Here be the fic I wrote for the exchange.
Title: The Last Time
Warning: Character death
Disclaimer: JKR owns. I only play. You do not sue.
Length: 6500 words
Summary: He wished he could simply live, there in that moment, that he could pretend that he'd just come down for a spot of free time with his best friends. Instead, he had this infuriating waiting.
Beta: octoberstorm, pir8fancier, shikishi
Note: Originally written for harry_holidays (posted here).
Concrit: Always welcome and appreciated.
On the first day of the rest of his life, Harry walked down a gravel path that led to the sea.
The morning air was thick with a white mist that wasn't thick enough to be called fog. Harry shuddered and rolled his shoulders a little. Lupin had told him about the Dementors and how they bred. It was possible they were causing the mist, but Harry couldn't feel them -- at least not yet. He took a deep breath and felt as though his nostrils were being coated with brine and seaweed as the salty air filled them. There was a pang in his chest as he remembered the gillyweed he'd eaten during the second task of the Triwizard Tournament, back when things had been different, when he'd still thought he had a life ahead of him.
"That's no way to think, Mr Potter," said McGonagall's stern voice in his head. Harry ducked down a little, half expecting her to come out from behind the trees on his right. He swallowed past the lump in his throat. He would never see her again, just like he'd never see Sirius or Dumbledore. Anyone who had ever attempted to stand between Harry and Voldemort, anyone who had tried to protect Harry had died. It was as though he was cursed. His hand travelled to his scar, a source of constant dull pain these days. He was cursed, had been since the day his mother had sacrificed her life to save him. No one could do this but Harry; he'd always known it, always felt it deep inside, but on that chilly September morning, it finally sank in -- really sank in.
"Hardly any wind," said a voice, jolting him out of his gloomy thoughts.
Harry looked up. A tall blond boy about his age stood near the edge of a small clump of trees, dressed in a dark blue rubber suit and leaning on a surfboard as he gazed at the grey sea. Harry didn't know what to say to him. He gave him a half-hearted shrug and walked past, onto the sandy shore. The soles of his trainers sank into the wet, rough sand as he walked along the sea. He could just make out the Scarborough Castle on the distant hill; the beach was deserted save for a lone man further up the shore, out for a morning walk with a great shaggy dog.
The rift between Harry and the rest of the world had grown ever wider since Dumbledore's funeral more than a year ago. It was as though the rest of the world was cast in shades of black and white; the only people he still saw in colour were Ron and Hermione. Even his mental picture of Ginny had become washed-out and grey. As much as he wanted to look forward to seeing her again, he couldn't bring himself to think of what would come after the war ended, if it ever ended for him.
A seagull cawed high above him, wistful and harsh. Harry stopped and looked down at the foamy waves washing up onto the sand, just shy of reaching his feet. It was hypnotising; he watched the water lap the shore until the mist around him had dispelled, until all he could think about was the water -- always moving but never quite getting anywhere. He looked up and saw the seagull swoop down towards the water, quick as lightning, then soar back up into the grey sky. Harry's chest tightened and he turned away.
It wasn't fair.
He wished he could simply live, there in that moment, that he could pretend that he'd just come down for a spot of free time with his best friends. Instead, he had this infuriating waiting. They'd destroyed all the Horcruxes except for Nagini, and Harry wasn't even sure if she was a Horcrux at all. Somewhere deep within him, a reassuring voice had been telling him for a while now that it was time, that it was nearly the end -- but whose end? Harry didn't know.
They'd been at the cottage for three days now. It belonged to one of Hermione's relatives; she had asked for the keys from her parents. The three of them were going to hide out there until Harry was ready. Voldemort's campaign of terror seemed to have ground to a halt; Ron said he must be running scared now that Harry had evaded his traps and his Death Eaters so many times, managing to destroy all the Horcruxes save one. Maybe. For all his prior luck, Harry knew he couldn't take on Voldemort now. For all the help he'd had, he just didn't feel ready. It was just as well that Voldemort had apparently set every one of his minions to the task of finding and apprehending Harry. It meant Harry had time to try and get ready -- he didn't know how long he had, but he was determined to use all he was given. He could no longer rely on luck. He had to gain defensive skills if he hoped to stand a chance in a one-on-one with Voldemort.
