Genre: Creature fic, hurt/comfort
Warning(s): Mentions of slash, references to violence, some angst
Word count: 2850
Disclaimer: All characters belong to JK Rowling and her various publishers. This is a not-for-profit work of fanfiction. Author is not responsible for underage readers. Please adhere to the rating and warnings.
Author's notes: Written for beren_writes as my contribution to the hd_holidays gift exchange.
Story summary: Draco has requested a miracle for Christmas, and Harry will need a miracle if he is to deliver.
In early November, Harry had asked Draco what he wanted for Christmas. Draco had been in one of his moods, so he had snarked back that what he most wanted was a cure for his affliction. And both of them knew Harry couldn't provide that. The happy smile on Harry's face had died in an instant, and Draco had immediately regretted his sarcasm. He had apologized, of course, and made it up to Harry with a bout of tender lovemaking.
However, Harry had been quiet and introspective since then, and when Draco himself had raised the issue of exchanging gifts a week or so later, Harry had seemed distracted. Draco knew his lover had been working extra hours lately, involved in some recent research project with Granger, so he didn't push the issue. Instead, he made plans for his own gift for Harry, commissioning a stunning, lion's head pendant for him. It would be gold, of course. Draco could no longer abide the touch of silver.
Harry had gone to Hermione for help when he realized just how badly he wanted to help Draco. He had known, of course, that Draco would do most anything, up to and including suicide, to rid himself of the taint that he had carried since the final battle, when he had been attacked by Greyback. Harry knew that he was the only thing preventing Draco from self-destructing. Many people claimed that they would die for the ones they loved, but Draco lived for the one he loved, and Harry was grateful for that sacrifice every single day.
Each full moon, both of them suffered. Draco had to undergo the transformation, of course, and Harry took it upon himself to keep vigil outside of the small dungeon cell each time. He forced himself to endure the sounds of Draco's screams as the painful change took place, followed by the werewolf's howls of fury at being locked in the windowless cell, unaware in that state that he had designed the enclosure and voluntarily sentenced himself to it each and every month.
Harry would spend the entire night listening to the snarling and pacing of the werewolf, trembling as it scratched at the door and flinching on the occasion when it would bodily fling itself at the portal in its frenzy to be free. Harry had no doubt that if the door did not hold and the wolf escaped, it would kill him in an instant. There was nothing of Draco in that form, and Harry sometimes wondered if that was a blessing or a curse.
In the morning, after another round of agonized screaming as his lover transformed back, Harry had to endure the worst of it. It was in those moments that Draco would stagger to the door and beg Harry to kill him, now, while he was in a weakened state. Harry would choke back tears, unlock the door and flee up the stairs before the sounds of Draco's sobs could undo him completely.
Afterward, they never spoke of it.
Any other day of the month, Harry liked to pretend Draco's condition didn't exist. However, when Draco had glumly announced he wished to be free of his affliction when asked what he would like, Harry decided to take action. He knew others had tried and failed, and that researchers were even now working on a cure without success, but Christmas was a time of miracles, and Harry had every reason to believe in miracles.
Hermione frowned, causing a crease to appear between her brows. "It's too risky," she declared.
"But it could work," Harry prodded her, trying to quell his growing excitement.
"In theory, yes," agreed his friend. "However, in practice, you're more likely to kill him than to cure him."
Harry's enthusiasm waned instantly. "It would be a kindness," he whispered harshly.
"Oh, Harry," cried Hermione. She stood and came around the table they were working at to enfold him in a comforting hug. She wiped his tears away with the pad of a thumb, feeling her own eyes welling with moisture. She hadn't seen Harry cry since she and Ron had discovered him in the aftermath of the final battle, holding Draco's broken and bleeding body and sobbing over his battered lover.
Greyback's body, what was left of it, had lain nearby. Hermione never did find out what spell Harry had used to kill the werewolf. Part of her suspected it wasn't a spell at all, but rather Harry's raw power and fury focused on the single act of destroying the beast.
At that time, it had been gently suggested to Harry that he let Draco go, but he had been determined to save him. Draco been taken to St Mungo's and healed, but they all knew the difficulties that awaited him, and Harry, in the future. Since Harry had never spoken of it before, Hermione had no idea of the depths of suffering each of them endured for the other's sake each month. However, when Harry had come to her and begged for her help in finding a way to rid Draco of his curse, he had told her the tale stoically, and she was moved to throw all of her considerable knowledge and skill into the task.
