Title: All in the Cards (Part 2/2)
It wasn't hard to see why Poindexter Peabody was Slytherin House's whipping boy. He was tall and lanky with mousy brown hair and glasses. He had so many spots, Crowley thought, that he could play connect the dots as self-entertainment.
Peabody was in the Melting Pot, seated at the games table. Unable to find an opponent, he was alternating moves between the black and white pieces. This one was a bit of an odd duck.
"Seen Wentworth?" Crowley asked, hovering over Peabody.
Peabody didn't look up from the board. "Can't talk, Gryffindor. Trying to break my solitary streak of stalemate."
Peabody growled in response. "I'm busy. Piss off."
"All right then. I guess you're not interested in hearing that Whipple wants to polish your wand." Crowley turned around to stick a finger down his thought unnoticed.
Peabody's hand jerked so quickly that he upset several pieces on the white side. "Not so fast, lion. Whipple fancies me, you say?"
Crowley nodded slyly.
"Sit. Sit then."
"Can't stay long," Crowley said, shaking his head. "Need to find Wentworth. He has something of mine."
Peabody picked at one of his pimples. "Oh, right, You're Sebastian Crowley. Lost a rare Chocolate Frog card in a poker game. Tsk Tsk. When are you lions going to learn that we snakes don't fight fair?"
Crowley shrugged his shoulders. "Bit thick, I suppose. Took one too many Bludgers to the head."
"Heard you were telling stories about Malfoy and Potter. Mind if I have a look at that card?"
"Not at all," Crowley smirked, handing it to Peabody.
Peabody pointed to the one fact that contained the letters s-e-x. "This one here. Wentworth says I live vicariously through others."
"You don't say."
"Prat stood me up. Was supposed to play chess with him. Regale me with tales of shagging, and I'll tell you where you can find Wentworth."
"Very well," Crowley said, clearing his throat. "But keep your hands where I can see them."
) O (
"This house is still a shithole," Draco said resolutely.
"It is not," Harry said. "And shh, it might hear you."
"You've sunk a lot of Galleons into the rebuilding of this house. Just as soon as we get one thing done, something else goes wrong. Face it. It's a hopeless cause."
Harry's shoulders sagged. "I can't go back to Grimmauld Place. I just can't."
"This is hallowed ground, Harry. Your parents died here. Perhaps it's not meant for anything more than a gravesite."
Harry flopped in the recliner. "Where are we going to go? I swear to Merlin I'm the anti Midas. Everything I touch turns to shit."
"Don't be ridiculous. We’ll think of something. Both of us are gainfully employed with the Ministry. We could apply for a loan from Gringott's."
"That could take a while."
Draco threw his hands up, exasperated. "Post is here. I'm expecting a letter. Be right back."
Harry summoned a glass and a bottle of firewhisky. Frustrated, he threw the glass in the fireplace. The bottom fell out.
When Draco hadn't returned in twenty minutes, Harry went looking for him. He found him in the swing wearing a stupid little grin.
"You're not going to believe this," Draco said. "But I've been bequeathed the home in Wales."
Harry arched a brow. "Shall I grab my skates, then? Hell has frozen over."
"No, it's true. See, here's the deed."
"Gimme that letter!"
Draco handed Harry the letter and Harry read aloud.
Harry stopped to snort. "Your mother calls you 'pumpkin?'"
"Shut it and read," Draco growled.
Mummy couldn't bear the thought of you living in that hovel any longer.
Harry looked up from the letter. "This is not a hovel."
"Keep going, speccy."
You know your father's a stubborn man, but when I threatened divorce, he was quick to oblige me. Enclosed, you will find the deed to the country home in Snowdonia. I'd much rather you rid yourself of that parasite and come home, but if you must remain in his company, I'd sooner you did so in comfort and luxury.
Your Loving Mother
Draco pushed the letter down two-fingered, peering at Harry. "You know what this means?"
Harry looked back at the house longingly. "What am I supposed to do with the house?"
"Do you really want an answer to that?"