Harry nodded to himself firmly, turned around and headed back up towards the cottage. As he approached the narrow walkway between a cliff wall and the small clump of trees, he saw someone collapsed on the gravel there. Glimpsing blond hair, he thought of the surfer boy from earlier and hurried over. He crouched down and turned the boy over -- only it wasn't the surfer boy. It was Draco Malfoy, his hair longer than Harry remembered, sticking to his face in clumps matted with something that looked like dried blood. Malfoy's eyes were closed, his face stained with dirt and blood; his breathing was shallow and jerky.
Harry stared down at Malfoy for a moment, then cast a quick glance around. There was no one there, but the trees immediately to his left had freshly broken branches, like someone had recently torn through them. Harry peered closer at the ground and saw footprints, only they were messy, like someone -- Malfoy -- had dragged his feet. Or had been dragged along. Harry felt something pulling at him and turned to see that Malfoy's eyes were open, his hands holding on to Harry's jacket tightly.
"What are you doing here?" demanded Harry, trying to disentangle himself and ignore the panic that was rapidly settling in beneath his heart. "He knows where I am, then?"
Malfoy made no answer; he just stared up at Harry, his eyes wide and fearful. Harry gave up trying to prise Malfoy's fingers away from his jacket and reached into his pocket to get out his wand. Malfoy began to shake his head fiercely, pulling Harry down on top of him. Instinctively, Harry sent his Patronus up to the cottage, telling Ron and Hermione what was going on. A moment later, he heard the door slam and Ron came hurtling down the walkway, the gravel crunching loudly under his feet.
"Harry! Impedimenta!" yelled Ron, and Malfoy was thrown back against the cliff with a satisfying smacking sound. Harry felt the panic beginning to ebb away. Malfoy made no move to get up from the ground.
"You okay?" asked Ron, walking up next to him.
He extended his hand and Harry took it, rising and dusting his jeans off.
"Yeah," said Harry, and nodded towards Malfoy. "He just showed up now. I don't know where he came from, but it looks like we'll have to get out of here."
"What's going on?" came Hermione's voice from behind them. The two boys turned around and watched her run towards them, her hair whipping in the breeze that had picked up since the mist had gone.
"Malfoy," said Harry, indicating the prone form by the cliff. "He just came out of nowhere."
Hermione gasped. "He attacked you?"
"No," said Harry, shaking his head. "He was lying on the ground -- I thought he was someone else, a boy I saw before--" he trailed off. Had Malfoy simply been pretending to be unconscious, hoping to catch Harry unawares?
"Did he say anything?" asked Hermione, frowning.
Ron turned to face her. "What does it matter? He's here, isn't he? It means that master of his knows we're here."
Hermione gave Ron a scornful look. "Do you remember what I was reading just before Harry's Patronus came? It was Lupin's latest letter, about Voldemort. He'd let Bellatrix Black torture Narcissa Malfoy and made him," -- she nodded at Malfoy -- "watch."
Harry's eyes widened. "What? Why?"
Hermione sighed and shook her head. "Malfoy was trying to help our side."
"WHAT?" said Harry and Ron in unison.
She waved an irritable hand at them both. "We need to get him inside the house. I think he might be in shock; I'm surprised he isn't dead."
Harry began to object. "Wait, you want to bring him inside the house? But he's--"
Hermione interrupted him. "If we don't get him away from here, we'll be seen, which could be worse. We can't be seen!"
"Fine," said Harry. "But I'm sending a message to Hagrid to come and get him away from here."
"Good idea, Harry," said Ron, stepping up beside him. They watched as Hermione conjured a stretcher for Malfoy and then followed her into the house, casting furtive glances around.
Once inside, Hermione levitated Malfoy to the drawing room sofa and the three of them stood over him without speaking.
Finally, Ron broke the silence. "He was trying to help our side? Malfoy?"
Hermione nodded. "According to Lupin, Malfoy had realised long ago that life could never be normal with Voldemort in power."
"How does Lupin know all this?" asked Harry. He was wondering how Malfoy had ended up there, how he'd known...
"Lupin was Malfoy's first contact. Malfoy recognised him during a meeting six months ago but didn't give him up."
