hd_hols (hd_hols) wrote in hd_holidays,
hd_hols
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hd_holidays

HAPPY H/D HOLIDAYS, OLDENUF2NB!

Author: tigersilver
Recipient: oldenuf2nb
Title: Chances Are
Pairing(s): Harry/Draco; implied previous canon pairings.
Summary:There are two men who are good friends. And a red string which ties them.
Rating: R
Disclaimer: All Harry Potter characters herein are the property of J.K. Rowling and Bloomsbury/Scholastic. No copyright infringement is intended.
Warning(s): Magical realism.
Epilogue compliant? Yes, compliant, excepting both protagonists are long divorced in this scenario. Ergo, Next Gen kids implied but no infidelity.
Word Count: 6,000
Author's Notes: I had written a fic for you, dear Prompter, very early in the game, but it wasn’t nearly good enough to give you. The Mods, may I just say, are an absolutely amazing set of people, who took pity on me and let me give you this one in place of the other. At the very last minute! I am ever so grateful, and also to my Beta, the patient L, who also saved me, again last minute, eleventh hour! Dear Prompter, I wish you the best always and do hope this pleases. Thank you again, darling Mods!




Harry would lie quietly in his bed at night and wring his hands together, feeling the knuckle bones slipping, knocking, and think maybe it was a dream. He and Malfoy, Harry and Draco: a dream of a dreaming time, long dreamt, after all these years. Till his wrist burnt and his veins ached fire.

But no…it was only coffee.

Coffee, together. Every morning, a heated measure of sweet time meted out in piping hot ounces, of agave sweetness in dribs-and-drabs, of cream dollops, of popping, passing delight. Tangy—awareness induced and welcomed for it. Sometimes the evenings, as well, and it’s a lean long hand on his, brushing by, glancing off elbow above wrist, then adjusting the cuff button, so obliviously kind. A smile, shared. Flashing bright and white, like his hair. Spoons tapping.

Or a pint, taken quickly, downed with generous bites of a steaming hot meat pasty, wrapped in a greasy waxed paper from a stall. Stew, instead, but only if it’s Hannah’s stew, at the Leaky. Cold breath, gusting into the winter air, clouding their faces, wreathing them and leaving a glow of life behind them, whenever they chanced to stroll under a street light. When walking, that was, after the café or the park stall or the Leaky. Or through Muggle London, at times. But…walking together, till one or the other had to depart.

And winter. Old and cold and chilly; it’s all that and more. Sleeting down, drifting down; always precipitating somewhere. Warm jerseys and warmer Charms, combating. Snowballs, tossed with happy accuracy, even when tripping over one’s own old scarf trailing. And habits. Held over from summers of promise and springs of hope and autumns of misty memories. Habits: Harry relished them.

They died hard. They…hung on. To the bitter end, and it wasn’t that, so much. Not bitter, really, and, well. Wasn’t habit, either. Not at all.

**

He’s grown accustomed to waiting for Harry, Draco has. It’s a fine thing, that, and a shot right up the noses of the bloody old scoffers. Rubbishing lot, the old bigots, the ancient hanger’s on to a habit long expired. Or should ought to be expired. If Draco had something to say to it—and he does, often enough—they’d all be stripped of their wands and be put to useful work somewhere, perhaps scrubbing Muggle floors with their venerable beards.

Harry’s always belated; Draco always waits. He can’t not. He’s tied to a promise.

A dream. Long dreamt.

**

“It’s the two cultures problem, Harry. Butting horns. I didn’t expect it. Neither did you, apparently. It’s a…” Hermione frowns fretting, seeking the proper word. “It’s a little…unfortunate.”

Hermione’s face is kind, though sharp. Older, as he’s older; they all are. She pats his hand, but not that particular hand. His heart wells within him.

“But this person has to be out there, somewhere. Must be, Harry, or it wouldn’t hurt so. You know that. You mustn’t give up all your hope, either.”

“He’s a he.” Harry swallows hard; he must face up to this. It’s been developing, the picture. Years, developing. “He’s Malfoy, I think. No—I know.”

“Oh.” Hermione considers that, stirring her coffee. Spoons clinking, always. “Oh, Harry. Well, then.”

