Summary: Too short a time in paradise.
Disclaimer: All Harry Potter characters herein are the property of J.K. Rowling and Bloomsbury/Scholastic. No copyright infringement is intended.
Epilogue compliant? Yes.
Word Count: ~7,300
Author's Notes: ms_mindfunk's prompts: heat wave, rain, a snitch; enjoyed clichés (that I tried): Aurors. A large part of this might seem like AU or de-aging, but I guess you'll have to bear with it for awhile. I hope you enjoy it, ms_mindfunk. Thanks to my awesome betas: W & B
And here, yes here, your sweet hibiscus
blooms only for you.
Your lovely kiss
Your deepest wish
Your every dream come true.
The rain is falling very lightly, barely a spray, like cool, gentle kisses on Draco's brow and cheeks. He looks up through half-opened eyes in the direction of the sun, the rays of which shine brilliantly through the drizzle. There are rainbows arching through his eyelashes, tiny and perfect and exquisite.
He is sitting on his favourite rock, knees pulled close to his chest, arms wrapped around his legs. The rock marks the very end of a long line of regal, weather-beaten stones that march along the beach until it descends bravely into the sea. They are like ancient cursed kings, and his rock is the last scion, waiting for a princess to come wake him with a kiss. He can easily jump on or off his rock, kicking up a dusty spray of golden sand as he does so. He's done it many times before.
He watches as the sun begins its slow swoon into the water, which had been a blinding blue all through the day and is now turning into a silvery, red-tinged plane. The rain is nearly done with its tender caress when he hears a rustle behind him; surprised, he turns his head around to peer over his shoulder.
He thought he had been all alone here. He's not afraid, but he doesn't like being bothered. He can see someone peering at him from within the deep green shadows of the thick forest that touches against the powdery sand. He turns back to get one final glance of the hazy sunset, then hops off his rock and sprints off towards the forest.
The spy steps back, startled at his sudden rush. Then he spins around and races into the cool depth of the forest. He is small and quick and Draco is hard-pressed to follow as the intruder leaps over fallen trees and slips under large, broad leaves that hang low. He almost catches his little spy as they pounce from rock to rock through a small stream, and it is only when the trespasser stumbles and collapses against the foot of a massive baobab tree that he catches up to them.
The spy (a boy who might be younger than Draco, he's so very small) curls up against the tree tightly, his head pressed against his knees with his arms wrapped around his legs, just as Draco had been sitting on his favourite rock. The boy shivers as Draco steps close, dry leaves crackling under his pale feet.
"Who are you?" Draco asks in a low voice, and a small bird with iridescent black and emerald feathers flits right between them, as if in some form of response. The boy tucks into himself even more, his narrow shoulder-blades jutting up out of his back defensively. He has a lot of dark hair; it curls and twists riotous inky splendour, seeming to bristle at Draco as he kneels close.
"Who are you?" Draco repeats and kneels on the cool ground. "What do you want?"
The boy raises his head very slowly and Draco tilts his head, peering into his face. The boy's eyes are large and spectacularly green; the eyelids are rimmed red, as if he had been crying.
"I don't want anything," the boy replies, his voice sounding cross and scared all at once. Draco glowers, yet he is charmed in spite of himself. The boy is so tiny but there is something sturdy about him, even in his grey shorts, frayed at the legs, and large t-shirt, once red and now a washed-out pink. Draco himself is wearing one of his green robes, light and short and finely made.
"Well, what's your name, then?" Draco tries to pitch his voice to be gentle; for a moment, he has a very vague memory of someone saying that he's too bossy, so he supposes the gentleness doesn't really come out that well; Draco thinks that he can't help speaking like that. "Come on, talk. I won't bite."
The boy gives him a very suspicious stare, as if Draco's teeth were contrary evidence to this promise, then murmurs, "Harry," before pressing his forehead back against his knees.
"Harry," Draco echoes and sits back on his heels, looking at the boy's lustrous, wild hair. Harry; the name is so very ordinary and yet it seems to send shivers down Draco's spine. "I'm Draco," he finally offers and the boy shifts his head, peeping up at him with one eye.
"Draco?" His voice is muffled, but there is an amused wonder in it. "I've never heard a name like that before."
"It means dragon," Draco informs him importantly, puffing out his chest a bit. "It's also a constellation in the sky."
"Constellation?" Harry raises his head again, looking at him with open curiosity.
