"Death is, to most of us, the most terrible word we know. But when we have tasted its reality, it will mean to us birth, deliverance, a new creation of ourselves."
- George Merriman.
The night before the War ended, Draco slept with Harry.
The thin curtain they'd hung in the tent gave an illusion of privacy only. It certainly didn't keep out the noise of Harry tossing and turning, muttering, mumbling, grinding his teeth and thrashing against the pillow. Draco stared at the stretch of canvas above him as sleep fled further with every sound, until he finally snatched up his blanket and pushed past the curtain to the other half of the tent.
Harry jerked into paranoid wakefulness as he slipped in beside him, but Draco was ready for it, and clamped down on Harry's wrists before he could really get violent.
"What are you doing?" Harry demanded, and Draco knew he wasn't as alert as he sounded, just good at faking it.
"Go to sleep, Potter."
It was impossible to settle comfortably on these narrow cots - harder still with two bodies sharing - but Draco tried. At least it was warmer, bodies and blankets doubling up. Harry stayed stiff as a board beside him, back against Draco's chest. "Where's Ginny?"
"Not here." As if that wasn't fucking obvious. If Ginny wasn't still out on her patrol, she'd be the one lying here, soaking up Harry's restlessness with the sop of her presence. But she was still out, God knew where, and it was left to Draco to try to recall her gentleness into his own body, to try to lull the complex congregation of nerves that was Harry into some sort of rest.
That wasn't how things usually worked between them. The 'sleeping together'. The soft twine of limbs. They were perfunctory, when 'they' happened. Straight off patrol or after the bad news came in, with adrenaline jerking every action. A hard-and-fast handjob against a tree, the vicious pinned-down bite of a kiss, a blowjob like a dizzying explosion of sensation. Just more ways to beat off the frustrations of this stupid War against an enemy they couldn't even find.
"Just go to sleep."
Harry let out a breath like a demon, and after that it was less like sharing a bed with a slab of granite. Relaxation as much as any of them could manage these days. Draco draped his arms around Harry - no room for personal space anymore - and tried to find sleep himself.
He woke with Harry's hair sticking to his face, and Ginny looking down at them. His left arm was dead, Harry's shoulder pressed hard into the nerve in the soft almost-armpit part of Draco's upper arm. Ginny's eyes were the colour of the light spilling through the flap of the tent behind her. It was almost dawn; the night patrols would just be coming back.
He met Ginny's eyes, and she looked like a woman this morning, older than all of them, inscrutable with secrets Draco could never know and sadnesses that were beyond him.
The next instant, Harry was awake in his arms. "What?" he demanded, the single syllable echoing under Draco's hand on his chest.
"The patrols are in," Ginny said. "We think we've found him."
Harry swung out of bed, pushing back the blankets and Draco's arm. He snatched a pair of jeans off the floor, and was still fastening them when he pushed past Ginny and out of the tent.
Draco sat up more slowly, wincing as pins-and-needles pain flooded into his arm with waking sensation. Rubbing the back of her neck, Ginny sat down heavily - but carefully - on the rickety fold-out chair. She was still wearing her mottled grey patrol gear, with make-shift charms tied around her neck and wrists with string. Her hair was pulled back in its unforgiving braid, sliding heavy over her shoulder as she slumped forward, elbows on her knees.
"Not following him?" Draco asked, massaging his upper arm, working down to his elbow.
She looked up at him. "I'd just end up chasing him all over the camp, hearing arguments I've already heard. He'll come back here."
Now that he had painful use of his arm back, Draco stood up, picking his blanket out of the tangle on the bed. "Rough night?"
"I was going to ask you the same thing," she returned.
He shrugged, and pushed back past the curtain to his own half of the tent. "Nothing special. Just restlessness." He dropped his blanket, rummaging through the trunk at the foot of the bed until he found a pair of trousers.
There was a rustle behind him as he finished fastening them. He looked over his shoulder, where Ginny had stepped past the curtain. He turned back and rummaged again for a shirt.
"Sorry I wasn't here," Ginny said.
Draco shrugged into the shirt. "More important things. So what's the news?"
His fingers stopped on the buttons as her hands closed around his wrists. She pushed his arms wide, and stepped forward against his bare chest, releasing her grip to wind her arms around his waist, under the loose shirt. The rough fabric of the patrol gear chafed Draco's skin. She lay her head on his shoulder, and Draco felt the scrape of her eyelashes against his neck as she blinked. "It was Neville's patrol. Found a coven of Dark Wizards hiding in a copse five miles north of Tanning Minton."
