Disclaimer: Harry and Draco don't belong to me, sadly.
Summary: Draco discovers that waiting doesn't equal hoping, and that some wishes do come true.
Acknowledgments: Thank you to my wonderful betas!
Harry takes his leave quietly. Draco tells himself that this is what he wants, what he made Harry promise a long time ago. All the important things have been said between them. Ever since Lupin's owl arrived with a message announcing that the end (the end of the war? The end of everything?) was tangible, there had been sudden outbursts while doing the washing up and harsh whispers before going to sleep. Confessions, apologies, what-ifs—all mingled together in no particular order. Now there is nothing left to say aside from "Take care" and "Come back soon."
They pretend this is just another morning when Harry has to leave on an Order mission. The usual hug and kiss goodbye, except that this time, Draco grasps Harry's hand and finds it difficult to let go. It's the only weakness he allows himself. Holding on to Harry for just a few more moments before he turns and walks out the door.
The hinges creak the way they always do, the lock clicks. Silence settles over the house and Draco is alone.
Draco spends the first two nights on the lumpy sofa because he can't bear the emptiness in the bedroom. In their bedroom, he silently corrects himself. Harry doesn't officially live here, but it's where he spends his nights. It's the place he comes to at the end of the day. Draco has never called it "home"—a run-down croft nestled on the side of a barren hill in the middle of nowhere isn't a place to call home, after all—but there are memories here, and he thinks it might be difficult to leave when...well. When the war ends, one way or another.
The third night Draco can't fall asleep because the sofa's springs dig relentlessly into his spine, no matter which way he turns. The icy stone floor stings his bare feet on the way down the hall, but Draco barely notices the chill.
The sheets on the bed are in disarray, and there are discarded clothes on the floor, exactly the way they'd—he'd left them. Draco climbs under the covers, immediately reaching for Harry's pillow. He curls around it and pretends the trembling in his body is caused by the cold, not the searing pain in his heart.
There are twenty-three books on a wobbly shelf in the living room. Most of them belong to Draco; they are some of the few personal belongings he had when Harry first brought him here to wait out the rest of the war. The remaining ones are Harry's, cheap Muggle novels he bought in the village that's down in the valley. Draco's finger traces across bent spines as he scans the titles. One of them catches his attention because it has the word "magic" in it. He settles on the window seat to find out what ludicrous notions Muggles have about wizards.
He makes it to page thirty-five before he realises he's read this book before. It's not the plot that he remembers. Rather, coming upon a description of the hero dramatically slaying three dragons at once, Draco hears Harry's laughter in his mind. Harry had teased him about devouring something so "trite and unsophisticated," throwing Draco's words back at him. In return, Draco had tackled Harry to the ground, kissing him senseless. It had taken days for the rug burn on Draco's lower back to fade, but he hadn't minded much.
Suddenly, Draco doesn't feel like reading anymore.
A week has passed without a word from Harry or anyone else. Nothing to worry about, Draco reasons. Voldemort's death can't exactly be scheduled, after all. And yet the sameness of days going by without any sign of change leads Draco to pace the length of the short hallway that divides the house into two neat halves.
The onset of light snowfall the next morning offers a brief respite from the monotony. As the flakes settle on fields and stone walls, the world turns into an illusion of tranquility. Draco scowls at the charade spreading outside the window. If only it were a proper storm with howling winds, not this soft whispering against the glass. Despite his loathing, he also feels drawn to the endless swirls of white-grey that blur the line between sky and land.
Pocketing his wand, Draco pulls his cloak and scarf off the hook next to the door. He barely gives himself the time to lace up his boots before hurrying outside. Quick steps take him up and over the hill, into the forest that grows on the other side. There's a well-worn path winding between the trees, but Draco ignores it. He wants to walk without any confinements.