"Yes." Draco takes a deep breath. "A constellation is a group of celestial objects, connected together to form a pattern," he says in his best tutoring voice.
"I know what a constellation is, I know about the Plough and such." Harry's tone is dry, arms loosening from around his skinny legs. "I just didn't know that there was one called Draco."
"Well. There is." Draco frowns at him and Harry frowns back, quite impressively for such a narrow face. Draco can sit here frowning all day if he wants, but Harry breaks their staring match and looks away with a sigh.
"Are you hungry?" Draco asks suddenly, eager to show off his house to this tiny boy. "I have food, come and eat with me." He stands and puts out a hand to help the other boy up. Harry gazes at it for longer than necessary, his gaze fixed on Draco's fingers as if they will burn him if they touch. Draco is just about to snatch back his hand and say something very nasty, when Harry's hand creeps into his, small and pale, the skin of his palm very rough against the softness of Draco's.
Draco blinks at it for a moment, poised in a strangely delicate fashion in his palm. It's a very nice hand, he thinks suddenly, and folds his fingers over it, pulling Harry to his feet.
He's taller than Harry; Draco can actually see the top of his head. Harry looks very frail, almost scrawny, but Draco remembers how fast he ran through the forest, and his grip is strong and sure.
He doesn't let go of Harry's hand as they walk towards the Hidden Path. When they find it, seeming to stumble onto it almost by accident, Harry's hand tightens in his and Draco grins. The Hidden Path is pretty, in a breathless, expectant kind of way. It's a winding, narrow trail, bracketed on both sides with tall hibiscus shrubs with their glossy, serrated-edged leaves. The flowers are all kinds of colours and sizes. Some of their petals have fallen to the ground, creating a soft path up to Draco's home and muffling their steps.
"Oh," is all Harry says when Draco's house comes into view. Draco looks at him, grinning widely as Harry tilts his head back, staring up at the house. "It's… it's so nice. I've never seen a tree-house like that before." He pauses, wrinkling his brow, dark eyebrows drawing together. "I've never seen a real tree-house anyway, only in books. But this is really nice."
"Thank you." Draco is full of gracious pride and they stand for a moment in the cool, green shade, Harry's open admiration and awe warming Draco like the rays of the sun. It really is an astounding thing, an immense tree with an uneven wooden staircase wrapped around its massive truck, tilted stairs leading to a landing in the wide fork. A small structure is tucked in this fork, smaller branches bending and weaving to form rounded walls; there is no roof, really, as the branches arch and curve together, but the top of the house is lush with large, thick leaves. It seems as if the tree had grown that structure itself, like some hollow fruit.
"Let's go up!" Draco drags Harry along with much enthusiasm. He hadn't realised how lonely he was; he had thought that he liked the solitude, living here in this quiet, perfect island, not knowing how he got here and not really caring. But now that Harry is here, he feels happier already… more at peace. "I've lots of grand things up there, you'll see!"
Harry stumbles a few times as Draco dashes up the stairs, still clenching his small hand tightly as they wind up and up. Harry gives a low, breathless laugh; it sounds a bit rusty, as if he it hasn't been used in a while, but it's very nice.
When they reach the landing, Harry stops short, staring back out at the lovely view. The tree rises over most of the forest, so that the house seems to float above a whispering green sea, the real ocean a broad silvery-blue band in the background.
"Come." Draco tugs him imperiously, but Harry stands his ground, continuing to gaze out. He's very strong for someone so small, so Draco stops pulling at him, and looks at the side of his face as his eyes, large and bright and tilted at the edges, flicker back and forth over the presented view.
A flying vee of birds flaps overhead, their bright colours a moving rainbow against the darkening sky. They can hear the secretive sushing of the ocean, rolling over and over the pebbled beach. Harry folds his lips in and begins to blink very rapidly. Draco gazes at him, a little confused, until he realises that Harry is trying not to cry.
One part of him, that part which seems like a ghostly snake buried deep in the dark flower of his heart, wants to jeer crybaby crybaby not such a big hero are you, but Draco pushes this mocking ghost away ruthlessly, mostly because Harry isn't really crying… at least, not out of sadness.
"I think there's something in my eye." Harry's voice is thick, rubbing quickly at his eyes. When he turns to Draco, his long, dark lashes are damp and clumpy.
"Let me see?" Draco reaches out and puts a thumb under one of Harry's eyes, dragging down the bottom lid a bit. He nods. "Yes, I think so," he confirms, even though there's no such thing, and leans in to blow a quick gentle breath, pretending to dislodge any rogue dust. Harry rears back a little, surprised and then he smiles shyly when Draco laughs.