"And of course no one bothered to let us know about it, right?" said Harry bitterly, turning away.
"Harry, you know better than I do how much secrecy matters," said Hermione in a patient tone, as though she was talking to a three-year-old. Harry hated it when she did that, especially when she was right. "Besides," continued Hermione, "it's not like anyone would have thought that it would be important to us -- it's only Malfoy, after all."
Malfoy stirred then, making a low noise, and the three of them turned to look at him. Abruptly, Malfoy sat up and stared around himself dazedly.
"Good morning, sunshine," muttered Ron. "How did you find us?"
Malfoy said nothing. Harry frowned. "We've still got Veritaserum, haven't we? We should feed him some, see if we can get information out of him before Hagrid gets here."
Malfoy reached out a hand towards them, his dirty face screwed up as though concentrating.
"What is it?" snapped Ron, springing aside as Malfoy's hand brushed against his robes. "Speak up, damn you!"
Harry glanced from Malfoy to Ron, uncomprehending. Why wasn't Malfoy talking? He looked at Hermione, who had her wand out, her forehead furrowed in concentration. She lowered her wand and gazed down at Malfoy.
"He can't talk," she said softly. "He's lost his ability to speak."
"Well, there's a cheery thought on a cold morning," said Ron, his tone dismissive. "Don't think anyone'll miss him talking, anyway."
Malfoy looked up at Ron, his face perfectly blank, then bowed his head and let his hand fall into his lap. Harry felt a surge of pity that he immediately pushed aside. Malfoy may have changed his tune, but he would always be responsible for the death of Dumbledore. "Just like you'll always be responsible for the death of Sirius," said a nasty voice in his head, a voice that sounded like Peter Pettigrew.
"I want to know how he found us," said Harry firmly. "What about writing? Can you write, Malfoy?"
Malfoy raised his head and peered at Harry; it looked like his eyes were watering and Harry bit his lip. Malfoy shrugged, and Hermione left the room, reappearing a moment later with a sheaf of parchment, an inkpot and a quill. She handed them to Malfoy, who stared at them stupidly for a while, then dipped the quill into the inkpot and scribbled something at the top of the blank parchment.
Harry walked around the sofa and watched over Malfoy's shoulder as he wrote. Malfoy's handwriting was messy and some words were incomprehensible, as though it was a child play-acting the ability to write. Malfoy finished and handed the parchment to Harry.
Gren und sliver teh revenge sleping forevr? Acdent dingt no u wer hear. Runnig. Hav u seen mum! i miss
Harry stared at the letters. Was Malfoy laughing at them? Hermione walked over to him and read Malfoy's scribbles, squinting a little.
"Fascinating," she said after a moment.
"Yeah, really," said Ron, rolling his eyes. "Malfoy can't spell, who would have thought?"
Harry tried not to laugh, as Hermione's expression grew stony. "Honestly, Ron. He's suffered a shock, he's just watched his mum being tortured by her own sister!"
On the sofa, Malfoy made a strangled noise. Harry turned to look at him, but Malfoy's face was buried in his hands. His shoulders were shaking, but not in a way that suggested crying. Malfoy wasn't crying, he was just sitting there in his dirty robes, with his bloodstained hair, shaking, probably reliving--
Harry couldn't think about it. He'd never liked Narcissa, but she was Malfoy's mother. He could only remember distant screams when he thought of his own mother, but Malfoy -- Malfoy had had to watch...
"All righ', what's bin goin' on?" boomed Hagrid's voice from the direction of the door. "What's Malfoy doin' here?"
"He's escaped the Death Eaters, Hagrid," said Hermione. "He ended up here by accident, at least that's what he wrote here." She pointed at the parchment Harry was still holding.
Harry gaped at her. How the hell had she figured out that random nonsense Malfoy had scribbled?
"Poor little blighter," said Hagrid, approaching the sofa. "I heard abou' his mum. Well, we'd best be off, then, I'll take him ter St. Mungo's and outta yer hair."
He reached down, but Malfoy moved with surprising speed, whipping his wand out and hiding behind Harry. Harry could hear his ragged, noisy breathing and turned around. "What the hell are you playing at?" he demanded. "He's not going to hurt you, he'll take you to St. Mungo's, you freak."
