15 May 2008 @ 05:22 pm
Of Eros and Of Dust (1/3)  
Title: Of Eros and of Dust
Author: Lilith ([info]lilithilien)
Fandom: Harry Potter
Summary: Knowing what you want doesn't come easily. Sometimes it can take nineteen years.
Rated: R
Length: 22K words
Disclaimer: All rights to these characters belong to J.K. Rowling and her publishers and agents. I make no claim to ownership and expect no monetary gain, and I'm writing this story purely for enjoyment. I have borrowed one scene (and its dialogue) from Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows. The title is from W.H. Auden's "September 1, 1939."
Notes: I needed to write an Epilogue story to see if I could make some sense out of it. I should probably warn for infidelity, although that's practically a given with Epilogue fic. As is the angst. Character death (not of main characters). As always, I am immensely indebted to [info]sarcastic_jo for encouragement, correction, prodding, and beta. Huge thanks also are due to [info]sweetsorcery for the French translations. All remaining mistakes are mine.


Of Eros and of Dust


Harry's dreams change after Voldemort dies.

Sometimes smooth, white-grey walls frame his nights, the precise dimensions of a rectangle hewn from cloudy marble. Straight right angles and airtight seams, and stone icy cold leeching the warmth from his fingertips.

Sometimes they're wooden planks joined to mimic a man's form. Wide at the shoulders and tapering away to nothingness, they're shaped from lumber so green that Harry's nails split the pulpy grain.

Sometimes there's no marble, no wood, nothing between him and shovelfuls of flying earth. Soft at first, landing like loosely packed snowballs, crumbling to powder on impact. Warm, though, and weighty, he imagines himself burrowing under a pile of homemade quilts. Then a spray of soil blankets his face; when he goes to wipe it away he can't lift his hand. Harry shouts for his nameless executioner to stop, he screams that he's still alive, but his mouth fills with marl. Its taste is foul, its texture gritty and too terribly thick to swallow. Now he can't feel individual shovels of dirt; now he just feels the quilts piling on, heavier and heavier…

It's been almost a year since the battle at Hogwarts. Time enough for the wizarding world to pick itself up—to dust itself off, as it were. Everyone else seems to be fine. Hogwarts is rebuilt, the Ministry reassembled, the Death Eaters imprisoned. Life goes on.

Which makes Harry wonder why hardly a night passes that he doesn't dream of being buried alive. Why he wakes up and stares at his hands, expecting to see jagged fingernails or dirt caked like henna into his skin.

At first he tells himself it's because of the funerals. There were just so many, and Harry attended every one. Of course he would dream about them. It's merely his subconscious trying to reconcile why he's still alive when so many have perished. That's what Hermione would say, he suspects, if he talked to her about it. If her guarded looks and Muggle brochures on shell shock weren't enough proof that he's losing it. That's what Ron would say, albeit in less psychoanalytical terms, if he wasn't still so broken over losing Fred that Harry hesitates to bring up any mention of death.

