Title: And Burn Your Bridges Down
Pairing(s): Harry/Draco, implied past Harry/Ginny, Harry/Cho, Harry/OMC
Summary: After Harry and Ginny break up, Ron and Hermione drag a reluctant Harry along to the travelling show that has set up on the outskirts of Hogsmeade. Of all the strange things he sees there, Draco Malfoy is by far the most unexpected.
Disclaimer: All Harry Potter characters herein are the property of J.K. Rowling and Bloomsbury/Scholastic. No copyright infringement is intended.
Warning(s): A bit of swearing.
Epilogue compliant? Not even a little bit.
Word Count: 10,000
Author's Notes: Heartfelt thanks to my darling beta/cheerleader team; B1, B2, L, and M.
Mr Kite’s Travelling Show was burning.
The large, red-and-yellow striped tent that had been the hub of the ramshackle carnival was now the thundering centre of a conflagration; its pennons burning and unfurling on the warm spring breeze. Flames poured into the sky, painting the clouds a weird, unnatural orange. The hot air was filled with the panicked shouts of the carnies, and the cries of the animals as they scattered across the fields around the tent, and beneath it all, the thundering, unearthly rumble of the fire.
At the blazing, beating heart of everything, visible now for one last moment before the tent collapsed around her, Pansy Parkinson was dancing as the flames licked at her hair and clothing, shrieking with demented laughter.
Harry, kneeling in the grass, turned his gaze away as the tent subsided with a thunderous sigh. He looked instead at Draco Malfoy, curled on the ground at his side with his head in Harry’s lap, crying because he couldn’t scream any more. Harry’s jeans were damp with snot and tears. Dimly, he could hear shouts of “Aguamenti!” as the wizards and witches of Hogsmeade arrived on the scene, but he didn’t move to help them. Pansy had freed all the animals before setting the tent ablaze, and as long as no-one else was killed, Harry was perfectly happy to sit and watch the travelling show burn to the ground.
Harry stood on the balls of his feet, scanning the crowd for a glimpse of Ron’s hair (easier to spot than Hermione’s, which, for all its distinctive bushiness, was still a sensible brown), but there was no sign of either of his friends.
Bloody typical, Harry thought angrily, dragging me out to this stupid fair and then ditching me. He gazed about him. Zeppo’s it certainly wasn’t; just a small-time, small-town operation, with a desperately cheerful main tent surrounded by a scattering of rides. Perhaps a couple of dozen booths were gathered into an alleyway that meandered for a hundred yards or so to the west of the big top. They sold chips and candy floss and battered sausages, or housed the kind of fairground amusements that ate a handful of coins and occasionally gave you a crappy plastic trinket that would be broken by the time you got home. Ron was probably trying to win Hermione a prize at one of the game booths, or holding her hand on one of the mechanical rides. Harry could just picture Ron, bored (because how much fun could fairground rides be after you’ve flown on a broom?) but holding Hermione’s hand as she screamed and laughed and squeezed her eyes shut.
Harry felt his anger evaporate; he couldn’t begrudge his friends their happiness after everything they’d been through, even though he couldn’t be a part of it. Standing alone in the shuffling ebb and flow of the crowd, Harry realised that their trio had, without him really noticing, become a couple and a hanger-on. For a moment he felt so utterly bereft that it quite took his breath away.
Harry had found himself becalmed and rudderless since the death of Tom Riddle; going through the motions of finishing school and starting Auror training with Ron, dating Ginny because he needed, so desperately, something to anchor him to his life. They’d moved into a tiny flat in London after Ginny finished her seventh year at Hogwarts, bought a couch and a cat, argued happily about whose turn it was to cook dinner, and if Harry made excuses too often when Ginny kissed him in bed at night, he didn’t think too hard about it and she was too proud to mention it.
Then, a couple of months ago, Ron asked Hermione to marry him, and Harry felt as though his life had changed tack.
He woke up the morning after the engagement party and lay watching Ginny sleep; saw her freckle-dusted eyelids and the bright, copper tangle of her hair on the pillow; saw the beautiful, extraordinary woman who was wasting her enormous capacity for love on him. Not that he didn’t love her; he loved her dearly, just not in the way she thought he did. Not in the way she deserved.
They’d broken up that day, and Ginny, in a heartbroken muddle of tears and accusations and I-don’t-understand-what-I’ve-done-wrongs,
After an initial period of shock, and deciding where to place their loyalties, Ron and Hermione (especially Ron, who seemed to feel as though he had a point to prove) had embarked upon a campaign of ‘looking in on Harry’, inviting him round for dinner, or dropping in with take-aways, or taking him on outings that made him feel like a child who couldn’t be trusted to look after himself. Like tonight, when they’d turned up on his doorstep waving a flyer for Mr Kite’s Travelling Show, which had set up on the outskirts of Hogsmeade for the long weekend.
Harry wandered down the alleyway, tugged by the shuffling tide of people towards the red and yellow striped big top. Music blared inside, and the ringmaster’s voice sailed above the rumbling mutter of the crowd. Harry stared in, ignoring the ticket vendor’s solicitous, gold-toothed smile and her over-ample cleavage. The air inside the tent was warm, and thick with the smell of sawdust and sweat and greasy fair-ground food. Harry caught sight of Ron and Hermione sitting just inside the entrance; she was smiling at Ron and kissing his cheek, and he was using the opportunity to steal a handful of chips from the bucket balanced on her knee. They looked content. Harry turned away.
Making his way against the current of the crowd, Harry walked away from the big top and down the makeshift alley, ignoring the strident jollity of the booths. It was quieter here, and the further Harry got from the bustle and noise of the crowd, the dingier and more disreputable the fair appeared. In one booth, a row of mechanical clown heads with their mouths agape turned from side to side in unison, their painted faces faded and chipped. The broken-toothed carny managing the booth leered and beckoned, and Harry hurried on.
In the shadows between two stalls, a strong-man in a striped leotard was smoking and talking to a red-haired girl dressed in sequined hot-pants and little else. They turned to watch him as he passed.
Harry could understand why so many people found the circus disquieting. The sparkle and gaiety was like a fresh coat of paint on a damp wall, already starting to blister and peel.
What Harry found disconcerting was the way the travelling show seemed to hover uneasily between the Muggle and the Wizarding worlds. He had his wand strapped to his leg, beneath his jeans, but only because he felt naked without it; he didn’t intend to use it. Behind the cheap trickery of the Muggle magicians, though, was a furtive shiver of real magic, on display where anyone could see it (although they generally didn’t); glamours cast to make the animals seem wilder and more fearsome; a whispered Wingardium Leviosa to keep the juggler’s batons spinning when he faltered; a sticking charm to keep the coconuts on their pedestals at the coconut-shy.
