Below is my fic, written for Team Canon, to the prompt of Death. I have Thoughts about this fic but I always feel unbearably pretentious discussing my own writing outside the menacing circle of my spork-wielding betas, so I'll pass on sharing them. However, if you have questions, feel free to ask them. :)
Title: Nothing Ventured (Nothing Lost)
Warnings: Some violence.
Disclaimer: JKR owns. I only play. You do not sue.
Length: 5000 words
Summary: Feelings are purest in the hours of meeting and farewell.
Beta: kriken, therealw, who_la_hoop -- thank you. <3
Note: I hope the shade of Jean Paul Richter doesn't mind me eviscerating one of his thoughts for use in my summary. Originally posted here.
Concrit: Always welcome and appreciated.
Nothing Ventured (Nothing Lost)
Good-byes are ugly things, but nothing is more revolting than a funeral.
Few people care for death. Underneath the customary outpourings of grief, there lurks a sense of... smugness. Relief to be alive. It's why people so often look a bit guilty when standing by an open grave -- they know it's improper to feel anything but bereaved, but they can't help themselves. Death, the great equaliser.
Draco doesn't want to be here. He never knew Nymphadora Lupin and he had little use for her werewolf husband, but his mother insisted, and so he stands between her and his father, face schooled into a numb mask he hopes doesn't look too indifferent. He is actually a bit unsettled, because Aunt Andromeda -- to whom his mother is making amends, in this way -- looks so much like Aunt Bellatrix that Draco keeps expecting her to throw back her head and laugh, ranting about just desserts to blood traitors.
"May they find comfort and peace in the world beyond."
The boy in Aunt Andromeda's arms squeaks in protest when she bends down to pick up a clump of earth and throw it into the grave. She straightens, brushes her fingers against her robes, and tries to placate the child. Teddy Lupin doesn't know he's at his parents' burial, and a part of Draco envies the boy this luxury.
Once the last of the flowers rest by the headstone, people begin to scatter. Some walk up to Aunt Andromeda with the customary words of hollow comfort; others talk amongst themselves. The war is still fresh in everyone's minds: wizards congregating anywhere these days are certain to talk about what they did during the Death Eaters' reign at the Ministry. Draco doesn't participate in such conversations. It's a wonder he's free at all. Some nights he stands by his bedroom window and waits to awaken in a prison cell, alone.
"I'll come by on Saturday," says a voice Draco hates, and he turns to see Harry Potter standing next to Aunt Andromeda. Teddy Lupin is clutching Potter's forefinger and attempting to communicate in baby language.
A steadying hand falls on Draco's shoulder. "Careful, Draco," Lucius murmurs. "You shouldn't make your feelings so obvious."
Draco continues to watch Potter, mask back in place. There isn't much to see; Potter says his good-byes and walks away, his ubiquitous sidekicks trailing after him. They pause briefly to speak with Ginny Weasley, but Ginny doesn't join them, nor are she and Potter looking at each other. Trouble in paradise, apparently, and Draco is glad that Potter isn't enjoying his victory as much as he could be.
Two years pass before Draco sees Harry Potter again.
♠ ♠ ♠
The barn must have been used by Muggles at some point, but when Draco Malfoy found it at the age of six, it was on Malfoy land and therefore his property. There were too many watchful portraits in the manor, so the barn was the perfect place for a boy to play. Here, he could be anyone but a boy wizard -- he could be a pirate, or a hermit, or the debonair leader of an underground resistance movement against the Muggle-loving Ministry. Whatever his role, his name was always Draco Malfoy.
Draco charged Dobby with making the place habitable. First a bathroom, then a brazier by the eastern wall. A pair of lumpy beanbag chairs. A writing desk. A hammock. Dobby had to steal everything from nearby towns, but Draco still doesn't think it was really stealing. Everything Muggles own belongs to wizards by right. They were lucky he was willing to make do with what Dobby could scrounge up, really. Plus, it was interesting to live like common people for a few hours every day.
His parents knew about the barn, of course, but they didn't discuss it. As long as Draco stayed close to home, his mother would let him live in a hole in the ground if that were his fancy. After Dobby fled, Draco was left to his own devices and didn't bother changing much of anything. He could do whatever he liked anywhere, as far as his parents were concerned, but the barn was a place where he could do whatever he liked in secret. Its furnishings were of no import.
