Summary: In the end it is Fate who decides who will win and who will lose. But sometimes you can persuade her of your worth.
Rating: PG-15. Some dub-con, but nothing particularly graphic.
Disclaimer: All Harry Potter characters herein are the property of J.K. Rowling and Bloomsbury/Scholastic. No copyright infringement is intended.
Word Count: ~4385
Author's Notes: One of strigoia’s prompts was the “Voldemort wins” scenario. This is my take on it – although it does still have a hopeful ending, because they are distressingly rare in real life.
Sincere thanks to U and A, my betas who helped me make this into a much more interesting story than it was originally.
Nürnberg had once been a beautiful city. Even now the hallmarks of what had made it so graceful and pleasant could still be seen -- the medieval cobbled streets or the graceful arches of a gothic cathedral. The aura of sadness and despair that had covered the world since the end of the War, however, made it impossible to find any enjoyment in the remnants of its beauty. What had once been a testament to the ingenuity and glory of humanity was now nothing more than a bitter reminder of inexorable decay brought on by the passage of time. Harry had loved the air of grand antiquity that surrounded Hogwarts, but now all he could think about was that no matter how long the castles and cathedrals had stood there, they would eventually crumble away to dust.
At least he had no memories of before the War in Germany so he never felt the presence of his dead friends haunting the streets of Nürnberg the way he did in London. Even if Voldemort’s evil was like a malignant tumor that had spread far beyond its place of origin, at least here he just felt empty and numb instead of filled with the pain of seeing what had become of the world he grew up in.
Harry had to admit that he wasn’t really all that surprised with the way things had turned out. It was painful to think of the bitter disappointment that the Order must have felt at his failure, but he didn’t feel that there was anything else he could have done. And what could they expect? He was only sixteen when the search for the Horcruxes began, neither a fully trained wizard nor a full adult. Just a boy, who in spite of his passion, courage, and a certain measure of magical talent had ultimately been too young and inexperienced to defeat Lord Voldemort, and he had paid the price; his friends dead, his wand snapped, and he was living in exile.
Malfoy was waiting for him at the Hans-Sachs Brünne. He was the only person from Harry’s past he ever saw anymore. He always thought that there was something fitting in that. Everyone he’d loved and cared for was gone, so of course he would end up with nothing left but his one-time rival. There was nothing else left for either one of them.
Malfoy might have been given a reprieve from death after showing weakness at the top of the Astronomy Tower in his sixth year but he had not been spared feeling the brunt of the Dark Lord’s displeasure. While his body remained whole and unmarked – he was, after all, a scion of some of the purest blood in all of wizarding society and was therefore valuable breeding stock – all it took was one look into his eyes to realize that he had come unhinged. He was now wild and unpredictable, veering sharply between periods of calm control and violent rage. Those mercurial mood shifts landed him a position in Voldemort’s Department of Inquisition. Harry had heard that when he was in the grip of madness Malfoy was truly terrifying to confront, lost in his crazed desire to return the pain of his own torment to whatever victim was placed in front of him. He had apparently become an adept at torture, not by learning how to twist his victims’ bodies into impossible contortions, but by burying (burrowing) into their psyches and warping them from within. Harry had no doubt that he was good at what he did. Maybe at one time he would have despised Malfoy further for abetting Voldemort’s reign of terror, but now he was all too familiar with the hopelessness that came from having nothing else.
The first time they met after the War ended Malfoy had been in one of his dark times. Harry hadn’t seen him since the night Dumbledore died, but he had heard the rumors – Malfoy was being kept in the dungeons of his ancestral home being tortured, Malfoy was being put through “reconditioning”, Malfoy had been forced into serving the higher ranking Death Eaters as a slave. Harry had never paid too much attention to the snatches of news that reached his ears while the War was going on, and even after their defeat was evident he’d been too caught up in his own panic and confusion to give any spare thought to his former rival. Therefore, it had been a shock when not long after he had settled into the sad, lonely monotony that passed for his life he unlocked the door of his dingy flat and was attacked by a vicious, snarling Draco Malfoy.
