not your typical annihilatrix (furiosity) wrote,
not your typical annihilatrix
furiosity

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Fic: Never End Till We're Dust [Harry/Draco, NC-17] - 03

Title: Never End Till We're Dust - Part 3 - Breaking Even
Author: furiosity
Rating: NC-17 (R)
Disclaimer: JKR owns. I only play. You do not sue.
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.
Concrit: Always welcome and appreciated.

Never End Till We're Dust
Part III - Breaking Even


Harry still didn't understand why Draco had done it. He also didn't understand why it affected him as much as it did -- after all, as Draco said, it was only a spot of fun. Nothing serious. Because what Harry and Draco had was serious -- at least Harry had liked to think so before today. Harry and Ginny had been serious and Harry had resisted temptation, even though it had turned out to be an empty gesture.

He and Ginny had made peace some eight months after they'd broken up, but there was no going back for them and they both knew it. She was currently dating Oliver Wood, who'd turned out to be straight despite all rumours to the contrary. Thinking about Wood made Harry remember Draco's incredulous expression when Harry had asked him if he'd ever done anything with Wood.

"That man is straighter than a Maypole, and I'm an expert," he had said, smirking. Then he had reached for Harry's cock again and--

Harry winced. Every line of thought always came back to this.

He's nothing to me. Nothing.

Deep inside Harry's mind, a small voice asked, "what if he's said the same thing to Zabini about you?" Harry's stomach lurched. Could he have said, "he's nothing to me" to Ginny, two years ago? No, he couldn't have, because Draco hadn't been "nothing" then. Harry drew his knees up to his chest and sighed, wondering if Draco had gone straight to Zabini. He was half-tempted to contact Narcissa to see if Draco was at Malfoy Manor.

Harry watched the clock on his bedside table tick away the minutes until he had to leave for work. He wanted to know where Draco was, but he couldn't just use the Floo to contact Narcissa -- it was too early in the morning and she would still be asleep. Harry had used every bit of his influence at the Ministry to get her out of prison. He hadn't done it for Draco, even though Draco was sure he had. Draco had blasted apart half the furniture in the house when they'd had the Narcissa fight.

Draco.

Harry heard Kreacher muttering in the corridor outside and got off the bed. A part of him wanted to stay shut up in the house and brood, another part of him wanted to find out where Draco was, at any cost. What did it mean, that Draco had left when Harry had told him to? It wasn't as though Draco ever did as he was told. Was he relieved that he'd got off so easily? Was he hurt?

Harry got dressed without bothering to shower. He made his way downstairs to the fireplace and somehow navigated to his desk at the office, where Hermione was already waiting, tea and all.

"You look terrible," she said.

"Oh, thanks," muttered Harry, sitting down behind his desk.

"I take it last night didn't go very well? Sugar?"

"Thanks. I don't really want to talk about last night."

Hermione placed his tea in front of him "Fine. But you know--":

"Yes, Hermione. I know. Tell me, how are you so sure that Smith was telling you the truth about Draco and--"

She set the teapot down with too much force and gave Harry an incredulous look. "Why would he lie?"

"Draco says he hates me."

Hermione frowned. "Harry, I wouldn't have told you what he'd said if I didn't think he was serious. You know that I could make Smith's life very difficult for him."

"What did he tell you?"

"That he'd seen Malfoy and Zabini together, in fifth year, and once in the beginning of sixth year. He's also friends with Pansy Parkinson, who told him that she had been a cover story for Malfoy in front of the other students -- a moustache?"

"Beard," said Harry, then took a sip of his tea.

Hermione brushed her hair out of her face. "Right. Pansy was his supposed girlfriend so no one would know he was gay."

"And when Smith saw them together, what did he see?" asked Harry.

Hermione's frown deepened. "I didn't ask."

Harry sighed. "So Smith didn't lie to you, did he? He told you two facts but presented them in a way that made you believe something that wasn't there. He should go and see if Draco has a job offer for him."

Hermione's face was flushed pink and she looked down at her hands. "I'm--"

"Don't be. You still saw what you saw; it doesn't change a thing. And that Smith is one rat bastard."