Draco folded his arms around her, across her shoulders, crossing over her back. "Are they -?"
"No." Ginny sighed and shifted in his arms and repeated, softer, "no. They weren't seen. They came back and told us. We've been all night following it up. And it's them, Draco. It's him."
Him. Voldemort. They'd found him. Draco stood in the tent, holding Ginny Weasley, and realised that this might be it. This might be it.
Letting out a breath he hadn't realised he was holding, Draco tilted his cheek against the top of her head. If he turned slightly, he could breathe in the smell of her hair: no-nonsense, restrained, the flowery under-scent barely there.
Beyond the curtain a hand slapped against canvas, and for a moment the noise of the camp stirring outside was louder, before the tentflap fell back into place. Ginny slipped from Draco's hold like smoke, and pushed past the curtain without a backwards glance.
When he followed her out, buttoning his shirt unhindered, Harry was fighting his way until his own combat gear. Pulling the shirt over his head left his hair even more disordered than usual. He barely spared Draco a glance before turning to pull his wand out from under the pillow. "It's Voldemort."
"So I hear," Draco said. "We're going in? I'll pick the squad myself."
"I'm not waiting for them," Harry declared. "They'll just slow me down and he'll be gone again by the time we get there. I'm going now, and I'm going alone."
"No." They both looked at Ginny. She was standing near the tent entrance, arms folded across her chest. "I'm coming with you."
Draco never knew whether Harry would have let her. Maybe Harry didn't know either, wrestling with the possible danger to her versus his need for her support. He certainly didn't hesitate in opening his mouth - leading for this long had taught him that much - but Ginny gave him no opportunity to say anything.
"We can argue about this until the squad is ready anyway, or we can go right now. Your choice."
Harry closed his mouth and shrugged. "Fine. C'mon then." He shoved his wand into its pocket in the trousers, and pushed past her out the door.
Ginny had turned to follow when Draco called her name, and she paused, half-crouching to the tent-flap. Her smile was fleeting, and the kiss she pressed to Draco's lips more fleeting still.
Then she was gone.
Afterwards, they raised a monument in the forecourt of Hogwarts to Harry and Ginny, the heroes of the War. The heroes who'd finally defeated Voldemort. The fallen heroes.
They had the funeral service there, because there were no bodies to bury. There wasn't anything, in fact. The battle had taken place in a little valley that was now seared so perfectly clean that there wasn't a single clue as to what had happened before, during or after the huge surge of magic that had seemed to shake the world.
Draco hadn't wanted to believe it, but he'd walked the ash, before they'd sealed the valley off entirely and made the drive from Tanning Minton to the next village a minute shorter. In the middle of the valley were the charred remains of three wands, one a little apart, two together, one on the other, like a little pile. Draco's kick had shattered it, sending charcoal and cobweb ash spiralling into the grey afternoon.
On the statue, they both had their wands, Harry's clutched in his hand by his side, Ginny's raised and poised for use.
Lupin spoke at the service, drawn and old and serious. Ron too, brief and stark with his face so pale his freckles looked painted on. There'd been a suggestion that Draco speak, but he had nothing to say. Not to this crowd. Not to this statue.
He stayed on the fringes, kept to himself, lurking near the doors at the top of the steps, away from the crowd clumped in teary bundles. The remaining Weasleys formed an impenetrable scrum. As the benediction was read, Hermione emerged from their midst and came up the stairs towards Draco. Her face was free of tears, and haggard with that same bleak pain she'd worn since the end.
She stood beside him on the steps and said nothing. Draco wondered if this was a cathartic ritual for her. If this was helping to lift the heavy stone that weighed down her nights. She'd be able to move on from here. Time would soften her face.
He didn't say what he was thinking, which was: "This is bullshit."
Instead he said: "It's a nice day for it."
Hermione took a deep, shuddering breath. "Yes," she said. "I suppose it is."
It was a nice day. The best spring had to offer, bright and brittle and full of potential. The intoning over stone ended, and the crowd began to shift and shimmer.
Hermione looked at him with concern in her eyes, and he wondered if feeling sorry for him helped her stop feeling sorry for herself. "We all have to find peace, Draco," she said.
"I haven't really been looking," he admitted.
"Maybe you should."
As she descended the stairs again, returning to the Weasley huddle that opened to draw her in, Draco realised she was right. He should.
He got a motorcycle, because he'd never been very good at these Muggle vehicles, even when Harry had insisted they all learn. But a motorbike was close enough to a broom. There were similarities. There was an instinct. And he didn't want to do this the magic way. He almost considered leaving his wand at home, but in the end he stowed it in his jacket pocket.