No wonder the Aurors hated the shows so much; Harry had heard them muttering in the lunchroom at training all week, drawing straws to choose who got stuck with carnival-duty. The problem was that even if they caught one of the carnies performing magic in front of Muggles, it was invariably such a small infringement that the offender got a smack on the wrist and the Auror who caught him got a ream of paperwork. So the Aurors turned a blind eye, for the most part, to the carnies’ petty trickeries.
Harry walked resolutely towards the dark huddle of tents that formed the end of the alley. To his left he caught a flicker of light and heard a snatch of rhythmic music. A fire-twirler, probably, but Harry was more interested in what was inside the last tent. At the entrance stood a hunchbacked albino dwarf, squinting her pale pink eyes against the weak, jaundiced electric lights. She smiled and doffed the cap on her bald, white head before pulling back the flap of the tent. Harry stepped forward and reached for his wallet.
The dwarf shook her head.
“Nothing for you tonight. We get few enough people down here this late, and the twins have finished playing, anyway.”
Inside, the tent was dimly lit. It smelled of sawdust and acrid preservative, and, faintly, of something putrid and organic.
On a small stage to the right of the entrance, a pair of Siamese twins sat at a battered piano, two torsos stemming from a single pair of legs. Two thin, pale faces, caked in exaggerated, theatrical make-up, were framed by lank blonde hair. The banner above them proclaimed them to be The Extraordinary Persephone and Kora, Musically Gifted Twin Nightingales!, but the nightingales weren’t singing tonight.
“Um … hello.” Harry murmured awkwardly, but the twins didn’t reply, just sat dispiritedly on their piano stool and stared into the middle distance, fingers stroking listlessly, silently, over the keys.
Harry blushed in the gloom, and moved away towards the shelves of large glass jars and tanks that lined the canvas walls. They were all clean and well-maintained, lined up neatly, their labels written out in a curling, old-fashioned hand. Harry wondered if it was the dwarf who looked after the display with such care. They were all filled with liquid, and each one held a different malformed horror; a two-headed calf, a snake with a clawed foot, a human foetus with four arms and four legs, and dozens of other misshapen, twisted things, floating forever in the dark.
In the shadows at the back of the tent was a cage. Harry approached cautiously, wondering what kind of animal was put on show in the freak tent instead of in the main arena with the other beasts.
His footsteps faltered as whatever was in the cage crawled away from him, into the deeper shadows. This part of the tent was where that rank odour, something other than sawdust and preservative, originated; Harry could smell blood and shit, and something unwashed and animal. He was almost reluctant to get any closer, but curiosity got the better of him. He crouched down next to the cage and peered between the bars. Whatever was in there hissed and snarled and scuttled backwards, pressing itself against the bars as far away from Harry as it could get in the confined space. The floor of the cage was littered with bloodied feathers and small, gnawed bones. The thing in the cage was a geek.
It reached out a filthy hand, fingernails caked with dirt and gore, and picked up one of the discarded bones, licking at a smear of sticky, half-dried blood. Matted black hair hung in snarls around its face, tangled with bits of straw, and feathers, and something wet that glistened in the uncertain light. Beneath the filth and the stinking rags the geek wore, Harry couldn’t be sure whether it was male or female, although he supposed it hardly mattered. It bared its blackened teeth at him, and he backed away.
Outside the tent, Harry took a few grateful breaths of fresh air, and smelled bruised grass, and popcorn, and the dusty, hot-sugar aroma of candy floss. Time to go home, he decided. He could hear the call of the left-over curry and the beer he had in the fridge. He could also hear music, and out of the corner of his eye he could see the wavering yellow light of the fire-twirler performing in a rough circle of flattened grass between a couple of tents. A few people sat on wooden benches, watching, and instead of heading back towards the main gate, Harry joined them.
The fire-twirler was a young man, dressed only in a small pair of cut-off denim shorts, but his state of near-nakedness was not the thing that caught and held Harry’s attention.
Every inch of exposed skin was covered in tattoos, from his smooth-skinned, hairless head down to his bare feet. In the frenetic, whirling firelight, the images seemed to move, writhing as the dancer’s muscles shifted and bunched under his inky skin. He never seemed to blink, and after a few minutes Harry realized the illusion was created by the second pair of eyes tattooed on his eyelids.
Half-hypnotised by the spinning light and the rhythmic thud of the music, Harry believed it was the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen. The dancer was lean, and lithely muscled, bending his body with impossible ease and grace while the flames whirled endlessly around him. The tempo of the music increased and the flames spun faster, and when the dancer turned towards his audience, Harry could make out the design that covered his torso; a stylized tree, its branches and leaves moving with his shallow, even breaths as though a breeze fluttered through them. Harry’s gaze followed the trunk of the tree down to where the blasted roots twined and vanished beneath the waistband of the shorts. The dancer’s skin was gleaming with sweat, and Harry couldn’t help but imagine what he’d look like on his back on Harry’s bed, moaning as Harry ran callused hands over his warm, densely illustrated skin …
The tattooed man swept his gaze over his sparse audience, standing close enough that they could feel the heat of the spinning flames, and when his attention came to rest on Harry he faltered for the first time. Harry glanced up, and his heart lurched sickeningly in his chest as he looked into the man’s eyes.
Grey, impossibly familiar, grey eyes.
The dancer looked away. Malfoy looked away.
It couldn’t be.
Harry stared, but it was hard to make out details between the restless light and the tattoos. The last time Harry had seen Malfoy was the day after the Battle of Hogwarts, sitting with his parents in the Great Hall, his pale skin and white-blond hair sweaty and smudged with soot, staring at Harry with those grey eyes.
The music faded into silence and the twirling flames slowed until they hung limply on their chains and the tattooed man smothered them with a rag. The audience shuffled away after a smattering of applause. Harry stayed behind, watching the man pack his equipment away into a battered suitcase, trying to think of a way of asking his name without seeming like a creep or a nutter, when the man solved the problem by speaking first.
“Show’s over, mate.”
Harry would have known that voice anywhere. He didn’t know what to do next, so he just sat and stared, feeling like an idiot but unable to move. Malfoy (and there was no doubt, now, in Harry’s mind that the tattooed man was Malfoy) spoke again without looking up.
“Can I help you?” Malfoy was trying to sound relaxed, but his voice was tense. Harry knew it was highly unlikely that Malfoy hadn’t recognised him.
“Malfoy …” Harry hesitated, unable to think of anything to say. Malfoy froze.
“What do you want, Potter?”
“I … I don’t want anything.”
“Then go away.”
“I have nothing to say to you,” said Malfoy, coolly. “Go away.”
With that, Malfoy picked up the suitcase and walked away into the darkness behind the tents.