He wonders what Ginny would say, if they were to really talk someday. Instead they just reach for each other's bodies whenever they're alone, finding comfort in each other's living bodies. Sometimes his eyes blur as his hand cups her breast; instead of her rosy freckled skin he sees grubby fingers surrounded by crumbling red clay.

~~~~~


In the end, it's Malfoy he tells.

Lucius was one of the first Death Eaters sentenced to execution, but for well over a year Lady Malfoy fought steadily for commutation of the verdict. She fails, of course. The Wizengamot hears her pleas (and, Harry suspects, takes her generous bribes), but publicity holds more value than Galleons these days. In the end, justice must be done.

"You're going to his funeral? Why?"

Harry knows Ginny can't understand that Lucius Malfoy is as present in his memories as Remus or even Sirius, or that his dreams won't stop until every one of the funerals is over. In the end, he mutters something about obligation and Apparates to Wiltshire in his best dress robes before she can object.

He remembers the gnarled black gates from his last visit, and the wards that made his skin crawl as the Snatchers dragged him through. Now the gates stand open and the wards are gone, and the place looks nothing like his memories. Harry walks past untrimmed hedges to the once-fine manor house, shocked to see it looks as droopy and neglected as the grave black crape over the door.

A sombre house-elf meets him on the front steps and points out the path to the mausoleum, where a small crowd is gathered outside the ornate Gothic tomb. Mostly women, Harry notes, and mostly Death Eaters' wives that he recognises from various courtrooms. In the centre is a casket of sparkling white marble, the one that appears so often in his dreams. Harry's shoulders brace against the memory of the hard stone slab, his fingers tingle from the remembered chill. The surviving Malfoys stand beside the coffin as if carved from the very same stone, their chiselled faces all planes and sharp angles betraying no emotion. Instinctively Harry joins the receiving line to pay his respects. If Narcissa is surprised to see him, she doesn't show it, just offers a curt nod from under her heavy lace veil. The new Lord Malfoy is less disciplined; for an instant his alabaster mask cracks. It's restored almost instantly, but the break reveals his surprise. Not suspicion, Harry notes with interest, and not anger, which he expects.

Harry moves a respectful distance away, not wanting the presence of an Auror to detract from the grave occasion. He earns a few guarded looks from the guests, but none challenge his right to be here. The service, thankfully, is short; Harry only feels the brief need to clench his fists while the Necromage speaks of Lucius' contributions to wizard-kind. A moment of silence follows these few words, and then Draco points his wand at the casket. It lifts effortlessly, as if made of paper rather than dense stone, and floats into the depths of the vault. As darkness swallows the gleaming marble, Harry wonders if he would have the same presence of mind to send his own father to this final resting place. He imagines his magic would be too erratic to lift a shroud, much less a weighty sarcophagus.

The man Harry feared second only to Voldemort is gone. He should feel something, he knows. Victory, perhaps, or at least the justice that the Ministry constantly proclaims to the masses. But the heavy mausoleum doors shut with a muffled thud, unsatisfactorily, and all Harry can think about is how the stale air would smell inside the vault.

He does not intend to share this thought with anyone, least of all Malfoy. But one minute Draco is standing beside his mother, twin sculptures standing sentry to the dead, and the next he is at Harry's side. For the first time since he was eleven, Harry really studies his childhood enemy. He's not wrong in comparing Malfoy to a statue. His face is a mosaic of pointed angles and smooth planes, nose narrow and plumb, jaw sharp enough that Harry imagines he'd draw blood just by touching it. His fingers itch to test this theory, stilled by the heat in Malfoy's eyes. They're carved from the same marble, but finely buffed a shade darker than the rest; they seem to radiate rather than reflect heat. The contrast is, Harry thinks, rather remarkable. The overall effect lacks a classic beauty, more like the work of a loving sculptor who isn't quite sure when to lay down his chisel, but to Harry's surprise, it isn't nearly as displeasing as he'd always believed.

"I've dreamed about this," he hears himself say, because if he can't tell his secrets to a stone angel, who can he tell?

When Malfoy steps closer, warmth rolls off his body, a scorching pitch that startles Harry. This is no stone angel, he remembers, but a living, breathing wizard, his rival and the grieving son of his enemy. He sees too late how insensitive he was, wonders if he has time to apologise before he's cursed, then holds his tongue when he realises he doesn't really care if he is. He blinks slowly, willing Malfoy to get on with his punishment, when those finely etched lips purse with their own secret.

"So have I."

Harry looks down as Malfoy laces their fingers together. The strangest thing about this is that it doesn't feel strange. His hand fits Malfoy's like it fits around a Snitch, perfectly natural, perfectly right. Harry glances down and lets his eyes blur, expecting to see his hand grubby against unblemished alabaster skin, to recognise the same darkness that swallowed the brightness of Lucius' casket. To his surprise, he can't tell which hand belongs to whom.

~~~~~


Harry expects his dreams to fade as time goes on. After all, there aren't many funerals anymore. Now there are weddings. Ron and Hermione tie the knot first, then Neville and Luna, then George and Angelina.

"We should get married," Ginny says to him one day.

And Harry thinks, "Why not?"

He's always known they would, after all. Ginny had set her mind on it when she'd first seen him at King's Cross. The War ended three years ago. That should have been time enough to recover from his memories, time enough for the world to change. Time enough to start acting like an adult.

"You've got to be fucking kidding me," chortles Draco when Harry tells him. "You've acted like an adult your entire life. I wouldn't be surprised if your horrid Muggle relations made you refill your own milk bottle when you were a sprog."

It should be harder to argue with Draco when they're stretched out on his wide sofa, with his pristine hair dishevelled and fine sculpted lips still swollen from sex. But it seems that's what they end up doing half the time. Their arguments aren't anything like what Harry has with Ginny. They clash over things they care about, or things she thinks he should care about; they're fuelled by anger and eased with compromise. Malfoy, on the other hand, disagrees just for the sake of disagreement, is disgusted with concession, demands nothing less than total surrender. Harry can hardly fault him for it; when they're together he does the same. To his surprise, he's discovered he enjoys this kind of debate. There's nothing like realising his true thoughts when he's defending the other side. And there are few things he finds more thrilling than their seamless blur between debate and debauchery.

"Then you spent your teenage years fighting evil—and stalking me, I might add," Draco continues, tweaking Harry's nipple hard enough to make him gasp. "Hardly what I would call an idyllic childhood. And after you vanquished the biggest bad of them all, you took on the Ministry and the Aurors. You're twenty-one years old, Potter. You've not been slacking as far as adult accomplishments go."