The valley was the obvious place to start, but when they'd sealed it, they'd done a good job of it. Draco felt a certain satisfaction about that. The line was invisible to the eye, intangible to the magical sense. None of that stupid storybook nonsense about turning quickly and catching a glimpse of something from the corner of your eye. It was only because he'd been there, because every little futile detail was scored into his brain, that Draco knew that when he sat here on the hillside, his feet were a mile apart.
He sat there as the sun set, staring at scenery that wasn't a part of the world anymore. When dusk settled its deep blue mantle over the world, he stood up, and pulled a roadmap out of the pocket of his leather jacket. It was a Muggle map, and obviously wrong in quite a few places, but it told him more or less what he needed to know.
There'd been a faint haze in the sky - it was warming up towards summer now - but it dissipated into evening. Below, in the valleys around his hill, pinprick lights were stuttering into being. Over towards the left there was a cluster forming, but he'd leave the village until last. He unfolded the map until it spilled off his lap in all directions, flat and dumb and despairing.
Then he refolded it, and let his feet take him down the hill, thinking with need. Thinking like a survivor.
It was difficult. Draco was going on guesswork, intuition, a stupid desperate hope. He was a sinister figure knocking on a late spring evening, and not everyone would open the door to him, even with the trustworthy glamour cast. A spell that was, technically, one of those things they weren't supposed to use. He'd never been very good at those sorts of rules.
It worked. Against everything he could reasonably expect, a suspicious old man squinted around his doorframe at Draco, and said that he hadn't seen anyone, but things had been slightly odd in his barn. Like perhaps someone had spent the night in there, gone again before he rose in the morning.
The faintest of possible trails. But it was all he needed. He'd had no right to a hope, and now that he had one, he wasn't going to let it go. He held on, no matter how many turns it took, how desperately the trail tried to throw him. It took two slow, methodical, back-tracking and insistent weeks. Two weeks to cover the ground that had probably taken them three days. Maybe four. Draco couldn't be certain.
Every second of it was worth it for the moment a bored shop girl in a tiny village snapped her gum and said: "Dunno about the fella, but she comes in for bread and milk every Wensd'y."
Draco could have kissed her, badly-bleached hair and pink lipstick and all.
The house was old, so old it was teetering on the border between derelict and heritage-listed. Draco didn't even need his wand to break in. The rooms were still and stuffy with neglect. He bypassed the uncertain stairs leading upwards, and checked the lower rooms, moving through a breathless drawing room into a mildewed dining room. Beyond, a short dark passage led to the old kitchen. It was paved with rounded, worn-smooth stone, and the light through the windows was tinted green by encroaching ivy.
Dust shifted behind him, and Draco whirled, wand out and ready, fast as paranoia.
Still too slow.
The scruffy figure in the doorway was barely recognisable as Ginny Weasley. Her hair was all hacked off short in clumps and spikes, darkened with dirt. Her face was gaunt. Her clothes were old and Muggle and torn.
Her shotgun was pointing straight at Draco's chest.
"Don't say a word," she rasped.
He kept his mouth shut. Sure, Muggle firearms were useless against magic, but at this range, she could pull the trigger and have his internal organs plastering the wall faster than he could cast.
"Drop the wand," she ordered.
It clattered on the stone floor, sparking once. She didn't spare it a glance. Draco raised his empty hands, palms out.
For a long moment, he thought it wouldn't matter, and she'd shoot him anyway.
Then she lowered the barrel of the shotgun, just a little. The tiniest relaxing.
"You look like shit," she said.
They'd set up their camp in the cellars of the house, down cool stone stairs in the kitchen and along a tunnel that smelled oppressively of damp earth.
Harry wasn't sleeping well. Draco could tell that from the first glance thrown up to the door from where he was slouched on the floor by the feeble fire. Just a dispirited glace from deep-shadowed eyes, and then another. Sharper, this time, jerked out of him with a spark when he registered not what he expected, but something else.
"Look what the cat brought in," Harry said, voice flat but not hard. Not anything.
"You can talk," Draco returned. "Been dragged through a hedge backwards recently?"
Ginny pushed him aside as she came in, tossed a bag to Harry with a rustle of plastic before she leaned the shotgun in the corner near the door. Harry pulled a bundle of carrots out of the bag, and produced a paring knife from somewhere. He started slicing a carrot into a pot of water sitting over the fire.
"Shall I...?" Draco didn't know what he was going to ask Ginny.