Harsh breaths beat chilled air into his lungs. His mind is clearer than it has been in a long time, and thoughts coalesce that haven't surfaced in a while. About why he's here, and not with Harry. You'll be safer here, Harry had said. He hadn't specified from whom, but Draco knows very well that he's got more to fear from those on Harry's side than from the opposing one. Late one night, Harry had whispered into his ear (I can lose everyone else, but I can't lose you) in what some might have understood as a declaration of devotion, but to Draco it only confirmed that bringing him here is the most selfish thing Harry has ever done.
Anger rises like bile in Draco's throat—anger at Harry for hiding him away from the world, anger at those who created the circumstances that forced Harry to act in such a way, anger at his own inability to help and fight and stand next to the one he loves when the end comes.
He's almost running now, navigating through the maze of fir trees until he stumbles out onto a clearing. His heartbeat echoes in his mind, drowning out all other sounds. It pushes Draco forward, out into the open. Something's twisting inside him, his anger maybe, and it demands release, pushing, pushing—
Green light hurls towards one of the trees, splitting it apart with an explosive crack. The larger piece wavers before slowly falling towards the ground. Draco watches, mesmerized, a whoosh of air slamming into his ears just before the trunk crashes down not far from his feet. A burst of snow covers most of Draco's cloak. He stares at the ragged edges of torn wood reaching up into the sky as elation courses through his body with a force he hasn't felt in months.
For a moment, anything is possible. He could close his eyes and Apparate to Harry's side, only to push him aside to kill Voldemort with his bare hands. His hands curl into fists and he savours the energy that's prickling over his skin.
Too soon, the anger ebbs away, seeping out of Draco's body into the earth. The branches sprawling at his feet are no longer a testament to his strength, but evidence of the destruction he has wrought. The majestic fir, alive for half a century or more, torn apart for no reason at all. Draco stumbles backwards until not even a needle touches him, a hollowness settling into his chest that somehow also stings in his eyes.
His wand trembles between his fingers, finally slips from between them. It lands in the snow without a sound. Draco drops to his knees next to it, trying to fight back what longs to escape, but he has no strength left now. The desperate sounds escaping his throat should belong to some animal, not to him. He doubles over and presses his hands against his face to make them stop, to no avail.
Draco fiercely wishes for Harry to come up behind him and fold him into his arms, to draw him back into his warmth, and whisper familiar words of comfort until the world has righted itself.
But of course Harry doesn't come. Might never come for him again.
When Draco swings his feet out of bed the next morning and feels nearly instantly annoyed by the clothes still littering the floor, he knows something has changed. Too vivid a reminder of Harry's absence, he couldn't bring himself to touch the strewn-about piles before. But now clothes are simply clothes again, and the mess they create compromises Draco's desire for neatness. As he walks around the room picking up shirts and socks, he shakes his head at Harry's negligent habits and makes a note to have stern talk with him about that when he comes back.
Draco halts. When, not if. When Harry comes back. The phrase lingers, solidifies on his tongue. Taking a deep breath, something settles inside of Draco. He takes another breath and realises that the tight feeling in his chest isn't there any longer.
Two days later, a dry piece of toast and a questionable can of soup are the only things left to eat in the house. Usually, Harry does the shopping. Draco has gone with him a few times, but the bright lights and aisles full of strange boxes confuse him too much. It's not as if he's got a choice about whether or not to go shopping now, though. Squaring his shoulders, Draco walks over to the window sill to retrieve the dusty jar that Harry uses to store their Muggle money. The notes and coins in it add up to about thirteen pounds. Draco has no idea how much food that will buy him, but he is determined to find out.
A cold wind rolls off the hills as Draco walks along the road leading into the village. The landscape doesn't look as empty as it used to when he first arrived here. There are signs of life everywhere if one looks closely enough, even now, with a layer of snow covering nearly everything. The trees may have lost all their leaves, and the snow weighs down their branches, but they only bow, not break.
By the time Draco arrives in front of the supermarket, he is thoroughly chilled and grateful for the warmth that greets him when the glass doors slide apart with ease. Muggle magic, Harry had called it. Draco hurries past the entrance lest the magic give out (and really, if Muggles conjured it, it can hardly be trusted) and squash him between the two panes.
