Title: The Piano Man
Summary: They spent the next evening wandering the streets of Johannesburg, marveling in the simplicity of such a Muggle city. There was no magic here, no remnants of a war that had nearly destroyed them both. In which Harry Potter tries desperately to fix a problem that he caused, and Draco Malfoy really just wants to play his piano.
Disclaimer: All Harry Potter characters herein are the property of J.K. Rowling and Bloomsbury/Scholastic. No copyright infringement is intended.
Warning(s): Flangst, established relationship (sort of), H/D outside of England.
Epilogue compliant? EWE
Word Count: ~3,700
Author's Notes: Études Op. 10, composed by Frederick Chopin, has twelve parts to it. Three of these are mentioned within this story and if you're interested in learning about them, you can find out more about them here. Title is a reference to the song Piano Man by Billy Joel. rickey_a, I really hope that you enjoy this! Many thanks to B for holding my hand, and to E and A for giving this a last minute beta when I had no where else to turn. ♥!
“Before healing others, heal yourself.”
- Gambian Proverb
"Music is everybody's possession. It's only publishers who think that people own it."
- John Lennon
Harry found him in a small, dodgy pub somewhere in the outskirts of Johannesburg. He stood outside the doors for what seemed like hours, hands in his pockets, staring through the dirt-streaked window. He tilted his head slightly to the left and, in the distance, he could see the glittering lights of the metropolitan city shining, blinding, reminding him a bit of London. If he tilted his head slightly to the right, then he could see Draco sitting inside, his head bent over an old grand piano, fingers moving quickly across the keys.
At some point Harry must have made up his mind, because with a deep breath and a quickly whispered prayer to whoever might be listening, he found himself pushing his way through the large oak doors. It was dark inside the pub, the dingy lighting job doing little to make the dirty walls and the dusty tables look any more appealing. If anything, thought Harry as he walked across the length of the room, the lack of light seemed to highlight these defects.
He walked inside and took a seat in a booth towards the back of the room. Draco hadn't seen him yet, or if he had, he hadn't stopped playing. Although, considering that it had taken Harry six attempts of looking through the window before he had been absolutely sure that the man he was looking at was actually Draco, Harry figured this was probably more attributed to a lack of proper lighting than it was Draco's observational skills.
He ordered the first drink that he saw on the menu and then curled back in his booth, tucking his long legs under him. Draco had delved into a rendition of Black Key Étude, a piece from Chopin that Harry only recognized because he'd heard him play it a hundred times before. Harry watched the way that his fingers danced across the keys, the way that his eyes never flickered away from the music in front of him. He watched, studying Draco's body language so intently that he knew the exact moment that Draco realized he was there - his spine straightened and his fingers slipped ever so slightly out of their rhythm.
When the piece ended, the pub fell into silence. Draco watched him from across the room, his fingers curled tightly around the old, worn songbook in his hands. Neither of them made any attempt to move, but even across the dark room, Harry could see Draco's lips moving, what he assumed were probably angry expletives falling from them.
"Hello," breathed Harry in reply, his breath ghosting out and printing a temporary pattern across the surface of his glass. He raised his glass in a mock salute and added, "Got you."
"Why are you here?" asked Draco two days later.
Harry opened his eyes and rolled over on the couch, dragging the blankets along with him. Unable to get a good look at the clock on the wall, he instead glanced out the window and, seeing that it was light outside, assumed that he had probably slept a lot longer than he had originally planned. He was still tired. So he made a shrugging motion that was directed towards Draco and rolled over again, trying to go back to sleep.
Draco wasn't easily pacified and a moment later, Harry felt a sharp succession of jabs at his side. "Why are you here?" he repeated, his voice tight and angry.
Harry sighed and rolled over again. He forced himself to open his eyes and then looked up to see Draco looming over him, an angry, confused expression on his face. Shrugging at him, Harry said, "I don't know."
They spent the next evening wandering the streets of Johannesburg, marveling in the simplicity of such a Muggle city. There was no magic here, no remnants of a war that had nearly destroyed them both. There was nothing here but busy and bustling streets filled with people who had nothing more on their minds that the moment, the now.
Here, they could be anything they wanted.
"I like to play the piano," said Draco, as though Harry didn't already know this. "I've only been here for a week, but I found that pub on my second day. I've been playing there each night."
"You're a piano man?" said Harry incredulously, the thought vaguely amusing to him.
"What's a piano man?"
"You know, Billy Joel?" said Harry, laughing. Then, a moment later he blinked and said, "Oh, right. You wouldn't know Billy Joel. He's a Muggle, a singer. I have one of his albums back at home. You could listen to it if you want."
