Title: West of Never Again
Disclaimer: JKR owns. I only play. You do not sue.
Summary: A lifetime of regret is sometimes only a day away.
Notes: Written for the_eros_affair's third wave. Cheque scenario: Harry to Draco: I promise not to let you go the next time.. Many thanks to evilsource, goneril, and lauriegilbert for beta-reading.
Length: 5000 words
Concrit: Always welcome and appreciated.
Harry had always thought it was too good to be true, and he'd been right.
His relationship with Ginny broke apart midway through their seventh year at Hogwarts. They both felt too much too soon, and the strength of it scared them. For Harry, that had not been enough to call it quits, but Ginny was not ready to start a family, and Harry didn't want to push. So they parted ways, amicably enough. When NEWT revision began, Harry forgot to miss her, and that had been the end.
During Auror training, Harry had little time or use for anything but the regimen. With nothing holding him back, he achieved Outstanding results in everything, even Poisons and Antidotes. Once he entered junior service under Ted Williamson, Harry was truly grateful that he hadn't rushed into starting a family. For one thing, Aurors worked hard and partied harder. For another, somewhere between his second year of training and his first day at the Ministry, Harry worked out that he rather preferred the company of men. He planned on settling down one day, but sex was enough for the time being.
It was at a party -- one of Seamus's -- that Harry ran into Draco Malfoy.
Fortunately for Draco, Harry couldn't quite muster up the level of dislike that he'd once held for the Malfoys. He'd wanted to put the war behind him, and had so far managed to simply ignore those whom he'd once loathed. Unfortunately for Harry, Draco looked hot. Dusk-grey robes hugged his long, lean form, leaving little to the imagination. He had let his hair grow long enough to frame his face, every swish of it softening Draco's sharp features. He stood leaning against the door frame, watching the others with an expression of mild disdain, his eyes glittering in a way that was all too familiar to Harry: Solover.
Draco was high, too, and that would make things easier. Hopefully.
Harry stared down at the just-poured glass of Firewhisky in his hand and walked over to Draco. "Drink?"
The corner of Draco's mouth curved upwards. I know what you're about, said his pouty bottom lip, and Harry fought the urge to throw the glass aside and just pull Draco into a dark corner right the fuck now.
"Sure," said Draco, accepting the glass. He began to rub his thumb around the outer rim of it, regarding Harry with interest. "This is when I ask if you come here often, right?"
"I think that's my job," said Harry. "Besides, I know you don't. I'm here every weekend, and I've never seen you before."
"Finnigan mentioned it to Stefan while we were having lunch together."
"Who's Stefan?" asked Harry, watching with avid interest as Draco's thumb continued working the lip of his glass.
"German wizard doing a tour of duty with the London branch of Gringotts. I'm his assistant, you could say."
"You work for Gringotts?"
"Potter, I'm really not here to discuss my work with you. Are we going to fuck or not?"
Harry's grip on reality faltered, but this was all part of the game, wasn't it? The drugs made them all quite forward, though he supposed that if it was Draco's first time, he would feel it more than someone who'd already built up a tolerance. Solover was the equivalent of what the Muggles called "date rape" drugs, only without the awful side effects. Its active ingredient was derived from the bark of the Abyssinian shrivelfig tree and it was always abundant at Seamus's parties. Draco's eyes blazed with it, and Harry wondered how much he had taken.
"Well, since you ask so nicely," murmured Harry. Draco set the Firewhisky down on a bookshelf and raised his eyebrows.
Harry was hiking up Draco's robes even before the Apparition to Grimmauld Place finished, and Draco was making encouraging noises at him. Solover made everything so easy. Harry reached into his pocket and emptied another dose onto his tongue, then moved in to kiss Draco before the powder had melted away. Solover tasted like butterscotch in Draco's mouth, which was nice: to Harry, it always tasted like caramelised onions.
The dose was strong, and Harry was forgetting who he was with: what was his name? Darren? Damien? It didn't matter. He was blond and gorgeous, and Harry wanted to make him come. He did just that, once on his knees and once flat on his back with Draco on top, writhing and moaning and begging Harry to fuck him, fuck him now, fuck him please. Harry himself didn't come -- couldn't: too much Solover always did that. He didn't mind. There was always the morning after.