Around the time Draco started Hogwarts, pretending to be somebody else lost its appeal, but his visits to the barn did not stop, particularly not when he began to discover that he liked boys. His first pornographic magazine, ordered from Germany near the beginning of fourth year and delivered to the barn in discreet wrappings, lay hidden under a floorboard until the following summer. That was when Draco knew that his secrets were safe here. His father would not be able to keep silent if he knew his son got off on looking at wizards fucking other wizards.
Draco does not plan upon making it a lifestyle; one day he will marry a nice witch from good pure-blood stock and start a proper family. But at fourteen, that was too far in the future to contemplate. Like his father, he did not intend to marry until he was well over twenty. Marrying right after Hogwarts was something the Weasley bottom-feeders did, because they had no other options or talents except to breed.
Eventually, there was no more space beneath the floorboard, and Draco ordered a secure cabinet for his entertainment materials. Now, almost five years after receiving his first owl order from Germany, he stands in front of the cabinet's open doors, staring at the brightly coloured covers, not really seeing them.
Harry Potter is inside Malfoy Manor, supervising a Ministry-approved search for Dark artefacts and literature. Barely a year after the war, a group much like the Death Eaters in ideology began to surface in the community. Now, another year later, there was a kidnapping -- a Muggle-born's daughter. The Minister feels this mandates a re-examination of families tied to the former Death Eaters, including those pardoned during the first round of post-war trials.
Draco thinks the Minister is full of shit.
Neither Draco nor his father will ever be moronic enough to involve themselves in another group like the Death Eaters. They both risked too much last time. There is a difference between being sympathetic towards a cause and throwing resources behind said cause; Draco has no intention to act upon his sympathies. His family's continued peaceful existence takes precedence above all else.
Potter has seen fit to disrupt the Malfoys' peaceful existence, so Draco hates him more today than he did yesterday. Which, admittedly, wasn't very much. Time and distance have a way of blunting emotions. Truth is, Draco hasn't thought about Potter in a long time -- he avoids it. Thinking about Potter makes him remember the war and mistakes Draco would rather not dwell upon.
He will just wait here until Potter leaves. Then Draco can go back to pretending he doesn't exist.
Draco shuts the cabinet doors and turns around. Potter stands in the doorway, peering around with a befuddled expression.
"What are you doing here?" Draco asks, walking quickly towards the door to keep Potter from coming in. "You're trespassing. Leave."
Potter rolls his eyes and pulls a piece of parchment from his pocket. "The warrant is for all of your property, in case you've forgotten how to read."
"Did you start following me the minute I left the manor?" Draco asks.
"Your mother asked me not to let the others come here," says Potter with a self-important air. "But the premises have to be searched. If you'd rather I sent one of the others--"
"Fine," Draco says. He feels betrayed by his own mother, which is, of course, ridiculous. He still doesn't know what great service she did Potter to make him so amenable to her requests, but he's not about to ask Potter. He just wants him gone. "Go on, then. I've got nothing to hide."
Draco strides out of the barn and leans against the wall. His mind is brimful of impotent fury, and he tries to focus on the birds' chirping, on the rustle of leaves in the nearby woods, on anything but Harry Potter stomping all over Draco's hideaway. Fuck. He should have just Disapparated, gone to Goyle's, or Daphne and Astoria's, or anywhere but here. He realises how irresponsible it is not to watch Potter conduct his fruitless search, but Draco can't stand the thought of watching Potter go through his things and being unable to do anything about it.
Draco is in the Room of Hidden Things, shouting oaths at the Vanishing Cabinet whilst fear of discovery gnaws at him -- he knows Potter is out there somewhere, skulking around, trying to find a way in. Goyle saw him. He's going to ruin everything and Draco's parents are going to pay the price of his failure.
No, no. This isn't Hogwarts. It isn't four years ago. And--
He shut the cabinet doors but didn't lock them.
Fighting the urge to rush back inside, Draco peers around the doorframe. Potter stands in front of the cabinet, looking at one of the magazines, seemingly rooted to the spot.
The white rage is back as though never gone. Suddenly, Draco doesn't care if this ends up a footnote or a paragraph in whatever report Potter has to make at the end of this. If need be, he can bin the porn and deny, deny, deny. What matters is that Potter has gone too far. When he picked up that magazine and opened it, he ceased to be an Auror and became a curious busybody. And each page he turns makes his trespass worse.
