Warning(s): Dark themes, smoking fetish, allusions to drug use, non-linear narrative, present tense.
Disclaimer: JKR owns. I only play. You do not sue.
Length: ~2500 words
Summary: The war changed everything, the morning paper sings. Friends become estranged and enemies share a bed, the sky falls down and the earth flies up into the empty space it left behind. And then the war is over, but nothing goes back to normal.
Note: Written for musesfool's It's Got a Good Beat and You Can Dance to It: The Multifandom .mp3 Challenge. The song assigned to me was As Is by Ani DiFranco. The main title is a lyric from the song, but no other lyrics were harmed in the making of this fic. This is also a double whammy, being a response to the "Happy Kinky Birthday, Draco" challenge at serpentinelion.
Concrit: Always welcome and appreciated.
Thirty-three is too old for loitering in seamy Muggle pubs. It's definitely too old for wondering whether your birthday date is going to show up or not. Draco sits in the corner and watches the entrance, knowing that Harry's not coming. The war changed him. The trouble was that Harry refused to believe he had changed.
There is a spirited game of cards going on underneath the tarnished "No Spitting On Floor" plaque. Much as Draco has tried to see things differently, to him they are still filthy Muggles gambling with that ludicrous paper money. Squalid children playing in the roadside dirt. Draco's continued prejudice against the Muggles is Harry's favourite trump to play in the "I am the same as ever" game.
Harry is only fifteen minutes late; it is a pleasant surprise to see him at all. He looks more tired than he did last week, even though his extended leave of absence from the Ministry is now in its second month.
Draco greets him with, "Had this not been my birthday, you would have taken an extra half hour."
Harry looks down at his feet. "I'm sorry. I was--"
Draco just scoffs. "--too busy fucking today's special to remember."
"I wasn't." He's telling the truth -- the perfect image of contrition has shifted to indignation.
"You get off on their hero-worship, admit it." Draco smiles. Since they broke things off five weeks ago, Harry must have taken half of wizarding London to his bed. It infuriated Draco, but Harry would never know it. It was exactly what he wanted. "Who was it this time? Romilda Vane? One of the Creeveys?"
"Draco, don't. Just... don't." He digs into his pocket and fishes out a packet of cigarettes, lights one. The smoke billows towards the ceiling in a misshapen cloud. Harry walks away towards the bar with a muttered, "Who do I have to kill to get a drink..."
Draco isn't sure what compels him to follow Potter down the rain-drenched street. For one thing, Potter is alone, which is stupid. For another thing, Potter is obviously drunk, which is even stupider. What he's doing in this part of the city is anybody's guess.
Draco is disguised as a Muggle and wearing a Metamorph Medal -- he is just coming back from meeting Tonks. She is the only one on the other side who knows about Draco's true allegiance. Potter would kill him on sight if he recognised him. Still, he follows Potter because he knows that without Potter, their side will lose by default. Draco never thought he'd see the day he'd feel an urge to protect Harry Potter from anything.
Draco almost doesn't notice Potter duck into a Muggle pub. He checks his pocket for Muggle money and follows Potter in. His eyes immediately begin to sting; the air inside is suffused with cigarette smoke and the stench of stale alcohol mixed with vomit. The street outside is bright and cheery compared to this place. He spots Potter in a far corner, huddled over a glass of amber liquid.
Draco knows he might need to blow his cover with Potter before the night is over. This wasn't how he has wanted things to turn out: he wanted to face Potter in the end, as Tonks revealed everything Draco has done for them. Wanted to see Potter's gloating face overcome by doubt as he tried to decide whether he still hated Draco or owed him his life. But Draco knows that if he doesn't risk his cover tonight, there might never be an end at all.
He orders a pint of lager and walks over to Potter's table.
"Is this seat taken?" he asks politely.
Slowly, Potter looks at him, shrugs. "Suit yourself."
"Thanks," says Draco. "Raining like God hasn't pissed in centuries, isn't it?"
Potter begins to laugh with an edge of hysteria. "God... pissed..." he manages after a while. He's quite pissed himself, just as Draco suspected.
He smiles at Potter. "No one's fallen for that joke in years, you know. You're not fooling me."
"No, it was funny," says Potter. He sounds like his tongue is too heavy in his mouth. Draco suddenly has a flash, almost a memory, of sucking on Potter's too-heavy tongue. It's not real but it causes real heat to pool into Draco's lower abdomen.