The morning after wasn't as rosy as Harry had imagined. For one thing, Draco very nearly shrieked when he opened his eyes. Harry came damned close to shrieking, too, and he firmly resolved never to take Solover again. Not for the first time, but it would be the last. He was in bed with Draco bloody Malfoy and if his memory wasn't lying, he'd done some pretty obscene things to the aforementioned Draco bloody Malfoy the night before. Worse, he'd enjoyed doing those things far more than he should have.
Harry Potters and Draco Malfoys absolutely did not have sex, nor did they sleep in the same bed. Harry was just about to declare this when the sheet Draco had been covering himself with slipped and exposed a patch of bone-white skin that Harry could still taste. His mouth went dry, his morning wood got stiffer, and Harry reached for the rest of Draco's security blanket.
"Shh," Harry whispered, and pulled the sheet away, scooting closer to Draco. "C'mere."
"Don't-- mmprf." And they were kissing again, this time with no butterscotch or caramelised onions, just morning breath and Harry's Firewhisky aftertaste, but it still felt brilliant, and Harry came as soon as his cock brushed the skin on Draco's soft white belly.
"Making up for lost time," he told Draco, who'd begun to sneer, and kissed him again and again until his cock returned to full attention and Draco's breathing became one jerky, raspy moan that climbed in pitch every time Harry's hand twisted around the head Draco's cock.
They fucked in the shower, clinging to each other beneath a spray of lukewarm water. Draco's body slotted perfectly against Harry's; he knew just how to move and when to pull back, just when to kiss and when to turn away. It felt like finding a part of himself that he hadn't known was lost, like fucking Ginny when he'd still loved her.
"I think," said Harry after they climbed out of the shower, "that you should stay for breakfast."
The suggestion turned out hollow, because there was no food in the house. Not for the first time, Harry regretted having sent Kreacher to Hogwarts. The two of them got dressed -- Draco borrowing some of Harry's Muggle clothes -- and walked three blocks to a nearby cafe.
Mornings like this only existed in London, and only in June: a dazzle of soft light glanced off sleepy windows, sparkled in the dewdrops on the still-bright grass of lawns. Birds carried on a lively conversation in the trees, and Harry listened to them chatter, fighting an urge to take Draco's hand. It was silly, really -- he'd taken plenty of men home from Seamus's parties; it never meant anything beyond, well, sex.
Draco's footsteps faltered and he stopped. "This isn't a good idea," he said. "I should go home."
The rational part of Harry's brain nodded with sage wisdom, but the rather doglike, lustful part wagged its tail and directed Harry's eyes to the shadowed place in the hollow of Draco's neck, commanding him to lick it and see if it makes Draco moan again. "I... promised you breakfast," said Harry, voice rough.
Draco arched a pale eyebrow at him. "I'll live."
Harry sighed, not bothering to mask his disappointment. He didn't know why he was disappointed, truly. "Let's turn back, then."
Draco's eyebrow rose a little higher. "I can just Disapparate. No one's about."
"In those clothes?" asked Harry. "You'd have to see me again to return them, anyway," he added as an afterthought. Then he thought that perhaps he should've said that Draco could keep them, just to be impressively gracious. What was wrong with him? This was the onset of an enormous crush, but it didn't make any sense.
For the first time, Draco looked uncertain. His eyes darted from Harry's face to the ground, and back again. He opened his mouth as though to say something, but promptly closed it again, looking flustered.
"C'mon," said Harry, grinning, and tugged on Draco's sleeve. After a moment's hesitation, Draco allowed himself to be led, and Harry thought he could see a petal-pink flush creeping up his neck. It was too damned cute for words.
They came upon a cafe that was just opening for business; its patio was empty. There Harry and Draco breakfasted, mostly in silence. Harry kept stealing glances at Draco as he worked his way through eggs on toast. A few times, he caught Draco looking at him, and Draco averted his eyes, flushing. They must have looked quite odd to the waitress, but she didn't seem to mind, especially not after the large tip Harry left her.
