Gift for: florahart
Disclaimer: JKR owns all.
Author's Notes: Many thanks to You Know Who for the speedy beta. florahart, I hope this suits!
Potter stares down into his pint glass as though it contains the answers to the fundamental questions of the universe. "I got a letter from Hermione today," he says, apropos of nothing.
Draco sips at his Jack Daniels and coke then makes a face. He's been holding it for too long and it's warm and gross. "Oh?"
“Yeah,” says Potter. “She and Ron sound like they're happy."
"She wants me to go and visit."
"Are you going to?"
Draco rubs his eyes. "They're your friends, aren't they?" he says. "Why not?"
Potter snorts, and looks up from his glass. “What the hell would we talk about? We lead totally different lives now, me and them. They’ve got jobs, a mortgage, they’re thinking about starting a family. And I’m just …” He waves his hand expansively at the room. “My world is so fucking huge,” he says. “You know?”
“Doesn’t have to be like this, though. You could change things if you wanted to. Get a job, a mortgage. Hell, I bet any number of witches would be happy to get knocked up by the Boy Who Lived.”
Shuddering, Potter picks up his glass with a shaky hand and takes a drink. “Don’t talk like that,” he says. “That’s the last thing some poor kid needs, having me for a dad.”
“I reckon you’d be a good dad. You’re all right, Potter. You know that, don’t you?”
Potter rolls his eyes, and takes another drink, looking around the pub. It’s pretty quiet for a Saturday evening, not too many people around, probably because there’s no football on the telly. “Whatever, Malfoy. You're full of shit most of the time.”
“Only most of the time?”
“Well. Sometimes you talk sense.”
“That’s the nicest thing you’ve ever said to me, Potter. Should’ve recorded it for posterity.”
“Fuck off,” Potter says, but he’s almost smiling. “Why the hell do you put up with me, Malfoy?”
Draco smiles, puts down his drink and pushes it away from himself. He doesn’t even like whisky, why did he ask for one? “Why not? You’ve broadened my horizons considerably, Potter. Who else would have given me the opportunity for a threesome?”
Potter laughs out loud. “I’d almost forgotten about that. Man, that was a weird night. I thought maybe you’d never speak to me again.”
“Well, I didn’t know, you know, what you like to do. For all I knew, I was going to wake up in the morning and you’d be gone and I’d never see you again. I kind of like having you around, Malfoy.”
More compliments. What is with him tonight?
“Well, if you ever want to do it again … though maybe with a less annoying girl.”
Potter moves a little closer, though not close enough to draw attention to them in what is predominantly an old man kind of pub. “What about with no girl at all?”
Maybe Draco’s being really thick but … “Huh?”
“What was the point of her being there? All she did was distract me from what I really wanted.”
Draco’s too mesmerised by how close Potter’s face is so there’s a long pause before he asks, “And … and what was that?”
“Come home with me and I’ll show you ,” Potter whispers, and in that moment Draco would almost swear that he seems sober.
He’s so surprised by this that he almost forgets to breathe. Eventually he says, rather stupidly, “But … you’re drunk, Potter.”
“I’m always drunk,” Potter says. He’s still as close as he was before, looking at Draco so intensely that Draco wants to look away, but can’t. “Why should that make any difference?”
Shit. Shit. He should be saying no and leaving, but instead he's stammering “I … I don’t want to fuck things up between us.”
“What is there to fuck up? What are we to each other, anyway?”
It’s a good question. They’re far from enemies now, but Draco still can’t describe what they have as friendship when it’s so incredibly awkward and uncomfortable at times. He shrugs.
“Come home with me, Draco.”
This is the first time Potter’s ever used his first name. It’s just a name, not a reason to go home with him, let alone a good one. But it’s something.
Maybe he doesn't need a reason anyway.