"Harry, you're back!" called Ron's voice from the doorway. Harry looked up and did his best to smile. Ron didn't seem to notice the looks on Harry and Hermione's faces; he was brandishing a copy of the Daily Prophet. "Dare I ask what Zacharias Smith did to your git of a boyfriend, Harry?" Ron walked up to the desk and put the newspaper in front of Harry, nearly sending the teacup flying. Harry stared at the headline.

JUNIOR UNDERSECRETARY'S QUESTIONABLE PAST

It was a scathing editorial detailing a number of suspicious incidents surrounding Smith's rapid rise through the Ministry ranks. This was obviously something that had been meticulously researched, and only Draco could have written it, even though there was no name attached to the article. How long had Draco been sitting on this information? And had it really been their row the night before that had prompted him to do this? Smith would be facing an inquiry now and even if only half of these things were true, he'd be sacked for sure.

Hermione was scowling. "I can't imagine where Malfoy knows all this from."

"Probably the same place you know it all from," said Ron in a light tone. "So much for leverage on Smith, unless you know any more of his deep dark secrets."

"This is awful," said Hermione. "Not that I like him much, but--"

"You're just worried you won't be able to push through your newest proposal now that Smith has nothing to fear from you," snapped Harry. "Well, you shouldn't worry so much, because they'll throw him out of office now and you'll have to dig up dirt on someone new."

Hermione looked offended, but said nothing. Ron looked from Harry to Hermione with an incredulous expression. "Did I miss something?"

Harry stared down at the article and said nothing. Hermione was silent as well.

"Would one of you please explain to me what's going on?" Ron demanded.

Harry glanced at Hermione. "You didn't tell him?" he muttered.

Hermione shook her head, then busied herself with trying to get her hair to cover her face. Ron stared at her for a good minute before turning to Harry. "Did you throw him out?"

"It isn't true, Ron," said Hermione. "Smith--"

"Since we are all going to be involved in my personal life, can I at least say a few words?" said Harry. He pushed aside his teacup and got up from the chair. Ron was looking at him with pity in his eyes and that made Harry's blood boil. "Don't ever mention Draco Malfoy in front of me again."

Ron's stunned expression matched Hermione's. "But, Harry," he started to say, but Harry waved him off.

"No. It's not your business. It's between Draco and me. Stay out."

~o~


After two weeks and a relentless barrage of articles detailing every item on Zacharias Smith's dirty laundry list, Rufus Scrimgeour fired him. Rumour had it he had left the country. Hermione and Harry were barely on speaking terms. Ron was doing his best to play go-between but neither of them were budging. For her part, Hermione felt that despite her honest mistake in believing Smith, Harry should have been grateful. Harry felt as though all his friends were looking at him and wanting to say "I told you so", so he avoided everyone and spent all his free time at home.

He had not seen Draco since the night he'd come back from Lyon. He didn't know what to do. Harry didn't feel that he could just forget what he'd seen in the Pensieve, and it didn't look like Draco was very interested in trying to help him. Harry had finally spoken to Narcissa a week after Draco had left; he hadn't been living at the Manor. This left only wherever he used to live before he moved in with Harry -- Harry didn't even know where that was, and neither did Narcissa. Or Draco was with Zabini.

Harry had considered trying to find out where Zabini lived, but he knew it would only start people talking. Besides, Draco would find out about it immediately, because Harry Potter asking potentially embarrassing questions was always newsworthy. Why was Draco ignoring Harry? Had he been so offended by the baseless accusation that had come from Smith? Was the meticulous destruction of Zacharias Smith's career Draco's response? Was it his only response?

The days passed, and there had been no word from Draco. He was writing his articles, and he was at the Ministry as often as usual, but Harry never saw him, he just heard people mentioning him. Pandora flew away one day and did not return. Days turned into weeks, and Harry began to realise that he and Draco were over for good. It was for the best, of course, since he couldn't be with Draco without being able to trust him, but it was the most difficult time in Harry's life.

