Warning(s): Character death.
Disclaimer: JKR owns. I only play. You do not sue.
Length: 2400 words
Summary: Once upon a time, there lived a boy named Draco Malfoy. Through a series of events, not all of which were of his own design, he came to spy for his childhood arch-nemesis, Harry Potter.
Note: Originally written for a contest at hogsmeade_elite; the prompt was to incorporate a song lyric into the fic. The song I chose was We Both Go Down Together by The Decemberists. Third place winner.
Concrit: Always welcome and appreciated.
Once upon a time, there lived a boy named Draco Malfoy. Through a series of events, not all of which were of his own design, he came to spy for his childhood arch-nemesis, Harry Potter.
No, that isn't right, Draco thinks as he motions Potter to follow him down yet another corridor. No one will want to read an autobiography that starts with "once upon a time." Sighing, he chases the thoughts away. This is hardly the ideal place to compose one's memoirs.
"Did you hear that?" asks Potter, holding up his hand.
"Hear what?" Draco asks.
He's impatient to get out of here. If any of the Dark Lord's people happen to need something on Level Ten, Draco's life will be forfeit. He's managed to hide his involvement with the other side so far, but it is not nearly as easy as Severus made it look before he got caught and killed.
"There was a clatter, just there." Potter points to a corner ahead of them.
"Potter," drawls Draco. "I thought you wanted to get out of here."
He smuggled Potter inside to look at some documents he couldn't bring out with him. The Ministry of Magic building has been held by the Dark Lord for two years now, and the war is not really a war. More like "the Dark Lord is trying to find Harry Potter so he can kill him already". Draco doesn't know why he still spies. He could have washed his hands of the whole affair back when the Dark Lord took over the government. He could have retired to his Wiltshire manor and forgotten about Potter's existence.
"I do want to get out of here, but preferably with my head still attached to my neck," Potter bites back, and Draco remembers why he didn't retire. Potter and his people treat him like a person, not a precision instrument. That counts for a lot these days.
Draco smiles. "Then be quiet," he says. "And follow me."
As he says that, he feels the floor give way beneath him and falls. He's vaguely aware of Potter grabbing his robes, but even Potter can't command gravity. They land in a heap on the floor a musty-smelling dark corridor, and Draco watches with horror as the hole they'd just fallen through seals itself, eating up the light that filters through it. Panic grips him; it's as though a beast with dozens of tentacles is sealing up his veins and cutting off his air supply.
Draco's Boggart is a closed, dark space. Only this is no magical creature he can ward off with a spell. This is real.
Draco rocks back and forth, heedless of the shooting pain in his thigh. If he closes his eyes, maybe it will all go away and he will wake up.
Hands on his shoulders -- strong, firm hands of a former enemy. Draco wants to ask Potter to put those hands around his throat and end his misery. He can't open his eyes, because keeping them shut and staying in the dark inside his own mind keeps the real darkness away.
"Malfoy, what the hell is wrong with you? What is this place?"
The words drift through to Draco as though distant echoes of a dying wind.
"Catacombs," he manages, between his teeth. "S'posed to be sealed shut years ago. Dunno how--"
"Well, how do we get out? Look at me. Malfoy!"
Draco is too busy maintaining a tenuous hold on his fraying sanity. He can't open his eyes, this is no Boggart, this is real, and there is no spell--
Draco's eyes fly open and he keeps them on the lit wand. He can see a part of Potter's face behind it and that is what makes his panic ebb away. He is not alone in the dark, and that's a comfort.
"This is what they used before Azkaban was built," says Draco. "Level Eleven. Ever heard the saying 'you're headed for eleven'? It's a stay-over from when this was a prison."
Potter shakes him. "I don't want a history lesson, Malfoy. I want to know how to get out of here."
"You can't," says Draco, and his voice is flat. "It's a prison. Apparating won't work, neither will creating a Portkey, and there are no fireplaces down here." There really aren't, he realises as he feels the chill air settle into every fold of his robes.
"Well, what about the trap door?"