"Not really," said Draco.
He sped up his pace then, moving through the streets quickly and with an efficiency that comes only with having been there before. Harry walked faster to try and keep up with him and said, "I still think it's funny that you're a piano man."
Draco tilted his head back slightly and replied, bitingly, "Better a piano man than a Healer who can't heal, Potter."
"Why are you here?" asked Harry a few nights later as they walked the stairs to the third floor of the hotel. They had just gotten back from visiting the Johannesburg Zoo. Harry had gleefully spent the entire afternoon snapping photos of animals for Teddy, but Draco had been oddly silent the entire time.
"Why do you care?"
"I was just curious," he replied.
"I was stressed," Draco snapped. "Having people up and disappear tends to do that. Mother suggested I go away for a few weeks. So I packed up and left Teddy with Andromeda, told them I'd be back in a few weeks."
"But why Johannesburg?" persisted Harry, honestly curious. "I mean, South Africa doesn't really seem like the sort of place that you would willingly go."
"No one knows me here."
"Why are you here, Harry?" asked Draco for the third time since Harry had arrived days earlier, his fingers curled tightly around the doorknob to his hotel room.
"I don't know."
Draco spun around and looked at Harry, his gaze unwavering. "You're lying. You know exactly why you're here."
"I missed you," replied Harry finally, after what seemed like hours of silence, although he knew in reality, it had only been a few moments.
"You missed me," said Draco slowly, stretching the words out as though they were foreign to him. He stared at Harry as though he were a small child. "You're fucking joking, right, Potter? You're the one that ran off, the one that left. Yet you come here, you track me down to fucking Africa, to tell me that you missed me."
"Yeah," said Harry, his voice so soft that even he could barely hear it.
The door made a loud bang as it slammed shut behind Draco, leaving Harry effectively stranded in the hallway. He considered Apparating inside, but quickly decided that might not be the best plan. Considering how pissed off Draco was, Harry could only imagine the sort of hexes he'd have to deal with.
He sighed and curled up on the floor next to the door. He hoped that Draco would change his mind at some point and let him inside the room, as the prospect of sleeping in the hall had absolutely no appeal.
"I left because I cared," said Harry a few nights later. They were sitting in the small kitchenette in Draco's hotel room, attempting to make a salad. Harry had already chopped the peppers and was in the process of tossing them into the greens. "I wasn't well," he added quietly. "I needed to think about a lot of things, I needed to heal."
"Good for you," snapped Draco. He went back to chopping the onion and did not look at Harry again.
Harry had never been one to let things go easily, and this was no exception. "I want you to understand why I did what I did."
"I don't particularly care."
"You're lying," said Harry.
At that, Draco slammed the knife he had down and glared at Harry. "Don't you dare call me a liar, Potter," he hissed. "I'm not the one who said 'I'm running out for milk' and then never came back! I had to go and talk to bloody McGonagall to find out where you were!"
"I said I was sorry!"
"Sorry isn't good enough!" snapped Draco, moving to pick up the knife again. His fingers curled around the handle, but not firmly enough, because a moment later when Draco moved to cut again, the knife slipped the wrong way and sliced into his arm.
Harry let out a strangled sound as the wound began to bleed profusely. He pushed himself up and out of his chair and was on the other side of the table in minutes. "Let me fix that," he said, and fumbled for his wand.
Draco gave him a horrified look and attempted unsuccessfully to take a step back. "Harry, when I said 'Healer that can't heal', you know that I wasn't joking, right? You can't cast a simple headache-removal spell without the fucking thing backfiring."
Harry ignored him and pointed his wand at Draco's arm. He mumbled something under his breath and a bright blue spark shot out of the end of his wand, connecting with the broken skin. When the light faded away, they were greeted with the sight of perfectly unmarred skin. Satisfied that any possible crisis had been adverted, Harry pocketed his wand.
Draco stared at his hand, then at Harry. "It bloody worked," he said, his voice tainted with awe.
"I told you," Harry said quietly as he turned back to the salad. "I needed to heal myself first."
At the end of the second week, they decided to visit the Johannesburg Art Gallery together. Harry considered this to be a vast improvement on the past week, which mostly consisted of Draco making choices and Harry following along after him like a lost puppy. It appeared that now, Draco had accepted the fact that Harry was there and had decided to stop trying to ignore him.
"What did you mean by 'heal yourself'?" asked Draco as they wandered throughout the building.
"Last week, you said you had to heal yourself," Draco elaborated patiently. "What did you mean by that?"