Harry, after a moment’s stunned indecision, forgot all about going home to curry, beer, and Hermione’s fretful disapproval. Instead, he hurried off in the direction Malfoy had taken. Following Malfoy’s furtive, retreating figure made Harry feel oddly nostalgic, and he smiled sheepishly to himself.
He lost track of his quarry in a disorganised jumble of caravans and trailers parked at a discreet distance from the fairground. Wondering what to do next, and feeling a bit foolish, he nearly missed Malfoy emerging from between two rundown caravans and heading off towards a rank of huge trucks behind the main tent. The trucks loomed, monolithic in the dark, exuding a reek of sawdust, dung, and ammonia that told of cramped animal quarters. Harry followed him.
“Malfoy!” he yelled.
No answer. Either the git hadn’t heard, or was ignoring him.
“Bugger off!” shouted Malfoy, without looking back.
Malfoy whirled to face him, exasperated.
“I said, bugger off!”
“No! Malfoy, please, I just …”
“Go. Away.” Malfoy said, quietly angry. He turned away and, clambering up into the nearest truck, was gone. Harry, however, was not letting him get away so easily. He followed him into the harshly lit, pungent interior of the truck.
Malfoy was moving towards the back of the truck, past the animal stalls lined up against one wall. The travelling show’s horses looked up placidly as Harry walked by, lazily flicking their tails, clearly accustomed to people traipsing in and out at all hours.
“Malfoy?” Harry called, softly so as not to startle the animals. His voice reverberated in the cramped, steel-walled space. Malfoy stopped and bent his head in defeat. He paused, then turned to face Harry.
“You’re not going to give up, are you?”
“Not just yet.” Harry kept moving towards Malfoy, cautiously. Malfoy glanced furtively over his shoulder towards the back, then back to Harry. Behind him were ranks of kennels, housing the clowns’ performing dogs, and a monkey in a cage, and a larger cage with a creature crouched in one corner. Harry recognised the geek from the sideshow tent. Even though it wasn’t displayed with the other animals, it was brought back here every night to sleep with them.
Just as Harry was about to speak again, two men entered the truck, their voices carelessly loud. They were dressed in what seemed to be the uniform of the carnival labourers; grubby jeans and threadbare vests or T-shirts, faces prickled by stubble, and arms scrawled with inelegant, sketchy tattoos (a stark contrast to the carefully drawn designs adorning Malfoy’s skin). They leered at Harry and Malfoy as they approached.
“Who’s this, pretty boy? You bringing them here, now? What’s wrong with your caravan?” The taller man grinned at Malfoy.
“Piss off, Rudy,” muttered Malfoy. “He’s just a friend from school. He asked to see the horses.”
Rudy snorted, and pushed past them, followed by his evil-looking colleague.
“Well, we are hawfully sorry to interrupt,” he said sarcastically, in what was clearly meant to be an imitation of Malfoy’s cultured accent, “but we’re here to feed the geek. If that’s all right with you, that is?” He brandished a plastic bag, full of the remains of someone else’s dinner. Harry could smell roast chicken.
Malfoy shrugged, and steered Harry back towards the stables. One of the horses whickered gently at them and stretched its lips out, kissing for sugar. Malfoy absently scratched between its ears, while looking surreptitiously back at the two men. They were huddled around the geek’s cage, sniggering, taunting the creature by holding the chicken carcass between the bars then jerking it out of reach before the geek could grab it. Malfoy glared at them. Harry, unsure what else to do, talked to the horse.
“Hello, boy,” he murmured, rubbing its whiskery nose, “what’s your name, then?”
“Henry,” replied Malfoy, absently, still watching what was going on at the back of the truck.
“Henry?” Harry asked. “Odd sort of name for a horse, isn’t it?”
Henry didn’t seem to mind the insult, and leaned over the door to snuffle at Harry’s pockets. Malfoy smiled, faintly, and tilted his head at the next stall.
“The other one’s called Sorrow.”
At the sound of his name, an old white horse stuck his benign face over the door. Harry smiled and stroked the horse’s ears.
“He doesn’t look all that sad,” he said.
“His late owner was a morbid old bastard. After he died I tried to rename the horse Dylan, but it hasn’t stuck,” Malfoy replied, shaking his head.
Just as Harry was about to ask why Malfoy wanted to name the white horse Dylan, a ruckus broke out at the back of the truck; the geek was shrieking and flailing about in its cage, while Rudy’s sidekick howled in pain and Rudy himself reached inside the cage with a broom-handle, lashing out wildly at the maddened creature. Malfoy bolted towards them, with Harry close behind.
“Stop it!” yelled Malfoy, grabbing Rudy’s arms and trying to pull him away from the cage. Rudy snarled, and shoved him backwards, sending him stumbling into the dogs’ kennels. The dogs set up a strident cacophony that mingled with the bleating of Rudy’s companion as he cradled his bleeding arm and egged Rudy on. The geek was folded up like a parcel of bones and rags in the furthest corner of the cage, thin, dirty arms raised to protect its head from Rudy’s blows. Malfoy tackled Rudy again, but he was no match for the man’s sheer bulk and sweaty-faced rage.
Harry drew his wand with the practiced ease of a hundred training drills, and Stupefied Rudy and his bleeding friend. The dogs stopped their noise, startled into silence. The men slumped to the floor, just as a voice called down to them from the open end of the truck.
“Everything all right in here?”
It was the hunchbacked dwarf, approaching with her awkward, rolling gait, a worried look on her chalk-white face.
“Yeah,” replied Malfoy hurriedly, “everything’s fine, Olympia, just Rudy and Mike being arseholes again. Nothing new.”
Olympia surveyed the damage while Harry quickly tucked his wand into the waistband of his jeans and covered it with his T-shirt. It felt amazingly uncomfortable.
“Well, it doesn’t look like they’ll be causing any more trouble for the time being,” Olympia said, hobbling over to the geek’s cage and pushing the discarded bag of food through the bars. She peered at the geek as it dragged its meal into the far corner.
“No real damage done. Thanks, Draco.” She smiled at him. “And you, whoever you are,” she turned her pink-eyed gaze to Harry.
“This is Harry. We went to school together.”
Olympia stuck out her hand, and Harry shook it. Her skin was warm and dry, and weathered.
“Pleased to meet you, Harry.”
“Likewise,” Harry replied.
“Well, off you go.” Olympia started herding them towards the exit. “Time for everyone to go to bed.” she winked slyly at Harry, who blushed.
Outside, in the cool night air, Olympia bade them goodnight and waddled away. Malfoy turned to Harry.
“Thanks,” he said, awkwardly.
“Yeah, well, don’t tell anyone I helped you out by stunning a couple of Muggles, will you? I’m pretty sure they frown upon that sort of thing when you’re training for law-enforcement.”
Malfoy snorted with what might have been laughter, and shook his head.
“Good night, Potter.”