When Malfoy knocked him to the floor Harry had been too stunned and frightened to put up any real resistance and had simply retreated deep into his mind while Malfoy used his body, thrusting deep into him while biting at his throat and collarbone hard enough to break the skin. But as Malfoy clawed at his skin and gasped his name in short, needy pants Harry had started to wake up, his body reacting to the touch. Rough as it was, no one had touched Harry in so long that he couldn’t help but be ravenous for the feeling of fingers on his body. Suddenly desperate for Malfoy to make him feel, shake him out of the blank numbness that had enveloped him since everything went to hell, he dug his fingernails into Malfoy’s shoulders and urged him on. When Malfoy finally came with a keening, animalistic cry and collapsed onto his prone body Harry was too exhausted to feel any sense of outrage or violation. He squirmed out from beneath Malfoy’s unconscious form, showered, then curled up under his worn duvet and fell asleep.
He wasn’t surprised to find Malfoy gone in the morning and he decided the best course of action was to just forget about the whole messed up incident. One week went by, then two. And then one night in a dimly lit bar someone was pushing a pint of weissbeer at him. Harry looked up into Malfoy’s piercing grey eyes and couldn’t prevent himself from jerking in alarmed shock.
“Potter.” Malfoy sat down opposite him and regarded Harry coldly. It was clear to Harry that this was a different person than the one who had accosted him that night two weeks ago. This Malfoy seemed to be calm and in control of himself, although his eyes still looked rather unfocused as if he were looking beyond Harry to a world that only he could see.
Harry wondered if Malfoy had any memory whatsoever of what had happened two weeks ago and drummed his fingers nervously against the tabletop.
“Just so you know I have no intention of apologizing for what happened between us.”
Oh. Well that answered that.
Before Harry could even start to think of a reply Malfoy caught his chin in a grip so tight that Harry was sure it would leave bruises and hissed,
“But I fully intend to indulge in a repeat performance.”
They made their way to a small café that had no doubt once been a cheerful and lively place but now seemed faded and sad. Voldemort had not been content to limit his reign of terror to the wizarding world and had carefully planted the seeds of discord in the Muggle world as well. Mysterious disappearances, heightened paranoia, increasing intolerance and violence – all the Dark Lord’s handiwork. It saddened Harry that the Muggles’ existence was being destroyed by something that they didn’t even know existed, but he no longer had the will to do anything about it. The burning desire for revenge that had fueled him after Dumbledore’s death had given way to dull apathy. Everything had ended for him after he had been just a few minutes too late to help Ron and Hermione, arriving at the edge of the Forbidden Forest to find their mangled corpses, cold lifeless hands still clasped together tightly. Disgusted with himself for being unable to help his own friends, he no longer had any faith in his ability to help anyone else.
Malfoy had never cared for the welfare of Muggles, of course, and didn’t even look at the pale, unhappy looking waitress when she came to take their order, just demanded an espresso with the careless arrogance of the very rich. He ignored Harry’s reprimanding frown in his direction and pretended not to hear when Harry thanked the girl warmly when she returned with their drinks.
Malfoy drank his coffee black and raised his eyebrow in disapproval as Harry dropped two sugar cubes into his café au lait. Harry glared back defiantly.
“Why do you bother being nice to Muggles anyway? Don’t you think it’s crueler to give them the impression that someone cares for them when all that’s in their future is a slow march into oblivion?”
Harry flushed faintly. Malfoy’s words were a subtle barb. They reminded him that once upon a time he had been expected to ensure a world where Muggles were considered equal to wizards and witches and being descended from Muggles wasn’t analogous to having giant blood, and he hadn’t been up to the task.
“I believe in common courtesy, Malfoy. I expect that a pureblood like you wouldn’t understand it, but it’s the basic concept of being polite to someone regardless of who they are or what their station in life is.”
Malfoy sniffed haughtily and didn’t reply. They finished their drinks in silence and then went to Harry’s flat.
“He knows that we do this, doesn’t he?”
Malfoy’s fingers traced the bumps of Harry’s spine and didn’t reply. Harry sighed.
“And yet he doesn’t make any move to stop us.”
“Why would he? It amuses him. It’s not as if we pose any threat to him, after all – your wand is broken and I have no illusions about what my place is. It’s fitting that the failed Chosen One and a disgraced Death Eater should end up together, the ultimate humiliation for both of us.”