“Yes, that,” Harry says hastily, covering up the little pause as fast as he can. “I know, and we’re friends, at least I think we’re good friends, very good mates and all that, but…then, I don’t know, Hermione, not really. I don’t know. I can’t—he’s—I’m not able—I can’t say. I really can’t say.”

He blinks at her, barely seeing her dear face for the cascade of all the Dracos he does see played out against the velvet of his eyelids. “Do you see, Hermione? How I can’t?”

“No, I see,” and Hermione can always be trusted to leap to fill in Harry’s gaps. “No, Harry. It’s all right if you don’t. You can’t very well be expected to, can you? Just…you’re with him often, then?”

“Every day.”

“Then, well.” She turns the flats of both palms up wide, to the sky, and smiles. “That’s good. Isn’t it?”

Harry coughs, a muffled sound that even he can’t interpret. Exactly.

“Er? Maybe.”

**

Cold hands, warm gloves, hot coffee on a winter’s morning, passed between mates. Harry misses the sun and sand and the blue of the sea, he misses the bright flags of the tree’s leaves in Autumn, but there’s blue like the sky hidden in the opaque grey of Draco’s winter eyes, too, and that does him well enough.

“Did you hear? Scorpius says—” Draco asks, bright-eyed, and they’re off again, chattering away about the children, and how they grown up and what it is they need now. It was the first thing, really. It’s always the fall-back, the rock. That, and the health and goings-on of Draco’s mother, of course. And Aunt Andy, and Teddy—oh, so many rocks in their relationship, aren’t there? No wonder Harry’s become adept at leaping ably from one to the other, all this time. Skipping rocks, is it? He can do that.

And Draco is just as deft, nattering on, always nattering on. Harry half wishes he’d given over years ago, as it was the clear the other man really had only wanted to just talk to him. To him, Harry Potter, available audience. And didn’t give a fig what he was actually talking about.

“—it’s an honour, I told them, and then I ducked out as fast as I could—ah? Harry, you’re listening? Why are you buttoning up your cloak already? Must you go—so soon?”

“Well…” Harry pauses in his paces, at last, though he doesn’t wish to. Those grey eyes are serious as they bore into his; a little concerned, a little curious. “Well, I suppose I should…we should? Getting on late, isn’t it? Time for…”

“Go on, then, run along,” Draco grins at him, nodding him along, as he always does. “See you tomorrow, right?”

“Tomorrow,” Harry echoes and it’s a solemn promise. “Yes, okay.”

It’s only when he’s safe out of Draco’s sight he rubs at his one wrist: it’s burning and there’s a thin red line drawn tight into his winter-pale skin, bleeding thin streaks of red down his thumb. Nothing serious, but…bleeding. Which stings like the very dickens, but that’s all up to absence.

Absence.

Oh, gods, but his very heart, it’s on a string. A random string, and there’s no guarantee of this, no promises made by Fata Morgana. It’s a matter of chance, is all, and heart strings can be both re-strung and re-tuned. Or broken. Shattered.

They can, indeed. Harry knows that, all too well.

**

“You still meeting up with him, mate?” Ron wants to know this, for certain, for sure, of a Saturday morning in the depths of January. They’re attending a match, and the idiot Cannons are idiotically behind by three goals as usual, and Harry’s been having a marvelous time screaming his head off at the poor beleaguered Seeker.

“Go fucking left, you wanker! Left!” he’s shouting and the gentle question catches him up short. Pointed question; Ron’s his mate, his best mate. “LE—er. Wh-what?”

“Just curious, is all,” Ron tacks on quickly enough when Harry gives him a look. “Curious. Nothing against it.” He shrugs. “You know. Wondering, is all.”

“Yes,” is all Harry has to say to that, and he’d like to say a lot more, but he’d be pathetic, doing it. “I am.”

“Well,” The ginger head bobs gently; Ron swipes at his stubbly chin and sips at his warmed cider, waving his little orange ‘Go Cannons!’ flag feebly even so. A true fan, Ron is. “Good on you, then.”

Yes,” Harry says again, flat, mouth folded up tight. “Thanks.”

**

“It’s an Extra-Extra Maximus,” Draco explains, when he hands over Harry’s giant coffee. “You looked a bit fatigued in the Floo this morning; I wondered. Long night?”

“Yes, thanks—that’s perfect,” Harry gulps gratefully and doesn’t even care if his throat’s scalded. He ignores Draco’s question easily enough. “Perfect,” he hums happily, his insides toasty. “What do I owe?”