They nursed their coffees for a short while, exchanging monosyllabic phrases of no import, and Harry realised with a mixture of hope and horror that he was rather charmed. This appeared to be a side of Draco Malfoy that he had never known before -- the quiet and deliberate one. Combined with the brazenly lustful side that Harry had seen last night and this morning, it made a picture Harry wanted to look at again and again.
He scoffed at that spoilsport, the rational mind, which pointed out that Draco Malfoy was a disagreeable, quarrelsome tit with all the charm of a black adder. Except black adders didn't have sly grey eyes, nor did they have slender fingers that could turn Harry's insides into quivering jelly with their mere existence. He was going to give this a chance, God help him. He was going to ask Draco Malfoy out, this time without the help of mind-altering substances.
He took Draco's hand as they exited the cafe, and Draco didn't pull away.
"I suppose you'll want your robes," said Harry, squinting against the sunlight.
"I-- yeah," said Draco. "Those." He made no attempt to free his hand.
They walked back to Grimmauld Place through a park just coming alive with Muggles on their way to the rest of the weekend. A boy of about six chased an enormous black Labrador around a couple of benches, squealing with delight every time he caught hold of the dog's tail.
By the benches, Harry stopped and kissed Draco, lightly, just on the corner of his mouth. Draco pressed a hand against Harry's chest and made a sound of protest, but it was perfunctory, like saying you couldn't possibly eat any more of the treacle tart -- while reaching for that fourth helping. Harry pulled Draco closer and contemplated dragging him all the way back to his bedroom.
"Where were we?" asked Harry, leaning closer to nuzzle Draco's neck. Just like the sex, it felt like something he'd done a million times before. Comfortable.
"We were on our way to get my robes," said Draco. "But maybe that can wait."
"Maybe it can," said Harry, and kissed him again.
They made their way back through the park and descended into Muggle London. They got lost a few times, stopped for a quick bite at a pub that looked seamy but served surprisingly good food. They talked about work, about the coming end of the Quidditch season -- about everything but what was happening between them, whatever it was. Harry felt no inclination to talk about it -- it was there, and that was enough.
Late in the afternoon, they finally got back to Twelve Grimmauld Place, where Draco had no trouble getting out of Harry's Muggle clothes. Getting into his robes proved to be more of a problem. Oh, Harry wanted more of this, and not just the sex -- the startlingly easy companionship, the delight of pretending they were just a couple of blokes with no strings tying them to the past. Evening approached, and Harry dreaded it, feeling as though whatever magic they had found today would fade with the sun.
Draco's eyes were guarded when they stopped beneath a street lamp outside Harry's house.
"Well, I suppose this is it, then," said Draco, his voice neutral.
Despite knowing better, Harry had been hoping for "When can I see you again?" Hot anger flashed somewhere deep: this was the same man who'd whispered his name as Harry shuddered against him in release less than an hour ago.
Draco must've seen that flash in Harry's eyes, for he took a measured step backward. The movement had an air of tired understanding to it, a sort of practice that made Harry wonder who was responsible for it. He reached for Draco's hands, pulled him close, and kissed him with a desperation that he didn't recognise. This was good-bye, and Harry wasn't angry. Only miserable.
Harry's next words were so unexpected that Draco knew they'd surely haunt his mind in the days to come.
"Next time, I will not let you go."
Draco allowed a tiny smile. "Is that a threat? Will you chain me up in your charming kitchen and feed me to your ghoul?"
"It's a promise." The fierce, serious look in Harry's eyes made Draco feel weak. Everyone knew that Harry Potter was the sort of man who kept his promises.
By the next week, Draco was aboard a ship to Greece. His boss was surprised: to date, Draco had invented every excuse imaginable not to begin his apprenticeship with the curse-breakers. He'd been reluctant to leave his home, his parents. But now, he was afraid to stay in England, afraid of how utterly incapable he'd been of resisting Harry. He couldn't afford to fall in love with a man, to become a burn-mark on his family tapestry. So Draco fled, and as England's shore receded from view and the ship submerged, his heart felt lighter, if only for a short while.