Harry rolled onto his side so he was facing away from Malfoy. “Don’t say that,” he whispered.
Malfoy’s grip on his arm tightened painfully and Harry tensed as he realized that Malfoy was slipping, the crazed desire to lash out and hurt taking over. Since that first night he had seen Malfoy’s darker side only rarely, but he knew all too well that it could surface with little warning for no apparent reason. When Malfoy was in control of himself he was not gentle, nor tender, but he wasn’t unduly rough or cruel. When he lost that tenuous grasp on what remained of his sanity, however…
Malfoy’s breath was hot against his ear. “Why shouldn’t I tell the truth, Potter? We’ve always hated each other, but there’s nothing left for either of us. That’s why the Dark Lord makes no move to stop us. Because it’s so perfect. Because we are each other’s punishment.”
There was a hot stinging sensation in Harry’s eyes and he blinked furiously. He would not cry. Not in front of Malfoy, never in front of Malfoy. He wouldn’t give him the satisfaction.
But what made him really angry was that he knew that it was true; he and Malfoy were all that there was for either of them, but then why did it have to be like this?
Voldemort hadn’t won the War when he snapped Harry’s wand and made him little more than a Squib. He’d won when Harry gave up.
Harry had raged in the beginning, had tried desperately to think of some plan that would change things, make them better, but Dumbledore was gone, and Ron and Hermione were gone, and he was just a scared and lonely boy. That was the reason why Voldemort had never bothered killing him. Dead, Harry might have become a martyr, a symbol for dissidents to rally around -- but an alive and pathetic Boy-Who-Lived was the perfect reminder of why it was useless to stand against the Dark Lord. After all, even their precious Chosen One had failed.
When he was calm and relaxed Malfoy liked to trace the faded scar on Harry’s forehead. At first Harry had turned on his side or pushed his face into his pillow in an attempt to deter him, but after a while he gave up and let Malfoy do whatever he wanted. Harry always wondered what Malfoy thought when he saw it; for Harry it was a symbol of everything he had failed to accomplish. Maybe Malfoy liked to look at it and take pleasure in remembering how everyone had seen it as a sign of his greatness, marked as the one who would defeat the Dark Lord, and now damned him as the focal point of what was probably the greatest disappointment in Wizarding history. It was now a sign of how far Perfect Potter had fallen.
“Do you still have any delusions of being able to save the world?”
They were sitting on the edge of a medieval stone bridge passing a bottle of cheap Riesling back and forth. The air was heavy and humid, full of strange stillness that signaled the approach of a thunderstorm.
“I don’t have delusions of anything anymore, Malfoy.”
“How regrettable that you’ve finally lost your fire. Although I suppose it wouldn’t do any good anymore anyway; and besides that, if you did something foolish and got yourself killed what would I do to keep myself busy?”
Harry smiled bitterly and stared down at the waters of the Pegnitz River. He took a long pull out of the wine bottle and tried to ignore the bitterness in the back of his throat. You failed. You failed and because you weren’t strong enough and now everyone has to suffer; everyone has to pay for your weakness.
Malfoy’s hand closed firmly around his arm and Harry let himself be dragged gently backwards onto his feet.
“What’s done is done. No point in obsessing over what can no longer be changed. Or at least what can’t be changed from this world.”
Harry felt a flicker of surprise. In all the time since Malfoy had shown up in his flat there had never been any sense of affection or caring between them – Malfoy was domineering and possessive, and Harry had always assumed that the Slytherin was just using him as an outlet for venting his anger and frustration at the hand that the world had dealt him; at being just another one of Voldemort’s minions when he should have been practically royalty. He certainly never seemed to give any consideration to Harry’s feelings. Malfoy was rough even when he wasn’t fully in the grip of his madness, treating Harry with a sense of careless propriety as though he was nothing more than compensation for the downfall of his family. And Harry had never cared that Malfoy felt nothing that could be considered love for him. He didn’t doubt that Malfoy cared for him, in his own twisted way, but love had no place in the New World Order. The rule was to dominate or be dominated, and Harry was in no position to take control of whatever it was he had with Malfoy. He didn’t care, really. It was just the way things were. He didn’t expect anything else.
