Title: Promise Me
Word Count: 4,500
Epilogue Compliant? Nope
Warnings: Implied character death (not Harry or Draco)
Disclaimer: All Harry Potter characters herein are the property of J.K. Rowling and Bloomsbury/Scholastic. No copyright infringement is intended.
Summary: Draco made two promises that pulled him in opposite directions. He can only fulfil one.
Author’s Notes Pint Mint, I hope you enjoy this even though it basically doesn’t resemble your prompt at all. It gave me fits. You said you liked wartime fics, and I’ve never written a wartime fic before (although I’ve been meaning to). I started a zillion stories and was unhappy with all of them. Then this one came along in bits and fragments. I’m a big fan of yours. I hope you like it.
'S there anybody there?' said the Traveller,
Knocking on the moonlit door;
And his horse in the silence champ'd the grasses
Of the forest's ferny floor:
And a bird flew up out of the turret,
Above the Traveller's head:
And he smote upon the door again a second time;
'Is there anybody there?' he said.
But no one descended to the Traveller;
No head from the leaf-fringed sill
Lean'd over and look'd into his grey eyes,
Where he stood perplex'd and still.
But only a host of phantom listeners
That dwelt in the lone house then
Stood listening in the quiet of the moonlight
To that voice from the world of men:
Stood thronging the faint moonbeams on the dark stair,
That goes down to the empty hall,
Hearkening in an air stirr'd and shaken
By the lonely Traveller's call.
And he felt in his heart their strangeness,
Their stillness answering his cry,
While his horse moved, cropping the dark turf,
'Neath the starr'd and leafy sky;
For he suddenly smote on the door, even
Louder, and lifted his head:
'Tell them I came, and no one answer'd,
That I kept my word,' he said.
Never the least stir made the listeners,
Though every word he spake
Fell echoing through the shadowiness of the still house
From the one man left awake:
Ay, they heard his foot upon the stirrup,
And the sound of iron on stone,
And how the silence surged softly backward,
When the plunging hoofs were gone.
By Walter de la Mare
The cottage is silent beneath the looming hills. A broken shutter bangs in the wind. The lace curtains don’t twitch aside when he knocks on the door. No face appears at the window. Autumn roses twist around the filigree in the iron railings. They’re almost completely black, but he can still see the crimson in their centres, like hearts that have stopped beating and are only waiting to decay. He feels the bite of tears and curls his hands into fists, sinking the crescent moon slivers of his nails into the vulnerable skin of his palms. No one has been here for a very long time. Dead leaves fill the little garden. He steps back far enough to look in the upstairs windows. A lifted sash sends the curtain behind it floating out like an escaping ghost. If he goes in, he knows that the mattress on the bed will be damp; rain has fallen since the window was opened.
He wishes to God that he hadn’t come here. But he’d promised he’d return, even if he had to crawl.
The little cottage had been like an unlooked-for answer to a prayer. They’d run for so long and so far, fleeing the Dark Lord’s vengeance like wet mice scurrying through a flooded wheat field in a lightning storm. Sometimes they’d encountered sympathetic people who’d take them in but never for very long. The fear of the midnight knock on the door and the tales of torture would eventually outweigh their kindness, and he and his mother would find themselves running yet again, stumbling through days and weeks and staggering under the certainty that if Voldemort found them they would die by increments until death became mercy and continued life a curse.
But then they’d found the cottage. Some Muggle family’s holiday home most likely. It was empty of people but fully furnished; small but cosy. His mother had cast Repello Muggletum. If the family returned, they’d find nothing but a pile of weather-bitten rocks where their cottage once had been. Neither of them had felt even the least bit bad about it.
Time passed. The world had seemingly forgotten about them, which was ironic because the Malfoys had once thrived on attention, blossoming under its fickle sun. Now Draco and his mother just wanted to be invisible, inconsequential. They wanted to sit out the storm until it was over – if indeed it ever would be.
But then along had come Harry Potter and the promise of a Portkey.
“Whatever you do . . . whatever happens, come back to me.”
She wasn’t crying when she said it, but he knew she would after he was gone. Her eyes were as fierce and blue as the flame that burns closest to the wick.
“You promise me, Draco,” she said, pulling away from his embrace and wrapping her worn robe tighter around herself. “Promise me that you’ll come back. Give me your word as a Black.”
But how could he promise not to die?
“Mother,” he said, but she turned her face away.
They’d been hiding for too long. His restlessness had finally overcome his fear. He was ready to go now. Tomorrow he might not be. Hard lessons had taught him the boundaries of his courage. He had to leave now. Tonight. While the taste of Harry’s mouth was still fresh on his tongue and the feel of Harry’s skin still warm in his memory.