"Whatever." She rolled up her sleeves as she moved over to join Harry by the fire.
He couldn't just sit down. He glanced around the room. That's all it was, just a single room. There was another doorway, but it had been bricked in, who knew when. In the far corner, where the bare firelight didn't quite reach, Draco could just make out a jumble of folds and shadows - blankets and bedding, he realised. Closer, they'd brought two chairs down from the dining hall upstairs, and a barrel made a table.
Draco looked back to the fire. It turned the two faces leaning over it orange, brought them together in its glow. They worked in tandem, Harry and Ginny, reaching and stirring and feeding the fire without speaking. They looked... fine. Despite their thin, dirty faces, they seemed to be fucking untouched.
Not precisely what he'd expected.
Ginny looked up at him, her mouth twisting into something that might be a distant cousin to a smile. "Bring down another chair from upstairs?" she suggested.
Draco nodded. "OK."
"Draco." Harry's voice stopped him in the doorway, made him look back. "Be careful with the chairs. Some of them are almost rotten."
Draco nodded again, more slowly this time. "OK."
Dinner was rabbit, stewed with carrots and some unidentifiable root vegetable. It was consumed in silence. Neither Harry nor Ginny seemed inclined to speak, the one staring into the dark corners of the room, the other engrossed in her bowl (fine china, ancient and brittle, pilfered from the house above). The one time Draco tried to say something - anything - he'd opened his mouth and the silence had climbed into it, thick and pushing. He ate rabbit instead, chewed and swallowed.
After they'd finished, Harry gathered up the bowls and spoons and rinsed everything in a bucket of cold water. Draco watched him, extraneous on his extra chair. They'd been out here for more than two months now, without wands, without magic. Without him.
Ginny pulled blankets from their pile, making a place for Draco to sleep in the other corner. She came back to bank up the fire for the night and light a half-melted candle from its embers. Harry finished, and brushed past her towards the other end of the room, drying his hands on his shirt.
Draco found his voice where it had hidden. "Thank you," he told Ginny.
She looked at him for a long moment, and though it was hard to tell in the bare candlelight, he didn't think she smiled. "Good night, Draco."
He watched the circle of candlelight as it passed into the dark end of the room. Harry was already a rumpled lump under the blankets. Ginny set the candle down on a low surface beside their bed and in one smooth movement pulled her Muggle shirt up and over her head. The pale skin of her back shimmered in the candlelight, sleek and perfect and unmarked.
She bent and blew out the candle.
When Draco crawled into his own blankets, they were soft and worn and smelled of Harry and Ginny. Across the room, he heard the soft silences of sleep not happening.
When Draco woke the room was lit with faint grey light filtering in through the doorway and a musted, clogged window high on the wall that he hadn't even noticed the night before. Dust motes danced on the weak beams as they fell on the bed. There was one body still in it. Red hair was faded by the light.
Draco pulled on his t-shirt as he crossed the room and climbed the stairs into the dawn-lit kitchen. The sun wasn't even fully over the horizon, he noticed as he let himself out of the house and went in search of a bush to piss behind.
On his way back to the house, he noticed a flash of movement at the bottom of the slope, where the overgrown lawn of the house ended in a stone wall and bedraggled forest began. Draco changed direction mid-step, and loped down towards the wall.
It was amazing how the world went on. It was amazing how this was just like so many mornings before.
Harry was sitting on the top of the wall, facing the forest where dew dripped from leaves onto mossed bark. Draco leaned against the wall beside him, the stone old and cold under his hands. They breathed the sparse, empty dawn air and Draco could almost believe that in a minute they'd turn around, walk back to camp, go out on their patrols. That this was five minutes snatched before a frenzy.
They had nothing to do. Nowhere to go. No one to be.
Harry was shirtless in the cool morning. He was thin. The muscles his duty had shaped were atrophied. When he breathed in, his ribs showed against his skin. A livid, raised wound healing towards scar ran down the centre of his chest, from where his collarbones met almost to his navel. It was straight as the stroke of a knife.
Draco curled his fingers around the stones of the wall. "Aren't you going to ask me?"
"What about?" Harry asked the trees.
"Ron. Hermione. Lupin."
Harry took a deep breath of grey morning air, his bifurcated chest rising. "No," he finally said.
Draco's hands smelled of the wall, of the forest, of the morning when he raised them to his face. "What happened, Harry? At Tanning Minton."