"Fine. I'll owl Ron tomorrow," Harry said with a deflated sigh. "He likes a unique fixer-upper."
Draco slipped his arms around Harry's waist. "Oh, is that why he's with Granger?"
Harry unzipped Draco's trousers, sliding a hand inside the parted teeth. "Shut your gob, ferret-face."
Draco rutted against Harry's fingers. "Why don't you shut it for me?"
And Harry did, crashing his mouth against Draco's in a claiming kiss.
Harry sat in his recliner, tapping his fingers on the chair's arm as he waited for Draco to arrive home from work. When Draco appeared in the fireplace at five, Harry took a deep breath, standing.
He had news.
"Aren't you supposed to greet me wearing nothing but a smile and cellophane wrap?" Draco asked, removing his sooty outer robe.
Harry's expression darkened. "I'm in no mood to play house husband. We need to talk."
Draco shoved his briefcase at Harry. "Honey, did you burn dinner?"
"SOD YOU SIDEWAYS, DRACO!"
Draco shoved a finger in his ear, wiggling it around to stop the ringing. "All right! All right! What seems to be the problem?"
"I know why your mother gave us this house. It was all part of her little plan to get you to move back home."
Draco arched a pale brow in question. "What plan? What are you talking about?"
"We have a poltergeist."
Draco laughed. "A ghost? Oh, c'mon, Harry! Hogwarts had plenty of ghosts. The Bloody Baron. Nearly Headless Nick. Moaning Myrtle, for Salazar's sake. And Peeves was just about the worst of the lot. Nothing we couldn't handle, though. Even as ickle firsties."
"This is different," Harry said, lowering his voice. "Like nothing you've ever seen before." He glanced about the room, paranoid.
"So, what makes this one different? What did he say to you?"
"She," Harry whispered. "She's insidious. Sinister. Menacing, even."
Draco rolled his eyes. "What did she say to you, Harry? Why is she here?"
"Nothing much. Said she wanted to talk to the man of the house. Told her to come back in ten years when you sprouted a dick."
Draco loosened his tie and slipped it from his collar. "Way to troubleshoot. Look, I'm starving. Let's eat already."
"Then you'll deal with this after dinner? She can't stay."
"Yes. Fine. Whatever. Now, what's for dinner?"
"Lentil soup," Harry said quietly.
"Figures," Draco said, sulking. "Should've stayed late at the Ministry."
It was quarter past twelve when Draco came into their bedroom. He calmly sauntered past despite the murderous look on his face. Draco was covered from head to toe in ectoplasmic residue.
Harry hid a smile behind his magazine. "Well?"
Draco slung his wet hair back, splattering the picture behind him with green slime. "The bitch needs to go."
"Didn't go well, did it?"
"No, it bloody did not," Draco said, undressing. He used his underwear to blot dry his face and clean his hair. Somewhat cleaner, he slipped into bed next to Harry.
Harry scooted away. "Euw! You're not even going to shower?"
Draco stretched out, yawning. "I'm too tired after that verbal sparring."
"So, what'd you learn?" Harry asked, turning his magazine around and letting the centrefold drop.
"Well," Draco began, "Her name's Ivana Cocknau. Her and her husband lived in this house over one hundred years ago. Before their marriage could be consummated, though, he was killed in some freak accident. The chandelier fell on him."
Harry flipped the magazine around to show Draco an advertisement. "I think we should order one of these sex swings. We could hang it over the bed."
Draco nodded approvingly, momentarily distracted by the shininess of the sexual apparatus. He shook his head to chase the thought from his brain. "Where was I?"
"The chandelier fell on her husband."
"Oh, right. Anyway, to cut a long story short, she's vowed to uphold, and I quote, the blessedness of chastity and the sanctity of marriage until his return."
Harry's eyes were glued to the magazine. "That's utter rot."
"Well, that's what she told me."
"No," Harry said. "Cock weights for ten Galleons."
Draco very gently pinched the top of the magazine and ripped it from Harry's hands, tossing it over his shoulder. "My cock waits for nothing. C'mere."