"Thanks." Harry looks back out over the rippling green waves of the forest. "I've… I've never seen anything so beautiful before," he murmurs. "You're so lucky."
Draco grins. "Let's go inside," he says, eager to show off the rest of his amazing house.
He puts his hand against the arched door; it's never locked. Now it is clear how the smaller branches have formed the walls; the main trunk twists through the centre of the room and continues up past where there would have been an apex to the curved, branchy walls, escaping to the sky in a riot of wild growth. The wind plays ceaselessly in the sprawling crown of the tree overhead, while the floor is fairly level, made of tightly fitted lengths of polished lumber.
As they pass, Harry touches the craggy surface of the trunk with the reverence of one who has lived in the city all his life, but deeply adores nature nonetheless. A small lizard runs down the tree from the upper branches, giving them a flatly curious glance, before continuing down.
"Oh, do you cook?" Harry asks, eyeing the long wooden counter curving away from the main door, nearly halfway along the circumference of the room. There is a small, gleaming sink, and a few buckets stacked on the ground, for gathering water from the nearby stream. Draco laughs derisively.
"No. Cooking is for plebeians," he says. "I've never cooked. Food is always here." He goes over to a small round table near the counter and pulls off a white cloth. Food is indeed on the table, a few plates of steaming fare and bowls of peeled fruits.
Harry looks uncertain. "I don't know what a plebeian is. But I must be one, because I cook. A lot."
"Do you?" Draco gives him a sceptical eye. "Where?"
Harry opens his mouth, blinks and then purses his lips thoughtfully. "I… don't remember. Where does this all come from?"
Draco shrugs. He doesn't know; this is how it has always been and he tells Harry so.
"How long is always?" Harry questions, his green eyes bright and fixed on Draco's. Draco shrugs again, a lazy move of one narrow shoulder.
"As long as I know," he says with firm confidence. "Now stop asking me questions and come over here."
Harry trots behind him obediently as Draco goes to another part of the room, where brightly patterned cloth hangs on a wooden rod which separates a smaller segment of the room from the main section. He parts the curtains theatrically and grins at Harry.
"That's nice," Harry says sincerely, looking at the wide, low platform on which rests a large piece of bedding, thick and overcome with a wild assortment of throws and blankets. "It looks very comfortable."
"It is!" Draco grabs him by the wrist and crawls onto the bed, dragging Harry after him. Harry's expression is tentative as Draco releases his slender wrist, lounging against the mound of pillows with a wide grin. Harry remains sitting on his haunches at the end of the bed, as if he's getting ready to slip off and run for the door.
Draco hands him a pillow; after all, pillows are wonderful gifts, and if he gives Harry one, he might not look so uncertain.
"That one is yours," he says with as much kindness as he can. "You can have it. And your side of the bed is over there."
"Mine?" Harry says blankly, and looks down at the pillow. "But... I." He frowns. "I can't stay."
Draco frowns along with him. Wasn't he sent here to keep Draco's company? "You must stay," he commands. "I want you to."
But Harry is shaking his head, releasing the pillow and backing off the bed. "I mustn't. I have to go… go back."
Draco lunges forward, feeling desperate all of a sudden. Harry can't leave him. He'd been all alone, which wasn't bad, Draco is good at being alone, but recently he had felt his life begin to darken with shards of loneliness. Draco wants Harry to stay; he wants it bad enough to taste it, sharp bitterness in the back of his throat.
He reaches out and grasps Harry's hands, holding onto them tightly. Harry's fingers are stiff and unresponsive, not curling in response to Draco's touch, but he at least doesn't yank them out of Draco's grip, nor does he keep moving. He keeps still, his eyes wide and watchful.
"Stay." Draco can't look in his face, so he drops his gaze to their joined hands. "Harry. Stay here with me. Please."
After a few beats of Draco's heart, Harry's fingers tighten around his.
Harry screams in the night, thrashing about and throwing the covers all over the place. Draco sits up quickly, reaching out to shake Harry's shoulder. Harry fights him, pushing his hands away and rolling towards the edge of the bed.
"Harry!" Draco hangs onto the long sleeve of the sleep-robe he'd given to Harry. Harry flails and strikes out, hitting Draco squarely on the nose. For someone so small, he hits very hard. Draco claps one hand over his painfully throbbing face and yells at Harry.