With that, Malfoy headed back towards the cluster of caravans, and Harry made for the main gate. It was locked when he got there. He glanced around, and, seeing nobody in the vicinity, Apparated home.
Harry went back the next night, alone. Ron had invited him to the pub in one of the determinedly matey gestures he’d been making several times a week since Harry and Ginny had split up, but Harry wasn’t sure he could cope with another evening of beer and blokey camaraderie at the Leaky. Despite Harry’s protestations to the contrary, it was obvious Ron thought Harry’s refusal was due to the conspicuous absence of Dean over the past few weeks. Dean dating Ginny had become yet another elephant in the room at their increasingly strained social gatherings (in fact, the room was now so packed with pachyderms that Harry was surprised there was still room for his friends at all). Harry was actually quite glad that Ginny was dating again, but whenever he tried to explain this to Ron he received a pat on the shoulder and a sympathetic look that made him want to punch his best mate in the gob.
With that in mind, Harry decided that the circus was a safer bet, and besides, he wanted to see Malfoy again. Maybe it was just force of habit; a relic left over from their schooldays. Whatever the reason was, Harry didn’t examine it too closely. He just wanted to see him.
Harry bought a stick of candy floss on his way down the alleyway, and it melted pleasantly on his tongue as he made his way through the crowd, away from the rides and the striped hub of the big top and down towards the less-populated end of the fair.
Malfoy had only just started when Harry arrived at the little makeshift arena near the freak tent, bantering light-heartedly with the small audience as he lit the kerosene-soaked wicks at the ends of the chains in his hands. He didn’t falter this time when he caught sight of Harry, but his gaze met Harry’s for a long moment before he looked away. Harry sat down on one of the hard wooden benches and lost himself again in Malfoy’s elegant, sinuous performance; in the sight of his lithe, ink-swirled body glistening with sweat inside the whirling cage of flame.
Harry stayed behind again when the crowd wandered away. He approached Malfoy slowly as the other man packed away his gear into the old suitcase. Malfoy looked at Harry, and wiped his hands on a rag.
“What do you want, Potter?”
Harry hesitated. He really hadn’t thought this through at all.
“I … I’m not sure, actually.”
Malfoy smirked, the expression astonishingly familiar despite the intricate tattoos that curlicued over his face. There was a brief pause, during which Malfoy appeared to make a decision.
He gestured towards the suitcase.
“Well, make yourself useful, at least.” He picked up the bottle of kerosene and an old T-shirt that had been folded neatly beside it, and headed off towards the small cluster of run-down caravans and buses Harry had seen the night before.
Harry followed Malfoy to a small caravan with peeling, eggshell-blue paint. The door shrieked in protest and nearly came off its hinges when Malfoy yanked it open. He glanced over his shoulder at Harry.
“Do you want a drink?” he asked, as he took the suitcase from Harry and slung it up onto a luggage rack just inside the door.
“Hot chocolate okay?”
Harry hovered awkwardly at the threshold, on the rusty steel steps, leaning against the doorjamb, trying to look more at ease than he felt. The situation was all very strange, but after all the strange things Harry had seen in his life he’d become accustomed to taking strangeness in his stride. It felt unreal, but was all the more attractive for it; Harry’s real life was stifling him, and Malfoy was an open window.
Harry peered into the dim interior of the caravan, trying to catch a glimpse of Malfoy’s new life reflected in his home, but his gaze kept returning to Malfoy himself, standing at the bench of the tiny, cluttered kitchenette. He still wore only those denim shorts, slung low on his narrow hips and not leaving a great deal to Harry’s very active imagination. The teaspoon clattered against the side of one mug then another. Malfoy turned to face him, proffering a steaming mug and an almost-smile.
They settled on the steps, companionably, if incongruously, close. Harry took a sip of hot chocolate, tasting cinnamon for a moment before the burn of brandy stole over his tongue. He swallowed hastily, and coughed.
“Jesus, Malfoy! Exactly how much alcohol is in this?”
Malfoy grinned, and drank another mouthful without a wince.
Harry shook his head and returned the grin.
They drank in silence, in the cool spring evening. Harry felt Malfoy gradually relax next to him, and his own legs became pleasantly heavy.
“So,” he said, emboldened by brandy, “Running away to join the circus? Really?”
Malfoy smiled ruefully, swirling his mug to catch the dregs of chocolate.
“Well, what else was I meant to do? Social pariah, family disgraced or imprisoned, etcetera, etcetera. Besides, I …” He frowned into his mug and swigged the last of the lukewarm drink.
“Besides you what?” Harry asked. Malfoy shook his head.
Silence swelled between them. Malfoy rested his hand on his knee, so close to Harry’s own that he could feel the heat of Malfoy’s skin. Out of the corner of his eye, he studied the design that covered Malfoy’s forearm. The radius and ulna were picked out in ink, as well as the delicate fan of bones of his hand, drawn on his skin to imitate the way they lay beneath it. A vine twined about the bones, flowers blooming blood-red amongst the heart-shaped leaves.
On the inside of Malfoy’s forearm, only partially visible from Harry’s angle, was another design. It looked as though the vine had been inked over the top of the older image, but that the vivid green and red pigment had blistered and faded away. Surrounded by elegantly scrolling tendrils, the crude black skull of Tom Riddle’s Dark Mark stilled grinned, and the black snake still writhed over Malfoy’s smooth skin. To Harry’s surprise, he felt nothing but sadness and a little pity for the foolish, frightened child Malfoy had been when that old mark was made.
Harry moved his fingers slightly so that they rested against Malfoy’s. The tenuous physical contact was belied by the thrumming, magnetic weight of it, as though Malfoy had a gravitational field of his own and Harry was powerless to escape the pull of it. For an endless instant, Harry’s whole self turned on the axis of that gentle touch.
“Malfoy, I …” Harry began.
“I have to go,” said Malfoy, fairly leaping up from the step and walking away without looking back, bare feet noiseless in the damp grass. He disappeared between the caravans.
Harry sat on the step a while longer, hoping he would come back. He didn’t.
Harry went home and dreamed of Malfoy.
Harry went back again the next night. Of course he went back, how could he not? Malfoy was as prickly and isolated as he had been at school, and Harry found it just as fascinating as he had done back then. He’d dodged Hermione’s invitation to dinner with a story about an overdue training assignment (an excuse that she’d accepted all too easily), and arrived at the fairground in time to catch Malfoy unpacking his wicks and poi, and stretching to warm up his muscles before he began the night’s performance.
Harry had trouble concentrating on Malfoy’s act that evening. His mind was occupied instead with the fact that Malfoy hadn’t moved his hand away the night before. Harry smiled to himself in the flickering dark, as Malfoy whirled the burning wicks around his sweat-sheened, undulating body and the music throbbed like a heartbeat, remembering the warm, electric sensation of Malfoy’s fingers pressed against his own.