Malfoy shook his head fervently, clutching his wand with both hands. He had a fey look to him that took Harry aback somewhat.
"I think he means to stay here," said Ron slowly. "I don't like this, Harry."
Malfoy stared up at Harry, his eyes wide and imploring. This time, Harry couldn't stop the pity from flooding his chest and he couldn't look away. They'd faced each other many times in the years before, but never had Malfoy looked at him like that -- begging, Malfoy was begging him, but Harry didn't know what he wanted.
"I don't want any fighting," Harry said after a long pause. "He stays until we can convince him to go to St. Mungo's." He glanced at Hermione, who looked pensive, and then Ron, who looked furious.
"What? Harry, you can't! We don't know if he's--"
Hagrid coughed. "He's on our side, I can vouch fer that, see," he said, his voice rough. "He's bin bringin' information ter me, abou'-- abou' things."
Harry frowned, and turned to Hagrid. "Why haven't you mentioned it?"
"Yeh never asked," came the reply.
"When's that ever stopped you from telling us things before?" demanded Ron.
Hermione gave a weak laugh and Hagrid's beard twitched; Harry would have given anything for this to be happening at Hogwarts, during peaceful times.
Somewhere, someone was screaming, a high-pitched and desperate sound piercing the darkness. Harry sat up, looking around wildly and feeling for his wand on the bedside table. The Death Eaters, they must have found them -- that sounded like Hermione -- oh God no, please not Hermione--
He found his wand, lit it and sprang from the bed, tearing out of the room at full speed. The screaming wasn't coming from the downstairs bedroom, though; it was coming from the small bedroom where they'd put Malfoy.
"Fucking fantastic," muttered Harry. "I knew it."
He approached the door slowly, cringing at the harsh sound of Malfoy's voice. He couldn't hear anything else, though, and a quick spell told him that Malfoy was alone. Harry opened the door and strode inside.
"Malfoy," he spat. The screaming stopped.
Harry shone his wand into Malfoy's face; the other boy's eyes were open, he was panting. He looked like he was trying to say something but failing. It was terrible to see him like that, fearful and so broken. A puzzle piece fell into place in Harry's mind; things really were different now. Even Malfoy -- who Harry had always seen as a constant source of grief -- wasn't acting like he should have been, wasn't sneering or smirking or jeering, but screaming in abject terror.
"It's okay," said Harry hoarsely. "It's fine. You just had a bad dream."
Malfoy whimpered and pulled his blanket up over his chest, turning away. Harry stared at his back for a while, then left the room quietly.
He couldn't sleep any more that night.
The blue streak of light bounced off Harry's Shield Charm, ricocheted into the cliff wall and splintered into a myriad of sparkles.
"You're doing really well, Harry," said Hermione, wiping her forehead. "You've blocked everything I've thrown at you, and you haven't even got Ron helping you today."
Harry glanced to his right, where Ron and Malfoy were playing chess beneath a tall oak tree. They were in the backyard of the cottage, like they always were in the afternoons, practising Harry's defensive magic until dinnertime. Harry's stomach gave a protesting growl at the thought of dinner and he tucked his wand into his pocket.
"I'm starving," he said. "We should wrap up for the day."
Hermione nodded. They walked inside, and Harry cast a glance behind him at Ron and Malfoy. Ron was smirking triumphantly, his arms folded across his chest, while Malfoy stared at the chessboard with a look of surprise on his face.
"Oi!" yelled Harry. "Game over. Let's go eat."
Malfoy lifted his head and looked at Harry with a thoughtful expression as Ron urged the chess pieces into their box. Harry held Malfoy's gaze for a while then looked away, unsettled. Malfoy had woken all of them up with his screaming for three days in a row, but he'd been calm while awake, unnaturally calm. Harry couldn't say he was pleasant to have around, but shockingly, he didn't mind as much as he'd thought he would have.
He wasn't acting so much as mobile furniture, but he was close enough. Robbed of his ability to speak, Malfoy became only a shadow of himself -- though perhaps the absence of his usual condescending sneer had more to do with that. Malfoy spent most of his time sitting by himself somewhere in the vicinity of Harry and his friends, making no attempt to get involved in whatever they were doing unless asked. Once or twice, Harry caught himself looking at Malfoy, wondering what must have been going through his mind. Malfoy looked sad most of the time, sad and lonely. Harry didn't know how to react to that; an uncharitable part of him was savagely pleased that Malfoy was getting a taste of what it was like to be a friendless orphan who depended on others for survival.
