Gift for: peach_gurl
Rating: PG-13, for content and language
Category: Angst, H/C
Summary: Draco runs into a forgotten Harry Potter in Muggle Los Angeles a few years after the War. They find out that they have more in common than they ever thought and they find comfort in that and in one another as they face the rest of their lives.
Notes: peach_gurl asked for a lack of fluff, as well as death, angst, romance, AU, and post-Hogwarts/normal life after Hogwarts, so I tried to combine those the best I could with this angsty little plot. I hope you like it! Much thanks to my favorite beta/roommate ever, lotrwariorgodss! :D
Draco took his medicine as he dashed out of the apartment and walked down the steps to the street below. It was a cold morning, but not biting, and he enjoyed the wintry breeze that floated across his face, stinging his cheeks and turning them pink. His scarf flapped behind him as he walked down the block, hands jammed deep into his jeans' pockets in search of shelter from the January weather.
He followed his feet as they carried him to his favorite coffee shop, and he ordered his usual drink 'to go'; his hands were thankful to have something warm to wrap themselves around. Being in a hurry, he had decided not to worry about all the winter accessories and formalities; he had only grabbed his coat and knotted the scarf at his neck before rushing out. It was no matter, though, as the dry coldness of Los Angeles was forgiving to those with few layers. Besides, this was the first chance he'd had to unstick the pills from his throat (which felt like they wouldn't make it to his stomach from the dry swallow), and he mused they probably still had a good chance of coming back up as it was. His sense of humor, of course.
With coffee in hands, he left and decided to walk down a few more blocks, trying to clear his head. He walked at a moderate pace as he let his mind wander. Draco thought of how things were ironic, almost to the sickening point… all he had been through just for it to end like this? He couldn't let the thought of his sickness catch up to him, though. Whenever it approached his mind, he turned the corner and tried to turn his thoughts to something else too. But his sickness wouldn't be ignored like that. It knew all of his tricks and kept creeping back into his mind. He began to walk at a more brisk pace to escape the thoughts of what it would do to him, but then it was nipping at his heels. He cast a glance behind him, as if it were really following him, but he saw nothing. Still, he decided to pick up the pace yet again – he was now at a light jog.
You're going to get sick, you know. You're going to die.
It kept reminding him of such things. It was like a dark seed had been planted in the back of his mind and now it was sprouting, growing roots, ravaging his mind. The man's feet had already brought him further than he had planned to go, and now unfamiliar territory was all around. It reminded him briefly of all the bad he had seen during the War, and all the broken places that existed after it. This was almost like a reflection of all that. But now, things had started to rebuild; peoples' homes and lives were returning to order. If they had survived the War, at least there was that.
Except for you. You're still going to die.
He cursed the voice in his head and dashed his empty cardboard cup to the street. His fingernails dug into his palms as he suddenly decided to sprint. Draco felt he had to get away from all of it. The scenery blazed past in a blur and he ran as fast as he could down blocks he'd never been down. He let his feet take him wherever they thought they'd find solace; he'd run for a lifetime if that were what it'd take. His lungs were burning and the back of his neck, covered by the scarf, was sweaty. Still, he pushed forward. It wasn't until he had rounded the corner and tripped over a raised bit of sidewalk that Draco stopped. In a moment's time he felt himself losing control and toppling forward, falling face-first. He threw his hand out and hoped it'd stop him as he landed.
No such luck. He come down hard on his hand and it was all scratched up and bleeding. His left leg was numb and his right knee stung. It hurt, as did his pride when he realized that people might be looking. He hadn't even considered them when he first thought of trying to outrun his sickness, but now Draco looked up anxiously to see if there was anyone looking, pointing, or laughing. No one seemed to be around. In fact, it seemed like he was all alone in an abandoned district. The buildings around him were old, gutted warehouses and half-torn-down factories. What used to be classy Muggle apartments in the 40s were now windowless, dirty brick buildings with scarred faces. Some had boards over their doors, some with broken-through boards indicating people were still getting into their old homes, and others were smattered with bright artistic words of profanities done in what seemed to be some sort of paint. Still more dilapidated housing lined the street, showing what time can do to things. There were few people on the street, just a few hungry, wilted looking children, mostly Hispanic, looking out of dirty panes from across the way, staring at nothing with sad eyes and blank faces. A couple of babies were crying from a couple buildings down, their screams snapping him back to reality.