Everything seems just as it always is, except for the fact that he feels … not scared, perhaps, but ever so slightly out of his depth. He prises Potter’s keys from between his sweaty fingers and unlocks the door, his other hand around Potter’s waist, bracing him. As always, Draco guides Potter through the door ahead of him, closes it behind them and drops the keys on the table where the telephone sits. “Where do you want to go?” he asks quietly, already knowing the answer, as he shrugs off his jacket and hangs it up.
Potter rubs his eyes, looking slightly surprised as though he's only just noticing that they’re not still in the pub. “Bedroom,” he says, just as Draco knew he would. The change of setting seems to have sobered him up a little – Draco walks behind him into the bedroom, and doesn’t have to stop him from falling even once, though Potter does reach out to touch the wall several times.
Potter slumps down on the end of the bed. Draco sits near him, careful to keep enough of a distance between them that they aren’t actually touching. “So …” he says, staring at his knees.
“So …” Potter repeats, and he doesn’t seem so drunk now.
“Are we going to do this, then?”
“Do you want to?”
“You’re the one who wanted to. I’m just here because …”
There’s no way he can finish that sentence, because he's really not sure why he’s here. This, this right here, has fuck all to do with the life debt. If he's really being honest, much of the time he's spent with Potter has been, but that hasn't stopped him, has it? It's never really occurred to him to say no to anything Potter asks him to do. They've been spending too much time together, that's all this is. He needs to get out of here, spend some time alone, clear his head, give them both some space. But he can’t seem to bring himself to move.
Then there’s silence, for a very long while. When it becomes ridiculous, Draco stops looking at his knees and glances up. Potter is watching him, his expression unreadable. “Because you’re curious?” Potter suggests, finishing the answer that Draco left hanging. “Because you’re drunk?”
“I … Look, do I even need a reason?”
“Yeah,” Potter says. “I think you do.” There’s another long silence in which neither of them moves, and then he says, “It’s late. We should get some sleep.”
They undress in silence, backs turned, and Draco borrows a pair of Potter’s pyjama bottoms, which are a little loose on him, sliding down his hips even when he pulls the drawstring tight. If Potter’s eyes linger on him before he gets under the sheets and covers himself up, he pretends not to notice.
“You’re going to go through to that sofa the minute I fall asleep, aren’t you?” Draco says, as Potter switches the light off.
Potter doesn't say anything, but Draco thinks he can feel him shrug.
It’s a long while before Draco can let himself relax. Far longer still until he falls asleep.
The rumble of voices and the clattering of the rubbish bins as the dustmen do their rounds wakes Draco early, before six. He feels headachy and out of sorts, his throat uncomfortably dry and his muscles stiff despite the softness of the mattress. Beside him, Potter is still asleep, as far away as he can get without falling onto the floor, his mouth slightly open, his head tilted at an awkward sort of angle.
Even though he knows it’s strange to watch someone sleeping, something compels Draco to lean down over Potter and look at him more closely as he sleeps. Even though he’s casting quite a shadow over him, Potter doesn’t wake.
This is all wrong. Draco shouldn't be here. They shouldn't be sharing a bed like this. The more time they spend together, the more Draco feels like something is wrong in his brain, like his thoughts are short-circuiting and rebelling and completely out of his control.
Draco's still leaning over him when Potter stirs a little, then opens his eyes. "Oh. I didn't go through to the sofa," he says, still obviously half-asleep, his voice soft and a little rough.
Draco's throat suddenly goes very dry. "Yeah, I noticed."
"This reminds me of a dream I had one time," Potter murmurs. "Or maybe this is a dream."
"We're both awake, I think," says Draco, and because he's an idiot, because he can't stop himself, he says, "Tell me about it. That dream you had."
"I'll show you," says Potter. "Come here."
Even though it’s daylight now, and they are both completely sober, it seems perfectly normal for Draco to lie down beside him and rest his face against Potter’s chest. The gentle up-down motion of his breathing, the thump of his heartbeat, is soothing. Draco didn’t even know he needed to be soothed until now.