During his third year of apprenticeship, Draco met Isobel, another would-be curse-breaker. Her quick black eyes and sharp mind captivated him long enough for him to spend an extravagant amount of money on a Goblin-made engagement ring. They were married in a quiet ceremony on Corfu, with just their parents in attendance. Their son was born two years later -- a healthy boy, and, for a wonder, Draco's spitting image, down to the stormcloud eyes. They named him Scorpius, after Isobel's great-grandfather.
When Scorpius turned five, Isobel's apprenticeship was finally over, and they moved to England, where Draco's parents had prepared the Manor to receive the next generation. The elder Malfoys were becoming withdrawn as they aged; Draco's mother in particular rarely ventured out of the Manor's east wing. Draco missed Greece and the warmth bleeding from the stone roads long into the night, but there was a family legacy in England, generations of properly raised, Hogwarts-educated wizards. His son was going to have that, needed to have that.
Draco thought about Harry too often for comfort, but made every effort to stay low -- for the first five years, not even Vincent knew that he was back. He read about Harry's marriage, in the same year that Draco had married Isobel. Ginny Weasley. Old flames never really died, did they? Ginny had always been the girl for Harry, and whatever Harry and Draco had shared that one Sunday in June had been a mere aberration.
Harry had three children: two boys, one of them Scorpius's age, and a little girl. The elder boy and the girl looked every inch the Weasleys, but the middle boy, he was Harry's as much as Scorpius was Draco's.
Draco looked away from the photograph in the Daily Prophet after staring at Harry's face for a good minute. He looked tired, and that smile wasn't the wicked one Draco remembered so well, from the one day that the world had left them alone together. Traces of the years lurked at its corners, years of adulthood and parenthood and responsibility just like Draco's.
But they were good years, too. Isobel and Draco took turns being with Scorpius whilst the other was working in Egypt or Argentina or Mexico. Lucius and Narcissa doted on their grandson to the point that Draco sometimes felt jealous of the things they let Scorpius get away with: free entry into the house elves' quarters, chocolate before breakfast, his own racing broom at nine...
People often said that children grew up too fast; Draco had never believed it, because his own childhood had seemed to him arduously slow. But when he and Isobel took Scorpius to Platform Nine and Three Quarters, he marvelled at how fast the time had gone. Why, it seemed like only yesterday Scorpius had been learning to walk!
His thoughts vanished when he saw Harry looking at him. Draco's knees wanted to buckle under that green gaze, so familiar even now.
Seeing Harry's family clustered all around him sobered Draco. He gave a stiff nod and looked down at the top of Scorpius's head, suddenly gripped by an urge to take his son away from here. Take him to Durmstrang, to Beauxbatons -- anywhere else, really. He kept his head down whilst he saw Scorpius off, walking far along the platform to make sure he didn't get into the same carriage as Harry's sons.
For weeks afterwards, Draco could barely sleep. Seeing Harry on the platform had done what no number of photographs could: it was an affirmation that Harry still lived and breathed, still walked up to that ridiculous mirror in his bedroom every morning, only to be told that his hair looked ridiculous. Draco spent hours in his study, writing letters to Harry and then burning them carefully in the fireplace. Without Scorpius, their little family seemed to have no anchor, and it felt like it was falling apart. Draco resented Harry for still having his little girl around: surely he wasn't going through this now. He had his work and his wife and his daughter. What more, he'd probably not spared Draco a thought since they'd parted sixteen years ago. That look on the platform had been surprise, nothing more.
One morning in mid-October, Draco put down Scorpius's latest letter and was about to reach for a scone as a Ministry owl flew through the dining room window, clipping the curtain with its wing. It dropped a tiny roll of parchment beside Draco's plate and flew off without waiting for a treat. Draco's heart sank. He'd applied for a Hogwarts trusteeship earlier that year, and this was probably his answer. Too early -- acceptances didn't go out until November.
Sighing, appetite gone, Draco unrolled the parchment.
Can I see you?
No address, no signature, and the handwriting wasn't familiar, but Draco knew only one Ministry employee who could send him such a letter.
Draco spent the rest of the day in his study, scribbling multiple variations of "Yes" and "No" onto bits of parchment, always coming close to summoning one of the Manor owls, never quite making it. The final letter, completed late in the evening, said simply:
After three days and no word, Draco realised he would not be getting a response. Harry did nothing by halves, never had, and a "Why?" was as good as a "No" to him, doubtlessly.