He groaned as he stood up and panted a bit, having knocked the wind out of himself. He began to walk down the street trying to get his bearings and figure out where in the city he was. His head was full as he drifted down, not really paying attention to where he was going. He turned the corner and went east from what he could tell. That's when he bumped into someone.
He saw the other person losing their grip on their paper grocery bag as it overturned and he reached out trying to catch it but couldn't. The apples spilled all over the sidewalk, some of them breaking their skin and losing their juice, all of them bruised. Draco sighed and apologized immediately while gathering them up in his arms. The corners of his mouth sunk deeply as he frowned at the ruined fruit. Once he had quickly grabbed them all, chasing after the one that rolled into the gutter, he looked at the man he had just crashed into, eyebrows pinched a bit. He asked him if he could buy him new apples because the ones he held were now no good. The stranger absent mindedly dismissed it with a quick wave of his hand and a nod of his head. Then Draco recognized the man; he actually looked at the other man, and the way the man blushed it seemed that it was the first time someone had done that in years.
At first, Draco didn't believe it was him. He forgot about the apples and let them fall as he moved his hand up to the other man's face and moved some of his dirty hair back off of his forehead.
A low gasp was emitted from the young blond as he stared, eyes wide. "H-H-Harry?"
A solemn, silent nod.
Draco had hardly recognized him, what with his pale skin and dark, deep circles running under his eyes. He looked not quite right, like he was a ghost, a shell of who he once was.
"It's really you?"
A faint and shameful voice answered, "Yes."
Draco rushed forward then and gripped the other man in a tight embrace. "I can't believe it! I… just, it's… well!" Draco, no knowing what to say, released the other man and stepped back a bit, his hands still grasping Harry's thin arms in a warm embrace, as if he were afraid if he let him go he might disappear. "I can't believe I've found you."
Harry's thumb played at the edge of his coffee mug while his fingers laid entwined in the handle as he listened to Draco speak.
"So, yeah, I've been working on that project lately, it's been eating up most of my time. But hey, I have to pay for my place somehow, right? I mean, uptown prices are outrageous. So what're you doing here, anyhow? I'm not even sure I know where I found you; I've never been to this part of town. 'S a bit dodgy, isn’t it?"
Harry nodded and looked down into his cup.
"So?" urged the man sitting opposite of him.
Harry cleared his throat and rubbed the back of his neck with his free hand, sighing. "I, uh… I… changed. A lot." He paused to gather his thoughts and then continued. "After school, after it all ended… I never felt like I could go back. I don't even know what happened that lead up to it all… I just knew I couldn't stick around."
"Well, Snape and I worked together, where he used me as a decoy and that's how we set up everything for that night. But you know that much, anyways," Draco offered.
"Mm, yeah. But it just… ended so suddenly, so quickly. I never thought it would really be that easy, just me and Voldemort. I feel almost like I cheated. A flick of my wrist and he was gone? Some boy-hero, eh? It was great for a while, I was still the 'it' child, the saviour of the magical world… but it died quickly. No one needed me anymore. No one needed to have me simply exist. So I left."
"I looked for you…"
"Yes, of course. I saw you spiraling and not reaching out. I didn't know what to do, though… I just—."
"I don’t know if anyone could have helped me, Draco. I had to leave that world. 'S why I moved out here, to Los Angeles – no magic-folk, really, no one to live up to, no one to be forgotten by because not everyone knew me already. I ran from everyone – Hermione, Ron, Remus – without a word. I had lost too much because of the war, and the end had been such a big disappointment. Killing Voldemort didn't bring me happiness like it was supposed to… it left me empty. I came out here to find whatever I was looking for and I found it in drugs. They let me get away from it all, took me out of myself for a while. They didn't care who I was or had been. They were expensive, though, and I soon lost the little place I was renting, so I went from place to place paying for my precious drugs with back alley blowjobs and quick fucks. God, I was disgusting. Anything for a fix, though, you know? Anything to take me out of this life. I don't know why I didn't just kill myself then… God knows I tried." Harry's gaze became even more distant as he contemplated this idea.