Every place in the house reminded him of Draco. Harry had taken to avoiding the drawing room altogether. He spent a lot of time in the basement; it was the only place where he could really think and not stumble over places where he and Draco had kissed, or shared a quiet moment, or had sex, for that matter. Draco had always said he was sure Kreacher would watch if they had sex in the kitchen. They had both laughed and agreed not to give Kreacher any free entertainment.

Mrs Black had taken to asking Harry about Draco; she was even marginally polite to him on such occasions. Kreacher had become even more preoccupied with brooding and had seemed to lose all interest in insulting Harry at every turn. It was as though number twelve, Grimmauld Place, became a haunted house, with ghosts of a happier past flitting about when no one was looking. Harry was seriously considering selling it, Mrs Black and Kreacher and all, just to get away from the unhappy memories - Sirius, Dumbledore, Mr Weasley, Ginny, Draco...

Four months after Draco's departure, Harry was sitting in the kitchen, staring at a proposal handed to him by Hermione. She had wanted his opinion on a new piece of legislation and he was trying to make sense of all the jargon, sucking absentmindedly on the tip of a quill. A noise startled him; he looked up to see Hermione emerging from the fireplace, bearing a case of Butterbeer in one hand and a tray of sandwiches in the other.

Harry watched, eyebrows raised, as she set the food and drinks on the table. Hermione sat down and looked at him. Harry did the same, leaning back in his chair and letting his quill drop to the table.

"This is stupid," she said to him after a while.

"You bringing food? Hardly," said Harry.

She cocked an eyebrow at him, then rolled her eyes. "You know what I mean."

"Yeah," said Harry, reaching for a bottle of Butterbeer and twisting the cap off. "Was the Butterbeer Ron's idea?"

The corners of Hermione's mouth twitched. "Why, do you peg me for a Firewhisky kind of woman?"

"I peg you for a very stubborn kind of woman," said Harry. He took a sip of his Butterbeer.

Hermione pulled a bottle from the case and opened it. "Well, no wonder you and Ron get on so well," she said.

"Where's he, anyway?"

"Helping Ginny move. She and Oliver have decided to try the living-together thing," said Hermione, carefully watching Harry.

Harry shrugged. The news left him completely cold, and he couldn't help but feel a bit irritated with Hermione for trying to bait him. "She should've asked me, too, I'd have been glad to help."

"Would you have?" asked Hermione, leaning forward a little.

Harry sighed and fixed her with a look. "Yes, Hermione. I would have."

She seemed to sense that he was not going to tolerate any relationship-talk and leant back again. "So, any headway on the troll law?"

"I was just looking through it now. I really think you should strike the professional association paragraph. I seriously doubt they'd let trolls unionise."

Hermione drew herself up a little so that she was sitting completely straight-backed. "Why not? In case you've forgotten, house-elves--"

"But those are house-elves, they're intelligent. Trolls are dumb. They'd just hit each other with their clubs at the meetings and then use paragraph seven to claim sick leave."

Hermione giggled. "That's exactly what Ron said." She reached over the table and squeezed his arm. "I've missed you, Harry."

Harry grinned. "I've missed you, too." There was another noise from the fireplace. Harry looked up, expecting to see Ron, and felt his smile fade and his heart start to beat wildly against his ribcage when he saw Draco standing there.

He looked terrible. His skin was even paler than normal, there were dark circles under his eyes like he hadn't slept for days; his hair was sticking up at the back, and his robes were wrinkled. "Can we talk?" asked Draco in a hoarse, scratchy voice.

Harry put the parchment down and stood. "In the drawing room," he said, frowning. His heart was still beating extremely fast; he was sure both Draco and Hermione could hear it. Draco walked out and up the stairs, without sparing even a look at Hermione.

Hermione was biting her lip and Harry gave her a stern, warning look. "Listen, I'm sorry. Can we continue this tomorrow?" Tomorrow was Saturday, and whatever happened tonight would be over by then, Harry was sure.

Hermione nodded. "Make sure you put the sandwiches in the cold cupboard if you don't finish them before going to bed, or they'll go stale," she said, rising. "I'll call tomorrow around the same time, okay?"