Though infuriated, Draco can't bring himself to raise a hand against Potter. He owes Potter his life. He doesn't feel particularly grateful, because it's Potter, but he can't forget. At the same time, there is nothing he wants more than to make Potter pay for this blithe intrusion into Draco's private life. There is only a tiny step to letting his anger get the best of him, and Draco desperately does not want to take it.
But this is Potter. Draco and Potter go a long way back, and one of Draco's most desperate wishes since the age of eleven was to outsmart Potter, to best him, to undermine him in such a way that Potter can't recover. To make Potter acknowledge him, for fuck's sake, if all else fails. As he watches Potter turn a page, looking frightened and fascinated at once, Draco realises he knows just how to make him pay.
♠ ♠ ♠
"Found what you were looking for, I see?" Draco's voice shakes. He lets it.
Potter's head snaps round and he shoves the magazine back into the cabinet. "Malfoy, I--"
"Shut up, Potter. Just shut up." In a few strides, Draco is in front of him. "Did you like what you saw?"
Colour blooms across Potter's cheeks. "I didn't mean--"
"I know why you're blushing, Potter. You're not ashamed to be going through my things, heavens no. You've got a warrant. You're blushing because you want to keep looking, and now I know it."
Potter's eyes flash. "I think I should--"
"So tell me, Potter. You want to give it a go?" Draco feels like he's lost his mind, but the look on Potter's face is worth it.
"Are you deaf? I said--"
"I heard you."
"So? You know how it's done, don't you?" Draco's propositioning Harry Potter. Judging by the state of his pants, he more than means it, and that's a surprise.
"Have you been drinking?"
"Oh, isn't that just precious? You get all hot and bothered by porn but can't handle the real thing. Is that why Ginny Weasley left you?"
A blur of movement makes Draco's jaw explode with pain. There's blood in his mouth, and the taste of it propels his rage beyond control. Draco's wand is out faster than he has ever thought possible, and the wordless curse erupts from the tip with such force that Draco staggers backwards, arm flailing, the spell whizzing harmlessly past Potter's shoulder.
Potter's answering Stunner is aimed well, but Draco manages a Shield Charm just in time. The barn's semidarkness explodes with fury-red light, and Draco fires back. Potter drops and rolls; Draco's hex smashes into the cabinet with a loud crack, splitting it in half. The magazines tumble down in a shower of lewd colours. From the floor, Potter takes aim. Draco's too slow to block, but fast enough to duck out of the way and fire blindly. Potter bellows in surprise or pain, and something else crashes, but Draco's too far gone to care. They're going to kill each other.
That makes Draco stop. He can't kill Potter. Can't kill anyone. He's too frightened of what it would do to him. Panting, wand still trained on Potter, Draco stands there, pain returning along with fear. His jaw throbs. Blood drips from his broken lip. And he's still hard.
Wincing, Potter struggles up. His robes are split along one leg, the edges smoking slightly. An ugly welt sprawls across Potter's thigh -- Draco's last hex. Potter gets to his feet, eyes on Draco's wand. What passes between them in the moment Potter lifts his head to look him in the eyes, Draco doesn't know, but it's enough to make him lose his grip on the wand. It rolls away with a soft clatter. Potter stumbles towards him, and Draco's almost sure he's about to die.
Potter doesn't quite make it all the way across the floor, but he grabs a fistful of Draco's robes before his injured leg gives out. They go down in a heap, and Draco ends up on top of Potter, his palms smarting from breaking his fall. His dick nestles against Potter's inner thigh, and though a part of Draco wants to scramble away, another part of him is happy just where he is.
"Fuck, I'm sorry," Potter says, and just as Draco's about to sneer, Potter gives his robes another tug, forcing him down, and shoves his tongue into Draco's mouth. Fittingly, Potter tastes like blood, until Draco realises it's his own. Right before he realises that his tongue is sliding against Potter's, and this? Is not what was supposed to happen, but Potter's hips snap up, and Draco will think later.
He tugs vainly at Potter's robes, managing only to grunt and whimper as Potter ruts against him, faster, until they're moving as one, and Draco can't breathe, can't think, all he wants is this--
No. This isn't what he wants.