It’s so strange, but Draco can’t remember the last time he was this close to someone – or even if he’s ever been this close before. It feels so good, so comfortable, that he’s sure he must be wrong, that he’s going to wake up in a minute, experiencing that vague sense of disappointment one always has after a particularly good dream. Apparently quite unconsciously, Potter begins stroking his hands lightly across Draco’s back, sliding smoothly over his skin, fingers tracing right up to the nape of his neck and then raking them through his hair. Here, in the cold light of day, is what last night should have been. Draco tilts his face a little to look up, he’s going to say something, something really important, but somehow the words get lost when he finds that Potter’s mouth is right there.
The kiss starts off slow and soft, both of them too sleepy and lazy to do anything other than just move their mouths together. They kiss for what seems like ages, without having to come up for air, until Draco's jaw starts to get sore and he pulls back a little, rubbing at it. He can feel his own heart thumping, and he can feel Potter's too because he's sprawled right across him now, pressed tightly together. Potter's heart is not the only thing he's aware of, but it dawns on him gradually. His expression must change into one of shock or something, because Potter raises his eyebrows, grinning slightly.
It's a testament to how far they've come that he can say, without any hint of embarrassment, "A little."
Potter runs his hands slowly down Draco's back, until they rest loosely on his hips. "We don't have to do anything if you don't want to, yeah?" he says. "If you want to stop, we stop."
Draco closes his eyes. When he opens them again, Potter is still there, they're still lying here like this, and it suddenly doesn't seem so wrong anymore. Maybe it's okay to want something and take it if it's offered. There's only one way to find out, anyway. Perhaps he's about to make a really bad choice, but it is his choice to make. "Do I look like I want to stop?"
The hands on his hips tighten their grip almost imperceptibly. Potter bites on his bottom lip for a second, eyes cast downward, as though he's thinking something through. When he looks up again, any hint of any uncertainty is completely gone, and he's smiling. "I'm going to make you feel good," he says, his voice rather hoarse.
Draco doesn't have time to say anything, even to think, before Potter kisses him again. This kiss is as different from the last as black from white. Potter's mouth is so hard against Draco's that it feels like he's going to bruise or bleed. Potter's hands are far less gentle now, fingers digging against Draco's hips, pulling him in so they're pressed completely together, as close as they can be. Potter's erection brushes against Draco's once, twice, three times, and each time it happens he finds himself biting back a moan because it really does feel good. It feels even better when Potter slides his hand between them and under the waistband of the borrowed pyjama pants he's wearing.
"These need to come off," Potter says, his hand hot against Draco's stomach. Draco nods, and they separate for a moment, tugging off the thin layer of clothing they are wearing. Draco feels self-conscious at his nakedness for a moment, but it really is only for a moment, because then Potter is wrapped around him again, pushing him down onto the bed, and it's impossible to feel self-conscious like this.
If he'd thought his brain was short-circuiting before, it's practically shut down now. His senses are so overloaded that he is barely aware of the thoughts running through his mind, barely aware of anything but the two of them here in this bed. The heat, the sweaty slide of skin on skin, the way it feels fucking amazing when Potter moves against him just like that – it's almost too much for him to deal with right now so he doesn't try. He just lets his body take over, lets his hands move, his hips arch, and goes with it.
Draco comes first, grabbing at the first thing to hand which happens to be Potter's hair and pulling hard. Potter lets out a gasp, his eyes flying wide open, but Draco barely notices because his own eyes are closed and all he's aware of is his own orgasm shuddering through him. Potter rocks against him two more times, sticking to him a little with the come on Draco's stomach, and then he comes too, trembling, his face buried against Draco's shoulder.
Time slows down again. Their breathing quiets. After a long while, Potter raises his head and looks at Draco. His expression isn't blank exactly, but all the same Draco can't even begin to guess what he's thinking.
"You were right," Draco says. "I feel pretty good."