“Nothing! Shit, nothing,” Draco snaps back, and he’s off, long strides through the mashed-down snow and slush. Furious for no reason and isn’t that just like him? And then turns his fair head, tilting it, as if considering that he might’ve offended. They take care not to, these days, the two of them; Malfoy’s awkward in apologizing. “No, nothing, it’s nothing. It’s no matter. Forget it. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to snap.”

“O…kay,” Harry ventures and slips into step with his friend. As they are that; he’s fairly certain. Since Summer, he thinks. Since always. Well, could’ve been. “It’s all right, really. And…thanks, again, yeah? Anyway. You didn’t have to.”

“Of course I did. All right.” A slide of grey eyes flashes at him and is gone again in an instant. “So? Have I told you about that rogue gryphon, the little brown one, just last week? Found him wandering about Hyde Park of all places. Orphan, I think; IMC’s tracking him down, find out where he belongs. Was a minor miracle no one Muggle noticed him. Job and half to coax him away, too. Eating someone’s discarded lolly, he was, little bugger.”

“Really?” Harry’s amazed. He always is, by Draco’s tales. Such tall ones, and likely half of them embellished. Which is just fine by Harry.

“Oh, yes.” The thin lips stretch into a smile. A charming one, rueful. “Bit of a bloody good luck, having him out of there and back safe to the compound. I have to wonder, sometimes, Harry? At what people really do see. If they use their eyes at all. Do you think they actually take it in, what’s right under their very noses? Or are they deliberately obtuse, maybe? Is it a…condition, you think? Is it…is it something I’ve—well—”

He stops, brows raised in hopeful query, clearly waiting for Harry to pop in and sort it. This question of the people, common. And not just common Muggles, either.

“Oh,” Harry swallows hard; this hits home, somehow, and not in a good way. He shrugs, uneasy. “Oh, probably not. No, I don’t think so. People always have a lot of blinders on, Draco. They always seem to have, at least. To me.”

“Yeah,” Draco nods and sips, bumping shoulders with Harry pleasantly against the damp chill. “Agreed. It’s what I’ve noticed, at least. Well, whatever; I daresay they might need them. They might, very well…Now, come on—we’ll be late if we dawdle much longer. We need move on, Potter. I never meant to hold us up. Ready? Set—go!”

And he’s running, suddenly, the inexplicable Draco Malfoy. Running like a kid, ducking this way and that and dodging strangers. Cup bobbing along behind him, floating, because he’s a Wizard, of course.

“Yes, yes, coming!” Harry laughs, and it is laughable, in a weird sort of way, watching Draco Malfoy lengthen his stride and up his pace, bolting just for the pleasure of being at his cluttered desk on time. “Tzar Malfoy!” he calls out to the retreating form half a block ahead of him. “Mustn’t be late to command, eh?”

“Tzar!” Draco spins and laughs along, slowing considerably so Harry can catch him up. Casts an baleful eye up at the brim of his winter hat, be-furred and oh, so familiar, same as it always was, from years back and crowds up against Harry when they’re side-by-side again, trotting. “Tzar, Potter? What’s that, now? What’re you implying?”

“Oh, definitely.” Harry grins up at him, trotting faster to keep pace. “Spot on. Tzar. You’re the living image, mate.”

“It’s this, isn’t it?” Draco asks, pointing to his hat and then jouncing a gentle elbow into the thickness of Harry’s layers, right into the puffy softness of his great-caped and jerseyed ribcage. Harry ‘oofs!’ and dodges. Draco snickers, casually hauling him back by an elbow. His pale fingers curl in, possessive. “My poor hat, you don’t approve, do you? But my clothes, too. You object to my attire, don’t you? Can’t blame me if I like to stay in style, can you though? I’d not doubt for an instant—and elegant accessories, mind you! Not a crime!—if you do, fusty old tosser you are, with your denims and your terrible footgear. Merlin, how we must appear to a stranger! Odd couple, yeah? But—but, yah, Potter?! Doesn’t even begin to make the man, Harry, what he looks like—oh, you know that. We know that.” Harry is subjected to the sideways tilt of a firm chin and a mildly censorious glance. “I suppose I should be grateful, eh?” And then a grin, all shit-eating, the wanker. “So kind of you to see me past my hat, Potter. Obliged, always.”