Potter picks up a cigarette from the ashtray and pulls on it. "I suppose it's been a while since I've heard a joke." He sounds more sober now. "You're good at telling jokes."
Draco suddenly feels like he's lost control. Before he can stop himself, he blurts, "I'm good at a lot of things," he says. "If you fancy a demonstration..."
Something dawns on Potter's face; he looks around at the pub and its mostly male clientele. "Oh. I'm-- er. I'm not a-- you know. I'm not here for that."
"I'm sorry," says Draco, cursing himself for a fool. He doesn't know if this is a gay-friendly pub, but Potter has certainly made all the right assumptions a bit too quickly. "I thought-- I'll just leave." He can watch him perfectly well from another table. What the fuck compelled him to sit here, anyway?
"No, stay," says Potter. "I'm fine. I just didn't expect--"
Draco sits back down, his face hot. He tries not to watch Potter smoke but it's impossible to look away. Potter puts the cigarette down and takes a long swallow of the Scotch.
"I found out today that my girlfriend's been dead for a year."
"My condolences. Was it an illness?" Ginny Weasley was killed while trying to escape the Malfoy Manor dungeon. The Dark Lord has not only taken Draco's home from him; he's turned it into a prison. He would pay for that, too.
"She was murdered," says Potter.
"That's terrible." It was terrible. She was so young, so beautiful, so alive. Now she rots under a few feet of earth, and Draco's home is also host to a graveyard. Cold rage fills Draco and he squeezes his pint until he fears the glass will shatter.
Potter says nothing for a while, then: "My friends tried to keep it from me. So I wouldn't do anything stupid."
Draco told Tonks about Ginny the day after it happened. He wonders why no one bothered to tell Potter. "I'm sure they had your best interests at heart."
Potter's laugh is bleak. "I'm sure they did." The cloud of smoke dances around his head, wispy tendrils chasing one another before dissolving into the gloom. Potter's killing himself slowly, and Draco realises his cock's growing hard as he watches Potter suck on his cigarette.
He wants to taste him like that, taste his death.
Harry watches Draco over the rim of his tumbler. "Did you like your present?"
"Which one?" Draco's breakfast that morning was interrupted by a pair of owls. They carried a basket containing a black smoke Devon Rex kitten. Three years ago, Draco had shown a picture of a Devon Rex to Harry and told him he'd always wanted one but couldn't justify the expense. He had no idea Harry remembered such trivial details.
Harry rolls his eyes. "What did you name him?"
"I haven't decided yet. I could name him after you, if you like."
"I've been replaced by a feline." He blows out smoke in a thin stream just past Draco's ear.
Draco smirks. "I'm afraid the cat can't quite serve as a full replacement. He's lacking certain appendages, you see."
They smile at each other -- a rare, private smile known only to lovers and partners in crime. It makes heat creep next to Draco's collar as he remembers a thousand of those smiles flashed at him in the darkness of their bedroom.
Harry looks away. "Have you talked to Ron?"
"No, absolutely not. I attended a surprise party he and his wife organised for my birthday but I neglected to exchange so much as two words with him. It just didn't seem necessary."
Harry's sigh is full of exasperation. "Did you tell him I was sorry?" He was supposed to have been little Ginny Weasley's godfather, but he never showed up at the ceremony, so the honour fell to Draco. It turned out later that Harry was at some private party in Edinburgh.
"Tell him yourself. Better yet, stop pretending like you're sorry."
"I'm not pretending. I told you, I didn't forget. I just mixed up the dates. I wish my friends would fucking stop expecting the world from me, I can't give it to them."
"Your friends want nothing from you except honesty."
Harry's eyes are cold. "I've never lied to them."
"You wouldn't think so, would you? It's hard to believe you're lying when you think you're telling the truth."
"What the fuck is that supposed to mean?"
"You're the bright future of our generation, you work it out."
Harry takes a long pull on his cigarette. "I just want life to go back to normal, Draco." The smoke puffs out of his mouth as he speaks. His eyes are open, clear, earnest, and it almost breaks Draco's heart.
Potter waits for him under a lamppost. It has finally stopped raining, but it's now dark, and Potter looks even paler. He's nervous, and he's clutching the cigarette between his fingers like a lifeline.