"Of course," said Harry, smiling. "Thanks," he added, meaning both the food and the Butterbeer as well as the fact that she didn't start to lecture him about Draco. He left the kitchen and made his way upstairs in a strange state of déja vu. Grimmauld Place, and he's walking up the stairs, and Draco is waiting in the drawing room. The only things missing were a tea tray in the air and a letter in Harry's hand.

He walked into the drawing room, half-expecting Draco to be sitting on the couch, examining the tapestry. They'd put Sirius and his uncle, as well as Andromeda Tonks and her daughter, back on the tapestry last year, after discovering that Draco's magic could affect it. Sirius probably would have been furious with Harry for doing that, but Harry didn't care. If Regulus Black -- unsung hero in the war against Voldemort -- deserved to be on a tapestry in Harry's house, then so did his brother Sirius.

As he stood there, thinking about Sirius and looking at Draco, it struck Harry how similar Draco looked to his cousin in his dishevelled state. Even Draco's eyes were like Sirius's right now, with the dark circles and a seemingly permanent frown. He hadn't been sitting on the couch or even looking at the tapestry. He was standing with his back to the tapestry, gazing at Harry, his features devoid of anything but something like pain.

Harry spoke first. "Where have you been?"

"You said I should leave, so I did," said Draco.

"I didn't say you shouldn't come back."

"You didn't say I should."

"Draco--"

"This is stupid. It doesn't matter what I say, does it?" said Draco, shaking his fair hair out of his face.

Harry frowned. "It depends on what you've got to say."

They were silent for a few moments while Draco paced the floor. Eventually, he looked up. "I wasn't particularly fond of the idea of contacting you just so you would tell me you'd decided that we were breaking up, after all."

Harry could barely suppress a derisive laugh. "What's the fucking difference? We might as well be broken up."

Draco's head snapped up. "What do you mean?"

"You've been gone for four months," said Harry. He sat down on the sofa's armrest and stretched out his legs, looking sideways at Draco.

"That's right, I was. Exactly four months, actually."

"Congratulations."

Draco sniffed. "You don't have to be nasty. For your information, four months--"

"No, I get it, Draco. I just can't help but feel like this 'four months' rot is more important to you than the fact that we were apart," said Harry with a sigh.

Draco bowed his head. "I'd rather spend four months apart than never see you again."

Harry had had enough. They were either going to talk about Draco's cheating or they were going to talk about nothing at all. "Oh, that's rich. How did you spend the time? Fucking everyone in London so you'd never have to wonder about other people again?"

"I never 'wondered about other people', damn it. Blaise was a mistake!" said Draco, his voice raised.

Harry snorted. "Yeah, and who's going to be your next mistake? Don't you get it? I trusted you." He turned away and crossed his arms in his lap.

"And I fucked up," said Draco quietly.

Harry nodded, still not looking at him. "Yeah, you did."

The silence stretched out between them like some invisible wall of pure grief and sadness. Harry felt sure there was a Dementor in the room somewhere. He turned back and looked at Draco, who was pacing again.

"So what have you been doing other than not making any mistakes?" asked Harry.

Draco stopped pacing and looked up. "You read the papers, I assume."

"No, I mean aside from work. What have you been doing?"

"Are we making small talk now?" asked Draco, not quite smirking.

Harry raised both eyebrows and held out his hands in front of him in a gesture of surrender. "What else is there to talk about?"

"Well, if you put it that way, probably nothing," said Draco, and resumed pacing.

Harry got up from the armrest and whirled to face him. "Fuck off, Draco. You won't give me straight answers about anything and I'm not going to try and find the right questions. It's just more games. You fucked up and you dealt with it by pretending I didn't exist for four fucking months. Now you show up and expect me to understand what the hell you're on about, without actually saying anything."

"There was a time when I didn't have to say a word and you understood," said Draco, so quietly that Harry could barely make out what he was saying.

Harry took a step towards him, then stopped mid-way. "Well, that's over now, isn't it? I used to think I knew you well enough to understand, but I guess I don't."

"It was a mistake," said Draco, sounding like he was trying not to get angry.