"Harry! Harry! It's just a dream!"
Harry's screams burrow into Draco's brain, and then slowly begin to peter out into low, wracking sobs. Draco reaches out a tentative hand to place on Harry's shoulder.
Harry recoils at the first touch, his eyes wide and bright in the gloom. He is tucked against the wall, curled in a ball so tight Draco thinks he will never unravel.
"It's just a dream, all of it," Draco says with grumpy concern, touching a finger to his nose and pushing experimentally.
"Sorry." Harry's voice is small and hoarse. Slowly, his frame begins to relax. "I… did I hit you? I'm sorry!" He uncurls fully and quickly, reaching out a hand to Draco's face. He holds Draco's face very oddly: palm cupping the cheek and thumb pressing experimentally against the sharpened point of Draco's nose.
His hand smells like flowers and rain. There is a patio on the back of Draco's treehouse; at least, the side opposite from that which faces the Hidden Path. On this patio, there is a large clawfoot tub; earlier, Harry had hauled clean water from the small stream nearby, not grumbling under his breath like Draco would, but humming. When he had gone for the last bucketful of water, Draco had gathered an armful of hibiscus blooms and had thrown them in the clear water.
Harry had shyly splashed about as Draco peeped out at him through the oval window, watching him take a flower into his palm, as one would hold a small delicate pet; then he tilted his hand to let it twirl back down to the surface of the water.
Stay forever, Draco had thought, darting away from the window when Harry had placed his skinny arms on the rim of the tub to get up out of it.
Now, Draco blinks at him as he makes his own tests on Draco's stinging nose, an apologetic smile touching his lips.
"It's alright," Draco says softly. "You should go back to sleep."
"There was a man with red eyes," Harry mutters, but he lies back down very slowly, very gingerly; Draco waits until he's as rigid as a plank on his back, before lying close enough to feel how much warmth he is giving off. "A man like… like a snake, with red eyes."
Draco reaches across that sliver of space between them, touching Harry's arm lightly.
"Sometimes," he whispers, "I dream about him, too."
Draco stretches across the bed upon waking, as if he's always had someone there to reach for; his eyes aren't open as yet, but the small smile on his face flees as his hand encounters nothing but air.
He opens his eyes, squinting against the bright morning. Harry's side of the bed is empty.
Draco sits up quickly, feeling something cold twist low in his stomach. Harry's gone. He… he didn't want to stay. That's fine, though. Draco was doing brilliantly by himself, day after day in this quiet paradise, just him, the wind, the flowers and the sun, and he will continue to do wonderfully. As a matter of fact, he's going to pull on his favourite robe and head down to the seaside right after a nice breakfast and… and he's going to swim. Never mind that he had been looking forward to showing Harry how to swim, never mind that he had wanted to hear Harry laughing happily as they splash around in the salty water, never mind all that, he is Draco and he doesn't need--
"Oh, you're awake," Harry says placidly from the curtain and Draco nearly jumps out of his skin.
"Don't do that!" he chides, and Harry covers his mouth with one hand, his eyes dancing with amusement. "That's not nice," Draco continues, trying to stop his lips from curving up in sheer happiness. It doesn't help at all, his mouth ignores all his commands and beams at Harry, who removes his hand and beams right back.
He's so lovely. When he smiles, his entire face lights up and Draco feels as if he wants Harry to smile like that all the time. Draco nearly blurts something silly like, 'you're beautiful,' but that's all very stupid and Draco is not stupid.
He throws the blankets off and swings his legs out of bed. "We're going swimming," he announces and Harry's eyes widen. Draco grins at him wickedly. "Don't you know how to swim? I know how to. I'm the best swimmer I know."
Harry peers at him, scratching the side of one ankle with his other foot. "But you're the only swimmer you know here."
"That doesn't matter." Draco yanks off his sleep-shirt, standing in just his short, loose underpants as he rummages around the large wooden chest that is at the foot of the bed. He takes out his other green robe and puts it on. Green is his favourite colour, and this one has fine golden stitching swirling at the high collar and the ends of the long sleeves. He swims in these robes; the material is light enough to dry out again after a few minutes in the sun.
He finds his grey robe, as light and as short as all the others are and hands it over to Harry with a pair of light shorts. "Put these on; let's be off after I eat."
Harry laughs at his impatience, but he simply takes the rumpled clothes out of Draco's hands. Draco goes out to the main room to find something on the table to eat. Harry had peeled oranges and he left the tail part of a large, cooked fish. Draco loves the tail part. He dishes up the fish, grabs a slice of fresh bread and begins to eat happily.