Remembering to pick up a basket, Draco makes his way down the first aisle, trying to recall what Harry has bought before. He chooses a few cans of stew because they're easy to open and heat up with his wand. Draco wishes he knew how to use the stove, but Harry has never explained it, and he hadn't bothered to ask. Adding up the prices in his head to make sure he doesn't run out of money, Draco decides he has enough to buy bread and jam while still leaving about five pounds left in reserve.
Satisfied with his progress so far, Draco rounds the corner to the last aisle. The stacked packets of chocolate and biscuits remind him of Honeydukes. A sign over one shelf proclaims "Christmas Specials" in glittering gold letters, making Draco wonder what date it is today. He lost track a while back because it isn't important any longer which day or month it is. Only the fact that the war hasn't ended yet matters. Still, he wants to know how close it is to the holiday. The newspaper on display nearby reveals that it's the nineteenth of December.
Maybe there's a chance that—Draco's mind clamps down on the thought in a manner that has almost become instinctual by now. He struggles against it, wants to let the thought come to fruition. It is entirely possible that Harry might come back before the twenty-fifth. There. Good.
It wouldn't do not to have even one small present for Harry, so Draco returns to the sweets aisle and studies the goods on display. Finally, he decides on a chocolate reindeer wrapped in foil, pretending that he had other reasons for choosing it aside from its resemblance to Harry's Patronus.
Later that afternoon, Draco walks back to the clearing where he left the fallen tree. Sadness takes a hold of him again, but it isn't as overwhelming as it was before. A whispered spell neatly separates the top from the remainder of the trunk; the former will become his—their—Christmas tree, whereas the latter will hopefully provide shelter for some of the smaller forest animals during the winter.
With the help of a few sticking charms, Draco sets up the tree in a corner of the living room. He prepares a bowl of sugar water and places it under the window, hopeful that it'll attract fairies to take up temporary residence here. He remembers following his mother around the Manor, watching her direct house elves to place intricately carved goblets here and there. It isn't a real Christmas tree without fairy lights, she'd always said, and Draco believes that, too.
Late that night, Draco is about to fall asleep when he hears a soft flutter of wings from down the hall. A smile curves on his face, and he hugs Harry's pillow closer.
Three nights later Draco has just finished brushing his teeth when the hinges of the front door creak. The toothbrush clatters onto the sink, then he's rushing through the hall, a small voice in his mind telling him he ought to be more careful, stay behind with his wand and wait so the advantage is on his side. But the wards are keyed to let only one person through without sounding an alarm. Draco stops in the door frame, reaching out to steady himself because Harry's standing on the other side of the room, seemingly unharmed. He's wearing the jeans Draco hates because they have holes in them and an old Weasley jumper and his hair is sticking up in all directions and Draco needs to take three rapid breaths because Harry's never looked as gorgeous before.
"Hi," Harry says, sounding shy.
"You're not wearing a coat."
Draco inwardly rolls his eyes as soon as the words leave his mouth. It's perhaps the stupidest statement he's ever made and he seeks refuge in the intense study of the way his toes curl against the floor. He can hear Harry walking across the room, but he doesn't look up. A pair of beat-up trainers enter Draco's field of vision and a hand tugs at his waist.
"Apparated straight from the Burrow," Harry mumbles.
Draco wants to ask what in Merlin's name Harry was doing there, but the question flees his mind when Harry's arms envelop him. He returns the embrace, draws himself as close as possible, and wills the trembling in his hands to subside.
"Is it over?" Draco asks shakily.
"Yes," Harry says simply. One of his hands moves down and up Draco's back.
Draco settles more comfortably into Harry's arms. As he shifts, his nose nudges against Harry's cheek, which Harry takes as an invitation to tilt his head. Their lips brush, almost timidly at first, then coming together more firmly.
"No one owled you?" Harry asks, his cheeks now tinted pink.