So it was something of a shock to hear Malfoy say something that offered Harry any form of reassurance. Harry eyed him suspiciously out of the corner of his eye.
Malfoy grabbed the back of his neck and pulled his head back until Harry was forced to look directly into his eyes. Malfoy’s pupils were so dilated that his irises were almost completely blocked out, only a thin line of grey showing around the blackness.
“I told you, Potter. We’re all that’s left for either of us. I’m not going to let you get lost in your own guilt when I still have some use for you.”
Harry felt a small spike of relief at knowing that Malfoy’s didn’t care about his emotional state beyond making sure that he still had a responsive fuck toy.
That night before leaving Harry’s flat Malfoy gave Harry a vial of pale blue liquid that gleamed faintly in the yellow glow of the streetlamps shining in through window. Harry stared at it blankly, noting absently that it was cool to the touch.
“What is this?”
“Something to help you sleep. You could probably use it.” The door clicked softly shut behind Malfoy as he left.
Harry’s first thought was that, knowing Malfoy it was probably poison. Then again, unless he was under the influence of his demons he had never really done anything to harm Harry. Maybe it really was just a sleeping potion. Not that he had anything to lose if it wasn’t – death would be more of a release than a torment.
He prepared a cup of chamomile tea and poured half the vial’s contents into it, stirring it a few times before taking a cautious sip. It was bitter, but not unpleasantly so, and he could feel a sense of relaxed calmness start to settle over him. By the time he’d finished the cup he could barely keep his eyes open and it was all he could do to stumble over to his bed and crawl beneath the covers.
His dreams that night were as vivid as the ones he’d had during Fifth Year when he’d been seeing through Voldemort’s eyes. This time instead of being trapped in someone else’s body he was an outside spectator, floating above the ruins of Hogwarts. He could see the shadowy forms of Dementors floating below and was glad that they didn’t seem to affect him in this form.
He could see the rugged outlines of mountains to the north, pitch black against star-studded indigo of the night sky. He knew instinctively that that was where Voldemort’s fortress was, and before he could even finish the thought he was there, floating near the ceiling of a grim chamber that looked as though it had been hewed from the living rock of the mountain.
The Death Eaters were there, all robed in black, their heads lowered in submission before their Master. Some of them, the Lestranges, McNair, Avery, he recognized. Some were young and looked agitated and unsure of themselves, having probably received the Mark at the beginning of the Second War. Voldemort was saying something in his thin, reptilian voice and Harry drifted down closer to hear what it was…
The Dark Lord’s snakelike eyes snapped up as though he had felt the faint displacement in the air and Harry knew that the Dark Lord could see his insubstantial form drifting before him even though no one else was aware of it. Harry couldn’t quite suppress a shiver of fear, wondering if Voldemort had the power to harm him even when he didn’t have a physical body, but to his amazement he let out a piercing shriek that sounded like a mixture of fear and rage. Harry jerked and started to float up and away, seeing the Death Eaters shifting nervously in the face of their Master’s outburst. Harry wanted to linger and see what would happen, but he was being pulled away by some irresistible force…
He was in a clearing in the midst of a pine forest, and Malfoy was standing in the very center looking up at him. Harry drifted slowly downward until he was hovering just a few feet away. Malfoy’s fingers reached up to hover over Harry’s ethereal cheekbone and he smiled. Harry had never seen Malfoy smile like that in the waking world, pure and joyful and free of the madness that always seemed to be lurking behind his eyes when he came to Harry’s flat. Harry thought that it looked beautiful on him.
“Am I here because of that potion you gave me?”
“Yes. I’ve been working on it for a long time.”
“Am I supposed to be doing something?”
Malfoy laughed softly and he smiled again. “Just go wherever your thoughts and the wind take you. Do whatever you feel like. You’re free in this form.”
Harry tilted his head to the side thoughtfully. Free. He hadn’t been free in a long time. He supposed it felt nice.
“Am I going to remember this in the morning?”
“No. Dreams always fade, you know.”
Harry imagined that he could feel the brush of lips against his cheek before everything faded into peaceful darkness.
He woke up slowly, feeling fully rested for the first time in years. Whatever Malfoy had given him really worked.