“You’re being foolish. The boy is not going to win. Think, Draco, and with your head, not with your . . .well, you know.” She gestured vaguely at his groin. “He’s going to die, and then what are you going to do, my little dragon?”
“I’m going to come back here,” he said stubbornly. “But he’s not going to die, and I’m not going to die, and neither are you.”
Her smile was a snowdrop in an April ice storm. He hugged her and kissed her and let her extract the promise from him like a gem from stone.
He promised he’d come back.
And then he left without turning to wave, his neck bowed and his eyes fixed on the moonlit ground.
There was nothing in his pockets except a piece of creased parchment, its ink smudged and its words, by then, illegible. A date, a time, co-ordinates, and the promise of a Portkey. He’d recognise it when he saw it, the note promised.
The wind was biting, and he could smell snow in it. He’d have to get to the place the note directed him before the Portkey was buried. He started running, his shoes slipping in the cold mud. His breath felt torn from his lungs. He had to get from one promise to another, like walking on a tightrope, braving the dark forest in-between.
“Please come,” Harry had said when he’d pressed the note into Draco’s hand before dawn had parted them. “Promise me that you’ll come.”
His muscles burned as he ran. The snow started falling in icy flakes that stung his face. He stumbled to his knees and pushed himself up again, wiping the dirt on his palms on his trousers. His wand pointed toward the co-ordinates Harry had given him. He followed it blindly, deeper into the forest and deeper into the night.
He tried not to think of his mother still standing in the doorway, her silhouette darkened by the candle light behind her. He could no longer think of her; he must only think of dark hair and green eyes and an unspoken promise of more – of everything.
He laughed at the Portkey when he finally found it. An old Inquisitorial Squad pin. Even in the hurricane of war, Harry still had a sense of humour. He took off his gloves and held it in his bare hands.
If Potter’s friends had intended to kill him, they could’ve done so easily, but the only sound in the trees surrounding him was the wind blowing through their branches. All else was silent. Potter’s promise had passed the first test. He hadn’t told the Order.
He shivered and waited and shivered and waited, praying to God this wasn’t some cruel prank. Maybe Potter had lied and was, right at that moment, having a glass of whisky and a good laugh, but finally he felt the sudden pull as though there was a collar around his neck and someone had yanked on the chain. When his head stopped spinning, he found himself on the ground outside a canvas tent. He spat out the bile that had risen in his throat and stood up. When he ducked into the tent he saw Harry sitting on a cot.
“Draco,” he said, and just like that, years of “Potter” and “Malfoy” drifted away like fog from a mountain lake after the sun has risen.
“I left my mother,” was all Draco could say for awhile. Harry didn’t say anything, but he did reach out and touch Draco’s arm. Feeling an odd flash of irritation, Draco stepped out of reach, and Harry dropped his hand to his side.
“Did you think I wouldn’t have the balls to come?” Draco asked with poorly feigned hauteur.
Harry stepped away from him, but his eyes never left Draco’s. “I wasn’t sure,” he said frankly. “But I hoped you would. Are you hungry?”
Of course, Draco was hungry, but his voice couldn’t say so. Only his eyes.
Harry walked to the other side of the small tent and pulled a sandwich and an orange out of a picnic basket lined with gingham. Draco wanted to laugh at the idea of a picnic basket in the middle of a war, but he didn’t. If you expected nothing else from wartime, you had to expect incongruous juxtapositions.
Draco tried not to gobble the food Harry handed him, but the effort was futile. He snatched the cold chicken sandwich from Harry’s hand and ate it in two bites.
“Careful,” Harry said, peeling the orange for him. “You’ll choke yourself.” He was quiet as he worked. “I’ve told the others,” he said after he finished. “They weren’t thrilled to hear you were going to join us, but they’ll come around. Hermione already has, which means it’s only a matter of time.”
Draco merely nodded and held out his hand for the orange Harry had separated into slices.
“Why’d you ask me to come here?” he asked with his mouth full and sweet juice running down his chin.
Harry shrugged. “You defected,” he said lamely.
“Is that it? Do you want me to spy for you because, if that’s the plan, then you can just forget it . . .”
“I don’t want you to spy.”
Harry reached out to touch him, but Draco pulled away again.
“Is it for sex then?”
Harry flinched and blushed.
He’d flinched but he hadn’t said no.
“I haven’t been able to stop thinking about you,” he said as though that was an answer to Draco’s question. “I think I might die soon.”