After a week of virtually no sleep, Harry resolved to remove Ivana from the house or die trying. She had hid their wands, flushed their toilets mid shower and made their faucets drip up instead of down. But that was not the worst of her torment. That came in the form of her singing, all day and all night, impervious to counter-spell.
Deciding he'd had enough, Harry looked for answers in the one place he hadn't yet; the library. He poured through tome after tome until one dark grimoire fell into his lap. It looked, Harry thought, like it had been pushed from the bookcase. Curious, Harry peered into the dark space between books and saw a pair of eyes.
"Come out, then. I can see you."
A tall, thin apparition appeared before Harry.
"Who're you?" Harry asked, peering at the ghost above the top of his glasses.
The ghost put a thin finger to his lips. "Shh, she'll hear."
A light above Harry's head came on. "Hang on. You're Ivana's husband. You're the one whose return she's been waiting for."
"That's right, boy. Been cooped up behind that book near one hundred years. The solution to your problem, to our problem, lies on page four hundred twelve."
Harry watched as the ghost's eyes followed the minute hand on the grandfather clock.
"Now, if you'll excuse me, boy," the ghost winked, "That's the twefth hour calling. I've a fright to catch. Have to change planes of existence."
"Wait a minute!" Harry shouted after the ghost. "Where are you going? What's your name?"
After twelve chimes the room quieted and the book nuzzled his hand. Harry read the title of the grimoire: How to Live (or Not) with Spirits. Grinning hugely, he ran it upstairs to Draco.
"A sexorcism?" Draco laughed. "We have to shag in every room of the house to force Ivana out?"
"Says here," Harry read, "The fastest way to cleanse a house is to dirty it up. No room should be spared."
Draco slipped from the duvet, naked. "When do we get started?"
"No time like the present," Harry purred. "Bedroom'll be our starting point." Harry twirled his finger about for Draco to face the other way. He spooned up behind Draco and lightly caressed his side. Not wanting to move from such an advantageous position, Harry thought his Accio rather than speaking it. A tube of lubricant flew from the bedside table and landed safely in his palm. Harry wondered what Snape would have to say to his mastering the ideal non-verbal spell.
Harry gave Draco's arse cheek a playful swat. "Stroke your cock for me just the way I like."
Draco took his foreskin between pinched fingers and pulled. "Do you plan to fuck me good and proper now?"
Harry squeezed a dollop of lubricant into his palm, anointing his cock. "I plan to fuck the taste from your mouth." When Draco shivered at the thought, Harry trailed his lube-wet fingers down the cleft of Draco's arse. "Lift your leg."
Cock in hand, Harry gently but firmly pushed, breaching the tight, wet hole. When he was halfway inside Draco, Harry took hold of Draco's leg at the crook of the knee and rolled his hips, sinking his prick the rest of the way inside.
Slamming in to Draco, Harry did the math. At sixty rooms, three shags a night, the next three weeks would be just as sleep deprived. The thought made Harry pound Draco's arse even harder, pushing up at the bend of his knee to slide in deep, then deeper, then deepest.
When Draco's cock was stiff and ridged with veins, Harry curled his fingers around the shaft, thumbing the wet slit. A chill washed through Harry, and he remembered the first time he held Draco's cock, the night he'd forfeited Harry's wand. Draco was just as pliant, just as pleasing as he was all those times ago. When he fell back against Harry, breathless and boneless, Harry was there to catch him. Draco had always walked a tight rope with Harry, and Harry had always been Draco's safety net.
Harry collapsed, pulling Draco down on top of him. Hooking a leg around Draco, Harry stayed inside until his cock went soft and slipped out. By then Draco was fast asleep.
Weeks later, after fucking in foyers, coming in closets, shagging in showers and bopping in bedrooms, Ivana disappeared. Bedridden from bedhopping, Harry was content to lie there with Draco, sated with reflection.
"Think we might pretend to have a poltergeist next month?" Draco asked. "So I can top?"