Draco reached out a hand and his fingertips brushed the other man's knuckles that were sticking out from the side of his mug. The other man flinched at the touch and looked up into Draco's grey eyes.
"I didn't kill myself then because I found something out. Something that made me want to live." He gulped. "I took too much acid one night, sent me off into a really bad trip. I went off on some guy and he busted my head against a building and knocked me out. I then puked and almost drowned in the pool I made, like the disgusting pig I am, and I would've died, too, if some kid hadn't been running from the cops after he hadn't just stolen some woman's purse. The cop who found me took me in and left me at County.
"I was in pretty bad shape. Stayed out of it for four whole days. When I finally woke up, a nurse was there. She was standing back from my bed as she wrote on my chart and I asked her where I was, even thought I could already tell. She looked at me like I was scum; like I was the most disgusting thing she had ever laid her eyes on. She read off everything in her Muggle medical language and then looked at me with these cold eyes and stopped. Then she said, 'You have AIDS.' and walked out."
Draco's mouth fell open as he heard the last words spill out of Harry's mouth. He moved his hand away from Harry's in a quick jerk and swallowed heavily. His eyes didn't know what to fix themselves upon and his ears rung a bit.
Harry then lifted his mug to his mouth, finished his last swig of coffee, and stood up. "Well, there you go. Now you know what's happened to the great Boy-Who-Lived." Eyes stinging with embarrassment and hurt, Harry turned quickly, leaving the table.
Draco's hand shot out and caught Harry's wrist. "No, wait. I didn't mean to… Harry…"
The other man, confused, turned to look at the blond. Normally people didn't give him a second's thought after he told them… "What?"
"I have HIV, too."
The paper bag rustled as Harry set it down on the counter. "You're sure about this?"
"Hm? Oh… yeah."
"I don't want to impose…"
"No, no. I much prefer your company. I just don't want to be alone right now…"
Harry nodded knowingly, as he put the celery in the crisper.
"Just make yourself at home."
Draco sat down at his kitchen table as he popped open all the little compartments on his daily pill organizer. He uncapped the first bottle of medicine and took out the amount of pills he needed, dropping them into their allotted places, then moving to another bottle. He did this in near silence, which brought him some calmness as he worked. He heard Harry sit down on his couch as he finished up.
Sighing, Draco put away his barrage of pill bottles and his organizer as he swallowed the small handful he was supposed to take right then. He rubbed his face with his hands kneading his brows a bit as he walked over to join Harry on the couch. He sat down next to him and affixed his eyes to the blank television in front of him and sighed again. Harry moved closer to him and, without asking, wrapped his arms around him and pulled Draco into his chest, holding his body against him. Draco fell in, glad to be held and to be able to take comfort in something and rested his head on Harry's collarbone.
"I don't want to die."
"Neither do I."
Seven months pass…
Draco gets up from the couch, gently detaching himself from the normal embrace he and Harry sit in during the evenings. He now has the same dark half moons under his eyes that Harry had when Draco first ran into him, and he has the pale, sickly shade of skin. Harry, on the other hand, has gotten skinnier; he is now mostly skin and bones, hardly anything to him at all. His hair is thin and he's always tired. Draco frowns. He grabs his keys as he goes out to get dinner for himself and Harry, as well as their medicine. He wipes at his running nose as he leans in to leave a peck on Harry's ultra-pronounced cheekbone. Harry doesn't even look up from his book but there is a small smile at his lips.
"Be back soon."
With a great yawn and a clearing of his throat, the blonde stood up from his drafting table, pushing his work of the last few hours away from him as he moved to his bedroom to check on Harry. He grabbed the edge of his soft throw and draped it over the man asleep in his bed, and sat on the edge of his mattress. He brushed the strands of Harry's thinning hair out of the man's face, his fingers feeling the radiating warmth – much too warm for even a summer night in L.A.
Concerned, Draco brought his mouth to Harry's ear and began to whisper softly to wake him. Harry awoke with a start and his eyes darted around in the dim light. "Where'm I?"