When Harry turned to face him, the skin in the pits of his eyes, near his nose, was dark grey. The weal on his chest was worse from the front, red and angry and whiplash biting. "We found Voldemort," he said, like he was talking about rabbit stew. "We destroyed him."
There were a hundred things Draco wanted to know. A hundred questions he couldn't ask with Harry staring at him like that. He kept his mouth shut.
Harry nodded once, brisk, like something had been decided. "See you later," he said, and turned to take two running steps and a leap into the brush of the forest. In three seconds and a rustle of foliage, he was gone.
When Draco descended into the cellar again, Ginny was awake and dressed. The bedding was as tidied as a pile of blankets could be, and she was cleaning out the dead ashes of the previous night's fire, bundles of kindling and firewood beside her.
She looked up as he ducked through the doorway. "Shame. I thought last night might have been a dream."
"It's nice to see you again too," Draco responded. He pulled out a chair and sank onto it.
She started laying the fire again. "Where's Harry?"
"In the forest." Draco watched her work. He knew if he tried to help she'd push him away, asking what the hell a pampered Malfoy brat knew about it. And she'd be right; he didn't know the first thing about laying a fire. "What happened to his chest?"
"What do you think? Voldemort tried to rip his heart still beating from his ribcage." She laid chunks of wood and kindling chips with methodic precision, and shot a quick glance up at Draco. "He's only been up for a few weeks."
And now he was going for morning jogs in tangled woods. Pushing it. As if Potter knew any other way of doing business. It almost made Draco smile.
Ginny finished with the fire, and leaned away, tugging a plastic bag close enough that she could rummage in its contents. She pulled out a box of matches and sat back on her heels, cursing when her shake produced no rattling sound.
Draco's jacket was over the back of his chair; he pulled his wand from the pocket and held it out to her. But her face, already angry, creased into a grimace, and she swatted it out of his hand. It clattered and bounced and fell half amid the laid fire.
"What the hell are you doing here, Draco?" she demanded. "We're fine, we were doing fine without you."
"I couldn't," he started, but that wasn't right. He tried again: "You just -"
She cut him off this time. "How did you even find us?"
That question, at least, was easy. "You didn't use memory charms. There was a trail."
"Oh, bloody fabulous!" She surged to her feet, all pale bristling anger. "So now every wizard in the damn world can follow your path. Why do you think we ran in the first place?"
Draco stood too, to stop her looming over him. "I did use memory charms. No one's going to follow your fucking trail. And no one's going to follow me because..." He stopped himself, before he could say something he might regret.
But Ginny was spectacular and enraged. She stepped forward and shoved him - literally shoved him, both hands hard against his chest - and he staggered backwards, almost falling over his chair before he regained his balanced. "Shut up! I don't care. I don't give a damn. I don't want you here. We don't want you here. You don't understand, you can't. You don't know what we've been through."
"What who's been through?" Draco shouted back. "You seem fucking fine!"
Eyes blazing, Ginny scooped up his wand from where it had fallen. Before he could so much as blink, she had it trained on him, her face set and mouth opening. "Avada Kedavra!"
His whole body convulsed, his heart lurching, his lungs ripping in the air in a panicked breath. And then another. A third.
He wasn't dead. His racing heart slowed.
The wand fell from her fingers, tumbling to the floor. She looked sick. Draco wondered how the hell he looked.
"I can't even cast Lumos," she whispered. "Not even that."
She ran from the room even as Draco realised he was shaking. His joints wobbled, and he fell to his knees on the dirt floor.
Later, when he managed to scrabble for his wand on the floor, and clamber to his feet somehow, Draco climbed out of the cellar into the light again. It was late morning now, and the sun fell heavily outside. It was a beautiful day.
Harry was sitting on the stone step outside the kitchen door, still shirtless. There were small scratches, barely abrasions on the skin, over his arms and shoulders. The sun glinted off his glasses.
When Draco stopped beside him, Harry shifted, making room for him so sit. So Draco sat.
"She's burned out, isn't she?" Draco didn't want to ask, but he couldn't believe it by himself. Burned out, drained to the last gasp of magic, the spark gone, the talent scoured as clean as the valley they'd shut off from the world. Can't even cast Lumos.
At the edge of Draco's sight, Harry nodded. After a moment, he said: "Do you blame me?"
"Do you blame me?" Harry repeated. "For taking her with me. Taking her away."
"Don't be stupid." The answer came so quickly Draco didn't even know if he'd thought about it.
They sat on the stone as the sun beat down. They were half-shaded by the ivy engulfing the house.
Draco said: "They've put up a statue of you and Ginny. In the Hogwarts forecourt."