Harry lingered while the rest of Malfoy’s scant audience trickled away towards the bustling nexus of the big top.
“Worked out what you want, Potter?” Malfoy asked, without looking up.
Yes, thought Harry.
“Um…” he said.
Malfoy sighed resignedly.
“You’re not going to leave me alone, are you?”
“Probably not, no.” Harry grinned sheepishly.
Malfoy snorted, and gestured towards the suitcase lying at his feet.
“Come on, then.”
Harry picked up the case and followed Malfoy to his trailer, wondering what the bloody hell he was doing, but not hesitating for an instant.
They sat on the steps again, sipping hot chocolate laced with cinnamon and brandy, not speaking. Malfoy had made an effort to clean the kerosene off his hands, and the reason became apparent when he tugged a rather squashed pack of cigarettes from the pocket of his shorts. Taking one, he offered the pack to Harry, who shook his head.
“I don’t smoke.”
Malfoy rolled his eyes and lit his cigarette.
“Of course you don’t.”
He took a long drag and exhaled the smoke slowly, before taking another swig of his drink.
The brandy was warm and heavy in Harry’s belly, and his head felt distinctly fuzzy.
“What are you doing here, Malfoy?”
“Excuse me, but you’re sitting on my front step. What are you doing here?” Malfoy replied.
“I just … I dunno. I used to wonder what happened to you, after everything. Never would have imagined this, though.”
Malfoy thought for a moment, staring at his feet, then shrugged.
“Well, like I said, I didn’t exactly have a lot of options, did I? Ex-Death Eater, would-be murderer, and a faggot to boot. What would you have done?”
Malfoy flicked ash from his cigarette into the grass beside the steps.
“I wouldn’t have run away,” Harry replied. Malfoy looked at him, his expression unreadable.
“No, I don’t suppose you would have,” he said, quietly, getting up and disappearing into the caravan. He returned moments later with the brandy bottle, topped up his mug, and tilted the bottle towards Harry with an inquiring look. Harry paused, then shrugged and held his mug out. Malfoy glugged a lot of brandy into it.
“Do you drink like this every night, Malfoy?”
“I see no-one’s managed to shove you off that high horse, Potter.”
“I didn’t mean …”
“I know what you meant. I don’t need rescuing.”
I rescued you once before, thought Harry, and knew from the look on Malfoy’s face that he was thinking the same thing. They fell into silence, until Malfoy abruptly changed tack.
“You never answered my question. What are you doing here? Shouldn’t you be at home with the Weaselette?”
“We broke up,” Harry muttered, taking a big swig of what was now almost neat brandy. Malfoy seemed genuinely surprised, and not a little gleeful.
“Really? And I thought you two were destined for each other. So, what happened? Was it the red hair?”
“Shut up, Malfoy.”
“The freckles?” Malfoy was clearly enjoying himself.
“I said shut up!”
“You’re not going to shut up, are you?” Harry asked in a defeated tone. Malfoy grinned.
“Not a chance.”
Harry sighed and drank another mouthful of the burning, chocolatey brandy, thinking about the months of boredom and bickering, of going out every night after training in the hope that Ginny would be asleep by the time he got home, of avoiding visits to the Burrow because he couldn’t listen to any more of Molly’s hints about grandchildren, and what it all came down to in the end. Malfoy was looking at him expectantly.
“She doesn’t have a cock, all right? Turns out that’s something of a deal-breaker for me.”
Malfoy’s eyes widened, and he snorted his drink out through his nose.
Harry laughed, tension dissolved, “I’ve never said that out loud before,” he said, grinning.
Malfoy recovered his poise remarkably quickly.
“Still doesn’t explain what you’re doing on my steps, Potter. Does the Weasel know you’re bent?”
“Oh, I’ve just missed your pointy face, Malfoy.”
Saying it, Harry realised how true it was. There’d been a hole in his life since the war ended; a gap where Malfoy had always been, snarling and superior and making life interesting. It was nice, comforting in an odd way, to sit here being needled by him again. Harry smiled, suddenly aware of how close Malfoy was sitting to him on the narrow steps. His bare, tattooed thigh was lightly pressed against Harry’s denim-clad one, and their shoulders nudged each other as they talked. Malfoy smelled of alcohol and kerosene and cigarette smoke, and for reasons Harry found impossible to grasp he found the combination distractingly attractive. He head was swimming, and he realised that Malfoy was saying something to him.
“Hmm? Sorry, I didn’t catch that.”
“I said I’ve missed you and your ridiculous hair, too.”
“At least I’ve got hair.” Harry laughed, and without thinking reached out to trace his fingertips over the dragon tattooed on Malfoy’s gleaming scalp. Its neck snaked down his forehead to a pointed, open-jawed head that roared silently between his eyebrows. Wings spread out and down behind his ears, their tips meeting his jawbone. The dragon’s tail curled around his neck.
Malfoy chuckled, and tilted his head slightly into Harry’s touch, his eyes fluttering shut as Harry slid his hand to the back of Malfoy’s neck. For the first time, Harry noticed that the eyes tattooed on his eyelids were green.
Harry leaned closer, pulling Malfoy gently towards him and wondering whether Malfoy could feel how much Harry’s hand was trembling. He couldn’t decipher the expression on Malfoy’s face; calm acceptance, perhaps. That’s fine thought Harry, and closed the distance between them.
Their noses bumped together and Harry paused just as their mouths were about to touch. He could feel Malfoy’s breath, warm and damp, ghosting across his lips. His own heartbeat pounded in his ears, and he wondered again what on earth was happening; how had he come to be sitting, half-drunk, on the steps of a caravan out the back of a second-rate traveling show, about to kiss Draco Malfoy? Harry could feel all the weight of their shared history hanging over them, and found that it didn’t matter at all any more.
Malfoy’s mouth was warm and pliant and tasted awful; cigarettes and brandy and the bitter aftertaste of chocolate. Harry pressed deeper, slipping his tongue into the wet heat, and god, oh, god, but kissing Cho and Ginny and that bloke he’d met at the Leaky last month had never felt like this. Harry’s breath hitched in his chest.
Malfoy sighed, and Harry felt a hand cupping his jaw, cool fingertips stroking his skin and making him tingle all over. He moaned and twisted slightly towards Malfoy, slipping one arm around his waist and pressing his hand against the small of his back. Malfoy whimpered quietly, and sucked on Harry’s bottom lip, biting it lightly then flicking his tongue into the corner of Harry’s mouth. Harry shuddered, gasping, wanting more; wanting to feel to skin pressed against his own, wanting to push Malfoy down onto the bed, the floor, anywhere, to have Malfoy beneath him, moaning his name as he…
Malfoy stood up suddenly and stumbled backwards off the steps, eyes wide, arms flailing, the front of his shorts bulging conspicuously. He was breathing hard, almost panting, backing away.