"My dick needs a break. I tried to masturbate this morning and air came out."
Draco let out a tiny laugh. "I knew this house would be good for us."
"We're good for each other."
"Yeah, we are " Draco said, nuzzling Harry's neck. "You know what they say, don't you?"
Harry extinguished the lights. "If the who fits--"
"Wear him," Draco finished.
) O (
"Checkmate," Peabody grinned in triumph.
Crowley gave Peabody a funny look. "It's not really a victory when you play against yourself. It's just, well, mental masturbation."
Peabody scooted his chair closer to Crowley. "True, but you did tell me to keep my hands where you could see them, yes? I'll take a quick fix anyway I can get it."
Crowley yawned, hoping this last hunt was truly the last. "So Peabody, where can I find Wentworth?"
"It was a most enjoyable story. I suppose I do owe you something." Peabody's hand slipped under the table. "You and I never had this conversation, lion. Wentworth is on the Pitch."
"Thanks, you don't know what I've b--" Crowley jumped when he felt something touch his leg. "Hey, I thought we established a 'hands where I can see them' policy?"
"That's not my hand," Peabody said with a wink.
A light rain was falling on the Pitch, but the Slytherins had still grouped for practice.
"Well, well, well - look who it is, boys. Crowley's come back for another go 'round."
There was a titter of laughter among the snakes.
"You know why I'm here, Wentworth, and I'm not leaving without it."
"Is that so?" Wentworth said, pulling on his gloves. "And if I say otherwise?"
Crowley laid a hand on the tip of Wentworth's broom. It was the one item of Wentworth's you didn't touch without permission.
Wentworth locked eyes with Crowley. "Fine, we'll discuss this in the air. Hand the Gryffindork your broom, Gallows."
Reluctantly, Gallows handed Crowley his Firestorm.
Wentworth mounted his broom. "Do try and keep up."
Crowley followed close behind, stopping to hover just beside Wentworth when they'd found a patch of rainless sky.
"What is it with you and these Chocolate Frog cards, Crowley? What sacrifice did Potter make for Malfoy that was so grandiose? Because you've yet to convince me of anything."
Crowley took the card from his robe pocket and flipped it around. He pointed at each word as he said them aloud. "Post. Tenebras. Lux."
Wentworth arched a brow. "What does a famous Latin quote have to do with anything?"
"Few really see the lightness after the dark, that's what. Shall I press on?"
Wentworth peered up at the clouds. A pinprick of sunshine shone through. He nodded for Crowley to continue.
) O (
"When were you going to tell me you were sick, Draco?"
Draco took the document back from Harry. "What were you doing opening my post?"
"It was an accident. Your sickness, however, appears not to have been. Do not resuscitate? Am I just supposed to let you die?"
"That is generally the meaning of terminal," Draco said. He squared the paper into eight equal folds. "I've always known it would come to this. Ever since I took the job at the Ministry."
"Your precious fucking job you never shared with me."
"I was sworn to secrecy." Draco sighed heavily. "Haven't I given you ten years, Harry?"
Harry looked away. His eyes were clouding. "I wanted twenty."
"And if I'd given you twenty, you would've wanted thirty. It doesn't work that way, Harry. Not in the real world."
"Why, Draco? I just want to know why."
Draco took Harry by the chin, slowly turning his head around. "I think you know why."
Harry shrugged from Draco's grasp. "Your father disowned you, and you barely speak with your mother."
"Shit happens. If I had it to do over again, I wouldn't change a thing. I'm confident with my decision. You'll have to learn to be as well."
The pain was too great to bear, and Harry lashed out. "You had to beat me at something, didn't you?"
"You've beaten me at everything else."
Harry's eyes widened in horror. "You're serious? I was joking."
"I’d be a bloody liar if I said there wasn't some truth to that."
Harry scooted off their bed, standing. He couldn't look at Draco. "How long?"
"Six months to a year."
How Harry had wished those words were a prison term and not a death sentence.