"What do you mean?"
Draco, seeing beads of sweat glisten on the back of Harry's neck, now pointedly asked, "What's wrong with you?"
Harry moaned a bit as his eyes fluttered and he rolled around in the sheets.
He rolled about some more, straining his neck to see over to the corner.
"Harry? Can you hear me?"
When the other man didn't respond, Draco quickly scooped him up into his arms. "Harry? Harry, look at me."
The other man just moaned, his face flush with heat. Draco rushed him over to the couch and gently laid him on it at he reached for his phone.
"Hullo, John? …Yeah, it's me. Sorry for waking you. …I need a favor…"
John opened the door to the backseat and Draco, holding Harry in his arms, crawled out.
"Thank you so much. Thank you. Really," Draco threw his appreciation at him as he made his way to the automatic Emergency Room doors.
"No problem. Call me and let me know what's happening, yeah?"
"Yeah, sure. Thanks again!"
Draco and Harry made their way to the admission desk and Draco cleared his throat.
"Hello, welcome to County. Can I have your name?"
"Draco Malfoy. Look, this is my friend… he's got a fev—"
"I need the patient's name, then."
"Harry Potter. But I was trying to—"
"Sir, we just need you to fill out these forms and register him so that we can take a look at him."
"But he's sick and—"
"He needs to wait his turn. Fill out these forms and then I can put him on the list for a bed. Do you have insurance?" Draco shook his head . The woman frowned and added another two forms on top of the stack and she handed Draco the clipboard with chubby fingers. He took it in his already-full hands and went to sit down amongst the noise of the waiting room.
"Harry?" He didn't respond but with a moan. "Harry, I'm going to lay you in the chairs next to me so I can fill out these forms." He put him down gently, then set his head on the side of his lap as he began to work on the paperwork in front of him. He rushed through it and finished it quickly, then left Harry as he turned the clipboard back over to the receptionist. She barely glanced at it as she set it behind a huge collection she had on her right and continued to work on entering the information from another chart. When Draco didn't move for two full minutes, the rotund woman finally looked up.
"How may I help you, sir?" she asked in an aggravated, impatient tone.
"How long will it be until there's a bed for him?"
"It's probably about a four and a half hour wait from where you are in line."
"But he needs—"
"We'll serve him as soon as we can."
"No! He's sick and he needs help!"
"I'm sorry; he has to wait just like all the others before you."
"LOOK AT HIM! HE'S BARELY BREATHING!"
"Sir, there's no need to shout. If it becomes an emergency situation, we'll be sure to reevaluate his priority."
"WHAT THE FUCK? HELP HIM! EVERYONE SHOULD BE A PRIORITY!" Spittle flew out of his mouth, his cheeks blazing red.
"Sir, if you don't sit down I'm going to have to refuse service and have you escorted off the premises."
He shot her a glare and then returned to Harry, defeated. "'M sorry, Harry." He looked down at the shuddering, freezing body and sighed. He wrapped his arm around Harry's legs and tucked his other under Harry's shoulder blades and picked him back up, cradling him as he sat down again. Draco put his hand at the back of Harry's head to support it, much like an infant, and stroked the side of his face.
They sat and they waited.
Draco's ears perked up immediately.
"Harry Potter?" the voice called again and Draco stood, holding Harry to his chest.
"Here. He's here."
"You need a wheelchair?"
"No, no. I can carry him."
"Follow me, then."
They followed the nurse to a huge room with a dozen curtained-off partitions. She led them into the one at the end in the corner where she gestured to Draco to set him down on the bed.
She took Harry's temperature and placed a medical bracelet around his thin wrist, then brought a stack of warm blankets to his bedside.
"Where's the doctor?" Draco asked inquisitively.
"Oh, he'll be around shortly. Busy night."
The nurse left and Draco got up to snuggle up next to Harry after covering him with three layers of the warmed blankets. He lay behind him, both on their sides, and he wrapped his arm around the man in front of him.
Again, they waited.
After a short nap, Draco awoke to the same surroundings, finding nothing had changed, with no indication anything had been done. He had a headache and slight fever, much like he had had for the past week. That was when it hit him.