"Stop," Draco gasps, wrenching his mouth away. His arm flails as he gropes for his wand. "Accio." The bottle of lube is almost empty, but has to be enough.
Potter's lower lip is wet with spit and dark with Draco's blood. He lets Draco pull his robes up, wincing when Draco's knee bumps his injured thigh. Draco's mind approaches delirium as he reaches forward, fingers catching in the waistband of Potter's pants, tugging them away. Potter's cock is warm and solid underneath silk-thin skin. Draco wants so much at once. He wants to taste it, wants to caress it until Potter screams, wants to rub his own cock against it and come just from that. But most of all, he wants it in him. It's not even about Potter anymore. Draco's never been with another person -- Patented Daydream Charms can only go so far. This is so much better that it doesn't matter if he's with Potter or with the devil.
Draco pours the lube into his palm and slicks it over Potter's cock, closing his eyes and drinking in every whimper Potter thinks Draco can't hear. "Come on," he whispers, but his voice is gone.
Potter's cock is huge inside him, and Draco's never known pain until now. It swallows him up, and Draco struggles not to cry out, though tears stream steady to the floor. He hides his face in the folds of Potter's robes and struggles to breathe. As Potter finds a rhythm, the pain becomes an afterthought. Draco thinks of the soft, soft slide of Potter's cock against his fingers, remembers wanting to feel it from the inside, and has no regrets.
Draco's breathing is shallow and quick, Potter's heavy and measured, and his eyes are shut tight. He looks like he's in pain, too. Potter goes deeper, moves faster, and Draco can no longer bite down on the scream that's been building since Potter walked back into his life. His cock spurts in his hand and Draco throws his head back, jerking upwards and cursing as fresh pain laces through his pleasure. Above him, Potter sounds like he's sobbing, and he collapses with a choked-up gasp.
Draco, senses returning, rolls out from underneath him and slams the bathroom door. He's not sure what just happened, but if he hides from it long enough, maybe it'll go away. His robes are dirty and he's just had sex for the first time. It wouldn't be so bad if it hadn't been with Harry Potter. Except it wasn't bad. His arse is sore and so's his jaw, but he feels fucking brilliant. Draco leans against the door with all his weight, stares into the sink, and tries to fill his mind with anything but this.
When he finally peeks out into the barn, Potter is gone. There is a note on the desk, a simple square fold with Malfoy scrawled across it in boyish handwriting. Draco throws it out.
♠ ♠ ♠
It's a long summer.
Potter shows up in the barn at random times; sometimes Draco finds evidence of him having been there -- squares of parchment, mostly. They're all thrown away unread. Sometimes Potter finds Draco there, but they never arrange to meet: that would be too much like a relationship of some sort, and this is no relationship.
Sometimes Draco catches himself daydreaming about Potter's mouth on his cock, with his teeth so treacherously close, teasing, keeping Draco on the brink of pain. Sometimes it feels so good that Draco forgets who he's with. Sometimes he thinks Potter forgets, too. Like when he talks to Draco after they're done.
"We caught them," Potter says. He's naked, lying on his back with his head propped up against a beanbag chair. After months of sporadic floor sex, Draco invested in a thick carpet. He's always wanted one anyway.
Draco pretends to open his eyes, though he's been watching Potter through his eyelashes for ages. "Who? The kidnappers?"
"Congratulations," Draco says, and they lapse into silence. Conversation is the province of friends and neighbours, not people who can't stand each other.
"I can't believe people still buy into the bullshit about pure-blood superiority," mutters Potter after a while.
Draco gives him a long look. "Thinking is not a crime," he says finally.
"You agree with them." Potter's tone could slice granite.
"Why wouldn't I? It makes sense."
"How? How can you? After what Voldemort did to you, to your parents--"
"Potter, just because I didn't agree with his methods doesn't mean I must disagree with his ideas. There is more than one way to skin a Kneazle."
"You disgust me." Potter sits up. His cock flops about as he wriggles into his pants, and Draco smirks.
"The moral high ground looks very inconvenient."
Draco watches him leave. He can still feel Potter's skin under his fingers, too soft and warm for someone who's got more sharp edges than an ice-capped peak. The acrid tang at the back of his mouth is Potter's, too, and that is far more fitting. Draco toys with the idea of telling Potter he didn't mean it, but he doesn't care enough to lie.