After dinner, Harry excused himself and went up to bed. Despite his progress at defence, he felt like he was getting more and more exhausted as the day of the final confrontation approached -- he didn't know when it would happen, he just knew it would be soon.
In his dreams, sparkling blue lightning filled the sky above the North Sea with dead seagulls. Narcissa Malfoy protected Harry from rushing green light and falling, falling--
He woke up and realised he wasn't alone; the bed felt weird under him. Blindly, he felt around in the darkness until his fingers brushed against something warm and solid.
"Ginny?" he said stupidly, thinking it must be some very realistic dream.
The figure stirred and Harry saw moonlight glinting on blond hair and the pale, pointed face of Draco Malfoy. Harry's stomach did a back flip and his heart began to hammer in his chest as he felt a flush rising up his neck. What was Malfoy doing in his bed? Harry shook him slightly; Malfoy made a small noise and rolled over, pulling the blanket over his head, exposing Harry's feet. Harry quickly pulled his legs up from the cold and shook Malfoy again.
"Malfoy, what are you doing here?" he asked. Malfoy made no response, though his breathing became shallower. Harry shook him again. It wasn't right, this -- whatever it was, whatever that strange curiosity gnawing at Harry's insides was. Malfoy made another tiny noise and turned around, looking put off. His eyes widened as he saw Harry looking at him. A moment later, he'd scrambled off the bed and was gone, looking horrified.
Harry stared at the indentation Malfoy had left in the sheets for a bit, then shifted over to it. It was still warm and Harry fell back asleep almost instantly. He didn't dream.
They were in the backyard again, practising Harry's defensive spellwork. Malfoy hadn't come out of his room for breakfast or lunch; Harry wondered if he was embarrassed about what happened the night before. He didn't mention the incident to Ron or Hermione, mostly because he didn't know how to start telling them. "So Malfoy was in my bed last night" just sounded wrong in his head.
He caught a movement out of the corner of his eye and saw Malfoy standing in the doorway, leaning against the frame. Harry fumbled a Shield Charm and cursed loudly, causing Hermione to click her tongue. "Bathroom," he muttered, stuck his wand into his pocket and strode into the house. He brushed past Malfoy, who remained motionless. While being this close to him would have evoked nothing more than disgust a month ago, now there was a warmth there that Harry had never known before, something alien and exciting.
Harry paused and turned to look at Malfoy. His grey eyes were clear, the expression on his face blank. Harry almost wished Malfoy could talk, just so he could ask him why. Why had Malfoy wanted to be close to Harry last night? Why had Harry never felt this way around Ron?
When Malfoy was in his bed again the next night, Harry didn't try to wake him, just pulled the blanket tighter around them both and went back to sleep. When he rose in the morning, Malfoy was gone.
A week went by without any nightmare-induced screams from Malfoy's bedroom.
One night, Harry woke up shivering; Malfoy had stolen most of the blanket. Unceremoniously, Harry pulled it off him, trying to hide under it quickly. It was warm with Malfoy's body heat and for the first time, Harry wondered if it was wrong, this... something.
Malfoy turned to face him and Harry saw that his eyes were open.
"You're going to have to stop stealing the covers if you want to sleep here," whispered Harry.
Malfoy made no response.
"You know, I think I like you a lot better when you can't talk back," said Harry after the silence stretched into minutes and Malfoy's eyes were still glittering in the moonlight.
Malfoy snorted softly; Harry couldn't tell for sure, but he thought that the corner of his mouth turned up a little -- for the first time since Malfoy had arrived nearly two weeks ago.
"Does it help with the nightmares, sleeping here?"
Malfoy nodded, just barely, then closed his eyes.
"I'm sorry about-- you know," said Harry, and promptly bit down on his tongue. He didn't like it when people got all apologetic about his parents, why was he doing it to Malfoy? "Forget it," he said. "I hate it when people bring it up, too."
Then everything was quiet and eventually Harry drifted off to sleep.