"There's more to being an adult than just fighting the bad guys," Harry insists. "I've always wanted a family with lots of kids. I think maybe it's time I start taking responsibility for someone else."

Harry expected his lover to be upset when he broke the news of his engagement. He didn't expect him to laugh uproariously. "Merlin, Harry," Draco gasps once he can draw his breath, "would you just listen to yourself? All you ever do is take responsibility for others. You must be the least selfish person I know."

"You know too many Slytherins." Draco laughs again, not disputing the point. Harry traces his fingers along Draco's jaw. He remembers he once thought it would cut him. Years later, he knows it as a line of such perfection that he can't keep his hands away. "Besides, I am selfish. I want to keep you."

"And what's your wife going to say about that? Most pureblood families turn a blind eye to affairs, but I can't imagine the Weaselette being so open-minded."

"Don't call her that," Harry corrects him for the hundredth time. "And I'm not sure I should tell her. She knows we're friends, but she wouldn't understand how I need you both."

"Oh, Harry." The sigh would sound like frustration from anyone else, but with Draco tugging a hank of his hair, Harry recognises it for what it is: amusement and as much affection as his lover will ever admit.

Harry can't understand it himself, this need he has for Draco. At first he put it down to pure physical attraction, just something he needed to get out of his system once and for all. After all, he'd given his heart to Ginny long before they made love. He didn't think there was anything left to give Draco.

But from their very first time together, a few days after Lucius' funeral, Harry learns that what he thinks he can give doesn't matter one bit. Draco takes what he wants, what he thinks he's entitled to. It's completely different than what Harry has with Ginny. When they make love it feels passive; Ginny is loving, but content with what he offers. Draco is greedy, always demanding more, never satisfied. There's no position he doesn't want to try, no kink not worth exploring, and very little that he can't get Harry to do with a simple dare. Draco's bedroom becomes the new site of their rivalry; unlike Quidditch, it's a contest they both win.

And maybe it's this enmity, older than his feelings for Ginny or even for his friends, that transforms this … this whatever it is with Malfoy. Maybe it's knowing that Draco doesn't care that frees Harry to need him so much. He can forget the crush of a shallow grave when Draco has him spread-eagled against the wall, his tongue laving Harry's body so long and so deep inside that Harry's cock explodes without a single touch. He can resist the cold marble threatening to leech his life with Draco's sleeping body curled against him, his heat radiating through them, their fingers laced tightly just like that first time. And with Draco, Harry can admit his nightmares and argue about their causes without fearing his lover will start watching him with frightened eyes. Just bringing them into the daylight seems to dim their power in the night.

He's thought more than once about throwing over Ginny for him. Sometimes the only thing that's stopped him is Draco's adamant refusal to admit their relationship. It's the one thing that Malfoy refuses to discuss. "It would ruin you," is all he'll say, and when Harry insists that he doesn't care about ruin, Draco crushes him in his arms and rocks him like a child, saying "I do, Harry, I do," over and over again, until Harry gives in.

"I need you both," he says again.