Harry smiled bitterly. "Oh yeah? So we never had that conversation, did we? You were asking me about Ginny and whether she was so important that I wouldn't have cheated on her, remember?"

"And you said that you wouldn't have cheated on her even if she weren't important, because it's what you do that matters, not what she means to you."

"Maybe we should have continued that conversation instead of you having a tantrum because I said Ginny is important to me."

"Is?" asked Draco, his eyes narrowing.

"She always will be." Harry squared his shoulders and stared him down.

Draco's eyes were hard. "Will she, now? I guess--"

Harry held up a hand, interrupting him. "Don't even go there, Draco. Everything I told you then is still true. I don't have to be in love with Ginny, I don't have to be fucking Ginny, for her to matter to me. And this is not about me and Ginny. This is about you."

Draco's eyes narrowed again. "I bet you're sorry you didn't let me go that night. Bet you're sorry you didn't marry the Weasley girl and start a big happy Weasley family along with Granger and what's-his-name."

"Draco, this isn't--"

"Yes it is! You have no fucking clue, do you? No clue what it's like to listen to you talk about the past, to have your friends look at me like I'm something smelly the dog has dragged in, and you tolerating that, to find the photos everywhere in the fucking house?" Draco's voice was shaking, but Harry wasn't sure if he was angry or upset or both. "I don't interrupt you when you talk because I want to know about you, and I don't give a fuck what your friends think but I can't stand it that you don't tell them to at least respect your choices. I couldn't even watch your Quidditch games on Saturdays because 'it would be weird with Ginny there'" Draco said in a mocking tone. He took a deep breath, and Harry noticed that his hands were shaking. "And you look so fucking happy in those pictures, and really, it was eight years for you and her, eight fucking years, so what's two years with Draco Malfoy? I bet your friends are ecstatic now."

"Draco--"

"No! Shut the fuck up and listen to me, because I'm not going to have the guts to talk about this again. We were together for two years at the time that you got that assignment in Lyon and all the fucking while -- the whole time -- I was terrified that you would change your mind, that you would leave. I thought we were done for when your precious Ginny showed up here six months after she left and you had that shouting match in the drawing room. After she was gone, what did you do? You dragged me upstairs and fucked me blind -- I wasn't complaining, but you did not talk to me about it. You told me it was none of my bloody business what went on between you and her." Draco stopped, drawing a breath, and Harry tried to jump in.

"Because it isn't--"

"SHUT UP. You wanted the fucking answers -- you're getting them. I am not a nice man, Harry Potter, and I am not the type to roll the fuck over and not complain if I don't get what I want. It is my business what goes on between you and her, just like it's your business what goes on between me and Blaise. You will notice that I have denied you no answers about Blaise, but you haven't bothered asking any questions, have you, because you're too caught up in your own emotions to notice that mine exist." Draco folded his arms across his chest, but his shoulders were hunched and he looked like he was cold. He turned away. When he spoke again, his voice was quieter, without a trace of the edge that had been there before. "I'm not trying to make excuses or say that what I did was all right; it wasn't, and I regret it. But after you'd been gone for two months, and your letters became dry accounts of your days in Lyon, I began to wonder if the time apart -- and no sex -- didn't make you reassess the choices you'd made on that first night."

"I was just busy and I didn't--" Harry began, but Draco turned around and looked at him with eyes so empty it made Harry's heart ache.

"I was fucking terrified that you'd come back from Lyon and tell me it was over," he said in a hollow voice. "That you would realise that she was the one for you, after all -- eight years is a long time, and the two of us had nothing except the sex."

"So you went and fucked Zabini so you would have someone there, in case I did break up with you?" The words left Harry mouth before he'd had a chance to think about what he was saying. Draco's eyes widened, and he opened his mouth as if to speak, then closed it again, frowning.

"Can't deny it, can you?" said Harry, realising that he'd been right.

"I can, but I can see that it would be no use. You should have just told me in the first place, that your mind was made up, and I would have saved myself the horrible embarrassment of baring my soul to someone who doesn't give a fuck," said Draco in a listless tone, his eyes suddenly bright. "I'm sorry to have interrupted you and Granger. Do give her my regards, and make sure to congratulate her for a job well done. Goodbye, Harry."