Harry studied one of the paintings for a few moments. "I wasn't me," he said quietly. "I couldn't put my finger on the specific issue, but I just...I didn't feel right. I was angry, but I didn't know why."
Draco said nothing.
"I finally went and talked to Minerva about it a few days before I left."
"What did she say?"
Harry moved his gaze from the painting to Draco. "She suggested that I go and see a friend of hers that lived in Japan. He used to be a Healer," he explained, "but he stopped practicing a few years ago. He focused more on the mind than the body in his practice. She thought that maybe he could help me figure things out."
"So you just up and left for six months?"
"No," said Harry, "I didn't think I'd be gone that long. I didn't even think I'd leave that day. I figured it would be the next week, and that it would just be for a few days. But then...I just left. I wanted to fix things before I came back. I still thought it would only be a few days at that point, but then it turned out that I was in worse shape than I thought and, well, days turned into weeks."
Draco mulled over this and then asked, "Are you better now?"
"I think I am," said Harry. "I feel better. I don't feel so angry, so hateful. We figured out that that was one of the reasons I was having so much trouble with healing. Healing magic focuses on fixing things, making things better. It's a magic that revolves around caring for others and, well, you can't do that if you're so filled with anger that you yourself are broken."
"You're better," insisted Draco softly. He didn't look at Harry. "You healed my arm. A year ago, you wouldn't have been able to do that."
Harry nodded, still not looking at Draco. "A year ago, I probably would have ended up taking your arm off with that spell," he agreed. "I think I'm better, now."
"I'm glad," said Draco. "Don't get me wrong though, Potter. I'm still angry with you, but I'm glad."
They were at the pub again. This time, Harry sat in the front of the room, only a foot or so away from the piano. He watched with fascination as Draco's fingers flew across the keys, fast enough that Harry could barely keep track of where they were at what moment. He was playing Étude Op. 10, No. 6, Harry's personal favorite.
"I want to go home," said Harry when Draco finished the piece.
Draco didn't move his eyes from the songbook. "Why now?"
"I just want to go home," he repeated, looking down. "I miss Teddy. I miss home."
Harry missed the amused, pleased look that flashed quickly across Draco's face. "All right," he said, "We'll go home."
He hadn't said 'You go home', Harry would later reflect. Nor had he said, 'I'll go home'.
He'd said 'we'.
They arrived back in London the next morning. Draco went straight home, claiming that he was exhausted, but Harry stayed out and wandered the streets for awhile. As much as he had liked Japan, as much as he had like Johannesburg, Harry would always be a Londoner at heart. There was just something about the city that appealed to him, something he couldn't explain, but something that he knew had nothing to do with magic.
A few hours later, Harry stood outside their building and stared up at the large, looming house for a few moments, his fingers wrapped tightly around the warm box in his hands. He glanced around the surrounding area, the remains of the first heavy February snowfall lay spread across the ground, white snow obscuring the sidewalk from view. Trudging over to what he thought might be a part of the sidewalk, Harry walked towards the building and pressed the buzzer at the gate.
"Uh, er, Draco?" said Harry, shifting his weight slightly. The box was small, but it was heavy. Harry moved it to his other hand and then said, "It's, uh, me. I mean, Harry."
"Clearly," came the biting retort through the small speaker. "No one else I know can butcher a simple introduction quite like you."
Harry frowned. He then realized a moment later that Draco couldn't see it, so he decided to settle for a long, suffering sigh. "Can you let me in, please?"
"What will you do if I say no?"
"I've got food," said Harry, ignoring the question. Technically the house was his, too, but he really didn't want to have to point that out right now. Instead, his voice hopeful, he added, "It's General Tso's."
There was a long moment of silence, and then there was a loud click as the deadbolt to the gate slid open. Harry pushed his way through and walked along the path, grinning despite the cold and the snow. He was still grinning a moment later, when he stopped just outside of the front door. He knocked twice and then took a quick step back as the door swung wide open. Draco stood in the doorway, wearing a pair of old jeans and dark red sweater.
"Well, are you coming in, then?" he snapped after a moment when Harry made no attempt to move. He stepped to the side to make room for Harry to get in. When Harry pushed his way past, his head ducked down so that Draco couldn't see his grin. Draco cast him a suspicious look. "That had better be real General Tso's, Potter. As in cooked in a kitchen, not the sort that you throw in the microwabe."
"Microwave," Harry corrected automatically. Then he frowned and said, "You think I would bring you fake Chinese? I'm hurt."