"Are you quite ready?" he yells after his final swallow.
Draco whirls around and reaches out for Harry's hand; he feels an overwhelming sense of contentment at the way Harry's fingers slot so perfectly with his, fingers as pale as his and just as thin. He stands there just staring at their joined hands for a moment and then looks up, blinking at Harry's face.
Harry's smile is small and sincere. "I said I was ready. Are you going to stand there all day and stare?"
"They're my eyes. I can stare if I want to, and who says I want to?" Draco tells him with great loftiness, but he does want to. He really wants to; but he had promised Harry that he would teach him to swim today and teaching must be done.
"Come on," he says impatiently, as if Harry is resisting him, but Harry's fingers are wrapped tightly in his own as they race out the door, down the steps, through the Hidden Path with its lovely, whispering hibiscus and through the quiet forest they go.
Harry's hand does not leave his.
Harry stands in the shallows, the hem of his robes floating around him as Draco swims strongly around in deeper water. His nervous gaze makes Draco laugh, but not unkindly. His hair is highlighted with blue streaks in the warm sunshine.
"How will you learn to swim if you don't come out farther?" Draco cries and stands up where he is; the water, warm and salty, laps at his chin. He goes on his tiptoes and shades his eyes with one hand as he looks at Harry. Harry pats the surface of the water with his palms and shrugs. "What is it?" Draco goes closer to him, his robe sticking to his skin. Harry gives him a skittering look out of the corner of his eye, eyes dark and uncertain and he shrugs again.
"I'm sorry, I don't understand shoulder-speak," Draco says waspishly and Harry's jaw tightens.
After a few moments where Draco's patience is sorely tried, Harry barely opens his mouth to say, "I think I might have drowned once. Probably. Well, not really drowned, but maybe come fairly close to it--"
He's still talking, but Draco can hardly hear him through the curious roaring in his ears. Harry nearly drowned. He's standing there mumbling something about a large, pudgy-faced man yelling at him when he was quite a small child, sitting in a bathtub and crying.
Draco swims over and stands up in front of him. He takes both Harry's hands in his, because he can't not take Harry's hands. "Come on, you have to trust me," he says softly and Harry looks up at him, eyes large and serious, the wind idly picking up locks of black hair.
"Can I trust you?" Harry's voice is very quiet.
Draco gives him a very steady look, belying the heavy thumping of his heart in his chest. "I don't know. You'll have to make up your mind on that. One thing I do know: I won't let you drown." He gives Harry's fingers a gentle squeeze and Harry squeezes back, his mouth beginning that slow curl up into a smile.
"All right," he says and sets his shoulders, looking out past Draco to the impossible cerulean shade of ocean, which reflects in his eyes and turns them a pretty turquoise. He looks a little scared and yet a mask of deep determination is set over that. "Let's swim."
Harry is a good swimmer.
"I'm a good swimmer!" he declares with loud delight when he surfaces for about the fiftieth time. Draco should have been filled with a deep disgruntlement that Harry's nervousness around the water had disappeared almost completely, and he would be as… as a fish in the water, for lack of a better phrase; but he can't feel that in the face of Harry's glee. Harry treads water like he was born to it, grinning at Draco.
Draco rolls his eyes, but grins back.
"You had a marvellous teacher," Draco drawls at him, watching as Harry ducks beneath the surface and glides towards him, a dark shape under the rippling surface. He pops up right in front of Draco, and laughs.
"I did," he agrees, his skin already quite dark from an entire morning in the sun. Draco will go to bed an unhealthy lobster-pink, but Harry just looks pleasantly warmed. "My teacher was very careful to teach me all the basics first: floating, both on the back and on the front--"
"Dead man's float," Draco intones, still treading lazily. "My favourite."
"--and then went on to half-drown me so I could learn." Harry scoops up a handful of water and tosses it at him. Draco ducks under quickly to avoid it, opens his eyes to look around the half-dreaming world of the sea and then reaches out to grab Harry's waist.
He drags Harry under and grins at him, bubbles escaping from his mouth. Harry's hair is waving like an inky thatch of seaweed and he grins back a little evilly, reaching out to tug at Draco's own floating, wispy locks. Draco points and turns him, showing a school of little fat, round fish, each coloured a brilliant gold. Their fins are unusually long and so gauzy that Draco can barely see them as they flutter lazily in the water.