♠ ♠ ♠
The barn feels emptier in winter. Draco sits in front of the brazier and pretends it's the summer sun. He usually doesn't come here in winter because it reminds him too much of his childhood's summers, and those memories are oddly painful when he peers out of the window and sees yellow grass beneath rainclouds, with a whisper of fog near the thickets to the east. The memories are distant echoes; they make him feel old. This morning, though, he woke up wanting nothing but to sink into a beanbag chair and inhale the scent of wood beginning to rot. Back to basics.
The door creaks, and Draco's heart leaps in surprise when he sees Potter step over the threshold.
"Your mother said you were out."
"And you knew just where to find me. Ever the creepy stalker." Draco turns his back to Potter and shuts his eyes, welcoming the brazier's warmth.
"Stop being such an arse."
"I wasn't aware I had other uses."
"Potter." Draco smiles."I hear you're back with Ginny Weasley."
"No," Potter says. "That's just gossip. She's got a boyfriend."
Draco turns to look at him again. "Are you here because you haven't got a boyfriend?"
Potter opens his mouth and closes it again. Draco gets up and walks over to him. He always imagined that his victory would be momentous, perhaps with an explosion or two. This is rather anticlimactic, and it doesn't help that somewhere deep, Draco's fucking glad to see Potter again. He needs Potter. There is nothing like seeing Potter go to pieces in his hands. But Potter needs him too, or he wouldn't be here now. And that means Draco has won.
"I-- fuck, Malfoy, I'm not good at this."
Draco steps behind Potter and puts his hands on his shoulders, pressing his face against the rough wool of Potter's cloak, and remembers the first time. "You do all right."
"What you said last time--"
Draco cuts him off. "I'll always believe as you don't."
Potter stiffens. "Is there a chance you'll change your mind?"
Draco brings his mouth as close to Potter's ear as he can without touching and whispers, "None."
Potter's shoulders twitch, not quite enough to shrug Draco's hands off. "We've got nothing to talk about, then."
"I know." Draco presses his lips to the side Potter's neck. He isn't interested in talking, and it shouldn't be taking Potter this long to work that out.
"This can't have a happy ending, Malfoy."
"I know." Draco tugs Potter's cloak down. "I don't want one of those."
♠ ♠ ♠
The barn walls creak in the wind, and the sound makes Draco feel like he's on a ship, drifting through a storm. It's the wettest and coldest autumn Draco can remember. Potter's hair is damp from the rain; he's shaking it out as he removes his cloak.
"You look like a wet rat," Draco begins, but his back hits the wall and his words fade into a gasp. Potter's hand is firm on Draco's cock, working it over through his robes; after all this time, he knows just enough about Draco's buttons to be dangerous. Draco bucks forwards, shutting his eyes. They're naked within minutes, but as Draco begins to hoist himself up, Potter stops him.
"I want you to do it."
Draco never thought his heart could beat this fast or this far up in his throat. Potter's arse is by no means uncharted territory for Draco's fingers and mouth, but his cock is a different story. He doesn't really know what he's doing, but he knows what he wants to do, and Potter gasps when Draco makes him face the wall and slides his cock in between Potter's arse cheeks. If he keeps squeezing Potter's arse, he could come like this, and it wouldn't be so bad, but Potter might think Draco lost his nerve. Can't have that.
"I'll get the--" Draco begins, but Potter shakes his head.
He looks over his shoulder. "Did it before I came here."
The mental image of Potter, in whatever hovel he calls home, fucking himself with two slicked fingers because he wants Draco in him -- it's too much. Draco shoves his cock inside Potter just to have one moment of blankness in his mind. Potter pounds the wall with his fist, muffling a cry, and Draco eases back, forces a slow slide in, though everything in him demands speed. Potter shifts, spreading his legs further apart, and lets out a low groan that Draco recognises because he's made that sound underneath Potter, so many times.
Draco's sweating so much that his grip on Potter's sides falters. He reaches around for Potter's cock instead, but he's shaking, because this is different. Somewhere in that place where Draco was once glad to see Potter again, there is a distinct feeling of a house of cards tumbling down. Draco makes a fist around Potter's cock and tries to move it in sync with his hips, but he can't -- this isn't one of his porn magazines where everything is always perfectly timed and flawlessly executed.