Draco looks up at the ceiling where it had been, but there is nothing there but darkness. He shakes his head. "It was a fluke," he says. "Or maybe they found us." He doesn't need to say who "they" are.
Potter draws a deep, shaky breath. "What do we do?"
Shrugging, Draco lights his own wand and gets to his feet. "The plans I've seen had a chute leading up to St. Mungo's. For those who went insane down here." He winces as he tries to take a step, and hopes his leg isn't as broken as it feels.
"Where is this chute?"
"Dunno. I never studied the plans closely. If we follow the main corridors, we will eventually find it."
"Is this a main corridor?"
Draco lifts his wand and sweeps the light around the walls until it rests on a Roman XI. "Yes."
"What's the layout like?"
Draco laughs hollow. "Nothing logical, if that's what you're hoping for. A maze of twisty passages -- all alike, lined with cells. No one ever escaped Level Eleven."
"Before my godfather, no one escaped Azkaban, either." And that's that.
Draco is limping, but he knows the bone didn't break. If he doesn't get out of here soon, however, he'll limp for the rest of his life. What's left of it. He wants to laugh, but it's difficult enough keeping the demons out. He tries not to think about why they fell through that trap door. Perhaps it was no accident at all, but rather a quick, nasty revenge for Draco's betrayal. It doesn't ring true to him. The Dark Lord would not abide Potter dying like a rat in an impenetrable dungeon. No, Potter has earned the privilege of a public execution.
So has Draco, if he thinks about it long enough. He decides not to.
Hours later, they find a cell without a skeleton on the low iron bed. Their supper -- prepared courtesy of Draco's wand -- is lavish, but there is not much nutrition in food created by magic, no matter how good it tastes. Still, it is better than nothing at all. Potter lets Draco take the bed -- "I'm not the one who's limping here" -- and they sleep.
When Draco wakes, it's cold and he can't see anything. Fighting down panic, he finds his wand and shines it on the formless lump in the far corner of the cell. He levitates Potter's sleeping form next to himself, because he doesn't want to listen to Potter whine about floor-sleeping aches tomorrow. That's what he tells himself, at least, but the warmth of Potter's body reminds him that he lies.
He wakes some time later to find Potter's arm around his shoulders. It feels wrong, but it's warm, and no one is around to see them like this, anyway. He can't see Potter in the total darkness, but hearing him breathe is enough to keep the panic at bay.
After another day of fruitless walking, they don't argue about who gets the bed in the next empty cell they find. Draco shuts his eyes to keep the darkness out and falls asleep with his head pressed tightly to Potter's chest, with the rhythm of Potter's heartbeat for a lullaby.
Time slips away from them along the centuries-old dust, and they don't know if they're walking in day or night. The only sign of the time passing is the hair growing on their faces. Draco's dreams are filled with sunlight, his waking hours with pinpricks of wand-light shining on the low ceilings of the catacombs.
One night, Draco wakes to find Potter sobbing quietly, and hesitantly strokes his hair until the shaking subsides. This is not-reality, he thinks, a private nightmare for the two of them, with nothing but the smell of rusting iron filling their nostrils and fake food that tastes like ashes on their tongues. This is no place for laughter or derision at the other's weakness.
After what feels like weeks of aimless walking, they find a circular room filled with vats of cold, brackish water. Magic is only so useful in keeping a body clean, and so they heat the water and bathe, shivering. Draco never thought he'd be so glad to feel clean again. He shakes his hair out and feels hands on his naked hips, cold hands that send a roaring gust of heat up from his aching lower belly. They stand pressed together for long minutes until Draco turns around and lets the heat consume him.
Harry's breath is sour and Draco's is probably no better, but it matters not at all. Their coupling is frantic and fast; they gasp together in the gloomy silence and Draco moans until Harry echoes him, and then they sleep.
When Draco wakes, Harry is motionless beside him and Draco knows he isn't sleeping. He places a hand on Draco's shoulder and flips him onto his back. They kiss, long and slow, until Draco is gasping and bucking his hips to meet Harry's, ignoring the pain in his thigh. Harry stills above him and tangles his fingers in Draco's hair.