Draco lets Harry go and strikes out after them. They scatter, moving in swift flashes, but Draco still gives chase; out of the corner of his eye he sees Harry's limbs cut through the water in strong, surprisingly confident movements.
One of the little round fish dart past them and Draco snatches at it, feeling its fins brush against the skin of his palm before he can close his fist around it. His lungs are burning, so he kicks up to the surface and takes in a lungful of air, turning around in circles to find Harry. When he can't find him, he looks down into the water, scanning all around, and exhales deeply when he finally spots his errant companion.
Harry is swimming up towards him from the deep; here, the water is so translucent that Draco can see him clearly, set against the backdrop of the pale sand. His eyes are wide open and bright in the water, looking right at Draco and smiling as he gets closer.
He breaks the surface, his hair a limp curtain of curls around his face, and pants out, "Look!"
His hands are cupped together under the water. When he shifts his thumbs slightly, Draco sees a flash of gossamer fin.
"You caught one," Draco says in awe. Those fish are as quick as birds… and Harry caught one.
"I snuck up behind it," Harry admits, his cheeks bunched up under his eyes, he's grinning so widely. "When it wasn't looking. It feels funny, the fins. I think it's trying to nibble me," he giggles and opens his hands, letting the ruffled little fish dart away. Harry laughs out loud at its disgruntled expression and Draco, who once thought that his little island was quite alright when he was by his lonesome, is now of the opinion that paradise is Harry's smile.
"I'm tired," Harry mumbles as he lies on his side in the bed later that night, facing Draco. "Tired." His hair is frizzy and sticks up more disastrously than before, and there may be brown streaks in it from such a long time in the sun. He sighs and kicks his feet a little, pulling at the blankets. A chorus of crickets serenade them from outside; the moon is out, half-full and sending curious fingers of silver light through the woven branch-walls of the treehouse to land on their exhausted forms sprawled out in the bed.
"So tired," Harry reiterates and his eyelids flutter; his eyelashes are clumpy and short, but very thick.
Draco tells him, "Sleep then, silly boy," and Harry does, sighing as he slips into sleep. One of his hands is resting very close to his face and Draco waits until his breathing becomes deeper and calmer, which doesn't take very long. Then he reaches out and rests his hand on the curve of Harry's cheek. Harry smiles a little in his sleep and his cheek pushes against Draco's hand.
Draco slides his hand down, lightly tracing his way from Harry's face to his neck, travelling over the bony curve of his shoulder, running along his thin upper arm and forearm, to rest on that hand curled so close to his mouth, that when Draco wriggles his fingers underneath that resting hand, he can feel the regular exhales of Harry's warm breath on his fingers.
He doesn't know when he falls asleep, but when he wakes up, Harry is doing a very odd thing. He's half-sitting up, head craned to look behind as if there is someone or something that he needs to be watching for.
"Harry?" Draco whispers, coming up on his elbows a little in case Harry decides to throw another screaming fit. Harry doesn't move immediately; he remains as watchful as a cat for a few beats, before turning to stare at Draco.
There is something subtly different about his face. He looks… watchful, wary. His eyes are cool and forthright.
"Draco," he rasps, very low. "You must trust me."
"But I do," Draco replies and Harry blinks down at him. He shakes his head as if removing the remaining wispy webs of a nightmare, then reaches out and puts a heavy hand on Draco's arm, before peering back over his own shoulder again.
"Fuck," he swears and Draco stares at him in prim shock. "I can't--"
Then he flops back down on the surface, instantly asleep again.
"What the blast was that all about last night!" Draco exclaims as soon as he stumbles out into the main room. Harry is seated at the table, legs swinging as he devours half of a large pink grapefruit. Harry wrinkles his nose, probably both at the sharp taste of the fruit and Draco's high-pitched question.
"What? What are you on about now?" Harry pushes the plate of fruit in Draco's direction and continues to dig in with his spoon. "This is not bad, just a little sour."
"Put a little salt on it, it'll taste sweeter," Draco advises absently, and then shakes himself. "But last night! You came over all funny!"
"Why were you watching me in my sleep last night?" Harry questions as he shakes some salt from the wooden shaker onto his grapefruit and there's that… that look on his face again, a far cry from that open softness to which Draco has become addicted.
"You woke me up," Draco grits out, "with all your strangeness."