"Fuck," Potter gasps, and pushes back against Draco as his cock pulses to yet another rhythm. Come slides down Draco's knuckles and he's gone. He braces slick fingers against the wall and rides it out, forehead to Potter's shoulder, and there is nothing else for a while but the smell of Potter's cheap soap and the heat of Potter's skin against Draco's.
As they step apart and begin to catch their breath, Draco breaks his own rule about conversations. "Why tonight?"
Potter, not to be outdone, breaks the rest of Draco's rules all at once. He's not powerfully built, but his arms are strong around Draco, too strong to throw off or even struggle against. "Dunno," he says, and God, but he's got gorgeous eyes. Draco kisses him. He wants this, needs it, any way he can get it. It isn't ever enough.
It can't ever be enough. That's why it's got to stop.
♠ ♠ ♠
Barrels line the outside back wall of the barn. When Draco was a child, he used to pretend they held treasure and that he was entrusted with keeping it safe. He would clamber onto the centremost barrel and spend hours glaring at the benign grassland around him, his toy wand clutched in his fist. No one ever came to lay claim to the treasure, but such things were irrelevant when you were a boy. In Draco's mind, the would-be robbers hid in the tall grass, waiting for him to let down his guard. One summer day much like today, he fell asleep on the watch and woke up terrified, expecting ghouls, Dementors, and leashed Inferi to surround him when he opened his eyes. But Draco's only punishment that day was a mild case of sunburn.
A shadow blots the sun and Draco looks up in surprise -- there wasn't a cloud in sight when he set out from the manor. Potter stands before him, hands in pockets, hair rumpled. "You look like you're making a run for nirvana."
Draco shifts on top of the barrel, straddling it. "Nah," he says. "I'd have to give up sex for that." He immediately regrets it -- the desperate, hungry look is fierce in Potter's eyes. It's Potter's fault. With anyone else, Draco wouldn't dream of behaving like a wanton whore just off her rag. Potter brings out the worst in Draco just by showing up.
"We can't keep doing this," Potter says.
"Of course we can," Draco replies. "But we shouldn't."
For all his quiet resolve, Potter can't hide the surprise and hurt on his face. It's so like him. He came here to end it, never expecting that Draco might want the same. Of course not. He's Harry bleeding Potter, ladies and gentlemen; no one in their right mind ought to want to stop fucking Harry Potter. He would deny it if Draco said any of this out loud; he would even be offended. But Draco knows Potter, knows the selfish part of him that hides beneath the steadfast hero bullshit, denied, suppressed. In fact, Draco knows it better than any other part of Potter's personality, because sex is not just about naked bodies.
"We shouldn't." Potter's voice sounds like it's coming from one of the treasure barrels. He looks like a kicked puppy, and anger lashes at Draco.
"Why do you sound so disappointed, Potter? This is what you came here for. Is it not?"
Potter frowns. "I wish you wouldn't pretend--"
"Pretend. You think I'm pretending? That I'm being stoic for your sake? No, Potter, I'm not pretending, and you haven't caught me mid-self-sacrifice. I agree that we should stop doing this. If you hadn't come to me today, I would have gone to you tomorrow."
Draco leans forward, aware once again of his legs snug around the barrel, and wonders if his self-control will hold out long enough for this to end. Potter's eyes search Draco's face, but he makes no move, and Draco eases back a little. Treasure in the barrel, he thinks, visualising his own dignity and sanity locked inside, trembling as they wait for Draco to head off the brigand.
"We need each other too fucking much." It's the closest Draco will ever come to discussing what he feels. He hopes Potter doesn't say anything stupid.
When Potter speaks, his voice is strained, his jaw taut. "What if it's enough?"
"Then we'd be happy," Draco says. "I don't think that's possible. Not in this life. You'll always choose a Weasley, and I'll always hate you for it. It's how things should be."
After a long silence, Potter nods. He's staring at a spot behind Draco, as though attempting to see through the wall. "Sometimes things change," he says, but it's half-hearted.
"Then you realise you'd rather they remained the same," Draco replies.
Later, Draco sits alone, eyes shut. The barn wall is rough and warm against his cheek; he thinks of splinters. The sunlight beats against his eyelids, a gash of orangey-red, the colour of a bloodstain fading from white linen.
It's only good-bye. It's nothing like a funeral.