“I … I can’t.”
“Malfoy!” Harry stood up, aware that his confusion was showing on his face, but too confused to care.
“Go away!” snarled Malfoy. He turned and strode off. Harry leapt off the steps and went after him.
He followed Malfoy between caravans and washing lines, back towards the fairground. The punters were all going home, and the circus was battening down its hatches for the night. Malfoy ducked into the freak tent, nodding and smiling at Olympia as he passed her on her way out. Harry waited until the dwarf had gone, and slipped after Malfoy into the close, airless dark.
The twins had gone, leaving the lid of their piano up, but apart from that the inside of the tent looked much the same as it had when Harry had last been in there. The dim lighting enhanced the eerie display of jars with their distorted, gently floating occupants. Malfoy was down the back of the tent, where the geek still sat in its bone-littered cage, waiting to be taken back to the animal quarters for the night.
Harry caught a whiff of blood and excrement, but swallowed his revulsion and made his way slowly towards the cage.
Malfoy was sitting beside it, his head resting against the bars. He didn’t look up as Harry approached.
“I told you to go away, Potter,” he said, but his words had no force in them. When he finally met Harry’s eyes, he didn’t look angry, just sad and defeated, and not a little bit relieved.
“Never was very good at doing what I was told, was I?” Harry replied, sitting down next to Malfoy in the sawdust. The geek hissed at him and withdrew to the furthest corner of the cage. Malfoy, to Harry’s surprise, crooned softly and reached into the cage. The geek, instead of lashing out, shuffled a bit closer and grasped Malfoy’s hand in its filthy, blood-caked fingers.
“You don’t recognise her, do you?” he asked quietly. Harry shook his head, mystified.
“She stood up in front of the whole school and tried to have you thrown to Voldemort. I rather thought her face might have stayed with you.”
Harry stared at the creature in the cage, trying to find some familiar feature beneath the straggling, gore-streaked hair, and the dirt, and the unspeakable filth.
“Parkinson?” he whispered, struggling to keep at bay a rising tide of nausea. The geek lifted its gaze to meet his, and his stomach lurched. Pansy Parkinson’s dark eyes stared out at him from the thin, ravaged face, bereft of the sharp intelligence they’d possessed at school, and filled instead with dull, animal rage.
“Potter,” she spat, her voice harsh from disuse.
Harry knew that cases like Parkinson’s were kept sedated at St Mungo’s because, although when their minds were damaged to such an extent they lost the ability to perform controlled magic, they often exhibited the kind of wild magic seen in children before they were taught to harness it.
Harry’s class had studied a few cases in Auror training the year before. He knew that the closed wards of St Mungo’s were home to many wizards and witches in a similar state to Parkinson’s; they posed a danger to both themselves and those around them, requiring constant care and, occasionally, physical restraints as well as sedative potions. Many of them had been brought in during the months that followed the war, tortured into madness by Riddle’s followers, or driven insane by guilt at what they had done while under the dark wizard’s sway. Harry stared at the wreck of Pansy Parkinson, and thought that it didn’t really matter how she had come to be that way. Nobody deserved to live like this. Besides which she was probably dangerous.
Harry looked back to Malfoy, crouched in the sawdust, miserable and alone, trapped in the dark with Riddle’s legacy. Malfoy had abandoned everything he’d ever known in his bid to shake off the horrors of his past, and had failed. As far as Harry could see, he was imprisoned just as surely as if he’d followed his father to Azkaban.
“I stay here for her,” murmured Malfoy, as much to himself as to Harry, “I promised I’d stay and look after her.”
“Malfoy, she needs help. She should be at St Mungo’s, not here, she could be dangerous…”
“I’m not handing her over to them! She hasn’t hurt anyone, Potter. She can’t even do magic anymore!”
Harry hesitated. He could understand why Malfoy would be reluctant to give Parkinson over to the care of wizards, but it needed to be done all the same.
“Come back with me,” he said, coaxing and gentle, placing a hand on Malfoy’s shoulder. Malfoy shook his head.
“I can’t. She’d never forgive me.”
“Yes, you can. You could stay at my place, we could take Pansy to the hospital, get her the care she needs…”
Malfoy hesitated, and Harry felt a brief burst of hope.
“I told you, I’m not leaving her with them. They wouldn’t help her, they’d just dose her full of potions and lock her up! We don’t need your help, Potter. Now, piss off.”
Malfoy shrugged Harry’s hand off his shoulder and stood up. Harry stood with him, hands clenched into fists at his sides, breathing deeply to try and control his rising anger.
“I’m not just going to leave you here!”
“I’m not giving you a choice!”
Harry lunged forwards, shoving Malfoy against one of the heavy wooden posts that supported the tent and pinning him there. For just a moment they stilled, their bodies pressed together and their faces so close that Harry could feel Malfoy’s panting breath against his skin. Then Malfoy pushed Harry away and punched him. Harry glared at him, slightly dazed, one hand on his aching jaw.
“I’m only trying to help, Malfoy!”
“Like I said, we don’t need it!” Malfoy snarled, and this time Harry didn’t follow him when he walked away.
In the shadows of her cage, Pansy watched them. A tear crawled down her face, leaving in its wake a clean trail on her dirty skin.
Harry went back the next night. It was the last night before the travelling show moved on, and he was running late. Molly had dropped in, just as he was about to leave, with a box of homemade goodies and her particularly insistent brand of concern. It had taken almost an hour to get her out of the flat.
Arriving at the main gate, Harry all but threw a handful of coins at the girl in the booth and nearly forgot to take his admission ticket. By the time he’d reached Malfoy’s little arena, the show was over and the audience had wandered away, leaving Malfoy packing away his equipment alone.
Malfoy looked up at him.
“Go away, Potter,” he said, his voice cool and steady.
Harry shook his head. “I can’t.”
“I don’t want you here.”
“Yes, you do, or you would have hexed me already.”
Malfoy glared at him, then bowed his head in defeat. Harry picked up the old suitcase. Malfoy sighed, then shook his head, and led the way to his caravan.
When they arrived at the caravan, Harry followed Malfoy inside, dumping the suitcase just inside the door. Malfoy turned to face him.
“What are you playing at, Potter?”
“What?” Harry was genuinely confused, “I’m not playing at anything!”
“Why did you come back, then?” Malfoy sounded angry, but Harry also heard a faint undercurrent of hope.
“Because I really have missed you, you idiot! I can’t get you out of my head, and you’re beautiful, and …” Harry’s voice was louder than he intended in the cramped caravan. He’d never been very good at controlling his temper, and he could feel it fraying now.
“Don’t!” Malfoy almost shouted.