Draco smiles at him. "Changed your mind, then."
Potter smokes and looks sullen. There's some kind of faded advert on the lamppost behind him, depicting a man and a woman kissing in a sunlit street. A little boy sits in some wheeled contraption in front of them. "Life is Beautiful," the picture proclaims. Draco will never understand Muggle advertising.
"You remind me of someone," says Potter. "Who are you?"
"Come with me and I'll show you," says Draco. And he will.
"Will you come home?" The words are slow, quiet, careful.
"I'm going home."
"I mean with me."
Draco's heartbeat is loud enough to drown out the drunken shouting. "We don't live together anymore."
Draco shuts his eyes for a moment, and he remembers a hazy, washed-out world filled with Harry's strong hands and the sharp smell of death on his breath. He shudders and opens his eyes, because he wants to go back to that, more than anything. Thinking about it and enumerating all the reasons he shouldn't only makes him want it more.
"I told you when I left, I want you. You. Not some white-washed version of you that you think I need. Harry Potter doesn't bring me breakfast in bed. He fucks me up against the wall and leaves bite marks on my neck. Then he suggests walking down the street for some curry."
Harry's breath hitches and he shoves his Scotch aside, puts a hand on Draco's leg underneath the table. To an observer, they might look like a pair of small-time crooks whispering about grand get-rich schemes. Considering the neighbourhood and the venue, they wouldn't be the first. Draco leans in and quickly presses his forehead to Harry's cheek, then pulls away.
"I thought you liked the attention," says Harry quietly.
"Not when it's fake."
"But it's not. I want to make you happy. I want us to--"
"Oh, sod what you want, Potter. We were happy anyway."
Harry downs the rest of his Scotch and lights another cigarette. The old one still smoulders in the ashtray. Draco puts it out and grabs his coat.
When Draco takes off the Metamorph Medal and turns to face Potter, he expects him to run. Not to fight; the only fight left in Potter is not for Draco.
Instead, Potter shrugs and slumps further back against the sofa cushion. "Should have known," he says.
That's when Draco falls in love.
Potter tastes as bitter as Draco imagined he would. Despite the alcohol he's consumed, Potter is surprisingly well-coordinated; he takes immediate control and pushes Draco down onto the sofa until Draco thinks he'll stop breathing if they don't lose their clothes. He fumbles with the buckle on Potter's denim trousers for a good minute before he manages to get it open.
Potter's gasps and moans echo in the empty flat as Draco sucks him. Draco's own cock is almost hurting in his pants by the time Potter's come fills his mouth, bitter as the acrid nicotine on his tongue. He doesn't expect Potter has any idea what to do, so he begins to stroke himself even as Potter's eyes flutter open again. Potter watches him soundlessly for a short time, then forces Draco's hand away.
He really hasn't got any idea what he's doing and Draco cries out sharply as Potter's teeth graze him twice, but the pain is not enough to stop the need, and Potter's lips and tongue and fingers rip Draco's orgasm from him mere moments later. Draco falls back against the cushions and closes his eyes, wondering if he's just made the biggest mistake of his life.
They don't talk until Potter asks why Draco hasn't killed him yet. He listens to Draco's explanation and nods once, then pulls him close and kisses him until Draco's out of breath and begging to be fucked. Potter fucks him fast and hard; the rug leaves angry red marks on Draco's knees but he doesn't feel them until later. He arches up into Potter, again and again until Potter screams and empties himself into Draco, shuddering.
Afterwards, Potter sits by the open window and smokes. It's a different smell, somehow; it reminds Draco of the Hogwarts Express, of all places.
Harry catches up to Draco on the street and forces him into a narrow passage between two buildings. There's a wadded-up, oil-stained newspaper on the dirty pavement. A broken bottle's shards glint in the light of the familiar lamppost. Artefacts of an advanced civilisation. Harry's eyes are out of focus behind his spectacles.
"You always walk away," he growls from somewhere deep. His breath reeks of burned tobacco and the Scotch. Draco's hard already. He puts his hands on Harry's lower back and pulls him closer, lets him feel it. Harry makes a strangled noise and reaches down for him.
"I hate that you get to me," whispers Harry. "I hate that I love you." He's never said that out loud before.
Draco takes Harry's bottom lip between his teeth and runs his tongue along it. It tastes like bitter ashes, like the past and the future.