With a faint pop, Draco Disapparated. Harry stared at the spot where he'd stood not a moment ago, feeling his heart sink. Had he been wrong?

Goodbye, Harry.

But he wasn't ready to say goodbye.

He ran downstairs, nearly falling over the last step in the entrance hall -- the noise awakened Mrs Black but he ignored her screaming and hurried to the basement. He lit a fire, grabbed a handful of Floo powder from the bowl on the mantelpiece, threw the powder into the flames, and stepped in, saying, "Parkinson Estate."

He stumbled out of the fireplace in the Parkinsons' kitchen, finding Pansy sitting at the table with Daphne Greengrass, poring over a Tarot spread. Both women looked at him in horror for a moment, then Pansy got up, her cheeks reddening. "Who do you think you are--"

"Not now, Pansy. Where is Draco?"

"Why on earth should I tell you? From what I've noticed, you couldn't care if he lives or dies, you swine, you utter--"

"Shut up and tell me where I can find Draco!" said Harry, almost shouting, feeling his face heat up in anger.

Pansy stared at him for a long moment, her eyes narrowed. "At home, in his bed, most likely, moping like he has been ever since you threw him out."

"I need you to tell me an address, Pansy," said Harry, forcing himself to calm down.

Pansy rolled her eyes. "You mean you haven't even bothered to find out where he used to live? I told him you were just using him to get over the Weasley twit--"

"Pansy," said Harry. "I'm not interested in your opinion just now, but if you'd like, I can come back tomorrow and you can tell me everything you've been dying to. Right now, I need to talk to Draco, and if you care about him so damn much, you will tell me where to find him."

Pansy sighed and folded her arms across her impressive chest.

"Mummy?" came a high-pitched voice from the right. Harry turned and saw a little boy peering out from around the doorframe. "Why was Mr Harry Potter shouting in our kitchen?"

"Because he's practising a speech, honey, go back to bed," said Pansy, but the boy didn't move.

"A speech for the election? Are you going to be the new Minister, Mr Potter?" he asked, his dark eyes going wide. "I'm Draco, by the way, Draco Parkinson-Nott, pleased to meet you."

Harry smiled despite the shock he felt at hearing Draco's name. "It's a pleasure to meet you as well, Draco. I think you should do as your mother says, though."

Draco looked up at Pansy with a hopeful sort of expression, but she inclined her head sharply. "Bed, Draco. Mr Potter is going to visit us tomorrow, you can talk to him again when he does."

The boy sighed and disappeared. Harry looked at Pansy, feeling ridiculous. "Draco's never told me you had a son."

At the table, Daphne snorted. "Harry Potter, interested in children of dead Death Eaters? Perish the thought," she said. She opened her mouth to say something else, but Pansy turned and glared at her. Daphne closed her mouth and looked back down at the Tarot cards.

"If you hurt him, I will kill you," Pansy said in a tone that people usually reserved for asking to pass the butter.

Harry met her glare evenly. "What time would you like me to come by tomorrow?"

"Tea time, and don't be late." She indicated a smooth cylindrical object on the mantelpiece. "That's a Self-Activating Portkey, it'll take you to Draco's flat."

"Thanks," said Harry, and stepped up to the fireplace. A moment later, he found himself standing in a large, high-ceilinged room with old-fashioned furniture that looked like it belonged in Malfoy Manor. He couldn't see much in the murky darkness and he reached for his wand.

"Go away," came Draco's voice from somewhere beyond the left wall. Harry looked around for a door. He found it and took a step towards it, wondering to whom Draco was speaking.

"Pansy, I know you're still there, my Sneakoscope's only shown one Portkey activation. I am not in the mood for another one of your lectures and I'm still not hungry, so go away," said Draco.

Harry opened the door and found Draco in a low bed that took up most of the tiny room. The lights were off in the bedroom as well, but Draco seemed to have recognised Harry even in the darkness. He turned to face the left wall and pulled his blanket over his head. He muttered something that involved the words 'maim', 'kill' and 'Pansy'.

"Draco," said Harry quietly. "Can we talk?"