He woke up with his arm around Malfoy, his morning wood pressing into the small of Malfoy's back. Harry desperately dithered between quickly rolling away and pushing even closer because oh, it felt good, but so very wrong. Slowly, hoping not to wake Malfoy, he rolled away, the warmth in his belly protesting all the while. Oh, wrong. Malfoy stirred and Harry shut his eyes quickly, pretending to be asleep. He was sure Malfoy would call his bluff -- he could feel the heat in his face, but Malfoy did nothing.
Harry felt Malfoy's weight leave the bed, and then there was warm, sleep-sour breath on his face. Malfoy's lips burned his cheek as they pressed against it, and Harry fought desperately to maintain his pretending-to-sleep breathing. So wrong. After Malfoy was gone, Harry squeezed his eyes tightly shut. He came after several minutes of stroking himself whilst trying not to think about what would have happened had he decided to not roll away.
Harry looked up from his tea, which had gone cold since breakfast. He'd been sitting motionlessly at the kitchen table, wondering what in the world was wrong with him.
"Why has Malfoy been sleeping in your bedroom?" asked Ron, his face slightly pink.
Harry's heart began doing a kind of dance in his chest, but he managed a shrug. "Keeps him from screaming, doesn't it?" he said, trying to sound casual.
To his immense relief, Ron grinned. "Better your bed than ours, mate," he said, and promptly flushed scarlet.
Harry raised an eyebrow. "Oh, really," he said, grinning. "There's an interesting development."
"Hermione's going to kill me," said Ron.
"Nah," said Harry. "She'll kill us both and hide the bodies, then blame Malfoy."
"And why would I do that?" demanded Hermione's voice from the doorway.
Ron and Harry exchanged looks.
"Er," they both said.
Hermione's left eyebrow rose slowly up. "I'll find out, you know."
"No, you won't," muttered Harry to his tea.
He was filled with warmth suddenly, warmth and love -- it was almost like being free.
Harry spent most of the day trying to avoid being too close to Malfoy. He kept replaying that morning's incident in his mind and becoming more and more convinced that he was simply going mad. They'd been shut up in this cottage for weeks now with no one but each other for company. While Ron and Hermione were very discreet, sometimes they'd share a look or a smile that was for them only, and not for Harry. He just missed Ginny; that was all.
Ron was feeling under the weather and it showed; he kept getting distracted during spell practice. Hermione got increasingly frustrated and looked just about ready to read Ron a lecture when Malfoy walked up to them. He motioned at Ron, then pointed to himself.
Hermione turned to Harry. "Do you mind if--"
Harry shook his head. "It's fine."
"Ron, there's Pepper-up Potion at the bottom of my trunk, go drink some and try to get sleep. You can't get sick now," said Hermione. Ron shuffled off to the house, looking grateful, and the practice resumed.
Malfoy turned out to be a far more dangerous opponent than Ron or Hermione -- mostly because Harry had no idea what to expect. He was managing fine at first, but then Malfoy cast a hex that penetrated right through Harry's shield, sending him toppling backwards. Harry couldn't feel his body for a moment, and then he was aware of a cool hand on his forehead. He looked up and saw Malfoy kneeling above him, but it was like seeing him for the first time -- Malfoy actually appeared concerned.
"I'm fine," said Harry, his voice raspy.
He rolled away and got to his feet, still feeling Malfoy's hand on his forehead and trying desperately not to think of that morning. Hermione was trying to get Malfoy to explain what sort of spell he'd used, and Harry was distracted by the way the afternoon breeze was ruffling Malfoy's hair. He really was going insane.
Harry waited for Malfoy that night, determined to stay awake until he showed up. His heart skipped when he heard the low creak of his bedroom door, heard Malfoy padding softly across the floor, felt the bed sink beneath him and the sudden burst of cool air as the blanket was lifted and Malfoy slid under it. Harry kept his eyes closed, breathing as quietly as he could, waiting for something -- anything. He felt ridiculous; it was like having a crush -- except Malfoy was a boy and Harry didn't have crushes on boys.
Then there was Ginny. Surely she counted for something? Harry wouldn't have broken up with her if he hadn't had to, and he was sure she was somewhere waiting for him to come back. "You don't want to come back to her," cackled Voldemort's voice in his mind, and Harry's eyes flew open. He did, didn't he? He cared about her, didn't he?