"Strangeness?" Harry echoes and then purses his lips, which seem very pink and slick. Draco manages to tear his eyes from them, but barely. "There's… there's just something not right about this place," Harry continues in the placating tone of one who doesn't want to upset a small, hysterical child; a surprisingly large shock of rage seems to flow through Draco's body.
"Oh? Why do you think so?" he snaps harshly and Harry turns to look at him with puzzled eyes; Draco feels a slice of guilt sliver into his heart, but he barrels on. "It's fine the way it is, Harry."
"Haven't you ever wondered what your life was like before this?" Harry asks in that same pondering tone, his eyes fixed on Draco's face; Draco gives him an incredulous stare.
"What? There was no life before this! This is the way it has always been!"
"It can't be." Harry is looking at his grapefruit intently and Draco suddenly hates him, hates him for doubting all of this wonderful life. "It's too good to be true."
"I think I deserve 'good' or even 'better'," Draco snarls. "This is what I've always wanted."
He knows what Harry is about to say even before he says it.
"So if this is what you've always wanted," Harry says slowly and Draco tightens his lips against such predictability, "what did you have to compare it to? From before, I mean."
Draco breathes out and breathes in, trying to instil some modicum of patience within himself. "I'm happy here with you," he tries to explain in place of a proper answer, and hopes it will be enough. It should be enough. What more could Harry want?
Harry's eyes widen and he bites at his bottom lip. "With… with me?"
"With you," Draco chokes out and whirls around, going to the door and slamming it open, stomping furiously out to the patio.
It's strangely hot and still outside. He stops short, shocked at the unusual atmosphere. There… there are clouds, big, angry slate-grey ones, stacking up in the horizon; forks of bright lightning flicker through the heavy layers. He's never seen clouds before. Not here.
"What?" Draco whispers the question to the heated air around him; usually there is the sneaky rustling of lizards and the call of birds overhead. Now, there is a pervasive silence that seems to drill against his mind. There is nary a rustle from even the leaves of the tree that supports his house.
"What if all there is," Harry says quietly behind him, "is all there isn't, Draco?"
Draco shivers, even though his skin is prickling damply from all the humidity. He can see the still surface of the sea. There are no waves crashing happily on the golden sand; the water is a listless grey.
He is afraid to turn around. There is something different in Harry's voice, something harder and colder and if he turns around, he won't see his tiny, beautiful Harry, he'll see someone else, someone who doesn't know him the way he is here.
"Draco," Harry calls again and his voice hardens even more. "Malfoy."
The name strikes him like a slap to the face. He flinches and presses his palm against his mouth, trying to hold back a cry of sheer anguish. He doesn't want… he wants to stay.
"But you can't." Harry is answering as if he's hearing Draco's pained thoughts; his hand grips at Draco's elbow, fingers digging into the soft, pale flesh. "Malfoy. Please, trust me."
"Oh please, no." Draco's voice is barely heard behind his hand, his words muffled. He is unsurprised to find that he is weeping. "Please, Harry. Please."
"I'm sorry, Draco." Harry does sound genuinely upset. It's not helping. "I'm sorry. Finite."
What does that mean, he wants to ask, but part of him knows what that means, knows it very well.
This part knows that the dream is over.
He stands and watches his paradise deconstruct.
The lightning rends the clouds and rips jagged lines right into the sky. The sea begins to move, thrashing and fighting, kicking up impossibly high waves. It begins to rise, devouring the sand first. He watches the now murky water climb over his favourite rocks, defeating the proud line of them in a rush. His shoulders heave with repressed sobs as he sees the water splash over the Hidden Path, hibiscus blooms plucked from the bushes and carried towards them as if in offering.
He watches the water rise and rise, starting to seep over the edge of his wooden landing and he is suddenly afraid, but not of the water. Harry's hand slides down his arm to grip at his trembling fingers.
The water touches Draco's bare feet like a cold lover, surging up his skinny legs.
"I'm here," Harry whispers, when the water gets to Draco's stomach and climbs up even more to stroke at his shoulders, a yellow hibiscus floating right to his face and giving him a flowery kiss on the cheek before moving on.
"I'm here," Harry says, which can't be right, for the water is now over their heads and Draco's eyes are clenched shut, floating and crying and dying of a broken heart.
Harry's hand squeezes his. "Wake up."
The whole world is grey.
There is no sand. No trees. No hibiscus. Just this cigarette in Draco's hand, trembling slightly when he takes a long drag and holds it. He exhales, flicking his gaze to the mirror on the wall beside him.