"I'm sorry, Harry," Hermione said, placing her hand over his. "We're all sorry."
"Thanks, Hermione. I just wish I knew more about Draco's illness. Like what caused it. And if there are any treatments."
"Well," Hermione said, "I've read the prognosis. It's not--"
"Just say it," Harry said irritably. "We've known each other long enough not to sugar coat anything."
"Harry, Draco's absorbed a lot of the aftereffects of dark magic. It's ravaged his insides like a cancer. There was still a lot of cleanup after the war, as you know. Aurors doing shadow work make peace with the fact that they're going to leave loved ones behind."
"You make it sound as though I should just accept this fate. I can't."
Hermione squeezed Harry's hand in comfort. "What do you think you should do?"
"Fight this," Harry said simply.
Hermione Accio'ed her rucksack. "There is something, Harry, but you're not going to like it." She handed Harry a piece of parchment.
The address was in a very poor borough of Manchester.
One. Four. Seven. The seven had fallen off its hinge and was dangling upside down. Harry righted the seven and knocked on the door. It opened as far as the latch would allow it.
"Potter," the oily voice spat. "I suppose it was too much to ask never to see your face again."
Harry stood as close to the crack as he could, peering inside. "Open up, Snape. I need a word."
The door slammed shut in Harry's face. He was just about to pound with both fists when the door opened again, and Snape stepped aside.
The house in Spinner's End was dim inside. Tatty, yellowed curtains hung in the windows and the walls were a dull, dingy grey. The décor was brown and the carpets were beige (or at least they once were), and the table beside the sofa was cluttered with papers. A bottle of wine and two glasses had left rings on the faded wood. An expensive port and two glasses. Snape had company.
"I'll cut right to the chase," Harry said, wiping off the sofa cushion before sitting. "Your speech first year. Was it a load of rubbish, or was there some truth to it?"
Snape did not join Harry on the sofa. "By all means, Potter, make yourself at home." He narrowed his eyes and folded his arms across his chest, drumming an elbow with his fingertips. "To which aspects of my speech were you referring?"
"Can you stopper death?"
"No more than I can prevent you from ruining an otherwise acceptable evening." Snape eyed his bedroom door a moment before turning his attentions back to Harry. "This is about Draco's illness, is it not?"
Harry stood abruptly, knocking over a glass. "How do you know about that?"
"Stupid boy, I am his godfather. His mother knows, as well." The corner of Snape's mouth curled up in a smirk. "Should tell you something about your rank of importance."
Harry resisted the urge to pull his wand. "Just answer the question, Snape."
"Draco's illness is untreatable. He took the position at the Ministry against his mother's wishes and mine. If you've come here in search of a cure then you'll leave with only your disappointment."
Frustrated, Harry backhanded the other wine glass from the table. It shattered against the brick of the fireplace. "I'm not leaving here empty handed. There's another way for us to be together, and you're going to help me help him cheat death."
"And who are you to play God, Potter?" Snape asked, contempt in his voice. "I've told you there's nothing I can do, except perhaps supply you with a draught to temporarily arrest the entropy and ease his pain."
"Oil of Gnignol. I'll need it for the spell."
Snape arched a crow-black brow. "What madness are you planning?"
"I've been researching how Chocolate Frog cards are made. I know that a tiny sliver of the soul is required to animate the card, and that Tom Riddle once considered using one as a Horcrux."
"Then I'm certain you know that a full transference by an inept wizard is likely to be unsuccessful."
Harry didn't allow Snape's cynicism to affect him. "Hence the Oil of Gnignol."
"Out of the question," Snape said firmly.
Harry stood. "Fine. I'm sure Rita Skeeter would love to know who you're shagging."
Snape's eyes narrowed to slits. "I won't be blackmailed by an arrogant little snot."
"And I won't be told 'no' by a three-time loser. You have four days."
Snape eyed his bedroom door once more. "I'll need a week."
Harry made his way to the front door. Resting a hand on the knob, he turned to Snape and smiled proudly. "Give Narcissa Malfoy my regards."