He realised Malfoy was looking at him and promptly shut his eyes again, then winced as a cool, dry hand found his under the blankets. Harry began to sweat as the pad of Malfoy's thumb rubbed circles across the back of his hand. His whole body was tight as a spring as he fought for control over the overwhelming rush of blood; it roared in his ears and Harry yanked his hand away.
"Malfoy..." he whispered urgently. "This--"
Malfoy propped his head up on his elbow and gazed at Harry, making no attempt to touch him again.
"I have a girlfriend," said Harry lamely. "Ginny, Ron's sister."
Malfoy's mouth twisted into something like a smile, except it wasn't. Swiftly, he turned away, got out of bed and left, leaving Harry alone.
Harry lay awake for what felt like hours, trying to figure out what the hell was happening to him. He'd wanted nothing more than for Malfoy to touch him again, he'd wanted nothing less than to be involved in anything like that with Malfoy. He was just drifting off to sleep when the screaming started. Without thinking, Harry ran out, through the hallway and into Malfoy's bedroom. Malfoy was thrashing about wildly, his face screwed up in some unknown agony, his teeth bared.
Harry shook him awake. "It's fine," he said, his voice shaking. "A nightmare."
Malfoy's chest was rising and falling rapidly, his lips parted slightly, his face flushed. There was a desperate, hunted look in his eyes and it was the hottest thing Harry had ever seen, wrong as that was. He leant down and kissed Malfoy, without thinking, much like he'd kissed Ginny for the first time.
Only it was ten thousand times better than kissing Ginny had ever been. Malfoy's mouth opened under his immediately, his tongue finding Harry's -- and for a moment, Harry forgot how to breathe as Malfoy gave a low, barely audible moan against his lips. Harry's eyes fell shut and he pulled Malfoy towards himself, shivering as all rational, sensible thoughts departed and there was only feeling.
Malfoy kissed exactly the way Harry liked -- even though he hadn't had much experience, he just knew this was what he liked, a firm tongue against his, and then teeth pulling gently at his lower lip, and all the little noises Malfoy made -- this, it was exactly what Harry wanted, had always wanted.
"You're kissing a boy," said a voice in Harry's mind, sounding like Phineas Nigellus Black. "And you like it."
Harry tore his mouth away from Malfoy's and fled from the room, his heartbeat loud in his ears. After he got back into his bed, he couldn't seem to stop shivering no matter how tightly he pulled the covers around himself. The door creaked and Harry's mouth went dry. Malfoy stood in the doorway, clutching a white sheet around his shoulders, his wand tip glowing in the near-darkness.
They stared at each other for what felt like hours until finally, Harry nodded, slowly. He only had a little time left to live, and he wanted Draco there with him. He didn't care that it was wrong, didn't care that it was stupid. He would probably never have a chance to feel like this again.
Draco's hands shook as he pulled the blanket aside to lie down beside Harry; Harry moved closer and slipped an arm around his shoulders awkwardly. He closed his eyes and lowered his mouth to Draco's.
"Touch me," whispered Harry when Draco climbed into his bed the next night. When Draco's fingers slide up his sides under his T-shirt, he closed his eyes. A moment later, the T-shirt was flying in the direction of the door and Harry felt too hot, almost dizzy as he kissed Draco, who whimpered exactly when Harry wanted him to, and shifted so Harry could rub against him just so. Harry moved against him, and felt Draco move with him, felt Draco's hard cock through their pyjama bottoms. He came, his fingers digging into Draco's arm, bruising it.
Draco's cock felt strange in Harry's hand; it was uncharted territory, less foreskin but just as warm and heavy as Harry's. Harry brought his thumb up to tease the slit at the top and Draco gasped into his shoulder, then came, shuddering and grunting and thrusting up into Harry's hand. Harry waited until Draco's cock started going soft and released it, wiping his hand absent-mindedly on the sheets. He was never going to have enough of this, never.
They were always silent except for the stifled moans and screams that turned into bite marks, but Draco knew exactly where to touch him, he knew when to speed up, knew when to still his movements, when to kiss, when to back off. It was not perfect; it was downright awkward most of the time, but it was more than Harry had ever felt with Ginny -- the sensations were more intense, fuller, sharper in his mind, a little more so with every passing day.