“Git. Nutter. I know that.” His wrist is tingling, warm all round, and Harry can’t help but giggle. Healed up, he knows it, as if the constant wound had never been. He loves it, that it’s so. Besides, it’s true. The formal robes and expensive garb and dearer still accessories his friend favours speak nothing to his nature. They’re not his skin, Draco’s, just his armour. Nor his heart: what’s inside; perhaps what’s always been there, hidden. “I do.”

“Good to hear. I’d hate to think you dull, Potter. Appearances are deceptive. Are they not?”

The grin is a full blown set of smarmy, mocking teeth, and yet Harry can see by the twinkle in grey eyes that this man who strolls so sedately at his elbow would never consider him as any less than he was. Who he was.

“Pissant,” Harry grumbles, but his heart’s full to bursting. Life’s blood, having Draco laugh at him—with him. Isn’t it? “You’re a terrible, terrible pissant, Malfoy.”

“Am I, now?”

Isn’t it? Heaven, bloody heaven, a bit. This. Their wrists and fingertips, gloved and sleeved, twine about together for a long mellow instant, woolen and fine leather and little blue sparks of friction jumping. Harry hides his grin as much as he’s able from Draco’s omniscient gaze. The line round his wrist practically glows incandescent under his slightly frayed sleeve. He’s never been this happy. Not even when Lily pulled through that terrifying bout of Muggle pneumonia.

“You! You are!” And Harry’s laughing. “Wanker, tosser, berk and prat! I always said so, didn’t I?” What utter nonsense this is, but so much fun.

It’s gasping, his heat, beating full out. Terrifying, indeed, the strength of it, thudding away. Harry only knows the heartstrings tell true. True as ever is blue, as Hermione had confirmed him.

“Well?” Draco remarks, affecting not hear a word of it, capturing the crook of Harry’s elbow so as to tug a lagging Harry along. “What’s your problem, Potter? Laggard, fusty, crotchety old man. With a limited repertoire to boot! But, do come on! Last one in is a rotten—a rotten something!”

“A…rotten…’something’?” Harry gasps and nearly bowls over laughing, even as he’s being hauled posthaste. He nearly loses his coffee. “You—you idiot! A rotten something? What is that?”

“Silly arse. You know exactly what I mean.” Draco nods; just so. “You do.”

“Oh, well…yeah. Yes.”

Oh, and something else Harry knows? He knows he’s a bit deliriously happy, zipping along like this, watching Draco stride on long and loping atop those spidery legs of his and then deliberately pause and wait for him, hand held out, half-mittened.

Very happy.

“Thought so.”

**

It would be ever so much more expedient to simply sit Harry down one day and explain it to him. What it’s about. The ties that bind.

Ever so, but not happening. The Old Magics are old for a reason: they’re not spoken of, so much, but simply accomplished. They exist, as dragons do and possibly even as Lovegood’s Nargles do, too.

Draco waits for Harry—he’ll always wait for Harry. Been, cheers, and will till he dies, mayhap. Sometimes looks that way, on cold dreary mornings.

Alone.

Hopes it won’t come to that, but it’s not like he can simply blurt it out. Doesn’t work like that, sadly.

And it’s so close and no closer and Draco prefers winter, as that way he can at least wear long sleeves and gloves to hide the telltale mark.

Oh! Not that one! That’s long ago gone away, faded to a mere sepia stain. No, it’s the thin red line. The constant wound. The ache.

The bloody ache.


**

“…Harry?”

It’s Spring again—isn’t it always spring? When it’s too much, all at once. His wrist has been painful and throbbing for ages now but he’s ignored it for the most part. Maybe he catches himself rubbing at the ache a little too often when he’s in Draco’s company but he’s been hoping that’s gone unnoticed. They’ve always so much to talk about and then there’s the coffee to drink: faithful and fragrant, and taken earlier than usual and mainly al fresco as the weather breaks.

“What’s wrong?” Draco slips fast fingers over Harry’s pulse, which thuds in response. Abruptly! “What’s up with you? You’re—you’ve been a little funny, lately. You’re not babbling, as much. Far too quiet…and you often look like you’re thinking, and we all know how dangerous that is, Harry.” He swallows, his throat moving long and white and Harry’s eyes are drawn to it, unerring. “Harry? Are you well? Are you… ill? Talk, Potter. You know I worry.”