"You can't be trusted," Draco said as he closed the door behind Harry. He walked over to the kitchen and pulled two plates and two mugs out of a cupboard. "You're a Gryffindor."
"I think you've forgotten which House was known for what traits," replied Harry, amused.
"I think you're confused, Potter."
Harry snorted. Then he sat down at the table and looked at Draco expectantly. The other man rolled his eyes but a moment later walked over to the table himself, balancing the empty plates in one hand and carrying two steaming mugs of coffee in the other. Harry put a large amount of chicken on both of their plates and they ate silently, content to simply be.
"I haven't forgiven you," said Draco later that night. As if to reinforce this statement, he slammed a complicated and angry string of notes into the piano, disrupting the nearly perfect flow of The Revolutionary Étude in the process. Disgusted, he grabbed the songbook and slammed it shut as well, his fingers lingering on the cover for a moment. "I want you to know that."
"I do," said Harry sincerely. "I wouldn't, either. Not yet, anyway."
Draco raised an eyebrow at that and turned to stare at Harry. "What makes you think that I'll forgive you at all, Potter?"
Harry looked down at the dark-red sheets on the bed and lightly scratched at them with his nails. He didn't answer right away, and it was only when Draco made an exasperated sound and turned back to the piano that Harry spoke. "I don't know if you will or not. I just knew that I couldn't be involved with us anymore, that I could come to terms with the idea of us being definite, until I came to terms with myself."
"So you ran off to Japan?" snapped Draco, looking totally unimpressed. "You ran off to fucking Japan to have some sort of mental breakdown and left me in England with nothing but a large house and an eight-year-old."
"I'm not sorry," said Harry quietly. "I mean, I'm sorry that I hurt you. I'm sorry that I hurt Teddy. I'm sorry that I left without explaining, and that I made you doubt the last four years. But I'm not sorry that I did what I needed to do."
"I hate children."
"You like Teddy, though."
"He's acceptable at times, yes," said Draco. "I really didn't like the part where I had to lie to him about where you were. I told him you were on a long trip for work, that you'd be out of the country for a few months, and that you would be bringing him presents when you got back."
"You covered for me?" said Harry, incredulous. "Why would you do that?"
"Because as much as I hate children," said Draco, "I hate crying children more. I have to admit, too, that the idea of you now having to splurge on gifts to pacify him makes it all the more worth it."
Harry frowned at that and pulled the covers tightly around him. Then he sighed. "I hate you."
"You're the one that left," shrugged Malfoy. He opened the songbook back up and set it in place. "By the way, when I say gifts, I mean large, ridiculous gifts. You had better find that child a fucking llama or something before we see him tomorrow night, Harry. I won't be held responsible for any damage caused by him if he doesn't get what he wants."
Harry didn't reply. He bit his lip and looked down at the bed again. He traced his fingers along the designs printed on the sheets and, across the room, the sounds of The Revolutionary Étude filled the air again. Draco must have been halfway through the song when Harry said, "Do you think we can start over?"
The song cut out with another angry string of notes. Draco scowled at his piano for a moment and the turned the scowl towards Harry. "Are you ever going to let me finish this piece?"
"Not until you answer me," said Harry.
"We've already started over, Potter."
"Do you really think I would have put up with you in Johannesburg, otherwise?" said Draco, exasperated. "Do you really think I would have let you interrupt my playing twice now? That I would have covered for you with Teddy?"
"Oh," said Harry.
"You're an idiot," said Draco, almost fondly. "I haven't forgiven you yet, but that doesn't mean we can't start rebuilding, that we can't start over. We both know that eventually, I'll nearly forgive you."
Draco shrugged. "I can forgive, but I never forget."
"Oh," said Harry again. Then he smiled slightly and cautiously added, "I do love you, you know. I left because I loved you, because I wanted to fix me, because I wanted to fix things and I wanted to -"
"Shut up," said Draco, cutting Harry off and shaking his head. "I know that. I love you, too, even if you are a total imbecile. Now will you kindly let me finish my playing?"
Harry grinned and nodded. As the sounds of The Revolutionary Étude filled the room for the third - and hopefully, last - time that night, Harry started to drift off to sleep. There were a lot of pressing matters on his mind, like how he would deal with Teddy the next morning, or how he would deal with his friends. He'd created this mess and now he would have to clean it up. He was glad to know that at the very least, Draco would be by his side, pointing out his idiocy at every turn. Things weren't great between them, Harry knew. They were rocky and unstable, but Harry hoped that - no, he knew that - eventually, things would level out. He didn't have the answers. He didn't really know what would happen between them or where they would go from here.
But he knew that he wanted to find out.