The first time Draco's lips closed around Harry's cock and Harry threw his head back and arched up, moreyesnow into Draco's mouth. When he came, there was a ripping sound and Harry had handfuls of the sheets suddenly. He used one of the torn pieces to wipe the sweat off his forehead; his cock was going soft already but Draco was still sucking on it, licking up the underside and rolling the head around on his tongue until Harry was hard again. It hurt for a time because Harry was too sensitive, but at the same time he feared the loss of contact.
Draco slid up and took them both in hand; Harry lasted a lot longer this time but he'd never felt anything better than Draco's cock twitching against his while Draco's breathing was harsh and hot in his ear. They were both so sweaty that they slipped against each other under the blanket, afterwards, but Harry didn't want to let go.
"He must be in Harry's room."
Draco and Harry sprang apart, breathing heavily as they exchanged guilty glances. Draco got out of bed, adjusting his pyjama bottoms, pulled up hastily. He wiped his mouth quickly and grabbed Harry's wand off the bedside table, giving it a small wave, and the air around them was no longer thick with sweat and sex. There was a knock at the door, followed by Ron's voice.
"Yeah?" said Harry, propping himself up on his elbows. The door opened and Ron's tall form loomed in the doorway, worry etched across his brow.
"It's time," said Ron, looking straight at Harry. "Lupin's dead. Tonks just sent word. They found out everything, Harry, he's coming."
Harry tried to wrap his mind around the death of the last Marauder, his heart leaping into his throat. Who was next? Ron or Hermione? Draco?
"Right," he said, getting up from the bed and looking around for his glasses. Draco handed them to Harry, his hand shaking horribly. Harry turned to him. "Go with Ron and Hermione. You'll Apparate just up the coast to Ravenscar; Hagrid's waiting there with a Portkey. Stay with Ron and Hermione, you'll be safe with them."
Draco shook his head vigorously.
"Don't argue, just go. Ron." Harry looked at his best friend and bit his lip.
Would they ever see each other again? He crossed the room in three great strides and they embraced for a long moment.
Hermione rushed into the room and threw herself at Harry. "Oh, Harry, I'm sorry," she sobbed. "I'm so sorry."
"Go on," said Harry, patting her hair awkwardly. "Keep Draco safe," he whispered, and Hermione pulled back, both eyebrows raised. Harry nodded, and turned to Draco, who was still shaking his head.
"No," said Draco, his voice rough and unfamiliar. "You have to run, too. He'll kill you."
"This is my fight," said Harry.
He held Draco's gaze for a long time. Finally, Draco nodded and looked away.
The four of them trooped out into the cold October evening and stopped just outside the cottage. Hermione was crying quietly, and Harry touched her shoulder.
"It's not forever," he said, and glanced at Draco. Draco's eyes were clear, his eyebrows drawn slightly together. "I'm not saying good-bye forever. I'm saying it for the last time."
He watched them Disapparate and drew his wand as he heard a different sort of crack of Apparition behind him.
"Ron," Harry whispered against the warm wood. "Hermione."
Light flooded everything around him and he was pulled into a red-haired, many-freckled hug. Mrs Weasley clutched him to her massive chest, tears flowing from her eyes in rivulets, soaking through Harry's bloodstained shirt. Harry pulled back and looked around.
Draco stood across the room from him with his back against the wall, flanked by a twin on each side and looking put out. Beside them, Hermione was sobbing again, but she was laughing and hugging Ron, who kept trying to get away from her and get to Harry. Ginny stood off to the side, looking at Harry with stars in her eyes.
Harry felt a lump form in his throat. He looked from Draco to Ginny and then back again. When he used to dream of this day, he'd always pictured hugging Ginny tight enough to hurt and smiling until his face felt like it would break. The feelings evoked by those dreams were dampened, wilted now, because Draco was right there, eyes bright with something Harry wanted desperately to understand.
Then Hermione was hugging him and he hid his face in her hair, shutting his eyes tightly as he hugged her back. He would have to make a choice, he knew, but he could afford to wait; he had all the time in the world.