“No!” Harry yanks free immediately, without even thinking. It’s far too dangerous to allow Draco access to his one arm. “No, it’s not that. I’m fine. I’m really…very…fine.”

“You’re sure?”

“Yes, yes, don’t fret over it. It’s nothing.” Harry smiles, his very best one, right at Draco. “A—a passing headache, all right?” And waits for it to work, his half-arsed tactic. But Malfoy’s no fool, not a bit of it. He’d likely realize, and be spot on as to the cause, if he thought too hard about it. He’s a real Wizard, he is, and knows all the ins-and-outs of the strangeness of magical love, doesn’t he? Harry’s terribly afraid that’s the case, yes.

And then there’d be pity, maybe, for his part, for Harry, and Harry so doesn’t want that.

Discovery? His filthy little secret, exposed? After all this time, and all these happy days? Oh, no—please!

He only wants the coffees, continuing, and hands that brush now and again, and the dream of a dream in the dark of the night—that’s all. Is that so much, then? Hasn’t he sort of already had what was coming to him? He’s had some ‘happy’. The children…Gin, for a while. No…this would be too much. Far too much to ask. He can’t be greedy. He just can’t!

Maybe it is. Greed—or something he can’t control. The problem with heartstrings is they can attach themselves to anyone, really, no matter what’s gone on before. But, the real problem is that they tend to tighten, over time—going tauter and tauter yet, till something’s bound to snap under tension. By ‘something’ read ‘someone’ and Harry’s very much afraid he’s the one who’ll do so.

“Don’t be so bloody shy about it if you aren’t.” Draco sighs at him, rolling his eyes over the rim of his cup. “Sick, that is. Or maybe I mean mental.” He rolls his eyes at Harry, inpatient all at once. “Oh, definitely mental, for you.” But his hand drops away from the vicinity of Harry’s wrist and that’s all that matters. Harry tucks it right up his other sleeve, blessing Wizard’s robes. So excellent for hiding things that simply cannot afford to be seen! “But! Come on, Harry. You can tell me. It’s me, remember? Idiot!”

“What?” Heartstrings are fickle things, always, and they don’t always connect the same two people. “No!”

“…Harry?”

“Nothing,” is what Harry would love to reply; truly he would, as he’s been enjoying this immensely. But Draco knows him far too well now and it won’t fly. “Nothing.”

“…Nothing? You don’t say.”

“I’m fine, really,” is what he does say, and he very carefully jerks his too thin light-weight shirt’s sleeve so the fall of starched fabric disguises the tattletale red line. Stupid robes always ride up! “Mummy Malfoy. Leave off, will you? I just said so, right? That I’m fine.” He slips his wrist deeper in the fabric, well out of sight, and lets the rest of his arm loll in his lap, unconsciously cradling it. Winces, and realistically, as gods yes, it does pang quite a bit. “It’s nothing. I’ve just banged up my one hand a bit recently; it’s still healing. Likely you didn’t notice the magical plaster. Mungo’s is rather better with those, these days.”

“Have you? I didn’t know that.” Draco’s eyebrows crease. “You didn’t say, Harry. About any injury. When did that happen? Exactly? It wasn’t in any report I saw.”

Draco’s very much on the alert, suddenly. One can tell, as he seems to grow taller in his seat. Like a falcon or some such, spying a field mouse from a distance and zeroing in. Precisely that way. It’s what makes him the most excellent Unspeakable he is. Observant, and bloody on it. Like a hawk.

Harry shrugs lightly and glances anywhere else—at the passersby, at the vintage posters on the café’s glass walls, at the preponderance of birds inhabiting the area. He’s an Auror, thank Merlin, and while the position doesn’t lend itself to inscrutability as much as Draco’s does, he’s not bad at disguises himself. No—not bad. Been disguising himself for years now, hasn’t he?

“It’s nothing,” he says again and maybe Draco picks up on it, finally, that Harry doesn’t want to say. “Nothing at all.”

“Well.” Draco sniffs significantly, and eyes Harry up speculatively, one more time. “You say ‘nothing’…”

Harry instantly glances off, gaze far distant and unfocussed, and his face turned so that it’s three-quarter’s view, so effectively shielded he can only catch a glimpse of the too-interested glint in the grey eyes and not the fascinating depths of them. He conscientiously ignores that.