“Don’t what?” Harry yelled. He crossed the small space and shoved Malfoy up against the wall. Malfoy struggled, but Harry had the advantage of weight and determination, and kept him pinned there.
“Don’t what?” he repeated, his voice barely more than a growl.
“Don’t fuck with me,” Malfoy snapped, turning his face away.
“What makes you think I’m fucking with you?” Harry demanded.
“Because you’re you, and I’m not beautiful…”
“I think you’re gorgeous, Draco,” Harry said quietly.
Please let him believe me, he thought, desperately.
Draco squeezed his eyes shut.
“Stop it,” he whispered.
Harry leaned in and pressed his mouth against Draco’s, meeting brief resistance before Draco’s lips parted with a whimper, admitting Harry’s tentative tongue into his warm, slick mouth. The whole world ground to a halt. Harry deepened the kiss, humming with pleasure as Draco responded, their tongues sliding together, the caravan filling with the wet noise of the kiss and their shallow, uneven breathing. He was disappointed when Draco broke the kiss a moment later, but used the opportunity to nuzzle his neck, tracing his tongue over the dragon’s tail tattooed there, and biting gently. Draco squirmed, and twined his fingers in Harry’s hair.
“Why did you have to come and complicate things?” he whispered.
“Do you want me to stop complicating things?” asked Harry in between alternating nibbles and kisses up his neck.
“Nooo … oh …”
Harry kissed him again, roughly, and took hold of his hips to pull him closer, pressing their swelling cocks together through heavy layers of denim. He moaned as Draco slipped his hands under the hem of his T-shirt, goosebumps prickling across his skin under Draco’s cool fingers. He raised his arms as Draco dragged the T-shirt up over his head, skewing his glasses. He fumbled to straighten them as Draco pulled him close for another kiss.
It was only a short stumble to Draco’s narrow, blanket-strewn bed, and they collapsed onto it in a tangle of limbs and kisses, warm skin pressed against warm skin. Harry unbuttoned Draco’s shorts and pushed them down over his hips, along with the pants underneath. He closed his hand around the gratifyingly hard shaft of Draco’s cock and squeezed. Draco shuddered, thrusting his hips helplessly and fumbling as he unfastened Harry’s jeans. Harry lifted his arse up off the bed to make it easier to get the jeans down, and then oh, god, then they were naked and winding around each other, golden skin against intricately tattooed, and Harry could no longer tell who was making the desperate, gasping, moans that filled the air. He rolled Draco onto his back, kissing him with more passion than finesse, running his hands over all the smooth, hot, tattooed skin he could reach.
Draco arched his back as Harry laid a trail of kisses down his torso, each kiss leaving a cooling, wet imprint on Draco’s heated skin. Harry flicked his tongue against the hard bud of a nipple hidden amongst the leaves of the tattooed tree, and then ran his tongue down the trunk on Draco’s belly, pausing to dip into his navel. Draco held his breath, every muscle in his body tensed in anticipation, and bit his bottom lip to keep from crying out.
Harry bent his head and planted a small, wet kiss on the silky, violet head of Draco’s cock, carefully licking away a drop of pre-come.
“Fuck!” gasped Draco, as his self-control began to unravel.
Harry paused, inexperience making him hesitant. He’d only done this a few times before, and while he’d never had any complaints he was suddenly concerned that Draco would be disappointed.
“Harry, please …”
Harry’s nervousness evaporated, and he lowered his head, taking as much of Draco’s length into his mouth as he could manage, fascinated by the noises Draco made as he moved his mouth slowly up and down. Draco’s self-control failed him completely. He wound his fingers in Harry’s hair, as an increasingly incoherent litany of pleas and expletives tumbled from his mouth.
Harry would have kept going until Draco spilled himself down his throat, but for the hands on his shoulders that pushed him up and away. He looked down at Draco, confused, wondering if perhaps he’d been doing something wrong. Draco was spread out on the bed in beneath him, eyes dark with arousal, swollen lips parted. He wrapped his legs around Harry’s waist and pulled him down on top of himself, hands in Harry’s hair again and warm, mobile tongue seeking entrance to Harry’s mouth. Trapped between their bodies, their desperately hard cocks rubbed together, and god, it felt so good that Harry thought he was in danger of coming right then and there.
“Want you,” whispered Draco, thrusting his hips to increase the friction, “want you inside me so fucking much.”
Harry couldn’t form an intelligible response to that, and settled for kissing Draco again instead; deeply, sweetly, hungrily, until Draco pushed him away again, smiling at the naked disappointment on Harry’s face.
“Oh, right …”
Draco leaned over the side of the bed and scrabbled around underneath it, then sat back up with a plastic tube in one hand. He gave it to Harry.
“Be gentle, it’s, um, been a while.”
Harry nodded, wriggling down the bed until he was kneeling between Draco’s parted thighs again, praying to all the gods he believed in that he could do this without embarrassing himself or hurting Draco. He squeezed too much lube onto his fingers and it dripped onto the bed; Harry was thankful that Draco was lying back with his eyes closed, and not watching him.
Harry stroked one slick finger along Draco’s perineum, his confidence boosted as Draco sighed and tilted his hips, spreading his legs wider. Harry kept going, concentrating harder than he had ever done in any class, until his fingertip finally grazed Draco’s tightly furled arsehole. He pressed gently. Draco moaned, pushing up towards the intrusion. His fingers gripped the blankets, the tendons on the backs of his hands standing out and making the tattoos squirm.
Harry slowly pushed his finger past the tight band of muscle, feeling Draco’s molten insides clench and ripple around him. He pushed deeper and pressed upwards, searching for the dimpled cushion of Draco’s prostate. When he found it, he stroked it with his fingertip, making Draco arch up from the bed and howl with pleasure.
“Oh, god, YES! Fuck! Oh, Merlin, Harry, that’s … ah … that’s so fucking good!”
Harry grinned, pleased with Draco’s uninhibited reaction, and experimentally pressed another finger against Draco’s fluttering rim. Encouraged by the gasped “Yes …,” thrust it inside. He was clumsy, he knew, but Draco didn’t seem to mind terribly much. Harry massaged the sensitive little bundle of nerves, captivated by the way Draco’s language collapsed into a wordless vocabulary of cries, and groans, and shuddering breaths.
Harry withdrew his fingers almost regretfully, and slicked his achingly hard cock with the excess lube that still coated his hand. He carefully lined himself up with Draco’s slippery, twitching entrance and slowly pushed his cock inside and oh, it was infinitely tight and hot and wet.
Draco whimpered softly, but whether from pain, or pleasure, or both, Harry couldn’t tell. He was vaguely aware that Draco was stroking his own hard-on, his hand moving roughly, quickly, up and down the swollen length, but all he could really think about was how unbelievably good it felt as he buried his cock deep in Draco’s body.