Draco made no response, just pulled the covers further over his head. Harry sat down on the edge of the bed and pried the covers off him. Draco fought silently against it, but Harry was stronger. When Draco's dishevelled head appeared from under the covers, Harry gripped his shoulder. Draco was rigid under his touch. He tried to wrench his shoulder from Harry's grip, but Harry held on. Eventually, Draco stopped struggling and went slack, his gaze fixated on the wall. Harry relaxed his grip but kept his hand on Draco's shoulder. He hadn't realised how much he'd missed touching Draco.

"You know, while I was gone, I thought about what I should say to you," said Draco in a voice so quiet it might as well have been a whisper. "I invented many stories: of Blaise using the Imperius Curse on me, of having received anonymous evidence of you cheating on me in Lyon. I'd even asked my mother for some of the more sensible plots from that programme she listens to, Accession Alley." He shifted forward a little, and Harry's hand dropped from his shoulder. Harry didn't put it back. Draco sighed and continued speaking. "But easy as making up a story might have been, I knew I couldn't do it. I didn't want you to take me back because I can tell a good lie."

Harry's heart did a leap like he'd just caught the Snitch.

"And that was strange," continued Draco, "because I have always been accustomed to using any means to achieve my ends, as you well know. Yet here I was faced with a situation where I was unprepared to use any means necessary. I was only prepared to do what you would find agreeable, and so I came to you, to tell you everything, but you not only didn't want to hear the truth, you had already constructed your own version of it. Funny how that works sometimes, isn't it?"

"Draco, I didn't--"

But Draco kept talking as though he hadn't even heard Harry speak. "Like I told you, I am not a good person, and I told you on our first night together that I was neither noble nor pure-hearted. I hope you can appreciate the irony here, Harry. While I was halfway through doing something only a good person -- by your definition -- would have the utter lack of mental capabilities to do, you didn't want any part of it. It makes me think that deep inside, none of us care about good or evil, justice or lack thereof. If you -- the purest and most noble hero the wizarding world has known since Dumbledore -- cannot recognise the good in people, who can? It's all very relative, isn't it?"

Harry felt a sizeable lump forming in his throat at Draco's empty voice and the things he was saying. "Draco, stop, please, Draco, I didn't mean--"

Draco gave a bitter laugh. "I can't believe I actually had considered offering to make the Unbreakable Vow to never touch someone else as long as we were together. Not just offering, mind -- before tonight, I would have made the Vow for you but only if you had been willing to do the same. Not because I don't trust you but because I would never give anyone that sort of power over me unless they would reciprocate. And--"

"What did you just say?"

"Weren't you listening? I said I wouldn't give anyone the power to--"

"No, before that."

"What the fuck do I look like, the WWN Old Favourites Channel?"

Harry ignored the jibe. "Would you really make the Unbreakable Vow for me?"

"Not if you weren't willing to do the same, like I said. I am not a lunatic. And that was before tonight." Draco turned around to face him and sat up, leaning against the wall and crossing his legs under himself. He picked something up -- his wand -- from the tiny bedside table and waved it, igniting an oil lamp that stood there. He was naked save for his underwear.

Harry swallowed past the lump in his throat and pushed his glasses up his nose. "Draco, I'm sorry."

"Not as sorry as I am, believe me."

"No, I mean, I'm sorry for jumping to conclusions. I didn't -- I don't have my mind made up."

Draco said nothing, looking as perfectly blank as before.

"And I don't think that all we had -- have -- is just the sex. I don't know why you would say that."

"Because that's all we ever did, all things considered. I wasn't invited to go and have drinks with you and Weasley -- not that I would want to even if you would invite me. I wasn't allowed to watch you play Quidditch and I always had to make other plans when you made your biweekly Longbottom visit. In the time that we weren't sleeping or at work, all we did was either eat or have sex."

Harry rubbed the bridge of his nose and looked at Draco directly. "But I love you, Draco."

Draco smiled sadly. "You don't know what you're talking about. You think you love me because it's the proper thing to do -- we're fucking, we live together, we take our meals together and talk about the weather over tea -- it must be love."