Harry's lack of response, instead of making Draco desperate as he'd feared, grounded him instead. That part of his life was sixteen years gone, and he was determined to bury it. He'd never really let go of that one shining summer day, not entirely: even when he'd fallen for Isobel, he'd loved her with only half his heart. But it was time to let go.
The elder Malfoys went on a Grand Tour of Russia just as Isobel took off for Argentina for the third time that year. It was November, the loneliest month, and Draco felt lonely: even as a boy, he had never had the entire Manor all to himself. He walked along the dusky corridors and peered into the faces of the portraits there, wondering if this was it, if the rest of his life would be this -- Gringotts, Scorpius, Isobel, his parents.
On the next morning, a Ministry owl's arrival made Draco's heart quiver and stop for a moment, but it wasn't from Harry. His trusteeship application had been accepted, and he would be part of the Hogwarts team early next year. His father would be pleased when he returned -- after all, Draco was following a long family tradition.
For the rest of the day, Draco tried to ignore the embarrassment of his heart leaping like a boy's when he'd thought the Ministry owl had come from Harry. Truly, the biggest failures were those experienced in private: he could never get those off his mind, because there was no hiding from himself.
Draco was getting ready to make an appearance at work when a house-elf walked into the downstairs drawing room, bowing deeply. "Visitor, Master."
Draco clicked his tongue with impatience. "Who is it?"
"Me," said Harry, appearing in the doorway, and the Floo powder in Draco's hand went scattering across the floor.
Draco just stared at him. His first instinct was to object, to order Harry out -- what gave him the right to show up uninvited? Then again, considering his position in the Ministry, Harry could go anywhere he pleased, invited or not. "This is a surprise," he said instead, frowning at the floor.
"Is it? Didn't you want to see me?"
Draco looked up, his lips dry. "I--"
"You look good," said Harry, eyes haunted.
"Thanks," muttered Draco. "You too."
They stared at each other, across the room, across the years. Draco recalled their last kiss beneath the street lamp with painful clarity, and his heart clenched once more. It wasn't supposed to happen like this. He wasn't supposed to feel this much.
"This is silly," he said finally. "All we had was one day."
"It was one of the best days of my life." No hesitation.
Draco almost choked. "We were just a couple of blokes trying to find our way after the war," he said, a flawless line practised over hours, weeks, months. Years.
"Do you really believe that?" Harry's eyes flashed with unexpected hostility."You make it sound like you were a part of the war."
"I was, much as I didn't want to be," said Draco, frowning.
Harry scoffed. "Your part was cowering behind your mother every time something went wrong!"
The conversation was certainly going nothing like Draco had expected, but that was okay. He knew how to handle insults. "You do so value reckless courage, don't you? I'm sure that if war breaks out tomorrow, you'll expect your sons to march in the front ranks."
"No, but I wouldn't expect them to run and hide, like your son would, I'm sure," snapped Harry.
Draco breathed deep. The mention of Scorpius stung, but he'd been the first to bring up Harry's kids. Some things you never grew out of, it seemed. "Why are you trying to make me angry?"
"Because-- I don't know what you're talking about. I'm not trying to make you angry. Unless the truth pisses you off."
"Not at all. Your version of the truth simply doesn't coincide with mine." Draco's voice was even, measured. He knew this game well, and he was glad to be playing it with Harry. At least it would help erase the damned longing.
"Obviously not," said Harry with a grimace of disgust that hurt more than it should have.
"Was this why you wanted to see me, then? To remind me of my pitiful contribution to the ever-noble war effort?"
Harry's eyes snapped up, as though upon waking from a bad dream. "No, of course not. Draco, I..."
But Draco had already got going, and why not? Only Harry could ever throw him off his keel like this. "It's so like you, you know, to try and make me feel ashamed of what I did as a child. It's been almost twenty years, and I've let it go." He didn't add that he'd been unable to let go of their strange encounter. He was going to let go of it, especially after this years-late reminder of where they both stood.