"I know."

~~~~~


Harry marries Ginny the following spring. Draco refuses to attend the wedding ("bad form," he insists), but he does pick the spot for their honeymoon: two weeks at a private villa in Bali. "So you'll remember me every time your wife puts lotion on your back," he cackles evilly on the eve of the ceremony, working slippery almond oil into Harry's shoulders, smoothing it down the ridge of his spine, massaging his thighs and opening his bottom until Harry begs to be fucked for hours.

Jimbaran Beach is paradise on earth. Harry and Ginny wake to the sweet scent of frangipani trees blooming outside their door, they spend their days walking hand-in-hand down white sandy beaches under towering coconut palms. At night, glorious sunsets steal their breaths away, and more than once they make love under the stars. It's the most romantic place Harry can imagine.

He wonders how Draco knew about it, and instantly feels jealousy stab.

He's vowed not to let himself think of Draco while he's here, not even when Ginny pours lotion on his back—especially not then, when the simplest touch would be enough to harden him. It feels too much like betrayal to make love to his wife when his thoughts are on Draco, and he doesn't care to think closely about which one he would betray.

Harry's dreams return on their fifth night. This time it's a slight variation—he's buried in the sand, with tidal waters seeping through and drowning him—but the panicked feeling is identical. He brushes his teeth for ten minutes when he wakes, but can't get the salty taste off his tongue.

Ginny is worried, of course, and the next day asks at least twenty times if he feels all right. He dreads nightfall, knowing he'll dream again, so when she goes to bed he takes an extra sheet out to the cushioned deckchair. It feels as if he's only just drifted off when his body is squeezed into its narrow box, the tap-tapping of coffin nails sending his heart pounding. When he wakes he finds splinters in the tips of his fingers; his nails are broken where they gouged the deckchair's wooden frame. Too upset to fall back asleep, he listens to frogs croak until daybreak, when he can slip back into bed.

After a few more nights he can no longer hide what's happening and sends a falconet to Jakarta for Dreamless Sleep. He must have eyed it too eagerly when the package arrived, for Ginny cautions him at length about the dangers of addiction. He can't tell her that he only needs it for a few more days, that then he'll have Malfoy again; a potion is a very poor substitute for his lover.


Their international portkey delivers them back to London after midnight. Ginny isn't pleased when Harry wants to go out, but he insists that the time change will make it impossible for him to sleep. He takes time to reassure her with a kiss, despite every cell in his body screaming that he needs Draco now.

He's waiting up; Harry knew he would be. Harry ignores the champagne chilling in the ice bucket and pushes his lover against the wall. Recklessly they rip apart each other's robes, both desperate to get to bare skin underneath. Harry has the urge to tear him apart with his teeth, to bite so deeply that he can taste Malfoy on the inside, to feel his warm blood bubble over his tongue, to do whatever it takes to keep hearing those ecstatic groans that rumble from deep inside Draco's chest. He fucks him there against the wall, fast and fierce, with too little preparation and too much slimy lube to compensate. It's messy, hurried sex, possessive and needy, and it's exactly what Harry needs. What Draco needs too, he suspects, judging by the way "harryharryharryharry" pours from his mouth like an endless mantra of the Balinese priests.

Afterwards they collapse together on the floor, too exhausted even to Apparate upstairs to the bedroom. Draco transfigures a cushion into a mattress and, with his final reserve of energy, hauls Harry into his arms.

"Missed me, Potter?"

"Mmmm."

Harry has a new dream that night. Again he's buried on the beach, sand invading and irritating every crease in his skin. In the distance he hears waves and knows that soon they will crash down and drown him. But then the sand underneath him loosens and shifts, transforms into Draco's body, golden and glistening in the sunlight. When the wave washes over them, Draco undulates to give him room. Their bodies rock together, making love in the shallow surf, and Harry can breathe again. He knows that he'll survive.

~~~~~


He's three hours late when he topples through Draco's fireplace, but for once he has a good excuse.

"Ginny's pregnant!" he bursts out even before the green flames die. "I'm going to be a father!"

"Well, bully for you, Potter."

Harry cocks a wary eyebrow; one of Malfoy's moods, then. It's not the first time. There's a bottle of Laphroaig in arm's reach of the sofa, half empty; Harry hopes it wasn't opened tonight. He takes down a Waterford tumbler; he'd best drink his share to keep Draco from downing it all. "Sorry I'm late," he offers, but it's hard to keep his excitement in check. "There was such a commotion at the Burrow, it was hard to get away."

Draco glares as Harry drops into the high-backed chair opposite him. "I imagine they all must be thrilled. It's not every day the world gets another Weasley. Oh, wait, it is."

The snide remark socks Harry in the gut. He'd hoped that Draco might be, if not excited, then at least gracious. "Fuck you, Malfoy," he growls.

"Not now, Potter. I'm really not in the mood."

That infuriating, airy voice, full of scorn. All of a sudden Harry has the strongest urge to hurl his glass against the wall, wants to see the shards fly wildly, wants Malfoy to bleed from them, just to make sure there's a human being in there. To make sure he's not the one who's made a mistake here. "Damn it, why have you got to be such an ass? Would it kill you to be happy for me?"

Draco lifts his glass, studying its reflections as if they're the most intriguing things he's ever seen. "Truly, I'm overjoyed. I've been terrified that the Potter name might fade into obscurity. Now I can die happy."

Harry's scowl is sharper than cut crystal. "Jealousy's not a good look for you, Malfoy."

"Fuck you, Potter."

There's a warning here for Harry to back off. Instead he slings back Draco's own line. "Sorry, not in the mood." Feeling rightfully petty, he gulps the expensive whisky just to annoy Draco. It works; Draco fires silent hexes from under his heavy-lidded eyes. "Why am I even here? What was so important that you couldn't owl me?"

Draco shrugs, biting his bottom lip. Miffed as he is, Harry stares as it swells into a bruised pout. He knows it tastes of malt and fury, and if it were any other night he might be tempted to play out this game to its conclusion and claim that delectable combination as his reward. But not tonight, not when his family is rejoicing about his son—his son!—and he wants to be with them.

"I'll see myself out then, shall I?" Harry doesn't wait to see Draco shrug again. Quaking with anger, he finishes his drink with another gulp and slams the glass on the side table. "Owl me when you're ready to act like an adult."