Draco swallowed. Despite the juice of the orange, his mouth went dry.
“Literally or figuratively? It doesn’t matter because you’re not,” he said. “I didn’t leave my mother and come here just to have you die. That’s a load of shit. You’re the Chosen One.”
Harry turned his face away.
“I was Chosen to fight, not Chosen to live. I just want . . . I just . . . I want you. I always have.”
Harry blushed an even deeper red from his throat to the tips of his ears.
“War makes things clear,” he added, Draco supposed as some kind of explanation.
Draco’s heart started skipping every other beat.
“What if I don’t want you in return?” he stammered.
Harry turned his face to look at him again. “But you do,” he said confidently, but that confidence was belied by his next words. “Don’t you?”
“Yeah,” he replied, his voice hoarse. He cleared his throat. “Why do you think I’m here, Pot . . . Harry?
Harry smiled bashfully and looked toward the cot he’d been sitting on.
“It’s late,” was all he said.
They didn’t undress; they were both too shy or too tired or a little bit of both. Harry lay down and lifted the blankets, looking at Draco meaningfully.
“I’m all muddy,” Draco said.
“I don’t care,” Harry replied.
Draco had seen him in the village, exhausted and wounded, and when recognition hadn’t turned into enmity, he’d taken him back to the cottage. His mother hadn’t been happy. Wherever Harry Potter was, the Dark Lord and his Death Eaters couldn’t be far away, she’d said, but all the same, she’d helped Draco care for him.
He’d only stayed six days, but it’d been long enough for their hands to seek and find each other. He’d given Harry his bed while he’d slept downstairs in front of the fire, but by the third night, he’d joined Harry under the bedclothes. They’d mapped each other’s bodies with their mouths and hands in no light brighter than the moon. Harry had been fever-warm, but that hadn’t stopped Draco from kissing him, open-mouthed and famished.
“Come with me tomorrow,” Harry had said on the night before he planned to leave. But Draco had shaken his head.
“Then will you at least accept a Portkey?”
He’d wanted to say no but found he couldn’t – not with those green eyes looking at him so intently “Give it to me,” he’d whispered, and Harry had got out of bed in search of some parchment and ink. He’d been naked still, and when he’d bent over to write, Draco counted the vertebrae in his spine the same way someone might count rosary beads.
“Here is all of the information,” Harry had said. “There’ll be a Portkey there on the date I’ve written down.”
Draco had fallen back asleep, and when he’d woke again mid-morning, Harry had already gone.
“This is not good-bye,” the note read.
He knocks again on the door, and a crow flies out of the twisted branches of a nearby tree. It cries and the wind whispers, but no voice answers his from inside. There’s only silence. He looks up at the hills. Their slopes are bruise-coloured with dying heather. The sun blinks out from behind the flying clouds. It illuminates a patch of ground and then disappears again. Everything around it feels like it’s moving, but the cottage is perfectly – horribly – still.
Harry’s body welcomed his. His heart beat against Draco’s chest, and his cock hardened in Draco’s mouth. The narrow cot held them like water in cupped hands. The only boundaries they knew were the limit of arousal before it spilled over into an orgasm and the impossibility of sharing one single skin.
During the days, while Harry was away who-knows-where, Draco wrote dozens of letters that he knew he’d never send. To his mother he described the mud and the rain and the constant presence of people who didn’t bother to hide their distrust. But he also wrote about Harry moving beneath him, arching his back and spreading his legs. Not that he thought she’d want to hear such things, but because he wanted to make her understand why he’d left her – why he’d had to leave her.
To his dead father he wrote about second chances.
“Don’t you ever go outside when I’m away?” Harry asked one night, and Draco shook his head.
“I’m not here because of them or even their cause,” he replied, and Harry turned his face away abruptly as though Draco had slapped his cheek.
“Their cause right now is keeping me alive.”
The next morning, Draco went in search of Granger.
“How long?” he asked.
He’d called through the flap of her tent and she’d drawn it back. They’d looked at each other for a long moment trying to assess the possibility of a tolerable conversation. At last, she’d invited him in and nodded in the direction of a small table with two chairs. He’d sat down, and she’d knelt beside a camp stove and flicked her wand.
Her back was to him, and she made no effort to make eye contact as she spoke to him.
“You’ve been good for Harry,” she said.
Draco didn’t know how to respond. How much did she know about them? She knew they ate together and played chess, but did she also know that Harry offered up his body every night to be fucked open and raw?
“It won’t be much longer,” she said as she stood and floated two cups over to the table. “There’s no milk.”
“There is sugar though if you want it, over there in that pink bowl.”