"I'm sorry," said Harry. "I've spent the past sixteen years trying to make myself hate you again. I--"
"I see you've succeeded," Draco bit out, surprising himself with the bitterness of it. He hated this.
"That's just it," said Harry. "I haven't. I-- why did you leave?"
"It was time for my apprenticeship," said Draco. A lie, but a clean one. "I am a curse-breaker."
"So it wasn't because of what we--"
"Really, Potter, not everything in the world is about you. If you've managed to work yourself up into frenzy of guilt over chasing me away to the continent, you needn't have fretted, I assure you."
Harry's face changed, from earnest curiosity to something like shock, like disappointment. "It never meant anything to you, did it?" he asked. "I've just... I thought you-- Jesus, I've been an idiot." He looked down at the carpet, his mouth a tight line.
Draco could have let him assume what he would. He could have stood there and watched Harry's expression go from disappointed to crushed. He could have watched him walk away. He should have. For Isobel, for Scorpius, for his parents, for his own wretched sanity. Instead, he went to Harry and touched his arm. "You haven't been an idiot," he said quietly. "But you shouldn't have come here today."
Harry looked up at him, and any hope of walking away from this vanished beyond reckoning: Harry's eyes were just as green as always, and the light in them was unchanged, despite the laugh-lines around them. Draco was lost. "You... you too," Harry breathed.
Draco said nothing -- couldn't. The interfering years felt like they'd vanished, like he'd only gone to Greece for a couple of months and then returned, unable to bear the separation. It was every stupid love story come alive. He could hear Harry breathing, and there was sorrow in this moment, sorrow and longing and loss.
"Draco," said Harry, and his lips were too close for Draco to ignore. He thought he could smell butterscotch, or Firewhisky, or just the years rolling backwards, away from them, back to the promise Harry had made.
Next time, I will not let you go.
"Would you make this the next time?" asked Draco unsteadily. "Would you really?"
Stopstopstop, his mind yammered. It's too late, think of Isobel, think of Scorpius, think of your parents. He could see these thoughts reflected in Harry's face, but with different names.
Draco's eyes were those of a cornered fox. "Would you make this the next time? Would you really?"
"God help me, yes." Harry's voice fell to a whisper, and he lowered his mouth to Draco's, slowly, out of sync with his racing pulse.
The rest happened too quickly for coincidence or mere impatience. Their clothes lay scattered on the carpet and Draco was on his back, his legs heavy on Harry's shoulders.
"This... you..." gasped Draco, shaking, actually shaking, fingers flexing blindly against the small of Harry's back.
"Don't..." Harry managed through clenched teeth, but Draco grasped his sides with sudden strength.
"I ran from you," Draco mumbled, eyes roaming restlessly as though searching Harry's face for meaning. "I ran, and it's too late now, too late for everything--"
"'S not too late--"
"Too late," insisted Draco, and arched his back with a shudder. "Days. Like that. Too late--"
"No," growled Harry. He drew back, struggling to keep his eyes open, to see Draco's look of slack-jawed bliss as Harry moved deeper into him, muscles aching, the savage knot of lust in his belly unravelling too quickly.
"Too late," moaned Draco, "But I want you I want you I want you--"
Every "want" was a lift of Draco's hips, and it was too much. Harry let go, cried out, and emptied himself into Draco, his hips jerking forward of their own accord. Draco pushed up and forward, moaning, letting Harry ride it out until he wanted nothing but to collapse on top of Draco, to cover his face with confused little kisses.
Draco's cock brushed wet and firm against Harry's belly as Draco eased his legs back to the floor, and Harry moved down instead of falling, down until his mouth engulfed Draco's cock. Draco uttered a cry, but there were no words this time -- just broken syllables that told Harry everything he needed to know. His head swam with dark, hazy pleasure, and the bitter taste of Draco's release mattered nothing.
Afterwards, their embrace was a shroud abuzz with the ghosts of unspoken words about things that were too late and things that weren't. It felt like betrayal, like family portraits ripped in half, like long years filled with lies. It felt like salvation, like finding the sun after months in a cave, like standing on top of a sheer cliff ready for flight.
The only thing it didn't feel like was a mistake.