One corner of Harry's mouth jerked upwards and he snorted. "How do I look?"
He'd looked determined and stubborn and a hundred other little things that were purely Potter. It had actually been a very good likeness. Draco had only glanced up at it once, and felt himself twitch. Smiling at the lawn, Draco leaned back against the doorway. "You look like a noble idiot."
"Accurate, then." They both managed a laugh, a short mutual cough of mirth. "Glad I'm not there to see it."
Ginny, Draco remembered, was just a grey blur. Because he'd only viewed her from a distance. He hadn't had the courage to stand at her feet and look up.
The scratches on Harry's shoulders puckered and pulled as he shifted position, skin sliding over redeveloping muscles. He declared to the morning sun: "You love her."
Yes, Draco thought, but he looked at Harry and said: "It's not that simple."
Harry turned, and was looking back at him. "Why are you here, Draco?"
It wasn't until Draco opened his mouth that he realised he didn't quite know.
The real similarity between a broom and a motorbike was the way you could just leap on, take off, and let it all flow past you, the world becoming a blur as it slid screaming from 'before' to 'behind'. But once you stopped, it all came rushing back, and you seemed to be exactly where you'd started from. If you were good, if you were lucky, you'd have snatched the solution on the way.
Got the Snitch. Won the game. Not that simple.
When Draco came back to the house the sun had long set. Climbing down into the cellar was just trading one darkness for another, firelight flaring warm as he stepped out into their room. Both Harry and Ginny looked up from their empty bowls. Ginny looked back down again.
"Hey," Harry said. "We've eaten, but if you like -"
"No," Draco said. "I'm fine." He hesitated for a moment, before digging in his pocket for the small rectangular box. The contents rattled as he tossed it into Ginny's bowl.
She flinched as it ricocheted off the china, settling in the bottom. "Oh. Thanks," she said, and glanced up again, before fishing the matchbox out of the bowl, and turning to put it away.
Draco shrugged, kept the rest to himself for now, and went to bed.
Or, at least, he lay down on his bed, pulled the blankets up over his shoulder as he stared at the wall. Stared at it with wide open eyes because he didn't feel tired. Didn't feel like sleep. He was remembering how this had all started, how he'd strayed from the path allotted him. He couldn't keep his mind from it, no matter how hard he tried to stay here and now. He couldn't stop reliving it, rerunning the memory as a loop until the words all blurred together into a meaningless jumble - Something you should know. I overheard. Something. Youshouldknow.
And before. The moment when he'd dragged her aside in the corridor. Wand out. Hands up. Don't hex me! And she hadn't. She hadn't.
He'd never understood why not. Harry would have.
He stared at the wall. He was still staring at the wall when the faint sussurations of movement behind him told him they were going to bed. Blankets slithered and settled over limbs, and the glimmered reflection of a single candleflame disappeared from the wall. Breath whispered into words and over skin. As the blankets shifted, Ginny's voice stretched without body into a sinuous rhythm, a hissing undulation that rocked and cradled and welcomed. Harry's sigh, low and level, slid through and under it.
When silence had crept back through the room, Draco rolled onto his back and closed his eyes against the ceiling. He put the past away. He drew sleep towards himself and accepted it.
When he woke up the next morning, Harry was gone, and Ginny was laying the fire. He watched her hands move, smooth and certain, as she built it up, wood and kindling, with the effortless ease of practice. Her hands were grubby, the knuckles of her left hand slightly grazed, her fingernails dirty.
She pulled the matches out of the bag, and her fingers stilled, fumbled at the cardboard edges. Only once she'd turned the box over in her hand did she push it open, and pull out a match.
Draco pushed back his blankets and stood up. Ginny stopped, looking up at him, poised to strike. Picking up his t-shirt, Draco nodded to her. "Good morning."
She blinked. "Morning."
Carrying his t-shirt, Draco walked past her and out of the room. At the bottom of the stairs, he heard her strike the match behind him.
Harry was in the kitchen, sitting on the stone bench by the window. He'd been for his run already, Draco surmised. He was sweaty and exhilirated. His eyes were bright with energy, from his exercise, from the natural spring of it boiling back into healthy life inside him.
His gaze fixed on Draco the minute he stepped through the doorway, and Draco knew that look. He could feel himself responding to it. Months of intensity had conditioned him to it, and now he could feel every frustration, every niggling dissatisfaction, bubbling to the surface, demanding appeasement. Harry's smile was tight, and Draco knew he'd seen the reflection.