The bowl in question looked like it had been broken and repaired a dozen times. She sat down across from him.
“You can’t be more specific than that?”
She sighed. “Not really. Harry knows better than the rest of us. He can see the Dark Lord through their . . . connection.”
Draco shuddered wondering if the vision ran both ways. The thought of that animated corpse watching him make love to Harry made him want to scream and maim and kill.
“It could be next month, next week, tomorrow, we don’t know and we probably won’t until the moment is upon us.”
Draco swallowed a mouthful of scalding tea.
“He’s going to win,” he said more confidently than he suddenly realised he felt.
She smiled at him. “I’m glad you finally came out of Harry’s tent,” she said.
Harry sometimes cried when he thought Draco was asleep. It was pure fear; Draco could smell it in his sweat and feel it in the clutch of Harry’s hand when Draco reached for him. He doubted anyone else saw this side of the Chosen One.
“What will you do?” Harry asked over their supper one evening.
Draco knew what he was talking about but pretended he didn’t.
“What do you mean?”
“What will you do if we lose? If I . . . if I die?”
Draco stabbed at his food. “You’re not going to die.”
Harry waved his words away impatiently.
“Yes, yes, yes, I’m not going to die, blah blah blah. But seriously, Draco. What will you do?”
Draco shrugged and laid down his fork. He’d lost his appetite.
“Go back to my mother,” he said. “If I can.”
Harry nodded and said nothing. Later, Draco came inside him and then gently – reverently – sucked and licked him clean. It was the most profoundly intimate act he could think of.
The next morning Harry left and didn’t come back.
Draco prepared their meagre supper. Around midnight, he threw it out.
Granger called his name outside the tent, and he drew his wand and lifted the flap. Sometime around three in the morning, he’d sat down on the cot and forgotten how to use his legs to stand up again.
“He’s gone to meet Voldemort,” Granger said, and he winced at the name.
“How long have you known?” he croaked and then cleared his throat and asked again.
She sat down beside him and reached for his hand, but it was too much and he pulled it away from her. She seemed to accept the distance between them and moved her hand back to her lap.
“For a few days,” she said. Clearly she didn’t find it necessary to ask Draco if Harry had told him anything.
“Why aren’t you and his ‘friends’ with him?” he snapped. “What good are you doing sitting here and drinking tea?” He adopted his nasty drawl, and Granger flinched.
“He insisted on going alone.”
“And you just let him?”
“He’s Harry,” she said simply as if that was an answer to his question. “You try to talk him out of something he’s decided he’s going to do. You’re a perfect example, actually. We’d tried to talk him out of wanting you and look how far that got us.”
The door isn’t locked. He pushes it open and steps inside. The interior is dark, the air stale. Shrivelled potatoes sit in a colander on the work top, and an unwashed plate lies in the sink. The rail on the narrow staircase is covered in a fine film of dust. The fireplace holds nothing but ashes, and a spider has spun its web in one of the windows. There’s a vase on the table full of dead flowers. He sits down in one of the chairs and puts his head in his hands. The crow calls again and a second one answers. His sobs are loud in the untouched quiet.
“Why are you helping me?” Harry had asked when Draco came into the bedroom carrying a bowl of soup and a couple of slices of bread on a tray. Draco had scowled at him.
“Maybe because I don’t have anything better to do,” he’d replied. He’d set the tray down on the desk, but Harry had remained in the bed.
“What?” Draco had asked. “Do I have to feed it to you?”
Harry had returned his scowl and thrown aside the bedclothes. He was naked underneath, and Draco had felt his mouth go dry. Potter’s skin was pale, but his cock was thick and pink. Draco had tried to swallow but found he couldn’t.
“Put your bloody clothes on, Potter,” he’d said, not really meaning it. Harry’s body was hard and lean and perfect.
Harry had noticed him staring, and his cock had twitched and started to swell. When Draco had finally torn his eyes away and looked at Harry’s face, he’d seen that it was red with embarrassment.
Draco had wanted to say something cutting, but nothing came to mind. Instead he’d dropped his eyes to Harry’s cock again and watched it slowly harden until it jutted straight out of its thick dark tangle of pubic hair.
He’d forgotten the details of how it’d happened, but somehow he and Harry had got into bed and touched each other until the soup went cold. Harry’s whole body was hot, but his cock felt like a brand. He’d moaned when Draco had wrapped his fingers around it.
“Eager, are we, Potter?” he’d asked, but the taunt had sounded stupid, even to him.
“Yeah,” Harry had said hoarsely. “Yeah, I am.”