Potter's eyes crinkle at the corners and Draco realises that he's smiling ever so slightly. "Yeah. Me too. Yuck," he adds, when he shifts a little and they both experience the sensation of being slightly stuck together. "We should probably get cleaned up."
"Hmm," Draco breathes. "We should."
Neither of them move.
Monday morning arrives and Draco goes to work even though he can't be bothered; pushing papers is the last thing he wants to do when there's so much stuff he needs to think about. But he needs the money more, so taking a sick day is just not an option. He sits at his desk, a report open in front of him, but really he's trying not to think about what happened after, how they stayed in bed for hours, because he's paranoid that it'll show on his face exactly what he's thinking about.
A shadow falls across his desk and he looks up guiltily, expecting to see his boss standing over him looking wrathful because he's been skiving. Instead it’s Granger of all people, carrying a big stack of files and looking rather tired. “Have you had your lunch yet?” she asks.
They go to the staff canteen and sit in a corner where they can talk without too much risk of eavesdropping by the nosey bastards who work for the Ministry. Granger does most of the talking at first – boring crap that Draco doesn't really care about like news about how mutual acquaintances from school are doing, her and Weasley's plans to start a family. He puts down his sandwich and waits for the topic to change before his appetite can return – the idea of Weasley having sex is just too repulsive for words.
“I suppose you know why I came to see you today,” she says, after beating around the bush a little more.
“Yes,” Draco says, stuffing his crusts back into the sandwich bag and lobbing it into the bin in the corner.
“We’re so worried about Harry,” she says. “He’s … not been himself since the war ended. He and Ron ended up having some blazing row about something months ago, and he hasn’t answered any of my Floo calls since. I’ve tried going round but he never seems to be in, and I've written to him. We thought that if we gave him some space that maybe he’d come round, but …” She tails off, looking close to tears, and stares expectantly at Draco.
“What do you want me to say?”
She shrugs. “I know you’ve been spending a lot of time with him lately. Does he seem … all right to you? Does he ever ask about us? Is he still drinking as much?”
If Draco’s learned one thing in his lifetime, it’s that when people ask questions like that, with tears in their eyes and a tremble in their voice, they don’t want to know the truth. Not really.
“He’s getting by,” he says evasively. “Like all of us do.”
“And does he drink?”
“Ron thinks that you’re … oh, I don’t know, leading him on somehow.”
Draco raises an eyebrow. “Is that so?”
“I don’t believe that, though. I think you’re the only thing that’s keeping him grounded right now. If he doesn’t want to deal with us then at least … at least he has someone. Even if ...”
“Even if it’s me,” Draco finishes grimly.
She looks at him for a moment, not looking a bit different from the bossy, determined girl he remembers from school. "He needs his friends," she says. "Even if he doesn't think he does. Please try and talk to him."
“I’ll pass the message on,” Draco says, then he stands up, effectively ending the conversation even though Granger looks like she has more to say. “I should get back. My boss’ll probably be going spare wondering where I am.”
Back in his cubicle he sits at his desk and stares at the same report as before, not really seeing it at all.
He's not sure why he tries it. It's not like he owes her anything, like she and Weasley have ever done anything to deserve his help. But she came to him and asked, and they obviously still care a lot, so that means something. And she's right, too. Potter does need his friends. Whatever Draco is to him, whatever it is he does, it isn't enough to make Potter stop drinking, or to persuade him to sort out his life. He's just a band-aid covering an infected wound, that's all. Whatever his reason, he does what Granger asked, and passes the message on.
“It’s only a couple of hours out of your life,” he says. “Why not give it a go?”
“I bet you can’t even remember what that argument was about,” he says. “And I bet Weasley can’t either”
“It’ll be good for you,” he says. “They’re your friends. You need to see them.”
Throughout Draco’s pitch, Potter sits on the sofa, arms curled around his knees. He’s sober, but that's probably only because there’s no drink in the house and he can’t be arsed to go to the shop.
“So what do you say?”