Draco tossed his t-shirt on the bench beside where Harry was slipping off. He stepped forward and pinned Harry's hips with his own. Harry's grin, bare inches from Draco's mouth, was crisp and feral. Draco pushed, hard and hardening, only pulling back to get a hand between them and on the button to Harry's jeans.
Fingers vice-like at the back of Draco's neck wrenched him forward. So they were kissing, Harry's tongue thrusting hard against Draco's teeth, when Draco's hand delved and encircled and Harry's entire body jerked. Scrabbling hands returned the favour and Draco grunted against Harry's mouth.
They moved without rhythm, just hard and fast, just this controlled side of furious. There wasn't time for rhythm, for care, for finesse. It was all about onslaught, all about purging, all about now and me. They pulled apart, gasping, and Harry threw his head back, not quite sagging against the bench. Draco ducked his head and bit at the base of Harry's throat, sucking hard against the tendon. He came with the taste of Harry's skin on his tongue and Harry spilling over his hand.
Draco rested his forehead on Harry's shoulder, breathing hard and feeling Harry doing the same against him. He was gloriously wrung out, wonderfully still. There was a hand resting against the waistband of his jeans in the small of Draco's back.
"I've missed that," Harry said.
Pulling back, Draco gave him a smile. "Me too."
Harry passed him the t-shirt. "Come on. There's a water pump outside."
It was a hand-pump, in a small yard a little way from the house. Draco cranked the handle and Harry ducked under the flow, washing his hands and sluicing sweat from his body. They switched places, and after two almighty yanks, Harry stretched out on top of the low wall, sunning himself.
The water was cool. Draco plunged his head under, scrubbed his palms over his face and chest.
As the water petered out to a trickle, Draco stood up, shaking his head, hair spraying water droplets. He grinned at the faint grumble of complaint from the wall, and spread his arms to the sun. It was warm and it wouldn't be too long until he was dry.
"Potter?" Draco waited for a murmur of assent before continuing. "What are you going to do?"
At the corner of Draco's eye, Harry looked up from his prone position. "What are you doing to do?"
"I asked you first."
Harry swung up to sit on the wall and shrugged. "It's nice here. Pretty. Secluded."
"For how much longer?" Draco turned to face him, meeting Harry's steady gaze. "Someone's going to want this house for something. You're not convalescing any more, Harry. You can't hide here forever. And you know it."
He did. And he knew Draco knew it, and onwards, ad infinitum. Someone needed to have a plan. Suddenly, Harry's face broke into a grin, and Draco wondered at what a strange place the world was, that the boy he would have once sworn was his worst enemy could be the one who knew him so well.
Then again, possibly not so strange.
Ginny was talking as Draco stepped through the doorway into the cellar room. "I'm going to go into town and -" She looked up and broke off. "Oh, Draco. I thought you were Harry."
She was sitting by the fire, making a shopping list, by the look of things. Draco's t-shirt was damp between his shoulder blades. "I'm not," he said.
"Well, no." Her hair was as messy as Harry's, the colour dull in the faded light, and her jumper had a hole in the elbow. She fidgeted with her list for a moment, before setting it aside and standing up. "Look, Draco, I'm sorry about... I shouldn't have cast that, even though it couldn't work."
Her face had been ferocious as she spat the terrible words. Draco had come down here to tell her, just tell her, but instead he found himself asking: "Did you want it to work?"
Ginny flinched, just the tiniest twitch of her skin. She looked away, down and to the side, like exposing her throat to him. "Yes," she admitted.
So vulnerable, and he wanted to shelter her, cover her up. When he realised he was moving forward he made himself stop, just a few paces from her. "Why?"
"Because..." She started, and didn't seem to know how to go on, the word hanging in the air. Breath jerked in her throat, and she looked up to him. Her eyes shone, and she let him see right through her.
In two steps, she was in his arms. She tilted her head back unheedingly and Draco framed the span of his hand to her jaw and then he was kissing her. Kissing her kissing him back. Ginny didn't push, but pressed, stretched along him with her arms around his neck and her hands insistent on his shoulderblades. She pressed him to her and he pressed in turn, their mouths open, tongues weaving and delving. She tasted warm and covetous and unimaginable. Like the last thing. Like the only thing. Draco's head spun with it, every sense clogged with this. Finally, with this.
When they weren't kissing, her breath was in his ear and his arms folded across her back. Her hair, jagged and tufted, was in his face and it smelt thick and dirty, but he breathed it in in deep lungfuls.
"You can make me forget," Ginny murmured, her lips at the hinge of his jaw. "I always knew you could. God, Draco. Make me forget."