“Oh…well. All right. Keep your little secrets, tosser.”

His friend sighs heavily at him, making much of it, Harry’s displeasingly mulish nature. Harry’s friend. Nothing else. Nothing more and nothing less, than ‘friend’. Good mate, coffee buddy; pally, exasperating, chatty, poncy as fuck, bolshy as one of those little dogs and all that. Excepting tall, elegant, well-dressed and beautifully impossible. Same as always, then. Right down to the toney accent, the wanker.

“Tsk! As you were, then. Forget I even asked. I’ll not bother myself, next time.”

And that’s the end of it, for the moment.

**

Harry doesn’t know it but he’s watched for every morning. Draco makes sure to Floo after the first little while. If he doesn’t hear.

And then set the time, specifically, and the place. Every morning, every meeting.

Harry doesn’t know it, but it’s scripted, really. Though it varies, often. There’s always something new to try and Draco is fond of cinnamon and nutmeg and whipped cream. He is—though he can’t say it aloud, ever—more than passing fond of Harry Potter. Dragging him all over Muggle London’s just his way of showing. One of them; there’s many more.

More than fond. He’s got this thing, it’s called ‘legend’, bound round his wrist, and it tugs him fiercely. He can’t just come out and admit it’s a bit of the old—and it’s certainly not blue! No.

Not borrowed. Not new.

Enduring as gold, the metal. Red as fire, red as blood, red as a king’s cloak threads on the pale, pale skin of his arm, his knobby joint, and there’s no denying it and no rejoinder. Quicksilver as mercury, burning into his skin. Green as the firs and pines of Christmas, never losing their needles, never dying. Or the mistletoe, presiding over all of them, this merry season.

‘Kiss your neighbor, kiss your lover, share a wassail and dance a jig’—t’is Christmas tide once more, and the time of celebration. When all menfolk and Wizarding folk, too—they gather together to toast the coming of the end and the beginning.

…He doesn’t think Harry knows about these. Traditions, the really very ancient ones. Mithras and all that. Blood of the Bull God, or even something as obvious and known about as the Morris Men, dancing. There’s no reason why he should, being raised like that, by heathens. Despite the fact he’s been a Wizard for ages, lived in the world of Wizards—saved it! Oh, and he’d been married, had kids, been divorced; all that, same as Draco, and, if he was same as Draco, then the divorce had been pretty easy, considering. No strings there. Probably no strings at all; Harry is still an odd duck, magically. Might have managed to skip it, altogether. That one thing.

Draco’s got his, though, under his cuff. It beats for Harry, it burns and it bleeds for him, it’s a frozen fire, shattering his heart daily, and coffee will do, in a pinch. Or hot chocolate, as it’s cold out.

It’s cold in, as well, but he’s not to speak of sleepless nights or empty, icy beds, is he?

Not done, not done, at all.

**

“Get a room,” Hannah says, one day. Both Draco and Harry look up, startled.

“No, seriously. A bed. In a room. You need sleep, you two. There’s a free room upstairs. Go make use of it.”

She’s right, damn her eyes. They’re practically comatose, sitting.

“Number Four & Five-Eight’s. You’ll find it’s unlocked. Good lads, there you go. I’ll send up a tray of supper.”

She smiles at them both, taking in their dropped jaws, the grey of their weary faces, the bleakness of their gazes as they drink to forget.

“Stew. Mutton, today. And more butterbeer. And the firewhisky, of course! A bottle of your very own, you sillies, to share. Go on, then, ducks.”

It’s only when they’re arrived there under the eaves, having given in to a barrage of female wisdom, unrelenting, and Draco’s watching Harry strip off his shirt, he realizes what comes next, logically.

Been five days gone on a case, a rough one, really off. Kids taken straight off the streets and sold off, Magical and Muggle, and it left them sick to their guts, after, especially the rookies, but done now.

Only a few casualties. Only a very few, thank all the beneficent spirits, but ‘a few’ was still too many.

They were dead on their feet, or rather on their respective arses, noses deep in their pints, drinking down, drinking deep to wash away memories when first arriving at the Leaky.