He picked up Malfoy’s vial and held it up to the light. It was still half full. He wondered if Malfoy would give him more if he asked for it. He didn’t want to go back the sleepless nights, or even worse, the nightmares.
He padded over to the tiny bedroom window and stared outside. The sky was still grey, the air still heavy with the oppressive feeling that came before a summer storm, but for some reason he felt as if a burden had been lifted from him, like maybe there was hope after all.
Some five months later Lord Voldemort’s reign came to an end. The official reports stated that his own attempts to make himself immortal proved to be his downfall – he had been so obsessed with cheating death that he had lost the ability to think about anything else. Convinced that his inner circle was plotting to destroy him and set up a new Dark Lord, he had become increasingly violent and unpredictable until he finally sequestered himself in his fortress with Nagini and refused to allow anyone closer than twenty paces, hissing threats in a mix of Parseltongue and English.
And then one day the Death Eaters arrived at the tower to find Nagini’s body hacked into seven bloody pieces and the Dark Lord lying cold and lifeless on the stone floor with a cracked golden cup and a shattered ritual dagger laying a few pieces from outstretched hand. Rather than attempt to cling to the world Voldemort had created his followers fled, possibly too confused and alarmed by their leader’s demise to think to do anything else. Maybe they were just unwilling to confront the horror of what they had done without someone telling them how to think. In any case, with the Dark Lord’s death the world he had created passed as well and it was time to begin anew.
People started to become cautiously optimistic. In two weeks time ice cream parlors and toy shops were putting up colorful window displays. After one month a new Council formed by several former Aurors and elected representatives from all of the wizarding communities convened in the old Ministry of Magic building in London. A few weeks later they had drafted up a new Constitution for the Preservation of the Rights and Freedoms of Witches, Wizards, and Magical Beings and were circulating it throughout the country.
Harry had known the second Voldemort died. The faded scar on his forehead had burned with a pain more intense than anything he had ever felt before, sending him crashing to his knees. He clutched his head tightly in his hands and forced himself to breathe through the pain. And when it passed Harry felt a sense of euphoria sweeping his body and knew instinctively that the Dark Lord was gone.
Malfoy found him at a small café along the river enjoying a cup of coffee and a rather impressive slice of torte a few weeks later. It was a beautiful day, warm without being oppressively muggy with a bright blue sky dotted with fluffy white cumulus clouds. Even the Muggles were happier and more at ease than they had been just a short while ago, smiling and laughing together where they used to hurry past each other with their eyes fixed firmly on the ground and their shoulders hunched forward. The whole world was infused with a sense of optimism and opportunity, bringing a smile to Harry’s lips for the first time in what felt like forever.
Malfoy was not smiling. Nor was he frowning. His face was perfectly blank, and Harry couldn’t tell what he was thinking.
“Malfoy,” said Harry calmly and took a sip of his coffee. “I thought that you be holed up in Malfoy Manor trying to determine the best way to weasel your way into the new order.”
Malfoy grimaced and sat down opposite Harry. He signaled to the waitress and ordered his own coffee and cake before answering.
“I highly doubt that the Council has any desire to extend pardons to any sons of the Dark Lord’s Death Eaters who then served in his Department of Inquisition. I have no future there.”
“I suppose not.” Harry took a bite of his torte.
“Potter,” said Malfoy, and there was an underlying note of uncertainty in his voice, a hint of plea, perhaps? “I meant it when I said that we’re all that’s left for each other…”
“No.” Harry shook his head firmly. “No. That’s not true anymore. I might be all that you have, but I’m free now. I can do anything I want. With or without you.”
Malfoy didn’t reply and Harry folded his napkin neatly.
“I’m going to Godric’s Hollow. If you want to follow me there, I won’t stop you. But Malfoy –“ Harry’s eyes flickered with the same bright green fire that had burned in them when he was at Hogwarts ready to take on whatever challenge was thrown at him – “if you come, it’s going to be on my terms. Not yours.”
Malfoy met his gaze squarely.
“Your terms, then.”
Harry smiled faintly and dropped a few euros onto the table before moving off into the crowd. Draco watched him until he was out of sight, then took a bite of cake and a sip of coffee. If Harry had seen his face he would have felt that he had seen it once in a dream, a pure, heartfelt smile curving Draco Malfoy’s lips.