"Come with me," Draco said. Tried to say, but he couldn't keep his mouth off her for long enough to form complete sentences. He kissed her temple, the bridge of her nose, her cheekbone, her mouth... her mouth. "Escape. I've arranged... tickets. Fly away. Be free." She buried her face in his neck, her arms wrapped tight around him, and he held her. Whispered to her because he'd waited too long not to. "We can be free, Ginny. We can escape."
"No." At first the word was too muffled, Draco's blood too euphoric, and he couldn't understand. Then she was pulling away, and he grabbed her upper arms. "Draco, no. I can't." Her voice was thin steel and she wouldn't look at him.
"Why not?" The words were on Draco's lips, but he hadn't said them. Both of them jerked, and looked over to the doorway, where Harry now stood. He took a step into the room. "Why not, Ginny?"
Draco looked back to her, and her eyes were fixed on Harry, wide and full of tears. She leaned back against Draco's hands on her arms, but not enough to break the hold, and Draco wasn't letting her go. She shook her head and her voice was a whisper. "I can't. I can't forget." Looking up at Draco, she said: "I won't leave Harry. I can't."
He tried again. "Ginny -"
"No." Now she was trying to twist away.
But Draco held her fast. He could feel Harry coming towards them and he could almost taste this all going to pieces. It was like the sharp, bitter tang of ash on the breeze. "Ginny!" She looked up at him, lost and imploring, tears in her eyes. "Ginny, you don't understand. I have three tickets."
For a moment he thought it wouldn't matter, she wouldn't care, he'd lost her anyway. Then Harry was there, a hand on Ginny's shoulder, the other in Draco's hair, and she gasped, like a cold shock. He pulled her in and she didn't resist, folded in against his chest with a shaking sob. Draco felt a little like crying himself, like he might explode with the sudden hope of it. But he just stood there, held her with her arms around him and Harry's around both of them and he held so tight he might never, ever let go.
Attending his own funeral was one of the oddest experiences of Draco's life.
There were more people than he had really expected, clustered around the coffin holding a body that looked an awful lot like Draco might have done if he'd had a hideous motorcycle accident. They were mourners, sober in black. There were even tears. He felt a little like he'd done the wrong thing.
"It's better this way," Harry said quietly, and Ginny squeezed her arm around Draco's waist. Draco draped his arm across her shoulders. She was holding Harry's hand on the other side.
No one had recognised them, under the tree a short distance from the grave. They'd taken care to ensure it. Draco had his hair hidden under a hat, Ginny had dyed hers black, and Harry had shaved all his off, concealed his scar and given up his glasses for contacts. And that was before the obfuscation spells, performed by Harry with Draco's wand and Ginny's dictation. They didn't look like anyone living. After all, they weren't.
"Well, at least I left them a body to mourn over," Draco pointed out.
Harry snorted. "A considerate death is easy with forward planning."
It was another fine day, beautiful summer weather. Someone had graced Draco's coffin with a riotous wreath of summer wildflowers. He was quite touched by that. He hoped the service had been nice. Tasteful. They hadn't dared try the church, even in disguise.
"Ashes to ashes," Ginny murmured, tilting her head against his shoulder. "Dust to dust."
They watched in silence as the coffin was lowered into the ground. The first clods of dirt went in. At this distance, it was all sparse, stylised ritual. And then it was over.
"Well, that's that then," Ginny declared, stepping out from the circle of Draco's arm. She pulled a set of keys out of her pocket, and jingled them with a grin. "Last one to the car gets the back seat." She skipped away.
Draco lingered a moment, looking back to the dispersing mourners, watching them walk away. They all were. Even in their black, even with their tears, they'd all move on.
It was better this way.
He turned back, and Harry was watching Ginny weaving her way through the gravestones. His eyes were disturbingly direct without the glasses when he turned them on Draco. "She was meant to be yours, you know."
Draco raised his eyebrows. "Fuck off. You're both melodramatic and delusional."
"I'm a hero, I'm allowed to be."
"You're a dead hero."
"Look who's talking, coffin boy."
They both laughed out loud, damning the inappropriateness of the surroundings. If they couldn't laugh in a cemetary, they might never laugh again.
Ginny turned back and waved. "Come on!" she shouted back. "Or we'll miss the flight!"
"You're wrong, you know," Draco said.
"What?" Harry paused, looking back at him.
Draco smiled. "She wasn't meant to be anybody's."
Bring Out Your Dead by dee
For Jenny on the occasion of her birthday.