With Harry's assistance, she had scoured tomes on lycanthropy, scrolls of ancient runes, books of spells, and journals of other researchers. It had taken several weeks, but finally, in mid-December, Hermione thought she had come across the solution. In a voice shaking with a combination of excitement and trepidation, she had told Harry of a ritual involving silver and runes, wolfs bane and spells, love and trust and fortitude. Harry had seized upon the slim hope immediately, only to have Hermione give him a cold dose of reality by insisting the ritual was far more likely to release Draco of all mortal worries, and not just the werewolf taint he carried.
"I have to try, Hermione," rasped Harry. "No matter the outcome. Draco cannot continue to live like that, and...and it's selfish of me to ask him to." He raised a tear-stained face to her. "You'll be there for me, won't you? Afterward...?"
"Harry, of course we will!" exclaimed Hermione, her heart breaking for him. "We'll always be there for you, no matter what. That's what friends, and family, are for." She continued to hold him in a warm embrace, simply being there for him until Harry's trembling eased, and he straightened with renewed determination.
"Explain it to me again," he demanded.
December 20th...that was the date Harry was focused on. It was close to Christmas, but more importantly, it was the night of the new moon, when Draco's affliction was at its weakest. If the ritual was to succeed at all, it would be at that time.
Draco had noticed some changes in Harry. His lover would pick at his food, and he had lost weight. There were dark circles beneath his eyes, and he spent an inordinate amount of time in Granger's company. At night, however, Harry's lovemaking would take Draco's breath away. He had never felt so cherished, so loved.
So it was on a starry night in late December, as they lay nude and entwined upon the bed, that Harry broke free of kissing and caressing him to suggest some light bondage, and Draco readily agreed. He allowed his lover to bind him, hand and foot, to the four bedposts.
Harry used silken cords, soft to Draco's skin, yet strong and unbreakable. He only hoped the bedposts would hold. Drawing a shaky breath, he left the bed to gather the items he would need, ignoring Draco's husky plea for him to return. When Harry came back, he was carrying a wooden box and levitating a small table. He placed the table next to the bed and set the box carefully upon it.
"Planning to get kinky, are you?" grinned Draco, testing his bonds with light tugs.
Harry swallowed heavily, then mustered his courage, plastered a wobbly smile on his face, and turned to his lover. He leaned down and kissed Draco softly, gently, pouring all the love he felt into that sensuous slide of lips. He left off kissing the blond to bury his face in the crook of Draco's neck, inhaling his beloved scent and allowing it to calm his nerves.
Harry sat up suddenly, his expression unnervingly sober, and reached out a trembling hand to caress Draco's taut abdomen with a brush of fingertips. "You know I love you, don't you?" he asked, voice subdued.
Draco felt a frisson of alarm tingle up his spine, but he replied without hesitation, "Yes. I love you, too."
"Do you trust me?" asked Harry, his eyes meeting and holding Draco's own.
Sensing the seriousness of the question, Draco once more responded with an unwavering, "Yes."
Harry released a pent up breath and bowed his head. "Then forgive me for what I am about to do," he whispered. Turning away from Draco, he opened the box and extracted a ritual, silver-bladed dagger.
Draco felt a cold knot of dread form in his stomach. "Harry?" he questioned softly. He had no fear of death, yearning for it as he so often did, and to die at Harry's hand was perhaps the best way he could imagine going. However, he didn't want Harry to carry the burden of having ended his life, knowing it would kill his lover as surely as if he turned that silver blade on himself. Unless...
"Harry?" Draco asked again, more urgently this time, horrified at the thought of Harry killing him and then plunging the blade into his own heart. "Promise me you'll forget all about me and find someone else to make you happy."
Harry choked. Leave it to Draco to conclude that Harry planned to kill him and then himself in a fit of despair. "You stupid, beautiful fool," he murmured, once more stroking his lover soothingly. "I asked you to trust me."
"I do," rasped Draco, unable to quell his slight trembling. "I do trust you, Harry."
"Then promise me that you'll forgive me...come morning," Harry entreated, eyes wide with anguish.
And suddenly, Draco understood. Harry, his beloved Harry, hoped that what he was about to do would end Draco's affliction, but part of him doubted that Draco would live through the night. Harry was asking for more than just reassurance that Draco would forgive him--he was asking Draco to survive. "I promise," he vowed, conviction ringing in his voice. Draco harbored no doubts that he would forgive his lover, whether or not he saw the rising of the sun.
Harry nodded solemnly, took up the dagger, and began the ritual.