"This is wrong," says Draco after. "We're men. We shouldn't--"
"I don't care. Do you?" Harry's voice is soft but rough, like the underside of raw leather.
They walk, and they make love, and still they find no chute. St. Mungo's is held by their people -- or, at least, it was before they fell down into this never-ending hell. They don't know what waits outside, and Draco has forgotten every sensation except the feel of Harry's skin beneath his fingertips.
"I love you," says Harry once.
Draco sighs and tries to edge away, so Harry won't feel how fast his heart is beating. "Don't be ridiculous. She's waiting for you outside, isn't she?" The Weasley girl. The only thing Draco likes about this evil place is that he has Harry all to himself.
"She doesn't make me feel this way," says Harry quietly, and places his hand over Draco's heart.
"They'll hate you," says Draco, even as his last resistance begins to fall apart.
"They won't. They want me to be happy."
"And if they hate you anyway?"
"Then we both go down together."
They don't speak of it again. A few days -- weeks? -- later, they find the chute. It's slippery with things Draco doesn't want to know about, but it's a way out. Together, they conjure up a set of rickety stairs -- their magic has been failing due to malnourishment -- and climb up into a dark room that doesn't look like it's been used in centuries.
There is bright light, and Draco closes his eyes against it. He wonders what his Boggart is now that he's conquered his fear of dark, closed spaces. There is noise, and there are people, and Draco feels a part of him die slowly. Even if Harry spoke the truth, Draco will never have him to himself, now. Unlike Draco, Harry has friends. He watches Harry embrace them and suddenly begins to understand what it's like to be a child's abandoned toy.
"Harry!" calls a female voice in the distance. It's Ginny Weasley, and she's running.
Draco feels as though he's suspended in a vat full of warm jelly. He sees Harry's eyes light up and his face break into a smile so pure it hurts. As Harry takes two steps forward, Draco thinks he can hear his heart break. He closes his eyes. When he opens them again, he is alone.
Her legs are wrapped around Harry's waist, her hands are on the back of Harry's head, and Draco watches them kiss until he can no longer breathe for the rage that chokes him. Quietly, he pushes himself up from the ground, throws down the blanket around his shoulders and begins to limp away. He's going back where he belongs -- into the catacombs, out of sight.
When he reaches the now-familiar earthen floor, he walks in the opposite direction. He couldn't bear to retread his and Harry's path, not now. He takes blind turns, not bothering to mark his steps. He doesn't want to find his way back. This is where he belongs. Somewhere above him, there is violent death at the hands of his former master. Somewhere above him, Harry's eyes shine so bright as he smiles at the Weasley chit.
They find Draco ten days later, crumpled in a corner of a holding-cell. Harry sees him first and tells the rest of them to stay back. He runs to Draco's side and speaks one word: "No." And then: "Draco." Draco doesn't move, doesn't acknowledge him. Too late, he thinks, and laughs inside his mind. Harry takes Draco's hand and presses it to his cheek, and maybe he is crying.
Draco watches from his corner and waits. Soon Harry will rise, and look determined. Maybe he will take Draco away with him and maybe he'll leave him there, at the only place Draco would ever want to be buried. The frail body of the blond boy will slowly rot away, leaving behind a skeleton covered in fraying black robes.
As for Draco, he'll stay here forever. He watches Harry stand up and reveals himself at last. Before dying, he never knew that ghosts could choose to stay hidden. Harry's eyes widen and his expression grows anguished, but Draco does nothing. They look at each other in the choking, bitter gloom of the cell, and finally Harry's gaze drops.
"I'll miss you," he mumbles. "I'm sorry," he says.
Draco glides closer. "When you're done up there, do come back," he whispers. It's the first time he's spoken out loud, and the sound of his voice surprises him. "You promised."
After a long pause, Harry nods.
Draco watches him walk away, and listens to the other ghosts' mournful song echo through the catacombs: "Once upon a time, there lived a boy named Draco Malfoy..."