It's a full week before an eagle owl taps at his office window. Relief floods through Harry as he retrieves the parchment, but it vanishes the instant he begins reading. The words are like some powerful Narcotising spell; they make his eyes blur and his balance shift. He claws the nearby filing cabinet, holding himself up, not sure whether it's his knees or the ground quaking so violently. The letter bursts into flames, a victim of the uncontrollable magic building in his gut, the same force that sends his wedding picture crashing to the ground. Not even concerned about splinching himself, he Apparates directly to the Manor.

He finds Draco in his office, with his wand levitating grimoires from a nearly empty shelf into a large travelling trunk. Harry clenches his fists as wild magic lashes out again. It interrupts Draco's spell and the books tumble to the floor. "What the fuck are you doing?"

His face hard as stone, Draco gives his wand a measured flick; the books sort themselves and slide neatly into the truck. It's only then that he acknowledges his visitor, but Harry notes that he doesn't sheathe his wand. "I believe my letter made that clear. Mother and I are moving to France. We intended to leave next month, but in light of … present circumstances, we've accelerated our departure."

"You can't go!"

"I'm afraid I can, and I intend to." As Harry quivers with rage, Draco directs the tip of his wand to his heart. "Get a hold of yourself, Potter. I'll not think twice about binding you, Ministry regulations be damned. I've got enough on my plate without cleaning up after you."

It's not an idle threat, Harry knows, and he forces several calming breaths. When the ripples of raw energy fade he lets his human emotion take over. "You're just doing this because of James, aren't you?"

"James?" Draco looks genuinely baffled. "Who the fuck is James?"

"My son."

Draco's mouth opens as if to contest the point, but hangs there. "For once this isn't about you, Potter," he finally says, in a much quieter voice than Harry expects.

Harry thinks of their last encounter and his urge to make Malfoy bleed. He wonders how he could have been so foolish. Everything about his lover is human, blindingly so if one knows where to look, and Harry does: at the almost invisible creases at the corners of his eyes, the minute tightening of his jaw, the heightened definition of the tendons in his neck. It's irrepressibly human, this struggle to maintain control, and Harry's heart breaks to think he could lose this.

"Just tell me why, Draco."

Malfoy breathes deeply before speaking, exposing only a small vulnerability but one that Harry's sure he would expose to no one else. "Because of you, Harry. You always talk about acting like an adult and you've had the chance to do that. You're an Auror, you're starting your family, you've got everything you dreamed of when we were kids. And I'm glad for you, but you're right, I'm jealous."

Harry wants to interrupt, wants to tell his lover that this baby doesn't change anything, that he still needs him just as much, but Draco holds up his hand. Despite not holding his wand anymore, his gesture is as effective as a Silencing Charm. Harry's shoulders slump in surrender.

"I had dreams too, you know. And no matter what you might think, they weren't all that different from yours. I thought by now I'd be developing potions for the Department of Mysteries, maybe even being groomed as a Junior Minister. Don't laugh, Potter! The Malfoys have been part of the Ministry for centuries."

"I wasn't laughing," Harry assures him. "I can still see you doing that, you know, if you wanted to."

Draco's face contorts in genuine pain. "What planet are you living on? It's been five years since the War, and all that's changed is that people switched their prejudices from Muggle-borns to purebloods. Mother's a social pariah and I'm a second-rate clerk at a knock-off potions shop. You think she'll have any luck arranging a suitable marriage for me? We can't even afford to keep up the Manor."

Harry gnaws the inside of his cheek at the mention of Draco's marriage. "But … things are changing. I'm sure they'll unfreeze your accounts soon, I know it's taking awhile but…"

"The Ministry won't back off, Harry. It can't, not with public opinion like it is. Everyone thinks we got off easy, just staying out of Azkaban."

It's hard to dispute what Harry knows is true. The Ministry might preach lofty goals of equality, but in practice it echoes the will of the people who even now clamour for blood whenever a suspected Death Eater is apprehended. Evidence is hardly required; affiliation is enough to destroy reputations and lives. Most of Draco's housemates have already gone abroad for that very reason. If they bear any guilt Harry doesn't know, but more than once he's heard false allegations against the Malfoys. Were he not an Auror, one with the Minister's ear, he knows that they would not have survived this long.

Draco stares at the silk carpet, pretending to study the vines and songbirds woven there, but his body is taut as a piano wire. He looks like he's ready to snap at the slightest provocation, like he's watching for it carefully from the corner of his eye. Harry wonders what it would take. Would storming out of the Manor be enough? Or would begging him not to go be the thing that unravels him?

Harry realises he can't do either. Defeated, he sinks into Draco's comfortable couch; for long moments, the only sound in the room is the creak of worn leather when he moves.

"But … France?" he eventually asks, as if it's up for debate. He despises the words that he's about to say, knows how selfish they are, but he can't hold them back. "What will you do there?"