"You're not coming with me, Harry. You have a real chance at happiness. With someone else."
Harry took Draco's hand in his. "There is no one else. Ginny's moved on. I've lost my mum and dad, Sirius and Dumbledore. I'm not losing you."
"It's a half life," Draco said softly.
"It's my life, Draco. My decision. It's the light after the darkness."
Draco pushed Harry's hand away. "Dammit Harry, what makes you think you can separate the light from the darkness? You can't even sort your whites from your darks for the laundry."
Harry managed a faint smile. "I'll have you there to help me."
"God," Draco said with a feeble laugh. "I hope there's no laundry after death. You’re sure about this, Harry?"
Harry nodded solemnly.
"I'm scared," Draco said, taking Harry in his arms.
Harry kissed Draco's cheek tenderly. "So am I."
"Have you said your goodbyes?" Harry asked, reaching for Draco's hand.
Draco nodded, intertwining their fingers. "What about you?"
"I've left a will and special instructions. I couldn't tell Ron and Hermione face to face. They'd only try and stop me."
Draco struggled with his words. "I want you to know, Harry, what you're doing for me-- All that you've done for me--"
Harry put a finger to Draco's lips. "It's time." He led Draco into the designated room and drew his wand.
The room was set up as though for the laying-out of a body. In the centre of the room, there was a large frame, the outside of which was also draped in the funerary black crepe.
Two heavy mirrors of silvered glass, three feet in diametre had been procured. One had been set upon the floor, and the other had been suspended from the frame in the centre of the room, directly facing the one on the floor.
Harry Accio'ed a bell jar containing Draco's blood, the Oil of Gnignol and two blank Chocolate Frog cards. He stood in the centre of the mirror on the floor and recited the verses he'd memorised over the past few days.
Death is waiting, be the door.
Mirror, mirror, up above
Keep me with my only love.
As Draco came to join him on the mirror, Harry anointed each Chocolate Frog card with the Oil of Gnignol. He placed one upon the mirror directly above his head and the other beneath his feet, facing the above one. Harry took the bell jar and removed the bottom, reciting the second verse.
Time has come for us to die.
Mirror, mirror down below
Through the Veil, we both must go.
The blood began to vaporise, forming a radiant mist. Within the mist an ellipse formed, looking much like the eye of a cat. Harry led Draco through the ellipse as the cards absorbed the silvering on the backs of the mirrors. The framework and glass vanished into the vortex, and all that remained were the cards, one laying face down upon the other.
It was the last night they would spend in the house together.
Hermione's hands shook as she opened the letter Harry had left behind.
I'm sorry I couldn't bring myself to say goodbye in person. I know how stubborn you both are and that you would try and talk me out of this. Please know that I did this just as much for me as I did for Draco. It was time - for both of us.
Have our cards taken to Hogwarts. It's where Draco and I first met and where we belong. If McGonagall insists upon a ceremony, humour the old gal, would ya?
I just have one small request. A dedication, really. Could you please have the WWN play Siegfried Idyll from me to Draco? It's time everyone knew how I felt.
Thank you for sticking by me and believing in me when no one else would. You two were the best friends a bloke could ever ask for. You're already missed.
No tears, Hermione. It's the last favour I'll ask.
Hermione folded the letter in half and held it to her heart. God, it seemed, wasn't the only one who could separate the light from the darkness.
) O (
Wentworth was oddly silent after Crowley had finished his telling. It was a moment or two before he spoke. "Potter really did that for Malfoy?"
Crowley nodded. "It was the ultimate sacrifice."
Wentworth reached into a pocket and handed Crowley Malfoy's card. "Here. I couldn't find a buyer for it anyway." He gave Crowley a sharp nod and flew off.
Crowley held the two cards in his hands and watched in fascination as both Potter and Malfoy rejuvenated.
The next day the cards were given to McGonagall to be placed on the hearth of the Melting Pot fireplace. Side by side they faced one another, together forever.
Their future, predictably, was all in the cards.