Harry shook his head. "You're thick if you think that. When I was with Ginny, she'd started to nag me about getting married, a year or so before you showed up. We had tremendous rows because I didn't want to get married until I was thirty; I wanted to be sure, you know? I was slowly realising that I did not love her. For almost six months -- especially after I met you -- I was aware that I was living with someone I no longer loved. When I get angry with you, I like to tell myself that you'd ruined what I had with Ginny, but it's not true. You just happened to show up when things were already growing sour." Harry cleared his throat. "And I haven't been thinking about Ginny for the past four months, Draco, I've been thinking about you. And we weren't even having any sex, as you well know."

Draco closed his eyes for a moment. "So why did you say she was important to you?"

"Because she is. We've been friends since I was thirteen and we were a couple for eight years after the war ended. She's like family. I care about Ginny and I respect her, but I do not love her. She... when we would row, her nasty side would come out, and I hated that side of her."

Draco snorted, but Harry ignored him. "She would want to have sex as soon as we made up after a row, but I would hate every minute of it because I couldn't stop thinking that there was this fake Ginny and this real Ginny, and I couldn't decide which one was which. It's not like that with you, because there is no fake Draco and a real Draco, you're always you." Harry reached over and took one of Draco's hands in his. "I don't have to wonder about you, and when we do have rows, I know we're going to sort things out and not have the same shit come up all over again. Like with Narcissa -- you'd broken half the furniture and called me things I didn't know existed, but that had been it. I didn't have to dread that you would hoard bad feelings about it for years and then let them explode in my face when I forgot to flush the toilet."

Draco snorted again, but he was almost smiling. "What about tonight, then? That was something I had bottled up."

"That's different. It was gathering over time and it wasn't something that you'd seethed over until it was convenient to bring it up, over and over again. And we should talk about it, but I'm not sure what it has to do with Zabini."

Draco tugged his hand out of Harry's grasp and let it drop by his side. "It doesn't have anything to do with Blaise. It has everything to do with why I bothered with him. It wasn't -- I wasn't grooming him as your replacement. He just turned up at a time when I was weak. I thought you would come back from Lyon and tell me to leave, that you'd realise you made a mistake letting her go. I was lonely. Then I ran into Blaise at the Ministry one day when I was gathering information for a story. I took him out for drinks a few times; it was all perfectly friendly. One night, about a month later, we were at his place and he kissed me. We ended up having sex."

Harry winced and bowed his head, hoping that Draco would have the presence of mind not to recount the details.

"I'll spare you the details," said Draco, "but it was nothing to write home about and it only made me realise how much I wanted you back. We fucked a couple of times over the next week, then Granger saw us when I stopped by to visit him. After that, I ended things. Blaise knew I would, he knew how I felt about you, I called him by your name in bed, for crying out loud."

Harry flushed. "Hermione told me you were around the Ministry a lot during the month before I came back," he said.

Draco sighed. "When am I not around the Ministry a lot?"

"True. So that was it? That was the rest of your story?" asked Harry.

Draco looked down and nodded. "Yeah. I just--I'm sorry, Harry. I fucked up, and I dealt with it badly, and--"

"You know, you should have started with that," remarked Harry, toeing off his trainers and climbing closer.

"With what?" asked Draco, watching Harry but making no move.

"That you were sorry," said Harry. "The make-up sex had better be worth its while," he added, and kissed Draco hungrily. Draco's moan was enough to make Harry so hard he thought his cock would rip right through his jeans. He seized Draco's shoulders and hauled him away from the wall, never breaking the kiss until they were both lying on the bed, tangled together and breathless.

"It still feels like the first time," murmured Harry. Draco's breathing hitched, and he drew Harry's lower lip into his mouth, sucking on it with his eyes closed. He slid his hands under Harry's shirt; Harry shivered at the touch, arching against him. Draco's hands stopped moving and he pulled back a little, his eyes searching Harry's face.

"I love you," said Draco, his voice breaking at the last syllable.

Harry's chest swelled with emotion and he pulled Draco closer. "Y'know," he whispered, "after almost three years, I was starting to wonder."

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