike Slughorn, Draco didn't simply name-drop -- he entertained while name-dropping. Within fifteen minutes of their first meeting, Harry had been caught up on all the celebrity gossip he could ever have wanted, and he hadn't felt the urge to yawn once.
Harry had gone home to Ginny that night and told her that he'd met with Draco Malfoy. She had only rolled her eyes at him over the rim of her teacup. "You know what the gossip columnists say about him."
"No, what?" Harry had asked.
Ginny's eyes had widened a bit and she'd seemed to suppress a snigger. "A confirmed bachelor."
Harry had scratched his head in puzzlement. "A who?"
Harry hadn't minded -- in fact, soon he'd found himself meeting with Draco again, just for drinks. Then again, and again. Finally, they were meeting for drinks and conversation every Thursday at eight, always at that same Muggle pub on Dartmouth. After four months had passed, Ginny had begun to get edgy every time Harry would leave for his meeting with Draco. She would stay up waiting for him until he'd got home and interrogate him about where they'd gone, what they'd talked about.
Eventually, Harry had got so fed up that he'd taken Ginny along one night. It had been a disaster. Ginny had been obnoxiously rude to Draco all evening, taken issue with everything he'd brought up as a talking point, and had generally acted like a child. When they had got home that night and Harry had questioned Ginny about her odd behaviour, she had broken down crying and finally screamed that Draco was trying to take Harry away from her.
"But Ginny, we're just friends," Harry had said, puzzled.
"Don't you get it?" she'd sobbed. "Haven't you looked up 'confirmed bachelor'?"
"Uh, no?" Harry had said.
"It means gay! Queer! A fairy! He likes you!"
Harry had gaped at her, stunned. "But Ginny--"
But Ginny had rushed into the bedroom and slammed the door.
Harry rubbed his eyes, shaking his head, trying to clear the cobwebs of memories from his mind. On one hand, he didn't like thinking about that time because his eight-year relationship with Ginny had started to careen downhill from there. On the other hand, it was then that he'd realised that he had developed a certain kind of attachment to Draco.
He rose from the bed and walked to a chest of drawers. Crouching down, he pulled the bottom one open and lifted out Dumbledore's Pensieve. Dumbledore had left him two things in his will -- that Pensieve and the Sword of Gryffindor. The Sword he had left at Hogwarts. The Pensieve, he'd taken with him; he'd felt it was his last tie to Dumbledore, because his last memories of his former mentor were connected to this device, which had ultimately revealed the secret of defeating Lord Voldemort. Harry shuddered, unwilling to think about the terrible night in Godric's Hollow.
He hefted the Pensieve in one hand, marvelling at how light it seemed now. Twelve years ago, he'd almost dropped it when he'd accepted it from a misty-eyed McGonagall. That had been just before he left Hogwarts after sixth year. Harry took the Pensieve to his bedside table and sat down on the bed, staring at it. They'd learned in NEWT-level Defence Against the Dark Arts that one's own memories were best revisited via a Pensieve because it enabled a sense of perspective not available when simply remembering things in their minds.
Harry picked up his wand and placed it next to his temple, carefully trying to remember the beginning of the memory he wanted to collect. There it was. The Muggle pub, and Harry slightly drunk... He felt a gentle pulling at his temple as the wand siphoned off the memory. It really did feel like having an invisible thread pulled out of your head -- not painful but slightly disconcerting; it was always accompanied by a vague sense of loss.
Harry turned the tip of his wand to point at the Pensieve and released the memory. It streamed into the bowl like liquid light, pooling at the bottom until the surface stopped flickering and turned an even silver colour. This particular shade of silver meant a good, happy memory. They didn't get much lighter than this. Worse memories had darker shades; those that were the stuff of Harry's nightmares were almost slate grey. Harry rarely had need to revisit those. Sometimes he toyed with the idea of just siphoning them off and storing them in a bottle somewhere, but he feared to lose them for ever. When not inside the mind, memories would decay over time and eventually disappear completely. Harry never wanted to forget where he had come from.
He stared at the even surface for a bit, his wand still positioned over the Pensieve. Then he put down his wand and lowered his face until he was falling, falling --
He was in the pub, sitting next to himself. A slightly younger-looking Harry, his glasses lopsided a bit, a goofy grin on his face as he listened to Draco regale him with the tale of Celestina Warbeck's spectacular failure at last week's benefit concert for the wizarding orphanage. Draco looked a bit out of place in his wizard robes -- he'd confided in Harry that he always pretended to be a really young judge. Apparently, Muggle judges' attire was similar to robes wizards wore.
Harry leant back against the cushy sofa and watched.