Draco exhales the breath he must have been holding. "For months now I've been exchanging letters with Professeur Guérin in Limoges. Perhaps you remember his name, he taught potions at Beauxbatons…" He avoids Harry's eye, as if embarrassed to admit that this plan has been in the works for so long. It is a surprise, one that makes it a little hard to breathe, but Harry lets him continue without interruption. "Perhaps not. In any case, he's retired now and is willing to take me on as an apprentice. It's for six years and the salary's abysmal. Still, the Greengrasses have offered to let Mother stay at their villa in Bourdeaux." Draco looks up at Harry, his jaw firmly set and his voice defiant. "It's a good offer, one that I should not pass up even if the Ministry wasn't making life impossible."

There's nothing Harry can say to that. It all lines up too perfectly, straight as coffin nails and just as permanent. Harry wishes he could rage against it, tear back the planks to reveal spongy wood rotting underneath, but there's no flaw here. This is Draco finally getting a chance at the life he wants—at the life Harry wants him to have. Harry can't rip it apart just because he's not part of it.

"It is a good offer," he concedes, making sure his voice sounds stronger than he feels. "It … really, it sounds perfect for you. You'll make a great Potions master. I think– I know that Snape would be proud."

Draco's eyes lift with the corners of his mouth, and Harry's surprised by how relieved he looks. He wonders if his lover really expected him to object; he wonders what he would do if he had. All thoughts he can't allow himself to ponder. Instead he forces a smile, even if he can't feel it reach his eyes. "Just one question, Malfoy. Do you even speak French?"

"Bien sûr," Draco replies, his return smile both grateful and brilliant. "Quel enchanteur cultivé ne parle pas français?"

Harry smirks. "Did you just call yourself a pompous git?"

"No," scoffs Malfoy. "I said that you're an imbecile who's wasting valuable time when you could be riding my cock." He moves closer to Harry, who takes his hand and pulls him the rest of the way, wanting his lover's body covering his, his solid weight wiping every thought from his mind.

From the moment Draco's lips touch his, Harry knows that this will be one for his Pensieve. His clothes are peeled back, piece by piece, like the skin of an exotic, unnameable fruit; Malfoy's mouth savours the meaty pulp as each inch is revealed. There's no part of Harry's body that doesn't possess some delicious fascination. Toes, elbows, backs of knees, all are worthy of worship by tongues and teeth and tips of fingers. His lover moves slowly, deliberately. He holds Harry at a simmering boil for far longer than Harry thinks he can stand, then retreats just before he explodes. It feels exactly like their usual frenzied fucking but slowed to quarter-speed, stretched out so long that time and space become meaningless and Harry's entire universe is Malfoy. He whimpers shamelessly, begs without remorse, cries that he will die if Draco doesn't fuck him. By the time he does, Harry has passed far beyond any notion of his own needs. Draco takes, and Harry wants nothing more than to give, to give more than he ever has before. He offers his body up, willing Draco to do with it as he pleases. When he finally climaxes it's with Draco's voice in his ear, insisting Harry come, demanding to feel his muscles milking him. Harry obeys with nothing more on his mind than Draco's pleasure.

Sweat-soaked and sated, neither moves for ages, long after their chests have gone cold and sticky. Even then Harry is reluctant to pull away. Draco's heart still beats hard against his chest, his lungs still rise and fall unsteadily, and Harry takes immense pleasure just knowing he's had such an effect on his lover's body.

But time refuses to stop for them, and just before they're sealed painfully together, Harry pulls away and finds his wand.

"Shouldn't you be at work?" Draco asks as Harry's cleaning spell shimmers over him.

"Shouldn't you have asked me that hours ago?" He considers a refreshing spell too, but decides against it. He's not eager to erase the heady smell of sex.

Draco smile is pure Slytherin. "I would have, but I was afraid you'd leave."

The words, so close to what Harry wants to say, throttle Harry's tongue. Draco understands, though. Wordlessly he pushes Harry into the couch and stretches out beside him, kisses him deeply, as if they hadn't made love just moments before.

Not able to look at Draco, Harry winds his fingers through cornsilk hair. They've been lovers for four years and still Harry's never got over just how soft it is.

"If I begged you," he asks, "if I begged, would you stay?"

Draco is quiet for a long time, his thumb stroking complicated patterns along the curve of Harry's hip. "Don't ask me to answer that, Harry," he finally says. "There's nothing for us here, you know that. You know this is the right thing."

Harry thinks that perhaps he was wrong about Draco not caring. "What if I spoke to Kingsley again?" he asks, desperate to hang onto this new truth. "Maybe he can push the investigation on your accounts…"

Draco's fingers brush his lips into silence. "No, Harry. You've done more than enough. At least we won't lose the Manor. I'll always owe you for that."