Potter shrugs. "If I say no are you going to keep on at me until I crack?"
"That was the plan."
"Fine," Potter grumbles, for all the world sounding like a petulant kid. "I guess I'll go, then."
"Good idea," says Draco, as though Potter thought up the whole thing himself. "How about now?"
Potter rolls his eyes but doesn't actually protest. ”I'm going for a shower,” he mumbles, getting to his feet, then stretching expansively, his fingers skimming the ceiling.
“You should probably shave too,” Draco observes. “You look a lot like a homeless.”
“Bossy bastard,” Potter growls, but he heads off in the direction of the bathroom and soon the sound of running water can be heard.
While he’s gone, Draco attempts to tidy up the living room a bit. It's a thankless task but he does it periodically and it seems to keep the roaches at bay. He piles the dishes up on the coffee table, ready to take them through to the kitchen later. He picks up Potter’s clothes from the floor and puts them in one large pile in the corner, as it’s rather hard to tell what’s clean and what’s dirty just by looking, and he has no intention of sniffing. He even considers throwing Potter’s duvet in the washing machine, but can’t bring himself to touch it, so he settles for plumping up the cushions on the sofa. Under Potter’s pillow, he finds a small, leather-bound photo album. It’s obviously been used enough that the spine is well cracked – it falls open in his hands, and he looks at photos of a dark-haired man and a red-haired woman holding a baby who gets older as the photos progress.
“What are you doing?”
Draco flinches guiltily at Potter’s voice, but Potter doesn’t sound angry, just mildly curious. He’s standing in the doorway of the living room, a towel wrapped around his waist, his hair dripping water onto his shoulders.
“Tidying,” Draco says, and he tucks the book back under the pillow and doesn’t say anything more about it.
Once Potter has located some clean clothes from among the pile, and Draco has decreed that he looks presentable enough, they Apparate to the street Weasley and Granger live on. Draco notices that the act of Apparition seems to have taken a lot out of Potter – he’s breathing hard for several moments after they arrive.
Granger and Weasley live at number seventy one, but Potter doesn’t ring the bell for a long while. He stands looking at the door, his expression completely blank.
“Want me to do it?” Draco asks.
Potter shakes his head, and pushes the button.
They hear a dog barking, the sound of voices, and then the door opens abruptly. “Harry,” Weasley exclaims, holding a rather boisterous Labrador back by the collar.
“Hi,” says Potter. He looks and sounds incredibly shy, and for a moment Draco is taken back to the very first time he met him.
“Fucking hell, it’s so good to see you,” Weasley says, and he drags Potter into a hug that Draco notices Potter reciprocates with a little less enthusiasm. “Come in! Hermione’ll be so chuffed to see you.”
“I should probably go,” Draco mumbles, preparing to fade out of the picture and disappear if that's what is required of him. Weasley looks at him like he hadn’t even noticed he was there until he spoke.
“No,” Potter whispers. “Stay.” His hand finds Draco’s and clings, the cold fingers brushing over the back of Draco’s hand, seeking heat or comfort or something.
Weasley definitely notices him now.
“Stay,” Potter says again, holding on even tighter.
“All right,” Draco replies, and he follows them into the house.
Afterwards they go to Wetherspoons because the drinks are cheap and Draco's pretty much broke until payday. They find a table in a dark corner right at the back, and Potter goes up to the bar while Draco keeps the table. He leans his head against the wooden panelling on the wall and rubs his eyes. He's not exactly got a headache coming on, but it feels like too much has been happening lately and he's struggling to process it all.
"Fucking queues," Potter grumbles, returning after quite a long while. He puts two glasses down on the table, then sits down in the seat opposite Draco. As a rule Potter never asks what Draco wants to drink, so every time Potter gets a round in it's a bit of a mystery. Depending on his mood and their location it could be anything - a pint of Guinness, some vile green shot, or on one particularly embarrassing occasion, a humongous pink cocktail in what looked like quite a large fishbowl. Today it's a tall glass of what looks like orange juice. Draco takes a sip and it tastes like … orange juice. Huh.