Harry came awake slowly. Weak sunlight was beginning to filter through the windows, and he was aware of gritty eyes and a pounding head. Suddenly, the memories of the night before rushed in, and he sat up with a start, his heart racing in dread. He hadn't intended to fall asleep, but the night had taken its toll. Draco's screams had been nearly unbearable, and the bedroom still carried the coppery scent of blood, the cloying aroma of incense, and the tang of wolfs bane. Harry had no idea which of them had shed more tears during the ritual, but he knew which of them had begged more. He had pleaded for Draco's forgiveness and understanding throughout the night, whereas his lover had not once asked for mercy while enduring the virtual torture Harry had put him through.
Draco's body was unnaturally pale and still next to him, and Harry reached out a trembling hand to stroke his lover's face. Draco's skin was cool to the touch, and Harry's heart skipped a beat as he felt the blood drop from his own face. Frantically, he slid his fingers down Draco's throat and pressed them to the hollow where the blond's pulse normally throbbed with warmth and life.
Had he felt a flutter? Harry closed his eyes and prayed for his miracle.
There it was again...a tiny, weak pulse beneath his fingers, and as Harry's breath caught, Draco stirred minutely. A sob tore itself from Harry's throat as so many emotions washed over him then--love and hope and gratitude foremost among them. He carefully gathered Draco close and clung to him, heedless of the tears that were wetting his lover's hair.
"Harry?" Draco's voice was mere whisper.
"I'm here, love, I'm here," replied Harry, his grip tightening in a fierce embrace.
"I forgive you," rasped Draco, his body relaxing into stillness once more.
Over the next few days, Draco slowly regained his strength. His voice, however, remained a raspy whisper, and Harry despaired that it would ever return to normal. Draco assured him that the loss of his voice was a small price to pay for the removal of his affliction. He had graduated from sipping broth to eating other soft foods, especially ice cream to soothe his sore throat. Harry had refused to let Draco venture out of bed for the first couple days, but he was now allowed to recline on the sofa in the livingroom. Hermione had come to visit, bringing one of her small dogs. The animal had been coaxed to jump up on the sofa with Draco, and it had contentedly claimed a spot on his lap and enjoyed the petting and scritching Draco lavished on it. The scene had been met with happy tears all around, as dogs had reacted quite violently to Draco before the ritual, sensing the werewolf taint he carried.
Christmas morning dawned crisp and sunny. Draco waved off Harry's offers of assistance and shooed him from the bedroom while he retrieved the slender box containing Harry's gift from a shelf in the closet.
Harry sat in the livingroom, awaiting Draco's arrival with nervous anticipation. When the blond finally emerged from the bedroom and shuffled down the hall, Harry thought his heart would burst from the love he felt. The blond was still in his pyjamas and wrapped in a cozy blanket. His blond hair was tousled, but his eyes were bright and happy.
Plopping himself on the sofa next to Harry, Draco leaned in and kissed his lover then sat back with a smug grin and extracted a box from the folds of his blanket. "Merry Christmas," he whispered, handing the gift to Harry.
Harry accepted the gift and began to unwrap it carefully. Draco must have purchased it before the ritual, because neither of them had left their home since that night. The wrappings fell away, and he opened the jeweler's box to reveal the stunning gold pendant Draco had given him. "It's beautiful," he breathed.
"Let me," rasped Draco, reaching for the pendant and indicating to Harry to turn around. Harry pivoted slightly and allowed Draco to fasten the chain at the back of his neck, then looked down to admire the intricately wrought lion's head now resting against his chest.
"Thank you," said Harry. "It's perfect." He cupped Draco's chin and placed a lingering kiss on his lips. Straightening with a smile, he added, "I have a gift for you, too."
Draco gave a slight shake of his head. "The other night was gift enough," he protested quietly.
"Shall I give this to some other bloke, then?" teased Harry. His tone was light, but his eyes were wide and serious as he produced a small, square box from between the sofa cushions and presented it to Draco.
Draco noticed the slight trembling of Harry's hand and the anxious expression on his face, and he felt an answering tremor dance along his nerves. Taking the gift, he unwrapped it with suddenly shaky hands and discovered a suspiciously shaped jeweler's box. Opening the box, he withdrew a smaller, velvet covered box. Hardly daring to breathe, Draco lifted the lid. What breath was left in his lungs was exhaled on a gasp.
Nestled within the silken lining was a ring. It was a simple band, plain but for the beautiful snakes and lions engraved upon it. A simple band...a simple, silver band.
Draco was overwhelmed by the implications. The ring obviously represented a commitment, but more than that, the fact that Harry had purchased a silver ring before performing the ritual spoke volumes of his faith and determination, and Draco found he could barely see for the tears welling in his eyes.
Tenderly, Harry brushed away the moisture that escaped from the corners of Draco's eyes. Gently, he cupped Draco's face in both hands and murmured, "Draco Malfoy, will you do me the honor of marrying me?"