Harry shakes his head, his voice miserable. "I only did what was right."

Draco says nothing, just fumbles blindly until his fingers reach Harry's wand on the floor. Their ease with each other's wands always amused Harry; as Draco ignites a roaring fire, Harry belatedly wonders if it says more about them than he ever wanted to admit.

They both watch as crimson sprites dance with their reflections across the white marble hearth. Despite the warming room, Draco pulls Harry closer, acting as if he's cold, as if he's not the one that Harry insists has an 80000 BTU furnace powering his magical core.

"France isn't that far away," he says, pressing his nose into Harry's cheek.

But they both know it is.

They doze after that, waking with erections that demand consideration, attending to them with more care than usual. Even afterwards they postpone the inevitable, sharing reminiscences that don't stray too far into melancholia, buffering them with comforting touches when they do. At last, though, they can't deny the time. They dress themselves, as matter of fact as they can be, becoming more timid with each other the more clothing they don. Finally, with one last look at this familiar room, Harry tosses Floo powder into the flames. He turns back to Draco, smiles to see the smirk frozen on his face.

"I'll write."

"I won't."

Harry closes his eyes and steps into the marble hearth. Thirteen years will pass before he lays eyes on Draco again.

~~~~~


Harry remembers how Uncle Vernon said a person could get used to anything. Not when it came to his nephew, of course; mentioning magic never failed to make him vibrate with fury. But when Dudley groused about getting up for school or Aunt Petunia bemoaned the fact that the drill factory would keep him late again, Vernon Dursley always said the same thing: "A person can get used to anything."

Harry's not sure when Uncle Vernon's words became more important to him than those of Sirius and Professor Dumbledore. He supposes it should bother him. It probably would, if he had the energy to get worked up about anything these days. But no one rebukes the father of a newborn when his eyes drift shut in staff meetings. His colleagues tiptoe past his desk when they catch him in a catnap, head fallen over folded arms. They stop asking him out after work, assuming that now he's a family man he needs his rest more than a pint.

Harry doesn't mind that much. Evenings formerly wasted in the pub are now spent in a nearby Muggle gym. Free weights and running tone his body, turning his lean teenage frame into a trim, muscled adult and wearing him out enough to sleep in short spurts. He's used to catching fifteen minutes here, an hour there. He's become a master of balancing Dreamless Sleep and Pepperup Potions, and if he feels a little edgy after overdoing the Pepperup, it only seems to make him better at his job. His record proves that, arrest after arrest, award after award. At twenty-four, he's the most decorated Auror in the Ministry; on his twenty-fifth birthday, he's promoted to lead the whole division.

It's worked out just as well at home. James is a fitful baby; the one time he slept for four uninterrupted hours was a red-letter day in the Potter household. It's Harry who gives him his bottle in the middle of the night, who walks him for hours until he falls into a restless sleep. Harry loves this time with James. He's never got over that amazement he felt the first time he held his son, so fragile and perfect. When it's just the two of them awake, and he sees the comfort that baby James takes from him, that wonder grows.

But sometimes, in that darkest hour of the night, Harry wonders what could destroy the rest of someone so young and innocent. James' shoulders are round and soft, unburdened by the weight of the world's ills, and his forehead is smooth and remorseless. His lungs, though, they rend the night with the screams of a sorely troubled soul. Harry doesn't laugh when Ginny says that James' cries sound just like his. He reads a Muggle text on genetics and fears that his nightmares clamped onto a stray allele and passed from him to his son. He looks forward to the day James can talk so he can tell him that he's sorry.

His nightmares don't get any better, but at least they don't get worse, as he had expected after– after James was conceived. He's still told no one else about them. Ginny knows, of course—he's woken her up so many times that she suggested they sleep in different beds—but after the umpteenth time she fussed over him, and he told her under no uncertain terms that he hadn't expected to marry Molly, she's kept her worries to herself.

She watches him, though, and he can tell those worries remain, unspoken. Which is fine with him. It was easy to analyse these nightmares about his death with someone who was once his enemy, but he can't bring himself to broach the subject with his wife.

That's because they're not nightmares about your death, Potter. They're nightmares about your life.

Draco lied, of course. He writes to Harry every few months. Mostly his letters are descriptions of his apprenticeship, sometimes in such detail that Harry wishes he'd paid more attention in Snape's class. He also asks questions about the potions Harry takes and his reactions to them. Draco insists his interest is purely clinical; if he cautions Harry to go easy on the Dreamless Sleep, his warning that simpletons have precious few brain cells to sacrifice removes any hint of mothering.