They’re dead still, absolutely shattered, even after tucking into a handsome supper and contemplating their respective navels over a flaming hearth and two brim-full goblets of brandy potent enough to drop the bollocks of a eunuch.

“Harry,” Draco assays, carefully. “About the bed. Harry, we’ve not—we’ve never. Exactly. Been in this situation, I mean. Are you? Will you—is it all right?”

Thing is, Draco cannot bring himself to go. He’s bloody well laid out on his feet and he’ll Splinch. Never make it whole back to Wiltshire. Or even across Town, to his pied-a-terre.

So is Harry. Ever so worn out. Which tears at Draco’s guarded heart, something fierce.

His wrist hurts, badly. Evil little thing, this binding. He can’t resist and he can’t fight. Not even for the sake of someone—someone Draco loves—it’s not as if he even wishes to fight. Gods, no, not now. Anything to leave this easier. Anything to still be Harry’s friend in the morning. He’ll say anything; he often does.

“Harry, if it’s a problem, if you’re not used to, accustomed to, ah—I mean, I’ll go, that’s all. I can manage—I do think I can manage it—” He’s never been so sincere and never so reluctant. It’s a gift, being shooed off to bed by a friendly Witch. A night with Harry, for free, and sanctioned. A soon to be naked Harry. Draco wishes it would happen more often, but not for these reasons. “I mean, you’re knackered, right? Hardly need someone snoring in your ear, yeah? I’ll…I’ll just go on, then, after I’m finished this.” He lofts his glass, and keeps his gaze cast down. “Shall I?”

He can’t fathom losing Harry, even if he barely has him, a piece of him, that is. He can’t cope with losing anyone else, but especially not the ones he loves beyond reason.

Oh…and those kids! Scorp and Al and James and Lily—Teddy! God’s fucking Magic Blood flowing, but they’ve all been so fortunate—so incredible fortunate! The poor parents of the ‘few’’—how Draco feels for them! Horrible, horrible, hor—!

Harry’s low, level voice halts Draco’s internal shit fit square in its tracks; ta, Merlin.

“No. No. Leave it. Stop being a stupid arse, Malfoy. Can sleep just about anywhere, with anyone. Auror, mate.” He lounges back, bonelessly sprawled in his armchair, and opens his eyes wide at Draco, behind the lenses. The flickering flames of the hearth let Draco see. Allow him the mercy of driving down deep into seawater, no—emerald. No…moss. But…lovely. Oh, so lovely. Harry’s chest is a bit superb, but Harry’s eyes?

Might be the brandy fogging his vision, but then Draco’s always been a goner for green eyes, mores’ the pity. And there’s no green eyes like this on the world over, none like just here and just now, steady on him as he struggles not to flinch, not to pitch forward. Not to say. What he wouldn’t give to simply say? Aloud?

“Oh, right. Then. Yes.” It’s the hardest thing, with his head swimming, what with the scent of Yule log on the fire, and the brandy fumes up his nose. “’Course. Stupid of me. Barracks right? And sleeping rough. Dorms, if nothing else. Should say you’ve no modest left to you, Potter. Right, is it? Me, neither. Not a problem, then; carry on.”

And they do.

**

“Nox!”

So business-like, so civil, as if Harry’s heart weren’t hanging off his very bones. As if it weren’t clearly visible, should anyone be looking. Thin red line. Scarlet trail. Straight on in and wicked sharp that train. Express!

All the coffee? The chats, the walks—the chatty walks? The moments they’ve been together and how he treasures them, dim and dark in his own bed? It’s nothing to this. This being Draco Malfoy stripping off his kit methodically, neatly, folding it up and swinging a long pale leg into bed.

“G’night.”

Bed. Bed. Shared bed.

“’Night, Harry.”

Harry’s panicking and he cannot show it. There can’t be a single sign of his agitation. No, no…please not. He cannot lose what he’s got, though it’s little enough, but he can’t lose it. It’s his touchstone, his nexus, his centre, this connection. He cannot lose Draco Malfoy, no matter what. It’s as unthinkable as letting him die by fire, or letting him bleed out, on a lavatory floor.

It’s Harry’s heart. Bleeding. Laid bare and pulsing, and there’s a net about it, cast by Magic, and he’s always been bound by it. Always, always, just took a little too long to sort it out. That’s all.