Oh my gods, it's my fault he's sick.
"Harry, I'm so sorry. I didn't know… I…" But there was no point as the sleeping man shivered, his fluttering eyelids indicating he was in a deep sleep. "I hope it's a good dream at least." Draco kissed his forehead and pulled the other man in closer. A tear slid down his cheek.
They waited some more.
By the time the doctor had come in, Harry had gotten worse, somehow. Of course, they all knew what it was. It didn't matter what kind of sick he was, or what he actually had. It didn't matter at all because the most important part… he had AIDS. He was going to die.
The doctors had made him comfortable and had given him all the medication his little frail body could take, which only gave him thrush and made his night sweats worse. He was tucked away as safely as he could be in the hospital, being watched constantly by nurses and, of course, Draco.
Harry's breaths began to sound more irregular and his breathing was short and shallow, like it was heavy. His chest ached, he moaned when he let a few ragged coughs break up the mucous in his lungs, and his heartbeat was constantly racing. Draco noticed all of these things on his own as he sat by Harry's bedside.
Draco lost count of the hours, the days spent just sitting by Harry's side. He lost his job. He lost his health. He soon got sick too, being cooped up and not eating or sleeping even close to how he should for a person with HIV. He only went home to shower and grab his medicine, and then dutifully sat at Harry's bedside the rest of the time.
When Harry was lucid, he'd ask for Draco to lay next to him, to hold him. Draco knew he shouldn't, at the risk or possibly making Harry sicker, but Harry wanted him to, so he did.
Draco stuck with him as he stopped being able to eat food and had to be fed intravenously. He helped him when he had diarrhea and messed on himself. He placed cool rags to the man's head when he broke out in violent fevers. He pressed his lips to Harry's head every time he shuddered in his sleep. He held his hand while he slept so he wouldn't find himself alone when he woke up. It was hard, and sometimes Draco was resentful for all he had to do, and sometimes he was angry that it seemed like Harry wasn't fighting anymore. But, mostly… he was finding it hard to say goodbye.
And then one day, he had to.
It was a quiet moment, anyone else wouldn't have noticed, as there was barely a change from his normal breathing, shallow as it was, but Draco knew immediately. He noted the pause on the intake of breath and looked to Harry's face to see another drawn and waited. It never came.
So this is it? This is what I've been waiting for?
He watched the slackened face of the other man intently. Nothing moved, nothing stirred.
He let go of Harry's lifeless hand and stood up, silently. He looked out the window, watching the horizon. He waited for a hurricane to come all the way inland, to sweep him away. He waited for an earthquake to shake him to the ground and bury him. He waited for something to happen. Anything. Surely there was something to come from this? The pain in his chest welled up and grew tight, as did his shoulders and neck. He braced himself for something great and horrible to happen. Didn't the world know that Harry had died? Didn't it know how much he hurt? Why didn't the world just stop where it was right now and mourn? Didn't it know the Boy-Who-Lived was gone?
He waited but nothing came.
"Thanks for coming, John."
"Not at all. Are you sure there's nothing more I can do?"
"Yeah, I'm good. Thanks."
John nodded as he capped his hand of Draco's shoulder, gave it a firm squeeze, and then added, "Alright. You know I'm here if you need me."
Draco's head bobbed once as John turned and left him at Harry's gravesite.
Draco looked down at the pile of fresh dirt at his feet.
"I love you, you know? I never said it… but…" He paused.
"I… I'm sorry, Harry. …I don't know what to do, now. Do I go on? Do I stop? What do I do?" Tears streamed down his pale face, draining from his sad, grey eyes. It was over.
He bent down and placed one last rose on the pile of dirt that was now covering Harry. He lightly kissed the top of the headstone and stepped back a few paces, looking at it.
The next day Draco got up and took a shower, getting dressed and ready for the day. He ate breakfast and washed the dishes he had used. He got to his living room to grab his house keys from the table and looked at the couch. He sighed and straightened its pillows. God, how he missed him.
He went back to the kitchen and looked at his pillbox.
Draco didn't take his medicine.