There's gossip too: Parkinson shagging a Muggle accountant behind Zabini's back, Nott getting arrested for hawking Dark relics, Goyle contracting a particularly ferocious strain of Wizard's Clap from a prostitute in Ibiza. Harry knows more about the Slytherins now that they live across the Channel than he ever did when they were in school.

So the news of Draco's engagement should not have come as such a shock. The Greengrasses appear often in these missives, not surprising since Narcissa stays with the family, but there's been no special mention of the youngest daughter. An arranged wedding, then, a lifemate chosen by lottery. Pureblood propriety and obligation, and Harry blames that for the line that closes Draco's letter:

I would be honoured if you would attend.

Harry stares at the formal script for ages, the curlicues winding like untravelled roads across the parchment. He smoothes his palm along the surface of his desk, but no longer notices the towers of files balanced precariously there. Instead he recalls the deep umber grain of Draco's mahogany desk, how just seconds after delivering the news of his own engagement he's bent over it with his pants bunched around his ankles and Draco demonstrating just what a terrible idea marriage is.

In the end, though, it's Draco who helps him go through with it. On the eve of his wedding, still slippery with sweet-smelling oil, Harry battles the fiercest nightmare he ever had in his lover's presence. Draco hugs him close and reminds him that this is what he wants. With a ginger-haired litter all flinging around Ministry-approved happy spells, Draco insists, Harry can be happy. And, he snarls, he refuses to hand-hold while Harry deals with the guilt of abandoning the Weaselette at the altar.

Draco wanted him to be happy, Harry realises, and it's only now, with their positions reversed, that Harry knows what that must have cost him. For the first time, he understands that Draco is stronger than he is. It's been two years since he's seen his former lover and still he doesn't have it in him to hand Draco over to another.

His owl eagerly ruffles her feathers when Harry takes out a clean sheet of vellum, but she grows increasingly agitated as he discards draft after draft. Eventually she gives up, showing her displeasure by tucking her head under a tawny wing. He continues to write, oblivious to the owl, unaware of anything but feigning a generous spirit when the letters spilling from his quill keep spelling out "you're mine" in a hundred different ways. It's only by mimicking Draco's formal tone that he can pen a few acceptable lines:

Warmest congratulations. I hope your life with Asteria will be every bit as happy as mine with Ginny.

I regret that I will be unable attend the wedding.

Harry


That night, Harry bench-presses more weight than he ever has. He doesn't stop, not even when his trainer watches with a worried eye, not until he's drenched with sweat and his arms feel like soggy noodles and he's so exhausted that his muscles scream. He surprises Ginny, and himself, by wanting to make love, right then, no matter that she's in the middle of cooking dinner. He takes her on the couch, and it's rougher than usual, though not nearly as rough as he wants it to be. She feels too yielding as he ploughs into her, her touches too careful, her lips too quiet. Harry comes with his face buried in one of Molly's knitted cushions, barely able to breathe, and it's not enough, not nearly enough.

A person can get used to anything, he reminds himself, and he wonders if it is true.


On to Part 2


Note: I should mention my preference for "Asteria" rather than "Astoria." Asteria, the Titan who escaped Zeus by turning herself into an island, fits the same naming scheme as Daphne, the Greek nymph who escaped from Apollo by turning herself into a laurel tree. In choosing these names, it might reveal some problems that the Greengrasses must have had with daughters, but I think they would have been consistent. So that's why I've done it this way.
 
 
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쉘리 I whip my hair like Bang Bang: buffy - willow woe[info]sdk on May 26th, 2008 03:41 pm (UTC)
I just wanted to say--you're breaking my heart!

(off to read the next part--but sheesh, woman!)

It's so lovely so far--those dreams, the way you described dreaming of death, of being buried alive--haunting and wonderful--I'm just too busy clutching my heart to properly compliment your writing! ;)
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Lilith: hp-h/d kiss[info]lilithilien on May 26th, 2008 03:50 pm (UTC)
*hugs* Thank you for reading, but now I'm really frightened it'll be too much angst for you!! I promise, though, it will turn out okay...
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쉘리 I whip my hair like Bang Bang: hp - h/d holding tight[info]sdk on May 26th, 2008 04:23 pm (UTC)
Oh no! Not too much angst. I can handle angst as long as it's all okay in the end (does that make sense?) It's those angsty fics where one of them is dead or they don't end up together, etc., that's when I get a bit weepy. And weepy is okay, just not with my OTP. lol
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Lilith: gen-highgate cemetary[info]lilithilien on May 26th, 2008 05:07 pm (UTC)
That totally makes sense! Personally I love the angst (as long as it makes sense -- angst for the sake of angst really turns me off) but character death is really hard for me to read. (I should say character death of my OTP; anyone else is expendable.) In my mind, they always end up together. Even in my most open-ended fic, there's a possibility of reconciliation.

I promise, my next fic has almost no angst. Just a lot of smut. Which is why it's taking forever!!!
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