Draco’s tattoos seemed to dance across his skin as he arched up beneath him. Harry withdrew part of the way and thrust in again, and must have got the angle right because Draco cried out, his whole body jerking. Harry groaned, sinking in again and again, his orgasm mounting quickly as Draco’s body contracted rhythmically around him. The universe tilted and spun away on its own strange axis, and all there was left in the blindingly bright darkness was the warm, heavy pleasure coiling between them.
Draco came undone with a far-away, wailing cry, spilling hot and sticky over his belly; the muscles that that rippled and shuddered around Harry’s cock pulled him over the edge into the abyss. Down, down, down they tumbled, collapsing in a sweaty, gasping tangle of limbs on Draco’s bed.
They lay like that for a curiously elastic moment that might have been a few seconds or half an hour, catching their breath, pressing kisses to each other’s sweat-salty skin, smiling at the wonder and the strangeness. Harry felt his softening cock slip free of Draco’s body and rolled over onto his side, one hand splayed on Draco’s chest, watching with detached interest the play of uneasy orange light coming in through the tiny window to flutter against the wall.
Uneasy, flickering orange light, and from outside the caravan came a dull, crackling roar. In a sudden, panicked flurry they were pulling on clothes and scrambling out through the door and onto the cool, grass outside, staring in horror, hearts pounding, sick with adrenalin.
Mr Kite’s Travelling Show was burning.
“Pansy!” screamed Draco, haring off in the direction of the animal trucks. The fire was gleefully consuming the big top, but hadn’t reached beyond it yet. Harry ran after him, and arrived at the trucks a few seconds later to find Draco staring at the empty cage. Its lock was mangled and the door swung open, chicken bones and blood and feathers scattered as she’d fled. The kennels and cages were all open, the animals gone.
Draco’s eyes were wide when they met Harry’s, and together they started running towards the big top, past the other fairground workers who had been called out by the fire.
A semicircle had gathered in front of the big top, watching helplessly as the red-and-yellow striped canvas blackened and billowed in the fire’s unnatural wind. Flames roared and poured up into the sky, painting the clouds orange, and vomiting sparks that drifted lazily before settling across the booths and tents of the alleyway, setting the canvas to smouldering.
“Pansy!” Draco screamed again, lunging towards the tent. Harry grabbed at him, wrapped his arms and legs around him and bore him to the ground, pinning him there while he twisted and thrashed.
“You fucking cunt!” Draco screamed, spitting in Harry’s face. “Pansy! PANSY!”
Harry said nothing, just held onto Draco until he stopped struggling and screaming, and just lay on the damp grass, sobbing, with his head in Harry’s lap and his eyes squeezed shut. Just before the tent collapsed, Harry glanced up and caught a glimpse of a capering, demented figure at its blazing core, her skin flushed with heat, shrieking with laughter as the flames licked at her hair and ragged clothing.
The tent groaned and surrendered to the fire. Harry heard the urgent wail of a fire engine somewhere far away, and cries of “Aguamenti!” as the wizards of Hogsmeade Apparated to the scene.
Harry watched as the flames danced down the alley.
Dawn was turning the smoke-blackened sky a dirty grey when Harry finally took Draco home to his pokey little flat. Draco was shaking and silent; even his tattoos looked faded, covered as they were in a smudged layer of soot. Harry wrapped him in one of Molly’s multi-coloured knitted blankets and sat him on a rickety wooden chair in the kitchen.
Newly minted sunlight, achingly bright, lanced in through the single, small window. Draco winced, turning his face away. Harry leaned over and shut the blind, then flicked the switch on the kettle. Draco watched quietly as Harry fetched cups from the draining board and rummaged in a cupboard for an old packet of hot chocolate powder he was sure Ginny had left up the back somewhere.
“Ah ha!” He turned to Draco, triumphant, holding the box aloft with a grin. Draco smiled faintly back at him. Just as Harry was about to start spooning hot chocolate into the cups, Draco spoke, his voice barely audible above the gurgling rumble of the kettle.
“Could … could I just have a cup of tea, please?”
“Um, sure. Do you want English Breakfast or …” Harry poked around in the jar of teabags, “ … English Breakfast?”
He looked over his shoulder and raised an inquiring eyebrow at Draco, who snorted and shook his head.
“Gosh, I don’t know … oh, what the hell, give me English Breakfast.”
Harry poured water over the teabags, grinning to himself as his glasses fogged over. It was a far cry from the ruthlessly snarky Malfoy he knew and … liked a lot, but it was a good start.
Harry placed the sugar bowl and a carton of almost out-of-date milk on the table, along with the two cups of tea. He noted that Draco added milk and three spoons of sugar, and left the teabag in.
The easy mood brought about by the teabags was short-lived. It evaporated along with the steam from their teacups, leaving them in an uneasy silence, unsure how to progress across the strange and unpredictable territory spread out before them. Draco spoke first, his voice muffled by grief and the hush that hung over them.
“What am I supposed to do now?”
“What do you mean? You can do anything you like.” Harry frowned.
“Such as?” Draco asked.
“Well … anything! I know Gringott’s are hiring, and McGonagall told me that Hogwarts is looking for a new Charms teacher …”
“Look at me, Harry.”
“And George’s assistant quit last week, I could …”
“Look at me!”
Harry reluctantly raised his eyes. Draco didn’t look angry, just defeated, as he ran a hand over his densely tattooed scalp.
“You just didn’t think, did you?” Draco asked softly, “How are you going to tell your friends that you’re shacked up with an ex-Death Eater? They lost family and friends because of what I did, they’re not going to welcome me with a handshake and an invitation to tea, are they? Or perhaps you were planning on keeping me in the attic, like Mrs Rochester?”
Who’s Mrs Rochester? wondered Harry.
“I don’t have an attic,” he said, desolately.
Draco stared at him for a moment, then burst into unexpected, genuine laughter.
“You haven’t changed at all, have you?” he asked, shaking his head, “Still the valiant Gryffindor, charging into the fray without a second thought. Oh, Harry …”
“I’m so sorry,” Harry murmured.
“Don’t be,” Draco said gently, stifling a yawn.
Harry led him down the corridor and into the shoebox-sized bedroom. The pale curtains did little to block out the sunlight, but they were too tired to care. They lay down on the bed, on top of the counterpane, their bodies curled together, Molly’s blanket stretched over them. Harry stroked Draco’s head gently, and felt him gradually relax into sleep. Harry lay awake for a little while, wondering what they were going to do next.
Draco was right. How was he going to explain this to his friends? What kind of life would Draco be able to lead in the wizarding world? Would he even want to stay? Harry snuggled closer, and decided not to worry about it until tomorrow. Right now, all he wanted to do was hold Draco, and to sleep.