Can’t blame him, really. Dursleys and all that. Looked like it would be Ginny, except—no, not Ginny. Lovely as Ginny was, it wasn’t her. Not as owned the ties to Harry’s heart.

Draco…a twat, sharp-tongued and caring and his mate, Harry’s best one, excepting Ron and Hermione. No. His life.

In this bed. Upon this same mattress.

How would he ever manage to sleep?

**

“Harry. Harry.”

It’s Spring again, barely, technically, what with the solstice passed already and birdsong’s early. London comes to life about them, infringing on the corners of consciousness. Christmas is done and gone as well; they’ve missed it all, working.

Two trails of blood on the pillows, seeping into the sheets. Thin stains, matching.

“…Harry?”

Draco’s not even breathing; he’s forgotten how. Entirely. “Harry?! What’s that? What’s that on your wrist?” He’s blinking rapidly in place of breathing, his heart suspended, caught in a state of utter astoundment.

Red string, red string, red—red! On Harry, his Harry. His lovely, beautiful Harry, who seems to be as bound as Draco is—to someone, somewhere.

This, he can ask. He’s not constrained. He sees it, doesn’t he? The bloody mark! It’s right there, to be seen. As is his.

“…Harry?”

It’s ever so late, this night, so terribly late it’s gone morning again, and dawn. Somehow the watery light lends courage.

“Harry, you know you can tell me anything, right?”

Draco stares at the evidence before his eyes and hopes and dreads, alternating.

**

Oh, but it’s the most difficult, meeting another’s eyes, not looking away from a blazing stark honesty. He loves those eyes, that face, that look to that face: enquiring, but gently, and so, so…gentle again. Such a man, this one, and Harry loves him. With all of his heart. He’ll never find better, he cannot find better—this is the one. The only. His heartstrings, tied up, they dictate it.

“Hullo?” he gulps. It’s morning, grey overcast morning on Boxing day, and they’ve missed it, Christmas. But—Draco’s here, and wrists are thrust to wrists and the thin red string, it’s gone…very tight. “Draco.”

“Harry. Do you…?”

Harry watches him. Sees the abruptly downcast ryes, and the convulsive swallow. The fine fingers twitching, trembling, and the wrist above it, dripping blood. “Harry, do you. Might you?...Harry?”

No one ever speaks of it, not directly. They cannot; this Magic is ancient and powerful. What everyone wears on their proverbial sleeves, though, right on their wrists. Their hearts. Done up in a thin red line, as if a near-invisible string is tied around skin as a reminder. Connected to another’s, inextricably, and usually hidden nicely, cheers, for it’s only when that certain special other is not there to be had the red line widens, bleeds, weeps. When they’re lost or have been taken already, or simply are not interested. It’s a crack in a heart, made visible for all to see. Jagged.

Harry’s heart is well nigh broken for all he’s happy, for all he’s his nightly dreams to sustain him.

“Who is it, then?” Draco is dogged in his fear, his hope; it all shines on his weary, stubbly morning face, right there for Harry to see. “Who?” People don’t even see the strings unless there’s a reason. A revelation of two hearts connected—or the damning evidence the other, the match made in magic, is already lost to them. “Your…your other one? Do I know them?” His pale eyelashes glisten, wet through despite the blinking. It’s not his usual voice, either—it’s a bit of cracked sob, actually. As if Draco’s broken, too. “Harry?”

Harry simply cannot bear it, not a moment more. Not even for coffee. He may be dead wrong but he must risk it! And it’s another little broken sound in the space between them, a tear of a cry that escapes him, as Harry lunges. Scrambling across the inches that divide, that monumental gap. Both hands out, wrist bloody, heart cracked open to the fullest. Driven. The red strings are tight—tight—tight! He can’t not go!

“It’s you! You, you, you, you bloody—bloody—Draco!”

“Harry!”

Harry nods frantically, wordless. His knuckles crack, they’re gripping so hard. They’re tucked together, two men, good friends. More, now.

“Oh, Harry! My Harry…oh, my Harry…oh, mercy.”

“You don’t how much I—Draco!”

And sometimes people can speak of it; can see what’s right under their silly noses. May say aloud, how it is they have yearned and wished and wanted. How they’ve loved. They love. Have loved. Will. Always.

Tags: [fic], rated: r, round: winter 2012
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