He's not a boy on a beach. He's a man seated in a surprisingly comfortable chair in a small room, waiting to be questioned. He has already been through too many sessions of questioning and he's tired. He wants to go home.
He closes his eyes when he realises that the image of home is a small island with the smell of sun and flowers and sand.
The door opens slowly and Draco takes another inhale of his cigarette. He doesn't look when someone sits at the table with him, right near his elbow. Shacklebolt had taken a seat at the end, looking at Draco with pity in his eyes. Draco had given him a blank stare, not bothering to answer any questions.
Fucking Aurors. Couldn't catch a Lumos if it shone over their heads. They should know what happened, why they had to send Auror Potter to drag him out of his own mind; so they didn't need any damned answers from him, did they?
Now, the person beside him speaks and Draco's shoulders stiffen, but he doesn't look around.
"Malfoy," Potter says very low beside him.
"Hmm?" Draco flicks his cigarette and traces the thin line of his lips with the same hand.
"We… we’ve caught the sect that had you. Nearly all of them."
"Lovely," Draco murmurs and then presses his lips together, still tracing over them as he puts out his cigarette very deliberately in the surface of the table. His paradise had been nothing but a very lucid dream, a clever use of Legilimency and a glamour spell. All used to put him into a near comatose state to drain his magic.
Draco could not care less what they had been doing that for. He was a pureblood. Of course some crazy faction would want his magic.
And of course, Harry… Potter would be the one to find him and save him. Granted, he had been caught for awhile as well, but oh the Great and Wonderful Potter, whose magic was too much for most glamours, had pushed back out to the cheerless real world and dragged Draco with him.
Draco's mouth twists; he jerks to the side when Potter's fingers tuck the lank curtain of hair hiding his face behind his ear. In doing so, he forgets completely that he is refusing to even look at Potter, and stares him right in the face.
Harry. There are only a few signs of that shy little boy who had captured Draco's heart in his paradise, and for that Draco is immeasurably relieved. Except… except those eyes, and the soft look in them. Draco breathes rapidly as Harry's fingers stroke down his cheek and brush over his mouth.
"You built yourself a paradise, in your head," he says softly, brokenly. "I wish I never knew you there."
"Fuck you, Potter," Draco breathes out over Harry's fingers and he sneers as Harry's eyes darken. He moves his hand, reaching into his robe and pulls out his wand; Draco continues to stare defiantly at him, but Harry simply snaps his wand at the doors and the mirror. Then he calmly places his wand on the dreary surface of the table, grabs Draco around his neck and drags him forward.
Their mouths meet painfully, a surprised moan forced out of Draco, who drops his cigarette to wrap his own arms around Harry's neck, kissing him desperately. Harry's tongue strokes into his mouth, licking at the smoky taste and leaving a sweet flavour, coffee tinged with chocolate and mint. Harry's mouth is rough and demanding and Draco wants to climb into his lap, to take him away and Apparate to a beach somewhere, anywhere, watch Harry splash about and laugh, to feed him and watch him sleep.
He is a little dizzy, for he hasn't eaten in weeks; being comatose in a lucid dream tends to do that to a person. He had been using these past few days to recuperate, but his head is spinning; he pulls away, pressing his forehead to Harry's cheek, panting as he clutches at the scratchy material of Harry's Auror robes in both hands.
Harry wraps an arm around his shoulders and presses a kiss to his temple. "I wish I never lived with you on that island," he says and Draco closes his eyes. "Now I know what you are like, behind all this Malfoyness, you understand? Now I know, and I… I think would like it. I can't have it."
Draco wants to tell him that he can, he can, but his own wife had visited him in St. Mungo's this morning, her stomach large and taut under her tasteful robes. Her eyes had been bright with joy even as her face was a collected mask. A true Malfoy, well-chosen.
He loves her. He actually does love Astoria, many people might not believe that, he does; but… oh, Merlin. Harry.
Harry kisses him again, mouth pressed against his sweetly, regretfully.
Again, as if he's trying to remember the twist of Draco's mouth, the feel of it moving against his.
Again. Because Draco asks for it with a wordless, sighing whisper.
"I won't ever forget," Harry promises, and pulls away from him in jerky movements. Draco lets him go, watching him straighten his dark-red robes, pick up his wand and leave.
Every year on Draco's birthday, he receives a single hibiscus, always a different colour, and its petals slightly damp, as if it had been plucked from near a river. Astoria says nothing when he places it in his office, in a vase made of green cut-glass.