They’d come on each other’s hands and stomachs and then kissed until they were both hard again. Harry had insisted on going down on him and had disappeared under the bedclothes. Draco had lain on his back with his eyes squeezed shut; the sensations in his cock and balls had been almost too much. He’d bent his knees and spread his legs and whimpered pathetically, and when he came, he’d seen stars.
When Harry didn’t return the following morning, people started to panic. Draco heard them moving around even more than usual and whispering in groups.
“We haven’t heard anything,” Granger said, lifting the tent flap.
He was lying on his side on the cot fully dressed. He even had his shoes on.
“Don’t come here again until you know something,” he said unkindly.
She nodded and withdrew.
Hours passed. He tried not to think about Harry too much, but even when he was consciously trying to repress them, memories still floated to the surface of his thoughts like ornamental koi in a muddy pond: Harry with his brow furrowed in concentration as he puzzled over his next chess move. Harry cooking his horrible runny eggs. Harry stroking his back and kissing his bare shoulders. Harry naked in the wavering lantern light, his skin slick with sweat.
Every time the wind lifted the tent flap, his muscles tightened with please, God! And every time Harry didn’t appear another glimmer of hope died.
On the third day, he’d pulled on one of Harry’s jumpers, tucked a chess piece in his pocket and slipped away when dawn was only just beginning to touch the tips of the trees.
Nobody saw him or heard him leave.
“You’re too bony and skinny to defeat the Dark Lord.”
They’d been lying under the steep eaves in Draco’s bedroom. He could hear his mother downstairs in the kitchen. The little cottage had never felt so much like home.
Harry had been naked and sated – at least for the time being, and Draco had been tracing the long lines on his body with his fingers, stopping the sweep of his hand every now and then to circle a nipple or comb through his pubic hair. He’d been able to see each of Harry’s ribs.
“You’ve been fighting as long as I’ve been hiding,” he’d said, more to himself than to Harry. “Why do you want me?”
Harry’s eyes had opened as slowly as the smile that crept across his face. Instead of answering, he’d propped himself up on his elbow and kissed Draco for so long he’d almost forgotten his question.
Almost. He’d asked again.
“You make me . . . forget,” Harry had said against Draco’s ear, making him shiver. His hand had slid down the length of Harry’s back to cup his arse. They’d already decided that after Draco’s mother went to her room, Draco would fuck him. Just the thought of it had made the muscles in Draco’s belly tighten. He’d slid his finger from the tip of Harry’s tailbone to his balls, stopping for just a moment on the pucker of his opening and pressing in ever so slightly. He’d felt Harry’s cock swell and stiffen and heard his breath catch in what sounded like surprise. He’d licked Harry’s dry fever-hot lips until they glistened.
“I make you forget what?” he’d whispered, pressing his fingertip just a little more firmly, feeling Harry’s anus contract and then open in a kind of primal acceptance.
“My promises,” Harry had said. “You make me forget my promises.” He’d been quiet for awhile before adding, almost inaudibly: “And you make me want to make new ones.”
He climbs the stairs. Above them are two bedrooms and a small bathroom. There’s an ivory comb on the little shelf by the sink with long blonde strands caught in its teeth. He bites down hard on a fresh flood of grief. The two rooms are both tidy. He goes to the one that used to be his and sees one of his jumpers folded lovingly on the bed, waiting for him to wear it again. The other room is the one with the open window. Dead leaves have blown in and littered the bed. He walks to the window and closes it. Outside, the sun is beginning to creep behind the hills. When it’s gone, the chill will seep in like shadows. It’s the hour of tea and biscuits and a newly lit fire, but not here. Not now. He draws his wand and banishes the leaves and jumps when he sees movement out of the corner of his eye, but then sees the mirror above the chest of drawers. He’s been running for two days, and his hair sticks to his face with dried sweat. He runs his hand over the pillows on the bed before walking to the door and back down the stairs.
He’s been gone for nearly a year.
The front door is green, and he closes it behind him as quietly as possible. The wind has picked up. He pulls his cloak tighter around himself. He’s tired and he doesn’t know where to go, but he cannot stay here. He turns when he’s at the end of the lane and looks back.
“Tell her I came back, that I kept my word,” he whispers.
“Are you all right?”
He can only nod.
“It’s getting late.”
He nods again.
He looks into Harry’s eyes. His scar had been torn open in the battle, but it’s healing now. Back at the little cottage in its copse of trees, the crows stop calling as they settle into nests of sticks and sheep fleece. Another evening comes down like a curtain at the end of a play. He takes Harry’s hand as they turn to go.
There are new promises to keep.