Draco shakes his head.
Harry looks off to the side, his mouth a thin line. "I can't believe they didn't," he grinds out. His gaze flicks back to Draco. "I was injured. Broken ribs, that sort of thing. They wouldn't let me go. Wanted to make sure I didn't have any lasting spell damage from—" His voice drops, "killing him. I asked anyone who'd listen to owl you and let you know I was okay."
Draco feels strangely hollow. "When...How long...?"
"Nearly a week ago. Six days, I think." Harry's expression softens. "I'm sorry."
Struggling to find his voice, Draco says, "'s all right."
Six days. He could have known Harry was alive for six long days. The realisation should provoke anger at those who apparently didn't think he deserved to know that Harry was alive, but he can't manage to get properly worked up over it. A flash of irritation, then the moment has passed. All Draco cares about is the way Harry's arms loosely encircle him and how that isn't nearly enough contact. Stepping closer, Draco asks, "But you're fine now?"
Harry smiles. "Yeah, I am." He pauses. "Draco, can we—can we go to bed? To sleep, I mean. Not to—you know. Not that I don't want to. But not right now. It's just that I feel like I haven't slept in two weeks and—"
Draco presses a finger against Harry's lips to stop the rapid flow of words. "Come on." He takes Harry's hand and leads him to their room.
While Draco slips under the blankets, Harry strips down to his boxers, letting his clothes drop to the floor.
"You need to stop doing that," Draco chides gently.
"That," Draco says, nodding at the small heap. "We do have a place for those, you know."
"Oh. Sorry." Harry bends down to pick up his jumper when Draco's hand grasps his wrist.
"Leave it." He pulls Harry down next to him. "You can do that tomorrow."
A restless half minute passes as they figure out a comfortable position to fall asleep in. Usually, Draco likes when Harry lies behind him, not too close, with one hand touching Draco's back. Tonight, however, Draco doesn't want to face the darkness, so he steals half of Harry's pillow and tucks himself close to his body, arms crossed between their chests. He's already dozing off when he hears Harry's voice.
"When I was away I noticed that—that I rather miss having you next to me at night. I hadn't realised how much I'd gotten used to falling asleep with you."
His brain must be sluggish with sleep, Draco decides, because the only reply he can come up with is, "Love you, too."
Draco wakes in the middle of the night to hands roaming over his body, gently divesting him of his pyjamas and moving him to lie diagonally across the bed. Patterns drawn by Harry's tongue diminish Draco's drowsiness, make him arch and moan and plead.
When Harry finally pushes inside, his hand slides under and finally curls over Draco's shoulder. Fingers dig into Draco's skin as Harry seeks the leverage that allows him to press further, to connect their bodies in the deepest way possible. Harry holds himself still for a moment, his weight pressing Draco down against the bed. A sigh slips past Draco's lips. It remains half-formed, swept up into a kiss. As Draco's tongue drags across the roof of Harry's mouth, a shudder rolls through him. Harry's hips snap forward, once, twice; the strain in his body palpable to Draco's searching hands.
There's no need to hold back, Draco decides. This isn't the time for slow and careful. He shows Harry by hitching his thighs up higher around his waist, ankles crossed over his back. Opening himself further. Harry's struggling now, that slow rhythm of even strokes faltering. One hand against Harry's cheek, Draco turns Harry's head. Once those green eyes fix on him, he lets Harry see all the fear and hope that has been mingling in his mind for the past weeks. Harry's head drops to Draco's shoulder with a clipped breath as his restraint finally breaks.
An almost uncanny sense of serenity takes a hold of Draco. Even though Harry's desperate need reverberates within his own body, he feels strangely divided from it. Draco lifts his arms off Harry's back and stretches them over his head. They dangle precariously over the edge of the mattress, shifting his centre of gravity, but that doesn't concern him. Harry's hand is still grasping his shoulder and Draco knows he won't let go. He is safe now.
The night wind tickles across Draco's fingertips, and he allows himself to float away with it.