"What are you drinking?" Draco asks.
"Same as you," Potter says, in a would-be-casual sort of way.
Draco doesn't say anything, just looks at him.
"Shut up," says Potter, rather redundantly. "This doesn't mean anything, okay?"
"Okay," says Draco, and changes the subject quickly. "So you're glad you went, right? To see Weasley and Granger, I mean."
Potter shrugs, but Draco can tell he is at least a little bit glad, he just doesn't want to admit it.
"You and Weasley were in the garden for a long time. Surely his new shed can't be that interesting."
"Heh." Potter stirs the ice cubes in his drink around with the straw he originally discarded. They clink noisily against the glass. "It was a very nice shed. Very well put together."
"We didn't talk much about the shed though," says Potter, still stirring, his eyes fixed on the glass in front of him. His voice is getting quieter and quieter.
"What did you talk about, then?"
His voice is so quiet that Draco can't quite hear it, so he has to read the movement of Potter's lips instead. He thinks Potter might have said, "You." But that can't be right, can it?
Potter drops the straw on the table, but doesn't look up as he continues talking, a little bit more loudly. "He asked me why you were still around, after all this time."
Draco licks his lips nervously, because they've suddenly gone very dry. "And what did you say?"
"I didn't know. I couldn't answer the question. He said it must be a pretty fucking good reason for you to put up with my shit when even my best friends couldn't, and that's true enough. I've been thinking and thinking about it since he asked and I'm still not sure."
This is it. Potter's going to ask him, and he's going to tell him the truth, about the life-debt, the dreams, all of it. Draco steels himself, tries to think how he's going to say what he has to.
"I don't think it matters, though," Potter says abruptly, and Draco's thoughts suddenly all screech to a halt, and pile up against each other like a particularly spectacular crash on the M4. "I don't know why you showed up at my flat that day, or why you kept coming back, but you did. That's more important than why, right?"
Draco nods wordlessly. It's not that he doesn't want to speak, more that he can't.
"He was right, though. That you put up with a lot of shit. I'm sorry. I am. Being like this … it isn't what I want forever."
"I know it isn't," Draco says quietly, finding his voice at last. "You can change, if you put your mind to it. You just have to want to do it badly enough."
"… I think … I think that maybe I do," Potter says slowly, and he looks up at Draco for the first time in five minutes. His face is very pale, but he looks determined.
"This is what the orange juice is about, isn't it?" asks Draco.
Draco thinks back, to the muddy battleground, to the celebration party, the pubs and clubs, the threesome, the drugs they've smoked, and the drinks they've drunk. He can't go back and alter any of it – probably wouldn't want to even if he was able – but it's frightening to think how much has to change in the foreseeable future. This relationship they have, whatever it is, has been built on flimsy foundations. If Potter gets better … no, when he gets better, will there even be a place in his life for Draco any more? What a selfish thing for him to think, but he's never pretended for even one minute to be some selfless individual. When it comes down to it, he's just as needy as Potter in his own way.
"If you want me to help, you just have to ask," says Draco.
Potter looks him straight in the eye. "I'm asking."
Just like that, Draco feels a little bit lighter. It's like some heavy weight has fallen from his shoulders. And then he realises what it is that's missing. The life-debt. It's gone; paid in full at last. He could walk out right now, job done, but he doesn't consider that option for even a second because Potter was right when he said that it didn't matter. It's not been about the life-debt for a very long time now.
Draco reaches across the table, links his fingers with Potter's. It's a dark enough corner that nobody will notice, and anyway he doesn't really care if they do see. He doesn't say anything. There will be time for words later. Right now he just wants to hold on, and possibly never let go.
Draco Malfoy had never planned on saving Harry Potter's life. It just sort of happened. But there were a lot of things he hadn’t planned on either. He thinks he likes his life better this way.